D. Jeffrey Bingham and Glenn R. Kreider, ed. Eschatology: Biblical, Historical, and Practical Approaches. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2016. See here to purchase the book.
is a collection of scholarly essays about eschatology, the last days,
which include the second coming of Christ. They are in honor of Craig
Alan Blaising, a scholar who wrote about the topic. Timothy George
writes the Foreword, which speaks briefly about eschatology then
provides the reader with information about Blaising's approach to it.
Steven L. James contributes a biography of Blaising, which includes a
bibliography of Blaising's academic works.
In this review, I will comment on each essay.
"The Doctrine of the Future and Canonical Unity: Connecting the Future to the Past," by D. Jeffrey Bingham.
you want to learn about the life and thought of Marcion of Sinope and
the reception to him during the second century C.E., then this is a good
essay to read. Marcion posited that the God of the Old Testament and
the God of the New Testament were different gods, with the latter being
more beneficent than the former. Church fathers argued, by contrast,
the the same God was God of the Old and New Testaments, but that the Old
Testament had an earthy, material system that would foreshadow the
spiritual system of the New Testament. Bingham effectively laid this
out for the readers. Unfortunately, he failed really to address how Old
Testament prophecies should be understood, from a Christian
perspective. Old Testament prophecies discuss the eschatological
restoration of Israel to her land, and some even depict the restoration
of the Levitical or Zadokite priesthood and a Temple reconstruction.
That sounds like a future restoration of the Old Testament earthy,
material system, which many Christians believe has been supplanted. Why
would God go back to that, from a Christian perspective? Bingham
should have included something on that issue.
"The Doctrine of the Future and the Concept of Hope," by Stanley D. Toussaint.
essay taught me something that I had not previously considered, yet
which is pretty obvious. In Matthew 23:31-32; Mark 12:26; and Luke
20:37, Jesus argues for the resurrection from the dead against the
Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection. Jesus appeals to
Exodus 3:6, in which God says to Moses that God is the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus says that God is not God of the dead but of the
living. Many Christian interpreters make a big deal about Jesus in
Matthew 22:32 quoting the passage to say "I am the God of Abraham and
the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob," as if the "I am" part of the
passage is what Jesus thinks establishes the resurrection. But there
are problems with that. First, the Hebrew in Exodus 3 lacks an explicit "I
am" ("I am that I am" is actually "I will be what I will
be"), and that may be troubling to people who think that Jesus never
erred. (Note: This is my observation, not Toussaint's.) Second, "I am"
would fit more with the patriarchs being alive now rather than in the
future resurrection, whereas Jesus is arguing for their future
resurrection. Third, as Toussaint notes, the Markan and Lukan parallels
lack "I am." According to Toussaint, what establishes Jesus' argument
for the resurrection is not the "I am" part of Exodus 3:6, but rather
God being the God of the patriarchs. Because God is God of the
patriarchs, and God is not God of the dead but of the living, that must
mean that the patriarchs will live in the future, at the resurrection.
critique that can be made of this chapter is that it is a bit
incongruent in one detail. In discussing Jesus' parables and teachings,
Toussaint seems to maintain that Jesus envisioned a long time passing
before his second coming. In discussing Acts, however, Toussaint states
that the apostles thought Christ's coming was imminent. Did they
somehow misunderstand and fail to grasp Jesus' teaching, according to
"The Doctrine of the Future and the Weakening of Prophecy," by Charles C. Ryrie.
assumes that Old Testament prophecies predict events in the life of
Christ, and he asks what the chances are of that. That, for him,
demonstrates that the prophecies are from God. The problem is that
there are alternative ways to interpret those prophecies. Ryrie should
have interacted with some of those.
"The Doctrine of the Future, the Doctrine of God, and Predictive Prophecy," by John D. Laing and Stefana Dan Laing.
asset to this chapter is that it presents scholarly arguments for the
Book of Daniel being written in the sixth century B.C.E., rather than
the second century B.C.E., during and after the events that it
"foretells." The chapter was trying to defend the reality of predictive
prophecy, against skeptics. Unfortunately, it did not address the
prophecies that Ezekiel made that, according to many scholars, failed to
come to pass as predicted.
"The Doctrine of the Future and Moses: 'All Israel Shall Be Saved,'" by Daniel I. Block.
tries to argue that the Book of Deuteronomy has eschatological
elements, although he wrestles with the possibility that some of those
elements can be interpreted non-eschatologically.
"The Doctrine of the Future in the Historical Books," by Gregory Smith.
makes a fairly decent case that I-II Chronicles has an eschatology. It
is not overbearing in the books, but, according to Smith, one can
discern from certain passages that the Chronicler expected a future
restoration of the Davidic monarchy.
"The Doctrine of the Future in the Psalms: Reflections on the Struggle of Waiting," by George L. Klein.
focused largely on God's deliverance of individuals. Unfortunately, he
did not talk much about scholarly views that some of the Psalms are
eschatological, or that the Book of Psalms is organized in its final
form in reference to a coming Messiah. These topics should not be
ignored in a book about eschatology!
"The Doctrine of the Future in the Prophets," by Mark F. Rooker.
argues that the Old Testament prophets do not just discuss their own
time but the far-off future. Yet, in making eschatological predictions,
the prophecies discuss what will happen to nations that existed in
their own day. How would Rooker account for that? Do those nations
symbolize nations in the far-off future? Can resurrection account for
it? Rooker should have wrestled with this.
"The Doctrine of the Future in the Synoptic Gospels," by Darrell L. Bock.
scholars who believe that Jesus envisioned an imminent end, Bock points
to passages in the synoptics in which Jesus envisioned a time of
waiting until the Son of Man comes. To his credit, Bock does attempt to
address passages in the synoptic Gospels that appear to suggest that
Jesus would return in the first century C.E. Bock does not want Jesus
to be wrong, and that is understandable. But, when one takes away the
apologetic motivation and thinks of other ways to see the text, is a
time of waiting really inconsistent with believing that Jesus would
return soon after 70 C.E.? Forty years is still a long time to wait for
Jesus' return! Plus, are those passages about waiting authentic to the
historical Jesus? One could argue that early Christians put those
words in Jesus' mouth after they had waited for the second coming, and
it had not yet materialized. There are a lot of passages to consider,
and one can inquire about the extent to which they pass the criteria of
authenticity (which are somewhat marginalized these days, but they may
still be useful).
"The Doctrine of the Future in John's Writings," by David L. Turner.
scholars argue that the Gospel of John has a realized eschatology
rather than a futuristic one. Turner, quite sensibly, argues that it
W. Edward Glenny's "The
Doctrine of the Future in Paul's Writings" and David L. Allen's "The
Doctrine of the Future in Hebrews and the General Epistles" will be
considered together, in this review.
Psalm 110:1, the LORD tells "my lord" to sit at his right hand, until he
makes his enemies his footstool. This passage is applied to Jesus in
many places in the New Testament. Glenny interprets I Corinthians 15's
interpretation of that passage in light of the millennium of Revelation
20: Jesus will come back and rule the earth, and during that millennial
rule God will be in the process of subjecting all of Jesus' enemies to
his feet. This view is not surprising in this publication because many
of its contributors expressed agreement with dispensationalism, which
believes in a millennium. Interestingly, though, David L. Allen
expressed a different view on Psalm 110, in considering the
interpretation of the passage in the Book of Hebrews. Allen states that
"God has 'not yet' subjected all things under his feet", for "That will
occur in the end times with the second coming of Jesus" (page 249).
Does Allen believe that Jesus is sitting on God's right hand now, not
just in the millennium, and that God is in the process of subjecting
things to Jesus' feet (albeit not everything)?
said, while there were many believers in classic dispensationalism in
this book, there were also many contributors who believed that the
Kingdom of God is already and not yet, which differs from the futurist
focus that a number of classic dispensationalists have held. There are
also progressive dispensationalist contributors to this book.
"The Doctrine of the Future in the Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus of Lyons," by Stephen O. Presley.
question that occurred to me in reading this book concerned the extent
to which the church fathers believed in a heavenly hope for believers,
and the extent to which they believed in an earthly hope. Did they
think believers after their resurrection would go to heaven and see God,
or that they would inhabit a renewed earth? Presley could have tackled
this question more directly, especially since so many Christian
thinkers today criticize the emphasis on going to heaven in Christendom
and stress that God loves the physical. Still, Presley does offer
patristic quotations that are relevant to this issue. According to
Presley, Irenaeus presents resurrected believers dwelling in different
places, based on their level of spiritual maturity (which, for Irenaeus,
is not stagnant, even after the resurrection).
"The Doctrine of the Future in Origen and Athanasius," by Bryan M. Litfin.
chapter is helpful for those interested in Origen's belief in universal
salvation because it provides primary references that relate to whether
Origen did or did not believe in the ultimate salvation of the devil.
Litfin also discusses the relevance of Plato to patristic eschatology,
but he could have explained Platonic eschatology a lot better than he
"The Doctrine of the Future in Augustine," by Jonathan P. Yates.
often talk about the torment of souls in hell. According to Augustine,
however, resurrected bodies, not just souls, will be in heaven and
hell. I am finding more Christians who talk about that, who say that
God will give the damned bodies that will be able to survive eternally
in hell, notwithstanding the torment.
"The Doctrine of the Future in John Calvin," by Nathan D. Holsteen.
chapter depicts Calvin was rather amillennial. Calvin did not
emphasize eschatology but preferred to stress Christ's current spiritual
reign and triumphs. Holsteen maintains that Calvin was similar to the
Catholic church in this regard, even though Calvin took that thought in
his own direction.
"The Doctrine of the Future in Anabaptist Thought," by Paige Patterson.
chapter is largely about how Anabaptists were against the radicals of
their day who tried to establish the Kingdom by force or by violence.
Many Anabaptists taught that Christians should wait for Jesus to return
to set things right.
"The Doctrine of the Future in Jonathan Edwards," by Glenn R. Kreider.
chapter was an effective explanation of Edwards' views, but there were a
few unclarities. First, did Edwards believe that heresy would be
destroyed on earth before or during the millennium? Second, did Edwards
believe that the earth would be destroyed and that believers would be
in heaven, or did he posit a renewal of the earth in the eschaton?
"The Doctrine of the Future in Baptist Theology," by Kevin D. Kennedy.
is fair in his explanation of amillennialism, postmillennialism, and
premillennialism. Kennedy also refers to prominent Baptists who adhered
to these positions.
"The Doctrine of the Future and Dispensationalism," by Mark L. Bailey.
defends the pretribulational rapture and premillennialism. On page
397, he states that Paul understands the wrath from which believers are
delivered as the eschatological Day of the Lord, not the great white
throne judgment. For Bailey, that supports the pretribulational
rapture: believers will be taken to heaven before God pours out God's
wrath on the earth. But how does Bailey know that Paul understands
God's wrath as the Day of the Lord rather than the last judgment?
does offer an extensive defense of the millennium being a literal
one-thousand year reign on earth after Christ's return. He presents
fifteen arguments! They were all decent, but his third argument
particularly stands out to me as good: "...since Isaiah 65:17-25
describes the blessings of the kingdom to come with the presence of sin
and death, this argues for an earthly fulfillment prior to eternity in
which according to both Isaiah 25:8 and Revelation 21:4, death will be
no more." For Bailey, these tensions in Scripture can be reconciled by
positing a millennial reign, during which sin and death will still
exist, followed by a new heavens and a new earth, which will lack sin
"The Doctrine of the Future in Jurgen Moltmann," by Lanier Burns.
According to Burns, Moltmann was a panentheist, one who believed that God was closely connected with nature.
"The Doctrine of the Future in Contemporary European Theology," by Friedhelm Jung and Edward Friesen.
chapter is informative about modern Catholic eschatology. It also
discusses Karl Barth's belief that God may save everyone, and yet is
free not to do so, as well as Wilfried Harle's universalism. For Harle,
many Christians emphasize faith for salvation, rather than Christ. I
had not heard of Harle before reading this book, and now I am
intrigued. Friesen, not surprisingly, disagrees with Harle, but his
presentation of Harle's thought is quite detailed, and probably fair.
"The Doctrine of the Future: Millennialism in Contemporary Evangelical Theology," by David S. Dockery.
is another chapter that explains amillennialism, postmillennialism, and
premillennialism. Surprisingly, although that territory was covered
more than once in this book, it never got old. I loved reading about
postmillennialism's optimistic views about God's activity on earth, even
if the authors disagreed with that perspective!
"The Doctrine of the Future and Pastoral Care," by J. Denny Audrey.
refers to the argument that many Christians look to eschatology for
personal comfort rather than "direction for the contemporary church"
(page 460). Audrey never seems to flesh out how Christians can do the
latter. He does provide an interesting history, however, of how
Christians in the past have conceptualized pastoral care.
"The Doctrine of the Future and Contemporary Challenges," by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Augustine in The City of God
was addressing the fall of the Roman empire. Mohler says this was
devastating to Christians, since the Roman empire protected them.
"The Doctrine of the Future and the Marketplace," by Stephen N. Blaising.
How this chapter relates to eschatology is unclear. It is mostly about being a good steward, in the economic realm.
My critiques notwithstanding, I still give this book five stars, since it is thorough and informative.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.