A New Heaven and a New Earth

Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology

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About

In recent years, more and more Christians have come to appreciate the Bible's teaching that the ultimate blessed hope for the believer is not an otherworldly heaven; instead, it is full-bodied participation in a new heaven and a new earth brought into fullness through the coming of God's kingdom. Drawing on the full sweep of the biblical narrative, J. Richard Middleton unpacks key Old Testament and New Testament texts to make a case for the new earth as the appropriate Christian hope. He suggests its ethical and ecclesial implications, exploring the difference a holistic eschatology can make for living in a broken world.

Contents

Preface: How I Came to Write This Book
1. Introduction: The Problem of Otherworldly Hope
Part 1: From Creation to Eschaton
2. Why Are We Here? Being Human as Sacred Calling
3. The Plot of the Biblical Story
Part 2: Holistic Salvation in the Old Testament
4. The Exodus as Paradigm of Salvation
5. Earthly Flourishing in Law, Wisdom, and Prophecy
6. The Coming of God in Judgment and Salvation
Part 3: The New Testament's Vision of Cosmic Renewal
7. Resurrection and the Restoration of Rule
8. The Redemption of All Things
Part 4: Problem Texts for Holistic Eschatology
9. Cosmic Destruction at Christ's Return?
10. The Role of Heaven in Biblical Eschatology
Part 5: The Ethics of the Kingdom
11. The Good News at Nazareth
12. The Challenge of the Kingdom
Appendix: Whatever Happened to the New Earth?
Index


Endorsements

"Richard Middleton plunges boldly into a most-treasured misreading of the Bible. He shows the way in which 'other-worldly' hope of 'going to heaven' is a total misread of gospel faith. In a demanding, sure-footed way he walks the reader through a rich deposit of biblical texts to make clear that the gospel concerns the transformation of the earth and not escape from it. Middleton summons us to repentance for such a mistaken understanding that has had disastrous practical implications. This is a repentance that he himself avows. When his book catches on, it will have an immense impact on the way in which we think and act about our common future in the gospel, a common future with important socioeconomic, political derivatives. The reader will be rewarded by Middleton's boldness."

Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

"It is no small irony that the majority of serious, Bible-believing Christians subscribe to a view of life in the eschaton that is fundamentally unbiblical. Middleton provides a much-needed corrective in his perceptive exposition of 'holistic eschatology,' which effectively unites the Old and New Testaments in stressing God's commitment to the flourishing of the created universe of which we are a part. This book is so comprehensive, so exegetically based and theologically rich, that it could serve admirably as a basic textbook on biblical theology. I cannot recommend it highly enough."

Donald A. Hagner, George Eldon Ladd Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Richard Middleton has been one of my most important teachers. Every encounter with him changes me. This book is no different. Helping us see all the bad hermeneutical habits we've acquired (perpetuated by our hymns and choruses!), Middleton invites us to read the Scriptures afresh and see, perhaps for the first time, the biblical hope of a new earth. If read as widely as I hope, this book would transform North American Christianity. We can hope, right?"

James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy, Calvin College; author of Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works

"Middleton's vision of the renewal of all things is comprehensive, learned, accessible, and exciting. As an additional advantage, it is true. This is a stellar piece of work."

Cornelius Plantinga Jr., author of Engaging God's World

"This volume is a superb theological examination of a key biblical theme that is all too often neglected in academic circles. Ranging widely across Old Testament and New Testament texts, with careful attention to the history of Christian interpretation on this issue, Middleton presents a very thoughtful treatment that deserves wide attention."

Terence E. Fretheim, Emeritus Elva B. Lovell Professor of Old Testament, Luther Seminary

"Rooted in Scripture, chock-full of insight, clearly and fetchingly written, A New Heaven and a New Earth winsomely presents the biblical story of holistic salvation. Over against the all-too-common eschatology of heavenly rapture and earthly destruction, Richard Middleton's new book reclaims the scriptural vision of cosmic renewal. In a time when the Bible is often used to justify ecological degradation, since (it is argued) the earth will in the eschaton be burned up to nothing, A New Heaven and a New Earth could not be more timely. Simply put, this sorely needed volume is the best book of its kind. May it find a great multitude of readers."

Steven Bouma-Prediger, professor of religion, Hope College; author of For the Beauty of the Earth

"Richard Middleton is talking about a revolution! Why should Christians settle for the anemic goal of eternity spent in heaven when the Bible's robust vision is one of a resurrected humanity on the new earth? Set your imagination free from the chains of other-worldly dualism and enter into the brilliant and fascinating world of the biblical story, where the vision of all things redeemed breathes new life into our discipleship."

Sylvia Keesmaat, adjunct professor of biblical studies, Trinity College, University of Toronto

"Richard Middleton's book A New Heaven and a New Earth is a very fine--I'm inclined to say magnificent--example of sound biblical scholarship based on decades of intense and careful scholarship and sustained by an integral theological vision which honors biblical authority. It delivers a strong blow to the long and powerful influence of an otherworldly Platonism on the Christian eschatological imagination and celebrates God's commitment to an integral and comprehensive restoration of the creation, including all its earthly and cultural dimensions."

Al Wolters, professor emeritus of religion and theology and classical languages, Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario

"Martin Buber once reconceived the exclusionary distinction between the holy and the unholy as the potentially inclusionary distinction between the holy and the not-yet-holy. In a similar vein, Richard Middleton, on solid biblical grounds, reenvisions this present world, in all its ambiguity, as the not-yet-new-heaven-and-new-earth of God's redemptive purpose. The upshot is a radical reorientation of human hope and an exhilarating call to participate in God's 'work for the redemptive transformation of this world.' I wish I had read this book sixty years ago; it would have made a world of difference in my life. Yet even at this date, it enables me to reread my past, and live toward my future, in a new light."

J. Gerald Janzen, MacAllister-Petticrew Emeritus Professor of Old Testament, Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana


The Author

  1. J. Richard Middleton

    J. Richard Middleton

    J. Richard Middleton (PhD, Free University of Amsterdam) is professor of biblical worldview and exegesis at Northeastern Seminary and adjunct professor of theology at Roberts Wesleyan College, both in Rochester, New York. He authored The Liberating Image...

    Continue reading about J. Richard Middleton

Reviews

2014 Word Guild Award - Biblical Studies category
Named a 2014
Jesus Creed Book of the Year (Theology)
Best Theology Book of 2014, Englewood Review of Books
Best Book of Biblical Studies for 2014, Hearts & Minds Books

"Theologian Middleton tackles a huge question: is a glorious afterlife the best hope Christianity can offer, or does the promise of a new, redeemed Earth give humans hope for today? His biblically grounded answer is the latter. To make a convincing argument for what he calls 'holistic eschatology,' he goes through both testaments of the Bible, deep down to its Greek- and Hebrew-language roots, and also takes on the received wisdom of many a Christian hymn that extols the far-off heavenly shore. . . . The implications for lived faith are bold, and the air this brings into theological discourse about what God intends for human creation is fresh and bracing."

Publishers Weekly

"A thoughtful, thorough, and well-written book on biblical eschatology. . . . Middleton's message concerns, secondarily, Christians' fixation on the rapture and, primarily, virtually all of Christian preaching and teaching that eviscerates the richness of the Bible's eschatology, offering nothing more than the chance to go to heaven after we die and this world has ended. . . . Middleton eloquently lifts up what is entirely plain if you pay attention: 'the Bible consistently anticipates the redemption of the entire created order.' Guiding us on a dazzling tour through the broad range of relevant texts, he makes clear the Bible's emphasis on the material order--on culture, bodies, and buildings--and shows that the Creator's purpose isn't for creation to be swept away, but for it to be entirely redeemed."

James C. Howell,

Christian Century

"The work is well-argued, insightful, and accessible on a topic that interests many people. Middleton offers effective macro- and mirco- analysis, using his big picture analysis to help explain less clear passages. In addition, Middleton writes in a clear style and uses popular Christian hymns and even Little Red Riding Hood to help illustrate his points and ideas. It would seem particularly suited for pastors and educated laypeople, and scholars working on biblical eschatology should also pay attention to it. . . . His work sets a convincing case for abandoning the term heaven in discussions of Christian hope and focusing on the present implications of the new earth."

Brian C. Dennert,

Bulletin for Biblical Research

"Middleton's study is comprehensive, exegetically detailed, engagingly written, and passionately argued. . . . This is an exceptionally fine book, which deserves to be widely read."

Edward Adams,

Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"[This book] presents a robust biblical eschatology based on the premise of 'one comprehensive and ultimately coherent story' while making space for the diversity of eschatological views in scripture. Crucially, Middleton's narrative biblical theology does not flatten into destoried eschatological themes and is a model of how biblical theology can and should be done in a way that respects the complexities of the biblical texts. . . . Middleton closes with an appendix on the subject of how this holistic eschatology came to be lost from view in Christian thought. This historical survey makes instructive reading for anyone who wonders how things might have gone awry. . . . There is much to commend in this book, both in method and content, and I will certainly recommend it to undergraduates and others wishing to explore biblical eschatology."

J. P. Davies,

Review of Biblical Literature

"The book is well-written and well-organized. Several figures and tables break up the prose and provide visuals that help the reader to grasp concepts. The author's passion for the subject infuses every page. The work is exegetically nuanced and theologically mature. . . . I strongly recommend this book. I agree with Donald Hagner, who, endorsing the book, wrote that 'it could serve admirably as a basic textbook on biblical theology.' Yes, and so much more. If every evangelical student from Anchorage to Addis Ababa would pick up and read, it could revolutionize global Christianity."

Christopher A. Beetham,

Themelios

"Middleton's work is much more accessible to an informed lay audience than previous works on the topic. . . . The eschatology one experiences from the pews is often immaterial, lacking in an understanding of its cosmic scope, and many times disconnected from ethics in this life (other than the basic foundation of all Christian ethics, to repent, and to do so before Christ comes). If Middleton's work can right the ship of popular level eschatology, then it will have done the church a great service. . . . Middleton's overall argument that the Bible presents salvation for all of creation and therefore does not present an immaterial afterlife, is a convincing and needed one in today's pews."

Matthew Y. Emerson,

Southeastern Theological Review

"This is a most welcomed text. . . . Middleton has rallied his skillful scholarship to flesh out the most concentrated biblical apologia available for a new heaven and earth (i.e., renewed creation) as the endgame of salvation. . . . I highly endorse its reading and studying--the proof of which is that I am already using it to splendid effect in a variety of theology classes. . . . I consider Middleton's book a must read, an important and timely biblical apologia for a sorely neglected conclusion of the logic and scriptural witness of Judeo-Christian monotheism."

Thomas R. Thompson,

Calvin Theological Journal

"[This book] stands out as a fresh outlook on the subject. . . . [Middleton's] material is well researched and documented. . . . The book contains figures and tables that support comprehension. . . . A New Heaven and a New Earth is a pleasant read which has a healthy approach to biblical eschatology. Middleton's concern for holistic salvation can positively impact the way people live today. . . . Middleton's most significant contribution is his broad view of the canonical story, which, applied to the issues of the bodily resurrection of humans and the restoration of the earth, led to a more convincing scenario than what previous studies had shown. Such an approach will help readers from all traditions to gain fresh perspectives on the biblical text. The book will be valuable to biblical scholars, theologians, pastors, and educated lay members who are interested in the biblical metanarrative, eschatology, and holistic living. I hope it enjoys a wide readership."

Flavio Prestes III,

Andrews University Seminary Studies

"Comprehensive in its scope, this book is an attempt to develop a holistic biblical worldview regarding the teaching of the redemption of creation, including both physical cosmos and human culture and society. Middleton's ethical implications of such a vision are noteworthy. . . . Middleton's endeavor to ground eschatology in the entire biblical story, beginning with God's original intent for earthly flourishing and culminating in his redemptive purpose of restoring earthly life through the work of Christ, is another commendable aspect of this book. . . . While elements of this book, particularly Middleton's disavowal of heavenly afterlife, will be controversial, this book is a welcome reminder of the biblical story of holistic salvation and God's commitment to an integral and comprehensive restoration of the creation."

Sherif Gendy,

Ordained Servant Online

"It may be that [A New Heaven and a New Earth] is the most important book in its field, a magnificent, innovative, lasting contribution to the field of biblical studies. I can hardly understate just how significant this new book is. . . . It is not designed only for the guild, or Bible professors or even clergy, but is offered as a serious gift for anyone who wants to read and study and learn. It is . . . so significant in its research and so fresh in its articulation, that it might be considered definitive. . . . Whether you are at a mainline church or an independent, evangelical one, whether you are highly liturgical or less so, I am convinced some of this material will simply rock your world. You will be made to reconsider shibboleths and sacred cows and you will have 'aha' moments. . . . Richard's passionate insight about the biblical text is matched by his fluency in the most important literature, old and recent, scholarly and popular. . . . With A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology he has become the preeminent scholar who has given us the preeminent work on this vexing, vital subject. It is my hope that every Bible teacher, every pastor and preacher, and every Christian who longs for a more coherent, meaningful, faithful daily discipleship struggles long and hard with the content of this book."

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Books blog

"One of the most impressive and important books of biblical scholarship I've seen in years."

Byron Borger,

Hearts & Minds Books blog

"Enhanced with the inclusion of an informative introduction, figures and tables, an appendix (Whatever Happened to the New Earth?), a thirty page Subject Index, and a fifteen page Scripture Index, A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology is a model of biblical scholarship making it very instructive reading and highly recommended for personal, seminary, community, and academic library Christian Studies collections."

Midwest Book Review


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