From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology Hardcover – March 2, 2009
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"Mathison ambitiously surveys the whole Bible book by book, yet with substantial detail at some of the most critical points and does so with scholarly care, exegetical soundness, and philosophical breadth. Where one might vary from individual conclusions here and there, his survey of options is representative and his analysis well argued. Scholars, pastors, students, and learned laypeople need this kind of analysis, which relates a unified, coherent -- albeit variegated -- history of redemption and reminds the broader church that God is the Lord of time." --Michael J. Glodo, Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL
"A survey of the Bible that does not lose the forest for the trees. On the one hand, Mathison analyzes each book with careful attention to exegetical and critical issues. On the other hand, he identifies the entire canon's contribution to the grand biblical theme of promise and fulfillment. I do not know of a more accessible and up-to-date introduction to the Bible from a Reformed perspective." --John Muether, Librarian and Associate Professor of Church History, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL
About the Author
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The author defines the doctrine of eschatology (so many in contemporary religion hold incorrect notions) and then takes the reader for a marvelous journey through the books of scripture as he highlights the eschatological themes and the manner in which Jesus Christ fulfilled them as Lord, Savior, and Messiah.
This is a fine book for ministers and scholars, but is written with an assessable style and vocabulary. Mathison stresses the notion that the Kingdom of God is not limited to the future forasmuch as the King is currently reigning and the Kingdom is present with His people. Some readers may reject this already and not-yet structure, but this prodigious work is a splendid introduction to biblical eschatology.
The author furnishes:
- Biblical evidence that Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of God with His crucifixion and resurrection
- The Old Testament reveals Christ as one applies the New Testament
- A large deep introduction to God's unfolding covenants and promises
- A partial preterist view of Matthew 24
- Fascinating historical data on the period between the Old and New Testaments.
This work is God-centered and based on the person and work of Christ, hence it makes a delightful and edifying devotional tool or study resource.
There Are Moral Absolutes: How to Be Absolutely Sure That Christianity Alone Supplies
This theology book is a real gem. I loved reading it. The book will become a favorite, I'm sure, in my library. Mathison said that it is the fifth book he has written with "two fingers and a thumb. " So even though he is not an expert typist, he employs a superb, concise and easy- to- read writing style. Information from high level scholars is distilled into flowing and clear layman's language.
Those who seek to understand the bible as a whole likely would agree that some of the most difficult and debatable portions deal with eschatology. Unfortunately, these passages have caused friendly debate to turn into hostile division. Mathison has soothed this tendency with his irenic, well-researched approach. Due to a long term love for the subject, he has read massively as demonstrated in his extensive bibliography of top commentators.
The book of Genesis lays the foundation with the topics of the first creation, the fall, the mother promise(3:15), the commission to Adam (1:26-28) and the Abrahamic covenant. "Abram is, in fact, the biological father, not only of Israel, but of many nations" (p. 39)
Deuteronomy 4 & 30 lay important groundwork for the rest of prophetic expectation. The penalty for idolatry will be exile from the land, but Moses holds out hope that repentance will bring about restoration. The book of Kings points out that the reason for the exile is that Israel's kings have led them into idolatry. The prophet Isaiah will point out that after a remnant has been restored to the land after the Babylonian exile, Israel will remain under the power of foreign kings rather than the beneficent rule of a Davidic king (p. 199). Full restoration will come in a future Messianic kingdom inaugurated by Christ's first coming and consummated at his final return at the end of the present age. The prophets did not separate the inaugurated aspects from the consummated aspects. They blend them together somewhat arbitrarily. With the help of the NT, we can sort out these blended elements when we read the prophets.
An important passage on restoration is Ezekiel 34-48. Mathison writes; "These prophecies use highly idealized language. Ezekiel uses the familiar language of temple rituals in a symbolic manner to depict coming new realties. This accounts for much of the difficulty in interpreting his prophecies." (p. 250) The dispensational idea of a future physical temple is shown to have many inconsistencies. The commentaries of Daniel Block and Greg Beale are preferred in Mathison's 11-page summary.
Mathison explains the apocalyptic mode of revelation as used in Ezek. 38-39 and Dan. 7-12. "...apocalyptic literature was oriented toward the future and expressed its message in vivid symbolism encoded in dreams and visions. It is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing transcendent reality.." ( p. 259-60) . The author carefully considers the much debated views of the four successive kingdoms of Dan. 2 & 7 and concludes that the Roman view is preferred over the Greek view. Mathison notes that there are evangelicals who favor the Greek view such a Goldingay, Lucas, Gurney & Walton. In the prophesy of the "70 sevens", the author reduces the many views to three: Dispensational, Messianic, and Antiochene. He sees "the anointed one who is cut off and has nothing " as Christ and the "ruler who is to come" as Titus and the Roman army that destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70.(Dan. 9:26) He favors the Messianic view which starts with the decree of Cyrus in 539BC and ends shortly after the cross. Personally, the frequent use of the term "cut off" in the OT usually has a negative connotation and does not fit well with the Christ who triumphed over death in three days. Christ accomplished "everything" rather than "nothing". Mathison notes that the Masoretic text combines the "7 weeks" and the "62 weeks" which influences the possible identification(s) of "the anointed ones". Mathison sees the "70 sevens" as a sevenfold extension of the exile (70 years plus 490 years). Others see it as "not just 70 years but 490 years" which implies that the prophesy starts with the oracles of Jeremiah. The numbered years are best understood as rounded since the original 70 years of exile is rounded as well.
For the enigmatic Daniel 11:36-45 the author offers the possibility of a Herodian view as suggested by Mauro.
In summary, the OT prophets "anticipate that their warning will not be heeded and that exile will be the result. They also look beyond the exile with hope toward a period of restoration." (p. 313).
The author offers a 36 page excursus on the 400 year period between the OT and NT as a much appreciated bonus.
A much debated passage in the NT is the Olivet Discourse. The author prefers that it relate mostly to AD70. Surprisingly, Mathison does not shift to the parousia at Matt 24:36 as suggested by R.T. France. He agrees with N.T. Wright and R.C. Sproul that AD 70 continues to be in view all the way through the judgment of the sheep and the goats in Matt. 25. Much of his decision is based on the "Son of Man" language which comes from the enthronement text of Dan. 7:9-10, 13-14. Mathison sees that the use of this text in the NT relates mostly to the inaugurated aspect of Christ's kingdom rather than to the parousia.
Concerning John 14:2-3, some see Jesus' words "I will come back" as a reference to the rapture. Mathison notes that the word "coming" does not always refer to the parousia. He agrees with Craig Keener that this "coming" refers to Christ's appearance to the disciples after the resurrection . "He will impart the Spirit to them so that they may continue in his presence. Jesus will make it possible for believers to dwell permanently in the presence of God." ( p. 446. )
The book of Acts is important with its narration of the Ascension, Pentecost and the beginning of the Messianic Age. "The outpouring of the Holy Spirit signifies the dawn of the Isaianic New Exodus. The New Exodus is a way of describing the coming restoration of Israel. It will not, however, occur in the exact manner that nationalistic Jews might be expecting" (Compare Isaiah 32:15 with Acts 1:6) (p. 456) . The "last days" spoken of by the prophet Joel begin with the coming of Christ and Pentecost; not to the re-establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948 or to the days prior an imminent "7-year tribulation".
In the discussion of Galatians, Mathison lays out the Pauline eschatology as outlined by G. Vos and G.E. Ladd. "..for Paul, the death and resurrection of Jesus mean that the events that were expected to occur at the end have already begun within history." (p. 495) The two ages of the NT overlap beginning with the resurrection of Christ. This is "the already and the not yet" language of the entire NT. Therefore, all of the NT speaks of "the endtimes". (I Cor. 10:11). The result is intense conflict because "although the decisive battle has already been won , the enemy has not yet been completely removed from power." (p. 499)
Moving on to Thessalonians, Mathias notes that the several texts about the parousia "have been the source of much debate and disagreement because of their inherent difficulty. Great care and humility are required, therefore, when seeking to understand what Paul meant" (p.507) . All the texts in question relate to a single parousia; not to a separate rapture and not to a parousia of AD70. Mathison devotes 17 pages towards a summarized debate over the various possibilities for the enigmatic "Man of Lawlessness". Excellent commentators are referred to such as Bruce, Beale, Marshall, Green and Gentry. We are reminded from 2 Thess. 2:5 that "Paul is assuming some knowledge on their part[the Thessalonians]; knowledge that contemporary readers are forced to infer". (p. 523).
The author devotes 16 pages to the Election and Salvation of Israel; Rom. 9-11. Relying mainly on Doug Moo's commentary, Mathison concludes that the salvation of Israel relates to an "All Israel" that will exist at a point in the future; in close proximity to the resurrection and the parousia. "All Israel" is the nation as a whole, but not including every individual member" (p. 577). The author also discusses the views of John Calvin, O.P. Robertson and N. T. Wright who see "All Israel" more as a remnant than a nation.
The discussion of the views on Revelation take up a voluminous 57 pages. Concerning the debate on the date of composition, Mathison favors the early date (the mid 60s) which helps lead him to a partial- preterist conclusion. He sees the seals, trumpets, and bowls as sequential rather than a recapitulation. The trumpets relate to the limited judgments on the Jewish persecution of the early church leading up to AD70, and the bowls relate to the judgments on Rome due to its continued persecution on the church. I have not seen a study bible yet that recommends the partial- preterist approach. Even the Reformation Study Bible, of which Mathison is Assoc. Ed. supports a recapitulation approach similar to Beale and Osborne. Most other Non-Dispensational Study Bibles agree with this approach as long as a prominent Roman backdrop is a strong part of the interpretation.
Age to Age is a new, significant, comprehensive, scholarly yet readable contribution to the field of Biblical Eschatology. The reading of Age to Age will offer the reader a very satisfying summary of God's great plan of redemption. I heartily recommend this fine work to both scholars and lay students of the bible.