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Geerhardus Vos: Pauline Eschatology

Danny E. Olinger

In 1912 as Princeton Seminary prepared for the school’s centennial celebration, Geerhardus Vos was the fifth-longest-tenured professor behind Benjamin Warfield, John Davis, John De Witt, and William Greene. Although his last name and thick Dutch-German brogue betrayed his Friesian ancestry, Vos’s reputation after nineteen years at Princeton was arguably more tied to Presbyterianism than to his Dutch Reformed upbringing.

One last remembrance of the former days had come in 1908 when his lifelong friend from the Netherlands, Herman Bavinck, delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton. Along with Nicholas Steffens and Henry Dosker, Vos prepared the English translation of Bavinck’s lectures, “The Philosophy of Revelation.” Vos then worked with Benjamin Warfield in preparing Bavinck’s manuscript for the printer and otherwise assisted in publication of the lectures as a book in English.[1] Bavinck and his wife, Hanny, stayed with the Vos family during the time of the lectures.[2] After the evening meal, the children would be dismissed and Herman and Geerhardus would talk into the night.[3]

Twenty-two years earlier, in the summer of 1886, the two friends had travelled the Rhine River together in Germany. Contemplating his future, particularly which school he might transfer to from Strasbourg, Vos sought Bavinck’s counsel.[4] The last days that Vos had spent in Europe in 1888, he spent with Bavinck. When Bavinck had visited America in 1892, he stayed with Vos and his family in Michigan for three weeks.[5]

Once at Princeton, Vos had written two glowing reviews of Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics for the Presbyterian and Reformed Review. In his 1896 review of volume one of the Reformed Dogmatics, Vos appreciated Bavinck’s embrace of both Scripture and the dogmatic tradition. The Scriptures were the only principium, but the dogmatic tradition was indispensable for sound teaching.

Vos agreed with Bavinck’s judgment that the historical-critical method of interpretation was fatally flawed. Bavinck contended that “science and philosophy have no right to construe the idea of revelation à priori, and afterwards to distort the historical and religious phenomena passing under the name of revelation in order to make them harmonize with such à priori construction.”[6]

Three years later, in 1899, Vos wrote that the second volume of Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics was “so excellent that it seems almost impossible to be too generous in its praise.”[7] Prior to the review, Vos had written Bavinck and told him, “It is a beautiful work.”[8] What had impressed Vos was that Bavinck, the thorough Calvinist, had produced a vindication of the Christian faith that was catholic in spirit.

At the end of the review, Vos took great interest in Bavinck’s discussion on the nature and destiny of man.[9] Bavinck argued that the Reformed faith and Roman Catholicism, over against Lutheranism, correctly distinguished the original, creation estate of man from the estate of glory. The Reformed and Rome differed, however, in their understanding of the way that God set the translation to the estate of glory before man. The Reformed believed the translational hope from innocence to glory was put before man in the covenant of works. Rome, doubly influenced by the neo-Platonic ideal of a mystical deification as the true destiny of man and the Pelagian principle of the merit of good works, taught that eternal life before the Fall was to be obtained through man’s merit and God’s supernatural gift (donum superadditum). Vos affirmed Bavinck’s conclusion that Adam in uprightness was not to earn eternal life by condign merit (supernatural) as Rome taught. Rather, prior to the Fall, eternal life was to be gained by natural means in covenant as the Reformed taught. The two different conceptions led to two different views of Christianity. The Reformed saw Christianity as a religion of grace that aimed at the renewing of man’s nature. Rome saw Christianity as a religion of merit that aimed at the elevation of man’s nature. Vos concluded, “Dr. Bavinck ably vindicates the federal character of all true religion.”[10]

Bavinck for his part greatly appreciated Vos’s positive reviews. Bavinck stated, “Among the announcements and reviews of the first three volumes no word was more pleasant to me than Prof. Vos’s of Princeton.”[11] Bavinck then approvingly quoted these words from Vos:

What has impressed us most is that, while Dr. Bavinck’s standpoint is that of a thorough Calvinist, yet in reading him one is conscious of listening not so much to a defense of Calvinism as to a scientific vindication of the Christian world-view in its most catholic sense and spirit. This is far from saying that the world is not also a vindication of Calvinistic theology. But it is so in the indirect and for that reason all the more telling way of showing how perfectly easy and natural it is to build upon the foundations of the Reformed principles a system of Christian thought which by its very largeness of grasp and freedom from theological one-sidedness becomes the most eloquent witness to the soundness and depth of the principles underlying it. No higher commendation of Calvinism is conceivable than that it lends itself to being made the basis of a structure of truth so universally and comprehensively Christian in all its lines and proportions.[12]

George Harinck remarks that Vos’s statement, and Bavinck’s approval of the statement, revealed something of the remarkable parallel development that had taken place for each man. Both not only were raised in the Seceder movement in the Netherlands, but also were sons of Seceder pastors who themselves were friends.[13] Both studied at institutions that were critical in method, Bavinck at Leiden and Vos at Berlin and Strasbourg. Both were originally professors at schools that were Bible-believing and pietistic, Bavinck at Kampen in the Netherlands and Vos at the Theological School at Grand Rapids. Both pulled up the academic reputations of the schools, but then moved to institutions, the Free University of Amsterdam and Princeton Seminary, that were Reformed, but broader and more scientific in orientation.

But, Harinck notes, neither Vos at Princeton nor Bavinck at Amsterdam became the dominant theologian of their new institutions as they had been at their old ones. In Harinck’s judgment, this was due to Vos’s and Bavinck’s reservations concerning Kuyper’s theological program. Both wondered if Kuyper’s program of antithesis was too rigid, too cold-blooded, too theoretical. Harinck believes that Bavinck’s hesitation led to Kuyperians distrusting him and that Vos’s reluctance led to Princetonians overlooking him.[14]

The Theology of Paul

As perceptive as Harinck’s observations are, he does not explore how Vos’s growth as a biblical theologian affected his allegiance to Kuyper’s program. At Princeton, Vos increasingly began to distance himself from certain aspects of Kuyper’s methodology. This was evident in Vos’s 1903 Bible Student article, “The Theology of Paul.”

In the article Vos argued that although Paul’s teaching belonged to the history of revelation, it also marked the beginning of the history of theology. In 1 Corinthians 15:3, his use of “first of all” indicated that he utilized “a well-ordered method in imparting the truth.”[15] In Romans 6:17 Paul speaks of a “pattern of teaching” delivered to the Roman believers.

Paul’s eschatological outlook, or philosophy of history, undergirded his theology. He saw all the streams of human history headed toward their final goal in the perfected kingdom of God through the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul arranged the historical facts in a coherent, doctrinal system, conscious that his presentation possessed a distinct theological impress. Vos concluded that Paul was a theologian.

In his article “Geerhardus Vos and the Interpretation of Paul,” Richard B. Gaffin Jr. spells out just how much Vos’s declaration that Paul was a theologian departed from Kuyper’s understanding.[16] Gaffin explains that Kuyper’s opposition to speaking of Paul as a theologian was due to the way that Kuyper understood Scripture. Kuyper believed Scripture itself was not theology but underlies it. He declared that one must not speak of the biblical writers as theologians. For Kuyper, revelation was pre-theological, theology was post-biblical. Gaffin writes, “Vos’s description of Paul as a specifically ‘theological’ thinker and his repeated references to the Apostle’s ‘theological system’ are modes of expression which are forbidden to Kuyper in principle.”[17]

Vos himself recognized the tension that existed between his views and Kuyper’s views. He would later remark, “In the old country they do not believe much in Biblical theology, but I have taught it for thirty-five years and certainly believe in it.”[18]

Review of Kennedy’s St. Paul’s Conception of the Last Things

In 1905, two years after his “Theology of Paul” article, Vos reviewed Harry Angus Kennedy’s book St. Paul’s Conception of the Last Things. In this review Vos gave notice of the topics he thought were important in Pauline studies but had been almost universally overlooked. Vos praised Kennedy for recognizing that eschatology played a dominant role in the Apostle’s view of salvation. But, he held that Kennedy did not comprehend the totality of eschatology in Paul’s system of thought. Vos wrote:

The question is not so much whether the doctrines of justification and possession of the Spirit and union with Christ carry with themselves an outlook into the future, but rather whether those acts and states to which these doctrines refer are not from the outset eschatological acts and states, or, more strictly speaking, anticipations in this life of what had previously been regarded as reserved for the end. Only by realizing the extent to which this is true can we appreciate the profound eschatological interest that pervades all Paul’s teaching. Especially in connection with the pneuma conception this might have been more strongly emphasized. The Spirit is from the beginning to Paul the element of the eschatological, heavenly world.[19]

Vos also took special interest in Kennedy’s exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15:44–46. Kennedy maintained that the natural body of verse 44 “was of necessity” characterized by corruption, dishonor, and weakness.” Vos noted that in verses 45 and 46, however, Paul identified this natural body with the body given to the first Adam at creation. Vos declared that the body at creation cannot have been a body of corruption, dishonor, and weakness, since elsewhere in his writing Paul plainly taught that these attributes were the result of sin. Vos concluded that it would have been better for Kennedy to state the problem clearly and leave it unsolved rather than to solve it in such a way that brought Paul into conflict with himself.[20]

Princeton Seminary Centennial

On the Lord’s Day of May 5, 1912, Princeton Seminary started its centennial celebration with an 11:00 a.m. worship service at First Presbyterian Church in Princeton. Seminary president Francis Patton preached on the topic, “Princeton Seminary and the Faith.”[21] A conference on prayer was held at Miller Chapel at 4:00 p.m. Ethelbert Warfield, president of the Board of Trustees and the older brother of Benjamin Warfield, preached at the 7:45 p.m. evening worship service at First Presbyterian Church.[22]

On both Monday and Tuesday mornings an academic procession started at the faculty room in Nassau Hall and led into Alexander Hall. On Monday the graduating class was awarded their Bachelor of Divinity degrees, and addresses were given from Princeton alumni lauding the seminary’s achievements. On Tuesday luminaries from the Presbyterian and Reformed churches around the world took center stage. J. Gresham Machen described the day in a letter to his mother.

Tuesday was the big day, Alexander Hall at the University was filled with a magnificent assemblage. The stage and the central part of the lower floor were brilliant with many-colored gowns, and the rest of the hall was occupied by ordinary folk. The singing of the first hymn, “Ein Feste Burg,” was one of the most inspiring things in the whole celebration. I never heard any hymn-singing like that. The speeches were by Dr. Stewart, moderator of the Church of Scotland, Dr. James Wells, moderator of the United Free Church of Scotland, and Dr. MacMillian, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland.[23]

In addition to the ceremonies taking place on the campus, the faculty had released a volume of essays, Biblical and Theological Studies, in commemoration of the centennial.[24] Vos’s contribution, “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit,” would be arguably his most influential article.[25]

The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit

Vos stated that the purpose of the article was to investigate the extent to which Paul’s eschatological teaching was tied to his doctrine of the Holy Spirit. This allowed Vos both to build upon the biblical theological insights of his “Theology of Paul” and to answer the questions that he had raised in his review of Kennedy’s St. Paul’s Conception of the Last Things. In setting forth the grand structure of Paul’s teaching, Vos asserted that Paul taught that the future world had projected itself into the present life. Vos said, “Through the appearance of the Messiah, as the great representative figure of the coming aeon, this new age has begun to enter into the actual experience of the believer. He has been translated into a state, which, while falling short of the consummated life of eternity, yet may be truly characterized as semi-eschatological.”[26]

Vos turned to Romans 1:3–4 to answer the question of how the Spirit was conferred upon Christ. He concluded that it was a history of redemption question (a contrast between the states of humiliation and exaltation) and not a question of natures (humanity and divinity). That is, the reference was not to two coexisting sides in the constitution of the Savior, but to two successive stages in his life. According to the flesh, Jesus descended from David. According to the Spirit, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead.

Vos then exegeted the text that he believed Kennedy had not understood fully, 1 Corinthians 15:42–50.

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (NAS)

The complexity in understanding the passage was that Paul switched comparisons as he moved from verses 42–44a to verses 44b–46. In verses 42–44a, Paul contrasted the body in the fallen, pre-eschatological state with the body in the eschatological state. The fallen, pre-eschatological, state-of-sin body is the natural body of verses 42–44a that is perishing, dishonorable, and weak. The eschatological, resurrection-state body is the spiritual body of verses 42–44a that is permanent, glorious, and powerful.

The contrast changes at the end of verse 44. Verse 44b with its “if there is … there is also” argument, supported by the reference to Genesis 2:7 in verse 45, broadens the scope. Included now in the natural, pre-eschatological was the pre-Fall estate. Paul “enlarged the one term of contrast, that relation to the pre-eschatological period, so as to make it cover no longer the reign of sin, but the order of things established in creation.”[27]

Vos explained why Paul changed the comparison in his argument in verses 42–44a between the body of sin and body of the resurrection to a comparison in verses 44b–46 between the body of creation and the body of the resurrection.

The Apostle was intent upon showing that in the plan of God from the outset provision was made for a higher kind of body than that of our present experience. From the abnormal body of sin no inference can be drawn as to the existence of another kind of body. The abnormal and the eschatological are not so logically correlated that the one can be postulated from the other. But the world of creation and the world of eschatology are thus correlated, the one points forward to the other; on the principle of typology the first Adam prefigures the second Adam, the psychical body, the pneumatic body (cf. Rom. 5:14).[28]

The resurrection is when the spiritual entered, the second man was exalted, and the eschatological era was inaugurated. This is because the Spirit imparted to the risen Christ the life-giving power that is the Spirit’s own.

Vos concluded the article with some observations that he believed were central to the study of Reformed biblical theology. First, Paul’s theological bent led him to believe that in the Christian life all must be from God and for God. The Spirit was the agent for securing this because of the impotence of sinful human nature for good. This was why Paul interpreted the whole Christian life in terms of the Spirit and regarded the moral and religious life of the believer as a fruit of the Spirit in its highest potency.

Second, Paul approached the endowment of Christ with the Spirit from an eschatological-soteriological point of view. The resurrection of Christ was the point where the peculiar identification between Christ and the Spirit began. Paul used this identification exclusively in regard to Christ’s Messianic capacity with reference to believers and not to the original constitution of Christ’s person.

Vos’s final observation concerned the antagonism that existed between biblical eschatology and evolutionary philosophy. Evolutionary philosophy stood against the two poles of biblical eschatology, creation and consummation. For those who followed the principles of evolutionary philosophy, the result was a Christianity devoid of the supernatural, where life in the kingdom was severed from the realm of the Spirit. Paul taught that the Spirit, which belonged to the age to come, determined the present life.

The Pauline Eschatology

In 1930, eighteen years after “The Eschatological Aspects of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit” appeared, Vos expanded the article into book form with the self-publication of The Pauline Eschatology. In the preface Vos surveyed the role that biblical eschatology had played for the church living after the appearance of Jesus Christ. For the early church the vindication of the faith “depended on the proof that the Messiah, that great Agent and Consummator of God’s world-purpose, had appeared upon the scene.”[29] The medieval church fixed much of its attention upon this earth, but the eschatological hope still remained in the church’s singing as the best of that era’s hymnody breathed the air of heaven.

The Reformers focused on the doctrine of justification, how does one obtain righteousness before God? This resulted in the pushing of the eschatological hope into the background for a time, but the two strands of justifying faith and eschatological hope were intertwined. Sinners are justified unto the end of communing with God.

The Reformers had received from Paul something better than either prophet or Psalmist had been able to give with the same clarity. Paul’s writings gathered the single items of hope found throughout Scripture—that history is moving toward the goal of fellowship with God— and organized them into a coherent system. “Truly for this, not his smallest gift, he may justly be called the father of Christian eschatology.”[30]

The Structure of the Pauline Eschatology

In the opening chapter, “The Structure of the Pauline Eschatology,” Vos began with a definition of eschatology.

Eschatology is “doctrine of the last things.” It deals with the teaching or belief, that the world-movement, religiously considered, tends towards a definite final goal, beyond which a new order of affairs will be established, frequently with the further implication, that this new order of affairs will not be subject to any further change, but will partake of the static[31] character of the eternal.[32]

From this definition, he maintained there are two characteristic elements of eschatology, the limited duration of the present order of things and the eternal character of the subsequent state. The Apostle Paul understood that the subsequent state, the age to come, had intruded into the present age. Paul also understood that the soteric movement that had Christ at its center occurred within this cosmical setting of the overlap of the ages. The result was a philosophy of history where eschatology no longer formed one item in the sum-total of revealed teaching. Vos’s purpose in the book was to show that unfolding Paul’s eschatology meant unfolding Paul’s theology as a whole.

The eschatological process had been set in motion through Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The believer joined to the risen Christ by faith was living in the overlap of the ages, which Vos illustrated with the following diagram.[33]

From the reality of Christ being in heaven, and because the believer’s life is hid with Christ in God, Vos declared that the Christian life is semi-eschatological.[34] But he made clear that the heaven in which the Christian by anticipation dwells by faith is not the “cosmical heaven.”[35] It is a heaven that God has built through his work in the sphere of redemption. Heaven empowers the believer while it also beckons the believer to its final consummation. The Spirit holds these two aspects of the Christian’s double life-process together.

“Heaven, so to speak, has received time and history into itself, no less than time has received unchangeableness and eternity into itself.”[36] For Vos, this is what distinguished Paul’s two-age construction from Greek philosophical dualism. The mother-soil for the Greeks was metaphysical speculation. The mother-soil for Paul was revelation. Biblically, the historical was first, then the theological. It was through an eminently historical event, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that the parallel structure of the two ages was begotten.

The Interaction Between Eschatology and Soteriology

Vos observed at the start of the second chapter, “The Interaction Between Eschatology and Soteriology,” that the topic of eschatology typically appeared last in dogmatics. In fact, forty years earlier in his Reformed Dogmatics, Vos himself had placed eschatology as the last topic discussed.[37] Now Vos encouraged reversing the order, or at least recognizing the centrality of eschatology, as it pervades every dogmatic topic.[38]

Vos examined four structural lines in Pauline teaching to test this thesis and the relationship between eschatology and soteriology. These were the doctrines of the resurrection, salvation, judgment and justification, and the Spirit.

He considered the Pauline doctrine of the resurrection first because with the resurrection “the eschatological priority of origin and the actual influence upon the soteric teaching are most palpable.”[39] The soteric experience by which believers are introduced into a new state is characterized as “being raised with Christ.” The one “in Christ” is a participator in the new world that Christ’s resurrection had brought about.

Next Vos considered the doctrine of salvation. The eschatological strand determined both the substance and form of the soteriological strand in Paul’s theology. “Keen hope had projected itself into the future, and there the habit of speech about salvation had been to no small extent acquired.”[40] Christians are saved by hope (Romans 8:24–25). They are destined to impending salvation, but also have a present possession.

With respect to justification and eschatology, Vos identified the point at which they intersect.

By making both the negative element of the forgiveness of sin and the positive element of bestowal of the benefits of salvation unqualified, the Apostle made the act of justification to all intents, so far as the believer is concerned, a last judgment anticipated.[41]

Paul’s declarations of the certainty of salvation in Christ would not be possible if justification bore with it an aspect of relativity regarding the future.

Paul widened the description of the Spirit’s work in believers beyond that of the Old Testament prophets and other New Testament writers. He did this because he believed the Spirit was “before all else the element of the eschatological or the celestial sphere, that which characterizes the mode of existence and life in the world to come and consequently of that anticipated form in which the world to come is even now realized in heaven.”[42]

Vos spelled out at the end of the chapter why a proper understanding of the relationship of eschatology and soteriology, namely, that Paul gave such a precedence to the eschatological, was so important. It provided the Apostle with a philosophy of history into which the soteric and theological could be fitted, every development construed in light of the starting point and terminus. “Eschatology, in other words, even that of the most primitive kind, yields ipso facto a philosophy of history, be it of the most rudimentary sort. And every philosophy of history bears in itself the seed of theology.”[43]

Vos believed this eschatological understanding could not but produce the finest fruit of practical theology.

To take God as source and end of all that exists and happens, and to hold such a view suffused with the warmth of genuine devotion, stands not only related to theology as the fruit stands to the tree: it is by reason of its essence a veritable theological tree of life.[44]

The Religious and Ethical Motivation of Paul’s Eschatology

In the third chapter, “The Religious and Ethical Motivation of Paul’s Eschatology,” Vos pointed out the liberal church’s hostility to the Pauline eschatology. Pauline eschatology was supernatural and heavenly-oriented. Liberalism was anti-supernatural and merely earthly-oriented. Vos’s verdict was that liberalism had moved away from seeking after God and had become irreligious. “A so-called Christianity proving cold or hostile towards the interests of the life to come has ceased to be Christianity in the historic sense of the word.”[45]

Conversely, Calvinism, which has believed that both the soteric and ethical processes exist for the sake of God, has proved itself the deepest interpretation of Pauline theology. In so far as Calvinism has sought to exalt the divine glory in religion, it has been the purest expression of the spirit of Augustinianism and the Reformation.[46]

The Coming of the Lord

In chapters four, “The Coming of the Lord and its Precursors,” and five, “The Man of Sin,” Vos declared that, for the Apostle Paul, the final issues of history and redemption are connected with the resurrection and the judgment and become concentrated with the second coming of Christ. The judgment sums up the world-process that has fallen subject to sin. The resurrection restores that which has become the prey of decadence and death. But, Vos was quick to point out, the resurrection was not a mere return of man to his pre-Fall estate. “For the eschatological process is intended not only to put man back at the point where he stood before the invasion of sin and death, but to carry him to a plane of life, not attained before the probation, not, so far as we can see, attainable without it.”[47]

The “Man of Sin” in 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12 “is the irreligious and anti-religious and anti-Messianic subject par excellence.”[48] Vos cautioned that the idea of the Antichrist in general and that of the apostasy in particular ought to warn against an uninterrupted progress of the cause of Christ through all ages on to the end. “As the reign of the truth will gradually be extended, so the power of evil will gather force toward the end. The making of all things right and new in the world depend not on gradual amelioration but on the final interposition of God.”[49]

The Resurrection

The sixth chapter, “The Resurrection,” appeared with slight changes as the lead article in the January 1929 issue of the Princeton Theological Review.[50] From 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17, Vos brought out the close connection between the parousia and the resurrection. The Lord will descend and the dead in Christ shall rise first, but it is unwarranted to see a secret rapture being taught. The parousia will be an open event, not one that is shrouded in mystery. The meeting of believers with Christ in the air is unto their abode with him in heaven, not preparatory for a further earthward descent for judgment.

Vos then examined the religious and doctrinal principles underlying the resurrection. He contended that the resurrection, next to the cross, was the outstanding event of redemptive history. “But Paul has first made it a focus of fundamental Christian teaching and built around it the entire conception of the faith advocated and propagated by him.”[51]

In order to understand why Paul placed the resurrection in a central position, Vos said one must grasp that, in Paul’s construction of Christian truth, there is a forensic strand and a transforming strand. The resurrection signifies the most radical and all-inclusive transforming event in the believer’s experience of salvation, the equivalence of becoming a new creation. But the resurrection also concerns the forensic aspect of the acquisition of righteousness. In the justification of Christ lies the certainty and root of the believer’s resurrection, for Christ’s resurrection was God the Father’s official declaration in regard to the Son being just. The resurrection of Christ from the dead annulled the sentence of condemnation. Paul expressed this clearly in Romans 4:25 with the parallel use of the prepositional phrase “dia” (“on account of”) with the accusative. Christ was delivered up to death “on account of our trespasses.” He was raised “on account of our justification.”

In the matter of justification, then, Paul directs the gaze of faith not just to the crucified Christ, but also to the risen and glorified Christ in heaven, where all the merit of the cross is laid up and made available to believers. The Spirit is in the risen Christ the seal and fruit of his righteousness, the perpetual witness of the state of righteousness that has proceeded from his resurrection.

Chiliasm (Premillennialism)

In the tenth chapter, “The Question of Chiliasm, in Paul,” Vos once more took a previously published article and reworked the opening pages. In 1911 he published “The Pauline Eschatology and Chiliasm” in the Princeton Theological Review.[52] In the opening sentence in the article, he wrote, “The division of the eschatological future into two distinct stages, the one of a temporary, provisional, the other of an eternal, absolute character, is probably of pre-Christian Jewish origin.”[53] From that statement, he went on for three pages before identifying this as the position of chiliasm.

In the reworked version for the book, he stated in the chapter’s opening sentence, “‘Chiliasm,’ more commonly called ‘Pre-millennarianism,’ occupies a peculiar place in the scheme of Biblical Eschatology.”[54] After that statement he continued for three pages describing chiliasm, before inserting the content of his previous article. Although he said that it was difficult to form a deliberate judgment on chiliasm either by way of rejection or enthusiastic approval, his comments revealed how lacking he held chiliasm as a method of interpretation. He stated that it was difficult to escape the feeling that this was an unmethodical procedure; it exalted the minor at the expense of the far-sweeping, age-dominating program of the theology of Paul; it abused the fundamental principles of Old Testament exegesis; it drew to itself a surplus of religious interest at the expense of what is more essential and vital in the eschatological scheme.[55]

If one objected to chiliasm’s hermeneutic, then a question would be raised if one believed in the second coming of Christ. The result is that the delusion is created that eschatology and chiliasm are interchangeable while in fact eschatology in its broad and tremendous significance is vanished from the field of vision.

To represent the present Christian state as followed by some intermediate condition falling short of the perfect heavenly life would be anticlimactic.

No matter with what concrete elements or colors the assumed Chiliastic regime be filled out, nevertheless to a mind so nourished upon the very firstfruits of eternal life, it can for the very reason of falling short of eternal life, have had little significance or attraction.[56]

The Eternal State

Vos finished the book with a discussion of the eternal state. He addressed first the formal characteristics and then the material characteristics. The formal characteristic of the things that pertain to the eternal state is that of imperishableness. The eternal state is a realm that will never end. The chief comfort of the eternal state is the sure hope of unceasing communion with God. The Christian who knows this to be true and has realized this communion in principle knows that eschatology is not abstract speculation but the profoundest and most practical of all thought complexes.

Paul also addressed the material make-up of the eternal state. The elements of the heavenly world are the Spirit, life, glory, and the kingdom of God, but the Spirit and the kingdom of God are primary. The Spirit underlies and produces life and glory in the saints.

The life of heaven is the fulfillment of the hope set before Adam in the garden.

The only reasonable interpretation of the Genesis-account (e mente Pauli) is this, that provision was made and probation was instituted for a still higher state, both ethico-religiously and physically complexioned, than was at that time in the possession of man. In other words, the eschatological complex and prospect were there in the purpose of God from the beginning.[57]

Life in its eschatological import is bound to God in its production, and has a telic character directing it to God as its singular goal. In heaven, there will be no question regarding how one will spend time. The Lord God is there in his inexhaustible fullness, and in his presence there can be neither surfeit nor tedium. Vos finished the book with the sentence, “The noblest distinction of the eschatological Church consists in this that thenceforth she will be able to lay aside the armor of her militancy, because she has become the Ecclesia triumphans in ateternum.”[58]

Reviews

Although the Princeton Theological Journal ran three chapters as articles in 1929,[59] Vos could not find a publisher for Pauline Eschatology. The next year he self-published 350 copies of the book. In correspondence with J. Gresham Machen he indicated that the first printing had gone so poorly that he had to order a new batch. Machen had sent Vos a copy of his newly released book, The Virgin Birth of Christ, and apparently had requested a copy of the Pauline Eschatology. Vos wrote back, “It was my intention from the beginning to present you with a copy of my book, as soon as the first installment came off the press. Unfortunately I discovered so many ‘fleas’ in these first copies, that I was ashamed to send you one of these.”[60]

The Princeton Seminary Bulletin ran a small announcement under the headline, “A New Book by Dr. Vos.”

Many of the students of the Seminary in recent years have taken the elective course offered by Professor Geerhardus Vos, Ph. D., D.D., on the Pauline Eschatology. Dr. Vos has recently published a volume with this title in which the lectures are expanded into a fuller treatment of the subject in a book comprising 319 pages. The book is published by the author. Those desiring copies should correspond with him.[61]

The contents of the book were then listed. The announcement ended with the declaration, “Dr. Vos’ friends welcome this scholarly contribution to the literature of Pauline theology.”[62]

In early 1953, three-and-a-half years after Vos’s death, Eerdmans reprinted Pauline Eschatology.[63] On the front jacket cover of the Eerdmans’s reprint, F. F. Bruce endorsed the book, saying the Pauline Eschatology was “indeed outstandingly great … a rare exegetical feat.” Added to the new edition as an appendix was Vos’s article, “The Eschatology of the Psalter.”[64]

In his review of the reprinted Pauline Eschatology in the Westminster Theological Journal, Joseph C. Holbrook praised Eerdmans for making the volume available to a wider audience, but warned that it took intellectual effort on a reader’s part to derive benefit from Vos. He wrote:

The chapters here are not summaries of exegesis in sermonic or didactic form. They are reverent exegesis itself at its best. It might even be said that the painstaking characteristic is carried to an extreme at times. Vos patiently tracks down every possible objection, no matter how far astray it takes him, at the risk of his reader’s losing the train of thought.[65]

After Holbrook identified Vos’s thesis, “To unfold the Apostle’s eschatology means to set forth his theology as a whole,” he stated that, if Vos was right, then “a vast area of truth has been left untouched by evangelical preaching.”[66] In Holbrook’s judgment, outside of obviously eschatological passages in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 and 2 Thessalonians, preaching takes little account of Pauline eschatology. Vos showed, however, that Paul’s main structural subjects, resurrection, salvation, justification, and the Holy Spirit, were all eschatologically conditioned.

Holbrook continued, saying that Vos’s verse-by-verse exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15:35–50 and 2 Corinthians 5:1–8 should provide preachers with many homiletic suggestions. He concluded, “No commentary can give what Vos gives here.”[67]

Louis Berkhof, then the retired president of Calvin Theological Seminary, also reviewed the book in the October 24, 1952, issue of The Banner. Berkhof emphasized the brilliance of Vos as a theologian more than explaining what Vos as an exegete had put forth in the book. He began:

The work now under consideration was first published in 1930. It was written by the late Dr. Geerhardus Vos, a truly great theologian, of whose theology I have been a life-long student, and who was my favorite professor at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1902–1904. Of the courses which I took with him at that time several were devoted to Pauline theology and one to the theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews. I thus became rather well acquainted with, and accustomed to, the profound theological thinking of Dr. Vos, his great erudition, his logical acumen, his keen insight in the various problems that presented themselves, his exceptional ability as interpreter of Scripture, which prompted Dr. Warfield to speak of him as the greatest exegete Princeton ever had, his close thinking, and his compact style of writing, which calls for close attention to every sentence.[68]

Berkhof agreed with the verdict of Wilbur Smith of Fuller Theological Seminary that Vos’s Pauline Eschatology was the only great work written in the English language on the subject in the twentieth century. He informed his readers, however, that Vos’s study did not follow systematic theology, where eschatology is viewed as the capstone of the whole system of theology. Rather, it was a highly specialized study in biblical theology which pays attention to Scripture’s historical connectedness and consummation goal.

Vos did full justice to the biblical teaching that believers are living in the last days, the powers of the age to come already being projected into the present. Berkhof summarized:

Believers already share the resurrection life in Jesus Christ, and are with him seated in heavenly places. During their sojourn on earth, they are in principle even in possession of eternal life. But all these things also point forward to a future eventuation and perfection at the end of time.[69]

In conclusion Berkhof recommended that all the ministers and prospective ministers in the Christian Reformed Church take up the book not only for a careful perusal, but also for a painstaking study. He believed they would find a needed antidote “to much of the superficial, arbitrary, and artificial interpretations which are so glaringly apparent in many of the theological publications of the present day.”[70]

Dr. Buswell’s Premillennialism

Although the original 1930 publication of the Pauline Eschatology garnered little attention, the eschatological views that Vos put forth became a central point of contention in the newly formed Presbyterian Church in America (which became the Orthodox Presbyterian Church) in 1936.[71] J. Oliver Buswell, moderator of that church’s Second General Assembly in November 1936, published that same year both an article, “A Premillennialist’s View,” that made veiled references to Vos’s position, and a book, Unfulfilled Prophecies, which openly questioned Vos’s views on eschatology.[72]

In the book’s preface Buswell named Vos directly and acknowledged that in disagreeing with such distinguished scholars as Vos and Warfield, he realized that he was on dangerous ground.[73] He stated that Vos’s writings were compact and somewhat difficult to interpret, and even confessed “my dear friend, Dr. Gordon Clark, feels that in some points I have misunderstood Vos’s meaning.”[74]

John Murray rushed to Vos’s defense with a stinging review of Unfulfilled Prophecies in the Presbyterian Guardian.[75] Murray stated that “the first virtue of a controversialist is to be fair to his opponent. Dr. Buswell grossly misrepresents both Dr. Warfield and Dr. Vos but particularly the latter.”[76] Buswell claimed that Vos’s views were almost Arian in nature on pages 73, 74, 79, and 237 of the Pauline Eschatology. Murray examined what Vos had said on every page Buswell listed and came to the opposite conclusion for each. Vos’s exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15:23–24 on page 237 was not his view, but a reconstruction of the premillennial view. When Vos asked about the precise meaning of “Lord” in the Pauline phrase “the day of the Lord” on page 79, the question concerned whether the title was the personal designation of Jesus or more absolutely a designation of the Godhead. On pages 73 and 74, Vos was affirming the Pauline teaching that all the prerogatives and attributes of Jehovah are recognized as present in Jesus. In light of the comparison between what Buswell charged Vos with teaching and what Vos actually taught, Murray wrote:

So we see what becomes of Dr. Buswell’s allegation that “Vos’s amillennialism appears confused because of his failure to recognize that our Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah is ‘God in the flesh’ and may be addressed in terms of deity” (p. 51). Dr. Buswell is guilty of pitiable distortion and misrepresentation of a scholar who has done more than perhaps any other now living in the defense of the essential Deity of our Lord, and that upon the basis of the most exact and penetrating exegesis and apologetic.[77]

Murray refuted Buswell’s further contention that Vos’s teaching regarding the final state was inconsistent. Murray said that he was at a loss to know what is included for Buswell in the final state, whether it includes the millennium or begins with the final judgment and consummation. In any case Murray noted that Buswell accused Vos and amillennialists of holding to a view from 1 Corinthians 15:50 that the final state must be timeless and without sequence. Murray argued that what Vos is denying is the view that Paul taught a temporal millennium that was provisional and preparatory to the final state following the second coming of Christ.

He [Vos] does not make this denial at all on the basis that there is to be no succession or that there are to be no vistas of realization subsequent to the Lord’s advent, but on the basis that the second coming and the complex of events which accompanies it introduce us to the consummate state, a state the terms of which a provisional Kingdom cannot satisfy.[78]

Vos rightly taught that it was impossible to interject into the “age to come” any crisis such as premillennialism postulates after the millennium.

Richard Gaffin Jr.

Murray passed on his appreciation of Vos’s eschatological teaching to his student and later fellow faculty member at Westminster Theological Seminary, Richard Gaffin Jr. In turn, Gaffin dedicated his 1978 book The Centrality of the Resurrection (later republished as Resurrection and Redemption) in memory of both Vos and Murray. Gaffin argued that Geerhardus Vos and Herman Ridderbos were the two theologians in the Reformed tradition of interpretation who had attempted to deal comprehensively with the teaching of Paul.[79] In referencing Vos’s Pauline Eschatology (1930) and Ribberbos’s Paul (1966), Gaffin implies that Vos was the first to do so.

He then asserts that Vos and Ridderbos had departed from the traditional Reformed consensus that Paul’s primary interest was justification by faith. Both theologians had concluded that Paul’s primary interest was the eschatological realization of history’s purpose through the death and resurrection of Christ. The historia salutis, not the ordo salutis, focused Paul’s theology.

Gaffin explains that with Vos this shift is not immediately evident. Vos declares in the opening chapter of Pauline Eschatology, “The Structure of the Pauline Eschatology,” that to unfold the Apostle’s eschatology is to set forth his theology. What Vos implies in the following chapter, “The Interaction between Soteriology and Eschatology,” is a rejection of the traditional view that Paul’s theology was centered around the ordo salutis. “Rather he (Paul) views the present soteriological realities of the believer’s experience out of a broader eschatological perspective and as themselves the realization of the eschaton.”[80]

 Gaffin details even further in his opening chapter, “Methodological Considerations,” why Vos’s insights regarding Paul are so important. According to Gaffin, when Vos called Paul “the father of Christian eschatology,” he did so because he saw Paul’s “energetic eschatological thinking tended toward consolidation in an orb of compact theological structure.”[81] Paul is a theological thinker, and Vos approaches the Apostle as one with whom—though his writings are Scripture, inspired revelation, as those of subsequent theologians are not—he is nonetheless involved in a theological enterprise with common features.

For Gaffin, Vos’s approach to Paul means that Paul’s interpreters (1) share a common interpretative interest with Paul, from which they should (2) seek to do justice to his distinctiveness as a theologian by (3) unraveling the doctrinal fabric of his thought as a whole, which is (4) the explication of the history of redemption.

Anthony Hoekema and Andrew Bandstra

It was not only Orthodox Presbyterians, such as Murray and Gaffin, who lauded Vos’s contributions in the Pauline Eschatology. Anthony Hoekema and Andrew Bandstra, Christian Reformed Church ministers and longtime professors at Calvin Theological Seminary, both advocated Vos’s eschatological views. In his book The Bible and the Future, Hoekema stated that Vos was “a theologian who has made a significant contribution to eschatological studies, but who has not received the attention he deserves.”[82]

In demonstrating his point, Hoekema compared Vos’s views with the views of Charles Harold Dodd who had popularized the notion of “realized eschatology.” Dodd taught that for Jesus the kingdom was a present reality for he knew that the eschaton had broken into history. While affirming the eschatological orientation of Christianity, Dodd also denied a literal second coming of Christ, a future resurrection, and last judgment. Hoekema believed Vos’s position was biblically superior. He wrote:

In summary we say that Vos significantly anticipated Dodd in maintaining that with the coming of Christ the kingdom of God has arrived and the final eschatological era has begun. He sees Paul’s thought, in fact, as cast into an eschatological mode from the beginning, and therefore calls Paul the father of Christian eschatology. In distinction from Dodd, however, Vos clearly teachers that there will be a Second Coming of Christ, a future resurrection from the dead, and a final judgment. We therefore find in Vos a balanced approach to biblical eschatology, which recognizes the full authority of the Scriptures and does full justice to the totality of biblical teaching.[83]

Bandstra, and not Hoekema, taught the course on Pauline eschatology at Calvin Seminary. John Bolt testifies that it was not only one of the most popular courses at the school, but also heavily based on insights from Vos’s work.[84]

Endnotes

[1] Herman Bavinck, preface to The Philosophy of Revelation (New York: Longsman, 1909). The same year Vos also translated Bavinck’s “Calvin and Common Grace” for inclusion in fellow Princeton faculty member William P. Armstrong’s edited Calvin and the Reformation (New York: Revell, 1909), 99–130.

[2] Ron Gleason, Herman Bavinck (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2010), 361.

[3] Vos’s daughter, Marianne Radius, recalled Abraham Kuyper staying with the Vos family while delivering the Stone Lectures. Given her strong remembrance of the events surrounding the visit, it is probable that Radius simply misspoke and named Kuyper in place of Bavinck. Interview, Marianne Vos Radius by Charles G. Dennison, February 27, 1992, at the Raybrook Assisted Living Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Archives of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

[4] George Harinck, “Calvinism Isn’t the Only Truth: Herman Bavinck’s Impressions of the USA,” in Larry J. Wagenaar and Robert P. Swierenga, eds., The Sesquicentennial of Dutch Immigration: 150 Years of Ethnic Heritage, proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Dutch American Studies, Hope College, Holland, MI, June 12 and 13, 1997: 154.

[5] George Harinck, “Vos as an Introducer of Kuyper in America,” in The Dutch-American Experience: Essays in Honor of Robert P. Swierenga, ed. Hans Krabbendam and Larry J. Wagenaar (Amsterdam: VU Uitgeverij, 2000), 253.

[6] Geerhardus Vos, review of Herman Bavinck’s Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, vol. 1, in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos [Shorter Writings], ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1980), 479.

[7] Geerhardus Vos, review of Herman Bavinck’s Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, vol. 2, in Shorter Writings, 485.

[8] Letter, Vos to Herman Bavinck, April 29, 1899, in James T. Dennison Jr., ed., The Letters of Geerhardus Vos (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2005), 203.

[9] Geerhardus Vos, review of Herman Bavinck’s Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, vol. 2, in Shorter Writings, 492. Vos said, “With the Nature of Man and The Destiny of Man the debate returns from these apologetic outposts to the heart of the Christian and Protestant positions.” Vos’s belief that a proper understanding of man’s nature, his creation and Fall into sin, and man’s destiny stood central to the Christian and Protestant positions was unwavering on his part. It is the thread that runs through Vos’s entire literary corpus from his first major article, “The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed Theology” in 1891, to the final published book in his lifetime, The Biblical Theology in 1948.

[10] Ibid.

[11] George Harinck, “Herman Bavinck and Geerhardus Vos,” Calvin Theological Journal 45, no. 1 (2010): 28.

[12] Ibid., 29.

[13] Ron Gleason writes, “Since Herman Bavinck and Geerhardus Vos later became close friends, it is an intriguing piece of history to observe how God brought the families together at an early stage. The relationship between the Bavinck and Vos families was not tangential but rather quite close. The fathers of both Herman and Geerhardus knew each other well and even attended the same congregation.” See, Gleason, Herman Bavinck, 3.

[14] Harinck, “Herman Bavinck and Geerhardus Vos,” 28.

[15] Geerhardus Vos, “The Theology of Paul,” in Shorter Writings, 357.

[16] In 1968 Cornelius Van Til invited Gaffin to contribute to Jerusalem and Athens, a book of critical essays celebrating Van Til’s seventy-fifth birthday. Gaffin recalls, “Van Til approached me about contributing to the volume. I told him at that point I was in the midst of writing the dissertation, research and all, and, with everything that I had to do with teaching, I just didn’t have the time to produce anything else. He had become aware that I was dependent upon Vos very much for the dissertation. Anytime that Van Til heard about Vos, he always got very positively excited. If I heard him once, I heard him ten times about his days at Princeton having Vos as a teacher and how much Vos had influenced him. So, with all that, he then suggested that I take something from the dissertation and contribute it. As I thought it would be appropriate as a Festschrift article, I decided basically to take the first chapter in Resurrection and Redemption and submit it.” Comments to author, October 13, 2016. For the article, Gaffin added an opening paragraph to inform the reader why he was writing on Geerhardus Vos in a book of essays about Van Til. He wrote, “On one of the walls in Dr. Van Til’s office is an enlarged photograph of Geerhardus Vos. This is an indication of an esteem and admiration which is not purely academic in character, but includes a personal element dating from his student days at Princeton Seminary. On more than one occasion, I have heard him express deep appreciation for Vos both as a scholar and as a man. One of his most cherished memories is the solemn privilege he had in August of 1949 of conducting the funeral of his teacher and friend. The following contribution is a reflection, in the hermeneutically charged atmosphere of contemporary theology, upon an important but so far ignored aspect of the work of this man, who may rightly be called the father of Reformed biblical theology and who has so decisively influenced the one to whom this volume is presented.” See, Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Geerhardus Vos and the Interpretation of Paul,” in E. R. Geehan, ed., Jerusalem and Athens (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1980), 228.

[17] Gaffin, “Geerhardus Vos and the Interpretation of Paul,” 230.

[18] Jacob G. Vanden Bosch, “Geerhardus Vos,” Reformed Journal 4, no. 10 (November 1954): 12.

[19] Geerhardus Vos, review of H. A. A. Kennedy, St. Paul’s Conception of the Last Things in Princeton Theological Review 3, no. 3 (1905): 485.

[20] Ibid.

[21] David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary, vol. 2, The Majestic Testimony, 1869–1929 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1996), 277.

[22] “Programme of Exercises,” in Centennial Celebration of Princeton Theological Seminary, 1812–1912 (Princeton, 1912), 3.

[23] Calhoun, Princeton Seminary, 276.

[24] Biblical and Theological Studies, faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912).

[25] Two examples of the article’s influence are found in the testimonies of Sinclair Ferguson and Richard Gaffin Jr. In his book Holy Spirit Ferguson writes that “the distinctive eschatological significance of the Spirit’s ministry is expounded in the landmark essay of G. Vos, “The Eschatological Aspects of the Pauline Concept of the Spirit.” Sinclair B. Ferguson, Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity, 1996), 273. Gaffin states that reading and working through this “magisterial chapter” from Vos “was a singular eye-opening moment for me into the basic aspects of the theology of Paul, particularly for the way the forensic and renovative benefits of Christ’s work are integrated with union with him as the exalted life-giving Spirit.” Nick Batzig, “Today’s Theologians: Dr. Richard Gaffin,” interview with Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Reformation 21, December 2016, http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2016/12/todays-theologians-dr-richard.php.

[26] Geerhardus Vos, “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit,” in Princeton, Biblical and Theological Studies, 92.

[27] Ibid., 106.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1979), v.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Interestingly, Gaffin believes that Vos would have been better served in his definition of eschatology in The Pauline Eschatology to replace “static” with “immutable.” Gaffin argues that “immutable” is truer to Paul and the biblical doctrine of creation as a whole. Comments to author, August 1, 2017.

[32] Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 1. In his Reformed Dogmatics written forty years before the Pauline Eschatology, Vos asked, “What is contained in the term ‘eschatology’”? He answered, “That history, in the course of which we are situated, will have a conclusion. It is not an endless process but a genuine history that ends in a definite goal and so has a boundary and limits. As it had a beginning, it will have an ending. That ending will come as a crisis, and everything that has to do with this crisis belongs to the ‘doctrine of the last things.’” See, Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 5: Ecclesiology, The Means of Grace, Eschatology, trans. and ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. with Kim Batteau and Allan Janssen (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016), 251.

[33] Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 38.

[34] W. J. Grier, who studied under Vos at Princeton, expertly summarized this section of the Pauline Eschatology. Grier wrote, “Christ has ascended to the right hand of God, and believers, being vitally and mystically united to Him, are therefore with Him in a spiritual sense, inhabiting the eternal world (heaven). See Ephesians 1:3; 2:6; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1–3. The heavenly world and the earthly sphere are now parallel states, to both of which the believer belongs. As Dr. Vos reminds us, the Christian has only his members upon earth, which are to be mortified; he himself belongs, and as a whole belongs, to the high mountain-land of the heavenly places above. This does not mean a toning down of his interest in the appearing of Christ. ‘In reality,’ says Dr. Vos, ‘this whole representation of the Christian state as centrally and potentially anchored in heaven is not the abrogation, it is the most intense and practical assertion, of the other-worldly tenor of the believer’s life.’ He is already a heaven-dweller, but his soul will actually enter into the heavenly homeland at death, and at Christ’s coming his body, as well as his soul, will actually inherit the eternal order, redemption being then at last complete.” See, W. J. Grier, The Momentous Event (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1997), 53–54.

[35] Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 40.

[36] Ibid., 40.

[37] See, Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 5: Ecclesiology, The Means of Grace, Eschatology, trans. and ed. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. with Kim Batteau and Allan Janssen (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2016), 251–310.

[38] In the previous chapter, Vos argued, “We hope presently to show that, as a matter of fact, not only the Christology but also the Soteriology of the Apostle’s teaching is so closely interwoven with the Eschatology, that, were the question put, which of the strands is more central, which more peripheral, the eschatology would have as good a claim to the central place as the others.” Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 28–29.

[39] Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 44.

[40] Ibid., 54.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid., 59.

[43] Ibid., 61.

[44] Ibid. Charles Dennison supported Vos’s argumentation, but he acknowledged that Vos’s placing justification in the service of eschatology was disconcerting to some. Dennison wrote, “But there are also other matters supplied by Vos which can be disconcerting. He places eschatology, or the goal of God’s self-revelation, unambiguously at the center of Paul’s thinking. The goal is the inheritance of God or God’s fullness. This theme takes precedence over even justification since Paul’s concern is for that goal that even predates sin and the Fall. Therefore, justification is merely a means to an end pertinent because of man’s sinfulness.” Charles G. Dennison, “The Life of Vos,” unpublished manuscript in the Archives of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

[45] Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 63.

[46] Ibid., 67.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid., 118.

[49] Ibid., 134–35.

[50] Geerhardus Vos, “The Pauline Doctrine of the Resurrection,” Princeton Theological Review, 27, no. 1 (1929): 1–35. In the first two pages, Vos articulated the exegesis of 1 Thess. 4:16–17 and 3:13 in a different manner, but the conclusions are the same. The remainder of the article and the chapter in the book are identical.

[51] Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 148.

[52] Geerhardus Vos, “The Pauline Eschatology and Chiliasm,” in Princeton Theological Review 9, no. 1 (1911): 26–60.

[53] Ibid., 26.

[54] Vos, Pauline Eschatology, 226.

[55] Ibid., 226–27.

[56] Ibid., 236.

[57] Ibid., 304.

[58] Ibid., 316.

[59] The articles were “The Pauline Doctrine of the Resurrection,” Princeton Theological Review 27, no. 1 (1929): 1–35, “Alleged Development in Paul’s Teaching on the Resurrection,” Princeton Theological Review 27, no. 2 (1929): 193–226, and “The Structure of the Pauline Eschatology,” Princeton Theological Review 27, no. 3 (1929): 403–44. The latter two appeared unchanged as chapters 7 and 1 in the book. The former article appeared in the book as chapter 6 with a changed title, “The Resurrection,” and a slightly different beginning.

[60] Letter, Geerhardus Vos to J. Gresham Machen, May 1, 1930 in Dennison, Letters, 220.

[61] “A New Book by Dr. Vos,” Princeton Seminary Bulletin 24, no. 1 (1930): 15.

[62] Ibid. Immediately after the announcement of Vos’s new book, the Princeton Seminary Bulletin ran a notice announcing that Princeton Professor Charles Erdman had prepared for press W. J. Erdman’s Notes on Revelation. The Bulletin explained that Charles Erdman had worked through the manuscripts of his father, W. J., the longtime Secretary of the Niagara Bible Conference, and edited and arranged the book per an outline left by his father. In the Pauline Eschatology chapter “The Question of Chiliasm, in Paul,” Vos exposed the exegetical and theological inadequacy of chiliasm, which as a movement in the United States had gained popularity through the Niagara Bible Conference. Vos did not mention the elder Erdman in the chapter. Whether this was because Vos wanted to avoid conflict on the Princeton faculty with the younger Erdman, was unaware of W. J. Erdman, or for some other reason, it is not known. It also is not known whether Vos’s opposition to chiliasm contributed to his being unable to find a publisher for the book.

[63] Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953).

[64] “The Eschatology of the Psalter” had first been published in the Princeton Theological Review 18, no. 1 (1920): 1–43. See, Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 323–65.

[65] Joseph C. Holbrook Jr., review of Geerhardus Vos, Pauline Eschatology, Westminster Theological Journal 15, no. 1 (November 1952): 78.

[66] Ibid., 79.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Louis Berkhof, review of Geerhardus Vos, Pauline Eschatology, The Banner 87 (October 24, 1952): 1,299.

[69] Ibid.

[70] Ibid.

[71] In 1938 the Presbyterian Church in America was sued by the Presbyterian Church in the USA regarding the similarity of the two names. The Common Pleas Court of Philadelphia ruled in favor of the plaintiff. On February 9, 1939, the church was renamed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

[72] J. Oliver Buswell, “A Premillennialist’s View,” Presbyterian Guardian 3, no. 3 (November 14, 1936): 46, and J. Oliver Buswell, Unfulfilled Prophecies (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1937).

[73] Buswell used Warfield as the representative postmillennialist and Vos as the representative amillennialist in the volume. He did acknowledge that Warfield’s and Vos’s views often overlapped to the extent that Buswell sometimes classified Warfield as amillennial and sometimes as postmillennial. Buswell, preface to Unfulfilled Prophecies.

[74] Ibid.

[75] John Murray, “Dr. Buswell’s Premillennialism,” Presbyterian Guardian 3, no. 10 (February 27, 1937): 206–209.

[76] Ibid., 206.

[77] Ibid., 207.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Resurrection and Redemption (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R, 1987), 13.

[80] Ibid.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 298.

[83] Ibid., 300–301.

[84] John Bolt, “From Princeton to Wheaton: The Course of Neo-Calvinism in North America,” in Vicissitudes of Reformed Theology in the Twentieth Century (Zoelermeer, Netherlands: Meinema, 2004), 169.

Danny E. Olinger is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as the General Secretary of the Committee on Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Ordained Servant Online, October 2017.

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