House Divided Chapter Four The NT Time Texts Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan Part 5 Prophetic Telescoping Two Different Comings in Matthew 24-25?

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 5 – Prophetic Telescoping Two Comings in Matthew 24-25?
Michael J. Sullivan
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Prophetic Telescoping
 
On pages 167 and 180, Mathison presents the following argument:
Daniel 11:21–12:1 is one continuous prophecy. Verses 21–35 describe
the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes. The next verses, 11:36–12:1, describe
events that are unrelated to Antiochus Epiphanes. Yet there is no indication
of a subject change in the prophecy. Daniel thus prophesied events
that would be separated in time but he did not give any indication that
the two groups of events were to be so separated. It is possible that we
see similar “telescoping” in the Olivet Discourse. It could be that “Jesus
utilized the prophetic technique of telescoping two distant events into
one prophecy without much contextual indication of a change in subject.”
Matthew 24:34 could be a transitional verse. It could be that everything
before verse 35 occurred in Jesus’ generation (the great tribulation
and the destruction of Jerusalem) and that everything after verse 34
is yet to be fulfilled (the Second Coming and Last Judgment).


Response:
 
According to the two-section theory of interpreting the Olivet Discourse,
the coming of false christs and the revealing of the Son of Man as “in the
days of Noah” are two events that will take place at the end of world history
(in section two of the Olivet Discourse: Matt. 24:37–39). But this
causes a problem. Luke relates the events of the Olivet Discourse in a
slightly different order than Matthew, and he puts those two supposedly
end-of-world-history events in between the coming of the Son of Man “as
the lightning” (Lk. 17:24) and the fleeing of people from their housetops
and fields (Lk. 17:31). But those events are in the alleged “first section”
of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:17–19, 24). Luke thus has two “second section”
events (allegedly in the end of world history) sandwiched between
two “first-section” events that were fulfilled in the first century.
Luke was not aware of the theory of a “telescoped” Olivet Discourse.
We see this problem present itself again when Jesus prophesies that
one would be taken and one would be left. According to the two-section
theory, that event will take place at the end of world history (in section
two of the Olivet Discourse: Matt. 24:40–41). But Luke puts that event in
between the fleeing of people from their housetops and fields (Lk. 17:31)
and the vultures gathering at the corpse (Lk. 17:37). But those events are
in the alleged “first section” of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:17–18, 28)
and were fulfilled in the first century. Thus Luke again has a “second section”
event (allegedly in the end of world history) sandwiched between
two “first-section” events that were fulfilled in the first century.
 
According to the two-section theory, Luke 17:23–37 reads like this:
 
Lk. 17:23–24 (false christs; Son of Man as lightning in His day) AD 70
Lk. 17:26–30 (the days of Son of Man as the days of Noah) End of world history
Lk. 17:31–33 (people fleeing from housetops and fields) AD 70
Lk. 17:34–36 (one taken, one left) End of world history
Lk. 17:37 (vultures gathered at the corpse) AD 70
 
The absurdity that results in exegetically “ping-ponging” through
this text is most pronounced in the last four verses. In verses 34–36, Jesus
supposedly tells His disciples that at the end of world history, some
people will be “taken,” i.e., literally raptured into the clouds (Lk. 17:34–
36).[1] Then in verse 37, the disciples ask Him, “Where, Lord?” That
is, “Where will those people be taken?” According to the two-section
theory, Jesus answered His disciples’ question about the Rapture at the
end of world history by telling them about the corpses of Jews becoming
the food of vultures in AD 70.[2]
 
But, if it can be believed, the confusion deepens further still. In
his book, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope, Mathison actually
implies that Luke 17:20–37 was all fulfilled in AD 70. His argument in
that book is that we can know that Jesus was probably speaking of the
destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 18:7–8 partly because “in the preceding
chapter (Luke 17:20–37), he speaks of the coming destruction of
Jerusalem in A.D. 70.”[3]
 
Based on his argument in Postmillennialism, Mathison has it that
when Jesus prophesied that the judgment in the days of the Son of Man
would be as the judgment in the days of Noah, and when He prophesied
that some would be taken and others left, Jesus meant those prophecies
to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in Luke 17 and simultaneously
meant them to refer to the end of world history in Matthew 24. Yet
Mathison says he believes that Matthew 24 and Luke 17 contain the
same subject matter (WSTTB, 176). How can these things be?
 
Mathison’s many contradictory exegeses result in mind-boggling
conundrums. But the word of God on this matter is clear enough.
Luke, in Luke 17:22–37, mixes the events of Matthew 24:17–28 (first
section) with the events of Matthew 24:37–41 (second section). In so
doing, Luke unifies Matthew 24:17–41, confirming it to be one prophecy
that would be fulfilled in one set of events in one generation. In
contrast, “two-section” theorists violently break the prophecy in pieces
to conform it to the futurist paradigm. There is no question that this
theory is unworkable and that Luke saw no “telescoping” in the Olivet
Discourse. Selah.
 
As a matter of fact, in Mathison’s latest book, From Age to Age, he
abandons his two-section view of the Olivet Discourse, finally conceding
that the prophecy was fulfilled in the first century. He is also more
consistent in that book in his preterist interpretation of “the coming
of the Son of Man.” He now sees every reference to the coming of the
Son of Man as referring to Christ’s Ascension/Coming in AD 70. This
includes Matthew 25:31—the prophecy of the sheep and goats. Not one
church father interpreted Matthew 25:31 as having been fulfilled in the
first century. But Mathison does.
 
Mathison disagrees with the unified testimony of the universal
church. How then can he continue to anathematize us for disagreeing
with the unified testimony of the universal church?[4] Furthermore,
Mathison is out of step with the church fathers, and with the Reformed
community, and with “hyper preterists,” all of whom “stand shoulder
to shoulder” in opposition to him on this point. We all agree with the
church fathers that the promises of the coming of the Son of Man refer
to Christ’s Second Coming, and that we cannot separate the coming of
the Son of Man from 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15.



[1] Though Mathison implies that this prophecy will be fulfilled at the
end of world history, he is silent in all of his books as to its meaning. We can
only surmise that he believes it refers to the futurist “Rapture.”
[2] “Jesus’ reference to the vultures in [Matt. 24:28] refers to Jeremiah
7:33. Again He is using Old Testament judgment imagery.” Keith A. Mathison,
Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God? (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R
Publishing, 1995), 142
[3] Postmillennialism (213)
[4] Postmillennialism, 117 (emphasis added)