PROTOLOGY AND ESCHATOLOGY

creationPMT 2015-068 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Creation is an important aspect of the Christ worldview. And creation appears, appropriately, in the Bible’s first book, Genesis. The historical nature of the creation narrative in Genesis sets in motion the forces that will issue in eschatology. Genesis sets the stage for the unfolding eschatological revelation of Scripture.

Genesis was written by Moses, a well-educated Jew in ancient Israel. As the New Testament notes: “Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). Ancient Jews had a strong interest in history because it was created by God in the beginning and is in the process of being redeemed by him in the present. Thus, in their worldview, the God of Israel was not only the transcendent Creator over history, but also the immanent Redeemer within history. He is the providential Judge and redemptive Savior who acts in history to do his will.

Furthermore, Israel understood that she had an important role to play in God’s world as the conduit of his redemptive grace. This conviction arises from God’s pre-covenantal promise to Abraham which states “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3c). Because of these truths “a biblical, Hebraic mindset was deeply and inextricably attached to ‘the march of time.’”[1]

With their interest in the historical process, we discover that “chronological sequence is the backbone of the Bible’s narrative books, their most salient and continuous organizing principle.”[2] Significantly, we must understand that “although historiographical materials are preserved from Egypt, Mesopotamia and the Hittites, Van Seters concluded that true history writing developed first in Israel and then in Greece, where its closest analogs are found.”[3] The God of history acts in real history and reveals his will for that history.


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Not only was Israel deeply interested in history and historical writing and records (Exo. 17:14; 24:7; Num. 21:14; Deut. 28:58; Josh. 10:13; 1 Kgs. 11:41; 14:19), but the Jews were committed to a particular approach to history that distinguished them from most of the peoples of antiquity. As Currid points out: “the Hebrews held to a linear history. They believed there was a beginning to time and creation (cosmogony) and a movement to a consummation (eschatology).”[4] Of course, it is especially in Genesis that we find the most information on creation. And in an important sense the consummation begins at creation; thus, protology (the study of the beginning) entails eschatology (the study of the end).

By this is meant that “immediately after the fall, God spoke to the serpent and pronounced the first prophecy of the Bible,” which leads us to recognize that “the prophets of the Old Testament further anticipated this future redemption by the work of the Messiah.”[5] Westermann argues that the author of Genesis “is concerned throughout his work with linear time and the celebration of the holy and the goal to which they are directed.” [6]

Therefore, ancient Judaism “was a highly teleological faith: it rejected the cyclical views of time which dominated pagan thought, seeing history instead as a linear progression, in which God’s design gradually unfolded and his people were led towards a predetermined end.”[7] Or as Kennard expresses it: “a linear view of history is dependant upon the Jewish construct of creation unto Kingdom or more microscopically: exodus to Promised Land as a stage on the way to Kingdom (Ex. 1–19; Deut. 1–4).”[8] In fact, Cahill argues that a linear conception of history was one of the great Gifts of the Jews to mankind.[9]


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Bringing this Jewish concern with linear history to bear on the creation narrative, Sproul puts the matter well: “unlike beginning with the words ‘once upon a time,’ the Bible begins with the words, ‘In the beginning God….’ This statement, at the front end of the entire Bible, introduces the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Old Testament, and it sets the stage for God’s activity in linear history. From the opening chapters of Genesis to the end of the book of Revelation, the entire dynamic of redemption takes place within the broader setting of real space and time, of concrete history.”[10]

Genesis, therefore, is important to biblical eschatology, because it is important to history. Consequently, it is also important to postmillennialism.

Notes

  1. Marc Kay, “On Literary Theorists’ Approach to Genesis 1: Part 2,” Journal of Creation 21:3 (2007): 97.
  2. Meir Sternberg, “Time and Space in Biblical (His)story Telling: The Grand Chronology,” in Regina M. Schwartz The Book and the Text: The Bible and Literary Theory (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1990), 82.
  3. S. L. McKenzie, “Historiography, Old Testament,” in Bill T. Arnold and H. G. M. Williamson, eds., Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2005), 419.
  4. John D. Currid, “The Hebrew World-and-Life View,” in W. Andrew Hoffecker, ed., Revolutions in Worldview: Understanding the Flow of Western Thought (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R, 2007), 62.
  5. Currid, “The Hebrew World-and-Life View,” 59, 61.
  6. Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984), 90.
  7. Neil Faulkner, Apocalypse: The Great Jewish Revolt Against Rome AD 66-73 (Gloucestershire, Eng.: Tempus, 2002), 123.
  8. Douglas Kennard, “Method of Philosophy, Theology, and Science,” Web:

http://www.hgst.edu/wp-content/uploads/Kennard-MethodPhilTheoSci.pdf (7/22/2011): 15.

  1. Thomas Cahill, The Gifts of the Jews (New York: Doubleday, 1998), 18–19, 125–31.
  2. R. C. Sproul, “An Historic Faith”, 1 Web http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/historic-faith/ (Tabletalk 2/1/2006).
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One thought on “PROTOLOGY AND ESCHATOLOGY

  1. Denny Johnson June 24, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    It is wonderful to consider the grand plan God has for His creation! Most importantly He does put on display the centerpiece of His plan–redemption.
    My only suggestion for each and all of your studies is to recognize the “inspiration of the Holy Spirit” upon the written Word. I see this as God’s letter to mankind and not so much on whether the writer had any particular “education or insight” of God’s plan–whether Moses or the Apostle Peter. In fact some of the prophets who wrote could have had no idea what they were writing about. They wrote as they were moved along by the Holy Spirit–for me, that is why the Scripture is so powerful and true. The ones who were chosen to write were simple men and wise men–true servants. Whether or not they had any particular insight or education had little to do with their appointment. I am glad they were faithful to their calling–and God who sits outside of time, saw they would be.

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