Eschatology, the study of the end times, is one of the most difficult theological subjects to grasp. Full of complexity and often conjecture, contemporary discussions and debates about eschatology often discourage Christians rather than encouraging us. Eckhard Schnabel has helped bring clarity to the issues with his 40 Questions about the End Times. You can read my review of Schnabel’s new book over at The Gospel Coalition’s Book Reviews site. Here’s the overview:
Schnabel organizes our end-times questions into four categories: (1) the future of the world, the church, and Israel; (2) the return of Jesus Christ, including its preceding events; (3) the nature and timing of the millennium and the last judgment; and (4) how Christians should respond to prophecy writers and why Christians should care about eschatology. Simple summaries crystallize the content of each chapter (see the full table of contents here).
Five key “principles and convictions” guide Schnabel’s approach (11–12): (1) the New Testament interprets the Old Testament; (2) the date and time of Jesus’ return is unknown; (3) the end times began with the death and resurrection of Jesus; (4) early Christians viewed Jesus’ return as imminent; and (5) standard principles of interpretation apply to end-times passages.
The foundational first chapter (“When Do the End Times Begin?”) sets the trajectory for the book. Schnabel examines nine New Testament passages that show convincingly that the “end times” are the period between the first and second comings of Jesus (Acts 2:16–21; Rom. 13:11–12; Heb. 1:1–2; 9:26; Jas. 5:7–9; 1 Pet. 1:20; 2 Pet. 3:3; Jude 18; 1 John 2:18). Therefore, we are living in the end times. “The earliest Christians dated the beginning of the end times to the coming of Jesus, particularly his death and resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit, a complex of events that constitutes the fulfillment of God’s promises of Israel’s restoration and humanity’s salvation” (19–25). This proper starting point does justice to the New Testament’s interpretation of the Old Testament, honors the climactic centrality of Jesus’ arrival in the story of salvation, and correctly colors the present age with the imminence of Jesus’ return.
Despite the inherent subjectivity of the 40 Questions approach, Schnabel adequately covers the burning, time-honored topics. Welcome additions would include more concentrated or easier-to-find sections on (1) Ezekiel’s temple vision (Ezekiel 40–48), (2) Old Testament prophecies that dispensationalists claim represent an improved but imperfect restoration, (3) land promises and their fulfillment (see 121–27), and (4) a comparison of the major eschatological views (Schnabel states that such a comparison is not the purpose of the book as a whole, but a single chapter would be useful for most readers).
However, there’s no way to scratch every last itch, and readers will find virtually all their questions addressed with clear exegesis and careful argumentation. One may not agree with Schnabel’s answers to each question, but there is abundant scriptural support and clear argumentation to engage those who are more interested in examining the relevant texts than in stockpiling support for a particular system.
Read the whole thing here.