The Eschatology of George Eldon Ladd

I wrote the following article on George Eldon Ladd for the Dictionary of Premillennial Theology . It has been several years since I wrote it. If writing it now there are things I would add and/or say differently, but I believe it still to be accurate and helpful.

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George Eldon Ladd, The Eschatology of :

To discuss the eschatology of George Eldon Ladd (1911-1982) is to discuss the entirety of his New Testament Theology. Ladd was convinced that eschatology is the basic unifying structure for New Testament Theology. Central to his New Testament Theology is the Kingdom of God, which Ladd identified as God’s kingly rule. This rule is dynamic in that it was inaugurated at the first coming of Christ, yet consummation awaits the Parousia of the Son of Man in glory.

Ladd contends that the Kingdom of God invaded the present evil age in the person of Christ. Christ’s coming established a new era of salvation in which the sovereign rule of God is made manifest and which in some real sense inaugurated “the age to come.” God, who will accomplish his redemptive plan at the end of the age, is working redemptively in the present through his Son who has come. Thus, the Kingdom of God is both a future eschatological victory over Satan and also a present reality. Further, in 1 Cor. 15, Ladd identifies three distinct stages of redemptive activity that accompany the transition. Christ’s rule in the present will be superseded by his reign in glory (the millennium). His reign in glory will give way to the third stage which is the fullest manifestation of the Kingdom of God; the Father’s reign in glory.

Like many of the early church Fathers, Ladd holds to a posttribulational premillennialism, generally referred to as historic premillennialism. However, unlike many adherents to this position, Ladd does not identify the difficulties encountered by the Church throughout history as the time of tribulation. Ladd holds to a future scenario in which the Church will go through the Great Tribulation. Hence, the Blessed Hope refers to union with the Lord at His Coming. The Second Coming of Christ will conclude the time of tribulation as He gathers his people unto himself and judges the wicked. His Second Coming will usher in the thousand year reign of Christ during which Satan is incarcerated in the bottomless pit. At the end of the thousand years Satan will be unbound and there will be a final eschatological war in which Christ will subdue all hostile powers.

Ladd identifies the Church as the spiritual Israel to whom the promises of the Old Testament are to be applied. When Israel rejected Jesus, Israel rejected the Kingdom and is now the object of judgment rather than blessing. However, sometime during the Millennium those of the literal Israel will be saved through faith in Christ. Thus, they will become a part of the Church but will retain their identity as a distinct people.

Ladd’s eschatological dualism has been extremely influential during the last half of the twentieth century. In a survey conducted in 1984 of members of the Evangelical Theological society, respondents indicated that John Calvin was the only theologian who had been more influential than Ladd in their theological formation. (Kevin Stilley)

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1956); ______, Crucial Questions About the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1954); ______, The Gospel of the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1959); ______, Jesus and the Kingdom; The Eschatology of Biblical Realism (New York: Harper & Row, 1964); ______, The Presence of the Future (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1974); ______, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1974); Mark Noll, Between Faith and Criticism (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986).

 

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