The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of Life

The word “life” (ζωή) or “eternal life” (ζωή αἰώνιος) is no general term for Paul to describe all people with beating hearts on earth, but the “most frequent mould into which the content of the coming age is cast” (Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, 303). Eschatology leavens Paul’s conception of “life,” so that the eternal state is a comprehensive realm of life, a realm reigned over in life (Rom. 5:17).

So what led Paul to this eschatological conception of “life”?

According to Vos, Paul drew from “the ancient antithesis in which life stands opposite to death since the very beginnings of the race” (The Pauline Eschatology, 304). In Genesis 2 we are introduced to two trees of destiny in which the polar forces of life and death clash: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9). The consequence for eating of the second tree was certain death (Gen. 2:17).

When the Lord formed man he breathed the breath of life [נִשְׁמַ֣ת חַיִּ֑ים] into him, yet a higher state of life was offered to him sacramentally in the tree of life. This sacrament is properly understood within the context of the covenant of works “wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity upon condition of perfect and personal obedience” (WCF 7.2). This future blessedness held out to Adam “emerges as ‘the life’ par excellence” (The Pauline Eschatology, 305).

Adam, however, fails to render unto the Lord perfect and personal obedience and so becomes “incapable of life by that covenant.” Nevertheless, the Lord was pleased to make a second covenant, the covenant of grace “wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ” (WCF 7.3). Notice it is the same eschatological promise of “life” offered in the second covenant as was offered in the first, but now it is offered unto “sinners.” The eschatological aspect of life has always been present from the beginning, but now a new soteriological aspect is required. Because eschatology precedes soteriology

the original goal remains regulative for the redemptive development of eschatology by aiming to rectify the results of sin (remedial) and uphold, in connection with this, the realization of the original goal as that which transcends the state of rectitude (i.e., rising beyond the possibility of death in life eternal) (Vos, The Eschatology of the Old Testament, 74).

The eschatological and the soteriological aspects are both fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and enjoyed by all who are united to him by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4),

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:22–23).

The Pauline conception of life does not belong to those whose existence is wholly caught up in the present age, over which death reigns, but to those who have been raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly places. The believer in union with Christ is today in possession of eschatological life. According to the Heidelberg Catechism, one of the benefits of Christ’s resurrection is that “by his power we too are already now resurrected to a new life” (HC 45).

This life is presently hidden with Christ in God, but will one day be manifested in glory when Christ comes again (Col. 3:1–4). “What life is for the hidden side of the eschatological subject, that [glory] is for the outward side in which the higher life comes to revelation” (Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, 314).

So today, as we hold fast to the word of life, we can be sure that not even death can separate us from the love God in Christ Jesus our Lord. “Our death does not pay the debt of our sins. Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life” (HC 42).

Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments

Publisher’s Description

The aim of this book is no less than to provide an account of the unfolding of the mind of God in history, through the successive agents of his special revelation. Vos handles this under three main divisions: the Mosaic epoch of revelation, the prophetic epoch of revelation, and the New Testament.

Such an historical approach is not meant to supplant the work of the systematic theologian; nevertheless, the Christian gospel is inextricably bound up with history, and the biblical theologian thus seeks to highlight the uniqueness of each biblical document in that succession. The rich variety of Scripture is discovered anew as the progressive development of biblical themes is explicated.

To read these pages—the fruit of Vos’s 39 years of teaching biblical theology at Princeton—is to appreciate the late John Murray’s suggestion that Geerhardus Vos was the most incisive exegete in the English-speaking world of the twentieth century.

The Pauline Eschatology

Publisher’s Description

Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, describes this book in the foreword as “a classic of unprecedented insight into the structure of Paul’s theology.” Vos’s basic thesis is that to unfold Paul’s eschatology is to set forth his theology as a whole, not just his teaching on Christ’s return.

The author begins by discussing the structure of Paul’s eschatology, the interaction between his eschatology and his soteriology, and the religious and ethical motivation of his eschatology. Succeeding chapters treat the coming of the Lord and its precursors, the man of sin, the resurrection, chiliasm, the judgment, and the eternal state.

The Pauline Eschatology, originally published in 1930, includes a bibliography and an appendix on the eschatology of the Psalter.

Includes a Foreword by Richard B. Gaffin Jr.

 

About the Author

Geerhardus Vos (1862–1949), Professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1893 to 1932, was a pioneer in his field. “The truly monumental proportion of [his] labors, largely ahead of their time, have only in recent decades begun to have a measure of the influence they deserve,” writes Gaffin.

Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews

Publisher Description:

In this book, Dr. Vos’ reflects on the Epistle to the Hebrews and its theological themes. In chapter 1, Vos explains why the outstanding feature of the Epistle is its connection with the Old Testament and why the Old Testament is prominent in it. In Chapter 2, Vos discusses the Epistle’s conception of the “Diatheke” – the new covenant, new testament, new organization of relationship between God and humanity – and shows how the Epistle’s conception affects the whole of Christianity. In chapter 3, Vos points out that the Epistle presents its own philosophy of redemption and revelation and that it presents a significant, and corrective teaching on the subject of Christian eschatology. In the remaining portion of this chapter the author analyzes the Typology of the Epistle, the Problem of the Inferiority of the Old Testament from the religious point of view, and teh Epistle’s doctrine of revelation. In chapter 4, Vos lays out the Epistle’s teaching of the Priesthood of Christ and in Chapter 5 he concludes with a discussion of the better sacrifice: the sacrifice of the new covenant. This last chapter also contains helpful notes on the rigual terminology employed by the writer of the epistle.

Grace and Glory: Sermons Preached in the Chapel of Princeton Theological Seminary

Publisher’s Description

The uniqueness of Vos’s emphasis on the centrality of the covenantal work of Jesus Christ in history and our possession of that work through His mediation draws us back time and again to his powerful and passionate sermons. Translated to the realm of glory itself through the proclamation of the accomplished work of our covenant Lord, and by the gift of His Spirit, we partake of unparalleled communion with God and possess Him as our highest treasure presently in Christ as our covenant God. Short of the consummation we have made His glory and joy in His people our chief end in this pilgrim life.

In his first sermon, “The Wonderful Tree,” Vos sets the theme of his entire collection of sermons, the gift of Jehovah to His creatures to be their delight and personal possession through the covenant. In “Heavenly-Mindedness,” Vos explicates the nature of true faith as that which lays hold of God Himself in glory, living in the hope of the eternal life of God in the city of God by resurrection.

Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos

Publisher’s Description

Geerhardus Vos has been called “the father of Reformed biblical theology.” During his 39 years as a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, he achieved the reputation of a theologian whose biblical insight is without equal. The full impact of his exegetical labor has been realized only in recent years.

Emphasizing the historical character of biblical revelation, Vos was able to clarify the pervasive meaning of Scripture by bringing into view its basic structure. Far from an array of isolated prooftexts, the Bible was, for Vos, an organism—its rich diversity giving unanimous expression of its redemptive message.

In Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, the shorter writings of this famed theologian have been gathered under one cover. The reader will discover here numerous major biblical and theological studies, selected addresses, and book reviews, as well as a 13-page bibliography of Vos’s writings.

All who are convinced of the importance of biblical theology and thoroughgoing scholarship will prize this collection, first released in 1970. John Muether’s index of Scripture is included in this new printing for the first time.

Includes an Introduction by Richard B. Gaffin Jr.

Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments

Publisher’s Description

Geerhardus Vos is the father of orthodox Reformed Biblical theology and his work provides the foundation of much of the work done in Biblical studies at Westminster Seminary. Cornelius Van Til, John Murray, and Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. note the significant influence Vos has had on their own thinking. In Biblical Theology Vos provides the fruit of his thirty-nine years of teaching at Old Princeton. Here Vos provides an account of “the unfolding of the mind of God in history, through the successive agents of special revelation.” The book is divided into three segments: the Mosaic, prophetic, and New Testament epochs of revelation. Vos’s emphasis is not meant to supplant the work of systematic theology, but since God’s revelation is inextricably bound up with history, we must understand that revelation in its unfolding progression. Each part of Scripture is organically related to other parts. It is the goal of Biblical theology to explicate the understanding of God’s Word in its original historical setting and in its setting within the unfolding of revelation within the history of redemption. John Murray, former professor of systematic theology put it well when he suggested that Geerhardus Vos was “the most incisive exegete in the English-speaking world of the twentieth century.”

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