4 Stars Out Of 5
Even Handed Explanation of Biblical Eschatology
April 23, 2012
Life Long Reader
Howard City, MI
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.