Essential Eschatology: Our Present and Future Hope, By John E. Phelan Jr.

Essential Eschatology

Our Present and Future Hope

by John E. Phelan Jr.

Essential Eschatology
  • Length: 203 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: November 01, 2013
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 4025
  • ISBN: 9780830840250

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The study of end times often gets bogged down in minutiae that rarely affects daily life. Or we find ourselves passively waiting for God's future,

Avoiding both of these traps, Essential Eschatology gets to the heart of the matter by examining how the Christian hope and practice of resurrection affects Christian mission and everyday life. Author John Phelan notes, "Eschatology is not about the end only but the beginning and middle of faith and life as well. Christianity…is eschatological to its core."

Raised with Christ, Jesus' followers are called to practice resurrection, which reshapes relationships with our families, our neighbors and the world at large. "All that is anticipated in the new heavens and the new earth is to be lived out in the Christian community—a community that has already died and been raised with Christ." This creates within the world a unique community hope.

Essential Eschatology explores Christian hope in relation to

  • the failure of modernism
  • living in the midst of empire
  • the resurrection and judgment
  • the kingdom of God and Christian mission
  • the return of Jesus and the millennium
  • God's promises to Israel

In Essential Eschatology professors, students and pastors will find a sure guide in a frequently misunderstood and often confusing theological landscape. With the thoroughly biblical perspective found in this book, we discover the future spilling into the present.

"Where does a pastor or teacher turn when those they serve get their eschatology from popular authors who delight in the demise of those who do not share their theology or those authors who joyfully predict the destruction of the planet? Here is the book for which we have been waiting. Dr. Phelan takes seriously biblical authority. This book neither dismisses nor overly literalizes the apocalyptic portions of the Bible. The message is one of hope grounded in the Bible. He discusses the implications for discipleship, for the church and even for contemporary politics."

Glenn R. Palmberg, president emeritus, The Evangelical Covenant Church

"If eschatology is a casualty of scholarly and popular culture, Essential Eschatology artfully resurrects its place in the Christian faith. Phelan weaves together theology, church history and biblical studies, producing a remarkably interdisciplinary treatment of the doctrine of eschatology. I put Phelan's book on my shelf next to N. T. Wright and Scot McKnight who also write accessible biblical theology for the whole church!"

Michelle A. Clifton-Soderstrom, associate professor of theology and ethics, North Park Theological Seminary

"Jay Phelan shows his readers that eschatology (the doctrine of the 'last things') is not speculative but practical, and not only about the future but also--in fact, especially--about the present. His plea for the church to put kingdom values into practice now, as we await God's new heavens and new earth, is both provocative and persuasive, at once orthodox and radical."

Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology, St. Mary's Seminary University, Baltimore

"Eschatology is essential to the Christian faith, and Phelan provides a sane, sound, accessible and very helpful treatment of the primary issues, one that steers people away from the silliness that often accompanies the topic. His work can be trusted, and engagement with it will lead to maturity of thought and faith."

Klyne Snodgrass, Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies, North Park University

"Few areas of Christian belief have garnered more controversy than that of eschatology, the 'doctrine of last things.' It is difficult not to consider it a negative issue that is better ignored. John Phelan's Essential Eschatology proves that attitude wrong. He rightly recognizes the positive and important nature of the 'hope' embraced in this doctrine and presents a thoroughly engaging work that is both biblically and theologically satisfying. Of course, not everyone will agree with the answers (e.g., hell as a place of judgment but metaphorical at the core, or the millennium as an actual reign of the Messiah on earth), but all will find it worthwhile and important."

Grant Osborne, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"In this balanced and biblical book, John Phelan de-escalates controversies surrounding Christian eschatology (heaven, hell, divine judgment, the millennium, Israel, the book of Revelation). For Phelan, Christian hope is to be found in God's promised future, in which all things will be set right. Here, he argues, is our motivation for Christian engagement. An accessible and important read."

Robert K. Johnston, professor of theology and culture, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Essential Eschatology is a challenging but accessible book. It invites readers to study the Bible more closely, think about the future more carefully, and live in the present more creatively. For those ready for the challenge, this book is essential."

James Amadon, The Covenant Companion, May 2014


1 Hope and Promise: An Overview and Invitation
2 Hope and Accommodation
3 Hope for Resurrection
4 Hope for Judgment
5 Hope for the Kingdom of God
6 Hope for Jesus? Return
7 Hope in the Midst of Empire
8 Hope for the Millennium
9 Hope for Israel
10 Hope for the Church
Name Index
Subject Index
Scripture Index


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John E. Phelan Jr.

John E. Phelan Jr. is senior professor of theological studies at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. He formerly served as dean and president of the seminary. Phelan is also the author of several books, including All God’s People and The Church in the Postmodern World.