Final Destiny: The Future Reign of the Servant Kings. By Joseph Dillow. [USA]: NP, 2012. 1094 pp. Paper, $36.95.1
This massive work is a much expanded and revised version of Dillow’s earlier best-selling book The Reign of the Servant Kings. Though that first version had over 600 pages and was pricey, it has sold over 25,000 copies.
Dr. Fred Chay, the President of the Free Grace Alliance says this about Final Destiny on the back cover: “This work is extensive in its argumentation, expansive in its canonical scope, and immensely expanded from its first edition. It is an exceptional work, and a majestic achievement of both exegetical and biblical theology.” I agree.
Whether intentional or not, this book has the same number of chapters in it that the Bible has books, sixty-six. Those chapters are divided into three volumes. Volume one is on salvation (pp. 1-417 = Chaps. 1-28). By salvation Dillow means not simply or even primarily regeneration, but instead his primary emphasis concerning salvation is on ruling with Christ in the life to come (see esp. pp. 148-59). The second volume covers the vital theme of assurance (pp. 418-738 = Chaps. 29-47). Here the author is considering assurance of everlasting life. There are many new and outstanding elements in this section. Volume three concerns destiny (pp. 739-1028 = Chaps. 48-66). Here Dillow is discussing parables and themes related to ruling with Christ. In this section he discusses “the outer darkness” (pp. 758-779), the parables of the ten virgins (pp. 789-807), the talents and the minas (p. 808-14), and the judgment of the sheep and the goats (pp. 815-25). In this section he also has four chapters on Gehenna (pp. 826-99), and three chapters on treasures in heaven (pp. 929-62) and on rewards and merit (pp. 977-89).
There are many outstanding features of this book, including: approximately 2,000 verses of Scripture mentioned or discussed in the book (see the 12 page, four columns per page, Scripture index), excellent extended discussion of hundreds of problem passages, and a good explanation throughout about why neither Calvinism nor Arminianism correctly handles passages dealing with assurance, rewards, and self-examination. Here are a few citations I will be citing often in my speaking: “assurance is faith and faith is assurance” (p. 425), “the whole quest for assurance based on self-examination is doomed…” (p. 462), “degrees of intimacy [with God] will naturally carry over into eternity future” (p. 932), “obviously something is amiss with a doctrine that cannot account for many contradictions to its main tenet, the impossibility of perseverance in carnality” (p. 521), “anathema…means to be subject to some type of temporal judgment including severance from fellowship with Christ” (p. 909, italics his), “two of the most important needs of man are for security and significance” (p. 1014), and “when believers do not animate their faith with works, James does not say their faith is nonexistent; he says it is useless” (p. 416).
There are a few things with which JOTGES readers may not agree.
First, Dillow suggests that “repentance is a necessary precursor to saving faith” (p. 51). He says that one must admit his sinfulness and guilt (p. 51) and “must have a desire for moral change” (p. 52, favorably quoting a missionary friend in Romania). “There must be an acknowledgement of sin and a desire to be different” (p. 53). “A nonbeliever must admit his sin to God, acknowledge he is wrong, and be willing to seek a new way of life” (p. 54). In my estimation Dillow’s discussion of repentance is inconsistent with the rest of the book.
Interestingly, unlike authors who sprinkle references to repentance and faith as conditions of everlasting life throughout their books, the author never mentions them together. In addition, he only mentions repentance in relation to the new birth in this one place in the entire book, the chapter on repentance (pp. 33-54). He does have a few references to the repentance of born-again people in other places (e.g., pp. 529-32, 633, 692) and to the repentance of first century Jews (whether believing or unbelieving) in order to escape the deadly temporal judgment that ultimately came upon Israel in AD 66-70 (pp. 325ff.).
Dillow mentions the Gospel of John in this chapter (pp. 33-34), and he does once mention that the words repent and repentance are not found even once there (p. 35). But Dillow informed me in an email that Final Destiny mentions that the concept of repentance is found in John’s Gospel, I have been unable to find that statement. Many JOTGES readers will not agree that the concept of repentance appears in John as a condition of everlasting life.
Second, Dillow suggests that entering the kingdom does not refer to entering the kingdom per se—since he believes that even faithless believers will indeed enter the kingdom (see, for example, pp. 277-78), but to richly entering the kingdom as one who will rule with Christ (e.g., pp. 100, 139, 241-64, 335, 882) or even to entering into a rich experience of life now (pp. 252-55), which in his view is essentially the same as entering into a kingdom way of living here and now (pp. 255-56). This is how he understands Matt 5:20, Matt 7:21-23, the rich young ruler’s interaction with Jesus, and many other texts as well. While such a view is certainly not inconsistent with the Free Grace view, it is hard for this reviewer to see why entering the kingdom does not simply refer to entering the kingdom. When a rich entrance to the kingdom is in view, it can be directly stated as in 2 Pet 1:10-11. In addition, the alternate Free Grace understandings of texts like those mentioned above seem more consistent with the context (e.g., compare Matt 7:15-20 with Matt 7:21-23).
It is helpful to realize that what led the author to these views on what entering the kingdom means is his understanding that a number of passages in the NT seem to condition “entering the kingdom” upon good works. Dillow does not feel that the views of Hodges and others on those passages—the idea that they were pre-evangelistic, showing the impossibility of kingdom entrance by works—were convincing. Nor does he agree with the Free Grace views of the old Brethren writers who argued that unfaithful believers will not be in the Millennium. Thus after much meditation and study, he came up with another Free Grace understanding of such texts.
Third, Dillow suggests that Gehenna does not refer to Hades or the lake of fire. Of course, he does believe those places exist and he believes in conscious eternal torment for those who die in unbelief. But he does not believe that Gehenna refers to those places or to eternal torment.
He suggests that Gehenna has three different references: to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (pp. 867-70), to the judgment of faithless believers, either at the Bema or in this life in terms of temporal judgment (pp. 870-77), and as a metaphor for burning internal sinful desires (pp. 877-79). While I do not find any single piece of evidence cited to be a compelling argument that Gehenna does not refer to Hades or the lake of fire, there is tremendous value in the various books and articles cited and I do believe that more work is needed on this important word which is only found in the Synoptic Gospels (11 times) and in Jas 3:6.
This is an amazing work. It is a resource which should be on the desk of all Free Grace pastors and educators, as well as lay people who are serious students of the Word. (It is probably too deep, however, for brand-new believers.) I highly recommend it. It is well worth reading.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
1 Editor’s note: Due to some errors discovered in the review of this book published in our last journal, we are putting in a revised
review that corrects those errors.