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Book Reviews > New Testament > 1-2 Thessalonians (IVP New Testament Commentary Series)

Ray VanNeste

Ray VanNeste
Director of the RC Ryan Center for Biblical Studies and Assistant Professor of Christian Studies

1-2 Thessalonians (IVP New Testament Commentary Series)
G. K. Beale
Details: 2003, IVP, Amazon.comISBN: 0830818138
Posted: July 19, 2005

Having written a well received technical commentary (on Revelation) Beale has here turned to what is often a more difficult task - producing a commentary which is aware of the technical discussion but seeks succinctly to summarize the exegetical issues and illumine the basic message and theology of the text and make application. In this Beale succeeds admirably.

A 25 page introduction nicely sets the letter in context historically, literarily and theologically. Beale argues briefly for Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians (the authorship of 1 Thessalonians being largely unquestioned). Also included is a quite helpful survey of both letters noting how each paragraph leads to and develops from another. In a well written introduction the highlight is the discussion of the eschatological orientation of the entirety of the NT. This section will be a particularly worthwhile read for those seeking to grasp and expound the message of the NT.

It may be helpful to note the general perspective Beale takes on some key texts. 1 Thes. 4:13-18 is an often debated text with the discussion of Christ’s return and events surrounding it. Beale disputes common dispensational views and arguments for a ‘rapture,’ arguing instead that the eschatological language is overtly figurative. He writes: ‘What has been traditionally understood as the second coming of Christ is best conceived as a revelation of his formerly hidden, heavenly “presence.” The old-world reality will be ripped away, and the dimension of the new, eternal reality will appear along with Christ’s “presence.”’ (138) While there will be disagreement here, Beale brings to the topic his studies in Revelation and provides good discussion. This section is also a good example of how he weaves together the technical, theological and applicational. He opens the section with a discussion of two funerals he has been involved in (for an unbeliever and a believer) and closes by returning to these funerals contrasting the presence of hope and the absence of hope.

As a second text we can briefly consider the ‘Man of sin’ in 2 Thes. 2:1-4. Drawing from his work in OT eschatology and apocalyptic literature, Beale argues that this refers to the ultimate final expression of the spirit of antichrist which is already among us. He argues that the Temple mentioned here refers not to a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem but to the church. Again Beale very naturally moves back and forth from exposition to application, pointing out in this passage the dangers of cults and the particular danger of the spirit of lawlessness in our churches when people readily distort scripture to excuse immorality.

In conclusion, this commentary succeeds well in its stated goals of illuminating the text with informed exegesis and practical application. Beale is particularly good at probing the theology of the text and makes appropriate, pointed applications to today. If a commentary is going to make applications it needs to be more than simply generic and Beale has done a fine job of making pointed application precisely because he is thinking theologically through the letters. This commentary will assist in bold proclamation of the Word of God. I commend it warmly.

Ray Van Neste

Union University