Excerpt from James Alison's Raising Abel: The Recovery of the Eschatological Imagination, New York: Crossroads, 1996, pp. 149-154.

Luke: the Coming as Revelation

We have already seen, when we looked at the simultaneous coming about of the possibility of universality and of the new quality of time, that Luke makes explicit a separation between the prophecy of Jesus applied to the Temple of Jerusalem and life in the 'time of the nations', which would also be the time of the Church. We have seen the inner dynamic which led to this separation. Here I would like to point out that this separation has another effect, with respect to the comings of the Son of man. We saw, in Mark, that, owing to the self-referential nature of the text, what we have is an indication of the coming of the Son which occurs principally at his crucifixion: this is the coming of the Son, and it ushers in a period of time during which our living is to be fixed on just such 'comings' in our own lives. Luke takes care to distinguish the comings. He does not remove the coming on the Cross, which is for him the central watershed of history and opens the time of the nations, but he does begin to give clearer signs of a final coming in glory at the end of history, which is to be public and notorious, as a distinct happening. And this coming takes the form of the revelation, the disclosing, of the Son of man.

Let us read, for example, this passage:

The days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them. For like lightning, that flashes out of one end of heaven to the other, so shall also the Son of man be in his day. But first must he suffer many things and be rejected of this generation. (Luke 17:22-25)
Here we see how Jesus explains that the victim, risen and seated at the right hand of God, will have his day: it will not be necessary to look for him in a special way, because the moment will come in which the risen victim will be the principle which illuminates all of human history and reality. And this illumination will be absolutely evident, and will happen in the midst of the most apparently normal life: the people surrounding Noah and Lot were just carrying on their entirely normal lives when, of a sudden, judgement came: "Even thus shall it be on the day when the Son of man is revealed" (Luke 17:31). We begin to understand that Jesus is talking about his final coming in glory as a brilliant revelation of what has really been going on throughout the whole of normal time and life. And the revelation will be the revelation from the new criterion which we have already seen to have been introduced into history, that is, the criterion of the victim. Thus, when Jesus describes to them how absolutely normal will be the time at which all this is going to happen, the disciples ask Jesus where this is to be, and Jesus' reply is at the same time humorous and to the heart of the matter: "Wheresoever the body is, there will the vultures be gathered" (Luke 17:37). That is to say, there is no 'where'; what there is instead is the criterion of the victim, and that can happen anywhere. The question is: how have I related to the body of the victim? Do I feed on his body and blood while seeking, quietly and discreetly to create the universality of the kingdom? Or, do I rather participate, maybe without realizing it, in the production of such corpses?

This notion that Jesus came to bring a revelation of what is really going on, a real discrimination of hearts, is a marked emphasis in Luke, who, from the outset underlines Jesus' being a sign of contradiction, so that the thoughts of the hearts of many will be laid open (Lk 2:35). He also repeats twice (Lk 8:17; 12:2-3) what Matthew only quotes once (Mt 10:26-7): "For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known." So the second coming will be a revelation of what has been going on throughout history in the light of the criterion of the risen victim. This we find emphasized once more in the second 'apocalyptic discourse' in Luke, the discourse which occupies the same place in his Gospel as it does in Mark's, that is, immediately before the Passion.

Luke emphasizes all the problems and portents which will characterize the generation inaugurated by Jesus' death, with all its perplexities and torments, since the old way to make peace is missing. However, the very development of this time should be a motive for the disciples to take heart: "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28). In the midst of this time of conflict, the fact that all this is happening is itself the sign that the innocent victim is arriving, and subverting the whole present order. It is in this context that Jesus exhorts the disciples to stay alert:

And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may have the strength to escape all these things which will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. (Luke 21:34-36)
So we are promised an absolutely public and unexpected final coming, which will be patent to all, and in the face of which it is the disciples' task to have so acted in the midst of the tribulations that they are still standing, have managed to persevere in solidarity with the victim, when all is revealed. In this way, just as the Son of man, the risen victim, is standing at the right hand of God, they will also be standing who have lived with their minds fixed on him.