I wanted to respond to my former Pastor, John MacArthur’s book Strange Fire and Tom Pennigton’s lecture, A Case for Cessationism which addressed 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 only in passing, and what some of their Charismatic opponents – Michael Brown in his book, Authentic Fire and Andrew Wilson (in blog posts) have written in response. I also want to interact a bit with “Calvinist Charismatics” such as John Piper and his struggles over 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 in this debate, since he was mentioned by name in the Strange Fire Conference.
My critique and response to these two corporate groups reflect my struggle with this subject and 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 as one who had graduated Calvary Chapel Bible College (being a moderate Charismatic), and then attending Pastor MacArthur’s church and The Master’s College for a time. My purpose in this article as a Sovereign Grace Full Preterist theologian and author is to try and find common sense / common ground between the two groups and to lead them into a sound and consistently “Reformed” position that they have ceased at the Second Coming of Christ in AD 70 to bring an “end” to the OC age.
“I’m a ‘c’ kind of guy”
I am supporting Ted Cruz, but I did like a moment that Dr. Ben Carson had in a debate. He was asked a question from a moderator which which only offered an “a” or “b” answer. No matter which one he picked, it would end up being the wrong answer. His response was brilliant and I’ll try and summarize it from what I remember, “That question would work if I was an “a” or “b” kind of guy, but I’m a “c” kind of guy. This is not an “either or situation” but a “both and.”” I too am a “c” “kind of guy.”
These two groups have come to a “stalemate” in this debate because in essence the test question and challenge they have given the Church is rigged. Currently it only offers “a” or “b.” I am proposing that a third answer “c” is correct which should read, “Both a and b above are true.”
Here is how the question has traditionally been given:
Which is a true statement?
a). There are no more miraculous languages being spoken and prophecies given today.
b). The miraculous gifts of speaking unknown human languages and speaking forth “thus says the Lord” prophecies are to “cease” when “that which is perfect” comes (i.e. Second Coming), or when all prophecy is fulfilled.
Currently there is a strong division here because common sense tells us one of two things:
a). That the gibberish we may have tried to do (as former Charismatics) or see taking place in Charismatic churches do not even remotely resemble the miracle we see taking place in Acts 2. And it seems very odd that Charismatics are admitting that 80% of their “prophecies” are false, do not come true, or are actually them talking to themselves. When we hear them spoken, they simply do not even remotely resemble the miraculous nature and accuracy of prophecy we read about in the OT and NT. Because of this common sense, many circle option “a.”
b). Since it is just about equally clear that Paul is teaching that it is at the point of the Second Coming and arrival of the New Creation (“that which is perfect”) that prophecy, tongues, and knowledge “cease” (and since we have never heard anything other than it is to be fulfilled in our future – Church tradition and Creeds), therefore, these gifts must be for today.
But there is a third option that unites them while coming to a Biblical solution…
c). Both “a” and “b” (above) are true – “a” the miraculous sign gifts have “ceased” (common sense tells us we don’t see them – the Charismatic second tier level of “prophecy” and gibberish today being pawned off as “tongues” is NOT convincing), and “b” the Second Coming was promised by Jesus and the inspired NT authors to take place truly imminently in their “this generation” —therefore, as that generation was ending it was literally “near” “at hand” and would “soon” be fulfilled at the end of the OC age in AD 70. I will develop this more fully later in the article, but first let’s examine MacArthur’s appeals to Church History and a return to Reformed Theology.
MacArthur’s Strange Fire Appeal to Return to the “Reformers” & “Consistency”
Is MacArthur being hypocritical or inconsistent?
Although MacArthur and the speakers at the Strange Fire Conference made many appeals to the soundness of theology coming from the Reformers and Puritans, there was some irony in this exhortation that I saw along with many Charismatics. So before I develop their appeals to return to Reformed theology (in hopes of refuting Charismatic theology) and bring it to its Full Preterist conclusion, we should briefly consider some of the hypocrisy in MacArthur’s exhortation. At one end of his mouth John wants to appeal to the early church fathers in condemning the Charismatic movement while at the other end wanting to teach the Dispensational Premillennial Pre-trib. Rapture view of eschatology. MacArthur still has not dropped his Premillennial Dispensationalism that Sproul (a speaker at the conference) considers “heretical” and inconsistent with Reformed theology – something that even Charismatic Dr. Brown sees as an inconsistent position for MacArthur to take.  Apparently you can’t be a “Calvinist Charismatic” but you can be a “Dispensational Premillennial Pre-tribulational” “Calvinist”?!? Go figure.
The first person to espouse the view that there is a “rapture” for the Church prior to the Second Coming event can be traced to a Roman Jesuit named Ribera in 1591 AD. Then Emmanuel Lacunza claimed to be a converted Jew (much like Dr. Michael Brown claims to be – even though he doesn’t know for sure if he is from the tribe of Judah) named “Rabbi Ben Ezra.” He taught the Church would be “raptured” prior to Christ’s Second Coming to the earth. In 1827 his book would be translated into English by a Scottish radical named Edward Irving. He published Lacunza’s view in his paper, “The Morning Watch.” From here, in 1830, Margaret Macdonald (a 15 year old charismatic) claimed to have had a vision of the now famous “secret rapture” doctrine (which today liters the Radio and TV airwaves and Christian bookstores). Within a years time Robert Norton, a charismatic Irvingite evangelist, met with Margaret Macdonald and popularized her “secret rapture” vision throughout England. When Dr. Michael Brown alluded to some of this in his interview with Phil Johnson (Pastor MacArthur’s righthand man), you could have heard a pin drop (no response from Johnson)!
But I don’t think we should stop here if MacArthur and Brown want to appeal to the early Church teachings on theology/eschatology. I would go a step further and point out that the early Church condemned BOTH MacArthur and Brown’s Premillennialism as “heretical” and on par with unbelieving Jews (i.e. their “Jewish myths/dreams”) when it came to their views of how the kingdom is to be fulfilled and or manifested upon the earth (in a literal 1,000 years period etc…). This condemnation can include that of the Postmillennialists hyper-literal expectations of how the kingdom is to be fulfilled or manifested upon the earth.
And although Pastor MacArthur can rightly mock the Premillennial Charismatic Montanists as “heretical,” and show how the early Church Fathers believed that tongues and prophecy ceased and were not present; a historical analysis of the early Churches interpretation (up until today) would also show (at the same time) that the predominant interpretation of “that which is perfect” (1 Cor. 13:10) is the Second Coming event (the eschatological view). This brings us to a muddy and conflicted conclusion within the MacArthur (Cessationist) v. Brown (Charismatic) debate thus far when it comes to appealing to the early Church Fathers. In other words it may be true that they felt the gifts ceased (Cessationist’s point), but had no solid exegesis of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 to back it up (Charismatic’s point).
And one further point here that Andrew Wilson brought up in opposition to the Strange Fire conference in his blog posts. It is somewhat hypocritical to condemn the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement as being “new” (1902-1906), when prior to Luther the Church was not teaching forensic justification. And again, MacArthur’s Dispensationalism is also a “new” view of the Church. So there are some logical fallacies and hypocrisy taking place that need addressing from MacArthur’s camp.
But let’s take Pastor MacArthur’s advice and see if examining the theology/eschatology of the Reformers will provide some help in forming option “c” (the “x factor” so to speak) that will “bridge the gap” in this debate over when the charismata is to Biblically and exegetically “cease.”
If MacArthur truly wants to walk in Reformed theology “consistently,” and at the same time help those being influenced in the Charismatic movement, then he can join me and help “bridge the gap” between the classic Amillennial view and the Partial Preterist view. In doing so, he will have an exegetical and eschatological point at which the Second Coming and arrival of the New Creation took place and thus prophecy, tongues and knowledge “ceased” – i.e. AD 70.
Exhortation to Sproul & MacArthur
Briefly, before beginning I did want to make some observations of R.C. Sproul’s Reformed theology and Partial Preterism. Sproul used to chide four point “Calvinists” such as MacArthur of in reality being “inconsistent” and “confused Arminians.” In essence their view was compromising the Word of God. MacArthur now is a five point Calvinist. What Sproul refuses to see at this point is that his “Partial Preterism” is in enssence “Confused Futurism” and a system riddled with inconsistent hermeneutics and therefore a position that compromises the Word of God. I exhort both MacArthur and Sproul to leave both Dispensationalism and or Partial Preterism behind, if they truly want to embrace Biblical eschatology and at the same time have a sound apologetic against the Charismatic movement.
And sadly God has given Mr. Sproul exposure to knowledge and exegesis that would have been useful in addressing the Charismatic arguments concerning the “last days” and the Great Commission as being fulfilled by AD 70, and yet he completely ignored addressing these issues in his lecture on Acts. Not wise. God’s Word commands you to not with hold good from those to whom it is due, when it is within your power do so.
Full Preterism (option “c” see below) is the organic/historical development (“Reformed and Always Reforming”) of the creedal and classic Amillennial view combined with the Partial Preterist view (of which one of the speakers of the Strange Fire Conference was – R.C. Sproul). The reader of this article is encouraged to read Sproul’s book, The Last Days According to Jesus (a defense of Reformed Partial Preterism) or say Gary DeMar’s book, Last Days Madness (defense of Reformed Partial Preterism) along with Kim Riddlebarger’s book, A Case for AMILLENNIALISM. If you do, you will begin understanding what I am about to share next:
a) Classic Amillennial View
- The NT’s use of the “last days” covers the time period between Christ’s first and second comings.
- There is only ONE “The parousia” or eschatological coming of Christ in the NT – the ONE hope of the Apostle Paul and the Church.
- This is to take place at the end of the age at which time–the judgment and resurrection of the dead and arrival of the New Creation occurs.
b) Partial Preterism (mostly Postmillennial)
- The NT’s use of the “last days” covers the time period between Christ’s first coming and His return to close the Old Covenant age by AD 70.
- The imminent time texts in the NT “demands” that “a” parousia of Christ took place in the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
- The NT’s use of “this age” is the Old Covenant age and the “age to come” is the New Covenant age. A parousia of Christ took place at the end of the Old Covenant age in AD 70 at which time–there was a spiritual judgment and resurrection of the living and dead and arrival of the New Creation that took place.
c) Full Preterism (synthesis / “Reformed and always reforming”)
- The NT’s use of the “last days” covers the time period between Christ’s first and second comings which brought an end to the Old Covenant age in AD 70.
- The imminent time texts and the analogy of Scripture principle of interpretation in the NT demands that “THE (ONE) parousia” took place in AD 70.
- The NT’s use of “this age” is the Old Covenant age and the “age to come” is the New Covenant age. “THE (ONE) parousia” of Christ took place at the end of the Old Covenant age in AD 70 at which time–there was a spiritual judgment and resurrection of the living and dead and arrival of the New Jerusalem and New Creation.
Full Preterism seeks to take the strengths and common sense approaches of both these “orthodox” views to form its “orthodox” (or straight) view. As we will see throughout the rest of this article (and series of articles), following this approach will lead us to give an exegetically sound interpretation and refutation of the Charismatic position regarding 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.
The strength of the Postmillennial Partial Preterist view is how it correctly seeks to deal with the clear NT imminent time statements such as: “some standing here shall not taste death till…,” “this generation shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled,” “shortly,” “quickly” “at hand” soon” “about to be” “in a very little while,” etc… which all point to Christ’s coming or His parousia being fulfilled in AD 70.
And the strength of the classic Amillennial view is the analogy of Scripture or that such passages as the following are describing the SAME ONE eschatological event: Matthew 13:39-43; Matthew 24-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:15–5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24, 52; Revelation 1:7 ; Revelation 3:11; Revelation 11:15-18; Revelation 22:6-7, 10-12, 20.
It used to be that Reformed eschatology forced you to have to choose between these two competing views. But this is simply not your only option. A third choice (“Reformed and always reforming”) has emerged which bridges the gap between the two or combines the two common sense approaches together (the time texts and the analogy of Scripture) to form Full Preterism.
I find it interesting in our book response/debate with seven Reformed theologians (some Amillennialists and some Partial Preterists) that they spent most of their time telling us that Full Preterism can’t be true because of the Reformed Creeds and Church tradition. We reminded them that this was the SAME “argument” the Roman Catholic Church and John Eck used against Luther and the Reformation concerning forensic justification. We also pointed out that their conflicting views on eschatology actually formed Full Preterism – hardly refuting it. Selah. We have yet to get a response to these arguments and it has been six years and counting!
Let’s review a little bit on where Full Preterism is in this historic debate over eschatology. In 1998 partial preterist R.C. Sproul produced the following chart trying to make a definite distinction between Partial and Full Preterism (see Last Days According to Jesus, 157):
|Full Preterists||Partial Preterists|
|A.D. 70||At the end of history||A.D. 70||At the end of history|
|Coming (parousia) of Christ||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Resurrection and rapture||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Day of the Lord||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
The problem with Sproul’s chart is that it demonstrates a lack of knowledge on what some Partial Preterists have taught (past and present) and is very outdated not showing all of the ground that Partial Preterism has given to Full Preterism. As I document in chapter four of House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be? — is that there are many more doctrinal agreements between Progressive Partial Preterists and Full Preterists than they want to share with the public in this debate. Let’s look at them:
|Full Preterists||Partial Preterists|
|A.D. 70||At the end of history||A.D. 70||At the end of history|
|NT use of “last days” from old covenant to new AD 30 – AD 70 only – not end of Christian age||Yes||No||Yes||Yes & No|
|“This age” = old covenant age “age to come” = new covenant age transformed in AD 70||Yes||No||Yes||Yes & No|
|United Matt. 24-25 one parousia in AD 70||Yes||No||Yes||Yes & No|
|Daniel 12:2, 7- Resurrection and judgment of living and dead between AD 30 – AD 70||Yes||No||Yes & No||Yes|
|Glorification in Rom 8:18-23 YLT “about to be revealed”||Yes||No||Yes||Yes & No|
|2 Peter 3 fulfilled||Yes||No||Yes||Yes & No|
|“All Israel” in Rom. 11:26 saved||Yes||No||Yes||Yes & No|
|Acts 1:11||Yes||No||Yes||Yes & No|
|Hebrews 9:26-28 Second Appearing of Christ at end of the age||Yes||No||Yes||Yes & No|
|1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 “rapture”||Yes||No||Yes & No||Yes|
Perhaps the most significant change is that Partial Preterist authors have oddly enough stolen the Full Preterist view of the judgment and resurrection of the living and dead and are now accepting that this was a progressive, corporate, covenantal, process between AD 30 – AD 70 resulting in the souls of the righteous being raised out of Hades or Abraham’s Bosom at Christ’s parousia in AD 70 to inherit the kingdom and eternal life in God’s presence. This is the Biblical doctrine of the resurrection, but Partial Preterists have to please men and the creeds in order to keep their jobs and satisfy creedal supports so they invent another literal resurrection of corpses at the end of time. But the truth is simply that there are no OT or NT texts which demonstrate that Daniel needs to be raised a second time at another parousia of Christ.
Let’s define our terms. So what is Full Preterism or the clear option “c” that I am proposing?
Full Preterism – as I briefly demonstrated, Full Preterism is the organic development between the classic Amillennial view and that of the Reformed Partial Preterist view (“Reformed and always reforming”). It is properly defined in two areas: 1) time of fulfillment (NT imminence pointing to AD 70) and 2) spiritual nature of fulfillment (the nature of the kingdom being “in,” “within,” “not of this world” and that of apocalyptic/prophetic language being metaphoric/symbolic and not literal).
Time of Fulfillment
Full Preterism is the belief that the Bible teaches the Second Coming, judgment and resurrection of the living and dead took place at the end of the Old Covenant age in the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem and her Temple in AD 70 (cf. Matt. 3:7-12; Matt. 10:22-23; Matt. 13:39-43, 49; Matt. 16:27-28; Matt. 24:34; Acts 17:31YLT; Acts 24:15YLT; Rom. 8:18-23YLT/AV; Rom. 13:11-12; Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor.7:29-31; 1 Cor. 10:11; 1 Cor. 15:51; Phil. 4:5; 1 Thess. 4:15ff–5:1-10; 2 Thess. 1:5-10; 2 Tim. 4:1YLT; Heb. 8:13–10:37; Heb. 13:14YLT; James 5:7-9; 1 Pet. 1:4-12; 1 Pet. 4:5-7, 17; 1 John 2:17-18; Rev. 1:1–22:6-7, 10-12, 20). Since these imminent time texts point to and determine the nature of fulfillment, this too must be worked into a proper definition of the term.
But before considering the spiritual nature of fulfillment, let’s briefly consider a few of the passages which deal with time of fulfillment being in AD 70:
1). Matthew 10:22-23: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
The first century disciples are clearly told that they (not us) would not run out of cities of refuge to flee to (as they preached the Gospel throughout the towns of Israel) – before the Son of man came. In AD 66 when the Christians in Jerusalem saw the armies surrounding Jerusalem (Luke 21:20-22) they fled to Pella (a city of refuge of sorts) and were safe.
Jesus’ teaching here in Matthew 10:17-23 is a snap shot of the same event described more in-depth coming later in Matthew 24 – the persecution, the power of the Holy Spirit for a defense, the preaching (GC – still local – known Roman world), and parousia (or Second Coming of the Son of Man) are all said to be fulfilled in the same first century time period (i.e. their “this generation” vs. 34):
|Matthew 10:17-23||Olivet Discourse|
|1. Delivered up to local councils and synagogues – Matt. 10:17||1. Delivered up to local councils and synagogues – Mark 13:9|
|2. Brought before governors and kings to be witnesses to the Gentiles – Matt. 10:18||2. Brought before governors and kings to be witnesses to the Gentiles – Mark 13:9|
|3. Holy Spirit would speak through them – Matt. 10:19-20||3. Holy Spirit would speak through them – Mark 13:11|
|4. Family members would betray and kill each other, all men would hate disciples, but he that would stand firm to “the end” would be saved – Matt. 10:22||4. Family members would betray and kill each other, all men would hate disciples, but he that would stand firm to “the end” would be “saved” – Mark 13:12-13|
|5. The disciples would not have run out of cities of refuge to flee to as they were being persecuted preaching the gospel to the cities of Israel before the Son of Man would come. Matt. 10:23||5. The disciples (and later Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles) were to preach the gospel to the then known “world” and “nations” at that time before “the end” (of the OC age) and coming of the Son of Man would take place. Matthew 24:14/Mark 13:10|
Here are our options on this passage:
a. The “coming” of the Son of Man here and “the end” is Christ coming in the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 to bring an end to the OC age. The rest of the NT’s imminence (“soon,” “at hand,” “shortly,” “quickly,” “about to be,” “in a very little while,” “will not tarry”) concerning Christ’s coming and end of the age follows Jesus’ teaching here and therefore refers to Christ coming in AD 70 (Partial Preterism).
b. The “coming” of the Son of Man here and “the end” is the one Second Coming event to end the one “end of the age” at the end of world history. The evangelism to the towns of Israel is spiritualized away for something taking place globally today in the GC (futurism – various authors & views).
c. Both “a” and “b” (above) are true at the same time – The NT’s one “coming” of the Son of Man and one “end of the age” was fulfilled at Christ’s Second Coming event in AD 70. The rest of the NT’s imminence concerning Christ’s coming and end of the age follows Jesus’ teaching here and therefore refers to Christ coming in AD 70 (Full Preterism – my view).
d. The “coming” of the Son of Man here refers to Him coming in His kingdom – cross, resurrection, Pentecost (coming of the Holy Spirit), etc… (various futurist authors & views).
e. The “coming” of the Son of Man here and “the end” is referring to the one Second Coming event and end of the world. Jesus failed in this prediction and therefore is not God as He claimed (many liberals and Jews and Muslims that Brown and White have debated).
“A” is false because the NT does not teach TWO comings of the Son of Man and TWO “end of the age’s.”
“B” is correct in that this is the Second Coming event, but is wrong to place this beyond AD 70 – in not honoring the context (the first century audience “you” being flogged and brought before synagogues and the Gentiles etc… before this coming – AD 70).
“D” is exegetically unconvincing since the persecutions and deaths mentioned in vss. 17ff. take place prior to the coming of the Son of Man. No one was persecuted and killed prior to the resurrection of Christ or Pentecost events. But of course they were prior to Christ coming in AD 70.
“E” is totally false. Daniel nor Jesus in predicting the “time of the end” or “the end” (not the end of time or the end of the Church age) can be considered false prophets – in that they were not predicting what liberals and futurists assume they were predicting (the end of world history)!
“C” (my view) “Bridges the gap” between the Christian Orthodox views of “a” and “b” and gives a consistent and exegetical answer to the skeptic “e”
2). Matthew 16:27-28: “For the Son of Man will (or is “about to…” YLT) 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.”
In Jesus’ teaching the phrase “assuredly I say to you” ALWAYS is a way of emphasizing and bringing home the point of His previous instruction. Jesus discusses His Second Coming in vs. 27 and then emphasizes in vs. 28 that some of those first century disciples “standing next to Him” would live to witness His Second Coming in power and arrival of His Kingdom (cf. Luke 21:27-32).
As we saw in Matthew 10:17-23, this is the same coming of the Son of Man that will be developed as we approach Matthew 24:
|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)|
The Greek in Mark’s parallel account reads a bit differently, “…There, are, certain of those here standing, who shall in nowise taste of death, until they see the kingdom of God, already come in power.” (Mark 9:1 Rotherham Translation). According to Mark’s account, Jesus’ teaching is that some of the disciples within the crowd he was addressing would live to actually be able to look back on this historic event, knowing that Christ’s Second Coming and His kingdom had already come in power. Daniel was likewise instructed that when “the power of the holy people would be completely shattered” (ie. in AD 70), God’s people could know from this historic event that the judgment and resurrection of the dead took place (Dan. 12:1-7). The Church post AD 70, can know with certainty – based upon the authority of God’s Word, that the Second Coming event was fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem.
Here are our options on this passage:
a. The “coming” of the Son of Man here is referring to Christ coming in judgement upon Jerusalem in AD 70. The rest of the NT’s imminence (“soon,” “at hand,” “shortly,” “quickly,” “about to be,” “in a very little while,” “will not tarry”) concerning Christ’s coming follows Jesus’ teaching here and therefore refers to Him coming in AD 70 (Partial Preterism).
b. The “coming” of the Son of Man in v. 27 is not Christ coming in the fall of Jerusalem, but the one Second Coming event, while v. 28 is addressing “some” being alive to witness Jesus “coming” in the transfiguration event (Dr. Brown and others take this position).
c. Both “a” and “b” above contain elements of the truth. The “coming” of the Son of Man here is referring to Christ coming in judgement upon Jerusalem in AD 70 while at the same time being the one Second Coming event. The rest of the NT’s imminence (“soon,” “at hand,” “shortly,” “quickly,” “about to be,” “in a very little while,” “will not tarry”) concerning Christ’s coming follows Jesus’ teaching here and therefore refers to Him coming in AD 70 (Full Preterism – my view).
d. The “coming” of the Son of Man in judgment is referring to the one Second Coming event and those standing next to Jesus never lived to witness this event – as promised by Jesus. Since Jesus failed in this prediction, He cannot be considered as God. The NT imminence follows Jesus’ teaching here and is likewise a failure – therefore the NT cannot be considered inspired or infallible (liberal and Bible skeptic).
“A” is incorrect because the NT does not teach TWO comings of the Son of Man in judgment.
“C” is correct that v. 27 is the Second Coming event, but does not honor the wording or context of v. 28:
- No one died prior to the transfiguration event, and Jesus’ words imply that some would while others would not (cf. which is how Peter understood Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 10:17-23, Matt. 16:27-28, Matt. 24 — cf. John 21:20-23 etc…).
- Jesus’ phrase “verily I say unto you” in v. 28 is always a linking phrase (used to “ram home” the teaching in the previous context) inseparably connecting v. 27 with v. 28 – not separating them. However, Jesus’ use of “and” (Matt. 17:1) is a common word used to introduce a new subject (the transfiguration event).
- Putting this together, Jesus did not “come” in the transfiguration event and since #2 is valid, He did not come with angels in judgment in the transfiguration event either.
“D” of course is not an option for a Christian. But “b” offers the antidote to the Bible skeptic and unbelievers objections while the others simply do not.
3). Matthew 24:34: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things [not “some” things] take place.
Everywhere Jesus uses the phrase “this generation” it always means (without exception) the AD 30 – AD 70 contemporary generation He is speaking to.
Jesus is answering the disciples question(s) as to WHEN the Temple would be destroyed in connection with some signs that would precede His coming and end of the (old covenant) age. These are the “all these things” in this context and Jesus clearly states “all” of these events would be fulfilled in that AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation.” See my exposition of Matthew 24-25 elsewhere where I demonstrate that “all these things” in vss. 3-36ff. were fulfilled in that generation.
Pastor MacArthur has strangely rebuked both Partial and Full Preterists for understanding “this generation” (Matt. 24:34) with such a “wooden literalness.” If John means that we are interpreting “this generation” as it is consistently used by Jesus in the gospels and how genea is used throughout the rest of the NT (i.e. following its literal meaning) – then I guess we are guilty as charged.
Dr. Brown in a debate with a Rabbi who claimed Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because he was a false prophet predicting that his return would be in his contemporary “this generation,” actually tried to defend that Jesus was teaching that genea in Matthew 24:34 should be interpreted as “Jewish race.” Therefore, per Brown “the Jewish race” would not cease to exist before Jesus returns. Of course if that were Jesus’ meaning He would have simply used the Greek word “genos.” Perhaps Brown needs to pay more attention to what MacArthur is teaching on genos in connection with tongues (known foreign languages coming from various human races and nation groups) and the great parallels he establishes between Acts and 1 Corinthians 12-14?
Brown also seems to want to ignore Jewish tradition during the times of Jesus that the “days of Messiah” would be a “transitionary” period of forty years according to a “new exodus” between the OC “this age” and the NC or Messianic “age to come”—which fall in line with Jesus’ and the NT’s teachings on genea and imminence. Since both Brown and MacArthur’s interpretations of “this generation” and “all these things” in (Matt. 24:34) are pure eisegesis, it is no wonder the Church has gotten nowhere in properly interpreting 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 in its debate over when the charismata have or will cease.
Here are our options on this passage:
a. All of the signs and “coming” of the Son of Man and His parousia took place within Jesus’ contemporary “this generation” (i.e. by AD 70). In context, the Temple’s destruction is the epitome to the “end of the [OC not NC] age” in AD 70. The rest of the NT’s imminence (“soon,” “at hand,” “shortly,” “quickly,” “about to be,” “in a very little while,” “will not tarry”) concerning Christ’s coming follows Jesus’ teaching here and therefore refers to Him coming in AD 70 (Partial Preterism).
b. The “coming of the Son of Man and “the parousia” is the one [not two] Second Coming event and therefore takes place at the end of the [NC or Church] age.”
c. Both “a” and “b” (above) are true and can be reconciled. All of the signs, Christ coming, and end of the [OC] age (“all these things” not some of them – v. 34) were fulfilled in AD 70 (Reformed Partial Preterism) at the ONE or “THE parousia” Second Coming event (classic Amillennial or creedal view). The rest of the NT’s imminence (“soon,” “at hand,” “shortly,” “quickly,” “about to be,” “in a very little while,” “will not tarry”) concerning Christ’s coming follows Jesus’ teaching here and therefore refers to Him coming in AD 70 (Full Preterism – my view).
d. Since Jesus did not come and bring an “end to the world/age” in His contemporary “this generation,” Jesus was not God or an accurate prophet (liberal or Bible skeptic view).
“A” is not accurate because the NT does not teach TWO comings or “the parousia(s)” of Christ, to close TWO end of the age(s), at which time there are TWO judgments and resurrections for the living and dead, followed by TWO arrivals of the New Creation, etc….
“B” is not accurate because Jesus promised that “all” of the events listed in vss. 1-34 would be fulfilled in His contemporary “this generation” (24:34) and the “end of the age” contextually is not the end of the NC or Church age (i.e the end of world history), but rather the end of the OC age in AD 70.
“D” is not accurate either, in that Jesus NEVER was predicting the end of the NC / Church age / or end of world history! So He could hardly be considered a “false prophet” for making a prediction He never made!
Therefore, how did the inspired NT authors understand Daniel’s and Jesus’ teaching concerning His Second Coming attended by the judgment and resurrection/gathering of the living and dead at the end of the OC age associated with the destruction of the Temple and City? This leads us to our next set of passages (which believe it or not is a short list – there are over a 100 of them):
4). Dan. 12:1-7; Acts 2:20, 40; Acts 17:31YLT; Acts 24:15YLT; Rom. 8:18-23YLT/AV; Rom. 13:11-12; Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor.7:29-31; 1 Cor. 10:11; 1 Cor. 15:51; Phil. 4:5; 1 Thess. 4:15ff–5:1-10; 2 Thess. 1:5-10; 2 Tim. 4:1YLT; Heb. 8:13–10:37; Heb. 13:14YLT; James 5:7-9; 1 Pet. 1:4-12; 1 Pet. 4:5-7, 17; 1 John 2:17-18; Rev. 1:1–22:6-7, 10-12, 20.
As the NT is being written towards the end of that AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation,” the disciples and Apostles are being “led into all truth” “concerning things to come” (prophecy), teaching that Jesus’ Second Coming, Judgment and Resurrection of the living and dead were “about to” be fulfilled “shortly,” soon,” “quickly,” “in a very little while,” and would “not be delayed.”
Clearly the NT authors (who were inspired) understood Jesus’ teachings (Matt. 10:22-23; Matt. 16:27-28; Matt. 24:1-34) on when their Lord would return better than the Charismatic TV “prophecy experts,” or “Reformed Scholars” and many Pastors and teachers of our day have. A Full Preterist is willing to “let God be true and every man a liar” if need be. Are you?
Pastor MacArthur’s treatment of NT imminence was not only an embarrassment to the Church on an exegetical level, it was an embarrassment in response to liberal skeptics (THE SECOND COMING, pp. 51-68). He does no Greek study of the various words, and concludes with, “I suppose it is also possible that Christ could delay His coming another 2,000 years or longer.” (Ibid., 57). This of course is the exact opposite position of the Biblical testimony of Christ coming in “a very little while” and “would not tarry” (Heb. 10:37).
MacArthur chides Charismatics for operating “…on the premise that everything that happened in he early church ought to be expected and experienced in the church today” (Strange Fire, 91). And yet this is exactly how he interprets NT imminence – if Christ’s coming was “at hand” to the first century audience, it must still be “at hand” today and possibly “at hand” 2,000 years from now to that audience. Seriously folks, if the NT authors (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) wanted to communicate that Christ was genuinely going to come in some of their lifetimes and in their “this generation,” “soon” and “would not delay,” HOW could they have communicated it any clearer?!? If language means anything at all, Jesus and the NT authors said what they said and meant what they said!
Interestingly, MacArthur tries to interact with Brow’s Post-trib view and that of NT imminence it pertains to the signs Jesus and Paul give. John writes,
“So on the one hand, the New Testament is permeated with an eager sense of expectancy and conviction that the blessed hope of Christ’s return is imminent. On the other hand, we are warned about trouble and affliction that will precede Christ’s return. How can we reconcile these two threads of prophecy? How can we cultivate a daily expectation of Christ’s return if these preliminary signs must yet be fulfilled before He returns?” (The Second Coming, 54).
And in addressing 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 John writes,
“…nothing in the New Testament ever suggests we should defer our expectation of Christ’s appearing until other preliminary events occur. The one apparent exception is 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3…” (Ibid., 54).
“Indeed, if 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 actually means Christ’s coming for the church cannot occur until after seven years of Tribulation, it nullifies everything the New Testament teaches about the imminence of Christ’s return.” (Ibid., 55)
a. General imminence from the standpoint of Israel awaiting Messiah’s salvation
Christ’s Second Coming and the arrival of the kingdom could be considered genuinely “at hand” or “about to” take place within the context of Israel awaiting her Messiah and kingdom for thousands of years (Matt. 3:7-12GNT; Matt. 16:27-28YLT). Indeed a generation and within some of their lifetimes was “at hand” in contrast to the thousands of years man waited for the one born of the woman which would crush the head of the serpent.
b. Sign Specific Imminence as that generation was ending
In the context of the “signs” of Matthew 24, there are two specific signs that would mark the nearness of Christ’s return – 1. the Great Commission (24:14) and 2. the abomination of desolation (24:15/Lk. 21:20-22). The first was fulfilled prior to AD 70 (cf. Cols. 1:5-6, 23; Rms. 10:18; 16:25-26), and the second would be fulfilled as that generation witnessed the Idumeans or Romans surrounding the City.
In regards to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8
First, the “gathering” at Christ’s coming in 2:1 is the same “gathering” and coming of Christ that would take place in the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Matt. 24:30-34).
Secondly, there were some who believed the Day of the Lord had “already come” (v. 2). If Paul’s idea of the “rapture” or Second Coming was the same as the futurist (a literal catching up of the living off planet earth, the graves being emptied, the planet being burned up, etc…), then why didn’t Paul say something like, “How can you or anyone believe this, aren’t we all still here?” But since Paul did have a spiritual or apocalyptic understanding of Christ’s Second Coming (as God had come on the clouds in the OT), he did not argue in this manner. Instead he appealed to the necessity of a sign being fulfilled first.
Thirdly, MacArthur does not address that the Man of Lawlessness was already at work / present and alive in Paul’s day (v.3ff.). This is why many “Reformed” theologians have thought him to be Nero, Titus, the High Priest Ananus, and another Preterists – John Levi of Gischala (who led the Jews in their revolt against Rome).
Fourthly, the “that” (v. 6) and “he” (v.7) which was restraining the Man of Lawlessness in Paul’s day, was the work and success of the Great Commission (the “that”), which came through the Apostle Paul (the “he”), that “must” of necessity be fulfilled before Christ could return (cf. the “must” of Mark 13:10). When Paul was violently “taken out of the way” (v. 7) through being put to death at the hands of the Jews/Romans, just prior to AD 66, then this set the stage for the Man of Lawlessness to begin his work at a rapid rate.
And lastly, in regards to the “Great Tribulation” “distress” and “wrath” that was coming upon the land of Judah in Matthew 24/Luke 21 – it was roughly a 3 1/2 year period between AD 66- AD 70. The church did experience general persecution and tribulation prior to AD 66, but when they saw the armies surrounding Jerusalem they “fled” to Pella and were saved from that coming Great Tribulation and wrath that engulfed Jerusalem. It is not that difficult to solve the Charismatic debate or the Pre-trib or Post-trib debate between MacArthur and Brown – that is if they are both willing to submit to the Word of God on the NT’s teaching on imminence.
Spiritual nature of fulfillment.
“Reformed Theology/Eschatology” does support most of these propositions which will help us see how post AD 70 we see God face to face in the NC age.
First, Jesus taught that His “kingdom is not of this world” and that when it would come (at His return) it would not be discerned by our physical eyes, because the realm of fulfillment would be “within” (Luke 17:20-21; Luke 21:27-32; John 18:36). The Father and Son made their home/abode “in” the Church when the heavenly Temple/New Jerusalem descended from heaven and clothed the Church while on and upon the earth (John 14:2-3, 23; 2 Cor. 4:18–5:1-10–6:16; Rev. 21:2ff.). The believer today has been raised from the dead and “the hope of glory” which is “Christ in you” is now a “hope realized” in the New Covenant age (Cols. 1:27; Prov. 13:12).
Secondly, apocalyptic/prophetic/symbolic language – When we read that Jesus is coming on the clouds and stars are falling from the heavens in Matthew 24 we should realize this is the language of the OT prophets. In the OT when God came riding upon the clouds in judgment rolling up the heavens like a scroll, this was symbolic language depicting the fall and judgment of nations (not literal genre). See my exegesis of Matthew 24 below for support.
Thirdly, “heaven and earth” can be referring to the old covenant system or even the Temple itself. When the old covenant “heaven and earth” passed in AD 70, the new covenant “heaven and earth” was fully established. This is not discussing the the planet earth. See my exegesis of Matthew 24-25 elsewhere. Also read Owen, Lightfoot, DeMar and Sproul’s Preterist interpretations of 2 Peter 3.
Fourthly, the judgment and resurrection of the dead involved the raising of souls out from Hades in AD 70 – at which time some went into the presence of God and others went to the Lake of Fire. There was a coventatal change/resurrection that took place for the living at this time as well. Through Christ’s parousia the Church was raised from “the (spiritual) death” that came through Adam and was transformed from the old covenant body of death to the glorified new covenant body of resurrection and eternal life. The Bible is not about a casket/biological resurrection at the end of world history or about some literal “rapture” of people flying up in the air. The eschatological goal or doctrine of the Second Coming of Christ is not to change and transform man’s biological substance, but rather to change and transform his covenantal standing or status before God. See my exegesis of Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, and David Green’s exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15 in our book.
Fifthly, the Old Covenant Kingdom/Temple/Jerusalem/Land/Heaven and Earth were physical serving as types and shadows of Christ’s anti-type or spiritual New Covenant Kingdom/Temple/Jerusalem/Land/Heaven and Earth that arrived in there fullness at Christ’s Second Coming in AD 70.
Sixthly, iblical prophecy is not about the “end of time” but rather about “the time of the end” – of the old covenant age/world.
And lastly, unfortunately, most Christian denominations have literalized and “postponed” Jesus’ kingdom (when He never taught such) and literalized prophetic/apocalyptic/symbolic language while at the same time spiritualizing away very clear statements to mean nothing – “in a very little while He who is coming will come and will not delay,” soon,” “shortly,” “at hand,” “quickly,” “about to” etc… The Full Preterist is seeking a Reformation in this area to reverse the damage that this faulty hermeneutic has caused. The “Charismatic Chaos” is only one symptom of the bad eschatology the Church has been teaching (which includes MacArthur’s teaching).
Concluding Part 1 – Appeals to “Consistency” and “Reformed Theology”
Since there was so much praise coming from the Strange Fire book and Conference speakers on an appeal to go back to the theology of the Reformers and Puritans, I think John and his speakers need to heed their own exhortation in the area of eschatology. For if they did, they would see how the ONE Second Coming event (classic Amillennialism) was fulfilled “soon” at which time the Church right now sees God’s face spiritually in the NC New Heavens and New Earth (Rev. 21—22:4-7/1 Cor. 1:5-7/1 Cor. 13:10-12). Selah.
Let’s look at what it would look like if Charismatics followed “Reformed” theology/eschatology and Full Preterism as it concerns “that which is perfect” and “seeing face to face” or God’s face in 1 Cor. 13:10-12/Rev. 22:4-7:
Premise #1 (Charismatics & some Cessationist Amillennialists – ex. Richard Gaffin?) – IF it is true that the coming of Christ, seeing God’s face, and “that which is perfect” are the ONE and SAME eschatological event culminating at the ONE Second Coming of Christ in Revelation 22:4-7=1 Corinthians 13:10-12.
Premise #2 – (Reformed Theology/Eschatology Partial Preterists) – AND IF it is true that the coming of Christ and seeing God’s face in Revelation 22:4-7 was fulfilled “soon” in AD 70 with the Church continuing to see God’s face clearly in the NC age.
Premise #3 – (Sovereign Grace Full Preterism) – THEN it is also true that the ONE Second Coming of Christ event and seeing God’s face clearly in the NC age (post AD 70) as described for us in Revelation 22:4-7=1 Corinthians 13:19-12 has been fulfilled.
Conclusion – Both Revelation 22:4-7 and 1 Corinthians 13:10-12 describe the same ONE Second Coming event that was fulfilled “soon” in AD 70 to close the OC age. This ushered in the “matured” state of the NC age of the Church whereby we see God’s face clearly (spiritually). Therefore, the childish state of the revelatory miraculous gifts have “ceased” in AD 70. The NT “mystery” (concealed in the OT) of the spiritual Jew/Gentile Kingdom/Temple/Body/Man and how the unclear and “in part” OT prophecies were being fulfilled “in Christ” during the transition period (roughly from AD 30 – AD 70), is now over, and we see Him “face to face” in the NC age. Selah.
Exhortation to Dr. Brown
Unfortunately, you have done nothing but regress in your theology. You have failed to heed the exhortations from your friend James White on the doctrines of grace and God’s sovereignty. And your hyper-literal Premillennial Zionist hermeneutic you have imposed upon the NT , is in direct contradiction to the NT (as I have been addressing in other articles). If you truly want peace and find unity with Dr. MacArthur, change your eschatology on grace and your view on the charismata, and lead by giving him a bold example to follow. Selah.
Exhortation to John MacArthur
Unfortunately, you have not followed your own advice in following the Theology/Eschatology of the Reformers and Puritans. If you would have looked at both the classical Amillennial view and the Partial Preterist views, you would have had the sound and exegetical apologetic to help heal the Charismatic movement. Instead you have attacked Partial and Full Preterism (thus denying NT imminence) and like Michael Brown, you have imposed a hyper-literal hermeneutic upon the eschatology of the NT. Continue in sound doctrine, and fear only God.
In Part 2 and beyond, we will begin getting into the various views of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and then doing real exegesis that will bring healing within this doctrinal division over the charismata. Stay tuned.
 Michael Brown, Authentic Fire A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2015), 95.
 John MacArthur, THE SECOND COMING Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1999), 80
 John MacArthur, STRANGE FIRE THE DANGER OF OFFENDING THE HOLY SPIRIT WITH COUNTERFEIT WORSHIP, (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2013), 141