New Book Reading: Christian Hope Through Fulfilled Prophecy
Of any area of systematic theology, eschatology tends to be the least interesting to me. I’ve generally been happy thinking about broad concepts like whether the escapism of Rapture theology fits with the God revealed in Jesus, whether the exact details are predetermined or whether human decisions play some part, and so on. Generally speaking, though, I haven’t felt it particularly helpful to spend a lot of time investigating biblical texts related to eschatology. That means it is probably time that I do dig in a bit deeper.
Christian Hope Through Fulfilled Prophecy argues for a full preterist view of eschatology. That means the author, Charles Meek, believes that all of the prophecy in the Bible speaking of “the last days” or “the time of the end” or the parousia are really speaking about things that have already happened. In particular, he sees everything as looking forward to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 C.E. There has been one point already where I feel like he’s pushed this farther than I would, when he argues Daniel’s prophecy of the “abomination of desolation” was looking ahead to 70 C.E.’s Temple destruction instead of to the actions of Antiochus IV sacrificing a pig on the Temple altar, which is how 1 Maccabees uses the phrase and was closer to Daniel’s context.
Where do I fall on the eschatological spectrum starting the book? I’m probably somewhere between full preterist and partial preterist, with some spiritualist/idealist in there too. For those unfamiliar with the terms:
- a partial preterist believes many of the texts referred to things that already happened (70 C.E. or otherwise) but there will still be another coming of Jesus to complete the redemption of the Earth at some point in the future.
- a spiritualist/idealist believes that the point of the texts was for general spiritual instruction and not primarily about specific events
I still want to say that the main point is spiritualist/idealist. If we view as only preterist, it seems easy to me to say that it doesn’t have anything to offer my life right now. That conflicts with my fundamental belief that all Scripture is useful to discipleship (not always in obvious ways). We also don’t want to completely dehistoricize those texts either, whether they are about Antiochus or the Temple destruction or the persecutions of Domitian or something else. For me, it is more that history moves in parallels. The message of Daniel can be about Antiochus but Jesus can reference it to say “this kind of thing is going to happen again” when the Temple is destroyed. We can similarly look at those historical events to learn about power structures and how Christians respond in parallel scenarios today.
Another point that makes this book interesting to me is that Meek is a self-described conservative evangelical. In the first quarter of the book that I’ve read, this has already popped up in a few ways. He is relentless in going back to ask what the Bible actually says. It’s not in a literalistic way and he does a good job early offering principles for reading the Bible that I would entirely agree with. It’s more about tone and starting point being different than my starting point of the revelation of Jesus. Another point was his not-at-all-convincing argument that most if not all of the New Testament was written before 70 C.E. which relied on conservative assumptions about authorship. There are other minor ways our different starting points appear, mostly simply in terms of language. He uses gender-exclusive language, e.g. “men of God.” He uses AD instead of CE. He refers to the Bible as the Word of God, which I believe is a title meant only for the living Word, Jesus, and often confuses people into treating the Bible like an extra member of the Trinity. With those kind of things noted, it’s not overwhelming to distract from the main points and I think it could be really valuable for those who do have the similar conservative evangelical starting point, helping them see a different perspective using language and assumptions that are familiar. Different perspectives are never a bad thing, including for me.
In case I’ve been too critical, there have been a couple of big “ahha!” moments which have undoubtedly made this a worthwhile read already. One came regarding Jesus’ statement that not one bit of the Law would pass away until the end of the age. If you think the end of the age means the destruction of the physical universe, we are still bound by every element of the Law… but Jesus and the early apostles made it clear we are not. If you’re of the preterist perspective that the end of the age was the destruction of the Temple which killed off the Old Covenant sacrificial system, this suddenly makes way more sense.
I’ll probably wait until the end of the book to write another post about it, but there were enough early impressions I wanted to get these thoughts down now.
I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review . The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.