Book Reviews

Book Review: Biblical Eschatology, 2nd ed. (Jonathan Menn)

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Book Review Biblical Eschatology Jonathan Menn

I just reviewed Dayton Hartman’s Jesus Wins, which brings all the orthodox end times views together and declares that they can all agree on at least one main thing: in the end, Jesus wins. It is a very short book. On the other side of things, Jonathan Menn has revised his Biblical Eschatology, a massive, detailed book on eschatology that is 493 pages long (excluding bibliography and such).

Menn, formerly an attorney, went to TEDS and received his M.Div in 2007. Growing up, “eschatology” to me was just a big word that meant Jesus was coming back at the sound of a trumpet, and, according to the movies, I’m leaving my clothes behind. In college, I knew it as “that section” in the back of big theology books that didn’t apply to my every day life and was probably too complicated to understand so I’d better just let the smart guys deal with it. I’ll just wait for the trumpet. I’ve reviewed the first book before. What’s so great about this second edition?

What’s New?

Chapter 4

  • In chapter four, “Interpreting Biblical Eschatology in Light of Its Overall Structure,” Menn has added a few more bullet points dealing with the Bible’s terminology about the two ages (38).
  • The tables on the “characteristics of ‘this age'” and of “the characteristics of the ‘age to come'” have been expanded (39-40).
  • Menn has added a brand new section on the quantitative difference between “this age” and the “age to come,” which spans three pages (40-43).

Chapter 5

  • In chapter five, “The Eschatological Significance of Christ’s Second Coming,” Menn has added a brand new about how there is (only) one general resurrection and judgment of believers and nonbelievers (55-57). Instead of believers being resurrected at the beginning of the 1,000 years, reigning with Christ (Rev 20:4), and then nonbelievers are resurrected afterwards (20:5), all are resurrected at the same time (following Dan 12:2; John 5:29; 24:15) and experience the singular day of judgment at the same time (Acts 17:31).

Chapter 8

  • In chapter eight, “,The Millennium” Menn has written a new section critiquing New Creation Millennialism (93-95), a view which holds that “all the unredeemed will die and be cast into Hades” at Christ’s return, and are later resurrected after the 1,000 years.
  • Menn’s discussion of postmillennialism now includes more postmillennial citations that are of better quality. The same goes for his discussion and critique of preterism (in the first edition I didn’t quote or cite Don Preston, a leading “full preterism” proponent–now I do quite a bit).

Chapter 12

In Chapter 12, “The Importance of Eschatology,” Menn deals with the question “What difference does it make?” Most people don’t think eschatology is actually practically relevant. But the book of Revelation is the revealing of Jesus. Menn shows, historically and logically, one’s end time views do make a difference and can lead to a coherent theology and life. Because the Lord will return, we should be motivated to evangelism and social activism (such as helping the poor, those suffering from injustice, and poor social conditions).

Eschatology pervades the NT and ties together our theology. Our eschatology motivates (or de-motivates) us to working to change our culture. Do you believe you could suffer, or will you be taken away in time? Should we take care of the earth, or will it burn up anyway?

Appendix 2

  • In Appendix 2, “The Millennium: An Amillennial Synthesis of the Biblical Data,” Menn has reordered, and strengthened the section on the “two resurrections” (374-386).

Appendix 7

  • Appendix 7, “1 Cor 15:20-57: The Resurrection, the Parousia, and the Millennium,” is brand new and replaces my least favorite appendix from the first edition (“the rapture and second coming”).

I never thought about subject indexes until a few years ago. Now, I can’t get enough of them (if I’m doing some research, that is). The subject index here is tighter and more user-friendly. It now begins with a list of the forty tables/diagrams/outlines from the book. This  was not in the index in the first edition. Menn also has an index for numbers (e.g., 144,000, 666, etc.).

Summary of the Rest

The book has 12 chapters and 7 appendices (view the Table of Contents). The arguments and writing throughout the book have been tightened since the previous edition.

After the introduction, Menn briefly covers how to interpret prophecy and apocalyptic literature, saying that it’s not as “literal” as some say it is. The prophets “forth-told” God’s word more than they “foretold” future events, declaring that God’s people were to follow God, as he was the fulfillment of prophecy.

Menn looks at the difference between ‘literal,’ ‘metaphorical,’ ‘physical,’ and ‘spiritual’ meanings, and says, “We must ‘train ourselves to think in pictures'” (18). Much of the OT is in poetry, which uses imagery. Much of our conversations today use metaphors, similes, comparisons. We should learn to read the Bible this way and not in a strict, literal sense.

In chapter 3 Menn looks at the OT end time expectations (e.g., new covenant, promise of land, Davidic king(dom), the “day of the Lord,” etc), and states that these ideas are spread out in the various OT books. Yet the significance of Christ’s first coming is seen in how he collects all of these prophecies together.

In chapter 4 Menn uses the “two-age” model (Mk 10.30; Lk 18.30; 1 Cor 13.12; 1 Tim 4.8) as the overall structure to the Bible’s eschatology, and then shows the significance of Christ’s second coming in chapter 5.

In chapter 6 Menn covers the history of eschatological thought, showing that views on both historical premillennialism (‘Premill’) and amillennialism (‘Amill’) were held since the time of the early church fathers. He also looks at the rise and fall of postmillennialism (‘PM’) and dispensational premillennialism (‘DP’).

Chapter 7 outlines the different views of the millennium, along with the strengths and weaknesses of each system.

Chapter 8 follows suit by showing each system’s conception of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24, and Menn gives his own interpretation. Jesus is talking about the destruction of the Jewish Temple in vv 4-28, but the prophecies here are also connected to his second coming. Christ’s coming is totally unpredictable. The emphasis isn’t on his imminent return as many say it is. Jesus told his disciples repeatedly in Mark 13 to “keep watch” because there would be a delay.

Chapter 9 covers the timing of the rapture, Chapter 10 looks at the Antichrist in Paul and John’s writings, along with the beast and the number 666, and Chapter 11… is huge! At a whopping 130 pages this chapter on Revelation is the longest chapter in the book, and for good reason. Menn covers topics like:

  • genre,
  • prophecy,
  • symbolism,
  • interpretive guidelines,
  • different end-time approaches,
  • the themes and structure (progressive or parallel?),
  • and more.

Menn argues that the entire book of Revelation concerns the church and speaks of the church with symbols:

  • bond-servants
  • saints
  • martyrs
  • the 144,000
  • the great multitude
  • the temple and holy city
  • the two witnesses
  • the bride
  • and more.

Menn covers the major ideas of:

  • the historical situation,
  • the great tribulation,
  • the seals, trumpets, and bowls,
  • the woman, the dragon, and the beast,
  • Babylon,
  • the binding of Satan,
  • Christ’s second coming,
  • the reign and resurrection of the saints,
  • and the New Jerusalem.

“Revelation ties together and completes the entire Bible” (308).

Chapter 12 shows us the importance of eschatology. We need to be aware of and know eschatology because it pervades the NT. It ties “together our overall theology… [it] is a source of hope and expectation… [it] strengthens the teaching ministry… [and] life of the church” (311-13). Menn finishes by showing how our eschatology motivates (or de-motivates) us to working to change our culture.

Finally, there are 7 Appendices:

  1. The 4 basic millennial views,
  2. The Millennium: an Amillennial synthesis of the biblical data,
  3. Ezekiel 40-48 and his vision of the new temple,
  4. Daniel 9.24-27 and the seventy weeks prophecy,
  5. Zechariah 14 and its relation to Christ’s two advents,
  6. Romans 11.25-26, (“and so all Israel will be saved”)
  7. 1 Corinthians 15 (mentioned above)

The Chocolate Milk

Stephen Wellum says that eschatology is related to Christology because Christ is the end and goal of everything. Whatever our eschatology is, it should point to hiChristm. Menn holds to Amillennial eschatology, and he argues it well. Some parts are dense, yet still Menn writes clearly. There were some topics I had to read a number of times (especially about the “‘first’ resurrection” and the “‘second’ death”), but I can say that I have a clearer view of the Bible’s overall structure.

Many (even in the Amill camp) will disagree with Menn’s points. Nonetheless, this is a book for Bible students, teachers, and pastors. Whether you agree or not, Menn’s book will strengthen your end-time position. Whether small points or major issues, Menn will challenge you (and Dispensationalists will have their work cut out for them).

But Menn shows why we need to be challenged. We are to know God. This isn’t a system Menn wanted to write about because he’s bored as a director in East Africa. We are to understand what God’s word has to say about our world today, what it says about God’s dealing with the world and his people today, and what his word has about Christ. When we understand what God is doing, then we understand what we are to be doing.

If you do have the first edition, then there isn’t enough that is new in this edition for you to buy it. The book isn’t cheap on Amazon or from the publisher. But, if you don’t have the first edition, then really try to get this one. This is a great book. Menn has done a fantastic job, and this is highly recommended.

Lagniappe

Find it on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Resource Publications/Wipf & Stock. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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