GK Beale wrote Union with the Resurrected Christ as a sequel to his A New Testament Biblical Theology (NTBT). The sequel focuses on union with the resurrected Christ and how those united to the resurrected Christ receive his benefits. As Beale also makes clear, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus begin the fulfillment of the eschatological new-creational kingdom (1).
Much like his NTBT, the work breaks into chapters that focus on various topics that together contribute to the argument of the thesis. Both volumes are also massive with NTBT spanning 1072 while Union with the Resurrected Christ reaches 576 pages. While the length provides Beale enough room to cite and discuss biblical passages, I wonder if the author could have reduced the page count while making the same argument as effectively.
For example, the first ninety-seven pages survey the biblical storyline as a review of NTBT. As someone used to biblical theological writings, I may be too biased in this regard. I did not find this survey to contribute greatly to the book’s argument.
The page count and distribution of material into chapters on specific topics (justification, sanctification, glory, etc.), however, make Union with the Resurrected Christ a work that one can easily reference or use in a classroom. Likely, I will return to this book while preaching or writing on theological topics. In this sense, the size and scope of Union with the Resurrected Christ add value to my library.
That said, the book feels like Beale’s class notes put into book form. Which means the book feels like a classroom textbook that exhaustively works through passage after passage with a similar method and plan of execution to explain the various texts. Pedagogically, audiences in churches and classrooms would benefit almost certainly from Union with the Resurrected Christ.
Written in the tradition of Richard Gaffin along with the insights of Seyoon Kim (and many others), Beale to my mind brilliantly and correctly points to the importance of the resurrection and ascension of Christ. To the resurrected one, we unite; and due to this union, we receive the benefits he gained in his person at his session.
However, sometimes Beale writes as if a focus on union with the resurrected Christ offers a new or seminal insight, which was partially undetected by Christian theology (e.g., pp 4–5). I grant that Gaffin’s work Resurrection and Redemption reminded many reformed authors that union with Christ, as Calvin argued, is the primary category from which the saving benefits of Christ flow such as justification and sanctification. And I admit that Gaffin to pointed much to the resurrection.
However, union with the resurrected Christ was a common way that early Christians conceived of their saving relationship with Christ. Without acknowledging it, it seems that Beale may be restating an argument present among Christians of prior centuries. Given that Eusebius and Justin Martyr are the only two authors listed in the abbreviations page and the author index barely nods at authors of this earlier period (not to mention the content of the book), Beale’s work may have missed an opportunity to integrate his biblical findings with the church’s traditional teaching on the subject.
Nonetheless, Union with the Resurrected Christ is easy to recommend. It is written in a fluid style that rewards readers by knowing what to expect in each chapter. The exegetical commentary within evinces a master at work in his field (biblical theology). The frequent nod to Richard Gaffin ensures that Beale does not ignore dogmatic concerns, which used to happen in older biblical theology works.
I am not sure I would go so far as Richard Gaffin who called this work Beale’s “magnum opus,” but I would commend this as an excellent treatment of our union with the resurrected Christ, a topic neglected in recent years. Beale’s corrective, if taken to heart, can contribute to a renewal of worship and deeper appreciation for the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, resurrected and seated at the right hand of the Father.
Disclosure: I was given a review copy by the publisher.