Book Review of Jesus and the Future
Kostenberger has written some excellent books; however, this is not one of them. This book seems to be his first foray into the field of eschatology. He and the coauthors attempt to interpret Christ’s Olivet Discourse on the Jewish temple’s future desolation and Christ’s second coming independent of other sections of Scripture that reveal God’s plans for the future. They even ignore Revelation, which is an obvious mistake because Jesus introduces his revelation given to John as a continuation of his teachings on the future (Rev. 1:1). Moreover, every theologian works from some eschatological framework and will inevitably read any section of Scripture through those lenses. Yet, Kostenberger and the coauthors never state their view of eschatology, as if they are somehow above the fray. When reading the book, though, it becomes quite obvious that they are amillennialists with a partial preterist view of the Olivet Discourse. According to this view, Jesus taught that the unbelieving generation of Jews in his day would experience only one desolation of their temple and period of great tribulation, which occurred in A.D. 70. The church could experience trials and tribulations in the future, but according to this interpretation, there is no future Great Tribulation involving another temple and the Antichrist entering the temple claiming to be God. Nor is there a subsequent millennial reign of Christ before the eternal kingdom.
Even if one were to attempt to understand the Olivet Discourse in total isolation of Revelation, Christ himself explicitly tells us to go read and understand Daniel’s vision of the Seventy Weeks (Dan. 9) in conjunction with his discourse in order to understand his teachings on the future (Matt. 24:15). This is the greatest flaw with their book. The authors only make a passing reference to Daniel’s vision, and they never examine Daniel’s outline of the future events surrounding the Jewish temple. Many scholars believe Daniel reveals that the Jewish temple will experience two desolations during the seventy weeks of years. The first desolation involves the destruction of the Second Temple, which is emphasized in Luke’s account of the Olivet Discourse. And the last desolation revolves around the desolation of the temple by the desolator, as emphasized in Matthew’s account. According to Daniel, the destruction of the desolator, or the Antichrist, during the last week leads to the realization of the messianic kingdom during an age of righteous humanity. That obviously did not occur in A.D. 70, for an age of unrighteous humanity continues to this day. The authors are doing themselves and others a great disservice by choosing not to integrate these teachings of Daniel into Christ’s teachings on the future. According to Jesus, the Olivet Discourse was never meant to be a stand-alone outline for the future.
The authors also completely misunderstand Christ’s reference in the Olivet Discourse to the cosmic changes in the heavens that occur immediately after the Tribulation. Based on Daniel, Isaiah, and the prophets, these metaphorical cosmic changes in the heavens reflect a real regime change from Satan and his unrighteous rulers on this earth to the beginning of the Messiah’s reign of justice and righteousness over this world. Christ then teaches that his second coming occurs after this messianic kingdom, at the end of the Genesis age. They also misinterpret Christ’s reference to the “gospel of the kingdom” being realized on this earth before he comes again. Isaiah describes the actual implementation of the Messiah’s reign over this earth as the good news that serves as a testimony to all nations that he is the true God and Savior of this world. Christ then teaches that he comes again after this “gospel of the kingdom” has been realized on the earth. Therefore, the Olivet Discourse does indeed affirm that there will be a messianic kingdom on this earth before the eternal kingdom. Revelation simply informs us that this regime change and era of Christ’s reign over the earth will last for a thousand years.
After reading the book, I emailed Kostenberger outlining some of these errors and omissions. In his return email, he replied that he did not care to engage in a discussion of these issues. This is unfortunate. If you are going to venture into the controversial subject of eschatology, then you should be willing and prepared to engage in a debate of the issues.
The subject of God’s endgame is in desperate need of a fresh analysis and reformulation. Yet, this book offers no new insights on Christ’s Olivet Discourse that have not already been explored. In his plenary address at the Gospel Coalition’s 2015 National Conference, John Piper acknowledged that his generation of theologians had failed to come up with a coherent biblical theology of the future and that all of the current views have some serious flaws: “Historic premillennialists sometimes use fanciful speculation for how to make conditions for the millennium work. And amillennialists sometimes use fanciful exegesis to show how it can’t work. So pick your fancy.” Piper then encouraged the young seminary students in the audience to take up the task and to “not be embarrassed to write doctrinal dissertations on Daniel 9 [the Seventy Weeks], Matthew 24 [the Olivet Discourse], and 2 Thess. 2 [concerning the Antichrist] unintimidated by the academic scorn of futuristic possibilities.” I completely agree, which is why we do not need yet another book that fails to synthesize these interconnected sections of God’s word when attempting to discern God’s plans for the future. Students should not be afraid to challenge their professors on the unresolved subject of eschatology. Most important, alternative solutions to a biblical theology of the future should be encouraged, explored, and vetted—not ignored, as Kostenberger did with my email correspondence.
If you would like to read a more complete rebuttal to the partial preterist interpretation and some important new insights on the subject of God’s plans for the future, I have created a series of lectures on Godsendgame. Watch sessions 16–19. Gary Cangelosi.