House Divided – Excerpts From Chapter 6 (Expositions of Daniel 12:2 and John 5) and Chapter Seven – The Resurrection of the Dead An Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Excerpts From Chapter 6 (Response to Robert Strimple) &  Chapter Seven (Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15)
Including an Exegesis of:  Daniel 12:2, John 5:28-29, and 1 Corinthians 15
The Resurrection of the Dead Fulfilled by AD 70
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.

1).  Exegesis of Daniel 12:2

Strimple Argument #5: Daniel 12:1-3 says that “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” This is obviously referring to a physical resurrection of the dead. Additionally, God tells us that this prophecy is to be fulfilled in “the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4), which is the end of human history (295).
Answer: Daniel’s prediction of the resurrection of the dead begins with these words: “And at that time . . . ” “That time” refers back to the end of chapter 11. Philip Mauro in his book, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation, argues convincingly that Daniel 11 ends with a prophecy of Herod the Great.[1]
Herod, the first enemy of the incarnate Christ, died very shortly after Christ was born. It was “at that time” that Christ (“Michael,” “the Chief Messenger”) stood up for the saints. It was at that time that Christ came into the world for His people and took on the body of sacrifice that the Father had prepared for Him (Dan. 12:1; Heb. 10:5-7; Ps. 40:6; cf. Rev. 12:7).
It was the “stand” for the elect that Christ made in His Incarnation that led to the “war in heaven” (Matt. 11:12; Rev. 12:7), which in turn led to fleshly Israel being overtaken in the death-throes of the Great Tribulation (Dan. 12:1). Jesus promised that that time of distress was going to take place within His own generation, and that it would be consummated in the destruction of the city and the sanctuary (Dan. 9:26; 12:1; Matt. 24:1-2, 21, 34). That event took place in August-September of AD 70.
According to the angel who spoke to Daniel, it was at that time that the power of the holy people would be shattered (Dan. 12:7), that the church would be delivered (Dan. 12:1), that the resurrection of the dead would take place, and that the righteous would inherit the kingdom (Dan. 12:2). Jesus, in harmony with Daniel, promised that the kingdom would be taken from the wicked and given to the righteous in the lifetime of the chief priests and Pharisees (Mat. 21:43-45). Therefore, “the time of the end” (not “the end of time,” as it is sometimes mistranslated) in Daniel 12:4, 9 was not the end of human history; it was the end of redemptive history in Christ’s generation.
It was in AD 70, therefore, that many who slept in “the earth’s dust” awoke. To “sleep in dust” is a figure of speech. The dead were not literally sleeping, nor were they literally in the dust. They were “in dust” only insofar as, in their death, they had not ascended into God’s presence in Christ. In terms of the righteousness and life of God, they were earth-bound. From a literal standpoint, they were in Sheol/Hades (the abode of the Adamic dead), and it was from out of Sheol that they were raised to stand before the heavenly throne of God (Dan. 12:1-2). Futurist James Jordan writes regarding Daniel 12:13:
What Daniel is promised is that after his rest in Abraham’s bosom, he will stand up with all God’s saints and join Michael on a throne in heaven, as described in Revelation 20, an event that came after the Great Tribulation and in the year AD 70.[2]
Regarding the word “many” in Daniel 12:2: The word is not used in contrast to “all” (as “the many” is used to limit the term “all men” in Rom. 5:12, 15, 18-19) or in contrast to “a few.” The angel simply referred to a large number of people; to multitudes (NIV). No inference can be made from the context as to whether “many” referred to all or to only a portion of the dead. Only subsequent scriptures revealed that the “many” in Daniel 12:2 referred to the whole company of all the dead from Adam to the Last Day.

2).  Exegesis of John 5:28-29

Strimple Argument #6: John 5:28-29 obviously teaches a physical resurrection of the dead in that it speaks of a time in which “all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (297).
Answer: In order to understand John 5:28 and 29, we must first look three verses above it, in John 5:25, where Jesus said that the hour “now is” when “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” As most Reformed interpreters agree, Jesus in that verse was referring to the preaching of His death and resurrection. The preaching of that message commenced at Pentecost. “The dead” were physically living people who were spiritually dead in sin, and “the voice of the Son of God” was the gospel. Having heard the gospel, those who were spiritually “dead” were spiritually resurrected. They lived in that they received eternal life through faith in the gospel (“the voice of the Son of God”).
Then, in verses 28 and 29, Jesus expanded His teaching on the resurrection to include those who were not only spiritually dead, but who were also physically dead. He did not call them “dead” (as He had already called the living who were spiritually dead), but He referred to them through another figure of speech as “all who are in the graves.” They were not literally in their graves or tombs, of course, but were in Hades/Sheol.
What is often missed in this passage is that, like the physically living in verse 25, the physically dead in verse 28 were also going to live by means of hearing Christ’s “voice.” As we know from verse 25, that “voice” is the gospel. The physically dead therefore were going to hear the gospel (cf. 1 Pet. 4:6.) and were, as a result of hearing the gospel, going to be resurrected (regenerated, born from out of death and Hades). This means that the physically dead were, like the physically living, spiritually dead. And this inescapably means that both the physically living and the physically dead were going to be spiritually resurrected by means of the gospel-voice of the Son of God. One resurrection in two main stages: First, the last days saints; then, the Old Testament dead (“the rest of the dead” in Revelation 20:5). Note the parallels between John 4:21, 23 and John 5:25, 28:
1. . . . [T]he hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. . . . (Jn. 4:23)
2. . . . [T]he hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. (Jn. 4:21)
1. . . . [T]he hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (Jn. 5:25)
2. . . . [T]he hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice. . . . (Jn. 5:28)
These two sets of prophecies are parallel.  They speak of the same timeframes, which were these:
Pentecost (AD 30)
1. The true worshipers would worship the Father in spirit and in truth.
1. The dead would hear the voice of the Son of God, and live.
Fall of Jerusalem (AD 70)
2. God’s worshipers would no longer worship Him in Jerusalem.
2. All who were in the graves would hear His voice.

Interjection by Michael Sullivan – “Commentators have long understood that Daniel 12:2 is the source for Jesus’ teaching on the resurrection in John 5:28-29 because the only OT passage which mentions a resurrection for both the righteous and the wicked is Daniel 12:2 and the only OT passage addressing “eternal life” is Daniel 12:2.  G.K. Beale points out an additional connection – in that Jesus is following the (OG) LXX of Daniel 12:1-2, 4 when it comes to this coming resurrection “hour” of both believers and unbelievers (cf. G.K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of The Old Testament In The New (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2011), 131132).
That being the case, note these parallels:
Pentecost (AD 30)
1.  Daniel 12:1:  “And at that hour…”
1.  John 5:25:  “…an hour is coming and now is…”
Fall of Jerusalem (AD 70)
2.  Daniel 12:1:  “And at that hour…”
2.  John 5:28:  “…for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice,”
Pentecost (AD 30)
1.   Daniel 12:2:  “Many of those who sleep in the width of the earth will arise   [anatesontai]…some unto eternal life and others to reproach…and to eternal shame.”
1.  John 5:24:  “…he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life,   and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into   life.”
Fall of Jerusalem (AD 70)
2.  Daniel 12:2:  “Many of those who sleep in the width of the earth will arise   [anatesontai]…some unto eternal life and others to reproach…and to eternal shame.”
2.  John 5:29:  “and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection [anatasin] of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection [anatasin] of judgment.” (also related:  1 John 2:18: “Dear children it is the last hour…” and Revelation 14:7:  “…the hour of His judgment has come.”).
Partial Preterists such as Kenneth Gentry have finally conceded to Full Preterism that the resurrection of Daniel 12:2 was fulfilled in AD 70 spiritually – “when the power of the holy people is/was completely shattered” (v. 7).  They also affirm that the last hour of John’s eschatology in John 4, 1 John 2:17-18, and Revelation 14:7 was fulfilled in AD 70.  There is obviously some arbitrary and inconsistent exegesis taking place from Mr. Gentry on the coming “hour” of judgment and resurrection in John’s writings.
Here are the exegetical challenges for Kenneth Gentry on the resurrection of John 5:28-29 at this point:
1.  If the judgment and resurrection “hour” of Daniel 12:1-2 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70, and…
2.  If Jesus’ source for His teaching on the coming judgment and resurrection “hour” in John 5:28-29 was Daniel 12:1-2,
3.  Then the judgment and resurrection “hour” of John 5:28-29 was also fulfilled spiritually in AD 70.” (end note by Michael Sullivan)
David A. Green continued – After hearing the gospel, the dead were raised out of their Adamic graves (Hades) in the end of the age. And those among them who believed the gospel received eternal life in the kingdom of God. But those who hated the gospel (those who had done evil) were raised out of Hades only to stand before God and to enter into “eternal punishment” / “the second death” (Matt. 25:46; Jn. 5:28-29; Rev. 20:14).

[1] . Philip Mauro, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation (Swengel, PA: Reiner Publications [now Grace Abounding Ministries]), 135-162.
[2] . James B. Jordan, The Handwriting on the Wall: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Inc., 2007), 628. (Emphases added)

3).  An Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15

The position I take in this exposition is often called “the collective body view” or “the corporate body view.” It is as follows:
Some at Corinth were denying that the pre-Christian saints[1] would rise to inherit the kingdom at the Parousia. Those who were in error at Corinth were not arguing with Paul about the reality of the resurrection. They were arguing with Paul in regard to who would participate in the resurrection. They believed that believers in Christ would be resurrected but that “the dead” would not. Paul’s answer to their error was that “all”—not merely some of God’s people—would be raised. Through the Spirit-empowered dying (to Sin and to the Law) of the eschatological church on behalf of the dead (the Old Testament saints), the mortal “body” of Sin and Death (the Adamic/Mosaic saints and the eschatological church; the entire “world” of God’s people) would rise and be “changed”/“transformed” into the spiritual body of Christ in the kingdom of God.
Though this interpretation is commonly called “collective” or “corporate,” these terms are inadequate. Paul does not speak only or merely in collective terms of the resurrection body. Not even in 1 Corinthians 12 is “body” simply a reference to a collective or communal “body of believers.”
The terms “body of Christ” and “body of believers” are not synonymous. The church is not a “body” because it is a group of people who have organized and united around Christ. Nor is it a body because it is a kind of “corporation.” The church is the body of Christ because it is literally the dwelling and fullness of the individual Man, the Person, Christ Jesus (Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:23; 4:13). “This mystery is great. . . ” (Eph. 5:32).
As we shall soon see, Paul used the word “body,” in the relevant passages, not as a term of either physicality or collectivity, or even as a term of mere anthropological wholeness. Paul used the word “body” as a term of theology, much as he used the terms “spirit,” “new man,” “the world about to come,” the “new creation,” the “kingdom of God,” and the heavenly “house/home.” All of these eschatological terms (and their opposites, “mortal body,” “flesh,” “old man,” etc.) are intimately related in their meanings, and are not easily defined with exactness.
As I will explain in more detail below, “body” describes God’s people, whether individually or as a whole, whether living or dead, in terms of their cosmic-covenantal self or identity, as they are constituted either in Sin and Death or in Christ. Thus the view I am presenting in this
self in this chapter to defining their error more generally as a denial that the dead from Adam until Christ would be raised.
chapter may more accurately be called “the cosmic-covenantal body view.”
Necessary Inferences
In beginning this exposition, we must understand that reading 1 Corinthians 15 is comparable to listening to one side of one phone conversation out of a series of phone conversations. Paul and the resurrection-of-thedead deniers have a long established context with long established word usages. We on the other hand, as a third party, may have our own context and our own usages that we unwittingly apply to the conversation.
This is the problem we face in 1 Corinthians 15. We hear Paul’s refutation of the resurrection error but we do not hear many details about what he is refuting. All we know from explicit statements in the chapter is that some at Corinth denied “the resurrection of the dead” because they believed “the dead” had no “body” with which they could be rising (1 Cor. 15:35). But what does this mean? What did Paul and those who were in error at Corinth mean when they used those terms?
If we do not make correct inferences from Paul’s side of the “conversation,” we not only misunderstand the error he was refuting, we misunderstand the truth he was defending. This has been the historic failure of the futurist interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15. Futurists have resisted making necessary inferences in Paul’s arguments because those inferences do not fit the futurist paradigm.
It is widely believed that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers denied the very concept of the resurrection of dead people universally, and that they therefore denied the resurrection of Christ and of Christians. The implications of Paul’s words, however, do not support this view. As Paul argued, if the dead are not being raised, then:

  1. not even Christ has been raised” (1 Cor. 15:13-17)
  2. the apostles are liars (1 Cor. 15:14-15)
  3. those also who have fallen asleep in Christ perished” (1 Cor. 15:18)
  4. we are hoping in Christ “in this life only” (1 Cor. 15:19)

These four logical outcomes of the resurrection error were not doctrines that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were teaching. These conclusions were not designed to describe the error. They were designed to overthrow it, through reductio ad absurdum. Paul was bringing the resurrection error to absurd conclusions that were antithetical to the beliefs of the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers. Paul was essentially saying:
“We all believe in the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:13-17) and in the eschatological hope in Christ that all believers share (1 Cor. 15:19), both living and asleep (1 Cor. 15:18); but you do not realize that if there is no resurrection of the dead, as some of you are saying, then these gospel truths that we all hold so dear are nothing but falsehoods and delusions.”
We can infer from Paul’s “if . . . then” arguments that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers did not espouse those inevitable results of their teaching. Instead, they agreed with Paul that:

  1. Christ had been raised from the dead.
  2. The apostles were faithful and true witnesses of God.
  3. Christians who had “fallen asleep” had not “perished” (i.e., had not died in their sins).
  4. All Christians, both living and “asleep,” had a sure “hope” in Christ. Their hope in Him was not a pitiable delusion.

Because the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed in the resurrection of Christ, and because they believed that sleeping Christians had therefore not died in their sins (“perished”) but were, along with the living, looking forward to the fulfillment of the Christological “hope,” we must infer that the “hope” to which the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers looked was that of the Christological resurrection of Christians, both living and “asleep” (Acts 23:6; 24:15; 26:6-7; 28:20; Eph. 4:4). They did not believe merely in the continuation of existence after death; they looked forward to the fulfillment of the eschatological “hope” in Christ.
We can also reasonably surmise that since the resurrection-ofthe-dead deniers believed that the apostles were faithful witnesses and since they believed in the apostolic gospel of the historic resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:13-17) and in the Christian resurrection-“hope,” it is not unlikely that they also believed the apostolic testimony that Christ Himself had raised multiple people from the dead and that the apostles themselves had raised multiple people from the dead.
(We can add to this that since the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were members of the church at Corinth, which was filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including miracles, it is not far from the realm of possibility that resurrection-miracles were performed at the Corinthian church before the very eyes of the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers.)
So from verses 13-19, we must infer that even though those who were in error at Corinth denied the resurrection of “the dead,” they nevertheless believed in the resurrected and resurrecting Christ, and in the resurrecting apostles, and in the miracle-working church at Corinth, and in the resurrection-“hope” of all Christians, living and asleep.
These inferences have been overlooked because under the assumption of futurism, they make no sense. How could someone deny the very concept and possibility of the resurrection of dead people and at the same time believe in the resurrected and resurrecting Christ, and in the resurrecting apostles, and in the Christological resurrection-“hope” of all Christians, living and asleep? With futurism as our starting point, there is no answer to this question. There are only strained theories.
The problem for futurism thickens when we see other implications of Paul’s arguments in 1 Corinthians 15. In verses 35-37 we read:
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what body do they come?” You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else.
We know that Paul’s argument here was aimed at those who already believed in the eschatological resurrection of Christians. We can infer then that he was not trying to convince them of the concept of resurrection. We can also infer that body-sowing and body-rising (bodyresurrection) were “givens” in the seed analogy. The only doctrines that Paul was defending and seeking to prove in his analogy were body-death (“You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies”) and body-change (“and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be”). Sowing and coming to life (resurrection) were givens. Putting the body to death and changing the body were not givens.
The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed in the sowing of the body and in the resurrection of the body but they denied that the body had to die and be changed. They erroneously espoused the burial and resurrection of the same, unchanged, living body. This makes no sense in the futurist framework, but we shall see below that it makes perfect sense in Paul’s preterist framework.
We see again that the resurrection body was a given, in verse 46: But the spiritual [body] was not first, but the natural [body], then the spiritual [body].
No one at Corinth needed to be convinced of the coming “spiritual body . . . that shall be” (1 Cor. 15:37), or of the “hope” of the raising up of Christians, whether dead (“asleep”) or living (1 Cor. 15:19), or of the coming kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). They needed only to be convinced that there was a “natural body” that came first, and that it had to be put to death and “changed” into the differentspiritual body.”
The Dead
Let us now look at one more inference we must make from Paul’s arguments—an inference that will begin to allow us to undo the confusion of the futurist interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15. Verse 35:
How are the dead raised? And with what body do they come?
As this verse implies, the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers could not fathom the possibility of the resurrection of the dead. They could not so much as conceive of “how”the dead” could have a “body” with which they could be raised. The very idea was beyond their capability to believe.[2]
As we have seen, those who were in error at Corinth believed in the historic resurrection of Christ and in the “sowing” of the “spiritual body” and the resurrection of the same “spiritual body.” They looked forward to the fulfillment of the “hope” that all Christians, living and asleep, would be raised with the spiritual body in the kingdom of God. Yet at the same time, according to verse 35, we see that those who were in error at Corinth were unable to conceive of the feasibility of the bodily resurrection of the dead.
How can this be? In the futurist paradigm, this simply “does not compute,” and the exegetical dilemma is mind-bogglingly insoluble. The blinders of futurism have thus made it impossible for interpreters to make sense of all of 1 Corinthians 15. The result has been that, through a time-honored exegetical haze, futurism has unwittingly transformed the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers into veritable madmen.
There is no doubt that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were ignorant and foolish regarding the resurrection of the dead, but it is not reasonable to portray them as thinking in insanely contradictory propositions, i.e., believing in the reality of resurrection and at the same time being unable to conceive of the very possibility of resurrection. The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers had no rational reason to reject the believability, imaginability, thinkability, or feasibility of a biological resurrection of the flesh. Therefore, what they denied—and what Paul was defending—was something else.
Those who were in error at Corinth were denying neither the existence of, nor the futurity of, nor the somatic (bodily) character of the resurrection. They believed in the future body-resurrection of Christians. Yet at the same time, they denied the resurrection of “the dead” because they could not conceive of the possibility of the dead having a body with which they could rise. This means that the resurrection-ofthe-dead deniers were not denying the bodily resurrection of everyone, but were denying only the possibility that certain people other than Christians—“the dead”—were participating in the resurrection of the body.
“The dead” in 1 Corinthians 15 were, in contrast to dead Christians, Hadean saints (1 Cor. 15:55). They were, as Paul says, those “out from among” whom Christ had been raised (1 Cor. 15:12, 20). Christ did not rise “out from among” dead, Spirit-indwelt Christians. “The dead” were the saints who had lived and died, not in Christ, but “in Adam” (1 Cor. 15:22), before Christ. They were those who were “asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), in contrast to those who had “fallen asleep in Christ” (1 Cor. 15:18).
They were none other than the pre-Christian saints;[3] which inescapably means they were primarily and for the most part those who lived within the Abrahamic community of historic covenant Israel.[4]
Buried Alive
Let us look again at 1 Corinthians 15:36:
. . . That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.
As I mentioned above, Paul teaches in this verse that the body is first sown (planted, buried, or entombed), and then it dies in order that it can be raised a changed body. If Paul was teaching a biological resurrection of the dead, then we must admit that he was saying that only physical bodies that have first been buried alive and have then been put to death underground can be raised to eternal physical life on Resurrection Day.
Futurism has thus created an absurdity and a contradiction in verse 36. The absurdity is the teaching that only physical bodies that have been buried alive can be resurrected. The contradiction is the idea that physical death is a prerequisite to being resurrected. This contradicts verse 51, where Paul said that the physically living would be “made alive” (resurrected) and changed along with the physically dead (cf. verse 22).
No one believes that Paul was teaching that living physical bodies must be physically buried, and that the physically buried bodies must then physically die underground in order that the physically buried-and-dead bodies can then be physically resurrected and changed. Although that is definitely what Paul’s words say in the futurist framework, no futurist accepts this meaning. Instead, most interpreters apply themselves to Herculean efforts to making the verse make sense in the futurist framework.
Their time, however, would be better spent finding Paul’s meaning, letting him say what he says, rather than making his words conform to the futurist paradigm. To find Paul’s meaning, we need only find where in Scripture Paul elaborated on the doctrine of a human “body” that had to be sown/planted/entombed and concurrently put to death, in order that it could be made alive and changed in the resurrection of the dead. This takes us to Romans 6-8, Colossians 2, and Philippians 3.
In these Scriptures, especially in Romans 6, Paul teaches that believers had been bodilyplanted,” through Spirit-baptism, into death / into the death of Christ, in order that the body that had been planted/buried (the “body of Sin,” the “mortal body,” the “body of Death,” the “body of the sins of the flesh,” the “vile body”) would be abolished / put to death, and then be made alive and changed/conformed to the image of the Son of God in the kingdom of heaven. Note the order: Burial then death.
This sequence in Romans 6 is exactly, step by step, what Paul teaches concerning the resurrection of the body in 1 Cor. 15:36-37 and its context. Romans 6-8 and 1 Corinthians 15 both speak of concurrent bodyburial and body-death, followed by consummated body-death, bodyresurrection, and body-change. Futurist assumptions notwithstanding, there is no doubt that 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 6-8 are speaking of the same burial, death, resurrection, and change—and therefore of the same body.
The Body
What then is “the body” that was being put to death in Romans 6-8 and 1 Corinthians 15? What is the meaning of the word “body” in these contexts? Essentially, or basically, the “body” is the “self” or “person/personality” or “individual,” whether that of a singular saint or of the singular church universal (the body of Christ). According to definition 1b of the word σωμα (body) in Arndt and Gingrich’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the word “body” in Paul’s writings is sometimes “almost synonymous with the whole personality . . . σώματα [bodies] = themselves.”[5]
Note how that “body” and “yourselves” are used interchangeably in Romans 6:12-13:
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting your members [of your mortal body] to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members [of your mortal body] as instruments of righteousness to God.
Compare also 1 Corinthians 6:15 and 12:27, where “you” and “your bodies” are synonymous:
. . . your bodies are members of Christ . . . . (1 Cor. 6:15)
. . . you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. (1 Cor. 12:27)
See also Ephesians 5:28, where a man’s body-union with his wife is equated with “himself”:
So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.
However, the word “body,” when it is used in reference to the eschatological resurrection, means more than merely the “self.” Paul is not using the word as a common reference to “the whole person.” It does not refer to man’s anthropological wholeness (i.e., Material body+soul+spirit=the body). Paul is using the word in a theologicaleschatological sense to describe God’s people as they are defined either by the wholeness/fullness (body) of Adamic Sin and Death or the wholeness/fullness (body) of Christ. The body is either the “person” united with Sin and Death, or the “person” united with Christ, whether individually or corporately.
We can begin to see this in Colossians 3:5 (KJV), where the body parts (members) of the Sin-body are not arms and legs or other physical limbs. The members of the “earthly body” were death-producing “deeds,” such as “fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness . . . ” (cf. Rom. 8:13). Thus John Calvin wrote in his commentary on Romans 6:6: “The body of sin . . . does not mean flesh and bones, but the corrupted mass . . . of sin.” Since a body is the sum of its parts, and since the parts of the Sin-body are sins/sinful deeds, it follows that “the body of Sin” is not the physical aspect of man. Instead, the whole of the sins/deeds of the body equals the body of Sin. Or more accurately, the body of Sin was God’s people as they were identified with and defined by the Sin-reviving, Sin-increasing, Death-producing world of the Law.
When Paul said that believers were no longer walking according to “the flesh” (Rom. 8:1, 4, 9), he was saying that believers were putting to death the deeds of the “body” (Rom. 8:10-11, 13). The parts/members of the body equaled the deeds of “the body,” which equaled the walk of “the flesh.”   “Flesh” and “body” in this context, therefore, describe man as he was defined by Sin, not man as he was defined by material body parts.
In Colossians 2:11, Paul said that God had buried believers with Christ, raised them up with Him, and had removed “the body of the flesh.” “The body of the flesh” was not the physical body. It was the Adamic man/self/person that had been dead in transgressions and in the spiritual uncircumcision of his “flesh” (Col. 2:13). That “body” (or as Ridderbos puts it, that “sinful mode of existence”)[6] had been “removed” in Christ and was soon to be changed into the glorious, resurrected “body” of Christ.
As a comparison of Colossians 2:11 and Colossians 3:9 reveals, “the body” of Sin is virtually synonymous with “the old man”:
. . . the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh . . . . (Col. 2:11)
. . . having put off the old man with his practices (Col. 3:9; cf. Eph. 4:22)
Compare also 1 Corinthians 15:42 with Ephesians 4:22:
[The body] is sown in corruption . . . . (1 Cor. 15:42)
. . . the old man being corrupted . . . . (Eph. 4:22)
Compare also the references to “man” and “body” in Romans 7:24:
Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from this body of Death?
And in Romans 6:6:
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. (Rom. 6:6)
And in 1 Corinthians 15:44, 45:
. . . There is a natural body [the old man], and there is a spiritual body [the new Man]. And so it is written, the first [old] man [the natural body] Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam [the last Man, the spiritual body] a quickening spirit.
Since the natural body is nearly synonymous with the old man, we should expect that the spiritual body is nearly synonymous with “the new man,” the Lord Jesus Christ. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 with Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10 and Romans 13:14:
For this perishable [body] must put on the imperishable [body] . . . . (1 Cor. 15:53-54)
and put on the new man [the spiritual body], which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph. 4:24) and have put on the new man [the spiritual body] who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. (Col. 3:10)
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ [the new man, the spiritual body], and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. (Rom. 13:14)
As most futurists agree, “the old man” and “the new man” are not expressions that describe man in terms of physicality. “The old man” was man as he was in Adam, alienated from God and dead in Sin. He was “the body of Sin.” The new Man is man as he is reconciled to God in Christ, the lifegiving Spiritual Body.
The World-Body
Note that in Colossians 2:11-14, believers had been bodily buried and bodily raised with Christ, but it was the “handwriting in ordinances” that God had crucified. In Romans 6:6, it was “the old man” that had been crucified. In Galatians 5:24, it was “the flesh” that had been crucified.
And in Galatians 6:14, it was “the world” that had been crucified. These verses together demonstrate the “cosmic” dimension of the Pauline, eschatological “body.” The Spirit was not merely changing hearts and lives of individuals; He was changing the “world-body” of Adam/Moses (Israel as it was defined by the earthly temple-system of Law-Sin-Death) into the world-body of Christ.
Thus it is in 2 Corinthians 5 that the soon-to-be-destroyed “mortal . . . body” is equal to the “earthly [made-with-hands] house of the tabernacle” (2 Cor. 5:1, 4, 6, 10), i.e., the old covenant world. The “house,” or world, of the man-made temple of God was “the mortal . . . body” that had been buried with Christ, and that was being put to death, and that was soon to be clothed with the heavenly/spiritual body of Christ.
Though all believers were individually “putting on Christ” in anticipation of the Last Day (Rom. 13:11-14), believers were not doing this merely as a collective of individuals. They were together, through the power of God, putting on (becoming clothed with) the Lord Jesus Christ who is Himself the Tabernacle/House/Body of God from out of heaven. They were being changed into the cosmic New Man—the “body” of God Himself.
Through the indwelling Holy Spirit,

  • the mortal body of Sin and Death (The Adamic-Mosaic world),
  • the old man/humanity and,
  • the flesh had been sown/planted/buried and were being put to death through

the eschatological work of the Holy Spirit, and were being raised

  • the body of the triune God (“that God may be All in all”),
  • the new Man and
  • spirit (that which is spiritual; that which is of the Spirit),

i.e., the habitation of

  • the Father,
  • the Son and
  • the Holy Spirit

The consummated change took place when the world of the handmade city and sanctuary (the body of Sin and Death) was thrown down, and the heavenly/spiritual city and sanctuary (the body of Christ) were established “among men” in AD 70 (Heb. 9:8).
Through the indwelling of the Spirit, the church’s body of Sin and Death (its old, pre-Christ world-identity; the fleshly, Adamic “man” or self) was buried into the death of Christ. It was put to death, having been buried with Him through the without-hands baptism of the Holy Spirit into the dead-to-sin body of Christ. Believers had thus been “bodily” buried together into body-death, and their body-life was hid with the soon-to-be-revealed Savior of the Adamic world (Rom. 6:11, 13; Phil. 3:10; Col. 3:3).
The two contrasting and co-existing eschatological bodystates in Paul’s epistles (the concurrent dying and rising and changing of “the body” that had been buried) depended on neither physicality nor nonphysicality.[7] They depended on the saints’ relationship to Sin or to Christ. They depended on whether one was in Adam (under the dominion of Sin and Death) or in Christ (under grace and indwelt by the life-giving Spirit).
The elect before Christ were the body of Sin and Death in that they had been incorporated into Sin and Death in Adam. They were wholly defined, constituted, organized, systematized, and comprehended in (i.e., indwelled by and “clothed with”) Adamic Sin and Death through the curse of the commandment of God. They were both individually and collectively the embodiment (the body) of Sin and Death.
But in the new world in Christ, through faith in His shed blood, all of His saints in heaven (non-physical) and on earth (physical) are the cosmic embodiment, “fullness,” and habitation of the triune God. The fulfillment of the resurrection of “the body” in AD 70 brought into being the universal communion of all the saints (old covenant and new covenant) in the one, spiritual body (Christ Himself). This is what the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers denied would take place. They denied the death and resurrection with Christ of the natural body (the preChristian world of God’s people) and its change/transformation into the universal (Christian and pre-Christian), spiritual body of Christ.
The Universality19 of the Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-28)
In denying the resurrection of the pre-Christian saints, or of old covenant Israel, the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were denying not the fact of the resurrection, but the “all-ness” of the resurrection and the “all-ness” of Christ’s atoning work. They denied that Christ had died for “all,” and therefore they denied that “all” would be raised. Though they agreed with Paul that Christ had died for “our” (the eschatological church’s) sins
(1 Cor. 15:3, 11), they denied that Christ had died for the sins of “the dead.”
Contrary to their doctrine, the resurrection of Christ was not the begin-
ing either material or immaterial.” The Body, John A. T. Robinson (SCM Press Ltd., Bloomsbury Street London, 1966), 32. Reformed theologians Ridderbos and Holland acknowledge that some of Robinson’s exegeses are flawed, but they endorse the substance of his insights on “the body.” I cite Robinson here in the same spirit.

  1. When I use the terms “universal” and “universality,” I am not referring to any form of “Universalism.” I am referring to the trans-historical assembly of the saints of all generations, from Adam to AD 70, or from Adam to the present day.

ning of the resurrection of the last days church only. It was also the beginning of the resurrection of the great cloud of saints (“the dead”/“them that slept”) who had come and gone before the advent of the last days church. Christ became the “First Fruits” of the eschatological church and of the Hadean saints “out from among” whom He had been raised (1 Cor. 15:55; Rev. 1:5). His resurrection was the beginning of the resurrection of “all” the saints who were “in Adam” (1 Cor. 15:20), not merely of the eschatological church. As all the saints, Christian and pre-Christian, had been condemned and alienated from God (i.e., had died) in Adam through Sin (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 7:9), so “all[8] were going to be raised up in “the Christ,” the second “Man” (or the second Humanity), the Savior of “the world” (1 Cor. 15:21-22). Because Christians were “of Christ,” and because Christ was the First Fruit of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23), Christians were, in Him, “first fruits” of the resurrection (James 1:18; Rev. 14:4), so that Christ was “the First Fruits” of “the first fruits.”[9] The resurrection of Christians “in His Parousia,” therefore, was not to be the consummation of the life-giving reign of Christ (1 Cor. 15:22-24), as the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers supposed. The eschatological church’s resurrection in “Christ the First Fruits” was instead the beginning of the end of the resurrection-harvest, and was to be followed by “the end,”[10] or “consummation,” which was the resurrection of the dead, i.e., the death of Death (the abolition of the alienation of God’s people from Him)—when “all” the elect became the habitation of the lifegiving Spirit through the gospel (Jn. 5:25; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rev. 20:5-6).
Christ, through the Holy Spirit, was not reigning in the Spirit-indwelt, eschatological church merely so that the church by itself would attain unto the resurrection and inherit the kingdom. He was reigning in the church so that the historic kingdom would, in Him, be universalized” in and brought under the rule of “the God and Father” of “all” the saints (1 Cor. 15:24). The Adamic saints were not going to be left unredeemed from the “rule,” “authority,” and “power” of Satan, Sin, Death, and Condemnation. Rather, the Father was going to place all those kingdom-enemies under the feet of Christ, and Christ was going to “abolish,” or “annul,” them all.
He was already in process of abolishing the last and greatest kingdom-enemy, Death itself, through the kingdom-transforming, kingdom-universalizing work of the Cross and the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 15:26). “All things” (or literally, “the All Things,” the cosmic body of Sin and Death) were going to be subjected to Christ, and changed (Phil. 3:21) in the Father, by the power of the Father, and under the authority of the Father, so that all of the enemies would be done away; so that all of the Father’s elect (from Adam to AD 70) would be made alive in Christ; so that the universal church would become the habitation of the triune God, so that He would become “All Things in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).
If the Resurrection is not Universal (1 Cor. 15:12-19; 29-34)
The Son did not come to set up His own new religion that excluded the historic saints who had worshiped the Father in the Adamic ages. To the contrary, the Son was sent by the Father and under the authority of the Father for the purpose of restoring “all” the elect to the Father, to “universalize” the Father’s dominion. Unbeknownst to the resurrectionof-the-dead deniers, if Christ had come to save only the eschatological church and to exclude the pre-Christian world, this would have left only two possibilities. Either:

  1. Christ would be the conqueror of the God of the pre-Christian world, and the Father would be put in subjection under the feet of the Son (1 Cor. 15:27).[11]


  1. Christ was not sent to accomplish the Father’s cosmos-saving work; therefore the Father had never raised Him from the dead, and the gospel was a lie, and Christianity was merely a man-made religion.

Of these two possibilities, Paul countered the first in passing (1 Cor. 15:27), but rigorously pursued the implications of the second. As we know, many at Corinth were living as though the second possibility was the truth.
As Paul reasoned: If Christ did not come to accomplish the Father’s work of restoration (Isa. 55:11), to gather and unite “all” (Christian and pre-Christian) who were chosen in the Father from before the world began, then Christ was not of the Father. Then neither the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ nor the resurrection-hope of the eschatological church was true or valid. Then Paul and the other apostolic preachers were liars, and Christ did not die for the sins of the eschatological church, and the Father never raised Him from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3-4, 11, 13-16).
Consequently, Christ was not reigning. Therefore no one had been born of the Spirit that proceeded from the Father. Then the gospel was vain, and the faith of believers was vain (1 Cor. 15:14, 17). Then no one had been saved and empowered by the grace of God either to preach the gospel or to believe it (1 Cor. 15:1-2, 5-8, 10-11).
Christians were, then, still in their sins, and those who had fallen asleep in Christ had died in their sins (1 Cor. 15:17-18). Then the resurrection-hope that believers had in Christ was false (1 Cor. 15:19). Then those Christians who were undergoing baptism (Spirit-led suffering and death) on behalf of the dead (1 Cor. 15:29; Matt. 20:23; 23:34-35; Luke 12:50; Heb. 11:40; Rev. 6:9-11) were in reality suffering for nothing more than a man-invented delusion. They were not being led by the Spirit but were instead going to a hopeless, meaningless death.
Moreover then, the apostles were fighting with “beasts” (enemies of the gospel) and were standing in jeopardy every hour, dying daily, not to change the world of God’s people, but for absolutely nothing, because
of Israel and His law) was the root error of the doctrine that would later be known as Gnosticism.
their gospel sufferings were not being wrought through the cosmosresurrecting, cosmos-changing power of the indwelling eschatological Spirit, but through the power of mere man (1 Cor. 15:30-32).
If the gospel was a lie and there was no God-ordained, worldchanging need of dying daily through the Spirit, of suffering hardships, humiliations and dangers, then the apostles should logically have lived as the arrogant, carnal Corinthians themselves were living (I Cor. 4:8). They should have rejected their humiliating sufferings for the gospel and put off dying for some other day (“tomorrow”) (1 Cor. 15:32-34).
In the end, the whole church, following the apostles and the Corinthians, would have forsaken the shame of the Cross of Christ and escaped the eschatological sufferings to which it had been called. All believers would have lived in the status quo of the old world. Though the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers did not know it, this was the practical, church-corrupting result of their dead-excluding error. This is why it was urgent for them to “awake righteously” from out of their shameful and sinful ignorance of God.
Contrary to the resurrection error, believers were being called to “die” for (on behalf of) “all” (the whole “creation”/“body” of God’s people). The church’s eschatological death and resurrection with Christ was for the purpose of bringing about the transformation of the preChrist world of the saints (“all Israel”). Though the resurrection-of-thedead deniers were unaware of it, their doctrine was implicitly opposed to the cosmic gospel-purpose of the Father.
The first-fruits church, through the indwelling Spirit of the reigning Christ, was putting to death the Adamic world-body of Death itself (alienation from the Father) through the newly-revealed gospel of God. Through the Death-destroying, Life-giving, “man”-changing power of the gospel of the death and resurrection of Christ, the fleshly, Adamic “man” or “body” or “creation”—the whole world-system of the dominion of Sin and Death—was being put to death and “abolished.” It was that body which would soon be raised up and “changed” (in AD 70) into the new, Christological, spiritual “body” in the kingdom of God (the new covenant world).
The Seed Analogy (1 Cor. 15:35-50)
Paul’s illustrations from nature in verses 36-41 are problematic if they are interpreted as arguments that are aimed at someone who denies the very possibility of resurrection. How does the fact that sheep differ from sparrows serve in any way to validate the doctrine of resurrection for someone who does not believe in the very concept of resurrection? How does it serve to make the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead imaginable or feasible (345)? It doesn’t.[12][13]
The difficulty with Paul’s words concerning the bodies/fleshes/glories of creation vanishes only when we let it sink into our minds that Paul was reasoning with people who already believed in the eschatological, body-resurrection of Christians. The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers would have already agreed that a seed rising up to become a plant illustrates the truth of resurrection. And that is why Paul used the analogy. The fact of resurrection was common ground between Paul and the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers.
Paul therefore made reference to the universal death and change of seeds,[14] not to demonstrate the already-agreed-upon fact of resurrection, but to demonstrate the following four things that those who were in error at Corinth were denying:

  1. The necessity of the death of the pre-resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:36)
  2. The differentness of the pre- and post-resurrection bodies (1 Cor. 15:37)
  3. The necessity of the change of the pre-resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:38a)
  4. The universality of the pre-resurrection body and the postresurrection body (1 Cor. 15:38b)

After establishing these premises through the common-ground analogy of the “resurrection” of seeds, Paul went on to reference the whole of the material universe, because insofar as it is filled with innumerable, different bodies—just like the multitudes of different kinds of seeds and plants in verse 38b—it confirms the universality of the two different bodies (the existence of which Paul established in the seed analogy itself).
The universal diversity of the Genesis creation served as an analogy of the cosmos-changing work of the gospel. As the whole Genesis creation is filled with differing bodies (fleshes, glories), so the whole “creation” (the body) of God’s chosen ones in Adam, living and dead, “from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other,” was going to put off the old “body” of Sin and Death (the Adamic, mortal, corruptible, dishonorable, weak, and natural “old man”), and was going to be “clothed” with the wholly otherbody of Christ” (the immortal, incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual new Man; the Christological “new creation”) (Matt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:42-44).
The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers thought that the eschatological church was an altogether separate entity from the Adamic, old covenant world. They thought that the body of Christ essentially appeared out of nowhere, as it were, absolutely disconnected from the world that preceded it. They thought the eschatological church was buried the spiritual body and that it was going to be raised the same spiritual body on the Last Day.
The reality though was that the eschatological church was itself in the mortal, corruptible, dishonorable, weak, and natural “body” of the pre-Christ saints. It was still bearing “the image of the earthy” (1 Cor. 15:49), not in a biological sense, but in a cosmic-covenantal sense. God’s old covenant ministration of Death and Condemnation still stood, and God’s church was still an organic part of that world-order. It was therefore still in the body of Sin and Death, and was putting that body to death through the Spirit.
The pre-Christian, Adamic saints existed in a state of “mortality” in that they did not yet have consummated eternal life, redemption, and face-to-face union with God (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 13:12; 1 Jn. 2:25; Rev. 22:4). They were in a state of “corruptibility[15] in that they did not yet have the incorruptible, “eternal righteousness” of Christ (Dan. 9:24). They were in a state of “dishonor” in that they were not yet clothed with the glory of the new covenant in Christ’s justifying blood (Rom. 4:24; 2 Cor. 3:7-18). They were in a state of “weakness” in that, as long as the condemning old covenant world remained standing, they had not yet inherited eternal life (cf. 1 Cor. 6:14; Heb. 7:6; 1 Jn. 2:25). They were “natural” in that they had not yet been made the spiritual dwelling of the triune God (Jn. 14:23).
Before Christ, the saints bore the image of Adam, the disobedient one. They were unable to attain to heavenly life (1 Cor. 15:45, 48-49). Their sins had grounded them in the mundane, the worldly, the carnal, the “corruptible.” Their worship of God consisted in earthly types, shadows, and copies of the heavenly. Their fellowship with God was not face to face, but was through the agency of sinful, earthly mediators. Their sacrifices were reminders of sin. They were separated from the Father.
They were under the reign of Sin and Death.
Through its body-burial and body-death with Christ, the church was putting to death that old, corruptible “world” or “body” or “creation” or “man” through the sin-killing Spirit on behalf of the dead. In the consummation of the Spirit’s work in the church, the body of God’s people, living and dead (“all Israel”), was going to be redeemed, changed, and gathered together into the eternal, spiritual kingdom of Christ.
This is the “knowledge of God” of which the resurrection-of-thedead deniers were woefully ignorant. Because they thought that the eschatological church, to the exclusion of “the dead,” was “the body [of Christ] that shall be,” they could not grasp “how” the saints of old could be resurrected with the church. Here is an expanded paraphrase of their objection in verse 35:
“We, the eschatological church, are the blood-bought body that has been sown (planted, buried) with Christ through the Holy Spirit in order that we might be raised with Him to inherit the kingdom of God. The saints of old lived and died before Christ arrived. They have not been sown (planted/buried) with Him, as we have. There is no resurrection outside of Christ’s body, and we are His body. Therefore, the dead have no part in the resurrection body. How then are the dead being raised with us? If your doctrine is true Paul, then answer this question: With what body are the dead being raised?”[16]Paul’s answer (verses 36-37):
“The dead are being raised through the burial and death of the body of Sin, of which we are still a part (since the old covenant world has not yet vanished). The dead, therefore, are being raised through our (the last-days, first-fruit church’s) dying to Sin (the burial and death of the Adamic ‘body’ with Christ) on their behalf, and they will therefore be ‘changed’ with us into the resurrected, spiritual body of Christ in the new covenant world.
“Look at your own experience for confirmation of this truth. When you yourselves are planting a seed (as God has planted us with Christ) you are not planting the tree that will be. Likewise, God did not plant the ‘spiritual body’ of the age to come in order that the same ‘spiritual body’ will emerge. That is not God’s purpose. The Christological resurrection-body is not what has been sown/buried. It is not we alone who shall be raised. Rather, it is the Adamic ‘natural body’ that has been ‘sown’ with Christ, through the Spirit in us, so that the ‘natural body’ (the dead together with the last-days-of-the-Adamic-ages church—the whole Adamic ‘man’) is now being raised up and
changed’/‘transformed’ into the spiritual body of Christ.”
The objection of the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers was not biological; it was theological. Though they understood that the eschatological church had been “buried” with Christ through the Sin-killing work of the Holy Spirit in order that the church would be raised up on the Last Day, they erroneously thought that the church had been buried so that the church alone would be raised up on the Last Day. Thus Paul’s corrections in verse 44 (KJV):
. . . [T]here is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
That is, there was not a spiritual body only, as the resurrection-ofthe-dead deniers supposed.
And in verse 46:
Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
The spiritual body did not appear out of nowhere, as the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers imagined. Rather, the pre-existing “natural body” was being raised up and transformed into the “spiritual body.”
The reality that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers did not apprehend was that the eschatological church was in a state of Adamic bodyunion (solidarity, interdependence) with “the dead,” and it therefore stood in need of a universal body-change. The church was not merely the new man and the spiritual body. It was the dying old man; the dying body of Sin and Death.
It was not the case that the Old Testament saints would be replaced by the body of Christ. Instead, the body of Sin had to die through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and be raised, and be changed by the same Spirit (Heb. 11:40). The church could not be saved by itself. The church was bearing the image of “the first man” and was in process of being transformed, on behalf of the dead and with the dead, into the image of “the Christ” (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:45-49; 2 Cor. 3:18).
Without the death and universal change of “the body” through the power of the eschatological Spirit, not so much as one Christian could be made alive in the Father. The resurrection in Christ was to be cosmos-wide, or not at all. The whole world of God’s people had to be transformed.
The eschatological church thus stood in need of the consummated world-change from the “flesh-and-blood” world-body of “corruption” (sub-divine righteousness) to the “spiritual,” Christological body of incorruptible and eternal righteousness in the new covenant world (1 Cor. 15:50). If that change did not take place when the temple fell in AD 70, then Christ was never raised from the dead, the gospel was a lie, and all Christians were and are without hope. Either the eschatological church and “the dead” were changed and God became All Things in “all,” or Christ was never raised, and the church remains in her sins, and the world-body of the hand-made temple of God maintains its standing before God today.
The Universal Change (1 Cor. 15:51-58)
The coming transformation of God’s covenant-universe (dead and living, Jew and Gentile) through the gospel of the death and resurrection of the body of Christ was the “mystery” that had been kept secret since the world began. It was the mystery that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers failed to grasp. “The dead” and the eschatological church were going to be made alive together in Christ and were going to be united in the Father. “All things . . . in the heavens and things upon the earth” were going to be summed up in Christ (Rom. 11:15, 25-26; 16:15; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:9-10; 3:6-10; Col. 1:26-27).
The world-change, or body-change, took place and the “mystery” was fulfilled before Paul’s generation passed away (1 Cor 15:51). The sounding of the symbolic “last trumpet[17] took place when the worldly city and sanctuary fell in AD 70 (Rev. 10:7; 11:2, 8; cf. Heb. 9:8). When that old “house” fell and the old Adamic “garment” was folded up and “changed,” the dead were raised and all the elect were “clothed” with the body of Christ in the new covenant world (Heb. 1:10–12). “All” put off the old man (Adamic Sin) and “put on” the new Man (the righteousness of Christ). “All” God’s people were “clothed with” the tabernacle/body of the triune God.
When the old garment was removed and the house of the old covenant was thrown down, believers were not found “naked,” nor left “unclothed” or homeless for even the indiscernible “moment” of “the twinkling of an eye,” as would have been the case if there was no resurrection of the dead and consequently no world-change (Rev. 3:17-18; 16:15; 17:16). If there was no resurrection, then the fall of the city and the sanctuary would have been the death knell for Christians just as much as it was for unbelieving Jews. Indeed, it would have been the death knell for humanity. But because the dead were raised and the cosmos of God’s people was transformed in Christ, believers were clothed in AD 70 with the Christological, new covenant house from out of heaven (Col. 2:2; Heb. 1:12; 8:13; Rev. 16:15).
Death (condemnation and alienation from God) was deprived of its sting, which was Sin, when Sin was finally sealed up, covered over, and done away in the consummation of the Adamic/Mosaic ages through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. This happened when Christ appeared the second time in AD 70, having consummated His high-priestly work of atonement (Lev. 16). This is when He swept away the old covenant world of Sin, Death, condemnation, and alienation and changed the universal church into the completed, anointed, Most Holy Place of God Himself (Rev. 21:2, 16; Heb. 3:6, 9:6-8).
Sin was deprived of its power, which was the Law of Moses, when through the power of the Cross, the Law came to its end in AD 70. That is when the Law-covenant (the ministration of Death and Condemnation) vanished[18] (Heb. 8:13) and “all things” in earth and in heaven (“all” the saints, living and dead) were reconciled to God (Col. 1:20).
When all these things were consummated, the corruptible and mortal Adamic body “put on” the incorruptible and immortal body of Christ (1 Cor. 15:53). The old, corruptible house (the old covenant world) fell.
The new, eternal house (the New Jerusalem) came down from out of heaven. The church and the Hadean saints were raised up and united in the one body of Christ, and were irrevocably and gloriously “changed” into the “perfect” tabernacle of God.
Thus, through the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, God gave His church the eschatological, cosmos-transforming victory of faith over Sin, Death, and the Law. Her gospel labors in Him bore world-transforming fruit. Reigning with the risen “Christ of God,” her worldburying, world-destroying, world-resurrecting, and world-changing labors were consummated in the AD-70 realization of the hope of Israel —in the universal gathering of “all” the saints, living and dead, in “the God and Father of all” (1 Cor. 15:57-58). Thus was the beginning of the Christian age, “a dispensation more divine than many are disposed to think.”[19]
Summary and Conclusion
The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed the following: The eschatological church was the “spiritual body” of Christ that had been buried with Christ and which was being raised up the same spiritual body of Christ. There was no “natural body” involved in the church’s resurrection with Christ. There was no body-union between the church and the pre-Christian saints (“the dead”). The dead were not going to be included in the resurrection and the kingdom. God, through the indwelling Spirit, had “sown,” or “buried,” the spiritual body of Christ (the church) so that the church by itself (to the exclusion of the dead) would be resurrected unchanged (still the same spiritual body of Christ that it was when it was buried with Christ) in the consummation.
If there was no resurrection of the Old Testament dead, these were the undesired results:

  1. God did not raise Christ from the dead.
  2. The eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ were liars.
  3. The preaching of the apostles was vain.
  4. The faith of Christians was vain.
  5. Christians were still in their sins.
  6. Christians who had fallen asleep had died in their sins (perished).
  7. The persecuted apostles were to be pitied more than all men.
  8. Christians who were being martyred for the dead were doing so for nothing.
  9. Christians were battling the enemies of the gospel by merely human power.
  10. Christians should have forsaken their sufferings and lived mundane lives.
  11. Christians would not be able to inherit the kingdom of God.
  12. Christians would remain under the curse of Sin, Death, and the Law.
  13. Christians would remain clothed with corruption, mortality, dishonor, and weakness, and would remain natural.

Here is why those results necessarily followed from the denial of the resurrection of the Old Testament dead:
God raised Christ from the dead not so that the natural Adamic body (the people of God in their Adamic state of Sin and Death) would be replaced by the spiritual body of Christ (the church). The Father raised the Son from the dead so that the Adamic body would be buried, put to death, resurrected, and transformed into the universal body of Christ. The eschatological church was not in a separate body from the Adamic dead. It was part of the natural, corruptible, dishonorable, and weak Adamic body, and was putting that body to death through the Spirit on behalf of the dead.
Apart from the creation-wide “body-change” of “all” the elect from Adam to the Last Day in AD 70, there could be no resurrection-life for any Christian. The church could not inherit the kingdom of God unless the whole universe of God’s people was resurrected and changed together. This was the cosmic scope and purpose of the Cross of Christ. This is what those who were in error at Corinth did not understand.
Though futurists today do not realize it, they are, in principle, unknowing followers of the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers at Corinth. Futurists believe that the church (the body of Christ) has been spiritually resurrected and seated with Christ in the spiritual kingdom for 2,000 years now, but that the pre-Christian (Old Testament) dead have not yet been resurrected into that kingdom. Though many futurists inconsistently believe that the Old Testament saints were released from Hades between Jesus’ death and resurrection (contradicting the timeframe of Rev. 20:14), they do not hold that those saints have been “resurrected” into the kingdom. As anti-preterist Strimple teaches (in contrast to anti-premillennial Strimple), physically dead people cannot experience a resurrection and remain physically dead.
Though futurists certainly do not deny the resurrection of the dead, they unwittingly teach a “short circuit” in the cosmic gospel-purpose of the Father when they teach that God gave the spiritual kingdom to the church on Earth, but has put off “resurrecting” the Old Testament dead into the kingdom until 2,000+ years later.
This “gap” between Christians and “the [Old Testament] dead” is not a biblical option. As Paul argued, either the dead and the church would inherit the kingdom together, or no one could inherit the kingdom at all. Either all the elect, the church and the dead, were made alive (resurrected) together in Christ in the end of the old covenant age, or all the elect remained dead in Adam (cf. 1 Thess. 5:10). In other words, either all the saints were resurrected in AD 70, or none were resurrected, not even Christ. There is no other possibility.
Therefore, as with the error at Corinth, the undesired implication of the doctrine of a yet-future resurrection of the dead is that Christ has not been raised and that our faith is vain and that we are still in our sins. Futurism is not a damnable doctrine, just as the error at Corinth was not a damnable doctrine. Nevertheless, futurism, with its parousiadelay and resurrection-delay, shares implications with the Corinthian error which, if followed through logically, ultimately serve to destroy the Faith. If Paul were alive today, it is possible that he would say to futurists what he said to his Corinthian brethren, and for essentially the same reason:
. . . [S]ome have ignorance of God. I speak this to your shame.
(1 Cor. 15:34)

[1] . Those who hold to “the collective body view” of 1 Corinthians 15 believe that the root error at Corinth was a radical kind of “replacement theology,” i.e., a disdain for Israel and a denial that historical Israel would take part with the church in the resurrection and in the kingdom of God. While that interpretation of the error at Corinth may be entirely correct, I am not convinced that it is provable that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers had antiIsrael or anti-Semitic sentiments (though their error was certainly implicitly antagonistic to God’s historic covenant nation). For this reason, I confine my-
[2] . Charles Hill is therefore incorrect when he says: “It is not that the Corinthians could not comprehend what Paul was talking about; rather, one party in Corinth, comprehending all too well what Paul had in mind, did not find it to their liking and were opposing it.” (104)
[3] . When we consider that 1 Corinthians was written a mere twenty-five years after the beginning of Christianity, and when we consider that the eschatological, first-fruits church was already partaking of the coming resurrection, and when we consider the eager expectation in that era of the imminent fulfillment of the end of the Adamic ages and of the resurrection the dead, we should expect that believers in that historical moment would refer to the vast multitudes that had lived and died before the advent of Christ as the “dead [ones].” This is not to say that the term “the dead” in the New Testament was code for “the dead of the Old Testament in contrast to dead Christians.” It is to say only that in that eschatological generation, if reference were made to the pre-Christian dead in contrast to the relatively few dead Christians (in about AD 55), the designation “the dead” or “dead ones” sufficed.
[4] . There was therefore no need for Paul to say explicitly that the dead were primarily “historical Israel,” as Hill insists in his chapter (115). If “the dead” were the righteous, pre-Christian dead, then they were (with relatively few exceptions) none other than the saints of the historic, Abrahamic covenant community (i.e., Israel) along with the saints who lived before the promises given to Abraham.
[5] . Similarly in American law today the basic meaning of the word “body” is “a person.” “A corporalis [bodily] injuria” is “a personal injury.” We use the word “body” this way when we speak of “somebody,” “anybody,” “nobody,” or “everybody.” This usage of the word used to be more common than it is today: “The foolish bodies say in their hearts: Tush, there is no God.” (Ps. 14:1, Coverdale translation, 1535)
[6] . Although Reformed theologian Herman Ridderbos was a futurist and expected a literal transformation of the physical bodies of believers, he nevertheless understood that such Pauline terms as “the body of sin,” “the body of the flesh,” “the earthly members,” and “the body of this death” “are obviously not intended of the [material] body itself, but of the sinful mode of existence of man.” Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975), 229; Cf., Tom Holland, Contours of Pauline Theology: A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul’s Biblical Writings, Mentor, 2004.
[7] . “[The spiritual body] is not in the least constituted what it is by its being physical. It fulfills its essence by being utterly subject to Spirit, not by be-
[8] . “All” in 1 Cor. 15:22 corresponds to “the many” in Rom. 5:15-16 and 19. When Paul says that “all” died in Adam and that “all” would be made alive in Christ, he means that all of God’s people (the whole cosmos of Gods’ elect) died in Adam and would be made alive in Christ.
[9] . Strimple inexplicably denies this doctrine on pages 309 and 342 of
[10] . In Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, on page 62, Strimple teaches that “the end” in 1 Corinthians 15:24 is the same “end” that Jesus said would come after the gospel was “preached in the whole world” in Matthew 24:14. Thus Strimple holds that the resurrection of the dead takes place upon the completion of the preaching of the gospel “in the whole world.”   But this presents a problem for Strimple, because the gospel was “preached in the whole world” almost 2,000 years ago, in Christ’s generation, shortly before the fall of the earthly house (the old covenant world) in AD 70 (Rom. 16:25-26; Col. 1:23; 2 Tim. 4:17). If we are to accept Strimple’s sequence of events, we must conclude that the resurrection of the dead happened at the fall of the temple in AD 70, as Jesus and the apostles said it would.
[11] . This hyper-dispensational implication of the Corinthian resurrection-error (i.e., that Christ came to wage war against and to conquer the God
[12] . If the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers already believed in the historic, physical resurrection of Christ, as Strimple admits (309, 333), why would Paul have needed to convince them of the “feasibility,” “imaginability,” and “thinkability” of the very concept of physical resurrection, as Strimple says elsewhere quoting Berkouwer) (341)? How could it be that the resurrectionof-the-dead deniers were unable to accept the feasibility of a concept (1 Cor.
[13] :35) to which they already held as the gospel truth (1 Cor. 15:11)?
[14] . The necessary “death” of seeds, by the way, demonstrates that physical corruption and physical death existed before Adam sinned. The earth, by God’s decree, brought forth seed-yielding plants on the third day of creation (Gen. 1:11-13), and Adam was placed in the Garden to dress and keep the plants (Gen. 2:15). Therefore the cycle of literal seed-death and seed-resurrection/ change was already in process before Sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam. In the same way, God’s decree to the animals and to man that both “be fruitful and multiply” implied the cycle of biological birth, biological reproduction, and biological death; and that cycle was instituted before Adam sinned (Gen. 1:22, 28). Biological death did not enter the world through Sin. It was already in the world. It was alienation from God and slavery to Sin (Sin-consciousness, spiritual Death) that entered the world through Sin.
[15] . The terms “mortal” and “corruptible” do not describe the quality or duration of Adam’s physicality or the quality or duration of his soul. They describe the quality and duration of his sub-divine righteousness and works.
[16] . Strimple favorably quotes Robert Gundry as saying, “Paul uses soma precisely because the physicality of the resurrection is central to his soteriology.” In reality, Paul used soma precisely because the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers used the word soma in their objection (1 Cor. 15:35). The meaning of the word cannot be deduced from the fact that Paul repeated it.
[17] . In Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (112), Strimple says that since the Greek word “eskatos” (“last”) is used in the term “last trumpet,” it would “seem strange” if the “last” trumpet did not signal the end of Christ’s mediatorial reign and of the resurrection of the dead. Yet in the same book, Strimple does not think it “strange” when he says that the “last” (“eskatos”) days have thus far lasted almost 2,000 years (TVMB, 64).
[18] . Pratt (the author of chapter three of WSTTB) speaks for perhaps most futurists when he puzzles over the mention of “the law” in First Corinthians 15:56: “The emergence of the second theme regarding the law, however, seems to have no real antecedent in this letter.” (Holman New Testament Commentary: I&II Corinthians, 272) In the futurist paradigm, there is no real connection between the condemning power of the Law of Moses and the resurrection of Christians in the end of world history. Paul though makes the connection because the resurrection of the dead was going to happen when the old covenant (the Law) vanished in his generation. The two events were simultaneous (cf. 1 Cor. 7:29, 31; 10:11; 15:51-52). Cf., Law, Sin, and Death: An Edenic Triad? An Examination with Reference to I Corinthians 15:56, by Chris Alex Vlachos (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, volume 47; June, 2004).
[19] 0. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, book I, chapter II.

House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 13 Romans 8:11

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Seven
The Resurrection of the Dead
Part 13 Romans 8:11
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.
Strimple Argument #13: Christ’s redeeming experience is the
model and pattern of what lies ahead for us. Romans 8:11 says that
God “will also” (i.e., just as He did for Christ) “give life to your mortal
bodies” (288, 294, 297, 326-330, 333-337). Therefore, the word “soma
(body), when used in reference to the resurrection of the dead, means
“the physical, material aspect of our person.”
Answer: Strimple is correct that the physical death, physical burial,
and physical resurrection of Christ was the “pattern,” “parallel” and
“model” of the church’s body-burial, body-death, and body-resurrection
with Him. And Strimple is correct that Paul said in Romans 8:11
that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead “will also” give life
to the “mortal bodies” of believers.
Nevertheless, the eschatological church’s Spirit-empowered bodyburial,
body-death, and body-resurrection with Christ were not physical/
biological events. The “redemptive experience” of the eschatological
church was not a literal replay-in-process of what Christ experienced.
What Christ experienced physically (literal death, literal burial, and literal
resurrection), the eschatological church was experiencing spiritually
throughout the eschaton: Burial with Christ, death with Christ,
and resurrection with Christ through the age-changing power of the indwelling
Holy Spirit (Rom. 6:4-6,8; 8:17; 2 Cor. 13:4; Gal. 2:20; 3:27; Eph.
2:5,16; Col. 2:12-13,20; 3:1,3; 2 Tim. 2:11).
Most futurists accept the doctrine of a non-physical body-burial
with Christ and a non-physical body-death with Christ through the
Spirit. And they should. For as Paul said, “If Christ is in you, the body
is dead because of sin” (Rom. 8:10). The indwelling, Sin-killing Spirit
of Christ brought about the death of the mortal body of Sin and Death
while believers were still physically alive.
Preterists and futurists agree that Paul speaks of non-physical
body-death in Rom. 8:10. Yet when the doctrine of non-physical bodyresurrection
is offered, Strimple claims that such a non-physical usage
of the word “body” is “semantic sleight of hand” and a “contradiction in
terms.” He compares those who employ such a non-physical usage of
the word “body” to Humpty Dumpty arbitrarily changing the definition
of words (335-336).
Despite Strimple’s irrational ridicule, the Scriptures teach us that as
Christ was crucified physically, put to death physically, buried physically,
and resurrected from the dead physically, so were His people, through
His indwelling Spirit, buried bodily (yet non-physically) with Him into
His death; and while thus dying bodily (yet non-physically) with Him (to
Sin), His people were concurrently being resurrected bodily (yet nonphysically)
with Him through the same indwelling Spirit (Rom. 8:11) in
anticipation of the end of the old covenant age.
We know that the “body” was raised non-physically, because the
body” that was non-physically buried with Christ and non-physically
put to death with Him was, as Paul’s logic demands, to be resurrected
with Christ out of its non-physical burial and non-physical death (which
was death to the Adamic world of Sin, Death, and the Law). Therefore,
the eschatological resurrection of “the body” was necessarily non-physical
(not a biological resurrection).
In the second half of this chapter I will discuss the meaning of the
word “body” in eschatological, resurrection-of-the-dead contexts. For
now though, I will close this section with a preliminary argument that
bears directly on the historical basis for a resurrection unto biological
On page 332 of WSTTB Strimple says that Christ’s individual, postresurrection
body was physically “endowed with new qualities” so that it was physically
imperishable, physically glorious, physically powerful, and physically heavenly.
How does Strimple know this?
Strimple acknowledges that although Jesus, after His resurrection,
passed through locked doors, and though God “caused Him to be
seen,” and though Jesus suddenly “disappeared from their sight,” these
occurrences do not prove that Jesus’ post-resurrection body had been
changed. As Strimple agrees, even before Jesus was raised from the
dead, He walked on water, was transfigured, and “walked right through
a mob. Even the apostles themselves had passed through locked doors
and had vanished and reappeared (329).
Since none of those events indicate that either Jesus or the apostles
had physically imperishable bodies,[1] how does Strimple know that Jesus
had a physically imperishable body after His resurrection? Strimple
offers one piece of evidence, which is this:
Christ’s body would never die again. Therefore it was a physically
“imperishable, glorious, powerful, heavenly” body.
But this is hardly biblical proof. Enoch and Elijah were physically
taken up without seeing death. According to Strimple’s evidence,
Enoch and Elijah must have had biologically incorruptible bodies. But
if the hope of the promise is to receive a biologically incorruptible body,
then Enoch and Elijah could not have received such a body, because
Heb. 11:39 tells us that they “received not the promise.” If then, in the
futurist framework, Enoch and Elijah could not have put on physically
incorruptible bodies when they were taken up without seeing physical
death, why assume that Jesus became physically incorruptible when He
was assumed into the divine glory-cloud?
The fact is there is no scriptural proof that Christ’s body became biologically
incorruptible. That means that the four gospel narratives offer
no historical foundation and no Scripture-proof for the doctrine of a resurrection
of the dead unto biologically incorruptible bodies. The concept
has to be introduced into the gospel so that the gospel will better fit the
futurist supposition of an eschatological “resurrection of the flesh.”
Nevertheless, Strimple is so bold as to state, “ . . . [B]ut of course
the New Testament . . . lays great stress on the wonderful discontinuity
between Christ’s body before his resurrection and his body after it”
(332). Strimple offers no hint as to where in the New Testament this
“great stress” is found. That is because the “great stress” is found only
in the assumption of the futurist framework which has been imposed
upon the gospel narratives.

[1] Mathison in his chapter did not see what Strimple sees here. As
Mathison said: “Jesus’ resurrection body was changed enough that he was not
always recognized immediately. . . . He was also able to travel unhindered by
normal impediments. . . . ” Mathison did not realize that he was “proving” that
before Jesus’ resurrection, both He and the apostles had physically imperishable
bodies (193).

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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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:
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? 
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.  

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. 
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).
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.
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


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.–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).
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 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 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.… 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).
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
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
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
• 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,
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. 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,
[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
[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