We are continuing our series examining how James White and other futurist apologists cannot address the issue of NT imminence in public debate with unbelievers (in this case a debate with Muslim apologist Shabir Ally). Currently we are going through Matthew 24 since James White was unable to address this passage with Shabir in his debate (along with Matt. 16:27-28 and 1 Thess. 4:15-17) and confessed to his own congregation that he “dreaded” teaching it to them. On this particular subject White is an embarrassment to Christian apologetics and a failure as an exegete to his own congregation. He continues to duck debates and challenges from Full Preterists – and this series is exposing why.
White correctly points out that once we get into what the coming of the Son of Man is in Matthew 24 (apocalyptic language which was fulfilled in AD 70 or literal to be fulfilled at the end of world history), that this is where “the rubber meets the road.” But unfortunately White is unable to lay down any exegetical rubber once he approaches the key texts. He doesn’t even inform members in his Reformed Baptist Church of the many Reformed theologians and commentators whom have taken these passages as being fulfilled in AD 70.
Let’s continue going through Matthew 24 (and parallels in Mark and Luke when relevant).
Christ’s Parousia as Sunlight Shining from East to West (Matt. 24:27)
Matthew 24:27 is usually interpreted by Partial Preterists and Full Preterists to mean Christ’s coming through the means of the Roman armies would be sudden and quick like lightning – which very well may be true. But I believe Christ’s parousia here and the Greek word associated with it astrape, is making reference to Christ’s presence and Kingdom being manifested within the hearts of His people in AD 70 using the illustration of the sun’s rays shining “from east and flashing to the west.” And it seems to me that there is a contrast being made between the false prophets and messiah’s hiding in a dark secretive “inner room” in the previous verse, with Christ being revealed openly and dramatically as the sun and daylight itself is.
The Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon gives astrape, the meaning of a “bright light.” The Greek word for “shine” is phaino which according to the Greek English Online Bible Greek Lexicon can mean, “of growing vegetation, to come to light.” IF the fig tree represents Israel in Matthew 24 then “all the trees” in Luke’s account must be interpreted as all the nations (from where the GC of Matt. 24:14 reached its fulfillment by AD 70). If this scenario is true, then this can have a reference to the Sun’s light through the gospel and Christ’s parousia giving light and life to Israel (the fig tree) and to all the trees (the Gentile nations) in Matthew 24:14, 32; Luke 21:29-30. The Second Coming of Christ is referred to as being “high time” and “the night is far spent and the day is at hand” (Rms. 13:11-12). “…as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Pet. 1:19/Luke 17:20-21ff.). And “…I will give Him the morning star.” “I am the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16). The idea here is that Christ’s presence and His righteousness is in and of itself, the chief reward and joy for His Church at His return. If this isn’t exciting enough for you go get a Hal Lindsey book at a garage sale for twenty-five cents!
Jesus would not be revealing Himself in some dark inner secret room as the false Christ’s would shamefully be doing for they were of the darkness, but on that day, “they may know from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.” (Isa. 45:6; 19-25; cf. Mal.1:1, 4:1-2, 5-6). He would shine seven fold on that day burning up the wicked while at the same time His heat and light would not harm the remnant but only cause them to flourish and bear fruit to be gathered into His kingdom (Matt. 13:6-9/Jms. 1:11-18/5:1-9; Matt. 13:43; Judges 5:31; 2 Sam. 23:4-7; Ps. 121:6-7; Isa. 30:26-27; Isa. 16:19-20/Rev.21:23, 22:5).
In that Day, Christ as the “Sun of righteousness would rise with healing in His wings” and would cause the remnant of Israel (the fig tree) and the Gentile nations (“all the trees”) to have blossomed TOGETHER as the very Garden of God in His everlasting Kingdom (Lk. 21:28-32/Rms. 9-11; Cols. 1:5-6; Isa. 27:7; 35; 44; 55:10-13; 60:20; 61:10-11/Ezk. 16:7/Rev.21:9- chapter 22).
A type of eternal life can be found in Josh.10:12-14 when God listened to Joshua and the sun stood still. Every day in the new creation is a day without darkness or bearing the reproach of our sins. In Joshua’s day this miracle was a sign to all that Jehovah was fighting for Israel. When those who are in darkness outside the gates of the City look at your life and see the joy, light, and warmth of God’s presence radiating from your inner being, God uses this to cause His elect to crave this enduring light and righteousness that can only come from your Lord. This also serves to harden the reprobate – as the sun melts the wax and hardens the clay. In Joshuah’s day this was a sign that the Lord was fighting for Israel and today Christ’s presence and eternal Day within His church demonstrates that nothing will ever be able to withstand her.
As plants receive life from the sun’s light and energy through photosynthesis, so the Church receives eternal life from Christ alone. In union with Christ, the Church becomes the leaves on the Tree of Life and the light of the New Jerusalem/Creation brings healing to the nations of the world. It is the light and living waters of the gospel preached to sinners that serves as “special revelation” to a thirsty sinner’s soul. No luminary lights of the physical creation can fully demonstrate the righteous ways of God! Only Christ and His Church serving as a heavenly Kingdom can bring the revelation needed for sinners to be saved. Without the “Sun of Righteousness” the light and glory of God’s imputed righteousness beaming in upon the heart and mind of man, all is lost. The world truly does revolve around the “Sun/Son of Righteousness.”
Before leaving verse 27 we should note how contextually tied it is to the AD 70 events in the previous verses. There is no grammatical and contextual indicator that would separate the parousia from the abomination of desolation and tribulation period of “those days” and coming wrath upon the Jews in their land by AD 70. That this is somehow a description of the end of world history events not grammatically or contextually connected to AD 70 is made even clearer in the following verses.
“Immediately after the distress of those days,…” “…the stars shall fall from heaven” and “seeing the Son of Man coming in/on the clouds”
Whatever the de-creation is here in our text, it must be defined using a grammatical, contextual, and historical Christian heremeneutic.
Grammatical – “Immediately after” clearly demonstrates that the de-creation of our passage takes place within the same time period of “those days” connected to Jerusalem’s judgment in AD 70 and not thousands of years removed from it.
Contextual – Since we have contextually identified the OC or Jewish age inseparably connected with the Temple’s destruction as the flow of Matthew 24, the de-creation should fit this context and flow as well.
Historical – And the exegete should also be asking questions as to how the Jew of Jesus’ day understood such de-creation language and not just our modern reading of the passage.
God’s coming on the clouds and stars falling from heaven, as used elsewhere in the Bible, are metaphors referring to the judgment of nations, not the destruction of the physical planet. This can be seen in such OT passages referring to the fall of Babylon, Egypt, Edom, and Israel (Isa. 13:9-10; 19:1; 34:4-5; Ezk. 32:7-8; Amos 5:21-22; Psalm 18; Psalm 104; Hab. 1:2ff.). Did God come on a literal cloud when he judged Egypt by means of the Assyrian’s in 670 B.C.: “Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt” (Isa. 19:1)? Was the literal heaven “dissolved” and rolled back like a scroll and did literal stars fall down from heaven when National Idumea (or Edom) was judged by God in the OT: “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment” (Isa. 34:4-5)? In Matthew 24, the context is the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. The sun, moon, and stars represented the universe of Israel and her rulers which would fall and vanish from her covenantal status by AD 70 for rejecting Christ and His Apostles and prophets (cf. Matthew 23:31-36). Reformed and Puritan theologian John Owen had this to say of this text,
“And hence it is, that when mention is made of the destruction of a state and government, it is in that language that seems to set forth the end of the world. So Isa. 34:4; which is yet but the destruction of the state of Edom. And our Saviour Christ’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew 24, he sets it out by expressions of the same importance. It is evident then, that, in the prophetical idiom and manner of speech, by ‘heavens’ and ‘earth’, the civil and religious state and combination of men in the world, and the men of them, are often understood” (John Owen, Works, Banner of Truth Pub., Vol. 9, 134).
John L. Bray correctly writes of the stars falling from the heavens of Matthew 24:29:
“Jewish writers understood the light to mean the law; the moon, the Sanhedrin; and the stars, the Rabbis.” (John Bray, Matthew 24 Fulfilled, p.125).
Therefore, one can see how Christ cast down the religious rulers (the stars) when He judged their OC world/age/city/Temple in AD 70.
Tribes of the land mourning
Jerusalem being surrounded by armies and its destruction through them was the sign that the Son of Man was seen coming on/in the clouds (as Jehovah had come and was seen judging Israel and the nations in the OT). Matthew being addressed to Jews points out that this would be the time of “tribes of land” to mourn (Matt. 24:30). The phrase “tribes of the land” is consistent with the first century context that we have seen throughout the OD thus far “Judea,” “There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people.” Jesus had predicted earlier that Jerusalem (through the coming judgment in AD 66 – AD 70) would be mourning for themselves for rejecting Him:
“And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” ’ (Luke 23:28-30)
Gathering the elect
The gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:31 is not a post AD 70 evangelism or a second GC per Partial Preterism. This is the result and or consummation of the GC described for us in Matthew 24:14 that would be fulfilled at the end of the OC age. This is the same “gathering” at the same “end of the age” and resurrection event as described for us by Jesus earlier in (Matt. 13:39-43). That this is the resurrection at which time the living and dead would be gathered together to always be with the Lord, will be evident once we get into 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and allow Paul to elaborate upon this event.
As I pointed out in Part 2 of this series, Partial Preterist Anthony Rogers has some serious exegetical problems and challenges at this point arising from Full Preterists and even his own Reformed colleagues in that this passage is descriptive of the Second Coming event and not “a” AD 70 coming of Christ:
“But the language of [Matthew 24:31] is parallel to passages like 13:41; 16:27; 25:31, 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.” (HD, Ibid. 112).
Remember James White told us that the “truth” would be found “in the middle” of the classic Amillennial view and the Partial Preterist view. And when we look in the middle of these views we find Full Preterism:
James White (classic Amillennialism) – Matthew 24:30-31 is the ONE Second Coming and resurrection event as described for us by Jesus in Matthew 13:39-43; 16:27; 25:31 and Paul 1 Thess. 4-5; 1 Cor. 15.
Anthony Rogers (and or Partial Preterism) – According to Matthew 24:30-31; 16:27; 25:31 Jesus did come upon the clouds to end the OC age in AD 70. At Christ’s parousia in AD 70 there was a spiritual, corporate, covenantal, and Hadean resurrection of the dead.
Michael Sullivan (Full Preterism) – Matthew 24:30-31 is the ONE Second Coming and resurrection event as described for us by Jesus elsewhere in Matthew 13:39-43; 16:27; 25:31 and Paul in 1 Thess. 4-5; 1 Cor. 15. This was fulfilled spiritually at the end of the OC age in AD 70.
“Redemption is drawing near”
Luke does not describe the resurrection at Christ’s coming as a “gathering of the elect,” but as the coming “redemption” (Luke 21:27-28). As I pointed out in my/our book I agree with Reformed Amillennial commentators and theologians whom identify this coming of Christ and redemption here to be the same “day,” “salvation,” and “redemption” spoken of by Paul in Romans 8:18-23YLT; 13:11-12. And I also agree with Reformed Partial Preterists such as Gary DeMar who have informed us that the “glory about to be revealed” was pointing to an imminent fulfillment in AD 70 (Rms. 8:18YLT) and with Partial Preterists such as John Lightfoot who have correctly informed us that the “creation” groaning in Romans 8:18-23YLT has nothing to do with the literal planet earth (not even poetically), but rather to the salvation of the souls of men. So to believe that “the day” and “the hour” of Christ bringing salvation in Romans 13:11-12 was the imminent AD 70 fulfillment for the glorification of the Church, liberation of creation, and redemption of the body in a spiritual manner is consistent with Reformed eschatology (HD, pp. 116-123).
“Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.”
In Matthew’s account only the fig tree is mentioned while in Luke “and all the trees” is added (Luke 21:29-30). The time when the trees begin sprouting leaves is equivalent to the signs in the previous verses being fulfilled and summer being near is equivalent to the time of the Second Coming and arrival of the Kingdom being near. Some Dispensationalists have thought the “fig tree” represents Israel becoming a nation in 1948, but never address what “and all the trees” sprouting forth leaves means in Luke’s account. It is true that in the OT and even the NT the fig tree can represent Israel. But Jesus on a previous occasion cursed the fig tree (Israel after the flesh) so that it would never bear forth fruit again (Matt. 21:18-19). Israel after the flesh was cursed and rejected, but this rejection resulted in the reconciling of the Gentiles or the world and NC Israel after the spirit bearing forth fruit and rising from the dead (Rms. 11:13-15). So IF the fig tree has a subtle reference to or represents Israel in this parable, then it would represent NC Israel (the remnant) and “all the trees” the Gentile “nations” to whom the gospel had been preached to (Matt. 24:14/Mark 13:10=Cols. 1:5-6, 23/Rms. 10:18/Rms. 16:25-26) bringing forth leaves and thus indicating that Christ’s parousia was “near” – at the very door!
So IF the fig tree and all the trees in this passage have to do with the salvation of Israel and the Gentiles prior to Christ coming in AD 70, then perhaps this may have an application to how “all Israel” was saved in Romans 11:
Even though God’s old covenant people in their last generation were being hardened and excluded from the coming inheritance, that did not mean that God had rejected old covenant Israel (Rom. 11:1-2). Although it may have looked like Israel was being utterly cut off in her last generation, the truth was that old covenant Israel was being saved in her last days. God was actually saving “all Israel” —fulfilling His promises to “the fathers”— partly by means of the hardening of its last generation. Here is how:
- By means of old covenant Israel’s transgression/failure and rejection in her last days, riches and reconciliation (through the gospel) were coming to the gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 28:18). As Paul said, “They are enemies for your sakes” (Rom. 11:28).
- The salvation of the gentiles was making last-days Israel “jealous,” so that a remnant was becoming zealous for righteousness and being saved (Rom. 11:2-10,11,13,14).
- The hardening, or reprobation, of old covenant Israel in her last generation was to continue until the fullness of the gentiles came in, i.e., came into Israel (Rom. 11:25).
- In this manner, or by this process, all of the saints of historic, old-covenant Israel were going to be saved (resurrected) along with the last-days remnant and the believing gentiles who had been grafted into historic Israel. The consummation of this process took place in the Parousia of Christ in A. D. 70, according to the promises made to the fathers (Rom. 11:26).
This is when Israel died, was resurrected, and made new. This is when all of the elect (the Old Testament saints, the last-days Jewish remnant, and the believing gentiles) were consummately united in Christ and became the fulfilled “Israel of God.” It was at Christ’s return to close the Old Covenant age in AD 70 that all Israel was saved.
“Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”
In Luke’s account we read that when Christ comes in that contemporary AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” is when the “kingdom of God” would arrive. Amillennialists claim this is the “not yet” to the kingdoms arrival that we are still waiting for since it is inseparably tied to the Second Coming of Christ here in the OD. Partial Preterists claim this aspect of the kingdom did come in AD 70, but it still lies within the inauguration “already” aspect to the kingdom promises. However, as we have seen “the truth is in the middle of these views” in that this is the eschatological “not yet” aspect to the kingdoms arrival attended with the Second Coming in AD 70, and therefore the Church is in the consummative and fulfilled stage of the kingdom.
The creedal futurism of White and Rogers teaches that when the Second Coming and kingdom takes place in the future it will be a physical event literally seen and experienced by everyone. Yet a little earlier in Luke’s gospel we find Jesus teaching that when His kingdom would arrive at His coming it would not be something seen outwardly but something manifested “within” (Luke 17:20-21—37).
PART 1 – Debate Challenge and Response to: James White, Shabir Ally, Sam Shamoun, and Anthony Rogers – Matt. 16:27-28/Mark 8:38-9:1 https://fullpreterism.com/james-whites-embarrassing-failure-to-address-matthew-1627-28-matthew-24-and-1-thessalonians-416-17-in-his-debate-with-shabir-ally-and-my-public-challenge-to-debate-shabir-ally-james-whit/
PART 2 – Debate Challenge and Response to: James White, Shabir Ally, Sam Shamoun, and Anthony Rogers – “Time/Hour of the End” = “End of the Age” Resurrection (Dan. 12=Matt. 13=Luke 20:27-40=Matt. 24:30-31, 36=John 4-5) All Fulfilled In AD 70 https://fullpreterism.com/debate-challenge-and-response-to-james-white-shabir-ally-sam-shamoun-and-anthony-rogers-part-2-the-end-of-the-age-matthew-13-matthew-24/
PART 3a. – Debate Challenge And Response To: James White, Shabir Ally, Anthony Rogers, Sam Shamoun – All The Signs, Abomination That Causes Desolation, Tribulation, Times Of The Gentiles – “In Fulfillment Of All That Has Been Written” (Matt. 24:1-25/Luke 21:20-24) https://fullpreterism.com/part-3-a-debate-challenge-and-response-to-james-white-shabir-ally-anthony-rogers-sam-shamoun-matthew-241-25/
Part 3b. – Debate Challenge And Response To: James White, Shabir Ally, Sam Shamoun, And Anthony Rogers – The Coming Of The Son Of Man (Matt. 24:27—-25:31) Fulfilled By Ad 70 https://fullpreterism.com/part-3b-debate-challenge-and-response-to-james-white-shabir-ally-sam-shamoun-and-anthony-rogers-the-coming-of-the-son-of-man-matt-2427-2531-fulfilled-by-ad-70/
Part 3c. – Debate Challenge And Response To: James White, Anthony Rogers, Sam Shamoun, Shabir Ally: Matthew 24-25 “This Generation” And Division Theories Refutedhttps://fullpreterism.com/part-3c-debate-challenge-and-response-to-james-white-anthony-rogers-sam-shamoun-shabir-ally-matthew-24-25-this-generation-and-division-theories-refuted/
Part 4 – Debate Challenge And Response To: James White, Anthony Rogers, Sam Shamoun And Shabir Ally (1 Thess. 4:16-17 & Acts 1:9-11) https://fullpreterism.com/part-4-debate-challenge-and-response-to-james-white-anthony-rogers-sam-shamoun-and-shabir-alley-1-thess-416-17-and-acts-19-11/
 Michael Sullivan, House Divided Chapter Four The NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan Part 9 The Imminent Liberation of Creation Romans 8:18-23https://fullpreterism.com/partial-preterist-keith-a-mathison-in-wsttb-vs-full-preterist-michael-j-sullivan-in-hd-part-9-the-imminent-liberation-of-creation-romans-818-23/