• Author: Eckhard Schnabel
• Category: Theology
• Publisher: Kregel Publications (2012)
• Format: softcover
• Page Count: 352
• ISBN#: 0825438969
• List Price: $17.99
• Rating: Highly Recommended
• Rating: Highly Recommended
Few subjects spark such controversy among Christians as end times theology. For some, the only controversy lies in the inexplicable reluctance of some to fully embrace the truth. Why can’t everyone be so moved and excited by the very evident relevance of Biblical prophecy? Can’t they see just by picking up a newspaper how we are living in the last days? Others make it their mission to pop the bubble of the many believers who practice such a newspaper-theology. Whether they advocate preterism, pre-wrath, post-millennialism or some other minority position, they turn every conversation into a discussion of their favored end times view. Still others have been burned by churches for abandoning the official eschatological position. And many would rather avoid this subject than see another passionate argument arise.
Given the many opportunities to engender strife on such a volatile subject, we must assume that Eckhard Schnabel was perhaps a bit hesitant to put forth yet another book that aims to navigate the mine-field of eschatology. Whatever the case, Schnabel’s new book 40 Questions about the End Times (Kregel, 2012) will certainly prove to be an important and helpful contribution. I hope it receives wide attention as it offers a helpful corrective to careless end-times speculation and steers clear of divisiveness.
40 Questions is informative and expansive without being exhaustive. The format of attacking the subject by means of 40 separate questions allows the book to aim for a systematic treatment of the topic in small segmented bites. This approach means that it can’t cover every relevant passage and answer every conceivable question, but it has its merits too. The book can serve as a manual to be referenced when one is looking for information specific to one question (the millennium, the rapture, Hell and judgement, etc.). And the approach keeps the book moving and on track.
Schnabel masterfully employs charts and comparisons between parallel passages and betrays a true mastery of the literature. Yet he doesn’t write for scholars. He stays both practical and accessible, even as his footnotes point the way for further study. He tries his best to avoid discussing eschatological positions directly, preferring to cover the relevant Biblical texts exegetically. It is apparent that he is premillennial but not dispensational. He would be post-tribulational in a sense as well, but is more historic premil. And for the most part, he is right in the mainstream of evangelical scholarship: he defends eternal conscious punishment, but holds to a strange view of the millennium that sees the Gog and Magog rebellion at the end of the thousand years as a release of the unrepentant followers of Satan who are deceived and judged again. (This may just be strange to me, as I have not come across this view before. Yet, I can’t help but suspecting this is a minority view at best in scholarship today.)
Throughout the book, Schnabel obliquely references “end times specialists” who presume that certain prophecies can only be fulfilled given modern technological advances. Such views are anachronistic, and worse: they represent “new prophecies”, since they give a prophetic significance to history. He puts the claims that Babylon will be rebuilt and that a third temple will be built into this category. I have to agree with him that the false predictions and constantly modified interpretive declarations about end times theology (such as the identification of the European Union with the 10-kings who support the Beast) present a problem for the church. Schnabel elaborates:
If the prophecy writer tries again and adjusts his prophecy, and the new prediction does not come to pass, the end-time “specialist” is clearly neither a specialist nor a prophet. Prophecy writers who get it wrong must apologize and they should stop writing, speaking, blogging, and tweeting about matters related to prophecy. (pg. 311)
This book, however, is more than a mere eschatological handbook or polemic against modern-day false prophets. It is a call for the Church to live in light of the big central truths of prophecy. Christ is returning at any moment, and He will judge the dead and reward the faithful. His kingdom will never end and everything wrong will be made right.
Even if one disagrees with some of Schnabel’s particular interpretations, his discussion of the relevant arguments on each question will be both helpful and enlightening. But the book will especially be a help to those who remain “willing to consider the truth of other interpretations of biblical passages,” and when warranted, “willing to concede that [they] may have to adjust [their] understanding” (pg. 315). Ultimately, what Schnabel says of Revelation applies to this book: it is written “not to satisfy our curiosity about God’s timetable for the end times but in order to encourage believers who are suffering and to exhort believers who are in danger of compromising their faith” (pg. 316).
This book will both educate and encourage the believer. I highly recommend it.
Eckhard J. Schnabel (PhD, University of Aberdeen), is professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. His publications include Early Christian Mission and a commentary on 1 Corinthians.
This book was provided by Kregel Publications for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.