Posted by: chuckbumgardner | January 28, 2010

Garrett, Systematic Theology, part 12: “The Last Things”

James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical, 2 vols. (North Richland Hills, TX: BIBAL Press, 2000), 709-903.

Garrett avers that after physical death, a human enters an intermediate state of disembodiment.  He does not enter purgatory or experience soul-sleep, nor does he cease to exist.  He has no opportunity to obtain a post-mortem salvation, for his destiny is fixed.  Only a single general eschatological resurrection will occur, transforming believers’ bodies into a glorified state.  Immortality is not a quality inherent in the human soul, but is attained through Christ.

The second coming of Christ in power and glory will consummate the kingdom of God, bring about the resurrection of the dead, and inaugurate the final judgment for all men.  Garrett denies the rapture of the church, seeing only a single coming of Christ.  The kingdom of God had its advent “with and through Jesus” (2:804) and is a present reality.

Garrett considers dispensationalism as an “extremist” position, and agrees with Hoekema’s critique and rejection of it.  Among other complaints, Hoekema claims that dispensationalism short-changes biblical unity, falsely teaches distinct divine purposes for Israel and the church, wrongly predicts a future earthly millennial kingdom and a restoration of Israel to the land, and incorrectly teaches the possibility of people being regenerated after the return of Christ.  Further, Garrett claims that no historic Baptist confession reflects a distinctly dispensational position.  While Garrett notes both strengths and weaknesses of non-dispensational premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism, he presents only perceived weaknesses of dispensational premillennialism.  Garrett seems most comfortable with an amillenial stance, although he fails to specify his position.

A final judgment is rooted in the character of God and certain to occur.  Jesus Christ will judge all humanity on the basis of their works.  Garrett rejects the dispensational teaching of multiple eschatological judgments, instead seeing only “one universal and simultaneous eschatological judgment” (2:862).  Garrett also rejects eschatological universalism and annihilationism; the unrighteous will enter hell, understood “in terms of eternal separation from God and punishment by God” (2:888).  The righteous will enter heaven, enjoying eternal fellowship with God and eternal freedom from sin, suffering, and death.

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