Last month, a world-class biblical scholar came to the Hoosier capital. Dr. Greg Beale graced Indianapolis Theological Seminary with a weekend class on eschatology—that study of the last things as it relates to the individual and the universe. As the man with the highest rated commentary on the book of Revelation, Dr. Beale was eminently qualified to answer questions surrounding the end times, the last days, and the place of Israel.
If you were sitting in the classroom on day one, you would have heard Beale’s first shot: “One cannot understand any major New Testament doctrine without understanding its Old Testament background” (he phrased it, of course, in that more tentative academic way). “Can you think of even one doctrine where this is not the case?” The next nine hours of class, spread over two days, gave Dr. Beale ample opportunity to unpack that assertion by weaving the themes of tribulation, true Israel, return from exile, image of God (and so forth) to their fulfillment in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dr. Beale gave particular attention to the resurrection of Christ; what was so remarkable about it? It was not merely that a man had risen from the dead; it was that this resurrection was the gunshot that marked the beginning of “the eschatological new creational kingdom” (his words, not mine)! The “already” in the “already-but-not-yet” had begun! Before this happened, God’s promises remained largely unfulfilled at the Old Testament’s end; He had promised a triumphant Davidic king, a restored temple, a resurrection, a restored Israel, an indwelling Spirit, and YHWH-worshipping nations. But where were they? (Imagine a distinguished older professor brimming with enthusiasm.) Where was that divinely-promised symphonic movement that would bring resolution to the many swells of prophetic expectation? The children’s Sunday school response, of course, is Jesus. But the ways in which this Jesus answers that question takes an entire book to unpack. Suffice to say, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus inaugurate the promises made in the Old Testament, and this begins to explain why the apostle Paul could make that breathtaking statement: “all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (2 Cor 1:20).
The reality of Christ’s fulfillment helps one to understand why the apostle Paul was apparently so stuck on his conversion—Luke narrates it once in Acts (ch. 9), and Paul mentions his encounter on Damascus Road twice more (chs. 22 and 26) and then yet again in Galatians (ch. 1)! What so deeply affected him? It was the fact that in his confrontation with the risen Lord Jesus, a hermeneutical supernova burst upon his theological mind. Paul began to understand that Jesus was not only the Messiah, but that He was in fact that long expected answer to that conspicuous question mark with which the Old Testament concluded, both historically and canonically. Jesus Christ—glory of glories!—is that resolution to the melodic cliffhangers of 2 Chronicles and Malachi. Paul began to realize this on the Damascus Road, and then he spent the rest of his life developing the cosmos-shaking ramifications.
What then, in summary, is the message of the Old Testament in one softball-sized nutshell? Take the words of the good doctor himself from class: “The Old Testament is the story of God who progressively reestablishes his new creational kingdom out of chaos over a sinful people by his word and Spirit through promise, covenant, and redemption—resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this kingdom, and judgment (defeat or exile) for the unfaithful, unto his glory.”
Dr. Beale spoke on more than just Christ’s fulfillments à la 2 Cor 1:20, but space fails me to write about his understanding of Romans 11:26, the place present-day Israel has in biblical prophecy, the nature of the millennium, whether Ezekiel 28 is referring to Satan or Adam, or what Beale’s New Testament softball-nutshell sentence is. One can read his 1,000+ page New Testament biblical theology to find many of these answers. Suffice to say, it was a deep privilege to have Dr. Beale teach a class for Indianapolis Theological Seminary. Dr. Beale inculcates so much of what our seminary desires in its students: an unswerving commitment to the authority of God’s Word, an experiential taste of the preciousness of God’s Word, and a hermeneutic that recognizes Jesus—the very Word of God incarnate—as the sweet resolution to the symphony of salvation history. As the Old Testament blessing goes, may Greg Beale’s tribe increase! And may God increase the tribe of Indianapolis Theological Seminary, a school that seeks to equip people to rightly handle the Word of truth for the glory of God and the good of the church.
- Kevin McClure is the Associate Pastor of Discipleship at Geist Community Church, and the ITS board secretary.
 G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 16.