Eschatology

Eternity: All Praise, All the Time?

What will eternity be like for believers? Recently, in a couple of separate conversations, I heard two believers express the idea that in our eternal state, we won’t care about any of the kinds of things that interest us here and now. We won’t be curious, won’t be seeking answers, won’t be striving to be productive or improve ourselves or our surroundings. One of the two indicated that “ignorance is bliss” and that not knowing or caring about answers to life’s questions will be a key feature of the joy of heaven.

I suggested that there are compelling reasons to believe our experience of life in eternity will not be that different from life as we know it now—that we were created to be curious, creative, intellectual, and productive, not just spiritual and relational, and that our final form must include all of what we were originally intended to be.

So will eternity reveal a glorious perfecting of our original design as humans, or a scrapping of that design for something fundamentally different?

Big Changes

Scripture does provide ample evidence that major changes await believers after this life. One of the most loved examples comes from the apostle John.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (ESV, 1 John 3:2)

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A Review of ‘Israel, the Church, and the Middle East’

This compendium of new essays follows the only occasionally stellar The People, the Land, and the Future of Israel, edited by the same two men. This book marks Israel’s seventieth anniversary. It is divided into four parts, Biblical Foundations, Theology and the Conflict, Yeshua in the Midst of the Crisis, and Current Challenges to Peace in Israel.

This book takes a good look at these four issues through the various viewpoints of the authors. There are few weak contributions (e.g. a surprisingly tame essay from Bock), the general standard is high. Here are my thoughts on a few of the articles:

First, Richard Averbeck’s opening piece on the biblical covenants starts things off well. He is clearly uncomfortable being identified either as a covenant theologian or as a dispensationalist, but he has no time for replacement theology (22). More notable to me though was this line:

The system of theology known as “dispensational theology” describes the historical biblical covenants as subsumed under a set of dispensations in God’s program … (22)

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Some Notes on Daniel 7 (Part 1)

Detail from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo Caravaggio

Just as there are four kingdoms represented by the materials in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-image in Daniel 2, four kingdoms are also present in Daniel’s vision of the four beasts in chapter 7. Since we find weird creatures, portents of the last days, a supernatural guide and such, this vision is associated with apocalyptic genre.1

Saying something is “apocalyptic” is enough in some quarters to designate it non-literal, but comparison of biblical apocalypses with plain prophetic passages strongly suggests that they can refer to the same things, and that therefore, apocalyptic texts should not be understood apart from the more straightforward prose of comparative prophetic literature.

Each of the four beasts arises out of the sea (Dan.7:3). This “great sea” (v.2) is not interpreted, but it possibly refers to the Mediterranean, although it has additional value as a symbol for the world, especially in resistance to God (v.17; Isa. 57:20).2

The standard opinion of conservative commentators is that the beasts in Daniel 7 represent Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece (Macedonia), and Rome, exactly as in Daniel 2.3 I believe this is the correct understanding of the four beasts of Daniel 7:4-7, although I shall have to leave more detailed explanations to the commentaries.4

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Review: “He Will Reign Forever” by Michael Vlach (Part 4)

Image of He Will Reign Forever
by Michael J Vlach
Jpl Books 2017
Hardcover

This is the final installment of my review of this book. Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

As he moves through the Book of Acts, the author addresses the main kingdom passages only. An author must be selective with his material, so the relatively brief look at Acts is no mark against the book. In fact, due to his ability to sum things up quickly and accurately, Vlach can pinpoint the salient passages and continue into the Pauline corpus.

That said, he manages to dwell on the really crucial texts in Acts. He says, for instance, “Acts 3:19-26 is a strategic passage for the kingdom program” (421), and he has spent 7 pages getting to that conclusion. He not only exegetes Acts 3:19-21, he demonstrates Peter’s compliance with expectations raised by the Old Testament. He then mentions how Acts 3:25 cites Genesis 12:3 and 22:18 to prove that Israel — representatives of which the Apostle is speaking to — is still the same national entity as was envisaged in the Abrahamic covenant (420-421).

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Review: “He Will Reign Forever” by Michael Vlach (Part 3)

Image of He Will Reign Forever
by Michael J Vlach
Jpl Books 2017
Hardcover

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

This is the third part in what has become a four part review of this book. I think the work is important enough as a Dispensational Biblical Theology to merit a piece of this length. I hope you will agree.

As Vlach entered upon the New Testament, I was curious how much space he would devote to developing the message of Jesus in its pre-Pauline context. That is to say, I wanted to see if he would trace the teachings of Jesus from its grounding in the prophetic expectations in the Old Testament and its effect upon Jewish hearers in the first part of the first century A.D. I was not disappointed.

The author chooses the Gospel of Matthew as his frame of reference for understanding the kingdom aspect of Christ’s mission. This was a natural enough choice, although I am also a fan of the speeches in Luke-Acts for this purpose. Of course, the selection of Matthew in no way eliminates interaction with the other Gospels, and Vlach picks up on some of the main kingdom emphases in Luke, especially the crucial Parable of the Nobleman in Luke 19:11-27 (e.g. 357-360).

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Review: “He Will Reign Forever” by Michael Vlach (Part 2)

Image of He Will Reign Forever
by Michael J Vlach
Jpl Books 2017
Hardcover

Read Part 1.

As the author comes to the Prophets, he gives his reader a summary of the overall message of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel:

Israel was being judged and dispersed to the nations for covenant disobedience, but in the latter days Israel would be regathered and restored to her land and experience New Covenant blessings, both material and spiritual, under the leadership of the ultimate Son of David. As a result, the nations, who will be judged for a time, will also benefit from the reign of Messiah, and the restoration of Israel and become the people of God alongside Israel in an earthly kingdom. (He Will Reign Forever, 145)

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Review: “He Will Reign Forever” by Michael Vlach (Part 1)

Image of He Will Reign Forever
by Michael J Vlach
Jpl Books 2017
Hardcover

Dispensationalists and open-minded amillennialists know that a book or article by Michael Vlach is going to be worth reading. His contributions are always well thought-out, and his style is usually analytical yet easy to follow. He has written several useful works, including Has the Church Replaced Israel? and a recent e-book, How Does the New Testament Use the Old Testament? This book, running for more than 600 pages, is his most ambitious yet.

He Shall Reign Forever is Dr. Vlach’s attempt to write a whole-Bible biblical theology — something that Dispensationalists, in whose company the author counts himself, have often shied away from, although, commendably, the author does not structure the volume around “dispensations.” What we get is a must-have piece of biblical theology.

Vlach has taken as his central idea the theme of God’s Kingdom. There is no argument here with the choice. It is perhaps the primary theme of the Bible (25-26). But the Kingdom of God has proven to be a very mutivalent concept in the hands of Bible scholars (e.g. 29-30, 32). Therefore, any writer who wants to put out a big book on the Kingdom has his work cut out for him. The question is, how to both persuade the reader of ones own take while showing why other views of the subject – e.g. the Kingdom is the Church, or the Kingdom is the inheritance of the Church – fail in their understanding of the Scriptures (e.g. 16).

1808 reads

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