House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 6 John 5:28-29

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Seven

The Resurrection of the Dead 

Part 6 John 5:28-29

 

David A. Green

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

Strimple Argument #6: John 5:28-29 obviously teaches a physical

resurrection of the dead in that it speaks of a time in which “all who are

in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good

to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection

of judgment” (297).

 

Answer: In order to understand John 5:28 and 29, we must first look

three verses above it, in John 5:25, where Jesus said that the hour “now is

when “the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear

shall live.” As most Reformed interpreters agree, Jesus in that verse was

referring to the preaching of His death and resurrection. The preaching

of that message commenced at Pentecost. “The dead” were physically

living people who were spiritually dead in sin, and “the voice of the Son of

God” was the gospel. Having heard the gospel, those who were spiritually

dead” were spiritually resurrected. They lived in that they received eternal

life through faith in the gospel (“the voice of the Son of God”).

 

Then, in verses 28 and 29, Jesus expanded His teaching on the resurrection

to include those who were not only spiritually dead, but who were

also physically dead. He did not call them “dead” (as He had already called

the living who were spiritually dead), but He referred to them through another

figure of speech as “all who are in the graves.” They were not literally

in their graves or tombs, of course, but were in Hades/Sheol.

 

What is often missed in this passage is that, like the physically living

in verse 25, the physically dead in verse 28 were also going to live

by means of hearing Christ’s “voice.” As we know from verse 25, that

voice” is the gospel. The physically dead therefore were going to hear

the gospel (cf. 1 Pet. 4:6.) and were, as a result of hearing the gospel,

going to be resurrected (regenerated, born from out of death and Hades).

This means that the physically dead were, like the physically living,

spiritually dead. And this inescapably means that both the physically

living and the physically dead were going to be spiritually resurrected

by means of the gospel-voice of the Son of God. One resurrection in

two main stages: First, the last days saints; then, the Old Testament

dead (“the rest of the dead” in Revelation 20:5).

 

After hearing the gospel, the dead were raised out of their Adamic

graves (Hades) in the end of the age. And those among them who believed

the gospel received eternal life in the kingdom of God. But those

who hated the gospel (those who had done evil) were raised out of Hades

only to stand before God and to enter into “eternal punishment” /

the second death” (Matt. 25:46; John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:14).

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House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 5 Daniel 12:1-3

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Seven

The Resurrection of the Dead 

Part 5 Daniel 12:1-3

 

David A. Green

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

Strimple Argument #5: Daniel 12:1-3 says that “many of those who

sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to

shame and everlasting contempt.” This is obviously referring to a physical

resurrection of the dead. Additionally, God tells us that this prophecy

is to be fulfilled in “the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4), which is the end

of human history (295).

 

Answer: Daniel’s prediction of the resurrection of the dead begins

with these words: “And at that time . . . ” “That time” refers back to the

end of chapter 11. Philip Mauro in his book, The Seventy Weeks and

the Great Tribulation, argues convincingly that Daniel 11 ends with a

prophecy of Herod the Great.[1]

 

Herod, the first enemy of the incarnate Christ, died very shortly

after Christ was born. It was “at that time” that Christ (“Michael,” “the

Chief Messenger”) stood up for the saints. It was at that time that Christ

came into the world for His people and took on the body of sacrifice

that the Father had prepared for Him (Dan. 12:1; Heb. 10:5-7; Ps. 40:6;

cf. Rev. 12:7).

 

It was the “stand” for the elect that Christ made in His Incarnation

that led to the “war in heaven” (Matt. 11:12; Rev. 12:7), which in turn

led to fleshly Israel being overtaken in the death-throes of the Great

Tribulation (Dan. 12:1). Jesus promised that that time of distress was

going to take place within His own generation, and that it would be consummated

in the destruction of the city and the sanctuary (Dan. 9:26;

12:1; Matt. 24:1-2, 21, 34). That event took place in August-September

of AD 70.

 

According to the angel who spoke to Daniel, it was at that time that

the power of the holy people would be shattered (Dan. 12:7), that the

church would be delivered (Dan. 12:1), that the resurrection of the dead

would take place, and that the righteous would inherit the kingdom

 (Dan. 12:2). Jesus, in harmony with Daniel, promised that the kingdom

would be taken from the wicked and given to the righteous in the lifetime

of the chief priests and Pharisees (Mat. 21:43-45). Therefore, “the

time of the end” (not “the end of time,” as it is sometimes mistranslated)

in Daniel 12:4, 9 was not the end of human history; it was the end of

redemptive history in Christ’s generation.

 

It was in AD 70, therefore, that many who slept in “the earth’s dust

awoke. To “sleep in dust” is a figure of speech. The dead were not literally

sleeping, nor were they literally in the dust. They were “in dust

only insofar as, in their death, they had not ascended into God’s presence

in Christ. In terms of the righteousness and life of God, they were

earth-bound. From a literal standpoint, they were in Sheol/Hades (the

abode of the Adamic dead), and it was from out of Sheol that they were

raised to stand before the heavenly throne of God (Dan. 12:1-2).

Futurist James Jordan writes regarding Daniel 12:13:

 

What Daniel is promised is that after his rest in Abraham’s bosom,

he will stand up with all God’s saints and join Michael on

a throne in heaven, as described in Revelation 20, an event that

came after the Great Tribulation and in the year AD 70.[2]

 

Regarding the word “many” in Daniel 12:2: The word is not used

in contrast to “all” (as “the many” is used to limit the term “all men” in

Rom. 5:12, 15, 18-19) or in contrast to “a few.” The angel simply referred

to a large number of people; to multitudes (NIV). No inference can be

made from the context as to whether “many” referred to all or to only

a portion of the dead. Only subsequent scriptures revealed that the

many” in Daniel 12:2 referred whole company of all the dead

from Adam to the Last Day.



[1] Philip Mauro, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation (Swengel,

PA: Reiner Publications [now Grace Abounding Ministries]), 135-162. 

[2] James B. Jordan, The Handwriting on the Wall: A Commentary on the

Book of Daniel (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Inc., 2007), 628. (Emphases

added)

 

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House Divided Chapter 7 The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 4 Acts 23:6 Paul’s Agreement With the Pharisees About a Coming Resurrection

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Seven

The Resurrection of the Dead

Part 4 Acts 23:6 Paul’s Agreement With the Pharisees on a Coming Resurrection 

David A. Green

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


Strimple Argument #4: In Acts 23:6, Paul aligned himself with the

 

Pharisees regarding the resurrection of the dead. This indicates that Paul

believed with the Pharisees in a physical resurrection of the dead (296).

 

Answer: I am not aware of any evidence that the Pharisees would

have rejected a man from their party if he believed in a non-physical

resurrection of the dead. For all we know, a certain percentage of the

Pharisees (including Saul/Paul) believed in a non-physical resurrection

of the dead.

 

But even if there is evidence that belief in a non-physical resurrection

of the dead disqualified a man from being a Pharisee, the issue in

Acts 23:6-8 was not the nature of the resurrection of the dead. It was

the existence of the resurrection of the dead vs. the non-existence of the

resurrection of the dead. As we know, The Sadducees were denying that

there was any afterlife, while Paul and the Pharisees agreed that there was

an afterlife, and an imminent resurrection of the dead. Other issues connected

with the resurrection of the dead were not under consideration.

 

It has been argued by some that Paul would have had to have agreed

with every major doctrine the Pharisees taught about the resurrection

of the dead. It is argued that if he didn’t, then it would have been deceptive

for him to call himself a Pharisee in regard to the resurrection of

the dead.

 

But this argument proves too much. Are those who make this argument

prepared to say that Paul believed that the souls of dead saints

hovered over “Luz bones”? Are they prepared to say that Paul believed

in a whole host of Jewish resurrection-myths, including the myth that

the dead will be raised wearing clothes, and the myth that those who

died outside of Jerusalem would have to dig their way back to the city in

order to be resurrected?

 

But beyond such myths, we know that Paul and the Pharisees could

not have possibly agreed on every major point touching the resurrection

of the dead. Though the Pharisees agreed with Paul that the resurrection

of the dead was a true doctrine and that it was about to happen,

the Pharisees definitely did not believe that Christ Jesus Himself

was “the Resurrection” (John 11:25); and they definitely did not believe

that the resurrection “hope” of Israel was “Christ in you” (Acts 23:6;

24:15; Col. 1:27). As concerns the Christological nature of the resurrection,

Paul and the Pharisees were worlds apart. Yet Paul said he was a

Pharisee concerning the resurrection of the dead, because Paul and the

Pharisees, in contast to the Sadducees, believed in the existence of the

resurrection of the dead. With that point of agreement, Paul divided

and conquered his enemies.

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House Divided Chapter Seven The Resurrection of the Dead Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 3 Carnal Jewish Hopes

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Seven

The Resurrection of the Dead 

Part 3 Carnal Jewish Hopes

 

David A. Green

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

Strimple Argument #3: Mainstream Jews in the time of Jesus believed

in a physical resurrection of the dead. Martha reflected that

“standard Jewish hope” when she said that Lazarus would “rise again in

the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:24) (295-296).

 

Answer: Preterists are not the only ones who differ with the Jews

in the time of Jesus. Strimple also disagrees with them. As far as we

know, mainstream Jews at that time believed in the shadowy realm of

Hades. Strimple apparently rejects that doctrine. It is also likely that

the Jews in the time of Jesus erroneously believed that “the Christ” and

the Prophet” were two different people (John 1:25). It is probable that

Strimple rejects that mainstream Jewish doctrine as well. The Jews further

believed that the Messianic kingdom would be a literal, nationalistic

kingdom. Strimple disagrees with that “standard Jewish hope.”

 

More importantly though, many or most of the Jews at that time

believed the resurrection and judgment of the living and the dead were

about to happen. In fact, we know that most Christians in the time of

Jesus believed that very same doctrine, because there is no doubt that

the authors of the New Testament books believed it. Yet Strimple and

all other futurists categorically reject the doctrine that the resurrection

and judgment were about to happen in the apostolic generation, despite

the sure, prophetic, and authoritative word of Jesus and the Apostles:

 

The Son of Man is about to come in the glory of His Father with

His angels; and will then recompense every man according to

his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are

standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son

of Man coming in His kingdom [to recompense every man according

to his deeds]. (Matt. 16:27-28)

 

He has fixed a day in which He is about to judge the world in

righteousness. . . . (Acts 17:31)

 

There is about to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the

wicked. (Acts 24:15)

 

As he was discussing . . . the judgment about to come. . . .

(Acts 24:25)

 

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

(Rom. 16:20)

 

Christ Jesus, who is about to judge the living and the dead. . . .

(2 Tim. 4:1)

 

Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. . . .

(1 Pet. 4:5)

 

Evidently, Strimple feels that he is at liberty to reject the consensus

of the Jews and even of the church and of the apostles themselves in the

time of Jesus regarding the timing of the prophesied consummation. Yet

at the same time, Strimple believes that the consensus of Jews in the time

of Jesus can serve as legitimate contributing evidence against preterism.

Strimple is here using an unjust weight to judge preterism.

 

Regardless of the majority view of the Jews in Jesus’ day,[1] if we assume

that Martha did express a belief in a physical resurrection of the dead, we

can only interpret Jesus’ response to her as a correction of that belief:

 

I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me shall

live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me

shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

 

Biological reanimation is not the resurrection and the life. Jesus

is the Resurrection and the Life. To “live” (i.e., to be resurrected) is to

believe in Him. We who put our trust in Christ’s sin-atoning blood in

the new covenant world today are in “the Life,” and we shall “never die.”

As we will discuss in more detail below, since the consummated death

of the Adamic, old covenant “man” in AD 70, the universal church is

now and forever the resurrected, living, and “spiritual body” of Christ.



[1] According to Keith Mathison, the prevailing belief of the Jews in Jesus’

day was that “when Israel was restored in the age to come, those faithful Jews

who had died would be raised to participate in it” (172). Mathison believes

that Israel was restored in the first century (169). If we accept Mathison’s

timeframe for the restoration of Israel, and if we must accept the “prevailing

belief” of the first century Jews, then we must conclude that the resurrection

of the dead took place in the first century.

 

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House Divided Chapter Seven Amillennialist Robert B. Strimple Vs. Full Preterist David A. Green Part 2 Romans 8 and 2 Peter 3

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Seven

The Resurrection of the Dead 

Part 2 Romans 8 and 2 Peter 3

 

David A. Green

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


Strimple Argument #2:
According to Romans 8 and 2 Peter 3,

when the resurrection of the dead takes place, the heavens and the earth

—the whole physical creation—will be physically transformed and

physically renewed. Therefore the resurrection of the dead will also be

physical and will involve a physical transformation/renewal (321-326).

 

Answer: When Paul and Peter wrote their epistles:

 

1. God was “ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Pet. 4:5).

2. It was “time for the judgment to begin” (1 Pet. 4:17).

3. Believers were living in “the last days” (2 Tim. 3:1; 2 Pet. 3:3).

4. Believers were living in “the last times” (1 Pet. 1:20).

5. Believers were “hastening” the coming of the day of God, when

the Morning Star would arise in their hearts (2 Pet. 1:19-20;

3:3, 5, 11-12).

6. The glory and salvation of Israel was “about to be

revealed”/“ready to be revealed” (Rom. 8:18; 1 Pet. 1:5; 5:1).

7. The night was “almost gone” (Rom. 13:12).

8. The day of salvation was “at hand” (Rom. 13:12).

9. God was “soon” to crush the ancient enemy, Satan, under the

feet of the first-century church (Rom. 16:20), in fulfillment of

Genesis 3:15.

10. “The end of all things” was “at hand” (1 Pet. 4:7).

 

If we are to let the words of Scripture say what they say in their

context, we must admit that the biblical time of eschatological crisis is

now history. The apostles Paul and Peter, through the inspiration of the

Holy Spirit, fully expected the heavens and the earth (the world) to burn

and dissolve in their own generation (2 Pet. 3:7, 10-12). Therefore, we

are to rest in faith that this event, according to God’s faithful and sure

prophetic word, was fulfilled in the apostolic generation.

 

Futurist objections notwithstanding, it requires no stretch of the

imagination to believe God’s word in this regard. We know that when

Peter spoke of the “heavens” and the “earth,” he did not mean the literal

sky and the planet. Peter believed that the heavens and the earth of

Noah’s day were destroyed (2 Pet. 3:5-6). Peter certainly did not think

that the literal stars (“the heavens”) were destroyed in Noah’s flood.

 

When Peter spoke of the end of the world (“the end of all things”), he

was speaking of the world-order in which he lived. He was speaking of

the pre-redemption world that was speedily coming to a consummation

through the power of the recently slain Lamb of God. Peter was not

writing in scientific terms concerning hydrogen and oxygen melting.

He was writing in the fervent, poetic language of the prophets concerning

the impending end of the old covenant age and the resulting liberation

of “the creature” / “all Israel” (all the saints, living and dead) from

the slavery and futility of the spiritual corruption of Sin.

 

Peter’s prophecy in 2 Peter 3 was a reiteration of Isaiah 24. In that

chapter, Isaiah spoke of the time when the sun and the moon (the heavens)

would be confounded and ashamed (Isa. 24:23) and when the earth

would be burned, broken down, dissolved, and would fade away (Isa.

24:4, 6, 19-20). Isaiah was speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem.

 

The heavens and the earth” referred to the pre-Messianic, dead-in-

Sin world of God’s people. That old creation or cosmos was dissolved,

and it vanished shortly after Peter wrote his epistles, in AD 70. There is

no biblical rationale for appending a “resurrection of the flesh at the end

of human history” to the teachings of the apostles.

 

One final note: The Bible says that after the Parousia, after the fulfillment

of all prophecy, in the new heavens and the new earth, there will

be cursed nations that will, year by year, refuse to worship God (Zech.

14:16-19). After the fulfillment of all prophecy, there will be those who

attack God’s people, though ultimately to no avail (Isa. 54:15-17). After

the fulfillment of all prophecy, there will be people loving and practicing

lies outside the city of God in the new heavens and new earth (Rev.

22:14-15).

 

Strimple says that this biblical doctrine is “incredible” and that it

does not “satisfy” him (323). It is the task of futurists to believe and to

be satisfied with what God’s word teaches concerning the eternal, Messianic

world in which we live today.

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

House Divided

Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Seven

The Resurrection of the Dead

Part 1 2 Timothy 2:16-18

 

David A. Green

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

Dr. Robert B. Strimple’s sixty-six page chapter in WSTTB can be

summed up in thirteen basic arguments that defend the doctrine

of a literal, physical resurrection of the dead. In this chapter, I will respond

to Strimple’s thirteen arguments. I will then offer a brief exposition

of 1 Corinthians 15.

 

Strimple’s Thirteen Arguments[1]

 

Strimple Argument #1: Preterists teach that the resurrection is past.

Therefore preterists are under the condemnation of the heretics Hymenaeus

and Philetus, who said that “the resurrection is past already” (2

Tim. 2:16-18) (WSTTB, 287, 312-315).[2]

 

Answer: If we read 2 Timothy 2:16-18 on the premise of futurism

(belief in a literal, physical resurrection of the dead), we will reason that

Hymenaeus and Philetus were not only wrong about the timing of the

resurrection, as Paul said they were, but that they were more importantly

wrong about the nature of the resurrection. We will reason that

the faith-overthrowing aspect of their error must have been their denial

of a biological resurrection of the dead. This would mean that the malignancy

of their doctrine had to do with the nature of the resurrection,

even though Paul condemned only their timing of the resurrection.

 

Futurism must, against the flow of thought in the text, smuggle its

own assumption (a biological resurrection of the dead) into 2 Timothy

2:16-18 in order to make it a preterist-anathematizing text. This means

that the only exegetical argument that is used for condemning preterists

as false brothers is based on the logical fallacy of question begging.

 

But if we read the passage on the premise of preterism (a non-biological

resurrection of the dead), we should reason that the error of Hymeneus

and Philetus was that they were teaching that the resurrection had

been fulfilled under the Law (1 Tim. 1:8; Titus 1:10; 3:9; Heb. 8:13). They

were teaching that “the hope of Israel” (Acts 23:6; 24:15, 21; 28:20) was

already fulfilled in the AD 60’s and that there was therefore never to be a

termination of the covenant of fleshly circumcision and animal sacrifices.

 

Their error implied that the kingdom was not going to be taken

from the scribes and Pharisees, as Jesus said it would be. It implied

that the final destruction of the city and sanctuary would never happen.

It implied that fleshly Israel had inherited the eschatological kingdom

with the church and that the ministration of death and condemnation,

with all of its reminders of sin, would continue forever. It implied that

believers, having already attained unto the resurrection (cf. Phil. 3:11–

12), would be forever under the yoke of the Law of Moses.

This is why the doctrine of a pre-70 resurrection was a radically anti-

gospel, anti-grace, faith-overturning blasphemy (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim.

2:18). This is why Paul condemned the timing instead of the nature of

the error, because insofar as the realization of the hope of Israel (the resurrection)

was necessarily synchronous with the eternal disinheritance

of the Christ-rejecters in Israel, timing was everything.

 

Perhaps we cannot know with certainty what date Hymenaeus and

Philetus assigned to the resurrection. Perhaps they taught that the Jewish

revolt against Rome in AD 66 was the fulfillment of the resurrection.

Whatever the case, the resurrection error at Ephesus was a Judaizing

heresy that served to put believers back under the slavery of the Law.

 

Before we go on to Strimple’s next argument, let us look briefly at

Paul’s silence in regard to Hymeneus’ and Philetus’ concept of a non-biological

resurrection of the dead. If Paul was expecting a literal, biological

resurrection, is it not odd that his only criticism of the gangrenous

resurrection-error was in regard to its timing? Could it be that Paul

agreed with Hymeneus and Philetus in regard to the nature of the resurrection,

and disagreed with them only in regard to the timing? Paul’s

words in 2 Thessalonians 2:2-8 give us the answer to this question.

 

In that scripture, Paul told believers how they could know, after the

fact, that the Day of the Lord had taken place. First, Paul said, “the

apostasy” or “the falling away” would take place and “the man of sin”

would be revealed (2 Thess. 2:3). This “man of sin” would take his seat

in the temple of God, thus displaying himself as being God (2 Thess.

2:4). Then he would be slain and brought to an end (2 Thess. 2:8). By

the unfolding of these events, believers would know that the Day of the

Lord had come.[3] The man of sin was, after all, to be destroyed on the

Day of the Lord.

 

However, Paul had taught in his previous epistle to the Thessalonians

that on “the day of the Lord,” the dead in Christ would rise and be

caught up” together with the living (1 Thess. 4:15-5:2). If Paul thought

those events were going to involve the literal, biological metamorphosis

and removal of the dead and of the church on Earth, then Paul would

have known that there were, inescapably, only two possible ways that

anyone could know that the day of the Lord had already come.

 

Either:

 

1. You suddenly found yourself in a new body made of “spiritual

flesh” while hovering in the clouds during a meeting with the

Lord in the air.

 

Or:

 

2. You suddenly discovered that the tombs of believers were

empty and that the church no longer existed on planet Earth

and you were left behind.

 

But Paul did not use either of these arguments. Paul instead told

believers simply to look for the rise and destruction of the man of sin in

order to know that the day of the Lord had come. According to Paul, if

believers perceived that the man of sin had been destroyed, then believers

could know that the day of the Lord (and therefore the resurrection

and the “catching away” of the church) had come to pass. The resurrection

of the dead and the “catching away” were not events that involved

the molecular change or disappearance of corpses or the disappearance

of the church from planet earth.[4]



[1] Though I label these arguments as “Strimple” arguments, most of them

are not, strictly speaking, Strimple’s arguments, but are the standard arguments

used by futurists to defend the doctrine of a “resurrection of the flesh.”

[2] Strimple’s editor Mathison undercuts Strimple’s effort here (and the effort

of most or all others who anathematize preterists) by casting a haze of

uncertainty over 2 Timothy 2:17-18 and refusing to use the passage to anathematize

“hyper-preterists.” Mathison forfeits all biblical authority to anathematize

“hyper-preterists” when he implies that “the resurrection” in 2 Timothy

2:17-18 could possibly have been fulfilled in AD 70 (194-195). 

[3] The Zealots captured the temple in AD 68. They abolished the priesthood

and turned the temple of God into their own personal house of murder.

They were destroyed in AD 70.

[4] See Michael Sullivan’s response to Mathison for an exposition of 1

Thessalonians 4:14-17 and 2 Timothy 2:17-18.

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

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist

Response to When Shall These Things Be?

 

Chapter Three

Openness Futurism

 

Edward J. Hassertt

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

According to Dr. Richard Pratt, one of the central errors of preterists

is our belief “that all biblical predictions must be fulfilled just as

they are stated” (WSTTB, 121). In contrast to the teachings of preterists,

Pratt says that the prophetic predictions of the Bible are “seldom

fulfilled exactly as they are given” (122). In fact, “true prophets,” he says,

“often predicted things that did not happen” at all (131).

 

According to Pratt, the reason that biblical prophecies failed to be

fulfilled is because human choices intervened and played a major role

in determining how or if the predictions would be fulfilled (123, 126).

Therefore, concludes Pratt, “it does not matter if the Scriptures depict

Christ’s second coming in close proximity to his first coming. . . . [H]is

return could still be in our future, even two thousand years later” (122).

 

Pratt begins his chapter, “Hyper-Preterism and Unfolding Biblical

Eschatology,” lamenting that many Christians endorse “the hyper-preterist

proposal” that the predictions of true prophets are fulfilled just

as they were stated (122). He complains that it is “quite common” for

evangelicals to agree with “the hyper-preterist interpretation” of Deuteronomy

18:22 (122–123):

 

If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not

take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.

That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid

of him.

 

Many or most Christians, including preterists, believe this verse to

be saying that if a prophet makes a prediction in the name of Yahweh

and the thing predicted does not take place or come true, then the prediction

was not a message that Yahweh had spoken. Pratt says that this

interpretation is not “subtle” enough (122–123).

 

Halfway through his chapter, Pratt, in one paragraph, explains his

interpretation of this verse. He says that different prophetic predictions

were meant to be taken in different ways and indicated various levels of

determination of God to direct the future. Almost none of God’s predictions

in the Bible, according to Pratt, offered absolute certainty that

they would be fulfilled. Thus, a true prophet passed the test of Deuteronomy

18:22 “so long as historical events took place that matched the

level of certainty that their predictions offered” (137).

 

Although Pratt does not say so, this interpretation of Deuteronomy

18:22 means that if a false prophet uttered a prediction in the name of

Yahweh and the prediction failed to come to pass, the false prophet and

the people could simply say: “The fact that this prediction in the name

of Yahweh did not come to pass only proves that this was a typical prediction

of God. He simply did not have a high level of determination to

direct the future when He made this prediction.” No one could prove or

disprove this argument if Pratt’s interpretation is true. Pratt thus renders

Deuteronomy 18:22 practically useless and ultimately meaningless.

 

Pratt versus Reformed Theology

 

Not surprisingly, Pratt attempts to dissociate his view from Open

Theism[1] and to connect it instead to traditional Reformed theology

(123–124). He does this by affirming God’s sovereign immutability,

and by affirming that everything that takes place in the universe is part

of God’s eternal plan (124–125).

 

He also reminds the reader of the Reformed teaching that God’s immutability

does not mean that He is unchangeable in every way imaginable.

While God does not change in such things as His Being, character,

attributes, eternal counsel/plan/purposes, and promises, God does

change in the sense that He has meaningful interactions with and relationships

with man. He is actively involved in history. He lives our life

with us. He judges us, redeems us, and answers our prayers. He also

changed in that He “became flesh” (124–125).

 

This is all well and good and perfectly in line with Reformed theology.

But Pratt subtly shifts this Reformed teaching into the area of prophecy

fulfillment. It is at this point in his chapter that Pratt begins his defense

against preterism in earnest. And according to the pattern of WSTTB, he

begins his arguments with a creed, instead of with Scripture (125):

 

Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decrees of God,

the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly;

yet, by the same providence, He ordereth them to fall out according

to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely,

or contingently. (The Westminster Confession of Faith, 5.2)

 

The illusion that Pratt attempts to create by referencing this section

of the Confession is that it says anything about prophecy or the end

times. But of course, it does not. This section of the Confession deals

only with God’s eternal decrees made within the Godhead. Nowhere

does it address prophetic predictions. Pratt also attempts to use the

scriptural proof text that the Confession uses (Isa. 10:6–7) in order to

validate his view that God causes His own prophetic predictions to fail

(126, 152), but that scripture in no way suggests what Pratt contends.

 

Sawing Off The Limb He is Sitting On

 

Pratt begins his attempt to prove his view through Scripture exegesis on

pages 127–128, by using Jeremiah 18:7–10:

 

The instant I speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom,

to pluck up, or to break down, or to destroy; if that nation

against whom I have spoken will turn from their evil, I will repent

of the evil that I thought to do to it. And the instant I speak

concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to

plant it; if it does evil in My eye, not to obey My voice, then I will

repent of the good which I had said to do good to it.

 

According to Pratt, this passage demonstrates that the prophets of

God often made predictions (of judgment or of salvation) that did not

come true, because the intervening historical contingencies of the people’s

repentance or of the people’s sin caused God to cancel or postpone

or change the fulfillment of the prophetic predictions.

 

What Pratt misses here is that Jeremiah 18:7–10 itself is a prophecy

which Pratt is assuming must be fulfilled just as it was given. The

irony is thick here. Pratt claims that preterists are wrong in their view

that prophetic predictions were always fulfilled as they were written,

because human action usually changed things so that the predictions

were not fulfilled as they were written. Yet to prove this claim, Pratt assumes

that Jeremiah 18 is fulfilled exactly as it was written.

 

According to the logic of Pratt’s scheme, God is or was likely to

change His mind about His prophetic prediction in Jeremiah 18 and

God could decide instead to never change His stated plans when nations

repent or sin. Yet illogically, Pratt argues with certainty that God,

according to the sure prediction of Jeremiah 18:7–10, causes His own

predictions to fail.

 

Pratt is like a radical anti-creedalist who illogically endorses a creed

(“all creeds are false”) to prove that all creeds are false. The anti-creedalist

must assume—based on nothing—that his own creed is correct in

order to reject all creeds. He does not realize that his anti-creedal position

invalidates his own creed. Likewise, Pratt is assuming—based on

nothing—that a biblical prophetic prediction (his proof text, Jer. 18:7–

10) is sure and certain in order to prove that all such predictions are

unsure and uncertain. Pratt does not realize that his position removes

all certainty from the very text he is using to prove his position.

 

Predictions versus Threats

 

As we can see, Pratt’s view is logically invalid at its exegetical inception.

But let us move on through the rest of his chapter and take a look at the

first specific example he gives of his notion that God’s prophetic predictions

usually failed to be fulfilled as they were written (152). His first

example is 2 Chronicles 12:5 (129), where the prophet Shemaiah said to

Rehoboam and to the leaders of Judah,

 

This is what the Lord says, You have abandoned me; therefore, I

now abandon you to Shishak.

 

As a result of this prophetic word, Rehoboam and the leaders of

Judah humbled themselves, and God did not destroy them through

Shishak but only caused them to be subject to him (2 Chron. 12:7–8).

Thus God did not abandon them to Shishak even though He said He

abandoned them to Shishak.

 

The second example Pratt uses for his prediction-failure doctrine

(130–131) is Jonah 3:4:

 

And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he

cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

 

As we know, because the city repented, Nineveh was not overthrown

(Jonah 3:7–10). Thus God did not overthrow Nineveh even

though He said that Nineveh would be overthrown.

 

Pratt’s conclusion when he puts Jeremiah 18:7–10; 2 Chronicles

12:5–8 and Jonah 3:4–10 together is that “true prophets often predicted

things that did not happen” (131).

 

While Pratt says that his view is “complex” (122), the cause of the

complexity (i.e., of his error) is surprisingly simple. His primary exegetical

mistake is reflected in his use of the word “prediction” (127–

131). Pratt acknowledges that the two prophetic utterances above were

“threats” of judgment. Though Pratt calls Shemaiah’s prophetic message

a “prediction” (129), Pratt nevertheless acknowledges that it was

“just a warning from God . . . of judgment that might come” (129–130).

Pratt misses the fact that if the prophetic word of Shemaiah was “just a

warning,” then it was not a prophetic “prediction.” There was therefore

no failed “prediction.”

 

Though Pratt says that Jonah made a “prediction,” he acknowledges

that the “prediction” was actually “a threatened judgment” (130–132).

Jonah was called to “preach” (warn/threaten) not to make a prediction.

There was therefore no failed “prediction.”

 

Incidentally, Pratt says that God delayed His predicted judgment

of Nineveh as a result of the repentance of the people (132). But there

was no delay, even as there was no prediction. Rather, God “relented

concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon

them. And He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10). The judgment that came upon

Nineveh some generations later was unrelated to the judgment that

God threatened in Jonah’s day.

 

These passages of Scripture in no way show that a prophet of God

ever made a “prediction” that failed to come to pass. These were not

“predictions” at all. Even though Pratt acknowledges that these and

many other such words of the prophets were merely threats/warnings

or offers of blessings, he spends his chapter equivocating, calling those

threats and offers “predictions” when they were not.[2]

 

This is the source of Pratt’s confusion and the confusion he is sure to

cause his readers. When Pratt said that “true prophets often predicted

things that did not happen” (131), what he should have said is that God,

through the prophets, often threatened to do things and offered to do

things that He did not, in the end, do. This biblical and Reformed truth

is a far, far cry from Pratt’s doctrine that God prophetically “predicted”

things that did not and will not ever come to pass.

 

Contrary to Pratt, whenever prophets of God actually predicted

things, those things happened —100% of the time. How Pratt can put

the “warnings” and “offers” of the Bible in the same category as the predictions

of the Second Coming, resurrection of the dead, and judgment of all

men is mystifying.

 

On page 137, Pratt says,

 

From the viewpoint of hyper-preterism, the predominant

purpose of predictions in the Scriptures was prognostication.

Hyper-preterists assume that prophets intended to give foreknowledge

of things to come.

 

I am truly surprised that Pratt’s editor Keith Mathison allowed

these sentences to pass inspection and to be sent to print. Obviously

one of the main purposes of a prediction was prognostication. “Prediction”

means “prognostication.” And obviously the prophets intended

to give foreknowledge of things to come. Who could possibly

deny this?

 

What Pratt should have said in the first sentence is that the predominant

purpose of prophetic messages (threats of judgment and offers

of blessing) was not prognostication. And what he should have said

in the second sentence is that not every prophetic message contained

foreknowledge of things to come.

 

Haggai 2:21–23

 

On the thirteenth page of Pratt’s chapter, he finally reaches an actual, predictive,

decretive prophecy (not merely a solemn threat/warning or offer):

 

Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah saying, I am going

to shake the heavens and the earth. And I will overthrow the

thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of

the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders,

and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the

sword of another. On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will

take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant, declares the

Lord, and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen

you, declares the Lord of hosts. (Haggai 2:21–23)

 

According to Pratt, the fulfillment of even this prophecy was conditioned

upon the obedience of the people. And not only that, says Pratt,

the prophecy failed to take place as it was written: “ . . . [T]hese things

did not happen to Zerubbabel. He never became the king over God’s

people, and the nations around Israel were not destroyed. Why was

this so? It was because the postexilic community failed to be obedient

to the Lord.” The disobedience of the people, according to Pratt, caused

the “postponing” of the fulfillment of the prophecy (133).

 

First of all, when God says, “On that day, declares Yahweh of hosts,

I will,” the decretive nature of the prophecy is established. There is no

condition, implicit or otherwise, in the prophecy. The prophecy was

sure to be accomplished as it is written, Pratt notwithstanding.

As for Pratt’s claim that Zerubbabel “never became the king over

God’s people,” the prophecy says nothing about Zerubbabel becoming

the king over God’s people. It says only that God would make him

like a signet ring.” This could possibly mean that Zerubbabel became

highly esteemed and exalted in the sight of God. And/Or the promise

to Zerubbabel could have been meant to refer to Christ, who was born

of the seed of Zerubbabel, who was of the seed of David. Either way,

there was no “postponing” of the prophecy.

 

But as is often the case, the biblical answer is the obvious answer,

and it is missed because it does not fit the futurist paradigm. The

prophecy of Haggai 2:6–9, 21–23 was fulfilled, in a “typical” sense, in

the lifetime of Zerubbabel. In about four years (“in a little while”) after

the prophecy was given, God overthrew all the nations, (He “shook the

heavens, the earth, the sea and the dry land”) and the desire or wealth

of all nations came, and the temple was filled with glory (with gold and

silver). (Compare Haggai 1:15; 2:10 and Ezra 6:15.)

 

This all took place when Darius King of Persia overturned Israel’s

enemies, who for years had been preventing the rebuilding of God’s

house. Darius decreed, “May God . . . overthrow any king or people who

lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem

(Ezra 6:11–12). Darius forced Israel’s enemies themselves to pay the full

cost of the rebuilding, as well as the full cost of all the daily, priestly

services (Ezra 6:8–10).

 

The military and political power of Israel’s enemies was overthrown.

They had tried to turn the king against Israel (Ezra 5), but God turned

their own stratagems against them. He made them subservient to His

people, taking their own wealth for the building of His glorious, earthly

house. God had thus “moved heaven and earth” to keep the covenant

that He had made with His people through Moses (Ezra 6:18; Hag. 2:5).

The prophecy of Haggai 2:6–9; 21–23 also foreshadowed the fulfillment

of the better promise (Heb. 8:6) that was fulfilled in Christ’s generation.

Israel’s building of the greater, earthly house in Zerubbabel’s generation

was an example of the building of the true, heavenly “House” in Christ.

 

Within perhaps only four years (“in a little while”) after Hebrews

12:26 was written, God overthrew all the nations. He “shook the heavens,

the earth, the sea and the dry land.” The desire of all nations came,

and God’s Temple was filled with Glory.

 

This happened when God overturned His kingdom-enemies who,

in their persecution of the church, had furiously resisted the construction

of His new covenant temple (Eph. 2:21–22; I Peter 2:5). Despite

the rage of the enemies, God enlisted countless multitudes of them to

build His new House (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21; Rev. 5:9); and the enemies

who resisted to the end were crushed, and were cast out of the kingdom

in AD 70 (Matt. 8:12; 21:43; Lk. 13:28; Acts 4:25–28; Gal. 4:30; Rev. 3:9).

God “moved heaven and earth” to keep the covenant that He made

with His elect through the blood of Christ. Now the Father, the Son, and

the Holy Spirit dwell eternally in the universal church, which is the new

covenant House of promise (Jn. 14:23; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 2:21–22; 3:17; Col.

1:27; II Peter 1:19; Rev. 3:20; 21:2–3). Through the power of the eternal

gospel, the desire of the nations flows into “the more perfect tabernacle

today and forever (Heb. 9:11; Rev. 21:26–27), and God Himself is its

unfading Glory (Rev. 21:23). Amen.

 

Pratt’s Three Failed Eschatons

 

In the last thirteen pages of his chapter, Pratt descends into an exegetical

abyss from which, sadly, he never returns. On pages 141–143, he says

that, according to Jeremiah, the beginning and consummation of the

eschaton (the Last Days), the culmination of history, the restoration of

Israel and of the Davidic throne, the rebuilding of the temple, and the

defeat and gathering of the Gentiles were all supposed to take place after

the Babylonian Exile in about 538 BC. Pratt says that the prophets of that

generation expected that the eschatological hopes of Israel would be imminently

realized.

 

But alas, according to Pratt, Daniel observed the alleged “failure” of

the supposedly imminent restoration of all things that Jeremiah allegedly

predicted. Daniel, in the prophecy of “the seventy weeks,” allegedly revealed

that the fullness of the eschaton, which allegedly should have happened

in Daniel’s lifetime, was allegedly postponed/delayed for about 490

years “because of a lack of repentance” (144–145, 147, 149, 152).

However, according to Pratt, about twenty years after Daniel received

that prophecy, the blessings of the eschaton were “offered” yet

again through the predictions of Haggai and Zechariah (520–515 BC).

But evidently, there was again insufficient repentance for the predictions

to be fulfilled (146–147).

 

Then according to Pratt, five hundred years later in the New Testament

era, the consummation of the eschaton was “offered” again

(meaning predicted but not promised, in Prattian usage). But “the lack

of repentance within the covenant community caused an indefinite delay

of Christ’s return” (149).

 

Apparently there was no “Daniel” this time around to tell anyone

there was going to be a delay (as though Daniel ever suggested a delay in

the first place). There was however the writer of Hebrews, who said in

about AD 66 that Christ would “not delay” in His Parousia (Heb. 10:37).

But that must have been one of those “failed” predictions.

 

Pratt comments on Acts 3:19–20:

 

Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away,

in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of

the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for

you. . . .

 

According to Pratt, Peter was saying that the imminent Second

Coming was a “conditional offer.” If those who were listening to him

repented, then there was a “hope”/“possibility” that it would happen in

their lifetime (150–151).

 

This interpretation however can be quickly dismissed. The Second

Coming in Christ’s generation was neither “conditional” nor an

“offer” nor a mere “possibility” that was contingent on human behavior.

The contingency was the elect being saved, and that work was of

the sovereign Spirit, not of man. Therefore the eschaton was going to

be fulfilled in the last days of the old covenant age no matter what men

would do to resist God’s purpose. There was absolutely no way to stop

the fulfillment of the Second Coming and resurrection of the dead in

the apostolic generation, Prattian contingencies and postponements

notwithstanding.

 

On page 134, Pratt says, “When a sign accompanied a prophecy, it

showed that God was very determined to carry out what the prophet

had predicted.” However, the prophetic time statements of the New

Testament were accompanied by signs. Yet Pratt claims that those

prophecies were all altered by human contingency.

 

Pratt says on page 135 that “when God adds an oath to a prophetic

prediction, it raises that prediction to the level of a covenantal certainty.

Pratt gives as an example, “There as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign

Lord . . . ” (Eze. 5:11). Yet when the Lord Jesus Christ Himself says,

Truly [Amen], I say unto you,” in regard to the timing of His Parousia

(Matt. 16:28), Pratt for some reason does not count Jesus’ promise there

as “a covenantal certainty.”

 

Pratt says on page 137 that the question of timing always remains

open in prophecies with oaths. Evidently, Pratt has never read Revelation

10:6: “and [the angel] swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who

created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it,

and the sea and the things in it, that there shall be delay no longer.”

 

Later in the apostolic generation, Pratt says, the apostles had to deal

with the unexpected delay of Christ’s return (despite the oath in RevelaOpenness

tion 10:6), and the Christian community was beset with “discouragement”

as a result of that delay (151–152). How Pratt knows about this

delay definitively within his system of contingency and ambiguity is a

mystery he does not solve. But, Pratt continues, Peter did not give up

hope, because he knew that God was showing great patience, not wanting

anyone to perish but desiring “everyone” to come to repentance

(152). And according to Pratt, this has been going on now for about

2,500 years, since the days of Daniel. Thus ends Pratt’s notable chapter.

 

The last thirteen pages of Pratt’s chapter certainly do not merit any

further refutation. His arguments are transparently wrong. The eschaton

was never scheduled to arrive in 538 BC in the time of Daniel. Nor was it

supposed to arrive in about 520 B.C. in the time of Haggai and Zechariah.

Nor was it merely “offered” conditionally in Christ’s generation.

 

If Pratt is correct, we must ask: Has the eschaton been “offered” at any

other times since the first century? Was it “offered” again in 1843, as per

William Miller? Was it “offered” again in 1988, as per Edgar Whisenant?

Was it “offered” again in 1994, as per Harold Camping? Were those the

failed predictions of men, or the failed predictions of God? Who can say

one way or the other with any certainty, in Pratt’s “Openness Futurism”?

 

It may seem difficult to imagine how someone who is a Doctor of

Theology could believe and teach such incredibly unbiblical things.

But the reason is apparent if we paraphrase Pratt’s argument: “Hyperpreterists

think that prophecies are fulfilled as they were written. But

according to my futurist paradigm, prophecies were not fulfilled as they

were written. I know they were not fulfilled as they were written because

they were not fulfilled as they were written, according to my futurist

paradigm. Therefore, hyper-preterists are wrong when they say

that prophecies are fulfilled as they were written.”

 

Circular arguments, ad hominems, and question begging, oh my!

Preterism, in contrast, walks by faith. If it appears that a divine prediction

was not fulfilled when and how God said it would be fulfilled,

then it is our interpretation of the prediction, not its fulfillment, which

must be called into question. Amen.

 

Pratt and Openness Theology

 

Pratt’s eschatological error is not merely one of many perfectly acceptable

options within futurism, as Mathison suggests in his chapter.

 

Pratt comes dangerously close to Openness Theology in every one of his

analyses of prophetic utterances and in every argument he uses against

preterism. Anyone who is familiar with the writings of Open Theists

can see the source material for Pratt’s arguments. If his arguments

were not directly reproduced from Sanders and Pinnock, he has clearly

drunk from the same well as those men.

 

According to Pratt, even if Jesus Himself bluntly declared, “Verily I

say unto you, I will return in August of the year AD 70,” that would not

mean that His return actually occurred when He said it would (122).

His return could still be in our future, because His church could have

failed to repent and be faithful, and this “human contingency” could

have caused Him to delay His return for two thousand years, or even a

trillion years.

 

Who knows? Human contingency could also have caused Him to

change the way the promise of His return was supposed to be fulfilled.

Maybe He originally meant for His return to be fulfilled literally but

then human contingency caused Him to fulfill it spiritually, or vice versa.

In Pratt’s paradigm, even the eschatological predictions of Jesus and

the New Testament writers become ultimately meaningless.

 

Pratt’s notion that we can have no confidence in Jesus’ predictions

and time statements is the same contingency-based, changing-mindof-

God nonsense of the Openness heretics. Pratt asserts that he is not

of the same cloth as these men, yet he seems to channel John Sanders as

his primary source without ever citing him. Pratt’s language could have

been pulled out of Sanders’ The God who Risks. In fact the very categories

of possible fulfillment that Pratt advocates appear to be lifted from

that very book.[3] Let us compare the statements in Sander’s Openness

volume to the same categories and modes of prophetic interpretation in

Pratt’s so-called “Reformed” response to preterism.

 

From Sanders: “A prophecy may express God’s intention to do

something in the future irrespective of creaturely decision.” He uses

Isaiah 46 as an example (Ibid., 51).

 

Sanders here expresses what Pratt calls “sworn predictions”

(WSTTB, 131). For Pratt these prophecies take the form of divine oaths

(135). For both Sanders and Pratt this category of prophecy includes

those things which God has said he will do and which will come to pass

as God said they would. Pratt is arbitrary in classifying prophecies in

this category, automatically assuming any prophecy preterists claim as

being fulfilled could not possibly fit into this category.

 

From Sanders: “A prophecy may also express God’s knowledge that

something will happen because the necessary conditions for it have

been fulfilled and nothing could conceivably prevent it.” He uses Pharaoh

and Moses as an example (51).

 

Sanders here expresses what Pratt calls “confirmed predictions”

(WSTTB, 131). For Pratt, as with Sanders, these predictions are accompanied

by specific words calling God to the outcome or by certain

signs that show nothing could conceivably prevent the fulfillment of the

prophecy (134). It is impossible to determine why the clear words of

Jesus and of the New Testament writers about the imminent Second

Coming and resurrection and judgment of the dead do not constitute

such predictions.

 

From Sanders: “A prophecy may also express what God intends

to do if certain conditions obtain.” He uses Jeremiah 18 as an example

(TGWR, 51).

 

Sanders here expresses what Pratt calls “conditional predictions”

(WSTTB, 131). Pratt says: “There are many examples in the Bible of

situations where the contingency of human choice made a difference in

the fulfillment of a prophetic prediction” (129). By “difference,” of course,

Pratt means that even though God prophetically “predicts” an event, man,

through his choices, can cause the “failure” (152) of that divine “prediction.”

Notice for Pratt who acts, and who reacts after God issues a divine

“prediction.” In reality, as we’ve already stated, conditional if/then prophecies

(such as Isaiah 1:9–20) are not predictions at all. They are warnings

and offers.

 

From Sanders: “The typical prophecy expresses God’s intention

to act a certain way, depending on what his creatures decide to do”

(TGWR, 53). He uses Jonah as an example.

 

Sanders here expresses what Pratt calls “unqualified predictions”

(WSTTB, 131). He states that even though these prophecies use unqualified

language they are not necessarily fixed in stone. And just like

Sanders, he uses Jonah as an example. According to Pratt, Jonah gave

a prophetic “prediction” and God caused the fulfillment of the “prediction”

to be delayed (131). But again, as Pratt himself admits, such “predictions”

are not predictions. They are warnings/threats and offers of blessings.

 

There can be precedent in the Reformed community for Pratt’s and

Sanders’ four-fold division of prophecies, but only with the understanding

that not all prophecies are predictions. Pratt’s contention that actual

“predictions” (not merely prophetic warnings and offers) of God can

be thwarted by human actions has absolutely no place in Reformed or

Reformed preterist theology.

 

Lastly, only the Openness theologians make any claim that the New

Testament prophecies of the Second Coming are contingent, or not

necessarily to come about as stated. There are disagreements about

what is stated, but never disagreements in the Reformed community

about whether they are actually to be fulfilled as stated. Pratt departs

from the Reformed tradition in his application of contingency to prophetic

predictions, and especially when he applies contingency to the

New Testament predictions concerning Christ’s Parousia.

 

House of Cards Divided

 

Pratt’s deconstruction of Deuteronomy 18:22 leads to a morass of sophism

in prophetic interpretation. He tears the foundation out from under

any eschatological claims whatsoever, not the least of which are those of

his fellow contributors. There is no reason to claim postmillennialism,

amillennialism, premillennialism, or any form of prophetic ism if Pratt is

correct. His chapter throws the entire remainder of the Mathison book

into the vast shifting ocean of subjectivity. If prophetic predictions can

be fulfilled in any way, or in no way at all, as Pratt claims, then we have a

plurality of possibilities, with no possibility of a unified argument of truth

versus error. Biblical prophetic predictions become vain babblings and

worthless because we cannot know with certainty if fulfillment has occurred,

or even if it will ever occur.

 

Faith becomes arbitrary because we can never know with certainty

which of the things God has predicted will come to pass and which are

destined for the trash heap of unfulfilled predictions due to human-enacted

contingencies. If we cannot fully know which divine predictions

may reach fulfillment and which ones need not be taken seriously, then

how can we put our faith in any of God’s predictions?

 

Pratt’s argument invalidates all the anti-preterist arguments of his

co-authors. For instance, Gentry criticizes preterists for the way we see

prophecies concerning the resurrection fulfilled (28), while Pratt tells us

that it is possible that prophecies can be fulfilled in ways that actually

contradict the prophecy as it was written. If Pratt is correct, then Gentry

cannot be confident that the prophecies concerning the resurrection

of the dead will be fulfilled as they were written.

 

There can be no real hope because we cannot tell with certainty

which prophecies of God constitute a promise/oath and which do not,

and we cannot tell with certainty what historical contingencies may or

may not obtain to prevent any given prophecy from being fulfilled. Will

there be a resurrection of the dead? Who knows? In the Prattian paradigm,

we can only wonder what human actions may alter the timing or

completeness or nature or even the existence of fulfillment.

 

Will Christ return literally and physically on a cloud, as argued by

the authors of WSTTB? Or will human contingencies cause Him to

alter the fulfillment of His prediction and cause Him to return in the

form of a great teacher in the Middle East? Was Mohammed the Second

Coming of Christ? Did Mohammed reflect a change in the Second

Coming due to human actions? Who can really know for sure in Pratt’s

horrific contingency paradigm of uncertainty?

 

Charles Hill asks:

 

How could it possibly be that the very people who were

taught about the consummation of redemptive history by

the apostles, and who lived through this consummation,

missed the great event when it happened? (105)

 

Likewise, Doug Wilson says that if preterism is true then:

 

. . . the apostles spent a great deal of time preparing the

early church for a world-shattering event, but then, when

it happened, the early church completely missed it. (276)[4]

 

If we believe Pratt, then the result is even worse than what Hill and

Wilson are saying about the historical implication of preterism. If Pratt

is right, then it is possible that the consummation has been fulfilled

in a radically different way than the prophecies themselves predicted.

The consummation could have been totally and absolutely missed on

a wholesale level because it bore no resemblance whatsoever to the actual

prophecies. Within Pratt’s paradigm, we are necessarily left forever

wondering if this event or that event was the fulfillment, or if the fulfillment

will ever happen at all.

 

What Pratt refrains from stating explicitly is that human contingency

can alter the fulfillment of a prophecy so much that those who

read the prophecy could be unable to recognize its fulfillment when it

happens. Prattian contingencies make the fulfillment of prophecy absolutely

uncertain. The consummation of redemptive history could be

fulfilled in any way at all. The wording of the predictions is irrelevant.

 

Mathison says that, “if Scripture can be trusted, the visible return of

Christ is something that literally remains to be seen” (188). In Mathison’s

view, God will certainly do what He prophetically predicted He

will do. Pratt’s view, in contrast, makes Scripture a jumble awaiting human

actions to sort out what can be believed.

 

Conclusion

 

It is time to stop believing in theological pluralism as anything

more than a temporary stopgap. It is time to reject the idea of

the equal ultimacy of incompatible theological positions. Premillennialism,

postmillennialism, and amillennialism are theologically

incompatible. God cannot be pleased with all three. At

least two of them should be discarded as heretical, if not today,

then before Christ comes in final judgment. (A Defense of (Reformed)

Amillennialism, Prof. David J. Engelsma)[5]

 

Preterists know why the three incompatible eschatological positions

are tolerated in the Reformed community. They are placeholders

for the biblical truth of preterism. When the truth is allowed to

replace these flawed systems of theology, then eschatological unity can

be achieved.

 

If there is no agreement as to what eschatological truth is, beyond

two or three points, how can there be certainty that preterists are

wrong? If preterism is error, where is the certainty of the truth which

shows it to be so? The lack of unity in message, methodology, and interpretation

of prophecy makes any Reformed response to preterism not

only tentative and incomplete, but premature.

 

WSTTB is a source of comfort to me and to other preterists. The

manifest inability of scholars within the Reformed community to organize

a coordinated, logical, and non-contradictory argument against

preterism is telling. Their eschatological house is divided and falling,

just like the Papal See fell under the weight of the truth of the Protestant

Reformation.

 

WSTTB shows nothing other than a disoriented theological base

that men are desperate to maintain. I cannot judge their hearts, but

I can judge the system for what it is. Some of the best minds of the

Reformed futurist community came together and no two of them can

agree on even the fundamental questions of the nature of prophecy,

how prophecy is fulfilled, which verses apply to past events, and which

(they claim) apply to yet future events.

 

In the end, Pratt reveals the crack in the Reformed, eschatological

House of Usher. The willingness of Pratt’s co-authors to unite with his error,

and with each other’s errors, in order to ward off the persistent challenge

of preterism is resulting in the sure and imminent fall of futurism.

 

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds

blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its

fall. (Matt. 7:27)



[1] Open Theism holds that God does not exhaustively know the future and

that His prophetic predictions can be thwarted by the will of man. 

[2] Keith Mathison seemed to favor the Reformed view in his chapter, saying

that “in some circumstances, prophesied judgment can be averted” (163).

Mathison avoided Pratt’s error. Mathison did not say, “In almost every instance,

God’s predictions have been averted.” Later in his chapter however,

Mathison implies that Pratt’s view is actually a viable option, saying that preterists

have “failed” to consider it (181). 

[3] The God who Risks (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1998), 51–53 

[4] See David Green’s response to Hill in this book for an invalidation of

this argument. 

[5] Available online at: http://www.prca.org/articles/amillennialism.html

Openness Futurism 73

 

Posted in Uncategorized

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

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

When Shall These Things Be?

 

Chapter Four

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

Conclusion

Michael J. Sullivan

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

Conclusion 

Mathison says that interpreting New Testament eschatological time

texts is a “difficult problem” that has “perplexed commentators for

centuries,” and that it is therefore a subject upon which he and his coauthors

do not agree (155, 178, 204). Consequently, Mathison’s treatment

of the time texts is ambiguous and he casts a fog over the whole

matter. Here are some examples of Mathison’s pervasive uncertainty

as he wrestles against God’s eschatological time-statements.

 

“You shall not finish going through the cities of Israel,

until the Son of Man comes.”

 

Commentators have interpreted [Matthew 10:23] in a number

of different ways. (175–176)

 

Mathison presents five competing futurist and partial preterist interpretations.

He eventually lands on an interpretation but he does not

express unequivocal confidence in it.

 

“Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing

here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of

Man coming in His kingdom.”

 

. . . [W]hat does it mean for Jesus [in Matthew 16:27–28] to

suggest that [the coming of the Son of Man] will happen within

the lifetime of his hearers? (176)

 

But of course, Jesus did more than merely “suggest” that His coming

would happen within the lifetime of His hearers, as Mathison weakens

the words of the Lord.

 

• The Coming of the Son of Man

 

Each of the texts we have looked at (Matt. 10:23; Matt. 16:27–

28; 24–25) seems to portray the coming of the Son of Man as

something that would occur soon after the words were spoken.

This has perplexed commentators for centuries. (178)

 

Mathison then makes reference to “all of the difficulties surrounding

these [time] texts” and adds that “several” interpretations have been

“suggested” (178–179).

 

But as preterists know, these texts are unequivocal and nonperplexing.

Note that Mathison admits that all of the biblical texts

he cited in Matthew (including the prophecy of the sheep and goats)

“seem” to say what preterists say they say. When Mathison says that

the texts are surrounded by “difficulties” and that they have “perplexed

commentators,” the reason is—obviously—because the texts, if left

to interpret themselves, teach “hyper-preterism.” Yet five pages later

Mathison says, “There is nothing in any of these texts that demands or

even strongly suggests a hyper-preterist interpretation” (183).

 

“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until

all these things take place.”

 

. . . [S]everal possible interpretations [of Matthew 24:34] have

been offered.

 

Mathison presents nine competing futurist and partial preterist interpretations

(179–181). All of the “possible interpretations” of the word

“generation” proposed by Mathison are puzzling though, since he tells

readers in his book, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope, while refuting

Dispensationalism, that they can “know” the preterist interpretation

of “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 is the true interpretation:

 

We know that the phrase “this generation” refers to the generation

of Jews to whom Jesus was speaking for these reasons. . . .[1]

 

Treading water in a great sea of uncertainty and contradiction,

Mathison flounders among the “many possible interpretations” of these

and other passages, and then miraculously arrives at the shore and concludes

with curious confidence: “Just as there is nothing in the Gospels

that even remotely suggests hyper-preterism, so there is also nothing

in the book of Acts or in the New Testament epistles that suggests

hyper-preterism” (205, emphases added). “The New Testament . . . does

not even suggest hyper-preterism” (213, emphases added).

 

Let’s see now. Mathison admits that Jesus said (or suggested or

seemed to teach) many times and in many places that His coming

would happen within the lifetime of His hearers. Mathison admits that

this fact has perplexed futurist commentators for centuries (176–179).

Mathison admits that Paul and other New Testament writers seemed to

teach that Christ was coming soon and that the end of the age was near

(201–202). Then Mathison says that there is nothing in the New Testament

“that even remotely suggests hyper-preterism” (205, 213). Our

question to Mathison is not when, but how can these things be?

 

Mathison undertakes to evaluate and dismiss the preterist position

while he himself is uncertain as to how to interpret the verses that

“seem” to support preterism (but at the same time do not even “remotely

suggest” preterism). Mathison’s particular beliefs are a matter

of opinion and debate, because according to Mathison, who can know

with any certainty what such terms as “near” and “soon” and “this generation”

and “some of you standing here” really mean? There are many

possible interpretations.

 

Mathison should consider that his eschatological particulars (the

time texts) are vague and uncertain because his eschatological universals

(the physical and yet-future second coming, resurrection, and

judgment) are askew. If we all were to agree and stand “shoulder to

shoulder” (155) on the universal that eschatology is all about the fall

of the Soviet Union, the result would be that our interpretation of a

myriad of verses would become a “difficult problem” (Mathison’s term).

Mathison’s quandary vividly illustrates the centuries-old problem with

futurism. Two or three flawed universals have made a vast multitude of

particulars unfathomable.

 

. . . [O]rthodox Christianity was characterized by two eschatological

doctrines: the future return of Christ to judge mankind

and the future bodily resurrection of all men for judgment. . . .

[A]part from these two doctrines, there was nothing approaching

consensus for the first four centuries [of church history].[2]

 

This problem is alive and well today, as Mathison’s multi-authored

book demonstrates. Mathison uses wild understatement when he says

of the authors of WSTTB: “ . . . [T]he contributors to this volume do not

completely agree in their interpretation of every eschatological text”

(155). The fact is that all seven of the contributors to Mathison’s volume

do not agree at all on any (or at least virtually any) eschatological

doctrine except the doctrine “that the second coming of Jesus Christ,

the general resurrection, and the Last Judgment are yet to come” (155).

Mathison can call that “shoulder-to-shoulder” agreement, but it is not

impressive. Agreement on only a few points out of a myriad merely

indicates that those few points are wrong.

 

It is more than difficult to understand how these authors can portray their

historical positions as unified on these points when between their two

 systems (partial preterism and amillennialism) two contradictory

propositions emerge when you examine the particulars – that is the

passages that are used to arrive at a futurist position for these three

 events

1)      Partial Preterism – Imminence and fulfillment is accepted, Christ

appeared a second time at the end of the old covenant age, there

was a spiritual, corporate, covenantal judgment and resurrection of

the living and dead which was attended by a passing of the old

creation and arrival of the new in AD 70 in such passages as these:

Daniel 12:1-4; Matthew 5:17-18, 13:39-43, 24-25; Acts 1:11;

Romans 8:18, 13:11-12; 1 Peter 4:5-7; 2 Peter 3; Revelation 1-22;

Hebrews 8:13, 9:26-28,[3] 10:37. 

 

And yet we are also told that this proposition is true –

2)       Classic Amillennialism – The NT only teaches one coming of

 Christ, general judgment and resurrection of the living and dead

 attended by the restoration of creation at the end of the age.

 How can these things be indeed?  Obviously both of these propositions

cannot be true at the same time unless full preterism is true and accepted.

Allow me to use two particular passages in connection with my testimony

on how I became a full preterist which illustrates the problem the authors

of WSTTB have with their so called “shoulder to shoulder” unity.  One day

I was reading Reformed amillennial and partial preterist books while also

studying Matthew 24-25 and comparing it with 1 Thessalonians 4-5 in my

dorm room at the Master’s College.  I concluded that the partial preterist

was accurate in teaching that the coming of Christ in Matthew 24-25 was

fulfilled in AD 70 spiritually using apocalyptic language and that the

amillennialist was also accurate in that Paul was drawing from Jesus’

teaching in the Olivet Discourse and that there is only one “the parousia”

of Christ in the NT.  Therefore “orthodoxy” was teaching me that 1

Thessalonians 4-5 was the same coming of Christ described by Jesus

in Matthew 24-25.  But since the futurist errs on the nature of the

resurrection assuming it is biological and at the end of time, the

readers of WSTTB are forced into a contradictory “either or” situation

when the truth is a “both and.”  I think one can see the problem the

authors of WSTTB are trying to sweep under the rug when it comes to how

they can “unify” in teaching that the Second Coming is still future when

the particulars of what they are each saying on the given texts and how

they relate to each other teach  otherwise. 

 

The choice is simple.  Either one continues propagating the myth that

these two propositions within the futurist paradigm do not lead to a

contradiction, or accept the organic development of full Preterism which

unites them in seeing that these events were fulfilled in AD 70 when Christ

came invisibly to close the old covenant age dissolving the elements of

that world while establishing the new. 

 

It is ironic that the title of Mathison’s book is When Shall These

Things Be?  Not only is there no consensus among the authors as to the

answer to that very question, but Mathison himself (the only author

who attempts to answer the question) fails to arrive at an unequivocal

and decisive answer. Within a span of six pages (177–182), Mathison

tacitly admits that the question is a problem for futurism, and offers

seven or eight possible “solutions.”[4]

 

If we were to apply Mathison’s method in eschatological matters

to all other areas of life, we would be certain of nothing; we would all

be postmodernists. The truth would become unknowable. Mathison

himself, in his book The Shape of Sola Scriptura, teaches that “clear”

and “firm scriptural proof for every article of faith” is a “necessity.”[5]

Yet in WSTTB, Mathison demonstrates with his plethora of “possible

interpretations” that he lacks “clear” and “firm” scriptural proof either

for futurism or against preterism. Nevertheless, he feels at liberty to

anathematize us for our preterist challenge to futurism (213).

 

Mathison claims that Christ died to leave the church, for 2,000

years and counting, in an “evil age.” As my editor has said, “Joy to the

world!” Postmillennialists such as Marcellus Kik and Keith Mathison

have produced not so much an Eschatology of Victory or An Eschatology

of Hope, as a “sick” eschatology, because, “Hope deferred makes the heart

sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12). Preterism

will stand the test of time; and as godly men embrace it and teach it,

it will bring healing to the “eschatological schizophrenia” of Mathison

et al, and to the eschatological division within the church as a whole.

Interestingly, Gentry and Mathison in their books pit old school dispensationalism

against modern day progressives as a “House Divided” that “cannot stand”

unless they move more toward covenant theology.  And yet we have

documented their “House Divided” approach which equally “cannot stand”

unless full Preterism is embraced to “bridge the gap.”  And since they also

exhort progressives such as Pastor John MacArthur in his/their changes

which are moving closer and closer to covenant theology, we too applaud

Gentry and Mathison for coming closer and closer to full Preterism in what

they have written since WSTTB.  If a five point Calvinist and progressive

dispensationalist such as MacArthur can be seen as “inconsistent,” holding

to a “compromised” position, or being content in being a stepping stone for

others to come into covenant theology, then full preterists can view Gentry

and Mathison’s writings as such in their moves towards full preterism. 

If not why not?


As a Reformed believer, dear reader, you know that there is no middle

ground between Arminianism and Calvinism. You may have tried at one

time to say that you were neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian. Or you may

have acknowledged that the Bible teaches Calvinism, but you rejected the

teaching because you were troubled by its implications. Or you may have

even been a closet Calvinist for years. Though the road was perhaps difficult,

you eventually embraced the doctrines of grace, and now you know

there is no compromise position between the two doctrines.

Many Reformed believers today are having the same experience

with the doctrine of preterism. They are learning that it is also a hard

pill to swallow and that it is nevertheless the doctrine of Scripture. They

are learning that it represents “the whole counsel of God” in the area of

eschatology. After we are confronted with biblical preterism, we may

try to straddle the fence, but there is truly no middle ground. Just as

R.C. Sproul (Sr.) would consider a four-point Calvinist to be in reality a

“confused Arminian,” more and more futurists, on their way to biblical

preterism, are beginning to see that partial preterism is just “confused

futurism.” There is no biblical basis for “partial preterism” even as there

is no biblical basis for “partial Calvinism.” This is why partial preterism

invariably leads to full preterism. This is why Keith Mathison and Ken

Gentry have both come closer to “hyper-preterism” since they wrote

WSTTB. Mathison now believes that the prophecy of the sheep and

the goats in Matthew 25 was fulfilled in AD 70 and Gentry now believes

that the resurrection in Daniel 12:2-3 was fulfilled in AD 70.

 



[1] Mathison, Postmillennialism, 111 (emphasis added) 

[2] Postmillennialism, 33

[3] Milton Terry wrote of Hebrews 9:26-28, “The ‘end of the age’ means the close of the epoch or age—that is, the Jewish age or dispensation which was drawing nigh, as our Lord frequently intimated. All those passages that speak of ‘the end,’ ‘the end of the age,’ or ‘the ends of the ages,’ refer to the same consummation, and always as nigh at hand.” “…the writer [to the Hebrews] regarded the incarnation of Christ as taking place near the end of the aeon, or dispensational period. To suppose that he meant that it was close upon the end of the world, or the destruction of the material globe, would be to make him write false history as well as bad grammar. It would not be true in fact; for the world has already lasted longer since the incarnation than the whole duration of the Mosaic economy, from the exodus to the destruction of the temple. It is futile, therefore, to say that the ‘end of the age’ may mean a lengthened period, extending from the incarnation to our times, and even far beyond them. That would be an aeon, and not the close of an aeon. The aeon of which our Lord was speaking was about to close in a great catastrophe; and a catastrophe is not a protracted process, but a definitive and culminating act.” Milton S. Terry, Biblical HERMENEUTICS A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, 441-442.

[4] Ken Gentry, in another book, gave a decisive interpretation of Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question: “Christ’s teaching here is extremely important to redemptive history. He is responding to the question of His disciples regarding when the end of the age (Gk., aion) will occur (24:3). In essence, His full answer is: when the Romans lay waste the temple (vv. 6 and 15 anticipate this) and pick apart Jerusalem (v. 28).” Thomans Ice, Kenneth Gentry, The Great Tribulation Past or Future? Two Evangelicals Debate the Question (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1999), 58.

[5] Keith Mathison, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2001), 32

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

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

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

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Four

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

Part 13 – What About Hymenaeus and Philetus 2 Timothy 2:17-18? 

 Michael J. Sullivan

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


2 Timothy 2:17–18 

I recently received an email and phone call from an elder in a church

who was secretly placed under church discipline and then excommunicated

for studying the preterist view of Bible prophecy. He and his family

were told that their salvation was in question unless they repented of

studying (let alone holding to) this position. The source material that

was used against them was When Shall These Things Be?, and the Bible

text that was used to anathematize them was 2 Timothy 2:17–18. Apparently

the eldership of the church did not see the irony. The editor

of When Shall These Things Be? concedes that 2 Timothy 2:18 “cannot”

be used even to “criticize” preterists, much less anathematize them, because

according to Mathison, it may very well be that “the resurrection

of 2 Timothy 2:18 truly did take place in AD 70:

 

. . . [2 Timothy 2:1–18] cannot be used to criticize hyper-preterism

until . . . [it can be] demonstrated from other texts that

nothing of the sort occurred in A.D. 70. (194)

 

This is quite an admission from a man who says that hyper-preterism

is “a much different religion” than Christianity (213). What Bible verses

can Mathison use, other than 2 Timothy 2:17–18, to brand preterism as a

different religion? Answer: There are no other verses. Without 2 Timothy

2:17–18, Mathison doesn’t have a biblical leg to stand on in his condemnation

of preterists. All he has are the baseless words of those, like

himself, who have set themselves up to condemn us based solely on the

assumption that our rejection of futurism is a damnable error.

 

We agree with Mathison that 2 Timothy 2:17–18 cannot be used

to criticize us. But we must go further than this. Far from being an

anti-preterist passage, 2 Timothy 2:17–18 is actually a condemnation

of the implications of futurism. Allow me to explain. First of all, Hymenaeus

and Philetus were Judaizers. They were of a class of deceivers

who taught Jewish “myths” and “genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:4; Titus 1:4), and

were self-appointed “teachers of the Law” (1 Tim. 1:7). They taught

believers to abstain from foods (1 Tim. 4:3), no doubt using the Levitical

dietary laws as a basis of their teaching.

 

It is because Hymenaeus and Philetus were Judaizers that Paul

compared them to “Jannes and Jambres” (2 Tim. 3:8). According to

ancient historians, Jannes and Jambres were Egyptian magicians who

challenged Moses’ authority in Egypt. Like Jannes and Jambres, Hymenaeus

and Philetus were teaching the strange doctrines of “Egypt”

(Rev. 11:8), and were challenging Paul’s gospel-authority, attempting to

deceive Christians into believing that God’s new wine (the new covenant

land of promise) could be contained within the old, “Egyptian”

wineskins of the old covenant world.

 

Likewise in 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul connects Hymenaeus and Philetus

to the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16:5, 26.[1] Korah had led hundreds

of the sons of Israel to challenge Moses’ authority. As God had

destroyed Korah and his followers in the wilderness, so God was “about

to judge” (2 Timothy 4:1) and destroy the Judaizers Hymenaeus and Philetus

and others like them (cf. Heb. 3:16–19).

 

According to the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus, because Jerusalem

and the temple still stood (in about AD 67) after the resurrection

had allegedly already taken place, it irresistibly followed that “the

sons according to the flesh” were now the heirs of the eternal kingdom

and that Paul’s Jew-Gentile gospel of grace was a lie. The blasphemous

error of Hymenaeus and Philetus was that the world of the Mosaic covenant

would remain forever established after the fulfillment of the Law

and the Prophets had taken place and the new heavens and new earth

(“the resurrection”) had arrived.

 

This “Hymenaean” heresy is the diametric opposite of preterism.

According to preterism, the old covenant came to an eternal and irrevocable

termination in “the resurrection,” when all things were fulfilled

in AD 70. There is absolutely no theological connection between preterism

and Hymenaeus’ blasphemous lie of an everlasting “ministration

of death.”

 

However, there is a clear connection between the heresy of Hymenaeus

and the implications of futurism: If “the Law and the Prophets

are not fulfilled today, and “heaven and earth” have not passed

away, and the jots and tittles of the Law have not passed away, and all

things are not yet fulfilled, as futurism says, then logically and scripturally,

the Law of Moses remains unfulfilled and “imposed” to this day

(Matt. 5:17–19; Heb. 8:13; 9:10). This implication of futurism is exactly

what the Judaizers, Hymenaeus and Philetus, taught when they said the

resurrection was already past in AD 67.

 

As we have seen on virtually every page of WSTTB, Mathison and

his co-authors are in conflict over a multitude of eschatological passages.

It comes as no surprise that they are in conflict even in regard to

how or even if the Bible anathematizes preterists. And it is more than

ironic that the one passage in all of Scripture that can conceivably be

perceived as decisively anathematizing preterists is in reality applicable

to the implications of futurism.[2] Selah.

 

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

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



[1] William Hendriksen; Simon J. Kistemaker: New Testament Commentary:

Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House,

1953–2001), 268.

[2] For more on 2 Timothy 2:17–18, see David Green’s response to “Strimple

Argument #1” in chapter seven of this book.

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House Divided Chapter Four Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan Part 12 The Millennium of Revelation 20

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

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Four

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

Part 12 – The Millennium Revelation 20 

 Michael J. Sullivan

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

 

The Millennium

 

Mathison writes: “ . . . [T]he hyper-preterist interpretations of the millennium

fail to take seriously the long-term time text involved. . . . When the

word thousand is used in Scripture, it refers either to a literal thousand or

to an indefinite, but very large, number” (209).

 

Response:

 

Psalm 50:10 is often cited, usually by postmillennialists, to teach that “a

thousand” symbolizes literally “many thousands or millions.”

For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand

hills. (Ps. 50:10)

 

Postmillennialists reason that God owns the cattle on every hill;

therefore “a thousand hills” symbolizes or represents “many thousands

or millions of hills.” Thus, they reason, we are led by Scripture to interpret

the “thousand years” in Revelation 20 to mean “many thousands or

millions of years.”

 

That reasoning sounds solid at first glance. However, the context of

Psalm 50:10 does not lead us to a principle that a symbolic “thousand”

always signifies “many thousands.” It leads us to the principle that a

symbolic “thousand” signifies “fullness.” The “thousand” of Psalm 50:10

is interpreted for us two verses later:

 

The world is Mine, and the fullness thereof. (Ps. 50:12b)

 

In Psalm 90:4, a “thousand years” is as “yesterday” and as “a watch

in the night.” In 2 Peter 3:8, a “thousand years” is as one “day.” In those

verses, a “thousand” (and “yesterday” and “a watch” and a “day”) is used

to teach us that to God, a small piece of time is no different than a fullness

of time. (Compare Job 7:7; Ps. 39:5; 90:2; 144:4; Heb. 13:8; Jms.

4:14.) Thus in Psalm 105:8, a “thousand” corresponds with “forever”:

 

He has remembered His covenant forever, the word that he commanded

to a thousand generations. (Ps. 105:8)

 

In scriptural usage, a symbolic “thousand” can be likened to “one”

(day / yesterday / a watch in the night), or used in reference to millions

of hills, or to eternity (“forever”). A “thousand” can be likened unto or

used to represent a number lesser or greater than a literal thousand.

Only its context can determine its literal numerical meaning, but the

basic idea that is communicated by the number is “fullness.” As G. K.

Beale wrote, “The primary point of the thousand years is probably not a

figurative reference to a long time . . .”[1]

 

How one interprets the thousand years in Revelation 20 depends on

one’s eschatological framework. The passage does not interpret itself,

but must be interpreted by the overall eschatology of Scripture. Within

the preterist interpretive framework, the biblical-eschatological context

of Revelation 20 should lead us to interpret the “thousand years” to

signify the time of the Christological filling up of all things (Eph. 1:10;

4:10). That time was from the Cross of Christ to the Parousia of Christ

in AD 70. That was the time during which “the [spiritual] death” which

came through Adam and was magnified through “the law” was in process

of being destroyed. The literal timeframe of the “thousand years”

was roughly forty years.

 

Mathison admits that he does not know if there were any rabbis

who used the number 1,000 to symbolize forty years (210). Reformed

theologian G. K. Beale tells us that some Jews considered the length of

the intermediate messianic reign to be forty years. He also states that

one Jewish tradition made an anti-type connection between Adam’s

lifespan (almost 1,000 years) and a reign of Messiah for a (possibly

symbolic) thousand years.[2] Many Christians have attempted to make

this connection and have also paralleled the thousand years of 2 Peter

3:8 with John’s thousand years in Revelation 20:2–6.

 

Adam falling short of the 1,000-year lifespan by 70 years (Gen. 5:5)

may represent his being created a mortal being and perishing in sin

outside of God’s presence. If this is the case, then it is more than reasonable

that the number 1,000 took on the symbolism and representation

of Christ’s and the church’s victory over Death in contrast to Adamic

man’s vain existence apart from God’s salvation (Eccl. 6:6).

 

Some Evangelicals and Reformed theologians along with some

preterists such as Milton Terry do not understand the long lifespans in

the early chapters of Genesis to be literal.[3] They believe that the lifespans

were symbolic and contained numerological elements. But even

if Adam’s lifespan was a literal 930 years, this does not exclude an antitypical,

symbolic 1,000 years in Revelation 20.

 

When Messiah came as “the last Adam,” His reign in and through

the church for a symbolic thousand years brought the church not to

the dust of the earth separated from God’s presence, but to the Tree of

Life and into the very presence of God (Rev. 20–22:12). Through faith

in and union with Christ as the Last Adam (the Tree of Life and New

Creation), Christians have achieved what Adam could not. The church

was clothed with “immortality”; it attained unto the “fullness” of life in

AD 70; and it will never die for the aeons of the aeons (2 Cor. 1:20; 1 Cor.

15:45–53; Rev. 21–22; Jn. 11:26–27).

 

All of the authors of WSTTB understand that the Second Coming

is the event that brings the millennium to its consummation. However,

the only future coming of Jesus discussed in the book of Revelation is the

one that would take place shortly (Rev. 3:11; 22:6–7, 10–12, 20). Both

Mathison and Gentry concede that this imminent coming of Christ took

place in AD 70. But then they err in assuming that the imminent coming

of Jesus in Revelation was not His “actual second coming” (182).

 

To conclude my section on the millennium of Revelation 20, please

consider the following exegetical, orthodox, and historical points:

 

1. Kenneth Gentry informs us that the book of Revelation is

about things which were past, present, and “about to be” fulfilled

in John’s day (Rev. 1:19 YLT). There is no exegetical evidence

that Revelation 20 does not fall within these inspired

parameters.[4]

 

2. As G.K. Beale has said, the symbol of the thousand years does

not have to be taken as describing a long period of time (i.e.,

thousands of years).

 

3. It has also been acknowledged by Reformed theologians that

many Rabbis believed that the period of Messiah was to be

a transitionary stage between “this age/world and the age/

world to come.” These Rabbis (such as R. Adiba), understood

this transition period to be forty years, based upon how long

the Israelites were in the wilderness before inheriting the land.[5]

This type/anti-type understanding is developed for us in the

book of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 3-4; 10:25, 37; 11—13:14, YLT).

And as we have noted from Reformed partial preterists such

as Joel McDurmon or Gary DeMar, it is within the realm of

Reformed orthodoxy to believe that Jesus’ and Paul’s “this

age/world” was the old covenant age, and that “the last days”

were the days of transition between the old covenant age and

the new covenant age (AD 30 – 70).

 

4. Reformed partial preterists such as Keith Mathison, Kenneth

Gentry, and James Jordan teach that the content of Revelation

1-19 and 21-22 was fulfilled by AD 70, at which time there

was a judgment and resurrection of the dead and arrival of

the new creation. And amillennialists such as Simon Kistemaker

teach that Revelation 20:5–15 recapitulates the same

judgment and consummation scenes that are depicted in

chapters 1–19 and 21–22. Full preterists hold to both of these

Reformed and “orthodox” positions in interpreting the book

of Revelation.

 

5. In criticizing the premillennial view, which often seeks to

isolate Revelation 20 from the rest of the NT, amillennialists

and postmillennialists hold that Revelation 20 falls within

the “already and not yet” of the “last days” period in the New

Testament, and that this transition period is depicted in the

parable of the wheat and tares, or in Matthew 24–25. But as

we have seen, it is “orthodox” to believe the “last days” ended

with the old covenant age in AD 70, and that the harvest/

gathering and coming of Christ in Matthew 13 and 24–25

was fulfilled by AD 70.

 

6. If it is true that a).  the invisible coming of Christ in both

Matthew 24 – 25 is referring to the AD 70 judgment as

Mathison and other partial preterists are now proposing and

if it is true that b).  “John’s version of Matthew 24-25 is

found in the book of Revelation” and if it is true that

c).  Matthew 24:27-31—25:31ff. is descriptive of the one end

of the age Second Coming, judgment and resurrection event

(the classic amillennial or creedal position) then d).  the

authors of WSTTB? have some explaining to do in that their

views form the “this generation” forty years millennial

view of full preterism:

 

Matthew 24-25

Revelation 20:5-15

Resurrection and judgment Matt. 24:30-31 (cf. Matt. 13:39-43/Dan. 12:2-3) Matt. 25:31-46 (cf. Matt. 16:27)

Resurrection and judgment Rev. 20:5-15 

De-creation heaven and earth pass/flee Matt. 24:29, 35 (cf. Matt. 5:17-18)

De-creation heaven and earth pass/flee Rev. 20:11 (cf. Rev. 6:14; 16:20; 21:1)

Christ on throne to judge Matt. 25:31

God on throne to judge Rev. 20:11

Wicked along with Devil eternally punished Matt. 25:41-46

Wicked along with Devil eternally punished Rev. 20:10, 14-15

 

7.  If it is true that a).  the judgment (opening of the book)

and “hour of the end” resurrection of the dead in

Daniel 12:1-4, 13 was fulfilled by AD 70 (per Gentry)

and if it is true that b).  the judgment (opening of the book)

and “hour of the end” resurrection of the dead in

Daniel 12:1-4, 13 is the same eschatological time of the end

events described for us in Revelation 20:5-15 (classic

amillennial view) and if it is true that c). “John in the book of

Revelation picks up where Daniel leaves off” with “parallels”

between Daniel 12 and Revelation 20 being hermeneutically

valid to make, then d).  once again the authors of WSTTB?

have some explaining to do in that their views form the

“this generation” forty years millennial view of Full Preterism: 

  

Daniel 12:1-2

Revelation 20:5-15

Only those whose names are written in the book would be delivered/saved from eternal condemnation Dan. 12:1-2

Only those whose names are written in the book would be delivered/saved from the lake of fire Rev. 20:12-15

This is the time for the resurrection and judgment of the dead Dan. 12:1-2

This is the time for the resurrection and judgment of the dead Rev. 20:5-15

 

Therefore, the reader should be able to discern that the full

preterist view of the millennium is: 1) consistent with the

teaching of Revelation, 2) falls within the “orthodox” views

the Reformed church, 3) is in harmony with the analogy of

Scripture, and 4) has historical support from Rabbis who

saw a forty-year transition period between the two ages. Our

view on the millennium is exegetically sound and orthodox.

It is not as “difficult” as Mathison attempts to portray it.

 

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

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



[1] G. K. Beale, The New International Greek Testament Commentary:  The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 1018.

[2] Ibid., 1018–1019.

[3] Carol A. Hill, Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis (http://www.asa3.org/aSA/PSCF/2003/PSCF12–03Hill.pdf).
Milton S. Terry, Biblical
Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 62.
[4] Even Poythress understands that if the imminent time texts are to point to AD 70 as Mathison, Gentry and full preterists are proposing, then “everything” in the book would be fulfilled not some or most – But 1:3 and 22:10 are like bookends enclosing the whole prophecy of Revelation. The fulfillment of everything, not just a part, is near.”  Vern S. Poythress, THE RETURNING KING A GUIDE TO THE BOOK OF REVELATION, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing Company, 2000) 34.
[5]
Beale, Revelation Ibid., 1018-1019.  See also A. Cohen, Everyman’s TALMUD, (New York:  E.P. Dutton, 1949), 356.

 

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