House Divided the Break-up of Postmillennialism and the Formation of Full Preterism
At this point I’m going to be combining some material I produced for a lecture I did at one of the Berean Bible Conferences dealing with refuting the various literal rapture positions of some Postmillennialists and Partial Preterists with what I presented this year at the PPW Conference on the Problems for Postmillennialists in Matthew 24-25.
In order to exegetically and logically reconcile the various Postmillennial and Reformed views on Daniel 7:13; 12:1-7; Matthew 24:30-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15, I must demonstrate that the trumpet coming of Christ and the resurrection of 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 1 Corinthians 15 are the SAME spiritual coming of Christ and spiritual resurrection Postmillennialists are saying was fulfilled in Matthew 24-25 and Daniel 12 to close the OC age in AD 70. This is not difficult.
Again, my approach is to simply follow the hermeneutical methods of the Reformed and Postmillennialist community to build my case:
- Paul in 1-2 Thessalonians is using Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 as his source.
- The “parallels” and use of “similar language” between Paul’s writings and Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 prove the same coming and eschatological event is in view.
- Following the “scriptural references” or the use of the analogy of faith found in The Reformation Bible produced by two Postmillennial editors.
- The coming of the Son of Man and the resurrection of Daniel 7:13 and 12:2-3 is the ONE Second Coming and resurrection event as described for us in Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.
- The resurrection of Daniel 12:2-3 was fulfilled spiritually at Christ’s parousia in AD 70.
The Second Coming and Resurrection Event
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the tribes of the earth [land] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Mt. 24:30-31).
In the Reformed Study Bible edited by Postmillennial Partial Preterists R.C. Sproul and Keith Mathison we learn this of Matt. 24:30-31:
“But the language of Matt. 24:31 is parallel to passages like 13:41; 16:27; and 25:31 [passages Postmillennialists such as Mathison and DeMar say were fulfilled in AD 70], as well as to passages such as 1 Cor. 15:52 and 1 Thess. 4:14-17. The passage most naturally refers to the Second Coming.”
This is more than a bit odd since R.C. Sproul and Keith Mathison believe and teach the coming of Christ in Matthew 24:27-30 (and Mathison 25:31) was spiritually fulfilled in AD 70 – and yet we learn in their own Study Bible these passages “most naturally refer to the Second Coming”!
John Murray appealing to the “analogy of faith” principle of interpretation in examining this passage writes,
“There is ample allusion to the sound of the trumpet and to the ministry of angels elsewhere in the New Testament in connection with Christ’s advent (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16). Hence verse 31 can most readily be taken to refer to the gathering of the elect at the resurrection.” (John Murray, COLLECTED WRITINGS OF JOHN MURRAY 2 Systematic Theology, (Carlisle, PA: THE BANNER OF TRUTH TRUST, 1977), p. 391).
Before developing the “parallels” and the analogy of faith principle of interpretation between Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15, let’s first examine the fact that Postmillennialism admits Paul is drawing from the OD in 1 and 2 Thessalonians and that they recognize the use of parallels to be a legitimate use of exegesis.
Since Kenneth Gentry has to get rid of the apostasy in order to prop up Postmillennialism, he has to have 2 Thessalonians 2 fulfilled in AD 70. In order to do this, he has to appeal to the OD and recognize that Paul is drawing from material Jesus says would be fulfilled in the AD 70 “this generation.” Therefore, Gentry admits that,
“Most commentators agree that the Olivet Discourse is undoubtedly a source of the Thessalonian Epistles.” (Kenneth Gentry, Perilous Times: A Study in Eschatological Evil (Texarkana, AR: Covenant Media Press, 1999), 100, n. 19. Here Gentry cites D.A. Carson, Matthew, in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 8:489; and G. Henry Waterman, The Sources of Paul’s Teaching on the 2nd Coming of Christ in 1and 2 Thessalonians, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 18:2 (June 1975); 105–113.
Yet, Gentry’s sources of authority end up “proving too much” in that both D.A. Carson and G. Henry Waterman make virtually the same parallels between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4–5 that we do (big “oops”). But before we get to those parallels, let’s continue to examine the “parallel” hermeneutic of Postmillennialism. Keith Mathison following Gary DeMar believes 2 Thessalonians 2 was fulfilled in AD 70 and Paul was following Jesus’ eschatology in Mt. 24 because of “these parallels”:
- a coming of our Lord (2 Thess. 2:1; cf. Matt. 24:27, 30),
- a gathering together to Him (2 Thess. 2:1; cf. Mattt. 24:31),
- apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3; cf. Matt. 24:5, 10-12),
- the mystery of lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:7; Matt. 24:12),
- satanic signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9-10; cf. Matt. 24:24),
- a deluding influence on unbelievers (2 Thess. 2:11; cf. Matt. 24:5, 24).” (Mathison, From Age to Age, 515).
And Postmillennialist Gary DeMar in his Last Days Madness teaches the coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 5 was fulfilled in AD 70 because Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in the OD using “similar phrases” or language such as Him coming “like a thief” or the use of “birth pains.” But notice ALL of the “parallels” and use of “similar language” Paul is taking from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 that DeMar arbitrarily passed over:
|Matthew 24||1 Thessalonians 5|
|1. Exact time unknown (24:36)||1. Exact time unknown (5:1-2)
|2. Christ comes like a thief (24:43)
|2. Christ comes like a thief (5:2)
|3. Unbelievers caught unaware (37-39)
|3. Unbelievers caught unaware (5:3)
|4. Birth pains (24:8)
|4. Birth pains (5:3)
|5. Believers are not deceived (24:43)
|5. Believers are not deceived (5:4-5)
|6. Believers told to be watchful (24:42)
|6. Believers told to be watchful (5:6)
|7. Exhortation against drunkenness (24:49)
|7. Exhortation against drunkenness (5:7)
|8. The Day, Sunlight shinning from east to west, (24:27, 36-38)
|8. The Day, sons of light, sons of day (1 Thess. 5:4-8)
The reason why Postmillennialists such as DeMar don’t want to develop ALL of the parallels between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 5 is because if they do, the reader will inevitably see all of the parallels between Matthew 24 and the coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4 and that of course would prove the eschatological trumpet gathering and catching away of Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 are the same event and were thus fulfilled in AD 70 as well.
Having looked at the main authors defending Postmillennialism today and The Reformation Study Bible (which they have edited and produced) when it comes to the use the analogy of faith, “parallels” and the use of “similar language” to make their cases in connecting Matthew 24 with that of 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians 15, let’s now be more exegetically consistent and bridge the gap between their irreconcilable differences (that their creedal doctrine of a physical resurrection at the end of world history has created for them).
The Analogy of the Faith or Scripture Hermeneutic: Teaches us that Scripture interprets Scripture and that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture. Yet, so far from the writings and co-authors of Postmillennialists on Matthew 24; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 15 we are getting contradictory interpretations that can easily be resolved.
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. 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)
Premise #1: Since it is true and orthodox to believe that the coming of Christ in A (Matt. 24:27-31, 25:31ff.) was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 (Postmillennialism & Full Preterism agree).
Premise #2: And since it is also true that A (Matt. 24:27-31; 25:31ff.) is the same or ONE Second Coming event described for us in B (1 Thess. 4:15-17) and C (1 Cor. 15) (Amillennialism, Historic Premillennialism and some Postmillennialists agree with Full Preterism),
Conclusion: Then it is also true and orthodox to believe that both B (1 Thess. 4:15-17) and C (1 Cor. 15) were fulfilled spiritually at Christ’s ONE parousia or Second Coming event in AD 70. In other words, “Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another. If equals be added to equals, the wholes are equal.”
Since A (Mat. 24) is = to B (1 Thess. 4) or “if A bears some relation to B”
|Matthew 24||1 Thessalonians 4-5|
|Christ Returns from Heaven 24:30||4:16|
|With Voice of Arch Angel 24:31||4:16|
|With Trumpet of God 24:31||4:16 – The trumpet gathering resurrection of Isa. 25-27|
|Caught/Gathered Together with/to Christ 24:31||4:17 – The resurrection of the dead of Isa. 25-27|
|To “Meet” (marriage term) the Lord in the Clouds 24:30 & 25:6||4:17 – The wedding/resurrection of Isa. 25-27|
|The Exact Time Unknown 24:36||5:1-2|
|Christ Comes as a Thief 24:43||5:2|
|Unbelievers Caught Off Guard 24:37-39||5:3|
|Time of Birth Pangs 24:8||5:3|
|Believers Not Deceived 24:43||5:4-5|
|Believers to Be Watchful 24:42||5:6|
|Exhorted to Sobriety 24:49||5:7|
|Son/Sunlight Shinning From E. to W. / Sons of the Day 24:27, 36, & 38||5:4-8 *This is a unique parallel that I have developed.|
My Brief Testimony
Now one can see why Postmillennialists such as Gary DeMar or Keith Mathison deceptively (in my opinion) do not want to consistently draw attention to all of the “parallels” or use of “similar language” between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 5 since such a hermeneutic would beg the question from the reader, “well, what about all the ‘parallels’ and ‘similar language’ between Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17”?!?
This is exactly how I became a Full Preterist (even though I didn’t know such a view existed). In 1990-91 I had a hard time with Postmillennialists only giving an exegesis of Matthew 24 up to verse 34-36. I was doing a study on Christ coming as a thief and noticed that David Chilton in his writings (Paradise Restored and Days of Vengeance) applied Christ coming as a thief in 24:43 as fulfilled in AD 70. This was my conclusion as well, but this meant there were not two comings of Christ in Matthew 24-25 and Postmillennialists such as Chilton at the time was hiding this belief and not trying to develop it due to it’s conflict with the creeds. I agreed with Amillennialists and some historic Premillennialists that saw ALL the parallels between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonains 4-5 as ONE event, and yet at the same time I believed Postmillennialists were accurate to believe Matthew 24 happened spiritually in AD 70. I concluded that the “rapture” and resurrection of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 must be understood spiritually as well. And if Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in the OD, then Paul is using apocalyptic language just as Jesus did. It is important to note that it was in reading Scripture and Reformed works on eschatology that brought me to Full Preterism. There were no other outside influences. Over time God would lead me to men that saw what I was seeing – and that was very comforting!
Reformed Eschatology Makes the Same Parallels
Reformed theologian G.K. Beale agrees with Full Preterism on two issues here. First he agrees that Paul is using recapitulation between 1 Thessalonians 4-5 (or that both chapters describe the same coming and event) and secondly, he agrees with us that Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24,
“…1 Thess. 4:15-17 describes generally the same end-time scenario as 1 Thess. 5:1-11. 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 also 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,…” (G.K. Beale, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series 1–2 Thessalonians (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2003), 136).
As I have previously demonstrated, Jesus used recapitulation in Matthew 24-25. In 24:30-31 Jesus’ coming is describing the gathering or resurrection of believers. In 25:31-46 His coming includes a judgment (and thus resurrection) for the unbelieving dead as well. So it should not surprise us that Paul is using recapitulation here to connect 1 Thessalonians 4-5. In 4:16-17 the emphasis on His coming is the resurrection of believers. In chapter 5 His coming includes the judgment for unbelievers. One has to be blind not to notice what Beale sees, “…both passages [1 Thess. 4-5] actually form one continuous depiction of the same narrative in Matthew 24…” and one has to be equally blind not to notice that Jesus’ places this coming in His generation!
Beale goes on to connect 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” (1 Thess. 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 1 Thess. 4:17; see further Waterman 1975).” (Beale, Ibid, 136–137). Once again the eschatological time of the wedding in AD 70 creates problems for Postmillennialists, because this is also synonymous with the time of the resurrection of Isaiah 25:6-9/1 Cor. 15:54-56.
The “Thorny Problem” For Beale and Reformed Eschatology
In a more recent work Beale now seems to lean in the direction of Partial Preterism – that the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 24:30 was fulfilled in AD 70 and not at the end of history:
“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.” (G.K. Beale, A NEW TESTAMENT BIBLICAL THEOLOGY THE UNFOLDING OF THE OLD TESTAMENT IN THE NEW, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 396 n. 27—397. (emphases added)).
This indeed is a “thorny” problem for Mr. Beale to affirm in one work that the
coming and implied resurrection gathering at the end of the age in Matthew 24:30-31
is the same Second Coming of Christ and resurrection event as described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and is now trying to affirm that the coming and resurrection gathering of Matthew 24:30-31 was fulfilled in AD 70. Why? Because both of these are full preterist or “hyper-preterist” interpretations to take on these texts. Beale due to creedal commitments, will not accept that full preterism has done the “more study” necessary in order to reconcile the exegetical problems he and his “orthodox” colleagues have created.
But is Beale then saving himself from this “thorny” problem by citing Matthew 25:31 as “clearly” the end of time or end of the age coming of Christ? Not when you consider that partial preterists combined such as Mathison, DeMar and McDurmon have clearly seen this passage was fulfilled in AD 70 as well and not Christ’s “actual” Second Coming. But this then creates more thorny problems for these men such as the marriage that follows Matthew 25:10 (as I discussed in lecture one on the marriage feast). How many times does Christ in His Parousia consummate His marriage with the church within Postmillennial theology? How can they criticize Dispensationalism for having TWO resurrections and TWO eschatological weddings when their Partial Preterism is forcing them into the same error, just a different version of TWO fulfillments for these events?!?
Mathison attempts to avoid the unified parallels between Matthew 24–25 and 1 Thessalonians 4–5 by claiming that his Reformed brothers and “hyper-preterists” merely assume that “Jesus is speaking of his second advent when he speaks of ‘the coming of the Son of Man’ in Matthew 24 and that Paul is speaking of the same thing in 1 Thessalonians 4.” (Mathison, From Age to Age, 515). The self-evident fact of the matter however is that Mathison turns a blind eye to overwhelming evidence because Mathison assumes that partial Preterism is right. It is more than inconsistent to claim preterist parallels between Matthew 24 and 2 Thessalonians 2 and between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 5, and then deny the obvious parallels between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4. But this is what partial preterists such as Mathison do. (Mathison, Postmillenialism, 226, 230).
Because Gentry’s Postmillennial colleagues such as DeMar and Mathison no longer divide the OD, he remains committed to the creedal view that the OD does discuss the Second Coming event but now concedes that Matthew 24–25 does not necessarily need to be divided and that all of Matthew 24 could be addressing one coming of Christ in AD 70:
“Orthodox preterists see no doctrinal problems arising if we apply all of Matthew 24 to A.D. 70. We generally do not do so because of certain exegetical markers in the text. But if these are not sufficient to distinguish the latter part of Matthew 24 from the earlier part, it would not matter.” Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion (Draper, VA: Apologetics Group Media, 2009), 540).
The fact of the mater is that they do see a “problem” here if the OD is only addressing Christ coming in AD 70 – they just don’t want to admit it. The “problem” is that virtually all scholars and commentators tell us that Matthew 24–25 forms the foundation to and contains parallel prophetic material to Matthew 13; 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4–5; 2 Peter 3; Revelation 20–21; etc… Yet Mathison and DeMar claim Matthew 24–25 was fulfilled in AD 70 and Gentry doesn’t see a problem with it?!? How can these things be, indeed? This is why partial preterism gains a following for a short period, and then its students end up coming to “hyper-preterism” for a more consistent and exegetical approach that is in harmony with the analogy of Scripture.
Another problem for Postmillennialists is that they admit that the last trumpet of Revelation 11 was fulfilled in AD 70, but they do not discuss the fact that the time of the last trumpet was the time for “the dead” to be judged (Rev. 11:18). This is the same problem they face in the immediate context of 1 Peter 4:7. How were the dead judged in AD 70 without the resurrection of the dead taking place? And how is this time for the dead being judged different from the time in which the dead are judged in Revelation 20? And how is this trumpet judgment in Revelation 11 different from the one in Matthew 24:30–31, 1 Thessalonians 4, and 1 Corinthians 15? The analogy of Faith and that of Scripture nullifies with finality the arbitrary Scripture-dichotomizations of partial preterism.
Important Postmillennial and Partial Preterist Admissions
In 1998 Postmillennial Partial Preterist R.C. Sproul Sr. in his book The Last Days According to Jesus was either misinformed or dishonest with the Reformed and Evangelical community when he claimed that the main difference between Full Preterism and Partial Preterism was that Partial Preterists do not believe there was a rapture or resurrection of the dead that took place at Christ’s parousia in AD 70 (see his chart on p. 157).
Postmillennial author Mike Bull departs from other Postmillennial Partial Preterists and admits,
“The similarity of the events described in [1 Thess. 4:16-17] with those described in Matthew 24 and 1 Corinthians  means that full preterists are correct when they observe that all three passages clearly refer to the same event.” (Bull, Those Who Have Fallen Asleep, http://www.biblematrix.com.au/those-who-have-fallen-asleep/).
One of Postmillennialists main sources of authority in building their Preterist views is Milton Terry. However, unlike DeMar, Terry (like Postmillennialist Mike Bull) correctly saw that Paul in 1 Thess. 4:16-17 and 1 Cor. 15:51-52 was following Jesus’ teaching and eschatology in the trumpet gathering of Matthew 24:30-31. Terry was insightful and correct to disagree with John Lightfoot (and therefore with men like DeMar and Gentry) whom see this trumpet gathering at Christ’s coming as some kind of post AD 70 evangelistic gathering lasting thousands of years and not the rapture or resurrection event that Jesus said would be fulfilled at His coming to close the OC age. Terry criticized Lightfoot’s view for not holding to the analogy of faith hermeneutic and said it would be “accepted by very few” (Hermeneutics, 447-448).
Unfortunately for Milton Terry and Postmillennialist Mike Bull, they are off base to teach that the coming of Christ and gathering or harpazo of Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 was some kind of partial physical resurrection and or physical rapture. I will discuss the problems with this literal interpretation later, but the fact is Postmillennial Partial Preterism or Partial Preterism in general DOES see a “rapture” or “resurrection” event taking place in AD 70 – contrary to R.C. Sproul’s comments. Clearly Sproul knows of Milton Terry’s works! And Postmillennialists such as Jordan, DeMar and Gentry have finally conceded that the resurrection of Daniel 12:2-3 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70. And surely Sproul cannot be so blind as to not see that his Reformation Study Bible is forming our view by admitting Matthew 24:30-31; 1 Thessalonains 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15 are descriptions of the SAME and ONE parousia of Christ while also admitting in their other writings that Christ’s coming in BOTH Matthew 24-25 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70?!?
Laying the context for 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
Before giving an exegesis of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and solving the “thorny problem” Beale and the Reformed community have created for themselves (in adopting a physical coming of Jesus to perform a physical biological resurrection at the end of time), I want to develop the context of Christ’s coming and eschatology for Paul in 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
1 Thessalonians 1:10
“for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1:9-10).
The Thessalonians were to eagerly wait for Christ. The definition of anaménō
“…(from 303 /aná, “up, completing a process,” which intensifies 3306 /ménō, “wait, remain”) – properly, earnestly wait (linger, abide); actively wait with rising intensity and clarity about what is hoped for (note the prefix, ana). Thayers – “to wait for one (with the added notion of patience and trust).”
Even Dispensationalists such as Pastor John MacArthur writes of this passage, “…the immanency of the deliverance was something Paul felt could happen in their lifetimes. Did Paul just “feel” it could happen or did he write it as an inspired and authoritative Apostle being led into all truth “trusting” in the very words of Jesus Himself that He would return at the end of the OC age, in their generation, and in some of their lifetimes (Matt. 10:22-23; 16:27-28; 24:27-34)?!?
Christ comes “from heaven.” The definition of “heaven” here can mean the literal sky and clouds where the birds fly, but in Pauline eschatology the term “from heaven” is primarily dealing with God’s heavenly dwelling where His presence is along with the angelic hosts.
Christ comes to “rescue” the Thessalonians to Himself.
The definition of rescue here is rhýomai (from eryō, “draw to oneself“) – properly, draw or (pull) to oneself; to rescue (“snatch up”); to draw or rescue a person to and for the deliverer. To draw or snatch from danger, rescue, deliver. This is more with the meaning of drawing to oneself than merely rescuing from someone or something (Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers).
Christ comes to rescue the Thessalonians from the “coming wrath.”
God laid a trap for the persecuting Jews whom went to Jerusalem for the feast days in AD 66 and they experienced God’s wrath. Christians that did go to Jerusalem to fellowship with the Jerusalem Church in AD 66 fled the city and were rescued from this wrath.
Jews who especially sympathized with the Jewish revolt were persecuted throughout Rome during this period – 50,000 died in Egypt alone. Christians were known for being peaceful law abiding citizens for the most part.
Paul’s doctrine on an imminent coming of Christ and wrath is in line with Jesus’ teaching:
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. “Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Lk. 21:20-23).
And Postmillennialists admit the coming of Christ in Matthew 25:31 was fulfilled in AD 70 and there was a judgment of the dead that took place as well according to 1 Peter 4:5-7, 17 and Revelation 11. Therefore, Jesus responds to the dead as well about this being a time of wrath,
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Harmonizing the coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 with 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
|1 Thessalonians 1:10||1 Thessalonians 4:14-17|
|1. First century audience – “you” “us.”||1. First century audience – “we.”|
|2. Eager expectation – imminence||2. “We who are still alive…” – imminent expectation.|
|3. Christ comes “from heaven.”||3. Christ comes “from heaven.”|
|4. Jesus’ resurrection is mentioned as a sign or event guaranteeing that the living would be rescued.||4. Jesus’ resurrection is mentioned as a sign or event guaranteeing the dead in Christ would be raised and the living would be brought into God’s presence.|
|5. “Snatches” from wrath but to Christ.||5. “Catches/snatches away” to Christ.|
Kenneth Gentry & Keith Mathison
Mathison and Gentry don’t deal with the imminence here in connection with Jesus’ teaching in the OD. This is odd since they claim to want to address imminence and they both admit Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in the OD! They also fail to demonstrate how the deliverance from this wrath here in chapter 1 is an allegedly future event for us, while Paul’s treatment of Christ coming attended with “wrath” in the very next chapter (cf. 1 Thess. 2:16) is fulfilled by AD 70. Again, no consistent hermeneutic and no agreement among them.
Unlike Gentry and Mathison, Gary DeMar concedes that the coming of Christ here in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 was fulfilled in AD 70. But Gary fails to do any exegetical work to harmonize his Preterist interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 1:10 with his futurist creedal view of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. In both passages Christ comes “from heaven” to “snatch” or “catch” away His people to Himself. On what exegetical grounds is the first apocalyptic while the later is physical?!? Again, no consistent hermeneutic or flow of Paul in his writings per Postmillennialis. Why would the Thessalonians think these are two different comings of Christ “from heaven” to “snatch” or “catch” His people to Himself?!?
1 Thessalonians 2:14-20
“For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, forbidding us to speak to the nations that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always, but the anger did come (past tense) upon them – [even] to the end! “…For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us. For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” (2:14-16, 19-20)
We learn several things about this passage in connection with chapter 1:
- The “waiting process” of 1:10 is further clarified in chapter two as waiting for their
Jewish persecutors to “fill up the measure of their sins” before Christ comes to execute this wrath.
- The YLT and JFB catch something interesting about this wrath, in that it had already begun and is actually in the past tense – “forbidding us to speak to the nations that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always, but the anger did come (past tense) upon them – [even] to the end! (1 Thess. 2:16).
Speaking about the past tense here JFB says this,
“not merely partial wrath, but wrath to its full extent, “even to the finishing stroke” [Edmunds]. The past tense implies that the fullest visitation of wrath was already begun. Already in A.D. 48, a tumult had occurred at the Passover in Jerusalem, when about thirty thousand (according to some) were slain; a foretaste of the whole vengeance which speedily followed (Lu 19:43, 44; 21:24).”
*This may be the event or “Day of the Lord” in judgment that the false teachers and prophets were saying had “already” been fulfilled in 2 Thess. 2? 1 & 2 Thessalonians were written between AD 50-52.
- 1 Thess. 2:14-20 – This “wrath” would be fully realized at “the end” (or the wrath that would be poured out at the end of the “time of the end” or end of the OC age – Dan. 12:4; Matt. 13:39-43; Matt. 24-25).
|Matthew 23-24||1 Thessalonians 1-2|
|1). Prediction of persecution, suffering & death.||1). Present persecution & suffering.|
|2). The Jews killed the prophets, Jesus predicts His death (cf. Lk. 17:25), and that of the deaths of the NT prophets He would send in that generation.||2). The Jews killed Jesus & the prophets.|
|3). Jesus pronounces seven “woes” upon the Jews.||3). Paul says the Jewish persecutors are not pleasing to God.|
|4). Jews sought to hinder Christ from “gathering” and preaching the gospel to Jerusalem’s “children” so that they could be saved.||4). Jews sought to hinder Paul from preaching the gospel so that others might be saved.|
|5). The Jews were “filling up the measure of their sin.”||5) Paul says the Jews were “filling up the measure of their sins.”|
|6). Christ was going to come (Gk. parousia – implied from heaven) to deliver Christians and render wrath and judgment upon that first century Jewish audience and upon their Temple – in their “this generation.”||6). Christ was going to come (Gk. parousia – from heaven) to deliver Christians and render wrath and judgment upon that first century Jewish audience.|
|7) The coming of Christ in salvation and wrath takes place at “the end (Gk. Telos) of the age” (i.e. OC age).||7). The coming of Christ in salvation and wrath upon persecutors takes place at “the end” (Gk. Telos).|
|8) Judgment of living (those Pharisees) and dead (judging Cain for Abel’s blood) & gathering of all the elect at trumpet call – in their “this generation.”||8) Judgment of living.|
*If one were to be consistent in admitting that Christ came in AD 70 to vindicate the martyrs one would have to believe that there was a judgment and resurrection for the living and the dead (cf. Rev. 6; 11; 20).
1 Thessalonians 3:13
“May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” (3:13)
The Thessalonians would be blameless (or “spotless”) and holy at Christ’s parousia. Paul is using the eschatological marriage terminology here of Blameless / Holy – without spot. Keith Mathison writes of this passage in connection with the resurrection,
“Paul teaches that all believers will be resurrected at Christ’s second coming (1 Cor. 15:23). He teaches that all believers will be presented as a spotless bride at that time (Eph. 5:25-27; cf. 1 Thess. 3:13).” (Postmillennialism, 177).
And yet Gary DeMar admits 1 Thessalonians 3:10 was fulfilled in AD 70. So per the passages Mathison appeals to in connection to the fulfillment of this passage, DeMar should believe the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15:23 was also fulfilled in AD 70 if he believes 1 Thessalonains 3:10 was. We agree of course. But since Mathison believes the coming of Christ and wedding or wedding feast of Matthew 8:10-12; 22:2-7; 25:1-13; Rev. 19-21 was fulfilled in AD 70, how does this coming and wedding motif get magically pushed thousands of years away into another wedding and coming of Christ?!?
Christ comes with all his holy ones (angels, people, or both)?
First view – Angels: The argument for angels here is that this is how the LXX of Zech. 14:5 is understood (from which this passage and Matt. 25:31 is derived from). Angelic beings are how the term is understood in the OT (ex. Job 5:1; 15:15; Ps. 89:5,7; Dan. 8:13), and by the intertestamental period (ex. 1 En. 1:9) depicting God’s angels as being present on the last day of judgment.
Although the key word “holy ones” is not used in 2 Thess. 1:7 but rather the noun form with Christ coming with the “powerful angels,” the concept is the same.
Second view – Saints/people: In 2 Thess. 1:10 Christ comes to be glorified “in” His “holy ones” which are people “who have believed” the passage states.
Third view – “all” here refers to both people & angels – Some commentators suggest that both are in view. This is my view – after looking at what the OT says, what the intertestamental period teaches, and finally what the NT teaches on the subject.
Let’s once again get the contextual flow as Paul gets into 1 Thessalonians 4 that Postmillennialists don’t want to recognize.
The contextual flow from 1 Thess. 1:10–3:13 leading into 1 Thess. 4:16-17
|1 Thessalonians 1:10—3:13||1 Thessalonians 4:14-17|
|1. First century audience – “you” “us.”||1. First century audience – “we.”|
|2. Eager expectation – imminence||2. “We who are still alive…” – imminent expectation.|
|3. Christ comes “from heaven.”||3. Christ comes “from heaven.”|
|4. Jesus’ resurrection is mentioned as a sign or event guaranteeing that the living would be rescued.||4. Jesus’ resurrection is mentioned as a sign or event guaranteeing the dead in Christ would be raised and the living would be “caught” away into God’s presence.|
|5. To be “snatched” away from wrath but to Christ.||5. To be “caught” away to Christ.|
|6. Christ comes (Gk. Parousia).||6. Christ comes (Gk. Parousia).|
|7. “The end” (Gk. Telos) here is Daniel’s “time of the end” or at the “end of the age” when the judgment and resurrection takes place (Dan. 12:1-13; Matt. 13:39-43; Matt. 24:30-31; and 1 Cor. 15:24).||7. No one disputes that the resurrection here is the resurrection to take place at “the end” in Daniel 12:1-7 or “the end” (Gk. telos) in 1 Corinthians 15:24.|
|8. Christ’s coming is described with wedding terminology – they were to be “spotless” or “blameless” and “holy” in coming into the presence of their coming Groom.||8. Paul uses a well known wedding term in which a bride would “meet” her groom.|
|9. Christ comes with all His “holy ones” – that is angles and the dead he raises in chapter 4 which constitute the rest of the bride.||9. Christ comes with those dead saints that He raised out of Abraham’s Bosom or Hades to go “meet” them so that they all could be “with the Lord forever.|
And Harmonizing Paul’s eschatology with Jesus’
|1 Thessalonians 1:10—3:13||Matthew 23-24/Luke 21|
|1. First century audience “you” “us.”||1. First century audience “you.”|
|2. Eagerly wait – imminence.||2. “This generation.”|
|3. Christ comes (Gk. Parousia)||3. Christ comes (Gk. Parousia).|
|4. Christ comes from heaven.||4. Christ comes on clouds.|
|5. To “snatch” from wrath to Christ.||5. To “gather” to Christ.|
|6. Delivers from wrath.||6. Saves from wrath.|
|7. Jews killed prophets, Jesus & persecuting Thessalonian.||7. Jews killed prophets & will kill NT prophets Jesus sends.|
|8. Jews filling up the measure of their sin of blood guilt.||8. Jews filling up the measure of their sin of blood guilt.|
|9. Wrath poured out at “the end” (Gk. Telos).||9. Wrath poured out at “the end” or “end of the age” (Gk. Telos).|
|10. Christ comes with all His holy ones (including angels and the dead per chapter 4) – which constitute the rest of the bride||10. Christ comes and sends his angels to gather all the elect (dead and living)|
|11. Christ’s coming is described with wedding terminology – they were to be “spotless,” “blameless” and “holy” in coming into the presence of their coming Groom.||11. Christ’s coming is described with wedding terminology – “Here’s the bridegroom! Come out and meet Him.”|
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
A day was approaching when Christ would deliver believers from their persecutions and pour out His wrath upon their persecutors (1 Thess. 1:10; cf. 2 Thess. 1:6–7). When that day came, the Lord descended from heaven with a word of command (or “a shout”), with archangelic voice, and with a trumpet call of God; and the dead in Christ rose. Then the living in Christ and the dead in Christ were simultaneously “caught up” in “clouds” to “a meeting of the Lord in the air.”
Since the cloud-covered mountain is not literal, but is heavenly, neither then is the meeting that takes place in the heavenly mountain (i.e., in the clouds in the air) literal. Therefore, the shout, voice, trumpet, mountain, cloud, and meeting of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 are all spiritual antitypes of the literal shout, voice, trumpet, mountain, cloud, and meeting of Exodus 19 and 20 (Heb. 12:18–22).
What we have then in 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 is the “rapturously” metaphorical language of a prophet who is speaking of antitypical, spiritual realities —the transcendent profundities of Christological glory in and among the saints in the consummation of the ages. If this sounds
like an over-spiritualization, it shouldn’t. The Lord Jesus Himself was opposed to a literal removal of the church out of the world:
I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15)
The “rapture” passage is no more literal than the prophecy of Ezekiel 37:4–14. In that passage, God caused a valley full of dry bones to come together. He attached tendons to them and put skin
on them. Then He caused the bodies to breathe and they stood on their feet as a vast army. The bones represented the house of Israel. They were hopelessly cut off from the land, and were said to be in “graves.” As God had done for the dry bones, He was going to do for the house of Israel.
In the same way, in 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17, God raised up His church —the first fruits of the resurrection-harvest— which was anxiously longing for the consummation of redemption and atonement. As a mighty warrior, the Lord issued forth his shout of command and sounded the trumpet of God. Then His spiritual army arose by His power. They met Him on His way to His temple to judge the enemies in His kingdom (Mal. 3:1). That is when God afflicted the persecutors of His church, when He gave His people relief and glorified Himself in them (2 Thess. 1:8–10).
Being revealed with Christ in glory (Col. 3:4) and becoming like Him and seeing Him in His Parousia (1 Jn 3:2) had nothing to do with escaping physical death or with being literally caught up into the literal sky or with being biologically changed. It had to do with God’s people, living and dead, being “gathered together” to become His eternal Tabernacle, His spiritual Body, the New Man, the heavenly Mount Zion, the New Jerusalem in the Spirit. “This mystery is great” (Eph. 5:32), and is therefore communicated in the accommodative “sign language” of prophetic metaphor.
Since our Lord came “with His saints” and destroyed the earthly temple in AD 70 (Heb. 9:8), the church of all ages lives and reigns in glory with Him forever (Rom. 6:8; 2 Cor. 13:4; 2 Tim. 2:11–12). Now whether we are alive or asleep, we “live together with Him” (1 Thess. 5:10). This
was not the case in the Old Testament, when to die was to be cut off from the people of God. As Paul says in Romans 14:8–9, “ . . . whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”
“According to the Lord’s own word” (4:15)
|Matthew 24 – Fulfilled in AD 70||1 Thessalonians 4-5 Fulfilled in AD 70|
|1. Christ comes from heaven (24:30)||1. Christ comes from heaven (4:16)|
|2. With archangelic voice (24:31)||2. With archangelic voice (4:16)|
|3. With God’s trumpet call (24:31)||3. With God’s trumpet call (4:16)|
|4. Gathered/Caught to Christ (24:31)||4. Gathered/Caught to Christ (4:17)|
|5. Believers meet Christ in clouds (24:30)||5. Believers meet Christ in clouds (4:17)|
|6. Use of contemporary “you” and parousia to be fulfilled in their contemporary generation (24:34)||6. Use of contemporary “we” and parousia expected while some are still alive (4:15)|
|7. Exact time unknown (24:36)||7. Exact time unknown (5:1-2)|
|8. Christ comes like a thief (24:43)||8. Christ comes like a thief (5:2)|
|9. Unbelievers caught unaware (37-39)||9. Unbelievers caught unaware (5:3)|
|10. Birth pains (24:8 – fulfilled in AD 70)||10. Birth pains (5:3)|
|11. Believers are not deceived (24:43)||11. Believers are not deceived (5:4-5)|
|12. Believers told to be watchful (24:42)||12. Believers told to be watchful (5:6)|
|13. Exhortation against drunkenness (24:49)||13. Exhortation against drunkenness (5:7)|
|14. The Day, Sunlight (bright light) shinning from east to west, (24:27, 36-38)||14. The Day, sons of light, sons of day (1 Thess. 5:4-8)|
The fact that Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in the OD not only destroys the two comings theory of Postmillennial Partial Preterism, but the two comings theory of John MacArthur’s Pre-trib. Dispensationalism. In his Study Bible he arrogantly and blindly writes of Paul’s words, “by the word of the Lord,”
“Was Paul referring to some saying of Jesus found in the gospels? No. There are none exact or even close.”
What amazing and willful ignorance it takes to look at all of these parallels and conclude that there’s nothing “even close” connecting the two!
Even if someone wants to deny that Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24, the fact remains that both Jesus and Paul are referring to some of the same OT prophecies concerning the Second Coming and resurrection. Jesus said He came to fulfill all the the law and prophets and it would “all” be fulfilled at His coming in His “this generation” (Mt. 5:17-18; Lk. 21:22-32). And since Paul taught no other things except that which could be found in the law and prophets, then his sources are Jesus’ sources. Mathison’s Postmillennial theory that Jesus didn’t discuss His “actual” Second Coming in the gospels, but rather Paul was the one God had develope this doctrine is a joke on many levels. It separates the unity between Jesus’ eschatology and Paul’s and it ignores the fact that both are teaching that they are getting their eschatology from the same OT law and prophets!
“…WE who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord…” (v. 16)
|1 Thessalonians 4||Luke 21/Matthew 24|
|“We who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord.” (v. 15)||“When you see…,” “…your redemption is drawing near,” “This generation.” (Lk. 21:20-32)|
Mathison argues: Some have said that since Paul used the word “we” in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and 17, Paul expected the events of 1 Thessalonians 4 to occur within his own lifetime. “The problem with this interpretation is that in several other epistles Paul talks as though he could die soon.” Therefore “Paul [was] simply using the pronoun ‘we’ in a general way to mean ‘we Christians.’ As far as Paul knew, Christ could have returned in his lifetime, but there was nothing that demanded He do so” (WSTTB?, 194).
To my knowledge, no preterist thinks that Paul assumed that he himself would be included in the group of believers who would remain alive to the coming of the Lord. If I were to say, “We who live long enough to see the year 2030,” there is no reason to think that I would be assuming that I myself would be among the living in 2030. My only assumption would be that some of us today would be alive in 2030. In the same way, Paul’s words imply only that he knew that some of
his contemporaries would still be alive when Christ returned, as Christ Himself promised would be the case in Matthew 16:27–28; 24:34.
According to Postmillennialists like DeMar and Mathison, all of Paul’s “we,” “you,” and “our” statements in 1 and 2 Thessalonians refer to Paul’s own first-century audience and address Christ’s coming in AD 70—except for the statements in 1 Thessalonians 4 (“the rapture”). Mathison and DeMar magically decide that “we” in 1 Thessalonians 4 means something other than what it means everywhere else in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Suddenly in chapter 4, “we” includes Christians who potentially will not be alive for a million years from today. Now let us move on from arbitrary Mathisonian constructs to a biblical look at “the rapture” passage, 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17.
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven…” (v. 16)
The “thorny problem” is solved when the parallels between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonains 4 are accepted, the first century audience expectancy is accepted, and apocalyptic language is accepted in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 just as it is in Matthew 24 (basic Hermeneutics 101 observations).
|1 Thessalonians 4||Matthew 24|
|1). The Lord comes down from heaven (v. 16).
|1). The Lord comes in or upon the clouds of heaven (27-30).|
|2) Since this is the same event as Mt. 24:27-30, why isn’t it considered “orthodox” to interpret Paul as using apocalyptic language?||2). That Jesus is using spiritual and apocalyptic language here is accepted as “orthodoxy.”|
How had God described His “coming down from heaven” to “reveal Himself” (2 Thess. 2:7) and “rescue” (1 Thess. 1:10) His people being persecuted in the past?
Apocalyptic language Psalm 18
“6 In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. 7 The earth trembled and quaked (literally?), and the foundations of the mountains shook (literally?); they trembled because he was angry. 8 Smoke rose from his nostrils (literally?); consuming fire came from his mouth (remember 2 Thess. 1:7 – Jesus is “revealed from heaven in blazing fire…”) , burning coals blazed out of it. 9 He parted the heavens and came down (literally?); dark clouds were under his feet. 10 He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky. 12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced (literally?), with hailstones and bolts of lightning. 13 The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded (a literal voice?). 14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. 15 The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare (literally?) at your rebuke, LORD, at the blast of breath from your nostrils. 16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. 17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.
Christ is coming here in 1 Thessalonains 4:16-17 as God had come from heaven and on the clouds in the OT – ex. 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)?
OT Echo to 1 Thessalonians 4:16
Other than the trumpet gathering and resurrection of Isaiah 27:12-13, G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson connect this coming of the Lord “from heaven” with Isaiah 2:10-12’s “in that day” “Day of the Lord” judgment,
“The main clause of 1 Thess. 4:16, “because the Lord himself will come down from heaven,” recalls…the prophetic literature of the OT that envisions “the day of the Lord,” when God will come to judge the wicked and save the righteous (Isa. 2:10–12;…) (Weima, J. A. D. (2007). 1-2 Thessalonians. In Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (p. 880). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos).
But they also connect 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 with Isaiah 2 which reads,
“This (in context – giving the Thessalonians relief from their Jewish persecutors) will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out (excommunicated [from the heavenly Temple] as they had done to the Christians) from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”
Of this passage Beale and Carson write,
“eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” This description clearly echoes the triple refrain of Isa. 2:10, 19, 21, where on the day of the Lord the wicked are commanded to hide themselves behind rocks and in caves “from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might whenever he will rise to terrify the earth.” (Ibid. 885).
So since both 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 fulfill the coming of the Lord “from heaven” in the judgment found in Isaiah 2, let’s examine when Jesus and John see Isaiah 2 being fulfilled.
Jesus – Luke 23:27-30:
27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us (from Isa. 2:19 and Hos. 10:8).
There’s a consensus among the commentators that this passage was fulfilled in God’s judgment upon Jerusalem in AD 70.
John – Revelation 6:15-17:
“15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us[a] from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
Postmillennialists correctly tell us that every reference to the coming of the Lord in Revelation was said to be fulfilled “soon,” “at hand,” “quickly” or “about to be” fulfilled in AD 70.
This is when the martyrs blood would be vindicated in just – “a little while longer” (vss. 10-11).
Concerning Isaiah 2; Revelation 6; and 2 Thessalonians 1, Gentry argues that Christ had to come in judgment in AD 70 to vindicate those being persecuted in Revelation 1-3 & Revelation 6 because if He hadn’t (per futurism), God would be “mocking their [first century] circumstances.” Gentry also appeals to Matt. 23-24 in developing the AD 70 time-frame for the fulfillment of the Thessalonians to be relieved and vindicated from their Jewish persecutors in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-20. But this begs the obvious heremeneutical question – as to why doesn’t 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 also form the foundation for Christ’s coming to relieve the Thessalonians from their first century Jewish persecutors?!?
If futurism’s 2,000+ year delay of Christ’s coming creates a “cruel mockery” for the persecuted in the book of Revelation, then why doesn’t Gentry’s futuristic 2000+ years delay of Christ’s coming to relieve the Thessalonians and judge their persecutors in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 create a “cruel mockery” for their first century “circumstances?” Again, this is why Gentry’s critics charge him with inconsistent hermeneutics and holding to a view that only serves as a stepping stone to Full Preterism.
Premise #1 – If it is true and orthodox to believe that Luke 23:27-30; Revelation 6:10-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7 all fulfill the “last days” “in that day” judgment of Isaiah 2.
Premise #2 – And if it is true and orthodox to believe that 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7 are the same and ONE Second Coming coming event and that both passages fulfill the “last days” “in that day” judgment of Isaiah 2 (Full Preterists agree with Amillennialists and Premillennialists),…
Premeise #2 – And if it is also true and orthodox to believe that 2 Thessalonians 1:7 fulfills Isaiah 2’s “last days” “in that day” judgment in AD 70 (Full Preterists agree with Partial Preterists such as Gary DeMar on this point),…
Conclusion – Then it necessarily follows and is also true and orthodox to believe that the ONE Second Coming event of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 fulfilled the “last days” “in that day” judgment of Isaiah 2 in AD 70 just as 2 Thessalonians 1:7 was fulfilled at this time.
“…with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (v. 16)
|1 Thessalonians 4||Matthew 24|
|Trumpet call & resurrection (v. 16)||Trumpet call & gathering/resurrection (v. 31)|
Beale correctly sees the gathering of the elect at the end of the age in Matthew 24:3 in his commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians as he resurrection event,
“Paul’s particular combination of references from Matthew 24 shows that he interprets the whole of the Matthean text as referring to woes preceding the final coming of Christ (and though 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).” (p. 138).
But again in his recent book, A New Testament Biblical Theology the Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New, he writes,
“…it is likely better to see [Matt. 24:30]…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.” (p. 369).
Again, Beale admits that holding to both of his views creates a “thorny problem” for him that deserves “further study” to resolve. I told him at the Criswell conference when he spoke on the millennium with Gentry and Preston that I quoted him in our book and solved the “orthodox” “thorny problem” he has created for himself. I have yet to hear from him!
Premise #1 – If it is true that the resurrection and Second Coming of Jesus as found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 is the same “end of the age” resurrection and or Second Coming event as described for us in Daniel 12:2; Matthew 13:39-43; and Matthew 24:30-31 (Amillennialists & Full Preterists agree).
Premise #2 – And if it is true that Paul expected the resurrection of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 to take place within the lifetimes of some of those he was writing to (and this is further confirmed to us by what he taught in Acts 24:15 YLT – that the resurrection of Daniel 12:2 was “about to be” fulfilled) (Orthodox commentators, lexicons & Full Preterists agree).
Premise #3 – And if it is true that the Apostles and writers of the NT were infallibly inspired and “led into all truth concerning things to come” (cf. Jn. 14; 16 – the time and nature of Christ’s coming and the resurrection event) (all should and claim they agree with this).
Premise #4 – And if it is true that the “end of the age” “gathering” in Matthew 13:39-43 and 24:30-31 are the same Second Coming end of the age resurrection events (Amillennialists & Full Preterists agree).
Premise #5 – And if it is true and orthodox to believe that the “end of the age” and coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 13:39-43 and Matthew 24 were fulfilled by the end of the OC age in AD 70 (Postmillennialists & Full Preterists agree).
Premise #6 – And if it is true and orthodox to believe that the resurrection of Daniel 12:2-3 was fulfilled spiritually at Christ’s parousia to close the OC age in AD 70 (Partial and Full Preterists agree).
Conclusion: Then it necessarily follows and is also true and orthodox to believe that the NT authors wrote under inspiration that the ONE Second Coming and resurrection events as described for us in Daniel 12:2-3; Matthew 13:39-43; Matthew 24:30-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; and Acts 24:15YLT were “about to be” fulfilled spiritually toward the end of their generation to close the OC age in AD 70 (Full Preterism – “Reformed and always reforming”).
OT Echo: Isaiah 27:12-13
Beale and Carson also connect the coming of Christ, the trumpet or gathering of Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and 2 Thessalonians 2:1, to be the fulfillment of Isaiah 27:12-13. But this trumpet gathering resurrection, is when Israel’s sin of blood guilt would be dealt with (Isa. 27:9) and the resurrection of “Isaiah’s little apocalypse” fulfilled (Isa. 25:6-7; 26:19-21).
“Gathered up” – Harpazo (v. 17)
The NCV translates harpazo as “gathered up” thus giving it a theological and parallel connection to the eschatological gathering of (Mt. 13:39-43; Mt. 24:30-31 & 2 Thess. 2:1). Other translations render it “snatched away” or “will be seized.”
Harpazo means to “take one’s plunder openly and violently,” “catch or snatch away.” Liddel-Scott gives an additional meaning – “to captivate” or “ravish” – ex. “I was so captivated or enraptured (inwardly) by my wife’s beauty, that I didn’t realize what time it was.” But is 1 Thessalonians 4:17 discussing an inward or outward and upward catching away and ravishing of God’s people into the glory cloud of His kingdom?
Here are some very clear uses of harpazo:
Matthew 12:29 – Satan was “bound” and Christ was “carrying away” (harpazo) his plunder which were people that were rightfully his (that is Christ’s) held captive by Satan and demons. But how was He doing this? It was by casting out demons (an inward reality), and in some cases actually giving faith to these individuals to follow him (again an inward reality).
Matthew 11:12 – “the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing (Christ casting out demons openly and publicly taking Satan’s plunder), and (in return) the forceful men (believers) lay hold of it (harpazo – through faith, vigor, power, and determination in light of present persecution – such as the case of John).
Matthew 13:19 – In the parable of the sower, the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart (again, an inner spiritual reality)
John 6:65 – “No one can come to me unless the Father has (Greek didómi) caused, drawn, dragged or enabled him.” A different Greek word is used here, but the concept is that God opens the heart first and inwardly drags/draws/causes the person to believe in Christ. Without this active inward rescuing and initiative from God, no one can believe. This is an inward “dragging.”
John 10:12 – “…the wolf (Pharisees sons of Satan) sought to snatch and scatter” the sheep/ people of Israel. How did the Pharisees seek to “snatch” and “scatter” the Jews from following Jesus? The first phase involved seeking to deceive them in their hearts and minds (an inward snatching) that He was not the Christ by perverting the Scriptures. The second phase was a physical excommunication or scattering of Christians from their synagogues.
John 10:28-29 – Anyone who has faith in Jesus cannot be “snatched” out of the Father’s hand. That is, that he cannot be influenced (snatched inwardly) in his or her mind and heart to leave God. Like Peter, “Where else can we go Lord, you alone have the words to eternal life.”
Acts 8:39 – This simply means that the Holy Spirit directed Philip in His heart and mind (inwardly) to go elsewhere and the Eunuch did not see him again. Nothing in the text to support that Philip was “raptured” into the atmosphere (waved to some birds) and was then dropped off miles and miles away from where they were.
The eschatological “already” of the inward kingdom gathering and catching away was spiritual and the eschatological “gathering” and “catching away” in the kingdom at Christ’s return would be at the end of the OC age in AD 70. But was this “not yet” aspect an inward event as well? Jesus said when the kingdom would come at His return to gather all His elect, that it would be an experience to occur “within” an individual and not something that could be seen with the physical eyes—Luke 17:20-37/Luke 21:27-32/Matthew 24:30-31.
The inward realm of redemption or catching away is further evident from a study of the next two words “clouds” and “air.”
“…in the clouds…” (v. 17)
As I have demonstrated thus far (per the OT and NT prophets) Christ coming on the clouds is apocalyptic language and not referring to literal clouds.
To “meet” the Lord… (v. 17)
This Greek word to “meet” the Lord, is wedding language and is only used twice in the NT – here and in the wedding motif Jesus develops in Matthew 25:1-13 which Postmillennialists such as Mathison and DeMar are admitting was fulfilled in AD 70. In Jewish betrothal, it was customary for the groom to consummate his marriage sexually at her father’s house before taking her to his father’s house where they would continue consummating for seven days and having the feast. Again, since the wedding banquet follows the wedding in Jewish culture, AND the resurrection takes place at this time (cf. Isaiah 25:6-8/1 Cor. 15:54-55), then Postmillennialists are now forced to concede that the ONE eschatological wedding and resurrection was fulfilled in AD 70, or teach that there are two weddings for the Church to match their two comings, resurrections and weddings with that of Dispensationalism’s version. Selah.
This Greek word for “meet” was also often used of a King or dignitary coming to make his home in a city in which his Empire or Kingdom had conquered. On the news of the imminent coming of the King or dignitary, the members of the city would go out of the city and “meet” him and escort him back to their home/town. The King’s presence is established WHERE the people already lived. Again, the imagery does not support a literal “rapture” of people off of planet earth, but rather of God coming to rule and reign in the hearts of His people where they are – living on planet earth.
“…in the air” (v. 17)
But what of this meeting the Lord in the “air” (Greek eros)?
|Strong’s Greek Dictionary, defines it as: “From “aemi”, to breath unconsciously, to respire.
By analogy, to blow. The air, particularly the lower and denser air as distinguished from
the higher and rarer air.” So the point is that this is the air “in” or “within” us.
The Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains lists (Eph 2:2; 1 Th 4:17; and Rev 16:17) in its definition of eros as meaning, “the space inhabited and controlled by [spiritual] powers.” The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament says of Ephesians 2 – “…Jewish conceptions, according to which, among other things, the air is the abode of demons.”
Ephesians 2 refers to Satan as the “Prince and Power of the AER.” He dwelt in the spiritual realm not the physical – flying through the literal clouds and sky with the birds. The war we see Christ and Satan fighting over in the NT is for the spiritual condition of men – within their hearts and minds. Paul goes on to say that Satan, “now works in the children of disobedience.” And consistently Jesus defines His kingdom as something that He is setting up “in” and “within” men and transforming them into His image spiritually.
Prior to AD 70, Satan used his demonic legions to “possess” individuals within the realm of their minds and the spiritual realm of their being. Satan used the old-covenant Mosaic law to blind their spiritual eyes, hearts and minds in the realm of the “air”—within their souls, hearts, and minds to produce an arrogant and zealous self righteousness which apart from Christ could only lead to utter despair (2 Cor. 3; Gal. 4:17-18; Rms. 7). Christ “bound the strong man” and was raising and delivering Christians from the darkness and death of this spiritual kingdom realm into His Ephs. 2:1-10. Christ snatched away His beloved and spoke peace and joy into the “air” of her heart, soul, and mind, when He said, “It is finished” (Rev. 16:17/Heb. 9-10/1 Cor. 15)! The powers of Satan, demons, the condemnation of the law, and the spiritual death Adam brought upon men, have all been conquered by Christ at His parousia in AD 70 and for those that put their faith in Him.
Had Paul meant to clearly communicate that believers would physically fly off the planet into the sky and atmosphere above, he would have used the Greek word “ouranos” which clearly states this as its meaning.
The picture of the “rapture” is that Christ came down from heaven in / on a cloud to earth where He gathered the living into His presence “within” us. Just as we see in Revelation where the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven to earth and God establishes His presence with His Church here.
11 Problems for the Postmillennial or Literal AD 70 Rapture or Resurrection Views
1). For Partial Preterist Ed Stevens – If the language of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and Matthew 24:31 is allegedly “clear” and some kind of literal expectation, then he should be consistent with other Postmillennial Partial Preterists such as Mike Bull and begin teaching that the resurrection language is also a literal expectation and therefore the dead were raised from their physical graves and the literal dust in AD 70 as well. And why not begin teaching that Jesus came physically in AD 70? And while carrying out this physical expectation he might as well “reason” and go all the way in his thinking and conclude that since the de-creation language in Matthew 24 also sounds like a literal expectation, that either the prediction failed (liberalism), or spiritualize the time statements and continue hoping for these literal expectations (Futurism). Futurism and the skeptic are his only choices at this point when he begins reasoning along these lines.
2). Paul could have easily rebuked the false teachers and Christians that were tempted to believe the Lord had “already come” in 2 Thessalonians 2 by simply saying, “Aren’t you still here and the dead still in their graves? Obviously He has not come!” But since Paul did not hold to the literal rapture view or a literal resurrection view attended with Christ’s parousia, and was a real Full Preterist, he did not argue in such a way.
3). The coming of Christ in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 is the coming of the Lord in Isaiah 66:5, 15 of which there are Christian survivors (66:19) whom are found alive on planet earth continuing to preach the gospel in the New Creation and New Covenant age.
4). In Mark 8:38-9:1 the Greek is different than Matthew 16:27-28 and actually teaches that those that were alive to witness Christ’s coming would be able to look back (while still alive) on the historical events of Him coming in power and great glory in the destruction of Jerusalem and thus know that He had “already come.”
5). After Christ and the Father come and make their home (dwelling mone John 14:2, 23) within the believer, they are told, “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” (14:29). If they were literally raptured, I don’t think they would need to be reminded to believe that it had been fulfilled! These words make more sense if it was a spiritual fulfillment that could not be seen with the literal eyes and to be realized “within” (cf. Lk. 17:20-37).
6) Contrary Russell, Terry, Stevens, Bull and others — Jesus of course promised not to remove the Church off of planet earth (John 17:15).
7). Church history tells us that Christians were not raptured but fled to Pella. Church history tells us that the Apostle John was still alive during Domician’s reign in the mid AD 90’s and that Timothy, Titus, and Luke lived beyond AD 70. Stevens claims not all the Christians were raptured, only the super spiritual ones — the others were apparently unfaithful “sleepers” he claims. Odd, that Stevens claims to be a Calvinist and teaches such non-sense as the carnal Christian heresy! So I guess according to this heretical view, John, Timothy, Titus, and Luke became unfaithful “sleepers” and missed the rapture of the faithful. Oh boy!
8). If there was a literal resurrection in AD 70 to go along with a literal rapture, we have to wonder how everyone missed recording that “all” the righteous and unrighteous dead were literally raised from the dust of the earth in fulfillment of Daniel 12:2/Acts 24:15YLT/John 5:28-29/Rev. 20:5-15 along with tens of thousands of living Christians that just simply disappeared?!?
They have tried to avoid this by claiming there was a small number of faithful Christians that were “raptured” and not all the dead were raised in AD 70. But obviously this is NOT what Daniel 12:2 says, nor is this how it is developed in the NT. David Green writes concerning the world “many” in Daniel 12:2,
“Regarding the word “many” in Daniel 12:2: The word is not used in contrast to “all” (as “the many” is used to limit the term “all men” in Rom. 5:12, 15, 18-19) or in contrast to “a few.” The angel simply referred to a large number of people; to multitudes (NIV). No inference can be made from the context as to whether “many” referred to all or to only a portion of the dead. Only subsequent scriptures revealed that the “many” in Daniel 12:2 referred to the whole company of all the dead from Adam to the Last Day.” (HD, 178).
9). If the “gathering” and “catching away” of Matthew 24:31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 were the same event and if the “gathering” of Matthew 24:31 and Matthew 13:39-43 are the same event, then why weren’t the “wicked” “tares” or “weeds” “gathered” (i.e. “raptured”) off of planet earth (the same way the wheat were “gathered” into the kingdom) in AD 70 and thrown into the fire and judged (the Lake of Fire)?
10). During the OC to NC AD 30 – AD 70 transition period, we have the “already—becoming/transforming—and not yet” process of salvation and resurrection taking place. If a physical transformation of the literal living or the dead was the eschatological goal of the parousia, then why weren’t the living physically being “transformed” and literally “seeing” God’s face in some way before He came? Why weren’t they physically glowing a little before they were totally transformed into the NC glory they were receiving by AD 66? How was “the death being destroyed” and the dead “being raised” physically in 1 Corinthians 15 prior to the parousia?
11). Ed’s main premise for believing a literal rapture is because we don’t have any early church fathers teaching the parousia or Second Coming was fulfilled in AD 70. Ed claims he “lost sleep” over this subject and God showed him that the literal rapture solves his sleep problem. Of course Partial Preterists don’t have any early church fathers teaching that Babylon was OC Jerusalem or that Matthew 24:31 or 25:31 was Christ’s coming in AD 70 either. The Reformed church didn’t have any early writings about forensic justification by faith alone prior to Luther. Did Ed loose sleep over those things?
But Ed saws off the branch he is sitting on when we point out and ask – if Christians were literally raptured, and immediately after that, the Christian “sleepers” who were left repented of their sleepiness and started preaching the gospel—why didn’t they record the literal “rapture” of the faithful?!? It just gets more and more foolish. Literal rapturists argue the “sleepers” didn’t want to discuss or record God’s faithfulness in rapturing the faithful, because they would be persecuted. This is supposed to explain the reason for the silence. Well, if there was no literal rapture, then why couldn’t this same reasoning apply for the silence of those still alive on planet earth? Per the rapturist, the living were afraid of persecution. Their reasoning applies to both groups and solves no problem.
The bottom line – those that hate the truth concerning a spiritual fulfillment in AD 70 would not believe even if we had documentation of the event say in AD 85. They would simply reason, “Oh, this is when the gnostic heresy of Full Preterism began.” I don’t loose sleep over what the Word of God says – it actually strengthens my faith and gives me peace.
Concluding the Second Coming and Resurrection Event of Matthew 24:30-31=1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 in Relation to Daniel 7:13 and 12:2-3
When we combine what Postmillennialists and Reformed eschatology is teaching on these texts we conclude that Daniel’s soul — along with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the OT worthies such as in Heb. 11, were spiritually raised out of Hades in AD 70 into God’s presence and inherited eternal life and the Kingdom along with the living today in the NC age.
In our next study, I want to demonstrate how the coming of Christ and resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 as well.
To Watch these Lectures or Read this Series go to:
My First Lecture af the PPW 2017 Conference Part 1: The Problems for Postmillennialism – My Approach and Methodology http://fullpreterism.com/my-lecture-on-the-problems-of-postmillennialism-at-the-2017-ppw-conference-the-wedding-and-resurrection-motif/
My First Lecture at the 2017 PPW Conference Part 2: The Problems for Postmillennialism – God’s Divorce, Re-marriage and NC Betrothal http://fullpreterism.com/my-lectures-given-at-the-2017-ppw-on-the-problems-with-postmillennialism-wedding-resurrection-part-2-gods-ot-marriage-divorce-betrothal-and-remarriage-promises/
My First Lecture at the 2017 PPW Conference Part 3: The Problems for Postmillennialism -Wedding and Resurrection (Jn. 3-5) http://fullpreterism.com/my-2017-ppw-lecture-on-the-problems-with-postmillennialism-wedding-resurrection-part-3-john-3-5-and-nt-betrothal-and-marriage/
My First Lecture at the 2017 PPW Conference Part 4: The Problems for Postmillennialism – Wedding and Resurrection (Mt. 8:10-12/Mt. 22:1-14/Mt. 25:1-13) http://fullpreterism.com/my-2017-ppw-lecture-on-the-problems-with-postmillennialism-wedding-and-resurrection-part-4-mt-810-12-221-14-251-13isa-256-9/
My First Lecture at the 2017 PPW Conference Part 5: The Problems for Postmillennialism – The Parable of the Wheat and Tares and the Resurrection (Mt. 13:39-43/Dan. 12:2-3) http://fullpreterism.com/my-2017-ppw-lecture-on-the-problems-with-postmillennialism-in-the-parable-of-the-wheat-and-tares-the-end-of-the-age-and-the-resurrection-mt-1339-43dan-122-3/
My Second Lecture at the 2017 PPW Conference Part 1: The Problems for Postmillennialism in the Olivet Discourse – Structure, Context, the Disciples Question(s), the end of the age and the Great Commission (Mt. 23-24; Mt. 24:3, 14/Acts 1:8-11) http://fullpreterism.com/lecture-2-at-the-2017-ppw-problems-for-postmillennialism-in-the-olivet-discourse-house-divided-the-break-up-of-postmillennialism-and-the-formation-of-full-preterism-taking-its-place/
My Second Lecture at the PPW 2017 Conference Part 2: The Problems for Postmillennialism in the Olivet Discourse – “In Fulfillment of ALL that has been Written” (Lk. 21:22 = Dan. 7:9-14; 12:1-7, 13; Isa. 25:6-9—27:12-13) http://fullpreterism.com/2804-2/
My Second Lecture At The PPW 2017 Conference Part 3: The Problems For Postmillennialism – The Olivet Discourse the Gathering of the Elect Matthew 24:30-31 = 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 http://fullpreterism.com/my-ppw-conference-lecture-2-the-problems-for-postmillennialism-in-the-olivet-discourse-matthew-2430-31-1-thessalonians-415-17/