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House Divided Chapter Four The NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan Part 5 Prophetic Telescoping Two Different Comings in Matthew 24-25?

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

 

Chapter Four

The Eschatological Madness of Mathison or How Can These Things Be? 

Part 5 – Prophetic Telescoping Two Comings in Matthew 24-25?

Michael J. Sullivan

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 author of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing
or Michael J. Sullivan), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
articles or reviews.

 

Prophetic Telescoping

 

On pages 167 and 180, Mathison presents the following argument:

Daniel 11:21–12:1 is one continuous prophecy. Verses 21–35 describe

the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes. The next verses, 11:36–12:1, describe

events that are unrelated to Antiochus Epiphanes. Yet there is no indication

of a subject change in the prophecy. Daniel thus prophesied events

that would be separated in time but he did not give any indication that

the two groups of events were to be so separated. It is possible that we

see similar “telescoping” in the Olivet Discourse. It could be that “Jesus

utilized the prophetic technique of telescoping two distant events into

one prophecy without much contextual indication of a change in subject.”

Matthew 24:34 could be a transitional verse. It could be that everything

before verse 35 occurred in Jesus’ generation (the great tribulation

and the destruction of Jerusalem) and that everything after verse 34

is yet to be fulfilled (the Second Coming and Last Judgment).


Response:

 

According to the two-section theory of interpreting the Olivet Discourse,

the coming of false christs and the revealing of the Son of Man as “in the

days of Noah” are two events that will take place at the end of world history

(in section two of the Olivet Discourse: Matt. 24:37–39). But this

causes a problem. Luke relates the events of the Olivet Discourse in a

slightly different order than Matthew, and he puts those two supposedly

end-of-world-history events in between the coming of the Son of Man “as

the lightning” (Lk. 17:24) and the fleeing of people from their housetops

and fields (Lk. 17:31). But those events are in the alleged “first section”

of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:17–19, 24). Luke thus has two “second section”

events (allegedly in the end of world history) sandwiched between

two “first-section” events that were fulfilled in the first century.

Luke was not aware of the theory of a “telescoped” Olivet Discourse.

We see this problem present itself again when Jesus prophesies that

one would be taken and one would be left. According to the two-section

theory, that event will take place at the end of world history (in section

two of the Olivet Discourse: Matt. 24:40–41). But Luke puts that event in

between the fleeing of people from their housetops and fields (Lk. 17:31)

and the vultures gathering at the corpse (Lk. 17:37). But those events are

in the alleged “first section” of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:17–18, 28)

and were fulfilled in the first century. Thus Luke again has a “second section”

event (allegedly in the end of world history) sandwiched between

two “first-section” events that were fulfilled in the first century.

 

According to the two-section theory, Luke 17:23–37 reads like this:

 

Lk. 17:23–24 (false christs; Son of Man as lightning in His day) AD 70

Lk. 17:26–30 (the days of Son of Man as the days of Noah) End of world history

Lk. 17:31–33 (people fleeing from housetops and fields) AD 70

Lk. 17:34–36 (one taken, one left) End of world history

Lk. 17:37 (vultures gathered at the corpse) AD 70

 

The absurdity that results in exegetically “ping-ponging” through

this text is most pronounced in the last four verses. In verses 34–36, Jesus

supposedly tells His disciples that at the end of world history, some

people will be “taken,” i.e., literally raptured into the clouds (Lk. 17:34–

36).[1] Then in verse 37, the disciples ask Him, “Where, Lord?” That

is, “Where will those people be taken?” According to the two-section

theory, Jesus answered His disciples’ question about the Rapture at the

end of world history by telling them about the corpses of Jews becoming

the food of vultures in AD 70.[2]

 

But, if it can be believed, the confusion deepens further still. In

his book, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope, Mathison actually

implies that Luke 17:20–37 was all fulfilled in AD 70. His argument in

that book is that we can know that Jesus was probably speaking of the

destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 18:7–8 partly because “in the preceding

chapter (Luke 17:20–37), he speaks of the coming destruction of

Jerusalem in A.D. 70.”[3]

 

Based on his argument in Postmillennialism, Mathison has it that

when Jesus prophesied that the judgment in the days of the Son of Man

would be as the judgment in the days of Noah, and when He prophesied

that some would be taken and others left, Jesus meant those prophecies

to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 17 and simultaneously

meant them to refer to the end of world history in Matthew 24. Yet

Mathison says he believes that Matthew 24 and Luke 17 contain the

same subject matter (WSTTB, 176). How can these things be?

 

Mathison’s many contradictory exegeses result in mind-boggling

conundrums. But the word of God on this matter is clear enough.

Luke, in Luke 17:22–37, mixes the events of Matthew 24:17–28 (first

section) with the events of Matthew 24:37–41 (second section). In so

doing, Luke unifies Matthew 24:17–41, confirming it to be one prophecy

that would be fulfilled in one set of events in one generation. In

contrast, “two-section” theorists violently break the prophecy in pieces

to conform it to the futurist paradigm. There is no question that this

theory is unworkable and that Luke saw no “telescoping” in the Olivet

Discourse. Selah.

 

As a matter of fact, in Mathison’s latest book, From Age to Age, he

abandons his two-section view of the Olivet Discourse, finally conceding

that the prophecy was fulfilled in the first century. He is also more

consistent in that book in his preterist interpretation of “the coming

of the Son of Man.” He now sees every reference to the coming of the

Son of Man as referring to Christ’s Ascension/Coming in AD 70. This

includes Matthew 25:31—the prophecy of the sheep and goats. Not one

church father interpreted Matthew 25:31 as having been fulfilled in the

first century. But Mathison does.

 

Mathison disagrees with the unified testimony of the universal

church. How then can he continue to anathematize us for disagreeing

with the unified testimony of the universal church?[4] Furthermore,

Mathison is out of step with the church fathers, and with the Reformed

community, and with “hyper preterists,” all of whom “stand shoulder

to shoulder” in opposition to him on this point. We all agree with the

church fathers that the promises of the coming of the Son of Man refer

to Christ’s Second Coming, and that we cannot separate the coming of

the Son of Man from 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15.



[1] Though Mathison implies that this prophecy will be fulfilled at the

end of world history, he is silent in all of his books as to its meaning. We can

only surmise that he believes it refers to the futurist “Rapture.”

[2] “Jesus’ reference to the vultures in [Matt. 24:28] refers to Jeremiah

7:33. Again He is using Old Testament judgment imagery.” Keith A. Mathison,

Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R

Publishing, 1995), 142

[3] Postmillennialism (213)

[4] Postmillennialism, 117 (emphasis added)

 

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