House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be?
Appendix – Responding to Gary DeMar/Sam Frost’s Incoherent “Arguments” Against Full Preterism
Copyright 2009 and 2013 All rights reserved. No part of this book (or article) may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher or authors of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
It has been four years. To date, we have not heard of any plans of any of the authors of When Shall These Things Be? to offer any kind of response to any of the chapters in House Divided. There has barely been any acknowledgement that House Divided even exists. (We sent each author a copy.)
As of the publishing of this Second Edition, the only “responses” that have been offered came from a handful of internet critics who wrote more or less in defense of the authors of When Shall These Things Be. We will briefly address the most notable of those internet responses here.
The first argument that came from the internet critics was, interestingly enough, an argument about infinity. According to the argument, the kingdom of God’s elect cannot numerically increase forever in time and space, because that would mean there would be an infinitely increasing number of events and of saints, which God could never fully know, because God cannot possibly fully know a series that numerically increases into infinity. Therefore, since God is unable to create a kingdom that lasts forever in time, it follows that the time-space continuum must come to an end, that the elect must one day stop being born, and that the kingdom must eventually end up existing in a state of “timelessness” wherein there are no series or sequences. Full preterism must therefore be wrong.
The idea that God cannot “fully know” something if it lasts forever in time, because that would be too much for God to grasp, reduces Yahweh to the level of Zeus and Superman. Whereas Zeus and Superman could not create or fully know a series that increases into an unending future, there is no biblical reason to think that Yahweh is limited in that way.
The internet critics who said that Yahweh can neither create nor grasp a series that infinitely increases in time and space, also said that Yahweh transcends time and space and is not bound by time and space. For some reason though, it did not occur to the internet critics that if Yahweh “transcends time and space” and is not bound by time and space (i.e., if He is above and beyond time and space), then He can certainly create and fully know a never-ending time-space universe and an ever-increasing kingdom. As Augustine put it:
. . . The infinity of number . . . is . . . not incomprehensible [to God]. . . All infinity is in some ineffable way made finite to God. . . . All infinity . . . is comprehensible by His knowledge. . . . God . . . comprehends all incomprehensibles with so incomprehensible a comprehension, that though He willed always to make His later works novel and unlike what went before them, He [would ] produce them [with] foresight, [and] conceive them . . . by His eternal foreknowledge. (Augustine, The City of God, Book XII, Chapter 18, “Against Those Who Assert that Things that are Infinite Cannot Be Comprehended by the Knowledge of God”)
And as R.C. Sproul (Sr.) put it:
God can understand infinity, not because he operates on the basis of some kind of heavenly logic system, but because he himself is infinite. He has an infinite perspective. (R. C. Sproul, Chosen by God, page 47) And as Isaiah (God) put it:
And He doth call His name . . . Father of Eternity. . . . (Isa. 9:6, YLT)
[*** Note by Michael Sullivan – Keith Mathison is R.C. Sproul’s right hand man and yet endorses this pamphlet and this “argument” on infinity which is a gross error on God’s very nature?!? I asked Mathison if he agreed with what the pamphlet he endorsed said on God’s understanding of infinity or what his mentor R.C. Sproul has written on the subject refuting it? Mathison was not available for comment!
Gary DeMar and Kenneth Gentry also singed off on Frost’s “infinity argument” and yet Van Til and other Reformed theologians claimed this was not a Scriptural view of God and hardly a “peripheral” error when they denounced Gordon Clark’s view (a man Frost practically idolizes and a view he tried to use to refute Full Preterism):
“It will appear from the above examination of the views of Dr. Clark as they were propounded to the Presbytery of Philadelphia that these errors are far from being peripheral. The very doctrine of God is undermined by a failure to maintain a qualitative distinction between the knowledge of God and the knowledge possible to man, thus denying the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God and impinging in a most serious fashion upon the transcendence of the Creator over the creature. The interpretation of Christianity as being fundamentally intellectualism subordinates the volition to the intellect in a manner that is flagrantly in violation of the teaching of Scripture and of the Reformed theology.” (The Complaint – Against Actions of the Presbytery of Philadelphia In the Matter of the Licensure and Ordination of Dr. Gordon H. Clark, http://thegordonhclarkfoundation.com/the-complaint/).
Kenneth Gentry and Gary DeMar are known advocates and defenders of Van Til’s theology and were likewise unavailable for comment on if they agreed with Van Til’s complaint and theology on this subject or with the Clarkian disciple they were endorsing in the anti-Full Preterist pamphlet. This just goes to show you what low levels people will go to TRY and refute Full Preterism. This is called throwing anything and everything at the wall hoping something will stick. Selah.***]
“Eternity” was defined by the internet critics as the “timeless state” into which the Earth will enter after the end of world history. If “I AM” is the “Father” of the eternal/timeless state, and can therefore “fully know” it, then it is certainly not difficult or impossible for Him to create and fully know a state that is “below” the “eternal state,” i.e., a neverending time-space continuum.
One of the early attempts of the internet critics to explain how everlasting life can happen if God can’t grasp an ever-increasing series of events was the “continuous loop” argument: We will not have an endless series of thoughts or actions in eternity, but will instead repeat the same finite number of actions and thoughts. So infinity will not happen in eternity.
This cyclical view of eternity is more akin to Hinduism than Reformed Christianity. But that was their argument. The problem with it, of course, is that the 67th time you repeat an action would still be categorically different from the 1,067th time you repeat it. The count of repetitions themselves would be an infinite series. Or in argument form:
- If we continue to repeat the same event over and over in eternity there will be a 67th time we repeat it, a 1,067th time we repeat it, and a n+1 time we repeat it.
- n+1 represents an infinitely increasing series.
- Therefore even if the same events are repeated in eternity, there is still an infinite series of repetitions.
The final attempt to rescue their infinity argument was to claim that we become part of the “One” and do not have experiences or thoughts in eternity that can be counted. The weakness of this response should be apparent. It reduces the Christian promise of eternal life to a Buddhist promise of being “one with the universe.”
It may seem shocking that the primary attempt to refute preterism was to reduce God’s abilities and change eternity into an eventless, thoughtless state of existence. The fact that the anti-preterists reduced God to a Zeus-like deity shows the desperation of their attempts to refute what they know in their hearts to be the teaching of Scripture. But what may be even more shocking is that Ken Gentry has actually expressed his agreement with the “infinity” argument proposed by the internet critics. In fact, Ken Gentry, Keith Mathison, and Gary DeMar have all generally endorsed the, at times transparently wrong and dangerously erroneous, arguments of the internet critics.
“Is Come in the Flesh”
First John 4:3 says that Jesus “is come in the flesh.” The Greek verb tense there is perfect active, and it indicates a “past action with a present result.” Therefore Jesus came in the flesh (past action) and is still in the flesh (present result).
It is true that the perfect tense of “come” in 1 John 4:3 (literally “having come”) can be seen as supporting the view that Jesus is still in His flesh. However, this is not the grammatically necessary reading. The perfect tense in that verse could just as easily, or perhaps more easily, be used to support the view that Jesus is still here on Earth. “Having come” (past action), He is still here (present result).
While the perfect active tense indicates that there is a present result of the past action, the identification of the “present result” can only be determined by the context. John could have written, using the same tense:
“Whoever denies Jesus Christ having died on the Cross is a liar.” What would the perfect active tense (“having died”) indicate? Would it indicate that Christ is still “on the Cross”? That He is still dead? Of course not. It would indicate that there is an enduring, “present result” of the “past action” of Christ’s death on the Cross. Depending on the context, that “present result” could be any number of things including the Christian Age itself.
The context of 1 John 4:2 (and 2 Jn. 1:7) tells us what the “present result” of Christ’s past coming “in flesh” is: God dwells in us (1 Jn. 4:4, 12-13; 15-16) We are of God (1 Jn. 4:4, 6).
We love one another (1 Jn. 4:7, 21; 2 Jn. 1:5).
We know God (1 Jn. 4:6-7).
We have been born of God (1 Jn. 4:7). We live through God’s Son (1 Jn. 4:9).
Our sins are forgiven (1 Jn. 4:10).
God’s love has been perfected in us (1 Jn. 4:12).
We dwell in God (1 Jn. 4:13, 15-16).
God has given us His Spirit (1 Jn. 4:13).
We know and believe the love that God has toward us (1 Jn. 4:16).
We are as He is (1 Jn. 4:17).
We love God, and our love is made perfect (1 Jn. 4:17-18) We know the truth (2 Jn. 1:1).
The truth dwells in us and shall be with us forever (2 Jn. 1:2).
We walk in truth (2 Jn. 1:4).
We walk after His commandments (2 Jn. 1:6).
We abide in the doctrine of Christ (2 Jn. 1:9).
We have both the Father and the Son (2 Jn. 1:9).
As the Apostle Peter put it, Christ was “put to death in flesh” [past action] “that He might bring us to God” [present result] (1 Peter 3:18).
Various interpretations of 1 John 4:2 have been offered by futurist scholars. Not all of them believe that the antichrists were Gnostics who were denying that Jesus was a material being. According to 1 John 2:2, the antichrists were denying that Jesus is the Christ (the promised Messiah). It would seem that 1 John 4:2 would be a reiteration of that denial. It may be that their denial of “Jesus Christ having come in flesh” was a denial that He was from God. His coming in flesh implies His pre-flesh existence and divine Sonship.
Death is an Illusion
As we know, Dr. Strimple in When Shall These Things Be?, argued that our departed loved ones in Christ today are sub-humans until the end of world history, because they are without their bodies. However, if this is true then it must also be true that Christ Himself was not fully human for three days and nights between His death and resurrection, because He was without His body during that time.
Aware of this problem, the internet critics implicitly acknowledged Strimple’s unwitting error and posited instead the idea that our dead loved ones today are actually fully human, because physical death is an illusion. That is, it is phenomenological. According to this view, even though it “appears” to us that the body and the spirit are separated at physical death, they actually are not separated at all. They are indissolubly united in view of the fact of the future, physical resurrection of the body. (Granted, it is difficult to follow the logic of that last sentence, but that is the view.) When the Resurrection of the Flesh happens, body and spirit will not be “reunited.” Instead, it will be manifested” that they were never really separated at all.
There is, of course, not the slightest hint of this “Death is an Illusion” doctrine in the Bible. We can find it in Gnosticism, Hinduism, and Christian Science, but nowhere in Scripture.
Also, this doctrine may be even worse than Strimple’s doctrine (which implied that Jesus was non-human for three days), in that it implies that Jesus’ own death was an illusion, that it was the separation of His body and His spirit in “appearance” only. This is the ancient heresy of Docetism.
It comes down to this: If we are going to argue that a man is nonhuman in the sight of God without his physicality, then we either have to say that Christ was non-human for three days and nights (because He was without His body), or we have to say that the separation of His body and spirit on the Cross was in “appearance” only (Docetism). Since neither of these views can be accepted, it follows that the endurance of man’s humanity before God is not contingent on his physicality.
The Afterward Ages/ Last Days
Acts 2:17 says “in the last days,” but the verse it quotes (Joel 2:28) simply says “afterward.” This means that in the Hebrew, the word “last” in “the last days” means “afterward” or “latter” as opposed to the former. Thus the church age is the “afterward” days/ages, which are the “latter” ages that followed the previous “former” ages of the Old Testament.
That argument is not only a leap in logic; it is an exercise in equivocation. Even if “the last days” actually meant “the afterward days,” that would not mean that “the afterward days” would continue for aeons; it would mean only that “the afterward days” took place “after” something else.
However, in the Greek, the word “last” (eschatos) in the term “the last days” (Acts 2:17; 2 Tim. 3:1; Jms. 5:3; 2 Peter 3:3) means “last,” as in “final.” It does not mean “afterward.” We cannot contradict the Greek in Acts 2:17 with the Hebrew in Joel 2:28. Joel says, “And it shall come to pass afterward.” That does not mean that “the last days” in Acts 2:17 means “the afterward ages.” It means “the last days” took place “after” Joel’s time.
The “last” (eschatos) days were the final days of the pres-Messianic ages, just as the “last” (eschatos) trumpet was the final trumpet of the pres-Messianic ages (not “the afterward trumpet”); and the “last” (eschatos) enemy was the final enemy of the pres-Messianic ages (not “the afterward enemy”); and the “last” (eschatos) day was the final day of the pres-Messianic ages (not “the afterward day”).
The writers of the New Testament knew nothing of the notion that “the last days,” in which they were living, were actually “the afterward aeons.” Certainly, the following translation” makes no sense:
“Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the afterward aeons” (James 5:3).
*** (Note by Michael Sullivan – One must scratch his or her head and wonder why DeMar published this pamphlet “argument” on the “last days” since he agrees with Full Preterism that the “last days” were from AD 30 – AD 70: “The last days are not way off in the distant future. The end came to an obsolete covenant in the first century. In A.D. 70 the “last days” ended with the dissolution of the temple and the sacrificial system.” [DeMar, Last Days Madness, ibid., 38 (emphasis added). See also Joel McDurmon of American Vision on 2 Timothy 2–3; Hebrews 9:6; 1 Peter 1:20; Acts 2:16–17 and Jude 17–18, (Joel McDurmon, Jesus v. Jerusalem: A Commentary on Luke 9:51– 20:26, Jesus’ Lawsuit Against Israel, (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision, Inc., 2011), 198–200.] Obviously Frost’s “argument” here isn’t persuasive since it couldn’t even convince DeMar [the publisher] of his anti-Full Preterist pamphlet – Selah).
The Last Day
The Bible says that “all” believers will be raised “on the last day” (Jn. 6:39). If this happened in AD 70, then we must say that all believers who will ever be born were raised in AD 70, since “all” believers were raised back then.
Apartfrom the futurist framework itself, there is no necessity to interpret “all” in John 6:39 as literally all who will ever be born. “All” saints participating in an event at a certain point in history does not preclude other saints coming into being and being born after that event.
Genesis 7:21-23 says that “all flesh” died in the Flood. That doesn’t mean that people living today died in the Flood. “All flesh” referred to people who had lived up to that point in history.
Abraham Must Inherit the Land
God promised Abraham that both he and his descendants would inherit the land (Acts 7:5). But Abraham never inherited the land. Only his descendants did. Therefore, Abraham has to be resurrected in the flesh in our future so that he can inherit the land (i.e., all the land on the planet, according to Romans 4:13 and other scriptures).
Believers are the one body of Christ, the Seed, and they are blessed with Abraham (Gal. 3:9, 16, 18, 28-29). When God promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed in him, God was talking about the justification of the world through faith in the blood of Christ (Gal. 3:6-8, 14, 22, 2627, 28). The promise is not real estate; it is the Spirit of God (Gal. 3:14).
Abraham, with all the saints, received the fulfillment of that promise.
We err if we make real estate the consummation of the Abrahamic promise. Abraham himself did not consider the land of Canaan or any other tract of real estate to be the ultimate goal of God’s promise. Abraham looked for, and saw from afar, the City that was made, built, and prepared by God Himself (Heb. 11:10, 13, 16). Abraham looked for the country that would come down from out of heaven (Heb. 11:14-16; Rev. 21:2).
This heavenly land is not and never will be literal real estate. It is the heavenly Tabernacle of God (Rev. 21:3). When Paul said that Abraham would inherit “the world” in Romans 4:13, he was not saying that Abraham would be given the deed to all the land on planet Earth. Paul was speaking of people, specifically, Jew and Gentile believers in all nations (Rom. 4:11-12, 16-17).
Abraham himself has indeed already inherited the land, along with his descendants. He inherited the land in AD 70. That is when the fleshly, unbelieving owners of the earthly real estate of shadow were cast out of the kingdom, and when Abraham and his true descendants inherited the heavenly Land of promise:
“[M]any shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
But the children of the kingdom [the unbelieving Jews] shall be cast out into outer darkness [in AD 70]: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:11-12; cf. Gal. 4:22-31).
Philippians 3:21 says that Christ will conform our vile body to His glorious body. This does not fit a “collective body” interpretation. The verse doesn’t merely say that Christ will change our body so that it becomes a new kind of body (an old collective body transformed into a better collective body); it says that He will conform our body to His already existing body. So this verse must be talking about our physical, individual bodies being transformed so that they are conformed to (made like) Christ’s literal, individual, flesh and bone body.
We agree that the conforming of the “body” to Christ’s “body” in Philippians 3:21 cannot be merely a transformation of the Old Testament “collective body” into the New Testament “collective body.” However, that does not mean that the verse must therefore be a reference to a transformation of the physical aspect of believers into the “glorified physical aspect” of Christ. As mentioned earlier in this book, the “body” in resurrection-ofthe-dead contexts is not merely a “collective.” Let’s look at the immediate context of Philippians 3:21 (Phil. 3:2-21):
The unbelieving, old covenant Jews were the “concision” (mutilation). They put their confidence and trust in “the flesh.” They were Christ’s “enemies.” They were minding “earthly things.” They claimed that they were the circumcision (the true people of God, the true Jews), but Paul said that believers are “the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit” (Phil. 3:2-3, 18-19).
The things of “the flesh” / “the earthly things” in Philippians 3:3, 19 were the things of the old covenant world: Physical circumcision, physical lineage, self-righteousness through law, and spiritual corruption (Phil. 3:2, 19; Rom. 5:20). Paul forsook those fleshly/earthly things. In the resulting persecutions that he suffered at the hands of the Jews, he was sharing in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ, and was being “made conformable unto His death” (Phil. 3:10).
Suffering with Christ and death with Christ in Philippians 3:10 correspond to “the body of our humiliation” in verse 21. “The body of our humiliation” was that which believers were putting to death through their dying with Christ. The dying, “vile” body consisted of the “earthly,” “fleshly” things of the Adamic/Mosaic world of Sin and Death (Col. 2:20). It was “the old man,” and his sinful deeds, which was being put to death through the indwelling Spirit of God (Rom. 6:6; 8:10, 13; Col. 3:5).
The earthly “body of our humiliation” in Philippians 3:19-21 also corresponds to the earthly, bodily “members” that believers were putting to death (mortifying) in Colossians 3:5. Those body parts/members were not arms and legs. They were sins. Sin and Death are what defined the “body” of God’s people in the law-world of Adam and Moses.
In the consummation of the eschatological work of the indwelling Spirit in AD 70, Christ threw down the world of Law-Sin-Death, and thus annulled/destroyed the body of Sin and Death. That is when He transformed the body of His people (their sinful, Adamic/Mosaic “mode of life”; the old man) and conformed it to “the body of His glory,” which is the heavenly tabernacle of divine Life and Righteousness that is received through faith in Christ’s blood (2 Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 3:89). The glorious “spiritual body” of the Resurrection is Christ Himself, the new Man, into whose image God’s people, living and dead, were transformed, and with whom they are clothed, and by whom they are indwelt, world without end.
Believers in the time of Paul expected all of this to happen in their generation, in the last days of the old covenant world (Phil. 4:5); and they did not expect it to happen in a literal/physical sense. This is why Paul thrice explained to the Philippians that he had not already attained to the resurrection of the dead (Phil. 3:12-13) –a fact that would have been self-evident if he and his readers were expecting a Resurrection of the Flesh (cf. 2 Thess. 2:2, YLT; 2 Tim. 2:18).