House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 6 John 5:28-29

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Seven
The Resurrection of the Dead
 
Part 6 John 5:28-29
 
David A. Green
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 David A. Green), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Strimple Argument #6: John 5:28-29 obviously teaches a physical
resurrection of the dead in that it speaks of a time in which “all who are
in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good
to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection
of judgment” (297).
 
Answer: In order to understand John 5:28 and 29, we must first look
three verses above it, in John 5:25, where Jesus said that the hour “now is
when “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear
shall live.” As most Reformed interpreters agree, Jesus in that verse was
referring to the preaching of His death and resurrection. The preaching
of that message commenced at Pentecost. “The dead” were physically
living people who were spiritually dead in sin, and “the voice of the Son of
God” was the gospel. Having heard the gospel, those who were spiritually
dead” were spiritually resurrected. They lived in that they received eternal
life through faith in the gospel (“the voice of the Son of God”).
 
Then, in verses 28 and 29, Jesus expanded His teaching on the resurrection
to include those who were not only spiritually dead, but who were
also physically dead. He did not call them “dead” (as He had already called
the living who were spiritually dead), but He referred to them through another
figure of speech as “all who are in the graves.” They were not literally
in their graves or tombs, of course, but were in Hades/Sheol.
 
What is often missed in this passage is that, like the physically living
in verse 25, the physically dead in verse 28 were also going to live
by means of hearing Christ’s “voice.” As we know from verse 25, that
voice” is the gospel. The physically dead therefore were going to hear
the gospel (cf. 1 Pet. 4:6.) and were, as a result of hearing the gospel,
going to be resurrected (regenerated, born from out of death and Hades).
This means that the physically dead were, like the physically living,
spiritually dead. And this inescapably means that both the physically
living and the physically dead were going to be spiritually resurrected
by means of the gospel-voice of the Son of God. One resurrection in
two main stages: First, the last days saints; then, the Old Testament
dead (“the rest of the dead” in Revelation 20:5).
 
After hearing the gospel, the dead were raised out of their Adamic
graves (Hades) in the end of the age. And those among them who believed
the gospel received eternal life in the kingdom of God. But those
who hated the gospel (those who had done evil) were raised out of Hades
only to stand before God and to enter into “eternal punishment” /
the second death” (Matt. 25:46; John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:14).

House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 5 Daniel 12:1-3

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Seven
The Resurrection of the Dead
Part 5 Daniel 12:1-3
 
David A. Green
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 David A. Green), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Strimple Argument #5: Daniel 12:1-3 says that “many of those who
sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to
shame and everlasting contempt.” This is obviously referring to a physical
resurrection of the dead. Additionally, God tells us that this prophecy
is to be fulfilled in “the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4), which is the end
of human history (295).
 
Answer: Daniel’s prediction of the resurrection of the dead begins
with these words: “And at that time . . . ” “That time” refers back to the
end of chapter 11. Philip Mauro in his book, The Seventy Weeks and
the Great Tribulation, argues convincingly that Daniel 11 ends with a
prophecy of Herod the Great.[1]
 
Herod, the first enemy of the incarnate Christ, died very shortly
after Christ was born. It was “at that time” that Christ (“Michael,” “the
Chief Messenger”) stood up for the saints. It was at that time that Christ
came into the world for His people and took on the body of sacrifice
that the Father had prepared for Him (Dan. 12:1; Heb. 10:5-7; Ps. 40:6;
cf. Rev. 12:7).
 
It was the “stand” for the elect that Christ made in His Incarnation
that led to the “war in heaven” (Matt. 11:12; Rev. 12:7), which in turn
led to fleshly Israel being overtaken in the death-throes of the Great
Tribulation (Dan. 12:1). Jesus promised that that time of distress was
going to take place within His own generation, and that it would be consummated
in the destruction of the city and the sanctuary (Dan. 9:26;
12:1; Matt. 24:1-2, 21, 34). That event took place in August-September
of AD 70.
 
According to the angel who spoke to Daniel, it was at that time that
the power of the holy people would be shattered (Dan. 12:7), that the
church would be delivered (Dan. 12:1), that the resurrection of the dead
would take place, and that the righteous would inherit the kingdom
(Dan. 12:2). Jesus, in harmony with Daniel, promised that the kingdom
would be taken from the wicked and given to the righteous in the lifetime
of the chief priests and Pharisees (Mat. 21:43-45). Therefore, “the
time of the end” (not “the end of time,” as it is sometimes mistranslated)
in Daniel 12:4, 9 was not the end of human history; it was the end of
redemptive history in Christ’s generation.
 
It was in AD 70, therefore, that many who slept in “the earth’s dust
awoke. To “sleep in dust” is a figure of speech. The dead were not literally
sleeping, nor were they literally in the dust. They were “in dust
only insofar as, in their death, they had not ascended into God’s presence
in Christ. In terms of the righteousness and life of God, they were
earth-bound. From a literal standpoint, they were in Sheol/Hades (the
abode of the Adamic dead), and it was from out of Sheol that they were
raised to stand before the heavenly throne of God (Dan. 12:1-2).
Futurist James Jordan writes regarding Daniel 12:13:
 
What Daniel is promised is that after his rest in Abraham’s bosom,
he will stand up with all God’s saints and join Michael on
a throne in heaven, as described in Revelation 20, an event that
came after the Great Tribulation and in the year AD 70.[2]
 
Regarding the word “many” in Daniel 12:2: The word is not used
in contrast to “all” (as “the many” is used to limit the term “all men” in
Rom. 5:12, 15, 18-19) or in contrast to “a few.” The angel simply referred
to a large number of people; to multitudes (NIV). No inference can be
made from the context as to whether “many” referred to all or to only
a portion of the dead. Only subsequent scriptures revealed that the
many” in Daniel 12:2 referred whole company of all the dead
from Adam to the Last Day.



[1] Philip Mauro, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation (Swengel,
PA: Reiner Publications [now Grace Abounding Ministries]), 135-162.
[2] James B. Jordan, The Handwriting on the Wall: A Commentary on the
Book of Daniel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Inc., 2007), 628. (Emphases
added)
 

House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 4 Acts 23:6 Paul's Agreement With the Pharisees On a Coming Resurrection

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Seven
The Resurrection of the Dead
Part 4 Acts 23:6 Paul’s Agreement With the Pharisees on a Coming Resurrection

David A. Green
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 David A. Green), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.


Strimple Argument #4: In Acts 23:6, Paul aligned himself with the
Pharisees regarding the resurrection of the dead. This indicates that Paul
believed with the Pharisees in a physical resurrection of the dead (296).
 
Answer: I am not aware of any evidence that the Pharisees would
have rejected a man from their party if he believed in a non-physical
resurrection of the dead. For all we know, a certain percentage of the
Pharisees (including Saul/Paul) believed in a non-physical resurrection
of the dead.
 
But even if there is evidence that belief in a non-physical resurrection
of the dead disqualified a man from being a Pharisee, the issue in
Acts 23:6-8 was not the nature of the resurrection of the dead. It was
the existence of the resurrection of the dead vs. the non-existence of the
resurrection of the dead. As we know, The Sadducees were denying that
there was any afterlife, while Paul and the Pharisees agreed that there was
an afterlife, and an imminent resurrection of the dead. Other issues connected
with the resurrection of the dead were not under consideration.
 
It has been argued by some that Paul would have had to have agreed
with every major doctrine the Pharisees taught about the resurrection
of the dead. It is argued that if he didn’t, then it would have been deceptive
for him to call himself a Pharisee in regard to the resurrection of
the dead.
 
But this argument proves too much. Are those who make this argument
prepared to say that Paul believed that the souls of dead saints
hovered over “Luz bones”? Are they prepared to say that Paul believed
in a whole host of Jewish resurrection-myths, including the myth that
the dead will be raised wearing clothes, and the myth that those who
died outside of Jerusalem would have to dig their way back to the city in
order to be resurrected?
 
But beyond such myths, we know that Paul and the Pharisees could
not have possibly agreed on every major point touching the resurrection
of the dead. Though the Pharisees agreed with Paul that the resurrection
of the dead was a true doctrine and that it was about to happen,
the Pharisees definitely did not believe that Christ Jesus Himself
was “the Resurrection” (John 11:25); and they definitely did not believe
that the resurrection “hope” of Israel was “Christ in you” (Acts 23:6;
24:15; Col. 1:27). As concerns the Christological nature of the resurrection,
Paul and the Pharisees were worlds apart. Yet Paul said he was a
Pharisee concerning the resurrection of the dead, because Paul and the
Pharisees, in contast to the Sadducees, believed in the existence of the
resurrection of the dead. With that point of agreement, Paul divided
and conquered his enemies.

House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 3 Carnal Jewish Hopes

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

 
Chapter Seven
The Resurrection of the Dead 
Part 3 Carnal Jewish Hopes
 
David A. Green
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 David A. Green), except
in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Strimple Argument #3: Mainstream Jews in the time of Jesus believed
in a physical resurrection of the dead. Martha reflected that
“standard Jewish hope” when she said that Lazarus would “rise again in
the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24) (295-296).
 
Answer: Preterists are not the only ones who differ with the Jews
in the time of Jesus. Strimple also disagrees with them. As far as we
know, mainstream Jews at that time believed in the shadowy realm of
Hades. Strimple apparently rejects that doctrine. It is also likely that
the Jews in the time of Jesus erroneously believed that “the Christ” and
the Prophet” were two different people (John 1:25). It is probable that
Strimple rejects that mainstream Jewish doctrine as well. The Jews further
believed that the Messianic kingdom would be a literal, nationalistic
kingdom. Strimple disagrees with that “standard Jewish hope.”
 
More importantly though, many or most of the Jews at that time
believed the resurrection and judgment of the living and the dead were
about to happen. In fact, we know that most Christians in the time of
Jesus believed that very same doctrine, because there is no doubt that
the authors of the New Testament books believed it. Yet Strimple and
all other futurists categorically reject the doctrine that the resurrection
and judgment were about to happen in the apostolic generation, despite
the sure, prophetic, and authoritative word of Jesus and the Apostles:
 
The Son of Man is about to come in the glory of His Father with
His angels; and will then recompense every man according to
his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are
standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son
of Man coming in His kingdom [to recompense every man according
to his deeds]. (Matt. 16:27-28)
 
He has fixed a day in which He is about to judge the world in
righteousness. . . . (Acts 17:31)
 
There is about to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the
wicked. (Acts 24:15)
 
As he was discussing . . . the judgment about to come. . . .
(Acts 24:25)
 
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
(Rom. 16:20)
 
Christ Jesus, who is about to judge the living and the dead. . . .
(2 Tim. 4:1)
 
Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. . . .
(1 Pet. 4:5)
 
Evidently, Strimple feels that he is at liberty to reject the consensus
of the Jews and even of the church and of the apostles themselves in the
time of Jesus regarding the timing of the prophesied consummation. Yet
at the same time, Strimple believes that the consensus of Jews in the time
of Jesus can serve as legitimate contributing evidence against preterism.
Strimple is here using an unjust weight to judge preterism.
 
Regardless of the majority view of the Jews in Jesus’ day,[1] if we assume
that Martha did express a belief in a physical resurrection of the dead, we
can only interpret Jesus’ response to her as a correction of that belief:
 
I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me shall
live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me
shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
 
Biological reanimation is not the resurrection and the life. Jesus
is the Resurrection and the Life. To “live” (i.e., to be resurrected) is to
believe in Him. We who put our trust in Christ’s sin-atoning blood in
the new covenant world today are in “the Life,” and we shall “never die.”
As we will discuss in more detail below, since the consummated death
of the Adamic, old covenant “man” in AD 70, the universal church is
now and forever the resurrected, living, and “spiritual body” of Christ.



[1] According to Keith Mathison, the prevailing belief of the Jews in Jesus’
day was that “when Israel was restored in the age to come, those faithful Jews
who had died would be raised to participate in it” (172). Mathison believes
that Israel was restored in the first century (169). If we accept Mathison’s
timeframe for the restoration of Israel, and if we must accept the “prevailing
belief” of the first century Jews, then we must conclude that the resurrection
of the dead took place in the first century.
 

House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 2 Romans 8 and 2 Peter 3

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

 
Chapter Seven
The Resurrection of the Dead
Part 2 Romans 8 and 2 Peter 3
 
David A. Green
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 David A. Green), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Strimple Argument #2: According to Romans 8 and 2 Peter 3,
when the resurrection of the dead takes place, the heavens and the earth
—the whole physical creation—will be physically transformed and
physically renewed. Therefore the resurrection of the dead will also be
physical and will involve a physical transformation/renewal (321-326).
 
Answer: When Paul and Peter wrote their epistles:
 
1. God was “ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Pet. 4:5).
2. It was “time for the judgment to begin” (1 Pet. 4:17).
3. Believers were living in “the last days” (2 Tim. 3:1; 2 Pet. 3:3).
4. Believers were living in “the last times” (1 Pet. 1:20).
5. Believers were “hastening” the coming of the day of God, when
the Morning Star would arise in their hearts (2 Pet. 1:19-20;
3:3, 5, 11-12).
6. The glory and salvation of Israel was “about to be
revealed”/“ready to be revealed” (Rom. 8:18; 1 Pet. 1:5; 5:1).
7. The night was “almost gone” (Rom. 13:12).
8. The day of salvation was “at hand” (Rom. 13:12).
9. God was “soon” to crush the ancient enemy, Satan, under the
feet of the first-century church (Rom. 16:20), in fulfillment of
Genesis 3:15.
10. “The end of all things” was “at hand” (1 Pet. 4:7).
 
If we are to let the words of Scripture say what they say in their
context, we must admit that the biblical time of eschatological crisis is
now history. The apostles Paul and Peter, through the inspiration of the
Holy Spirit, fully expected the heavens and the earth (the world) to burn
and dissolve in their own generation (2 Pet. 3:7, 10-12). Therefore, we
are to rest in faith that this event, according to God’s faithful and sure
prophetic word, was fulfilled in the apostolic generation.
 
Futurist objections notwithstanding, it requires no stretch of the
imagination to believe God’s word in this regard. We know that when
Peter spoke of the “heavens” and the “earth,” he did not mean the literal
sky and the planet. Peter believed that the heavens and the earth of
Noah’s day were destroyed (2 Pet. 3:5-6). Peter certainly did not think
that the literal stars (“the heavens”) were destroyed in Noah’s flood.
 
When Peter spoke of the end of the world (“the end of all things”), he
was speaking of the world-order in which he lived. He was speaking of
the pre-redemption world that was speedily coming to a consummation
through the power of the recently slain Lamb of God. Peter was not
writing in scientific terms concerning hydrogen and oxygen melting.
He was writing in the fervent, poetic language of the prophets concerning
the impending end of the old covenant age and the resulting liberation
of “the creature” / “all Israel” (all the saints, living and dead) from
the slavery and futility of the spiritual corruption of Sin.
 
Peter’s prophecy in 2 Peter 3 was a reiteration of Isaiah 24. In that
chapter, Isaiah spoke of the time when the sun and the moon (the heavens)
would be confounded and ashamed (Isa. 24:23) and when the earth
would be burned, broken down, dissolved, and would fade away (Isa.
24:4, 6, 19-20). Isaiah was speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem.
 
The heavens and the earth” referred to the pre-Messianic, dead-in-
Sin world of God’s people. That old creation or cosmos was dissolved,
and it vanished shortly after Peter wrote his epistles, in AD 70. There is
no biblical rationale for appending a “resurrection of the flesh at the end
of human history” to the teachings of the apostles.
 
One final note: The Bible says that after the Parousia, after the fulfillment
of all prophecy, in the new heavens and the new earth, there will
be cursed nations that will, year by year, refuse to worship God (Zech.
14:16-19). After the fulfillment of all prophecy, there will be those who
attack God’s people, though ultimately to no avail (Isa. 54:15-17). After
the fulfillment of all prophecy, there will be people loving and practicing
lies outside the city of God in the new heavens and new earth (Rev.
22:14-15).
 
Strimple says that this biblical doctrine is “incredible” and that it
does not “satisfy” him (323). It is the task of futurists to believe and to
be satisfied with what God’s word teaches concerning the eternal, Messianic
world in which we live today.

House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 1 2 Timothy 2:16-18

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

 
Chapter Seven
The Resurrection of the Dead
 
David A. Green
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 David A. Green), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Dr. Robert B. Strimple’s sixty-six page chapter in WSTTB can be
summed up in thirteen basic arguments that defend the doctrine
of a literal, physical resurrection of the dead. In this chapter, I will respond
to Strimple’s thirteen arguments. I will then offer a brief exposition
of 1 Corinthians 15.
 
Strimple’s Thirteen Arguments[1]
 
Strimple Argument #1: Preterists teach that the resurrection is past.
Therefore preterists are under the condemnation of the heretics Hymenaeus
and Philetus, who said that “the resurrection is past already” (2
Tim. 2:16-18) (WSTTB, 287, 312-315).[2]
 
Answer: If we read 2 Timothy 2:16-18 on the premise of futurism
(belief in a literal, physical resurrection of the dead), we will reason that
Hymenaeus and Philetus were not only wrong about the timing of the
resurrection, as Paul said they were, but that they were more importantly
wrong about the nature of the resurrection. We will reason that
the faith-overthrowing aspect of their error must have been their denial
of a biological resurrection of the dead. This would mean that the malignancy
of their doctrine had to do with the nature of the resurrection,
even though Paul condemned only their timing of the resurrection.
 
Futurism must, against the flow of thought in the text, smuggle its
own assumption (a biological resurrection of the dead) into 2 Timothy
2:16-18 in order to make it a preterist-anathematizing text. This means
that the only exegetical argument that is used for condemning preterists
as false brothers is based on the logical fallacy of question begging.
 
But if we read the passage on the premise of preterism (a non-biological
resurrection of the dead), we should reason that the error of Hymeneus
and Philetus was that they were teaching that the resurrection had
been fulfilled under the Law (1 Tim. 1:8; Titus 1:10; 3:9; Heb. 8:13). They
were teaching that “the hope of Israel” (Acts 23:6; 24:15, 21; 28:20) was
already fulfilled in the AD 60’s and that there was therefore never to be a
termination of the covenant of fleshly circumcision and animal sacrifices.
 
Their error implied that the kingdom was not going to be taken
from the scribes and Pharisees, as Jesus said it would be. It implied
that the final destruction of the city and sanctuary would never happen.
It implied that fleshly Israel had inherited the eschatological kingdom
with the church and that the ministration of death and condemnation,
with all of its reminders of sin, would continue forever. It implied that
believers, having already attained unto the resurrection (cf. Phil. 3:11–
12), would be forever under the yoke of the Law of Moses.
This is why the doctrine of a pre-70 resurrection was a radically anti-
gospel, anti-grace, faith-overturning blasphemy (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim.
2:18). This is why Paul condemned the timing instead of the nature of
the error, because insofar as the realization of the hope of Israel (the resurrection)
was necessarily synchronous with the eternal disinheritance
of the Christ-rejecters in Israel, timing was everything.
 
Perhaps we cannot know with certainty what date Hymenaeus and
Philetus assigned to the resurrection. Perhaps they taught that the Jewish
revolt against Rome in AD 66 was the fulfillment of the resurrection.
Whatever the case, the resurrection error at Ephesus was a Judaizing
heresy that served to put believers back under the slavery of the Law.
 
Before we go on to Strimple’s next argument, let us look briefly at
Paul’s silence in regard to Hymeneus’ and Philetus’ concept of a non-biological
resurrection of the dead. If Paul was expecting a literal, biological
resurrection, is it not odd that his only criticism of the gangrenous
resurrection-error was in regard to its timing? Could it be that Paul
agreed with Hymeneus and Philetus in regard to the nature of the resurrection,
and disagreed with them only in regard to the timing? Paul’s
words in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-8 give us the answer to this question.
 
In that scripture, Paul told believers how they could know, after the
fact, that the Day of the Lord had taken place. First, Paul said, “the
apostasy” or “the falling away” would take place and “the man of sin”
would be revealed (2 Thess. 2:3). This “man of sin” would take his seat
in the temple of God, thus displaying himself as being God (2 Thess.
2:4). Then he would be slain and brought to an end (2 Thess. 2:8). By
the unfolding of these events, believers would know that the Day of the
Lord had come.[3] The man of sin was, after all, to be destroyed on the
Day of the Lord.
 
However, Paul had taught in his previous epistle to the Thessalonians
that on “the day of the Lord,” the dead in Christ would rise and be
caught up” together with the living (1 Thess. 4:15-5:2). If Paul thought
those events were going to involve the literal, biological metamorphosis
and removal of the dead and of the church on Earth, then Paul would
have known that there were, inescapably, only two possible ways that
anyone could know that the day of the Lord had already come.
 
Either:
 
1. You suddenly found yourself in a new body made of “spiritual
flesh” while hovering in the clouds during a meeting with the
Lord in the air.
 
Or:
 
2. You suddenly discovered that the tombs of believers were
empty and that the church no longer existed on planet Earth
and you were left behind.
 
But Paul did not use either of these arguments. Paul instead told
believers simply to look for the rise and destruction of the man of sin in
order to know that the day of the Lord had come. According to Paul, if
believers perceived that the man of sin had been destroyed, then believers
could know that the day of the Lord (and therefore the resurrection
and the “catching away” of the church) had come to pass. The resurrection
of the dead and the “catching away” were not events that involved
the molecular change or disappearance of corpses or the disappearance
of the church from planet earth.[4]



[1] Though I label these arguments as “Strimple” arguments, most of them
are not, strictly speaking, Strimple’s arguments, but are the standard arguments
used by futurists to defend the doctrine of a “resurrection of the flesh.”
[2] Strimple’s editor Mathison undercuts Strimple’s effort here (and the effort
of most or all others who anathematize preterists) by casting a haze of
uncertainty over 2 Timothy 2:17-18 and refusing to use the passage to anathematize
“hyper-preterists.” Mathison forfeits all biblical authority to anathematize
“hyper-preterists” when he implies that “the resurrection” in 2 Timothy
2:17-18 could possibly have been fulfilled in AD 70 (194-195).
[3] The Zealots captured the temple in AD 68. They abolished the priesthood
and turned the temple of God into their own personal house of murder.
They were destroyed in AD 70.
[4] See Michael Sullivan’s response to Mathison for an exposition of 1
Thessalonians 4:14-17 and 2 Timothy 2:17-18.

House Divided Chapter Three Openness Futurism "Reformed" Open Theist Richard Pratt Vs. Full Preterist Edward J. Hassertt

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist
Response to When Shall These Things Be?
 
Chapter Three
Openness Futurism
 
Edward J. Hassertt
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 Edward Hassertt), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
articles or reviews.  

According to Dr. Richard Pratt, one of the central errors of preterists
is our belief “that all biblical predictions must be fulfilled just as
they are stated” (WSTTB, 121). In contrast to the teachings of preterists,
Pratt says that the prophetic predictions of the Bible are “seldom
fulfilled exactly as they are given” (122). In fact, “true prophets,” he says,
“often predicted things that did not happen” at all (131).
 
According to Pratt, the reason that biblical prophecies failed to be
fulfilled is because human choices intervened and played a major role
in determining how or if the predictions would be fulfilled (123, 126).
Therefore, concludes Pratt, “it does not matter if the Scriptures depict
Christ’s second coming in close proximity to his first coming. . . . [H]is
return could still be in our future, even two thousand years later” (122).
 
Pratt begins his chapter, “Hyper-Preterism and Unfolding Biblical
Eschatology,” lamenting that many Christians endorse “the hyper-preterist
proposal” that the predictions of true prophets are fulfilled just
as they were stated (122). He complains that it is “quite common” for
evangelicals to agree with “the hyper-preterist interpretation” of Deuteronomy
18:22 (122–123):
 
If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not
take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.
That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid
of him.
 
Many or most Christians, including preterists, believe this verse to
be saying that if a prophet makes a prediction in the name of Yahweh
and the thing predicted does not take place or come true, then the prediction
was not a message that Yahweh had spoken. Pratt says that this
interpretation is not “subtle” enough (122–123).
 
Halfway through his chapter, Pratt, in one paragraph, explains his
interpretation of this verse. He says that different prophetic predictions
were meant to be taken in different ways and indicated various levels of
determination of God to direct the future. Almost none of God’s predictions
in the Bible, according to Pratt, offered absolute certainty that
they would be fulfilled. Thus, a true prophet passed the test of Deuteronomy
18:22 “so long as historical events took place that matched the
level of certainty that their predictions offered” (137).
 
Although Pratt does not say so, this interpretation of Deuteronomy
18:22 means that if a false prophet uttered a prediction in the name of
Yahweh and the prediction failed to come to pass, the false prophet and
the people could simply say: “The fact that this prediction in the name
of Yahweh did not come to pass only proves that this was a typical prediction
of God. He simply did not have a high level of determination to
direct the future when He made this prediction.” No one could prove or
disprove this argument if Pratt’s interpretation is true. Pratt thus renders
Deuteronomy 18:22 practically useless and ultimately meaningless.
 
Pratt versus Reformed Theology
 
Not surprisingly, Pratt attempts to dissociate his view from Open
Theism[1] and to connect it instead to traditional Reformed theology
(123–124). He does this by affirming God’s sovereign immutability,
and by affirming that everything that takes place in the universe is part
of God’s eternal plan (124–125).
 
He also reminds the reader of the Reformed teaching that God’s immutability
does not mean that He is unchangeable in every way imaginable.
While God does not change in such things as His Being, character,
attributes, eternal counsel/plan/purposes, and promises, God does
change in the sense that He has meaningful interactions with and relationships
with man. He is actively involved in history. He lives our life
with us. He judges us, redeems us, and answers our prayers. He also
changed in that He “became flesh” (124–125).
 
This is all well and good and perfectly in line with Reformed theology.
But Pratt subtly shifts this Reformed teaching into the area of prophecy
fulfillment. It is at this point in his chapter that Pratt begins his defense
against preterism in earnest. And according to the pattern of WSTTB, he
begins his arguments with a creed, instead of with Scripture (125):
 
Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decrees of God,
the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly;
yet, by the same providence, He ordereth them to fall out according
to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely,
or contingently. (The Westminster Confession of Faith, 5.2)
 
The illusion that Pratt attempts to create by referencing this section
of the Confession is that it says anything about prophecy or the end
times. But of course, it does not. This section of the Confession deals
only with God’s eternal decrees made within the Godhead. Nowhere
does it address prophetic predictions. Pratt also attempts to use the
scriptural proof text that the Confession uses (Isa. 10:6–7) in order to
validate his view that God causes His own prophetic predictions to fail
(126, 152), but that scripture in no way suggests what Pratt contends.
 
Sawing Off The Limb He is Sitting On
 
Pratt begins his attempt to prove his view through Scripture exegesis on
pages 127–128, by using Jeremiah 18:7–10:
 
The instant I speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom,
to pluck up, or to break down, or to destroy; if that nation
against whom I have spoken will turn from their evil, I will repent
of the evil that I thought to do to it. And the instant I speak
concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to
plant it; if it does evil in My eye, not to obey My voice, then I will
repent of the good which I had said to do good to it.
 
According to Pratt, this passage demonstrates that the prophets of
God often made predictions (of judgment or of salvation) that did not
come true, because the intervening historical contingencies of the people’s
repentance or of the people’s sin caused God to cancel or postpone
or change the fulfillment of the prophetic predictions.
 
What Pratt misses here is that Jeremiah 18:7–10 itself is a prophecy
which Pratt is assuming must be fulfilled just as it was given. The
irony is thick here. Pratt claims that preterists are wrong in their view
that prophetic predictions were always fulfilled as they were written,
because human action usually changed things so that the predictions
were not fulfilled as they were written. Yet to prove this claim, Pratt assumes
that Jeremiah 18 is fulfilled exactly as it was written.
 
According to the logic of Pratt’s scheme, God is or was likely to
change His mind about His prophetic prediction in Jeremiah 18 and
God could decide instead to never change His stated plans when nations
repent or sin. Yet illogically, Pratt argues with certainty that God,
according to the sure prediction of Jeremiah 18:7–10, causes His own
predictions to fail.
 
Pratt is like a radical anti-creedalist who illogically endorses a creed
(“all creeds are false”) to prove that all creeds are false. The anti-creedalist
must assume—based on nothing—that his own creed is correct in
order to reject all creeds. He does not realize that his anti-creedal position
invalidates his own creed. Likewise, Pratt is assuming—based on
nothing—that a biblical prophetic prediction (his proof text, Jer. 18:7–
10) is sure and certain in order to prove that all such predictions are
unsure and uncertain. Pratt does not realize that his position removes
all certainty from the very text he is using to prove his position.
 
Predictions versus Threats
 
As we can see, Pratt’s view is logically invalid at its exegetical inception.
But let us move on through the rest of his chapter and take a look at the
first specific example he gives of his notion that God’s prophetic predictions
usually failed to be fulfilled as they were written (152). His first
example is 2 Chronicles 12:5 (129), where the prophet Shemaiah said to
Rehoboam and to the leaders of Judah,
 
This is what the Lord says, You have abandoned me; therefore, I
now abandon you to Shishak.
 
As a result of this prophetic word, Rehoboam and the leaders of
Judah humbled themselves, and God did not destroy them through
Shishak but only caused them to be subject to him (2 Chron. 12:7–8).
Thus God did not abandon them to Shishak even though He said He
abandoned them to Shishak.
 
The second example Pratt uses for his prediction-failure doctrine
(130–131) is Jonah 3:4:
 
And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he
cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
 
As we know, because the city repented, Nineveh was not overthrown
(Jonah 3:7–10). Thus God did not overthrow Nineveh even
though He said that Nineveh would be overthrown.
 
Pratt’s conclusion when he puts Jeremiah 18:7–10; 2 Chronicles
12:5–8 and Jonah 3:4–10 together is that “true prophets often predicted
things that did not happen” (131).
 
While Pratt says that his view is “complex” (122), the cause of the
complexity (i.e., of his error) is surprisingly simple. His primary exegetical
mistake is reflected in his use of the word “prediction” (127–
131). Pratt acknowledges that the two prophetic utterances above were
“threats” of judgment. Though Pratt calls Shemaiah’s prophetic message
a “prediction” (129), Pratt nevertheless acknowledges that it was
“just a warning from God . . . of judgment that might come” (129–130).
Pratt misses the fact that if the prophetic word of Shemaiah was “just a
warning,” then it was not a prophetic “prediction.” There was therefore
no failed “prediction.”
 
Though Pratt says that Jonah made a “prediction,” he acknowledges
that the “prediction” was actually “a threatened judgment” (130–132).
Jonah was called to “preach” (warn/threaten) not to make a prediction.
There was therefore no failed “prediction.”
 
Incidentally, Pratt says that God delayed His predicted judgment
of Nineveh as a result of the repentance of the people (132). But there
was no delay, even as there was no prediction. Rather, God “relented
concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon
them. And He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10). The judgment that came upon
Nineveh some generations later was unrelated to the judgment that
God threatened in Jonah’s day.
 
These passages of Scripture in no way show that a prophet of God
ever made a “prediction” that failed to come to pass. These were not
“predictions” at all. Even though Pratt acknowledges that these and
many other such words of the prophets were merely threats/warnings
or offers of blessings, he spends his chapter equivocating, calling those
threats and offers “predictions” when they were not.[2]
 
This is the source of Pratt’s confusion and the confusion he is sure to
cause his readers. When Pratt said that “true prophets often predicted
things that did not happen” (131), what he should have said is that God,
through the prophets, often threatened to do things and offered to do
things that He did not, in the end, do. This biblical and Reformed truth
is a far, far cry from Pratt’s doctrine that God prophetically “predicted”
things that did not and will not ever come to pass.
 
Contrary to Pratt, whenever prophets of God actually predicted
things, those things happened —100% of the time. How Pratt can put
the “warnings” and “offers” of the Bible in the same category as the predictions
of the Second Coming, resurrection of the dead, and judgment of all
men is mystifying.
 
On page 137, Pratt says,
 
From the viewpoint of hyper-preterism, the predominant
purpose of predictions in the Scriptures was prognostication.
Hyper-preterists assume that prophets intended to give foreknowledge
of things to come.
 
I am truly surprised that Pratt’s editor Keith Mathison allowed
these sentences to pass inspection and to be sent to print. Obviously
one of the main purposes of a prediction was prognostication. “Prediction”
means “prognostication.” And obviously the prophets intended
to give foreknowledge of things to come. Who could possibly
deny this?
 
What Pratt should have said in the first sentence is that the predominant
purpose of prophetic messages (threats of judgment and offers
of blessing) was not prognostication. And what he should have said
in the second sentence is that not every prophetic message contained
foreknowledge of things to come.
 
Haggai 2:21–23
 
On the thirteenth page of Pratt’s chapter, he finally reaches an actual, predictive,
decretive prophecy (not merely a solemn threat/warning or offer):
 
Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah saying, I am going
to shake the heavens and the earth. And I will overthrow the
thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of
the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders,
and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the
sword of another. On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will
take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant, declares the
Lord, and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen
you, declares the Lord of hosts. (Haggai 2:21–23)
 
According to Pratt, the fulfillment of even this prophecy was conditioned
upon the obedience of the people. And not only that, says Pratt,
the prophecy failed to take place as it was written: “ . . . [T]hese things
did not happen to Zerubbabel. He never became the king over God’s
people, and the nations around Israel were not destroyed. Why was
this so? It was because the postexilic community failed to be obedient
to the Lord.” The disobedience of the people, according to Pratt, caused
the “postponing” of the fulfillment of the prophecy (133).
 
First of all, when God says, “On that day, declares Yahweh of hosts,
I will,” the decretive nature of the prophecy is established. There is no
condition, implicit or otherwise, in the prophecy. The prophecy was
sure to be accomplished as it is written, Pratt notwithstanding.
As for Pratt’s claim that Zerubbabel “never became the king over
God’s people,” the prophecy says nothing about Zerubbabel becoming
the king over God’s people. It says only that God would make him
like a signet ring.” This could possibly mean that Zerubbabel became
highly esteemed and exalted in the sight of God. And/Or the promise
to Zerubbabel could have been meant to refer to Christ, who was born
of the seed of Zerubbabel, who was of the seed of David. Either way,
there was no “postponing” of the prophecy.
 
But as is often the case, the biblical answer is the obvious answer,
and it is missed because it does not fit the futurist paradigm. The
prophecy of Haggai 2:6–9, 21–23 was fulfilled, in a “typical” sense, in
the lifetime of Zerubbabel. In about four years (“in a little while”) after
the prophecy was given, God overthrew all the nations, (He “shook the
heavens, the earth, the sea and the dry land”) and the desire or wealth
of all nations came, and the temple was filled with glory (with gold and
silver). (Compare Haggai 1:15; 2:10 and Ezra 6:15.)
 
This all took place when Darius King of Persia overturned Israel’s
enemies, who for years had been preventing the rebuilding of God’s
house. Darius decreed, “May God . . . overthrow any king or people who
lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem
(Ezra 6:11–12). Darius forced Israel’s enemies themselves to pay the full
cost of the rebuilding, as well as the full cost of all the daily, priestly
services (Ezra 6:8–10).
 
The military and political power of Israel’s enemies was overthrown.
They had tried to turn the king against Israel (Ezra 5), but God turned
their own stratagems against them. He made them subservient to His
people, taking their own wealth for the building of His glorious, earthly
house. God had thus “moved heaven and earth” to keep the covenant
that He had made with His people through Moses (Ezra 6:18; Hag. 2:5).
The prophecy of Haggai 2:6–9; 21–23 also foreshadowed the fulfillment
of the better promise (Heb. 8:6) that was fulfilled in Christ’s generation.
Israel’s building of the greater, earthly house in Zerubbabel’s generation
was an example of the building of the true, heavenly “House” in Christ.
 
Within perhaps only four years (“in a little while”) after Hebrews
12:26 was written, God overthrew all the nations. He “shook the heavens,
the earth, the sea and the dry land.” The desire of all nations came,
and God’s Temple was filled with Glory.
 
This happened when God overturned His kingdom-enemies who,
in their persecution of the church, had furiously resisted the construction
of His new covenant temple (Eph. 2:21–22; I Peter 2:5). Despite
the rage of the enemies, God enlisted countless multitudes of them to
build His new House (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21; Rev. 5:9); and the enemies
who resisted to the end were crushed, and were cast out of the kingdom
in AD 70 (Matt. 8:12; 21:43; Lk. 13:28; Acts 4:25–28; Gal. 4:30; Rev. 3:9).
God “moved heaven and earth” to keep the covenant that He made
with His elect through the blood of Christ. Now the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit dwell eternally in the universal church, which is the new
covenant House of promise (Jn. 14:23; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 2:21–22; 3:17; Col.
1:27; II Peter 1:19; Rev. 3:20; 21:2–3). Through the power of the eternal
gospel, the desire of the nations flows into “the more perfect tabernacle
today and forever (Heb. 9:11; Rev. 21:26–27), and God Himself is its
unfading Glory (Rev. 21:23). Amen.
 
Pratt’s Three Failed Eschatons
 
In the last thirteen pages of his chapter, Pratt descends into an exegetical
abyss from which, sadly, he never returns. On pages 141–143, he says
that, according to Jeremiah, the beginning and consummation of the
eschaton (the Last Days), the culmination of history, the restoration of
Israel and of the Davidic throne, the rebuilding of the temple, and the
defeat and gathering of the Gentiles were all supposed to take place after
the Babylonian Exile in about 538 BC. Pratt says that the prophets of that
generation expected that the eschatological hopes of Israel would be imminently
realized.
 
But alas, according to Pratt, Daniel observed the alleged “failure” of
the supposedly imminent restoration of all things that Jeremiah allegedly
predicted. Daniel, in the prophecy of “the seventy weeks,” allegedly revealed
that the fullness of the eschaton, which allegedly should have happened
in Daniel’s lifetime, was allegedly postponed/delayed for about 490
years “because of a lack of repentance” (144–145, 147, 149, 152).
However, according to Pratt, about twenty years after Daniel received
that prophecy, the blessings of the eschaton were “offered” yet
again through the predictions of Haggai and Zechariah (520–515 BC).
But evidently, there was again insufficient repentance for the predictions
to be fulfilled (146–147).
 
Then according to Pratt, five hundred years later in the New Testament
era, the consummation of the eschaton was “offered” again
(meaning predicted but not promised, in Prattian usage). But “the lack
of repentance within the covenant community caused an indefinite delay
of Christ’s return” (149).
 
Apparently there was no “Daniel” this time around to tell anyone
there was going to be a delay (as though Daniel ever suggested a delay in
the first place). There was however the writer of Hebrews, who said in
about AD 66 that Christ would “not delay” in His Parousia (Heb. 10:37).
But that must have been one of those “failed” predictions.
 
Pratt comments on Acts 3:19–20:
 
Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away,
in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of
the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for
you. . . .
 
According to Pratt, Peter was saying that the imminent Second
Coming was a “conditional offer.” If those who were listening to him
repented, then there was a “hope”/“possibility” that it would happen in
their lifetime (150–151).
 
This interpretation however can be quickly dismissed. The Second
Coming in Christ’s generation was neither “conditional” nor an
“offer” nor a mere “possibility” that was contingent on human behavior.
The contingency was the elect being saved, and that work was of
the sovereign Spirit, not of man. Therefore the eschaton was going to
be fulfilled in the last days of the old covenant age no matter what men
would do to resist God’s purpose. There was absolutely no way to stop
the fulfillment of the Second Coming and resurrection of the dead in
the apostolic generation, Prattian contingencies and postponements
notwithstanding.
 
On page 134, Pratt says, “When a sign accompanied a prophecy, it
showed that God was very determined to carry out what the prophet
had predicted.” However, the prophetic time statements of the New
Testament were accompanied by signs. Yet Pratt claims that those
prophecies were all altered by human contingency.
 
Pratt says on page 135 that “when God adds an oath to a prophetic
prediction, it raises that prediction to the level of a covenantal certainty.
Pratt gives as an example, “There as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign
Lord . . . ” (Eze. 5:11). Yet when the Lord Jesus Christ Himself says,
Truly [Amen], I say unto you,” in regard to the timing of His Parousia
(Matt. 16:28), Pratt for some reason does not count Jesus’ promise there
as “a covenantal certainty.”
 
Pratt says on page 137 that the question of timing always remains
open in prophecies with oaths. Evidently, Pratt has never read Revelation
10:6: “and [the angel] swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who
created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it,
and the sea and the things in it, that there shall be delay no longer.”
 
Later in the apostolic generation, Pratt says, the apostles had to deal
with the unexpected delay of Christ’s return (despite the oath in RevelaOpenness
tion 10:6), and the Christian community was beset with “discouragement”
as a result of that delay (151–152). How Pratt knows about this
delay definitively within his system of contingency and ambiguity is a
mystery he does not solve. But, Pratt continues, Peter did not give up
hope, because he knew that God was showing great patience, not wanting
anyone to perish but desiring “everyone” to come to repentance
(152). And according to Pratt, this has been going on now for about
2,500 years, since the days of Daniel. Thus ends Pratt’s notable chapter.
 
The last thirteen pages of Pratt’s chapter certainly do not merit any
further refutation. His arguments are transparently wrong. The eschaton
was never scheduled to arrive in 538 BC in the time of Daniel. Nor was it
supposed to arrive in about 520 B.C. in the time of Haggai and Zechariah.
Nor was it merely “offered” conditionally in Christ’s generation.
 
If Pratt is correct, we must ask: Has the eschaton been “offered” at any
other times since the first century? Was it “offered” again in 1843, as per
William Miller? Was it “offered” again in 1988, as per Edgar Whisenant?
Was it “offered” again in 1994, as per Harold Camping? Were those the
failed predictions of men, or the failed predictions of God? Who can say
one way or the other with any certainty, in Pratt’s “Openness Futurism”?
 
It may seem difficult to imagine how someone who is a Doctor of
Theology could believe and teach such incredibly unbiblical things.
But the reason is apparent if we paraphrase Pratt’s argument: “Hyperpreterists
think that prophecies are fulfilled as they were written. But
according to my futurist paradigm, prophecies were not fulfilled as they
were written. I know they were not fulfilled as they were written because
they were not fulfilled as they were written, according to my futurist
paradigm. Therefore, hyper-preterists are wrong when they say
that prophecies are fulfilled as they were written.”
 
Circular arguments, ad hominems, and question begging, oh my!
Preterism, in contrast, walks by faith. If it appears that a divine prediction
was not fulfilled when and how God said it would be fulfilled,
then it is our interpretation of the prediction, not its fulfillment, which
must be called into question. Amen.
 
Pratt and Openness Theology
 
Pratt’s eschatological error is not merely one of many perfectly acceptable
options within futurism, as Mathison suggests in his chapter.
 
Pratt comes dangerously close to Openness Theology in every one of his
analyses of prophetic utterances and in every argument he uses against
preterism. Anyone who is familiar with the writings of Open Theists
can see the source material for Pratt’s arguments. If his arguments
were not directly reproduced from Sanders and Pinnock, he has clearly
drunk from the same well as those men.
 
According to Pratt, even if Jesus Himself bluntly declared, “Verily I
say unto you, I will return in August of the year AD 70,” that would not
mean that His return actually occurred when He said it would (122).
His return could still be in our future, because His church could have
failed to repent and be faithful, and this “human contingency” could
have caused Him to delay His return for two thousand years, or even a
trillion years.
 
Who knows? Human contingency could also have caused Him to
change the way the promise of His return was supposed to be fulfilled.
Maybe He originally meant for His return to be fulfilled literally but
then human contingency caused Him to fulfill it spiritually, or vice versa.
In Pratt’s paradigm, even the eschatological predictions of Jesus and
the New Testament writers become ultimately meaningless.
 
Pratt’s notion that we can have no confidence in Jesus’ predictions
and time statements is the same contingency-based, changing-mindof-
God nonsense of the Openness heretics. Pratt asserts that he is not
of the same cloth as these men, yet he seems to channel John Sanders as
his primary source without ever citing him. Pratt’s language could have
been pulled out of Sanders’ The God who Risks. In fact the very categories
of possible fulfillment that Pratt advocates appear to be lifted from
that very book.[3] Let us compare the statements in Sander’s Openness
volume to the same categories and modes of prophetic interpretation in
Pratt’s so-called “Reformed” response to preterism.
 
From Sanders: “A prophecy may express God’s intention to do
something in the future irrespective of creaturely decision.” He uses
Isaiah 46 as an example (Ibid., 51).
 
Sanders here expresses what Pratt calls “sworn predictions”
(WSTTB, 131). For Pratt these prophecies take the form of divine oaths
(135). For both Sanders and Pratt this category of prophecy includes
those things which God has said he will do and which will come to pass
as God said they would. Pratt is arbitrary in classifying prophecies in
this category, automatically assuming any prophecy preterists claim as
being fulfilled could not possibly fit into this category.
 
From Sanders: “A prophecy may also express God’s knowledge that
something will happen because the necessary conditions for it have
been fulfilled and nothing could conceivably prevent it.” He uses Pharaoh
and Moses as an example (51).
 
Sanders here expresses what Pratt calls “confirmed predictions”
(WSTTB, 131). For Pratt, as with Sanders, these predictions are accompanied
by specific words calling God to the outcome or by certain
signs that show nothing could conceivably prevent the fulfillment of the
prophecy (134). It is impossible to determine why the clear words of
Jesus and of the New Testament writers about the imminent Second
Coming and resurrection and judgment of the dead do not constitute
such predictions.
 
From Sanders: “A prophecy may also express what God intends
to do if certain conditions obtain.” He uses Jeremiah 18 as an example
(TGWR, 51).
 
Sanders here expresses what Pratt calls “conditional predictions”
(WSTTB, 131). Pratt says: “There are many examples in the Bible of
situations where the contingency of human choice made a difference in
the fulfillment of a prophetic prediction” (129). By “difference,” of course,
Pratt means that even though God prophetically “predicts” an event, man,
through his choices, can cause the “failure” (152) of that divine “prediction.”
Notice for Pratt who acts, and who reacts after God issues a divine
“prediction.” In reality, as we’ve already stated, conditional if/then prophecies
(such as Isaiah 1:9–20) are not predictions at all. They are warnings
and offers.
 
From Sanders: “The typical prophecy expresses God’s intention
to act a certain way, depending on what his creatures decide to do”
(TGWR, 53). He uses Jonah as an example.
 
Sanders here expresses what Pratt calls “unqualified predictions”
(WSTTB, 131). He states that even though these prophecies use unqualified
language they are not necessarily fixed in stone. And just like
Sanders, he uses Jonah as an example. According to Pratt, Jonah gave
a prophetic “prediction” and God caused the fulfillment of the “prediction”
to be delayed (131). But again, as Pratt himself admits, such “predictions”
are not predictions. They are warnings/threats and offers of blessings.
 
There can be precedent in the Reformed community for Pratt’s and
Sanders’ four-fold division of prophecies, but only with the understanding
that not all prophecies are predictions. Pratt’s contention that actual
“predictions” (not merely prophetic warnings and offers) of God can
be thwarted by human actions has absolutely no place in Reformed or
Reformed preterist theology.
 
Lastly, only the Openness theologians make any claim that the New
Testament prophecies of the Second Coming are contingent, or not
necessarily to come about as stated. There are disagreements about
what is stated, but never disagreements in the Reformed community
about whether they are actually to be fulfilled as stated. Pratt departs
from the Reformed tradition in his application of contingency to prophetic
predictions, and especially when he applies contingency to the
New Testament predictions concerning Christ’s Parousia.
 
House of Cards Divided
 
Pratt’s deconstruction of Deuteronomy 18:22 leads to a morass of sophism
in prophetic interpretation. He tears the foundation out from under
any eschatological claims whatsoever, not the least of which are those of
his fellow contributors. There is no reason to claim postmillennialism,
amillennialism, premillennialism, or any form of prophetic ism if Pratt is
correct. His chapter throws the entire remainder of the Mathison book
into the vast shifting ocean of subjectivity. If prophetic predictions can
be fulfilled in any way, or in no way at all, as Pratt claims, then we have a
plurality of possibilities, with no possibility of a unified argument of truth
versus error. Biblical prophetic predictions become vain babblings and
worthless because we cannot know with certainty if fulfillment has occurred,
or even if it will ever occur.
 
Faith becomes arbitrary because we can never know with certainty
which of the things God has predicted will come to pass and which are
destined for the trash heap of unfulfilled predictions due to human-enacted
contingencies. If we cannot fully know which divine predictions
may reach fulfillment and which ones need not be taken seriously, then
how can we put our faith in any of God’s predictions?
 
Pratt’s argument invalidates all the anti-preterist arguments of his
co-authors. For instance, Gentry criticizes preterists for the way we see
prophecies concerning the resurrection fulfilled (28), while Pratt tells us
that it is possible that prophecies can be fulfilled in ways that actually
contradict the prophecy as it was written. If Pratt is correct, then Gentry
cannot be confident that the prophecies concerning the resurrection
of the dead will be fulfilled as they were written.
 
There can be no real hope because we cannot tell with certainty
which prophecies of God constitute a promise/oath and which do not,
and we cannot tell with certainty what historical contingencies may or
may not obtain to prevent any given prophecy from being fulfilled. Will
there be a resurrection of the dead? Who knows? In the Prattian paradigm,
we can only wonder what human actions may alter the timing or
completeness or nature or even the existence of fulfillment.
 
Will Christ return literally and physically on a cloud, as argued by
the authors of WSTTB? Or will human contingencies cause Him to
alter the fulfillment of His prediction and cause Him to return in the
form of a great teacher in the Middle East? Was Mohammed the Second
Coming of Christ? Did Mohammed reflect a change in the Second
Coming due to human actions? Who can really know for sure in Pratt’s
horrific contingency paradigm of uncertainty?
 
Charles Hill asks:
 
How could it possibly be that the very people who were
taught about the consummation of redemptive history by
the apostles, and who lived through this consummation,
missed the great event when it happened? (105)
 
Likewise, Doug Wilson says that if preterism is true then:
 
. . . the apostles spent a great deal of time preparing the
early church for a world-shattering event, but then, when
it happened, the early church completely missed it. (276)[4]
 
If we believe Pratt, then the result is even worse than what Hill and
Wilson are saying about the historical implication of preterism. If Pratt
is right, then it is possible that the consummation has been fulfilled
in a radically different way than the prophecies themselves predicted.
The consummation could have been totally and absolutely missed on
a wholesale level because it bore no resemblance whatsoever to the actual
prophecies. Within Pratt’s paradigm, we are necessarily left forever
wondering if this event or that event was the fulfillment, or if the fulfillment
will ever happen at all.
 
What Pratt refrains from stating explicitly is that human contingency
can alter the fulfillment of a prophecy so much that those who
read the prophecy could be unable to recognize its fulfillment when it
happens. Prattian contingencies make the fulfillment of prophecy absolutely
uncertain. The consummation of redemptive history could be
fulfilled in any way at all. The wording of the predictions is irrelevant.
 
Mathison says that, “if Scripture can be trusted, the visible return of
Christ is something that literally remains to be seen” (188). In Mathison’s
view, God will certainly do what He prophetically predicted He
will do. Pratt’s view, in contrast, makes Scripture a jumble awaiting human
actions to sort out what can be believed.
 
Conclusion
 
It is time to stop believing in theological pluralism as anything
more than a temporary stopgap. It is time to reject the idea of
the equal ultimacy of incompatible theological positions. Premillennialism,
postmillennialism, and amillennialism are theologically
incompatible. God cannot be pleased with all three. At
least two of them should be discarded as heretical, if not today,
then before Christ comes in final judgment. (A Defense of (Reformed)
Amillennialism, Prof. David J. Engelsma)[5]
 
Preterists know why the three incompatible eschatological positions
are tolerated in the Reformed community. They are placeholders
for the biblical truth of preterism. When the truth is allowed to
replace these flawed systems of theology, then eschatological unity can
be achieved.
 
If there is no agreement as to what eschatological truth is, beyond
two or three points, how can there be certainty that preterists are
wrong? If preterism is error, where is the certainty of the truth which
shows it to be so? The lack of unity in message, methodology, and interpretation
of prophecy makes any Reformed response to preterism not
only tentative and incomplete, but premature.
 
WSTTB is a source of comfort to me and to other preterists. The
manifest inability of scholars within the Reformed community to organize
a coordinated, logical, and non-contradictory argument against
preterism is telling. Their eschatological house is divided and falling,
just like the Papal See fell under the weight of the truth of the Protestant
Reformation.
 
WSTTB shows nothing other than a disoriented theological base
that men are desperate to maintain. I cannot judge their hearts, but
I can judge the system for what it is. Some of the best minds of the
Reformed futurist community came together and no two of them can
agree on even the fundamental questions of the nature of prophecy,
how prophecy is fulfilled, which verses apply to past events, and which
(they claim) apply to yet future events.
 
In the end, Pratt reveals the crack in the Reformed, eschatological
House of Usher. The willingness of Pratt’s co-authors to unite with his error,
and with each other’s errors, in order to ward off the persistent challenge
of preterism is resulting in the sure and imminent fall of futurism.
 
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds
blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its
fall. (Matt. 7:27)



[1] Open Theism holds that God does not exhaustively know the future and
that His prophetic predictions can be thwarted by the will of man.
[2] Keith Mathison seemed to favor the Reformed view in his chapter, saying
that “in some circumstances, prophesied judgment can be averted” (163).
Mathison avoided Pratt’s error. Mathison did not say, “In almost every instance,
God’s predictions have been averted.” Later in his chapter however,
Mathison implies that Pratt’s view is actually a viable option, saying that preterists
have “failed” to consider it (181).
[3] The God who Risks (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1998), 51–53
[4] See David Green’s response to Hill in this book for an invalidation of
this argument.
[5] Available online at: http://www.prca.org/articles/amillennialism.html
Openness Futurism 73
 

House Divided Chapter Four The NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan Conclusion

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? 
Conclusion
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.  

Conclusion 
Mathison says that interpreting New Testament eschatological timetexts is a “difficult problem” that has “perplexed commentators forcenturies,” and that it is therefore a subject upon which he and his coauthors do not agree (155, 178, 204). Consequently, Mathison’s treatment of the time texts is ambiguous and he casts a fog over the whole matter. Here are some examples of Mathison’s pervasive uncertainty as he wrestles against God’s eschatological time-statements.
“You shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes.”
 Commentators have interpreted [Matthew 10:23] in a number of different ways. (175–176) Mathison presents five competing futurist and partial preterist interpretations.
He eventually lands on an interpretation but he does not express unequivocal confidence in it.
“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standinghere who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” 
. . . [W]hat does it mean for Jesus [in Matthew 16:27–28] to suggest that [the coming of the Son of Man] will happen within the lifetime of his hearers? (176)
But of course, Jesus did more than merely “suggest” that His coming would happen within the lifetime of His hearers, as Mathison weakens the words of the Lord.
• The Coming of the Son of Man
 Each of the texts we have looked at (Matt. 10:23; Matt. 16:27–28; 24–25) seems to portray the coming of the Son of Man as something that would occur soon after the words were spoken.
This has perplexed commentators for centuries. (178)
Mathison then makes reference to “all of the difficulties surrounding these [time] texts” and adds that “several” interpretations have been “suggested” (178–179).
But as preterists know, these texts are unequivocal and non perplexing. Note that Mathison admits that all of the biblical texts he cited in Matthew (including the prophecy of the sheep and goats) “seem” to say what preterists say they say. When Mathison says that the texts are surrounded by “difficulties” and that they have “perplexed commentators,” the reason is—obviously—because the texts, if left to interpret themselves, teach “hyper-preterism.” Yet five pages later Mathison says, “There is nothing in any of these texts that demands or even strongly suggests a hyper-preterist interpretation” (183).
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” 
. . . [S]everal possible interpretations [of Matthew 24:34] have been offered.
Mathison presents nine competing futurist and partial preterist interpretations (179–181). All of the “possible interpretations” of the word “generation” proposed by Mathison are puzzling though, since he tells readers in his book, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope, while refuting Dispensationalism, that they can “know” the preterist interpretation of “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 is the true interpretation:
We know that the phrase “this generation” refers to the generation of Jews to whom Jesus was speaking for these reasons. . . .[1]
Treading water in a great sea of uncertainty and contradiction, Mathison flounders among the “many possible interpretations” of these and other passages, and then miraculously arrives at the shore and concludes with curious confidence: “Just as there is nothing in the Gospels that even remotely suggests hyper-preterism, so there is also nothing in the book of Acts or in the New Testament epistles that suggests hyper-preterism” (205, emphases added). “The New Testament . . . does not even suggest hyper-preterism” (213, emphases added).
Let’s see now. Mathison admits that Jesus said (or suggested or seemed to teach) many times and in many places that His coming would happen within the lifetime of His hearers. Mathison admits that this fact has perplexed futurist commentators for centuries (176–179). Mathison admits that Paul and other New Testament writers seemed to teach that Christ was coming soon and that the end of the age was near (201–202). Then Mathison says that there is nothing in the New Testament “that even remotely suggests hyper-preterism” (205, 213). Our question to Mathison is not when, but how can these things be?
Mathison undertakes to evaluate and dismiss the preterist position while he himself is uncertain as to how to interpret the verses that “seem” to support preterism (but at the same time do not even “remotely suggest” preterism). Mathison’s particular beliefs are a matter of opinion and debate, because according to Mathison, who can know with any certainty what such terms as “near” and “soon” and “this generation” and “some of you standing here” really mean? There are many possible interpretations.
Mathison should consider that his eschatological particulars (the time texts) are vague and uncertain because his eschatological universals (the physical and yet-future second coming, resurrection, and judgment) are askew. If we all were to agree and stand “shoulder to shoulder” (155) on the universal that eschatology is all about the fall of the Soviet Union, the result would be that our interpretation of a myriad of verses would become a “difficult problem” (Mathison’s term).  Mathison’s quandary vividly illustrates the centuries-old problem with futurism. Two or three flawed universals have made a vast multitude of particulars unfathomable.
. . . [O]rthodox Christianity was characterized by two eschatological doctrines: the future return of Christ to judge mankind and the future bodily resurrection of all men for judgment. . . . [A]part from these two doctrines, there was nothing approaching consensus for the first four centuries [of church history].[2]
This problem is alive and well today, as Mathison’s multi-authored book demonstrates. Mathison uses wild understatement when he says of the authors of WSTTB: “ . . . [T]he contributors to this volume do not completely agree in their interpretation of every eschatological text” (155).  The fact is that all seven of the contributors to Mathison’s volume do not agree at all on any (or at least virtually any) eschatological doctrine except the doctrine “that the second coming of Jesus Christ, the general resurrection, and the Last Judgment are yet to come” (155). Mathison can call that “shoulder-to-shoulder” agreement, but it is not impressive. Agreement on only a few points out of a myriad merely indicates that those few points are wrong.
It is more than difficult to understand how these authors can portray their historical positions as unified on these points when between their two systems (partial preterism and amillennialism) two contradictory propositions emerge when you examine the particulars – that is the  passages that are used to arrive at a futurist position for these three events:
1)      Partial Preterism – Imminence and fulfillment is accepted, Christ appeared a second time at the end of the old covenant age, there was a spiritual, corporate, covenantal judgment and resurrection of the living and dead which was attended by a passing of the old creation and arrival of the new in AD 70 in such passages as these: Daniel 12:1-4; Matthew 5:17-18, 13:39-43, 24-25; Acts 1:11; Romans 8:18, 13:11-12; 1 Peter 4:5-7; 2 Peter 3; Revelation 1-22; Hebrews 8:13, 9:26-28,[3] 10:37.
And yet we are also told that this proposition is true –
2)       Classic Amillennialism – The NT only teaches one coming of Christ, general judgment and resurrection of the living and dead attended by the restoration of creation at the end of the age.
How can these things be indeed?  Obviously both of these propositions cannot be true at the same time unless full preterism is true and accepted. Allow me to use two particular passages in connection with my testimony on how I became a full preterist which illustrates the problem the authors of WSTTB have with their so called “shoulder to shoulder” unity.  One day I was reading Reformed amillennial and partial preterist books while also studying Matthew 24-25 and comparing it with 1 Thessalonians 4-5 in my dorm room at the Master’s College.  I concluded that the partial preterist was accurate in teaching that the coming of Christ in Matthew 24-25 was fulfilled in AD 70 spiritually using apocalyptic language and that the amillennialist was also accurate in that Paul was drawing from Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse and that there is only one “the parousia” of Christ in the NT.  Therefore “orthodoxy” was teaching me that 1  Thessalonians 4-5 was the same coming of Christ described by Jesus in Matthew 24-25.  But since the futurist errs on the nature of the resurrection assuming it is biological and at the end of time, the readers of WSTTB are forced into a contradictory “either or” situation on passages such as these when the truth is a “both and.”  I think one can see the problem the authors of WSTTB are trying to sweep under the rug when it comes to how they can “unify” in teaching that the Second Coming is still future when the particulars of what they are each saying on the given texts and how they relate to each other teach otherwise.
The choice is simple.  Either one continues propagating the myth that these two propositions within the futurist paradigm do not lead to a contradiction, or accept the organic development of full preterism which unites them in seeing that these events were fulfilled in AD 70 when Christ came (once a “second time”) invisibly to close the old covenant age dissolving the elements of that world while establishing the new.
It is ironic that the title of Mathison’s book is When Shall These Things Be?  Not only is there no consensus among the authors as to the answer to that very question, but Mathison himself (the only author who attempts to answer the question) fails to arrive at an unequivocal and decisive answer. Within a span of six pages (177–182), Mathison tacitly admits that the question is a problem for futurism, and offers seven or eight possible “solutions.”[4]
If we were to apply Mathison’s method in eschatological matters to all other areas of life, we would be certain of nothing; we would all be postmodernists. The truth would become unknowable. Mathison himself, in his book The Shape of Sola Scriptura, teaches that “clear” and “firm scriptural proof for every article of faith” is a “necessity.”[5]
Yet in WSTTB, Mathison demonstrates with his plethora of “possible interpretations” that he lacks “clear” and “firm” scriptural proof either for futurism or against preterism. Nevertheless, he feels at liberty to anathematize us for our preterist challenge to futurism (213).
Mathison claims that Christ died to leave the church, for 2,000 years and counting, in an “evil age.” As my editor has said, “Joy to the world!” Postmillennialists such as Marcellus Kik and Keith Mathison have produced not so much an Eschatology of Victory or An Eschatology of Hope, as a “sick” eschatology, because, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12). Preterism will stand the test of time; and as godly men embrace it and teach it, it will bring healing to the “eschatological schizophrenia” of Mathison et al, and to the eschatological division within the church as a whole.
Interestingly, Gentry and Mathison in their books pit old school dispensationalism against modern day progressives as a “House Divided” that “cannot stand” unless they move more toward covenant theology.  And yet we have documented their “House Divided” approach which equally “cannot stand” unless full Preterism is embraced to “bridge the gap.”  And since they also exhort progressives such as Pastor John MacArthur in his/their changes which are moving closer and closer to covenant theology, we too applaud Gentry and Mathison for coming closer and closer to full Preterism in what they have written since WSTTB.  If a five point Calvinist and progressive dispensationalist such as MacArthur can be seen as “inconsistent,” holding to a “compromised” position, or being content in being a stepping stone for others to come into covenant theology, then full preterists can view Gentry and Mathison’s writings as such in their moves towards full preterism.
If not why not? As a Reformed believer, dear reader, you know that there is no middle ground between Arminianism and Calvinism. You may have tried at one time to say that you were neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian. Or you may have acknowledged that the Bible teaches Calvinism, but you rejected the teaching because you were troubled by its implications. Or you may have even been a closet Calvinist for years. Though the road was perhaps difficult, you eventually embraced the doctrines of grace, and now you know there is no compromise position between the two doctrines.
Many Reformed believers today are having the same experience
with the doctrine of preterism. They are learning that it is also a hard
pill to swallow and that it is nevertheless the doctrine of Scripture. They
are learning that it represents “the whole counsel of God” in the area of
eschatology. After we are confronted with biblical preterism, we may
try to straddle the fence, but there is truly no middle ground. Just as
R.C. Sproul (Sr.) would consider a four-point Calvinist to be in reality a
“confused Arminian,” more and more futurists, on their way to biblical
preterism, are beginning to see that partial preterism is just “confused
futurism.” There is no biblical basis for “partial preterism” even as there
is no biblical basis for “partial Calvinism.” This is why partial preterism
invariably leads to full preterism. This is why Keith Mathison and Ken
Gentry have both come closer to “hyper-preterism” since they wrote
WSTTB. Mathison now believes that the prophecy of the sheep and
the goats in Matthew 25 was fulfilled in AD 70 and Gentry now believes
that the resurrection in Daniel 12:2-3 was fulfilled in AD 70.
 
 


[1] Mathison, Postmillennialism, 111 (emphasis added)
[2] Postmillennialism, 33
[3] Milton Terry wrote of Hebrews 9:26-28, “The ‘end of the age’ means the close of the epoch or age—that is, the Jewish age or dispensation which was drawing nigh, as our Lord frequently intimated. All those passages that speak of ‘the end,’ ‘the end of the age,’ or ‘the ends of the ages,’ refer to the same consummation, and always as nigh at hand.” “…the writer [to the Hebrews] regarded the incarnation of Christ as taking place near the end of the aeon, or dispensational period. To suppose that he meant that it was close upon the end of the world, or the destruction of the material globe, would be to make him write false history as well as bad grammar. It would not be true in fact; for the world has already lasted longer since the incarnation than the whole duration of the Mosaic economy, from the exodus to the destruction of the temple. It is futile, therefore, to say that the ‘end of the age’ may mean a lengthened period, extending from the incarnation to our times, and even far beyond them. That would be an aeon, and not the close of an aeon. The aeon of which our Lord was speaking was about to close in a great catastrophe; and a catastrophe is not a protracted process, but a definitive and culminating act.” Milton S. Terry, Biblical HERMENEUTICS A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, 441-442.
[4] Ken Gentry, in another book, gave a decisive interpretation of Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question: “Christ’s teaching here is extremely important to redemptive history. He is responding to the question of His disciples regarding when the end of the age (Gk., aion) will occur (24:3). In essence, His full answer is: when the Romans lay waste the temple (vv. 6 and 15 anticipate this) and pick apart Jerusalem (v. 28).” Thomans Ice, Kenneth Gentry, The Great Tribulation Past or Future? Two Evangelicals Debate the Question (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1999), 58.
[5] Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001), 32
 
 
 

 

House Divided Chapter Four The NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan Part 13 What About Hymenaeus and Philetus 2 Timothy 2:17-18?

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 13 – What About Hymenaeus and Philetus 2 Timothy 2:17-18?

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.  

2 Timothy 2:17–18

I recently received an email and phone call from an elder in a church who was secretly placed under church discipline and then excommunicated for studying the preterist view of Bible prophecy. He and his family were told that their salvation was in question unless they repented of studying (let alone holding to) this position. The source material that was used against them was When Shall These Things Be?, and the Bible text that was used to anathematize them was 2 Timothy 2:17–18. Apparently the eldership of the church did not see the irony. The editor of When Shall These Things Be? 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.[1] 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.

As we have seen on virtually every page of WSTTB, Mathison and his co-authors are in conflict over a multitude of eschatological passages.  It comes as no surprise that they are in conflict even in regard to how or even if the Bible anathematizes preterists. And it is more than ironic that the one passage in all of Scripture that can conceivably be perceived as decisively anathematizing preterists is in reality applicable to the implications of futurism.[2] Selah.

Partial Preterist Mr. Gary North, has said that if one side of the debate ceases to respond to the others arguments then the one who has responded last (thus silencing the other) in essence has won the debate (my paraphrase).   He has also written of dispensational scholars and their inability to keep up with postmillennial works and critiques, “Like a former athlete who dies of a heart attack at age 52 from obesity and lack of exercise, so did dispensational theology depart from this earthly veil of tears.  Dispensational theologians got out of shape, and were totally unprepared for the killer marathon of 1988.” (Greg L. Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., HOUSE DIVIDED THE BREAK-UPOF DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY (Tyler, TX:  Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), Publishers Foreword, xx.).  In the same book DeMar claims that “Any theological position divided against itself is laid waste” and “shall not stand” and is guilty of “Theological Schizophrenia” (Ibid. 349-350).  Apparently Mr. Mathison was not prepared for the killer marathon of 2009 and since that time has been too busy engorging himself from the profits P&R provided him and is simply too scared and out of shape to open our book let alone read and respond to my critique and response to him?  And we document the “House Divided” “Theological Schizophrenia” and contradictory approach Reformed eschatology has sought to use against us let alone the contradictions (and yet at the same time progressive views moving towards Full Preterism) that are within Mathison’s writings alone.

Therefore, I have decided to post my chapter response to his online (in small parts) in hopes that both the Futurist and the Full Preterist communities will contact him for an official response.  If no response continues to come, then I will allow him to be judged by the same standard that his own postmillennial partial preterist colleagues have set up, and accept that he is unable to respond and has lost our debate.

 


[1] William Hendriksen; Simon J. Kistemaker: New Testament Commentary:  Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 268.
[2] For more on 2 Timothy 2:17–18, see David Green’s response to “Strimple Argument #1” in chapter seven of this book.

House Divided Chapter Four NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan – The Millennium Revelation 20

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?

The Millennium Revelation 20
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. 
Millennium
Mathison writes: “ . . . [T]he hyper-preterist interpretations of the millennium fail to take seriously the long-term time text involved. . . . When the word thousand is used in Scripture, it refers either to a literal thousand or to an indefinite, but very large, number” (209).
Response:  
Psalm 50:10 is often cited, usually by postmillennialists, to teach that “a thousand” symbolizes literally “many thousands or millions.” For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. (Ps. 50:10)
Postmillennialists reason that God owns the cattle on every hill; therefore “a thousand hills” symbolizes or represents “many thousands or millions of hills.” Thus, they reason, we are led by Scripture to interpret the “thousand years” in Revelation 20 to mean “many thousands or millions of years.”
That reasoning sounds solid at first glance. However, the context of Psalm 50:10 does not lead us to a principle that a symbolic “thousand” always signifies “many thousands.” It leads us to the principle that a symbolic “thousand” signifies “fullness.” The “thousand” of Psalm 50:10 is interpreted for us two verses later:
The world is Mine, and the fullness thereof. (Ps. 50:12b)
In Psalm 90:4, a “thousand years” is as “yesterday” and as “a watch in the night.” In 2 Peter 3:8, a “thousand years” is as one “day.” In those verses, a “thousand” (and “yesterday” and “a watch” and a “day”) is used to teach us that to God, a small piece of time is no different than a fullness of time. (Compare Job 7:7; Ps. 39:5; 90:2; 144:4; Heb. 13:8; Jms. 4:14.) Thus in Psalm 105:8, a “thousand” corresponds with “forever”: He has remembered His covenant forever, the word that he commanded to a thousand generations. (Ps. 105:8)
In scriptural usage, a symbolic “thousand” can be likened to “one” (day / yesterday / a watch in the night), or used in reference to millions of hills, or to eternity (“forever”). A “thousand” can be likened unto or used to represent a number lesser or greater than a literal thousand. Only its context can determine its literal numerical meaning, but the basic idea that is communicated by the number is “fullness.” As G. K. Beale wrote, “The primary point of the thousand years is probably not a figurative reference to a long time . . .”[1]
How one interprets the thousand years in Revelation 20 depends on one’s eschatological framework. The passage does not interpret itself, but must be interpreted by the overall eschatology of Scripture. Within the preterist interpretive framework, the biblical-eschatological context of Revelation 20 should lead us to interpret the “thousand years” to signify the time of the Christological filling up of all things (Eph. 1:10; 4:10). That time was from the Cross of Christ to the Parousia of Christ in AD 70. That was the time during which “the [spiritual] death” which came through Adam and was magnified through “the law” was in process of being destroyed. The literal timeframe of the “thousand years” was roughly forty years.
Mathison admits that he does not know if there were any rabbis who used the number 1,000 to symbolize forty years (210). Reformed theologian G. K. Beale tells us that some Jews considered the length of the intermediate messianic reign to be forty years. He also states that one Jewish tradition made an anti-type connection between Adam’s lifespan (almost 1,000 years) and a reign of Messiah for a (possibly symbolic) thousand years.[2] Many Christians have attempted to make this connection and have also paralleled the thousand years of 2 Peter 3:8 with John’s thousand years in Revelation 20:2–6.
Adam falling short of the 1,000-year lifespan by 70 years (Gen. 5:5) may represent his being created a mortal being and perishing in sin outside of God’s presence. If this is the case, then it is more than reasonable that the number 1,000 took on the symbolism and representation of Christ’s and the church’s victory over Death in contrast to Adamic man’s vain existence apart from God’s salvation (Eccl. 6:6).
Some Evangelicals and Reformed theologians along with some preterists such as Milton Terry do not understand the long lifespans in the early chapters of Genesis to be literal.[3] They believe that the lifespans were symbolic and contained numerological elements. But even if Adam’s lifespan was a literal 930 years, this does not exclude an anti-typical, symbolic 1,000 years in Revelation 20.
When Messiah came as “the last Adam,” His reign in and through the church for a symbolic thousand years brought the church not to the dust of the earth separated from God’s presence, but to the Tree of Life and into the very presence of God (Rev. 20–22:12). Through faith in and union with Christ as the Last Adam (the Tree of Life and New Creation), Christians have achieved what Adam could not. The church was clothed with “immortality”; it attained unto the “fullness” of life in AD 70; and it will never die for the aeons of the aeons (2 Cor. 1:20; 1 Cor. 15:45–53; Rev. 21–22; Jn. 11:26–27).
All of the authors of WSTTB understand that the Second Coming is the event that brings the millennium to its consummation. However, the only future coming of Jesus discussed in the book of Revelation is the one that would take place shortly (Rev. 3:11; 22:6–7, 10–12, 20). Both Mathison and Gentry concede that this imminent coming of Christ took place in AD 70. But then they err in assuming that the imminent coming of Jesus in Revelation was not His “actual second coming” (182).
To conclude my section on the millennium of Revelation 20, please consider the following exegetical, orthodox, and historical points:

  1. Kenneth Gentry informs us that the book of Revelation is about things which were past, present, and “about to be” fulfilled in John’s day (Rev. 1:19, YLT). There is no exegetical evidence that Revelation 20 does not fall within these inspired parameters.
  2. As G.K. Beale has said, the symbol of the thousand years does not have to be taken as describing a long period of time (i.e., thousands of years).
  3. It has also been acknowledged by Reformed theologians that many Rabbis believed that the period of Messiah was to be a transitionary stage between “this age/world and the age/ world to come.” These Rabbis (such as R. Adiba), understood this transition period to be forty years, based upon how long the Israelites were in the wilderness before inheriting the land. This type/anti-type understanding is developed for us in the book of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 3-4; 10:25, 37; 11—13:14, YLT). And as we have noted from Reformed partial preterists such as Joel McDurmon and Gary DeMar, it is within the realm of Reformed orthodoxy to believe that Jesus’ and Paul’s “this age/world” was the old covenant age, and that “the last days” were the days of transition between the old covenant age and the new covenant age (AD 30 – 70).
  4. Reformed partial preterists such as Keith Mathison, Kenneth Gentry, and James Jordan teach that the content of Revelation 1-19 and 21-22 was fulfilled by AD 70, at which time there was a judgment and resurrection of the dead and arrival of the new creation. And amillennialists such as Simon Kistemaker teach that Revelation 20:5–15 recapitulates the same judgment and consummation scenes that are depicted in chapters 1–19 and 21–22. Full preterists hold to both of these Reformed and “orthodox” positions in interpreting the bookof Revelation.
  5. In criticizing the premillennial view, which often seeks to isolate Revelation 20 from the rest of the New Testament, amillennialists and many postmillennialists hold that Revelation 20 falls within the “already and not yet” of the “last days” period in the New Testament, and that this transition period is depicted in the parable of the wheat and tares, or in Matthew 24–25. But as we have seen, it is “orthodox” to believe the “last days” ended with the old covenant age in AD 70, and that the harvest/gathering and coming of Christ in Matthew 13 and 24–25 was fulfilled by AD 70.
  6. If it is true that a) the coming of Christ in Matthew 24 and 25 is referring to the AD 70 judgment, as Mathison and other partial preterists are now proposing, and if it is true that b) John’s version of Matthew 24-25 is found in the book of Revelation, and if it is true that c) Matthew 24:27-31 — 25:31ff. is descriptive of the one end-of-the-age Second Coming, judgment, and resurrection event (the creedal position), then d) the authors of WSTTB have some explaining to do, because these orthodox doctrines form the “this-generation” fortyyear millennial view of full preterism.
MATTHEW 24-25 REVELATION 20:5-15
Resurrection and judgment Matt. 24:30-31 (cf. Matt. 13:39-43/Dan. 12:2-3) Matt. 25:31-46 (cf.   Matt. 16:27-28) Resurrection and judgment Rev. 20:5-15
De-creation heaven and earth pass/flee Matt. 24:29, 35 (cf. Matt. 5:17-18) De-creation heaven and earth pass/flee Rev. 20:11 (cf. Rev. 6:14; 16:20; 21:1)
Christ on throne to judge Matt. 25:31 God on throne to judge Rev. 20:11
Wicked along with Devil eternally punished Matt. 25:41-46 Wicked along with Devil eternally punished Rev. 20:10, 14-15

7. If it is true that a) the judgment and resurrection of the dead in Daniel 12:1-4, 13 were fulfilled by AD 70 (per Gentry), and if it is true that b) Daniel 12:1-4, 13 is parallel to Revelation 20:5-15 (classic amillennial view), then c) once again the authors of WSTTB have some explaining to do, in that these orthodox views form the “this-generation” forty-year millennial view of full preterism.

DANIEL   12:1-2 REVELATION   20:5-15
Only those whose names are written in the book would be delivered/saved from eternal condemnation Dan. 12:1-2 Only those whose names are written in the book would be delivered/saved from the   lake of fire Rev. 20:12-15
This is the time for the resurrection and judgment   of the dead Dan. 12:1-2 This is the time for the resurrection and judgment   of the dead Rev. 20:5-15

Conclusion:

Therefore, the reader should be able to discern that the full preterist view of the millennium is: 1) consistent with the teaching of Revelation, 2) falls within the “orthodox” views the Reformed church, 3) is in harmony with the analogy of Scripture, and 4) has historical support from Rabbis who saw a forty-year transition period between the two ages. Our view on the millennium is exegetically sound and orthodox. It is not as “difficult” as Mathison attempts to portray it.
[1] . G. K. Beale, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 1018.
[2] . Ibid., 1018–1019.
[3] . Carol A. Hill, Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis (http://www. asa3.org/aSA/PSCF/2003/PSCF12–03Hill pdf); Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 62.