Foundations: No.81 Autumn 2021


Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. 
(1 Cor 15:49, ESV)

One of the ways Affinity seeks to serve the church is through its bi-annual theological study conference. It is a great pleasure to see the papers delivered at the 2021 conference now appear in print in Foundations. Commenting on the conference theme, the conference chairman Paul Yeulett said:

The theme of the 2021 Affinity Theological Study Conference will be “The Undiscovered Country”. The theme of Biblical Eschatology was agreed several months before the word “coronavirus” entered our vocabularies. But it seems more appropriate than ever, given the circumstances through which we are now living. Not only pastors and preachers, but all Christians who know that the Bible furnishes us with a sure and certain hope, will greatly benefit from this Conference.

Paul’s hope, expressed in advance of the conference, is abundantly fulfilled in the conference papers which are engaging and thought provoking.

The first paper, from Rupert Bentley-Taylor, seeks to equip believers to live in the “last days” from the perspective of “optimistic amillennialism”. We are reminded that as we await Christ’s return that victory is assured, that the preaching of the gospel to all nations is the great activity of the last days, that Satan is active seeking to deceive and persecute, that the antichrist will emerge, that we are to be watchful and that there is glory ahead of us.

In the second paper Paul Yeulett seeks to cover the topic, “Questions About the So-Called ‘Intermediate State’: Is it Biblical and it is Pastorally Helpful?” Paul argues that for believers the “intermediate state is such that the souls of believers, immediately after death, go to be ‘forever with the Lord’, with the risen and exalted Christ himself, which Paul declared to be ‘far better’ (Phil 1:23)”. After an interesting historical overview, Paul argues persuasively from scripture for his position.

Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary California provides the third paper which gives us an “investigation into what the Early Church Fathers, especially Irenaeus and Origen, understood about the human body, soul and spirit, especially in the light of Christ’s ascension and the eternal state.” Aside from the historical theology, and answers to questions like “So, will there be hairdressers in heaven?” we are treated to a rich biblical theological study of Psalm 68 in the light of its citation in Ephesians 4.

The fourth paper covers the much-debated question of the Pauline references to the future of Israel in Romans 11. Whilst Gareth Burke’s paper is one of the shorter ones, it generated the most discussion at the Theological Study Conference. After providing an outline of Paul’s teaching in Romans through to the end of chapter 11 we are given an exegesis of Rom 11:25-27, and in particular v26a, “And in this way all Israel will be saved.” The paper supports the exegetical position of John Murray that this verse (indeed Romans 11 more generally) teaches a future conversion of national Israel.

The fifth, and final, paper from Paul Mallard provides us with biblical and pastoral reflections on the nature and character of the world to come. In this paper we are treated to discussion of the location of the heavenly life, the nature and the activities of the heavenly life, what the Bible sees as the primary business of heaven (the enjoyment of God) and the practical and pastoral implications of these topics. There is much to encourage in this paper, and it is a very fitting note on which to conclude the papers from the conference.

The usual helpful selection of book reviews is also included in this volume, and my thanks to Matthew for his work on these.

My prayer is that this edition of Foundations would enable us to increasingly live out the apostolic injunction to “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13.)

Dr Donald John MacLean
Editor of Foundations
Elder, Cambridge Presbyterian Church; Adjunct Professor Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary

November 2021


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