on January 9, 2010
This is a great book. Alexander starts with Revelation 21 and 22's teaching on the new heavens and earth and the temple-city that comes down from heaven. He shows that this is simply the culmination of what God planned on from the beginning---the institution of an Arboreal temple-city from which God reigns and lives with his people. So Alexander (a highly regarded Biblical Theology scholar) lays out what he calls the biblical meta-story by focusing on the bookends of Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22.
Alexander's notion of the earth's purpose as God's garden temple-city is a popular theme (laid out rigorously in Beale's The Temple and the Church's Mission, for example) and he pulls from many sources to establish this. Man was to extend the garden over all the earth. Adam and Eve's descendents would populate the earth as God's holy image bearers (in the ANE kings would place their images in all their domain to show that they owned it and were sovereign over it). He then points out that from the beginning the plan went astray. From then on, Alexander argues, we read of God's plan to bring about what he initially planned from the beginning. Alexander traces this theme of a temple-city with holy inhabitants from Abraham to the New Testament church. Along the way in this fascinating study (which he calls an introduction to thematic Biblical Theology) Alexander discussion such themes as God's sovereignty, Satan and the world's warfare against God, the slaughter of the lamb, redemption and sanctification, and assurance in living as a citizen of the kingdom as opposed to Babylon. This last theme is interesting. While Alexander certainly doesn't endorse any form of theonomy or theocracy, he does seem to say some things that might be at odds with the popular "dual citizens" view. Christians are called to flee Babylon, not participate as citizens of it (he shows this from Revelation and also pulls from Bauckham's commentary on Revelation on precisely this matter). Yes, we have to live in particular cities that are not the New Jerusalem, and we are "citizens" of it. But the sense the Bible understands "citizens of the city" wouldn't seem to apply. So, while it is true that we are "citizens" of our respective countries it is uninteresting as a theological point given how the Revelation is using this term. Call the uninteresting sense "citizen 1" and the Revelation sense "citizen 2." This means that we Christians are dual citizens 1 but not dual citizens 2. The latter invokes more Van Tillian worldview antithesis themes.
In this illuminating study Alexander notes that John's vision in Revelation of a temple wasn't some esoteric vaporous abstraction but is rooted in the Old Testament, thus serving to unite the testaments into a coherent storyline. Alexander also touches on issues not the main subject of his book. For example, though the book deals with eschatology broadly, it does not look at the millennial position. But Alexander takes views of some of the "golden age" passages not in accord with postmillennialism. He places them in the new heavens and earth. He also intimates that the next time Jesus returns bodily will be at the consummation, thus denying premillennialism. As an Amillennialist, though, he doesn't seem too pessimistic. For example, he claims that "By living in obedience to Christ, his disciples participate in the establishment of God's kingdom on earth. This kingdom is not restricted to national boundaries, but is gradually expanding to fill the whole earth. Yet as this divine kingdom continues to grow, with more and more people acknowledging the supreme sovereignty of God, many of the earth's inhabitants defiantly refuse to enthrone God as Lord" (96).
Yet, while this brief detour indicating millennial affinities is worthwhile (as are many other ones), Alexander takes some weird detours too. For example, he spends three pages taking some shots at capitalism. While I agree with the basics of his discussion here, he seems to simply rest on anti-capitalist caricatures of capitalism. He engages in the common mistake of confusing capitalism with capitalists. He also falls for the fallacy that the "rich" and the "poor" and the world's "wealth" are static categories and the "rich" have a large portion of the "total wealth" while the poor are left fighting over the scraps. These categories are not static. Furthermore, "wealth" isn't a static pie that is cut up into pieces. In fact, capitalism (broadly, though I understand some forms of capitalism are not capitalist) is the cause of building wealth so that the world is moving upward in a linear fashion in terms of things like wealth and life expectancy [...]. He also confuses self-interest with greed, taking his understanding of capitalism more from Gordon Gekko than a Hayek, a Friedman, a Sowell, a Mankiw, a Richards etc., though I realize these thinkers have their deficiencies). I felt this digression was unhelpful and would have rather the three pages been spent elucidating his main points some more. Anyway, I guess I shouldn't be too hard, Alexander is a theologian and not an economist, after all.
All in all, this was a very good book. It inspires as well as well as illuminates by looking at some of the great biblical themes Christians love. Alexander shows a tight unity pervading the Bible and shows how all the themes have their fulfillment in Christ and their end in the arboreal temple-city of the New Jerusalem.
on July 6, 2011
I have read a lot of books. I have learned from many; I have enjoyed fewer. There are a handful of books that I found to be mind-changing, paradigm-shifting. A few years ago one such book was John Piper's Desiring God. Also on that list are Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer, Knowing God by J.I. Packer and Dominion and Dynasty by Stephen Dempster. I have another book to add to this short list: From Eden to New Jerusalem by T. Desmond Alexander.
Alexander's book is accessible, easy to read, yet immensely informative. He focuses on the "book-end" chapters of the Bible: Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22. These chapters inform the rest of the story of Scripture. Alexander contends that Eden was created as a temple-garden. Satan's rebellion brought about Adam's insurrection resulting in man's expulsion from God's temple. Yet, he was on the move. Age to age he was moving humanity toward its intended end: the beginning.
He traces the motif of the temple and God's presence throughout the entire Scriptures. The Bible is not a collection of independent texts. Nor are there ages within Biblical history that are separated from one another. Instead, there is a cohesive story. We find ourselves in the intervening period. Yet, the dawn has come. Soon the day will arrive when the entire universe is once again a temple to the living God.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Note: I have received this book from Kregel Publishers as compensation for my review. I was not required to write a positive review.
on September 6, 2010
This book is a tremendous help for anyone who has read the Bible but desires to understand the message of the Bible -from cover to cover.- Alexander's book offers great insights into the important themes laid out in the Garden of Eden and a glimpse into the purposes of God's heart when He created the world. He then shows how these themes continue throughout Scripture, into our day, and eventually culminate in the coming of the New Jerusalem. The parts about how the Tabernacle, Temple, Eden, and New Jerusalem are all tied together were especially interesting and edifying. I highly recommend this book.
on September 28, 2011
Review: From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology by T. Desmond Alexander
Alexander, T. Desmond, From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2008. 208 pp. $19.99
T. Desmond Alexander, (Ph.D. Queen's University), is senior lecturer in biblical studies and director of postgraduate studies at Union Theological College, Belfast. Dr. Alexander accepted this appointment in September 2009, after serving as Director of Christian Training for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland for ten years. He had previously lectured in Semitic Studies at the Queen's University of Belfast. He has written and contributed to a wide variety of academic and reference books on the Bible. Alexander has attempted in this work to answer two questions by examining the over-arching story line of the Bible, or the meta-story. The two questions being addressed are: Why does the earth exist as well as what is the purpose of human life? He answers these questions broadly while looking at how the entire story interrelates through the conclusions illustrated in John's revelation of a New Jerusalem and finding their relation to God's original design in Eden.
"Why does the earth exist? What is the purpose of human life? As arrogant as it may seem this short book attempts to answer both of these questions" (9).From the outset of this work, Alexander contends that there is "an unparalleled meta-story from an anthology of literature, the Bible...linked by common themes and centered on a unique deity" (10). In short, there is a collection of texts that, by God's providence and inspiration, have been gathered and built upon to tell one unified story from beginning to end. In order to identify and construct this meta-story, one must see that the entirety of the Bible is ripe with inter-textual reference within which the story must be understood. Alexander goes on within his dialogue with the reader to prepare them to follow his methodology of interpretation by outlining the storyline by beginning at the end. By beginning at the end he asserts, "As is often the case, a story's conclusion provides a good guide to the themes and ideas dominant throughout" (10).
Identifying the denouement of the story in Revelation chapters 21 and 22, Alexander states that these forward looking passages not only look forward to the city God will build for his people for eternity, but more importantly to his argument that these texts show God completing the creation work he began in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. According to Alexander these two sets of biblical chapters form the bookends, an inclusio of sorts wherein they contain the biblical meta-story.
As Alexander builds his case he carefully constructs the biblical storyline by pointing out that the end of Revelation shows us that the earth will be God's dwelling place, a holy city that covers his creation and inhabited by holy people who regained their status as royal priests under the kingship of God in Jesus Christ. What is interesting is how he finds these themes identified through scripture and built upon in Genesis where two people were placed by God in a garden to work and keep it holy so that God may continue to dwell with them.
As the garden was made as an earthly temple to work, keep and subdue the creation under the royal priesthood of Adam, Alexander shows us how the rest of the story unfolds as the serpent enters and dismantles God's holy garden by tempting Adam and Eve to sin temporarily dethroning the Sovereign God over all creation (74).
Alexander builds on the plotline of the Bible by showing us how God has patiently and methodically restored his creation under his Lordship away from the control of Satan as he began to reinsert himself among his creatures that bore his image, the people of Israel. Israel was God's chosen tribe that would be his priests among the nations that worship and serve God in holiness and community, thereby allowing a holy God to once again dwell among them within the tabernacle (34). Alexander explains as scripture shows us the tabernacle was replaced with a fixed dwelling, the temple (42).
As the story progresses and God makes covenant with his people he also leads them out of captivity into a place of rest in the land of Canaan but God left their midst as a result of the unholy lives in the vicinity of the tabernacle and Jerusalem is established as a permanent temple resulting from King David's desire to restore honor to God (43).
What we find as the story progresses is a snowball effect of themes and motifs. We find that the temple is where God dwells and that place must be holy. We also find that Adam and Eve were established a viceroys of God's in the garden, to be holy, and to worship God so that God would dwell with them. We see the tragic events in the garden as Satan tainted the earth with sin and dethroned God so that ultimately God would have to accomplish his plan of a creation temple through the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ and defeat of Satan's reign (111). As Christ is sent as the lamb to slaughter, he brings with him several very important accomplishments. Christ defeats Satan's power of God's people by delivering his people out of bondage (125). God's blow to Satan establishes his victory and reaffirms his sovereignty over creation, but ultimately he establishes the church as the Kingdom of God. The church are those who will inherit the New Jerusalem and the church are the new royal priests as being image bearers of God who will work to establish the Kingdom of God until the return of Christ.
Identifying the Book Ends
As I read the book I began reading at the beginning. This appears to be an obvious approach, but then I skipped to the conclusion and then reread the introduction. My reason was to adhere to the same method Alexander used to identify the thesis of his book which he said hinged on reading the Bible through the lens of the "bookend" in Revelation 21 and 22 (192). Alexander wastes no time showing readers the similarity to the beginning of the Bible where God. He cites numerous resources that affirm his understanding that the end will be like the beginning restored to original pristine state. I was not able to easily grasp that in the body of the text unless I dived into the footnotes. I maintain that the footnotes are a little extensive and may have served well to elaborate on several points through the body of the work as it claims to be an introduction to, not introductory biblical theology. After seeing where his influences came from and reading further into the first chapter Alexander rightly claims that the dwelling place of God is significant in the outworking of the storyline. This claim begins to add weight to his claim that the meta-story does indeed answer both why earth exists and the purpose of human life but are not fully developed. He did a fine job of helping the lay reader understand the connections between why Eden is significant as a garden temple and the New Jerusalem as well as every temporary dwelling place in between. On page 20, Alexander clearly defines Eden as the sanctuary where god dwells with man. This is and was the original intent of Eden (20). This statement stakes the ground where the rest of the story is built upon. Alexander could have possibly emphasized this fundamental claim a bit more to ensure we see that as the goal throughout the storyline. He makes some astute observations along the way which help to defend the claim that Eden is description of the New Jerusalem. For example, Alexander observes that no sacrifices were necessary in Eden which could deter some from concluding that it was designed as a temple sanctuary. But he clarifies one important detail: there was not yet any sin, so there was no need for sacrifice (21). I would not have picked up on that unless I was looking at Genesis through the eyes of a restored creation account from Revelation as he did.
Alexander clearly made his case that redeemed humanity was to do the work of declaring the Kingdom of God and that this Kingdom would inherit this New Jerusalem after death by identifying the royal priesthood theme in Genesis, and Ancient Near East culture (84). This priesthood is not a new concept but the original intent of Adam and Eve, and cannot only be obtained through the atoning sacrifice and submission to Jesus Christ and living by His Spirit, the tree of life (155).
I certainly gained an enormous appreciation for biblical theology from reading this book. I do not have any areas of disagreement generally on the meta-storyline he proposed. What I do wonder and seemed to wonder throughout the book, is how he got there? I concede that it must take far more biblical knowledge and memory to develop this than I spent learning from his book, but I ask how can someone grow in their ability to do biblical theology in a God honoring manner without understanding the transitions and where the conclusions came from? An example to consider is how did he conclude with assurance that the church became the temple by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, absent an identifiable trajectory (68)? I know after reading this, had I not read backwards I would not have had the foresight to see where the trajectory was going. I think it would help readers to elaborate a little more along the way, perhaps showing us how he outlined the contrasts between Adam and Eve and the church so we can see the specific differences and similarities which led to his conclusions.
As I turned the last pages of Alexander's work, I was satisfied with what I learned but desired a little more "how to". Considering the volume was so short, it packed a lot of details of the grand story of the Bible to consider, as it brought the reader along from the Sacred Garden to the New Jerusalem built by God in the coming future (175). As an introduction to Biblical Theology it was extremely helpful to the novice theologian I consider myself to be, simply because it coached the reader on the process and thesis development and illuminated the fulfillment of his thesis in his conclusion. It was helpful to see this done in a volume that is less intimidating than others and certainly affirmed my desire and conviction to pursue further detailed studies in biblical theology.
My final note on this work comes from the back cover, Alexander says, "Good theology always has pastoral implications, and this study is no exception. The truths revealed are extremely important for shaping our lifestyle choices." I could not agree more. He certainly accomplished that in this work by connecting the art of story and science of biblical theology that points to the glory of God's sovereign design and rule on earth and promises we have of his new city he is building for children of the faith.
on August 22, 2012
Author T. Desmond Alexander has provided us with an outstanding work on biblical theology. In his book, Alexander traces the principal story line of the Bible, or meta-story, from Genesis through Revelation. That meta-story describes God's original plan for both mankind and the earth, then how that that plan was derailed when Adam and Eve sinned, forfeiting their position as vice-regents and giving dominion over the earth to Satan. Alexander reveals how God has been working ever since to reclaim the earth and its people from Satan's power. In reclaiming the earth, God is seeking to dwell with his people. So Alexander walks us through the role of the tabernacle, the temple and the church in this grand meta-story. All of this will lead to a day when God will reign uncontested in the New Jerusalem. Alexander provides us with a scholarly work that is nevertheless easy to read. Only occasionally one comes across a book that is paradigm-shifting; this is one of those books. I wholeheartedly recommend this book. If I could, I would give it six stars. I would also suggest readers consider another good book that deals somewhat with this meta-story is "Dominion and Dynasty" by Stephen Dempster.
on August 21, 2013
Alexander, T. Desmond.
From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology
Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2008.
Reviewed by: C. B. Kvidahl
T. Desmond Alexander's From Eden to the New Jerusalem is a wealth of information packed into only 192 pages. Alexander begins his study by looking to Revelation 21-22 as a window back into the garden of Eden. As the subtitle states, this is an introduction into the discipline of Biblical Theology. But it is so much more than just an introduction. Alexander traces some of the key themes that begin in Gen 3 and come to their full consummation in Rev 21-22. Alexander does not seek to provide an exhaustive study of key themes, rather he focuses on the forest more so than the individual trees. But do not expect this to be a super sonic fly over; it is rather a slow fly over, allowing the reader to the forest and admire the view.
In each of the eight chapters in the book, Alexander traces the story from creation to new-creation, highlighting certain motifs as the Eden as a temple-garden, the tabernacle, humanity as God's viceroys, the great serpent, Passover and the Lamb, the tree of life, and New Jerusalem and Babylon. Alexander engages the reader from start to finish, showing how these themes tie together.
In chapter two, the author shows how the garden of Eden was more than just a place to see pretty plants. From the beginning, God has his dwelling with mankind. He creates a world and places Adam and Eve in the garden in order to tend and take care of his creation. Not only this, but we note that God would often walk with man in the garden. Further, Alexander notes some similarities that Eden shares with the later tabernacle/temple:
Eden and the later tabernacle/temple were entered from the east, with cherubim guarding the entrance.
The tree of life is later represented in the tabernacle/temple by the menorah.
The same Hebrew words for "to serve, till" and "to keep, observe, guard" are used only in relation to Adam and Eve and later the priests who serve in the tabernacle/temple.
The gemstone spoken of in Gen 2 (gold and onyx) were later used in the tabernacle/temple to decorate the sanctuary and the priestly garments.
The presence of the Lord is in both Eden (God walks with Adam and Eve) and the tabernacle/temple.
Alexander traces the tabernacle/temple motif through the Exodus of Israel, Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus, the Church, and finally the New Jerusalem of Rev 21-22. Through the development of Israel as God's people, and later the Church, Alexander shows the reader how this Temple motif is central and important. Whereas before the fall mankind had full access to and fellowship with God, since then God has been in the business of restoring mankind's access to God.
Another theme which Alexander traces is the idea of humanity of God's viceroys. When God created mankind, he created them with intent that the populate the earth and spread God's presence throughout his creation. He gave Adam and Eve dominion over the animals and commanded them to multiply. But when the serpent entered into the garden and deceived Adam and Eve, they transferred their allegiance from God to Satan, thus allowing Satan to gain a foothold in God's creation. As Alexander states, "by betraying God and obeying the serpent, the royal couple dethrone God." This betrayal cost the couple their priestly status, and God banished them from the garden and from his presence. The remainder of the story is God orchestrating in such a way as to re-establish his kingdom on earth. When Jesus comes proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, he ushers in God's kingdom and his victory over the rule and dominion of the great serpent Satan. Through the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Messiah, the Church now has keys to the kingdom. At the death of Christ, Satan is bound and the gospel is spread throughout the earth. Although the Church now currently lives in the tension of the already-but-not-yet, we eagerly await the coming of the New Jerusalem and our Messiah.
The only criticism I have with this excellent study is that chapter seven seemed to drag on a bit. While I see its necessity in a study like this, I just felt like the momentum which was gained in the first six chapters seemed to slow a bit towards the end. Nevertheless, I would recommend From Eden to the New Jerusalem to the reader looking for a book that shows the reader how to not only understand the discipline of Biblical Theology, but to also see how it is done first hand.
on October 3, 2015
God works through images and people. The author brings out the importance of how God used the temple, Israel, and now the Christian Church to bring about His Kingdom. The New Jerusalem is the ultimate goal of God. I do not believe the authors analysis that the work of satan is being pushed back by the church. If anything events show that the world is not getting better or more evangelized, and that evil is prospering very well. The author ends the book with a rip on capitalism which has no place in a work like this.
on March 10, 2016
From Eden to the New Jerusalem, written by T. Desmond Alexander, is comprised of eight chapters in which Alexander sets forth to give an introduction to biblical theology by unpacking the “bookends” of Scripture, i.e. the opening chapters of Genesis and Revelation 21-22. As he examines the themes that flow throughout scripture from beginning to end, Alexander maintains two assumptions: that the biblical description of our future existence has more to do with our present existence than many realize and that the final chapters of Revelation offer a “window through which the main themes of the biblical meta-story may be studied” (7).
Alexander’s approach is to begin at the end with Revelation 21-22. Although this treatment is not exhaustive, the author introduces the reader to several key themes that help to understand the whole of the biblical meta-narrative. As Alexander unpacks these themes, he does so with the understanding that there is not a book of the Bible that can be interpreted in isolation from the rest. Because each book of Scripture develops further the meta-narrative, every text is seen as the context for every other text.
As Alexander looks into the brackets of the beginning chapters of Genesis and the final chapters of Revelation, he traces the presence of God throughout Scripture. In chapter 2, the largest chapter in the book, Alexander unpacks the theme of the temple as God’s dwelling place.
In the beginning, God establishes the earth as His dwelling place with the intention that that Garden of Eden would be His temple, with Adam and Eve his vice-regents. The imagery is similar to that of a temple. The language of the initial chapters of Genesis is Levitical, clearly temple language. The Garden is identified as a sanctuary, a special place where God dwells. In Eden, God established a blueprint for this temple-garden to be expanded over all the earth. This expectation was shattered when Adam and Eve disobeyed and were expelled from God’s presence. While humans continue to live on the earth, God’s presence is identified as being in heaven. The blueprint would not be completed until the final chapters of Revelation.
In the exodus account, another major development occurs. After delivering enslaved Israel from bondage in Egypt, God brings them to Mount Sinai and enters into a special covenant with his people. Alexander labels this a major advancement of what began in the beginning. God’s presence now resides with a particular nation exclusively, as indicated by the glory of God that filled the Tabernacle in the wilderness.
The thematic treatment of God’s presence continues in the book of Joshua. Soon after the conquest of Canaan, a tabernacle is built at Shiloh. This is understood as the precursor to Solomon’s temple – God’s dwelling place. God now resides not only with the nation of Israel exclusively, but also with the citizens of Jerusalem particularly.
The tabernacle in the wilderness and at Shiloh continued the motif that the earth should become God’s dwelling place. God prescribes the manufacture of a special tent, features of which would later be used in the Temple at Jerusalem. In the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant is seen as a footstool that extends the heavenly throne to earth.
In Ezra and Nehemiah, a major reversal occurs when Israel is carried away to captivity in Babylon. This temporary captivity is overturned in a second exodus. Ezra and Nehemiah return to the land to build the Second Temple and rebuild the walls. Alexander notes here, “While the evidence is ambiguous, God was probably perceived as once more dwelling within the city of Jerusalem” (16-17).
The next major progression Alexander proposes in the understanding of God’s presence in the meta-narrative of Scripture is the coming of Jesus Christ. The Word becomes flesh and “tabernacles” among men. This is further development of the concept of God dwelling among humans on the earth. No longer does God dwell among men in temples and tabernacles. He dwells among men in the incarnate Christ. The incarnation unites the concepts of “body” and “temple.”
The author further develops this thought with the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes upon the church. The incarnation (body and temple) provided the theological foundation for understanding the church – the body of Christ – as the temple of God. Now the Holy Spirit fills this “temple” and God’s presence is linked to the church. Wherever the followers of Jesus meet, God dwells in them and among them. And as the church expands through mission and persecution, God’s dwelling place on earth expands. Alexander skillfully points out that this was God’s original blueprint for which He commissioned Adam. And where Adam failed, the Lord’s church succeeds, though not perfectly, through the preaching of the gospel.
The theme of God’s presence finds its perfect fulfillment in the consummation of all things in Revelation 21-22. Protology finds is completion in eschatology. Evil is removed fully from the earth. God makes all things new and dwells on the earth with His people. The New Jerusalem that John sees descending to the earth is similar in many ways to the temple-garden in Eden, with one notable difference. God’s intention for the Edenic temple was only unrealized potential. The New Jerusalem temple is actual – the certain fulfillment of the progression of Scripture. The bud that was in Genesis fully blooms in Revelation.
Alexander also unpacks the theme of God’s sovereignty as seen flowing in the meta-narrative of Scripture. The reader’s attention is drawn to references of the throne found in Revelation 21-22. By highlighting the throne John shows that the New Jerusalem confirms and establishes God’s absolute authority and kingship over everything that exists upon the earth.
If the Garden of Eden was a temple, Alexander argues, then Adam and Eve were given a priestly status that allowed them direct access to God. In addition, God appointed them deputies to govern the earth and expand the temple on His behalf. This view is backed up with two propositions: 1) they are directly instructed by God to exercise dominion over all the creatures, and 2) the concept of royalty underlies the expression “the image of God,” as seen in ancient near East sources. Kingship and the divine image go hand in hand (76-77). Adam and Eve were to populate the earth with God’s image-bearers. This was part of God’s blueprint.
A major conflict occurs almost immediately in Scripture. God’s kingly image-bearers side with the enemy. And by submitting to the serpent, Adam and Eve not only subject themselves to the serpent, but also surrender control of the earth to him. Against this background, the rest of the meta-story develops, giving special attention to how God’s sovereignty will be restored and extended throughout all the earth.
The motif of God’s sovereignty is traced through Scripture. Abraham is identified as a priest-king after his encounter with Melchizedek. In Exodus 19:3-6, Israel is declared a kingdom of priests with the intention that they are to fulfill the role allocated to Adam and Eve. In the New Testament, the theocracy of Israel transitions to the kingdom of God, which is inaugurated through the coming of Jesus. 1 Peter 2:9 applies the motif of priest-kings to those who acknowledge the reign of Christ.
“One day the present age will give way to another, when the earth will be rejuvenated and the sovereignty of God will finally become an undisputed reality in the New Jerusalem” (97).
In “Dealing with the Devil,” Alexander points out that while the devil has authority over this earth because of Adam and Eve’s sin (1 Jn. 5:18-19; Jn. 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; Matt. 4:8-10), his head had been crushed by the seed of the woman in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. His reign as the god of this world will end permanently in Revelation 21-22.
Also prominent in Revelation 21-22 is the theme of Christ as the Lamb. These references point back to the Passover, identifying Christ as our Passover Lamb. The Lamb of Revelation further develops God’s creation blueprint in that He accomplishes the redemption of creation. The Lamb of Revelation delivers people from every nation, echoing the promise made to Abraham in the initial chapters of Genesis. He sets them free to function as priest-kings and to expand God’s kingdom on the earth until the hope of reigning with Christ in the New Jerusalem is accomplished.
Analysis and Conclusion
By tracing several key themes from Creation through Redemption to Consummation, Alexander concludes that the New Jerusalem is “an extension of all that has been revealed in the rest of the Bible” (172). Far from being impractical, the truths Alexander unpacks help the reader to understand his or her own story. “Good theology has pastoral implications” (11). Nothing makes sense or has true meaning outside of the one story that stands out from all the rest.
[The only thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars was the pot shots he takes at capitalism in the final chapter. Really unfitting with the rest of the book.]
on October 10, 2012
As is the aim of the book, this is a great introduction to biblical theology. Since the book is not even 200 pages this is a basic intro but it is full of content from page to page. As stated in the introduction, Alexander's approach to biblical theology "is to begin at the end. As is often the case, a story's conclusion provides a good guide to the themes and ideas dominant throughout." (p. 10) What is especially helpful in Alexander's approach is that he rightly sees the connection between Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22 as the bookends to the Bible and thus biblical theology.
The first chapter walks from Genesis to Revelation by looking at the significance of the Garden of Eden and the New Jerusalem city - the presence of God. In Gen. the garden is made for God and man to dwell in peace together. Sin broke the peace and redemption in Christ is the means through which God will restore that peace. The New Jerusalem in Revelation is the final fulfillment of that redemptive promise to once again make a dwelling place for God and man on earth. We move from a garden to a city.
Since the garden and the city are a place where God and man dwell and have peace, God provides a place where this can still happen in a limited way until the new city is built. The theme of temple is the vehicle that drives the biblical theology of the dwelling place of God. First, there is the temple-garden of Eden. Once the people of Israel are formed they are instructed to build the tabernacle in the wilderness in which God would dwell with them. Once Israel is settled in the land God builds a more permanent temple in Jerusalem under Solomon. then, once Christ comes and send the Holy Spirit, God dwells in man individually and the church as a body. Finally, once sin is removed God will bring the New Jerusalem to the earth where God and man will dwell in peace once again as they did in Eden but in a formed and filled city.
With the chapter on the dwelling place of God as the foundation for the book. Alexander explores some other basic themes as derived from the Genesis and Revelation. Chapter three deals with the sovereignty of God over man and all creation. On the heals of the rulership of God in the world is how God deals with Satan as the source of evil. From here Alexander explores the redemptive plan to deal with Satan and evil which is through Christ, specifically as the sacrificial lamb of God. Chapter six addresses the idea of holiness and how God demands it, supplies it and accomplishes it in His people. In Genesis and Revelation this is seen through the presence of the tree of life.
While the final chapter of the book seems a bit out of place, overall this is an excellent intro to biblical theology that everyone must read. Alexander sticks to the text, utilizes ancient near eastern literature and practices in the service of understanding the text and write in a clear and convincing manner.
on November 9, 2011
This review was first posted at [...]
I would like to thank Kregel for this review copy.
T. Desmond Alexander is senior lecturer in biblical studies and director of postgraduate studies at Union Theological College. He is the author of From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch, and editor of New Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Exploring Scripture's Unity & Diversity and Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch.
Alexander's offering here really is a great introduction to Biblical theology. There are many books coming out these days offering a Biblical theology of different topics, but this volume seeks to ground all of those in the storyline of the Bible and the purpose for its existence. Alexander does this by asking why anything exists at all and what is purpose of it. Like Beale and Walton, Alexander understands the whole universe to be the Temple of God and his people are his servants within his Temple. Again, similar to others, Alexander explores how this is worked out in Eden, the Church and the future New Heavens and Earth. He then moves to discuss the role of humanity in God's universal temple. Adam, Israel, and through Jesus, the new humanity are seen as priests and kings in God's world, tasked with expanding his reign. This includes the salvation that Jesus brings to the human race through his death and resurrection. Alexander then connects God's great acts of salvation within his Temple, the Exodus and the Cross/Resurrection. From here, Alexander discusses the implications of God's final act in Jesus for the Church and Christians, providing the theological interpretation of these acts.
This book does exactly what it is supposed to do: introduces the concepts and methodology of Biblical theology. Alexander does an excellent job walking through the historical development of salvation and redemption with an eye to its purpose and reason. Such a volume can be used as an introduction to the Bible for non or new believers and those from different backgrounds or traditions where systematic theology, or no theology at all, reigns supreme. While Scobie is huge, Vos is too advanced for an introduction and Hamilton is outstanding (see forthcoming review) but between the two former in length and technicality, at 208 pages From Eden to the New Jerusalem brings together much of the work of the recent Biblical theology movement in a handy and easy to read introduction.