G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson’s “Thorny Problem”
In Matthew 24-25/1Thessalonians 4:15—5:11
By Michael J. Sullivan
My proposition in this article is to prove that Beale and Carson’s “thorny problem” concerning their contradictory teachings and or associations in their writings of Matthew 24:30-31/1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 over the years is solved with the Full Preterist interpretation of these passages.
D.A Carson wrote of Matthew 24-25 in the development of NT eschatology in 1984:
Fourth, the discourse itself is undoubtedly a source for the Thessalonian Epistles (cf. G. Henry Waterman, “The Sources of Paul’s Teaching on the 2nd Coming of Christ in 1 and 2 Thessalonians,” JETS 18 : 105–13; David Wenham, “Paul and the Synoptic Apocalypse,” France and Wenham, 2:345–75) and Revelation (cf. Gregory Kimball Beale, “The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St. John” [Ph.D. diss., Cambridge University, 1980], pp. 260–64, and the literature cited there). If so, then we may say that Jesus himself sets the pattern for the church’s eschatology.
Of the trumpet call and gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:31 he wrote:
The sound of a loud trumpet (cf. Isa 27:13; 1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thess 4:16) is an eschatological figure (see on 24:30). Only with considerable difficulty can v. 31 be interpreted as referring to Christian missions: its natural linguistic relations are in 13:41. For comments on “his elect,” see on 22:14; 24:22. The “four winds” represent the four points of the compass (Ezek 37:9; Dan 8:8; 11:4): the elect are gathered from all over (cf. Mt 8:11), “from one end of the heavens to the other” (from every place under the sky), since that is how far the gospel of the kingdom will have been preached (24:14). 
In other words Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24-25 is the source and pattern to understanding the time and nature of fulfillment for the rest of the NT’s development to Christ’s parousia and resurrection doctrine. The eschatological gathering at the end of the age is the same event Jesus depicted earlier in the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:39-43 which fulfills the resurrection and glorification of the church promises predicted by Daniel in Daniel 12:2-3:
In contrast to the evil-doers, “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” The allusion is to Daniel 12:3 LXX…” “These righteous people (see on 5:20, 45; 9:13; 10:41; 13:17; 25:37, 46), once the light of the world (5:13–16), now radiate perfections and experience bliss in the consummation of their hopes.
I see no reason for anyone to reject this very straightforward and common sense approach. But before we go too much further, I should point out that it is orthodox to teach that the eschatological gathering and resurrection in Daniel 12:2-3 which Jesus is alluding to in Matthew 13:41-43/24:30-31 was fulfilled in AD 70 per such men as Kenneth Gentry and James Jordan:
“In Daniel’s prophecy many will awaken, as it were, during the great tribulation [which he takes as being fulfilled by AD 70] to suffer the full fury of the divine wrath, while others will enjoy God’s grace in receiving everlasting life.”
And in a question I posed to Mr. Gentry regarding this text off of his Facebook page he responded,
“Dan 12 sees the “resurrection” of Israel in the birth of the Christian Church, which is the New Israel. Thus, it bears similarities with Eze 37 and the resurrection of the dry bones of Israel.” Dan 12 is not dealing with bodily resurrection but national resurrection (as does Eze 37). Dan 12 sees the “resurrection” of Israel in the birth of the Christian Church, which is the New Israel. Thus, it bears similiarities with Eze 37 and the resurrection of the dry bones of Israel.”
This is practically the same view taken by James Jordan in his recent commentary on Daniel. Here are some good excerpts from his commentary,
“The death of the Church in the Great Tribulation, and her resurrection after that event, were the great proof that Jesus had accomplished the work He came to do. The fact that the Church exists today, nearly 2000 years after her death in the Great Tribulation, is the ongoing vindication of Jesus work.”
“Revelation takes up where Daniel leaves off, and deals mostly with the Apostolic Age and the death and resurrection of the Church.”
“What Daniel is promised is that after his rest in Abraham’s bosom, he will stand up with all God’s saints and join Michael on a throne in heaven, as described in Revelation 20, an event that came after the Great Tribulation and in the year AD 70.
We of course agree that Daniel 12:2-3 is addressing the national or corporate body resurrection of the Church as it was in the process of being raised out from among the persecutions and the dying corpse of or passing of the Old Covenant world of Israel. That the resurrection of Daniel 12:1-3 was fulfilled in AD 70 cannot be avoided in that “all these things” (judgment, tribulation and resurrection) would take place when the power of the holy people was completely shattered in AD 70 (vss. 1-7). Jesus identifies the tribulation proceeding AD 70 to be fulfilled in the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:21ff. These events are inseparably fulfilled together according to Daniel 12:7 and Matthew 24:34.
That Matthew 24-25 is Paul’s source in teaching the same parousia and resurrection event in 1 Thessalonians 4-5 becomes even clearer in G.K. Beale’s earlier writings.
G.K. Beale wrote of Matthew 24-25 being the same event as 1 Thessalonians 4-5 in 2003:
“…4:15-17 describe generally the same end-time scenario as 5:1-10. Specifically, Paul narrates the resurrection at the end of the age and then recapitulates in chapter 5 by speaking about the timing of this event and about the judgment on unbelievers, which will happen at the same time. That both 4:15-18 and 5:1-11 explain the same events is discernible from observing that both passages actually form one continuous depiction of the same narrative in Matthew 24, as apparent from the chart…”
|Accompanied by angels||4:16||24:31|
|With a trumpet of God||4:16||24:31|
|Believers gathered to Christ||4:17||24:31, 40-41|
|Coming like a thief||5:2||24:43|
|Unbelievers unaware of impending judgment||5:3||24:8|
|Judgment comes as pain upon an expectant mother||5:3||24:8|
|Believers not deceived||5:4-5||24:43|
|Believers to be watchful||5:6||24:37-39|
|Warning against drunkenness||5:7||24:49|
Comparison of 1 Thessalonians 4—5 with Matthew 24
“Other significant parallels include: the use of the word parousia for Christ’s coming, reference to Christ’s advent as “that day” (Mt.24:36) or “the day of the Lord” (1Thess.5:2); and a description of someone coming to “meet” another (eis apantesin autou, virgins coming out to “meet” the bridegroom in Mt 25:6; eis apantesin tou kyriou, believers “meeting” the Lord in 1Thess 4:17; see further Waterman 1975).
“…(and although Matthew does not explicitly mention the idea of resurrection, he implies it in the phrase “gather his elect” in 24:31, which implies the gathering of all believers, both living and dead [Marshall 1983: 126]).”
Beale further tightens the connection of 1Thessalonians 4-5 together by demonstrating that chapter 5 is also continuing the theme of the resurrection:
“Within the larger context, 5:9-10 (appointed to receive salvation…so that…we mayh live) provides the basis for being self-controlled 5:8, the main point thus far in 5:8-10. Being self controlled because of the prospect of salvation and resurrection culminates in the goal of 5:1-10 to which Paul has been aiming at throughout: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. The nearest thought sparking this final exhortation to encourage is the just mentioned consummated resurrection existence of God’s people who will join fellowship with the resurrected Christ 5:10. That the phrase we may live in 5:10 alludes to the resurrection of God’s people is borne out by observing the parallels between 5:10-11 and 4:13-18, which show that Paul has returned to the earlier theme of resurrection as the basis for encouragement:
|(1) “Jesus died and rose” (4:14)||(1) “he died for us” (5:10)|
|(2) “the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive…will be caught up together with [hama syn] them. …And so [in this manner of resurrection existence] we will be with the Lord forever” (4:16-17)||(2) “Whether we are awake or asleep [a metaphor for living and deceased saints] we may live together with [hama syn] him” (5:10)|
|(3) “Therefore encourage each other [parakaleite allelous]” (4:18)||(3) “Therefore encourage one another [parakaleite allelous]” (5:11)|
Although not a Full Preterist, it would appear that Colin Brown sees Beale’s “thorny problem” and that is if Matthew 24:27-31 was fulfilled in Jesus’ “this generation” and Paul is teaching the same event 1 Thessalonians 4-5, perhaps 1 Thessalonians 4:16 should be interpreted with symbolic apocalyptic language (events that take place within history not at the end of it) as is the case in Matthew 24.
“But if these events were expected within the first generation of Christians (and “generation” is the most probable translation of genea), either Jesus or the evangelists were mistaken…” or “…there is an alternative interpretation of the passage which points out that insufficient attention has been paid to the prophetic language of the passage as a whole.
The imagery of cosmic phenomena is used in the OT to describe this-worldly events and, in particular, historical acts of judgment. The following passages are significant, not least because of their affinities with the present context: Isa. 13:10 (predicting doom on Babylon); Isa. 34:4 (referring to “all the nations”, but especially to Edom); Ezek. 32:7 (concerning Egypt); Amos 8:9 (the Northern Kingdom of Israel); Joel 2:10 (Judah). The cosmic imagery draws attention to the divine dimension of the event in which the judgment of God is enacted. The use of Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:15-21 provides an instance of the way in which such prophetic cosmic imagery is applied to historical events in the present (cf. also Lk. 10:18; Jn. 12:31; 1 Thess. 4:16; 2 Pet. 3:10ff.; Rev. 6:12-17; 18:1). Other OT passages relevant to the interpretation of the present context are Isa. 19:1; 27:13; Dn. 7:13; Deut. 30:4; Zech. 2:6; 12:10-14; Mal. 3:1. In view of this, Mk. 13:24-30 may be interpreted as a Son of man will be vindicated. Such prophecy of judgment on Israel in which a judgment took place with the destruction of Jerusalem, the desecration of the Temple and the scattering of Israel – all of which happened within the lifetime of “this generation.” “…Such an interpretation fits the preceding discourse and the introductory remarks of the disciples (Mk. 13:1ff. par.).”.
This is the position I take in our book. Therefore, to conclude Carson and Beale’s position of Matthew 24:30-31/1 Thessalonians 4:15-17:
- Matthew 24:30 is the final Second Coming event.
- Matthew 24:31 depicts the resurrection of the dead because the gathering of the elect at the end of the age points back to Matthew 13:39-43 and Daniel’s resurrection in Daniel 12:2-3.
- The Second Coming and resurrection described by Jesus as the gathering of all the elect at the end of the age in Matthew 13:39-43/Daniel 12:2-3 and Matthew 24:30-31 is Paul’s source of teaching and the same Second Coming event describe by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15—5:10-11 in which all the dead (living and dead) will be raised together in the kingdom and will thus be together forever with the Lord.
Let’s now shift our attention to Carson and Beale’s latest attempts to grapple with and avoid the fact that Jesus identifies His final Second Coming and gathering the elect/resurrection to take place in the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Matthew 24:34) and their associations with and the influence of R.T. France in this regard.
D.A. Carson as Editor of these comments made in the New Bible Commentary 21ST. Century Edition (1994):
24:29–35 The climax of the coming crisis (see Mk. 13:24–31; Lk. 21:25–33). These verses are often understood as referring to the parousia, and thus as moving to the second part of the disciples’ question. But immediately after does not leave room for a long delay, nor does the explicit time-scale given in v 34. The word parousia does not occur in this section but is prominently reintroduced in the new paragraph which begins at v 36, where its unknown time is contrasted with the clear statement that the events of this paragraph will take place within this generation. This section is therefore in direct continuity with what has gone before, the account of the siege of Jerusalem. Here we reach its climax.
The words of vs 29–31 are almost entirely woven together from OT prophetic texts. V 29 is drawn from Is. 13:10 and 34:4, where the language of cosmic upheaval symbolized the political fall of pagan nations. The language about the Son of Man coming on the clouds is drawn from Dn. 7:13–14, which, as we have already seen (on 10:23; 16:28; 19:28) points to the vindication and enthronement of Jesus (rather than to his parousia). V 31 is based on passages which refer to the promised return of Israelites from exile.
In this context, therefore, this poetic language appropriately refers to the great changes which were about to take place in the world, when Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed. It speaks of the Son of Man entering into his kingship, and his angels gathering in his new people from all the earth. The fall of the temple is thus presented, in highly allusive language, as the end of the old order, to be replaced by the new régime of Jesus, the Son of Man, and the international growth of his church, the new people of God.
All this would happen very soon, once the preliminary signs of vs 15–21 have occurred, just as summer inevitably follows quickly once the leaves appear on the fig-tree. Within this generation it would all be over; we have Jesus’ word for it!
But since France believes the parousia of Christ in verse 27 is the Second and final Coming at the end of history and Christ coming on the clouds in verse 30 is both His ascension and His coming in judgment upon Jerusalem in vindication in AD 70, he does not take “Jesus’ word for it” in that Jesus says “all these things” (including verse 27) would be fulfilled in His first century “this generation” not “some of these things.” France apparently does not see that Jesus and the NT writers are following the (OG) LXX understanding of Daniel 7:13 in which one like the Son of Man comes “as the Ancient of Days” and not “up to the Ancient of Days.” The ascension is nowhere in the context of this discourse – either in the questions posed by the disciples or in Jesus’ response to them. His interpretation also fails to develop the analogy of Scripture principle of interpretation – there is no connection with Jesus’ teaching on the gathering in of the wheat into the kingdom at the end of the age in Matthew 13:39-43 with Jesus’ teaching here in Matthew 24:31. No one doubts that this is OT language of Israel coming back into the land, but this language is resurrection language (cf. Ezekiel 37), and according to Luke’s account this would be a gathering into the consummated and mature state of the “kingdom” (Luke 21:27-28, 31-32).
Now let’s turn to R.T. France’s influence upon G.K. Beale.
G.K. Beale’s new book, A NEW TESTAMENT BIBLICAL THEOLOGY THE UNFOLDING OF THE OLD TESTAMENT IN THE NEW (2011)
Beale sees the “thorny” problem in trying to follow Fance’s view and reconcile what he wrote of Matthew 24:30-31 in his commentary on 1—2 Thessalonians,
“The clearest reference to Jesus as the Son of Man from Daniel 7:13 come in the third category (which he identifies as “those that refer to Jesus’ future coming in glory”), where there are quotations of Dan. 7:13 (Matt. 24:30, Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27). However, it is likely better to see most of these third-category references fulfilled not at the very end of history but rather in AD 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem, in which the Son of Man’s coming would be understood as an invisible coming in judgment, using the Roman armies as his agent. The reference in Matt. 25:31 to “the Son of Man” who will “come in His glory” and “sit on His glorious throne” is not a quotation of but rather an allusion to Dan. 7:13-14, which clearly is applied to the very end of the age at Christ’s final coming. If this view is correct, it may be that the AD 70 coming of Christ in judgment as portrayed by the Synoptics is a typological foreshadowing of his final coming in judgment. However, the traditional view that the coming of the Son of Man in the Synoptic eschatological discourse refers to Christ’s final coming certainly is plausible. This issue is a thorny one that still deserves much more study.”
But as we have seen earlier, Beale took Matthew 24:30-31 to be the “final coming in judgment” and “resurrection” being the same event as depicted by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:15—5:11. This rules out Matthew 24:30-31 being “typological” of 1 Thessalonians 4:15—5:11! There is only a “thorny problem” for futurists such as Beale who contradict themselves. Full Preterists have already done the “more study” necessary on these passages and what is clear from these texts and from Beale’s conflicting positions is that: 1) Christ’s final parousia and coming on/in/upon the clouds to gather the elect in Matthew 24:27-31 is said to take place and be fulfilled in Jesus’ AD 70 “this generation” (v. 34) and 2) Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4-5 uses Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24-25 to develop this same final coming in judgment to raise the dead in AD 70.
To further develop the “thorny problem” I agree with Beale that when Jesus or the Apostle Paul refers to “the end” or “the end of the age” (cf. Matt. 24:2, 14-15; 1 Cor. 1:8; 15:24) that these references are taking us back to the fulfillment of Daniel 12:1-4. However, the “orthodoxy” which comes from Kenneth Gentry’s Partial Preterist Postmillennial colleagues such as Gary DeMar and Joel McDurmon of American Vision, have identified the eschatological “not yet” or “the end of the age” and “the end” in Matthew 13:39-43; 24:2, 14-15 with the end of the OC age in AD 70 and not to the end of time and history. And the majority reformed view would correctly identify Paul’s “the end” and “the parousia” in (1 Corinthians 15:23-24) with that of “the end of the age,” “the end,” and “the parousia” of (Matthew 24:2, 14-15, 27-30).
As we have seen, he thinks he escapes this “thorny problem” by stating that the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 25:31ff. is “…clearly applied to the very end of the age at Christ’s final coming.” But this isn’t “clear” form an exegetical treatment of Matthew 24-25 or from reformed Postmillennial Partial Preterists such as Gary DeMar or Keith Mathison whom identify the “end of the age” as the OC age ending in AD 70, or in applying the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 25:31ff. to AD 70 and not “Christ’s final coming.”
No one disagrees that the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 are the same event. But if Matthew 24—1 Thessalonians 4—1 Corinthians 15 are connected or seen as the same event fulfilling the judgment and resurrection of Daniel 12, this no doubt is more than a “thorny problem” for futurists!
Matthew 24 & 1 Corinthians 15/1 Thessalonians fulfills the resurrection of Daniel 12
In mathematics and logic: If A bears some relation to B and B bears the same relation to C, then A bears it to C. Or the property of equality is transitive – for if A = B and B = C, then A = C. Therefore, things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another. If equals be added to equals, the wholes are equal.
A = (Matt. 24:27-31, 34)
B = (1 Thess. 4:15-17)
C = (1 Cor. 15)
“IF A (Matt. 24:27-43) bears some relation to B (1 Thess. 4:15 – 1 Thess. 5)” or “A=B”:
Christ returns from heaven Matt. 24:30 = 1 Thess. 4:16
With archangelic voice Matt. 24:31 = 1 Thess. 4:16
With God’s trumpet Matt. 24:31 = 1 Thess. 4:16
Believers gathered/caught up with Christ Matt. 24:31 = 1 Thess. 4:17
Believers “meet” Christ in “clouds” Matt. 24:30, 25:6 = 1 Thess. 4:17
Exact time unknown Matt. 24:36 = 1 Thess. 5:1-2
Christ comes like a thief Matt. 24:43 = 1 Thess. 5:2
Unbelievers caught unaware Matt. 24:37-39 = 1 Thess. 5:3
Birth pains Matt. 24:8 = 1 Thess. 5:3
Believers are not deceived Matt. 24:43 = 1 Thess. 5:4-5
Believers told to be watchful Matt. 24:42 = 1 Thess. 5:6
Exhortation against drunkenness Matt. 24:49 = 1 Thess. 5:7
The Day, sons of light, sons of the day Matt. 24:27, 36-38 = 1 Thess. 5:4-8
The same 1st. Cent. audience “you” “we” Matt. 24:2…, 34 = 1 Thess. 4:15-17
AND “…B bears the same relation to C…” or “B=C”:
All agree that B (1 Thess. 4:15-17) bears the same relation to C (1 Cor. 15) or “B=C” and is referring to the second coming and resurrection events:
Those asleep will be raised 1 Thess. 4:13-14 = 1 Cor. 15:12-18
The living will be “caught up” “changed” 1 Thess. 4:15-17 = 1 Cor. 15:51-52
At the sound of a “trumpet” 1 Thess. 4:16 = 1 Cor. 15:52
At Christ’s coming (Greek parousia) 1 Thess. 4:15 = 1 Cor. 15:23
“Encourage” “Stand firm” 1 Thess. 4:18 = 1 Cor. 15:58
Same contemporary audience “we” 1 Thess. 4:15-17 = 1 Cor. 15:51-52
THEN A (Matt. 24:27-31) bears it to C (1 Cor. 15)” or “A=C”:
Christ comes (Greek parousia) Matt. 24:27 = 1 Cor. 15:23
To “gather” or “change” His people Matt. 24:31 = 1 Cor. 15:52
With a “trumpet” Matt. 24:31 = 1 Cor. 15:52
To bring “the end” (Greek telos) Matt. 24:3, 14 = 1 Cor. 15:24
Deliver up & fulfill “kingdom” promises Luke 21:30-32 = 1 Cor. 15:24
The fulfillment of all OT prophecy Luke 21:22 = 1 Cor. 15:54-55
Stones of temple & “the Law” destroyed Matt. 24:1, 15 = 1 Cor. 15:55-56
Same contemporary audience “you” “we” Matt. 24:2…, 34 = 1 Cor. 15:51-52
PREMISE #1: The parousia/coming of Christ in Matthew 24 took place in AD 70 (according to Partial Preterists and Biblical Preterists)
PREMISE #2: The parousia/coming of Christ in Matthew 24 is the same coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 1 Corinthians 15 (according to traditional Amillennialists and Biblical Preterists)
CONCLUSION: The parousia/coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 took place in AD 70.
Preterists unite the two clear premises (1. the imminent time texts = AD 70 & 2. the analogy of Scripture supports only one second coming) of futurists and thus we “…speak more clearly” and consistently in our debate with futurists. The divided corporate Reformed “House” contains the two premises (which we assume are true) and we are simply uniting the two valid premises into one new House. We’re validating the Reformed and Sovereign Grace House by accepting both of it’s competing premises, and then uniting them, further honoring the Reformed and Sovereign Grace House. This has and will continue to appeal to Reformed and Sovereign Grace believers as Biblical preterism spreads throughout their churches. We are making a motion to revise the creeds to make them more “orthodox” (straight) with the “more clear” teaching of Scripture– “Sola Scriptura” and “Semper Reformanda”–selah.
Again, If A = B and B = C, then A = C. Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to each other.
- If A (Matt. 24:1-31, 34 fulfilled in AD 70) = B (1 Thess. 4:15-17)
- And B (1 Thess. 4:15-17 fulfilled in AD 70) = C (1 Cor. 15).
- Then A (Matt. 24:1-31, 34 fulfilled in AD 70) = C (1 Cor. 15 fulfilled in AD 70).
For an exegesis of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 15 please see our book, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be?
I have enjoyed reading D.A. Caron and G.K. Beale’s materials over the years, but Beale needs to stop condemning Full Preterism since we have done the “further study” he has exhorted us to do which actually gets him out of his “thorny problems” and contradictions. Full Preterism is “orthodox,” because Reformed “orthodoxy” believes and unites these teachings within the orthodox church:
- The judgment and resurrection of Daniel 12:1-3 was fulfilled in AD 70.
- The harvest “end of this [OC] age,” Second Coming and eschatological gathering into the Kingdom in Matthew 13:39-43 and 24:27-31—25:31 took place in AD 70. And yet at the same time orthodoxy teaches these are the “final coming” and the judgment and resurrection of the living and dead.
- Matthew 24-25 is the same eschatological event as 1 Thessalonians 4:15—5:11/1 Corinthians 15 and is the source and development for the rest of the NT’s eschatology.
Since Beale is now beginning to see the significance of an AD 70 fulfillment coming of Christ in Matthew 24:30 (following R.T. France), he now needs to not only deal with what he saw in Matthew 24-25=1 Thessalonians 4-5 in his earlier writings, but begin to interact with scholars who see that John’s Olivet discourse is found in the book of Revelation. This would place the date of and fulfillment of Revelation prior to AD 70 as well. This is another “thorny problem” Mr. Beale will need to take on, but definitely not one that Full Preterism hasn’t resolved already.