An Open Letter to Phil Johnson and John MacArthur Regarding: Charismatics/Dr. Michael Brown, Inconsistencies, Lies, Liberals, R.C. Sproul, S.E.S. & Last Days Cults

An Open Letter to Phil Johnson (and by extension John MacArthur –10/19/2017),


Dear Mr. Phil Johnson,

I appreciate you calling me back in regards to my debate with Charismatic Dr. Brown over 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and possibly trying to get it at The Master’s Seminary or University along with our hopes of someone representing your views on the text and subject matter.  I have been calling and writing Grace Community and The Masters Seminary for several months now with no response until today.  I wanted to briefly address some of the things you mentioned to me on the phone that were more than inconsistent and in some cases just blatantly wrong and needing public correction and an apology.

Inconsistencies on What “heretic(s)” “Step(s) Foot” on The Master’s Campuses

18556061_10155363997605990_4266574590684128712_nYou mentioned you would never allow Dr. Michael Brown or myself “to step foot” on The Master’s Seminary, University or Grace Community because it is Pastor MacArthur’s position that “heretics” like us are not to be given a platform or given equal time in a debate or in any kind of public discussion with you.  Yet when I was a student at The Master’s College professor Brian Morley allowed a Mormon apologist come to our class and we engaged with him.  Sounds like you arbitrarily pick and choose what “heretics” you want to engage with.  I even invited Greg Bahnsen to speak at TMC and I’m guessing MacArthur considers his Theonomy to be “heretical” as well – right?  Yet he spoke in many of my classes being asked challenging questions and giving them to and from the students and faculty.

Of course the glaring problem here is that your Dispensational Premillennialism and Brown’s Historical Premillennialism has been condemned as “heretical” by the early creeds for it’s hyper-literal understanding of God’s kingdom on earth – being likened to “Jewish dreams.”  And Sproul and others consider your progressive dispensationalism no less “heretical” than pure dispensationalism.  And the drama on who is “heretical” continues  when these same early Amillennial creeds would consider Sproul’s hyper-literal kingdom manifestations/fulfillments of Postmillennialism to also be “heretical” and on par with “Jewish dreams” as well.  And yet I’m willing to engage with you, Brown and Sproul even though you constitute a “heretical” group.  Selah.  That’s what the field of apologetics is all about Phil.  Why even teach apologetics to your students if you are so afraid turn them loose to actually engage with them?!?

Since you can’t address the Charismatic exegetical arguments on 1 Cor. 1:5-8; 1 Cor. 13:8-12, Acts 2, Mark 16:15-20/Mt. 28:18-20; “the already and not yet of the kingdom,” etc., you just call them “heretics” and talk about their abuses and extremes (Word of Faith, how many times they sing choruses of worship songs, etc…).  This “apologetic” (which it really isn’t) has produced no fruit within the Charismatic movement.  All it has done is further proven to them that you don’t have the exegetical answers to their questions and challenges.

I shared with you how when I first attended The Master’s College that I had discussions with Pastor MacArthur on these passages and he never answered the arguments (as a Charismatic from Calvary Chapel I was VERY open to leaving that position but committed to a proper exegesis of these texts that were clearly eschatological).  I also shared with you that C.W. Smith (my theology major advisor and a professor at TMC whom taught Greek and through 1-2 Corinthians) told me that MacArthur’s Greek and contextual argument as to why tongues ceased in AD 70 but prophecy and knowledge pass away thousands of years later at the New Creation was inconsistent and weak and that he didn’t agree with it.  You actually scoffed at me for saying this and yet it is 100% true.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  Your attitude suggested that MacArthur couldn’t answer my challenges as a student or that he couldn’t possibly be wrong on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 — just doesn’t match the facts.  He has been wrong on very important issues and texts before…

After leaving my 4 point “Calvinist” position behind as a student and becoming a 5 point Calvinist I also had a discussion with MacArthur about his weak and inconsistent position on limited atonement and recommended him reading Gary Long’s book, Definite Atonement and his syllabuses on the sovereignty of God in salvation (which I printed out for him).  I’m glad John changed his view on that subject later but John r22491621_10155710466904192_5794897158961308659_nemains wrong in having no exegetical defense against Charismatic texts (listed above) and has no exegetical refutation of Preterism.  John now agrees with Sproul that when he hears someone say he is a 4 point Calvinist he is thinking to himself  “oh, you mean you are a confused Arminian.”  You and MacArthur would also agree with me that Partial Preterism when played out consistently leads to Full Preterism.

The only problem is that you and MacArthur are like the eschatological 5 point Arminian and your Premillennial “heresy” of hyper-literalism is an heir to the Pharisees doctrine of an earthly kingdom.  It doesn’t matter if you “postpone” it to a future coming of Jesus that you have imagined for yourself – error is error.  The problem with Sproul’s Partial Preterism (the 4 point “Calvinism” of eschatology so to speak) is that it too portrays Christ as a failure to redeem His Church how and when He said He would (Heb. 9–10:37).  Christ as our great High Priest came to not provide atonement for all humanity but to actually atone and propitiate the sins of the “many” — the Church.  But to not accept that Christ came out a “second time” from the heavenly temple to the eagerly waiting congregation at the end of the OC age “in a very little while” and would “not tarry” is also to portray Christ as a failed High Priest.  Sproul is very conflicted, uncommitted and creedally ambiguous in his book The Last Days According to Jesus on Hebrews 9-10.  Both 4 point “Calvinism” and “Partial Preterism” are inconsistent and portray a failed Christ in His offices of Prophet, Priest and King in these chapters.  Selah.

Lies and Scare Tactics – Who Are These Preterist’s That Deny the Physical Resurrection of Jesus?

You also shared with me how I’m a worse “heretic” than even Dr. Brown.  You claimed that “Full Preterism believes or leads to denying the physical resurrection of Jesus.”  When I challenged you on this — stating I’ve been a Full Preterist for 27 years and personally have never known or communicated with anyone that believes this, you assured me there were and that this was documented in one of MacArthur’s books.  As it turns out, you are referring to Ward Fenley whom I shared the view with many years ago and who has NEVER denied that Christ was raised physically.  I just spoke with him on the phone after our conversation and he says that’s a pure lie.  He provided me with this statement:

“I have never denied the physical resurrection of Christ. In fact, in my article, “Christ’s Post Resurrection Mode” I go out of my way to show He arose physically from the grave.”

After talking to Ward after our call and reading the first sentence of his article I asked him why he assumed there were some Preterists out there that denied the physical resurrection of Christ.  He mentioned that being new to Full Preterism (hardly the most “prolific writer” within the movement Phil – this too was false:  King, Preston, Bell, & sovereign grace FPists – David Green, Ken Davies, etc…) at the time simply assumed that there might be Preterists out there somewhere that denied the physical resurrection of Jesus because he was told by some futurists that to be a Full Preterist, you denied the physical resurrection of Christ and the physical bodily return of Christ in our future.

Let me help explain where I think the confusion is here.  It’s like someone being new to the doctrines of grace or Calvinism and being told that your position means you “have to deny prayer or evangelism” and therefore you are a “hyper-Calvinist” because you believe in the 5 points.  I have had many discussions like these with ignorant and illogical Arminians.  Even when I was a student at The Master’s College after I embraced limited atonement I was constantly told by students that I had “gone too far” and had become a “hyper-Calvinist.”  I hadn’t become such or believed what they told me I had to believe having adopted the 5 points of Calvinism — they just had no clue what they were talking about!  And like the ignorant Arminian who uses scare tactics, that’s your and MacArthur’s approach with Full Preterism.  Pathetic.  And although I personally do not know any real “hyper-Calvinists” that don’t evangelize, they are actually out there.  When it comes to these Full Preterist’s that allegedly don’t believe in a physical raised body of Jesus – I don’t know of ANY.  You simply try and build your case with scare tactics and trying to knock down extremes — if they are in the minority or DON’T EVEN EXIST!  You and MacArthur write,

1085717“…some hyper-preterists even deny Christ was raised bodily from the dead” (John MacArthur, THE SECOND COMING Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age, 12).

There is NO citation or quote from these “some” you mention!  So Ward does not deny the physical resurrection of Jesus and you haven’t given me any documentation of any that do.  Nor have you demonstrated that this is somehow a prevalent belief within Full Preterism.  Nor have you demonstrated that to not believe Jesus still has a physical body and is returning someday in a physical body “necessitates that one logically work backwards to believe Jesus didn’t rise physically.”

Are We Like the Resurrection of the Dead Deniers or ARE YOU and MACARTHUR?

After falsely claiming that Full Preterism denies the physical resurrection of Jesus, you and MacArthur sign off on this bogus statement,

“The apostle Paul seemed to have a theology very much like modern hyper-preterism in mind when he penned [1 Cor. 16-17].” (Ibid., 12).

Here is a section taken from my article on 1 Corinthians 15 which demonstrates how it is YOU being an “heir to  Dispensational theology” that has more in common with the resurrection of the dead deniers in Paul’s day who had a difficult time reconciling how the OT dead would be raised with those who had died “in Christ.”

The Error Identified

Since the Corinthians believed in Christ’s resurrection and a resurrection for those whom had died “in Christ,” then to whom is left to deny a resurrection for?  In short, the error at Corinth was an extreme view (or a hyper-dispensational or replacement theology of sorts) that divided up the people of God in extreme ways.  They could not reconcile how the dead prior to Christ’s arrival could be raised into or with the Body of Christ.  In short, they were denying a key ingredient to “the better resurrection” that the writer to the Hebrews outlines:

Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they [the OT or Old Covenant dead] might obtain a better resurrection:   And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:  They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;  (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.  And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they (“the [OT/OC] dead”) without us (the NT/NC saints “in Christ”) should not be made perfect (Heb. 11:35-40).

The resurrection of the dead deniers at Corinth saw the “better things” for those who were “in Christ” (dead or alive – their side of the cross), but could not reconcile how the OT or Old Covenant dead (on the other side of the cross) could participate in order for both groups to be “made perfect” together in the Body of Christ.  They had the NC “better things,” and thus the OT or OC dead were left without participation in the better resurrection to come – was their reasoning and error.  They did not deny the doctrine of the resurrection in general, just the all-ness or oneness (with all of God’s of people) to the resurrection event to close the OC age.

Extreme views and excluding the righteous dead was not uncommon – even among the Jews.  Some Jews believed that anyone who died outside of the Promised Land would not participate in the resurrection:

“The Talmud records speculations on the various matters connected with the process of Resurrection.  There was a firm belief that the momentous event would take place in the Holy Land.  Some Rabbi took the extreme view that only they who were interred there would share in the future life.  ‘Those who die outside the land of Israel will not live again; as it is said, “I will set delight in the land of the living.”  (Ezek. 26:20)—those who die in the land of My delight will live again, but they who do not die there will not’…” “Even a Cananite maidservant in the land of Israel is assured of inheriting the World to Come’…” (Rev. Dr. A. Cohen, Everyman’s TALMUD, (New York:  E.P. DUTTON & CO., INC., 1949), 361-362).

So in this extreme view those righteous dead who died outside of being “in the land” would not participate in Israel’s corporate resurrection.  Similarly, some at Corinth took Paul’s teaching that all prophecy or all the promises of God were fulfilled spiritually “in Christ,” to far in that they concluded the resurrection could only take place for those who believed “in Christ” (their side of the cross) – and all others perished outside of being in Him.  Therefore, since the OC dead were not present to place their faith in Christ, then they couldn’t be apart of the spiritual body that was in the process of being raised in their day.  They lost sight of the great cloud of witnesses whom saw Christ’s day and were glad and would thus share in the “better resurrection” with them.  According to both of these extreme views, men such as Moses had no resurrection hope but perished outside of being “in the land” or perished outside of being “in Christ.”

We see a similar inability to reconcile the OT promises made to Israel and how they would be fulfilled in the NT Body of Christ coming from modern day Dispensationalists whom think there are opposing theologies between the OT and NT.  There are two complete separate bodies of believers or peoples of God needing two separate comings of Christ or programs of salvation etc…  Of particular interest to our discussion here is in the comparison of dividing the OT dead from those that died “in Christ.”  Dispensationalists such as Charles Ryrie and Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer argue,

“those who died before Christ’s first advent” are not among “the dead in Christ” (Charles Ryrie).  “The Old Testament saints were not part of the New Creation in Christ,” and “the nation of Israel sustains no relation to the resurrection of Christ” (Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer).  And again per Chafer, the dead OT saints were not “in the new federal headship of the resurrected Christ…” (taken from:  Curtis Crenshaw and Grove Gunn, Dispensationalism Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow, p. 204).

In 1937 William Everett Bell argued against Pretribulationalism providing evidence that at Christ’s Second Coming (after the Tribulation period), all the righteous dead were to be raised.  The ever evolving pertrib rapture theory countered with a two resurrection view – one for those that died “in Christ” at the “rapture” “coming,” and then one for those that died outside of being “in Christ” (OT dead not “in Christ”) seven years later (after the Tribulation) at the Second Coming.  The resurrection of the dead deniers also divided God’s people up in a way that was contrary to the teachings of Paul, except for them, the best way to avoid the problem (they created for themselves) was to deny resurrection for the dead – period and only accept a resurrection for those “in Christ.”

These examples (one within the Talmud and modern ones) should be sufficient to demonstrate how it could be possible for some to miss how the OT dead could or even would participate in the salvation of the ONE NC Body of Christ.”

Phil, you are also failing to follow Paul’s modus tollens logical argumentation that proves the resurrection of the dead deniers at Corinth weren’t denying Jesus’ physical resurrection.  Again, another excerpt from my article:

“Paul’s Modus Tollens form of Argumentation

To further prove that the resurrection of the dead deniers were not denying Christ’s resurrection or the resurrection for all in general, we need to take a look at Paul’s form of argumentation.  The futurist view makes no contextual sense if you follow Paul’s argumentation and the logic he uses.  Paul uses a familiar modus tollens or if then logical argument.  That is, “If P, then Q.  Therefore, not P.”

1).       “If P”

“If there is no resurrection of the dead ones…”

2).       “Then Q”

If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then not even Christ has been raised.

If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then our preaching is useless…

If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then and so is your faith [useless].

If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then we are found to be false witnesses about God.

If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.

If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then your and my baptism (of suffering & martyrdom) on the part of the dead is meaningless.

If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then the Father is subject to Christ.

If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then some of you are ignorant of God.

If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then why are some undergoing a baptism (of suffering & persecution) on behalf of the dead?

If the dead are not rising (and will rise)…then there will be no resurrection for anyone and we all might as well eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.

3).      “Therefore, not P”

Therefore, your (resurrection of the dead deniers) premise that the resurrection of the (OC) dead will not take place with those that had died in Christ and us —  is false (or “therefore, not P”).

Paul’s argument is also known as reduction ad absurdum.  This form of argument demonstrates that a statement is false (the dead will not rise) by showing that a false, untenable, undesirable or absurd result follows from its acceptance.  Again, Paul is using things he has in common with them and that they would affirm in order to overthrow and show how absurd their false premise that the dead ones would not rise actually was.”

As far as Full Preterism believing that Christ took upon Himself the curse of Adam’s “the death” (of which Adam died the “very day” he sinned — which was SPIRITUAL death/separation) for the Church so that they may become the righteousness of Christ –  that is true.  And since Christ was not the “first” to be raised from physical death, Him being the “firstborn” and “firstfruit” implies that He was the first to conquer “THE death” (separation) that came from Adam for His prosterity – the Church.  Christ’s physical resurrection was a sign that He had conquered and been raised from the curse and death that came from Adam.  Charismatics fail to recognize that Christ’s miracles of “SIGNS and wonders” pointed to the deeper spiritual truths of Himself and His Kingdom.  And YOU and MacArthur have failed to understand the “sign” of Jesus being raised physically and what deeper spiritual truth lies behind it when it comes to inheriting resurrection and eternal life and “dying no more.”  Pure and simple.

So let’s summarize your approach with “heretics.”  You and Pastor MacArthur’s “apologetic” method in dealing with “heretics” is to arbitrarily engage and let some “step foot” on the campuses when you feel comfortable that you can refute them (ex. Mormon apologists), but those you can’t address on an exegetical level, you simply laugh at their extremes (Charismatics), don’t engage in debate with them on an exegetical level and when completely desperate just blatantly lie about what they believe or what you think they have to believe?!?  This is neither a moral, logical or having a Christian and biblical apologetic method.  And nor can it even be pawned off as “scholarship.”  I see no citations of Preterists that deny the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus.  Preterits have been told this lie so many times that we have simply assumed that somewhere out there, there might be these “Preterists” that believe such, and yet no documentation ever surfaces – at least that I know of.  Again, I have been in this movement 27 years (longer than Ward) and have NEVER heard of such or known of any Full Preterist book promoting such heresy.  Yet reading you and MacArthur, one is to believe from your so-called “scholarship” (of NO citations) that this is somehow a prevalent belief.  At best shallow scholarship and at worse – immoral.

Who’s Really “Taking a Page From the Liberal’s Handbook” – an Imminence That’s Not Really Imminent & Did the NT Authors Really Teach the End of World History?!?

On top of claiming we deny the physical miraculous resurrection of Jesus, on page 11 you claim we are “taking a page from the liberal’s handbook.”  In my article on the imminent redemption in Romans 8 and Luke 21 I write,

“Reformed eschatology has a strong Preterist tradition, which argues that the New Testament’s eschatological statements of imminence must be taken literally because there are no contextual indicators leading us to interpret them in any other way. As Gary DeMar states, “any student of the Bible who does not interpret these time texts to mean anything other than close at hand is in jeopardy of denying the integrity of the Bible.”[3] To put a finer point on it,  R. C. Sproul suggests that any eschatology which denies a literal interpretation of the New Testament’s time texts has adopted a liberal or neo-orthodox view of God and time:  “When F. F. Bruce speaks of faith making the time be ‘at hand,’ this sounds all too much like Rudolf Bultmann’s famous theology of timelessness, which removes the object of faith from the realm of real history and consigns it to a super temporal realm of the always present hic et nunc [here and now].”[4] Sadly, this same view is so commonly articulated among Reformed and Evangelical believers[5] that few seem to recognize its liberal and mystical implications or its exegetical lack of support. In the interest of preserving eschatological futurism, many have compromised the principle of scriptural analogy by sweeping away the plain and obvious meaning of the imminence texts. In so doing, conservatives are unwittingly handling the Scriptures like Bultmann.”

So Phil, according to the Reformed early creeds not only is your Premillennialism “heretical” and on par with hyper-literal “Jewish myths,” but to compound the problem is to not take the time texts as pointing to AD 70.  For Reformed writers such as Sproul and DeMar, this is to treat the Scriptures like liberals and come dangerously close to denying the inspiration of the Scriptures.  There is this and the fact that it is the FALSE prophets that turned God’s “at hand” judgments into “far off” ones (cf. Ezek. 7 and 12).  To create an imminent hope into a “hope deferred” — according to the Scriptures themselves is a “sick” theology (Prov. 13:12).

And Phil, most “liberals” I know — like Dale Allison Jr. claim that since Jesus predicted His Second Coming and end of world history would take place in His generation, and “obviously” this didn’t happen, then Jesus was not an inspired prophet or God like he claimed.  Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote on this subject:

“Rudolf Bultmann, a liberal, wrote,

“Of course, Jesus was mistaken in thinking that the world was destined to come to an end.”[5] And again, “Jesus expectation of the near end of the world turned out to be an illusion.”[6]

A modern day liberal whom I have challenged to a debate and who declined my invitation – Dale C. Allison Jr., states that “conservative critics’ need to “acknowledge the humiliating discovery that Jesus proclaimed the divinely wrought near end of the world.”[7]

The Lord has given these men over to their confusion. Some of these modern liberals still try to hang on to some kind or form of Christianity while others are simply but “scholarly” confused and have grown cynical. For example, Clayton Sullivan and Allison write,

“…Jesus, mistaken proclaimer of the Kingdom of God, carries a comforting implication: belief accuracy or doctrinal rectitude is not a prerequisite for divine approval”[8]

“The truth, however, is like God: we can run from it, but it is always there. I, myself do not know what to make of the eschatological Jesus. I am, for theological reasons, unedified by the thought that, in a matter so seemingly crucial, a lie [Futurism – Jesus’ coming is still “near”] has been walking around for two thousand years while the truth [Jesus failed] has only recently put on its shoes. But there it is.“[9]

The “truth” being the alleged discovery that this mistaken and purely…

“…human Jesus, is just like one of us, one who holds values that are very close to our ideological commitments, a Jesus who is a social reformer and who attacks patriarchal orders, a Jesus who, as a real human person, can stand as an example and inspiration for worthy causes.”[10]

We can sum all of these liberal quotes up with the understanding that Jesus was just a good moral teacher and “inspiration” to us all, but he wasn’t God like he claimed to be because He was “mistaken” and failed to usher in the kingdom and the end of the world when he promised. However, this purely “human Jesus” these men claim to trust in and have fashioned in their own minds to be a god of sorts, can’t save them from their sins and they won’t find any “comforting implications” in him in this life or in the next!

The error in view here is the conclusion that: 1) Christ did not come within the time frame He promised – the first century Apostolic generation and 2) therefore, Jesus was just a good moral teacher and not God like He claimed to be and is. In the articles I have written on my site I have refuted these blasphemous statements and vain imaginations of Christ being a “failure” and “mistaken” in His promises to return in the lifetime and generation of the apostles.”

***I have challenged Mr. Allison to a debate on if Jesus or the NT authors ever predicted the end of world history — and he has declined.

The common error that you and Allison and other liberals share, is that you both mistakenly think Jesus and the NT authors predicted the end and or the transformation of the physical universe as the focal point of eschatology — instead of the transformation of the OC age/world to the NC age/world taking place in the first century generation (later in this letter I will demonstrate using Reformed sources [sources you and MacArthur value] that Jesus nor the NT authors taught an end to world history or the burning and renewal of planet earth).

And to accept apocalyptic language in Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4 is NOT “taking a page from liberals”!  It’s called harmonizing (the analogy of faith) them properly through exegesis – you should try it sometime Phil!

MacArthur on Apostolic NT Time Texts & Mormons Apologetics Concerning Theirs  

As I mentioned at the beginning of this letter we didn’t have a problem letting a Mormon apologist (Ara I believe his name was) “step foot” on the campus of TMC.  One of the first and most confident “arguments” the class wanted to bring up against Mormonism and to our guest, was to confront all of the failed prophecies that Joseph Smith had made about an imminent Second Coming of Jesus to be fulfilled soon in his generation.  How could Smith and the LDS claim they had true prophets and apostles if they predicted the Second Coming would take place “soon” within their lifetimes and generation?  Apparently the class was not prepared for his response.  Let me summarize what he said and the theological point he was conveying:

“Why is this a big deal for you?  According to you, Jesus is the greatest Prophet of all and didn’t He predict that He would return in the lifetime and generation He was speaking to?  And doesn’t the NT prophets follow that pattern teaching a “soon” Second Coming?  If you and your college president (John MacArthur) believe Jesus wasn’t using “this generation” with such a “wooden literalness” and “soon,” “at hand,” “quickly,” “in a little while and will not delay” can be stretched out for thousands of years per Jesus and the NT prophets, then as Mormon’s we can approach what our prophets have said on imminence the same way.”

You could have heard a pin drop!  No one wanted to touch that so they moved on to other topics – archeology and the Book of Mormon etc…  Later that evening I had dinner with him and his wife and gave a much more Biblical apologetic to the response he gave to my class.  He was shocked to hear someone actually admit that Jesus did in fact promise to return in the lifetime of those He was speaking to and in their generation.  Nor was he prepared for my second affirmative – “and He was faithful to that promising coming to close the old covenant age in AD 70.”  He admitted to me that he had never been given this response and had no rebuttal.  I also assured him that sticking his head in the sand concerning what Joseph Smith and his early “Prophets” of the LDS taught about a failed Second Coming was just as bad as what my Christian brothers and sisters had done in the class earlier that day.  His “argument” only proved that their view and the Mormon view of prophetic imminence can’t be trusted — nothing more.  While mine exonerated Jesus’ and the NT prophet’s teaching and refuted his.

But MacArthur falls right into the hands of the Mormon “argument” because in his book seeking to refute Partial Preterism and Full Preterism on imminence, he admits the inspired NT authors, Apostles and Prophets taught an imminent Second Coming for their generation (Ibid., pp. 51ff.).  John is clueless and contradictory.  He wants an imminence that is imminent but then ends up having to embrace a “carrot and stick” eschatology that has to re-define real imminence.  Go figure!

The Sovereign Grace Full Preterist knows how to deal with the last days cults when in comes to alleged ongoing “prophetic” “revelations” – because since Christ has come, that office has “ceased” (cf. Dan. 9:24/1 Cor. 13:8-12).  MacArthur had no problem with letting a Mormon “heretic” “step foot” on TMC campus and engage and give “equal time” to him because he and the staff thought it would be an easy refutation.  Yet the truth of the matter is, MacAruthur’s views on imminence plays right into their hands, and if the Second Coming wasn’t fulfilled in the first century, then prophetic revelations continue.  Selah.

The Parallels Between You and the Resurrection of the Dead Deniers, Liberals & False Prophets

  1.  The resurrection of the dead deniers had a hard time reconciling how the OC dead would or could be raised with the NC dead (“in Christ”) — just like Dispensationalism has had a hard time reconciling the two.
  2. Liberals believe Jesus and the NT authors taught an end to world history and the passing and re-cretion of planet earth at Christ’s Second Coming — just like Futurists.
  3. It was the false prophets during Ezekiel’s day that angered God by trying to turn His “at hand” coming and judgments into “far off” ones.  And to promote a “hope deferred” judgment for the unrighteous and a salvation for the remnant believers is a “sick” doctrine indeed.  Your and Simon Kistemaker’s “carrot and stick” eschatology is nothing but a “sick” doctrine that portrays Christ as a failure and is close the failure of the Arminian Christ.
  4. Your spiritualizing away the imminent time texts of the NT is on par with Neo-orthodoxy and comes close to denying the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures (per some Reformed scholars such as Sproul and DeMar).
  5. If MacArthur doesn’t have to interpret “this generation,” “soon,” “quickly,” “at hand,” “in a very little while and will not delay,” etc… with a “wooden literalness,” then we have to let the last days cults such as the Mormons off the hook when they appeal to the same heretical justifications and reasoning!

Your Appeal to Acts 1:11

Context and analogy of faith – Acts 1:8-11 and Matthew 24:14-34 on the Second Coming and the Great Commission (GC).

Since you and MacArthur would see the GC of Matthew 24:14 and Acts 1:8 as the same GC needing to be fulfilled before Christ’s return in Matthew 24:27-30 and Acts 1″11 — and you run The Spurgeon Center website, let’s see what Spurgeon said of Matthew 24:14:

“Before Jerusalem was destroyed, “this gospel of the kingdom” was probably “preached in all the world” so far as it was then known…”

Of course the inspired Apostle Paul makes it clear that there was no “probably” about it — Cols. 1:5-6, 23; Rms. 10:18; 1625-26 (click on chart).


Contextually “the end” that comes when the GC of Matthew 24:14 is fulfilled, is “the end” of “the [OC] age” of which the Temple they were looking at represented, and not the end of world history or the end of the NC age which the Bible teaches “has no end” (Ephs. 3:20-21).

Let me address your appeal and assumptions regarding Acts 1:11 by starting with the GC of verse 8.  Your friend at Ligonier Ministries Keith Mathison believes that when the GC of Acts 1:8 is fulfilled is when the coming of Christ in Acts 1:11 is fulfilled.  I take no issue with that.  But of course the problem is that you and MacArthur would see the GC of Matthew 24:14 as being the same GC of Acts 1:8 and Sproul and Mathison would appeal to the Greek of Romans 10:18 to support Matthew 24:14 was fulfilled prior to AD 70.  But the fact of the matter is, that Romans 10:18 also proves Acts 1:8 was fulfilled prior to AD 70 as well:

Prophecy – Greek Ge Fulfillment – Greek Ge
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth/land.” [Gk. ge] (Acts 1:8) “But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth/land [Gk. ge], and their words to the ends of the world.’” (Rom. 10:18)
One def. of ge – “The then known lands, regions, territories, countries etc…”
1.  In Jerusalem 1.  Acts 2 – Jews
2.  And Samaria 2.  Acts 8 – Samaritans
3.  In all Judea 3.  Acts 10 – God-fearers
4.  To the earth/land 4.  Acts 19 – the Gentiles

Your Postmillennialist friends have no problem quoting Romans 10:18 to demonstrate how the GC of Matthew 24:14 was fulfilled by AD 70 because Paul uses the same Greek word oikumene (“has gone out to the ends of the world”). Yet, Paul in Romans 10:18 also uses the Greek word ge (“has gone out into all the earth”).  Therefore, if the Greek of Romans 10:18 can be applied to the GC of Matthew 24:14 — being fulfilled in AD 70, then the Greek of Romans 10:18 can also be applied to the GC of Acts 1:8 as being fulfilled by AD 70.

Jews from “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:4-5) were saved and empowered by the Holy Spirit to go fulfill the GC of Acts 1:8 to “the end of the earth/land” of the Roman Empire.  As R.C. Sproul pointed out in his lecture at the Strange Fire Conference — the book of Acts describes four Pentecost events based upon Acts 1:8.  Since that is the case, the book of Acts maps out the success of the GC of Acts 1:8  — thus showing how the sign of the GC was being fulfilled and giving Paul his imminent expectation of the resurrection (Acts 24:15YLT).  Just a side note — If Sproul would be consistent and courageous on the “last days” of Acts 2 and the GC and coming of Christ in Acts 1 being fulfilled in AD 70, he would have a more exegetical refutation of the Charismatic Chaos infecting the Church today.

Keith Mathison connecting the GC with the the timing of the coming of Christ in Acts 1:8, 11 writes:

“The time frame (of Christ’s Second Coming) is hinted at in the preceding context. The disciples are given a commission to be Christ’s witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The implication is that Christ’s visible return will follow the completion of the mission to the remotest part of the earth.” (Postmillennialism, 117).

According to Mathison in the above quote, when the Great Commission in verse 8 is fulfilled, then the Second Coming of verse 11 will occur.  Is this not what we see in the Olivet Discourse – the gospel must first be preached to all the nations and throughout the world before the Coming of Christ can be fulfilled?  There is NO exegetical evidence that the GC and coming of Christ in Acts 1-2 is any different from that of Jesus’ teaching in the OD.   Postmillennialism’s contention that there are two Great Commissions given in the New Testament—one fulfilled before AD 70 and another that will be fulfilled before the allegedly yet-future Second (Third) Coming—is altogether arbitrary.

The analogy of faith – Acts 1-2 and the Olivet Discourse

The Olivet Discourse Acts 1-2
1. Only the Father has authority and knows the day and hour of the Kingdom’s arrival (Lk. 17:20-37; Lk. 21:27-32; Mt. 24:36). 1. Only the Father has authority and knows the time and dates of the kingdom’s arrival (Acts 1:3-7).
2.  The Holy Spirit (& charismata) would be given to boldly fulfill the G.C. (cf. Mt. 10:17-23; Mrk. 13:10-13) 2. The Holy Spirit (charismata) would be given to boldly fulfill the G.C. (Acts 1:4-8).
3. Jesus would come from heaven upon His glory cloud in their generation (cf. Mt. 24:14-34). 3. Jesus would come from heaven upon His glory cloud in their generation (cf. Acts 1:11; 2:20-21–40).

NOW Let’s Look at Acts 1:9-11 

Phil you and Postmillennialists such as Keith Mathison insist that Jesus’ physical body was seen for some period of time as He ascended into the sky. However, verse nine simply says, “He was lifted up, and a cloud received Him from their eyes.” Jesus was certainly seen just before He was “lifted up” (Acts 1:9).  But it is not at all certain that He was directly seen as He ascended into the sky.

In verse 11, the disciples were told that Jesus would come in the manner that they had seen Him enter heaven (the sky). The continuity (or similarity) of Him coming as He had entered heaven is found in the fact that He would come in the heavenly glory-cloud of His Father (Matt. 16:27). Jesus was not physically seen after He was received into the glory-cloud. It was while He was hidden from sight in that cloud that He was indirectly seen entering the sky.  A son can “see his father” as his fathers plane is taking off the runway and off into the sky, without directly physically seeing his father’s body.  In seeing the plane (which contains his father and the other passengers), he can still correctly say, “There’s dad, and there he goes.”  And He was to come in like manner.  Therefore, He would not be physically or directly seen when He came “in like manner,” in the cloud, to indwell His church in the end of the old covenant age (Luke 17:20–37; John 14:2–3, 23).

The phrase “in like manner” simply means “in a similar way” – not exactly the same way (which seem to be how most falsely interpret the passage).  Jesus didn’t ascend riding on a horse with a sword proceeding from His mouth did He?  Did “every eye” on the planet earth see Him leave?  “The exact same way” argument offered by hyper-literalists self-emplodes upon itself.

Postmillennialists such as Mathison are not correct when they say that Jesus was going to come back in the same way that He “departed.” The Scriptures say that Jesus would come in the same way He had entered the sky. He entered the sky hidden from literal eye sight in the cloud of God’s glory.

Here is the order of events:

1. As they looked, He was taken up (Acts 1:9).

2. A cloud received Him from their eyes (Acts 1:9).

These first two events could very well have happened simultaneously. As Mathison himself admits, the verse could be translated, “He was lifted up; that is, a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (From Age to Age, 459).  It is a very real possibility that Jesus was instantly hidden in the cloud at the moment His feet left the earth.

3. Then the disciples saw Him going into the sky. That is, they looked intently into the sky as He was ascending in the cloud (Acts 1:10–11).

In the Old Testament, God was never literally or directly seen coming in His glory when He judged or saved Israel and other nations. Jesus was not literally seen again after He entered the cloud of God’s glory. He was “taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16) and He would come in glory as the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13-14 OG LXX).

The Lord God had become flesh. John bore testimony to the fact that looking at and touching Jesus was to look at and touch God Himself (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1). God was physically seen in the flesh, but this was temporary for the second person of the Godhead (Heb. 5:7), even as He had been born into and under the old covenant system with its temporal types and shadows (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 5–8; 2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8:13).  Though Jesus is no longer in the flesh, He forever retains His human nature. He is forever Man, even as the saints in heaven today, who are no longer in their physical bodies, are still human/man by nature. Neither the Son of Man nor those who are in Him, whether in heaven or on earth, are “nonhuman” as some futurists theorize.

Ironically, the point of the question, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky,” was that Jesus was not going to return to His physical form. It was futile for the disciples to long for Jesus to return to the earthly form He had taken when He was born of Mary. In His ascension, Jesus had returned to His pre-incarnate glory. The question of the two men was rhetorical, and it meant, “There is no use in standing here longing for Jesus to return to you and to be as He was in the days of His flesh. He will come, but He will come in the manner you saw Him enter heaven—hidden from physical eyes in the cloud of the Father’s glory.”

We agree with the majority of commentators and cross reference systems which see the in-like-manner coming of Jesus in Acts 1:11 as being parallel with the coming of Jesus on or in the cloud(s) in Matthew 16:27–28, 24:30–31, 26:64–68; Luke 21:27, and Revelation 1:7. Mathison and Gentry, however, wrench Acts 1:11 from those Scriptures. They admit that Christ was figuratively “seen” (perceived, understood) at a figurative “coming” in/on the clouds in AD 70, but they deny that this was the fulfillment of Acts 1:11.

This brings us to another problem. Mathison writes of Matthew 24:30 in his book Postmillennialism:

. . . [T]he “coming” of the Son of Man is His coming in judgment upon Jerusalem (see vv. 23–28), which is intimately connected with His ascension to the right hand of God (cf. Dan. 7:13–14). (Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: 1999), 114).

Later, in WSTTB, Mathison goes further and identifies the Ascension with the coming of Christ in AD 70:

. . . [W]hen [Jesus] makes reference to “the coming of the Son of Man,” . . . He may have been referring . . . to his ascension . . . and the judgment on Jerusalem. . . . ” (182, emphasis added)

For Mathison, Christ’s “coming” in Daniel 7:13–14 is somehow both a literal, visible “going up” in a literal cloud in about AD 30 and a figurative “coming” to Jerusalem from heaven in figurative clouds in AD 70. The confusion inherent in this position is plain enough. Mathison says that “the coming of the Son of Man” in Daniel 7:13– 14 is a reference to the Ascension. But then Mathison says that when Jesus used the term, He was referring to the Ascension and to the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet there is not one instance where Jesus spoke of the coming of the Son of Man where it can be taken to be a reference to His Ascension. In every case, it is His coming to earth in judgment and salvation. But this is only the tip of the Iceberg of Confusion.

Even though Mathison says that Jesus’ “coming” in AD 70 was “intimately connected with His ascension,” and even though Mathison says that both the Ascension and His coming in judgment in AD 70 are equally “the coming of the Son of Man,” and even though Mathison admits that both events were with a cloud/clouds and in the glory of the Father, and that both events were seen (Acts 1:11; Matt. 26:64), Mathison nevertheless maintains that Jesus’ “coming” in AD 70 was not the “in-like-manner” coming promised in Acts 1:11. Mathison’s position is an ineffable tangle of exegetical double vision, contradiction, and consummate confusion.
Phil, do your professors who teach hermeneutics ever tell their students to read Milton Terry’s classic and orthodox book on the subject?  Would you not allow Milton Terry to “step foot” on your campuses to lecture and answer questions to your students in a class on hermeneutics?  Are the publishers that have published his understanding that Acts 1:11 was fulfilled in AD 70 all “heretical” and equally guilty for publishing him?  Partial Preterist Milton Terry, took a more lucid, biblical approach than you, MacArthur, Sproul and Mathison seeing Matthew 24:30–31, 34; Acts 1:11; and Revelation 1:7 as all being ONE Second Coming event (like you and MacArthur) but fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem (like Sproul nd Mathison – who at least see Rev. 1:7 and Mt. 24:30–25:31 as fulfilled AD 70) in the end of the OC age:

“Wha51JXUjtn4ML._AC_US436_QL65_tever the real nature of the parousia, as contemplated in this prophetic discourse, our Lord unmistakably associates it with the destruction of the temple and city, which he represents as the signal termination of the pre-Messianic age. The coming on clouds, the darkening of the heavens, the collapse of elements, are, as we have shown above, familiar forms of apocalyptic language, appropriated from the Hebrew prophets.

Acts i, 11, is often cited to show that Christ’s coming must needs be spectacular, “in like manner as ye beheld him going into the heaven.” But (1) in the only other three places where [“in like manner”] occurs, it points to a general concept rather than the particular form of its actuality. Thus, in Acts vii, 28, it is not some particular manner in which Moses killed the Egyptian that is notable, but rather the certain fact of it. In 2 Tim. iii, 8, it is likewise the fact of strenuous opposition rather than the special manner in which Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses. And in Matt. xxiii, 37, and Luke xiii, 34, it is the general thought of protection rather than the visible manner of a mother bird that is intended. Again (2), if Jesus did not come in that generation, and immediately after the great tribulation that attended the fall of Jerusalem, his words in Matt. xvi, 27, 28, xxiv, 29, and parallel passages are in the highest degree misleading. (3) To make the one statement of the angel in Acts i, 11, override all the sayings of Jesus on the samesubject and control their meaning is a very one-sided method of biblical interpretation. But all the angel’s words necessarily mean is that as Jesus has ascended into heaven so he will come from heaven. And this main thought agrees with the language of Jesus and the prophets.” (Milton S. Terry, A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 246-247).

I would also add that there are some Postmillennial Partial Preterists such as author Mike Bull whom also “accept the testimony of the Scriptures” and follow Terry’s view and believe the coming of the Christ in Acts 1:11; Matthew 24-25 and Revelation 1:7 are various descriptions of His ONE Coming and was fulfilled in AD 70.

Premise #1:  The “in like manner” coming of Christ and His kingdom in Acts 1:6, 11 is fulfilled when the G.C. of verse 8 is fulfilled (Mathison agrees with Full Preterism)

Premise #2:  The gospel was preached and “went out to all the earth” in Paul’s day (Rms. 10:18) and the spiritual NC kingdom arrived at Christ’s coming in the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Lk. 21:27-32; Lk. 17:20-37; Mt. 24:27-30; 25:31) (Mathison agrees with Full Preterism).

Premise #3:  But the coming of Christ and arrival of the kingdom in Acts 1:6-11 is the same event as described by Christ in Luke 21:27-31 and Matthew 24:30, 25:31 (you and MacArthur agree with Full Preterism)

Conclusion/Full Preterist Synthesis “Reformed and always reforming”:  The “in like manner” coming of Christ and His kingdom in Acts 1:6, 11 was fulfilled in AD 70 when the gospel was preached and “went out to all the earth” (Gk. ge – Acts 1:8/Rms. 10:18) as a sign just prior to AD 70.

Jesus was “lifted up” and hidden from sight in the cloud of glory. He ascended into the sky hidden in the cloud, as His disciples watched. He was to come in the same manner in which the disciples saw Him enter into the sky: hidden in the cloud of the glory of His Father. He was “seen” in that Day in the same way that Yahweh was “seen” whenever He came on a cloud to judge nations in the Old Testament.

This was the one and only future coming of Christ that was promised in the New Testament. Therefore, Christ returned in AD 70. The analogy of Scripture confirms this interpretation. It does not confirm Mathison’s, which rips Acts 1:9–11 from its immediate and broader New Testament contexts. We agree with Terry’s comments on Matthew 24:30–31, 34; Acts 1:11; and Revelation 1:7. “We accept upon the testimony of the Scriptures” that Christ returned on/in a cloud/clouds in that generation. (Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutic (Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan, 1990), 468, n.1 (emphases added).

Since MacArthur likes Simon Kistemaker so much, let me refer you to my response to him on Jesus’ description in Revelation 1 as allegedly proving Jesus is still in His physical body.

Honey, I Shrunk the Angels – Jesus Depicted in Revelation & Simon Kistemaker

Although an Amillennialist, Simon Kistemaker argues that Jesus’ physical resurrection body is eternal and that it now literally “sits on God’s throne” (WSTTB?, 240). Kistemaker attempts to prove this claim by using Revelation 1:13–16. He points out that in this passage Jesus is described as wearing a robe that reaches down to his feet, and as having a golden sash around his chest, and a head with white hair, and blazing eyes, and feet as bronze, and a mouth, and a human voice, and a right hand, and a face as radiant as the sun (240, 252).

Kistemaker interprets the book of Revelation in a highly symbolic manner, even more symbolically than “hyper-preterists” interpret it at times. Yet he is woodenly literal in the above passage. But more to the point, he neglects to mention that the above passage also says that Jesus was holding “the angels of the seven churches” (the “seven stars”) in his (supposedly literal) hand (Rev. 1:16, 20). Kistemaker does not explain why those seven angels were reduced in size so that they could fit in Jesus’ physical hand. (Nor does Kistemaker tell us how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.)

Kistemaker also does not mention that Jesus is depicted here as having a sharp two-edged sword coming out of His supposedly literal mouth (Rev. 2:16), and that in Revelation 19:11, He is depicted as riding on a horse in the sky, and that in Revelation 19:12 He has “many crowns” on His head, and that in Revelation 19:13 He is wearing a bloody robe.

To make matters worse, note the contradiction between Kistemaker in WSTTB, and Kistemaker in his New Testament Commentary on Revelation:

Kistemaker, WSTTB: “Jesus’ appearance to John at Patmos was not spiritual, but physical, for John saw his head, face, mouth, eyes, hair, chest, right hand, and feet ([Rev.] 1:13–16) (252)

Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary: “[Rev. 1:16] lists three physical features [of Jesus]: his right hand, his mouth, and his face. These features ought to be understood not literally but symbolically. . . ” (Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2001; fourth printing 2007), 97).

Kistemaker’s commentary was first printed in 2001, and was most recently reprinted in 2007. So we have Kistemaker saying that the description of Jesus in Revelation 1:16 was symbolic/spiritual in 2001, then saying it was physical/literal in 2004 (WSTTB), then back to saying it was symbolic/spiritual in 2007. As with Mathison, Kistemaker must temporarily change his preterist exegeses when he is attempting, in vain, to refute full preterism.

Addressing Your Appeal to Hymenaeus and Philetus 2 Timothy 2:17-18

Apparently you are at odds with your buddy Keith Mathison who 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. (William Hendriksen; Simon J. Kistemaker: New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 268).  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.

Mathison and Ligonier cannot use this passage to condemn Full Preterists because they acknowledge that there was a SPIRITUAL coming OR PAROUSIA of Christ and other Reformed Partial Preterists are admitting there was a SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION of the dead that occurred in AD 70 per Daniel 12:2 and Revelation 20 (Kenneth Gentry and James Jordan).  We don’t see Paul’s apologetics against those that believed the Day of the Lord and resurrection had “already” taken place (prior to AD 70) as “How can anyone believe this, OBVIOUSLY we are all still here, the graveyards are still full and the planet earth hasn’t been burned up.”  If Paul was the Futurist that you are Phil, we would expect Paul to use this kind of reasoning and apologetic.  But because he was a Full Preterist whom recognized there was a spiritual coming of Christ and an “about to be” resurrection of the dead at the end of the OC age coming, his apologetic is different than yours.  Selah.

C.H. Spurgeon v. Phil Johnson/MacArthur on Preterist Scholarship


I see you run or are affiliated with The Spurgeon Archive or The Spurgeon Center websites.  While not a Full Preterist, this was Spurgeon’s view of Christians engaging with Preterists that believe Christ’s one and “soon” Second Coming was fulfilled in AD 70 and what he thought of their arguments, exegesis and research:

“[Russell’s exegesis and book]…has so much truth in it, and throws so much new light upon obscure portions of the Scriptures, and is accompanied with so much critical research, and close reasoning, that it can be injurious to none and may be profitable to all.”  (Spurgeon’s comments of James Stuart Russell’s book, “The Parousia,” back cover, Baker Book House, third printing, 1990 edition).

Obviously someone you and MacArthur esteem didn’t take the cowardly bubble approach you have taken.  But you have gone even further to misrepresent us.  Sad indeed.  Sounds like Spurgeon would have said the same of my/our book, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology… which is in your libraries.  I suggest you get someone from your seminary to actually attempt a refutation since the Reformed authors of WSTTB? are not able to respond because their views actually formed Full Preterism!  The book is said by John L. Bray to be the best defense of Preterism to date.  You might try engaging with a book like ours instead of cherry-picking Internet articles from a new Preterist in the 90’s.  Just a thought Phil.

C.H. Spurgeon’s Confusion Over the Passing of the Old Covenant Heavens and Earth and the arrival of the New Covenant Heavens and Earth

C.H. Spurgeon also had some interesting things to say about the Old Covenant being described in terms of being a “heavens and earth” that passed away and the gospel dispensation today being a New Heavens and Earth.  Spurgeon was a Premillennialist (hyper-literal “heretic” per the early Reformed creeds), yet was drawn to a Preterist hermeneutic on some very key texts and concepts.  He was very inconsistent in his use of these terms and didn’t reconcile them very well.  I’ll try and reconcile this confusion and that of R.C. Spoul’s over this in a bit.

In a sermon on Isaiah 65:17-19 Spurgeon wrote the following,

“Did you ever regret the absence of the burnt-offering, or the red heifer, of any one of the sacrifices and rites of the Jews? Did you ever pine for the feast of tabernacle, or the dedication? No, because, though these were like the Old Heavens and Earth to the Jewish believers, they have passed away, and we now live under a New Heavens and a New Earth, so far as the dispensation of divine teaching is concerned. The substance is come, and the shadow has gone: and we do not remember it.” (C.H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. xxxvii, p. 354).

We know that Spurgeon read his contemporary James Stuart Russell’s book who did take the OC system as the Old Heavens and Earth and the NC to be the New Heavens and Earth.  We also know that Russell quoted Reformed theologians that Spurgeon read that had the same concepts.  Therefore, I think it should be clear that Spurgeon was confused and giving passages double or multiple senses where there was no exegetical warrant to do so.

But first let’s go to a source John MacArthur values in order to identify that the OC system was described as a creation of the heavens and earth.  MacArthur says the following of The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge:

“The one book, apart from the Bible itself, that I value most in my studies.”

And yet the book agrees with Full Preterists such as myself and men such as John Owen on the particular issues that the Old Covenant system was a “heavens and earth” created at the first exodus.  Of Isaiah 51:15-16 it informs us:

“The heavens. ‘Heaven’ and ‘earth’ are here put by symbolic language for a political universe. That is, that I might make those who were but scattered persons and slaves in Egypt before, a kingdom and polity, to be governed by their own laws and magistrates.” (Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge Revised and Expanded, Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 802).

Unknown-2Reformed theologians such as John Owen and John Lightfoot along with many others, correctly understood the “elements” here not as the rocks and tress of the planet earth, but of the old-covenant law and the “Day of the Lord” occurring in AD 70.  John Owen in his sermon on 2 Peter 3 also describes Isaiah 51:15-16 as the Old Covenant system except unlike Spurgeon he correctly and clearly states it passed away and her “elements” burned up in AD 70.  Since the foundation to the promise of 2 Peter 3 is Isaiah 65, it is relevant to what Spurgeon would have been reading on the subject.  Please note that he says the passing and burning of the first heavens and earth is “ONLY” referring to the OC system and the New is only the gospel of the NC dispensation:

“I shall only observe, by the way, not to look into the difficulties of these verses, that I not be too long detained from my principal intendment, – that the apostle makes a distribution of the word into heaven and earth, and saith, they ‘were destroyed with water, and perished: We know that neither the fabric or substance of the one or other was destroyed, but only men that lived on the earth; and the apostle tells us, verse 5, of the heavens and earth that were then, and were destroyed by water, distinct from the heavens and the earth that were now, and were to be consumed by fire; and yet, as to the visible fabric of heaven and earth, they were the same both before the flood and in the apostle’s time, and continue so to this day; when yet it is certain that the heavens and earth whereof he speaks were to be destroyed and consumed by fire in that generation. We must, then, for the clearing our foundation, a little consider what the apostle intends by `the heavens and the earth’ in these two places:

“1. It is certain, that what the apostle intends by the ‘world,’ with its heavens and earth, verses 5, 6, which was destroyed by water; the same or somewhat of that kind, he intends by ‘the heavens and the earth’ that were to be consumed and destroyed by fire, verse 7. Otherwise there would be no coherence in the apostle’s discourse, nor any kind of argument, but a mere fallacy of words.

“2. It is certain, that by the flood, the world, or the fabric of heaven and earth, was not destroyed, but only the inhabitants of the world; and therefore the destruction intimated to succeed by fire, is not of the substance of the heavens and the earth, which shall not be consumed until the last day, but of persons or men living in the world.

“3. Then we must consider in what sense men living in the world are said to be the ‘world,’ and the ‘heavens and earth’ of it. I shall only insist on one instance to this purpose, among the many that may be produced, Isa. 51. 15, 16. The time when the work here mentioned, of planting the heavens, and laying the foundation of the earth, was performed by God, was when he ‘divided the sea,’ verse 15, and gave the law, verse 16, and said to Zion, ‘Thou art my people,” – that is, when he took the children of Israel out of Egypt, and formed them in the wilderness into a church and state. Then he planted the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth, – made the new world; that is, brought forth order, and government, and beauty, from the confusion wherein before they were. This is the planting of the heavens, and laying the foundation of the earth in the world. And hence it is, that when mention is made of the destruction of a state and government, it is in that language that seems to set forth the end of the world. So Isa. xxxiv. 4; which is yet but the destruction of the state of Edom. The like also is affirmed of the Roman empire, Rev. vi. 14; which the Jews constantly affirm to be intended by Edom in the prophets. And in our Saviour Christ’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, Matt. xxiv., he sets it out by expressions of the same importance. It is evident, then, that in the prophetical idiom and manner of speech, by ‘heavens’ and ‘earth,’ the civil and religious state and combination of men in the world, and the men of them, are often understood. So were the heavens and earth that world which was then destroyed by the flood.

“4. On this foundation I affirm, that the heavens and earth here intended in this prophecy of Peter, the coming of the Lord, the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men, mentioned in the destruction of that heaven and earth, do all of them relate, not to the last and final judgment of the world, but to that utter desolation and destruction that was to be made of the Judaical church and state; for which I shall offer these two reasons, of many that might be insisted on from the text: –

“(1.) Because whatever is here mentioned was to have its peculiar influence on the men of that generation. He speaks of that wherein both the profane scoffer and the those scoffed at were concerned, and that as Jews; – some of them believing, others opposing the faith. Now, there was no particular concernment of that generation in that sin, nor in that scoffing, as to the day of judgment in general; but there was a peculiar relief for the one and a peculiar dread for the other at hand, in the destruction of the Jewish nation; and besides, an ample testimony, both to the one and the other, of the power and dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ – which was the thing in question between them.

“(2.) Peter tells them, that, after the destruction and judgment that he speaks of, verse 13, ‘We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth,’ etc. They had this expectation. But what is that promise? where may we find it? Why, we have it in the very words and letter, Isa. Ixv. 17. Now, when shall this be that God will create these ‘new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness?’ Saith Peter, ‘It shall be after the coming of the Lord, after that judgment and destruction of ungodly men, who obey not the gospel, that I foretell.’ But now it is evident, from this place of Isaiah, with chap. lxvi., 21, 22, that this is a prophecy of gospel times ONLY; and that the planting of these new heavens is NOTHING BUT the creation of gospel ordinances, to endure forever. The same thing is so expressed, Heb. xii. 26-28.

“First, There is the foundation of the apostle’s inference and exhortation… ‘Seeing that I have evinced that all these things, however precious they seem, or what value soever any put upon them, shall be dissolved, – that is, destroyed; and that in that dreadful and fearful manner before mentioned, – in a way of judgment, wrath, and vengeance, by fire and sword; – let others mock at the threats of Christ’s coming. – he will come, he will not tarry; and then the heavens and earth that God himself planted, – the sun, moon, and stars of the Judaical polity and church, – the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinacy against the Lord Christ, – shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed. This, we know, shall be the end of these things, and that shortly.’ ”

And more from Owen:

“1. Because in every such providential alteration or dissolution of things on the account of Christ and his church, there is a peculiar coming of Christ himself. He cometh into the world for the work he hath to do; he cometh among his own to fulfil his pleasure among them. Hence such works are called ‘his coming;’ and ‘the coming of his day.’ Thus James exhorts these very Jews to whom Peter here writes, with reference to the same things, James v. 7-9, ‘Be patient unto the coming of the Lord.’ But how could that generation extend their patience to the day of judgment? ‘Nay,’ saith he, ‘that is not the work I design, but his coming to take vengeance on his stubborn adversaries;’ which he saith, verse 8, ‘draweth nigh,’ is even at hand; yea., Christ, ‘the judge, standeth before the door,’ verse 9, ‘ready to enter;’ – which also he did within a few years. So upon or in the destruction of Jerusalem (the same work), Luke xxi. 27, the Son of man is said to ‘come in a cloud, with power and great glory;’ – and they that escape in that desolation are said to ‘stand before the Son of man,’ verse 36. So, in the ruin and destruction of the Roman empire, on the account of their persecution, it is said that ‘the day of the wrath of the Lamb was come; Rev. vi. 16, 17.” (John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Banner of Truth pub., Vol. 9 see pp. 132-135, 138-139, MJS emphasis added).

And John Lightfoot agrees.  Notice what he says of Christ’s coming in Matthew 24 and 2 Peter 3 and the de-creation and new creation language:


“That the destruction of Jerusalem is very frequently expressed in Scripture as if it were the destruction of the whole world, Deut. xxxii. 22; ‘A fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell’ (the discourse there is about the wrath of God consuming that people; see ver. 20, 21), ‘and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains’ Jer. iv. 23; ‘I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light; The discourse there also is concerning the destruction of that nation, Isa. lxv. 17; ‘Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered,’ And more passages of this sort among the prophets. According to this sense, Christ speaks in this place; and Peter speaks in his Second Epistle, third chapter; and John, in the sixth of the Revelation; and Paul, 2 Cor. v. 17.”

More of Lightfoot on this subject:

“With the same reference it is, that the times and state of things immediately following the destruction of Jerusalem are called ‘a new creation,’ ‘new heavens,’ and ‘a new earth,’ Isa. lxv. 17; `Behold, I create a new heaven and a new earth’ When should that be? Read the whole chapter; and you will find the Jews rejected and cut off; and from that time is that new creation of the evangelical world among the Gentiles.

“Compare 2 Cor. v. 17 and Rev. xxi. 1, 2; where, the old Jerusalem being cut off and destroyed, a new one succeeds; and new heavens and a new earth are created.

“2 Pet. iii. 13: `We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth’ The heavens and the earth of the Jewish church and commonwealth must be all on fire, and the Mosaic elements burnt up; but we, according to the promise made to us by Isaiah the prophet, when all these are consumed, look for the new creation of the evangelical state.”

“That the destruction of Jerusalem and the whole Jewish state is described as if the whole frame of this world were to be dissolved. Nor is it strange, when God destroyed his habitation and city, places once so dear to him, with so direful and sad an overthrow; his own people, whom he accounted of as much or more than the whole world beside, by so dreadful and amazing plagues. Matt. xxiv. 29, 30, `The sun shall be darkened,’ Then shall appear the `sign of the Son of man,’; which yet are said to fall out within that generation, ver. 34. 2 Pet. iii. 10, `The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,’. Compare with this Deut. xxxii. 22, Heb. xii. 26: and observe that by elements are understood the Mosaic elements, Gal. iv. 9, Coloss. ii. 20: and you will not doubt that St. Peter speaks ONLY of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation, and the abolishing the dispensation of Moses.” (John Lightfoot, COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT FROM THE TALMUD AND HEBRAICA, Vol. 2, pp. 318-319; Vol. 3, p. 452-453, Hendrickson pub, 2003, MJS emphasis added).


As I document in our book, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology…pp. 116-123 Lightfoot didn’t see the physical planet as being in a process of “decay” or poetically “groaning” to be the subject matter in Romans 8 either!  He correctly understood the passage to be the “creation of men” groaning under sin.  Postmillennial Partial Preterists such as Gary DeMar concedes mello in Romans 8:18 YLT should be translated as “the glory ABOUT TO BE revealed in you…” and is referring to AD 70.  Therefore, contextually this allegedly “end of the planet” or physical “renewal of the planet” passage and “redemption of the body” was “about to be” fulfilled in AD 70 – at the “near” coming of the Lord when Satan was to be “crushed shortly” (cf. Rms. 13:11-12; 16:20) and has NOTHING to do with the Futurist or creedal concept.  Here is that material (HD, 116-123):

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: themanifestation 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…”.[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.

“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/Dan. 12:2-3)
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 their “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 melloin 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 


Reformed theologian John Brown not only stresses that the passing of “heaven and earth” in Matthew 5:18 is the OC system, but that those familiar with the OT should understand the phrase as such:

“But a person at all familiar with the phraseology of the Old Testament Scriptures, knows that the dissolution of the Mosaic economy, and the establishment of the Christian, is often spoken of as the removing of the old earth and heavens, and the creation of a new earth and new heavens.” (John Brown, Discourses and Sayings of Our Lord (Edinburg: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990 [1852]), 1:170, MJS – emphasis added).

Like we saw with The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Owen and Lightfoot — those that are familiar with the OT Scriptures have and continue to see this while you and liberals don’t.

Scholars that aren’t even Preterists (but often times give the impression that they are leaning in such a direction), such as G.K. Beale are admitting that the Jew understood his land or Temple to be a “heaven and earth,”

“…that ‘heaven and earth’ in the Old Testament may sometimes be a Unknown-4way of referring to Jerusalem or its temple, for which ‘Jerusalem’ is a metonymy.” (G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission A
biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2004), 25). See also J.V. Fesko, Last things first Unlocking Genesis 1-3 with the Christ of Eschatology, (Scottland, UK, 2007), 70.

I called in a radio show where Beale was being interviewed concerning this quote in his book and asked him why he didn’t apply his statements here with Jesus’ and the disciples discussion of the Temple in Matthew 23-24.  He avoided the subject and merely began name-calling.  Sad indeed.

But Evangelicals are making the Full Preterist connections with NT texts where Beale is afraid to.  Evangelical Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis makes the following comments on the heaven and earth in Matthew 5:18 and Mark 13:31/Matthew 24:35:

519MJRVKT5L._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_“The temple was far more than the point at which heaven and earth met. Rather, it was thought to correspond to, represent, or, in some sense, to be ‘heaven and earth’ in its totality.” And “. . . [T]he principle reference of “heaven and earth” is the temple centered cosmology of second-temple Judaism which included the belief that the temple is heaven and earth in microcosm. Mark 13[:31] [or Matthew 24:35] and Matthew 5:18 refer then to the destruction of the temple as a passing away of an old cosmology. (Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis a contributing author in, ESCHATOLOGY in Bible & Theology Evangelical Essays at the Dawn of a New Millennium, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1997), 157).

51vnAiyJTxL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_Gary DeMar is exegetical and contextually consistent when he admits that the passing of “heaven and earth” in Matthew 24:35 is the same subject (the fall of OC Jerusalem and her OC world/age) and de-creation event as 24:29,

“The darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of the stars, coupled with the shaking of the heavens (24:29), are more descriptive ways of saying that “heaven and earth” will pass away” (24:35).” (Last Days Madness, 192).

Why am I going over this?  Well, MacArthur sees “that which is perfect” and the seeing of God’s face in 1 Corinthians 13:10-12 as the arrival of the New Creation in Revelation 22:4-12.  And you allowed R.C. Sproul to speak at the Strange Fire Conference who takes the arrival of the new creation of Revelation 22:4-12 as being fulfilled and coming in spiritually at Christ’s “soon” coming in AD 70.  Now we can begin to solve some of the inconsistencies and problems I experienced at The Master’s College and from reading Reformed authors and now Sproul’s conflicted Reformation Study Bible.

Harmonizing MacArthur and Sproul’s Conflicting Views on When the Gifts of Tongues, Prophecy and Knowledge Are to Cease

Let’s first look at the conflicted message MacArthur and The Master’s College were teaching me on this passage and then we will move on to what Reformed theologians such as Sproul are now saying.  Let’s be real clear and honest here Phil – the real reason you won’t engage in a debate or dialog with Dr. Brown and myself over 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 is because you have no sound consistent exegetical answer — period!  The Strange Fire book and Tom Pennington’s lecture demonstrated this by giving a very fast fly-by — “there’s so many different views…” to this crucial text.  That and even instructors in John’s own college don’t find the context or the Greek to support his view.

  • Premise #1 (MacArthur):  Tongues ceased in AD 70 but prophecy and knowledge will pass away when the ONE arrival of the New Creation is fulfilled.  “That which is perfect” being the Cannon of Scripture is not correct.
  • Premise #2 (TMC – C.W. Smith):  There is no exegetical or strong Greek case for MacArthur’s view.  Tongues, Prophecy and knowledge all cease and pass away when “that which is perfect comes.”
  •  In my estimation the above two views form Charismatic doctrine (tongues, prophecy and knowledge cease at a future time — the New Creation), or they form Full Preterism — since tongues ceased in AD 70, then the others did too when the New Covenant New Creation arrived at the “soon” coming of the Lord in AD 70.
  • Conclusion/Synthesis:   If tongues ceased in AD 70 and the other gifts are to cease when tongues did, then the spiritual New Creation arrived at the “soon” AD 70 coming of Christ — like R.C. Sproul and Keith Mathison teach in Revelation 22:4-7.  Phil why is it such a stretch to get yourself or MacArthur and R.C. Sproul to discuss these passages with us?  Why so much fear Phil?  The righteous are “as bold as a lion” and yet you, MacArthur and your professors are acting like scared kitty cats.


But in all honesty Phil you aren’t the only fearful ones.  R.C. Sproul and Mathison still have not responded to our book and won’t interact with us on these issue either.  And here’s why:

  • Premise #1 (R.C. Sproul): The “soon” coming of Christ in Revelation 22:6-7, 20 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70. This historical event caused the passing of the Old Covenant Creation while bringing about the arrival of the spiritual New Covenant Creation.  As a result, we see God’s face today spiritually in the New Covenant Heavens and Earth.
  • Premise #2 (Sproul’s Reformation Study Bible): But the “soon” coming of Christ in Revelation 22:6-7, 20 is the Second Coming event and so is “that which is perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10-12.  We will only see God’s face clearly when these passages are fulfilled at the Second Coming.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, if both propositions are true (and we believe they are “Reformed and always reforming”) then the “soon” Second Coming of Christ and seeing of God’s face as described for us in Revelation 22:6-7, 20 and 1 Corinthians 13:10-12 were fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 when the Old Covenant creation passed away and the glory of the spiritual New Covenant creation took it’s place.   Therefore, the miraculous sign and revelatory gifts of tongues, prophecy and knowledge ceased in AD 70.

In order to exegetically solve the Charismatic problem and harmonize their contradictions, they would have to become Full Preterists – and they don’t want anyone pointing that out.  In other words, if “A” (Rev. 22:4-7) was fulfilled “soon” and spiritually in AD 70, but “A” (Rev. 22:4-7) is also equal to “B” (1 Cor. 13:8-12), then “B” (1 Cor. 13:8-12) was also fulfilled “soon” and spiritually in AD 70.  Therefore, these three gifts ceased together in AD 70 and we see God’s face today clearly in the New Covenant Heavens and Earth.  See there Phil, we just fixed Spurgeon’s and Sproul’s confusion over this issue of the OC and NC heavens and earth passing and arriving — while at the same time giving the Charismatic an exegetical reason why these gifts really did “cease” at the “soon” Second Coming event!  And it wasn’t difficult at all.

Sproul final
Like yourself and MacArthur, Sproul and Mathison have a lot of explaining to do concerning their “heretical”  Postmillennial Partial Preterism (per the early Amillennial creeds) since it along with their Reformation Study Bible leads us to Full Preterism:

Premise #1:  Editors of this Reformed Study Bible (R.C. Sproul & Keith Mathison) teach that the coming of the Son of Man upon the clouds in Matthew 16:27-28 and Matthew 24:27-30; 25:31 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 before some of those standing next to Jesus died and in their generation (Full Preterists agree).

Premise #2:  But the The Reformation Study Bible itself teaches that the coming of the Son of Man upon the clouds in judgment to gather the elect in Matthew 16:27; Matthew 24:27-31; 25:31ff. is addressing Christ’s ONE eschatological hope or ONE Second Coming and resurrection event and forms the foundation to Paul’s eschatology and are thus “parallel” (using the analogy of faith principle of interpretation) to Christ’s trumpet parousia/catching away or parousia/change in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17–chpt. 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 (Full Preterists agree).

Conclusion/Sythesis/Full Preterism:  The principle of “Reformed and always reforming” (and that the creeds may be in error) should be honored in order to harmonize these conflicting views.  The clear time texts of Matthew 16:27-28 and Matthew 24:27-34 are to be honored just as the analogy of faith (“parallels”) between Jesus’ eschatology and Paul’s eschatology in 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 1 Corinthians 15.  Both instruct us that Jesus and Paul were teaching the Second Coming and resurrection event would be fulfilled at “the end” of the OC age in AD 70 and an event to be expected in some of their lifetimes.

Click on this chart and enlarge if you need to (very important):


By the way this chart destroys MacArthur’s two comings of Jesus separated by seven years (rapture “coming” then second coming 7 years later) and Sproul’s two coming theory separated by thousands or millions of years (coming in AD 70 then another at the end of world history)!  Phil, let’s get real here, isn’t the truth that men like you, MacArthur, Sproul and Mathison just don’t want the public and your students to see your current embarrassment and conflicting views over eschatology and 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and other revenant passages?  I get it.  Sproul and RTS are right there with you.

Phil you and MacArthur are sticking your heads in the sand on the NT imminent time texts re-defining them into meaninglessness, while Sproul and Mathison are imploring a more than inconsistent hermeneutic on the time texts (ex. Acts 24:15 YLT/Dan. 12:2; Rms. 16:20/Gen. 3:15) and unable to allow Scripture to interpret itself, because to do so they would have to agree to revise the creeds in the area of eschatology.  And no one wants to do that after being so INVESTED in them at this point.

I’ll deal with Brown’s Premillennial “heresy” he shares with you and his Charismatic “heresy” on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. And you, MacArthur and Sproul can crawl back into your very well funded shell and bubble pretending you guys are doing apologetic work against Charismatics and Preterists.  Wow.

What Kind of Apologetics Does The Master’s Seminary Teach —

Bubble Apologetics?

I remember after my 4 point Calvinist instructor and director of Calvary Chapel Bible College (Richard Goswiller) got fired for being Calvinistic t– the next director began purging the library of Calvinist works.  Calvary Chapel was a “bubble” – scared to be popped by any other views.  That reminds me now of what The Master’s University and Seminary has become when it comes to trying to exegetically deal with Charimsatics or Preterists.   They regularly mock Charismatics and Preterists and yet will not defend their Futurism in honest debate or scholarship.  It’s a pure mystery to me as to why you would even have classes on apologetics at your University or Seminary if MacArthur, yourself and your staff can’t live out an honest Christian apologetic in your lives and ministry.  Selah.

I have been in conUnknown-1tact with Southern Evangelical Seminary and they are going to see if they can find a professor that will have a public “discussion” with Dr. Brown and myself over 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and the cessation question.

Oddly, right after holding a conference on apologetics, they are telling me that they don’t really have anyone “qualified” to discuss this passage and issue with us.  They are currently asking Dr. Richard Howe if he would be willing to step up to the plate.  I think it’s not charitable for them to say Brown’s Charismatic views are a “black stain” upon his ministry (which I agree with), but then not be willing to engage with him and myself (along with the students and faculty members) on this matter in a public setting.  If we are both wrong to have an eschatological view of this passage — then someone at SES should prove it.  The Seminary and Norman Geisler have been critical both of Brown’s Charismatic views and Preterism in general. Therefore, I welcome a debate/”discussion” with Mr. Geisler to prove (among many things) that his Premillennial interpretation and translation of “this generation…” (Mt. 24:34) as, “this Jewish race will not pass away until all theses be fulfilled” has not exegetical merit whatsoever!

imagesI continue to pray for a Bible College or Seminary setting for this discussion/debate.   I thought Reformed Theological Seminary of Charlotte would be a great place to have this debate or discussion with the students and faculty as well.  But they won’t let me past a secretary.   Even though I have co-authored a book responding to Keith Mathison, they pretend I haven’t had any “direct engagement” with them and pretend we don’t exist.  My/our book remains in their seminary library unanswered and their instructors refuse to dialog or debate me.

Latest update on the Sullivan v. Brown debate — If S.E.S. can’t find anyone “qualified” for actually performing apologetics (after having a conference on the subject), then we will have the debate at Dr. Brown’s church sometime in January or February.  I will post updates on the date and time.

My Previous Letter Sent June 14th, 2016

Dear Pastor John MacArthur and faculty at The Master’s University / Seminary,

My purpose in this letter is to request a forum to debate Charismatic Apologist Dr. Michael L. Brown (author of Authentic Fire A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire), and if possible to have Pastor MacArthur or one of the professors at The Master’s College or Seminary participate and present their position (a symposium of sorts).  I also believe it would be productive to bring in some Reformed Theologians on the topic (see below).

Pastor MacArthur you may remember me as a student at The Master’s College in the early 90’s –  I also attended Grace Community and worked at the churches bookstore?  As a student I had just left 4 point Calvinism behind and embraced limited atonement.  I was giving you a lot of material on that subject including Gary Long’s book and syllabus – on Definite Atonement.  I also was trying to get you and the faculty to hire my former Director and Bible College professor from Calvary Chapel Bible College – Dr. Richard Goswiller.  You may also remember me as one asking many questions in that early class where you made yourself available for questions?  I talked to you and asked questions regarding your inconsistent 4 point “Calvinist” position (that I just left for the 5 point view) and Partial Preterism (which I had just begun to study).  I also gave you arguments as to why I felt the miraculous sign gifts were still for today which included:

  1. If “that which is perfect” and the “face to face” sight (the Second Coming and New Creation) has not come (1 Cor. 13:8-12/Rev. 22:4-7), then the miraculous sign gifts are still for the church today.  My exegesis of 1 Cor. 13:8-12 here.
  2. If we are still in the “last days” (cf. Acts 2), then the miraculous sign gifts are still for the church today.  My exegesis of Acts 2 and the last days here.
  3. If the Great Commission and end of the age of Matt. 24:14/Mark 16/Matt. 28/Acts 1:8 had not been fulfilled, then the miraculous sign gifts are still for the church today.  My exegesis of the Great Commission texts here.
  4. If we are still in the “already and not yet” phase of the kingdom, then the miraculous sign gifts are still for the church today.  My response – The “not yet” Kingdom and Second Coming arrived in an “at hand” and AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” time frame (Lk. 21:27-32).

During that year of College not only would I go on to become a 5 point Calvinist, but I also studied and left behind Dispensationalism, Amillennialism and Partial Preterism for Full Preterism (as I combined what the Classic Amillennialist and Partial Preterist were saying of Matthew 24/1 Thess. 4-5 and many other crucial eschatological texts).  I initially came to Full Preterism not even knowing it was a view – just through my personal studies (my testimony here).  Full Preterism not only was an answer to my prayers regarding eschatology, but it also was the antidote to the Charismatic arguments I didn’t see you addressing with me in person or in reading your books or listening to sermons.  I recently read your book(Strange Fire) and Dr. Brown’s response (Authentic Fire) and gave a two-part lecture response to them at The Berean Bible Conference  (those DVD’s are still being edited).  Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to address all of the 4 points listed above in those lectures – which was a response to Dr. Brown and how you and the conference speakers did not deal with these arguments.  However, I have been responding to these 4 points in a series of articles on my web site:

As a student at The Master’s College I do remember us inviting a Mormon Apologist to one of our classes.  We were challenged to research Mormonism and be prepared to ask him challenging questions.  It was a very healthy learning / back and forth experience for all involved.  Textbooks can only equip a Christian so much and at some point we need to debate and personally engage the culture and various positions face to face.  I appreciate my professor for doing this.  I also invited Dr. Greg Bahnsen to our college and he lectured in various classes and answered challenging questions from students and staff.  Again, this was healthy for the students and faculty.  If The Master’s College can engage with Mormon and Reconstructionist Apologists, surely she can engage Charismatic and Full Preterist Apologists over the subject of Strange Fire and when the Bible teaches the sign and revelatory gifts are to cease?

Currently my debate with Dr. Brown is centered on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.  The position I will be defending is a combination of the corporate maturity view and the eschatology view – when Christ and the New Creation came spiritually and “soon” (cf. Rev. 22:4-7) in AD 70, the Church stood mature and complete from the Old Covenant system.  In Dr. Brown’s debate with Reformed Apologist James White over the gift of healing, White completely ignored Brown’s argument on 1 Cor. 1:5-8/13:8-12.  In his debate with another Reformed author – Sam Waldron, Sam had a very difficult time explaining his or Richard Gaffin’s view of the passage.  Obviously your own right-hand man Phil Johnson didn’t do so well in his discussions with Dr. Brown over the Strange Fire conference.  Which I found odd in that there was no discussion over Scripture (which was probably something Phil didn’t want to discuss since Brown has been asking for a debate and discussion over Scripture on this subject for a long time now).

Please host and or participate in this debate.  Or better yet here is my suggestion that I believe will bring the most healing to the body:

A symposium on the subject of when the sign and revelatory gifts are to cease according to Scripture – addressing those 4 points/passage listed above.  Here are the participants I am requesting to participate:

  • Reformed Partial Preterist Cessationist – R.C. Sproul / Keith Mathison / Gary DeMar.
  • Historic Premillennial Charismatic – Michael Brown.
  • Reformed Charismatic – John Piper.
  • Dispensational Cessationist – John MacArthur (or co-Pastor or Professor).
  • Reformed Amillennial Cessationist – Sam Waldron or James White.
  • Sovereign Grace Full Preterist Cessationist – Michael Sullivan.

Each view must cover those 4 points and respond to the others exegesis and treatment of them.  So there is no confusion let me briefly outline my view:

  1. “That which is perfect” and the “face to face” sight (1 Cor. 13:8-12) is the Second Coming and arrival of the New Creation which arrived at the end of the OC age/heaven and earth “soon” in AD 70 (cf. Rev. 21-22:4-7). Thus the sign and revelatory gifts of tongues, prophecy and knowledge “ceased” in AD 70.
  2. The “last days” (of Acts 2 and elsewhere in the NT ) is descriptive of the last days of the OC age which ended in AD 70. Thus the sign and revelatory gifts ceased at the end of the last days of the OC age in AD 70.
  3. The Great Commission of Matt. 24:14, 34/Matt. 28:18-20/Mrk. 16:15-20/Acts 1:8 was a sign that preceded Christ’s coming at the end of the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” and was fulfilled prior to “the end” or “end of the [OC] age” (cf. Rms. 10:18, 16:25-26; Cols. 1:5-6, 23). Thus the sign and revelatory gifts ceased in AD 70.
  4. The “already and not yet” of the kingdom was roughly between AD 30 – AD 70 when the OC and NC overlapped – with the old passing away and “ready to vanish” while the new was “about to be” fully revealed.   The “not yet” aspect of the “kingdom” was to be fulfilled at Christ’s imminent and first century “this generation” Second Coming (Lk. 21:27-32).  Thus the sign and revelatory gifts ceased in AD 70.

As I argued in my/our book, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be? the truth in the eschatology debate (and in the miraculous signs and revelatory gifts debate) is to be found in combining the Reformed Classical Amillennial view with the Reformed Partial Preterist views – “Reformed and always reforming.”  These views not only form Full Preterism, they effectively refute the “Charismatic Chaos” and confusion that have plagued the church.  In your Strange Fire book and conference, you appealed to Reformed and Puritan theology.  Obviously I do not believe you have followed your own advise in the area of Reformed Theology as it applies to eschatology let alone in how it applies to this area of when the Bible teaches the sign and revelatory gifts are to cease (My response to you on how these two Reformed views form Full Preterism and solve the Charismatic debate).  As a former student of yours, I have and am willing to debate and interact with these other views on these passages and subjects – are you?

Please show Dr. Brown and myself that Grace Community and The Master’s College and Seminary is not a bubble that just talks about Theology and Apologetics – but in reality is unwilling to actually do the work of an Apologist.  This is what I have found to be the case with my other former church and Bible College – Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and Calvary Chapel Bible College.  They now even have an “Apologetics” school that is unwilling to debate me.  Amazing that they are incapable of debating one of their own graduates.

I am thankful to Dr. Brown who has debated Don Preston (over Romans 11) and is now willing to debate me over (1 Cor. 13:8-12).  Pastor MacArthur, will you please engage us on these exegetical issues as to when the Bible teaches the sign and revelatory gifts are to cease?  I must confess my agreement with Dr. Brown and the Charismatic community that your Strange Fire Conference spent so much time on the subject of extremes within the Charismatic movement and very little time and lectures dedicated to an exegetical treatment of the cessation issue (which is the heart of the matter).  I am hoping what I am suggesting here will help deal with these valid criticisms of your conference.

As I have been writing this letter I have left messages and am in the process of being in contact with The Master’s College and Seminary.  Per the request of the receptionist at Grace Community, I will send this via email so that it will be passed along to you.  I will also post this on my web site as a public and open letter and send you a snail mail version along with a copy of my/our book.  At the very least please read my responses to Keith Mathison on the NT time texts (chapter 4) and Simon Kistemaker on the date of Revelation (chapter 5) and then David Green’s response to Mr. Strimple on the resurrection (chapter 7).

In Christ,

Michael Sullivan

To read this series of articles that are a Full Preterist response to Charismatic Michael Brown (Author of Authentic Fire)  and Cessationist John MacArthur (Author of Strange Fire) go to:  

Part 1 – My Full Preterist Response to John MacArthur’s Appeals to Church History and Reformed Theology to Solve the Charismatic Dilemma

Part 2 – An Overview of the Various Views of “That Which is Perfect” (1 Cor. 13:10)

Part 3 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 Demonstrating That the Miraculous Sign and Revelatory Gifts of Tongues, Prophecy and Knowledge Ceased and Passed Away with the OC Age in AD 70 and John MacArthur’s Inability to Deal with the Passage

Part 4 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on the “Last Days” of Acts 2 and John MacArthur’s Inability to Deal with the Passage

Part 5 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-20 and John MacArthur’s Inability to Deal with the Passage

Part 6 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on the “Already and Not Yet” of the Kingdom and John MacArthur’s Inability to Respond Biblically

Part 7 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on John 14:12 and John MacArthur’s (The Master’s Seminary) Inability to Deal With the Passage and the Infallibility of the Scriptures going on into John 16

Part 8 – My Open Letter to my Former Pastor John MacArthur and The Master’s Seminary to Interact with Myself and Dr. Michael Brown on These Passages and When the Bible Teaches Tongues, Prophecy and Knowledge Are to Cease That Has NEVER Been Responded to

In Christ,

Mike Sullivan

PS – I may be adding some more documentation and facts to this letter to Phil over the coming weeks.

The Living Body Show Matthew 24:30-34 The Second Coming and Resurrection/Gathering in Jesus' "This Generation"

Mike Sullivan and William Bell wrap up their series on what theologians have called, “The Big Three” (Matt. 10:22-23; 16:27-28; 24:34).  Did Jesus in fact predict that His Second Coming, end of the age, de-creation and resurrection would occur within some of the lifetimes of His contemporary audience or in their “this generation”?  Tune in and you be a Beren and be the judge.

An Exposition of "This Generation" (Matthew 24:34) Part 3

By Michael J. Sullivan
We are continuing our series on the “this generation” of (Matthew 24:34) and are discussing the various false interpretations that have been set forth in order to avoid the most clear one. We now approach a false interpretation that is probably the most detrimental to the Christian Church in our generation and one that has left many Evangelicals faith cold causing them to question the reliability of some of their so called “prophecy experts.” In addressing this interpretation I also wanted to take a look at the alleged OT “proof texts” that support that the gathering of Israel back into her land in 1948 is somehow a fulfillment of prophecy. I will be covering the Dispensational false teaching that OT prophecies and promises made to Israel cannot “in any way” be fulfilled by the Church. To the Dispensationalist, this even includes the promise of the New Covenant which has profound implications upon the Christian faith and the gospel. These are SERIOUS issues and I hope you will open your Bible as we begin this very important study.
2) “Our generation which saw Israel become a nation 1948 will witness Christ’s return.”
Hal Lindsey, an alleged “prophecy expert” who, based on current events and not the Bible claimed,
“WE are the generation that will see the end times… and return of Christ.” And “unmistakably… this generation is the one that will see the end of the present world and the return of Christ”[1] And then this view was fueled from the pulpit from the mega church Pastors such as Chuck Smith of the Calvary Chapel movement:
“…that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981. (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981).”[2] In his book Future Survival (1978) Chuck wrote,
“From my understanding of biblical prophecies, I’m convinced that the Lord is coming for His Church before the end of 1981.”[3] Having attended Pastor Chuck Smith’s church–Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, CA as a very young boy till about the age of 22, I was indirectly and directly influenced by this false interpretation. As a boy crossing the intersection of Sunflower and Fairview everyday for school I would read the words, “Jesus is coming soon. God keeps His promises” painted on the back wall of the Chapel Store (the church book store). After the Lord saved me at the age of 18, I would then attend and graduate from Calvary Chapel Bible College and had more direct interaction with Lindsey’s and Smith’s false newspaper eschatology. For Smith and Lindsey, Christ’s announcement that He is coming “soon” only “truly” meant He was coming “soon” for our generation because it was said that only our generation witnessed the “super sign” of Israel becoming a nation in 1948.
Another popular Calvary Chapel Pastor and author Jon Courson, instead of confronting Lindsey and Smith sought to manipulate his following as well and tried to ignite the dulling faith of those failed predictions of Smith and Lindsey,
“The fig tree is the symbol of Israel nationally, historically, and scripturally. On May 14, 1948, the fig tree blossomed once again when the land of Israel was returned to the Jews. Jesus said the generation that sees that event take place will not pass away. Who is that generation? We are.”[4] “Written by a then-unknown author named Hal Lindsay, The Late Great Planet Earth exposed an entire generation to the concepts of the Rapture of the church and the return of Jesus Christ. It was foundational to the Jesus Movement of the 70s, which started on the West Coast, spread across the country, and eventually circled the globe. Lindsay and other teachers of prophecy during that time stressed this teaching in Matthew 24. The parable of the fig tree enflamed the hearts of an entire generation for Jesus said the budding of the fig tree signaled His impending return.
What is the budding of the fig tree? Scripture interprets Scripture. Thus, Jeremiah, Joel, Hosea, and others identify the fig tree as the nation Israel. For centuries, Israel seemed to be a dead tree. In the year A.D. 70, the Romans marched into Jerusalem, destroyed the city, and took over the country. The Jews scattered every direction in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28:64-67. But in addition to saying the Jews would be scattered throughout the world, God also said, But The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land (Jeremiah 23:8).” (Courson, ibid,)
“So it was that on May 14, 1948, Israel became a nation again. The fig tree that had appeared to be dead and hopeless suddenly sprang back to life and blossomed just as Jesus prophesied. And, according to Matthew 24:34, the generation that saw that happen would be the final generation.
What constitutes a generation? Hal Lindsay and others taught that a Biblical generation could be a thirty-eight to forty-year time period.
And the Lords anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the LORD, was consumed. Numbers 32:13
And the space in which we came from Kadesh-barnea, until we were come over the brook Zered, was thirty and eight years; until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host, as the LORD sware unto them. Deuteronomy 2:14
Thus, anticipation grew. Excitement and expectancy filled the hearts of many, for if you add forty years to 1948 and if you believe the rapture of the Church takes place seven years before the return of Jesus, the Rapture would take place in 1980 or 1981. Truly the time was near! T-shirts, bumper stickers, and posters were printed. Maranatha Come quickly, Lord became the watchword of believers. 1981 came. So did 1982, 83, 84, 85, and 86. And then something began to happen. A whole bunch of radical Christians began to cool off, saying, Maybe were here for a while after all. Maybe we shouldn’t be so committed to this kingdom thing. Oh, they didn’t say it in those exact words, but that’s what they were thinking. And a dulling of expectancy swept over our generation.
What went wrong? Perhaps forty years is not the figure we should work with when looking at a Biblical generation. Take a look at Genesis 15
And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again. Genesis 15:13, 14, 16
Here in Genesis 15, God refers to the four-hundred-year period the Jews were in Egypt as four generations. Therefore, in this model, a generation is not forty years but one hundred years. If a generation is one hundred years, am I suggesting that the Rapture will take place in 2048 one hundred years after the rebirth of the nation of Israel? No. I suggest it will be before then. You see, there is a principle in Bible interpretation called the Principle of First Mention that says foundational understanding about any given subject is usually found in the first place it is mentioned in Scripture. Where is the Greek term, generation first mentioned? In Matthew 1:17 we read: So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.
Sharpen your pencils and think with me: Christian and Jewish theologians alike agree that, based on Biblical genealogies, Abraham was called by God in the year 2085 B.C. Genesis 2 tells us he was seventy-five years old at that time, which means Abraham was born in 2160 B.C. Matthew 1:17 tells us there were forty-two generations (14×3) from Abraham to Christ. So, if you divide 2160 the year of Abrahams birth by 42, you get 51.4. Thus, scripturally, there is validity for a Biblical generation to be 51.4 years”
“I believe you who are in your teens and early twenties are very possibly the last generation. Set your heart on things above. Live for heaven. Seek first the kingdom, and you will be happy presently, rewarded eternally, and grateful constantly.
You who are older, continue setting an example for us who are younger. Continue to make the Lord top priority in your life. Were looking to you in a very real sense. Please keep the fire hot.
Fellow baby boomers, we need to realize that Jesus Christ is coming soon. We don’t have time to play around. We don’t have time to chase worldly pursuits any longer. We need to return to ministry and service, worship and prayer, Bible study and street witnessing. Whatever it was you used to do when you were fired up about Jesus in the 70s, do it again. Maranatha!” (Courson, ibid)
Well, 1999 like 1981, came and went too! And just like the last days cults of Mormonism and the Watchtower of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, when Jesus doesn’t come back in the lifetime and 40 year generation of their “Holy Spirit led,” “prophets” and “prophecy expert” teachers, they just keep stretching out the meaning of “this generation” from 40 to 50, 60, 70 – 100 years and manipulating and trying to get people “fired up” with new newspaper eschatological schemes and scenarios that allegedly teach that our generation is the one that will witness the “rapture.” This is how these last days cults, TBN and such mega churches as the Calvary Chapel’s “Jesus movement” have grown!
Well, I’m 41 now, so I guess according to Jon Courson I am somewhere between the younger generation that is going to see Christ’s return and the baby boomers who’s faith have become cold and dull due to the false date setting of men like Lindsey, Smith and Courson. So I (and I hope you will too) accept John’s exhortation and challenge to: 1) Set my heart on things above, 2) Live for heaven, 3) Seek first the kingdom, 4) I won’t play around, and 5) return to ministry, service, worship, prayer, Bible study, and witnessing. In doing these things however I will need to refute Jon’s false interpretation of “this generation.”
“Look at the fig tree and all the trees” (Luke 21:29)
As we have seen Dispensationalists usually interpret the fig tree in Matthew 24:32 as the Nation of Israel coming back into the land in 1948. And usually Amillennialists, Postmillennialists and Preterists counter with Luke 21:29 and ask, “Well, if Israel is the fig tree beginning to get tender in 1948, then what about “all the trees” or nations? What happen to them in 1948?!?” It is then pointed out that the next verse equates the signs with the leaves beginning to get tender and the kingdoms arrival with Christ’s return as “summer.” Well, why not combine the two concepts? I don’t have a problem in the least seeing Israel as the “fig tree” and the rest of “all the trees” as the Gentile nations in this passage. Other than the abomination of desolation, the other major sign that marked “the end” is the Great Commission. The gospel was bearing fruit throughout the land of Israel and among the Gentile nations within the Roman Empire or world as they knew it (cf. Colossians 1:5-6, 23; Isaiah 27:6).
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world (Greek oikumene) for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14)
“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:
‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Greek oikumene)” (Romans 10:18)
“And the gospel must first be published among all nations (Greek ethnos)”
(Mark 13:10)
“…My gospel… has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations (Greek ethnos)…” (Romans 16:25-26)
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world(Greek kosmos) and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15)
“…of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world(Greek kosmos), as is bringing forth fruit…,” (Colossians 1:5-6).
And he said unto them ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Greek kitisis) ” (Mark 16:15)
“…from the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature (Greek kitisis) under heaven, of which I, Paul became a minister” (Colossians 1:23)
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Greek ge)” (Acts 1:8).
“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:
‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth (Greek ge), and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18)
The Great Commission and bearing forth fruit here is the fulfillment of Genesis 1:28 and paradise is being restored and about to come into its fullness at Christ’s imminent return. Although not a preterist, G.K. Beale at least makes the parallels:
Genesis 1:28
Colossians 1:6, 10
‘increase [auxano] and multiply and fill the earth…and rule over all the earth’.
‘in all the world also it [‘the word of truth, the gospel’] is bearing fruit and increasing [auxano] (v.6); ‘in every good work bearing fruit and increasing [auxano]…’ (v.10).
“Several commentators have noticed that verse 6 and 10 are an allusion to Genesis 1:28 (and perhaps 1:22). It appears that the Hebrew text may be the focus, since the Greek Old Testament renders the Hebrew para (‘bear fruit’) by auxano (‘increase’) and raba (‘to multiply’) by plethuno (‘to multiply’).”[5] There is a new Adam—Christ, and He is exercising dominion through His seed and progeny–the Church. Through the Holy Spirit, His light was shinning through them and transforming them as God’s New Covenant Creation (verse 3; cf. 2 Corinthians 3-5:17).
The Church or God’s New Israel (comprised of believing Jews and Gentiles) was the fig tree or the “seed” that was “being sown” and “being raised” (the present tense is used in 1 Corinthians 15:37-44) through the gospel and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. This process would reach its resurrection fullness and maturity at Christ’s return. His return would usher in an “end” to the Old Covenant “the law” of the Adamic and Mosaic body of sin and death for His people (Rom. 5-8; 1 Cor. 15). Without God attending to Israel as His olive tree, vine, or seed, her vineyard could not bring forth resurrection life/fruit, and there could be no salvation/resurrection/harvest for the Gentiles or the rest of “all the trees” (Luke 21:29-31/Rom. 11:15ff.).
Combined, Reformed theologians such as Peter Leithart and James Jordan understand the resurrection and harvest of Daniel 12:2-3 and Matthew 13 as an evangelistic/resurrection process for Israel, that ended at the end of her Old Covenant age in A.D. 70.[6] The wheat and the tares were in the process of growing together as they each responded to the gospel. I understand the presence of the Holy Spirit as a glorious light reflecting the glory of Jesus Christ raising and changing God’s elect from the Old Covenant mode of existence to the New. Between A.D. 66-70 Christ as the “Sun of Righteousness” came from the East to the West (cf. Matthew 24:27 – I translate astrape as the rays of light from the sun and not the lightning) bringing the final maturity and ripeness to the fruit and gathered it into His barn while burning up the chaff, tares and grass (Matthew 3:2-12; Matthew 13; 1 Corinthians 15-“first fruits” harvest motif., Revelation 7, 14; James 1:11; 5:1-9).
I may be wrong, but to me (and my reading of Isaiah and the OT prophets), the putting forth of the fig tree’s leaves and their blossoming (the Restored New Covenant Israel) along with all the trees (the time for the fullness of the Gentiles to be gathered and engrafted/redeemed into the Kingdom), seems to embrace the substance and fulfilling of the sign of the Great Commission in relation to Christ’s return in AD 70. Through the sign of the Great Commission being fulfilled and the power of the gospel, people/trees were about to blossom and become a well watered garden of God in His restored kingdom/paradise placed within the Land (Isaiah 27:6; 35; 44:1-5; 61:11). The Jew understood his Temple, City/Jerusalem and Promised Land to be the “heavens and earth” or a heaven on the earth of light in which the beasts/gentiles needed to come out of the darkness of their lands and enter in order to be saved. This is what we see in the book of Revelation with paradise being restored and the nations coming to the New Jerusalem for life (cf. Revelation 21-22:6-7, 10-12, 17, 20).
It always amazed me how Pastor Chuck Smith wanted to get people excited about how much agriculture and flowers he saw over in Israel the last time he was visiting there. He used this as an alleged “sign” along with Israel becoming a nation in 1948 and her making plans to re-build the temple again, that we were indeed living in the generation that would witness Christ’s return – yadee yadee – you know the story I’m sure. But this isn’t the kind of fruit and blossoming the book of Isaiah or Jesus is concerned with! The Bible is always interested in the heart and it is “within” and “in” this realm where the kingdom of God/heaven would come in Jesus’ “this generation” (Lk. 17:20-37; Lk. 21:31-32).
As I have sought to use the “this nation will not pass until all these things are fulfilled” interpretation against the dispensationalists by teaching that indeed the Old Covenant nation of Israel did indeed pass away in AD 70; so too I will use the Israel=fig tree argument against them here by offering a much better explanation as to how the remnant of Israel (the fig tree) and the nations (“and all the trees”) began to bud and blossom through the sign of the Great Commission being fulfilled before Christ’s imminent return in AD 70.
Since the alleged “re-gathering” of Israel in 1948 is supposed to be the “supersign” that we are living in the last days generation predicted by Jesus, we should give some attention to this imaginative interpretation. Instead of rebuking Hal Lindsey and Chuck Smith’s false interpretation and predictions arising from this text, Calvary Chapel Pastor and Evangelist Greg Laurie still teaches this, and quoting from Mark 13:28-29 he writes,
“Jesus said the rebirth of Israel will be a supersign of the last days…” “Of course we know this prophecy was fulfilled not that long ago. On May 14, 1948…”[7] 1948 – A fulfillment of what prophetic “re-gathering”?
In this section I want to analyze the various “proof texts” that Dispensationalists use to support that 1948 was a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. I will focus mainly on the writings of John Hagee and Thomas Ice. We also examine the empty claims of Dispensationalists that OT prophetic material made to Israel cannot be applied or fulfilled in the Church age.
Now days most Dispensationalists are either abandoning the system or going further into it by embracing the “Christian Zionist Movement.” This movement seeks to try and persuade Jews from around the world to move back to Israel in order to usher in the Great Tribulation period and hasten the pre-tribulation “rapture” of the Church. Newspaper prophetic sensation John Hagee has built a foreign policy advocacy organization called Christians United for Israel (CUFI) around this false doctrine and false interpretation of Scripture. He is pushing for a pre-emptive war with Iran to quicken the “rapture.” In 2006 while lobbying in Washington Hagee was clear in his agenda, “The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West,” he said. This was supposed to be a step in the right direction as allegedly mapped out in the Bible, “a biblically prophesied End Time confrontation…which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation…and the Second Coming of Christ.” Hagee not only uses guilt manipulation techniques on the members of his church and T.V. audiences to tithe to his “ministries” through his false “prosperity gospel,” but also uses guilt manipulation to push his false Dispensational Zionism doctrine. Hagee clearly insists that if you are not on board with him and his alleged Holy Spirit led agenda of believing 1948 was a fulfillment of prophecy, and that God has a literal real estate “forever” in the literal city of Jerusalem today, any other view for a Christian to embrace “sin.”[8] It is sad that this false doctrinal system/gospel of Hagee’s is tolerated among Evangelicals and it is more scary when he is allowed to lecture and manipulate our politicians and give them “altar calls” while pushing this agenda as part of his “gospel” of redemption etc…
In Deuteronomy 4:25-31; 28 – 29; and Leviticus 26, God lays forth His covenant with Israel of blessings and cursings. If Israel obeyed God they would be blessed in the land and if they disobeyed, they would be “scattered” among the Nations. The condition for their re-gathering back into the land was repentance and faith. Even though this is clearly laid out in the texts above, Dispensational Premillennialists such as Tim LaHaye, Thomas Ice, and Arnold Fruchtenbaum assert (in order to defend their system that 1948 was a prophetic gathering), that Scripture actually addresses two re-gatherings of Israel in the land: 1) in un-belief, and 2) another re-gathering in belief. Thomas Ice quoting his favorite dispensationalist theologian states,
“The re-establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 has not only thrown a wrench in amillennial thinking, but it has also thrown a chink in much of the premillennial thinking. Amazingly, some premillennialists have concluded that the present state of Israel has nothing to do with the fulfillment of prophecy. For some reason the present state somehow does not fit their scheme of things, and so the present state becomes merely an accident of history. On what grounds is the present state of Israel so dismissed? The issue that bothers so many premillennialists is the fact that not only have the Jews returned in unbelief with regard to Jesus, but the majority of the ones who have returned are not even Orthodox Jews. In fact the majority are atheists or agnostics. Certainly, then, Israel does not fit in with all those passages dealing with the return. For it is a regenerated nation that the Bible speaks of, and the present state of Israel hardly fits that picture. So on these grounds, the present state is dismissed as not being a fulfillment of prophecy.
However, the real problem is the failure to see that the prophets spoke of two international returns. First there was to be a regathering in unbelief in preparation for judgment, namely the judgment of the Tribulation. This was to be followed by a second worldwide regathering in faith in preparation for blessing, namely the blessings of the messianic age. Once it is recognized that the Bible speaks of two such regatherings, it is easy to see how the present state of Israel fits into prophecy.”[9] Ice then seeks to give us some proof texts for this position,
“In 1948 when the modern state of Israel was born, it not only became an important stage-setting development but began an actual fulfillment of specific Bible prophecies about an international regathering of the Jews in unbelief before the judgment of the Tribulation. Such a prediction is found in the following Old Testament passages: Ezekiel 20:33-38; 22:17-22; 36:22-24; 38-39; Isaiah 11:11-12; Zephaniah 2:1-2 presupposes such a setting.” (Ice, Ibid.).
Scripture simply does not teach a prophetic “re-gathering in unbelief” and that is why other dispensationalists are struggling with this position! Let’s briefly address some of these passages that Dispensationalists use as their “proof texts”:
Ezekiel 20:33-38
The context of this passage is dealing with the Babylonian captivity and has nothing to do with Israel being re-gathered back into the land in 1948! The context is that Israel was being unfaithful to God and wanted to be like the heathen nations around them. Therefore, God would take Israel out of her land in the wilderness (symbolic of the Babylonian captivity) and “purge” the wicked there so that the unbelievers would perish as God had purged the unbelieving generation under Moses in the wilderness. So this text actually teaches the opposite of what Dispensationalists say, because it would be the unbelievers who would be purged and die outside the land and not enter it. How is this passage teaching us that unbelievers would be re-gathered in the land of Israel in 1948 “in unbelief” is baffling to say the least!
Paul combines and applies both Isaiah 52:11 and Ezekiel 20:34 to the Church age in 2 Corinthians 6:17 which Dispensationalists claim cannot be done in any way.
Ezekiel 22:18-22
Again, the context is the “near” (vs.3-4) judgment of Israel by means of the Babylonians in B.C. 586 for their sins of spilling innocent blood and idolatry. The unbelievers are “dross” and would “melt.” This prophecy has nothing to do with God gathering Israel in the land in 1948 as a covenant gathered blessing, and it definitely does not teach a gathering of Israel in unbelief in 1948 either!
Ezekiel 36:22-24
The immediate context of this chapter is describing Israel’s sins of idolatry and her sins of blood guilt. For these reasons she was scattered into the Gentile nations and made slaves. As slaves they remained unfaithful to God and were thus a poor witness of Jehovah to the nations in which they were scattered. But God for His own great name sake would cleanse them from their sins and call them back into their land to rebuild the waste places. In type form, this prophecy (and chapter 37) was fulfilled under the restoration of Nehemiah and Ezra when the people came back into the land in repentance and began re-building the waste places of Jerusalem. There is NO contextual evidence whatsoever that there was a “re-gathering” of Israel in “unbelief” let alone any suggestion whatsoever that 1948 is the focus of this prophecy!
Ezekiel 37, 40-48
John Hagee writes of this chapter,
“MORE THAN 2,600 years ago the prophet Ezekiel prophesied the resurrection of Israel from the Gentile graves in the lands to which she had been scattered, predicting the rebirth of Israel, which took place May 14, 1948.”[10] “I want to make it clear that I do not believe that Ezekiel’s vision has anything to do with the resurrection of the dead saints of the church.” (Ibid.).
“The dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision represent the nation of Israel during the Dispora, beginning in A.D. 70 (Ezkek. 37:11). Gradually the bones came together, and the sinews and flesh came upon them.” (ibid. 130-131).
And popular Calvary Chapel Pastor and Evangelist Greg Laurie has sought to get his piece of this sensationalistic money making pie as well,
“On more than one occasion in Scripture, Israel is compared to a fig tree (see Judg. 9:11; Hos. 9:10; Joel 1:7-8). I believe that Mark 13:28-29, along with many other Scripture passages, such as Ezekiel 37-39, speak of the rebirth of Israel—the regathering of God’s people. When the nation of Israel comes back into the existence, Jesus was stating prophetically, it is a supersign that His coming is near.”[11] Of course some Dispensationalists disagree with Lindsey, LaHaye, Smith, Laurie, Courson, Ice, etc., that Ezekiel 37 has anything to do with 1948,
“The Israelites residing in Palestine today are not the fulfillment of this prophecy.”[12] Everyone agrees that the resurrection depicted in Ezekiel 37 is a “national” resurrection. In other words Israel experienced national and covenantal “death” when she was scattered from her land and experiences a “resurrection” when she is restored back into the land. Again, like chapter 36, this prophecy was partially fulfilled through typology when the two houses of Israel came back into the land under the restoration and leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. However, both chapters contain elements of Messiah’s work of salvation (the anti-type) with the coming Messianic New Covenant.
Ezekiel 37:22-28 discusses the coming New Covenant King/Shepherd who would cause: 1) His people to possess the land, 2) establish an everlasting covenant of peace with them, 3) multiply them, and 4) “sanctify” them by establishing His “sanctuary” and “tabernacle” in their midst forever.
Are OT prophecies fulfilled in the Church? IN CHRIST OR IN THE LAND?
Dispensationalism makes the bizarre claim that OT prophecies made to Israel cannot be fulfilled “in any sense” to the Church. Keith Mathison provides a helpful list of quotes from some of Dispensationalism’s leading theologians on this point:
Lewis Sperry Chafer. “That the Christian now inherits the distinctive Jewish promises is not taught in Scripture.”
J. Dwight Pentecost. “…it would be impossible for the church to fulfill God’s promises made to Israel.”
Charles C. Ryrie. “The church is not fulfilling in any sense the promises to Israel.”[13] They believe that OT prophecies concerning the restoration of Israel in such passages as Isaiah 11, 35, 43, 44, 61; Ezekiel 11, 28, 34, 37; Jeremiah 16, 18, were made exclusively to Israel and therefore cannot be fulfilled in and through the Church “in any sense.” Dispensational Zionist John Hagee believes these passages motivate the Church to get Jews around the world to re-inhabit Israel today in order to hasten the “rapture” of the Church and usher in the last days World War III event.[14] However, the context of these passages and how they are understood by the NT authors, make it clear that these “gathering in the land” promises were fulfilled 70 years after the Babylonian captivity under the restoration ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah (in type or partial fulfillment form), which pointed to them being ultimately fulfilled in Christ and through the Church (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Dispensationalism argues that Israel under the Abrahamic covenant has not yet inherited all of the land promised by God, in spite of God clearly saying otherwise (Genesis 15:18; 1 Kings 4:20-21; Joshua 11:23; 21:41-45; Nehemiah 9:21-25). The objection from Dispensationalists is that Israel has not inherited the land “forever.” Sometimes in Scripture “forever” means forever and other times it simply means a long time. In the passages listed above, God’s promises made to Israel concerning the land had not failed to come to pass. Indeed in type and shadow form, through the 40 year reigns of David and in particularly Solomon, Israel received peace in all the land that God had promised to give Israel. All the blessings under the Old Covenant were realized “in the land.” However, in the NT we discover that the anti-type and “true” fulfillments of the Abrahamic promise is found in the gradual 40 year “this generation” pre-parousia reign of Jesus and the reception of a “heavenly country” that was “about to come” in the first century (Hebrews 11:13-16; 13:14YLT). The writer to Hebrews (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) applies the New Covenant Promised Land, City, Tabernacle/Temple, Mount Zion, Sabbath/Rest/Inheritance and Kingdom promises made to Old Covenant Israel to the Church with the reception of these promises to be fulfilled at Christ’s “in a very little while” coming in which He would “not tarry” (Heb. 1-10:37). The NT emphasis is not “in the land” but rather in a person – “in Christ” through faith. For “in Christ” and through the Church, are all the OT promises of God realized and fulfilled (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20).
The New Covenant promises
Since the gathering back into the land and New Covenant prophecies of Jeremiah 30-31parallel much of the same historical re-gathering and New Covenant material found in Ezekiel 37, we should probably examine the blatantly unbiblical comments of dispensationalists who claim that the New Covenant promises made to Israel are not being fulfilled in the Church. Dwight Pentecost writes,
“the Church cannot be presently fulfilling the New Covenant.” John Walvoord agrees, saying that “the New Covenant is with Israel and awaits the second coming of Christ for its fulfillment.” (Mathison, Ibid. 28)
Pentecost concedes that if the Church has been redeemed with the blood of Christ under the New Covenant, then the other covenants must also be applied to the Church and that would mean that the Bible does not teach an earthly millennium,
“The whole covenant takes on importance, in addition, for amillennialism attempts to show that the church is fulfilling Israel’s covenants because the church today is redeemed by the blood. If the church fulfills this covenant, she may also fulfill the other covenants made with Israel and there is no need for an earthly millennium.”[15] Charles Ryrie claims that the Bible condemns Dispensatinalism if the New Covenant is being fulfilled by the Church,
“If the church is fulfilling Israel’s promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere in the Scriptures, then [dispensational] premillennialism is condemned.”[16] These are obviously startling statements to say the very least. How can any Christian claim that he or she has not been redeemed by the blood of Christ’s blood under the New Covenant when the Scriptures are so clear that we are? The answer is that these men have become so engrossed in defending their eschatological system, that this has forced them into rejecting foundational elements to the gospel and indeed the Christian faith.
One King
Jesus began fulfilling the Davidic Covenant or “One King” prophecies of (Ezek. 37:22; Jer. 30:9) at His ascension (Heb. 1-2). Every element that is required for a King to reign is given to Christ through the Church. He was seated on a throne and rules through a City and Nation—that is the Church (1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 12; Gals. 4). The sending of the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Davidic and New Covenant is the focus of attention in (37:24ff.).
One Shepherd with one flock
Jesus would be Israel’s “one shepherd” who’s sheep would walk in His judgments and observe His teachings and do them (Ezk. 37:24). This prophecy is clearly fulfilled in the words of Jesus in John 10 and 17. Obviously OT promises made to Israel are being applied to the Church–the New Covenant fold of God! In the striking and sacrifice of the True Shepherd, the everlasting New Covenant (v. 25) seals the sheep’s/Churches salvation (Mark 14:27; Mt. 26:28; Heb. 8, 12:24, 13:20).
A New Covenant Temple, Peace and Sacrifices
The New Covenant of peace and temple motif began with Christ sending the Holy Spirit within His people. It would be competed and matured when He returned in AD 70 for them. At this time God placed His glory and everlasting peace “within” the Church who is the ultimate New Covenant fulfillment of the Temple promises (Hag. 2:9/Jn. 14). Christ and the Church are the fulfillment of Israel’s New Covenant Tabernacle/Sanctuary/Temple promises with Christ being the chief corner stone (Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 118:22-23/“the builders rejected”/Acts 4 “YOU rejected”/Mt. 21:33-45/1Pet. 2:4 -10; Ezk. 37:27/2 Cor. 6:16; Ephs. 2:19-20; Amos 9:11-12/Acts 15:7-19). God’s New Covenant/Temple/Kingdom plans for Israel were not postponed because of Jesus’ rejection and sacrifice (per Dispensationalism), but rather this rejection of the nation and belief of the remnant and the Gentiles established and began fulfilling God’s Kingdom promises made to Israel with Christ’s return in AD 70 bringing them to full maturity. While here in Ezekiel 37 and on the temple motif alone, we see Paul quoting Ezekiel 37:27 in 2 Corinthians 6:16 and applying this prophecy to the Church! But Dispensationalists seem oblivious to the hermeneutics of Paul and remain adamant that this is somehow a prophetic description of a “literal” rebuilt temple in the millennial age,
“These promises anticipate the detailed plans for God’s new sanctuary (chaps. 40-43). This literal structure will serve as a visual object lesson to Israel and the nations of God’s presence in the midst of His people.” (Walvoord & Zuck, Ibid., 1299).
BUT Paul claims that the Church is the fulfillment of these temple/millennial promises and says nothing about a literal “rebuilt” temple in order to fulfill Israel’s millennial promises thousands of years off in the future!
One of the most disturbing elements within Dispensationalism’s “literal hermeneutic,” is that within this literal rebuilt temple, animal sacrifices will be re-instituted. Some Dispensationalists such as Scofield gave the farm away by claiming that it is possible that the sacrifices in Ezekiel’s temple prophecy are not to be interpreted literally,
“The references to sacrifices is not to be taken literally, in view of the putting away of such offerings, but is rather to be regarded as a presentation of the worship of redeemed Israel, in her own land and in the millennial temple, using the terms with which the Jews were familiar in Ezekiel’s day”[17] But obviously if the sacrifices are not to be interpreted literally, then neither should the altar or the entire temple structure itself be so interpreted.
The vision of the Temple structure is completely symbolic as James Jordan points out,
“The things Ezekiel describes in these chapters could never have been built. The Temple, City, and Land are entirely visionary and symbolic. The Kingdom of God in the Restoration was going to be so powerful and glorious that it simply could not be pictured in any architectural model that could be built. Only a vision would do.”[18] Unfortunately, most Dispensationalists seek to defend that these are literal animal sacrifices taking place after Christ has returned to Jerusalem and sits on his literal throne,
“However no difficulty exists if one understands the proper function of these sacrifices. First, animal sacrifices never took away human sin; only the sacrifice of Christ can do that (Heb. 10:1-4, 10). In Old Testament times Israelites were saved by grace through faith, and the sacrifices helped restore a believer’s fellowship with God. Second, even after the church began, Jewish believers did not hesitate to take part in the temple worship (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:42) and even to offer sacrifices (Acts 21:26). They could do this because they viewed the sacrifices as memorials of Christ’s death.” (Walvoord & Zuck, Ibid., 1305).
First of all, the writer of this statement (Charles H. Dyer) fails to acknowledge that the writer to the Hebrews applies the sacrifice of Christ’s blood of the New Covenant to the Church thus “condemning” (Ryrie’s term) Dispensationalism altogether (Heb. 7-10, 12).
Secondly, I appreciate the admission by Mr. Dyer, that Jewish Christians were obeying the Old Covenant Mosaic Law, because this is what Jesus clearly taught they should do in Matthew 5:17-19 before He fulfilled it all. Here Jesus instructs that ALL the jots and tittles of the Mosaic Old Covenant Law are to be obeyed UNTIL: 1) heaven and earth passes away, which is equivalent to the time period of when 2) all the Law would be fulfilled. Dispensationalist Thomas Ice seems oblivious to what this text says and actually cites it to claim that the Mosaic Law was fulfilled in Christ’s first coming,
“The Mosaic Covenant…” “…was fulfilled through the ministry of Jesus Christ during His first advent (Matthew 5:17). (Ice, Charting the End Times, Ibid., 79).
But clearly the Old Covenant Law was not all fulfilled in Christ’s first coming, but was binding and should be obeyed until heaven and earth passes away or it is all fulfilled. But since the futurist interprets “heaven and earth” here as the planet having not yet vanished, this necessitates that the Church today should be obeying all of the Mosaic Law—including the animal sacrifices. However, the truth is that the Christian Jews did participate in temple worship and animal sacrifices during a particularly unique period (“this generation” roughly AD 30-70) in which the Old Covenant was still being fulfilled by Jesus and the New was reaching its full maturity. According to the writer to the Hebrews, the Old Covenant Law was still in the process of “aging” and would “soon vanish” at Christ’s “in a very little while” return in which the “about to” reception of the New Jerusalem/Creation would take place (Heb. 8:13-10:37-13:14YLT). This all took place “soon” when the Old Covenant Mosaic Temple was destroyed at Christ’s return in AD 70. Dispensationalists (and most futurists) concede that “soon” in (Hebrews 8:13) is a literal time statement that most likely applies to AD 70,
“…the author’s words suggest that he recalled the prophecy of Jesus that the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed (Matt. 24:1-2). Probably this prophecy was fulfilled soon after Hebrews was written. If so, it was a dramatic confirmation of the writer’s thesis about the Old Covenant.”[19] But unfortunately once in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, the abomination and desolation of this same first century temple Jesus and the disciples are looking at and discussing, becomes an alleged rebuilt one thousands of years removed from them. How you might ask? Apparently all it takes is a wave from the eisegetical wand of Dispensational theology. And although the literally “soon” vanishing of the Old Covenant in (Hebrews 8:13) applies to the temple being destroyed in AD 70, Christ’s coming in a “very little while” in which He would “not delay” in (Hebrews 10:37) is spiritualized away by these “literalists” and finds no contextual harmony with their literal interpretation of “soon” in (Hebrews 8:13)!
Once the Mosaic Law was all fulfilled and it “soon vanished” at Christ’s imminent return in AD 70, there is no Scriptural support for the statement that “The Old Covenant Is Not Dead.” (Hagee, In Defense, Ibid., 158). God indeed has kept His vows and has not altered His covenant promises, sending Jesus in a literally “some standing here,” “this generation,” “soon,” “in a very little while” time period in order to fulfill all of Israel’s promises by AD 70. For Dispensationalism to claim otherwise and return to the prophecies contained in the prophets and Old Covenant Law for support of another re-built temple with animal sacrifices, is a complete reversal of what the book of Hebrews teaches. The writer instructs us that redemption moves from physical Old Covenant types and shadows to their spiritual New Covenant substances and “true” fulfillments in Christ and through the Church. The writer says nothing about all of the Old Covenant Law being fulfilled in Christ’s earthly ministry, and neither does he teach that it is “not dead” and will somehow come back to life again thousands of years off in the future with another re-built temple for Israel! These concepts are literally READ INTO THE PAGES OF THE NT with millions of evangelical Christians asleep and refusing to be Bereans and hold these men accountable!
Dispensationalists claim that other OT passages such as Isaiah 66:20-23 teach the literal temple and sacrifice motif to take place in our future. And yet Paul references this passage in Romans 15:16 to demonstrate that he was a priest (in the temple predicted by Isaiah) offering up as a sacrifice the Gentiles (not literal animals). The prophecies in Isaiah that Dispensationalists reference as “proof texts” concerning the Jews and Gentiles coming to the “last days” Holy Mountain/Mount Zion/Temple, Jesus and the NT authors identify as being spiritual and fulfilled in the Church (John 4; Hebrews 12; Ephesians 2; 1 Peter 2).
The unity of Ezekiel’s visions of the heavenly Temple
Most Dispensationalists have not been exposed to other historical views of the Church other than their “literal” interpretations coming from their local church or TV “prophecy experts.” Therefore I would like to expose the reader to some excellent exegetical comments of the Ezekiel Temple from a few Reformed theologians and then I will put these concepts together and place them in their proper NT preterist paradigm.
Following the lead of Block, G.K. Beale points out the unity of the visions in Ezekiel and that this heavenly/spiritual Temple is not a literal structure but is rather intimately connected with God’s presence among His people during the exile period,
“…chapter 40 begins where chapter 11 left off describing God’s heavenly presence that had departed from the physical temple and had taken up invisible residence with the remnant of Israel in exile (11:16, 23-25). It is, therefore, quite viable that Ezekiel’s final vision of the temple describes the heavenly sanctuary to which the remnant on earth are related (Tuell 1996). The formal and thematic parallels between chapters 1, 8 – 11 and 40 – 48 ‘require that the same hermeneutical principles [of symbolism] employed in the interpretation of the previous prophecies apply here, and that one interpret this block [chs. 40 – 48] in the light of the previous visions of God’ (Block 1998: 496-497).” [20] But how would Jews worship in the midst of exile without a temple? The answer as Beale points out lies within God’s promise to be their Temple and in analyzing the Qumran community who considered themselves as being the last days Temple Ezekiel prophesied. The Jew during a time in which the current temple was defiled with an apostate priesthood or was destroyed by Gentile invaders taught that the renewal of the covenant and atonement could come through ones own repentance, obedience and commitment to the Word of God,
“This spiritualization of the altar in the temple was based on analogy with the temple altar in Ezekiel 41:22. To engage continually in the study of the Law was equivalent to building the temple prophesied in Ezekiel 40 – 47 (Midrash Rabbah Leviticus 7:3). Repentance could be ‘accounted unto a person as if he had … built the Temple and the altar, and offered theeron all the sacrifices’ (Midrash Rabbah Leviticus 7:2). Part of the precedent for Qumran and John conceptualizing Ezekiel’s temple in a non-structural manner and applying it to a remnant of Israel or to the church may have been given by the prophet Ezekiel himself!” (Beale, Ibid., 318).
Another Reformed view taken from James Jordan sees the descent of the heavenly temple in Ezekiel 40 – 48 being more applicable during the reformation and rebuilt temple under Ezra. He emphasizes its fulfillment during the post exilic era before then applying it to the New Covenant Temple or age of the Church under Messiah,
“This time Ezekiel was given a vision and blueprint for the post-exilic Temple, but it was a temple so vast and huge that it could never be built. Ezekiel’s visionary Temple symbolized both the nature and the glory of the restoration establishment, but the Temple actually built by Ezra was a small affair. Ezra’s Temple symbolized the nature, but not the glory, of the new restoration covenant.” (Jordan, Ibid., 242).
He also points out that there is a de-creation that takes place upon the Land of Israel and the Temple during this period (cf. Jer. 4:23-28, see also Isa. 24-25) and that even the language of a new heavens and earth should be applied to the covenant’s renewal under Ezra and Nehemiah before it is applied to the New Creation’s arrival at Christ’s return,
“The new covenant and the new heavens and earth ultimately point to the coming of Christ, but their first fulfillment is to be found in the restoration of Israel from exile. That restoration was a downpayment, a pledge of God’s faithfulness. After all, each new covenant, being a resurrection in more glorious form of the previous one, pointed to the New Covenant.
It is often overlooked that the restoration establishment was indeed a new covenant, and an advance in glory beyond the Davidic establishment. Whether we call the post-exilic establishment a new covenant or simply a “covenant renewal,” the fact is that there were very great changes involved in the new cosmos, changes equivalent to the changes involved in the previous new covenants.” (Jordan, Ibid., 243-244).
The River
Of the river in Ezekiel 47 Jordan writes,
“This is not a picture first and foremost of the New Testament, but of the spiritual realities present in the Restoration. This is indicated by the context of the prophecy, but there are also clear indications in the text, especially the fact that the river in Chapter 47 only flows in one direction, not four, and only to the edge of the Holy Land, not into the wider world.” (Jordan, Ibid., 246).
Jesus in John 4 and particularly in John 7:37-38 Jesus promises that the coming of the Holy Spirit would be like water welling up within the believer’s heart. Jesus claims that this is in fulfillment of the “Scriptures.” Of what Scriptures is Jesus alluding to? Since the Apostle Paul has already identified the promise of the Ezekiel Temple with the believer and the Church, it only follows that this is so because his Master had taught His disciples the same. John Gill and John Lightfoot are on the right track when Gill writes,
“And here may be an allusion to the waters issuing out of Ezekiel’s temple, #Eze 47:1 Re 22:1 Zec 14:8. Dr. Lightfoot and others tell us it was a custom of the Jews, which they received by tradition, the last day of the feast of tabernacles to have a solemnity, which they called Libatio aquae—The pouring out of water. They fetched a golden vessel of water from the pool of Siloam, brought it into the temple with sound of trumpet and other ceremonies, and, upon the ascent to the altar, poured it out before the Lord with all possible expressions of joy. Some of their writers make the water to signify the law, and refer to #Isa 12:3; #Isa 55:1. Others, the Holy Spirit. And it is thought that our Saviour might here allude to this custom. Believers shall have the comfort, not of a vessel of water fetched from a pool, but of a river flowing from themselves. The joy of the law, and the pouring out of the water, which signified this, are not to be compared with the joy of the gospel in the wells of salvation.”[21] Again, it is difficult to understand how Dispensationalists can claim that that OT promises made to Israel cannot be fulfilled in and through the Church when Jesus and the NT writers do just that very thing in practically every page of the NT!
In the book of Revelation, Christ’s imminent coming serves to reward and clothe the Church with the New Creation. It is through the power of Christ and the Church that the gospel of the Eternal Life is preached to sinners and this is symbolically described as a river flowing and welcoming the Gentile nations to come through its gates and receiving healing in drinking from its living waters (Rev. 21-22:17).
The measuring of the Temple
A lot of Dispensationalists claim that the Ezekiel Temple must be physical since there is so much detail given to its measurements. But in the OT measuring generally was a symbolic way of decreeing protection for the covenant people[22] and there are obvious elements of symbolism and numerology as well.
In Revelation 11 we see this concept of measuring the Temple once again, but this time it is connected with the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. It is more than difficult to dismiss the parallel subject matter in regard to the prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem between Luke 21:24 and Revelation 11:2. Both passages discuss the “trampling” of “Jerusalem” or the “holy city” by the “Gentiles.” In Revelation 11:1-2 the inner sanctuary, the worshippers and the altar are measured. This represents the New Covenant believers. The “outer court” is not to be measured because it’s so called worshippers have become apostate and will not be given God’s protection and given over to the Romans to be trampled and judged. The “outer court” represents the physical structure of the Old Covenant system itself[23] – the destruction of the earthly temple and city and the worshippers who have looked to it for their salvation rather than to Christ and His followers.
Putting the Temple promises of Ezekiel 37, 40 – 48 all together
I would agree with Keith Mathison when he concludes that no matter which view above is the correct one, the heavenly Temple described in Ezekiel 40 – 48 is a non-literal structure,
“If the unique introductory fourmula connects all three visions, then the question is whether the temple vision in chapters 40-48 “refers to the purely heavenly temple dimension that descends in the midst of the faithful saints on earth (as in chapters 1 and 11), or the heavenly dimension in the midst of another (new) earthly temple in the structural form, as in chapters 8-9.” In either case, the emphasis is upon the heavenly dimensions of the temple dwelling in the midst of God’s people. Beale concludes that the vision of Ezekiel 40-48 is “a figurative vision of a real heavenly temple that would descend and be established on earth in a non-structural form in the latter days.”[24] Ezekiel prophesied of a literal “at hand” or “near” Day of the Lord (Ezekiel 7 & 12) upon Judah for her apostasy. Her temple and city were about to be imminently destroyed by the Babylonians and was depicted as a symbolic and metamorphic de-creation event. In Matthew 24, Jesus is predicting a “this generation” imminent return of Himself upon the clouds to bring an end to the Old Covenant system and age once and for all using the familiar metamorphic and symbolic language of the prophets.
Although the heavens and earth of Israel’s Temple and City would lay desolate through God sending the Babylonians, God assured His faithful remnant that He would function as their sanctuary during their exile and absence of a literal temple. This transition period of a spiritual temple laid the foundation for the NT teaching that the Christ and His disciples was the True New Covenant last days Temple predicted by the prophets.
The other typological picture comes in the form of the restoration period or covenant renewal during the ministries of Ezra and Nehemiah. The “gathering” and resurrection of the Jews and their Gentile proselyte converts whom came from among the Gentile nations of slavery and exile (death) back into the Land in faith and repentance (resurrection) to rebuild the temple and city, were typological of the restoration, “gathering” and glory of the New Covenant Temple/Creation that Christ would perform in and through the Church. During the transition period, Christian Jews continued Old Covenant worship in the Temple until Jesus as their High Priest appeared a second time and thus fulfilled all of the promises of that covenant system (Mt. 5:17-19; Heb. 9:6-10, 26-28). During this period the out pouring of the Holy Spirit, obedience to Jesus’ teachings and the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire was the process by which Israel’s “last days” New Covenant Temple was being built up. This was the “already” aspect of Biblical eschatology and the descent of the heavenly last days Temple. The “not yet” to Biblical eschatology in the form of the completion and maturity of the last days Temple is undisputedly tied to Christ’s imminent parousia in AD 70 (Rev. 21-22:6-7, 10-12, 20).
The Jew understood his covenant with Jehovah in the Land and Temple to be a “heaven and earth” filled with the living waters and light of Torah. When Gentile converts came from among the death and darkness of their nations to Jerusalem in faith and repentance, they partook of the cleansing waters of God’s Word and were considered a “new creation.” This is what we see taking place in Revelation 21-22:17.
Multiplying seed promises
The Abrahamic and Davidic covenants of multiplying seed is fulfilled in Christ and those placing their faith in Him (either Jew or Gentile) and thus become the fulfillment of these New Covenant promises (Gen. 9, 12-13, 15, 17,22:17-18àGal. 3:16, 29; Isaiah 53:10, Isaiah 65-66; 2 Sam. 7:12; Psalm 18:50; 89:29). The fulfillment of these Abrahamic “faith,” “seed” and “circumcision” promises that constitute the New Covenant “Jew” had not been postponed thousands of years (per Dispensationalism), but were being fulfilled in Paul’s day through the Church (Rms. 2:28-29; 4).
Jeremiah 31:31-34
The NT is very clear that the New Covenant promises made to Israel through Jeremiah apply and are fulfilled in the Church (Luke 22:20; Heb. 7-12 especially 8:6-13; 2 Cor. 3:6).
Ezekiel 38-39
There is nothing in these two chapters that even remotely suggests that Israel is being “re-gathered” in “unbelief” in 1948 as the fulfillment of this prophecy. It is said that God’s judgment of the wicked will be a witness to the nations of Himself. He also states that He will make Himself holy in the ones He calls back into the land 39:27-29 and this as well is a witness to the nations. Again repentance, faith, cleansing, and restoration in the hearts of Israel are necessary requirements to be gathered from among the nations back into the land. We can understand from the text how FIRST the wicked being judged are a witness to the nations of God’s holy character, but how was 1948’s alleged re-gathering in unbelief a witness of God’s holiness and faithful covenant dealings with Israel? The answer is that it isn’t and simply does not meet the covenantal requirements. And if 1948 is a fulfillment of Israel’s Old Covenant Mosaic Law promises, are Dispensationalists claiming that currently Israel is under the Old Covenant while we are currently living in the Church age?
John Hagee writes,
“We are on a countdown to crisis. The coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty. The war of Ezekiel 38-39 could begin before this book gets published (MJS- don’t worry it won’t and it will get “revised” once again!). Israel and America must confront Iran’s nuclear ability and willingness to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons.” (Hagee, Ibid., 53).
“No prophetic scripture is more crystal clear than Ezekiel’s vivid and specific description of the coming massive war in the Middle East that will sweep the world toward Armageddon. Ezekiel’s war as described in chapters 38 and 39 will consist of an Arab coalition of nations led by Russia for the purpose of exterminating the Jews of Israel and controlling the city of Jerusalem.”(Ibid.).
Of the battle of Armageddon as described in Revelation 16, Wal-Mart sensation Tim LaHaye writes of China’s alleged involvement,
“…China is already moving in the political direction that will make it possible for her to do what Revelation indicates she will during the Tribulation: march over the Euphrates River to participate in the Battle of Armageddon. Such an action would have been considered impossible just sixty years ago. Today it is not only feasible, but with her Communist-inspired obsession to take over all of Asia and perhaps even the entire world, it may be feasible. Just another suggestion that “the time is near.”[25] Revelation 16:16 is simply a historic reference and symbol of war that is directed to a place – the mount of Megiddo or the city of Megiddo where famous battles of Israel had been fought (Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 23:29) and is thus used as we might use the term of someone “Meeting your Waterloo.” Gary DeMar captures the intent of the text well when he writes,
“Israel remembered Megiddo as a place where God vented His divine wrath against rebellion, whether exhibited by Israel or a foreign power. God brought the nations of the world against first-century Jerusalem as he had promised (Matthew 22:7; 24:34). Rome, as an “empire of nations” (Syria, Asia Minor, Palestine, Gaul, Egypt, Britain, and others) representing all the nations of the world (see Luke 2:1),came up against Jerusalem and destroyed her.” “There were those in Israel who actually attempted to fight against this world empire and, met their “Waterloo.” “It no more takes place in Megiddo than Jerusalem is Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon”[26] (MJS – These cities in Revelation describe apostate old-covenant Jerusalem 11:8; 18:24/Matthew 23:31-36).
As John writes towards the end of Jesus’ and his “this generation,” the prophetic last days battle, was to be fulfilled “shortly” not 2,000+ years away.
Like the other eisegetical embarrassing elements to Dispensational Zionism, is the belief that Russia will invade Israel because Ezekiel 38:2 and 39:1 use the Hebrew words rosh (which sounds like Russia) and Meshech (which sounds like Moscow). The other reasons are that Russia has some ancient cities residing in its domain that were ancient cities recorded in Ezekiel. But none of these other cities “sound like” their modern counterparts like Rosh (Russia) and Mesech (Moscow) allegedly do. Obviously this sound alike word game of “hermeneutics” is a “make up the interpretive rules as you go” game that is being plaid fast and loose with God’s Word. Again DeMar writes,
“The most damaging piece of evidence to the theory that Ezekiel 38 and 39 refer to modern Russia’s invasion of Israel during the Great Tribulation is that there is no mention of Gog and Magog or Meshech and Tubal in Revelation 4-19, yet this passage is where dispensationalists tell us the Great Tribulation is described. Revelation 20:8 describes the battle of Gog and Magog as coming after the thousand years. Moreover, its characteristics are quite different from the Ezekiel battle. This means, like “Jezebel” (Revelation 2:20), “Sodom and Egypt” (11:8), and “Babylon” (14:8), the Battle of Gog and Magog is characteristic of an Old Testament event, but it is not the same event! One is past (Ezekiel 38-39); the other is future – after the “thousand years” (Revelation 20:8).” (DeMar, Ibid., 366).
Another problem for Dispensationalists revolves around the question – was the gathering of Israel in 1948 a “super sign” that we are in the “later days” or “last days” of (38:16), or are the “last days” strictly an OT prophecy for Israel separated from the Church? Hard line Dispensationalists claim that we are not in the last days because the OT never predicted the church and the “last days” prophecies only address Israel after the “rapture” of the Church takes place. But others such as Charismatic Dispensationalists teach that the gifts of Acts 2 are continuing in our day (“the last days”), and that 1948 was the “super sign” that God’s time clock for Israel has been activated. In other words it is a sign that the Church is in the last days expecting the imminent “rapture.” But if the distinctions between the Church age and the last days to Israel’s age overlap, this collapses the Dispensational system.
These passages in Ezekiel (cf. also chapters 6 and 12) are referring to the scattering of Israel among the nations in the Babylonian captivity and are not addressing a scattering which took place in AD 70. When does Scripture teach that God would “gather” Israel back into her land from among the nations? Jeremiah tells us that it would be after 70 years were completed (Jer. 29). And this typological scattering and re-gathering under the hands of Cyrus, Ezra and Nehemiah pictured the true fulfillment of the New Covenant promises in Ezekiel 37 and Jeremiah 31under Jesus. This historical slavery and deliverance only typified the slavery of sin of which Jesus through the New Covenant gathering of the Gospel and through His parousia would deliver His people from.
Isaiah 11:1-12
Dispensationalists understand this section of Isaiah 11to be teaching a literal 1,000 year millennial period and Ice sites it as a proof text for a gathering of Israel in unbelief in 1948. This allegedly results to Israel’s millennial period in our imminent future. But again, the text only supports a gathering of the remnant of Israel and the Gentiles into the Kingdom in belief and not unbelief (vv. 11-12)!
Like we saw in 2 Corinthians 6:16/Ezekiel 37:27, Paul once again dismisses the Dispensational theory that Isaiah 11 is dealing with a future millennial period when he quotes Isaiah 11 in Romans 15:8-12. Here Paul makes it crystal clear that God was in the process of fulfilling His covenant promises to Israel because this fulfillment was resulting in the salvation of the Gentiles. Clearly if the “gathering” of Israel is the “in that day” millennial period which results in the salvation of the Gentiles, then Paul is emphatically teaching that this prophecy was being fulfilled and that the Church was in the millennial period. This portion of Isaiah deals with the second exodus theme which I will deal with in more detail towards the end of this article.
Isaiah 35:10
John Hagee appears to believe that Isaiah 35, 43, and 44 are dealing with literal “agricultural accomplishments” fulfilled in 1948 and today,
“If Israel as a nation had not been reborn, if the Jews had not returned to the land, if the cities of Israel had not been rebuilt, if the Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) had not been occupied, if the trees that the Turks cut down had not been replanted, if the agricultural accomplishments of Israel had not been miraculous, there would be a valid reason for every person to doubt that the Word of God is true. But listen to the prophets of God declare his intention for the Jews of the world to reinhabit Israel.” (Hagee, In Defense of ISRAEL, Ibid., 150).
It is indeed true that under the blessings and curses of the Old Covenant Mosaic Law that God would withhold rain (harden the land) or give rain (cause fruitful produce) for Israel in order to picture the state of their hearts. The desert beginning to bloom and blossom is really dealing with the hearts of God’s people turning to Him in faith and repentance under Ezra and Nehemiah, but is ultimately fulfilled in the out pouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jew and Gentile (the Church) in the NT.
Verse 3ff. is quoted in Hebrews 12:12. Within the immediate context, this passage is designed to comfort the fearful among Israel of the invading Gentile Lords. Eventually God would come and deliver them and bring them back into their land through Cyrus, Nehemiah, and Ezra – all types of Christ. Therefore, in type form, this historical coming of the Lord in judgment and salvation would picture the imminent return of Jesus in AD 66-70 – Hebrews 10:37. In Hebrews 12:11-13, the writer interprets the agriculture, the way/path, and healing of Isaiah 35 as a “harvest of righteousness” and “peace” to be realized in the salvation of Jesus. Unfortunately for Hagee and Dispensational theology in general, the writer to the Hebrews in chapter 12 does not teach that Israel’s kingdom promises of salvation and a New Covenant were “postponed” until 1948 (and counting into the “literal” 1,000 years millennial period), but rather that they were being fulfilled and received in the first century by the Church!
Jesus performed literal miracles of deliverance in the Gospels for the “unclean” from their blindness, deafness, not being able to speak, leprosy and being lame (vv. 5-6), because these infirmities pictured the bondage of sin in the heart of man. Jesus would bring the ultimate healing (the forgiveness of sins) through the cross, outpouring of the Holy Spirit and at His parousia in AD 70.
Isaiah’s promises to Israel of a “highway of holiness” and “Way” that the “redeemed” travel on (vv. 8-10), have not been postponed for thousands of years, but are being fulfilled today in the Church age through faith in Christ (cf. John 14:6).
Isaiah 43:5-6
Clearly God did bring His scattered children back into the land from the south, north, east and west from the Assyrian and Babylonian (cf. v.14) captivities through the deliverance of Cyrus and the restoration period of Ezra and Nehemiah’s day. As in Isaiah 11 the “second” or “new” exodus under Messiah is the contextual setting here and was ultimately fulfilled in Christ’s blood and parousia.
God gathered all kinds of His children from the east, west, north, and south into His kingdom through the preaching of the Gospel and at His return in AD 70 (Isaiah 27:13/Mt. 24:14-30-31; Luke 21:22-32). These children included not just the remnant of Israel, but the Gentiles and they were gathered into the kingdom when the Old Covenant Kingdom was judged and taken from the Jews and given to the Church in AD 70 (Mt. 21:33-43; Luke 13:28-30).
Again, Christ and His New Covenant salvation is the “way” and “new thing” (cf. Jeremiah 31:21-22, 31) in the desert which causes men’s hearts to blossom as the very garden of God (43:19-21).
Isaiah 44:24, 26
Here it becomes abundantly clear that the “miraculous” “agricultural accomplishments” that Hagee literalizes, the prophet Isaiah identifies as the water and outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of His people. The water is the Holy Spirit and the grass, meadow and poplar trees are God’s people (vv. 1-4).
The time of deliverance here is clearly typified during the time of Cyrus who functioned as God’s shepherd and would, “…accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, Let it be rebuilt, and of the temple, Let its foundations be laid.” (v. 28).
Perhaps there is some application for false prophets such as Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith, Jon Courson and John Hagee in verse 25. God clearly has made “foolish” their “Holy Spirit led” false predictions of the 1948 “this generation” scenario–“overthrowing” them, and making them “nonsense” and “fools” in His sight!
Isaiah 61:4
The “miraculous” “agricultural accomplishments” or the “planting of the Lord,” according to Isaiah has to do with His people being “oaks” and displaying the sprouting of His righteousness and praise before the nations (vv. 3, 11).
Jesus applies the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-2’s “the year of the Lord’s favor” to His personal ministry in Luke 4:16-19. There is nothing in the prophecies of Isaiah or anywhere in the Gospels that even remotely suggests that Jesus’ ministry and Kingdom promises made to Israel got postponed for some 2,000 years and counting.
Amos 9:11-15 is a parallel prophecy to Isaiah 61:4 and the rebuilding and restoration here is clearly identified as the salvation of the remnant of Jews and the Gentiles in Acts 15:16-17. This rebuilding of the ancient ruins was fulfilled in type form during Nehemiah’s ministry and fulfilled in anti-type form through the building up of Christ and His master builders the Apostles and the Church.
Zephaniah 2:1-2
This is but yet another prophetic passage that has to do with the Babylonian captivity which was “near” and would hasten “quickly” during the time the prophecy was written (Zeph. 1:7, 14). The context is dealing with a casting out of Judah from the land in judgment because of sin and not a “re-gathering” back into the land in unbelief in 1948! God was calling Judah to gather together in repentance or face their imminent judgment. They refused this exhortation (3:6-8).
Let’s now move on to consider another interpretive error of “this generation” make in hopes to avoid the obvious and clear interpretation.
[1] Hal Lindsey, The 1980’s: Countdown to Armageddon, back-cover, p.144, New York: Bantam, 1980
[2] Chuck Smith, End Times, The Word for Today, 1978, 35.
[3] Francis X. Gumerlock, the Day and the Hour Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of the World, (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 2000), 290.
[4] Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s APPLICATION COMMENTARY NEW TESTAMENT CD-ROM, Nelson pub.
[5] G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, (Downers Grove, Illinois: INTERVARISTY PRESS, 2004), 264. See also references to Genesis and trees as Nations and people in Ezekiel 31; 47; Revelation 22).
[6] James B. Jordan, THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2007), 619-628. And Leithart sees the harvest at the end of “this age” in Matthew 13 as taking place by A.D. 70, Peter J. Leithart, THE PROMISE OF HIS APPEARING AN EXPOSITION OF SECOND PETER, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2004), 94-95.
[7] Greg Laurie, ARE THESE THE LAST DAYS? HOW TO LIVE EXPECTANTLY IN A WORLD OF UNCERTAINTY, (Ventura, CA: Regal Books From Gospel Light, 2005), 20.
[8] John Hagee, IN DEFENSE OF ISRAEL THE BIBLE’S MANDATE FOR SUPPORTING THE JEWISH STATE, (Lake Mary, FL: FrontLine, 2007,) 4-5. It is true that Christians are called to continue in doctrine and in the teachings of Jesus and Apostles, but since Hagee’s teaching is not Biblical, his exhortations are purely manipulative.
[9] Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, CHARTING THE END TIMES A visual Guide to Understanding Bible Prophecy, (Eugene, Oregon, 2001), 86, (emphasis added).
[10] John Hagee, (REVISED AND UPDATED) JERUSALEM COUNTDOWN A PRELUDE TO WAR, (Lake Mary, FL: Frontline pub, 2007), 129.
[11] Greg Laurie, Ibid.
[12] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty OLD TESTAMENT (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Victor Cook Communications Ministries, 2004), 1298.
[13] Keith A. Mathison, DISPENSATIONALISM Rightly Dividing the People of God?, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1995), 19 (bold emphasis added).
[14] Hagee, Jerusalem Countdown, Ibid., 129-135. John Hagee, IN DEFENSE OF ISRAEL THE BIBLE’S MANDATE FOR SUPPORTING THE JEWISH STATE, (Lake Mary, FL: Front Line Pub., 2007), 149-154.
[15] Dwight Pentecost, THINGS TO COME A Study in Biblical Eschatology, (Findlay, OH: Dunham Publishing Company, 1958)
[16] Curtis I. Crenshaw and Grover E. Gunn, III, DISPENSATIONALISM TODAY, YESTERDAY, AND TOMORROW, (Memphis, TN: Footstool Publications, 1986), 175.
[17] C.I. Scofield, The New Scofield Reference Bible, (New York: Oxford, 1967), 888.
[18] James B. Jordan, THROUGH NEW EYES Developing a Biblical View of the World, (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1988), 246.
[19] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, Zane C. Hodges, The Bible Knowledge Commentary An Exposition of the Scriptures NEW TESTAMENT by Dallas Seminary Faculty (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor COOK COMMUNICATIONS MINISTRIES, 2004), 800.
[20] G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, (Downers Grove: Illinois, 2004), 339.
[21] John Gill, John Gill’s Expositor, Online Bible CD.
[22] Beale, Ibid., 314.
[23] Kenneth L. Gentry (contributing author), FOUR VIEWS ON THE BOOK OF REVELATION, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 65-66.
[24] Keith A. Mathison, FROM AGE TO AGE THE UNFOLDING OF BIBLICAL ESCHATOLOGY, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), 257.
[25] Tim LaHaye, REVELATION UNVEILED, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan 1999), 256.
[26] Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness, (Atlanta GA: American Vision, 1999), 318.

An Exposition of "This Generation" (Matthew 24:34) Part 2

By Michael J. Sullivan
We ended part 1 of our exposition of Matthew 24:34 by examining the strong lexical evidence that genea should be understood as the first century contemporary generation that Jesus was speaking to and therefore the language of Christ coming on the clouds, gathering His elect, and the de-creation cosmic imagery (“all these things”) should not be interpreted with a strict literalism.  Brown understanding the analogy of Scripture, was even forced to say that  such passages as 2 Peter 3 and 1 Thessalonians 4 could be interpreted through the lense of a first century “historical judgment.”  In other words, the more clear passages such as “this generation” should guide the exegete into understanding some of the seemingly more difficult passages that use apocalyptic language as being fulfillled as “historical judgments” – ie. AD 70, and not an end of time event.
We now turn our attention to examining some of the false interpretations of genea.
False Interpretations of “This Generation” Considered
1) “This race” will not pass a way
Of the 27 translations I looked at for genea, only one (WUESTNT) sought to translate it with having no regard to the context and with a futurist bias, “This nation shall by no means pass away until all these things take place.” And although the reader may find some documentation somewhere giving genea a meaning of “nation, stock, or race,” even those sources will or should admit that the predominant meaning is, “The whole multitude of men living at the same time” or “a period of “30 – 40 years.” It is difficult to understand how so many can be led astray in translating or interpreting genea as “race” when even the KJV and Strong’s Concordance admits that the word is used 42 times with the predominant translation being “generation,” – 37 times as “generation,” 2 times as “time,” 2 times as “age,” and only 1 time as “nation.”
This particular interpretation and translation has been popularized by Continue reading “An Exposition of "This Generation" (Matthew 24:34) Part 2”