Having already read the other books in the “40 Questions” series, I knew that it was written primarily for non-scholars. Yet all of the books in this series have consistently reflected a scholarly grasp on the subjects addressed. Schnabel’s work is no different.
40 Questions About the End Times is just that – forty questions related to the subject of eschatology. Eschatology is generally considered the “study of end times,” though Schnabel’s first question (“When do the end times begin”) is answered in a way that demonstrates that the NT teaches that “the end times are a present reality since the first coming of Jesus” (p. 25). Schnabel goes on to say,
“End-time “specialists” who describe the last days or the end times as future period misunderstand the structure of New Testament eschatology. Jesus and the apostles taught that the end (eschatos) is near, the last days have begun, and the end times are now a present reality” (ibid.)
This is a great way to understand Schnabel’s approach: applicable. Why does the study of eschatology matter? Because it applies now, and started having significant application in the first century, when the end times were inaugurated.
So what subjects does Schnabel address? There are four parts of the book:
- General Questions about the Future.
- The Return of Jesus Christ.
- The Millennium and the Last Judgment.
- Interpreting the End Times.
As you can plainly observe, these parts open up a variety of subjects that are relevant to issues related to the eschatological issues. Thankfully, these four parts raise questions dealing with the future of the church, Israel, the events that occur before the Return of Jesus, the actual Second Coming event, the “Millennium,” the New Jerusalem, , Judgment, and much more.
Concerning questions about the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowl Judgments, Schnabel’s answers that they (the judgments) will fall upon the earth and humankind and emphasize the sovereignty of God’s power (p. 55). They are both “literal” (historical!) and “symbolic” (figurative and metaphorical) (pp. 57-65). The judgments have been found throughout history (rendering this passage relevant in every generation) and will get progressively “worse” as history continues (applicable for the future).
Schnabel is also careful to acknowledge that concerning the modern state of Israel, we can’t be too dogmatic. When answering the question about whether or not the events of 1948 (and 1967) are a biblical fulfillment, he writes,
“The establishment of the modern state of Israel may or may not be the result of God’s intervention in history. This does not affect the fact that Christians are called to love the Jewish people, as they are indeed called to love all people, which they demonstrate by bringing the good news of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah and the Savior of the world, to all nations” (p. 135).
While navigating the exegetical and theological issues related to modern Israel, I appreciate Schnabel’s tactfulness, respect, and humility. I actually think the book’s value is enhanced drastically by this section. It’s quite helpful, as well as extremely balanced, with an acknowledgement of the differing theological perspectives.
As far as I’m concerned, I have no negative criticisms. I have tried in vain to come up with questions that I wish were addressed, but cannot. In fact, these forty are exactly where I’d want students of eschatology to begin. Even the last two questions are extremely important to the subject:
- How Should We view the Prophecies of Prophecy Writers?
- Why Should I Care about the End Times?
As you can tell, I would recommend this to everyone interested in learning about the subject of the “end times.” I believe Schnabel has framed the questions and answers in a way that informative, practical, comprehensive, and… well, correct. That is to say that Schnabel’s eschatological views were, surprisingly, my own.
So if you are generally in agreement with authors such as Ladd or Wright, you’ll enjoy this book. If not, you’ll be challenged. If you are completely ignorant, this is a great place to begin!
This is the first book I have read by Eckhard Schnabel. Schnabel has taught New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for a number of years. Starting in the fall of 2012, he will take the post of Mary F. Rockefeller Distinguished Professor of New Testament Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s widely known for his two-volume Early Christian Missions. In my book, he’s now known as an excellent author on the subject of eschatology.