Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review: 40 Questions about the End Times

From Hannah:

40 Questions about the End Times. By Eckhard Schnabel. Edited by Benjamin Merkle. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2011. 321pp. ($17.99)

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I have never felt comfortable studying Revelation or the end times, even though I grew up in the church. The subject seemed irrelevant and confusing. 40 Questions about the End Times has made me feel more comfortable reading the apocalyptic sections of the Bible. I still don’t know exactly how to interpret each symbol and vision portrayed, but I have a framework and basic principles for understanding what the author is saying.

Schnabel approaches the end times primarily from an amillennial viewpoint, although he does present other views in a fair and balanced way. Before I read the book, I thought amillennials over-simplified Revelation. Now I find that I agree with the majority of their viewpoints, although I still disagree with them about the millennium.

In each chapter the author summarizes the issue(s) underlying the question before going through the Bible to find an answer. Although he sticks pretty close to the Bible, at times he uses ancient Jewish and Christian texts to help the readers understand the genre of apocalyptic literature. Some answers also reference historical texts, especially if a prophecy relates to a historical event. At the end of each chapter reflection questions help summarize and analyze what we have learned.

One of the most helpful parts of the book is how the author explains what prophecy is. I always thought I had to tie prophecy to a specific event at one time in history, but this book taught me that it sometimes has a historical fulfillment (similar to typology) and a future fulfillment. For example, many ‘antichrists’ have arisen throughout history (1 John 2:18). He lists several historical figures that fit the antichrist description. There will be more antichrists, ultimately leading up to one antichrist at the end of this present age.

Finally, I especially appreciated the author’s concern for practical application. He carefully examines how the Biblical authors and their readers, especially the apostle John, would have thought about the prophecies in their time. Those who like to talk of microchips and tanks have left the arena of interpretation and jumped full-swing into speculation.

Overall, this book is helpful to anyone who has serious questions about the end times. It is not the type of book to read from cover to cover in one sitting, but I would recommend it as a reference. It could also make a meaningful Bible study for a small group using the reflection questions at the end of each chapter.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

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