Review: Making All Things New

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One of the the end goals of the Christian faith is that we are waiting for Christ to destroy “every rule and every authority and power” (1 Cor 15.24). The last enemy to be destroyed is death (15.25), and then everything will be made new (Rev. 21-22). But what if I told you this is happening now? What if I told you the new creation has already broken in, but it is not yet here.

In 2 Corinthians 5.17, Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Or, more literally, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, a new creation.” Christ’s resurrection has brought in the end of the age.

We are the ones on whom the end of the ages has come. We live in between the cross and the throne. But some of the OT promises that would come at the end have happened now. Christians are saved, but they are not yet saved completely. We are freed from sins reign, yet we still battle sin. We have the Holy Spirit has a guarantee of the end, but we are not yet at the end. We are justified in Christ, yet we must still pass through the judgment at the end of this age, knowing that we will be justified completely in Christ.

Just as the President of the United States gives his inaugural address when he is sworn into office, so the last days have given their own inaugural address. They are here. This is called Inaugurated Eschatology (IE). God’s kingdom has broken into this world through Jesus Christ, And through this book Ben Gladd and Matt Harmon teach their reader(s) that IE is a “reality that should shape pastoral leadership and be reflected in the life and ministry of the church” (back cover).

Gladd and Harmon’s goal “is to explain how understanding and applying the already-not yet perspective significantly enriches several key aspects of the life and ministry of the church” (xii).

This isn’t the sort of keep-it-in-the-backshelf academic idea that the church would be better off not knowing about. Quite the opposite. It was part of the mindset of the New Testament biblical authors, and it influenced their service to the church, their prayers, their evangelism, and the way they fed, guarded, and guided the flock, God’s people.

Summary

There are three sections with three section each. Making All Things New is based of of Greg Beale’s massive work, A New Testament Biblical Theology (a fantastic read. To make time, read a page every time you brush your teeth), and works out more of the practical aspects of his book while condensing many of Beale’s main ideas.

Section 1: Theological Foundation: Grasping the Already-Not Yet

This section condenses much of Beale’s tome.

Chapter One looks at the theological foundation for IE.

Chapter Two looks at the end-time Church and how a faithful remnant is seen in both testaments.

Chapter Three examines how we now live in the overlap of the ages, how this impacts the Christian life, and how we are to live.

Section 2: Pastoral Leadership: Leading God’s End-Time Flock in the Already-Not Yet

Pastors play a unique role in leading God’s people, and this section is specifically geared toward them.

Chapter Four shows how pastors are to feed the flock through some as common as preaching – yet it must be preaching that is grounded in the biblical text, and one that understands IE and how it affects us now.

Chapter Five, pastors are to guard the flock because false teachers, antichrists, are already here (2 Thess 2.1-12; 1 Jn 2.18-23). 

Chapter Six, pastors are to guide the flock. Like John, they lead by example in God’s kingdom, even when that involves suffering (Rev 1.9). By being that example, they show the Church how to overcome the world.

Section 3: End-Time Ministry: Service in the Latter-Day Temple of God

How does the Church, God’s end-time Temple, interact with both God and the world? Glad and Harmon examine worship, prayer, and missions.

Chapter Seven looks at worship in the beginning (Genesis 1-2) and the end (Revelation 4-5).

Chapter Eight, here Harmon examines the Lord’s Prayer, and how God’s kingdom has come to earth in Christ. Since God is ruling, we should fervently pray that life on earth would be as it is in heaven, with God ruling and all lovingly serving and obeying him because of Christ’s death and resurrection through the Holy Spirit. He also look at some of Paul’s teachings on prayer.

Chapter Nine gives a tight summary of the Bible’s storyline. It covers the command for Adam and Eve to spread the garden out to cover the earth that God’s glory would cover the earth, their failure to do so, and how that storyline progresses through Scripture up to Jesus, and then to his bride. Because of Christ, all those who are in Christ (both Jew and Gentile) are fulfilling what Adam and Israel were supposed to do, but failed to do.

The Conclusion summaries each chapter of the book.

Each chapter also ends with a good portion of practical teaching. There is an Implications section, which takes what the reader has been taught and funnels it into a mindset. How can one approach God on the basis of who he is and what he has done for us? How does one faithfully proclaim God’s word while persevering through suffering?

Practical Suggestions lists three actions the reader can do to cultivate the mindset that we live in the overlap of the ages. When we are going to preach or teach, we should bathe ourselves in prayer, because we know God has, does, and will work. You should “reflect how God’s end-time reign through Christ and his people is expressed through” a particular ministry in your church – even the nursery. And most chapters end with a Recommended Reading section.

Recommended?

Yes. This isn’t a book for only those who believe in covenant theology. While Gladd teaches at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), Harmon teaches at Grace Theological Seminary (GTS), a dispensational school. This is a theology that will deepen your reading of the Bible no matter which side of the Dispensational/Covenant line you lie on. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can still understand and gain much from this book.

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Benjamin Gladd and Matthew Harmon
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (March 15, 2016)

Buy it on Amazon or from Baker Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Review: Between the Cross and the Throne

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How often do Christians read Revelation? Do you think when you read it? Are you intrigued? Do you feel fear? Anxiety? Confusion? Does it lead you to praise and worship our Lord and Savior, the Lion-Lamb King? Revelation is a very difficult book, especially so for the modern day. The further along into time we go, the farther we get from the culture John write Revelation in. Should Revelation be taken literally? Are there symbols, how many, and what do they mean?

Summary

Emerson summarizes the book of Revelation and it’s application to the church in eight chapters.

Chapter one is the Introduction. Revelation isn’t a decoder ring you get out of your Sunday morning cereal box. “Rather, it is a book that was and is vital for the Church; it assures us, even as we face tribulation, of the triune God’s victorious reign and the imminence of Christ’s return” (1). Emerson says, “Most, if not all, of the book [Revelation] uses figurative images and language” (1). John draws these images from the Old Testament so that we can understand the conflict going on between Satan and God and his people.

Emerson provides his outline and the theological center of Revelation. Despite all of the persecution, it is God who rules on the throne, not Satan. Jesus suffered, died, and is the victorious King who will one day come to crush his (and our) enemies. “We can stand firm because he has already stood firm, and we can fight the Dragon’s servants because Christ has already bound their master” (5-6).

In chapter two Emerson guides the reader in seeing Revelation as a work of literature, a work that is a letter made up of prophecy and containing apocalyptic elements (figurative imagery, a focus on the end of history). Emerson takes a closer look at some of the literary devices, such as John’s use of numbers.

In chapter three, “The Drama of Redemption,” Emerson adds a fourth genre category, narrative. John sees his book “as the completion of the entire biblical narrative, connecting Christ’s work in his first and second coming with the story of creation and the fall (Gen 1–3). The new heavens and new earth (Rev 21–22) “is the consummation [completion] of Christ’s work of redemption to restore and renew creation from the effects of the fall.” John uses repeating patterns throughout Revelation to highlight different aspects of God’s judgment and mercy on the world and his faithfulness to his own people.

In chapters four and five, the reader is given two portraits. First, one of God and his people. Second, one of God’s enemies. Emerson believes that the church is seen all throughout Revelation. The reader is given a look at some of the images of God (“the seven spirits of God” and “the Lamb and Lion”). In writing to the seven churches, “‘[t]o the one who conquers,’ also reminds the church that they are being called to persevere” (40).  Emerson takes a quick guide to some of the phrases that describe the church in Revelation. When looking at the enemies of God, Emerson looks at “the unholy trinity” (made up of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet) and the harlot of Babylon.

Chapter six looks at the specific time periods (i.e., 1,260 days, 42 months, and “time, times, and half a time”), with Emerson saying that “the book’s time frame is especially structured around the events of Jesus’ first and second coming” (59). The war of the Lamb occurs during this period, where we see the dragon’s destructive dominion, the Lamb’s judgment, and the testimony of the church conquering over the dragon.

Chapter seven show us how to think about Revelation today in our modern world. The word has it’s agenda on how to shape people into its mold, “and it also has the practices to accomplish that purpose” (73). But believers today need to resist the world’s pressure and allow our worship of the crucified and risen Lamb to shape our minds and bodies to react in faithful trust to Christ.

Chapter eight draws the book to a close, reminding us “remain faithful to God in Christ by the power of his Holy Spirit until he returns in glorious victory over all his enemies” (77).

Each chapter ends with some suggested Bible reading and questions for the reader to reflect on which would also be good to use in a group setting.

Recommended?

This is highly recommended. It’s an easy introduction to Revelation. If you’re one who is put off by long, dense books, especially ones written on Revelation, then you really ought to pick up this book. It’s smooth reading, and was honestly hard for me to put down.

For the more academic, this book will be very light. But even still, if you’ve never studied up on Revelation and you’re neck-deep in biblical studies for other subjects, Emerson’s book would be a good side read to help become acquainted with the Apostle’s fantastic book. It’s hard to read this book without wanting more. Hopefully Emerson will provide us with more in the future.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Matthew Emerson
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Lexham Press (April 27, 2016)

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Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Review: Hidden But Now Revealed

Hidden But Now Revealed

People love mysteries. Whether it be Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, or Scooby Doo, it’s not hard to figure out: everybody loves a good mystery. It’s part of what creates a good story. We experience the everyday normal, yet our characters lead unexpected lives of adventure. A crime occurs with no evidence left behind. Suspects are few and far between. To make matters worse, time is running out. Books like these create in us a sense of wonder, curious about what the very next page will bring. And it’s all experienced in the comfort of our own chair.

Greg Beale has a knack for taking some of the most obscure topics in the Bible, revealing their importance, and making them very interesting. In The Temple and the Church’s Mission Beale showed us how John looks back to the Garden of Eden in Revelation 21-22. Throughout the book he shows the reader how this temple theme is found all throughout God’s word.

Here, in Hidden But Now Revealed, he looks at how mystery is used in the New Testament by grounding it’s meaning in the book of Daniel. Greg Beale and Daniel Gladd (a doctoral student of Beale at Wheaton College) cover the twenty-eight uses of the term mystery in the NT, along with explaining the meaning of mystery in Daniel, it’s subsequent interpretations in early Judaism, concepts related to mystery in the NT yet do not use the word mystery, and the relation between the Christian mystery and the pagan mystery religions (which is very little).

Matthew, Paul, and John all speak about mystery in their letters (i.e., the Gospel of Matthew, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and Revelation). But where is their meaning derived from? Not only this, but what does the meaning of mystery in Daniel and the NT tell us about how the NT contextually interprets the OT?

The Chocolate Milk

Daniel

How do we define mystery? Do we pull out Webster’s Dictionary to figure out the meaning? It doesn’t matter that we’re 2,000 years removed from the NT, does it? Yes, it does matter. Instead of relying on Webster, we look even further back in time. Beale and Gladd look to the book of Daniel and define mystery generally as “the revelation of God’s partially hidden wisdom, particularly as it concerns events occurring in the ‘latter days’” (20, emphasis original). What makes mystery so complex is that sometimes the biblical authors use two definitions at the same time: “(1) God’s wisdom has been finally disclosed, but nevertheless (2) his wisdom remains generally incomprehensible to non-believers” (20).

The original context for mystery comes from Daniel 2 and 4. In both of these chapters we see that either king Nebuchadnezzar’s “spirit was troubled” (2.1) over his dreams or they “made him fearful” (4.5). He tells Daniel “no mystery baffles you!” (4.9). In Daniel 4 the king might be fearful because he knows the dream is about him because his dream follows that of Daniel 2, where the destruction of Babylon is portrayed in the destruction of the golden head of the statue. The authors argue that mystery “is not a radically new revelation but a disclosure of something that was largely (but not entirely) hidden” (35).

New Testament Letters

The authors look at the NT letters (see paragraph 3) to see how the NT authors develop the idea of mystery. The chapter on Matthew was by far my favourite (as I am captivated by the Gospels right now) as they showed how the kingdom of heaven was known in the OT, yet it was also a mystery. Rather than being established at the end of time as was perceived in the OT and in early Judaism, it came in two stages (or an already-and-not-yet manner). It has “come” but is “not yet” completed.

This goes on for the rest of the NT’s use of mystery. There is a facet of the mystery that was known in the OT (whether it be about salvation, the Gentiles, the man of lawlessness, how the kingdom of evil will be defeated, etc), and there is new revelation now that Jesus, the high King of heaven, has come.

The Spoiled Milk

I enjoyed the book. It’s quite dense, and in reading this you’ll want your Bible by your side so you can read along with Gladd/Beale. Though the book can be quite general, it’s mainly due to the fact that the authors cover twenty eight uses of the term mystery in the NT. This is not an easy task. Though I feel some space could have been saved but for this one thing: double-summaries.

As Jim Hamilton has said in a review, “Beale is prolix” (a.k.a. Beale is “wordy”). At the end of each chapter is a conclusion where the authors summarize their findings. This is especially helpful in the chapters covering the NT letters. Yet, at the beginnings of those same chapters we run into the same findings again!

Example: The Ephesians chapter ‘ends’ with a conclusion summarizing the main points discussed, after which we are provided with an excursus. When we turn the page to Colossians we find four paragraphs repeating the summary conclusions from Ephesians. This is seen constantly throughout the section on the NT letters. It’s not a major flaw (it is helpful to see the thoughts summarized in perhaps a different way), still, much of it could have been done away with leaving us with either a slightly shorter book or one filled with some newer information.

Recommended?

Oh, yes, this is recommended. Though I should qualify that statement. If you’re interested in mystery in Daniel and/or in the NT, or how the NT interprets the OT then you would like this book. This book could be read all the way straight through (as I did), but what I did catch I’ll leave in the book until I come back to use it as a reference guide. The authors leave the excursuses at the end of each chapter, which really helps keep the flow of each chapter moving right along. Mysteries are quite complex, head-scratching, and, well, “mysterious” until you have the key. And I think Beale and Gladd can be looked to on having gone deeper into finding that key, not only of what consists of mystery, but how the NT interprets the OT.

Lagniappe

  • Paperback: 393 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (October 3, 2014)
  • Amazon: US // UK
  • PDF sample here

[Special thanks to Christine at Think IVP for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]