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 3 – Double Fulfillments
Michael J. Sullivan
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In this chapter, I will answer objections that Dr. Keith Mathison raised
against preterism in his chapter in WSTTB. Mathison’s chapter was
entitled, “The Eschatological Time Texts of the New Testament.” His
• Prophetic imminence in the Old Testament
• The futurity of the last days
• Prophetic double fulfillment (Part 3)
• Prophetic “telescoping”
• Jesus’ “in-like-manner” return
• “The Rapture”
• The creation groaning
• The abolition of death, pain, mourning, and Satan
• The salvation of “all Israel” in Romans 11
• The “thousand years” of Revelation 20
Mathison raised other objections in his chapter but they are addressed
elsewhere in this book. At the conclusion of this chapter, I will
offer a critique of Mathison’s tenuous and fragmented approach to the
eschatological time texts of the New Testament.
On page 168, Mathison observes that Daniel’s prophecy of “the abomination
of desolation” was double-fulfilled. It was first fulfilled in the desecration
of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 BC. Then Jesus
spoke of its future fulfillment two hundred years later. The prophecy of
the birth of Immanuel was also double-fulfilled. It was first fulfilled in
Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz in Isaiah’s day. Then it was “ultimately fulfilled”
in the birth of Jesus many centuries later. Mathison’s conclusion: “New
Testament prophecies may also have multiple fulfillments,” first in AD 70
and then in the end of world history.
I think everyone agrees that many prophecies in the Old Testament
were typologically fulfilled and awaited full realization in the New Testament.
This phenomenon reflected the contrast between Old Testament
types and shadows, and the New Testament Anti-Type or Body,
i.e., Christ (Col. 2:17).
But this principle in no way implies or leads to the notion that New
Testament prophecies, which are fulfilled in Christ, will be fulfilled multiple
times over potentially millions of years of time. The fact that the
Old Testament was “typical” and “shadowy” in no way suggests that the
New Testament is of the same pre-Messianic character. The Cross of
Christ will not be fulfilled multiple times until the end of human history,
and neither will Christ’s Second Coming (Heb. 9:26–28).
Mathison’s co-author Ken Gentry teaches that the time texts of the
New Testament “demand” a fulfillment in AD 70, and that the theory
of “double fulfilling” Revelation, for example, is “pure theological assertion”
that has “no exegetical warrant.” Another partial preterist colleague
of Mathison, Gary DeMar, rejects openness to the double fulfillment
theory in the Olivet Discourse:
Either the Olivet Discourse applies to a generation located
in the distant future from the time the gospel writers composed
the Olivet Discourse or to the generation to whom
Jesus was speaking; it can’t be a little bit of both. As we will
see, the interpretation of the Olivet Discourse in any of the
synoptic gospels does not allow for a mixed approach, a double
fulfillment, or even a future completion. Matthew 24:34
won’t allow for it.
The New Testament is the revealing of the salvation promises contained
in the Old Testament, and those promises were to be realized and
found “in Christ” and in His Body the church (2 Cor. 1:20). Mathison
would have us believe that the New Testament is a further obscuring of
the meaning of kingdom prophecies (with more shadowy and typical fulfillments),
which will only become clear at the alleged end of the very age
that Christ died to establish, the age that Mathison—incredibly— calls
Mathison, while refuting Dispensationalism, writes, “We are no
longer under the old covenant.” DeMar likewise teaches that the time
of the destruction of Jerusalem was “the end of the Old Covenant” and
“the consummation of the New Covenant.” But Mathison and DeMar
do not seem to realize what their teaching implies. If the old covenant
(“the Law”) is no more and the new covenant reached its consummation,
then according to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17–19, “the Law and
the Prophets” are fulfilled and “heaven and earth” passed away and we
now live in the new heavens and the new earth.
It irresistibly follows that if we are no longer under the old covenant,
it is because Christ’s Second Coming took place at the end of the
old covenant age and brought to consummation every “jot” and “tittle”
of its promises (cf. Matt 5:18; Heb. 8:13, 9:26–28, 10:25–37). There is
no possibility of double-fulfilling or partial-fulfilling every jot and tittle
of the Law and the prophets.
Some of the best Reformed theologians have taught that “heaven
and earth” in Matthew 5:18 refers to the old covenant age which passed
away in AD 70. Reformed theologian John Brown:
But a person at all familiar with the phraseology of the Old
Testament Scriptures, knows that the dissolution of the Mosaic
economy, and the establishment of the Christian, is often
spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the
creation of a new earth and new heavens.
Evangelical theologian Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis agrees:
. . . [T]he principal reference of “heaven and earth” is the temple
centered cosmology of second-temple Judaism which included
the belief that the temple is heaven and earth in microcosm.
Mark 13[:31] and Matthew 5:18 refer then to the destruction of
the temple as a passing away of an old cosmology. . . .22
Mathison’s double-fulfillment-in-the-New-Testament theory opens
Pandora’s Box to double-fulfilling everything: The earthly ministry of
Christ, His sufferings, His death, His resurrection, His Ascension, His
pouring out of the Holy Spirit, and His Second Coming; even the allegedly
future millennium could be double-fulfilled. Even the casting of
Satan into the Lake of Fire could be double-fulfilled.
Every New Testament promise in the Bible becomes ultimately
uncertain in Mathison’s theory. The “Christ” of Christianity could
potentially be a type of a future, “actual” Christ (cf. WSTTB, 182,
n39). Therefore, unless we want to end up adopting a liberal, postmodern
approach to God’s word and turn all of His promises into
“yes and no,” Mathison’s double-fulfillment theory must be firmly and
Pate (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 43–44.
God? (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 1995), 31.
(Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1999), 55.
of Truth Trust, 1990 ), 1:170.