Exposing and Refuting Sam’s Sloppy “Exegesis” of Matthew 16:27-28 Part 2:
Cherry-Picking John Calvin & “Verily I Say Unto You”
By Michael J. Sullivan
In part one of this refutation we examined Sam Frost’s inability to even cite or mention let alone interact at all with passages that reformed theologians (along with Full Preterists) consider parallel passages or same time eschatological events to Matthew 16:27 such as Matt. 13:39-43/Dan. 12:2-3; Matt. 24:30-31—25:31ff. Then these teachings of Christ on His Second Coming and judgment are then the foundation upon which the Apostle Paul develops them in 1 Thess. 4:15—5:11/1 Cor. 15:23-24, 51-52. Frost attempted to downplay these powerful parallel passages by not mentioning them and acting as if paralleling these as the same events were something unique to Full Preterism or Dispensational “Left Behind” hermeneutics. I of course pointed out how absurd and inaccurate this was. We also examined how Partial Preterists on a regular basis parallel their Preterist interpretation of Matthew 24-25 with other NT passages in order to refute Dispensationalism, but then fail to address the parallels between Matt. 24-25/1 Thess. 4:15—5:11 or say Matt. 25:31-46/Rev. 20:10-15.
We shall now turn our attention to other aspects of Sam’s article.
Step One: Harmony
Luke 9.26-27 states, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my saying, of him likewise will the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own majesty, and in the majesty of his Father, and of the holy angels. 27. And I say to you, There truly are some standing here who will not taste death, till they see the kingdom of God.”
Instead of “the son of man coming in his kingdom” we find, “the kingdom of God”. This may or may not have significance in terms of emphasis on the meaning of Matthew‘s “son of man coming in his kingdom”. We will consider the Greek text in a moment.
Mark 8.38-9.1 reads, “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him likewise will the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. 1. And he said to them, Verily, I say to you, There are some among those who stand here that will not taste death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.”
Here we have yet a third rendering, “kingdom of God come with power.” Is seeing the kingdom of God, have seen the kingdom of God come in power, and the son of man coming in his kingdom all equatable terms? If so, which one has the emphasis of meaning? That is, is “seeing the kingdom of God” the same as “the son of man coming in his kingdom”, where the emphasis is on kingdom instead of the the coming of the son of man? What is meant, then, by the coming of the son of man? That I am be frivilous here over the details is countered by eminent scholar, Krister Stendahl (Harvard), who asks, “But coming in what sense”?, in noting the variations here. We will note the Commentaries in a moment as well.
Well, yes there are parallel accounts to Matthew 16:27-28 in Mark and Luke with slight variations. This of course proves nothing. So let’s move on:
Step Two: The Greek Text
As with any thorough exegesis, we must consult the Greek text together with any differing manuscripts (copies) that have come down to us to the present time. In Mat we have an issue with “works” over the other consideration, “deeds”. Not really a gigantic problem. Mark has “with” instead of Luke‘s “and” in the phrase, “with the holy angels”/”and of the holy angels”. Again, not a large problem. The sense of the text is not lost once we can recover the sense, and it is here that the real problem occurs: the variations of the phrases, “son of man coming in his kingdom”, “see the kingdom of God” and “have seen the kingdom of God come with power”. I will consider other aspects of syntax in the Commentary section.
First Sam says there isn’t a problem then he claims there is. As in “Step One” there is nothing here even worth responding to. Sam goes on:
Step Three: Asking the Right Possible Questions
As with any exegesis, asking the right questions is key. With Stendahl has already asked one: “coming in what sense?” Secondly, although it is obvious (and everyone agrees) that whatever Jesus is speaking of here was to “come” within the time span of those “standing” there at the time of Jesus’ utterance (roughly 31-33 AD), the nature of this “coming” and “seeing” is what is targeted. Is this a single event? Would it be a series of events? Would it be an event with an inaugural consideration (that is, in Greek, ingressive). For example, Calvin commented: “By the coming of the kingdom of God we are to understand the manifestation of heavenly glory, which Christ began to make at his resurrection, and which he afterwards made more fully by sending the Holy Spirit, and by the performance of miracles; for by those beginnings he gave his people a taste of the newness of the heavenly life, when they perceived, by certain and undoubted proofs, that he was sitting at the right hand of the Father.” Taken all together, Calvin understood that these several events (resurrection, ascension, sending of the Spirit, miracles of the Apostles, et al) represents the ways in which the kingdom of God came with “power” – the coming of the son of man in his kingdom. In other words, AD 70 is not even in consideration here.
We must ask, though, more questions. What is meant by “rewarding each person according to his deeds”? Surely, contests the Hyper Preterist, this is an end time event? And, here, he would be able to appeal to a usual modern, Christian, cultural way of understanding this expression innundated with Left Behind popularizations. This assumes, however, that the cultural understanding is the biblical understanding, and we must always be careful not to reread our culture back into the texts. The Christian has normally heard (popularly) that the “rewards” of the saints that happens only once, only at one time: at the end of the world and the final judgment. This is supposedly supported by appealing to Revelation 20:11-15 where we find, indeed, “they were judged, each man, according to his works” (not quite the same phrase as “rewarded”). Then, on top of this, it is assumed that this event in Rev is the same event as spoken of here since, as I have already pointed out, the same language is used. But, to jump from Mat to Rev based on a string of words, then to say, they must be talking about the same thing is a logical leap with several steps missing! That’s what Hyper Pretersists do a lot: take huge hurdles.
However, it is a good question since it is raised within the popular understanding of “final judgement”. The Hyper Preterist wants you to think, then, that Jesus is unequivocally saying here: “some of you standing here before me will not die until the Final Judgement has happened!” But, is this the true (or only) sense of the passage? The fact that the Hyper Preterist is confident that it is does not make it true. The fact that he or she can even make some sort of exegetical case (based on popular understandings) that it is does not make it true. I can make a case for baptismal regeneration. It doesn’t make it true, says the Reformed, who can make a case for infant baptism. And so on.
First, as I pointed out in part 1 and in the introduction to this article our culture or “Left Behindism” has nothing to do with how the reformed historic Christian Church has connected Matt. 16:27 with the Second Coming and final judgment at the end of the age in Matt. 13:39-43/Dan. 12:1-3; Matt. 24:30-31—25:31-46; Rev. 20:10-15, 22:10-12. Sam is just not being honest here and his desperation is more than glaring. Even John Calvin whom Frost cherry-picks and appeals to in Matt. 16:28 (but not verse 27) makes these same kind of Full Preterist connections. Was Calvin guilty of being influenced by “Left Behind” eschatology and hermeneutics as Frost charges the Full Preterist? Per Frost he must have been influenced by a view that wasn’t even invented yet!
Secondly, Sam (nor Calvin whom he cherry picks on v. 28 and not on v. 27) deals with Jesus’ phrase, “Verily I say unto you” in the beginning of Matt. 16:28a. which He uses to connect and emphasize a subject already being discussed. In other words Christ in verse 28 is bringing home the point and teaching of v. 27 with an additional important and startling point – some of you will be alive to witness this very coming (that He just discussed in v. 27)! So exegetically, this statement connects the two comings as one, so whatever your understanding of Christ’s coming is in verse 27 is the proper understanding one should have in v. 28. Since the phrase connects the two comings as the same event, it is interesting that Sam doesn’t want to deal with this issue in connection with quoting Calvin on the “coming” in Matt. 16:28 while neglecting to address what he says of Christ’s coming in v. 27:
“…he shall appear as the judge of the world.”
For Calvin, this is the final Second Coming event. Interestingly enough Calvin also interprets Matthew 13:39-43/Dan. 12:2-3 in the same way:
“Then will the righteous shine. What a remarkable consolation! The sons of God, who now lie covered with dust, or are held in no estimation, or even are loaded with reproaches, will then shine in full brightness, as when the sky is serene, and every cloud has been dispelled. The adverb then (τοτε) is emphatic; for it contains an implied contrast between their present state and the ultimate restoration, by the expectation of which Christ animates those who believe in him. The meaning therefore is, Though many wicked men now hold a high rank in the Church, yet that blessed day is assuredly to be expected, when the Son of God shall raise his followers on high,…”
Calvin also takes the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 24:30-31 and 25:31 as the same coming as Matt. 16:27:
“…therefore he declares that he will appear openly at his last coming and, surrounded by the heavenly power,”
Of the “redemption” associated to this coming and gathering of the angels in Luke 21:27-28 Calvin writes,
It is therefore called here (as in #Ro 8:23) redemption; because we shall then obtain truly and perfectly the consequences of the deliverance obtained through Christ. Let our ears therefore be awake to the sound of the angel’s trumpet, which will then sound, not only to strike the reprobate with the dread of death, but to arouse the elect to a second life; that is, to call to the enjoyment of life those whom the Lord now quickens by the voice of his Gospel; for it is a sign of infidelity, to be afraid when the Son of God comes in person for our salvation.
Again, Sam is “cherry picking” Calvin and according to Frost Calvin is guilty of our “modern” “cultural” “Left Behindism” before it ever came into being since like the Full Preterist he takes these comings of Christ as His Second Coming or the judgment/resurrection event to close the age.
Perhaps Sam does not want to challenge that “Verily I say unto you” is linking the two comings in vss. 27-28 as the same event(s)? It seems to me that he wants to consistently interpret the coming of Christ in vss. 27-28 as the same coming and yet different at the same time throwing everything at the passage hoping something will stick: 1) Jesus allegedly comes (?) in judgment(?) on the clouds(?) with angels(?) in the resurrection event(?), 2) Jesus allegedly comes/goes(?) in judgment(?) on the clouds(?) with the angels(?) in the ascension(?), 3) Jesus allegedly comes(?) in judgment(?) on the clouds(?) with angels(?) at Pentecost. Where in the depictions of Jesus’ resurrection, ascension, or Pentecost do we see Jesus described as coming on the clouds with angels to judge and reward all men? Desperate men make desperate “arguments.”
Thirdly, Sam claims, Full Preterists “…jump from Mat to Rev based on a string of words, then to say, they must be talking about the same thing is a logical leap with several steps missing!” Actually, I don’t do this in our book or my online article in covering Matt. 16:27-28. I develop my exegesis within Matthew’s gospel and in Jesus’ teachings first before going to Revelation. But as we will see , Sam no less “jumps from Matthew 16:27-28 to Revelation 5” hoping to develop Christ coming in his ascension theory, instead of where everyone else goes when they get to the book – Revelation 20:11-15 or 22:10-12. But we will cover Sam’s desperation in Revelation 5 shortly.
As the reader can see in Frost’s article he cherry-picks John Calvin on the “coming” of Christ in Matt. 16:28 – leaving out his view of the coming of the Son of Man in Matt. 16:27; Matt. 24:30-1/Luke 21:27-28. Calvin nor Frost deals with the exegetical argument of the Full Preterist that Jesus’ phrase of “Verily I say unto you” links the same subject matter of v. 27 with v. 28. In other words the “about to” coming of the Son of Man in v. 27 is the same coming of Christ in v. 28 which would take place within some of the disciples lifetimes.
In part 3 we will examine Frost’s theory that the coming of the Son of Man in both Matt. 16:27-28 was fulfilled at the ascension “coming” in AD 30 – giving specific attention to Revelation 5 which is where Frost’s article leads his readers. According to Sam’s theory, this is apparently when Christ took the scroll and began opening the seals judging and rewarding all men. However, Christ taking the scroll and opening the seals is not AD 30, but rather a depiction of Christ coming in judgment – pointing the reader to His imminent Second Coming when He begins opening the seals judging and rewarding from roughly AD 66 – 70 (cf. Rev. 22:6-7, 10-12).