An Open Letter to Phil Johnson of Grace Community, The Master’s Seminary and Administrator of The Spurgeon Archive Website (10/19/2017)
Dear Mr. Phil Johnson,
I appreciate you calling me back in regards to my debate with Charismatic Dr. Brown over 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and possibly trying to get it at The Master’s Seminary or University along with our hopes of someone representing your views on the text and subject matter. I have been calling and writing Grace Community and The Masters Seminary for several months now with no response until today. I wanted to briefly address some of the things you mentioned to me on the phone that were more than inconsistent and in some cases just blatantly wrong and needing public correction and an apology.
Inconsistencies on What “heretics” “Steps Foot” on the Campuses
You mentioned you would never allow Dr. Michael Brown or myself “to step foot” on The Master’s Seminary, University or Grace Community because it is Pastor MacArthur’s position that “heretics” like us are not to be given a platform or given equal time in a debate or in any kind of public discussion with you. Yet when I was a student at The Master’s College professor Brian Morley allowed a Mormon apologist come to our class and we engaged with him. Sounds like you arbitrarily pick and choose what “heretics” you want to engage with. I even invited Greg Bahnsen to speak at TMC and I’m guessing MacArthur considers his Theonomy to be “heretical” as well – right? Yet he spoke in many of my classes being asked challenging questions and giving them to and from the students and faculty.
Of course the glaring problem here is that your Dispensational Premillennialism and Brown’s Historical Premillennialism has been condemned as “heretical” by the early creeds for it’s hyper-literal understanding of God’s kingdom on earth – being likened to “Jewish dreams.” And Sproul and others consider your progressive dispensationalism no less “heretical” than pure dispensationalism. And yet the early Amillennial creeds would consider Sproul’s Postmillennialism to also be “heretical” and on par with “Jewish dreams.” And yet I’m willing to engage with you, Brown and Sproul even though you constitute a “heretical” group. Selah.
Since you can’t address the Charismatic exegetical arguments on 1 Cor. 1:5-8; 1 Cor. 13:8-12, Acts 2, Mark 16:15-20/Mt. 28:18-20; “the already and not yet of the kingdom,” etc., you just call them “heretics” and talk about their abuses and extremes (Word of Faith, how many times they sing choruses of worship songs, etc…). This “apologetic” (which it really isn’t) has produced no fruit within the Charismatic movement. All it has done is further proven to them that you don’t have the exegetical answers to their questions and challenges.
I shared with you how when I first attended The Master’s College that I had discussions with Pastor MacArthur on these passages and he never answered the arguments (as a Charismatic from Calvary Chapel I was VERY open to leaving that position but committed to a proper exegesis of these texts that were clearly eschatological). I also shared with you that C.W. Smith (my theology major advisor and a professor at TMC whom taught Greek and through 1-2 Corinthians) told me that MacArthur’s Greek and contextual argument as to why tongues ceased in AD 70 but prophecy and knowledge pass away thousands of years later at the New Creation was inconsistent and weak and that he didn’t agree with it. You actually scoffed at me for saying this and yet it is 100% true. I remember it like it was yesterday. Your attitude suggested that MacArthur couldn’t answer my challenges as a student or that he couldn’t possibly be wrong on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 — just doesn’t match the facts. He has been wrong on very important issues and texts before…
After leaving my 4 point “Calvinist” position behind as a student and becoming a 5 point Calvinist I also had a discussion with MacArthur about his weak and inconsistent position on limited atonement and recommended him reading Gary Long’s book, Definite Atonement and his syllabuses on the sovereignty of God in salvation. I’m glad John changed his view on that subject later but John remains wrong in having no exegetical defense against Charismatic texts (listed above) and has no exegetical refutation of Preterism. John now agrees with Sproul that when he hears someone say he is a 4 point Calvinist he is thinking to himself “oh, you mean you are a confused Arminian.” You and MacArthur would also agree with me that Partial Preterism when played out consistently leads to Full Preterism.
The only problem is that you and MacArthur are like the eschatological 5 point Arminian and your Premillennial “heresy” of hyper-literalism is an heir to the Pharisees doctrine of an earthly kingdom. It doesn’t matter if you “postpone” it to a future coming of Jesus that you have imagined for yourself – error is error. The problem with Sproul’s Partial Preterism (the 4 point “Calvinism” of eschatology so to speak) is that it too portrays Christ as a failure to redeem His Church how and when He said He would (Heb. 9–10:37). Christ as our great High Priest came to not provide atonement for all humanity but to actually atone and propitiate for the sins of the “many” — the Church. But to not accept that Christ came out a “second time” apart from sin to the eagerly waiting congregation at the end of the OC age “in a very little while” and would “not tarry” is also to portray Christ as a failed High Priest. Sproul is very conflicted, uncommitted and creedally ambiguous in his book The Last Days According to Jesus on Hebrews 9-10. Both 4 point “Calvinism” and “Partial Preterism” are inconsistent and portray a failed Christ in His offices of Prophet, Priest and King in these chapters. Selah.
Lies and Scare Tactics – Who Are These Preterist’s That Deny the Physical Resurrection of Jesus?
You also shared with me how I’m a worse “heretic” than even Dr. Brown. You claimed that “Full Preterism believes or leads to denying the physical resurrection of Jesus.” When I challenged you on this — stating I’ve been a Full Preterist for 27 years and personally have never known or communicated with anyone that believes this, you assured me there were and that this was documented in one of MacArthur’s books. As it turns out, you are referring to Ward Fenley whom I shared the view with many years ago and who has NEVER denied that Christ was raised physically. I just spoke with him on the phone after our conversation and he says that’s a pure lie. He provided me with this statement:
“I have never denied the physical resurrection of Christ. In fact, in my article, “Christ’s Post Resurrection Mode” I go out of my way to show He arose physically from the grave.”
After talking to Ward after our call and reading the first sentence of his article I asked him why he assumed there were some Preterists out there that denied the physical resurrection of Christ. He mentioned that being new to Full Preterism (hardly the most “prolific writer” within the movement Phil – this too was false: King, Preston, Bell, & sovereign grace FPists – David Green, Ken Davies, etc…) at the time simply assumed that there might be Preterists out there somewhere that denied the physical resurrection of Jesus because he was told by some futurists that to be a Full Preterist, you denied the physical resurrection of Christ and the physical bodily return of Christ in our future.
Let me help explain where I think the confusion is here. It’s like someone being new to the doctrines of grace or Calvinism and being told that your position means you “have to deny prayer or evangelism” and therefore you are a “hyper-Calvinist” because you believe in the 5 points. I have had many discussions like these with ignorant and illogical Arminians. Even when I was a student at The Master’s College after I embraced limited atonement I was constantly told by students that I had “gone too far” and had become a “hyper-Calvinist.” I hadn’t become such or believed what they told me I had to believe having adopted the 5 points of Calvinism — they just had no clue what they were talking about! And like the ignorant Arminian who uses scare tactics, that’s your and MacArthur’s approach with Full Preterism. Pathetic. And although I personally do not know any real “hyper-Calvinists” that don’t evangelize, they are actually out there. When it comes to these Full Preterist’s that allegedly don’t believe in a physical raised body of Jesus – I don’t know of ANY. You simply try and build your case with scare tactics and trying to knock down extremes — if they are in the minority or DON’T EVEN EXIST! You and MacArthur write,
There is NO citation or quote from these “some” you mention! So Ward does not deny the physical resurrection of Jesus and you haven’t given me any documentation of any that do. Nor have you demonstrated that this is somehow a prevalent belief within Full Preterism. Nor have you demonstrated that to not believe Jesus still has a physical body and is returning someday in a physical body “necessitates that one logically work backwards to believe Jesus didn’t rise physically.”
Are We Like the Resurrection of the Dead Deniers or ARE YOU and MACARTHUR?
After falsely claiming that Full Preterism denies the physical resurrection of Jesus, you and MacArthur sign off on this bogus statement,
“The apostle Paul seemed to have a theology very much like modern hyper-preterism in mind when he penned [1 Cor. 16-17].” (Ibid., 12).
Here is a section taken from my article on 1 Corinthians 15 which demonstrates how it is YOU being an “heir to Dispensational theology” that has more in common with the resurrection of the dead deniers in Paul’s day who had a difficult time reconciling how the OT dead would be raised with those who had died “in Christ.”
“The Error Identified
Since the Corinthians believed in Christ’s resurrection and a resurrection for those whom had died “in Christ,” then to whom is left to deny a resurrection for? In short, the error at Corinth was an extreme view (or a hyper-dispensational or replacement theology of sorts) that divided up the people of God in extreme ways. They could not reconcile how the dead prior to Christ’s arrival could be raised into or with the Body of Christ. In short, they were denying a key ingredient to “the better resurrection” that the writer to the Hebrews outlines:
Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they [the OT or Old Covenant dead] might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they (“the [OT/OC] dead”) without us (the NT/NC saints “in Christ”) should not be made perfect (Heb. 11:35-40).
The resurrection of the dead deniers at Corinth saw the “better things” for those who were “in Christ” (dead or alive – their side of the cross), but could not reconcile how the OT or Old Covenant dead (on the other side of the cross) could participate in order for both groups to be “made perfect” together in the Body of Christ. They had the NC “better things,” and thus the OT or OC dead were left without participation in the better resurrection to come – was their reasoning and error. They did not deny the doctrine of the resurrection in general, just the all-ness or oneness (with all of God’s of people) to the resurrection event to close the OC age.
Extreme views and excluding the righteous dead was not uncommon – even among the Jews. Some Jews believed that anyone who died outside of the Promised Land would not participate in the resurrection:
“The Talmud records speculations on the various matters connected with the process of Resurrection. There was a firm belief that the momentous event would take place in the Holy Land. Some Rabbi took the extreme view that only they who were interred there would share in the future life. ‘Those who die outside the land of Israel will not live again; as it is said, “I will set delight in the land of the living.” (Ezek. 26:20)—those who die in the land of My delight will live again, but they who do not die there will not’…” “Even a Cananite maidservant in the land of Israel is assured of inheriting the World to Come’…” (Rev. Dr. A. Cohen, Everyman’s TALMUD, (New York: E.P. DUTTON & CO., INC., 1949), 361-362).
So in this extreme view those righteous dead who died outside of being “in the land” would not participate in Israel’s corporate resurrection. Similarly, some at Corinth took Paul’s teaching that all prophecy or all the promises of God were fulfilled spiritually “in Christ,” to far in that they concluded the resurrection could only take place for those who believed “in Christ” (their side of the cross) – and all others perished outside of being in Him. Therefore, since the OC dead were not present to place their faith in Christ, then they couldn’t be apart of the spiritual body that was in the process of being raised in their day. They lost sight of the great cloud of witnesses whom saw Christ’s day and were glad and would thus share in the “better resurrection” with them. According to both of these extreme views, men such as Moses had no resurrection hope but perished outside of being “in the land” or perished outside of being “in Christ.”
We see a similar inability to reconcile the OT promises made to Israel and how they would be fulfilled in the NT Body of Christ coming from modern day Dispensationalists whom think there are opposing theologies between the OT and NT. There are two complete separate bodies of believers or peoples of God needing two separate comings of Christ or programs of salvation etc… Of particular interest to our discussion here is in the comparison of dividing the OT dead from those that died “in Christ.” Dispensationalists such as Charles Ryrie and Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer argue,
“those who died before Christ’s first advent” are not among “the dead in Christ” (Charles Ryrie). “The Old Testament saints were not part of the New Creation in Christ,” and “the nation of Israel sustains no relation to the resurrection of Christ” (Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer). And again per Chafer, the dead OT saints were not “in the new federal headship of the resurrected Christ…” (taken from: Curtis Crenshaw and Grove Gunn, Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow, p. 204).
In 1937 William Everett Bell argued against Pretribulationalism providing evidence that at Christ’s Second Coming (after the Tribulation period), all the righteous dead were to be raised. The ever evolving pertrib rapture theory countered with a two resurrection view – one for those that died “in Christ” at the “rapture” “coming,” and then one for those that died outside of being “in Christ” (OT dead not “in Christ”) seven years later (after the Tribulation) at the Second Coming. The resurrection of the dead deniers also divided God’s people up in a way that was contrary to the teachings of Paul, except for them, the best way to avoid the problem (they created for themselves) was to deny resurrection for the dead – period and only accept a resurrection for those “in Christ.”
These examples (one within the Talmud and modern ones) should be sufficient to demonstrate how it could be possible for some to miss how the OT dead could or even would participate in the salvation of the ONE NC Body of Christ.”
Phil, you are also failing to follow Paul’s modus tollens logical argumentation that proves the resurrection of the dead deniers at Corinth weren’t denying Jesus’ physical resurrection. Again, another excerpt from my article:
“Paul’s Modus Tollens form of Argumentation
To further prove that the resurrection of the dead deniers were not denying Christ’s resurrection or the resurrection for all in general, we need to take a look at Paul’s form of argumentation. The futurist view makes no contextual sense if you follow Paul’s argumentation and the logic he uses. Paul uses a familiar modus tollens or if then logical argument. That is, “If P, then Q. Therefore, not P.”
1). “If P”
“If there is no resurrection of the dead ones…”
2). “Then Q”
If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then not even Christ has been raised.
If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then our preaching is useless…
If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then and so is your faith [useless].
If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then we are found to be false witnesses about God.
If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then your and my baptism (of suffering & martyrdom) on the part of the dead is meaningless.
If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then the Father is subject to Christ.
If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then some of you are ignorant of God.
If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then why are some undergoing a baptism (of suffering & persecution) on behalf of the dead?
If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then there will be no resurrection for anyone and we all might as well eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.
3). “Therefore, not P”
Therefore, your (resurrection of the dead deniers) premise that the resurrection of the (OC) dead will not take place with those that had died in Christ and us — is false (or “therefore, not P”).
Paul’s argument is also known as reduction ad absurdum. This form of argument demonstrates that a statement is false (the dead will not rise) by showing that a false, untenable, undesirable or absurd result follows from its acceptance. Again, Paul is using things he has in common with them and that they would affirm in order to overthrow and show how absurd their false premise that the dead ones would not rise actually was.”
As far as Full Preterism believing that Christ took upon Himself the curse of Adam’s “the death” (of which Adam died the “very day” he sinned — which was SPIRITUAL death/separation) for the Church so that they may become the righteousness of Christ – that is true. And since Christ was not the “first” to be raised from physical death, Him being the “firstborn” and “firstfruit” implies that He was the first to conquer “THE death” (separation) that came from Adam for His prosterity – the Church. Christ’s physical resurrection was a sign that He had conquered and been raised from the curse and death that came from Adam. Charismatics fail to recognize that Christ’s miracles of “SIGNS and wonders” pointed to the deeper spiritual truths of Himself and His Kingdom. And YOU and MacArthur have failed to understand the “sign” of Jesus being raised physically and what deeper spiritual truth lies behind it when it comes to inheriting resurrection and eternal life and “dying no more.” Pure and simple.
So let’s summarize your approach with “heretics.” You and Pastor MacArthur’s “apologetic” method in dealing with “heretics” is to arbitrarily engage and let some “step foot” on the campuses when you feel comfortable that you can refute them (ex. Mormon apologists), but those you can’t address on an exegetical level, you simply laugh at their extremes (Charismatics), don’t engage in debate with them on an exegetical level and when completely desperate just blatantly lie about what they believe or what you think they have to believe?!? This is neither a moral, logical or having a Christian and biblical apologetic method. And nor can it even be pawned off as “scholarship.” I see no citations of Preterists that deny the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus. Preterits have been told this lie so many times that we have simply assumed that somewhere out there, there might be these “Preterists” that believe such, and yet no documentation ever surfaces – at least that I know of. Again, I have been in this movement 27 years (longer than Ward) and have NEVER heard of such or known of any Full Preterist book promoting such heresy. Yet reading you and MacArthur, one is to believe from your so-called “scholarship” (of NO citations) that this is somehow a prevalent belief. At best shallow scholarship and at worse – immoral.
Who’s Really “Taking a Page From the Liberal’s Handbook” – an Imminence That’s Not Really Imminent & Did the NT Authors Really Teach the End of World History?!?
On top of claiming we deny the physical miraculous resurrection of Jesus, on page 11 you claim we are “taking a page from the liberal’s handbook.” In my article on the imminent redemption in Romans 8 and Luke 21 I write,
“Reformed eschatology has a strong Preterist tradition, which argues that the New Testament’s eschatological statements of imminence must be taken literally because there are no contextual indicators leading us to interpret them in any other way. As Gary DeMar states, “any student of the Bible who does not interpret these time texts to mean anything other than close at hand is in jeopardy of denying the integrity of the Bible.” To put a finer point on it, R. C. Sproul suggests that any eschatology which denies a literal interpretation of the New Testament’s time texts has adopted a liberal or neo-orthodox view of God and time: “When F. F. Bruce speaks of faith making the time be ‘at hand,’ this sounds all too much like Rudolf Bultmann’s famous theology of timelessness, which removes the object of faith from the realm of real history and consigns it to a super temporal realm of the always present hic et nunc [here and now].” Sadly, this same view is so commonly articulated among Reformed and Evangelical believers that few seem to recognize its liberal and mystical implications or its exegetical lack of support. In the interest of preserving eschatological futurism, many have compromised the principle of scriptural analogy by sweeping away the plain and obvious meaning of the imminence texts. In so doing, conservatives are unwittingly handling the Scriptures like Bultmann.”
So Phil, according to the Reformed early creeds not only is your Premillennialism “heretical” and on par with hyper-literal “Jewish myths,” but to compound the problem is to not take the time texts as pointing to AD 70. For Reformed writers such as Sproul and DeMar, this is to treat the Scriptures like liberals and come dangerously close to denying the inspiration of the Scriptures. There is this and the fact that it is the FALSE prophets that turned God’s “at hand” judgments into “far off” ones (cf. Ezek. 7 and 12). To create an imminent hope into a “hope deferred” — according to the Scriptures themselves is a “sick” theology (Prov. 13:12).
And Phil, most “liberals” I know — like Dale Allison Jr. claim that since Jesus predicted His Second Coming and end of world history would take place in His generation, and “obviously” this didn’t happen, then Jesus was not an inspired prophet or God like he claimed. Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote on this subject:
“Rudolf Bultmann, a liberal, wrote,
“Of course, Jesus was mistaken in thinking that the world was destined to come to an end.” And again, “Jesus expectation of the near end of the world turned out to be an illusion.”
A modern day liberal whom I have challenged to a debate and who declined my invitation – Dale C. Allison Jr., states that “conservative critics’ need to “acknowledge the humiliating discovery that Jesus proclaimed the divinely wrought near end of the world.”
The Lord has given these men over to their confusion. Some of these modern liberals still try to hang on to some kind or form of Christianity while others are simply but “scholarly” confused and have grown cynical. For example, Clayton Sullivan and Allison write,
“…Jesus, mistaken proclaimer of the Kingdom of God, carries a comforting implication: belief accuracy or doctrinal rectitude is not a prerequisite for divine approval”
“The truth, however, is like God: we can run from it, but it is always there. I, myself do not know what to make of the eschatological Jesus. I am, for theological reasons, unedified by the thought that, in a matter so seemingly crucial, a lie has been walking around for two thousand years while the truth has only recently put on its shoes. But there it is.”
The “truth” being the alleged discovery that this mistaken and purely…
“…human Jesus, is just like one of us, one who holds values that are very close to our ideological commitments, a Jesus who is a social reformer and who attacks patriarchal orders, a Jesus who, as a real human person, can stand as an example and inspiration for worthy causes.”
We can sum all of these liberal quotes up with the understanding that Jesus was just a good moral teacher and “inspiration” to us all, but he wasn’t God like he claimed to be because He was “mistaken” and failed to usher in the kingdom and the end of the world when he promised. However, this purely “human Jesus” these men claim to trust in and have fashioned in their own minds to be a god of sorts, can’t save them from their sins and they won’t find any “comforting implications” in him in this life or in the next!
The error in view here is the conclusion that: 1) Christ did not come within the time frame He promised – the first century Apostolic generation and 2) therefore, Jesus was just a good moral teacher and not God like He claimed to be and is. In the articles I have written on my site I have refuted these blasphemous statements and vain imaginations of Christ being a “failure” and “mistaken” in His promises to return in the lifetime and generation of the apostles.”
I have challenged Mr. Allison to a debate and he has declined. The common error that you and Allison and other liberals share, is that you both mistakenly think Jesus and the NT authors predicted the end and or the transformation of the physical universe as the focal point of eschatology — instead of the transformation of the OC age/world to the NC age/world taking place in the first century generation (later in this letter I will demonstrate using Reformed sources that Jesus nor the NT authors taught an end to world history or the burning and renewal of planet earth). And to accept apocalyptic language in Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4 is NOT “taking a page from liberals”! It’s called harmonizing (the analogy of faith) them properly through exegesis – you should try it sometime.
MacArthur on Apostolic NT Time Texts & Mormons Apologetics Concerning Theirs
As I mentioned at the beginning of this letter we didn’t have a problem letting a Mormon apologist (Ara I believe his name was) “step foot” on the campus of TMC. One of the first and most confident “arguments” the class wanted to bring up against Mormonism and to our guest, was to confront all of the failed prophecies that Joseph Smith had made about an imminent Second Coming of Jesus to be fulfilled soon in his generation. How could Smith and the LDS claim they had true prophets and apostles if they predicted the Second Coming would take place “soon” within their lifetimes and generation? Apparently the class was not prepared for his response. Let me summarize what he said and the theological point he was conveying:
“Why is this a big deal for you? According to you, Jesus is the greatest Prophet of all and didn’t He predict that He would return in the lifetime and generation He was speaking to? And doesn’t the NT prophets follow that pattern teaching a “soon” Second Coming? If you and your college president (John MacArthur) believe Jesus wasn’t using “this generation” with such a “wooden literalness” and “soon,” “at hand,” “quickly,” “in a little while and will not delay” can be stretched out for thousands of years per Jesus and the NT prophets, then as Mormon’s we can approach what our prophets have said on imminence the same way.”
You could have heard a pin drop! No one wanted to touch that so they moved on to other topics – archeology and the Book of Mormon etc… Later that evening I had dinner with him and his wife and gave a much more Biblical apologetic to the response he gave to my class. He was shocked to hear someone actually admit that Jesus did in fact promise to return in the lifetime of those He was speaking to and in their generation. Nor was he prepared for my second affirmative – “and He was faithful to that promising coming to close the old covenant age in AD 70.” He admitted to me that he had never been given this response and had no rebuttal. I also assured him that sticking his head in the sand concerning what Joseph Smith and his early “Prophets” of the LDS taught about a failed Second Coming was just as bad as what my Christian brothers and sisters had done in the class earlier that day. His “argument” only proved that their view and the Mormon view of prophetic imminence can’t be trusted — nothing more. While mine exonerated Jesus’ and the NT prophet’s teaching and refuted his.
But MacArthur falls right into the hands of the Mormon “argument” because in his book seeking to refute Partial Preterism and Full Preterism on imminence, he admits the inspired NT authors, Apostles and Prophets taught an imminent Second Coming for their generation (Ibid., pp. 51ff.). John is clueless and contradictory. He wants an imminence that is imminent but then ends up having to embrace a “carrot and stick” eschatology that has to re-define real imminence. Go figure!
The Sovereign Grace Full Preterist knows how to deal with the last days cults when in comes to alleged ongoing “prophetic” “revelations” – because since Christ has come, that office has “ceased” (cf. Dan. 9:24/1 Cor. 13:8-12). MacArthur had no problem with letting a Mormon “heretic” “step foot” on TMC campus and engage and give “equal time” to him because he and the staff thought it would be an easy refutation. Yet the truth of the matter is, MacAruthur’s views on imminence plays right into their hands, and if the Second Coming wasn’t fulfilled in the first century, then prophetic revelations continue. Selah.
The Parallels Between You and the Resurrection of the Dead Deniers, Liberals & False Prophets
- The resurrection of the dead deniers had a hard time reconciling how the OC dead would or could be raised with the NC dead (“in Christ”) — just like Dispensationalism has had a hard time reconciling the two.
- Liberals believe Jesus and the NT authors taught an end to world history and the passing and re-cretion of planet earth at Christ’s Second Coming — just like Futurists.
- It was the false prophets during Ezekiel’s day that angered God by trying to turn His “at hand” coming and judgments into “far off” ones. And to promote a “hope deferred” judgment for the unrighteous and a salvation for the remnant believers is a “sick” doctrine indeed. Your and Simon Kistemaker’s “carrot and stick” eschatology is nothing but a “sick” doctrine that portrays Christ as a failure and is close the failure of the Arminian Christ.
- Your spiritualizing away the imminent time texts of the NT is on par with Neo-orthodoxy and comes close to denying the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures (per some Reformed scholars such as Sproul and DeMar).
- If MacArthur doesn’t have to interpret “this generation,” “soon,” “quickly,” “at hand,” “in a very little while and will not delay,” etc… with a “wooden literalness,” then we have to let the last days cults such as the Mormons off the hook when they appeal to the same heretical justifications and reasoning!
Your Appeal to Acts 1:11
Context and analogy of faith – Acts 1:8-11 and Matthew 24:14-34 on the Second Coming and the Great Commission (GC).
Since you and MacArthur would see the GC of Matthew 24:14 and Acts 1:8 as the same GC needing to be fulfilled before Christ’s return in Matthew 24:27-30 and Acts 1″11 — and you run The Spurgeon Center website, let’s see what Spurgeon said of Matthew 24:14:
“Before Jerusalem was destroyed, “this gospel of the kingdom” was probably “preached in all the world” so far as it was then known…”
Of course the inspired Apostle Paul makes it clear that there was no “probably” about it — Cols. 1:5-6, 23; Rms. 10:18; 1625-26 (click on chart).
Contextually “the end” that comes when the GC of Matthew 24:14 is fulfilled, is “the end” of “the [OC] age” of which the Temple they were looking at represented, and not the end of world history or the end of the NC age which the Bible teaches “has no end” (Ephs. 3:20-21).
Let me address your appeal and assumptions regarding Acts 1:11 by starting with the GC of verse 8. Your friend at Ligonier Ministries Keith Mathison believes that when the GC of Acts 1:8 is fulfilled is when the coming of Christ in Acts 1:11 is fulfilled. I take no issue with that. But of course the problem is that you and MacArthur would see the GC of Matthew 24:14 as being the same GC of Acts 1:8 and Sproul and Mathison would appeal to the Greek of Romans 10:18 to support Matthew 24:14 was fulfilled prior to AD 70. But the fact of the matter is, that Romans 10:18 also proves Acts 1:8 was fulfilled prior to AD 70 as well:
|Prophecy – Greek Ge||Fulfillment – Greek Ge|
|“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth/land.” [Gk. ge] (Acts 1:8)||“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth/land [Gk. ge], and their words to the ends of the world.’” (Rom. 10:18)|
|One def. of ge – “The then known lands, regions, territories, countries etc…”|
|1. In Jerusalem||1. Acts 2 – Jews|
|2. And Samaria||2. Acts 8 – Samaritans|
|3. In all Judea||3. Acts 10 – God-fearers|
|4. To the earth/land||4. Acts 19 – the Gentiles|
Your Postmillennialist friends have no problem quoting Romans 10:18 to demonstrate how the GC of Matthew 24:14 was fulfilled by AD 70 because Paul uses the same Greek word oikumene (“has gone out to the ends of the world”). Yet, Paul in Romans 10:18 also uses the Greek word ge (“has gone out into all the earth”). Therefore, if the Greek of Romans 10:18 can be applied to the GC of Matthew 24:14 — being fulfilled in AD 70, then the Greek of Romans 10:18 can also be applied to the GC of Acts 1:8 as being fulfilled by AD 70.
Jews from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:4-5) were saved and empowered by the Holy Spirit to go fulfill the GC of Acts 1:8 to “the end of the earth/land” of the Roman Empire. As R.C. Sproul pointed out in his lecture at the Strange Fire Conference — the book of Acts describes four Pentecost events based upon Acts 1:8. Since that is the case, the book of Acts maps out the success of the GC of Acts 1:8 — thus showing how the sign of the GC was being fulfilled and giving Paul his imminent expectation of the resurrection (Acts 24:15YLT). Just a side note — If Sproul would be consistent and courageous on the “last days” of Acts 2 and the GC and coming of Christ in Acts 1 being fulfilled in AD 70, he would have a more exegetical refutation of the Charismatic Chaos infecting the Church today.
Keith Mathison connecting the GC with the the timing of the coming of Christ in Acts 1:8, 11 writes:
“The time frame (of Christ’s Second Coming) is hinted at in the preceding context. The disciples are given a commission to be Christ’s witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The implication is that Christ’s visible return will follow the completion of the mission to the remotest part of the earth.” (Postmillennialism, 117).
According to Mathison in the above quote, when the Great Commission in verse 8 is fulfilled, then the Second Coming of verse 11 will occur. Is this not what we see in the Olivet Discourse – the gospel must first be preached to all the nations and throughout the world before the Coming of Christ can be fulfilled? There is NO exegetical evidence that the GC and coming of Christ in Acts 1-2 is any different from that of Jesus’ teaching in the OD. Postmillennialism’s contention that there are two Great Commissions given in the New Testament—one fulfilled before AD 70 and another that will be fulfilled before the allegedly yet-future Second (Third) Coming—is altogether arbitrary.
The analogy of faith – Acts 1-2 and the Olivet Discourse
|The Olivet Discourse||Acts 1-2|
|1. Only the Father has authority and knows the day and hour of the Kingdom’s arrival (Lk. 17:20-37; Lk. 21:27-32; Mt. 24:36).||1. Only the Father has authority and knows the time and dates of the kingdom’s arrival (Acts 1:3-7).|
|2. The Holy Spirit (& charismata) would be given to boldly fulfill the G.C. (cf. Mt. 10:17-23; Mrk. 13:10-13)||2. The Holy Spirit (charismata) would be given to boldly fulfill the G.C. (Acts 1:4-8).|
|3. Jesus would come from heaven upon His glory cloud in their generation (cf. Mt. 24:14-34).||3. Jesus would come from heaven upon His glory cloud in their generation (cf. Acts 1:11; 2:20-21–40).|
NOW Let’s Look at Acts 1:9-11
Phil you and Postmillennialists such as Keith Mathison insist that Jesus’ physical body was seen for some period of time as He ascended into the sky. However, verse nine simply says, “He was lifted up, and a cloud received Him from their eyes.” Jesus was certainly seen just before He was “lifted up” (Acts 1:9). But it is not at all certain that He was directly seen as He ascended into the sky.
In verse 11, the disciples were told that Jesus would come in the manner that they had seen Him enter heaven (the sky). The continuity (or similarity) of Him coming as He had entered heaven is found in the fact that He would come in the heavenly glory-cloud of His Father (Matt. 16:27). Jesus was not physically seen after He was received into the glory-cloud. It was while He was hidden from sight in that cloud that He was indirectly seen entering the sky. A son can “see his father” as his fathers plane is taking off the runway and off into the sky, without directly physically seeing his father’s body. In seeing the plane (which contains his father and the other passengers), he can still correctly say, “There’s dad, and there he goes.” And He was to come in like manner. Therefore, He would not be physically or directly seen when He came “in like manner,” in the cloud, to indwell His church in the end of the old covenant age (Luke 17:20–37; John 14:2–3, 23).
The phrase “in like manner” simply means “in a similar way” – not exactly the same way (which seem to be how most falsely interpret the passage). Jesus didn’t ascend riding on a horse with a sword proceeding from His mouth did He? Did “every eye” on the planet earth see Him leave? “The exact same way” argument offered by hyper-literalists self-emplodes upon itself.
Postmillennialists such as Mathison are not correct when they say that Jesus was going to come back in the same way that He “departed.” The Scriptures say that Jesus would come in the same way He had entered the sky. He entered the sky hidden from literal eye sight in the cloud of God’s glory.
Here is the order of events:
1. As they looked, He was taken up (Acts 1:9).
2. A cloud received Him from their eyes (Acts 1:9).
These first two events could very well have happened simultaneously. As Mathison himself admits, the verse could be translated, “He was lifted up; that is, a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (From Age to Age, 459). It is a very real possibility that Jesus was instantly hidden in the cloud at the moment His feet left the earth.
3. Then the disciples saw Him going into the sky. That is, they looked intently into the sky as He was ascending in the cloud (Acts 1:10–11).
In the Old Testament, God was never literally or directly seen coming in His glory when He judged or saved Israel and other nations. Jesus was not literally seen again after He entered the cloud of God’s glory. He was “taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16) and He would come in glory as the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13-14 OG LXX).
The Lord God had become flesh. John bore testimony to the fact that looking at and touching Jesus was to look at and touch God Himself (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1). God was physically seen in the flesh, but this was temporary for the second person of the Godhead (Heb. 5:7), even as He had been born into and under the old covenant system with its temporal types and shadows (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 5–8; 2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8:13). Though Jesus is no longer in the flesh, He forever retains His human nature. He is forever Man, even as the saints in heaven today, who are no longer in their physical bodies, are still human/man by nature. Neither the Son of Man nor those who are in Him, whether in heaven or on earth, are “nonhuman” as some futurists theorize.
Ironically, the point of the question, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky,” was that Jesus was not going to return to His physical form. It was futile for the disciples to long for Jesus to return to the earthly form He had taken when He was born of Mary. In His ascension, Jesus had returned to His pre-incarnate glory. The question of the two men was rhetorical, and it meant, “There is no use in standing here longing for Jesus to return to you and to be as He was in the days of His flesh. He will come, but He will come in the manner you saw Him enter heaven—hidden from physical eyes in the cloud of the Father’s glory.”
We agree with the majority of commentators and cross reference systems which see the in-like-manner coming of Jesus in Acts 1:11 as being parallel with the coming of Jesus on or in the cloud(s) in Matthew 16:27–28, 24:30–31, 26:64–68; Luke 21:27, and Revelation 1:7. Mathison and Gentry, however, wrench Acts 1:11 from those Scriptures. They admit that Christ was figuratively “seen” (perceived, understood) at a figurative “coming” in/on the clouds in AD 70, but they deny that this was the fulfillment of Acts 1:11.
This brings us to another problem. Mathison writes of Matthew 24:30 in his book Postmillennialism:
. . . [T]he “coming” of the Son of Man is His coming in judgment upon Jerusalem (see vv. 23–28), which is intimately connected with His ascension to the right hand of God (cf. Dan. 7:13–14). (Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: 1999), 114).
Later, in WSTTB, Mathison goes further and identifies the Ascension with the coming of Christ in AD 70:
. . . [W]hen [Jesus] makes reference to “the coming of the Son of Man,” . . . He may have been referring . . . to his ascension . . . and the judgment on Jerusalem. . . . ” (182, emphasis added)
For Mathison, Christ’s “coming” in Daniel 7:13–14 is somehow both a literal, visible “going up” in a literal cloud in about AD 30 and a figurative “coming” to Jerusalem from heaven in figurative clouds in AD 70. The confusion inherent in this position is plain enough. Mathison says that “the coming of the Son of Man” in Daniel 7:13– 14 is a reference to the Ascension. But then Mathison says that when Jesus used the term, He was referring to the Ascension and to the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet there is not one instance where Jesus spoke of the coming of the Son of Man where it can be taken to be a reference to His Ascension. In every case, it is His coming to earth in judgment and salvation. But this is only the tip of the Iceberg of Confusion.
Even though Mathison says that Jesus’ “coming” in AD 70 was “intimately connected with His ascension,” and even though Mathison says that both the Ascension and His coming in judgment in AD 70 are equally “the coming of the Son of Man,” and even though Mathison admits that both events were with a cloud/clouds and in the glory of the Father, and that both events were seen (Acts 1:11; Matt. 26:64), Mathison nevertheless maintains that Jesus’ “coming” in AD 70 was not the “in-like-manner” coming promised in Acts 1:11. Mathison’s position is an ineffable tangle of exegetical double vision, contradiction, and consummate confusion.
Phil, do your professors who teach hermeneutics ever tell their students to read Milton Terry’s classic and orthodox book on the subject? Would you not allow Milton Terry to “step foot” on your campuses to lecture and answer questions to your students in a class on hermeneutics? Partial Preterist Milton Terry, took a more lucid, biblical approach than you, MacArthur, Sproul and Mathison seeing Matthew 24:30–31, 34; Acts 1:11; and Revelation 1:7 as all being ONE Second Coming event (like you and MacArthur) but fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem (like Sproul nd Mathison – who at least see Rev. 1:7 and Mt. 24:30–25:31 as fulfilled AD 70) in the end of the OC age:
“Whatever the real nature of the parousia, as contemplated in this prophetic discourse, our Lord unmistakably associates it with the destruction of the temple and city, which he represents as the signal termination of the pre-Messianic age. The coming on clouds, the darkening of the heavens, the collapse of elements, are, as we have shown above, familiar forms of apocalyptic language, appropriated from the Hebrew prophets.
Acts i, 11, is often cited to show that Christ’s coming must needs be spectacular, “in like manner as ye beheld him going into the heaven.” But (1) in the only other three places where [“in like manner”] occurs, it points to a general concept rather than the particular form of its actuality. Thus, in Acts vii, 28, it is not some particular manner in which Moses killed the Egyptian that is notable, but rather the certain fact of it. In 2 Tim. iii, 8, it is likewise the fact of strenuous opposition rather than the special manner in which Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses. And in Matt. xxiii, 37, and Luke xiii, 34, it is the general thought of protection rather than the visible manner of a mother bird that is intended. Again (2), if Jesus did not come in that generation, and immediately after the great tribulation that attended the fall of Jerusalem, his words in Matt. xvi, 27, 28, xxiv, 29, and parallel passages are in the highest degree misleading. (3) To make the one statement of the angel in Acts i, 11, override all the sayings of Jesus on the samesubject and control their meaning is a very one-sided method of biblical interpretation. But all the angel’s words necessarily mean is that as Jesus has ascended into heaven so he will come from heaven. And this main thought agrees with the language of Jesus and the prophets.” (Milton S. Terry, A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 246-247).
I would also add that there are some Postmillennial Partial Preterists such as author Mike Bull whom also “accept the testimony of the Scriptures” and follow Terry’s view and believe the coming of the Christ in Acts 1:11; Matthew 24-25 and Revelation 1:7 are various descriptions of His ONE Coming and was fulfilled in AD 70.
Premise #1: The “in like manner” coming of Christ and His kingdom in Acts 1:6, 11 is fulfilled when the G.C. of verse 8 is fulfilled (Mathison agrees with Full Preterism)
Premise #2: The gospel was preached and “went out to all the earth” in Paul’s day (Rms. 10:18) and the spiritual NC kingdom arrived at Christ’s coming in the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Lk. 21:27-32; Lk. 17:20-37; Mt. 24:27-30; 25:31) (Mathison agrees with Full Preterism).
Premise #3: But the coming of Christ and arrival of the kingdom in Acts 1:6-11 is the same event as described by Christ in Luke 21:27-31 and Matthew 24:30, 25:31 (you and MacArthur agree with Full Preterism)
Conclusion/Full Preterist Synthesis “Reformed and always reforming”: The “in like manner” coming of Christ and His kingdom in Acts 1:6, 11 was fulfilled in AD 70 when the gospel was preached and “went out to all the earth” (Gk. ge – Acts 1:8/Rms. 10:18) as a sign just prior to AD 70.
Jesus was “lifted up” and hidden from sight in the cloud of glory. He ascended into the sky hidden in the cloud, as His disciples watched. He was to come in the same manner in which the disciples saw Him enter into the sky: hidden in the cloud of the glory of His Father. He was “seen” in that Day in the same way that Yahweh was “seen” whenever He came on a cloud to judge nations in the Old Testament.
This was the one and only future coming of Christ that was promised in the New Testament. Therefore, Christ returned in AD 70. The analogy of Scripture confirms this interpretation. It does not confirm Mathison’s, which rips Acts 1:9–11 from its immediate and broader New Testament contexts. We agree with Terry’s comments on Matthew 24:30–31, 34; Acts 1:11; and Revelation 1:7. “We accept upon the testimony of the Scriptures” that Christ returned on/in a cloud/clouds in that generation. (Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutic (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 468, n.1 (emphases added).
Since MacArthur likes Simon Kistemaker so much, let me refer you to my response to him on Jesus’ description in Revelation 1 as allegedly proving Jesus is still in His physical body.
Honey, I Shrunk the Angels – Jesus Depicted in Revelation & Simon Kistemaker
Although an Amillennialist, Simon Kistemaker argues that Jesus’ physical resurrection body is eternal and that it now literally “sits on God’s throne” (WSTTB?, 240). Kistemaker attempts to prove this claim by using Revelation 1:13–16. He points out that in this passage Jesus is described as wearing a robe that reaches down to his feet, and as having a golden sash around his chest, and a head with white hair, and blazing eyes, and feet as bronze, and a mouth, and a human voice, and a right hand, and a face as radiant as the sun (240, 252).
Kistemaker interprets the book of Revelation in a highly symbolic manner, even more symbolically than “hyper-preterists” interpret it at times. Yet he is woodenly literal in the above passage. But more to the point, he neglects to mention that the above passage also says that Jesus was holding “the angels of the seven churches” (the “seven stars”) in his (supposedly literal) hand (Rev. 1:16, 20). Kistemaker does not explain why those seven angels were reduced in size so that they could fit in Jesus’ physical hand. (Nor does Kistemaker tell us how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.)
Kistemaker also does not mention that Jesus is depicted here as having a sharp two-edged sword coming out of His supposedly literal mouth (Rev. 2:16), and that in Revelation 19:11, He is depicted as riding on a horse in the sky, and that in Revelation 19:12 He has “many crowns” on His head, and that in Revelation 19:13 He is wearing a bloody robe.
To make matters worse, note the contradiction between Kistemaker in WSTTB, and Kistemaker in his New Testament Commentary on Revelation:
Kistemaker, WSTTB: “Jesus’ appearance to John at Patmos was not spiritual, but physical, for John saw his head, face, mouth, eyes, hair, chest, right hand, and feet ([Rev.] 1:13–16) (252)
Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: “[Rev. 1:16] lists three physical features [of Jesus]: his right hand, his mouth, and his face. These features ought to be understood not literally but symbolically. . . ” (Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2001; fourth printing 2007), 97).
Kistemaker’s commentary was first printed in 2001, and was most recently reprinted in 2007. So we have Kistemaker saying that the description of Jesus in Revelation 1:16 was symbolic/spiritual in 2001, then saying it was physical/literal in 2004 (WSTTB), then back to saying it was symbolic/spiritual in 2007. As with Mathison, Kistemaker must temporarily change his preterist exegeses when he is attempting, in vain, to refute full preterism.
Addressing Your Appeal to Hymenaeus and Philetus 2 Timothy 2:17-18
Apparently you are at odds with your buddy Keith Mathison who concedes that 2 Timothy 2:18 “cannot” be used even to “criticize” preterists, much less anathematize them, because according to Mathison, it may very well be that “the resurrection” of 2 Timothy 2:18 truly did take place in AD 70:
. . . [2 Timothy 2:1–18] cannot be used to criticize hyper-preterism until . . . [it can be] demonstrated from other texts that nothing of the sort occurred in A.D. 70. (194)
This is quite an admission from a man who says that hyper-preterism is “a much different religion” than Christianity (213). What Bible verses can Mathison use, other than 2 Timothy 2:17–18, to brand preterism as a different religion? Answer: There are no other verses. Without 2 Timothy 2:17–18, Mathison doesn’t have a biblical leg to stand on in his condemnation of preterists. All he has are the baseless words of those, like himself, who have set themselves up to condemn us based solely on the assumption that our rejection of futurism is a damnable error.
We agree with Mathison that 2 Timothy 2:17–18 cannot be used to criticize us. But we must go further than this. Far from being an anti-preterist passage, 2 Timothy 2:17–18 is actually a condemnation of the implications of futurism. Allow me to explain. First of all, Hymenaeus and Philetus were Judaizers. They were of a class of deceivers who taught Jewish “myths” and “genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:4; Titus 1:4), and were self-appointed “teachers of the Law” (1 Tim. 1:7). They taught believers to abstain from foods (1 Tim. 4:3), no doubt using the Levitical dietary laws as a basis of their teaching.
It is because Hymenaeus and Philetus were Judaizers that Paul compared them to “Jannes and Jambres” (2 Tim. 3:8). According to ancient historians, Jannes and Jambres were Egyptian magicians who challenged Moses’ authority in Egypt. Like Jannes and Jambres, Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching the strange doctrines of “Egypt” (Rev. 11:8), and were challenging Paul’s gospel-authority, attempting to deceive Christians into believing that God’s new wine (the new covenant land of promise) could be contained within the old, “Egyptian” wineskins of the old covenant world.
Likewise in 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul connects Hymenaeus and Philetus to the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16:5, 26. (William Hendriksen; Simon J. Kistemaker: New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 268). Korah had led hundreds of the sons of Israel to challenge Moses’ authority. As God had destroyed Korah and his followers in the wilderness, so God was “about to judge” (2 Timothy 4:1) and destroy the Judaizers Hymenaeus and Philetus and others like them (cf. Heb. 3:16–19).
According to the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus, because Jerusalem and the temple still stood (in about AD 67) after the resurrection had allegedly already taken place, it irresistibly followed that “the sons according to the flesh” were now the heirs of the eternal kingdom and that Paul’s Jew-Gentile gospel of grace was a lie. The blasphemous error of Hymenaeus and Philetus was that the world of the Mosaic covenant would remain forever established after the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets had taken place and the new heavens and new earth (“the resurrection”) had arrived.
This “Hymenaean” heresy is the diametric opposite of preterism. According to preterism, the old covenant came to an eternal and irrevocable termination in “the resurrection,” when all things were fulfilled in AD 70. There is absolutely no theological connection between preterism and Hymenaeus’ blasphemous lie of an everlasting “ministration of death.”
However, there is a clear connection between the heresy of Hymenaeus and the implications of futurism: If “the Law and the Prophets” are not fulfilled today, and “heaven and earth” have not passed away, and the jots and tittles of the Law have not passed away, and all things are not yet fulfilled, as futurism says, then logically and scripturally, the Law of Moses remains unfulfilled and “imposed” to this day (Matt. 5:17–19; Heb. 8:13; 9:10). This implication of futurism is exactly what the Judaizers, Hymenaeus and Philetus, taught when they said the resurrection was already past in AD 67.
Mathison and Ligonier cannot use this passage to condemn Full Preterists because they acknowledge that there was a SPIRITUAL coming OR PAROUSIA of Christ and other Reformed Partial Preterists are admitting there was a SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION of the dead that occurred in AD 70 per Daniel 12:2 and Revelation 20 (Kenneth Gentry and James Jordan). We don’t see Paul’s apologetics against those that believed the Day of the Lord and resurrection had “already” taken place (prior to AD 70) as “How can anyone believe this, OBVIOUSLY we are all still here, the graveyards are still full and the planet earth hasn’t been burned up.” If Paul was the Futurist that you are Phil, we would expect Paul to use this kind of reasoning and apologetic. But because he was a Full Preterist whom recognized there was a spiritual coming of Christ and an “about to be” resurrection of the dead at the end of the OC age coming, his apologetic is different than yours. Selah.
C.H. Spurgeon v. Phil Johnson/MacArthur on Preterist Scholarship
I see you run or are affiliated with The Spurgeon Archive or The Spurgeon Center websites. While not a Full Preterist, this was Spurgeon’s view of Christians engaging with Preterists that believe Christ’s one and “soon” Second Coming was fulfilled in AD 70 and what he thought of their arguments, exegesis and research:
“[Russell’s exegesis and book]…has so much truth in it, and throws so much new light upon obscure portions of the Scriptures, and is accompanied with so much critical research, and close reasoning, that it can be injurious to none and may be profitable to all.” (Spurgeon’s comments of James Stuart Russell’s book, “The Parousia,” back cover, Baker Book House, third printing, 1990 edition).
Obviously someone you and MacArthur esteem didn’t take the cowardly bubble approach you have taken. But you have gone even further to misrepresent us. Sad indeed. Sounds like Spurgeon would have said the same of my/our book, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology… which is in your libraries. I suggest you get someone from your seminary to actually attempt a refutation since the Reformed authors of WSTTB? are not able to respond because their views actually formed Full Preterism! The book is said by John L. Bray to be the best defense of Preterism to date. You might try engaging with a book like ours instead of cherry-picking Internet articles from a new Preterist in the 90’s. Just a thought Phil.
C.H. Spurgeon’s Confusion Over the Passing of the Old Covenant Heavens and Earth and the arrival of the New Covenant Heavens and Earth
C.H. Spurgeon also had some interesting things to say about the Old Covenant being described in terms of being a “heavens and earth” that passed away and the gospel dispensation today being a New Heavens and Earth. Spurgeon was a Premillennialist (hyper-literal “heretic” per the early Reformed creeds), yet was drawn to a Preterist hermeneutic on some very key texts and concepts. He was very inconsistent in his use of these terms and didn’t reconcile them very well. I’ll try and reconcile this confusion and that of R.C. Spoul’s over this in a bit.
In a sermon on Isaiah 65:17-19 Spurgeon wrote the following,
“Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, of any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacle, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the Old Heavens and Earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away, and we now live under a New Heavens and a New Earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it.” (C.H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. xxxvii, p. 354).
We know that Spurgeon read his contemporary James Stuart Russell’s book who did take the OC system as the Old Heavens and Earth and the NC to be the New Heavens and Earth. We also know that Russell quoted Reformed theologians that Spurgeon read that had the same concepts. Therefore, I think it should be clear that Spurgeon was confused and giving passages double or multiple senses where there was no exegetical warrant to do so.
But first let’s go to a source John MacArthur values in order to identify that the OC system was described as a creation of the heavens and earth. MacArthur says the following of The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge:
“The one book, apart from the Bible itself, that I value most in my studies.”
And yet the book agrees with Full Preterists such as myself and men such as John Owen on the particular issues that the Old Covenant system was a “heavens and earth” created at the first exodus. Of Isaiah 51:15-16 it informs us:
“The heavens. ‘Heaven’ and ‘earth’ are here put by symbolic language for a political universe. That is, that I might make those who were but scattered persons and slaves in Egypt before, a kingdom and polity, to be governed by their own laws and magistrates.” (Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge Revised and Expanded, Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 802).
Reformed theologians such as John Owen and John Lightfoot along with many others, correctly understood the “elements” here not as the rocks and tress of the planet earth, but of the old-covenant law and the “Day of the Lord” occurring in AD 70. John Owen in his sermon on 2 Peter 3 also describes Isaiah 51:15-16 as the Old Covenant system except unlike Spurgeon he correctly and clearly states it passed away and her “elements” burned up in AD 70. Since the foundation to the promise of 2 Peter 3 is Isaiah 65, it is relevant to what Spurgeon would have been reading on the subject. Please note that he says the passing and burning of the first heavens and earth is “ONLY” referring to the OC system and the New is only the gospel of the NC dispensation:
“I shall only observe, by the way, not to look into the difficulties of these verses, that I not be too long detained from my principal intendment, – that the apostle makes a distribution of the word into heaven and earth, and saith, they ‘were destroyed with water, and perished: We know that neither the fabric or substance of the one or other was destroyed, but only men that lived on the earth; and the apostle tells us, verse 5, of the heavens and earth that were then, and were destroyed by water, distinct from the heavens and the earth that were now, and were to be consumed by fire; and yet, as to the visible fabric of heaven and earth, they were the same both before the flood and in the apostle’s time, and continue so to this day; when yet it is certain that the heavens and earth whereof he speaks were to be destroyed and consumed by fire in that generation. We must, then, for the clearing our foundation, a little consider what the apostle intends by `the heavens and the earth’ in these two places:
“1. It is certain, that what the apostle intends by the ‘world,’ with its heavens and earth, verses 5, 6, which was destroyed by water; the same or somewhat of that kind, he intends by ‘the heavens and the earth’ that were to be consumed and destroyed by fire, verse 7. Otherwise there would be no coherence in the apostle’s discourse, nor any kind of argument, but a mere fallacy of words.
“2. It is certain, that by the flood, the world, or the fabric of heaven and earth, was not destroyed, but only the inhabitants of the world; and therefore the destruction intimated to succeed by fire, is not of the substance of the heavens and the earth, which shall not be consumed until the last day, but of persons or men living in the world.
“3. Then we must consider in what sense men living in the world are said to be the ‘world,’ and the ‘heavens and earth’ of it. I shall only insist on one instance to this purpose, among the many that may be produced, Isa. 51. 15, 16. The time when the work here mentioned, of planting the heavens, and laying the foundation of the earth, was performed by God, was when he ‘divided the sea,’ verse 15, and gave the law, verse 16, and said to Zion, ‘Thou art my people,” – that is, when he took the children of Israel out of Egypt, and formed them in the wilderness into a church and state. Then he planted the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth, – made the new world; that is, brought forth order, and government, and beauty, from the confusion wherein before they were. This is the planting of the heavens, and laying the foundation of the earth in the world. And hence it is, that when mention is made of the destruction of a state and government, it is in that language that seems to set forth the end of the world. So Isa. xxxiv. 4; which is yet but the destruction of the state of Edom. The like also is affirmed of the Roman empire, Rev. vi. 14; which the Jews constantly affirm to be intended by Edom in the prophets. And in our Saviour Christ’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, Matt. xxiv., he sets it out by expressions of the same importance. It is evident, then, that in the prophetical idiom and manner of speech, by ‘heavens’ and ‘earth,’ the civil and religious state and combination of men in the world, and the men of them, are often understood. So were the heavens and earth that world which was then destroyed by the flood.
“4. On this foundation I affirm, that the heavens and earth here intended in this prophecy of Peter, the coming of the Lord, the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, mentioned in the destruction of that heaven and earth, do all of them relate, not to the last and final judgment of the world, but to that utter desolation and destruction that was to be made of the Judaical church and state; for which I shall offer these two reasons, of many that might be insisted on from the text: –
“(1.) Because whatever is here mentioned was to have its peculiar influence on the men of that generation. He speaks of that wherein both the profane scoffer and the those scoffed at were concerned, and that as Jews; – some of them believing, others opposing the faith. Now, there was no particular concernment of that generation in that sin, nor in that scoffing, as to the day of judgment in general; but there was a peculiar relief for the one and a peculiar dread for the other at hand, in the destruction of the Jewish nation; and besides, an ample testimony, both to the one and the other, of the power and dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ – which was the thing in question between them.
“(2.) Peter tells them, that, after the destruction and judgment that he speaks of, verse 13, ‘We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth,’ etc. They had this expectation. But what is that promise? where may we find it? Why, we have it in the very words and letter, Isa. Ixv. 17. Now, when shall this be that God will create these ‘new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness?’ Saith Peter, ‘It shall be after the coming of the Lord, after that judgment and destruction of ungodly men, who obey not the gospel, that I foretell.’ But now it is evident, from this place of Isaiah, with chap. lxvi., 21, 22, that this is a prophecy of gospel times ONLY; and that the planting of these new heavens is NOTHING BUT the creation of gospel ordinances, to endure forever. The same thing is so expressed, Heb. xii. 26-28.
“First, There is the foundation of the apostle’s inference and exhortation… ‘Seeing that I have evinced that all these things, however precious they seem, or what value soever any put upon them, shall be dissolved, – that is, destroyed; and that in that dreadful and fearful manner before mentioned, – in a way of judgment, wrath, and vengeance, by fire and sword; – let others mock at the threats of Christ’s coming. – he will come, he will not tarry; and then the heavens and earth that God himself planted, – the sun, moon, and stars of the Judaical polity and church, – the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinacy against the Lord Christ, – shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed. This, we know, shall be the end of these things, and that shortly.’ “
And more from Owen:
“1. Because in every such providential alteration or dissolution of things on the account of Christ and his church, there is a peculiar coming of Christ himself. He cometh into the world for the work he hath to do; he cometh among his own to fulfil his pleasure among them. Hence such works are called ‘his coming;’ and ‘the coming of his day.’ Thus James exhorts these very Jews to whom Peter here writes, with reference to the same things, James v. 7-9, ‘Be patient unto the coming of the Lord.’ But how could that generation extend their patience to the day of judgment? ‘Nay,’ saith he, ‘that is not the work I design, but his coming to take vengeance on his stubborn adversaries;’ which he saith, verse 8, ‘draweth nigh,’ is even at hand; yea., Christ, ‘the judge, standeth before the door,’ verse 9, ‘ready to enter;’ – which also he did within a few years. So upon or in the destruction of Jerusalem (the same work), Luke xxi. 27, the Son of man is said to ‘come in a cloud, with power and great glory;’ – and they that escape in that desolation are said to ‘stand before the Son of man,’ verse 36. So, in the ruin and destruction of the Roman empire, on the account of their persecution, it is said that ‘the day of the wrath of the Lamb was come; Rev. vi. 16, 17.” (John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Banner of Truth pub., Vol. 9 see pp. 132-135, 138-139, MJS emphasis added).
And John Lightfoot agrees. Notice what he says of Christ’s coming in Matthew 24 and 2 Peter 3 and the de-creation and new creation language:
“That the destruction of Jerusalem is very frequently expressed in Scripture as if it were the destruction of the whole world, Deut. xxxii. 22; ‘A fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell’ (the discourse there is about the wrath of God consuming that people; see ver. 20, 21), ‘and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains’ Jer. iv. 23; ‘I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light; The discourse there also is concerning the destruction of that nation, Isa. lxv. 17; ‘Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered,’ And more passages of this sort among the prophets. According to this sense, Christ speaks in this place; and Peter speaks in his Second Epistle, third chapter; and John, in the sixth of the Revelation; and Paul, 2 Cor. v. 17.”
More of Lightfoot on this subject:
“With the same reference it is, that the times and state of things immediately following the destruction of Jerusalem are called ‘a new creation,’ ‘new heavens,’ and ‘a new earth,’ Isa. lxv. 17; `Behold, I create a new heaven and a new earth’ When should that be? Read the whole chapter; and you will find the Jews rejected and cut off; and from that time is that new creation of the evangelical world among the Gentiles.
“Compare 2 Cor. v. 17 and Rev. xxi. 1, 2; where, the old Jerusalem being cut off and destroyed, a new one succeeds; and new heavens and a new earth are created.
“2 Pet. iii. 13: `We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth’ The heavens and the earth of the Jewish church and commonwealth must be all on fire, and the Mosaic elements burnt up; but we, according to the promise made to us by Isaiah the prophet, when all these are consumed, look for the new creation of the evangelical state.”
“That the destruction of Jerusalem and the whole Jewish state is described as if the whole frame of this world were to be dissolved. Nor is it strange, when God destroyed his habitation and city, places once so dear to him, with so direful and sad an overthrow; his own people, whom he accounted of as much or more than the whole world beside, by so dreadful and amazing plagues. Matt. xxiv. 29, 30, `The sun shall be darkened,’ Then shall appear the `sign of the Son of man,’; which yet are said to fall out within that generation, ver. 34. 2 Pet. iii. 10, `The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,’. Compare with this Deut. xxxii. 22, Heb. xii. 26: and observe that by elements are understood the Mosaic elements, Gal. iv. 9, Coloss. ii. 20: and you will not doubt that St. Peter speaks ONLY of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation, and the abolishing the dispensation of Moses.” (John Lightfoot, COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT FROM THE TALMUD AND HEBRAICA, Vol. 2, pp. 318-319; Vol. 3, p. 452-453, Hendrickson pub, 2003, MJS emphasis added).
As I document in our book, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology…pp. 116-123 Lightfoot didn’t see the physical planet as being in a process of “decay” or poetically “groaning” to be the subject matter in Romans 8 either! He correctly understood the passage to be the “creation of men” groaning under sin. Postmillennial Partial Preterists such as Gary DeMar concedes mello in Romans 8:18 YLT should be translated as “the glory ABOUT TO BE revealed in you…” and is referring to AD 70. Therefore, contextually this allegedly “end of the planet” or physical “renewal of the planet” passage and “redemption of the body” was “about to be” fulfilled in AD 70 – at the “near” coming of the Lord when Satan was to be “crushed shortly” (cf. Rms. 13:11-12; 16:20) and has NOTHING to do with the Futurist or creedal concept. Here is that material (HD, 116-123):
John Lightfoot associated the “earnest expectation of the creature”
and the “whole creation groaning” with the mind and heart of man, and interpreted this passage as having nothing to do with the planet Earth— not even poetically.
. . . [T]his vanity [or futility] is improperly applied to this vanishing, changeable, dying state of the [physical] creation. For vanity, doth not so much denote the vanishing condition of the outward state, as it doth the inward vanity and emptiness of the mind. The Romans to whom this apostle writes, knew well enough how many and how great predictions and promises it had pleased God to publish by his prophets, concerning gathering together and adopting sons to himself among the Gentiles: themanifestation and production of which sons, the whole Gentile world doth now wait for, as it were, with an out stretched neck.
The Gentile world shall in time be delivered from the bondage of their sinful corruption, that is, the bondage of their lusts and vile affections, (under which it hath lain for so long a time,) into a noble liberty, such as the sons of God enjoy. If it be inquired how the Gentile world groaned and travailed in pain, let them who expound this of the fabric of the material world tell us how that groaneth and travaileth. They must needs own it to be a borrowed and allusive phrase…”.
Lightfoot is on solid ground here citing 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Corinthians 11:3; and 1 Corinthians 15:33. Not only is there lexical evidence to interpret “vanity,” “corruption,” and “decay” as ethical and moral putrefaction in the heart and mind of man, but contextually the passage has nothing to do with hydrogen or oxygen or squirrels longing for a better day when they won’t get hit by cars.
“The sufferings of this present time.” As much as I can relate to R.C. Sproul Jr. losing his hair and gaining some weight around his midsection (WSTTB, ix), Paul’s mention of the “sufferings” and “the redemption of the body” have nothing to do with those kinds of issues. The context of the “groaning” of the first-century Christians can be found in the previous chapter. The sufferings Paul has in mind here were eschatological —the birth pains that were to precede Christ’s return in AD 70 (Matt. 24:8; Rom. 8:22). They had to do with the last days persecutions and with the saints of the universal church groaning under the tyranny of Sin and Condemnation under the Law.
For Paul, Sin had produced “death,” but not physical death. Contrary to Mathison’s assertions, “the body,” “death,” and “the flesh” in Romans 5–8 have nothing to do with the idea of men biologically dying as a result of Adam’s sin. Paul’s concern is with corporate-covenantal Death, as even some Reformed theologians teach. “Bondage,” according to the immediate context, had to do with groaning under the condemnation of the Law (cf. Rom. 7:2, 7, 15).
The “redemption” associated with the coming of the Son of Man in AD 70 entailed much more than a physical flight to the wilderness of Pella, as some commentators have proposed. Appealing to the principle of the analogy of Scripture, John Murray and other Reformed theologians understand Paul in Romans 8 to be speaking of the same “redemption” that Jesus discussed in the Olivet Discourse:
Now in Luke 21:28 . . . [t]his word ‘redemption’ (apolutrosin), when used with reference to the future, has a distinctly eschatological connotation, the final redemption, the consummation of the redemptive process (cf. Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:14; 4:30). Hence analogy would again point to the eschatological complex of events.
The following chart confirms that the “redemption” of Christ’s disciples in the first century in Luke 21:28 was the redemption of “the body” in Romans 8:18–23:
Olivet Discourse & Luke 17
|Present sufferings (Rom. 8:17–18)||Suffering to come (Matt. 24:9)|
|Receive and share in Christ’s glory (Rom. 8:17–18)||Christ comes in glory (Matt. 24:30)|
|Glory will be “in” them (Rom. 8:18)||Kingdom will be realized “within”at Christ’s return (Lk.17:21–37; 21:27–32)|
|Redemption and salvation – resurrection (Rom. 8:23–24; cf. 11:15–27; 13:11–12)||Redemption and salvation – resurrection (Lk. 21:27–28; Matt. 24:13, 30–31/Matt. 13:39-43/Dan. 12:2-3)|
|Birth pains together (Rom. 8:22)||Birth pains of the tribulation (Matt. 24:8)|
|This was “about to” take place (Rom. 8:18)||This would all happen in their “this generation” (Matt. 24:34)|
On page 200 of WSTTB, Mathison expresses willingness to concede that the imminence in Romans 13:11–12 was fulfilled in AD 70. The passage reads:
. . . it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. . . .
But The Reformation Study Bible, of which Mathison is an editor, harmonizes Romans 13:11 with Romans 8:23, correctly teaching that “salvation” in that verse is not merely deliverance from persecution (as Mathison theorizes in WSTTB): “salvation. Here in the sense of future, final redemption (8:23).” The connection between these two passages is made even stronger when we allow the Greek word mello in Romans 8 to be translated the way it is predominately used in the New Testament:
For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory about to be revealed in us. (Rom. 8:18, YLT)
It is more than arbitrary for partial preterists such as Gentry to honor Young’s literal translation of melloin Revelation 1:19 when debating Dispensationalists and Amimmennialists, but then not honor it in Romans 8:18 when debating full preterists. Mello is used in the aorist infinitive in both verses. Gentry writes of mello in Revelation 1:19:
…this term means “be on the point of, be about to.” …According to Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible, Revelation 1:19 reads: “Write the things that thou hast seen, and the things that are, and the things that are about to come [mello] after these things.” The leading interlinear versions of the New Testament concur. This is surely the proper translation of the verse. …when used with the aorist infinitive — as in Revelation 1:19 — the word’s preponderate usage and preferred meaning is:
“be on the point of, be about to. The same is true when the word is used with the present infinitive, as in the Rev. 3:10. Unfortunately, none of the major translators cited above translates Revelation 1:19 in a literal fashion.
Where is Gentry’s disappointment when it comes to translators not translating Romans 8:18 by the same grammatical standard? It is nowhere to be found, even though there are two other Greek words of imminence (apokaradokia and apekdekomai — “eagerly waiting”) within the immediate context.
At least partial preterist Gary DeMar has tried to be more consistent with a proper translation of mello in Romans 8:18. Citing Robert Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible he writes:
“Whatever the glory is it was ‘about to be revealed’…”
We appreciate the honesty on properly translating mello here as “about to be revealed,” but contextually there is no ambiguity as to what the imminent manifestation of this “glory” was — the liberation of creation from its groaning and bondage, the full adoption of the sons of God, and the “redemption of the body” (vss. 18-23).
Interestingly enough though, according to Gentry and Mathison one of the things that was “about to come after” John wrote Revelation 1:19 was the arrival of the New Jerusalem and New Creation of Revelation 21:1ff. Mathison and Gentry tell us in their other works that the time texts in Revelation point to a near fulfillment of the passing of “the first heaven and earth.” They point out that Revelation 21:1 is referring to the passing of the old covenant “creation” in AD 70 and is a fulfillment of Isaiah 65–66. Gentry even says:
The absence of the sea (Rev. 21:1) speaks of harmony and peace within. In Scripture the sea often symbolizes discord and sin (13:1–2; cf. Isa. 8:7–8; 23:10; 57:20; Jer. 6:23; 46:7; Ezek. 9:10). Christianity offers the opposite: peace with God and among humankind (Luke 2:14; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:12–18; Phil. 4:7, 9).
But then Mathison and Gentry assign an “expanded” meaning to 2 Peter 3, which discusses the same promises in Isaiah 65–66. They suggest that Peter is addressing the geological “elements” of the planet while the Apostle John, referencing the same Old Testament passage, is not.
This is not only arbitrary, it is amazing. If Gentry and Mathison can give prophetic New Testament passages “expanded” meanings to fit their eschatology, then they have surrendered their debate with Dispensationalists, who constantly employ this strategy to force their eschatology upon New Testament passages.
In Mathison’s section on the “Restoration of Creation” (195–197), he appeals to the literal and global beginnings of Genesis 1–3 to point out that preterists have interpreted “the end” in Romans 8 and in the rest of the New Testament in an inaccurate way. But Mathison should be open to considering the interpretations of Genesis 1–3 that are presented by some within the Reformed tradition and by other futurists.
Combined, authors such as Augustine, Milton Terry, David Snoke, Meredith Kline, and dispensationalist John Sailhamer teach the following:
- Man was created a physical dying creature like all the plant and animal life around him.
- The physics of the creation did not change after Adam.
- Genesis 1–2 uses the Hebrew word eretz, which should be translated as “land” or “ground” and not [planet] “earth.”
- God’s emphases in the early chapters of Genesis are not scientific but theological, emphasizing the origins of sin in the heart and man’s need for the Seed of the woman to redeem him from Sin.
As the theological emphasis in Genesis 1–2 is on the local land of Eden, which is both theologically and geographically tied to Israel’s Promised Land, so too is the emphasis of the New Testament on a Great Commission preached to the nations of Israel and to the Roman Empire with a judgment that would affect the nations of that world.
Both the localized and covenantal judgment in Eden and the one in AD 70 affected and continue to affect all humankind. The introduction of spiritual death (condemnation and alienation from God within the heart and conscience of man through Adam) was overcome by Christ’s death, resurrection, and indwelling presence in AD 70. All men and nations of the world are either inside the new Israel and New Jerusalem or outside her gates — as the gospel continues to bring healing and judgment to the nations today and forever (cf. Rev. 21–22:17).
When we take a combined look at some of the best theologians within the Reformed and Evangelical communities, we find a preterist interpretation of every eschatological de-creation prophecy in the Bible. Combined, John Owen, John Locke, John Lightfoot, John Brown, R.C. Sproul, Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, James Jordan, Peter Leithart, Keith Mathison, Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis, Hank Hanegraaff, and N.T. Wright teach that the passing away of heaven and earth (Matt. 5:17–18; 24:3, 29, 35; 1 Cor. 7:31; II Peter 3; I Jn. 2:17–18; Rev. 21:1) refers to the destruction of the temple or to the civil and religious worlds of men—either Jews or Gentiles; and that the rulers of the old covenant system or world, along with the temple, were the “sun, moon, and stars,” which made up the “heaven and earth” of the world that perished in AD 70.”63
Reformed theologian John Brown not only stresses that the passing of “heaven and earth” in Matthew 5:18 is the OC system, but that those familiar with the OT should understand the phrase as such:
“But a person at all familiar with the phraseology of the Old Testament Scriptures, knows that the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, and the establishment of the Christian, is often spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the creation of a new earth and new heavens.” (John Brown, Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord (Edinburg: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990 ), 1:170, MJS – emphasis added).
Like we saw with The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Owen and Lightfoot — those that are familiar with the OT Scriptures have and continue to see this while you and liberals don’t.
Scholars that aren’t even Preterists (but often times give the impression that they are leaning in such a direction), such as G.K. Beale are admitting that the Jew understood his land or Temple to be a “heaven and earth,”
“…that ‘heaven and earth’ in the Old Testament may sometimes be a way of referring to Jerusalem or its temple, for which ‘Jerusalem’ is a metonymy.” (G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission A
biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2004), 25). See also J.V. Fesko, Last things first Unlocking Genesis 1-3 with the Christ of Eschatology, (Scottland, UK, 2007), 70.
I called in a radio show where Beale was being interviewed concerning this quote in his book and asked him why he didn’t apply his statements here with Jesus’ and the disciples discussion of the Temple in Matthew 23-24. He avoided the subject and merely began name-calling. Sad indeed.
But Evangelicals are making the Full Preterist connections with NT texts where Beale is afraid to. Evangelical Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis makes the following comments on the heaven and earth in Matthew 5:18 and Mark 13:31/Matthew 24:35:
“The temple was far more than the point at which heaven and earth met. Rather, it was thought to correspond to, represent, or, in some sense, to be ‘heaven and earth’ in its totality.” And “. . . [T]he principle reference of “heaven and earth” is the temple centered cosmology of second-temple Judaism which included the belief that the temple is heaven and earth in microcosm. Mark 13[:31] [or Matthew 24:35] and Matthew 5:18 refer then to the destruction of the temple as a passing away of an old cosmology. (Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis a contributing author in, ESCHATOLOGY in Bible & Theology Evangelical Essays at the Dawn of a New Millennium, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1997), 157).
Gary DeMar is exegetical and contextually consistent when he admits that the passing of “heaven and earth” in Matthew 24:35 is the same subject (the fall of OC Jerusalem and her OC world/age) and de-creation event as 24:29,
“The darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars, coupled with the shaking of the heavens (24:29), are more descriptive ways of saying that “heaven and earth” will pass away” (24:35).” (Last Days Madness, 192).
Why am I going over this? Well, MacArthur sees “that which is perfect” and the seeing of God’s face in 1 Corinthians 13:10-12 as the arrival of the New Creation in Revelation 22:4-12. And you allowed R.C. Sproul to speak at the Strange Fire Conference who takes the arrival of the new creation of Revelation 22:4-12 as being fulfilled and coming in spiritually at Christ’s “soon” coming in AD 70. Now we can begin to solve some of the inconsistencies and problems I experienced at The Master’s College and from reading Reformed authors and now Sproul’s conflicted Reformation Study Bible.
Harmonizing MacArthur and Sproul’s Conflicting Views on When the Gifts of Tongues, Prophecy and Knowledge Are to Cease
Let’s first look at the conflicted message MacArthur and The Master’s College were teaching me on this passage and then we will move on to what Reformed theologians such as Sproul are now saying. Let’s be real clear and honest here Phil – the real reason you won’t engage in a debate or dialog with Dr. Brown and myself over 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 is because you have no sound consistent exegetical answer — period! The Strange Fire book and Tom Pennington’s lecture demonstrated this by giving a very fast fly-by — “there’s so many different views…” to this crucial text. That and even instructors in John’s own college don’t find the context or the Greek to support his view.
- Premise #1 (MacArthur): Tongues ceased in AD 70 but prophecy and knowledge will pass away when the ONE arrival of the New Creation is fulfilled. “That which is perfect” being the Cannon of Scripture is not correct.
- Premise #2 (TMC – C.W. Smith): There is no exegetical or strong Greek case for MacArthur’s view. Tongues, Prophecy and knowledge all cease and pass away when “that which is perfect comes.”
- In my estimation the above two views form Charismatic doctrine (tongues, prophecy and knowledge cease at a future time — the New Creation), or they form Full Preterism — since tongues ceased in AD 70, then the others did too when the New Covenant New Creation arrived at the “soon” coming of the Lord in AD 70.
- Conclusion/Synthesis: If tongues ceased in AD 70 and the other gifts are to cease when tongues did, then the spiritual New Creation arrived at the “soon” AD 70 coming of Christ — like R.C. Sproul and Keith Mathison teach in Revelation 22:4-7. Phil why is it such a stretch to get yourself or MacArthur and R.C. Sproul to discuss these passages with us? Why so much fear Phil? The righteous are “as bold as a lion” and yet you, MacArthur and your professors are acting like scared kitty cats.
But in all honesty Phil you aren’t the only fearful ones. R.C. Sproul and Mathison still have not responded to our book and won’t interact with us on these issue either. And here’s why:
- Premise #1 (R.C. Sproul): The “soon” coming of Christ in Revelation 22:6-7, 20 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70. This historical event caused the passing of the Old Covenant Creation while bringing about the arrival of the spiritual New Covenant Creation. As a result, we see God’s face today spiritually in the New Covenant Heavens and Earth.
- Premise #2 (Sproul’s Reformation Study Bible): But the “soon” coming of Christ in Revelation 22:6-7, 20 is the Second Coming event and so is “that which is perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10-12. We will only see God’s face clearly when these passages are fulfilled at the Second Coming.
- Conclusion: Therefore, if both propositions are true (and we believe they are “Reformed and always reforming”) then the “soon” Second Coming of Christ and seeing of God’s face as described for us in Revelation 22:6-7, 20 and 1 Corinthians 13:10-12 were fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 when the Old Covenant creation passed away and the glory of the spiritual New Covenant creation took it’s place. Therefore, the miraculous sign and revelatory gifts of tongues, prophecy and knowledge ceased in AD 70.
In order to exegetically solve the Charismatic problem and harmonize their contradictions, they would have to become Full Preterists – and they don’t want anyone pointing that out. In other words, if “A” (Rev. 22:4-7) was fulfilled “soon” and spiritually in AD 70, but “A” (Rev. 22:4-7) is also equal to “B” (1 Cor. 13:8-12), then “B” (1 Cor. 13:8-12) was also fulfilled “soon” and spiritually in AD 70. Therefore, these three gifts ceased together in AD 70 and we see God’s face today clearly in the New Covenant Heavens and Earth. See there Phil, we just fixed Spurgeon’s and Sproul’s confusion over this issue of the OC and NC heavens and earth passing and arriving — while at the same time giving the Charismatic an exegetical reason why these gifts really did “cease” at the “soon” Second Coming event! And it wasn’t difficult at all.
Like yourself and MacArthur, Sproul and Mathison have a lot of explaining to do concerning their “heretical” Postmillennial Partial Preterism (per the early Amillennial creeds) since it along with their Reformation Study Bible leads us to Full Preterism:
Premise #1: Editors of this Reformed Study Bible (R.C. Sproul & Keith Mathison) teach that the coming of the Son of Man upon the clouds in Matthew 16:27-28 and Matthew 24:27-30; 25:31 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 before some of those standing next to Jesus died and in their generation (Full Preterists agree).
Premise #2: But the The Reformation Study Bible itself teaches that the coming of the Son of Man upon the clouds in judgment to gather the elect in Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:27-31; 25:31ff. is addressing Christ’s ONE eschatological hope or ONE Second Coming and resurrection event and forms the foundation to Paul’s eschatology and are thus “parallel” (using the analogy of faith principle of interpretation) to Christ’s trumpet parousia/catching away or parousia/change in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17–chpt. 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 (Full Preterists agree).
Conclusion/Sythesis/Full Preterism: The principle of “Reformed and always reforming” (and that the creeds may be in error) should be honored in order to harmonize these conflicting views. The clear time texts of Matthew 16:27-28 and Matthew 24:27-34 are to be honored just as the analogy of faith (“parallels”) between Jesus’ eschatology and Paul’s eschatology in 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 1 Corinthians 15. Both instruct us that Jesus and Paul were teaching the Second Coming and resurrection event would be fulfilled at “the end” of the OC age in AD 70 and an event to be expected in some of their lifetimes.
Click on this chart and enlarge if you need to (very important):
By the way this chart destroys MacArthur’s two comings of Jesus separated by seven years (rapture “coming” then second coming 7 years later) and Sproul’s two coming theory separated by thousands or millions of years (coming in AD 70 then another at the end of world history)! Phil, let’s get real here, isn’t the truth that men like you, MacArthur, Sproul and Mathison just don’t want the public and your students to see your current embarrassment and conflicting views over eschatology and 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and other revenant passages? I get it. Sproul and RTS are right there with you.
Phil you and MacArthur are sticking your heads in the sand on the NT imminent time texts re-defining them into meaninglessness, while Sproul and Mathison are imploring a more than inconsistent hermeneutic on the time texts (ex. Acts 24:15 YLT/Dan. 12:2; Rms. 16:20/Gen. 3:15) and unable to allow Scripture to interpret itself, because to do so they would have to agree to revise the creeds in the area of eschatology. And no one wants to do that after being so INVESTED in them at this point.
I’ll deal with Brown’s Premillennial “heresy” he shares with you and his Charismatic “heresy” on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. And you, MacArthur and Sproul can crawl back into your very well funded shell and bubble pretending you guys are doing apologetic work against Charismatics and Preterists. Wow.
What Kind of Apologetics Does The Master’s Seminary Teach —
I remember after my 4 point Calvinist instructor and director of Calvary Chapel Bible College (Richard Goswiller) got fired for being Calvinistic t– the next director began purging the library of Calvinist works. Calvary Chapel was a “bubble” – scared to be popped by any other views. That reminds me now of what The Master’s University and Seminary has become when it comes to trying to exegetically deal with Charimsatics or Preterists. They regularly mock Charismatics and Preterists and yet will not defend their Futurism in honest debate or scholarship. It’s a pure mystery to me as to why you would even have classes on apologetics at your University or Seminary if MacArthur, yourself and your staff can’t live out an honest Christian apologetic in your lives and ministry. Selah.
I have been in contact with Southern Evangelical Seminary and they are going to see if they can find a professor that will have a public “discussion” with Dr. Brown and myself over 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and the cessation question.
Oddly, right after holding a conference on apologetics, they are telling me that they don’t really have anyone “qualified” to discuss this passage and issue with us. They are currently asking Dr. Richard Howe if he would be willing to step up to the plate. I think it’s not charitable for them to say Brown’s Charismatic views are a “black stain” upon his ministry (which I agree with), but then not be willing to engage with him and myself (along with the students and faculty members) on this matter in a public setting. If we are both wrong to have an eschatological view of this passage — then someone at SES should prove it. The Seminary and Norman Geisler have been critical both of Brown’s Charismatic views and Preterism in general. Therefore, I welcome a debate/”discussion” with Mr. Geisler to prove (among many things) that his Premillennial interpretation and translation of “this generation…” (Mt. 24:34) as, “this Jewish race will not pass away until all theses be fulfilled” has not exegetical merit whatsoever!
I continue to pray for a Bible College or Seminary setting for this discussion/debate. I thought Reformed Theological Seminary of Charlotte would be a great place to have this debate or discussion with the students and faculty as well. But they won’t let me past a secretary. Even though I have co-authored a book responding to Keith Mathison, they pretend I haven’t had any “direct engagement” with them and pretend we don’t exist. My/our book remains in their seminary library unanswered and their instructors refuse to dialog or debate me.
My Previous Letter Sent June 14th, 2016
Dear Pastor John MacArthur and faculty at The Master’s University / Seminary,
My purpose in this letter is to request a forum to debate Charismatic Apologist Dr. Michael L. Brown (author of Authentic Fire A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire), and if possible to have Pastor MacArthur or one of the professors at The Master’s College or Seminary participate and present their position (a symposium of sorts). I also believe it would be productive to bring in some Reformed Theologians on the topic (see below).
Pastor MacArthur you may remember me as a student at The Master’s College in the early 90’s – I also attended Grace Community and worked at the churches bookstore? As a student I had just left 4 point Calvinism behind and embraced limited atonement. I was giving you a lot of material on that subject including Gary Long’s book and syllabus – on Definite Atonement. I also was trying to get you and the faculty to hire my former Director and Bible College professor from Calvary Chapel Bible College – Dr. Richard Goswiller. You may also remember me as one asking many questions in that early class where you made yourself available for questions? I talked to you and asked questions regarding your inconsistent 4 point “Calvinist” position (that I just left for the 5 point view) and Partial Preterism (which I had just begun to study). I also gave you arguments as to why I felt the miraculous sign gifts were still for today which included:
- If “that which is perfect” and the “face to face” sight (the Second Coming and New Creation) has not come (1 Cor. 13:8-12/Rev. 22:4-7), then the miraculous sign gifts are still for the church today. My exegesis of 1 Cor. 13:8-12 here.
- If we are still in the “last days” (cf. Acts 2), then the miraculous sign gifts are still for the church today. My exegesis of Acts 2 and the last days here.
- If the Great Commission and end of the age of Matt. 24:14/Mark 16/Matt. 28/Acts 1:8 had not been fulfilled, then the miraculous sign gifts are still for the church today. My exegesis of the Great Commission texts here.
- If we are still in the “already and not yet” phase of the kingdom, then the miraculous sign gifts are still for the church today. My response – The “not yet” Kingdom and Second Coming arrived in an “at hand” and AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” time frame (Lk. 21:27-32).
During that year of College not only would I go on to become a 5 point Calvinist, but I also studied and left behind Dispensationalism, Amillennialism and Partial Preterism for Full Preterism (as I combined what the Classic Amillennialist and Partial Preterist were saying of Matthew 24/1 Thess. 4-5 and many other crucial eschatological texts). I initially came to Full Preterism not even knowing it was a view – just through my personal studies (my testimony here). Full Preterism not only was an answer to my prayers regarding eschatology, but it also was the antidote to the Charismatic arguments I didn’t see you addressing with me in person or in reading your books or listening to sermons. I recently read your book(Strange Fire) and Dr. Brown’s response (Authentic Fire) and gave a two-part lecture response to them at The Berean Bible Conference (those DVD’s are still being edited). Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to address all of the 4 points listed above in those lectures – which was a response to Dr. Brown and how you and the conference speakers did not deal with these arguments. However, I have been responding to these 4 points in a series of articles on my web site: fullpreterism.com.
As a student at The Master’s College I do remember us inviting a Mormon Apologist to one of our classes. We were challenged to research Mormonism and be prepared to ask him challenging questions. It was a very healthy learning / back and forth experience for all involved. Textbooks can only equip a Christian so much and at some point we need to debate and personally engage the culture and various positions face to face. I appreciate my professor for doing this. I also invited Dr. Greg Bahnsen to our college and he lectured in various classes and answered challenging questions from students and staff. Again, this was healthy for the students and faculty. If The Master’s College can engage with Mormon and Reconstructionist Apologists, surely she can engage Charismatic and Full Preterist Apologists over the subject of Strange Fire and when the Bible teaches the sign and revelatory gifts are to cease?
Currently my debate with Dr. Brown is centered on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. The position I will be defending is a combination of the corporate maturity view and the eschatology view – when Christ and the New Creation came spiritually and “soon” (cf. Rev. 22:4-7) in AD 70, the Church stood mature and complete from the Old Covenant system. In Dr. Brown’s debate with Reformed Apologist James White over the gift of healing, White completely ignored Brown’s argument on 1 Cor. 1:5-8/13:8-12. In his debate with another Reformed author – Sam Waldron, Sam had a very difficult time explaining his or Richard Gaffin’s view of the passage. Obviously your own right-hand man Phil Johnson didn’t do so well in his discussions with Dr. Brown over the Strange Fire conference. Which I found odd in that there was no discussion over Scripture (which was probably something Phil didn’t want to discuss since Brown has been asking for a debate and discussion over Scripture on this subject for a long time now).
Please host and or participate in this debate. Or better yet here is my suggestion that I believe will bring the most healing to the body:
A symposium on the subject of when the sign and revelatory gifts are to cease according to Scripture – addressing those 4 points/passage listed above. Here are the participants I am requesting to participate:
- Reformed Partial Preterist Cessationist – R.C. Sproul / Keith Mathison / Gary DeMar.
- Historic Premillennial Charismatic – Michael Brown.
- Reformed Charismatic – John Piper.
- Dispensational Cessationist – John MacArthur (or co-Pastor or Professor).
- Reformed Amillennial Cessationist – Sam Waldron or James White.
- Sovereign Grace Full Preterist Cessationist – Michael Sullivan.
Each view must cover those 4 points and respond to the others exegesis and treatment of them. So there is no confusion let me briefly outline my view:
- “That which is perfect” and the “face to face” sight (1 Cor. 13:8-12) is the Second Coming and arrival of the New Creation which arrived at the end of the OC age/heaven and earth “soon” in AD 70 (cf. Rev. 21-22:4-7). Thus the sign and revelatory gifts of tongues, prophecy and knowledge “ceased” in AD 70.
- The “last days” (of Acts 2 and elsewhere in the NT ) is descriptive of the last days of the OC age which ended in AD 70. Thus the sign and revelatory gifts ceased at the end of the last days of the OC age in AD 70.
- The Great Commission of Matt. 24:14, 34/Matt. 28:18-20/Mrk. 16:15-20/Acts 1:8 was a sign that preceded Christ’s coming at the end of the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” and was fulfilled prior to “the end” or “end of the [OC] age” (cf. Rms. 10:18, 16:25-26; Cols. 1:5-6, 23). Thus the sign and revelatory gifts ceased in AD 70.
- The “already and not yet” of the kingdom was roughly between AD 30 – AD 70 when the OC and NC overlapped – with the old passing away and “ready to vanish” while the new was “about to be” fully revealed. The “not yet” aspect of the “kingdom” was to be fulfilled at Christ’s imminent and first century “this generation” Second Coming (Lk. 21:27-32). Thus the sign and revelatory gifts ceased in AD 70.
As I argued in my/our book, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be? the truth in the eschatology debate (and in the miraculous signs and revelatory gifts debate) is to be found in combining the Reformed Classical Amillennial view with the Reformed Partial Preterist views – “Reformed and always reforming.” These views not only form Full Preterism, they effectively refute the “Charismatic Chaos” and confusion that have plagued the church. In your Strange Fire book and conference, you appealed to Reformed and Puritan theology. Obviously I do not believe you have followed your own advise in the area of Reformed Theology as it applies to eschatology let alone in how it applies to this area of when the Bible teaches the sign and revelatory gifts are to cease (My response to you on how these two Reformed views form Full Preterism and solve the Charismatic debate). As a former student of yours, I have and am willing to debate and interact with these other views on these passages and subjects – are you?
Please show Dr. Brown and myself that Grace Community and The Master’s College and Seminary is not a bubble that just talks about Theology and Apologetics – but in reality is unwilling to actually do the work of an Apologist. This is what I have found to be the case with my other former church and Bible College – Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and Calvary Chapel Bible College. They now even have an “Apologetics” school that is unwilling to debate me. Amazing that they are incapable of debating one of their own graduates.
I am thankful to Dr. Brown who has debated Don Preston (over Romans 11) and is now willing to debate me over (1 Cor. 13:8-12). Pastor MacArthur, will you please engage us on these exegetical issues as to when the Bible teaches the sign and revelatory gifts are to cease? I must confess my agreement with Dr. Brown and the Charismatic community that your Strange Fire Conference spent so much time on the subject of extremes within the Charismatic movement and very little time and lectures dedicated to an exegetical treatment of the cessation issue (which is the heart of the matter). I am hoping what I am suggesting here will help deal with these valid criticisms of your conference.
As I have been writing this letter I have left messages and am in the process of being in contact with The Master’s College and Seminary. Per the request of the receptionist at Grace Community, I will send this via email so that it will be passed along to you. I will also post this on my web site as a public and open letter and send you a snail mail version along with a copy of my/our book. At the very least please read my responses to Keith Mathison on the NT time texts (chapter 4) and Simon Kistemaker on the date of Revelation (chapter 5) and then David Green’s response to Mr. Strimple on the resurrection (chapter 7).
To read this series of articles that are a Full Preterist response to Charismatic Michael Brown (Author of Authentic Fire) and Cessationist John MacArthur (Author of Strange Fire) go to:
Part 1 – My Full Preterist Response to John MacArthur’s Appeals to Church History and Reformed Theology to Solve the Charismatic Dilemma http://fullpreterism.com/1-corinthians-138-12-a-full-preterist-response-to-the-strange-fire-conference-macarthursproulpennington-cessationists-v-authentic-fire-brownwilsonpiper-cha/
Part 2 – An Overview of the Various Views of “That Which is Perfect” (1 Cor. 13:10) http://fullpreterism.com/1-corinthians-138-12-a-full-preterist-response-to-the-strange-fire-conference-macarthursproulpennington-cessationists-v-authentic-fire-brownwilsonpiper-cha/
Part 3 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 Demonstrating That the Miraculous Sign and Revelatory Gifts of Tongues, Prophecy and Knowledge Ceased and Passed Away with the OC Age in AD 70 and John MacArthur’s Inability to Deal with the Passage http://fullpreterism.com/my-full-preterist-response-to-john-macarthurs-strange-fire-cessationist-v-michael-brown-authentic-fire-charismatic-part-3-argument-1-an-exegesis-of/
Part 4 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on the “Last Days” of Acts 2 and John MacArthur’s Inability to Deal with the Passage http://fullpreterism.com/my-full-preterist-response-to-michael-brown-charismatic-authentic-fire-vs-john-macarthur-cessationist-strange-fire-the-last-days-acts-2/
Part 5 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-20 and John MacArthur’s Inability to Deal with the Passage http://fullpreterism.com/my-full-preterist-response-to-john-macarthurs-strange-fire-cessationist-v-michael-browns-authentic-fire-charismatic-part-5-argument-3-the-great-commission/
Part 6 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on the “Already and Not Yet” of the Kingdom and John MacArthur’s Inability to Respond Biblically http://fullpreterism.com/my-full-preterist-response-to-john-macarthurs-strange-fire-cessationist-v-michael-browns-authentic-fire-charismatic-part/
Part 7 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on John 14:12 and John MacArthur’s (The Master’s Seminary) Inability to Deal With the Passage and the Infallibility of the Scriptures going on into John 16 http://fullpreterism.com/my-full-preterist-response-to-john-macarthurs-strange-fire-cessationist-v-michael-browns-authentic-fire-charismatic-part-2/
Part 8 – My Open Letter to my Former Pastor John MacArthur and The Master’s Seminary to Interact with Myself and Dr. Michael Brown on These Passages and When the Bible Teaches Tongues, Prophecy and Knowledge Are to Cease That Has NEVER Been Responded to http://fullpreterism.com/open-letter-to-pastor-john-macarthur-and-faculty-at-the-masters-college-seminary-sullivan-v-brown-debate-symposium-challenge/
PS – I may be adding some more documentation and facts to this letter to Phil over the coming weeks.