Alexander, T. Desmond.
From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology
Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2008.
Reviewed by: C. B. Kvidahl
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T. Desmond Alexander’s From Eden to the New Jerusalem is a wealth of information packed into only 192 pages. Alexander begins his study by looking to Revelation 21-22 as a window back into the garden of Eden. As the subtitle states, this is an introduction into the discipline of Biblical Theology. But it is so much more than just an introduction. Alexander traces some of the key themes that begin in Gen 3 and come to their full consummation in Rev 21-22. Alexander does not seek to provide an exhaustive study of key themes, rather he focuses on the forest more so than the individual trees. But do not expect this to be a super sonic fly over; it is rather a slow fly over, allowing the reader to the forest and admire the view.
In each of the eight chapters in the book, Alexander traces the story from creation to new-creation, highlighting certain motifs as the Eden as a temple-garden, the tabernacle, humanity as God’s viceroys, the great serpent, Passover and the Lamb, the tree of life, and New Jerusalem and Babylon. Alexander engages the reader from start to finish, showing how these themes tie together.
In chapter two, the author shows how the garden of Eden was more than just a place to see pretty plants. From the beginning, God has his dwelling with mankind. He creates a world and places Adam and Eve in the garden in order to tend and take care of his creation. Not only this, but we note that God would often walk with man in the garden. Further, Alexander notes some similarities that Eden shares with the later tabernacle/temple:
- Eden and the later tabernacle/temple were entered from the east, with cherubim guarding the entrance.
- The tree of life is later represented in the tabernacle/temple by the menorah.
- The same Hebrew words for “to serve, till” and “to keep, observe, guard” are used only in relation to Adam and Eve and later the priests who serve in the tabernacle/temple.
- The gemstone spoken of in Gen 2 (gold and onyx) were later used in the tabernacle/temple to decorate the sanctuary and the priestly garments.
- The presence of the Lord is in both Eden (God walks with Adam and Eve) and the tabernacle/temple.
Alexander traces the tabernacle/temple motif through the Exodus of Israel, Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus, the Church, and finally the New Jerusalem of Rev 21-22. Through the development of Israel as God’s people, and later the Church, Alexander shows the reader how this Temple motif is central and important. Whereas before the fall mankind had full access to and fellowship with God, since then God has been in the business of restoring mankind’s access to God.
Another theme which Alexander traces is the idea of humanity of God’s viceroys. When God created mankind, he created them with intent that the populate the earth and spread God’s presence throughout his creation. He gave Adam and Eve dominion over the animals and commanded them to multiply. But when the serpent entered into the garden and deceived Adam and Eve, they transferred their allegiance from God to Satan, thus allowing Satan to gain a foothold in God’s creation. As Alexander states, “by betraying God and obeying the serpent, the royal couple dethrone God.” This betrayal cost the couple their priestly status, and God banished them from the garden and from his presence. The remainder of the story is God orchestrating in such a way as to re-establish his kingdom on earth. When Jesus comes proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, he ushers in God’s kingdom and his victory over the rule and dominion of the great serpent Satan. Through the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Messiah, the Church now has keys to the kingdom. At the death of Christ, Satan is bound and the gospel is spread throughout the earth. Although the Church now currently lives in the tension of the already-but-not-yet, we eagerly await the coming of the New Jerusalem and our Messiah.
The only criticism I have with this excellent study is that chapter seven seemed to drag on a bit. While I see its necessity in a study like this, I just felt like the momentum which was gained in the first six chapters seemed to slow a bit towards the end. Nevertheless, I would recommend From Eden to the New Jerusalem to the reader looking for a book that shows the reader how to not only understand the discipline of Biblical Theology, but to also see how it is done first hand.