T. Desmond Alexander has provided the church with a magnificent work of Biblical Theology that is both accessible and scholarly.
From Eden to the New Jerusalem attempts to give a big picture (meta-narrative) of God’s plan for creation by tracing six central themes throughout the Bible. With this thesis, Alexander hopes to address an area of neglect that he sees in Biblical scholarship, showing how the Biblical storyline works as a whole.
God’s Presence on Earth
The first theme is the presence of God on earth, which others are built upon. As a result this chapter proves to be the most substantial (61 pages out of 193 total), which is welcome considering the concept being foreign to many.
God’s plan to dwell amongst His creation is details from Genesis to Revelation. Like Beale’s work, Alexander identifies the Garden of Eden as the first ‘temple’ with future temples containing both Edenic and cosmic imagery, reflecting God’s worldwide plan. Moving forward, the church as Christ’s body is also identified as the temple of God in passages such as Ephesians 2:19-22 and others; expanding throughout the world as people come to Christ and receive the Spirit. The final stage of the story is found in the New Jerusalem, a worldwide city that is entirely filled with God’s presence.
Having just read Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission (review here), it’s quite a wonder to see the same key points clearly explained in 60 pages (rather than Beale’s 400!). This chapter is heavily grounded in Scripture and very persuasively argued. Unfortunately, Christ as the temple is only briefly touched on, which seems to me a significant oversight since Christ is not only the hero of our story, but also because He and His work are the hinge on which God’s presence turns from being limited to a holy building to indwelling a now-holy people.
Kingship and God’s rule over the earth is addressed next. God’s authority is overturned with sin in the Garden, is partially re-established on earth through theocratic Israel, and now by Christ ruling through His church, then is finally restored in the New Jerusalem.
In the next two related chapters, Christ triumphs over the serpent and his seen in His obedience to the Father in the face of temptation, His power over darkness, and His sin-conquering death. Next, Christ’s sacrificial death is discussed by examining His identification as the ‘Lamb’. Alexander follows the themes of Passover and Exodus, showing how these find their fulfilment in Christ.
The next chapter details how all nations will be holy in the future. Holiness, cleanness, uncleanness, and the Levitical law are all explained with detail and clarity and would be especially helpful for one unfamiliar with these Biblical topics.
The final chapter was a little confusing as no clear overarching thesis could be discerned. An interesting comparison of Babylon to the New Jerusalem quickly morphed into a mini-‘sermon’ against capitalism. While this is natural in discussing Babylon, it felt like a misstep and distraction from the book’s overall purpose.
My most significant issues with the book are a) the neglect that Christ receives in some chapters rather than being central, and b) a lack of discussion about the role that heaven plays as a temporary waiting place for the New Creation.
However, I must praise this tremendous book highly. It is amazingly concise given the Scriptural wealth found within. Alexander sets a great example in his very clear writing, bringing sometimes-complicated truths down to earth for the rest of us in this thoroughly eye opening and Biblical book.
I would eagerly recommend this to both new and seasoned Christians, as I believe both would benefit greatly from this book.
[Special thanks to Penny Glover and IVP UK for providing a review copy of this book.]