From Eden to new Jerusalem
FROM EDEN TO NEW JERUSALEM
Exploring God’s plan for life on earth
By T. Desmond Alexander
IVP. 192 pages. £9.99
Alexander’s book uses Revelation 20-22 as a window on the Bible’s ‘meta-story’, particularly drawing connections with Genesis 1-3. This proves to be a most effective ‘way in’ to unpack the overall message of the Bible, since the Revelation chapters bring to resolution many of the great themes which dominate Scripture. Thus: (1) the garden city of Revelation 21 is compared with Eden, and resolves the theme of God’s presence with his people; (2) God’s throne points to God’s rule, delegated to Adam and Eve, rebelled against, and gradually re-established in OT Israel and the NT church; (3) the demise of Satan is predicted in God’s curse of the serpent; (4) Christ, the Slain Lamb, points back to the Passover, and the concepts of atonement, purification and sanctification; (5) Jerusalem, the holy city, leads into an extended discussion of holiness; also the prospect of social and ecological transformation; (6) the gates and foundations, corresponding to Israel’s 12 tribes and the 12 apostles, point to the unity of Old and New Testaments; finally the tale of two cities (New Jerusalem and Babylon) is traced back into Isaiah.
The great strength of the book is the helpful way it weaves together many strands in Scripture, showing how each fits into the big story. A lot of ground is covered in relatively small space, and light is cast on things as diverse as Noah, Babel, the tabernacle materials, Leviticus food laws, Ezekiel, the Kingdom of God (central theme in the gospels), Jesus’s exorcisms, capitalism (!), and the cubic shape of the New Jerusalem (compare Revelation 21.16 with 1 Kings 6.20).
Alexander writes clearly, but the content is demanding, particularly for those newly encountering these topics. The academic style may occasionally frustrate the general reader — e.g. long footnotes and occasional obscurity (‘“Eschatology is like Protology”, yet, whilst Endzeit resembles Urzeit there is progression’. What?!). Also Alexander occasionally speculates or overstates his case (I think!), for example, in claiming striking ‘sanctuary’ imagery in Eden, or the Tabernacle as representing the cosmos.
Application is limited, but far from absent, and the overall tone is wholesome. The main benefit, however, is in providing an inspiring big picture. One bonus is that the striking connection between Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22 emphasises the completeness of Scripture, refuting e.g. Mormonism or Islam, which claim additional revelation. For those who have not read anything along these lines, or not recently, I would warmly recommend it.