40 Questions About the End Times – Book Review

May 10, 2012
Title: 40 Questions about the End Times
Author: Eckhard Schnabel
Series Editor: Benjamin L. Merkle
Publisher: Kregel Academic & Professional
Date Published: 2011

Eckhart Schnabel has written a book entitled, “40 Questions about the End Times.” With the current interest in the end times amid speculation about the end of the world, there is a need for a scholarly book to answer questions concerning the return of Christ, and Schnabel has written such a book. He states in his introduction that the goal of the book is to “answer the series of important questions that are raised about the times leading up to the end, while avoiding sensationalism.” (pg. 9)

He begins with a helpful discussion, in which he defines the theological terms associated with the end times. Precise definitions are given for amillennialism, premillennialism and postmillennialism and other terms. As an expositor, Schnabel has chosen not to use these terms throughout his book in an effort to keep the discussion focused on the Scriptures. This is refreshing and places the focus on the text rather than theological systems.

Next, Schnabel discusses his method for interpreting the eschatological passages of Scripture. He states that the text must be interpreted according to its “historical, cultural and linguistic context,” which is the way that all Scripture should be interpreted. However, then he states that he will interpret the text symbolically rather than literally. According to Schnabel, interpreting end times Scriptures literally whenever the text will allow is “an illegitimate demand because it leaves the decision when to interpret literally and when to interpret symbolically up to the modern interpreter.” (pg. 12) Schnabel concludes his discussion on interpretation vowing to use clear passages to interpret unclear passages, but he does not follow his own advice. For example, in Revelation 13:16, John discusses the mark of the beast. “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.” (NIV) The text clearly states that people will be forced to receive a mark on their hand or forehead, and yet in his discussion concerning the mark of the beast, Schnabel states, “The expression ‘mark of the beast’ is a symbolic way of describing the state’s measures that are designed to ensure that people submit to compulsory idol worship.” (pg. 203) The book contains other examples where he interprets clear propositional statements as being symbolic, in keeping with his focus on symbolism as opposed to the literal meaning.

Eckhard Schnabel has written a book answering important questions about the end times. His book is scholarly and pastors will find it challenging as they wrestle with the text of end time prophecies. But I would not recommend this book to my congregation, because of Schnabel’s preference for symbolic interpretations over literal in clear texts.

Pastor Allen Mickle Sr.
Walkerville Evangelical Baptist Church, Windsor, ON

A Review of Rapture Fiction and the Evangelical Crisis – Appendix – “Alternatives to Dispensationalism”

November 10, 2007

Gribben concludes his book with an appendix called “Alternatives to Dispensationalism.” It is of course very true that there are other alternatives to a dispensational view of the Scriptures. Yet, does Gribben effectively understand dispensationalism so as to offer helpful alternatives to the movement?

He first notes that we must all acknowledge dispensational distinctives, in that he means that there are different epochs in redemption history that we need to note. Even the staunch opponent to dispensationalism notes the differences in 2 dispensations; namely the Old and New Testament. But because of this, we note that therefore this is not necessarily a distinctive of dispensationalism. We refer then to the sine qua non of dispensationalism. The major hallmarks of dispensationalism is a distinction between Israel and the Church, a literal hermeneutic, and viewing God’s main purpose in history as that of pursuing His glory. But Gribben does note these things later.

He looks briefly at the systematization of dispensationalism by Darby and the revision of the 1967 Scofield Bible. He then notes the change toward Progressive Dispensationalism and the work of Bock and Blaising and others. He notes the change on the view of Israel in this movment and the question of whether they are truly dispensationalists any longer.

He then explains the arrival of New Covenant Theology and the distinction between it and Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology and their emphasis on either the first or the second London Baptist Confession of Faith. He then looks at Reformed Paedo-Baptist theology and finally notes that any disagreement between the various movements should be done with grace. He finally notes that one does not have to be a dispensationalist to be a premillennialist.

It is not Gribben’s intention to go in-depth on the different positions but simply to say there are different positions outside of dispensationalism. In that I agree. I may quibble about the differences and how he views the importance of some of the non-dispensational distinctives but overall, Gribben traces the differences fairly well. It would have been nicer if this section was longer and more in-depth.

Overall, Gribben’s book is absolutely tremendous. As a dispensationalist I feel it is important to look at the popular mainstream approach to our theology and note the problems and work to fix them and to focus our eyes on the true gospel! Evangelicalism has issues. We are a movement without true theological moorings. We must heed Gribben’s call to faithfulness to the Scriptures and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Whether you are a dispensationalist, a progressive, a New Covenant Theologian, or a covenant theologian, you need to read this book! Could not be recommended any higher!

A Review of “Rapture Fiction and the Evangelical Crisis” by Crawford Gribben – Chapter 7 – “Eschatology and Evangelical Renewal”

October 20, 2007


Now, I suppose when you promise to review a book every Saturday until you are finished you should probably do that! Now, considering it has been almost 5 months since I started reviewing my friend Crawford’s book, Rapture Fiction and the Evangelical Crisis, I should probably get to finishing it! So, without further ado, here is chapter 7! Next week, I will try to review the final part of the book, the Appendix and give my summary conclusions.

Gribben starts off with a discussion about the generally pessimistic outlook of Rapture Fiction. He notes that instead of just thinking that this time between the two comings of Christ we have very real positive requirements of the church. “Our duties as we wait for the Lord from heaven, include the constant pursuit of the reformation of the church, its doctrine and practice, and the constant pursuit of increasing purity in the Christan life” (p. 112). He is right. For far too long have we of the dispensational premillennial persuasion just simply stuck our heads in the sand as we wait for the Rapture instead of actively following the Lord’s commands for us now between Christ’s comings!

He notes a blessing of the eschatological framework of the Rapture Fiction is that of the “now” and “not yet” in that we look toward the Blessed Hope of the Lord’s return. While we have wonderful blessings now, we must still look forward to and yearn for the culmination of God’s redemptive plan. We have communion with the saints in heaven as we look forward to enjoying what they enjoy now.

This fellowship of the saints should influence how we live together as believers here in the “now.” Everything we do in the life of the church should reflect the wonderful “now” blessings but should look forward to the even better “not yet” things to come. Therefore things like the Lord’s Supper should reflect that wonderful time of Christ’s return.

But, we live in a fallen world where we are in a constant battle as believers. We cannot live in the future “not yet” when we are not there yet. We must live in the “now” as we deal with a sin cursed world and try to achieve holiness. “So the fallen world will one day be renewed. In the meantime, Christians should be busy, for the fallen word is the sphere of our activity” (p. 114).

All believers are going home even though things here on earth seem grim. There is a wonderful future awaiting for us should we reach death or the Lord’s return. We must constantly think and reflect on the blessed hope to come. This is the strength of Gribben’s book. It is not necessarily the eschatological position of the Rapture Fiction which is wrong, it is an incorrect emphasis on it to the neglect of the here and now. While we live for the future, we live in the now. Any eschatological position that reminds us to live here and now as we pursue holiness yet keep our minds on the blessed hope of the Lord’s return is good. While Evangelicalism is in a theological crisis, it is not the doctrine of eschatology that is the cause. In light of the Lord’s return though, we should be focusing on continued reform in the church as we seek to honour God in the life of the church.

This is perhaps Gribben’s strongest chapter. I would recommend the book (and it is well worth the price) for this simple chapter alone. We all, no matter what eschatological position, must remember that we live in the hear and now not in the future, but we should not neglect the future either. It gives us hope and causes us to persevere in the here and now.

Next week, I will review Gribben’s appendix where he actually deals with issues of differing eschatological framework’s. So far, a hearty endorsement for this book. It should remind us all about the theological anemia in the church today and why continued theological reformation is needed.