Last week I pointed to several questions in the Westminster Shorter Catechism that help to illustrate the tension in the New Testament between aspects of salvation that point to realized and present eschatological blessings and those eschatological blessings which still remain in the future. One of the places where the Larger Catechism also notes this is in Question and Response 82:
Q. What is the communion in glory which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
A. The communion in glory which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is in this life, immediately after death, and at last perfected at the resurrection and day of judgment.
We'll talk about this question and response more next week with the intermediate state but we should appreciate the way that believers live in the tension between the ages. On one hand we already enjoy communion with Christ in his glory in this present life as we are raised in Spirit-wrought union with Christ. On the other hand, the perfection and consummation of that communion with Christ in glory remains in the future; both in a greater communion with him after death and in its perfection in the resurrection body.
Here are some book recommendations related to the teaching on eschatology in Paul's letters. There are not really any books that I'm aware of that do the same with the whole of the general epistles as we ought to be sensitive to the different writers. D.A. Carson and Douglass Moo's Introduction to the New Testament is probably the best one volume reference you could find that would deal with these topics.
- The Pauline Eschatology by Geerhardus Vos - This is the best study of Paul's teaching of the last things. The reason is because Vos really grasps and illustrates that what Paul has to say about the last things is not solely about the return of Christ but deals with the overlap and tension of the age to come being inaugurated but not yet consummated. Vos is not easy to read as he was born in a Dutch-speaking home and writes in a very formal and academic late 19th and early 20th century style. This book is worth it if you can make it through. This edition includes an article by Vos on the eschatology of the Psalter as an appendix. The diagrams that we looked at came from this book though I modified them slightly.
- Paul: An Outline of His Theology by Herman Ridderbos - This book covers far more than just Paul's eschatology as it looks at the whole of his teaching on virtually every subject in his epistles. That said, this is probably the best single book available on Paul's theology and the sections on his eschatology are very good. I do want to note that I disagree with Ridderbos on some of his articulations of election and on the interpretation of "all Israel" in Romans 11:25-26.
- Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free by F.F. Bruce - Like the above book, the focus of this work is not solely on Paul's eschatology. Instead Bruce is largely focused on the life of the Apostle and then explores the primary themes in his thought in historical context of his life and travels. There are, I think, two chapters dealing with Paul's eschatology. This book is available in the church library.
Here are some paper recommendations on these topics. Again, since this week was more of an exercise in biblical theology than in systematic we cannot point to sections from Reformed systematic theologies on these topics but we will do so next week on topics in eschatology.
- "Eschaton or Escape: Paul's Two Ages vs. Plato's Two Worlds" by Michael Horton
- "The Two Ages and Redemptive History" by Eric Pyle
- "Two Age Eschatology" by Eric Pyle - These two articles are a helpful summary of Vos' work and of what we talked about.
- "Last Time, Times" by Geerhardus Vos - This is a one page section from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. It's helpful in seeing how the New Testament writers could speak of the end as present and as still to come.
- "The Last Days: A Sermon on 2 Tim. 3:1-9" by Ligon Duncan
- "Theonomy and Eschatology: Some Reflections on Postmillennialism" by Richard Gaffin - I mentioned this article last week and I wanted to link to it again. The reason is because, as we said, the focus in the New Testament is that believers live in the tension between the ages. I think that Gaffin really gets at that in this article in showing that the church is an eschatological people who receive the blessings of God but that it is also a pilgrim people who will not arrive until the last day.
- "Resurrection and Redemption: How Eschatology and the Gospel Relate" by Richard Gaffin