House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 1 2 Timothy 2:16-18

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

 
Chapter Seven
The Resurrection of the Dead
 
David A. Green
Copyright 2009 and 2013 All rights reserved.  No part of this book (or article) may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher or author of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing or David A. Green), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Dr. Robert B. Strimple’s sixty-six page chapter in WSTTB can be
summed up in thirteen basic arguments that defend the doctrine
of a literal, physical resurrection of the dead. In this chapter, I will respond
to Strimple’s thirteen arguments. I will then offer a brief exposition
of 1 Corinthians 15.
 
Strimple’s Thirteen Arguments[1]
 
Strimple Argument #1: Preterists teach that the resurrection is past.
Therefore preterists are under the condemnation of the heretics Hymenaeus
and Philetus, who said that “the resurrection is past already” (2
Tim. 2:16-18) (WSTTB, 287, 312-315).[2]
 
Answer: If we read 2 Timothy 2:16-18 on the premise of futurism
(belief in a literal, physical resurrection of the dead), we will reason that
Hymenaeus and Philetus were not only wrong about the timing of the
resurrection, as Paul said they were, but that they were more importantly
wrong about the nature of the resurrection. We will reason that
the faith-overthrowing aspect of their error must have been their denial
of a biological resurrection of the dead. This would mean that the malignancy
of their doctrine had to do with the nature of the resurrection,
even though Paul condemned only their timing of the resurrection.
 
Futurism must, against the flow of thought in the text, smuggle its
own assumption (a biological resurrection of the dead) into 2 Timothy
2:16-18 in order to make it a preterist-anathematizing text. This means
that the only exegetical argument that is used for condemning preterists
as false brothers is based on the logical fallacy of question begging.
 
But if we read the passage on the premise of preterism (a non-biological
resurrection of the dead), we should reason that the error of Hymeneus
and Philetus was that they were teaching that the resurrection had
been fulfilled under the Law (1 Tim. 1:8; Titus 1:10; 3:9; Heb. 8:13). They
were teaching that “the hope of Israel” (Acts 23:6; 24:15, 21; 28:20) was
already fulfilled in the AD 60’s and that there was therefore never to be a
termination of the covenant of fleshly circumcision and animal sacrifices.
 
Their error implied that the kingdom was not going to be taken
from the scribes and Pharisees, as Jesus said it would be. It implied
that the final destruction of the city and sanctuary would never happen.
It implied that fleshly Israel had inherited the eschatological kingdom
with the church and that the ministration of death and condemnation,
with all of its reminders of sin, would continue forever. It implied that
believers, having already attained unto the resurrection (cf. Phil. 3:11–
12), would be forever under the yoke of the Law of Moses.
This is why the doctrine of a pre-70 resurrection was a radically anti-
gospel, anti-grace, faith-overturning blasphemy (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim.
2:18). This is why Paul condemned the timing instead of the nature of
the error, because insofar as the realization of the hope of Israel (the resurrection)
was necessarily synchronous with the eternal disinheritance
of the Christ-rejecters in Israel, timing was everything.
 
Perhaps we cannot know with certainty what date Hymenaeus and
Philetus assigned to the resurrection. Perhaps they taught that the Jewish
revolt against Rome in AD 66 was the fulfillment of the resurrection.
Whatever the case, the resurrection error at Ephesus was a Judaizing
heresy that served to put believers back under the slavery of the Law.
 
Before we go on to Strimple’s next argument, let us look briefly at
Paul’s silence in regard to Hymeneus’ and Philetus’ concept of a non-biological
resurrection of the dead. If Paul was expecting a literal, biological
resurrection, is it not odd that his only criticism of the gangrenous
resurrection-error was in regard to its timing? Could it be that Paul
agreed with Hymeneus and Philetus in regard to the nature of the resurrection,
and disagreed with them only in regard to the timing? Paul’s
words in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-8 give us the answer to this question.
 
In that scripture, Paul told believers how they could know, after the
fact, that the Day of the Lord had taken place. First, Paul said, “the
apostasy” or “the falling away” would take place and “the man of sin”
would be revealed (2 Thess. 2:3). This “man of sin” would take his seat
in the temple of God, thus displaying himself as being God (2 Thess.
2:4). Then he would be slain and brought to an end (2 Thess. 2:8). By
the unfolding of these events, believers would know that the Day of the
Lord had come.[3] The man of sin was, after all, to be destroyed on the
Day of the Lord.
 
However, Paul had taught in his previous epistle to the Thessalonians
that on “the day of the Lord,” the dead in Christ would rise and be
caught up” together with the living (1 Thess. 4:15-5:2). If Paul thought
those events were going to involve the literal, biological metamorphosis
and removal of the dead and of the church on Earth, then Paul would
have known that there were, inescapably, only two possible ways that
anyone could know that the day of the Lord had already come.
 
Either:
 
1. You suddenly found yourself in a new body made of “spiritual
flesh” while hovering in the clouds during a meeting with the
Lord in the air.
 
Or:
 
2. You suddenly discovered that the tombs of believers were
empty and that the church no longer existed on planet Earth
and you were left behind.
 
But Paul did not use either of these arguments. Paul instead told
believers simply to look for the rise and destruction of the man of sin in
order to know that the day of the Lord had come. According to Paul, if
believers perceived that the man of sin had been destroyed, then believers
could know that the day of the Lord (and therefore the resurrection
and the “catching away” of the church) had come to pass. The resurrection
of the dead and the “catching away” were not events that involved
the molecular change or disappearance of corpses or the disappearance
of the church from planet earth.[4]



[1] Though I label these arguments as “Strimple” arguments, most of them
are not, strictly speaking, Strimple’s arguments, but are the standard arguments
used by futurists to defend the doctrine of a “resurrection of the flesh.”
[2] Strimple’s editor Mathison undercuts Strimple’s effort here (and the effort
of most or all others who anathematize preterists) by casting a haze of
uncertainty over 2 Timothy 2:17-18 and refusing to use the passage to anathematize
“hyper-preterists.” Mathison forfeits all biblical authority to anathematize
“hyper-preterists” when he implies that “the resurrection” in 2 Timothy
2:17-18 could possibly have been fulfilled in AD 70 (194-195).
[3] The Zealots captured the temple in AD 68. They abolished the priesthood
and turned the temple of God into their own personal house of murder.
They were destroyed in AD 70.
[4] See Michael Sullivan’s response to Mathison for an exposition of 1
Thessalonians 4:14-17 and 2 Timothy 2:17-18.

House Divided Chapter Three Openness Futurism "Reformed" Open Theist Richard Pratt Vs. Full Preterist Edward J. Hassertt

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist
Response to When Shall These Things Be?
 
Chapter Three
Openness Futurism
 
Edward J. Hassertt
Copyright 2009 and 2013 – All rights reserved.  No part of this
book (or article) may be reproduced in any form without permission
in writing from the publisher or author of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing
or Edward Hassertt), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
articles or reviews.  

According to Dr. Richard Pratt, one of the central errors of preterists
is our belief “that all biblical predictions must be fulfilled just as
they are stated” (WSTTB, 121). In contrast to the teachings of preterists,
Pratt says that the prophetic predictions of the Bible are “seldom
fulfilled exactly as they are given” (122). In fact, “true prophets,” he says,
“often predicted things that did not happen” at all (131).
 
According to Pratt, the reason that biblical prophecies failed to be
fulfilled is because human choices intervened and played a major role
in determining how or if the predictions would be fulfilled (123, 126).
Therefore, concludes Pratt, “it does not matter if the Scriptures depict
Christ’s second coming in close proximity to his first coming. . . . [H]is
return could still be in our future, even two thousand years later” (122).
 
Pratt begins his chapter, “Hyper-Preterism and Unfolding Biblical
Eschatology,” lamenting that many Christians endorse “the hyper-preterist
proposal” that the predictions of true prophets are fulfilled just
as they were stated (122). He complains that it is “quite common” for
evangelicals to agree with “the hyper-preterist interpretation” of Deuteronomy
18:22 (122–123):
 
If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not
take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.
That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid
of him.
 
Many or most Christians, including preterists, believe this verse to
be saying that if a prophet makes a prediction in the name of Yahweh
and the thing predicted does not take place or come true, then the prediction
was not a message that Yahweh had spoken. Pratt says that this
interpretation is not “subtle” enough (122–123).
 
Halfway through his chapter, Pratt, in one paragraph, explains his
interpretation of this verse. He says that different prophetic predictions
were meant to be taken in different ways and indicated various levels of
determination of God to direct the future. Almost none of God’s predictions
in the Bible, according to Pratt, offered absolute certainty that
they would be fulfilled. Thus, a true prophet passed the test of Deuteronomy
18:22 “so long as historical events took place that matched the
level of certainty that their predictions offered” (137).
 
Although Pratt does not say so, this interpretation of Deuteronomy
18:22 means that if a false prophet uttered a prediction in the name of
Yahweh and the prediction failed to come to pass, the false prophet and
the people could simply say: “The fact that this prediction in the name
of Yahweh did not come to pass only proves that this was a typical prediction
of God. He simply did not have a high level of determination to
direct the future when He made this prediction.” No one could prove or
disprove this argument if Pratt’s interpretation is true. Pratt thus renders
Deuteronomy 18:22 practically useless and ultimately meaningless.
 
Pratt versus Reformed Theology
 
Not surprisingly, Pratt attempts to dissociate his view from Open
Theism[1] and to connect it instead to traditional Reformed theology
(123–124). He does this by affirming God’s sovereign immutability,
and by affirming that everything that takes place in the universe is part
of God’s eternal plan (124–125).
 
He also reminds the reader of the Reformed teaching that God’s immutability
does not mean that He is unchangeable in every way imaginable.
While God does not change in such things as His Being, character,
attributes, eternal counsel/plan/purposes, and promises, God does
change in the sense that He has meaningful interactions with and relationships
with man. He is actively involved in history. He lives our life
with us. He judges us, redeems us, and answers our prayers. He also
changed in that He “became flesh” (124–125).
 
This is all well and good and perfectly in line with Reformed theology.
But Pratt subtly shifts this Reformed teaching into the area of prophecy
fulfillment. It is at this point in his chapter that Pratt begins his defense
against preterism in earnest. And according to the pattern of WSTTB, he
begins his arguments with a creed, instead of with Scripture (125):
 
Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decrees of God,
the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly;
yet, by the same providence, He ordereth them to fall out according
to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely,
or contingently. (The Westminster Confession of Faith, 5.2)
 
The illusion that Pratt attempts to create by referencing this section
of the Confession is that it says anything about prophecy or the end
times. But of course, it does not. This section of the Confession deals
only with God’s eternal decrees made within the Godhead. Nowhere
does it address prophetic predictions. Pratt also attempts to use the
scriptural proof text that the Confession uses (Isa. 10:6–7) in order to
validate his view that God causes His own prophetic predictions to fail
(126, 152), but that scripture in no way suggests what Pratt contends.
 
Sawing Off The Limb He is Sitting On
 
Pratt begins his attempt to prove his view through Scripture exegesis on
pages 127–128, by using Jeremiah 18:7–10:
 
The instant I speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom,
to pluck up, or to break down, or to destroy; if that nation
against whom I have spoken will turn from their evil, I will repent
of the evil that I thought to do to it. And the instant I speak
concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to
plant it; if it does evil in My eye, not to obey My voice, then I will
repent of the good which I had said to do good to it.
 
According to Pratt, this passage demonstrates that the prophets of
God often made predictions (of judgment or of salvation) that did not
come true, because the intervening historical contingencies of the people’s
repentance or of the people’s sin caused God to cancel or postpone
or change the fulfillment of the prophetic predictions.
 
What Pratt misses here is that Jeremiah 18:7–10 itself is a prophecy
which Pratt is assuming must be fulfilled just as it was given. The
irony is thick here. Pratt claims that preterists are wrong in their view
that prophetic predictions were always fulfilled as they were written,
because human action usually changed things so that the predictions
were not fulfilled as they were written. Yet to prove this claim, Pratt assumes
that Jeremiah 18 is fulfilled exactly as it was written.
 
According to the logic of Pratt’s scheme, God is or was likely to
change His mind about His prophetic prediction in Jeremiah 18 and
God could decide instead to never change His stated plans when nations
repent or sin. Yet illogically, Pratt argues with certainty that God,
according to the sure prediction of Jeremiah 18:7–10, causes His own
predictions to fail.
 
Pratt is like a radical anti-creedalist who illogically endorses a creed
(“all creeds are false”) to prove that all creeds are false. The anti-creedalist
must assume—based on nothing—that his own creed is correct in
order to reject all creeds. He does not realize that his anti-creedal position
invalidates his own creed. Likewise, Pratt is assuming—based on
nothing—that a biblical prophetic prediction (his proof text, Jer. 18:7–
10) is sure and certain in order to prove that all such predictions are
unsure and uncertain. Pratt does not realize that his position removes
all certainty from the very text he is using to prove his position.
 
Predictions versus Threats
 
As we can see, Pratt’s view is logically invalid at its exegetical inception.
But let us move on through the rest of his chapter and take a look at the
first specific example he gives of his notion that God’s prophetic predictions
usually failed to be fulfilled as they were written (152). His first
example is 2 Chronicles 12:5 (129), where the prophet Shemaiah said to
Rehoboam and to the leaders of Judah,
 
This is what the Lord says, You have abandoned me; therefore, I
now abandon you to Shishak.
 
As a result of this prophetic word, Rehoboam and the leaders of
Judah humbled themselves, and God did not destroy them through
Shishak but only caused them to be subject to him (2 Chron. 12:7–8).
Thus God did not abandon them to Shishak even though He said He
abandoned them to Shishak.
 
The second example Pratt uses for his prediction-failure doctrine
(130–131) is Jonah 3:4:
 
And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he
cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
 
As we know, because the city repented, Nineveh was not overthrown
(Jonah 3:7–10). Thus God did not overthrow Nineveh even
though He said that Nineveh would be overthrown.
 
Pratt’s conclusion when he puts Jeremiah 18:7–10; 2 Chronicles
12:5–8 and Jonah 3:4–10 together is that “true prophets often predicted
things that did not happen” (131).
 
While Pratt says that his view is “complex” (122), the cause of the
complexity (i.e., of his error) is surprisingly simple. His primary exegetical
mistake is reflected in his use of the word “prediction” (127–
131). Pratt acknowledges that the two prophetic utterances above were
“threats” of judgment. Though Pratt calls Shemaiah’s prophetic message
a “prediction” (129), Pratt nevertheless acknowledges that it was
“just a warning from God . . . of judgment that might come” (129–130).
Pratt misses the fact that if the prophetic word of Shemaiah was “just a
warning,” then it was not a prophetic “prediction.” There was therefore
no failed “prediction.”
 
Though Pratt says that Jonah made a “prediction,” he acknowledges
that the “prediction” was actually “a threatened judgment” (130–132).
Jonah was called to “preach” (warn/threaten) not to make a prediction.
There was therefore no failed “prediction.”
 
Incidentally, Pratt says that God delayed His predicted judgment
of Nineveh as a result of the repentance of the people (132). But there
was no delay, even as there was no prediction. Rather, God “relented
concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon
them. And He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10). The judgment that came upon
Nineveh some generations later was unrelated to the judgment that
God threatened in Jonah’s day.
 
These passages of Scripture in no way show that a prophet of God
ever made a “prediction” that failed to come to pass. These were not
“predictions” at all. Even though Pratt acknowledges that these and
many other such words of the prophets were merely threats/warnings
or offers of blessings, he spends his chapter equivocating, calling those
threats and offers “predictions” when they were not.[2]
 
This is the source of Pratt’s confusion and the confusion he is sure to
cause his readers. When Pratt said that “true prophets often predicted
things that did not happen” (131), what he should have said is that God,
through the prophets, often threatened to do things and offered to do
things that He did not, in the end, do. This biblical and Reformed truth
is a far, far cry from Pratt’s doctrine that God prophetically “predicted”
things that did not and will not ever come to pass.
 
Contrary to Pratt, whenever prophets of God actually predicted
things, those things happened —100% of the time. How Pratt can put
the “warnings” and “offers” of the Bible in the same category as the predictions
of the Second Coming, resurrection of the dead, and judgment of all
men is mystifying.
 
On page 137, Pratt says,
 
From the viewpoint of hyper-preterism, the predominant
purpose of predictions in the Scriptures was prognostication.
Hyper-preterists assume that prophets intended to give foreknowledge
of things to come.
 
I am truly surprised that Pratt’s editor Keith Mathison allowed
these sentences to pass inspection and to be sent to print. Obviously
one of the main purposes of a prediction was prognostication. “Prediction”
means “prognostication.” And obviously the prophets intended
to give foreknowledge of things to come. Who could possibly
deny this?
 
What Pratt should have said in the first sentence is that the predominant
purpose of prophetic messages (threats of judgment and offers
of blessing) was not prognostication. And what he should have said
in the second sentence is that not every prophetic message contained
foreknowledge of things to come.
 
Haggai 2:21–23
 
On the thirteenth page of Pratt’s chapter, he finally reaches an actual, predictive,
decretive prophecy (not merely a solemn threat/warning or offer):
 
Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah saying, I am going
to shake the heavens and the earth. And I will overthrow the
thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of
the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders,
and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the
sword of another. On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will
take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant, declares the
Lord, and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen
you, declares the Lord of hosts. (Haggai 2:21–23)
 
According to Pratt, the fulfillment of even this prophecy was conditioned
upon the obedience of the people. And not only that, says Pratt,
the prophecy failed to take place as it was written: “ . . . [T]hese things
did not happen to Zerubbabel. He never became the king over God’s
people, and the nations around Israel were not destroyed. Why was
this so? It was because the postexilic community failed to be obedient
to the Lord.” The disobedience of the people, according to Pratt, caused
the “postponing” of the fulfillment of the prophecy (133).
 
First of all, when God says, “On that day, declares Yahweh of hosts,
I will,” the decretive nature of the prophecy is established. There is no
condition, implicit or otherwise, in the prophecy. The prophecy was
sure to be accomplished as it is written, Pratt notwithstanding.
As for Pratt’s claim that Zerubbabel “never became the king over
God’s people,” the prophecy says nothing about Zerubbabel becoming
the king over God’s people. It says only that God would make him
like a signet ring.” This could possibly mean that Zerubbabel became
highly esteemed and exalted in the sight of God. And/Or the promise
to Zerubbabel could have been meant to refer to Christ, who was born
of the seed of Zerubbabel, who was of the seed of David. Either way,
there was no “postponing” of the prophecy.
 
But as is often the case, the biblical answer is the obvious answer,
and it is missed because it does not fit the futurist paradigm. The
prophecy of Haggai 2:6–9, 21–23 was fulfilled, in a “typical” sense, in
the lifetime of Zerubbabel. In about four years (“in a little while”) after
the prophecy was given, God overthrew all the nations, (He “shook the
heavens, the earth, the sea and the dry land”) and the desire or wealth
of all nations came, and the temple was filled with glory (with gold and
silver). (Compare Haggai 1:15; 2:10 and Ezra 6:15.)
 
This all took place when Darius King of Persia overturned Israel’s
enemies, who for years had been preventing the rebuilding of God’s
house. Darius decreed, “May God . . . overthrow any king or people who
lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem
(Ezra 6:11–12). Darius forced Israel’s enemies themselves to pay the full
cost of the rebuilding, as well as the full cost of all the daily, priestly
services (Ezra 6:8–10).
 
The military and political power of Israel’s enemies was overthrown.
They had tried to turn the king against Israel (Ezra 5), but God turned
their own stratagems against them. He made them subservient to His
people, taking their own wealth for the building of His glorious, earthly
house. God had thus “moved heaven and earth” to keep the covenant
that He had made with His people through Moses (Ezra 6:18; Hag. 2:5).
The prophecy of Haggai 2:6–9; 21–23 also foreshadowed the fulfillment
of the better promise (Heb. 8:6) that was fulfilled in Christ’s generation.
Israel’s building of the greater, earthly house in Zerubbabel’s generation
was an example of the building of the true, heavenly “House” in Christ.
 
Within perhaps only four years (“in a little while”) after Hebrews
12:26 was written, God overthrew all the nations. He “shook the heavens,
the earth, the sea and the dry land.” The desire of all nations came,
and God’s Temple was filled with Glory.
 
This happened when God overturned His kingdom-enemies who,
in their persecution of the church, had furiously resisted the construction
of His new covenant temple (Eph. 2:21–22; I Peter 2:5). Despite
the rage of the enemies, God enlisted countless multitudes of them to
build His new House (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21; Rev. 5:9); and the enemies
who resisted to the end were crushed, and were cast out of the kingdom
in AD 70 (Matt. 8:12; 21:43; Lk. 13:28; Acts 4:25–28; Gal. 4:30; Rev. 3:9).
God “moved heaven and earth” to keep the covenant that He made
with His elect through the blood of Christ. Now the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit dwell eternally in the universal church, which is the new
covenant House of promise (Jn. 14:23; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 2:21–22; 3:17; Col.
1:27; II Peter 1:19; Rev. 3:20; 21:2–3). Through the power of the eternal
gospel, the desire of the nations flows into “the more perfect tabernacle
today and forever (Heb. 9:11; Rev. 21:26–27), and God Himself is its
unfading Glory (Rev. 21:23). Amen.
 
Pratt’s Three Failed Eschatons
 
In the last thirteen pages of his chapter, Pratt descends into an exegetical
abyss from which, sadly, he never returns. On pages 141–143, he says
that, according to Jeremiah, the beginning and consummation of the
eschaton (the Last Days), the culmination of history, the restoration of
Israel and of the Davidic throne, the rebuilding of the temple, and the
defeat and gathering of the Gentiles were all supposed to take place after
the Babylonian Exile in about 538 BC. Pratt says that the prophets of that
generation expected that the eschatological hopes of Israel would be imminently
realized.
 
But alas, according to Pratt, Daniel observed the alleged “failure” of
the supposedly imminent restoration of all things that Jeremiah allegedly
predicted. Daniel, in the prophecy of “the seventy weeks,” allegedly revealed
that the fullness of the eschaton, which allegedly should have happened
in Daniel’s lifetime, was allegedly postponed/delayed for about 490
years “because of a lack of repentance” (144–145, 147, 149, 152).
However, according to Pratt, about twenty years after Daniel received
that prophecy, the blessings of the eschaton were “offered” yet
again through the predictions of Haggai and Zechariah (520–515 BC).
But evidently, there was again insufficient repentance for the predictions
to be fulfilled (146–147).
 
Then according to Pratt, five hundred years later in the New Testament
era, the consummation of the eschaton was “offered” again
(meaning predicted but not promised, in Prattian usage). But “the lack
of repentance within the covenant community caused an indefinite delay
of Christ’s return” (149).
 
Apparently there was no “Daniel” this time around to tell anyone
there was going to be a delay (as though Daniel ever suggested a delay in
the first place). There was however the writer of Hebrews, who said in
about AD 66 that Christ would “not delay” in His Parousia (Heb. 10:37).
But that must have been one of those “failed” predictions.
 
Pratt comments on Acts 3:19–20:
 
Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away,
in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of
the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for
you. . . .
 
According to Pratt, Peter was saying that the imminent Second
Coming was a “conditional offer.” If those who were listening to him
repented, then there was a “hope”/“possibility” that it would happen in
their lifetime (150–151).
 
This interpretation however can be quickly dismissed. The Second
Coming in Christ’s generation was neither “conditional” nor an
“offer” nor a mere “possibility” that was contingent on human behavior.
The contingency was the elect being saved, and that work was of
the sovereign Spirit, not of man. Therefore the eschaton was going to
be fulfilled in the last days of the old covenant age no matter what men
would do to resist God’s purpose. There was absolutely no way to stop
the fulfillment of the Second Coming and resurrection of the dead in
the apostolic generation, Prattian contingencies and postponements
notwithstanding.
 
On page 134, Pratt says, “When a sign accompanied a prophecy, it
showed that God was very determined to carry out what the prophet
had predicted.” However, the prophetic time statements of the New
Testament were accompanied by signs. Yet Pratt claims that those
prophecies were all altered by human contingency.
 
Pratt says on page 135 that “when God adds an oath to a prophetic
prediction, it raises that prediction to the level of a covenantal certainty.
Pratt gives as an example, “There as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign
Lord . . . ” (Eze. 5:11). Yet when the Lord Jesus Christ Himself says,
Truly [Amen], I say unto you,” in regard to the timing of His Parousia
(Matt. 16:28), Pratt for some reason does not count Jesus’ promise there
as “a covenantal certainty.”
 
Pratt says on page 137 that the question of timing always remains
open in prophecies with oaths. Evidently, Pratt has never read Revelation
10:6: “and [the angel] swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who
created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it,
and the sea and the things in it, that there shall be delay no longer.”
 
Later in the apostolic generation, Pratt says, the apostles had to deal
with the unexpected delay of Christ’s return (despite the oath in RevelaOpenness
tion 10:6), and the Christian community was beset with “discouragement”
as a result of that delay (151–152). How Pratt knows about this
delay definitively within his system of contingency and ambiguity is a
mystery he does not solve. But, Pratt continues, Peter did not give up
hope, because he knew that God was showing great patience, not wanting
anyone to perish but desiring “everyone” to come to repentance
(152). And according to Pratt, this has been going on now for about
2,500 years, since the days of Daniel. Thus ends Pratt’s notable chapter.
 
The last thirteen pages of Pratt’s chapter certainly do not merit any
further refutation. His arguments are transparently wrong. The eschaton
was never scheduled to arrive in 538 BC in the time of Daniel. Nor was it
supposed to arrive in about 520 B.C. in the time of Haggai and Zechariah.
Nor was it merely “offered” conditionally in Christ’s generation.
 
If Pratt is correct, we must ask: Has the eschaton been “offered” at any
other times since the first century? Was it “offered” again in 1843, as per
William Miller? Was it “offered” again in 1988, as per Edgar Whisenant?
Was it “offered” again in 1994, as per Harold Camping? Were those the
failed predictions of men, or the failed predictions of God? Who can say
one way or the other with any certainty, in Pratt’s “Openness Futurism”?
 
It may seem difficult to imagine how someone who is a Doctor of
Theology could believe and teach such incredibly unbiblical things.
But the reason is apparent if we paraphrase Pratt’s argument: “Hyperpreterists
think that prophecies are fulfilled as they were written. But
according to my futurist paradigm, prophecies were not fulfilled as they
were written. I know they were not fulfilled as they were written because
they were not fulfilled as they were written, according to my futurist
paradigm. Therefore, hyper-preterists are wrong when they say
that prophecies are fulfilled as they were written.”
 
Circular arguments, ad hominems, and question begging, oh my!
Preterism, in contrast, walks by faith. If it appears that a divine prediction
was not fulfilled when and how God said it would be fulfilled,
then it is our interpretation of the prediction, not its fulfillment, which
must be called into question. Amen.
 
Pratt and Openness Theology
 
Pratt’s eschatological error is not merely one of many perfectly acceptable
options within futurism, as Mathison suggests in his chapter.
 
Pratt comes dangerously close to Openness Theology in every one of his
analyses of prophetic utterances and in every argument he uses against
preterism. Anyone who is familiar with the writings of Open Theists
can see the source material for Pratt’s arguments. If his arguments
were not directly reproduced from Sanders and Pinnock, he has clearly
drunk from the same well as those men.
 
According to Pratt, even if Jesus Himself bluntly declared, “Verily I
say unto you, I will return in August of the year AD 70,” that would not
mean that His return actually occurred when He said it would (122).
His return could still be in our future, because His church could have
failed to repent and be faithful, and this “human contingency” could
have caused Him to delay His return for two thousand years, or even a
trillion years.
 
Who knows? Human contingency could also have caused Him to
change the way the promise of His return was supposed to be fulfilled.
Maybe He originally meant for His return to be fulfilled literally but
then human contingency caused Him to fulfill it spiritually, or vice versa.
In Pratt’s paradigm, even the eschatological predictions of Jesus and
the New Testament writers become ultimately meaningless.
 
Pratt’s notion that we can have no confidence in Jesus’ predictions
and time statements is the same contingency-based, changing-mindof-
God nonsense of the Openness heretics. Pratt asserts that he is not
of the same cloth as these men, yet he seems to channel John Sanders as
his primary source without ever citing him. Pratt’s language could have
been pulled out of Sanders’ The God who Risks. In fact the very categories
of possible fulfillment that Pratt advocates appear to be lifted from
that very book.[3] Let us compare the statements in Sander’s Openness
volume to the same categories and modes of prophetic interpretation in
Pratt’s so-called “Reformed” response to preterism.
 
From Sanders: “A prophecy may express God’s intention to do
something in the future irrespective of creaturely decision.” He uses
Isaiah 46 as an example (Ibid., 51).
 
Sanders here expresses what Pratt calls “sworn predictions”
(WSTTB, 131). For Pratt these prophecies take the form of divine oaths
(135). For both Sanders and Pratt this category of prophecy includes
those things which God has said he will do and which will come to pass
as God said they would. Pratt is arbitrary in classifying prophecies in
this category, automatically assuming any prophecy preterists claim as
being fulfilled could not possibly fit into this category.
 
From Sanders: “A prophecy may also express God’s knowledge that
something will happen because the necessary conditions for it have
been fulfilled and nothing could conceivably prevent it.” He uses Pharaoh
and Moses as an example (51).
 
Sanders here expresses what Pratt calls “confirmed predictions”
(WSTTB, 131). For Pratt, as with Sanders, these predictions are accompanied
by specific words calling God to the outcome or by certain
signs that show nothing could conceivably prevent the fulfillment of the
prophecy (134). It is impossible to determine why the clear words of
Jesus and of the New Testament writers about the imminent Second
Coming and resurrection and judgment of the dead do not constitute
such predictions.
 
From Sanders: “A prophecy may also express what God intends
to do if certain conditions obtain.” He uses Jeremiah 18 as an example
(TGWR, 51).
 
Sanders here expresses what Pratt calls “conditional predictions”
(WSTTB, 131). Pratt says: “There are many examples in the Bible of
situations where the contingency of human choice made a difference in
the fulfillment of a prophetic prediction” (129). By “difference,” of course,
Pratt means that even though God prophetically “predicts” an event, man,
through his choices, can cause the “failure” (152) of that divine “prediction.”
Notice for Pratt who acts, and who reacts after God issues a divine
“prediction.” In reality, as we’ve already stated, conditional if/then prophecies
(such as Isaiah 1:9–20) are not predictions at all. They are warnings
and offers.
 
From Sanders: “The typical prophecy expresses God’s intention
to act a certain way, depending on what his creatures decide to do”
(TGWR, 53). He uses Jonah as an example.
 
Sanders here expresses what Pratt calls “unqualified predictions”
(WSTTB, 131). He states that even though these prophecies use unqualified
language they are not necessarily fixed in stone. And just like
Sanders, he uses Jonah as an example. According to Pratt, Jonah gave
a prophetic “prediction” and God caused the fulfillment of the “prediction”
to be delayed (131). But again, as Pratt himself admits, such “predictions”
are not predictions. They are warnings/threats and offers of blessings.
 
There can be precedent in the Reformed community for Pratt’s and
Sanders’ four-fold division of prophecies, but only with the understanding
that not all prophecies are predictions. Pratt’s contention that actual
“predictions” (not merely prophetic warnings and offers) of God can
be thwarted by human actions has absolutely no place in Reformed or
Reformed preterist theology.
 
Lastly, only the Openness theologians make any claim that the New
Testament prophecies of the Second Coming are contingent, or not
necessarily to come about as stated. There are disagreements about
what is stated, but never disagreements in the Reformed community
about whether they are actually to be fulfilled as stated. Pratt departs
from the Reformed tradition in his application of contingency to prophetic
predictions, and especially when he applies contingency to the
New Testament predictions concerning Christ’s Parousia.
 
House of Cards Divided
 
Pratt’s deconstruction of Deuteronomy 18:22 leads to a morass of sophism
in prophetic interpretation. He tears the foundation out from under
any eschatological claims whatsoever, not the least of which are those of
his fellow contributors. There is no reason to claim postmillennialism,
amillennialism, premillennialism, or any form of prophetic ism if Pratt is
correct. His chapter throws the entire remainder of the Mathison book
into the vast shifting ocean of subjectivity. If prophetic predictions can
be fulfilled in any way, or in no way at all, as Pratt claims, then we have a
plurality of possibilities, with no possibility of a unified argument of truth
versus error. Biblical prophetic predictions become vain babblings and
worthless because we cannot know with certainty if fulfillment has occurred,
or even if it will ever occur.
 
Faith becomes arbitrary because we can never know with certainty
which of the things God has predicted will come to pass and which are
destined for the trash heap of unfulfilled predictions due to human-enacted
contingencies. If we cannot fully know which divine predictions
may reach fulfillment and which ones need not be taken seriously, then
how can we put our faith in any of God’s predictions?
 
Pratt’s argument invalidates all the anti-preterist arguments of his
co-authors. For instance, Gentry criticizes preterists for the way we see
prophecies concerning the resurrection fulfilled (28), while Pratt tells us
that it is possible that prophecies can be fulfilled in ways that actually
contradict the prophecy as it was written. If Pratt is correct, then Gentry
cannot be confident that the prophecies concerning the resurrection
of the dead will be fulfilled as they were written.
 
There can be no real hope because we cannot tell with certainty
which prophecies of God constitute a promise/oath and which do not,
and we cannot tell with certainty what historical contingencies may or
may not obtain to prevent any given prophecy from being fulfilled. Will
there be a resurrection of the dead? Who knows? In the Prattian paradigm,
we can only wonder what human actions may alter the timing or
completeness or nature or even the existence of fulfillment.
 
Will Christ return literally and physically on a cloud, as argued by
the authors of WSTTB? Or will human contingencies cause Him to
alter the fulfillment of His prediction and cause Him to return in the
form of a great teacher in the Middle East? Was Mohammed the Second
Coming of Christ? Did Mohammed reflect a change in the Second
Coming due to human actions? Who can really know for sure in Pratt’s
horrific contingency paradigm of uncertainty?
 
Charles Hill asks:
 
How could it possibly be that the very people who were
taught about the consummation of redemptive history by
the apostles, and who lived through this consummation,
missed the great event when it happened? (105)
 
Likewise, Doug Wilson says that if preterism is true then:
 
. . . the apostles spent a great deal of time preparing the
early church for a world-shattering event, but then, when
it happened, the early church completely missed it. (276)[4]
 
If we believe Pratt, then the result is even worse than what Hill and
Wilson are saying about the historical implication of preterism. If Pratt
is right, then it is possible that the consummation has been fulfilled
in a radically different way than the prophecies themselves predicted.
The consummation could have been totally and absolutely missed on
a wholesale level because it bore no resemblance whatsoever to the actual
prophecies. Within Pratt’s paradigm, we are necessarily left forever
wondering if this event or that event was the fulfillment, or if the fulfillment
will ever happen at all.
 
What Pratt refrains from stating explicitly is that human contingency
can alter the fulfillment of a prophecy so much that those who
read the prophecy could be unable to recognize its fulfillment when it
happens. Prattian contingencies make the fulfillment of prophecy absolutely
uncertain. The consummation of redemptive history could be
fulfilled in any way at all. The wording of the predictions is irrelevant.
 
Mathison says that, “if Scripture can be trusted, the visible return of
Christ is something that literally remains to be seen” (188). In Mathison’s
view, God will certainly do what He prophetically predicted He
will do. Pratt’s view, in contrast, makes Scripture a jumble awaiting human
actions to sort out what can be believed.
 
Conclusion
 
It is time to stop believing in theological pluralism as anything
more than a temporary stopgap. It is time to reject the idea of
the equal ultimacy of incompatible theological positions. Premillennialism,
postmillennialism, and amillennialism are theologically
incompatible. God cannot be pleased with all three. At
least two of them should be discarded as heretical, if not today,
then before Christ comes in final judgment. (A Defense of (Reformed)
Amillennialism, Prof. David J. Engelsma)[5]
 
Preterists know why the three incompatible eschatological positions
are tolerated in the Reformed community. They are placeholders
for the biblical truth of preterism. When the truth is allowed to
replace these flawed systems of theology, then eschatological unity can
be achieved.
 
If there is no agreement as to what eschatological truth is, beyond
two or three points, how can there be certainty that preterists are
wrong? If preterism is error, where is the certainty of the truth which
shows it to be so? The lack of unity in message, methodology, and interpretation
of prophecy makes any Reformed response to preterism not
only tentative and incomplete, but premature.
 
WSTTB is a source of comfort to me and to other preterists. The
manifest inability of scholars within the Reformed community to organize
a coordinated, logical, and non-contradictory argument against
preterism is telling. Their eschatological house is divided and falling,
just like the Papal See fell under the weight of the truth of the Protestant
Reformation.
 
WSTTB shows nothing other than a disoriented theological base
that men are desperate to maintain. I cannot judge their hearts, but
I can judge the system for what it is. Some of the best minds of the
Reformed futurist community came together and no two of them can
agree on even the fundamental questions of the nature of prophecy,
how prophecy is fulfilled, which verses apply to past events, and which
(they claim) apply to yet future events.
 
In the end, Pratt reveals the crack in the Reformed, eschatological
House of Usher. The willingness of Pratt’s co-authors to unite with his error,
and with each other’s errors, in order to ward off the persistent challenge
of preterism is resulting in the sure and imminent fall of futurism.
 
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds
blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its
fall. (Matt. 7:27)



[1] Open Theism holds that God does not exhaustively know the future and
that His prophetic predictions can be thwarted by the will of man.
[2] Keith Mathison seemed to favor the Reformed view in his chapter, saying
that “in some circumstances, prophesied judgment can be averted” (163).
Mathison avoided Pratt’s error. Mathison did not say, “In almost every instance,
God’s predictions have been averted.” Later in his chapter however,
Mathison implies that Pratt’s view is actually a viable option, saying that preterists
have “failed” to consider it (181).
[3] The God who Risks (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1998), 51–53
[4] See David Green’s response to Hill in this book for an invalidation of
this argument.
[5] Available online at: http://www.prca.org/articles/amillennialism.html
Openness Futurism 73
 

House Divided Chapter Four The NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan Conclusion

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Four
The Eschatological Madness of Mathison or How Can These Things Be? 
Conclusion
Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2009 and 2013 – All rights reserved.  No part of this
book (or article) may be reproduced in any form without permission
in writing from the publisher or author of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing or Michael J. Sullivan), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.  

Conclusion 
Mathison says that interpreting New Testament eschatological timetexts is a “difficult problem” that has “perplexed commentators forcenturies,” and that it is therefore a subject upon which he and his coauthors do not agree (155, 178, 204). Consequently, Mathison’s treatment of the time texts is ambiguous and he casts a fog over the whole matter. Here are some examples of Mathison’s pervasive uncertainty as he wrestles against God’s eschatological time-statements.
“You shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes.”
 Commentators have interpreted [Matthew 10:23] in a number of different ways. (175–176) Mathison presents five competing futurist and partial preterist interpretations.
He eventually lands on an interpretation but he does not express unequivocal confidence in it.
“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standinghere who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” 
. . . [W]hat does it mean for Jesus [in Matthew 16:27–28] to suggest that [the coming of the Son of Man] will happen within the lifetime of his hearers? (176)
But of course, Jesus did more than merely “suggest” that His coming would happen within the lifetime of His hearers, as Mathison weakens the words of the Lord.
• The Coming of the Son of Man
 Each of the texts we have looked at (Matt. 10:23; Matt. 16:27–28; 24–25) seems to portray the coming of the Son of Man as something that would occur soon after the words were spoken.
This has perplexed commentators for centuries. (178)
Mathison then makes reference to “all of the difficulties surrounding these [time] texts” and adds that “several” interpretations have been “suggested” (178–179).
But as preterists know, these texts are unequivocal and non perplexing. Note that Mathison admits that all of the biblical texts he cited in Matthew (including the prophecy of the sheep and goats) “seem” to say what preterists say they say. When Mathison says that the texts are surrounded by “difficulties” and that they have “perplexed commentators,” the reason is—obviously—because the texts, if left to interpret themselves, teach “hyper-preterism.” Yet five pages later Mathison says, “There is nothing in any of these texts that demands or even strongly suggests a hyper-preterist interpretation” (183).
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” 
. . . [S]everal possible interpretations [of Matthew 24:34] have been offered.
Mathison presents nine competing futurist and partial preterist interpretations (179–181). All of the “possible interpretations” of the word “generation” proposed by Mathison are puzzling though, since he tells readers in his book, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope, while refuting Dispensationalism, that they can “know” the preterist interpretation of “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 is the true interpretation:
We know that the phrase “this generation” refers to the generation of Jews to whom Jesus was speaking for these reasons. . . .[1]
Treading water in a great sea of uncertainty and contradiction, Mathison flounders among the “many possible interpretations” of these and other passages, and then miraculously arrives at the shore and concludes with curious confidence: “Just as there is nothing in the Gospels that even remotely suggests hyper-preterism, so there is also nothing in the book of Acts or in the New Testament epistles that suggests hyper-preterism” (205, emphases added). “The New Testament . . . does not even suggest hyper-preterism” (213, emphases added).
Let’s see now. Mathison admits that Jesus said (or suggested or seemed to teach) many times and in many places that His coming would happen within the lifetime of His hearers. Mathison admits that this fact has perplexed futurist commentators for centuries (176–179). Mathison admits that Paul and other New Testament writers seemed to teach that Christ was coming soon and that the end of the age was near (201–202). Then Mathison says that there is nothing in the New Testament “that even remotely suggests hyper-preterism” (205, 213). Our question to Mathison is not when, but how can these things be?
Mathison undertakes to evaluate and dismiss the preterist position while he himself is uncertain as to how to interpret the verses that “seem” to support preterism (but at the same time do not even “remotely suggest” preterism). Mathison’s particular beliefs are a matter of opinion and debate, because according to Mathison, who can know with any certainty what such terms as “near” and “soon” and “this generation” and “some of you standing here” really mean? There are many possible interpretations.
Mathison should consider that his eschatological particulars (the time texts) are vague and uncertain because his eschatological universals (the physical and yet-future second coming, resurrection, and judgment) are askew. If we all were to agree and stand “shoulder to shoulder” (155) on the universal that eschatology is all about the fall of the Soviet Union, the result would be that our interpretation of a myriad of verses would become a “difficult problem” (Mathison’s term).  Mathison’s quandary vividly illustrates the centuries-old problem with futurism. Two or three flawed universals have made a vast multitude of particulars unfathomable.
. . . [O]rthodox Christianity was characterized by two eschatological doctrines: the future return of Christ to judge mankind and the future bodily resurrection of all men for judgment. . . . [A]part from these two doctrines, there was nothing approaching consensus for the first four centuries [of church history].[2]
This problem is alive and well today, as Mathison’s multi-authored book demonstrates. Mathison uses wild understatement when he says of the authors of WSTTB: “ . . . [T]he contributors to this volume do not completely agree in their interpretation of every eschatological text” (155).  The fact is that all seven of the contributors to Mathison’s volume do not agree at all on any (or at least virtually any) eschatological doctrine except the doctrine “that the second coming of Jesus Christ, the general resurrection, and the Last Judgment are yet to come” (155). Mathison can call that “shoulder-to-shoulder” agreement, but it is not impressive. Agreement on only a few points out of a myriad merely indicates that those few points are wrong.
It is more than difficult to understand how these authors can portray their historical positions as unified on these points when between their two systems (partial preterism and amillennialism) two contradictory propositions emerge when you examine the particulars – that is the  passages that are used to arrive at a futurist position for these three events:
1)      Partial Preterism – Imminence and fulfillment is accepted, Christ appeared a second time at the end of the old covenant age, there was a spiritual, corporate, covenantal judgment and resurrection of the living and dead which was attended by a passing of the old creation and arrival of the new in AD 70 in such passages as these: Daniel 12:1-4; Matthew 5:17-18, 13:39-43, 24-25; Acts 1:11; Romans 8:18, 13:11-12; 1 Peter 4:5-7; 2 Peter 3; Revelation 1-22; Hebrews 8:13, 9:26-28,[3] 10:37.
And yet we are also told that this proposition is true –
2)       Classic Amillennialism – The NT only teaches one coming of Christ, general judgment and resurrection of the living and dead attended by the restoration of creation at the end of the age.
How can these things be indeed?  Obviously both of these propositions cannot be true at the same time unless full preterism is true and accepted. Allow me to use two particular passages in connection with my testimony on how I became a full preterist which illustrates the problem the authors of WSTTB have with their so called “shoulder to shoulder” unity.  One day I was reading Reformed amillennial and partial preterist books while also studying Matthew 24-25 and comparing it with 1 Thessalonians 4-5 in my dorm room at the Master’s College.  I concluded that the partial preterist was accurate in teaching that the coming of Christ in Matthew 24-25 was fulfilled in AD 70 spiritually using apocalyptic language and that the amillennialist was also accurate in that Paul was drawing from Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse and that there is only one “the parousia” of Christ in the NT.  Therefore “orthodoxy” was teaching me that 1  Thessalonians 4-5 was the same coming of Christ described by Jesus in Matthew 24-25.  But since the futurist errs on the nature of the resurrection assuming it is biological and at the end of time, the readers of WSTTB are forced into a contradictory “either or” situation on passages such as these when the truth is a “both and.”  I think one can see the problem the authors of WSTTB are trying to sweep under the rug when it comes to how they can “unify” in teaching that the Second Coming is still future when the particulars of what they are each saying on the given texts and how they relate to each other teach otherwise.
The choice is simple.  Either one continues propagating the myth that these two propositions within the futurist paradigm do not lead to a contradiction, or accept the organic development of full preterism which unites them in seeing that these events were fulfilled in AD 70 when Christ came (once a “second time”) invisibly to close the old covenant age dissolving the elements of that world while establishing the new.
It is ironic that the title of Mathison’s book is When Shall These Things Be?  Not only is there no consensus among the authors as to the answer to that very question, but Mathison himself (the only author who attempts to answer the question) fails to arrive at an unequivocal and decisive answer. Within a span of six pages (177–182), Mathison tacitly admits that the question is a problem for futurism, and offers seven or eight possible “solutions.”[4]
If we were to apply Mathison’s method in eschatological matters to all other areas of life, we would be certain of nothing; we would all be postmodernists. The truth would become unknowable. Mathison himself, in his book The Shape of Sola Scriptura, teaches that “clear” and “firm scriptural proof for every article of faith” is a “necessity.”[5]
Yet in WSTTB, Mathison demonstrates with his plethora of “possible interpretations” that he lacks “clear” and “firm” scriptural proof either for futurism or against preterism. Nevertheless, he feels at liberty to anathematize us for our preterist challenge to futurism (213).
Mathison claims that Christ died to leave the church, for 2,000 years and counting, in an “evil age.” As my editor has said, “Joy to the world!” Postmillennialists such as Marcellus Kik and Keith Mathison have produced not so much an Eschatology of Victory or An Eschatology of Hope, as a “sick” eschatology, because, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12). Preterism will stand the test of time; and as godly men embrace it and teach it, it will bring healing to the “eschatological schizophrenia” of Mathison et al, and to the eschatological division within the church as a whole.
Interestingly, Gentry and Mathison in their books pit old school dispensationalism against modern day progressives as a “House Divided” that “cannot stand” unless they move more toward covenant theology.  And yet we have documented their “House Divided” approach which equally “cannot stand” unless full Preterism is embraced to “bridge the gap.”  And since they also exhort progressives such as Pastor John MacArthur in his/their changes which are moving closer and closer to covenant theology, we too applaud Gentry and Mathison for coming closer and closer to full Preterism in what they have written since WSTTB.  If a five point Calvinist and progressive dispensationalist such as MacArthur can be seen as “inconsistent,” holding to a “compromised” position, or being content in being a stepping stone for others to come into covenant theology, then full preterists can view Gentry and Mathison’s writings as such in their moves towards full preterism.
If not why not? As a Reformed believer, dear reader, you know that there is no middle ground between Arminianism and Calvinism. You may have tried at one time to say that you were neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian. Or you may have acknowledged that the Bible teaches Calvinism, but you rejected the teaching because you were troubled by its implications. Or you may have even been a closet Calvinist for years. Though the road was perhaps difficult, you eventually embraced the doctrines of grace, and now you know there is no compromise position between the two doctrines.
Many Reformed believers today are having the same experience
with the doctrine of preterism. They are learning that it is also a hard
pill to swallow and that it is nevertheless the doctrine of Scripture. They
are learning that it represents “the whole counsel of God” in the area of
eschatology. After we are confronted with biblical preterism, we may
try to straddle the fence, but there is truly no middle ground. Just as
R.C. Sproul (Sr.) would consider a four-point Calvinist to be in reality a
“confused Arminian,” more and more futurists, on their way to biblical
preterism, are beginning to see that partial preterism is just “confused
futurism.” There is no biblical basis for “partial preterism” even as there
is no biblical basis for “partial Calvinism.” This is why partial preterism
invariably leads to full preterism. This is why Keith Mathison and Ken
Gentry have both come closer to “hyper-preterism” since they wrote
WSTTB. Mathison now believes that the prophecy of the sheep and
the goats in Matthew 25 was fulfilled in AD 70 and Gentry now believes
that the resurrection in Daniel 12:2-3 was fulfilled in AD 70.
 
 


[1] Mathison, Postmillennialism, 111 (emphasis added)
[2] Postmillennialism, 33
[3] Milton Terry wrote of Hebrews 9:26-28, “The ‘end of the age’ means the close of the epoch or age—that is, the Jewish age or dispensation which was drawing nigh, as our Lord frequently intimated. All those passages that speak of ‘the end,’ ‘the end of the age,’ or ‘the ends of the ages,’ refer to the same consummation, and always as nigh at hand.” “…the writer [to the Hebrews] regarded the incarnation of Christ as taking place near the end of the aeon, or dispensational period. To suppose that he meant that it was close upon the end of the world, or the destruction of the material globe, would be to make him write false history as well as bad grammar. It would not be true in fact; for the world has already lasted longer since the incarnation than the whole duration of the Mosaic economy, from the exodus to the destruction of the temple. It is futile, therefore, to say that the ‘end of the age’ may mean a lengthened period, extending from the incarnation to our times, and even far beyond them. That would be an aeon, and not the close of an aeon. The aeon of which our Lord was speaking was about to close in a great catastrophe; and a catastrophe is not a protracted process, but a definitive and culminating act.” Milton S. Terry, Biblical HERMENEUTICS A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, 441-442.
[4] Ken Gentry, in another book, gave a decisive interpretation of Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question: “Christ’s teaching here is extremely important to redemptive history. He is responding to the question of His disciples regarding when the end of the age (Gk., aion) will occur (24:3). In essence, His full answer is: when the Romans lay waste the temple (vv. 6 and 15 anticipate this) and pick apart Jerusalem (v. 28).” Thomans Ice, Kenneth Gentry, The Great Tribulation Past or Future? Two Evangelicals Debate the Question (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1999), 58.
[5] Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001), 32
 
 
 

 

House Divided Chapter Four The NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan Part 13 What About Hymenaeus and Philetus 2 Timothy 2:17-18?

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Four
The Eschatological Madness of Mathison or How Can These Things Be?
Part 13 – What About Hymenaeus and Philetus 2 Timothy 2:17-18?

Michael J. Sullivan

Copyright 2009 and 2013 – All rights reserved.  No part of this  book (or article) may be reproduced in any form without permission  in writing from the publisher or author of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing  or Michael J. Sullivan), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical  articles or reviews.  

2 Timothy 2:17–18

I recently received an email and phone call from an elder in a church who was secretly placed under church discipline and then excommunicated for studying the preterist view of Bible prophecy. He and his family were told that their salvation was in question unless they repented of studying (let alone holding to) this position. The source material that was used against them was When Shall These Things Be?, and the Bible text that was used to anathematize them was 2 Timothy 2:17–18. Apparently the eldership of the church did not see the irony. The editor of When Shall These Things Be? concedes that 2 Timothy 2:18 “cannot” be used even to “criticize” preterists, much less anathematize them, because according to Mathison, it may very well be that “the resurrection” of 2 Timothy 2:18 truly did take place in AD 70:

. . . [2 Timothy 2:1–18] cannot be used to criticize hyper-preterism until . . . [it can be] demonstrated from other texts that nothing of the sort occurred in A.D. 70. (194)

This is quite an admission from a man who says that hyper-preterism is “a much different religion” than Christianity (213). What Bible verses can Mathison use, other than 2 Timothy 2:17–18, to brand preterism as a different religion? Answer: There are no other verses. Without 2 Timothy 2:17–18, Mathison doesn’t have a biblical leg to stand on in his condemnation of preterists. All he has are the baseless words of those, like himself, who have set themselves up to condemn us based solely on the assumption that our rejection of futurism is a damnable error.

We agree with Mathison that 2 Timothy 2:17–18 cannot be used to criticize us. But we must go further than this. Far from being an anti-preterist passage, 2 Timothy 2:17–18 is actually a condemnation of the implications of futurism. Allow me to explain. First of all, Hymenaeus and Philetus were Judaizers. They were of a class of deceivers who taught Jewish “myths” and “genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:4; Titus 1:4), and were self-appointed “teachers of the Law” (1 Tim. 1:7). They taught believers to abstain from foods (1 Tim. 4:3), no doubt using the Levitical dietary laws as a basis of their teaching.

It is because Hymenaeus and Philetus were Judaizers that Paul compared them to “Jannes and Jambres” (2 Tim. 3:8). According to ancient historians, Jannes and Jambres were Egyptian magicians who challenged Moses’ authority in Egypt. Like Jannes and Jambres, Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching the strange doctrines of “Egypt” (Rev. 11:8), and were challenging Paul’s gospel-authority, attempting to deceive Christians into believing that God’s new wine (the new covenant land of promise) could be contained within the old, “Egyptian” wineskins of the old covenant world.

Likewise in 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul connects Hymenaeus and Philetus to the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16:5, 26.[1] Korah had led hundreds of the sons of Israel to challenge Moses’ authority. As God had destroyed Korah and his followers in the wilderness, so God was “about to judge” (2 Timothy 4:1) and destroy the Judaizers Hymenaeus and Philetus and others like them (cf. Heb. 3:16–19).

According to the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus, because Jerusalem and the temple still stood (in about AD 67) after the resurrection had allegedly already taken place, it irresistibly followed that “the sons according to the flesh” were now the heirs of the eternal kingdom and that Paul’s Jew-Gentile gospel of grace was a lie. The blasphemous error of Hymenaeus and Philetus was that the world of the Mosaic covenant would remain forever established after the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets had taken place and the new heavens and new earth (“the resurrection”) had arrived.

This “Hymenaean” heresy is the diametric opposite of preterism.  According to preterism, the old covenant came to an eternal and irrevocable termination in “the resurrection,” when all things were fulfilled in AD 70. There is absolutely no theological connection between preterism and Hymenaeus’ blasphemous lie of an everlasting “ministration of death.”

However, there is a clear connection between the heresy of Hymenaeus and the implications of futurism: If “the Law and the Prophets” are not fulfilled today, and “heaven and earth” have not passed away, and the jots and tittles of the Law have not passed away, and all things are not yet fulfilled, as futurism says, then logically and scripturally, the Law of Moses remains unfulfilled and “imposed” to this day (Matt. 5:17–19; Heb. 8:13; 9:10). This implication of futurism is exactly what the Judaizers, Hymenaeus and Philetus, taught when they said the resurrection was already past in AD 67.

As we have seen on virtually every page of WSTTB, Mathison and his co-authors are in conflict over a multitude of eschatological passages.  It comes as no surprise that they are in conflict even in regard to how or even if the Bible anathematizes preterists. And it is more than ironic that the one passage in all of Scripture that can conceivably be perceived as decisively anathematizing preterists is in reality applicable to the implications of futurism.[2] Selah.

Partial Preterist Mr. Gary North, has said that if one side of the debate ceases to respond to the others arguments then the one who has responded last (thus silencing the other) in essence has won the debate (my paraphrase).   He has also written of dispensational scholars and their inability to keep up with postmillennial works and critiques, “Like a former athlete who dies of a heart attack at age 52 from obesity and lack of exercise, so did dispensational theology depart from this earthly veil of tears.  Dispensational theologians got out of shape, and were totally unprepared for the killer marathon of 1988.” (Greg L. Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., HOUSE DIVIDED THE BREAK-UPOF DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY (Tyler, TX:  Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), Publishers Foreword, xx.).  In the same book DeMar claims that “Any theological position divided against itself is laid waste” and “shall not stand” and is guilty of “Theological Schizophrenia” (Ibid. 349-350).  Apparently Mr. Mathison was not prepared for the killer marathon of 2009 and since that time has been too busy engorging himself from the profits P&R provided him and is simply too scared and out of shape to open our book let alone read and respond to my critique and response to him?  And we document the “House Divided” “Theological Schizophrenia” and contradictory approach Reformed eschatology has sought to use against us let alone the contradictions (and yet at the same time progressive views moving towards Full Preterism) that are within Mathison’s writings alone.

Therefore, I have decided to post my chapter response to his online (in small parts) in hopes that both the Futurist and the Full Preterist communities will contact him for an official response.  If no response continues to come, then I will allow him to be judged by the same standard that his own postmillennial partial preterist colleagues have set up, and accept that he is unable to respond and has lost our debate.

 


[1] William Hendriksen; Simon J. Kistemaker: New Testament Commentary:  Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 268.
[2] For more on 2 Timothy 2:17–18, see David Green’s response to “Strimple Argument #1” in chapter seven of this book.

House Divided Chapter Four NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan – The Millennium Revelation 20

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

 
Chapter Four
The Eschatological Madness of Mathison or How Can These Things Be?

The Millennium Revelation 20
Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2009 and 2013 – All rights reserved.  No part of this book (or article) may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher or author of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing or Michael J. Sullivan), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. 
Millennium
Mathison writes: “ . . . [T]he hyper-preterist interpretations of the millennium fail to take seriously the long-term time text involved. . . . When the word thousand is used in Scripture, it refers either to a literal thousand or to an indefinite, but very large, number” (209).
Response:  
Psalm 50:10 is often cited, usually by postmillennialists, to teach that “a thousand” symbolizes literally “many thousands or millions.” For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. (Ps. 50:10)
Postmillennialists reason that God owns the cattle on every hill; therefore “a thousand hills” symbolizes or represents “many thousands or millions of hills.” Thus, they reason, we are led by Scripture to interpret the “thousand years” in Revelation 20 to mean “many thousands or millions of years.”
That reasoning sounds solid at first glance. However, the context of Psalm 50:10 does not lead us to a principle that a symbolic “thousand” always signifies “many thousands.” It leads us to the principle that a symbolic “thousand” signifies “fullness.” The “thousand” of Psalm 50:10 is interpreted for us two verses later:
The world is Mine, and the fullness thereof. (Ps. 50:12b)
In Psalm 90:4, a “thousand years” is as “yesterday” and as “a watch in the night.” In 2 Peter 3:8, a “thousand years” is as one “day.” In those verses, a “thousand” (and “yesterday” and “a watch” and a “day”) is used to teach us that to God, a small piece of time is no different than a fullness of time. (Compare Job 7:7; Ps. 39:5; 90:2; 144:4; Heb. 13:8; Jms. 4:14.) Thus in Psalm 105:8, a “thousand” corresponds with “forever”: He has remembered His covenant forever, the word that he commanded to a thousand generations. (Ps. 105:8)
In scriptural usage, a symbolic “thousand” can be likened to “one” (day / yesterday / a watch in the night), or used in reference to millions of hills, or to eternity (“forever”). A “thousand” can be likened unto or used to represent a number lesser or greater than a literal thousand. Only its context can determine its literal numerical meaning, but the basic idea that is communicated by the number is “fullness.” As G. K. Beale wrote, “The primary point of the thousand years is probably not a figurative reference to a long time . . .”[1]
How one interprets the thousand years in Revelation 20 depends on one’s eschatological framework. The passage does not interpret itself, but must be interpreted by the overall eschatology of Scripture. Within the preterist interpretive framework, the biblical-eschatological context of Revelation 20 should lead us to interpret the “thousand years” to signify the time of the Christological filling up of all things (Eph. 1:10; 4:10). That time was from the Cross of Christ to the Parousia of Christ in AD 70. That was the time during which “the [spiritual] death” which came through Adam and was magnified through “the law” was in process of being destroyed. The literal timeframe of the “thousand years” was roughly forty years.
Mathison admits that he does not know if there were any rabbis who used the number 1,000 to symbolize forty years (210). Reformed theologian G. K. Beale tells us that some Jews considered the length of the intermediate messianic reign to be forty years. He also states that one Jewish tradition made an anti-type connection between Adam’s lifespan (almost 1,000 years) and a reign of Messiah for a (possibly symbolic) thousand years.[2] Many Christians have attempted to make this connection and have also paralleled the thousand years of 2 Peter 3:8 with John’s thousand years in Revelation 20:2–6.
Adam falling short of the 1,000-year lifespan by 70 years (Gen. 5:5) may represent his being created a mortal being and perishing in sin outside of God’s presence. If this is the case, then it is more than reasonable that the number 1,000 took on the symbolism and representation of Christ’s and the church’s victory over Death in contrast to Adamic man’s vain existence apart from God’s salvation (Eccl. 6:6).
Some Evangelicals and Reformed theologians along with some preterists such as Milton Terry do not understand the long lifespans in the early chapters of Genesis to be literal.[3] They believe that the lifespans were symbolic and contained numerological elements. But even if Adam’s lifespan was a literal 930 years, this does not exclude an anti-typical, symbolic 1,000 years in Revelation 20.
When Messiah came as “the last Adam,” His reign in and through the church for a symbolic thousand years brought the church not to the dust of the earth separated from God’s presence, but to the Tree of Life and into the very presence of God (Rev. 20–22:12). Through faith in and union with Christ as the Last Adam (the Tree of Life and New Creation), Christians have achieved what Adam could not. The church was clothed with “immortality”; it attained unto the “fullness” of life in AD 70; and it will never die for the aeons of the aeons (2 Cor. 1:20; 1 Cor. 15:45–53; Rev. 21–22; Jn. 11:26–27).
All of the authors of WSTTB understand that the Second Coming is the event that brings the millennium to its consummation. However, the only future coming of Jesus discussed in the book of Revelation is the one that would take place shortly (Rev. 3:11; 22:6–7, 10–12, 20). Both Mathison and Gentry concede that this imminent coming of Christ took place in AD 70. But then they err in assuming that the imminent coming of Jesus in Revelation was not His “actual second coming” (182).
To conclude my section on the millennium of Revelation 20, please consider the following exegetical, orthodox, and historical points:

  1. Kenneth Gentry informs us that the book of Revelation is about things which were past, present, and “about to be” fulfilled in John’s day (Rev. 1:19, YLT). There is no exegetical evidence that Revelation 20 does not fall within these inspired parameters.
  2. As G.K. Beale has said, the symbol of the thousand years does not have to be taken as describing a long period of time (i.e., thousands of years).
  3. It has also been acknowledged by Reformed theologians that many Rabbis believed that the period of Messiah was to be a transitionary stage between “this age/world and the age/ world to come.” These Rabbis (such as R. Adiba), understood this transition period to be forty years, based upon how long the Israelites were in the wilderness before inheriting the land. This type/anti-type understanding is developed for us in the book of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 3-4; 10:25, 37; 11—13:14, YLT). And as we have noted from Reformed partial preterists such as Joel McDurmon and Gary DeMar, it is within the realm of Reformed orthodoxy to believe that Jesus’ and Paul’s “this age/world” was the old covenant age, and that “the last days” were the days of transition between the old covenant age and the new covenant age (AD 30 – 70).
  4. Reformed partial preterists such as Keith Mathison, Kenneth Gentry, and James Jordan teach that the content of Revelation 1-19 and 21-22 was fulfilled by AD 70, at which time there was a judgment and resurrection of the dead and arrival of the new creation. And amillennialists such as Simon Kistemaker teach that Revelation 20:5–15 recapitulates the same judgment and consummation scenes that are depicted in chapters 1–19 and 21–22. Full preterists hold to both of these Reformed and “orthodox” positions in interpreting the bookof Revelation.
  5. In criticizing the premillennial view, which often seeks to isolate Revelation 20 from the rest of the New Testament, amillennialists and many postmillennialists hold that Revelation 20 falls within the “already and not yet” of the “last days” period in the New Testament, and that this transition period is depicted in the parable of the wheat and tares, or in Matthew 24–25. But as we have seen, it is “orthodox” to believe the “last days” ended with the old covenant age in AD 70, and that the harvest/gathering and coming of Christ in Matthew 13 and 24–25 was fulfilled by AD 70.
  6. If it is true that a) the coming of Christ in Matthew 24 and 25 is referring to the AD 70 judgment, as Mathison and other partial preterists are now proposing, and if it is true that b) John’s version of Matthew 24-25 is found in the book of Revelation, and if it is true that c) Matthew 24:27-31 — 25:31ff. is descriptive of the one end-of-the-age Second Coming, judgment, and resurrection event (the creedal position), then d) the authors of WSTTB have some explaining to do, because these orthodox doctrines form the “this-generation” fortyyear millennial view of full preterism.
MATTHEW 24-25 REVELATION 20:5-15
Resurrection and judgment Matt. 24:30-31 (cf. Matt. 13:39-43/Dan. 12:2-3) Matt. 25:31-46 (cf.   Matt. 16:27-28) Resurrection and judgment Rev. 20:5-15
De-creation heaven and earth pass/flee Matt. 24:29, 35 (cf. Matt. 5:17-18) De-creation heaven and earth pass/flee Rev. 20:11 (cf. Rev. 6:14; 16:20; 21:1)
Christ on throne to judge Matt. 25:31 God on throne to judge Rev. 20:11
Wicked along with Devil eternally punished Matt. 25:41-46 Wicked along with Devil eternally punished Rev. 20:10, 14-15

7. If it is true that a) the judgment and resurrection of the dead in Daniel 12:1-4, 13 were fulfilled by AD 70 (per Gentry), and if it is true that b) Daniel 12:1-4, 13 is parallel to Revelation 20:5-15 (classic amillennial view), then c) once again the authors of WSTTB have some explaining to do, in that these orthodox views form the “this-generation” forty-year millennial view of full preterism.

DANIEL   12:1-2 REVELATION   20:5-15
Only those whose names are written in the book would be delivered/saved from eternal condemnation Dan. 12:1-2 Only those whose names are written in the book would be delivered/saved from the   lake of fire Rev. 20:12-15
This is the time for the resurrection and judgment   of the dead Dan. 12:1-2 This is the time for the resurrection and judgment   of the dead Rev. 20:5-15

Conclusion:

Therefore, the reader should be able to discern that the full preterist view of the millennium is: 1) consistent with the teaching of Revelation, 2) falls within the “orthodox” views the Reformed church, 3) is in harmony with the analogy of Scripture, and 4) has historical support from Rabbis who saw a forty-year transition period between the two ages. Our view on the millennium is exegetically sound and orthodox. It is not as “difficult” as Mathison attempts to portray it.
[1] . G. K. Beale, The New International Greek Testament Commentary: The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 1018.
[2] . Ibid., 1018–1019.
[3] . Carol A. Hill, Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis (http://www. asa3.org/aSA/PSCF/2003/PSCF12–03Hill pdf); Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 62.
 
 

House Divided Chapter Four The NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan – All Israel Will Be Saved Romans 11:26

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

 
Chapter Four:  The Eschatological Madness of Mathison or How Can These Things Be? 
All Israel Will be Saved Romans 11:26
Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2009 and 2013 – All rights reserved.  No part of this book (or article) may be reproduced in any form without permission
in writing from the publisher or author of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing or Michael J. Sullivan), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. 

All Israel will be Saved
Mathison argues: In Romans 11:25–26, Paul seems to be saying that ethnic Israel as a people will be saved. This has not happened yet (199–200).
Response:
There is a great debate between Amillennialists and Postmillennialists on the salvation of “all Israel” in Romans 11:25–26, as can be seen in the opposing views of Gentry and Strimple.[1] Postmillennialists such as Gentry and Mathison argue that “all Israel” being saved refers to a mass conversion of ethnic Jews before Christ comes in our future. Amillennialists understand “all Israel” being saved to refer to the salvation of the church as the new Israel of God.
As for the view that “all Israel” refers to ethnic Jews in our future, we can immediately know that this view is incorrect. With the passing of the old covenant in AD 70, there is no covenantal Israel other than the united Jew-Gentile church. The things of the old order passed away. So the covenant promises in Romans 11 cannot refer to the modern nation of Israel or to the modern Jewish race or community. The only “Israel” in the New Testament that was to be cleansed from sin is the Jew-Gentile church, the body of Israel’s Messiah. This is the “Israel” (“all” of it) that entered into the Holiest of Holies in AD 70 (Heb. 9:8). Let us briefly summarize Paul’s argument 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’s how:

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. 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 with the believing Gentiles who had been grafted into historic Israel. The consummation of this process took place in the Parousia of Christ in AD 70, according to the promises made to the fathers. (Rom. 11:26) That is when Israel died, and was raised up a new, transformed Israel. That 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 thus that all Israel was saved.

Mathison neglects to interact with other partial preterists such as DeMar and Jordan who teach that “all Israel” was saved by AD 70 and that covenantally, there no longer remain “ethnic” Jews after AD 70.[2] Why was not the view of DeMar and Jordan one of the many “possible interpretations” within Mathison’s eschatology of uncertainty?
It has now been 4 years since I have responded to Keith A. Mathison’s chapter The Eschatological Time Texts in the NT” in our book House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be?  For me Mathison’s excuse for not responding (“I have been too busy”) has expired.
Partial Preterist Mr. Gary North, has said that if one side of the debate ceases to respond to the others arguments then the one who has responded last (thus silencing the other) in essence has won the debate (my paraphrase).   He has also written of dispensational scholars and their inability to keep up with postmillennial works and critiques, “Like a former athlete who dies of a heart attack at age 52 from obesity and lack of exercise, so did dispensational theology depart from this earthly veil of tears.  Dispensational theologians got out of shape, and were totally unprepared for the killer marathon of 1988.” (Greg L. Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., HOUSE DIVIDED THE BREAK-UPOF DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY (Tyler, TX:  Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), Publishers Foreword, xx.).  In the same book DeMar claims that “Any theological position divided against itself is laid waste” and “shall not stand” and is guilty of “Theological Schizophrenia” (Ibid. 349-350).  Apparently Mr. Mathison was not prepared for the killer marathon of 2009 and since that time has been too busy engorging himself from the profits P&R provided him and is simply too scared and out of shape to open our book let alone read and respond to my critique and response to him?  And we document the “House Divided” “Theological Schizophrenia” and contradictory approach Reformed eschatology has sought to use against us let alone the contradictions (and yet at the same time progressive views moving towards Full Preterism) that are within Mathison’s writings alone.
Therefore, I have decided to post my chapter response to his online (in small parts) in hopes that both the Futurist and the Full Preterist communities will contact him for an official response.  If no response continues to come, then I will allow him to be judged by the same standard that his own postmillennial partial preterist colleagues have set up, and accept that he is unable to respond and has lost our debate.
[1] . Kenneth Gentry, Robert Strimple, Ed. Craig Blaising, Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999), 112–118, 133–142.
[2] . Gary DeMar, All Israel will be saved: Notes on Romans 11:26, American Vision http://americanvision.org/1234/all-israel-will-be-saved-notes-onromans/#.UG3auVGJr3A. James B. Jordan, The Future of Israel Re-examined, July 1991. Biblical Horizons, No. 27 July, 1991
 

House Divided Chapter Four The NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan Part 10 No More Death, Tears and Pain Revelation 21

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Four
The Eschatological Madness of Mathison or How Can These Things Be? 
No More Death, Tears and Pain Revelation 21
Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2009 and 2013 – All rights reserved.  No part of this book (or article) may be reproduced in any form without permission
in writing from the publisher or author of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing or Michael J. Sullivan), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. 

Death, Tears, and Pain
Mathison and Kistemaker and all other futurists reason that because death, tears, mourning, crying, and pain still exist today, Revelation 21:4 must not be fulfilled (196–197, 203, 250–251).
Response:
In Revelation 21:4 (YLT) we read that “the death shall not be any more.” Every Reformed commentator agrees that this verse, along with 1 Corinthians 15:54–55, is describing a future-to-us end of “the death,” and that “the death” refers to the death that came through Adam in Genesis 2:17. The Douay-Rheims translation renders that verse: “But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day so ever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.” The Good News Translation makes it clear when “the death” would take place: “. . . except the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad. You must not eat the fruit
of that tree; if you do, you will die the same day.
The death” that came through Adam the very day he sinned was spiritual and not biological. (See David Green’s discussion of this verse in his response to Strimple.) The abolition of biological death was never the purpose of Christ’s redemptive work.   In 1 Corinthians 15:55–57 (YLT) we read, “Where, O Death, thy sting? Where, O Hades, thy victory?’ And the sting of the death is the sin, and the power of the sin the law; and to God—thanks, to Him who is giving us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Whenever Paul uses the definite article “the” in front of “law,” he is referring to Israel’s old covenant Torah. As 1 Corinthians 15:57 indicates, the Law was not abolished at the cross; but it was “soon” to disappear, through the power of the Cross, at Christ’s Parousia in the end of the old covenant age (Heb. 8:13–10:37).
Because “the death” is spiritual death (alienation from God) realized through the commandment-breaker Adam and amplified or increased under the Law of Moses (the old covenant), we can see how God gave His elect the victory over “the death” in the end of the old covenant age of condemnation. The fact that men die physically is in no way evidence that the “spiritual conflict” of “the death” continues for the church throughout the new covenant age.
God’s people under the old covenant, unlike God’s people today, experienced covenantal and spiritual death (cf. Hosea 13:1–14; Isa. 25–27; Eze. 37). What made physical death dreaded for the saints under the old covenant was that they died with the awareness that their sins had not yet been taken away. In the new covenant creation, Jesus promises that whether we biologically die in Him or biologically live in Him, we “never die” (John 11:25–26). This was not the case before Christ.
Thus under the old covenant, the residents of Jerusalem wept because they did not have a lasting atonement or eternal redemption. They longed and groaned for the day of Messiah’s salvation. Until that day would come, they knew their sins were not put away (Heb. 9:26–28; 10:4, 11). The promise that there would be no more mourning or crying or pain does not refer to any and every kind of mourning, crying, and pain. It refers to mourning, crying, and pain concerning God’s people being dead in sin under the condemnation, curse, and slavery of God’s law. That sad Adamic state is no more. In the Son, God’s people are “free indeed” (Jn. 8:36).
As Athanasius wrote in his Festal Letters, iv. 3, “For when death reigned, ‘sitting down by the rivers of Babylon, we wept,’ and mourned, because we felt the bitterness of captivity; but now that death and the kingdom of the devil is abolished, everything is entirely filled with joy and gladness.”
Under the old covenant, when David or the nation was exiled from Zion and God’s city and temple, there was much inner pain, weeping, and bondage that followed (2 Sam. 15:30; Ps. 137; Isa. 14:3; Isa. 22:4–5; Jer. 9:1; 13:17; Jer. 22:9–10; Lam. 1:16; Joel 2:17). Under the new covenant, the heavenly country and Jerusalem are not subject to being made desolate or shaken by invading armies as was the old (Isa. 62:4; Heb. 12:27–28). The concept of the gates of the New Jerusalem always being open, even at night (Isa. 60:11; Rev. 21:25), is not merely a picture of evangelism; it is also a picture of security for the residents of God’s City. The believer, through faith in Christ, is the new covenant creation and it is impossible for him to be exiled from the City (2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 3:12; 22:12). The new covenant believer is characterized as one whose weeping has ended, because God has forever taken away his sin and united Himself with him (Isa. 60:20; 65:14, 18–19; Jn. 17:21–23).
Christians in the new covenant world do not shed tears in agony and cry out to God to save them from the Adamic Death of Sin, as Jesus Himself did on our behalf (Heb. 5:7). “The sting [pain] of the Death” cannot harm us anymore (1 Cor. 15:56) because the power of Sin has been removed through Jesus, the Law-Fulfiller who clothes us and indwells us. Now we live and reign with Christ in the new covenant world, wherein dwells the Righteousness of God.
It is again noteworthy that Mathison avoids any mention of Paul’s declaration that Satan would be “crushed” “shortly” (Rom. 16:20) in his work on Postmillennialism and in his chapter addressing the time texts in WSTTB. The reason for this is that the majority consensus among all brands of commentators is that the “crushing” of Satan in Romans 16:20 is a direct reference to the final “crushing” of Satan as predicted in Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 20. Manifestly, the judgment and wrath that came in AD 70 was not merely “a” “minor” judgment. It was “the” judgment. It was the crushing of Satan.
But Kistemaker and Mathison would challenge us with the empirical reality that Death and Satan could not have met their ultimate demise in AD 70 because, after all, just look around and you will clearly see that people still physically die and that there are wars and murders taking place all over the world today. Are these clear evidence that Satan and his demonic hordes are active in our world?
There were certainly times that Satan moved men, such as Judas, to commit sins. But the Bible does not teach us that this was ever the norm. James tells us that wars and fights come from within men (Jms. 4:1) instead of from Satan and demons. Satan’s primary purpose has come to an end: He can no longer function as the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10), because Christ came out of Zion a second time at the end of the old covenant age to put away Sin once and for all for His church (Acts 20:28; Rom. 11:26–27; 13:11–12; Heb. 9:26–28).
*** It has now been 4 years since I have responded to Keith A. Mathison’s chapter The Eschatological Time Texts in the NT” in our book House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be?  For me Mathison’s excuse for not responding (“I have been too busy”) has expired.
Partial Preterist Mr. Gary North, has said that if one side of the debate ceases to respond to the others arguments then the one who has responded last (thus silencing the other) in essence has won the debate (my paraphrase).   He has also written of dispensational scholars and their inability to keep up with postmillennial works and critiques, “Like a former athlete who dies of a heart attack at age 52 from obesity and lack of exercise, so did dispensational theology depart from this earthly veil of tears.  Dispensational theologians got out of shape, and were totally unprepared for the killer marathon of 1988.” (Greg L. Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., HOUSE DIVIDED THE BREAK-UPOF DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY (Tyler, TX:  Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), Publishers Foreword, xx.).  In the same book DeMar claims that “Any theological position divided against itself is laid waste” and “shall not stand” and is guilty of “Theological Schizophrenia” (Ibid. 349-350).  Apparently Mr. Mathison was not prepared for the killer marathon of 2009 and since that time has been too busy engorging himself from the profits P&R provided him and is simply too scared and out of shape to open our book let alone read and respond to my critique and response to him?  And we document the “House Divided” “Theological Schizophrenia” and contradictory approach Reformed eschatology has sought to use against us let alone the contradictions (and yet at the same time progressive views moving towards Full Preterism) that are within Mathison’s writings alone.
Therefore, I have decided to post my chapter response to his online (in small parts) in hopes that both the Futurist and the Full Preterist communities will contact him for an official response.  If no response continues to come, then I will allow him to be judged by the same standard that his own postmillennial partial preterist colleagues have set up, and accept that he is unable to respond and has lost our debate.

House Divided Chapter Four The NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan The Imminent Liberation of Creation Romans 8:18-23

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Four
The Eschatological Madness of Mathison or How Can These Things Be? 
The Imminent Liberation of Creation Romans 8:18-23

Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2009 and 2013 – All rights reserved.  No part of this book (or article) may be reproduced in any form without permission
in writing from the publisher or author of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing or Michael J. Sullivan), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. 


The Creation Groaning

On pages 196–197, Mathison makes the following argument: The epistles of the New Testament speak of the restoration of creation both as something that has already begun and as something that will be completed only in the future. Paul, for example, explains that “the form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31; cf. 1 Jn. 2:17). Yet, according to Paul, the creation awaits its full deliverance from the effects of sin. . . (Rom. 8:19–25). The full restoration of creation is still future (see Heb. 2:8; 2 Pet. 3:7–13). . . . [R]edemption has to do with more than the spiritual side of creation. God will fully redeem the physical creation as well. Response:  

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Rom. 8:19–22)

John Lightfoot associated the “earnest expectation of the creature”and the “whole creation groaning” with the mind and heart of man, and interpreted this passage as having nothing to do with the planet Earth— not even poetically.

. . . [T]his vanity [or futility] is improperly applied to this vanishing, changeable, dying state of the [physical] creation. For vanity, doth not so much denote the vanishing condition of the outward state, as it doth the inward vanity and emptiness of the mind. The Romans to whom this apostle writes, knew well enough how many and how great predictions and promises it had pleased God to publish by his prophets, concerning gathering together and adopting sons to himself among the Gentiles: the manifestation and production of which sons, the whole Gentile world doth now wait for, as it were, with an out stretched neck.[1]

And again,

The Gentile world shall in time be delivered from the bondage of their sinful corruption, that is, the bondage of their lusts and vile affections, (under which it hath lain for so long a time,) into a noble liberty, such as the sons of God enjoy. If it be inquired how the Gentile world groaned and travailed in pain, let them who expound this of the fabric of the material world tell us how that groaneth and travaileth. They must needs own it to be a borrowed and allusive phrase. But in the sense which we have pitched upon, the very literal construction may be admitted.[2]

Lightfoot is on solid ground here citing 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Corinthians 11:3; and 1 Corinthians 15:33. Not only is there lexical evidence to interpret “vanity,” “corruption,” and “decay” as ethical and moral putrefaction in the heart and mind of man, but contextually the passage has nothing to do with hydrogen or oxygen or squirrels longing for a better day when they won’t get hit by cars.

John Lightfoot not only interpreted the “creation” of Romans 8 to be the creation of men and NOT the physical planet, but he understood the “redemption of the body” to not be a resurrection of physical bodies, but rather, the “mystical body” of the Church.  In his sermon on “Many Mansions” Lightfoot states,

“And of the same body, is his meaning in that obscure and much-mistaken place (Rom. viii.23; “And not only they,” i.e. ‘the whole creation,’ or πασα κτισις, ‘every creature,’ which means no other thing, thatn ‘the Gentile or heathen world;’ “not only they groan to come into the evangelical liberty of the children of God,–but we, also, of the Jewish nation, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting for the redemption,–to wit, the adoption of our body:” we wait for the redeeming and adopting of the Gentiles, to make up our mystical body.” (cf. https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/lightfoot/vol06.pdf… pp. 322-323).

Clearly Lightfoot understood the “creation” to mean the creation of men and not the planet earth and “redemption of the body” to be the mystical body of the Jew/Gentile Church and not an individual physical body.

“The sufferings of this present time.” As much as I can relate to R.C. Sproul Jr. losing his hair and gaining some weight around his midsection (WSTTB, ix), Paul’s mention of the “sufferings” and “the redemption of the body” have nothing to do with those kinds of issues. The context of the “groaning” of the first-century Christians can be found in the previous chapter. The sufferings Paul has in mind here were eschatological —the birth pains that were to precede Christ’s return in AD 70 (Matt. 24:8; Rom. 8:22). They had to do with the last days persecutions and with the saints of the universal church groaning under the tyranny of Sin and Condemnation under the Law.

For Paul, Sin had produced “death,” but not physical death. Contrary to Mathison’s assertions, “the body,” “death,” and “the flesh” in Romans 5–8 have nothing to do with the idea of men biologically dying as a result of Adam’s sin. Paul’s concern is with corporate-covenantal Death, as even some Reformed theologians teach.[3]   “Bondage,” according to the immediate context, had to do with groaning under the condemnation of the Law (cf. Rom. 7:2, 7, 15).

The “redemption” associated with the coming of the Son of Man in AD 70 entailed much more than a physical flight to the wilderness of Pella, as some commentators have proposed. Appealing to the principle of the analogy of Scripture, John Murray and other Reformed theologians understand Paul in Romans 8 to be speaking of the same “redemption” that Jesus discussed in the Olivet Discourse:
Now in Luke 21:28 . . . [t]his word ‘redemption’ (apolutrosin), when used with reference to the future, has a distinctly eschatological connotation, the final redemption, the consummation of the redemptive process (cf. Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:14; 4:30). Hence analogy would again point to the eschatological complex of events.[4]

The following chart confirms that the “redemption” of Christ’s disciples in the first century in Luke 21:28 was the redemption of “the body” in Romans 8:18–23:

Romans 8 Olivet Discourse & Luke 17
Present sufferings (Rom. 8:17–18) Suffering to come (Matt. 24:9)
Receive and share in Christ’s glory (Rom. 8:17–18) Christ comes in glory (Matt. 24:30)
Glory will be “in” them (Rom. 8:18) Kingdom will be realized “within”at Christ’s return (Lk.17:21–37; 21:27–32)
Redemption and salvation – resurrection (Rom. 8:23–24; cf. 11:15–27; 13:11–12) Redemption and salvation – resurrection(Lk. 21:27–28; Matt. 24:13, 30–31/Matt. 13:39-43)
Birth pains together (Rom. 8:22) Birth pains of the tribulation (Matt. 24:8)
This was “about to” take place (Rom. 8:18) This would all happen in “this generation”(Matt. 24:34)

On page 200 of WSTTB, Mathison expresses willingness to concede that the imminence in Romans 13:11–12 was fulfilled in AD 70. The passage reads:

. . . it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. . . .

But The Reformation Study Bible, of which Mathison is an editor, harmonizes Romans 13:11 with Romans 8:23, correctly teaching that “salvation” in that verse is not merely deliverance from persecution (as Mathison theorizes in WSTTB): “salvation. Here in the sense of future, final redemption (8:23).”[1] The connection between these two passages is made even stronger when we allow the Greek word mello in

Romans 8 to be translated the way it is predominately used in the New Testament: For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory about to be revealed in us. (Rom. 8:18, YLT)

It is more than arbitrary for partial preterists such as Gentry to honor Young’s literal translation of mello in Revelation 1:19 when debating Dispensationalists and Amimmennialists, but then not honor it in Romans 8:18 when debating full preterists. Mello is used in the aorist infinitive in both verses. Gentry writes of mello in Revelation 1:19:

…this term means “be on the point of, be about to.” …According to Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible, Revelation 1:19 reads: “Write the things that thou hast seen, and the things that are, and the things that are about to come [mello] after these things.” The leading interlinear versions of the New Testament concur. This is surely the proper translation of the verse.[2]   …when used with the aorist infinitive — as in Revelation 1:19 — the word’s preponderate usage and preferred meaning is:
“be on the point of, be about to. The same is true when the word is used with the present infinitive, as in the Rev. 3:10.[3] Unfortunately, none of the major translators cited above translates Revelation 1:19 in a literal fashion.[4]

Where is Gentry’s disappointment when it comes to translators not translating Romans 8:18 by the same grammatical standard? It is nowhere to be found, even though there are two other Greek words of imminence (apokaradokia and apekdekomai — “eagerly waiting”) within the immediate context.

At least partial preterist Gary DeMar has tried to be more consistent with a proper translation of mello in Romans 8:18. Citing Robert Young’s Literal Translation of the Bible he writes:
“Whatever the glory is it was ‘about to be revealed’…”[5]

We appreciate the honesty on properly translating mello here as “about to be revealed,” but contextually there is no ambiguity as to what the imminent manifestation of this “glory” was — the liberation of creation from its groaning and bondage, the full adoption of the sons of God, and the “redemption of the body” (vss. 18-23).

Interestingly enough though, according to Gentry and Mathison one of the things that was “about to come after” John wrote Revelation 1:19 was the arrival of the New Jerusalem and New Creation of Revelation 21:1ff. Mathison and Gentry tell us in their other works that the time texts in Revelation point to a near fulfillment of the passing of “the first heaven and earth.” They point out that Revelation 21:1 is referring to the passing of the old covenant “creation” in AD 70 and is a fulfillment of Isaiah 65–66. Gentry even says:

The absence of the sea (Rev. 21:1) speaks of harmony and peace within. In Scripture the sea often symbolizes discord and sin (13:1–2; cf. Isa. 8:7–8; 23:10; 57:20; Jer. 6:23; 46:7; Ezek. 9:10). Christianity offers the opposite: peace with God and among humankind (Luke 2:14; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:12–18; Phil. 4:7, 9).

But then Mathison and Gentry assign an “expanded” meaning to 2 Peter 3, which discusses the same promises in Isaiah 65–66. They suggest that Peter is addressing the geological “elements” of the planet while the Apostle John, referencing the same Old Testament passage, is not.

This is not only arbitrary, it is amazing. If Gentry and Mathison can give prophetic New Testament passages “expanded” meanings to fit their eschatology, then they have surrendered their debate with Dispensationalists, who constantly employ this strategy to force their eschatology upon New Testament passages.

In Mathison’s section on the “Restoration of Creation” (195–197), he appeals to the literal and global beginnings of Genesis 1–3 to point out that preterists have interpreted “the end” in Romans 8 and in the rest of the New Testament in an inaccurate way. But Mathison should be open to considering the interpretations of Genesis 1–3 that are presented by some within the Reformed tradition and by other futurists.

Combined, authors such as Augustine, Milton Terry, David Snoke, Meredith Kline, and dispensationalist John Sailhamer teach the following:

  • Man was created a physical dying creature like all the plant and animal life around him.
  • The physics of the creation did not change after Adam.
  • Genesis 1–2 uses the Hebrew word eretz, which should be translated as “land” or “ground” and not [planet] “earth.”
  • God’s emphases in the early chapters of Genesis are not scientific but theological, emphasizing the origins of sin in the heart and man’s need for the Seed of the woman to redeem him from Sin.

As the theological emphasis in Genesis 1–2 is on the local land of Eden, which is both theologically and geographically tied to Israel’s Promised Land, so too is the emphasis of the New Testament on a Great Commission preached to the nations of Israel and to the Roman Empire with a judgment that would affect the nations of that world.

Both the localized and covenantal judgment in Eden and the one in AD 70 affected and continue to affect all humankind. The introduction of spiritual death (condemnation and alienation from God within the heart and conscience of man through Adam) was overcome by Christ’s death, resurrection, and indwelling presence in AD 70. All men and nations of the world are either inside the new Israel and New Jerusalem or outside her gates — as the gospel continues to bring healing and judgment to the nations today and forever (cf. Rev. 21–22:17).

When we take a combined look at some of the best theologians within the Reformed and Evangelical communities, we find a preterist interpretation of every eschatological de-creation prophecy in the Bible. Combined, John Owen, John Locke, John Lightfoot, John Brown, R.C. Sproul, Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, James Jordan, Peter Leithart, Keith Mathison, Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis, Hank Hanegraaff, and N.T. Wright teach that the passing away of heaven and earth (Matt. 5:17–18; 24:3, 29, 35; 1 Cor. 7:31; II Peter 3; I Jn. 2:17–18; Rev. 21:1) refers to the destruction of the temple or to the civil and religious worlds of men—either Jews or Gentiles; and that the rulers of the old covenant system or world, along with the temple, were the “sun, moon, and stars,” which made up the “heaven and earth” of the world that perished in AD 70.63

These interpretations are, individually considered, “orthodox.” Yet when preterists consolidate the most defensible elements of Reformed eschatology, anti-preterists such as the authors of WSTTB unite in opposition to even some of their own stated views.

*** It has now been 4 years since I have responded to Keith A. Mathison’s chapter The Eschatological Time Texts in the NT” in our book House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be?  For me Mathison’s excuse for not responding (“I have been too busy”) has expired.

Partial Preterist Mr. Gary North, has said that if one side of the debate ceases to respond to the others arguments then the one who has responded last (thus silencing the other) in essence has won the debate (my paraphrase).   He has also written of dispensational scholars and their inability to keep up with postmillennial works and critiques, “Like a former athlete who dies of a heart attack at age 52 from obesity and lack of exercise, so did dispensational theology depart from this earthly veil of tears.  Dispensational theologians got out of shape, and were totally unprepared for the killer marathon of 1988.” (Greg L. Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., HOUSE DIVIDED THE BREAK-UPOF DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY (Tyler, TX:  Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), Publishers Foreword, xx.).  In the same book DeMar claims that “Any theological position divided against itself is laid waste” and “shall not stand” and is guilty of “Theological Schizophrenia” (Ibid. 349-350).  Apparently Mr. Mathison was not prepared for the killer marathon of 2009 and since that time has been too busy engorging himself from the profits P&R provided him and is simply too scared and out of shape to open our book let alone read and respond to my critique and response to him?  And we document the “House Divided” “Theological Schizophrenia” and contradictory approach Reformed eschatology has sought to use against us let alone the contradictions (and yet at the same time progressive views moving towards Full Preterism) that are within Mathison’s writings alone.

Therefore, I have decided to post my chapter response to his online (in small parts) in hopes that both the Futurist and the Full Preterist communities will contact him for an official response.  If no response continues to come, then I will allow him to be judged by the same standard that his own postmillennial partial preterist colleagues have set up, and accept that he is unable to respond and has lost our debate.

 


[1] John Lightfoot, Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, Volume 4 (Hendrickson publications), 157. Lightfoot, Hammond, and Gill understand the “creation” to be referring to Gentiles. “ . . . Crellius (Comm., Para.) explains it as a reference to regenerate Christians and Le Clerc (Supp., NT) refers it particularly to Gentile Christians.” John Locke, The Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke: A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St Paul, Volume 2 (Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1987), 789.
[2] Ibid., 158–159 (emphases added).
[3] Tom Holland, Contours In Pauline Theology (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2004), 85–110. Holland is a Reformed theologian who sees Paul’s “body” of flesh, sin, and death not referring to our physical flesh but to the corporate body of Sin in contrast to the corporate Body of Christ—the church. He counters Gundry’s individualistic views of soma in Paul’s writings.  He also argues for “consistency” in Paul’s use of corporate terms. I recommendthis book to any serious student of Reformed theology.
[4] John Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray 2: Systematic Theology (Banner of Truth Publications, 1977), 389
[5] The Reformation Study Bible, R.C. Sproul General Editor, Keith Mathison Associate Editor (Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries, 2005), 1, 636.
[6] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Beast of Revelation, (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), 23–24.
[7] Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell, (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), 141–142.
[8] Ibid., 141.
[9] Gary DeMar, LastDays MADNESS OBSESSION OF THE MODERN CHURCH, (Powder Springs, GA:  American Vision, 1999), 225.
[10] 61. John Owen, The Works of John Owen, 16 vols. (London: The Bannerof Truth Trust, 1965–68), 9:134–135. John Lightfoot, Commentary on the NewTestament from the Talmud and Hebraica: Matthew – 1 Corinthians, 4 vols. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, [1859], 1989), 3:452, 454. John Brown, Discourses and Sayings of our Lord, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1852] 1990), 1:170. John Locke, The Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke: A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St Paul Volume 2, (NY: Oxford University Press, 1987), 617–618. R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998). Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), 363–365. Kenneth Gentry (contributing author), Four Views on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998), 89. Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church (Powder Springs: GA, 1999), 68–74, 141–154, 191–192. James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes Developing a Biblical View of the World (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, 1998), 269–279. Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis (contributing author) Eschatology in Bible & Theology (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1997), 145–169. Peter J. Leithart, The Promise of His Appearing: An Exposition of Second Peter (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2004). Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism:  An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1999), 114, 157–158. N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 345–346. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 645, n.42. Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 84–86. C. Jonathin Seraiah, The End of All Things: A Defense of the Future (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2002).

House Divided Chapter Four The NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan Part 8 The Rapture 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

 
Chapter Four
The Eschatological Madness of Mathison or How Can These Things Be? 
Part 8 – The Rapture 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2009 and 2013 – All rights reserved.  No part of this
book (or article) may be reproduced in any form without permission
in writing from the publisher or author of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing
or Michael J. Sullivan), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
articles or reviews.
 
 
The Rapture
 
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” (194).
 
Response:
 
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 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”).[1] Mathison decides 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.
 
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.”
 
We can know that Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:14–17 are not
to be interpreted literally (a literal trumpet, etc.) because the Scriptures
tell us elsewhere not to interpret them literally. In Exodus 19 and 20,
the Lord came down in a cloud over Mount Sinai. He spoke with a loud
voice. There was the sound of a loud trumpet. And Moses met the Lord
on Mount Sinai. Then God established His covenant with His people.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that though the trumpet and the voice
of the old covenant were literal, the “trumpet” and the “voice” of the
new covenant are not literal (Heb. 12:18–19). Neither is the mountain
(Mount Zion) literal in the new covenant (Heb. 12:18, 22). Therefore,
neither is the cloud (which descended to cover the mountain) literal in
the new covenant.
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.”
 
1 Thessalonians 4–5 & Matthew 24
 
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord . . . .
(1 Thess. 4:15)
 
Virtually every commentator and cross reference system parallels 1
Thessalonians 4:15–16 with Matthew 24:30–31 and 1 Corinthians 15:51–
52, and agrees that Paul is using Christ’s Olivet Discourse as the foundation
for his teaching concerning Christ’s Parousia throughout the Thessalonian
epistles. For example the Reformation Study Bible, of which
Mathison is Associate Editor, states of Matthew 24:31:
 
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.
 
Ironically, the parallels between Paul and the Olivet Discourse become
the clearest in the one chapter in 1 Thessalonians that Mathison
severs from the Olivet Discourse. Mathison admits the parallels between
1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15 (193), but he avoids the obvious
parallels between 1 Thessalonians 4 and Matthew 24.
 
Reformed and Evangelical commentators such as G.K. Beale see
that in 1 Thessalonians 4–5, Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in
Matthew 24.
 
That both [1 Thessalonians] 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. . . . [2]
 
Here are some of the parallels between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians
4–5:
 
• Christ returns from heaven 1 Thess. 4:16 = Matt. 24:30
• with archangelic voice 1 Thess. 4:16 = Matt. 24:31
• with God’s trumpet 1 Thess. 4:16 = Matt. 24:31
• Believers caught up to be with Christ 1 Thess. 4:17 = Matt. 24:31
• Believers meet Christ in “clouds” 1 Thess. 4:17 = Matt. 24:30
• Exact time unknown 1 Thess. 5:1–2 = Matt. 24:36
• Christ comes like a thief 1 Thess. 5:2 = Matt. 24:43
• Unbelievers caught unaware 1 Thess. 5:3 = Matt. 24:37–39
• Birth pains 1 Thess. 5:3 = Matt. 24:8
• Believers are not deceived 1 Thess. 5:4–5 = Matt. 24:43
• Believers told to be watchful 1 Thess. 5:6 = Matt. 24:42
• Exhortation against drunkenness 1 Thess. 5:7 = Matt. 24:49
• Τhe Day, sons of light, sons of the day[3] 1 Thess. 5:4–8 = Matt. 24:27,
36–38
 
Beale goes on to write:
 
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).[4]
 
In a more recent work Beale now seems to lean in the direction 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.”[5]
 
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 now try and 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 deemed it orthodox to believe that the coming
of the Son of Man in Matthew 25:31 was not Christ’s “actual” Second Coming,
but was Christ’s going/coming in AD 30–70 and that the “end of the age” here is the
old covenant age ending in AD 70. But this then creates more thorny problems
for these men such as the marriage that follows Matthew 25:10.  How many times
does Christ in His Parousia consummate His marriage with the church in
Mathison’s view?
 
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.”[6]  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[7] and
between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 5,[8] and then deny the obvious parallels
between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4. But this is what partial preterists
such as Mathison do.
 
Gentry, to support his argument that 2 Thessalonians 2 was fulfilled
in AD 70, says that “Most commentators agree that the Olivet Discourse
is undoubtedly a source of the Thessalonian Epistles.[9] Unfortunately
Gentry’s sources of authority end up proving too much. For example,
both D.A. Carson and G. Henry Waterman make virtually the same parallels
between Matthew 24–25 and 1 Thessalonians 4–5 that we do.
 
To make matters worse, Gentry also 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.”[10]
 
But 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 and Revelation
20–21. Yet Mathison claims 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 Mathison and Gentry is that in their other writings
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 Scripture nullifies with
finality the arbitrary Scripture-dichotomizations of partial preterism.
 



[1] Mathison, Postmillennialism, 224–225.
[2] 45. G.K. Beale, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series 1–2 Thessalonians
(Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2003), 136. Copyright 2003 by
G.K. Beale. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. PO Box 1400, Downers
Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com. Some Partial Preterists are now agreeing
that 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 took place in AD 70. One is admitting that
Gentry and Mathison are forced to “dodge and weave to put this passage into
our future.” Mike Bull, The Last Trumpet, http://www.bullartistry.com.au/
wp/2011/06/05/the-last-trumpet/
[3] If we translate astrape in Matthew 24:27 as the sun (instead of lightning)
coming from the east and shining to the west, then these parallels are
possible.
[4]  Beale, Ibid, 136–137.
[5] 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).
[6] Mathison, From Age to Age, 515.
[7] Mathison, Postmillenialism, 230.
[8] Ibid, 226.
[9] 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 1
and 2 Thessalonians,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 18:2 (June
1975); 105–113.
[10] 52. Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion (Draper, VA: Apologetics
Group Media, 2009), 540
 

House Divided Chapter Four The NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan Part 7 In Like Manner Acts 1:9-11

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

  Chapter Four The Eschatological Madness of Mathison or How Can These Things Be?  Part 7 – In Like Manner Acts 1:9-11
Michael J. Sullivan Copyright 2009 and 2013 – All rights reserved.  No part of this book (or article) may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher or author of this chapter/article (Vision Publishing or Michael J. Sullivan), except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. 
Like Manner  
Mathison argues: Jesus ascended visibly and bodily. Then He vanished from sight in a cloud (Acts 1:9). Acts 1:11 says that He will return in the same manner that He departed. This has not happened yet (184–188, 204). Therefore, Acts 1:11 is not yet fulfilled.
Response:   After speaking to His apostles about the kingdom over a period of forty days, Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem and to wait for the fulfillment of the Father’s promise of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus said would take place “not many days from now.” This prompted the disciples to ask Him in verse six about the timing of the kingdom’s arrival. “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus did not give them a day or hour, but He reminded them in verse eight of the sign of the Great Commission which had to be accomplished before He would restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:8; Matt. 24:3, 14). Mathison, ignoring the immediate context, states:
The first thing that must be observed when we examine this account is that no reference to time is connected with the prediction of the return of Christ. (185)
However, in another book Mathison #2 admits:
The time frame is hinted at in the preceding context. The disciples are given a commission to be Christ’s witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The implication is that Christ’s visible return will follow the completion of the mission to the remotest part of the earth.”[1]
According to Mathison in the above quote, when the Great Commission in verse 8 is fulfilled, then the Second Coming of verse 11 will occur. Mathison’s contention that there are two Great Commissions given in the New Testament—one fulfilled before AD 70 and another that will be fulfilled before the allegedly yet-future Second (Third) Coming—is altogether arbitrary. It is a position he is forced to take because of his flawed, partial preterist framework—like his doctrines of two “last days” in the New Testament, and of two future “comings” of Christ in the New Testament, and of his divided sections separated by 2000+ years in Matthew 24 and in Matthew 16:27–28 and in other Scriptures.
Mathison breaks again from the majority of Reformed, Evangelical, and preterist theologians, who see one Great Commission in the Gospels and in the book of Acts, instead of two. Mathison’s dichotomizing approach to the Great Commission does not merit a serious rebuttal and can be rejected out of hand.
Since the Second Coming is fulfilled after the Great Commission, and since there is only one Great Commission, and since the Great Commission was fulfilled in Christ’s generation, it follows that the Second Coming was fulfilled in those days as well. The gospel was preached to the world; “then” the end came (Matt. 24:14). The following chart proves that the Great Commission was fulfilled in the first century.

Prophecy

Fulfillment

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall bepreached in all the world [Greek ikumene] for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matt. 24:14) “But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’” [Greek oikumene] (Rom. 10:18)
“And the gospel must first be published among all nations.” [Greek ethnos] “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.’” [Greek ethnos] “‘. . . I have commanded you;and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” (Mark 13:10; Matt. 28:19-20) “…My gospel… has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations. . . .” [Greek ethnos] (Rom.16:25-26)
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world  [Greek kosmos] and preach the gospel to every creature” “. . . And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils;they shall speak with new tongues.” [Greek glossa] (Mark 16:15, 17) “…of the gospel, which has come to you, as ithas also in all the world [Greek kosmos], as is bringing forth fruit. . . .” (Col. 1:5-6)
“And he said unto them ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’” [Greek kitisis] (Mark 16:15) “ . . . from the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature [Greek kitisis] under heaven, of which I, Paul became a minister.”(Col. 1:23)
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,and to the end of the earth/land.” [Greek ge] (Acts 1:8) “But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth/land [Greek ge], and their words to the ends of the world.’” (Rom. 10:18)
Prophecy had begun to be fulfilled: “Andthey were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues [Greek glossa], as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation [Greek ethnos] under heaven. (Acts 2:4-5) Prophecy would be fulfilled “shortly”: “AndI saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth/land [Greek ge], and to every nation [Greek ethnos], and kindred [Greek phile] and tongue [Greek glossa], and people.” [Greek laos] (Rev. 1:1; 14:6; cf. 10:6-7)  Satan was bound so that the Great Commission to the nations would be accomplished during the millennium (Rev. 20:3).

Therefore, I have proven that the in-like-manner Second Coming of Christ was also fulfilled in the first century.   After commanding His disciples to take possession of the kingdom through the Great Commission, Jesus ascended in a cloud, hidden from the disciples’ sight (Acts 1:9).
Mathison insists that Jesus’ physical body was seen for some period of time as He ascended into the sky. However, verse nine simply says, “He was lifted up, and a cloud received Him from their eyes.” Jesus was certainly seen just before He was “lifted up” (Acts 1:9). But it is not at all certain that He was directly seen as He ascended into the sky.
In verse 11, the disciples were told that Jesus would come in the manner that they had seen Him enter heaven (the sky). The continuity of Him coming as He had entered heaven is found in the fact that He would come in the heavenly glory-cloud of His Father (Matt. 16:27). Jesus was not physically seen after He was received into the glory-cloud. It was while He was hidden from sight in that cloud that He was indirectly seen entering the sky. And He was to come in like manner. Therefore, He would not be physically or directly seen when He came “in like manner,” in the cloud, to indwell His church in the end of the old covenant age (Luke 17:20–37; John 14:2–3, 23).
Mathison errs when he says that Jesus was going to come back in the same way that He “departed.” The Scriptures say that Jesus would come in the same way He had entered the sky. He entered the sky hidden from literal eye sight in the cloud of God’s glory.
Here is the order of events:
1. As they looked, He was taken up (Acts 1:9).
2. A cloud received Him from their eyes (Acts 1:9).
These first two events could very well have happened simultaneously. As Mathison himself admits, the verse could be translated, “He was lifted up; that is, a cloud received Him out of their sight.”[2] It is a very real possibility that Jesus was instantly hidden in the cloud at the moment His feet left the earth.
3. Then the disciples saw Him going into the sky. That is, they looked intently into the sky as He was ascending in the cloud (Acts 1:10–11).
In the Old Testament, God was never literally or directly seen coming in His glory when He judged or saved Israel and other nations. Jesus was not literally seen again after He entered the cloud of God’s glory. He was “taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16) and He would come in glory as the Ancient of Days.
The Lord God had become flesh. John bore testimony to the fact that looking at and touching Jesus was to look at and touch God Himself (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1). God was physically seen in the flesh, but this was temporary for the second person of the Godhead (Heb. 5:7), even as He had been born into and under the old covenant system with its temporal types and shadows (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 5–8; 2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8:13).[3]  
Ironically, the point of the question, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky,” was that Jesus was not going to return to His physical form. It was futile for the disciples to long for Jesus to return to the earthly form He had taken when He was born of Mary. In His ascension, Jesus had returned to His pre-incarnate glory. The question of the two men was rhetorical, and it meant, “There is no use in standing here longing for Jesus to return to you and to be as He was in the days of His flesh. He will come, but He will come in the manner you saw Him enter heaven—hidden from physical eyes in the cloud of the Father’s glory.”
We agree with the majority of commentators and cross reference systems which see the in-like-manner coming of Jesus in Acts 1:11 as being parallel with the coming of Jesus on or in the cloud(s) in Matthew 16:27–28, 24:30–31, 26:64–68; Luke 21:27, and Revelation 1:7. Mathison and Gentry, however, wrench Acts 1:11 from those Scriptures. They admit that Christ was figuratively “seen” (perceived, understood) at a figurative “coming” in/on the clouds in AD 70, but they deny that this was the fulfillment of Acts 1:11.
This brings us to another problem. Mathison writes of Matthew 24:30 in his book Postmillennialism:
. . . [T]he “coming” of the Son of Man is His coming in judgment upon Jerusalem (see vv. 23–28), which is intimately connected with His ascension to the right hand of God (cf. Dan. 7:13–14).[4]
Later, in WSTTB, Mathison goes further and identifies the Ascension with the coming of Christ in AD 70:
. . . [W]hen [Jesus] makes reference to “the coming of the Son of Man,” . . . He may have been referring . . . to his ascension . . . and the judgment on Jerusalem. . . . ” (182, emphasis added)
For Mathison, Christ’s “coming” in Daniel 7:13–14 is somehow both a literal, visible “going up” in a literal cloud in about AD 30 and a figurative “coming” to Jerusalem from heaven in figurative clouds in AD 70. The confusion inherent in this position is plain enough. Mathison says that “the coming of the Son of Man” in Daniel 7:13– 14 is a reference to the Ascension. But then Mathison says that when Jesus used the term, He was referring to the Ascension and to the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet there is not one instance where Jesus spoke of the coming of the Son of Man where it can be taken to be a reference to His Ascension. In every case, it is His coming to earth in judgment and salvation. But this is only the tip of the Iceberg of Confusion.
Even though Mathison says that Jesus’ “coming” in AD 70 was “intimately connected with His ascension,” and even though Mathison says that both the Ascension and His coming in judgment in AD 70 are equally “the coming of the Son of Man,” and even though Mathison admits that both events were with a cloud/clouds and in the glory of the Father, and that both events were seen (Acts 1:11; Matt. 26:64), Mathison nevertheless maintains that Jesus’ “coming” in AD 70 was not the “in-like-manner” coming promised in Acts 1:11. Mathison’s position is an ineffable tangle of exegetical double vision, contradiction, and consummate confusion.
Partial Preterist Milton Terry, in contrast, took a lucid, biblical approach, seeing Matthew 24:30–31, 34; Acts 1:11; and Revelation 1:7 as all being fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem in the end of the age:
Whatever the real nature of the parousia, as contemplated in this prophetic discourse, our Lord unmistakably associates it with the destruction of the temple and city, which he represents as the signal termination of the pre-Messianic age. The coming on clouds, the darkening of the heavens, the collapse of elements, are, as we have shown above, familiar forms of apocalyptic language, appropriated from the Hebrew prophets.
Acts i, 11, is often cited to show that Christ’s coming must needs be spectacular, “in like manner as ye beheld him going into the heaven.” But (1) in the only other three places where [“in like manner”] occurs, it points to a general concept rather than the particular form of its actuality. Thus, in Acts vii, 28, it is not some particular manner in which Moses killed the Egyptian that is notable, but rather the certain fact of it. In 2 Tim. iii, 8, it is likewise the fact of strenuous opposition rather than the special manner in which Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses. And in Matt. xxiii, 37, and Luke xiii, 34, it is the general thought of protection rather than the visible manner of a mother bird that is intended. Again (2), if Jesus did not come in that generation, and immediately after the great tribulation that attended the fall of Jerusalem, his words in Matt. xvi, 27, 28, xxiv, 29, and parallel passages are in the highest degree misleading. (3) To make the one statement of the angel in Acts i, 11, override all the sayings of Jesus on the same subject and control their meaning is a very one-sided method of biblical interpretation. But all the angel’s words necessarily mean is that as Jesus has ascended into heaven so he will come from heaven. And this main thought agrees with the language of Jesus and the prophets.[5]
As Mathison admits in one book but denies in another, the immediate context links Christ’s in-like-manner return to the fulfillment of the Great Commission (v. 8; Matt. 24:14, 27, 30; Rom. 10:18). The Great Commission was fulfilled in Christ’s generation. Jesus was “lifted up” and hidden from sight in the cloud of glory. He ascended into the sky hidden in the cloud, as His disciples watched. He was to come in the same manner in which the disciples saw Him enter into the sky: hidden in the cloud of the glory of His Father. He was “seen” in that Day in the same way that Yahweh was “seen” whenever He came on a cloud to judge nations in the Old Testament.
This was the one and only future coming of Christ that was promised in the New Testament. Therefore, Christ returned in AD 70. The analogy of Scripture confirms this interpretation. It does not confirm Mathison’s, which rips Acts 1:9–11 from its immediate and broader New Testament contexts. We agree with Terry’s comments on Matthew 24:30–31, 34; Acts 1:11; and Revelation 1:7. “We accept upon the testimony of the Scriptures”[6] that Christ returned on/in a cloud/clouds in that generation.



[1] Postmillennialism, 117 (emphasis added).
[2] From Age to Age, 459
[3] Though Jesus is no longer in the flesh, He forever retains His human nature. He is forever Man, even as the saints in heaven today, who are no longer in their physical bodies, are still human/man by nature. Neither the Son of Man nor those who are in Him, whether in heaven or on earth, are “nonhuman.” (See David Green’s response to Strimple Argument #11 in chapter seven of this book.)
[4] Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: 1999), 114
[5] Milton S. Terry, A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 246-247.
[6] Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutic (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1990), 468, n.1 (emphases added).