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St. Paul, MN
5 Stars Out Of 5
Helpful corrective, educational & encouraging
April 27, 2012
St. Paul, MN
Few subjects spark such controversy among Christians as end times theology. For some, the only controversy lies in the inexplicable reluctance of some to fully embrace the truth. Why can't everyone be so moved and excited by the very evident relevance of Biblical prophecy? Can't they see just by picking up a newspaper how we are living in the last days? Others make it their mission to pop the bubble of the many believers who practice such a newspaper-theology. Whether they advocate preterism, pre-wrath, post-millennialism or some other minority position, they turn every conversation into a discussion of their favored end times view. Still others have been burned by churches for abandoning the official eschatological position. And many would rather avoid this subject than see another passionate argument arise.
Given the many opportunities to engender strife on such a volatile subject, we must assume that Eckhard Schnabel was perhaps a bit hesitant to put forth yet another book that aims to navigate the mine-field of eschatology. Whatever the case, Schnabel's new book "40 Questions about the End Times" (Kregel, 2012) will certainly prove to be an important and helpful contribution. I hope it receives wide attention as it offers a helpful corrective to careless end-times speculation and steers clear of divisiveness.
"40 Questions" is informative and expansive without being exhaustive. The format of attacking the subject by means of 40 separate questions allows the book to aim for a systematic treatment of the topic in small segmented bites. This approach means that it can't cover every relevant passage and answer every conceivable question, but it has its merits too. The book can serve as a manual to be referenced when one is looking for information specific to one question (the millennium, the rapture, Hell and judgement, etc.). And the approach keeps the book moving and on track.
Schnabel masterfully employs charts and comparisons between parallel passages and betrays a true mastery of the literature. Yet he doesn't write for scholars. He stays both practical and accessible, even as his footnotes point the way for further study. He tries his best to avoid discussing eschatological positions directly, preferring to cover the relevant Biblical texts exegetically. It is apparent that he is premillennial but not dispensational. He would be post-tribulational in a sense as well, but is more historic premil. And for the most part, he is right in the mainstream of evangelical scholarship: he defends eternal conscious punishment, but holds to a strange view of the millennium that sees the Gog and Magog rebellion at the end of the thousand years as a release of the unrepentant followers of Satan who are deceived and judged again. (This may just be strange to me, as I have not come across this view before. Yet, I can't help but suspecting this is a minority view at best in scholarship today.)
Throughout the book, Schnabel obliquely references "end times specialists" who presume that certain prophecies can only be fulfilled given modern technological advances. Such views are anachronistic, and worse: they represent "new prophecies", since they give a prophetic significance to history. He puts the claims that Babylon will be rebuilt and that a third temple will be built into this category. I have to agree with him that the false predictions and constantly modified interpretive declarations about end times theology (such as the identification of the European Union with the 10-kings who support the Beast) present a problem for the church. Schnabel elaborates:
"If the prophecy writer tries again and adjusts his prophecy, and the new prediction does not come to pass, the end-time `specialist' is clearly neither a specialist nor a prophet. Prophecy writers who get it wrong must apologize and they should stop writing, speaking, blogging, and tweeting about matters related to prophecy." (pg. 311)
This book, however, is more than a mere eschatological handbook or polemic against modern-day false prophets. It is a call for the Church to live in light of the big central truths of prophecy. Christ is returning at any moment, and He will judge the dead and reward the faithful. His kingdom will never end and everything wrong will be made right.
Even if one disagrees with some of Schnabel's particular interpretations, his discussion of the relevant arguments on each question will be both helpful and enlightening. But the book will especially be a help to those who remain "willing to consider the truth of other interpretations of biblical passages," and when warranted, "willing to concede that [they] may have to adjust [their] understanding" (pg. 315). Ultimately, what Schnabel says of Revelation applies to this book: it is written "not to satisfy our curiosity about God's timetable for the end times but in order to encourage believers who are suffering and to exhort believers who are in danger of compromising their faith" (pg. 316).
This book will both educate and encourage the believer. I highly recommend it.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Kregel Publications for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
This book tackles some difficult questions about the End Times. Each section focuses on one question and delves quite deeply in scripture with many references to substantiate the author's answer.
With charts, many footnotes and questions to reflect on at the end of the chapter, this makes a great study on the End Times, and not just for the Biblical scholar, but for the rest of us as well. This is a book to be studied, contemplated and looked at carefully. It is not one that will be easily or quickly gone through, but instead a book to be used and dissected. If you agree with all or just part, you won't walk away from this book without absorbing something new and interesting!
This uses the New Revised Standard Version along with 10 other versions.
Consideram ca adevaruri centrale cele ce sunt afirmate clar in Scriptura. Profetia despre reintoarcerea lui Isus Christos este una centrala, clara. Profetia ca va exista o zi a judecatii este una clara. Detalii privind perioda necazului cel mare, nivelul si timpul rapirii, cine este Fiara, anticristul perioada mileniului sunt lucruri asurpa carora pot exista mai multe intereptari, nu sunt foarte clare. E normal sa avem opinii asupra acestora. Nu este normal sa folosim aceste opinii drept etalon pentru a masura veridicitatea si autenticitatea crestinismului unora si altora ceea ce duce la faramitarea unitatii in biserica. De-a lungul timpului credinciosii crestini au avut pareri deosebite asupra unor detalii profetice privind viitorul de aceea este o prostie chair aroganta sa se insiste in dreptul vre-uneia din aceste intereptari ca reprezinta adevarul absolut in probleme escatologice."(p.312)more on
Schnabel lays some ground wok for his book in the Introduction. (The two pages of term definitions are great.) First, the primary text is the New Testament. "In other words, the prophecies of the Old Testament must be integrated into the framework of New Testament prophecy." (11) Second, Jesus said no one knows the day or hour of his return. Third, early Christians believed the "end times" began with Jesus' coming, death, and resurrection. Fourth, early Christians believed Jesus might return during their lifetime. "This means that the apostles interpreted biblical prophecy _ concerning the end times as either fulfilled or as about to be fulfilled in the near future." (12) Fifth, the same principles of interpretation we apply when we study the other parts of Scripture must be followed when we study prophecy.
With this informative Introduction, Schnabel addresses the 40 questions. The first ones are general.
The next section of questions deal with the future of the church. He shows that the period of the "great tribulation" belongs to the period between Jesus' first and second comings. Therefore, "Christians do live through the period of great distress or tribulation." (77) (He dismantles the "pre-trib" view.)
Next he covers the future of Israel. Schnabel systematically goes through all of the Old and New Testament Scriptures on the subject. His conclusion regarding Rom. 11:26 may surprise some. "What is clear _ is the fact that Paul does not speak of a future of Israel in nationalistic or territorial terms." (126)
He next covers the return of Jesus, first noting the events before his return. He investigates the Antichrist, 666, the beast, the harlot, Gog and Magog, Armageddon, etc.
He ends with why we should care about the end times.
Schnabel is careful to cover every Scripture on each subject, at times looking at the original language. He reviews the possible answers to each question, evaluates them and then gives his own conclusion. He ends each section with a summary and reflective questions.
Schnabel has done excellent research, presenting all sides of an issue with clarity. The writing is such that general readers will have no difficulty this this often confusing subject. This is a great book for anyone who has been asking questions about the end times and is looking for answers.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.
To some the mere mention of the end times and eschatology turns their stomachs. To others, it is a hot button issue that people will stake their lives on and the faith of others against. Still others cannot even clearly articulate their position on the rapture, millennium or the new heaven and earth. After all, once Christ returns, what will it matter then what we think now?
But these kinds of reactions and thoughts, though at times understandable, should not characterize the Christian. After all, since the beginning of time, with the fall of Adam and Eve in Gen. 3, God's people have been looking to the end. From Genesis to Revelation, there is a looking to the end and fulfilling of the end throughout Scripture. Eschatology is considered by many theologians to be a unifying theological discipline as it brings together the hopes and expectations of God's people in a broken world.
40 Questions About the End Times is not your typical book on eschatology. Most books on the end times are intentionally written seeking to present the view of the writer. So, the eschatological view of the writer may be on the cover of the book such as premillennialism, amillennialism or postmillennialism. No doubt there is value to these kinds of books because the author believes their position is what Scripture teaches. In serving the author, they also serve the reader.40 Questions About the End Times is different. Though the author does have his own eschatological position, he does not clearly state it anywhere in the book. Schnabel's goal is to read "the relevant texts of the Old and New Testaments afresh" (p. 11). So this book is an exegetical, historical, grammatical and linguistical examination of the relevant texts of Scripture that answer the 40 questions Schnabel seeks to answer.
There are five basic principles of interpretation that Schnabel follows. First, though both testaments are the word of God, it is the New Testament that receives the primary voice in the interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies. "The prophecies of the Old Testament must be integrated into the framework of New Testament prophecy. While the Old Testament remains the revealed word of God, it is the New Testament that informs Christians how to read the Old Testament" (p. 11). The New Testament is the churches guide for interpreting the Old Testament. Second, because, though Jesus said that his return was imminent, Jesus said many times that no one knows the day or hour when Jesus would return and that His return would be like a thief in the night, we are to steer clear of date setting. Third, that "the early Christians believed the end times began with the coming of Jesus, in particular with his death and resurrection" we need to take this seriously by allowing it to inform our understanding of end time events. Fourth, because the first century Christians believed that Jesus might return in their lifetime, "this means that the apostles interpreted biblical prophecy concerning the end times as either fulfilled or as about to be fulfilled in the near future" (p.12). Fifth, as faithful interpreters of Scripture we need to interpret prophetic texts the same way we would any other text of Scripture. We need to take into account the genre of the book, the historical, cultural, and literary background as well and the context of the texts and intent of the author. We need to let the text tell us what it is intending to say, whether literally, figuratively or symbolically, instead of telling the text what we want it to say just so it fits our presuppositions of the end times.
40 Questions About the End Times is an even handed approach to interpreting many biblical texts concerning the end times. Because of Schnabel's first interpretive principle (see above), the New Testament is given the primary voice in answering the questions. However, in answering every question, the Old Testament texts that give birth to the New Testament discussion are brought into the conversation. Schnabel rightly holds to the already-not-yet tension of eschatology in Scripture. The predominate Old Testament text from which Schnabel sees most of the New Testament referring to eschatologically is Daniel 7-12. There is a lot of discussion given to Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation.
One of the guiding beliefs Schnabel holds to is that the coming of Jesus, namely the resurrection, inaugurates the beginning of the end times (see question 1). Thus, the end times have already begun in Christ. The eleven signs of the end times (see question 3) are to be understood as occurring between the first and second coming of Christ (see question 4). This leads to the belief that all of the NT texts that refer to the return of Christ are speaking of the same event, though they mention different aspects, and thus there is no secret rapture of the church before a seven year tribulation (see question 10) and further, Christians will live during (are living in now) the tribulation as discussed in Dan. 12-13, Matt. 24, 1 Thess. 4-5 and Rev. 1, 4, 7 and 12 (see question 8). Many other issues are discussed such as the future of Israel, the meaning of the millennium, the relationship between the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments of Rev. 6-16, many of the events in Revelation and the day of judgment.
I applaud what Schnabel has done here and readers will find it very helpful. If you are unsure of where you are with a number of end times issues, this book is for you. If you are in transition between eschatological views, this book is for you. If you are seeking a fresh (as much as a work can be) approach to the end times passages in the New Testament that does not have a certain eschatological position as its agenda, this book is for you. If you are firm in your conviction about your eschatology, this book is still for you. In short, this book is for every laymen, pastor, student and teacher who wants to gain a better grasp on the end times passages of the Bible.
40 Questions About the End Times is scholarly in research, timely, exegetically based, lucid in presentation and respectful to various end times positions. Schnabel unashamedly affirms what Scripture is clear on, leaves room for disagreement where it is not and does not tread where Scripture does not allow.
NOTE: I received this book for free to review for Kregel and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.