The 5 Best Books on Eschatology
A sizeable portion of the Bible is devoted to covering events that are eschatological. That is to say, they haven’t happened yet. “Last things”, “future events” and “prophetic truths” are scattered liberally throughout both the Old and New Testaments. One could hardly be a Christian and not have an interest in the meaning of such things. However, that’s where agreement ends and things start to get complicated. The number of differing prophetic views, even among those who believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God, is bewildering at times.
There are two major ‘schemes’ of interpretation among evangelical Christians. These are the ‘glasses’ they wear as they look at Bible prophecy with its ages and stages. One is Covenant Theology – the other, Dispensationalism. The chasm between these views is vast – the differences fundamental and systemic. adailydevotion.com holds Dispensationalism to be correct and sees it as the very key to making sense of the vast sweep of Bible history and prophecy. We are happy to recommend the following 5 books on this topic.
1. Things to Come
If you want to secure the magnum opus of dispensational theology, look no further than J. Dwight Pentecosts’s “Things to Come” (9780310308904). This is a monumental 632 page work that synthesizes the whole field of prophecy into one unified volume, giving, if you will, a “systematic and complete Biblical eschatology” as it says on the flyleaf. With a 23 page scripture index, you can look up pretty much every verse you’ll ever need in your study of future events. In his first 64 pages, Pentecost lays down the methods and principles of Bible interpretation (hermeneutics) that are a prerequisite for the understanding of Bible prophecy. The next 60 or so pages are taken up with a study of “the Covenants”, a much neglected but absolutely vital part of the picture. Included in the rest of the book are sections dealing with the parables of the Kingdom (Matt 13), the rapture, the tribulation, the millennium, the judgments and the resurrections (yes, there are two of them, 1,000 years apart!). No serious Bible student should be without “Things to Come” (over 215,000 copies sold).
2. The Coming Prince
A critical piece of the prophetic jigsaw is what is known as “Daniel’s 70 weeks” from Daniel Ch 9. Go wrong here…and the rest of the puzzle will be impossible to piece together correctly. The classic work on Daniel’s 70 weeks is “The Coming Prince” by Sir Robert Anderson (9780825425752). Wikipedia informs us that “Sir Robert Anderson, KCB (1841-1918), was the second Assistant Commissioner (Crime) of the London Metropolitan Police, from 1888 to 1901. He was also an intelligence officer, theologian and writer.” Of his two dozen or so books, “The Coming Prince” is possibly his most famous, second only to “The Gospel and Its Ministry”. With a spiritual mind, a dispensational framework and the investigative dedication of an intelligence officer, Anderson set out to calculate the exact beginning date of the 490 years represented in the 70 weeks. The first 69 of the 70 weeks – totalling exactly 173,880 days – terminated exactly on the day the Lord rode into Jerusalem. Messiah was cut off at that point – rejected by Israel. That left one week – 7 years – remaining to be fulfilled, which will be split into two even halves of 3.5 years (1,260 days each). This matches the data in the book of Revelation and points to a future ‘tribulation’ period, the “time of Jacob’s trouble”, that occurs between the imminent rapture of the Church and the return of Christ to earth at the end of the 7-year-week. This is an astounding 309 page work that has been continuously in print for over 100 years.
3. The Dispensations
For some specific books dealing with the topic of Dispensationalism from a robust Biblical position look no further than Mark Sweetnam’s 246 page work “The Dispensations” (9781909789005). Sweetnam’s book begins with J.N. Darby’s translation of 1 Tim 1:17 – “Now to the King of the ages, the incorruptible, invisible, only God, honour and glory to the ages of ages. Amen.” Sweetnam sets out the character of each of the 7 dispensations in detail – their purpose, continuity and course. He expounds from Scripture that each of the 7 dispensations in prophetic history, from the beginning of creation to the end of the Millennium, is marked by 4 clear stages, which he helpfully alliterates as: revelation, responsibility, rebellion and retribution. If you only own one book on dispensationalism, make sure it is this one!
4. There Really is a Difference
“There Really is a Difference” might sound a strange title for a book, but Renald Showers’s 225 page work is a fantastic volume outlining the key differences between Covenant and Dispensational theology. The 21st Century has seen a resurgence, particularly in North America, of Covenant Theology (with its Calvinism and amillennialism) through the output of bloggers and preachers like John Piper, D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, R.C. Sproul, Alistair Beggs and Tim Challies. One of the reasons why their Covenant theology has made inroads into what was once traditional dispensational territory is the poor grasp many dispensationalists have of “their own view”. They may have no more than a “Left Behind” novel or movie informing their eschatology! Books like “There Really is a Difference” plugs a gap by giving a nuts and bolts basic look at what is involved and what’s at stake when choosing between Covenant and Dispensational theology. A classic, must have volume! ISBN 9780915540501.
5. Kept from the Hour
The imminent rapture of the church before the tribulation is a doctrine expounded and defended in many publications. For a couple of full length books setting out the Biblical doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture, look no further than “Kept from the Hour” (423 pages) by Gerald B. Stanton (9781564530905). Stanton’s book is thorough, scholarly and lucid. After answering conclusively “Who is the Restrainer?” in Chapter 5, he makes a powerful case for the imminency of the Rapture in Chapter 6. He also answers all the points raised by those who believe a partial rapture, a mid-tribulation rapture and a post-tribulation rapture before closing his book by looking at around 20 other titles on the pre-tribulation rapture, including some by those who disagree with it.