ANSWERING ISLAMIC AND MORMON ARGUMENTS ON THE FAILED PROMISES OF THEIR "PROPHETS" AND HOW THEY DEAL WITH NT IMMINENCE

I remember many years ago at The Master’s College one of our instructors invited a Mormon apologist to a class so that he could answer questions and challenges from the students.  I had just become a Full Preterist not long before he arrived and was pleasantly surprised that the Lord opened an immediate door for me with this man.  One of the first and most confident “arguments” the class wanted to bring up against Mormonism and to our guest was all of the failed prophecies that Joseph Smith had made about the Second Coming of Jesus.  Apparently the class was not prepared for his response:
“Why is this a big deal for you?  According to you, Jesus is the greatest Prophet of all and didn’t He predict that He would return in some of the lifetimes and generation He was speaking to?  And doesn’t the NT prophets follow that pattern?”
You could have heard a pin drop!  No one wanted to touch that so they moved on to other topics – archeology and the Book of Mormon etc…  Later that evening I had dinner with him and his wife and gave a much more Biblical apologetic to the response he gave to my class.  He was shocked to hear someone actually admit that Jesus did in fact promise to return in the lifetime of those He was speaking to and in their generation.  Nor was he prepared for my second affirmative – “and He was faithful to that promising coming to close the old covenant age in AD 70.”  He admitted to me that he had never been given this response and had no rebuttal.  I also assured him that sticking his head in the sand concerning what Joseph Smith and his early “Prophets” of the LDS taught about a failed Second Coming was just as bad as what my Christian brothers and sisters had done in the class earlier that day.  His “argument” only proved that their view and the Mormon view of prophetic imminence can’t be trusted — nothing more.  While mine exonerated Jesus’ and the NT prophet’s teaching and refuted his.
But MacArthur falls right into the hands of the Mormon “argument” because in his book seeking to refute Partial Preterism and Full Preterism on imminence, he admits the inspired NT authors, Apostles and Prophets taught an imminent Second Coming for their generation (John MacArthur, THE SECOND COMING Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age, pp. 51ff.).  John is clueless and contradictory.  He wants an imminence that is imminent but then ends up having to embrace a “carrot and stick” eschatology that has to re-define real imminence.  Go figure!
The Sovereign Grace Full Preterist knows how to deal with the last days cults when in comes to alleged ongoing “prophetic” “revelations” – because since Christ has come, that office has “ceased” (cf. Dan. 9:24/1 Cor. 13:8-12).  MacArthur had no problem with letting a Mormon “heretic” “step foot” on TMC campus and engage and give “equal time” to him because he and the staff thought it would be an easy refutation.  Yet the truth of the matter is, MacAruthur’s views on imminence plays right into their hands, and if the Second Coming wasn’t fulfilled in the first century, then “prophetic revelations” continue.  Selah.
Recently I have been on Facebook interacting with Muslims and discussing eschatology with them in various groups.  When I point out that Muhammad made false predictions about the Second Coming and “last hour” to take place within a hundred years of those he was speaking to, I get the same kind of “apologetic” my old Mormon friend gave me.  They point out how Jesus and the NT authors are guilty of the very accusation I have brought forth against their “prophet” and then seek to try and explain away that their prophet didn’t in fact make a false prediction etc…  Of course after I have pointed out that I agree with them that Jesus and the NT taught a first century fulfillment and believe that these promises were fulfilled in AD 70 – I haven’t gotten much of a response (similar to that of my Mormon apologist friend).
So my point in this article is to simply develop the similarities between these two end time alleged “prophets” (Muhammad & Joseph Smith) and compare their failed imminent predictions to take place in their generation with that of Jesus’ teaching that He would (and in fact did) come upon the clouds of heaven to bring an end to the old covenant age in His “this generation” ie. by AD 70 (Matt. 24:27-34).  We also need to explore a very important aspect of this and that is if Jesus did in fact keep His word and His parousia took place in AD 70, then could there even be the office of prophet or further “revelations” coming from Muhammad, Joseph Smith, or anyone post AD 70?  And one last point and foundational study needs to be to defend the Deity of Christ (cf. Daniel 7:13-14 [OG LXX & NIV] and Matthew 26:62-65) against these two false prophets and the religions they founded.
Parallels or similarities between the “Prophet” Muhammad and the “Prophet” Joseph Smith:
 
1. Both founders were visited by an angel.  Joseph Smith claimed to be visited by the angel Moroni.  Muhammad claimed to be visited by the angel Gabriel.
2. Both men claimed to have had visions.
3. Both men were told that other religions were false and got perverted.
4. Therefore, both men were allegedly being called by God to restore the true religion.
5. Both men’s lives contributed towards or wrote a book said to be “inspired by God.”  Islam – The Qur’an.  Mormonism – The Book of Mormon.
6. Both men claimed to be illiterate or uneducated and ironically used this as proof that their revelations and or books were inspired.
7. Both men claimed that the Bible (as the Christians have it today) had been perverted, altered,  or corrupted and was therefore unreliable and therefore in need of their “revelations.”
8. Both men and or religions would claim their holy book was the most correct and perfect book on earth.  However, there are over 4,000 changes to the book of Mormon since the original 1830 version and there are over 1,000 variants in the first 83 Sura’s of the Qur’an.
9. Both men claimed that their holy book was based upon an original stored in heaven.  The Qur’an on tablets and The Book of Mormon on golden plates.
10. Yet oddly (see #8) both “prophets” claimed that the version (Qur’an and Book of Mormon) that we have today are identical to what the prophet revealed and that parts are not altered, lost or corrupted as the Christian Bible allegedly has been.
11. Both men claimed to be the last and final prophet of God.
12. Both men claimed they were persecuted for their correct and pure faith.
13. Both men were polygamists who collected many wives.  Joseph Smith had 33 documented wives.  Muhammad had 11 wives (one was nine years old) – he also collected more wives than his “revelations” allowed!  They also both have low views of women.  In Islam women do not inherit eternal life and the seventy virgins they have sex with in “paradise” are spirit beings.  In Mormonism women can only enter their husbands “paradise” if he grants them such.  Both try and lure their disciples with promises of sex with virgins in “paradise.”
14. Both men borrowed from paganism and polytheism and incorporated these concepts into their new religions.
15. Both men were great story tellers – Joseph Smith was known to be a con-artist and Muhammad a traveling salesman (which is where he heard bits and pieces of the OT and NT and incorporated twisted and inaccurate versions of them into his “revelations”).
16.  Both needed further “revelations” from God to correct issues with their previous “revelations” and or writings.  Muhammad “abrogated” or retracted the “satanic verses” (Sura 53:19-23).  Mormons retracted Smith’s divine order mandating polygamy (D&C 132 and Jacob 2:30) and the LDS has also back peddled on their views of African Americans.
17.  Both religions need other religious books to bring understanding or further clarifications to their previous revelations and or writings.  Muslims use the Hadith and Mormons have the Doctrine and Covenants.
18.  Both are legalistic systems and promote a salvation by works.
19.  Both deny the deity of Christ.
20.  Both are very political in their eschatology.  We all know that Islam believes in world dominance with ISIS vowing to raise its black flag over the Whitehouse.  Joseph Smith claimed he received the full name of a secret organization (made up of the “Council of Fifty” Mormon men) in a revelation on April 7, 1842 called: The Kingdom of God and His Laws, with Keys and Power Thereof, and Judgment in.  It vows to be a theocratic government (ruled by the “true [Mormon] church) which will overthrow the U.S. form of government and eventually be a one world government – paving the way for Christ’s Second Coming and millennial period.  Both believe that at some point the world will be in such chaos that world leaders will beg for their religion to rule them.
21.  Both have doctrines whereby they kill apostates which no longer want to embrace their religion (Mormons call it the doctrine of “Blood Atonement”).  Who knows how far the Mormon church would be willing to go if they thought their golden age of taking over the governments of the world would come true.  Would they kill those that disagreed with the “true church” as they are willing to kill apostates?  Who knows.
22. Both “prophets” falsely predicted that Jesus’ Second Coming or last hour would take place within the lifetime of some of those that were listening to them and or in their generation (see documentation in the bulk of this article).
To briefly recap my approach – 1.  deal primarily with #22 (showing the false prophecies of the two), 2.  highlighting the serious ramifications of #20 (trying to self-fulfill a global “holy war” motif – Islam being the focus here), and 3.  closing with a Biblical view of Jesus #19 (Christ coming upon the clouds of heaven to close the old covenant age in AD 70 proving Jesus is a faithful and true prophet, but more importantly, He is God/Ancient of Days).
Islam’s failed “Prophet” Muhammad
Apparently Islam is willing to forget its rich history of alleged “inspired” and yet failed eschatological predictions (space forbids to address all of them, but here are a few):
1. Muhammad predicted the “Last Hour” would come within the lifetime and generation of his contemporaries:
“Anas reported: A young boy of Mughira b. Shu’ba happened to pass by (the Holy Prophet) and he was of my age. Thereupon Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: If he lives long he would not grow very old till the Last Hour would come (to the old People of this generation).” (Sahih Muslim, Book 41, Number 7053).
2. Muhammad predicted that everyone would die on the earth within a hundred years (thus predicting the end time/last hour events of the judgment and resurrection):
“Once the Prophet led us in the ‘Isha’ prayer during the last days of his life and after finishing it (the prayer) (with Taslim) he said: “Do you realize (the importance of) this night? Nobody present on the surface of the earth tonight will be living after the completion of one hundred years from this night.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1 Book 3, Number 116).
3. Muhammad predicted the great war, the coming of the Antichrist and thus the end of the world would take place after the conquests of Jerusalem (636 AD) and Constantinople (1453 AD):
“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: The flourishing state of Jerusalem will be when Yathrib is in ruins, the ruined state of Yathrib will be when the great war comes, the outbreak of the great war will be at the conquest of Constantinople and the conquest of Constantinople when the Dajjal (Antichrist) comes forth. He (the Prophet) struck his thigh or his shoulder with his hand and said: This is as true as you are here or as you are sitting (meaning Mu’adh ibn Jabal).” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 37, Number 4281).
Other but more complex views would be Muhammad’s belief that the world was roughly 6,500 years old during his lifetime and that all of the prophecies would be fulfilled when the earth reached her 7,000th year (Btw, many Jewish and even Christians have tried this approach as well in predicting the end of the world – always ending in failure as well). Obviously, the “last hour” (a world-wide literal resurrection and judgment of the dead and literal transformation of the planet earth, etc…) did not happen 500 years from Muhammad’s death.
Since Islam teaches that Allah inspired the OT, then according to Allah, the “prophet” Muhammad was a false prophet and should have been stoned to death (Deut. 18:20-22).
Islam’s version of newspaper eschatology
Muslims not only stick their head in the sand in denial of what their “prophet” taught concerning an imminent fulfillment of the end time prophecies, but virtually all sects of Islam in the Middle East view their wars as fulfillments of these events – thus perpetuating self-fulfilling them in hopes to bring about other false “imminent” eschatological events.
Consider this current news article and how all sides of Islam feels their wars are fulfillments of an imminent eschatological hope:
“If the scenario sounds familiar to an anxious world watching Syria’s devastating civil war, it resonates even more with Sunni and Shi’ite fighters on the frontlines – who believe it was all foretold in 7th Century prophecies.
From the first outbreak of the crisis in the southern city of Deraa to apocalyptic forecasts of a Middle East soaked in blood, many combatants on both sides of the conflict say its path was set 1,400 years ago in the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad and his followers.
Among those many thousands of sayings, or hadith, are accounts which refer to the confrontation of two huge Islamic armies in Syria, a great battle near Damascus, and intervention from the north and west of the country.
The power of those prophecies for many fighters on the ground means that the three-year-old conflict is more deeply rooted – and far tougher to resolve – than a simple power struggle between President Bashar al-Assad and his rebel foes.
Syria’s war has killed more than 140,000 people, driven millions from their homes and left many more dependent on aid. Diplomatic efforts, focused on the political rather than religious factors driving the conflict, have made no headway.
“If you think all these mujahideen came from across the world to fight Assad, you’re mistaken,” said a Sunni Muslim jihadi who uses the name Abu Omar and fights in one of the many anti-Assad Islamist brigades in Aleppo.
“They are all here as promised by the Prophet. This is the war he promised – it is the Grand Battle,” he told Reuters, using a word which can also be translated as slaughter.”
On the other side, many Shi’ites from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran are drawn to the war because they believe it paves the way for the return of Imam Mahdi – a descendent of the Prophet who vanished 1,000 years ago and who will re-emerge at a time of war to establish global Islamic rule before the end of the world.
According to Shi’ite tradition, an early sign of his return came with the 1979 Iranian revolution, which set up an Islamic state to provide fighters for an army led by the Mahdi to wage war in Syria after sweeping through the Middle East.
“This Islamic Revolution, based on the narratives that we have received from the prophet and imams, is the prelude to the appearance of the Mahdi,” Iranian cleric and parliamentarian Ruhollah Hosseinian said last year.
He cited comments by an eighth century Shi’ite imam who said another sign of the Mahdi’s return would be a battle involving warriors fighting under a yellow banner – the color associated with Lebanon’s pro-Assad Hezbollah militia.
“As Imam Sadeq has stated, when the (forces) with yellow flags fight anti-Shi’ites in Damascus and Iranian forces join them, this is a prelude and a sign of the coming of his holiness,” Hosseinian was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.
The historical texts have become a powerful recruitment tool, quoted across the region from religious festivals in Iraq’s Shi’ite shrine city of Kerbala to videos released by Sunni preachers in the Gulf, and beyond.
“We have here mujahideen from Russia, America, the Philippines, China, Germany, Belgium, Sudan, India and Yemen and other places,” said Sami, a Sunni rebel fighter in northern Syria. “They are here because this is what the Prophet said and promised, the Grand Battle is happening.”
Both sides emphasize the ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic state which will rule the world before total chaos.
Although some Sunni and Shi’ite clerics are privately skeptical of the religious justifications for the war, few in the region express such reservations in public for fear of being misinterpreted as doubters of the prophecies.
“Yes some of the signs are similar but these signs could apply at any time after the fall of the Islamic state (1,000 years ago),” one Sunni Muslim scholar in Lebanon said, asking that he not be identified. “There is no way to confirm we are living those times. We have to wait and see.”
For the faithful, the hadith chart the course of Syria’s conflict from its beginning in March 2011, when protests erupted over the alleged torture of students and schoolboys who wrote anti-Assad graffiti on a school wall in Deraa.
“There will be a strife in Sham (Syria) that begins with children playing, after which nothing can be fixed,” according to one hadith. “When it calms down from one side, it ignites from the other.”
Hadith on both sides mention Syria as a main battlefield, naming cities and towns where blood will be spilled.
Syria’s civil war grew out of the “Arab Spring” of pro-democracy revolts in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011 after Assad’s forces cracked down hard on peaceful protests.
But because Assad is a member of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shii’ism, and most of his opponents are Sunni Muslims, the fighting quickly took on a sectarian character, which has largely overwhelmed the political issues.
“These hadith are what the Mujahideen are guided by to come to Syria, we are fighting for this. With every passing day we know that we are living the days that the Prophet talked about,” said Mussab, a fighter from the Nusra Front, a Sunni hardline group linked to al Qaeda, speaking from Syria.
Murtada, a 27-year-old Lebanese Shi’ite who regularly goes to Syria to battle against the rebels, says he is not fighting for Assad, but for the Mahdi, also known as the Imam.
Abbas, a 24-year-old Iraqi Shi’ite fighter, said he knew he was living in the era of the Mahdi’s return when the United States and Britain invaded Iraq in 2003.
“That was the first sign and then everything else followed,” he told Reuters from Baghdad, where he said was resting before heading to Syria for a fourth time.
“I was waiting for the day when I will fight in Syria. Thank God he chose me to be one of the Imam’s soldiers.”
Abu Hsaasan, a 65 year old pensioner from south Lebanon, said he once thought the prophecies of the end of days would take centuries to come about.
“Things are moving fast. I never thought that I would be living the days of the Imam. Now, with every passing day I am more and more convinced that it is only a matter of few years before he appears.”” (Mariam Karouny, Apocalyptic prophecies drive both sides to Syrian battle for end of time, 4-1-14, http://news.yahoo.com/apocalyptic-prophecies-drive-both-sides-syrian-battle-end-142641298.html;_ylt=AwrTWfwc7TpTWXgAjanQtDMD  Kim Riddlebarger cites the same article but doesn’t offer a solution and in any of his writings fails to deal with NT imminence:  http://www.reformedreport.com/the-riddleblog/isis-and-islamic-eschatology.html#.VOgBCC4YPWk)
One would think they are listening to something that is passed off in the name of “Christianity Today” from the likes of Hal Lindsey, John Hagee, or Tim LaHaye and their non-Berean “spirit led” blind disciples.  In fact Islam does have its version of TV “prophecy experts” such as Adnan Oktar, a prolific author and TV personality with millions of Muslim followers.  He claims the Mahdi and Jesus are currently living among us ready to emerge and fulfill Islamic end time prophecies.
“Yes. We believe that Hazrat Mahdi has come and is busy carrying on his activities,” “We believe that he appeared in Istanbul, as that is how it is related in the Judaic accounts. This is how it is related in the Islamic accounts as well.” (Leo Hohmann, Popular Muslim Personality:  Jesus Christ is among us, http://www.wnd.com/2014/10/popular-muslim-personality-jesus-christ-is-among-us/#omxjVrhqwfLyIqlS.99).
Oktar, is Sunni, but points out that even prominent Shiite leaders in Iran have said they expect the Mahdi to appear in Istanbul:
“There is no other time for this,” “He should appear in a date between the years 1400 to 1500 according to Hijri calendar (the current Islamic year is 1435).” (Ibid).
“After World War II, a lifetime has passed as well and consequently we are exactly in the time the prophet Jesus mentioned in the Gospel,” “A lifetime has now passed (since the war), or is about to pass. This is one of the biggest proofs of the fact that Jesus Christ is now among us.” (Ibid).
ISIS – An Apocalyptic End Time Cult
It’s nice to see CNN get something right for a change when it comes to ISIS,
“… its (ISIS) ideology is that of an apocalyptic cult that believes that we are living in the end times and that ISIS’ actions are hastening the moment when this will happen.
The name of the Dabiq magazine itself helps us understand ISIS’ worldview. The Syrian town of Dabiq is where the Prophet Mohammed is supposed to have predicted that the armies of Islam and “Rome” would meet for the final battle that will precede the end of time and the triumph of true Islam.
In the recent issue of Dabiq it states: “As the world progresses towards al-Malhamah al-Kubrā, (‘the Great Battle’ to be held at Dabiq) the option to stand on the sidelines as a mere observer is being lost.” In other words, in its logic, you are either on the side of ISIS or you are on the side of the Crusaders and infidels.
When American aid worker Peter Kassig was murdered by ISIS in November, “Jihadi John” — the masked British murderer who has appeared in so many ISIS videos — said of Kassig: “We bury the first crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the rest of your armies to arrive.”
In other words, ISIS wants a Western ground force to invade Syria, as that will confirm the prophecy about Dabiq.” (Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst, Why does ISIS keep making enemies?)
The failed “Prophet” Joseph Smith of the last day’s cult – Mormonism
In the Doctrine and Covenants, 84:4-5 Joseph Smith received a supposed “divine revelation” on September 22 & 23, 1832 that reads,
“Verily, this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation. For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord, and a cloud shall rest upon it, which cloud shall be even the glory of the Lord, which shall fill the house.”
In 1833 Joseph Smith claimed,
“…My father presented himself,… I asked of him a father’s blessing, which he granted by laying his hands upon my head, in the name of Jesus Christ, and declaring that I should continue in the priest’s office until Christ comes.” (History of the Church, Vol. 1, 323).
Likewise, when the twelve “Apostles” were first ordained in the Mormon “church,” some of them as well received this special promise that they would live until Christ came:
“The blessing of Lyman E. Johnson was,… that he shall live until the gathering is accomplished,… and he shall see the Savior come and stand upon the earth with power and great glory.” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, 188).
“He (William Smith) shall be preserved and remain on the earth, until Christ shall come to take vengeance on the wicked.” (Ibid. 191).
Following the “revelations” that Christ would return in the lifetime of Joseph Smith and some of his “Apostles”; the timing of “this generation” (D&C 84:4-5, 31) became even more specific:
“I prophecy [sic] in the name of the Lord God- and let it be written: that the Son of Man will not come in the heavens until I am 85 years old, 48 years hence or about 1890.” (Since the last six words of this “prophecy” have been TAKEN OUT by the LDS, I have cited the original source taken from Smith’s diary, March 10, 1843 through July 14, 1843).
In 1835, “President Smith” then stated,
“…it was the will of God that those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh- even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.” (Ibid. History of the Church, Vol. 2, 182).
Thus the dates 1890 and 1891were set! In 1838 “Apostle” Parley P. Pratt stated,
“I will state as a prophecy [sic], that there will not be an unbelieving Gentile upon this continent 50 years hence; and if they are not greatly scourged, and in a great measure over-thrown, within five or ten years from this date, then the Book of Mormon will have proven itself false.” (Talmage, Articles of Faith, 405).
Of course this “prophecy” being the embarrassment that it is to the LDS church has been conveniently deleted from any modern version of the writings of Parley P. Pratt. Forty-five years later he commented on D&C 84:4-6,31 stating,
“….suffice it to say that the people living in 1832, when the revelation was given, will not all pass away; there will be some living when the house spoken of will be reared, on which the glory of God will rest.” (Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 19, p.215, Dec. 9, 1877).
We must remember that Mr. Pratt was supposedly given the specific charge earlier in his life to “prophesy” about the Lord’s return, “Therefore prophesy, and it shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 34:10).
Even after Joseph Smith and his “Apostles” died and Christ did not come in 1890 or 1891, instead of repenting of these false prophecies that Christ would return in the lifetime and generation of Joseph Smith and his “apostles”, the LDS church blindly but willfully continued making such statements in their conference reports such as,
“Many of these young men and maidens that are here today will, in my opinion, if they are faithful, stand in the flesh when Christ comes in the clouds of heaven.” (Elder Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report, April, 1898, 57).
“I believe it will come in the very day when some of us who are here today will be living upon the face of the earth. That day is close at hand” [emphasis MJS] (Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, April, 1936, 75-76).
And,
“We are living in the dispensation and generation to which Jesus referred…” (Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 14, 5).
We also find the Mormons doing what another end time cult such as the Jehovah Witnesses do when their predictions don’t come to pass concerning the phrase “this generation”, in that they are forced to contradict earlier statements and “prophecies”, or just keep on STRETCHING the meaning of “this generation” out!!! Sensing a major problem in 1890 when Christ wasn’t coming as Joseph Smith prophesied that He would, the 1890 D&C edition carried a footnote that claimed a generation could be longer than a hundred years. This of course cannot be substantiated from the Bible. But we have now even surpassed the longest generation in The Book of Mormon, 4Nephi 18 which was claimed to have lasted 110 years. Even if we said Smith’s “prophecy” in 1832 (see D&C 84:4-5,31) was referring to babies born on that very day, this would bring us to 163 years and counting! A generation according to the Bible and other cultures is a period of 30-40 years. Jesus promised to return in the generation and lifetime of some of His Apostles (Peter, James, John, etc…) and not in Joseph Smith’s or our lifetimes and generation! To conclude, I will direct the LDS reader to a statement made by Smith himself,
“The only way of ascertaining a true prophet is to compare his prophecies with the ancient Word of God, and see if they agree, and if they do and come to pass, then certainly he is a true prophet… when, therefore any man, no matter who, or how high his standing may be, utters, or publishes, anything that afterwards proves to be untrue, he is a false prophet” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers 4:81-82).
Well, Joseph Smith’s “prophecies” concerning the second coming of Christ have not come to pass, and have been proven to be untrue. Therefore, according to Joseph Smith himself, his teaching do not “agree” with “the ancient Word of God,” namely Jesus’ teaching! Thus according to their own founder, Joseph Smith himself was not a “true prophet” and the LDS “church” with their alleged “elders” and “prophets” are truly a NON-PROPHET ORGANIZATION!
Jesus the “Faithful and True Witness”
We now need to re-visit the Muslim and Mormon apologetic claims that could be summarized as, “if our prophets were guilty of falsely predicting that the end, last hour, or Second Coming of Jesus was to take place in the lifetime of some living in their generation, then Jesus Himself must also be judged by the same standard and considered a false prophet!”  Admittedly, probably 90 – 95% of Christians simply have no Biblical apologetic against this rebuttal.  But Full Preterists do!  And here it is – Christ DID in fact promise that His Second Coming or “the parousia” would take place within the lifetime of some of those he was speaking to and in their AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Matt. 16:27-28; Matt. 24:27-34) — AND HE DID!  Let’s now address these passages and follow-up on what the ramifications of Jesus fulfilling his promises have upon the claims of Muhammad and Joseph Smith being “prophets” or getting “revelations” from “God.”
A Brief Exegesis of Matthew 16:27–28 
For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.  Assuredly, I say to you there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
Let me first demonstrate that Matthew 16:27–28 (and its parallels, Mark 8:38–9:1; Luke 9:26–27) cannot be divided into two different events, according to the typical futurist approach. As we can see from the chart below, Matthew 16:27 is united to Matthew 16:28. Both verses speak of the same timeframe and event that Jesus spoke of in His undivided Olivet Discourse.

Matthew   16:27-28 & Parallels

The   Olivet Discourse

1. Christ comes in glory (Luke   9:26) 1. Christ comes in glory (Matt.   24:30)
2. Christ comes with angels (Matt.   16:27) 2. Christ comes with angels (Matt.   24:31)
3. Christ comes in judgment (Matt.   16:27) 3. Christ comes in judgment (Matt.   24:28-31;25:31-34)
4. Christ and the kingdom come in   power (Mark 8:38) 4. Christ and the kingdom come in   power (Luke 21:27-32)
5. Some of the disciples would   live (Matt. 16:28) 5. Some of the disciples would   live (Luke 21:16-18)
6. Some of the disciples would die   (Matt. 16:28) 6. Some of the disciples would die    (Luke 21:16)
7. Christ would be ashamed of some   in His generation (Mark 8:38) 7. All of this would occur in His   generation(Matt. 24:34)

For the Son of Man is about to Come
Young’s Literal Translation (YLT), the Darby Bible, Wuest’s Expanded Translation of the New Testament, and Weymouth’s New Testament in Modern Speech all translate Jesus’ return here as “about to come” or “soon to come.” These translations reflect the consistent usage of the Greek word mello in Matthew’s gospel, and its predominant usage in the New Testament.
Christ’s imminent coming in verse 27 is consistent with Christ’s coming in the lifetime of “some” in the crowd who were listening to him in verse 28.
After having waited thousands of years for the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom, the span of forty years (AD 30–70) was a relatively short time.
Verily I say unto you
Jesus uses the term “verily,” “truly,” or “most assuredly” 99 times in the gospels. The Greek word is “amen,” and it means “absolutely,” “really,” “may it be fulfilled.” It is never used to introduce a new subject.  Dispensational author and editor of another multi-authored book seeking to refute preterism, Thomas Ice, says of Matthew 16:27 and 28 that these “are two separate predictions separated by the words ‘truly I say to you.’” (Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 87).
But Mr. Ice fails to produce a single passage in which Jesus’ phrase, “Verily I say unto you,” separates one subject from another.
To the contrary, the phrase always signals an amplification of the previous thought.
Some standing here shall not taste of death until
Thomas Ice (A Dispensational critic of our Lord’s words here and that of Full Preterism) says of this verse: “A further problem with the preterist view is that our Lord said, ‘some of those standing here . . . .’ It is clear that the term ‘some’ would have to include at least two or more individuals.
. . . Peter notes that John only survived among the 12 disciples till the destruction of Jerusalem” (Ice, Controversy, 88).
In other words, according to Ice, Jesus said that “some” would survive, but the reality is that among His twelve disciples only John survived.  Ice’s argument would possibly have some validity if Jesus had been speaking only to His twelve apostles; but He was not. According to Mark’s account, “ . . . He called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said . . . ” (Mk. 8:34–9:1). So much for Ice’s arguments.
Until they see the kingdom of God already come in power
According to Mark’s account, some of the disciples would not die until they looked back on this event, knowing that the Lord and His kingdom had come in power. (Literally, “until they see the kingdom of God having come in power.”) According to Jesus, some of those who were listening to Him that day would see His Parousia, look back on the event, and afterwards die. Another of our critics Kenneth Gentry at least concedes this point citing J.A. Alexander:
Here “come” is “not, as the English words may seem to mean, in the act of coming (till they see it come), but actually or already come, the only sense that can be put upon the perfect parti-ciple here employed.” (Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), 215–216, emphasis added).
The Greek word here for “see” is eido. As with the English word, eido not only refers to physical sight, it can also mean “perceive.”
Through observing with the physical senses, “some” of Jesus’ contemporary audience would be able to look back on the destruction of the old covenant kingdom’s temple and city in AD 70 and “perceive” that Christ’s kingdom had arrived among and within them (Lk. 17:20–37; Col. 1:27; Jn. 14:2–3, 23, 29).
A Brief Exegesis of Matthew 24-25
“End of the age” – Were the disciples “confused?” Did they ask about the end of planet earth?   
Virtually all futurists begin with the disciples question in Matthew 24:3 and simply assume what they need to prove when they assume that the disciples were “confused” in associating Jesus’ coming and end of the age with the destruction of the temple.  Since their theology separates these events by thousands of years, and the disciples linked them to be fulfilled altogether, they merely assume the disciples were mistaken and not them or their system.  Here are some key hermeneutical steps the futurist willfully skips:
The Jews of Jesus’ day understood the phrase “this age” to be the old covenant age of Moses and the prophets and the “age to come” as the new covenant or Messianic age.
In the book of Daniel the consummation of the major eschatological events can be found in chapters 7, 9 and 12.  Daniel connected the eschatological “time of the end” events such as the desolation of the temple, the resurrection, the tribulation, the coming of the Son of man and the arrival of the kingdom, to take place when the city and temple would be destroyed – or “when the power of the holy people would be completely shattered” “all these things” (not some of them) would be fulfilled together (cf. see the consummation scenes in Dan. 7:13-14, 18, 27; Dan. 9:24-27; Dan. 12:1-7).
In Matthew 13:39-43, 51 Jesus taught that the judgment and resurrection (“the time of the end” eschatological events) would take place at the end of their old covenant “this age.”  Jesus specifically asks them if they understood His teaching on the time of this harvest at the end of their “this age” and they emphatically responded “Yes” (vs. 51).
Jesus had previously taught that He would return in some of their lifetimes (Matthew 10:22-23; 16:27-28/Mark 8:38-9:1).
Jesus previously taught them that all the blood from righteous Abel (from Genesis up to those He would send to them) would be avenged when the temple was destroyed in their “this generation” (Matthew 23:30-36, 38).  Isaiah in his “little apocalypse” (Isiah 24-28) posits all of the eschatological events (judgment, de-creation, avenging the sin of blood guilt, the blowing of the trumpet, the resurrection, etc…) to take place together when the temple would be destroyed or “when he makes all the altar stones to be like chalk stones crushed to pieces” (Isaiah 27:9).
So before we even get to Matthew 24, the disciples could have discerned from such prophets as Daniel and Isaiah, that all of the eschatological events would be fulfilled when the temple was destroyed.  The record clearly states that the disciples understood Jesus’ teaching on “the end of age” or the end of their “this age.”  And lastly, Jesus had already taught them that some of them would live to witness His return and the destruction of the Temple.  Therefore, they were NOT mistaken to associate and connect Jesus’ coming (to destroy the Temple [that they were looking at and discussing] in their generation) with His coming and the end of the age.
Just because Matthew (as a responsible narrator) or Jesus have elsewhere shown us where the disciples were confused in Matthew’s gospel, does not mean that they were confused here in Matthew 24:3.  In fact, when the disciples are confused or wrong about something it is clearly identified as such (ex. Matthew 16:6-12, 21-23; 17:4-5; 19:13-15; 20:20-25).
Milton Terry was spot on when he wrote of Jesus’ teaching on the “end of the age” in the Olivet discourse and elsewhere in the NT (such as 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 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, (Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 441-442. After all the second appearing or coming of Christ to close the old covenant age is further described as Christ coming “…in a very little while” and “would not tarry” (Hebrews 10:37).
Therefore, since Matthew 24-25 is about Christ coming in judgment upon old covenant Jerusalem in AD 66 – AD 70 to bring an end to the old covenant age (not the planet earth or to end the Church age), the futurists or end time apocalyptic cults are the ones confused in Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse and not the disciples.  Having established that the discourse is about the end of the old covenant age and not world history or planet earth, we can readily see how all these things would be fulfilled in Jesus’ contemporary AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Matthew 24:34).
“This generation”
In Matthew 24:34 Jesus clearly identifies that the “this generation” of the “you” (first century Jews not 21st. century ones) of whom He is addressing would not pass away before “all these things” (the signs, end of the age, and His coming) would be fulfilled. The Greek word for “generation” here is genea and is used over 30 times in the N.T. and in each context it is never used as anything other than to address a 40 year generation or in particularly, the first century contemporary generation of Jesus and His disciples.  However, some futurists and their alleged “scholars” (such as Thomas Ice) have admitted to this but claim Matthew 24:34 is the exception to the rule.  Therefore, they feel they have the liberty to make up their own definitions of the word to fit their theology. Let’s go over a couple of them.
The first false view claims that “this generation” is interpreted to mean, “the Jewish race will not pass away until all these things be fulfilled.” There is simply no solid exegetical or lexical evidence for this use of genea in the NT. If the race of Jews was intended by Jesus or Matthew, they would have used the Greek word genos.
The second main error popularized by Hal Lindsey, an alleged “prophecy expert” who, based on current events and not the Bible claimed,
“WE are the generation that will see the end times… and return of Christ.” And “unmistakably… this generation is the one that will see the end of the present world and the return of Christ” (Hal Lindsey, The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon, (New York: Bantam, 1980), see back-cover and p. 144).
And then this view was fueled from the pulpit from mega church Pastors such as Chuck Smith of the Calvary Chapel movement (one of my former Pastors):
“…that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981. (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981).” (Chuck Smith, End Times, The Word for Today, 1978, 35).
In his book Future Survival (1978) Chuck wrote,
“From my understanding of biblical prophecies, I’m convinced that the Lord is coming for His Church before the end of 1981.”
Lindsey began by admitting that a generation “was something like forty years.” Since 40 years have passed, instead of throwing in the towel on his theory, Lindsey now claims a generation could be 60 – 100 years. If this doesn’t sound new, it’s because it isn’t. The “expanding” of a generation is exactly what we have seen the Mormon’s do (and Jehovah’s Witnesses) with their false predictions concerning “this generation.”  One good fraud knows the other’s techniques!
Another false interpretation is that “this generation” is some vague future one that will be alive to see all these signs fulfilled and Jesus’ return.  Had this been the intension of Jesus, He could have simply said, “that generation…” instead of “this generation…”  So much for taking “this generation” “literally” and how it is used everywhere else in the Bible!  Again “this generation” is always referring to Jesus’ contemporaries, but it is true that the AD 30 – AD 70 generation saw the fulfillment to all of the signs and His parousia to close the OC age in AD 70.  So now lets prove it.
“False Messiahs”
Jesus predicted that false messiahs would come in the generation of the first century disciples and they did:  Theudas (Acts 5:36; 13:6), Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37), and Simon (Acts 8:9-11) to name a few.  In the epistles of John, John writes (as that generation was ending) informs the first century church that they knew it was “the last hour” because the Antichrist’s had arrived (1 John 2:17-18). For those who understand the “Antichrist” and “Man of Sin” to be the same person, we should point out that this individual was alive and “already at work” during the time of Paul (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). Contrary to the popular science fiction writings of Dispensational Zionist Hal Lindsay, this individual is not “alive and well on planet earth” in the form of some political leader of Russia, Iran, Iraq, etc.
The Jewish historian Josephus writes of a false prophet during the destruction of Jerusalem which deceived the Jews to stay and fight the Romans:
“Of so great a multitude, not one escaped. Their destruction was caused by a false prophet, who had on that day proclaimed to those remaining in the city, that “God commanded them to go up to the temple, there to receive the signs of their deliverance.” There were at this time many prophets suborned by the tyrants to delude the people, by bidding them wait for help from God, in order that there might be less desertion, and that those who were above fear and control might be encouraged by hope. Under calamities man readily yields to persuasion but when the deceiver pictures to him deliverance from pressing evils, then the sufferer is wholly influenced by hope. Thus it was that the impostors and pretended messengers of heaven at that time beguiled the wretched people.” (Josephus, Wars, 6.3.6.).
“Wars and Rumors of Wars”
“In AD 40 there was a disturbance at Mesopotamia which (Josephus says) caused the deaths of more than 50,000 people. In AD 49, a tumult at Jerusalem at the time of the Passover resulted in 10,000 to 20,000 deaths.  At Caesarea, contentions between Jewish people and other inhabitants resulted in over 20,000 Jews being killed.  As Jews moved elsewhere, over 20,000 were destroyed by Syrians.  At Scythopolis, over 13,000 Jews were killed.  Thousands were killed in other places, and at Alexandria 50,000 were killed.  At Damascus, 10,000 were killed in an hour’s time.” (John L. Bray, Matthew 24 Fulfilled, p. 28)
When Jesus was addressing wars and rumors of wars, He was not referring to what is going on in modern day Russia, China, Israel, Iraq, United States, or Europe today.  To reach into Matthew 24 and back into the OT and twist these passages and prophecies by asserting that they are referring to these modern day countries and to us today is irresponsible exegesis to say the least.
“Famines”
Again, the Bible and history record famine and pestilences during “the last days” (AD 30 – AD 70) of the Mosaic old-covenant age and generation (Acts 11:27-29).  In AD 40 and AD 60 there were pestilences in Babylon and Rome where Jews and Gentiles alike suffered.
“Earthquakes”
The book of Acts records for us an earthquake occurring in the Apostolic generation (Acts 16:26).  “…just previous to 70 AD there were earthquakes in Crete, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Colosse, Campania, Rome, and Judea.” (DeMar, Gary, ibid., 64)
“Put to Death” 
The first century Christians were to expect tribulation, to be brought before kings and rulers, imprisonment, beatings, for the sake of Jesus. Please read the book of Acts 4:3,17; Acts 5:40; Acts 7:54-60; Acts 8:1; Acts 9:1; Acts 12:1-3; Acts 14:19 to see the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in Luke 21:12.   In fulfillment of our Lord’s words, Paul and Silas were beaten (Acts 26:23) and Paul was brought before rulers and kings – Gallio, (Acts 28:12), Felix (Acts 24), Festus and Agrippa (Acts 25).   Peter and Paul were put to death in the persecution of Nero.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
The reader at this point says, “I got you. How are you going to be able to prove the gospel was preached throughout the entire globe before A.D. 70?!?” Allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, this is not difficult to prove at all:

PROPHECY            FULFILLMENT

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world   (Greek oikumene) for a witness unto all nations; and then shall   the end come” (Matthew 24:14) “But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the   ends of the world (Greek oikumene)” (Romans   10:18)
“And the gospel must first be published among all nations (Greek   ethnos)”(Mark 13:10) “…My gospel… has been made manifest, and by the prophetic   Scriptures has been made known to all nations (Greek ethnos)…”   (Romans 16:25-26)
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world(Greek kosmos)   and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) “…of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all   the world(Greek kosmos), as is bringing forth   fruit…,” (Colossians 1:5-6).
And he said unto them ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every   creature (Greek kitisis) ” (Mark 16:15) “…from the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every   creature (Greek kitisis) under heaven, of which I, Paul   became a minister” (Colossians 1:23)
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;   and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,   and to the end of the earth (Greek ge)”   (Acts 1:8). “But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth (Greek ge),   and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18)

 Jesus nor the Apostle Paul meant nor understood these phrases of “into all the world,” “all nations,” “every creature,” or “end of the earth,” to be global terms. These are describing the nations of the Roman Empire or the world as they knew it.
“Abomination that causes desolation”
In Luke’s account of the abomination that causes desolation, the fulfillment of this prophecy is identified with the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem and laying it waste in the years of AD 66 – AD 70, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.” (Luke 21:20-22). History records for us that the early Christians were not deceived by the Jewish false prophets and fled to Pella and were safe.
“Great Tribulation”
Any Bible College or seminary class on hermeneutics would tell us that we need to follow a grammatical historical hermeneutic. One of the steps involved in interpreting how language and terms are used is to honor the way language is used during the time it was written in. Josephus who was a close contemporary of Jesus’ time describes the destruction of Jerusalem in practically the identical language:
“Now this vast multitude is indeed collected out of remote places, but the entire nation was now shut up by fate as in prison, and the Roman army encompassed the city when it was crowded with inhabitants. Accordingly, the multitude of those that therein perished exceeded all the destructions that either men or God ever brought upon the world;”[vi]
The words “For then shall be great tribulation…” are words linking the tribulation period with the preceding fleeing of the disciples from Jerusalem in the previous context (vs.17-20, cf. also Lk.21:20-23). The great “wrath” and “distress” upon “this people” in the “land” in (Lk. 21:23) is parallel to Matthew’s tribulation period described for us in Matthew 24:21.  The Tribulation period is not a global event as the Dispensational Zionists have tried to portray it, but a local event that took place in Jesus’ contemporary AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation.”
“The stars shall fall from heaven” and “the Son of Man coming on the clouds”
God’s coming on the clouds and stars falling from heaven, as used elsewhere in the Bible, are metaphors referring to the judgment of nations, not the destruction of the physical planet.  This can be seen in such O.T. passages referring to the fall of Babylon, Egypt, Edom, and Israel (Isa. 13:9-10; 19:1; 34:4-5; Ezk. 32:7-8; Amos 5:21-22; Psalm 18; Psalm 104; Hab. 1:2ff.).  Did God come on a literal cloud when he judged Egypt by means of the Assyrian’s in 670 B.C.: “Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt” (Isa. 19:1)?  Was the literal heaven “dissolved” and rolled back like a scroll and did literal stars fall down from heaven when National Idumea (or Edom) was judged by God in the OT:  “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment” (Isa. 34:4-5)?  In Matthew 24, the context is the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple.  The sun, moon, and stars represented the universe of Israel and her rulers which would fall from her covenantal significance by  A.D. 70 for rejecting Christ and His Apostles and prophets (cf. Matthew 23:31-36). Reformed and Puritan theologian John Owen had this to say of this text,
“And hence it is, that when mention is made of the destruction of a state and government, it is in that language that seems to set forth the end of the world.  So Isa. 34:4; which is yet but the destruction of the state of Edom.  And our Saviour Christ’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew 24, he sets it out by expressions of the same importance.  It is evident then, that, in the prophetical idiom and manner of speech, by ‘heavens’ and ‘earth’, the civil and religious state and combination of men in the world, and the men of them, are often understood” (John Owen, Works, Banner of Truth Pub., Vol. 9, 134).
John L. Bray correctly writes of the stars falling from the heavens of Matthew 24:29:
“Jewish writers understood the light to mean the law; the moon, the Sanhedrin; and the stars, the Rabbis.” (John Bray, Matthew 24 Fulfilled, p.125).
“Heaven and earth will pass away”
So far we have found contextual and grammatical reasons to interpret the “end of the age” as the old covenant age in vs. 3, the stars falling from the heavens in vs. 29 to be the religious and civil rulers falling from the places of power when Jerusalem and her Temple was destroyed in AD 70, but what of verse 35 which addresses the “heaven and earth” passing away?  Surely that is referring to the end of planet earth?  Once again there is contextual and a historical hermeneutic within the Christian church to also understand this to be referring to the old covenant heavens and earth and its temple.
G.K. Beale’s research indicates,
“…that ‘heaven and earth’ in the Old Testament may sometimes be a way of referring to Jerusalem or its temple, for which ‘Jerusalem’ is a metonymy.” (G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2004), 25). J.V. Fesko, Last things first Unlocking Genesis 1-3 with the Christ of Eschatology, (Scottland, UK, 2007), 70.
Reformed theologian John Brown in identifying the passing of “heaven and earth” in Matthew 5:18 writes:
“But a person at all familiar with the phraseology of the Old Testament Scriptures, knows that the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, and the establishment of the Christian, is often spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the creation of a new earth and new heavens.” (John Brown, Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord (Edinburg: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990 [1852]), 1:170).
Commentators are correct to identify the “heaven and earth” of (Matthew 5:18) as the “heaven and earth” of (Matthew 24:35), but the context of both point us to the old covenant system and not the planet earth. According to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:17-18 if heaven and earth have not passed away, then we are currently under all of the “jots and tittles” of the old covenant law.
And now specifically of the passing of heaven and earth here in our text, Evangelical Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis makes the following comments on Mark 13:31/Matthew 24:35:
“The temple was far more than the point at which heaven and earth met. Rather, it was thought to correspond to, represent, or, in some sense, to be ‘heaven and earth’ in its totality.” And “. . . [T]he principal reference of “heaven and earth” is the temple centered cosmology of second-temple Judaism which included the belief that the temple is heaven and earth in microcosm. Mark 13[:31] and Matthew 5:18 refer then to the destruction of the temple as a passing away of an old cosmology. (Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis a contributing author in, ESCHATOLOGY in Bible & Theology Evangelical Essays at the Dawn of a New Millennium, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1997), 157).
Jesus nor the NT writers ever predicted the end of the planet earth as is simply assumed by so many here in Matthew 24:3, 29, 35 and elsewhere in the NT. When we take a combined look at some of the best theologians within the Reformed and Evangelical communities, we find a preterist interpretation of virtually every eschatological de-creation prophecy in the Bible. Combined, John Owen, John Locke, John Lightfoot, John Brown, R.C. Sproul, Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, James Jordan, Peter Leithart, Keith Mathison, Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis, Hank Hanegraaff, and N.T. Wright teach that the passing away of heaven and earth (Matt. 5:17–18; 24:3, 29, 35; 1 Cor. 7:31; II Peter 3; I Jn. 2:17–18; Rev. 21:1) refers to the destruction of the temple or to the civil and religious worlds of men—either Jews or Gentiles; and that the rulers of the old covenant system or world, along with the temple, were the “sun, moon, and stars,” which made up the “heaven and earth” of the world that perished in AD 70. (John Owen, The Works of John Owen, 16 vols. (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965–68), 9:134–135. John Lightfoot, Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica: Matthew – 1 Corinthians, 4 vols. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, [1859], 1989), 3:452, 454. John Brown, Discourses and Sayings of our Lord, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1852] 1990), 1:170. John Locke, The Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke: A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St Paul Volume 2, (NY: Oxford University Press, 1987), 617–618. R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998). Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), 363–365. Kenneth Gentry (contributing author), Four Views on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998), 89. Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church (Powder Springs: GA, 1999), 68–74, 141–154, 191–192. James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes Developing a Biblical View of the World (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, 1998), 269–279. Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis (contributing author) Eschatology in Bible & Theology (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1997), 145–169. Peter J. Leithart, The Promise of His Appearing: An Exposition of Second Peter (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2004). Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1999), 114, 157–158. N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 345–346. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 645, n.42. Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 84–86. C. Jonathin Seraiah, The End of All Things: A Defense of the Future (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2002).
These interpretations are, individually considered, “orthodox.” Yet when full preterists consolidate the most defensible elements of Reformed and Evangelical eschatology, anti-preterists unite in opposition to even some of their own stated views. The full preterist combines the two competing “orthodox” views on the coming of the Lord and de-creation of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24-25 to form a consistently exegetical and historical position:
1. CLASSIC AMILLENNIAL VIEW: The coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 24-25 is the ONE second coming event as is the de-creation spoken of here.
2. PARTIAL PRETERIST VIEW: The coming of the Son of Man happened spiritually and the end of age, de-creation of verses 3, 29 and 35 are descriptive of the passing of the old covenant creation/age and establishing the new by AD 70.
3. FULL PRETERIST VIEW (Synthesis of 1-2 “Reformed and always reforming”): The coming of the Son of Man is the ONE second coming event (as is the de-creation spoken of in verses 3, 29, 35) whereby Christ came spiritually to end the old covenant creation/age in the events of AD 66 – AD 70 and establish the new.
The Coming of the Son of Man and the Deity of Christ
Daniel 7:13-14 and Matthew 26:62-65
Upon the clouds of heaven came one like a Son of Man, and he came as the Ancient of Days.” (Daniel 7:13 (OG) LXX).  “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all people, nations and men of every language worshiped him.” (vs. 14 NIV).
“…The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.” (Matt. 26:62-64).
According to the Old Greek Septuagint translation of Daniel 7:13, the Son of Man came “as the Ancient of Days” on the clouds of heaven, not “to the Ancient of Days.” This translation is in harmony with verse 22, which says that it was the Ancient of Days Himself who came in judgment and gave the saints the kingdom.
Although some have tried to apply this passage to the ascension, the New Testament does not give the slightest hint that “the coming of the Son of Man” on the clouds of heaven would be fulfilled in the Ascension. And as Keil and Delitzch commented regarding Daniel 7:13-14,
…it is manifest that he could only come from heaven to earth.  If the reverse is to be understood, then it ought to have been so expressed, since the coming with the clouds of heaven in opposition to the rising up of the beasts out of the sea very distinctly indicates a coming down from heaven. The clouds are the veil or the “chariot” on which God comes from heaven to execute judgment against His enemies; cf. Ps. 18:10f., 97:2–4; 104:3, Isa. 19:1, Nah. 1:3. This passage forms the foundation for the declaration of Christ regarding His future coming, which is described after Dan. 7:13 as a coming of the Son of man with, in, on the clouds of heaven; Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 18:26; Rev. 1:7; 14:14.  (Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F., Commentary on the Old Testament.  (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), (Daniel 7:13-14), bold emphasis MJS).
I would agree with Keil and Delitzch that the context of Dan. 7:13 and how the NT develops it, forms the foundation for the Second Coming event with Him coming down from heaven in judgment upon His enemies (who are upon the earth rising in opposition to Him) and not Him going “up” at the ascension event.
It is also important to point out that John in the book of Revelation alludes to Dan. 7:9, 13 in his description of Christ as being both the Son of Man who comes on the clouds to judge those whom had pierced Him (first century Jews) and as the eternal Ancient of Days in Revelation 1:7, 13-17.
In our next verse the one likened to the “Son of Man” and “Ancient of Days” coming on the clouds of heaven is “worshiped” (vs. 14 NIV the original Aramaic is pelach – some translations render the word to mean divine “service”). In establishing the meaning of a passage or word in a particular text we need to examine its usage elsewhere in the same book. Everywhere in Daniel pelach is used of divine service or worship. Of false gods in Daniel 3:12. In Daniel 3:17-18 we are told that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego only gave divine service and worship to the only living God and would not render divine service and worship to Nebuchadnezzar’s false gods. In Daniel 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar gives praise to their God and reinstates that they “yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” In Daniel 6:16, 20 it describes Daniel’s divine service to the only living God continually which is given in hopes that God would and did deliver Daniel from the den of the lions. In Daniel 7:27 when the Ancient of Days came (cf. vss. 13-14, 22) to give possession of the Kingdom to the saints, “all rulers will worship and obey him.”
The rabbis referred to God as “the cloud rider” because only God came upon the clouds in the Scriptures.  With this being the exegetical and historical background, it is clear that at Jesus’ trial in Matthew 26:62-65 the high priest understood WHO Jesus was claiming to be and why the high priest tore his clothes and identified Jesus’ statements as “blasphemy.” For Jesus to claim he would ride upon the clouds in judgment of the high priest was for Jesus to identify Himself as God “the cloud rider” and the Son of Man/Ancient of Days of Daniel 7:13-14.
Jesus accepted worship because He is God (Matt. 14:33; Matt. 28:9, 17; John 9:35-38; Rev. 1:7-14/Rev. 5:1-14). This has a profound implication upon the false prophets of Islam’s Muhammad and Mormonism’s Joseph Smith who both denied the Deity of Christ.  In AD 70 not only did Jesus prove to be a faithful Prophet, but He proved He was very God as He clearly taught.  Bow before Him today in worship and receive the free gift of eternal life.
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”  And let him who hears say, “Come!”  Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Rev. 22:17).
Conclusion
We have seen that Jesus did in fact teach that His Second Coming would take place within the lifetime of those that were listening to Him and in their “this generation.”  Therefore, He kept His word and came upon the clouds of heaven through the Idumean and Roman armies judging Jerusalem and ending their old covenant age (or their “heaven and earth”) in AD 70 and establishing the new covenant age.
This has serious and deadly consequences for the founding “prophets” of Islam and Mormonism.  Since Christ returned in AD 70 the office and gift of prophet bringing forth revelations was “sealed up” or “ceased” (Dan. 9:24-27; Matt. 24; 1 Cor. 13:8-12).  One of the titles of Christ in the book of Revelation is that of being the “Faithful and True Witness.”  History validates that Christ was faithful and true to come when He said He would, while at the same time history condemns the testimony and failed prophecies and revelations from Muhammad and Joseph Smith.  This fact alone ends the debate on the credibility of both of these men and the religions they began.
As we have seen, eschatological movements that are constantly trying to self-fulfill their prophecies have consequences.  We are seeing this right before our eyes with virtually all sects of Islam in the Middle East.  But likewise we don’t want to vote in political leaders that are Mormon or even Dispensational Zionists (or have their ear!) trying to self-fulfill and usher in the “rapture” or “Armageddon” etc…  We have been suffering enough under a President that is sympathetic to Islam (while actually criticizing Christians and doing nothing while they are martyred) and refuses to admit that groups like ISIS are  actually fleshing out Islamic eschatology!  If you don’t understand your enemy you won’t be able to defeat them – on any level.
Our study not only provided evidence that Muhammad and Joseph Smith were false prophets concerning the time of Christ’s return, but they are false prophets in understanding just WHO Christ is – the divine “cloud rider” God/Ancient of Days riding upon the clouds in AD 70 defeating His enemies and conquering the death for His beloved followers.
I hope you have found this article helpful and will continue studying the Full Preterist view.  Please do purchase the second edition of my/our book, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be? (Ramona, CA:  Vision Publishing 2009, Second Edition 2013) which will help answer any further questions that may have arisen as a result of reading this.
 
 

 

AN EXEGESIS OF MATTHEW 3:2-12: The Imminent AD 70 Eschatology of John the Baptist IS the Eschatology of Jesus and the NT Authors

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matt. 3:2). 

When it comes to the Kingdom of heaven or Kingdom of God the NT teaches three aspects of fulfillment – 1.  the “already” 2.  the “receiving” and 3.  the imminent consummation or “not yet” to the Kingdom promises.  The Kingdom’s “already” and “receiving” in the NT can be seen in Jews and Gentiles entering Christ’s spiritual Kingdom through repentance and faith and observing it workout in their midst powerfully through Jesus’ healing and the driving out demons (and that of the disciples and Apostles).  The imminent “not yet” aspect to the Kingdom points to God saving a remnant (Jews and Gentiles) while at the same time judging the wicked among Israel and closing the Old Covenant (OC) age while at the same time establishing the New Covenant (NC) age through Christ’s Second Appearing in AD 70.  Israel had been waiting roughly two thousand years for the Messiah and His Kingdom and now within a span of forty years, it was truly “at hand” and within their grasp.

Unfortunately when most futurist eschatologies have addressed the eschatology of John the Baptist they are willing to develop a truly imminent “already” and “receiving” of the Kingdom promises as being “at hand,” but they have not been willing to see John’s eschatology as having a truly imminent “at hand” consummation to the Kingdom as it pertains to him coming to prepare the way of the “great and dreadful day of the Lord” or Second Coming of Jesus.  As we make our way through the eschatology of John the Baptist, we will readily see that this later “not yet” aspect to the NT’s Kingdom promises were no less “at hand” than the “already” and “receiving” aspects to the Kingdom.

Matthew 3:3 / Isaiah 40:6-7, 10 John prepares the way for Christ’s Second Coming

For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’” (Matt. 3:3).
“The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?”  “All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it; Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”  O Zion, You who bring good tidings, Get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.” (Isaiah 40:6-10).

What is “the way” in the desert that John is preparing as depicted elsewhere in Isaiah (to get a broader context)?

“He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low; he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust.  Feet trample it down— the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.  The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.  Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws,” (Isa. 26:4-7).

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.  Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.  The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.  Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;  say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.  Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.  Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.  The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.  In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.  And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it.  No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there.  But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”  (Isa. 35)
Who is the way and how does the Gospel make it level and fruitful?

All of the promises of God are yes and amen – that is, fulfilled “in Christ” (2 Cor. 1:20).  He is the embodiment of the Kingdom promises – the new Promised Land or the “Highway of Holiness” [“the way” (John 14:6)] in which all those who were to be saved (or ever will be in the eternal NC age) should enter and walk through faith and repentance.

The way of the Gospel would be level and smooth suggesting that the high mountains are the prideful among Israel that persecuted the poor and lowly and God would vindicate the poor and make low and level their prideful persecutors.  The low valleys would be brought up to be level as well – perhaps suggesting that the Gospel for the poor would be manifested in such a way as to lift up the persecuted and heavy burdened from their religious suppressors.  The rough and crooked in heart through the power of God through the Gospel would be made soft, smooth and straight.  Through the gospel the level land would become fertile and blossom into God’s New Paradise/New Creation.

No one among Israel could boast that they had a right to enter this way of the Kingdom through being Abraham’s seed, because God was able, and in fact did turn stones (Gentiles) into the sons of God or living stones in which they (along with Jews) were built up a New Temple and New Man (Matt. 3:9/1 Pet. 2:1ff./Ephs. 2-3).

The message of John is to prepare the way for Christ’s “at hand” Second Coming!

Unfortunately, futurists have avoided doing a thorough exegesis of Isaiah 40 in order to understand that John was preparing the way of Christ’s imminent Second Coming (“great and dreadful day of the Lord”).  This would be manifested in an imminent harvest judgment for the wicked and salvation for the righteous and repentant within the immediate context of Matthew 3:2-12.

In hermeneutics one is always called upon to go to the OT passage a NT author quotes, references, or “echoes” in order to find out how the NT author is using it, or see if there are other elements within that OT context that fits what the NT author is developing.  This is also very important in that in Jewish hermeneutics often times even if a small portion of an OT passage is quoted, the reader or listener is expected to draw upon the entire chapter, section or theology of the quote.  When we do this, we immediately find references of John preparing a way for judgment that harmonizes with John’s use of Malachi 3-4 in Matthew 11:10-14.

Here is Isaiah we quickly see that the way that is being prepared is not simply a way of an “at hand” “already” aspect to salvation, but includes Christ’s Second Coming in judgment as well.  We immediately see what this voice is to cry out, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.  The grass withers and the flower fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them.  Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isa. 40:6-7)  This is connected to the recompense judgment and giving of rewards, “See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him.  See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.” (Isa. 40:10).

Isaiah 40:6-7 / 1 Peter chapters 1 and 4 – John’s imminent eschatology is Peter’s!

Peter quotes Isaiah 40:6-7 in 1 Peter 1:23-24.  The immediate context tells us that Peter’s first century audience was “ready” to receive the salvation and inheritance the OT prophets predicted would come at the revealing of Christ at His Second Coming.  Later we are told by Peter that this coming salvation and “THE judgment” of “the living and dead” was “ready” to take place and that “the end of all things is at hand.” (1 Pet. 4:5-7, 17).  Therefore, the contextual flow of Isaiah 40 tells us that John came to prepare the way of an “at hand” judgment and salvation “ready” to be revealed at Christ’s Second Coming.

Isaiah 40:10 / Matthew 16:27-28 – John’s imminent eschatology is Jesus’!

Again the message of the one crying out is that of a coming judgment through the Second Coming of Christ in the giving of rewards (Isa. 40:10).  This passage is directly applied to Christ’s Second Coming in Matthew 16:27-28 and Revelation 22:6-12.  Jesus taught that He was “about to” come within the lifetimes of some of His first century audience to reward:

‘For, the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of his Father, with his messengers, and then he will reward each, according to his work.  Verily I say to you, there are certain of those standing here who shall not taste of death till they may see the Son of Man coming in his reign.’ (Matt. 16:27-28 YLT).

Isaiah 40:10 / Revelation 22:6-12 – John the Baptist’s imminent eschatology is John the Beloved’s in the book of Revelation 

Jesus through John the beloved in the book of Revelation, confirms the imminent fulfillment of John the Baptist’s eschatology in drawing upon Isaiah 40:10:

“The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.” “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll.”  I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”  Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near. Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.” “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”  (Rev. 22:6-12)

The message John was to cry out (as we continue going down into Isaiah 40:10) was that of God (The Christ) coming in judgment/recompense/reward.  The NT develops this as being fulfilled in an “at hand” AD 70 time frame.

John’s “preparing the way” of the Second Coming in Judgment of Isaiah 40 is John’s “preparing the way” of the Second Coming in Judgment of Malachi 3-4 

Jesus clearly identifies John the Baptist as the Elijah that was about to come before the way of judgment (the great and dreadful day of the Lord) would take place in which He would suddenly coming to destroy His Temple in fulfillment of Malachi 3-4:

“As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind?  If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.  Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “ ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’  Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it.  For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”  (Matt. 11:7-15).

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me (John as Elijah): and the Lord (Jesus), whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple (AD 70 Matt. 23-24), even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.  But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:  And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.  Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years.  And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.”

“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.  But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness (Christ) arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.  And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts.  Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.  Behold, I will send you Elijah (John the Baptist per Jesus) the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:  And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.  (Mal. 3:1-5; 4:1-6).

Here Jesus quotes and echo’s the way of Judgment and salvation through Malachi 3-4.  John is the first messenger that prepares the way for God (Christ) who then comes suddenly to His Temple (in AD 70) purifying the priesthood and burns the wicked.  Since AD 70 the Church is God’s purified and established kingdom of priests and kings.  In AD 70 a clear “distinction” between the wicked OC kingdom and the NC righteous kingdom was revealed in power and great glory.

In Malachi 4:1-5 it is further elaborated that Elijah (whom Jesus says is John the Baptist) would come before this “way” of a fiery “great and dreadful day of the Lord” judgment would take place.
The book of James picks up various OT echo’s concerning the persecution of the rich over the poor (as does Malachi) and Christ coming as the Sun — in an “at hand” and “at the door” time frame to burn up the grass/wicked and bring salvation through the imagery of harvest rain to the righteous (James 1-5/Matt. 24:27-33, 34/Mal. 4:2).

The “at hand” “way” of the Second Coming – as Israel’s new deliverance from Babylon / New Exodus / Seeing God’s face – all on the way into the NC age or New Creation

Before leaving the theme of John/Elijah preparing the “at hand” “way” to the Second Coming of Christ to destroy His Temple in AD 70, it may also be helpful to see how this passage was understood among the Jews and then see how their interpretations could also fit an “at hand” AD 70 time frame.  Beale and Carson’s work is helpful at this point:

“Nothing in the immediate context of Isa. 40 suggests that Isaiah is referring to anyone other than Yahweh himself returning to Israel as king (Goldingay 2005: 5–7), but the references to special sons in Isa. 7–9 and to the messianic branch in Isa. 11, along with the Servant Songs yet to come (beginning in Isa. 42), do indicate God revealing himself through a specially anointed agent. The “shepherding” imagery of a text as close to ours as 40:11 also dovetails with other prophecies in which a messianic figure is likened to a shepherd (esp. Ezek. 34).C. Use in Jewish Sources. The most significant pre-Christian Jewish uses of Isa. 40:3 appear in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Rule of the Community declares,

And when these have become a community in Israel in compliance with these arrangements they are to be segregated from within the dwelling of the men of sin to walk to the desert in order to open there His path. As it is written: “In the desert, prepare the way of [YHWH], straighten in the steppe a roadway for our God.” This is the study of the law wh[i]ch he commanded through the hand of Moses, in order to act in compliance with all that has been revealed from age to age, and according to what the prophets have revealed through his holy spirit. (1QS VIII, 12–16) (All quotations from the Dead Sea Scrolls are from García Martínez and Tigchelaar 1997.)

In short, the Essenes at Qumran viewed their monastic community as the fulfillment of Isa. 40:3. This same interpretation is reflected in an allusion to this Scripture in 1QS IX, 19–20. An allusion in 1QS IV, 1–2 applies the metaphor of making straight paths to the establishment of justice, truth, and the respect for the precepts of God. An even longer explicit quotation of Isa. 40:1–5 appears in a fragment of another Qumran scroll (4Q176 1–2 I, 4–9), but not enough context has been preserved for us to know how it was used.

From a very different, Pharisaic branch of Judaism, Pss. Sol. 8:17 seems to allude to this text when it refers to the Jewish leaders’ (probably literal) grading of rough roads to Jerusalem to prepare the way for the conquering Roman general Pompey to enter the city. This part of the welcome was appropriate for a king, albeit ironic because the king was a foreign invader. Other texts, especially apocalyptic ones, allude to Isa. 40:4–5 with its topographical transformations and its expectations of seeing the Lord’s glory in the context of a coming new age (esp. 1 En. 1:6; Bar. 5:7; As. Mos. 10:4; see Brooke 1994: 130–31). Targum Isaiah at this point appears to change the focus from Yahweh’s coming to the people’s return (Snodgrass 1980: 27).

D. Textual Background. The MT begins, “A voice crying in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,” which the LXX essentially translates literally (changing only the participle to the genitive: “of one crying”). Matthew, like Mark, follows the LXX verbatim. But the parallelism within the OT verse would seem to require that “in the wilderness” modifies “prepare the way” (just as it does in the next line with “make smooth”) rather than “a voice crying,” as in the Gospels. The MT thus continues, “make smooth in the desert a highway for our God,” which the LXX renders as “make straight the paths of our God,” omitting the redundant “in the desert.” Matthew and Mark again follow the LXX verbatim, except that they change “of our God” to “his,” which scarcely alters the meaning.

E. Hermeneutic Employed. The difference between “a voice crying in the wilderness” and a call to “prepare a way in the wilderness” has often been exaggerated. Both in fact fit John the Baptist’s ministry; he (or the Synoptic writers) could easily have seen a double meaning in the position of the phrase in the Hebrew text, as rabbis often did in their exegeses. But the Hebrew also allows for such a double meaning to have been originally intended (Taylor 1997: 25–29).

Originally, Isaiah had in mind a preliminary fulfillment in the return of the Jewish exiles from distant lands to Israel. But his language already reuses “exodus” imagery, making it natural for the evangelists to reapply this imagery in the greater restoration from (spiritual) exile inaugurated by the ministry of Jesus to which John’s preaching pointed (see Childs 2001: 299). And given that no return from Babylon (or Persia or Greece or Rome) ever came anywhere close to fully ending Israel’s hard service, paying for its sins, or leveling (even metaphorically) all its rugged places, and certainly no event prior to Christ’s coming ever revealed the glory of the Lord to all humanity, it seems reasonable to suggest that Isaiah had a more distant, grander fulfillment in mind as well. Hagner (1993: 48) comments, “The words of Isaiah occur in a context of comfort and deliverance from the exile, but they also allude to Messianic fulfillment.” At the very least, that is how a group such as the one at Qumran would have taken it, so that they could apply it to themselves, demonstrating that the NT’s hermeneutic was not a novel appropriation of the text.[1]

Jesus is the anti-type of the deliverance (through Cyrus, Ezra, and Nehemiah) and restoration of coming back into the land from bondage and slavery.  He is the one that sets the captives free from the slavery of sin.  He is the way of holiness found in the law by which a remnant of Jew and Gentile come into the Kingdom/Heavenly Land/New Creation.   He is also the coming “Root of Jesse” that would stand as the “banner” along this “way” ushering in the “second exodus” (Isa. 11:10-12).   This second exodus motif will be brought out further in our text where John is baptizing (in the Jordan) and later on in Matthew 4 (Jesus being tested in the wilderness as Israel was).

As far as understanding the building of a smooth road to be level for a conquering King – this too could be applied to AD 70.  If un-repentant, a way was being prepared by another conquering King – and it was ironic that they shouted they wanted Caesar as their king at Christ’s trial and then Christ came in AD 70 as their King (in judgment through the army of the Roman Empire “Caesar”) to destroy their city and Temple.

Christ as “the way” did bring about the in-breaking of the Messianic or NC age from AD 30 – AD 70.  In AD 70 Christ’s “at hand” Second Coming was fulfilled and the Church in the eternal NC age see Him “face to face” (Isa. 52:8/1 Cor. 13:12/Rev. 22:4-7).   Amen!  Selah.

Before leaving Matthew 3:2-3 I should point out that some Reformed theologians such as John Lightfoot have pointed out that one of the manifestations of the kingdom being “at hand” in 3:2 would be fulfilled in AD 70:

“1. The exhibition and manifestation of the Messias, Matt. 12:28; “But if I, by the finger of God, cast out devils, the kingdom of God is come upon you:” that is, ‘Hence is the manifestation of the Messias.’ See John 3:3, 12:13, &c. 2. The resurrection of Christ; death, hell, Satan, being conquered: whence is a most evident manifestation that he is that ‘eternal King,’ &c.: see Matt. 26:29, Rom. 1:4. 3. His vengeance upon the Jewish nation, his most implacable enemies: this is another, and most eminent manifestation of him: see Matt. 16:28, 19:28. 4. His dominion by the sceptre of the gospel among the Gentiles, Matt. 21:43. In this place which is before us it points out the exhibition and revelation of the Messias.[2]

And if it seems a strange thing to understand the coming of the Lord in Malachi 3-4 to be fulfilled in AD 70 perhaps this additional quote for commentators such as Adam Clark will help assure the reader of this authors “orthodox” standing in these matters:

“Malachi 4:1:  Behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven – The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.  And all the proud – This is in reference to Mal 3:15 of the preceding chapter. The day that cometh shall burn them up – Either by famine, by sword, or by captivity. All those rebels shall be destroyed.  It shall leave them neither root nor branch – A proverbial expression for total destruction. Neither man nor child shall escape.

Malachi 4:2:  You that fear my name – The persons mentioned in the sixteenth verse of the preceding chapter, ye that look for redemption through the Messiah.
The Sun of righteousness – The Lord Jesus, the promised Messiah; the Hope of Israel.

With healing in his wings – As the sun, by the rays of light and heat, revives, cheers, and fructifies the whole creation, giving, through God, light and life everywhere; so Jesus Christ, by the influences of his grace and Spirit, shall quicken, awaken, enlighten, warm, invigorate heal, purify, and refine every soul that believes in him, and, by his wings or rays, diffuse these blessings from one end of heaven to another; everywhere invigorating the seeds of righteousness, and withering and drying up the seeds of sin. The rays of this Sun are the truths of his Gospel, and the influences of his Spirit. And at present these are universally diffused.

And ye shall go forth – Ye who believe on his name shall go forth out of Jerusalem when the Romans shall come up against it. After Cestius Gallus had blockaded the city for some days, he suddenly raised the siege. The Christians who were then in it, knowing, by seeing Jerusalem encompassed with armies, that the day of its destruction was come, when their Lord commanded them to flee into the mountains, took this opportunity to escape from Jerusalem, and go to Pella, in Coelesyria; so that no Christian life fell in the siege and destruction of this city.

But these words are of more general application and meaning; “ye shall go forth” in all the occupations of life, but particularly in the means of grace; and: –
Grow up as calves of the stall – Full of health, of life, and spirits; satisfied and happy.

Malachi 4:3:  Ye shall tread down – This may be the commission given to the Romans: Tread down the wicked people, tread down the wicked place; set it on fire, and let the ashes be trodden down under your feet.

Malachi 4:4:  Remember ye the law of Moses – Where all these things are predicted. The Septuagint, Arabic, and Coptic, place this verse the last.

Malachi 4:5:  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet – This is meant alone of John the Baptist, as we learn from Luk 1:17 (note), in whose spirit and power he came.

Malachi 4:6:  And he shall turn (convert) the heart of the fathers (על al, with) the children – Or, together with the children; both old and young. Lest I come, and, finding them unconverted, smote the land with a curse, חרם cherem, utter extinction. So we find that, had the Jews turned to God, and received the Messiah at the preaching of John the Baptist and that of Christ and his apostles, the awful חרם cherem of final excision and execration would not have been executed upon them. However, they filled up the cup of their iniquity, and were reprobated, and the Gentiles elected in their stead. Thus, the last was first, and the first was last. Glory to God for his unspeakable gift!

There are three remarkable predictions in this chapter: –
1. The advent of John Baptist, in the spirit and authority of Elijah.
2. The manifestation of Christ in the flesh, under the emblem of the Sun of righteousness.
3. The final destruction of Jerusalem, represented under the emblem of a burning oven, consuming everything cast into it.
These three prophecies, relating to the most important facts that have ever taken place in the history of the world, announced here nearly four hundred years before their occurrence, have been most circumstantially fulfilled.”[3]

I will disagree with Clark on one point here – and that is, the coming of the Sun of Righteousness is referring to Christ’s Second Coming (the great and dreadful day of the Lord) as depicted elsewhere in Matthew 24:27.  Once we get to this text I will argue that it is Christ coming and shinning from the east to the west as the Sun/Son that is in view and not “as lightening.”
“People came to him from Jerusalem, from the whole province of Judea, and from all the country near the River Jordan. They confessed their sins, and he baptized them in the Jordan.  When John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him to be baptized, he said to them, “You snakes—who told you that you could escape from the punishment (or “wrath”) God is about to send?” (Matt. 3:5-7 GNT, WUEST).

Many miss the theological and eschatological significance of John being in the wilderness baptizing Jesus and Israelites in the river Jordan.  This marks the beginning of fulfillment for Israel’s new or second exodus and restoration promises.  As G.K. Beale points out,

“Just as Israel was led by Moses and had to go through the sea at the exodus to enter the promised land, and just as the second generation had to do the same thing at the Jordan River under Josuah’s leadership, as a miniature second exodus, so again, now that Israel’s restoration is imminent through Jesus, true Israelites must again identify with the water and the Jordan and their prophetic leader in order to being to experience true restoration.

This is also in fulfillment of the prophecies of Israel’s restoration as a second exodus through water (Isa. 11:15; 43:2, 16-17; 44:27-28; 50:2; 51:9-11), especially through rivers (Isa. 11:15; 42:15; 43:2; 44:27; 50:2).”[4]

Unfortunately scholars such as Beale further miss (or I should say are reluctant to acknowledge at this point having been confronted with Full Preterism), is that this second or new exodus was going to take place within another forty year (roughly) generation time period (AD 30 – AD 70).  Toward the end of this generation the unrepentant would experience a “wrath” that was “about to come,” not entering into God’s rest while the righteous followers of Christ would enter into God’s heavenly land – His “another day” “day approaching” “in a very little while” of which the old exodus generation was a mere type (Heb. 3-4, 8:13—10:37; 1 Cor. 10:11).   Moses in Deuteronomy 31-32 predicted a coming “perverse and crooked generation” in Israel’s “later days” which would bring an “end” to OC Israel.  This is the AD 30 – AD 70 new exodus generation predicted by the prophets.

I have referenced translations that render the Greek word mello  in (v. 7) as the wrath that was “about to” take place as being more accurate than other translations and thus fits the immediate context of imminence that we have seen in (v. 2) and being consistent with the same imminence that will be  developed in (vss. 10-12).  These are the verses that Partial Preterists begin seeing fulfilled in AD 70.  For example, John Lightfoot is on target in identifying the wrath of 3:7 and the baptism John is performing as pointing to the AD 70 judgment,

“…To fly from the wrath to come.] These words respect the very last words of the Old Testament, “lest I smite the earth with a curse,” Mal. 4:[6]; and denote the most miserable destruction of the nation, and now almost ready to fall upon them.

The receiving of John’s baptism signed and fenced those that received it from the ruin that was just coming.”  “…Think here, if those that came to baptism brought not their little ones with them to baptism: when, by the plain words of the Baptist, those that are baptized are said to “fly from the wrath to come?” that is, ‘the wrath of God,’ that was not long hence to destroy the nation by a most sad overthrow.”[5]

So, in combining what we’ve learned so far from Beale, Lightfoot, and what the NT is teaching of John’s baptism ushering in a new exodus for Israel — we can glean that the unrepentant within this particular AD 30 – AD 70 generation was going to experience the unquenchable wrath of God while the repentant and followers of Christ would enter into the restoration and new exodus/Sabbath rest promises predicted by the OT prophets at Christ’s Second Coming or “great and dreadful day of the Lord.”

“And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matt. 3:10-12).

It is at this point that Partial Preterist theologians begin seeing and developing the imminence of John’s eschatology to AD 70.  John Lightfoot is on target in identifying the wrath of 3:7 and the baptism pointing to the AD 70 judgment,

“…To fly from the wrath to come.] These words respect the very last words of the Old Testament, “lest I smite the earth with a curse,” Mal. 4:[6]; and denote the most miserable destruction of the nation, and now almost ready to fall upon them.

The receiving of John’s baptism signed and fenced those that received it from the ruin that was just coming. To this belongs that of St. Peter, Epist. 1. ch. 3:20, 21: in that manner as Noah and his sons were by water delivered from the flood, “so also baptism now, the antitype of that type, saveth us” from the deluge of divine indignation, which in a short time is to overflow the Jewish nation. Think here, if those that came to baptism brought not their little ones with them to baptism: when, by the plain words of the Baptist, those that are baptized are said to “fly from the wrath to come?” that is, ‘the wrath of God,’ that was not long hence to destroy the nation by a most sad overthrow.”[6]

R.C. Sproul understands the imminence communicated in the metaphor of God having his ax at the root of Israel’s trees,

“The image of the axe does not indicate that the woodsman is merely thinking about cutting down a tree or that he has merely begun the task by striking at the outer bark.  The image is that the task is nearly complete.  The axe has already penetrated to the core of the tree, hinting that one more decisive stroke will make it fall.”[7]

Kenneth Gentry also sees this as referring to an imminent judgment and wrath being poured out upon Israel in AD 70,

“The wrath about which John speaks “came down upon Jews of Palestine in an unparalleled manner in A.D. 70,” when the Romans furiously destroyed Jerusalem, the temple, and untold thousands of Jews.  (Mt.3:10) – “Here John draws his imagery from God’s judgment against Assyria (Isa. 10:33-34):  that sort of judgment soon will break out upon Israel.”[8]  And of the winnowing fork metaphor Gentry also applies this to AD 70:

“…He who is coming” has a “winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (3:12).  This anticipates AD 70.”[9]

In further proving that the harvest gathering here was fulfilled in AD 70 Historic Premillennialist’s such as John Gill correctly point out that the threshing floor of this harvest judgment is local and addressing Israel in AD 70 (not an end of history or global event):

“Christ was just ready to publish; by which he would effectually call his chosen people among the Jews, and so distinguish and separate them from others, as well as purify and cleanse them, or rather the awful judgment of God, which Christ was ready to execute, and in a short time would execute on the unbelieving and impenitent Jews: hence it is said to be “in his hand”; being put there by his Father, who “hath committed all judgment to the Son”. That this is the meaning of the “Baptist,” seems evident, since “fanning” is always, when figuratively taken, used for judgments, #Isa 41:16 Jer 15:7 51:2.  By “his floor,” is meant the land of Israel, where he was born, brought up, and lived; of which the Lord says, “O my threshing, and the corn of my floor!” #Isa 21:10.”[10]

To this the book of Revelation agrees in that the coming “Day of God’s wrath” was imminently approaching its first century audience along with the harvest judgment scene in Revelation 6, 7 and 14.  In 14:20 the bloody harvest scene covers “…the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs” which commentators have long noted covers the distance of Israel.  Israel is the local scene in which John and Revelation’s harvest judgment takes place.

The problem for Partial Preterist’s such as Gentry, is that this time of the end consummation of the harvest depicted here will be further developed by Jesus in Matthew 13 and 24-25.  For a good explanation of the separation of the wheat from the chaff in our text as it relates to the final process of the harvest Morris writes,

“The thought of judgment is pursued and enlarged. John pictures the Messiah as having a winnowing fork in his hand. At harvest time the grain was threshed, for example, by having oxen tread it out, a process that shook the grain free from the husks but left them in the same heap. It was then winnowed: the threshed grain was separated from the husks by throwing it into the air, at first with a fork and later with a shovel (cf. Isa. 30:24). The heavier grain would fall straight down, but the lighter husks would be blown further away. If the winnowing fork is already in hand, the process of separation is about to begin (REB has “his winnowing shovel,” which would indicate that the last stage in winnowing is about to begin). The picture is one of imminent activity; judgment will not be delayed. And it will be wholehearted, for he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor. The verb is unusual, but it clearly points to a complete cleaning out of the threshing floor. It is possible to understand this as meaning that the threshing floor will be cleaned by the removal of all the husks so that only the grain is left. But the further imagery of fire suggests that the cleansing will be by burning up the chaff. And he will gather his wheat signifies the preservation of those who are right with God, just as burn up the chaff the severe judgment of those who are in the wrong. Fire is often used in connection with the last judgment. That cannot be put out points to the impossibility of averting the punishment of evil. The putting of the wheat into the barn (Matthew has “his wheat” and Luke “his barn”) and the burning up of the chaff picture the satisfactory completion of the harvest.”[11]

This is important to establish at this point since I will be arguing that Matthew’s/Jesus’ end of “this [OC] age” harvest gathering in Matthew 13:39-43 is the same AD 70 eschatological harvest gathering of Matthew’s/John the Baptist’s here in Matthew 3:12.  And then once we reach Matthew 24:30-31 and 25:31-33ff. I will again argue that this is the same end of the OC age AD 70 separation/judgment that is taking place.  Simply put – John’s eschatology is Jesus’ eschatology.
What of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire? 

We have seen how the water baptism of John in the Jordan marked the prophetic second exodus that would be ushered in by Jesus and how the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” was Israel’s last days terminal generation.  But what of the baptism Jesus would bring for Israel – through the Holy Spirit and fire?  How could these be fulfilled by AD 70?

If you were a good Jew listening to John’s message of a coming Messiah who was going to baptize or pour out the Holy Spirit upon Israel within the context of a coming judgment, you no doubt would be thinking of Joel 2:28-32.  On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 Peter delivers a sermon in which he identifies his contemporary “this corrupt (or crooked) generation” as the “last days” generation predicted by Moses (Deut. 31—32:5, 20/Acts 2:40) and that this generation (in context) was to call out to the Lord and ask for forgiveness for crucifying their Messiah and be saved from “the coming great and dreadful day of the Lord” predicted by Joel 2 (cf. Acts 2:16-40).  So the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (manifesting in the miraculous speaking of known foreign languages) was a sign of an imminent coming salvation and judgment.  Paul underscores this same imminence and purpose of tongues in his epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:6-8; 7:29, 31; 10:11; 14:21-25).   It should not surprise us that since John came to prepare the way of an imminent “great and dreadful day of the Lord” judgment found in Malachi 3-4, that Jesus also would baptize Israel and pour out His Holy Spirit marking the same imminent “great and dreadful day of the Lord,” except through another prophet (Joel).

Let’s once again turn to the commentators for further support.

John Lightfoot writes,

“…it shall come to pass “in the last days.” We have elsewhere observed that by the last days is to be understood the last days of Jerusalem and the Jewish economy, viz. when the τέλος τοῦ αἰῶνος Ἰουδαϊκοῦ, the end of the Jewish world drew near. And there would be the less doubt as to this matter if we would frame a right notion of “that great and terrible day of the Lord;” that is, the day of his vengeance upon that place and nation. Which terror the Jews, according to their custom and fashion, put far off from themselves,…”[12]

Adam Clark writes,

“Acts 2:20:  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood – These are figurative representations of eclipses, intended most probably to point out the fall of the civil and ecclesiastical state in Judea: see the notes on Mat 24:29.  That the Sun is darkened when a total eclipse takes place, and that the Moon appears of a bloody hue in such circumstances, every person knows.
Acts 2:21:  Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved – The predicted ruin is now impending; and only such as receive the Gospel of the Son of God shall be saved. And that none but the Christians did escape, when God poured out these judgments, is well known; and that All the Christians did escape, not one of them perishing in these devastations, stands attested by the most respectable authority. See the note on Mat 24:13.”[13]

“Acts 2:40:  Save yourselves from this untoward generation – Separate yourselves from them: be ye saved, σωθητε: the power is present with you; make a proper use of it, and ye shall be delivered from their obstinate unbelief, and the punishment that awaits it in the destruction of them and their city by the Romans.”[14]
Matthew Henry writes as a possible meaning of the “last days” here,

“…Or, in the days immediately preceding the destruction of the Jewish nation, in the last days of that people, just before that great and notable day of the Lord spoken of, v. 20.[15]

“That one great thing which they should prophesy of should be the judgment that was coming upon the Jewish nation, for this was the chief thing that Christ himself had foretold (Mt. 24) at his entrance into Jerusalem (Lu. 19:41); and when he was going to die (Lu. 23:29); and these judgments were to be brought upon them to punish for their contempt of the gospel, and their opposition to it, though it came to them thus proved. Those that would not submit to the power of God’s grace, in this wonderful effusion of his Spirit, should fall and lie under the pourings out of the vials of his wrath. Those shall break that will not bend. First, The destruction of Jerusalem, which was about forty years after Christ’s death, is here called that great and notable day of the Lord, because it put a final period to the Mosaic economy; the Levitical priesthood and the ceremonial law were thereby for ever abolished and done away. The desolation itself was such as was never brought upon any place or nation, either before or since. It was the day of the Lord, for it was the day of his vengeance upon that people for crucifying Christ, and persecuting his ministers; it was the year of recompences for that controversy; yea, and for all the blood of the saints and martyrs, from the blood of righteous Abel, Mt. 23:35. It was a little day of judgment; it was a notable day: in Joel it is called a terrible day, for so it was to men on earth; but here epiphanē (after the Septuagint), a glorious, illustrious day, for so it was to Christ in heaven; it was the epiphany, his appearing, so he himself spoke of it, Mt. 24:30. The destruction of the Jews was the deliverance of the Christians, who were hated and persecuted by them; and therefore that day was often spoken of by the prophets of that time, for the encouragement of suffering Christians, that the Lord was at hand, the coming of the Lord drew nigh, the Judge stood before the door, James 5:8, 9. Secondly, The terrible presages of that destruction are here foretold: There shall be wonders in heaven above, the sun turned into darkness and the moon into blood; and signs too in the earth beneath, blood and fire. Josephus, in his preface to his history of the wars of the Jews, speaks of the signs and prodigies that preceded them, terrible thunders, lightnings, and earthquakes; there was a fiery comet that hung over the city for a year, and a flaming sword was seen pointing down upon it; a light shone upon the temple and the altar at midnight, as if it had been noon-day. Dr. Lightfoot gives another sense of these presages: The blood of the Son of God, the fire of the Holy Ghost now appearing, the vapour of the smoke in which Christ ascended, the sun darkened, and the moon made blood, at the time of Christ’s passion, were all loud warnings given to that unbelieving people to prepare for the judgments coming upon them. Or, it may be applied, and very fitly, to the previous judgments themselves by which that desolation was brought on. The blood points at the wars of the Jews with the neighbouring nations, with the Samaritans, Syrians, and Greeks, in which abundance of blood was shed, as there was also in their civil wars, and the struggles of the seditious (as they called them), which were very bloody; there was no peace to him that went out nor to him that came in. The fire and vapour of smoke, here foretold, literally came to pass in the burning of their cities, and towns, and synagogues, and temple at last. And this turning of the sun into darkness, and the moon into blood, bespeaks the dissolution of their government, civil and sacred, and the extinguishing of all their lights. Thirdly, The signal preservation of the Lord’s people is here promised (v. 21): Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord Jesus (which is the description of a true Christian, 1 Co. 1:2) shall be saved, shall escape that judgment which shall be a type and earnest of everlasting salvation. In the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, there was a remnant sealed to be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger; and in the destruction by the Romans not one Christian perished. Those that distinguish themselves by singular piety shall be distinguished by special preservation.”[16]

And lastly a Partial Preterist author Kenneth Gentry writes,

“Acts 2:20 must highlight AD 70, for it appears in the very context of Jerusalem and incudes tongues-speaking which is a sign of coming judgment upon Israel (cf. Dt 28:49; Isa 28:11; 33:19; Jer 5:15; 1 Cor 14:21-22).  Peter’s sermon not only blames the Jews for Christ’s recent death (Acts 2:22-23, 36), but urges the Jerusalemites to “be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40).”[17]

The purpose of the baptism or outpouring of the Holy Spirit within Israel’s “last days” (not the last days of the Church age or that of world history) between AD 30 – AD 70 was to warn of an imminent judgment coming and to confirm that God was in fact including Gentiles to be built up as God’s new Tabernacle (Acts 10-11; Acts 15/Amos 9).

Baptism of fire – if you were a good Jew Malachi 3-4 would come to mind.  Since we have covered Malachi 3-4 already and since the immediate context describes an imminent judgment of fire approaching, it is safe to say that this baptism of fire is also referring to the wrath that would be poured out upon the wicked in AD 70.

Before leaving this theme of baptism, perhaps the anti-type of a baptism that was in the process of “saving” the first century Christians in 1 Peter 3:20 is worthy of some comment at this point.  Of this spiritual baptism of fire and persecution that would test the faith of Christians and eventually burn the wicked in AD 70 David Green writes,

“Union / identity with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection is the essence of spiritual baptism. In I Peter, it is the “suffering” or “fiery” aspect of spiritual baptism for Christians that is the running theme. Peter wrote his epistle to the persecuted, scattered Jewish believers who were living as aliens and strangers (1:1; 2:11). Many of them were being distressed by various trials (1:6), being slandered, reviled and maligned (2:12; 3:16; 4:4,14); their faith was being tested by fire (1:7).

This same baptism was predicted by Jesus in Matt. 20:22,23 (AV); Mk. 10:38,39 (cf. Lk. 12:50), where Jesus asked James and John, “Are you able to . . . be baptized with the baptism which I am baptized?” And they answered, “We are able.” And Jesus said, “. . . You shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.”

Christ was prophesying to His disciples that they were going to become sharers of His sufferings, i.e., they were going to be experientially / spiritually unified and identified with Him in His sufferings, death and burial. They were going to be “crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20; 5:24) through persecution, but were also going to endure unto victory through the power of Christ’s resurrection.
Union with Christ in His sufferings was further borne out in I Peter when Peter told his readers that it was their calling to patiently endure their persecutions, just as Christ when He suffered, kept entrusting Himself to God. (2:23) “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose” (4:1), and, “you share the sufferings of Christ” (4:12,13).
It was this spiritual baptism that was saving the first-century Christians. Just as a small remnant, eight souls (I Peter 3:20), had been brought safely through the flood waters in Noah’s day (I Peter 3:20), so was a small remnant (Rom. 9:27,29) being brought safely through the fire of God’s Last-Days wrath. (Matt. 24:38,39; Lk. 17:26,27; II Peter 2:5-9)

Their saving baptism was a refining, purifying baptism, as they were being sovereignly preserved by God through their persecutions until the end of the age. As Paul said in II Cor. 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (Cf. Acts 14:22).”

Green may be on to something here.  The rain and wrath that God poured down upon the wicked of the land was for 40 days and nights in Genesis 7. As God had preserved Noah and his family through these 40 days, God was preserving and saving His Church during this 40 year transition period. This is similar to what we had seen in the development of the type and anti-type in the wilderness exodus motif 1 Cor. 10:11; Hebs. 3-4/Ps. 95.  Just as God had preserved the faith of Joshua and Caleb during the 40 days of spying out the land and then another 40 years before entering it, God was preserving the faith of these Christians through the persecutions and fiery trials they were undergoing. As the gospel was going throughout the land, it was a living river that by AD 70 would have reached to the heads of the Christians producing salvation Ezek. 47. But for the wicked and unbelieving, the wrath of God remained upon them and thus they were in the process of perishing and would be finally swept away in the fiery flood that consumed and baptized Jerusalem in AD 70.

Let’s now turn our attention to how the various futurist systems have inadequately dealt with the eschatology of John the Baptist.

Premillennial Dispensationalism and John the Baptist’s eschatology

Matthew 3:2:  The Dispensational position on our text is that the ‘kingdom” was a literal earthly kingdom to be established on earth through Messiah’s reign similar to that of David and Solomon’s reigns.  It is pointed out that since this is what the Jews of Jesus’ day were expecting, it must be accurate.  They believe that the kingdom was literally “at hand” BUT it got “delayed” or “postponed”:
“The rejection of Christ by the people delayed [or postponed] its [the kingdom’s] establishment until the Second Coming of Christ (25:31).  The “character” of the kingdom today is described in the parables of Matt. 13.”[18]

Therefore, Dispensationalism teaches “three phases” of the kingdom:  First, a literal kingdom that was literally “at hand” but got postponed due to the Jewish rejection of Christ.  Second, a spiritual aspect of the kingdom is introduced in the “seven mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” to be fulfilled during the present Church age found in the seven parables of Jesus in (Matt. 13:1-52).  The third phase is the arrival of the literal kingdom (that got postponed the first time around) established on the earth at the Second Coming of Jesus (Matt. 24:29—chapter 25).

Matthew 3:3 & Isaiah 40: I find it interesting that one Dispensational author admits that John came to prepare a way for the remnant of Israel to be saved,

“John was thus a voice of one calling in the desert to prepare a remnant to receive the Messiah.”[19]   

If the mission was to prepare a way of salvation for the “remnant” of Jews (and thus not every Jew or a majority of Jews had to accept Christ), with the kingdom being “at hand,” then there was no need to have the kingdom postponed or delayed since the NT develops that a remnant of Jews (along with the Gentile inclusion) was indeed saved.

There is really no exegetical work done by Dispensationalists trying to examine the context of the passage John references in Isaiah 40 as being salvation 40:2 and judgment 40:6-7, 10 and how that relates to the imminent judgment scene John is developing within the immediate context.     

Matthew 3:7:  Some Progressive Dispensationalists such as John MacArthur, have given lip service to the “wrath [about to] come” in 3:7 as “possibly” being fulfilled in AD 70, but if so, only in a partial or typological way allegedly awaiting the ultimate fulfillment of God pouring out His wrath at Christ’s future (to us) Second Coming.[20]

Matthew 3:10:  In regards to God having already laid His ax at Israel’s tree some see it as a judgment upon Jerusalem, but don’t want to really reference it to AD 70 and the imminence that saturates the rest of Matthew 3:

Judaism was in danger of being removed.  Unless there was productive fruit in keeping with repentance (v. 8), God would remove the tree [tree=Judaism=Israel].”[21]  Why are these Dispensational commentators afraid to point out that in AD 70 the kingdom would in fact be “taken” from Israel and “given” to the “nation” of the Church (Matt. 21:43-45)?  Therefore, when the “at hand kingdom” would come in AD 70, the OC kingdom would be judged (with the kingdom being taken from her – the removing of her tree – ie. gather and burn up the chaff) and the remnant would experience salvation through their repentance and be “given” the kingdom (ie. gather His wheat into the barn).

However, MacArthur of 3:10 refreshingly and boldly writes,

“Irreversible judgment was imminent”[22]

But he fails miserably to exegetically connect this “irreversible imminence” of (v. 10) with the immediate contexts of (verses 2, 7), and gives vague and shallow connections of v. 10) to that of (vss. 11-12).
Matthew 3:11-12:  MacArthur does write concerning the baptism of fire,

“Because fire is used throughout this context as a means of judgment (vv. 10, 12), this must speak of a baptism of judgment upon the unrepentant.”[23]

Here he connects the baptism of fire in (v. 11) with the “irreversible judgment [that] was imminent” of (v. 10), and with being burned up with unquenchable fire” in (12).  But because being burned up with unquenchable fire for his theology means something that is connected with a far distant judgment at the end of world history — at best he can only make a thematic connection with the fiery judgments and not an actual and exegetical one connecting them as the same “imminent” judgment.

Louis Barbieri however does connect this baptism of fire with the Second Coming of Jesus in Malachi 3:

“Those who reject Him (chaff) would be judged and cast into eternal unquenchable fire (cf. Mal. 4:1).”[24]

Matthew 11:10-15; 17:11-13: There seems to be a denial among Dispensationalists when it comes to Jesus’ teaching that John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah’s coming before the great and dreadful day of the Lord could occur (cf. Mal. 4:1-5).  Most seem to think that this is fulfilled when allegedly Elijah will come in our future in fulfillment of Revelation 11.  But John (as Elijah) came to prepare the way for Christ’s Second Coming and judgment (Mal. 3:1-2; Mal. 4:1-5; Isa. 40:3-7, 10).  Dispensationalists are also exegetically impotent to connect the imminence throughout Matthew 3 with the imminence in the NT concerning the Second Coming of Jesus that John came to prepare the way for.          

Weakness of this view

First, there is NO exegetical evidence whatsoever that John the Baptist nor Jesus, was ever offering a literal earthly kingdom that was “at hand.”  A literal earthly kingdom was offered to Jesus and He clearly rejected it and went on further to develop that His kingdom was spiritual (cf. John 6).  Everywhere Jesus describes His kingdom throughout the gospels, it is always described as a spiritual (spiritual water, bread, life, etc…) kingdom that is “not of this world” and when it would come it would not be visible, but would be realized “within.”  The rest of the NT develops a spiritual kingdom never a literal or earthly one.

Secondly, there is NO exegetical evidence anywhere in the teachings of Jesus in the gospels or in the NT authors, that the kingdom John the Baptist and Jesus said was “at hand” got “delayed” or “postponed” thousands of years.  Not a single verse!

Thirdly, it is the NT’s teaching that Christ’s “rejection” (ie. His death and resurrection) actually established the “already” aspect to Israel’s OT promises concerning the Davidic kingdom – hardly “postponing” them.

Fourthly, exegetically speaking the imminent “at hand” aspect of the Kingdom is connected to an “about to” come “wrath” or “irreversible imminent” eschatological harvest judgment that would result in removing Israel (the trees) (vss. 10, 12).  There is really no exegetical work at all being done to harmonize all four of these imminent time statements to the harvest judgment and salvation imminently coming in AD 70.

Fifthly, Dispensationalism admits that John was coming to prepare the way for Christ’s Second Coming (“the day of His coming” / “the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord”) in a fiery judgment as predicted by Malachi 3:2-5/4:1-5/Isa. 40:3-4, 10/=Matthew 3:3, 10-12.  However, men like MacArthur will not connect the exegetical dots in our passage let alone in the rest of the NT which teaches that the “Irreversible judgment [that] was imminent” in John’s day to his first century audience is the Second Coming event of which John came to prepare the way of – for that same first century audience!

Sixthly, Dispensationalism constantly ridicules Covenant Theology and Preterism for pointing out that the OT and NT uses highly apocalyptic/symbolic/metaphoric language in prophetic literature (not literal), and clearly John did not come to prepare a literal highway for Jesus to enter this literal kingdom on earth that they have imagined He was teaching in the book of Dispensationalism 7:7-77 apparently.

Seventh, If John came to prepare a way for the “remnant” of Israel to be saved in order for the kingdom and Christ’s Second Coming could be realized, then there was no reason to have the kingdom “postponed” because a “remnant” was saved prior to Christ coming in the judgment upon Jerusalem in AD 70.

Eighth, There is nothing but pure eisegesis and Dispensational dogma that separates John’s coming harvest judgment and salvation in Matthew 3 related to the kingdom’s arrival and what Jesus will teach on the same subject matter in Matthew 13.

This view has to read into the text (eisegesis) an offer of an alleged earthly/literal kingdom that is nowhere found here or anywhere else in the NT, a “delay” or “postponement” theory that is nowhere found here or anywhere else in the NT, and is confused and impotent on how all four imminent AD 70 references or images (vss. 2, 7, 10-12) harmonize within Matthew 3 let alone how the rest of the NT harmonizes them!

Strengths of this view 

Dispensationalism is forced to at least accept that “at hand” is a genuinely imminent time statement for the first century audience John is addressing.  But unfortunately as we will see later, when it comes to the kingdom being “at hand” associated with Christ’s Second Coming, “at hand” takes on a totally different meaning for the same first century audience.
Dispensationalism does accept that the coming of Christ in judgment found in Malachi 3-4 is the Second Coming event and not just “a” minor AD 70 coming (per Partial Preterism).
We can find points of agreement that the kingdom was genuinely “at hand” (but not “postponed”) and that Matthew 3:10-12 refers to the Second Coming of Christ to bring about an “Irreversible judgment [that] was imminent.”  No debate on those points.

Amillennialism

Matthew 3:2:  Concerning the kingdom being “at hand,” Amillennialism emphasizes the spiritual nature of the kingdom (over against the Premillennial Dispensational view) and that the kingdom’s “already” aspect was present or would imminently be present – realized in the heart,  “bearing forth fruit” with their “repentance.”  For example William Hendricksen writes,

“…heaven’s (ie. God’s) reign in the hearts and lives of men would begin to assert itself far more powerfully than ever before, was about to begin; in a sense, had even now arrived.  Great blessings were in store for all those who, by sovereign grace, would confess and forsake their sins and would begin to live to God’s glory.”[25]

Matthew 3:3 & Isaiah 40:  Hendriksen sees Isaiah 40:3-5 as typologically being fulfilled when the remnant of Israel came out of the wilderness captivity of Babylon and back into the Promised Land through the restoration and preparing the way of God through Ezra and Nehemiah’s ministries.  As far as how John prepares the way, he writes,

“…to prepare the way of the Lord, that is, by God’s grace and power to effect a complete change of mind and heart (see verse 2). This implies that they must make straight his paths, meaning that they must provide the Lord with a ready access into their hearts and lives. They must make straight whatever was crooked, not in line with God’s holy will. They must clear away all the obstacles which they had thrown into his path; such obstructions as self-righteousness and smug complacency (“We have Abraham as our father,” verse 9), greed, cruelty, slander, etc. (Luke 3:13, 14).

It is evident that, both in Isaiah and in John’s preaching as recorded by Matthew, “the wilderness” through which a path must be made ready for the Lord is in the final analysis the people’s heart, inclined to all evil. Though the literal meaning is not absent, it is subsumed into the figurative. The root idea is indeed the actual desert. “But the very sight of the [literal] wilderness must have had a powerful effect on stupid and hardened men, leading them to perceive that they were in a state of death, and to accept the promise of salvation that had been held out to them” (John Calvin on Matt. 3:3).”[26]

So as one can see the Amillennialist is limited in his exegesis of an “at hand” kingdom only addressing its internal affects within the heart and not really dealing with imminent aspects of the kingdom’s arrival in the eschatological areas that are developed throughout the immediate context.  Nor is there any discussion that within the context of Isaiah 40:3-5 the Second Coming is mentioned as a part of the way that is being prepared.

Matthew 3:7:  In trying to address the “approaching wrath,” Hendriksen does not deal with the Greek word mello here and how it is used throughout Matthew’s gospel.  If he were, he would translate it as the wrath that was “about to be” poured out upon the hypocrites and “Brood of vipers” to whom John is addressing.  He does however connect this “wrath” with the Second Coming of Christ:
“…the final outpouring of this wrath is reserved for the future (Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; 2 Thess. 1:8, 9; Rev. 14:10).
“…this final manifestation of wrath (Zeph. 1:15; 2:2) is connected with the (second) coming of the Messiah (Mal. 3:2, 3; 4:1, 5).[27]

Matthew 3:10:  As usual futurists such as Hendriksen do not know how to deal with NT imminence and throw everything they can at it.  Everything from the old viewing things from the two mountain tops and “prophetic foreshortening” to pointing out that AD 70 could be in view in that it was a near event.  Note the Amillennialist’s struggle with John’s imminent eschatology and that of the NT’s in general:
“Judgment is at hand. The axe lies right in front of (πρός) or, as we would say, “at” the root, with sinister intent, ready to hew down one tree after another. Right now, therefore, is the proper moment to repent and to believe. In this connection see also Ps. 95:7, 8; Isa. 55:6; Luke 13:7, 9; 17:32; John 15:6; Rom. 13:11; 2 Cor. 6:2; 1 John 2:18; Rev. 1:3. Continued: … every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into fire. The question might be asked, “But was the day of the final manifestation of God’s wrath upon the wicked actually that close? Is it not true that many centuries have passed by since the Baptist spoke these words, and still the Lord has not returned for judgment?” The following facts should be borne in mind:

First, John reminds one of the Old Testament prophet who, in speaking about the last days or the Messianic age would at times look upon the future as a traveler does on a distant mountain range. He fancies that one mountain top rises up right behind the other, when in reality the two are miles apart. The two comings of Christ are viewed as if they were one. Thus we read “A shoot shall come forth out of the stock of Jesse … and he shall smite the earth” (Isa. 11:1–4). “Jehovah has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and … the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 61:1, 2). “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.… The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah arrives” (Joel 2:28–31). Cf. Mal. 3:1, 2. This has been called “prophetic foreshortening.”

Secondly, Jerusalem’s fall (a.d. 70) was drawing perilously near, and foreshadowed the final judgment.

Thirdly, impenitence has a tendency of hardening a person, so that often he is left in his present lost condition. Without genuine repentance death and the judgment are for him irrevocable and “at the door.”

Fourthly, “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

Fifthly, as the references given above (p. 205, beginning with Ps. 95:7, 8) indicate, John was by no means the only one who emphasized the imminence of the judgment and/or the need of becoming converted right now. Therefore, if on this score we find fault with the Baptist we would also have to blame the psalmists, the prophets, the apostles, and even the Lord himself! Surely, no true believer is ready to do this.

Sixthly, all this does not necessarily mean that the Baptist himself always saw the present and the future in true perspective. See on 11:1–3. It only means that the Holy Spirit guided him so that in his actual preaching as here recorded he had a perfect right to say what he said.

The “fire” into which the unfruitful trees are cast is evidently a symbol of the final outpouring of God’s wrath upon the wicked. See also Mal. 4:1; Matt. 13:40; John 15:6. Jesus spoke about “the Gehenna of fire” (Matt. 5:22, 29; 18:9; Mark 9:47). This fire is unquenchable (Matt. 3:12; 18:8; Mark 9:43; Luke 3:17). The point is not merely that there is always a fire burning in Gehenna but that God burns the wicked with unquenchable fire, the fire that has been prepared for them as well as for the devil and his angels (Matt. 3:12; 25:41).[28]

Hendriksen is throwing everything he can at John the Baptist’s teaching and how the NT develops imminence hoping that something will stick!  If imminence is to be taken literally here, then AD 70 would fulfill this, but only in “foreshadowing” way.  Why?  Because Hendriksen assumes that this wrath associated with the Second Coming must be future and an world of history kind of event.  Then on the other extreme he appeals to 2 Peter 3:8 and interprets it in such a way that imminence doesn’t have to be interpreted literally at all.  So in this approach when Peter says “the end of all things is at hand” – it really didn’t communicate imminence to Peter’s first century audience because “at hand” could really mean thousands and thousands of years.  Concerning his two mountain peaks illustration – the two were viewed to take place imminently together, because Jesus places his rejection in His first coming and His Second Coming to take place within the same AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Luke 17:25/Luke 21:27-32).  Since they both take place within the same “this generation” time frame, NT imminence can be interpreted literally and refer to Christ coming in the judgment upon Jerusalem and thus God pouring out His wrath upon those that had rejected His Son.

What is helpful from Amillennialists such as William Hendriksen is that they seem to recognize that John’s eschatology here is a microcosm of the rest of the NT’s eschatology.  Therefore, how you interpret one is how you must interpret the other.  Of course I have no disagreement on this point.

Matthew 3:11:  In regards to what the baptism of fire is, Amillennialists tend to agree with the Full Preterist that this is indeed referring to the Second Coming:
“Nevertheless, it would appear from the context (both before and after; see verses 10 and 12) and from Joel’s Pentecost prophecy (Joel 2:30; cf. Acts 2:19), considered in its context (see Joel 2:31), that the ultimate fulfilment of the Baptist’s words awaits Christ’s glorious return to cleanse the earth with fire (2 Peter 3:7, 12; cf. Mal. 3:2; 2 Thess. 1:8).[29]

Matthew 3:12: Simon Kistemaker seems to understand that John’s end time harvest metaphors here in 3:12 answer to the same end time harvest scene elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel in the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 13:

“Throughout the Gospel of Matthew the theme of separation and judgment unfolds.  The wheat is gathered into the barn, but the chaff is burned up with unquenchable fire (Matt. 3:12); the weeds are separated from the wheat, and tied into bundles and burned, while the wheat is gathered into the barn (Matt. 13:30).”[30]

As far as the threshing floor judgment, Hendriksen correctly connects it with the Second Coming,
Thus also Christ at his return will thoroughly clear the area where the judgment will take place. No one will escape detection.[31]

Of the Christians or “grain” being gathered into the barn or kingdom, Hendriksen connects that with Christians inheriting the New Heaven and Earth in 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21-22 at Christ’s Second Coming.  And the same time frame is given for the unbelievers or “chaff” – they are thrown into the Lake of Fire for eternal punishment at Christ’s Second Coming (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10).[32]  After all this is the eschatological “not yet” to the kingdom promises.

Weaknesses of this view

It fails to honor the context in that the “at hand” of the kingdom is not just a spiritual “in the heart” “already” aspect to the kingdom, but includes the kingdom’s imminent “not yet” salvation and judgment motif throughout the passage.  This is further evidenced in that it is the Second Coming that John was to prepare the way for in Isaiah 40:3-5, 10 and Malachi 3 and 4.

There is no study on mello in 3:7 which should be translated as a wrath that was “about to” be poured out upon those that would not repent.
It fails to understand or develop NT imminence in any kind of Biblical or consistent way.

Strengths of this view

There is some attempt to find the eschatological imminence or kingdom “not yet” promises being fulfilled in the AD 70 judgment – but not consistently.

The ax laid at the tree and the coming baptism of fire are correctly identified with the Second Coming event as predicted in Malachi 3 and 4.

Unlike Dispensationalism, there are not two different kingdoms or phases of the kingdom – one for Israel and another for the Church in which they separate the salvation and judgment harvest motifs here in Matthew 3 from Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13.  Amillennialism seems to equate the two as the same end time harvest event.

This position correctly sees the eschatology of John the Baptist here to be a microcosm of the NT’s eschatology as a whole.  Therefore, its struggle with John’s imminence here is its struggle with NT imminence.

Partial Preterism

Since I have already quoted heavily from Partial Preterism I will simply address the weaknesses and strengths of this view.

Weaknesses of this view

Unlike the Amillennial view, the weaknesses of this view is in its failure to harmonize and use the analogy of Scripture principle of interpretation concerning the “great and dreadful day of the Lord” and the imminent coming judgment and wrath whereby the wicked are thrown into “unquenchable fire” (all being fulfilled in AD 70) with the rest of the NT’s teaching on these eschatological topics.  There isn’t even any attempt to harmonize the coming harvest separation and judgment of Matthew 3 with Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 13 from some of their leading theologians.

Strengths of this view

Unlike the Amillennial view, the strength of this view is that it seeks to take the imminence throughout Matthew 3:2-12 seriously and finds its fulfillment in the fall of Jerusalem.  It also acknowledges that the “great and dreadful day of the Lord” in Joel 2/Acts 2 and Malachi 3-4 was fulfilled in AD 70 using the common prophetic language of the OT and NT – apocalyptic and metaphoric language.

Progressive Partial Preterism

Matthew 3:2-12:  In response to the kind of vague comments Amillennialists give about a pure inward aspect of the kingdoms arrival and a call for repentance throughout all ages, Russell makes the point that the repentance in our passage is urgent for a specific immediate audience (the Jews) concerning a specific coming national judgment,

“These warnings of John the Baptist are not the vague and indefinite exhortations to repentance, addressed to men in all ages, which they are sometimes assumed to be; they are urgent, burning words, having a specific and present bearing upon the then existing generation, the living men to whom he brought the message of God.  The Jewish nation was now upon its last trial; the second Elijah had come as the precursor of ‘the great and dreadful day of the Lord:’ if they rejected his warnings, the doom predicted by Malachi world surely and speedily follow; “I will come and smite the land with a curse.’  Nothing can be more obvious than that the catastrophe to which John alludes is particular, national, local, and imminent, and history tells us that within the period of the generation that listened to his warning cry, ‘the wrath came upon them to the uttermost.’”[33]

Russell is also helpful in demonstrating that although the “way” John is called upon to “prepare” here in Matthew 3:3 is found in Isaiah 40, we still see the “way” of judgment found in Malachi 3-4 (as is quoted in Matt. 11:10) within our passage,

“It is impossible not to be struck with the correspondence between the language of the Baptist and that of Malachi.  As Hengstenberg observes:  ‘The prophecy of Malacki is throughout the text upon which John comments.’  In both, the coming of the Lord is described as a day of wrath; both speak of His coming with fire to purify and try, with fire to burn and consume.  Both speak of a time of discrimination and separation between the righteous and the wicked, the gold and dross, the wheat and chaff; and both speak of the utter destruction of the chaff, or stubble, with unquenchable fire.  These are not fortuitous resemblances:  the two predictions are the counterpart one of the other, and can only refer to the self-same event, the same ‘day of the lord,’ the same coming judgment.”[34]
Russell also does a great job of using the analogy of Scripture principle of interpreting scripture when he connects the Matthew 3:2-12 with that of the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:
“It is indeed surprising that expositors should failed to recognize in these solemn predictions the reproduction and reiteration of the words of Malachi and of John the Baptist.  Here we find the same final separation between the righteous and the wicked; the same purging of the floor; the same gathering of the wheat into the garner; the same burning of the chaff [tares, stubble] in the fire.  Can there be no doubt that it is to the same act of judgment, the same period of time, the same historical event, that Malachi, John, and our Lord refer?”[35]

Weaknesses of this view

Russell should have spent some time on the use of mello in Matthew 3:7 to add strength to his case on imminence throughout Matthew 3.

Although doing a good job on showing how the context of Malachi 3-4 can be seen ever here in Matthew 3, he could have spent some time developing the context of Isaiah 40 of which John specifically references to make a case for an AD 70 judgment scene.

Russell’s view of a partial and literal “rapture” of Christians during the events of AD 67-70 at Christ’s parousia I believe is gravely mistaken and has some problems even here at the outset.  Since he equates the gathering of Matthew 3 with Matthew 13, we should not that the tares are “gathered” at the same time as the wheat (actually they are gathered first).  So if the eschatological “gathering” within John and Jesus’ teaching throughout Matthew’s gospel refers to the same event, then this would require that the wicked tares were gathered/raptured in the same way the righteous wheat were gathered/raptured.  There is no discussion of this serious problem for Russell’s view and even modern day Progressive Partial Preterists that hold to his literal rapture theory taking place in AD 70.

Strengths of this view       

As previously noted, Russell is strong in pointing out John’s references to Malachi here in Matthew 3 – and not just in Matthew 11.
His refutation of an Amillennial type general repentance spanning thousands of years in the kingdom being “at hand” is excellent when he points the reader to stay within the text itself arguing for a local, national, and imminence throughout Matthew 3 which exegetically points us to a first century audience being called to repentance for a particular national judgment coming in AD 70.
His appeals that Jesus is simply “reiterating” and “reproducing” the same separating harvest and fiery salvation and judgment scene as that of Malachi and John are excellent (Matt. 3=Matt. 13).  We saw this point made by Kistemaker, but here we have more exegetical evidence demonstrating that both were fulfilled to close the OC age in AD 70 and are not referring to an end of the planet earth or history events.

Full Preterism Synthesis

Since so much truth has been presented so far within the Partial Preterist and Progressive Partial Preterists views thus far of our text, I shall only “fill in the gaps” so to speak.
Matthew 3:2:  There is a broader OT and NT theme that needs to be understood for the Amillennialist when it concerns the kingdom being “at hand” in that when the kingdom comes is when Christ comes and salvation and judgment are both rendered (Matt. 13:39-43; Luke 21:27-32; Matt. 25:31ff.).  The NT does not merely address the eschatological “already” of the kingdom being “at hand,” but it also develops the eschatological “not yet” as being “at hand.”  To literalize one as genuinely imminent while spiritualizing the other making it span thousands and thousands of years is pure eisegesis.  This is the same exegetical pitfall that Premillennial Dispensationalism falls into when it literalizes “at hand” here in Matthew 3:2 in relation to the kingdoms offer and coming but will not acknowledge this same meaning concerning Christ’s Second Coming and arrival of the kingdom.

Since the broader context of the kingdom being “at hand” includes the eschatological “not yet” judgment, this interpretation fits much better with the immediate context and imminent judgment and salvation being developed in verses 7, 10-12.

Matthew 3:3 / Isaiah 40:6-7, 10:  Unfortunately, not much exegesis has been done in Isaiah 40 which is the OT passage that describes the way John is preparing.  In hermeneutics one is always called upon to go to the OT passage a NT author quotes, references, or “echoes” in order to find out how the NT author is using it, or see if there are other elements within that OT context that fits what the NT author is developing.  This is also very important in that in Jewish hermeneutics often times even if a small portion of an OT passage is quoted, the reader or listener is expected to draw upon the entire chapter, section or theology of the quote.  When we do this, we immediately find references to preparing a way for judgment that harmonizes with John’s use of Malachi 3 in Matthew 11:10-14.

Here is Isaiah we quickly see that the way that is being prepared is not simply a way of salvation but judgment.  We immediately see what this voice cries out in (v. 6) – “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.  The grass withers and the flower fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them.  Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”   This is connected to the recompense judgment of rewards in (v. 10) See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him.  See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.”  This passage is directly applied to Christ’s Second Coming in Matthew 16:27-28 and Revelation 22:6-12 in which it is taught that His return would take place within some of that first century audiences lifetimes or within an AD 70  “soon” or “quickly” time frame.  Peter also quotes Isaiah 40:6-7 in 1 Peter 1:23-24 of which the immediate context tells us that Peter’s first century audience  was “ready” to receive the salvation and inheritance the OT prophets predicted would come at the revealing of Christ in His Second Coming.  Later we are told by Peter that this coming salvation and “THE judgment” of “the living and dead” was “ready” to take place and that “the end of all things is at hand.” (1 Pet. 4:5-7).  Therefore, the contextual flow of Isaiah 40 tells us that John came to prepare a way of judgment – which answers to an imminent “not yet” aspect to the kingdoms arrival not just to its “already” or inauguration.  The use of Isaiah 40:10 by Jesus in Matthew 16:27-28 also confirms an imminent AD 70 time frame as does the book of Revelation.  Peter’s use of Isaiah 40 also answers to the same imminent AD 70 time frame.

The prideful mountains of the Sadducees and Pharisees needed to be brought low and level in humbling themselves in repentance as they awaited the coming of their King.  He was “the way” and the “highways of Holiness” and no one could travel upon it without such a humbling.  Also, if non-repentant, a way was being prepared by a conquering King – and it was ironic that they shouted they wanted Caesar as their king and not Christ and then Christ came in AD 70 through the Roman armies as their conquering King to destroy their city and Temple.

Matthew 3:7:  Here the Greek word mello is used to describe a judgment and wrath that was “about to be” revealed upon these brood of vipers if they did not repent.  Mellos use in the NT is predominately understood with the meaning “about to” and not “will” or “shall.”  Within Matthew’s gospel itself it is best translated this way.  We will examine this more when we come to Matthew 16:27.  But if we translate mello here as “about to be” as the GDT and WUEST do, we find it in harmony and consistent with the imminence throughout Matthew 3.

Matthew 3:10-12:  In further proving that the harvest gathering here was fulfilled in AD 70 perhaps Premillennial Dispensationalists should listen to Historic Premillennialists such as John Gill when he points out that the threshing floor of this harvest judgment is local and addressing Israel in AD 70 – and not an end of history type event,

“Christ was just ready to publish; by which he would effectually call his chosen people among the Jews, and so distinguish and separate them from others, as well as purify and cleanse them, or rather the awful judgment of God, which Christ was ready to execute, and in a short time would execute on the unbelieving and impenitent Jews: hence it is said to be “in his hand”; being put there by his Father, who “hath committed all judgment to the Son”. That this is the meaning of the “Baptist,” seems evident, since “fanning” is always, when figuratively taken, used for judgments, #Isa 41:16 Jer 15:7 51:2.  By “his floor,” is meant the land of Israel, where he was born, brought up, and lived; of which the Lord says, “O my threshing, and the corn of my floor!” #Isa 21:10.”[37]

To this the book of Revelation agrees in that the coming “Day of God’s wrath” was imminently approaching its first century audience along with the harvest judgment scene in Revelation 6, 7 and 14.  In 14:20 the bloody harvest scene covers “…the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs” which commentators have long noted covers the distance of Israel.  Israel is the local scene in which John and Revelation’s harvest judgment takes place.

But in the case of Premillennial Dispensationalism, the harvest of Matthew 3:12 along with Matthew 13:39-43 being fulfilled together at the end of the OC age destroys their entire artificial system!
Another problem for Dispensationalism is that when baptism of the Spirit is introduced in  3:10, so is Joel 2 and Acts 2.  Louis Barbier is correct to point out that Joel 2 would be in the minds of John’s listeners – which now introduces another problem text for Dispensationalism, Acts 2.

“Those hearing John’s words would have been reminded of two Old Testament prophecies:  Joel 2:28-29 and Malachi 3:2-5.  An actual outpouring of the Holy Spirit did occur in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, but experientially Israel did not enter into the benefits of that event.  She will yet experience the benefits of this accomplished work when she turns in repentance at the Lord’s Second Advent [which he also references Mal. 4:1].”[38]     

Interestingly enough, earlier he claims John’s eschatological purpose was to call a “remnant to receive Messiah.”  Well when we closely examine the context of Acts 2, contrary to his statement, a remnant of Israel was entering into the benefits of that event and that the great and dreadful day of the Lord of which they were to be saved from (if unrepentant) was within their “this perverse and crooked generation” (Acts 2:16-40).

Acts 2 creates a lot of consternation for Dispensationalism, because the system teaches that OT promises and prophecies cannot be applied to or fulfilled through the Church:

Lewis Sperry Chafer. “That the Christian now inherits the distinctive Jewish promises is not taught in Scripture.”
J. Dwight Pentecost. “…it would be impossible for the church to fulfill God’s promises made to Israel.”
Charles C. Ryrie. “The church is not fulfilling in any sense the promises to Israel.”[39]

It is more than difficult to understand how in this system:  1.  Israel had been cut off at the cross, 2.  the Church was born on Pentecost, 3.  the Church can’t fulfill OT promises made to Israel, and yet 4.  OT promises made to Israel were being fulfilled in the very inception of the Church  on the day of Pentecost when Peter clearly says, “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel,…” and applies the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to the early Church (which consists of a “remnant” of Jews – clearly “experiencing the benefits of this accomplished work” and later Gentiles “all flesh” experience this as well Acts 2:16-17; 11:15-18).  Dispensationalists are actually willing to add words to Peter’s “this is that” by claiming,

“Peter’s phraseology “this is that” means nothing more than “this is [an illustration of that]…”  In the reference there is not the slightest hint at a continued fulfillment during the church age or a coming fulfillment toward the end of the church age.”  “…The reference is solely in an illustrative sense to Jewish listeners.”[40]
And,
“Peter says that the events of Acts 2 are what Joel spoke of but not necessarily the fulfillment of what Joel spoke of!”[41]

The book of Acts is not the story of the cutting off of Israel at the cross, and the beginning of the Church age (a “parenthesis” and something never taught in the OT), but rather, it is how Israel was being restored and transformed through the Gospel being built up as ONE new Tabernacle/Temple fulfilling OT prophecy (ex. Amos 9/Acts 15).

As far as the Second Coming or “that great and notable day of the Lord” a first century Jewish audience is being called upon to repent and be saved because they crucified the Lord (vss. 20-21ff.).  Here again a remnant responds to his preaching and are saved through faith and thus baptized (vss. 37-38).  Peter in (v. 40) makes it very clear that they are to be saved (in context  from Christ’s coming in judgment vss. 20-21) from within their “this perverse and crooked generation.”  This is a quotation talking about Israel’s “end” (cf. Deut. 32:5, 20, 29).  Christ coming in AD 70 to close the OC age was Israel’s (after the flesh) “end” of which many did not “discern.”  This lack of discerning Israel’s end in AD 70 continues today in the embodiment of Dispensational theology.  They are constantly trying to resurrection Israel after the flesh (thinking 1948 was the beginning point) when in fact God raised OC Israel into the NC Israel of God in AD 70!

Briefly, another problem Dispensationalism has in Acts 2 is that the rejection and crucifixion of Christ did not “postpone” the Davidic kingdom promises, but it rather fulfilled and established them (cf. Psalm 16/Acts 2:22-40).

The problem for the Progressive Partial Preterism of Russell was in his inability to prove a literal “rapture” or “gathering” of the Church took place in AD 70.  If this is the case then surely the wicked were likewise “raptured” or “gathered” as well – if not why not?  There is more harmony for the Full Preterist view in that the righteous were “gathered” into the kingdom in a spiritual “within” event which restored God’s presence to them – and the righteous dead were raised from Hades or Abrahams Bosom to inherit God’s presence.  The wicked were “gathered” to judgment in that their hearts were hardened to the point of no return, their bodies literally burned outside the walls of Jerusalem and then their souls thrown into the Lake of Fire – as Christ’s parousia in AD 70 was the event which emptied Hades (cf. Rev. 20:10–22:6-7, 10-12, 20).  The fulfillment was a spiritual fulfillment not a literal “rapture.”

Concluding our section on the eschatology of John the BaptistFull Preterism Synthesis

As a Full Preterist I agree with Amillennialism’s understanding that John’s eschatology is the NT’s eschatology in a nutshell.  Similar to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24-25, whatever your view is here will dictate your understanding of the rest of the NT’s development of last things.

Full Preterism is a synthesis of the Amillennialist’s understanding of how Matthew 3:2-12 is fulfilled throughout the rest of the NT and yet we do not struggle with confusing and often times competing views of imminence in Matthew 3 or throughout the rest of the NT as we watched Hendriksen struggle to explain.  There are also partial and undeveloped teachings from Partial Preterism that form the foundation for a Full Preterist understanding of John’s eschatology.  The passages Partial Preterists say were fulfilled in AD 70 concerning the great and notable day of the Lord, are the passages the classic Amillennialist say are referring to the ONE Second Coming.  We agree with BOTH Reformed positions here.

Progressive Partial Preterists such as Russell had some great comments on our passage, but needed to do some additional digging – which I believe I have provided.
Matthew 3:10-12 and John’s imminent harvest judgment scene also crushes the foundation of  Partial Preterists such as Kenneth Gentry.  Since this imminent harvest judgment is the same one Jesus reiterates in Matthew 13:39-43 to take place at the end of his audiences “this [OC] age” in AD 70, this places the resurrection of Daniel 12:2-3, 7, 13 to take place at this time as well.  And as we will develop later, this same “end of the age” “gathering” is the resurrection to take place at Christ’s Second Coming depicted in Matthew 24:30-31 – to be fulfilled in that AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Matt. 24:34).  Selah.
 


[1] Beale, G. K., & Carson, D. A. (2007). Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (pp. 12–13). Grand Rapids, MI;  Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic;  Apollos.
[2] Lightfoot, J. (2010). A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Matthew-1 Corinthians, Matthew-Mark (Vol. 2, pp. 49–50). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[3] Adam Clark, Commentary on the Bible [1831]
[4] G.K. Beale, A NEW TESTAMENT BIBLICAL THEOLOGY THE UNFOLDING OF THE OLD TESTAMENT IN THE NEW, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Acaddemic, 2011),  412
[5] Lightfoot, J. (2010). A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Matthew-1 Corinthians, Matthew-Mark (Vol. 2, p. 78). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[6] Lightfoot, J. (2010). A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Matthew-1 Corinthians, Matthew-Mark (Vol. 2, p. 78). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[7] R.C. Sproul, THE LAST DAYS ACCORDING TO JESUS, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 1998), 23.
[8] Kenneth Genry, Thomas Ice, The Great Tribulation Past or Future?, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Kregel Publications, 1999), 18, bold emphasis MJS.
[9] Kenneth Gentry, HE SHALL HAVE DOMINION A POSTMILLENNIAL ESCHATOLOGY, THIRD EDITION: REVISED AND EXPANDED, (Draper, VA: Apologetics Group Media, 2009), 175.  Bold emphasis MJS
[10] John Gill, John Gill’s Espositor, Online Bible Software, Version 2.10.06, 2007 Bible Foundation.  www.onlinebible.us, emphasis added
[11] Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew (pp. 62–63). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.
[12] Lightfoot, J. (2010). A commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Matthew-1 Corinthians, Acts-1 Corinthians (Vol. 4, p. 30). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[13] Clark, Ibid.
[14] Clark, Ibid.
[15] Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 2068). Peabody: Hendrickson.
[16] Henry, Ibid., 2068
[17] Kenneth L. Gentry, HE SHALL HAVE DOMINION A POSTMILLENNIAL ESCHATOLOGY THIRD EDITION:  REVISED AND EXPANDED, (Draper, VA:  Apologetics Group Media, 2009), 342-343
[18] Charles Ryre, RYRE Study Bible, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1986, 1994,), 1420.
[19] The Bible Knowledge Commentary, An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty NEW TESTAMENT edition, (Colorado Springs, CO, 1983, 2004), 24, emphasis mine
[20] John McArthur, The MACARTHUR Study Bible, (Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1997), 1396, 1518
[21] The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Ibid., 25, bold emphasis mine.
[22] MacArthur, Ibid., 1397
[23] Ibid.
[24] The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Ibid., 25
[25] William Hendriksen, & S.J. Kistemaker, NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY The Gospel of Matthew, (Grand Rapids: MI, Baker Book House, 1953 – 2001),  197
[26] Ibid., 198-199.
[27] Ibid., 204.
[28] Ibid., 205-206.
[29] Ibid., 208-209.
[30] Simon Kistemaker, The Parables of Jesus, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House, 1980), 148.
[31] Ibid., 210.
[32] Ibid., 210-211.
[33] J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia A Study of the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House, 1887 – 1909),  15-16
[34] Ibid., 14-15.
[35] Ibid., 23-24.
[36]
[37] John Gill, John Gill’s Espositor, Online Bible Software, Version 2.10.06, 2007 Bible Foundation.  www.onlinebible.us, emphasis added
[38] The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Ibid., 25.
[39] Keith A. Mathison, DISPENSATIONALISM Rightly Dividing the People of God?, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1995), 19 (bold emphasis added).
[40] Curtis I. Crenshaw and Grover E. Gunn, III, DISPENSATIONALISM TODAY, YESTERDAY, AND TOMORROW, (Memphis, TN:  Footstool Publications, 1985), 153.
[41] Ibid., 153.