Any popular-level book on eschatology endorsed by the likes of Eugene Peterson, Luke Timothy Johnson, Jürgen Moltmann and John J. Collins merits some attention. Hill intended to write "a book for people who want to come to grips with what the Bible says about the future" (vii). The people he's addressing, he hopes, are the non-experts, laymen and pastors. His writing is lucid, compelling and sometimes downright poetic.
He begins the book with a brief chapter on the eschatological nature of the Christian faith. In the vein of Barth, Moltmann and Schweitzer Hill argues, "Christianity is irreducibly eschatological" (4). Accurately, and tellingly, he roots the eschatological outlook of Christianity in the resurrection of Jesus. Unfortunately, the eschatological perspective of the NT, he suggests, has been demythologized by the modern world. This isn't just a problem with moderns, but is noticeable in the pre-modern cosmology of the early Christians and rooted in a view of creation that Hill considers untenable. Still, Hill thinks eschatology is salvageable, as the core of Christian theology, but not without dealing with difficult questions.
He begins with a book that looks to be about eschatology, but the content is quite different. What he presents in the rest of the book is a history of religions approach to Christianity. So, his second chapter, "First things First: The Bible," is about the nature and authority of the Bible. Though starting out as a "fundamentalist teenager" Hill has moved on to a more nuanced faith. He writes, "More than twenty-five years and three theological degrees later, I am still a Christian. The core of my faith has not changed all that substantially, but my understanding of the Bible has" (14). I think he is correct in his movement beyond the language of "inerrancy" for understanding the nature of Biblical authority. Still, I was frustrated by his approach that leveled out the distinctiveness of the Bible in favor of finding out what is common to the Bible and other religions.
In his third chapter, Hill gives a brief but helpful account of biblical history. He focuses on prophesy and biblical revelation within the context of the Ancient world. He is correct in suggesting that "biblical prophecy as a whole is more concerned with influencing the present than with revealing the future" (33). His views are decidedly less conservative wholeheartedly embracing source criticism. Still, his presentation of the meaning and function of prophesy is helpful and a welcome alternative to the divination approach to eschatology found in the LaHaye's and Hagee's.
Chapter four, cheekily titled "Apocalypse Then," is an extended introduction to Jewish apocalyptic literature. Here is obviously dependent on John J. Collins and R.H. Charles, but still manages to present a helpful introduction to the apocalyptic material that is inaccessible to the average Bible reader.
After analyzing non-canonical Jewish apocalyptic, Hill looks specifically at the books of Daniel and Revelation. He insists that there is in fact very little difference between these apocalypses and the works of early Judaism that were not canonized. He mostly takes the party-line of contemporary scholarship (a late date for Daniel, and standard fare on Revelation). He does, however, occasionally take odd positions on some issues. I was dumbfounded by his odd suggestion that chapters 19 and 20 of Revelation are "two popular but competing scenarios, the first of an earthly and limited messianic reign and the second of a cosmic and eternal kingdom" (126). Though Hill is comfortable with that kind of bizarre discrepancy, I sincerely doubt John was and it seems like a genuine lack of effort in trying to explain what is happening in these important chapters. Overall, I think Hill's work on Revelation suffers significantly from failing to take account of the structure of Revelation.
Having spent time in apocalyptic, Hill moves to Jesus and eschatology. He argues for an eschatological Jesus in the same tradition as E.P. Sanders, N.T. Wright and Dale Allison Jr. This chapter is a very helpful and readable introduction to the evidence, which I find overwhelming, that Jesus was an eschatological prophet. Oddly, Hill spends very little time on the most significant eschatological discourse of Jesus (Mt 24.1‒51 || Mark 13.1‒37 || Luke 21.5‒36). It receives only about two and a half pages and Hill explains nothing but his lack of attention with the statement, "many of the apocalyptic elements of this chapter are unparalleled elsewhere in the Gospels. It is possible that Jesus said these things, but it seems just as likely (if not more so) that these verses reflect primarily the hopes, experiences, and concerns of believers a generation removed from Jesus" (165). Why he excludes the most apocalyptic material attributed to Jesus is nothing short of puzzling.
The last major chapter of Hill's book "The Once and Future Kingdom" is a discussion of eschatology mostly focused on the Pauline corpus. The whole discussion is framed in terms of the old "future" vs "realized" eschatology. He places the NT writings somewhere on the spectrum of "future" and "realized" and allows the two poles to serve as theological yardsticks. The description of theology as falling somewhere along that eschatological spectrum is a load to heavy to be borne by the simplistic categories (e.g. 190). Still, his account was a vivid and fresh reading the eschatological outlook of the NT as a whole.
I find it unlikely that In God's Time would be well received in evangelical circles, which despite the way Hill writes, are not the same as fundamentalists though they do sometimes overlap. While his writing is sometimes poetic, his argument is overly-simplified and sometimes oddly suspicious of the canonical texts. This is a helpful book for someone trying to communicate the meaning of apocalyptic eschatology to those without any frame of reference, but it should not be the only, or even primary introduction.