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IS JESUS STILL IN A PHYSICAL BODY POST AD 30? IF JESUS DIDN’T COME BACK LITERALLY AND THERE WAS NO LITERAL RESURRECTION IN AD 70 DOES THAT MEAN FULL PRETERISM IS FALSE? CAN SOULS BE RAISED? ARE DEAD CHRISTIANS “SUB-HUMAN” WITHOUT THEIR PHYSICAL BODIES? IF SO WAS JESUS “SUB-HUMAN” FOR THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS?

By:  Michael J. Sullivan & David A. Green

In the second edition of our book, “House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology…” we thoroughly responded to Futurist critics that have attempted to refute Full Preterism with such objections as these:

  • Jesus’s Second Coming couldn’t have occurred in AD 70, because He didn’t literally or bodily return at that time.
  • Souls cannot be raised or resurrected according to Scripture.
  • Since Jesus was raised in a literal body (which Full Preterists agree) and will forever have a physical body (which Full Preterists do not agree – being a Futurist assumption), this disproves that the resurrection of the dead took place in AD 70 as well.

This has created bizarre futurist doctrines, contradictions among their theologians and disturbing Christological implications for Futurism such as:

  • People when they die are “sub-humans” or not fully human until they are raised into a physical body at the end of time.  Which would have to infer and teach that Jesus Himself was “sub-human” or not “fully human” for three days.
  • Death is some kind of an illusion or it only “appears” that the body and soul are separated at death – which Docetism not Christianity.

As David Green writes,

“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.” (HD, 244).

We deal with these objections and discuss these issues on the following pages:  102-109 (dealing with Acts 1:9-11), 153-154 (dealing with Revelation 1:6-13), 188-193 (dealing with the objection that souls allegedly can’t be raised), 242-245 (dealing with 1 John 4:3 and the alleged “illusion of death” Docetism doctrine).  I will simply quote excerpts from our book chronologically in page order.

In Like Manner Acts 1:9-11 (HD, pp. 102-109)

By Michael J. Sullivan

Like Manner 

Mathison argues: Jesus ascended visibly and bodily. Then He vanished from sight in a cloud (Acts 1:9). Acts 1:11 says that He will return in the same manner that He departed. This has not happened yet (184–188, 204). Therefore, Acts 1:11 is not yet fulfilled.

Response: 

After speaking to His apostles about the kingdom over a period of forty days, Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem and to wait for the fulfillment of the Father’s promise of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus said would take place “not many days from now.” This prompted the disciples to ask Him in verse six about the timing of the kingdom’s arrival. “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus did not give them a day or hour, but He reminded them in verse eight of the sign of the Great Commission which had to be accomplished before He would restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:8; Matt. 24:3, 14). Mathison, ignoring the immediate context, states:

The first thing that must be observed when we examine this account is that no reference to time is connected with the prediction of the return of Christ. (185)

However, in another book Mathison #2 admits:

The time frame 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.”[1]

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. Mathison’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. It is a position he is forced to take because of his flawed, partial preterist framework—like his doctrines of two “last days” in the New Testament, and of two future “comings” of Christ in the New Testament, and of his divided sections separated by 2000+ years in Matthew 24 and in Matthew 16:27–28 and in other Scriptures.

Mathison breaks again from the majority of Reformed, Evangelical, and preterist theologians, who see one Great Commission in the Gospels and in the book of Acts, instead of two. Mathison’s dichotomizing approach to the Great Commission does not merit a serious rebuttal and can be rejected out of hand.

Since the Second Coming is fulfilled after the Great Commission, and since there is only one Great Commission, and since the Great Commission was fulfilled in Christ’s generation, it follows that the Second Coming was fulfilled in those days as well. The gospel was preached to the world; “then” the end came (Matt. 24:14). The following chart proves that the Great Commission was fulfilled in the first century.

Prophecy

Fulfillment

“And this gospel of the kingdom   shall bepreached in all the world [Greek   ikumene] for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt.   24:14) “But I say, have they not heard?   Yes indeed:‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the   ends of the world.’” [Greek   oikumene] (Rom. 10:18)
“And the gospel must first be   published among all nations.” [Greek ethnos] “And Jesus came and spoke to them,   saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go   therefore and make disciples of all the nations.’” [Greek ethnos] “‘.   . . I have commanded you;and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the   age.’ Amen.” (Mark 13:10; Matt. 28:19-20) “…My gospel… has been made   manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations.   . . .” [Greek ethnos] (Rom.16:25-26)
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all   the world  [Greek   kosmos] and preach the gospel to every creature” “. . . And these signs   shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils;they   shall speak with new tongues.” [Greek glossa] (Mark 16:15, 17) “…of the gospel, which has come to   you, as ithas also in all the world [Greek   kosmos], as is bringing forth fruit. . . .” (Col. 1:5-6)
“And he said unto them ‘Go into   all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’” [Greek kitisis] (Mark 16:15) “ . . . from the gospel which you   heard, which was preached to every creature [Greek kitisis] under heaven, of which I, Paul became a   minister.”(Col. 1:23)
“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.”   [Greek ge] (Acts 1:8) “But I say, have they not heard?   Yes indeed:‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth/land [Greek ge], and their words to the ends of the world.’”   (Rom. 10:18)
Prophecy had begun to be   fulfilled: “Andthey were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to   speak with other tongues [Greek glossa], as the Spirit gave them   utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every   nation [Greek ethnos] under heaven. (Acts 2:4-5) Prophecy would be fulfilled   “shortly”: “AndI saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the   everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth/land [Greek   ge], and to every nation [Greek ethnos], and kindred [Greek   phile] and tongue [Greek glossa], and people.” [Greek laos]   (Rev. 1:1; 14:6; cf. 10:6-7)  Satan was bound so that the Great   Commission to the nations would be accomplished during the millennium (Rev.   20:3).

Therefore, I have proven that the in-like-manner Second Coming of Christ was also fulfilled in the first century.

After commanding His disciples to take possession of the kingdom through the Great Commission, Jesus ascended in a cloud, hidden from the disciples’ sight (Acts 1:9). Mathison insists 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 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. 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).

Mathison errs when he says 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.”[2]  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.

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).[3]

 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).[4]

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.

Partial Preterist Milton Terry, in contrast, took a lucid, biblical approach, seeing Matthew 24:30–31, 34; Acts 1:11; and Revelation 1:7 as all being fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem in the end of the 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 same subject 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.[5]

As Mathison admits in one book but denies in another, the immediate context links Christ’s in-like-manner return to the fulfillment of the Great Commission (v. 8; Matt. 24:14, 27, 30; Rom. 10:18). The Great Commission was fulfilled in Christ’s generation. 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”[6] that Christ returned on/in a cloud/clouds in that generation.

“Honey, I Shrunk the Angels” (HD, pp. 153-154)

By Michael J. Sullivan

Kistemaker argues that Jesus’ physical resurrection body is eternal and that it now literally “sits on God’s throne” (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. . . ”

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.”[7]

Can Souls Be Raised?  (HD, pp. 188-193)[8]

By David A. Green   

Strimple Argument #11: We know that the resurrection of the dead will be physical because there is no such thing as a non-physical resurrection of a physically dead person (296-297, 299-300, 326).

Answer: The short answer to this argument is that the Bible does not teach that there is no such thing as a non-physical resurrection of a physically dead person. Regeneration is a non-physical resurrection, and nowhere does the Bible exclude the old covenant dead from that resurrection. Jesus in fact referred to the resurrection of the dead as “the regeneration” or rebirth (Matt. 19:28), and the Scriptures elsewhere imply that the physically dead saints were “born” out of Death and Hades.  (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15, 18; Rev. 1:5; see answer to Strimple Argument #6 above.)

Now the long answer: This answer is lengthy because Strimple’s argument above opens up a futurist “can of worms.” I ask the reader to bear with me as I navigate through a tangled web of futurist reasoning.

Strimple agrees with preterists that “resurrection” (the word and the concept) can be used as imagery and metaphor, such as when Israel was promised a “resurrection” to its land in Ezekiel 37:1-4. But, says Strimple on page 326 (quoting Raymond E. Brown), when it comes to physically dead people, there is “no other kind of resurrection” than a physical resurrection. On page 296, Strimple quotes Murray Harris as saying, “No one could be said to be resurrected while his corpse lay in a tomb.” And on page 297, Strimple says that the use of the modifier “bodily” in the term “bodily resurrection” is redundant, because a physically dead person can only be raised physically/bodily.

Additionally, on pages 299 and 300, Strimple argues that the Greek word for “resurrection” (“anastasis,” literally, “standing up” or “standing again”), when used in reference to physically dead people, always meant to first-century Jews and Greeks alike, the resurrection of the physical aspect of man in contrast to the soul. Strimple supports this claim by quoting Tertullian, who said that anastasis cannot refer to the soul because only the physical part of man can fall down, lie down, sleep, and “stand up.”

Now that we have established Strimple’s teaching on the anastasis/resurrection of physically dead people in WSTTB let us confer with Strimple’s refutation of premillennialism in the book, Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (TVMB). In that book, Strimple actually teaches that anastasis (“standing up,” resurrection) in Revelation 20:4 refers to a non-physical soul-resurrection of physically dead people.

He defines the “resurrection” in that Scripture as the ushering in of the disembodied (non-physical) “soul” of a believer upon biological death into the presence of Christ to reign with Him. Strimple even goes so far in that book as to say that physical death for the believer today is “in truth a [non-bodily] resurrection into the very presence of the Savior in heaven” (Emphasis added) (TVMB, 125-127, 261-262, 276).

If this were not confusing enough, on pages 319–320 and 337 of WSTTB Strimple says (quoting John Murray and Murdoch Dahl) that dead believers today—even though they have been resurrected “into the very presence of the Savior in heaven”—are actually experiencing punishment and “condemnation” under the curse of “sin,” “death,” and “corruption.” He says that our departed loved ones are actually in a state of soul-and-body death (“psycho-physical death,” as Strimple calls it). He says they are actually in a “dreadful” state (319). Quoting Rudolf Bultmann, he teaches that they are even in a state of “horror,” and that Jesus Himself was in the same horrific state before He was raised from the dead (320).[8]

Finally, Strimple adds that our departed brothers and sisters who are with Christ today are non-human, i.e., non-man. They are no longer of the same human nature as Christ, and will remain sub-humans until they are resurrected at the end of human history. (More on this below) So we see that when Strimple is refuting premillennialists, he portrays the Bible as teaching a present-day, non-physical resurrection of physically dead believers into the very presence of the Savior in heaven where they are reigning with Him. But when Strimple is refuting preterists, he portrays the Bible as teaching strictly and only a physical resurrection of physically dead saints, and he says that disembodied saints today are in a state of punishment where they are longing for the day when they will no longer be sin-cursed, condemned, sub-human, and in a dreadful state of horror.[9]

In 1993, in a paper he presented in Mt. Dora, Florida, Strimple suggested that physically dead persons cannot experience a non-physical resurrection. Then in 1999, in TVMB, Strimple taught that physically dead persons do experience a non-physical resurrection. Then in 2004, in WSTTB, Strimple reverted to teaching that physically dead persons cannot experience a non-physical resurrection. It seems that some of Strimple’s central theological convictions come and go roughly every six years, depending on who he is refuting.

The incredible tension between Strimple’s positions here is not “paradox.”  It is not an expression of “already but not yet.” Strimple’s views are none other than the consummate example of radical contradiction.

Throughout his chapter Strimple makes much of the fact that preterists disagree with other preterists. Yet as we have seen in this book, futurists such as Keith Mathison and Robert Strimple not only disagree with other futurists, they disagree with their own faith-convictions.

In view of the fact that some of the authors of WSTTB have made their own interpretations of Scripture a proverbial “nose of wax” that can be reshaped for the sake of expedience (304), we can begin to see why it is appropriate that their book was called a “reformed” response.  Nevertheless, Strimple deems himself a worthy judge to call into question the doctrinal “credibility” of preterists (300, 335-336).

To be fair, Strimple and Mathison are not the only ones guilty of wild self-contradiction. The guilt belongs to the futurist camp as a whole. At funeral services, departed believers are said to be in the highest Heaven beholding the face of the Lord. But in seminary classrooms, departed believers are said to be in Hades waiting for the Last Day at the end of human history, when Hades will be cast into the Lake of Fire and believers will finally be able to behold the face of the Lord (Rev. 22:4).

As far as we know, a human soul cannot be in two different places, or in two contradictory states of being, at the same time. So where do the dead in Christ today reside? Is it in Hades or in the highest Heaven?

Strimple is an amillennialist. Although the anti-premillennial Strimple (who says that Revelation 20 teaches a spiritual resurrection of physically dead people) roundly contradicts the anti-preterist Strimple (who says that physically dead people cannot be spiritually resurrected), most of Strimple’s amillennialist brethren disagree with both Strimples. They define “anastasis” in Revelation 20:4 as regeneration; that is, not a soul-resurrection at physical death, but a here-and now spiritual birth through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Paul agrees with amillennialists that Holy Spirit rebirth, received at the moment of faith in Christ’s sin-atoning blood, was “the first resurrection” with Christ:

. . . hath quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ. (Eph. 2:5)

. . . you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God. . . . (Col. 2:12)

And you . . . hath he quickened [made alive] together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses. (Col. 2:13)

If ye then be risen with Christ . . . . (Col. 3:1)

But ye are come unto . . . the . . . church of the firstborn. . . . (Heb. 12:22-23)

And because Holy Spirit regeneration was the first resurrection with Christ” (Eph. 2:5; Rev. 20:4-6), it irresistibly follows that Christ was the beginning and “First Fruit” of that spiritual resurrection (334).

Strimple rightly concedes on page 334 of WSTTB that the resurrection of Christ was “the beginning” of the resurrection of the dead.

Apparently though, according to Strimple, Christ’s resurrection was “the beginning” of a harvest that was interrupted as soon as it began and which will not be restarted until thousands of years after its beginning, even though the “first fruits” (beginning) invariably signals not merely the nearness but the commencement of the harvest.

Though Christ our Forerunner was eternally begotten of God and eternally God’s Son, He was the first to be “born” or “begotten” of God when He was raised from the dead and given all authority to reign as High Priest unto God (Acts 13:33; Heb. 5:5). He was, for our sakes, “born” out of Adamic Death (the condemnation and alienation from God He endured on the Cross) and Hades into the Presence of the Father.

For this reason, the Son is called:

The “firstborn” among many brethren (Rom. 8:29)

The “firstborn” of every creature (Col. 1:15)

The “firstborn” from the dead (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5)

Thus, the rebirth of the Hadean (Old Testament) saints in Christ with the body-of-Christ church in AD 70 was the regeneration of “all things,” i.e., of the universal body of the saints:

Your dead men shall live; together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall give birth to the dead. (Isa. 26:19)

. . . in the Regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matt. 19:28)

Before we move on to Strimple’s next argument, let us briefly examine Strimple’s teaching that a man without his physical body is no longer a man:

Strimple teaches the non-humanity of the dead on page 337 (through a reference to Rudolf Bultmann and through a correction of Robert Gundry). According to Strimple, one of the reasons that Paul defended the resurrection of the body is because a departed believer is actually a non-human until he or she is physically resurrected.

R. C. Sproul Jr. makes the same mistake in his Foreword to WSTTB where he implies that his daughter will be an incomplete “ethereal creature” between the time of her death and the time of Christ’s Second Coming —a span of time that according to Sproul Jr.’s view could theoretically last a million years or more. It should go without saying that it is an unbiblical thing to believe that our loved ones in Christ will suffer “the ravages of . . . sin” (as R. C. Sproul Jr. puts it) potentially for aeons after the time of their death (ix). But this is the sad, logical necessity of futurism. If our departed loved ones already have perfect and complete sinless blessedness today before the face of God, then there is no scriptural justification for a yet-future resurrection of the dead.

In contrast to Rudolf Bultmann and Strimple, the Bible nowhere suggests, implies, or otherwise hints that those who die become nonhumans until they are resurrected. The resurrection of the dead is never characterized in Scripture as the restoration of former humans back to their lost humanity. Jesus made reference to a man in Hades (Lk. 16:22-23), and Paul spoke of the possibility that a “man” was caught up “out of the body” (2 Cor. 12:2). (He would not cease to be a man outside of his body.) In both of these instances, the “man” was the non-physical spirit/soul of the man. Additionally, if we are to say that a departed saint is a sub-human because he is without his physical body, then we must also say that Jesus Himself was a sub-human for the three days and three nights that elapsed between His death and resurrection, because He did not have his physical body at that time. We could also say, by the same line of reasoning, that unborn babies and people with missing limbs are not 100% humans because they also are not “complete.”

Contrary to the ghastly horrors of logically consistent futurism, the departed spirit of the believer is fully human. Whether living in the flesh or living in the heavens after physical death, the believer today is complete in Christ. The departed believer in the new covenant world today is not a homeless, wraithlike phantom, like an exorcized demon.

He is not a “shade” (295). He is not a quivering, shapeless “mist” like some kind of escaped gas.  In stark contrast to such wildly extra-scriptural, futurist notions, the Bible teaches us that the saints in heaven today are “like the angels” (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25; Heb. 1:7; 12:22-23). And they are not “naked,” but they are “clothed” with the everlasting righteousness of Christ, the new Man (Rev. 6:9-11; 14:13; 15:6; 19:8, 14).

“Is Come in the Flesh” (HD, pp. 242-245)

“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).

Our response:

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.

Our response:

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.”

 

 


[1] Postmillennialism, 117 (emphasis added).

[2] From Age to Age, 459

[3] 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.” (See David Green’s response to Strimple Argument #11 in chapter seven of this book.)

[4] Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: 1999), 114

[5] Milton S. Terry, A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 246-247.

[6] Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutic (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1990), 468, n.1 (emphases added).

[7]  Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House, 2001; fourth printing 2007), 97.

[8] I (Michael Sullivan) did want to point out that we did document in our book that according to James B. Jordan a “Orthodox” “Reformed” Partial Preterist, Daniel’s soul was raised out of Abraham’s Bosom/Hades at Christ’s parousia in AD 70 to inherit “eternal life” and God’s presence according to Daniel 12:2 and Revelation 20.  See HD, 178.

[9]  Yet, oddly enough, Strimple dismisses “tales of the shadowy world of Hades and of Christ’s ‘harrowing of hell’ after his death” (293).

[10]  It is noteworthy that Jesus did not say to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in a paradise of condemnation, sin, death, corruption, punishment, curse, dread, and sub-human horror” as the anti-preterist Strimple would have it.

About Mike Sullivan

One comment

  1. i’m studying the multitude of views on eschatology and prophecy and have a question.
    Do any versions of preterism believe there will one day be a new earth of some sort where we will exist
    OR is it that after we die as believers we eternally live in a non substantial type heaven,
    or how would you explain it?
    Are there any articles explaining the preterist views on this? thanks , pam

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