Eschatology

Alvah Hovey on the Intermediate State

Alvah Hovey was, at various times, both a Professor and President at the Newton Theological Institution for fifty-four years in the latter half of the 19th century. His systematic theology, entitled Manual of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, was published in 1877. In this excerpt, Hovey explains his understanding of the intermediate state.1

By this is meant the state of men between their bodily death and resurrection. That there is such a state must be assumed for the present; but we shall soon have occasion to exhibit the proof of it, by showing that there will be a simultaneous resurrection of the dead. Almost all Christians feel a particular solicitude about the condition of human souls immediately after death. The proximity of that state to this invests it with double interest. Friends accompany their friends to the very borders of it, and know that, when the latter close their eyes here, they open them at once there — know that in a moment their loved ones are in the state that lies between time and eternity —between existence in a natural body and existence in a spiritual body.

Besides, that is a profoundly mysterious life which connects the one before death with the one beyond the judgment, —a life of waiting for the Lord, with how much of blessed service on the part of the righteous, no one knows; for the teaching of Scripture concerning the middle state is neither full nor explicit, but it assures us of these facts :—

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The Cosmic Temple & Spiritualized Eschatology, Part 4

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Block’s Challenge

Recently the Old Testament scholar Daniel Block has vigorously challenged the whole Cosmic Temple thesis.1 Even if his counter-arguments are somewhat provisional,2 and he retains certain questionable positions on some matters (e.g. the presence of a covenant in Eden,3 violence beyond Eden,4 Jesus replacing the Jerusalem temple5), I think he has banged more than a couple of nails into the coffin. Allow me to set out several of his major criticisms:6

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Three Theological Words that Sound Alike

A lot of people talk about getting a “stint” in an artery, but they really mean a “stent.”  I created a saying to keep things clear: “I went for a stint in the hospital to get a stent. It was quite a stunt.”

Like everyone else, I get my words confused. This can easily happen when discussing theology.  An internet friend pointed out that, in some of my comments on a discussion forum, I had used the word “immanent” instead of the correct word in that context, “imminent.”

I thanked him, and, upon pondering his comments, remembered yet another similar word, “eminent.” 

“Time to write an article,” I thought to myself.

So this article is about three words that sound alike, have different meanings, but all communicate important ideas in our theology.

Immanent

First in our study of sound-alike theological words is the word, “immanent.”  This word is not well defined in a dictionary, so I turn to Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, p. 267.

Grudem writes:

The technical term used to speak of God’s involvement in creation is the word immanent, meaning “remaining in” creation. The God of the Bible is no abstract deity removed from, and uninterested in his creation.

This stands in contrast to beliefs embraced by some of America’s founding fathers who were Deists. Deists believe God created everything and then left, leaving us to fend for ourselves without His intervention or supervision.

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The Cosmic Temple & Spiritualized Eschatology, Part 3

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Objections to the Cosmic Temple Motif in Scripture

In Beale’s book The Temple and the Church’s Mission, both the garden of Eden and the Jerusalem temple are types of the Church, which is confusingly called the literal non-physical temple.1 Beale’s thesis, which is fed by many ingeniously interpreted though vague allusions – mainly reliant upon reinterpreting OT texts by privileged interpretations of the NT – is that the OT stories of Adam, Abraham, and Israel recapitulate the same story of failure to extend God’s spiritual kingdom throughout the world. Jesus, the final Adam, the final Israel, and the final temple (though apparently not the final Abraham), will set everything to rights when He comes, and then it’s a wrap as far as this present creation is concerned.2

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The Cosmic Temple & Spiritualized Eschatology, Part 2

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Firmer Ground

Following the biblical narrative it appears that the design and furnishings of the tabernacle/temple have some correspondence with the Paradise which Adam forfeited. This “remembrance” would only increase the sense of what was lost and what the Promised One (Gen. 3:15) would restore. It would act as an encouragement to faith. And the expectation would only be heightened once it was also revealed that the sanctuary was modeled after one in heaven (Exod. 25:9; Heb. 8:1-5).1 These ideas taken together form the backdrop for viewing the earthly temple sanctuary as a place of meeting between God and (one) man.2 Once the Redeemer completes eventually His work3 however, all saints may enter the true Holy Place (cf. Rev. 21:21-26).

If this view is accepted then neither Eden nor the later temple should be seen, in the first place, as a model of the whole Cosmos, but as a “pattern” or “imitation” of “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man.” (Heb. 8:2).4 Of course, if the true sanctuary does model the Cosmos then so would the copy.5

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What’s the Big Deal with Eschatology?

“So do you think we’ll be able to get ordained?” I remember the words well because they echoed my own thoughts. My friend and I had just left another class on Biblical Prophecy. We both grew up in independent Baptist circles. We both knew dispensational theology and eschatology like the back of our hands. We knew the charts and the graphs. We knew names like Darby, Ryrie, and Scofield. Yet, for both of us, there was a nagging verse that echoed in both of our ears as we sat in this class: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days…”

His question expressed a sentiment that was increasingly becoming a worry for me as I neared graduation from my undergraduate studies. After 4 years of study and the prospect of at least another two years in seminary, I became concerned that it may have all been wasted because no one in our circles would touch someone unless they held dispensational, premillennial, pretribulational eschatology. As our conversation progressed, we admitted to each other that it seemed like the only way to get ordained and begin ministry was to lie. Graciously, the Spirit convinced us this was not the correct path to take.

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The Cosmic Temple & Spiritualized Eschatology, Part 1

Israel’s temple was a symbolic shadow pointing to the eschatological “greater and more perfect tabernacle” (Heb. 9:11) in which Christ and the church would dwell and would form a part. If so, it would seem to be the wrong approach for Christians to look in hope to the building of another temple in Jerusalem composed of earthly “bricks and mortar” as a fulfillment of the OT temple prophecies. (G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 634)

The above quotation presents one of the logical outcomes of adopting the position that the garden of Eden was designed as a “temple,” which in turn symbolized the created cosmos, which needed to be subordinated to its Creator. This micro-cosmos Eden “temple” was to be expanded by mankind, we are told, until it covered the surface area of planet earth. The tabernacle and the temple of Israel were related to the Eden “temple” in that they too were mini-cosmoses; yet they also functioned as types of the final temple, the church in Jesus Christ. The church is the new and real temple which is to expand its “sacred space” until it spreads over the whole of creation.

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