Alexander, T. Desmond. From Eden to the New Jerusalem. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications., 2008.
Unlike systematic theology where each theme and topic of the Bible is emphasized more individually from the whole, Biblical theology views every part of the Bible as building towards certain shared and central themes. By taking the themes and messages found in the last chapters of the Book of Revelation and connecting them with the beginning of Genesis, T. Desmond Alexander makes a compelling argument in From Eden to the New Jerusalem to view the entire Bible as a unified story that addresses two of life’s most fundamental questions: (1) Why was the earth created? And (2) What is the reason for human existence. (10).
Beginning from the end of Revelation, Alexander successfully observes and explains how the themes found in the portrayal of the new heaven and the new earth relates to a larger meta-story of God that can be found throughout the entire Bible, starting from the beginning of Genesis. He successfully argues for a consistent and coherent pattern that emerges in the Bible which is centered on the idea that God created this earth with the intention of constructing an arboreal temple-city (188).
Looking through the lens of Biblical theology, Alexander connects themes found in Revelation 20-22 to Genesis 1-3 and the rest of the Bible to explain God’s plan for creating the earth and for creating man. By connecting these themes, Alexander argues that God’s purpose for creating man and the earth was for us to be a royal priesthood and to expand the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth. However, because of our sin, God brings about restoration and redemption through Jesus Christ to restore and redeem specifically these original purposes. Through each chapter, Alexander is successful in connecting the themes of this meta-story by beginning at the end and looking at the beginning and the rest of the Bible with this end in mind.
In chapters two and three, Alexander lays down the foundation of our role as a royal priesthood and the earth’s role to be filled with the presence of God by highlighting how the motif of the temple and the throne of God is reflected in various ways throughout Scripture, culminating in the holy city found in Revelation 21. The temple motif reflects the holiness of God and the priestly role of God’s people. Beginning in Eden with the garden as temple and Adam and Eve as its priestly caretakers (21). Going through the history of the tabernacle to the Jerusalem temple and now to the temple of our hearts, Alexander portrays God’s intent for man to be priests and serve in His presence. And the throne motif is revealed through Scripture as well, first revealed through the commissioning of Adam and Eve to govern the world, the theocracy of Israel and now the church which is commissioned to spread the gospel of Jesus and the kingdom of God to the whole world.
Through the remaining four chapters, Alexander answers the problems of sin by explaining how God’s plan to destroy the source of evil and redeem and restore all creation is completed and now unfolding under Jesus Christ and returning mankind and the world to the original purposes of creation. In doing so, Alexander strengthens his argument that all of Scripture reveals God’s purpose and intention to raise up a royal priesthood and for God’s presence to finally and fully dwell and reign in all the earth and in all our hearts.
Alexander argues that in rebelling against God in Genesis 3 and falling into slavery to sin, Adam and Eve not only forfeited their priestly status, but also betrayed their royal status as well (78). Or in other words, they forfeited their original purpose of being a royal priesthood in exchange for the lie of Satan and slavery to sin. And so Alexander’s argument is that the rest of the biblical story is about how the sovereignty of God will be restored and extended over the whole earth and that God begins this process by establishing Israel as a theocracy and the church as the kingdom of God (79). And so, the purpose of Jesus defeating sin and Satan by his life, death and resurrection, and redeeming all those who repent and believe in Jesus is not simply to restore our relationship with God, but inline with the meta-story, is for the redeemed to be reinstated to royal priesthood so that God’s original purposes may be fulfilled.
Alexander concludes that in understanding God’s purpose for man and the world, and all its implications with everything in the Bible pointing towards the new heaven and the new earth, we are able to truly appreciate our future hope (192).
In From Eden to the New Jerusalem, Alexander successfully delivers a concise and clear argument for the central theme of restored order and purpose. God desires to raise up a royal priesthood in Christ and reign over a restored world. The author admits that the study is not exhaustive or comprehensive (11-12). However, the author provides much in footnotes and references to suggest a strong foundation to support the brevity of this study. In every chapter, there are many instances where the author provides references for further discussion and fuller treatment on the topics discussed.
Alexander successfully answers the questions he sets out with, namely (1) Why was the earth created? And (2) What is the reason for human existence. (10). However, although it may have been implied, there was no suggestion to go back to Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22 and at least read it once before going through this book and that may have been a missed opportunity by the author. It would have added greatly to support the author’s arguments by actually looking for the corresponding themes of Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22 as well because the Bible itself gave the best supporting reference as the author did well to highlight the most relevant points.
Through From Eden to the New Jerusalem, Alexander successfully and convincingly argues for a biblical theology, pointing towards the redemption of man’s purpose as a royal priesthood and the restoration of the temple-city of God to dwell in the whole world. Alexander’s excellent understanding and interpretation of the Bible is demonstrated by the way different themes of the Bible relate with one another and weave through various viewpoints that are highlighted through the footnotes and find coherence and consistency. The beauty of this work is that although it is not exhaustive or comprehensive, its message is clear, simple and amply supported by a biblically robust exegesis.
From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology
By T. Desmond Alexander