House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to
When Shall These Things Be?
The Eschatological Madness of Mathison or How Can These Things Be?
Part 6 – The Coming of the Son of Man
Michael J. Sullivan
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The Coming of the Son of Man
On pages 181–182, Mathison offers this argument: Whenever Jesus referred
to “the coming of the Son of Man,” He “seems to have been alluding to
Daniel 7:13–14,” which refers not to the Second Coming but to His ascension
to the heavenly throne of God to receive His kingdom. “ . . . [T]he possibility
must be kept open that Jesus wasn’t referring to his Second Advent
at all when he used this language. He may have been referring instead to
his ascension to the throne of God, his receiving of his kingdom, and the
judgment on Jerusalem that would prove he had received the kingdom
and was who he claimed to be. . . . ” It may be that “Jesus had very little to
say about his actual second coming.”
Let us assume for the moment that the premises of Mathison’s argument
above are true. Let us grant for the sake of argument that Daniel 7:13–14
refers to the Ascension of Christ, and that Christ was somehow alluding
to Daniel’s reference to His Ascension whenever He spoke of His future
coming in AD 70. Even if these premises are true, they in no way prove
that the coming of Christ in AD 70 was not “His actual second coming.”
Whenever Jesus spoke of the future coming of “the Son of Man,”
He could have been referring, as Mathison said, “to his ascension to the
throne of God [in Daniel 7:13–14], his receiving of his kingdom, and the
judgment on Jerusalem that would prove he had received the kingdom
and was who he claimed to be”; and at the same time, it could be that
His coming in AD 70 was also “His actual second coming.”
Mathison’s interpretation does not create an either/or choice. It
does not conflict with the “hyper-preterist” framework. “Hyper-preterists”
can embrace Mathison’s interpretation, wrong though it is, and
remain “hyper-preterists.” Mathison’s argument therefore is moot.
Though there is no need to refute Mathison’s explanation of Daniel 7:13,
I will briefly offer three other possibilities:
The presentation of the Son of Man to the Ancient of Days in Daniel
7:13 is perhaps a reference to Christ in His Parousia delivering up the
kingdom (“the saints”) to the Father (“the Ancient of Days”) in AD 70.
Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom
to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all
rule and all authority and power. (1 Cor. 15:24)
Or, as David Green has suggested, perhaps “the Son of Man” in Daniel
7:13 signifies the Body of Christ (the saints, “the fullness of Christ”)
in His Parousia (Eph. 4:13). In this view, the universal church (“the New
Man,” “the Son of Man”) was presented to Christ (“the Ancient of Days”)
and united with Him in the end of the age, in His Parousia in AD 70 (2
Cor. 4:14; 11:2; Eph. 5:27; Col. 1:22, 28; Jude 1:24).
My preferred interpretation is similar to that of F.F. Bruce. According
to the Old Greek Septuagint translation of Daniel 7:13, the Son of
Man came “as the Ancient of Days” on the clouds of heaven, not “to the
Ancient of Days.” This translation is in harmony with verse 22, which
says that it was the Ancient of Days Himself who came in judgment and
gave the saints the kingdom.
Also, the New Testament does not give the slightest hint that “the coming
of the Son of Man” on the clouds of heaven would be fulfilled in the
Ascension. And as Keil and Delitzch commented regarding Daniel 7:13-14,
…it is manifest that he could only come from heaven to earth.
If the reverse is to be understood, then it ought to have been
so expressed, since the coming with the clouds of heaven in
opposition to the rising up of the beasts out of the sea very distinctly
indicates a coming down from heaven. The clouds are
the veil or the “chariot” on which God comes from heaven to
execute judgment against His enemies; cf. Ps. 18:10f., 97:2–4;
104:3, Isa. 19:1, Nah. 1:3. This passage forms the foundation
for the declaration of Christ regarding His future coming,
which is described after Dan. 7:13 as a coming of the Son of
man with, in, on the clouds of heaven; Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark
18:26; Rev. 1:7; 14:14.
I would agree with Keil and Delitzch that the context of Dan. 7:13 and
how the NT develops it, forms the foundation for the Second Coming
event with Him coming down from heaven in judgment upon His enemies
(who are upon the earth rising in opposition to Him) and not Him
going “up” at the ascension event.
It is also important to point out that John in the book of Revelation
alludes to Dan. 7:9, 13 in his description of Christ as being both the Son
of Man who comes on the clouds to judge those whom had pierced Him
(first century Jews) and as the eternal Ancient of Days in Rev. 1:7, 13-17.
Again the context is developing Christ’s future “soon” (Rev. 1:1) Second
Coming not His ascension.
For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of His Father with
His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.
Assuredly, I say to you there are some standing here who shall not
taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
Not surprisingly, Mathison is the only author in WSTTB who
touched upon this key prophecy, and he offered no exegesis of it. Instead,
he threw it to the wind of the various speculative, futuristic in-
terpretations. Let us now demonstrate that Matthew 16:27–28 (and its
parallels, Mark 8:38–9:1; Luke 9:26–27) cannot be divided into two different
events, according to the typical futurist approach. As we can see
from the chart below, Matthew 16:27 is united to Matthew 16:28. Both
verses speak of the same timeframe and event that Jesus spoke of in His
undivided Olivet Discourse.
Matthew 16:27-28 & Parallels
The Olivet Discourse
|1. Christ comes in glory (Luke 9:26)||1. Christ comes in glory (Matt. 24:30)|
|2. Christ comes with angels (Matt. 16:27)||2. Christ comes with angels (Matt. 24:31)|
|3. Christ comes in judgment (Matt. 16:27)||3. Christ comes in judgment (Matt. 24:28-31;25:31-34)|
|4. Christ and the kingdom come in power (Mark 8:38)||4. Christ and the kingdom come in power (Luke 21:27-32)|
|5. Some of the disciples would live (Matt. 16:28)||5. Some of the disciples would live (Luke 21:16-18)|
|6. Some of the disciples would die (Matt. 16:28)||6. Some of the disciples would die (Luke 21:16)|
|7. Christ would be ashamed of some in His generation (Mark 8:38)||7. All of this would occur in His generation(Matt. 24:34)|
For the Son of Man is about to Come
Young’s Literal Translation (YLT), the Darby Bible, Wuest’s Expanded
Translation of the New Testament, and Weymouth’s New Testament in
Modern Speech all translate Jesus’ return here as “about to come” or “soon to
come.” These translations reflect the consistent usage of the Greek word mello
in Matthew’s gospel, and its predominant usage in the New Testament.
Christ’s imminent coming in verse 27 is consistent with Christ’s coming in
the lifetime of “some” in the crowd who were listening to him in verse 28.
After having waited thousands of years for the coming of the Messiah and
His kingdom, the span of forty years (AD 30–70) was a relatively short time.
Verily I say unto you
Jesus uses the term “verily,” “truly,” or “most assuredly” 99 times
in the gospels. The Greek word is “amen,” and it means “absolutely,”
“really,” “may it be fulfilled.” It is never used to introduce a new subject.
Dispensational author and editor of another multi-authored book
seeking to refute preterism, Thomas Ice, says of Matthew 16:27 and 28
that these “are two separate predictions separated by the words ‘truly
I say to you.’” But Mr. Ice fails to produce a single passage in which
Jesus’ phrase, “Verily I say unto you,” separates one subject from another.
To the contrary, the phrase always signals an amplification of the
Some standing here shall not taste of death until
Thomas Ice says of this verse: “A further problem with the preterist
view is that our Lord said, ‘some of those standing here . . . .’ It is clear
that the term ‘some’ would have to include at least two or more individuals.
. . . Peter notes that John only survived among the 12 disciples
till the destruction of Jerusalem” (Ice, Controversy, 88).
In other words, according to Ice, Jesus said that “some” would survive,
but the reality is that among His twelve disciples only John survived.
Ice’s argument would possibly have some validity if Jesus had
been speaking only to His twelve apostles; but He was not. According
to Mark’s account, “ . . . He called the crowd to him along with his disciples
and said . . . ” (Mk. 8:34–9:1). So much for Ice’s arguments.
Until they see the kingdom of God already come in power
According to Mark’s account, some of the disciples would not die until
they looked back on this event, knowing that the Lord and His kingdom
had come in power. (Literally, “until they see the kingdom of God having
come in power.”) According to Jesus, some of those who were listening to
Him that day would see His Parousia, look back on the event, and afterwards
die. Gentry concedes this point citing J.A. Alexander:
Here “come” is “not, as the English words may seem to mean, in
the act of coming (till they see it come), but actually or already
come, the only sense that can be put upon the perfect parti-ciple here
The Greek word here for “see” is eido. As with the English word,
eido not only refers to physical sight, it can also mean “perceive.”
Through observing with the physical senses, “some” of Jesus’ contemporary
audience would be able to look back on the destruction of the old covenant
kingdom’s temple and city in AD 70 and “perceive” that Christ’s kingdom
had arrived among and within them (Lk. 17:20–37; Col. 1:27; Jn. 14:2–3, 23, 29).
(Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), (Daniel 7:13-14), bold emphasis MJS.
Coming Under Attack (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 87.
for Christian Economics, 1992), 215–216 (emphasis added).