Problem Texts for Holistic Eschatology, Part 1

The primary thrust of my new book, A New Heaven and a New Earth, is that the proper and legitimate hope of New Testament eschatology is the resurrection of the body and the renewal of creation. This is in contrast to the idea of “going to heaven,” which has often been the way Christian hope has been thought of in the church.

From Creation to Eschaton

The book begins by exploring God’s purposes from the beginning for the human race in the context of creation, then sketches the overarching story the Bible tells, in order to exhibit its core logic, namely God’s desire to restore and renew the created order (these two chapters constitute Part 1: “From Creation to Eschaton”).

Holistic Salvation in the Old Testament

The book then goes on to examine how the Old Testament understands God’s purposes for earthly flourishing (Part 2: “Holistic Salvation in the Old Testament”), illustrating this from the exodus, law, wisdom, and the prophets, while also addressing texts that portray God coming in a judgment theophany, which seems to involve earthly destruction.

The New Testament’s Vision of Cosmic Renewal

Parts 1 and 2 lay the foundation for Part 3: “The New Testament’s Vision of Cosmic Renewal.” This is the core of the book. Here I clarify the relationship of bodily resurrection to the original human calling to be stewards of the earth (chap. 7: “Resurrection and the Restoration of Rule”), and then address the explicit motif of cosmic redemption in the New Testament, looking at key texts in Acts, the Pauline literature, 2 Peter, and Revelation (chap. 8: “The Redemption of All Things”).

Problem Texts for Holistic Eschatology

However, In the course of writing the book, I decided that I needed to deal with passages that have often been raised (throughout my teaching career and in the secondary literature) as objections against the idea that creation (including earth) will be redeemed  (Part 4: “Problem Texts for Holistic Eschatology”). Although I had touched on some of these passages in a cursory way in my earlier essay on eschatology, I decided to devote two chapters to the subject here. One chapter examines New Testament texts that seem to portray the destruction of the earth when Christ returns; the other addresses passages that seem to suggest a heavenly destiny for believers.

In a series of posts to follow, I plan on examining a few of these “problem texts,” to give a glimpse of what you can expect in the book. It turns out that not one of these texts is really a problem for holistic eschatology when read in context for what it really says. I’ll start with two posts on the “rapture” (one on 1 Thessalonians 4 and the other on Matthew 24).