EXPOSING FUTURIST SCHEMES PART #2: DID CHRIST’S SECOND COMING GET POSTPONED? A RESPONSE TO RICHARD PRATT

Exposing Futurist Schemes Part #2

Could God’s Kingdom Plans Get “Postponed” Either in

Jesus’ First or Second Comings? 

 
By: Michael J. Sullivan
 Copyright 2008

 

Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: ”Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.” “I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’” Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. (Ps.2, cf. Act 2- 4). 

  “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.”(Ps. 89:34-35) 

“Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure,'” (Isa. 46:10)  

He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law.” And “Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (Isa. 42:4,9) 

“And in the days of these kings (The Roman Empire) the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. (Dan. 2:44) 

          And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” (Dan. 4:34-35) 

 

 

          “because He did set a day in which He is about to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom He did ordain, having given assurance to all, having raised him out of the dead’” (Acts 17:31).  
        

“While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly”. (Rom. 5:6)
 

      “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4)   

as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him, according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephs.1:10-11) 

 
 
 

Introduction

 

(TLM Editorial note:  Again, this is NOT an official response to Richard Pratt’s chapter in WSTTB Hyper-Preterism and Unfolding Biblical Eschatology. However, I had developed some material on Pratt’s views and I believe they fit well here under my series of articles on exposing the Futurist Schemes of interpreting the imminent time texts of the New Testament.)

Pratt tries to pieces together a theory that God genuinely offered an imminent Second Coming in the first century, but it allegedly got postponed because of a lack of faith and repentance on the part of “the covenant community.” What the “covenant community” is I’m not sure and would like an answer from Mr. Pratt. He tries to build his case (as Arminians and Open Theists do) on a few anthropomorphic prophetic texts in which God allegedly changes His mind or modifies His prophetic plan due to man’s repentance or lack thereof. It should be a red flag to the Reformed and Evangelical community when Pratt begins his chapter by telling us his approach and critique of preterism has never been given and it probably has to do with the fact most Evangelicals and Reformed believers disagree with his “complex” views which teach,

“…biblical prophecies are seldom fulfilled exactly as they are given” (WSTTB, 122, emphasis added). 

Indeed, Pratt wants to educate the Preterist, Evangelical, and Reformed communities, that we have all adopted too simple a view of Moses test case concerning a true and false prophet, “when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Deut. 18:22). Apparently it is wrong for us to think a Biblical prophecy made through a prophet God has sent, is to be fulfilled when and how the prophet predicts. This passage has been used countless times against Mormons, J.W.’s and extreme charismatic sects, when their “prophets” have made false predictions concerning the Lord’s return. What is always interesting is how the cults respond. They argue along the lines of Pratt – “Even Biblical prophets were in error about the Second Coming and after all, if the New Testament authors claimed Jesus was coming soon and in some of their lifetimes and in their generation (and they were in error); what’s wrong if our “prophets” have done the same?” After reading Pratt’s chapter, we can hear them adding to their already worped excuses – “God genuinely predicted the end was going to come in the first century generation A.D. 30-70, or even the generations of 1832, 1914, 1948, but God changed His mind to return at these times and the Second Coming got ‘postponed.’ After all, Biblical prophecies are seldom fulfilled as and when God says they will be and in fact He changes His predictions based upon the will of man. There simply was not enough faith and repentance for Christ to return in 1832, 1914, 1948, etc… Maybe men like Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith and Jon Courson, will begin adopting Pratt’s “apologetic” methods as to why God didn’t come in 1981 or 1999?      

 

Because Pratt’s views sound so close and share some of the same presuppositions with that of Open Theism and Arminianism concerning God changing His predictions due to the responses of man’s will, he doesn’t want his proposition to be confused with theirs so he wants to disassociate himself from them and make distinctions. But indeed Pratt’s comments such as,

“Prophets did not want to inform their listeners about the future as much as they wanted to motivate their listeners to form the future” (WSTTB, p.138);

sound very similar to Arminian and Open Theist apologist Clark Pinnock who says,

God invites humans to share in deciding what the future will be. God does not take it upon his shoulders.”[1] 

There really isn’t much Pratt and the Reformed futurist community can do apologetically to answer Pinnock’s views which stem from a failed New Testament eschatology among other things:  

“The future is not stored up on heavenly video tape, but is the realm of possibilities, many of which have yet to be actualized. Peter gives us a nice illustration of this when he explains the delay of Christ’s return as being due to God’s desire to see more sinners saved – God actually postponing the near return of Christ for their sakes (2 Peter 3:9).”[2] 

And,

“…dispite the Baptist, Jesus did not cast the wicked into the fire; contrary to Paul, the second coming was not just around the corner (1Thess. 4:17).[3] 

I was attending the Evangelical Theological Society in 2003 when they voted 67% to keep Pinnock in the society and thus leave these kind of statements as “Evangelical.” Because most Evangelicals are Arminian and futurists, or Reformed and postpone the Second Coming due to man’s will such as Pratt teaches, they haven’t a clue how to answer Pinnock and are forced based upon mutual doctrinal and eschatological presuppositions to accept Pinnock’s statements. Pinnock’s humanistic thinking associated with a failed and ever changing eschatology, have caused him to deny the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures – things he at one time thought he knew how to defend. We gladly welcome Pinnock into a public debate since I find him more consistent than our Reformed opponents in the area of inspiration as it relates to an alleged postponing and unfolding of God’s eschatological plan of redemption. 

 

A Denial of the Sovereignty of God — Postponing the Kingdom

Pratt’s “unfolding of eschatology” not only has more in common with how the last days cults, Arminianism, and Open Theism, approaches Bible prophecy, but it also follows the same pattern as that of Dispesntationalism. Most Reformed theologians cringe when they here such statements as this coming from Dispensationalists,  

“When Christ presented Himself as Israel’s king, it was incumbent upon the Jews to repent of their sins in order for the messianic rule to begin. The issue of repentance overrides such expressions as “the kingdom of God is at hand.”[4]  

Please note some of the parallel reasoning of Dispensational doctrine with that of Pratt:  

1) Dispensationalism: The kingdom was genuinely “at hand” in the first century (Mt. 3:2, 4:17) but it got postponed because there was a lack of repentance and faith from the majority of the covenant community.  

Pratt: The kingdom associated with the Second Coming of Jesus was genuinely “at hand” in the first century, but it got postponed due to a lack of repentance and faith from the majority of the covenant community.  

Typical Reformed response: Daniel and Jesus predicted that the kingdom would be established during the time of the Roman Empire and it was therefore genuinely “at hand” and inaugurated within the first century. Unbelief from the majority of the covenant community was God’s means by which He established the kingdom not the means of its postponement! It was not necessary that the majority of the covenant community of Israel believe on Jesus, because God saved Israel through faith and repentance of the remnant. This Reformed response would be the typical Amillennialist response. A Postmillennial response would address the “majority” of ethnic Jews needing to repent in the future.  Is Pratt a Postmillennialist or an Amillennialist when it comes to the “covenant community”? 

Our response:  My response is identical from the typical Amillennialist Reformed response, except we recognize that Daniel, Jesus, and the New Testament authors genuinely predicted an “at hand” imminent kingdom during the time of the Roman Empire associated with the Second Coming to occur in Jesus’ “this generation” (Lk. 21:20-32/Mt. 24:15-34). The lack of repentance from the majority of the covenant community was a part of God’s sovereign plan to bring judgment and salvation at His return in A.D. 70. God did not postpone His kingdom plans through a lack of repentance from the covenant community of ethnic Jews under the old-covenant system and age, but rather ordained that this be a part of the process to establish His imminent kingdom plans with His return in A.D. 70.    

2)  Dispensationalism: Although the literal and nationalistic kingdom on earth was genuinely offered and intended by God to be set up within a first century “at hand” time period, the mere fact that Israel’s literal and nationalistic promises have yet to be fulfilled literally, proves the kingdom got postponed until Israel’s time clock begins ticking again in her last days.  

Typical Reformed response: Dispensationalism postpones the imminent “at hand” offer of the kingdom of God within the “at hand” time frame of the Roman Empire, because it falsely assumes that the nature of the kingdom promises were to be fulfilled literally instead of spiritually as confirmed through how the New Testament authors interpreted the promises of the Old Testament.  

Pratt: Although the Second Coming and kingdom was genuinely “at hand” in the first century, we know it got postponed because the fulfillment of these kingdom promises was not fulfilled literally. After all the literal planet has not been dissolved yet has it?  

Our response: My response is identical to the Reformed response, in that it is the faulty presuppositions of both Dispensationalism and the Reformed community with their literal fulfillment of the kingdom assumptions, which allegedly postpones the “at hand” kingdom plans of God, either in His first or Second Comings. Because it didn’t occur in A.D. 70 in the way they think it should have, they reason it must have gotten “postponed.”  

John MacArthur who is a Dispensationalist, claims to believe in the sovereignty of God and likewise believes Psalm 89:27-37 teaches a yet future literal kingdom on earth through the promised Davidic covenant.[5] Yet verses 33-34 discuss how nothing will deter God from His great love for His people and He states in no uncertain terms, “I will not break nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David…” But if God predicted that the kingdom would be established during the time of the Roman Empire and Jesus said that the time of it’s arrival had come and would be fulfilled in an “at hand” and “this generation” time frame, to postpone the kingdom is to “alter” the promise. The rejection of the Jews would hardly postpone Israel’s “at hand” kingdom promises! In fact, their attempts only hastened their judgment and God “laughed” at their attempts to thwart His kingdom plans (cf. Isaiah 2 – 4; Psalm 2). The cross and resurrection did not postpone or alter His kingdom plans they established them according to the book of Hebrews and Peter. The rejection of Jesus the Son of David and the Son of God was “foreordained” within the Davidic covenant and the prophets to be evidence that Israel was in her “last days” and that Christ was already sitting enthroned in His kingdom reigning over His enemies after the ascension (Hebs.1-2/Act 2-4).     

Again, the Scriptural position of the rejection of the Jews that resulted in the crucifiction and resurrection of Christ within an “at hand” “this generation” time period, was that it established Israel’s kingdom promises of both salvation and judgment. These promises and the same imminent time frame were connected to the Second Coming (Mt. 3:2-12; Lk.17:20à25-37, Lk. 21:20-32; Acts 2:40; Mrk. 8:38-9:1; 1 Pet.1:4-12, 2 Pet. 1:11 2:19=1Pet.4:5, 7, 17). I find it extremely disturbing that a “Progressive Dispensationalist” such as John MacArthur and Reformed theologians can say that “this generation” in (Lk.17:25) means the contemporary generation of Christ when it comes to the cross establishing some kind or “sense” of kingdom fulfillment for the Church; but when “this generation” is used to demonstrate the kingdoms arrival with the Second Coming, MacArthur and some Reformed theologians arbitrarily change the meaning of “this generation” and ironically claim we insist,

“on a too-literal interpretation of Matthew 24:34.”[6]    

According to most Dispensationalists its God’s will to save everyone and that His will is constantly being thwarted by the “free will” of man. Therefore, the question begging to be answered here is “How can Dispensationalists in their interpretation of Scripture ever gaurantee that God will save that “last believer” since part of the “sad reality” was that He couldn’t change the hearts of the Jews to accept Jesus the first time around! 

Pratt claims he is a firrm believer in the sovereignty of God as do the last days cults, Arminain theologians and those holding to the views of Dispensationalism. Pratt’s futurist eschatology forces him to have more in common with these theological views, than one honestly defending the sovereignty of God and upholding the integrity of Bible prophecy. 

                                                                      
The Unfolding of Moses Eschatology

In wanting to cover Moses eschatology, Pratt only briefly addresses Deuteronomy 4:30-31, 28-30. Of course it is understandable why he does not want to discuss Deuteronomy 31-32 and how the New Testament authors understood the timing of the Song of Moses to be fulfilled. I believe Pratt falsely sums up Moses eschatology by stating, 

“Moses anticipated that Israel would go into exile from the land. But once the people repented of their sins, they would be forgiven. And then, in the latter days, or the eschaton, they would be brought back to the land of promise and receive tremendous blessings.” (WSTTB, 141).  

Moses predicted that Israel would come back into the land within her “last days” and would “heap up” her sin to such an extent during this period, that God would destroy her and His covenant of death with her while at the same time this being a time of saving Israel (the remnant) and an occasion of rejoicing for the Gentiles. Moses eschatology was actually very advanced and detailed laying out the coming seed of the Messiah through the Abrahamic covenant and the intimate salvations/gathering Messiah would accomplish when He came unto His people (Gen.1-3, 15, 49:10-12). Moses clearly predicted the coming of Messiah as the “greater prophet” and those that would not listen to Him would be destroyed from the old “covenant community” (Deut.18:15-18/Acts 2-3:23).  

The Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 31-32 is probably the most descriptive of Moses eschatology and lays the foundation for Jesus’ eschatology and that of the rest of the New Testament authors. Along with Psalm 110, Deuteronomy 32 is the most quoted passage in the New Testament.  

1) Moses predicted that in Israel’s last days, she will have become “utterly corrupted” (Deut. 31:29, cf. 32:34-35). This means there was coming a day in her covenant history with Jehovah, that they would “fill up the measure” of their sins through the “work of their hands,” whereby they would put to death their Messiah and the prophets He would send to her (Mt. 23:31-36; Acts 2:23; Rev. 6:10-11; 18:20-24).

2) Here Moses describes Israel as the “heavens,” “earth,” and “tender plants.” Isaiah and Jeremiah understood this language and followed Moses soteriological and eschatological pattern in referring to Israel as a creation and de-creation of the heavens and earth (Isa. 51:15-16; Jer. 4:19-31).

3) Moses foretold the “end” of Israel’s old-covenant or the “last days” of their age. This would occur within a very specific 40 year “crooked and perverse generation” time frame of which Jesus, Peter, and Paul identify as their own (Deut. 32:5, 20, Mt. 23:36, 24:34; Mk. 8:38, Acts 2:40; Phil. 2:15). 

4) According to Pratt, Moses eschatology was not that advanced and did not include the Gentiles in a significant way. Yet Paul claims the prophecy to make Israel jealous through the Great Commission being fulfilled in his day fulfills Moses prophecy (Deut. 32:21; Rms. 10:18-19). Paul and the prophets predicted this would be a “short work” upon the land and therefore Christ’s return was “at hand” (Rms. 9:28, 13:11-12).  

5) The Song of Moses predicts the fiery de-creation of the “earth/land” within the time of this perverse and last days generation (Deut. 32:22). John Lightfoot was in agreement with us, that this de-creation verse corresponds to the Olivet Discourse and the burning up of the old-covenant system in A.D. 70 in (Mt. 24:29; 2 Pet. 3).  

6) Because of Israel’s apostasy in her last days, she is described as Sodom and Gomorra (Deut. 32:32), which forms the covenantal curse in Revelation against her along with being described as Babylon and Egypt (Rev. 11:8, 14-18).

7)  When Israel’s latter days would come, the judgment that God had been storing up for her in His vault would be “near” (Deut. 32:34-35). This is what can be called projected imminence and can only be found in a few Old Testament prophecies, this being one of them. 

8) Israel’s scattering out and then coming back in the Promised Land was described by Moses as a “wounding/healing & a death/resurrection” process. The Old Testament prophets and New Testament authors used these concepts to describe Israel’s death and resurrection and then her final death and transformation/resurrection under the new covenant (Deut.32:39/Isa. 25-27/Ezk. 37; Mt. 24:28; Lk. 21:24; Rms. 11:15; 1Cor. 15). 

9) The destruction of old-covenant Israel in A.D. 70 was a judgment for Israel shedding the blood of all the Old Testament righteous, the prophets, Jesus, and the Apostolic prophets He would send to her. Israel being judged for her covenantal blood guilt marked the time for the salvation of the Jewish remnant among Israel and the salvation for the Gentiles (Deut. 32:43; Rms. 9-15:10ff.). Pratt claims that the Old Testament prophets developed the salvation of the gentile motif more than Moses did. However, it should be pointed out, that the Old Testament prophets got their salvation of the gentiles from Moses eschatology! Concerning the full number of the Gentiles coming in and Israel’s promises of salvation being accomplished as and when God had predicted, Paul states, “for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (Rms. 11:29). God’s promises to accomplish a “short work” of salvation upon the Land with Christ’s “at hand” return, were “irrevocable.” Paul interprets Moses eschatological promises using the Greek word ametameletoswhich is defined as,  

of God’s gifts and calling incapable of being changed, not to be taken back, inflexible (RO 11.29).[7] 

God Himself takes an oath that this judgment will occur within this specific last days generation of old-covenant Israel (Deut. 32:40-43/Mt. 23:31-36). Pratt portrays God as a liar and one who breaks His oaths of which He clearly says He would not! 

Concluding Moses Eschatology. It’s understandable why Pratt has avoided the Song of Moses and how it is used by the New Testament authors. Nowhere in Moses eschatology is he discussing the end of the planet earth. As John Lightfoot pointed out, this de-creation language is referring to (Mt. 24:29; 2 Pet.3) and has nothing to do with the dissolving of the planet earth. As John Owen has pointed out, the term “the last days” or “latter days” in the Old Testament and the new, always refers to the dissolution of the old-covenant economy in A.D. 70 and has nothing to do with the end of the planet or new covenant age. When Israel had become “utterly corrupt” in her “last days,” is when her end would be “near.” This is the time frame John the Baptist enters the prophetic scene as Elijah announcing the kingdom was “at hand” and Israel’s last days harvesting “wrath” and salvation were about to be realized and fulfilled. 

The Unfolding of Jeremiah’s Eschatology

Pratt’s theory concerning the prophecy of Jeremiah’s 70 year captivity and restoration is  as follows: 1) The 70 years of captivity could have been avoided, 2) After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, Jeremiah’s predictions of restoration were postponed and partially fulfilled because, 3) the majority of Israel had not repented. Pratt is not specific on what exactly was supposed to occur at the end of these 70 years due to a lack of repentance for Israel! He claims Daniel is told that because all Israel did not repent their prophecies of restoration that were supposed to get realized after the 70 years, got postponed hundreds of years until the times of the New Testament. Therefore, Pratt in essence is saying had the majority of Israel’s “covenant community” repented at the end of the 70 years, apparently, the new covenant and the Messianic prophecies of salvation would have been fulfilled at these two Old Testament restoration periods, but got postponed (WSTTB 42-45). This is identical to the postponement theory of Dispensationalism, which teaches had all or the majority of Israel repented during the time of Christ, all the New Covenant salvation promises would have been realized and the cross, resurrection, and Second Coming promises contained in the Law and the Prophets, would have not been necessary for salvation. 

I propose a much different “pattern” than what Pratt postulates, in which the New Testament authors follow the Old Testament prophets, from type to antitype. 

1) God’s sovereign decrees of judgment and salvation in connection with the reliability of literal time texts.  

a) The Old Testament type concerning a coming judgment, salvation tied to time texts: Like Arminians and Open Theist’s, Pratt seeks to build his theology on such isolated texts as (Jer. 18:1-10). And similarly, as Arminains love to argue that God said Pharaoh hardened his own heart but then hate to discuss the fact God had decreed this to ocurr and in fact God was the one who ultimately hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Pratt fails to discuss the majority of passages in Jeremiah. Pratt conveniently ignores the plethora of passages contained within Jeremiah’s prophecies that address the 70 year judgment/captivity and restoration that was a part of God’s sovereign “plan,” “decree,” in which He “purposed,” gave an “oath,” in declaring that this judgment “must” come upon Jerusalem and its wicked gentile neighbors through the hand of Babylon and then Babylon herself “must” be judged. These texts are so overwhelming clear along with the confirmation of God commanding Jeremiah to not pray for their repentance because their judgment was “certain” it is no wonder he avoids them – (Jer. 1:12, cf. 31:28, Jer. 7:16, 11:14, 17, 13:14, 23, 14:11-12, 15:1, 16:5, 11-13, 18:7-12, 21:10, 23:20, 29:10-14, 34:17-22, 38:3, 43:11, 49:13, 20, 50:45, 51:8-12, 29, 33, 35, 49).                    

God through Jeremiah calls the people to repentance in Jeremiah 4:4ff., 6:8 in light of the imminent fiery judgment upon their land and city. This does not imply they had the ability to repent or that their repentance would altar God’s plans to judge. This call to repentance served its desired results: a) the remnant among Israel and Judah did repent, and b) it served to further harden the consciences of the wicked that their rejection of God was their own fault and not God’s. There is an element in which the prophet is like a preacher of the Gospel – “If you repent, then…”   The purpose of the “why will you…” statements is not to demonstrate God will change His mind, but to demonstrate reasonably to their consciences and all observing the judgment, that it is their love of sin that is brining this disaster upon them and therefore no injustice can be charged against God Himself for their imminent doom. 

The time texts are taken literally and fulfilled literally in Jeremiah’s prophecies.   God’s prophetic certain, decrees, plans, and covenant oath to destroy and judge Judah and the surrounding Gentile nations were inseparably connected to literal time texts. This prophecy of imminent judgment would affect Jeremiah’s contemporaries of his “this generation” in which some of them would witness Judah become a dead carcass and her land would become desolate (Jer. 2:31, 7:29). Pratt claims the prophecies of Jeremiah contradicts the Evangelical, Reformed, and Preterist understanding of Deuteronomy 18:22, in stating, “…prophets often predicted things that did not happen” (WSTTB, 131). However, in Jeremiah 27-28 we have Jeremiah appealing to Deuteronomy 18:22/Jeremiah 28:9 in his confrontation with the false prophet Hananiah whereby he prophesied Judah would go into captivity for a “long time” or 70 years (Jer. 25:11, 29:10, 28) as contrasted to Hananiah’s false prophetic utterance which predicted a restoration that would “soon” end – within 2 years (Jer. 27:16). Clearly Hananiah’s false prediction of a “soon” restoration is to be understood literally along with Jeremiah’s 70 year “long time” (Jer.29:28). God who is Lord over time isn’t having any problems here communicating the certainty and literal timing of His predictions of judgments in connection with (Deut. 18:22)! 

God promises to bring judgment upon Moab by means of Babylon in an “at hand” time frame (Jer. 48:16). This was fulfilled within a literal “at hand” time period and was not “postponed” thousands of years. Then God “purposed” to judge Babylon “soon” by means of the Medes, and it likewise was fulfilled in this literal time frame and was not “postponed” thousands of years (Jer. 51:11-12, 33).   

b) The New Testament atitype: The New Testament authors tell us God had “determined” “set” or “cut out a day” in which the judgment of the world and the raising of the “living and the dead” was “ready,” “at hand,” and “about to” to take place (Acts 17:31, 24:15 YLT & WEY; 1Pet. 4:5, 7, 17). This judgment and vindication was applicable to fall upon Jesus’ contemporary “this generation” (Mt. 23:36, 24:29-34). 

The writer to the Hebrews addresses Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31ff.) in Hebrews 8:8-12, 10:16-17. The inspired teaching of Hebrews 8-10 is that the old -covenant age was “soon to disappear” at the Second Appearing of Christ which was described as being “at hand” in a “very little while” and would “not be delayed” (Heb. 8:13, 9:26-28, 10:25, 37). This is also in fulfillment of God’s oath concerning the timing and spiritual nature of inheriting the Abrahamic covenant in which God could not lie as earlier stated in Hebrews 6:13-19. For Pratt to say Christ’s imminent return to judge old-covenant Jerusalem and give salvation to new covenant Jerusalem was genuinely imminent, but He decided to “postpone” and “delay” His Second Coming (when in fact God says just the opposite), is to make God a liar and breaker of His covenantal oath to judge old-covenant Jerusalem and save/gather new-covenant Jerusalem! 

Like Jeremiah, those professors within the covenant community within his contemporary generation who had committed the “sin unto death” were not to be prayed for because it was “impossible” for them to repent and have life (cf. Heb. 2, 6, 10; 1 John 5:16-17). However, God had decreed and sovereignly willed that none of His Jewish or Gentile sheep would “perish” before His return (John 10, 2 Pet. 3:9).

Both Mathison and Gentry concede that old-covenant Jerusalem in the book of Revelation is the “Great City,” the “Harlot,” and “Babylon.” As we have seen in Jeremiah, God had “purposed” to judge Babylon “soon” and did. God’s antitype to the “soon” destruction of Babylonian was His determined counsel to judge Babylon/Jerusalem “soon” in A.D. 70. As Babylon was a destroying mountain to be burned up “soon” for her persecuting and shedding the blood of Jerusalem and therefore “must fall” (Jer. 51:25, 33, 35, 49); so too was old-covenant Jerusalem/Babylon to be set ablaze and cast into the sea/lake of fire for persecuting God’s new covenant Jerusalem (Mt. 21:21; Rev. 6:10-11; Rev. 8:8). As a remnant heeded Jeremiah’s prophecy and left Babylon and returned to Jerusalem before the Mede’s came to destroy her (Jer. 51:6, 45); Christians heeded the prophecy of Jesus and John and left old-covenant Jerusalem/Babylon to be spiritually gathered to a heavenly Jerusalem and physically gathered to Pella, before the Romans came to destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 66-77 (cf. Luke  21:20-22; Rev. 18:4). 

2) De-creation language at the sound of the trumpet affecting a local earth/land.

a) The Old Testament type:  At the sound of the trumpet call in Jeremiah 4:5, God uses Genesis 1:2 creation language to describe the de-creation of Israel by means of the Babylonian conquest. Jeremiah’s judgment only affected the local “land” of Israel and not the entire planet earth and yet Genesis 1 langue is used to describe its judgment Jeremiah 4:19-31. Even God’s judgment upon the “whole earth” of the gentiles Jeremiah is prophesying against were only the gentile nations surrounding Jerusalem at this time and included their local known world and not global nations and peoples (cf. Jer. 25:17-38, Jer. 46-51). Jeremiah wrote letters reaching the exiles of Israel within these gentile nations calling them and these nations to repentance and eventually to return to Jerusalem at the end of the 70 year period. 

b) The New Testament antitype: At the sound of a trumpet call and using Genesis 1-3 language, the same pattern to describe a local judgment coming upon the then known earth/land in the New Testament is used Matthew 24:29-34; 2 Peter 3; Revelation 10:6-7 – 11:18-19; 1Corinthians 15; 1Thessalonians 4. And similar to the ministry of Jeremiah, Paul traveled and wrote letters to covenantal and ethnic Jews, and Gentiles throughout the then know world of the Roman Empire in which the great commission had been fulfilled Colossians 1:5-6, 23; Romans 10:18, 16:25-26.  

3) God “sowed” or “planed” Israel

a) The Old Testament type: Israel going into exile and covenantal/spiritual death is described as God “sowing” or “planting” her as a seed among the gentile foreign nations (cf. Jer. 31:27, cf. Hos. 2:23, 8; spiritual, covenantal, and corporate death – Isa. 26-27; Ezk. 37).

b) The New Testament antitype: Israel was in the process of being transformed from old-covenant glory to new and “being sown” and “being raised” from “the death” produced by “the law.” This covenantal and corporate process was completed at Christ’s return in A.D. 70 1 Corinthians 15; 2 Corinthians 3.          

Concluding Jeremiah’s prophecies: The bulk of Jeremiah’s prophecy concerns a call to repentance primarily for Israel, in which she would go into captivity for 70 years and at the end, a believing remnant would be gathered back into Jerusalem. This process would be a time of Rachel weeping for her children as described in Jeremiah 31:15. The antitype begins with Israel or Rachel weeping for her children in Matthew 2:17-18 and concerns another period of roughly 70 years in which Israel’s King is born and through faith in Him, Israel and the gentiles begin a journey of coming out of the Babylonian captivity of spiritual sin and death and into the new-covenant life of Christ and inheriting the New Jerusalem by A.D. 70. There is no exegetical evidence in which one can claim not enough Jew’s from the “covenant community” repented in order to fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecy as Pratt suggests! It was predicted that a “remnant” and “great throng” would return and “none would be missing.” This group of 42,360 is documented for us in Nehemiah 7. Pratt’s statements are false and there simply is no evidence here of a “postponed” prophecy due to a lack of repentance! 

 
The Unfolding of Daniel’s Eschatology

1) Daniel 2: Daniel interprets a dream concerning “what will happen in days to come.” 2:28. During the time of these 4 world empires, God will set up His eternal kingdom and it will never be subjected to others taking it over and nor will it ever end. The “rock cut without hands,” is Christ and His kingdom whom will take over Israel and judge the 4 previous kingdoms by striking the power of the gentiles at the feet or during the time of the Roman Empire. During this Empire, God’s kingdom will grow into a huge mountain covering the “whole earth/land” 2:34-35. Christ is the “stone” (Isa. 28:16; Mt.21) of which Israel and the gentiles stumbled over as the Great Commission was preached throughout the Roman Empire. 

2) Daniel 3-6: Not a “hair” perished on the three Hebrew men in the fiery furnace 3:27 as a type of the remnant making it through the firery trails preceding the wrath that would be poured out upon Jerusalem in AD 66-70 (Lk. 21:18, 1Pet. 1:5-7). Daniel is saved from the lions as a type of God delivering the remnant from Satan whom roared about as a lion seeking to whom he may devour – but they would overcome and God would deliver them (1Pet. 5:8; Rev. 2:9-10, 3:8-10).

3) Daniel 7: Jesus comes as the Ancient of Days during the time of this fourth kingdom/beast which is described as being unlike the others. He comes to judge the “little horn” for his persecution of the saints. The time of judging the little horn, is the time for the books to be opened and Christ’s Second Appearing in judgment takes place. There has been speculation as to the identity of who the little horn is among Preterist interpreters – Rome and Nero, or old-covenant Jerusalem and or some ruler of the first century “synagogue of Satan” whom persecuted the first century Christians before they inherited the kingdom in AD 70.

4) Daniel 8: This chapter is about Greece overcoming the Medes and Persian Empire. This is about Antiochus IV Epiphanes seeking to throw down the stars or heavenly people of the Jews and him desecrating the Jewish temple in the periods of (168-164 BC). It is described as “the time of the end” 8:10-19. Because this prophecy concerned the “distant future” in comparison to Daniel’s life span, he is told to “seal up the vision” 8:26. This chapter once again confirms that time statements are literal and Israel as a covenant people, are described as a heavenly people. Thus stars falling from the heavens etc. are not literal stars.  

5) Daniel 9: Daniel intercedes for the people in order to return to the land as Jeremiah’s prophecy foretold. However, God gives Daniel revelation that goes beyond Jeremiah’s 70 year exile and restoration prophecy and includes the times of the Messiah which would take place during the time of the fourth Gentile Empire – Rome.  

Again Pratt claims God allegedly explains to Daniel that the restoration for the exiles at the end of the 70 years Jeremiah foretold, “…had been extended from seventy years to seventy weeks of years, or about 490 years. Because the people had refused to repent, God decided to multiply the length of the exile by seven” (WSTTB, p.145). Really? Examining Nehemiah’s prayer and the repentance that took place from the remnant in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, it seems clear enough that the people repented and were restored back into the land after 70 years just as Jeremiah’s prophecy predicted. Apparently Pratt doesn’t want to discuss that prayer and those prophetic books in connection to Jeremiah’s 70 year captivity and restoration prophecy. God is answering Daniel’s prayer and explaining the fulfillment of the new covenant prophecies contained in Jeremiah and giving more revelation concerning the days of Messiah. In other words, God is revealing the time frame of the antitype of what the 70 years of exile/restoration prophecy pointed. There is no “postponed” or failed eschatology here! Again, just as Jeremiah’s 70 year type exile/restoration prophecy was fulfilled in the literal time frame it was predicted to come; so too were the antitype promises of the new covenant exile/restoration fulfilled in a “this generation” “at hand” “shortly” “in a very little while” time frame. From Christ’s birth to His parousia in A.D. 70, was a period of 70 years in which Christ as THE eschatological Cyrus, Ezra, Nehemiah, Zechariah, etc., restored and rebuilt the eternal City of the Living God.[8] There was no postponement or delay to the remnant returning to the Land in the type of the 70 year prophecy of Jeremiah, as there was no delay in Christ building up and establishing the New Jerusalem by A.D. 70 at His imminent return (Heb.3, 10:37, 13:14WEY, Rev. 22:1-2, 22:6-7, 10, 12). 

Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy as interpreted by Jesus, clearly foretells the establishing of the Messianic Kingdom during the time of the fourth gentile kingdom, which virtually every futurist acknowledges as the time of the Roman Empire. However, the book of Daniel, Jesus, nor the New Testament authors limit the arrival of the kingdom to Christ’s first coming but understand that the kingdom’s establishment involves Christ’s Second Coming during the Roman Empire as well (Dan. 7:15-27, 9:24-27, 12:1-7). Jesus tells us that when He would return on the clouds of heaven marking the time of the abomination of desolation of which Daniel foretold, is when Daniel’s prophecy, indeed all Old Testament prophecy concerning the last things would be fulfilled (Mt. 24:15, 30-31/Dan. 7:13-14/9:24-27/12:1-7; Lk. 21:20-22). All Old Testament prophecy, the Second Coming, and the everlasting Messianic kingdom promises were established by A.D. 70 during the time of the Roman Empire. Daniel nor any of the New Testament authors interpreting Daniel, teach a “postponed” or “delayed” Second Coming. Dispensationalists are in error by interjecting a 2,000 + year gap between Daniel’s 69th and 70th weeks. Reformed theologians are in error for trying to squeeze all the redemptive events of the 70 weeks into the personal ministry of Christ and the cross.   

6) Daniel 10-11: Once again, although God is Lord over time He is able to sufficiently communicate literal time language to man. Daniel is told concerning the prophecies in these two chapters that they concern events “many days yet to come” (Dan. 10:14). They are addressing the “time of the end” and not the end of time (Dan. 11:35, 40). Contrary to Pratt’s theory, the angel assures Daniel that these prophetic revelations have to do with God “appointing” the time of there fulfillments and have thus been “determined” and and thus “must take place” (Dan. 11:35-36). Suffice it to say these are not prophecies that “seldom” got fulfilled, postponed, delayed, or are just left up in the realm of the “who knows” what’s going happen and when category. Even in their typological fulfillments concerning the Medes, Persians, and Greece, they were fulfilled how and when God determined them to be fulfilled.

7) Daniel 12: This chapter poses all kinds of problems for futurists especially for Reformed theologians such as Gentry, Mathison, Sproul, and DeMar whom claim the great tribulation and abomination of desolation were fulfilled by A.D.70. The angel tells Daniel that when the power of the holy people is completely shattered (Jerusalem and the temple destroyed), is when “all these things will be completed” (Dan. 12:7). Exegetically, it is impossible to cherry pick the fulfillment of the great tribulation and the abomination of desolation with the destruction and judgment of Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70 without including the “all things” of the judgment and resurrection that are contextually interlocked with these other two eschatological events! Jesus identified the resurrection of (Dan. 12:2-3) to occur at the end of the old-covenant “this age” He was living in and addressing in (Mt. 13:39-43, 24:30-31). 

Concluding Daniel’s prophecies. Since it is admitted that Daniel 2, 7, 9, and 12 are chapters giving prophecies concerning Israel’s last days and refer to the general resurrection and judgment at Christ’s return, we need to ask the straightforward question on the timing issues:

 

Did God change His method of telling time

 

Between Daniel & John concerning the same subject matter?

 

 

 

DANIEL WAS TOLD:

 
 

 

1·   “Seal up the vision”

 

 

 

JOHN WAS TOLD:

 
 
 
1·   “Don’t seal up…”

 

2·   Why? “the appointed time was long…” and

 
 
 
3·   “…the vision refers to many days yet to come.”
 
      (Dan. 10:1;14)

 

2·   Why? “…for the time is at hand.”

 
 
 
 
 

3·   “…for the time is near

 
      (Rev. 22:10 & 1:3)

 

4·   Daniel was told that he would not live to see this prophecy fulfilled.

 
      (Dan. 12:13)
 
4·   John was told that he could live to see the prophecy fulfilled.
 
      (Mat. 16:27-28, Mat. 10:22-23; Mat. 24:34; Jn. 21:18-22)

God who rules over time apparently had no problem communicating to man (Daniel) who is bound by time, that this prophecy wouldn’t be fulfilled until a “long time” either in referring to typological fulfillments prior to A.D. 70, or referring to A.D. 70 specifically.    Indeed the time of fulfillments didn’t come until some hundreds of years from the time Daniel received the visions. God’s time phrase of a “long time” was related to Daniel in the terms of his physical life span. Since some 300+ years was well beyond his life span, it was a “long time” away. In Revelation, John is told the opposite of Daniel, “Do not seal up the the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near” (Rev. 22:10). God’s time phrases of “near,” “shortly,” “quickly,” and “at hand,” to John and the seven churches which were in Asia were promises also related to their life spans. John and the other disciples were promised that some of them would live to see these things come to pass in their generation (Matt. 16:28; 24:34, Jn. 21:18-22). Both visions of Daniel and John (and the prophecies in Peter’s epistles) deal with the kingdom, the Second Coming of Christ in judgment, the tribulation, and the resurrection of the dead. According to the futurist, the time is still “near” for John’s vision to take place even though it has been some 2000+ years since John had his vision. Why would God now change His way of communicating the time of the fulfillment of Daniel’s and John’s visions concerning the same subject matter? The answer is that He didn’t. At the time when Daniel had his visions which included the Second Advent and His kingdom, the time of its designated fulfillment, AD 70, really referred to “many days yet to come.” When John had His vision concerning the Second Coming of Christ and His kingdom, it was only seven or fewer years away. Therefore, “a long time” meant a long time and “near” really did mean NEAR! 

Although Reformed theologians such as John Lightfoot and Gary DeMar are very inconsistent in trying to harmonize their preterism, with their creedal confessions, I would agree with such statements as this, “John Lightfoot, in a sermon on Revelation 20:1-2, concludes that ‘where Daniel ends John begins, and goes no farther back, and where John begins Daniel ends, and goes no farther forward. For Daniel sheweth the state and persecutors of the Church of the Jews, from the building of Jerusalem by Cyrus, to the destruction of it by Titus, and he goes no farther.’”

[9]

The “pattern” from Old Testament prophecy to the New is not the “seldom fulfilled,” failed, postponed, or “delayed” theory Pratt would lead the Reformed and Evangelical community to believe; but rather, God determining certain prophecies to be fulfilled within literal time texts, and God being faithful to watch over and thus fulfill His Words!  

Conclusion  

When we examine the prophetic Old Testament types and the New Testament anti-types, a different “pattern” emerges than the failed eschatology of Richard Pratt. God kept His covenant oaths and promises and did in fact cause His people to come back into their land through Ezra and Nehemiah and experience a resurrection from the dead.  These being types of another resurrection to take place not “in the land,” under the old covenant, but rather “in Christ,” under the new covenant.  This resurrection would be fulfilled as and when Jesus and the New Testament author’s claimed they would.  Jesus and the New Testament authors understood Moses last days terminal generation to be their own!  There is no other “covenant community” and period of time of which the New Testament addresses an imminent fulfillment.

Jeremiah appealed to Moses test cast for Israel to judge between his prophetic utterance and that of Hananiah’s false prediction. Likewise, this judgment of the two prophets contained literal time frame references not to be spritualized away.  Jeremiah’s prophetic utterances of Israel and the surrounding nations contained literal time frame statements which were fulfilled as and when God said they would be fulfilled.  Pratt’s futuristic “scheme” has been exposed as portraying God as not Sovereign and keeping His decreetive oaths and promises.        

There is simply no way one can argue that the repentance of the “covenant community” among ethnic and old-covenant Israel could be repeated in our future. There was only one period within redemptive history in which the old and new covenants were overlapping with the old to soon disappear and the new “about to” to be fully realized.  That old-covenant system vanished in A.D. 70 never to return (Heb. 8:13-10:37).  I have addressed the main text Pratt appeals to in 2 Peter 3:8-9 under my article entitled, THE ESCHATOLOGICAL TIME TEXTS IN 1 AND 2 PETER. The reader is encouraged to now turn to that article in order to read my final response to Pratt’s groundless futurist scheme.  Here I also address the eschatological time texts in 1 and 2 Peter as a response to Mathison and the other authors of WSTTB?        



[1] Pinnock, Clark, A Case for Arminianism The Grace of God, The will of Man, p. 21, Zondervan pub. 1989

[2] Pinnock, ibid. p.20 emphasis MJS

[3] Clark Pinnock, Most Moved Mover, 51, emphasis added.

[4] Mal Couch, ed. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, The End Times Controversy, (Eugene Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 304.  

[5] John MacArthur, The SECOND COMING Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1999), 72.  

[6] MacArthur ibid, p.80 emphasis added.

[7]Friberg, Timothy ; Friberg, Barbara ; Miller, Neva F.: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 2000 (Baker’s Greek New Testament Library 4), S. 46

[8] Reformed theologians such as Meredith Kline teach that the 70 weeks is not a literal 490 years prophecy and that the 70 weeks are symbolic of the period of Christ’s Jubilee or His redemptive work spanning a period between Jesus’ First and Second Coming. If the 70 weeks is not to be taken literally but symbolic of the time Christ accomplishing salvation and redemption, and Israel understood that when Messiah would come He would “recapitulate” or relive and identify with Israel’s deliverances and redemptive history under the Patriarchs, then perhaps the 70 years of Babylonian captivity and the 70 years of Christ as King of Israel in His flesh and spirit are significant? During these years Christ began delivering His remnant (the church) out from among the old-covenant Babylon/Jerusalem into Himself through faith.   

[9] Gary DeMar, BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW MAGAZINE, The Prophecies of Daniel: Why They Don’t Point to Us, p.16, Vol. .23, #10 & 11, Oct / Nov. 2007, emphasis added. 

 

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The Future of Israel Re-examined

The Future of Israel Re-examined

By James B. Jordan
July, 1991. BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 27 July, 1991

      According to almost all Biblical expositors, Romans 11 predicts a future conversion to Christianity by the Jews as a nation. Premillenial expositors see this event as occurring during the tribulations they believe will come just before our Lord’s return. Amillenial expositors hold the same view. Postmillenialists see the conversion of the Jews as the event that inaugurates the “latter-day glory.” There are a few who hold out against this interpretation of Romans 11. Some go with the opinion that the phrase “all Israel will be saved” in verse 26 refers to the Church, the new Israel of God. In general, this view holds that since the history of Old Testament Israel is fulfilled by the transformation of Israel into the Church, this is what verse 26 is referring to. This interpretation has relatively few advocates, however, since throughout Romans 9-11, “Israel” means the Jews. It is unlikely that Paul changes his meaning in Romans 11:26. Others hold that the conversion of Israel as described in Romans 11 is not an event, but simply points to the fact that throughout the history of the New Covenant, Jews will be converting all along the way, and in this way the sum total of “all Israel will be saved.” The problem with this view is that throughout the passage events are what is being discussed. It is unlikely that Paul suddenly shifts to a generality in 11:26.

      Thus, the “future conversion of Israel” interpretation continues to hold sway.

      About three years ago I began to question this interpretation. It seems to me very odd that this is the only place in the New Testament where a future conversion of the Jews is predicted. Almost every book in the New Testament speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem. Many speak of the gospel’s going out to all the world and transforming it. Many also speak of our Lord’s Final Advent at the end of the present age. But nowhere else is anything said about a future conversion of the Jews.

      It occurred to me that perhaps Romans 11 predicts an event that was future to Paul, but not future to us; to wit: that Romans 11 predicts a conversion of many Jews to Christ just before the destruction of Israel in A.D. 70. The more I thought about it, the more sense this interpretation made.

      As I shared my thoughts with several theologian-friends, I found that others had begun to think along the same lines. I was encouraged to write up my new thoughts and publish them in this newsletter. I have been reluctant to do so, however, because so many other friends have strongly propounded the futurist view of Romans 11. Finally, however, I have been persuaded to share my thoughts with a wider audience.

      Of course, for years I have taught the futurist view of Romans 11, arguing that the Jews and all the nations of the world (though not every individual) will be converted to Christ and this event will usher in aperiod of prosperity (not perfection) for Christendom. This is the “Puritan” interpretation, and I have been an advocate of it for years. Now I no longer think it is correct. I ask my fellow “Puritans” to grant me the space to set out my thoughts, and to consider these things with me.

      I believe that a postmillenial, or optimistic, view of the future course of Christian history is taught or assumed in many passages of the Bible. I used the entire second half of my book ‘Through New Eyes’ to argue that an expansive view of the kingdom of God is woven into the warp and woof of Biblical revelation. The parables of the leaven and of the mustard seed are enough to show that Christianity is destined to grow and grow. And such Biblical predictions as that all the nations will come to Zion to receive the truth, and that the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, establish in my mind that there will be a long period of gospel prosperity before the Lord’s final return. All nations will convert eventually, and this includes the Jews.

      What I now question is whether the Bible predicts a time when suddenly all nations will turn to Christ, an event capped off by the conversion of the Jews. All I see in the Bible is general progress over time. It may be that the Christianization of the world will proceed along the same lines it has for the past two millennia, gradually building towards the latter-day glory. On the other hand, there may be a crisis that ushers in the golden age; but if there is, I don’t think Romans 11 has anything to do with it.

      I hope that I have set my postmillenial and Puritan brethren’s minds to rest by these comments.

 

      PRETERISM

      Before going any further, I need to explain for any new readers that I am committed to the “preterist” approach to the interpretation of prophecy. The preterist school holds that most of the predictions in the New Testament concern the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Anything spoken of as “near” or “at hand” was fulfilled in the first century, as was anything connected with special signs. Matthew 24-25 make it clear to me that there are no special signs of the Final Advent; the Master returns without warning after a “long time.”

      In particular, the preterists maintain that the Book of Revelation was written around 65 A.D., and that it is mostly concerned with the destruction of Jerusalem. My own lectures through Revelation are available from Biblical Horizons. A thorough study of the dating of Revelation is available in Kenneth Gentry’s “Before Jerusalem Fell’, an excellent commentary on Revelation is available in David Chilton’s ‘Days of Vengeance’, and a fine introduction to the preterist view is Chilton’s ‘Paradise Restored’. These three books are available from the Institute for Christian Economics, Box 8000, Tyler TX 75711. (As my lectures on Revelation show, I don’t agree with Chilton at every point, particularly in his interpretation of Revelation 14:14-20.) Preterism takes note of the fact that the Temple and Jerusalem are related typologically to the Church, In Revelation 2-3, Jesus promises to visit and inspect His churches from time to time. Each church is said to be in a city. Jesus threatens to eliminate churches that have apostatized, and to judge their cities. Then Revelation 4-19 show what Jesus is talking about by describing the destruction of the church (Temple) in the city of Jerusalem. Moreover, the coming of Christ to pass judgement on the old covenant and the old creation in A.D. 70 is typologically related to His future coming to judge the new creation at the end of time. Thus, the view that most New Testament prophecy has been fulfilled in A.D. 70 does not make it irrelevant for us today.

      There is a school of thought that goes by the name “consistent preterist.” Advocates of this view hold that every prophesied event in the Bible was fulfilled by A.D. 70, and that the Bible does not teach any Final Advent of Jesus Christ. The “consistent preterists” deny the resurrection of the physical body, and hold that this present world will continue forever and that there will be no such Last Judgement as the Church has taught.

      This view was proposed by a few exegetes of the last century, most prominently by J. Stuart Russell, whose book ‘The Parousia’ has been reprinted by Baker Book House. The most noted advocate of this viewpoint today is the Church of Christ theologian Max R. King. The Church of Christ is a largely preterist denomination, and some of their theologians have done good work in the area of interpreting prophecy. Most are very unhappy with King’s extreme position, and within Church of Christ circles there is a growing body of literature arguing against “consistent preterism.” I have dealt with the “consistent preterist” viewpoint in my lectures on “The A.D. 70 Question,” and my lectures on Matthew 24 can be consulted for my thinking on that chapter.

      I mention King because his recent book ‘The Cross and the Parousia of Christ’ (Parkman Road Church of Christ, 4705 Parkman Road, Warren, Oh; 1978) contains within it a helpful exposition of Romans 9-11. King’s theology is badly confused, and I cannot give a good recommendation to his book, but his discussion of Romans 9-11 I have found to be of some help. Since King believes every New Testament prophecy was fulfilled in the events around A.D. 70, he naturally sees Romans 11 as fulfilled then as well. On this latter point I think he is correct though my interpretation of Romans 11 differs significantly from his.

     

      WHO WERE THE JEWS

      Most Christians think of the Jews as a race of people descended from Abraham. In this section of this essay I want to call this assumption into question, by looking at the history of Israel in the Old Testament. When God called Abraham and made him a priest to the gentile nations, He commanded him to use the sign of circumcision to mark out the Hewbrews from the other nations. Abraham’s household at this time included at least 318 fighting men (Gen. 14:14), as well as their wives and children, possibly many more servants. All of these men were circumcised. We see these servants mentioned in the book of Genesis several times (Gen.26:19ff.; 32:16), and when Jacob went down to sojourn in Egypt, so many people went with him that he had to be given the whole land of Goshen to dwell in. Genesis 46 provides a list of only 70 actual blood descendants of Abraham who went into Egypt. Thus, from the very beginning, the Israelites were defined by covenant, not by blood and race.

      The same was true for each of the tribes within Israel. A Levite was not necessarily a blood descendant of Levi, but more likely was a descendant of one of the patriarchs’ servants who was a part of Levi’s company. Only a small percentage of Levites would actually have been descendants of Levi.

      These several thousand people became over two million by the time of the Exodus 215 years later. Only a small percentage of the people who came out of Egypt had any racial connection with Abraham. Moreover, added to the company of Israel at this time was a vast mixed multitude, many of whom became circumcised members of the nation, and therefore members of individual tribes as well.

      There was another admixture of converts in the time of David and Solomon. Think of Uriah the Hittite, for example. Then again, the book of Esther tells us that during and after the Exile many more gentiles became Jews(Esth. 8:17).

      What this means is that very few Jews at the time of Christ had any of Abraham’s blood in them. They were a nation formed by covenant, not a race formed by blood. To be sure, Jesus Himself was a true blood descendant of Abraham, and His genealogy is important for theological reasons, but few other Jews could trace their genealogy to Abraham. What I seek to establish by this survey is this: With the passing away of the Old Covenant, there is no longer any such thing as a Jew in the Biblical sense, unless by “True Jews” we mean Christians. There is no covenant, and therefore there is no nation, no “race.”

      What, then, are modern Jews? Modern Jews are people who choose to think of themselves as descendants of Israel. Most modern Jews are not semites, but are descended form Eastern European tribes that converted to Judaism in the middle ages. Arthur Koestler’s ‘The Thirteenth Tribe’ provides much information about this. Modern Jews do not worship the God of the Old Testament. They are either secular humanists, or else Talmudists, and the Talmud has no more relation to the Old Testament than does the Quran or the Book of Mormon. Like the Quran and the Book of Mormon, the Talmud and Mishnah are designed to add to and reinterpret the Old Testament in such a way as to obliterate completely the revelation of God through Jesus Christ (compare Luke 24:27). The “God” of Judaism is as much a fiction as the “God” of Islam and the “God” of Mormonism.

      It is entirely possible that there is not one drop of Abraham’s blood in any modern Jew. Of the tiny percentage of Israel that had any of Abraham’s blood in the first century, it is possible that all such either became Christians or were slain in the Jewish War of A.D. 70. No one can know for sure about something like this, and it does not matter in the slightest.

      Modern Jews are a separate nation of people with a self-identity, spread out among many other nations. The closest analogy to them are the Gypsies. The only difference between Modern Jews and Gypsies is that the Modern Jews claim to have a relation to the Biblical Jews, a claim I maintain is false.

      An analogy may help. Mormons think of themselves as Christians, and call themselves Christians, but they are not Christians. They are counter-feit Christians. Just so, Modern Jews think of themselves as Jews, but they are not Jews. They are counterfeits of Biblical Jews. I say this not to disparage them, but to be accurate. In fact, I shall argue later in this paper that this business of treating Jews as special is directly related to the persecution the Jews have so frequently experienced.

     

      TRANSFORMATIONS

      Let us return to history for another slant on this matter. When God called Israel out of Egypt, most of the people refused to follow Him and died in the wilderness. The old Hebrew people ceased to exist and were transformed into Israel, their new name. (I have discussed this succession of names in my book, ‘Through New Eyes’.) The Israel that entered into the promised land was a new people made up of a mixture of Hebrews and converted gentiles, the mixed multitude. Their leaders were Joshua, a converted Hebrew, and Caleb, a converted gentile Kenizzite (Gen. 15:19; Josh. 14:6). (By “conversion” I mean that they entered the Mosaic Covenant.) According to Numbers 13:6, Caleb’s family had not only been adopted into the tribe of Judah, but had risen to prominence in it. This event is directly analogous to the New Testament situation. The wilderness wanderings lasted 40 years, as did the span between A.D. 30 and 70. The Jews were called by Jesus and the apostles, and many converted (that is, they entered the New Covenant). Some reverted to Judaism, turning into apostate Judaizers, and like the apostates in Moses’ day, they “died in the wilderness by A.D. 70. Meanwhile, many “mixed multitudes” gentiles joined the kingdom. By A.D. 70, it was time to enter the promised land, and the old Jewish people ceased to exist, being transformed into Christians, their new name.

      The same kind of event happened at the Exile. A study of the book of Ezekiel will show that God called His people out of Judea into the wilderness of exile, where He tabernacled with them. The people were given a choice: either move forward with God or perish by looking backward to the old ways. During the time of exile, as we have seen, many gentiles were converted into the nation. By the time the Exile was over, and the people returned to the Promised Land, the old Israel ceased to exist, being transformed into Jews, their new name.

      Let us return to the Mosaic transition and examine the phenomenon of “falling away.” At Mount Sinai, all the people accepted the new Mosaic Covenant. Before too long, however, a large group of people were objecting to one of the most distinctive features of the Mosaic Covenant. During patriarchal times, any man might offer sacrifice at an altar to God, but the worship of the Tabernacle was “closer” to God and therefore holier and more dangerous. It is dangerous for a sinner to get too close to the Consuming Fire, and so the only people allowed to approach the new Mosaic altar were the priests, who were specially ordained and anointed for this purpose. God forbade all sacrifice except that conducted at the Tabernacle, which meant that the Hebrew people were no longer permitted to build and sacrifice at altars. As it became clear that the people had “lost” this “right,” those who did not perceive that the Mosaic Covenant was in fact more glorious than the Abrahamic Covenant had been, rebelled. Their argument was that “all the people are holy and all are priests” (Ex. 19:6) and that Moses and Aaron were exalting themselves over the congregation (Numbers 16-17). They were drawing the wrong inferences from Exodus 19:6 because they were clinging to the older covenant. This group of rebels is closely paralleled by the Judaizers of the New Testament era. The Judaizers were people who became Christians, and then realized that the leaders of the Christian community were changing the rules on them. Just as Korah, Dathan, and Abiram did not want to give up the old Hebrew ways in order to become Israelites, so the Judaizers did not want to give up the old Jewish ways in order to become Christians.

      Just as Korah and company accused Moses and Aaron of inventing their own religion, so the Judaizers accused Paul. Just as many of the Israelites in Moses’ day wanted to return to Egypt, so the Judaizers wanted to return to Judaism. This is the “falling away” to which the New Testament refers a number of times.

      Korah and his followers were killed, and the rebels of Moses’ day died during the 40 years in the wilderness. Their beliefs, however, continued to find expression in Israel. From the time of the Conquest under Joshua to the Exile under Nebuchadnezzar, there were many people who insisted on worshipping “God” on high places. They insisted that they, and not those who served the Tabernacle/Temple, were the true Hebrews. They insisted that they were the true sons of Abraham, and that the promised land belonged to them. They worshipped God, they claimed, in the same way Abraham and the patriarchs did: at altars they made themselves with sacrifices they offered themselves. They claimed that they were preserving the old ways, but the prophets said they were idolaters who had become corrupted with paganism.

      How true was the claim of the “high placers”? It was not true at all. The true sons of Abraham were those who accepted the Mosaic Covenant. The true owners of the promised land were those who moved into the new covenant at Mount Sinai, and who set aside patriarchal worship for something better. At the Exile, God removed the “high placers” permanently from His land, and gave it to those who would be loyal to the Temple worship.

      The same is true in the New Covenant. The Judaizers and those Jews who would not accept Jesus were killed at the end of the 40-year “wilderness” period from 30-70 A.D. Their beliefs, however, continued to find expression among the Jews who survived. The Ebionites carried on the heresies of the Judaizers, and the Talmudic Jews carried in the heresies of the Pharisees. They insist that they, and not the Christians, are the true Jews. They insist that they are the true sons of Abraham, and that the promised land belongs to them. They worship God, they claim, in the same way the Jews of Jesus’ day did: through Passover and synagogue. They claim that they preserve the old ways, but the New Testament and the Christian religion say that they are idolaters who have become corrupted with paganism.

      How true is the claim of post-New Covenant Judaism? It is not true at all. The true sons of Abraham, and of the Biblical Jews, are those who accept the New Covenant. The true owners of the promised land are those who moved into the New Covenant with Jesus, and who set aside Passover and synagogue for something better. At the Holocaust (A.D. 70), God removed the “Jews” from His land, and gave legal title to it to those who would be loyal to Him. (Notice that Modern Jews occupy the land of Palestine only because the Christian West supplies them with money, arms, technology, and legal treaties. The Promised Land belongs to the sons of Abraham – Christians – and the only reason Modern Jews are there today is because Christians let them be.)

 

The upshot of our survey of Israel’s history is this: The Hebrews ceased to exist when they were transformed into Israelites. The Israelites ceased to exist when they were transformed into Jews. And the Jews ceased to exist when they were transformed into Christians. The continuing existence of people calling themselves Jews and claiming to represent the old order does not change these facts. “Jew” is an English contraction of “Judahite,” which was the name given to God’s priestly nation after the Exile. Calling yourself a Jew does not make you one, and in the Biblical sense of the term Jew, there were no longer any Jews after A.D. 70, unless by “True Jews” we mean Christians.

What about the land? Well, consider this: Suppose in Moses’ day the blood-line Hebrews had gone to the circumcised descendants of Abraham’s servants and said this: “The land was promised to us, not to you. We have legal title to it; you don’t.” Or suppose they said this to the converts among the mixed multitude? It is clear that they would have been wrong to say this. All Israelites were the same as far as their inheritance was concerned (save for the Levites).

Similarly, Christian Jews have no special claim to the land of Palestine. There is only one kind of Christian, and all Christians are in Christ, and all Christians have exactly the same rights. The idea that there are two kinds of Christians is a Satanic heresy, one that Paul anathematizes in the book of Galatians. In my opinion, the notion that the Jews, after they convert, will have a claim on the land of Palestine smacks of just this heresy.

Now, what I have written above is the logic of Biblical theology, and it is basically what the New Testament teaches everywhere except possibly Romans 11. The futurist interpretation of Romans 11 will counter what I have written above by saying, “True, when Israel came into being, the Hebrews ceased to exist, and when the Jews came into being, Israel ceased to exist, as you have put it. But Romans 11 reveals a mystery, which is that this time the old people continue to exist as an apostate nation, which will someday convert to Christ. Thus, you are wrong, Jim, when you say that the Modern Jews are no different from any other people. They are indeed special.”

I answer: Obviously, I need to expound Romans 11 and argue my case. But before doing so, let me say that the mystery of Romans 11:25 needs to be understood in the light of everything else the New Testament says about the gospel mystery. Ephesians 3 makes it clear that the mystery is that in Christ there is no longer any distinction, as there was in the Old Covenant, between priestly Israelite and non-priestly God-fearing gentile. That is the whole point of the mystery. Thus, the meaning of the mystery runs against any notion of a continuing distinction between Jew and gentile. According to the mystery, the only distinction any longer is between Christian and unbeliever. The futurist interpretation of Romans 11 tends to contradict the meaning of the mystery.

There is another point that emerges from this historical survey. Paul’s whole argument in Romans 11 is that the entrance of gentiles into the Kingdom will provoke the Jews to jealousy. This was possible in the first century, but it is not possible now. The reason it is not possible now is that Christians do not have what Modern Jews want. The minds of Modern Jews are set by their traditions, not by the Old Testament. In order for them to be jealous, they would have to perceive that Christians have the Kingdom they expect to inherit. This was true of first century of Jews, but it is not true of Modern Jews. Talmudic Jews are looking for a completely different kind of kingdom.

In short, Romans 11 makes sense if it applies to the first century; it does not make much sense if we try to apply it to “Jews” since that time. The valid application of Romans 11 today is to liberal Christians, a point I shall return to later in this study.

The Problem of “Anti-Semitism”

Before turning to Romans 11 and its meaning in the context of New Testament prophecy, I want to set down my thoughts on the problem of “anti-semitism.” First, very few Modern Jews are semites, and very few semites are Jews, so the term “anti-semitism” is a very misleading term. In English, however, “anti-semite” means “anti-Modern-Jew,” and so I shall use it that way here.

I am indebted to the work of Rene Girard for the discussion that follows. Girard is a liberal Christian who has done some marvelous studies on the phenomenon of the scapegoat in religion and culture. I do not by any means agree with him at every point, but his book The Scapegoat (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1986) has provided me the insights that follow.

When times get tough in a society, people seek for someone to blame. They might blame themselves and say “God is punishing us for our own sins,” but since people are wicked, they don’t say that. Instead, they look for someone to blame, saying, “Everything was fine until these people came along. They are different, and therefore they are criminals, and therefore they are to blame for these distresses and catastrophes.”

In times of distress, people turn against outsiders and strangers. In Romania today, Gypsies are being treated this way. Throughout history, both Jews and Gypsies have often been made the scapegoats for society’s problems. This is because they are different. They have their own laws and customs. They don’t mingle with other people well. They seem obnoxious because their customs are strange. People suspect them of bizarre practices, like incest, stealing babies, poisoning wells, and the like.

People want to feel superior to other people. I grew up in the Old South, and the attitude of white trash people was this: If we are not better than niggers, we are not better than anybody. The reason for the Jim Crow laws was to make white trash people feel better than blacks. Many educated Christian white people were unsympathetic to these laws, but such good people were in the minority. Democracy lets trash rule, because democracy allows demagogues to appeal to the mob. This phenomenon also plays a part in the continuing persecution of Gypsies and Jews.

But there is more. Girard shows that envy plays a large part in scapegoating. Those who are rich are admired and imitated by society, but when they fall, everyone rushes in to gloat. Job experienced this, and you need only read the newspaper to see how “rich and famous” people are treated when the fall. Historically, the Jews have been a disciplined and provident people, which means they have often had wealth, which means that they have been the object of envy, though usually not of admiration.

Now, let us bring in the catastrophe. The mob wants someone to blame. They blame the strangers, the Jews. They blame those they want to feel superior to, the Jews. They blame those they envy, the Jews. When times got tough in Germany after World War One, the mob found it easy to go after Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Catholics, and Godly evangelicals — all the people who were “different.”

Now, this is bad enough, but now enters another factor. Unlike Gypsies, the Jews claim to be the continuing racial expression of God’s chosen people. This kind of claim is naturally offensive to other people. It only makes matters worse when the Church adds her voice to this claim.

In short, I am arguing that by giving Modern Jews a privileged place in history and prophecy, the Church has reinforced rather than undermined the foundation of anti-semitism and persecution. If the Church had strongly maintained that the claim of the Jews was mythical, and that Jews were no different from any other exceptional group in society, the persecutions against the Jews might have been milder. The Jews would have been treated like Gypsies. They would still have been persecuted, but perhaps not as severely.

Of course, the only real and lasting solution to the problem of persecution is for the Church to do her work of remaking people into kind and charitable human beings. But until we have a Christian world, there will be persecutions. I believe that the futurist view of Romans 11, whether espoused by premillennialists or postmillennialists, distorts society’s understanding of the Jews, and sets them up for persecution when times get tough.

Background to Romans 9-11

We now come to a survey of Romans 9-11. Because of this newsletter format, I simply want to set out how I see these chapters at present. I shall not try to argue the case in depth all along the way, but rather my intention is to make a credible case for a preterist view, a case that can be expanded and defended in detail later.

To understand Romans 9-11, we have to bear in mind some background matters that are often overlooked by expositors, concerning the origin and purpose of Israel. God called Abraham to be a priest to the nations right after the incident at the Tower of Babel. These two events are intimately related (compare Gen. 11:4 with 12:2). After the call of Abraham, there were two distinct kinds of believers in the world: Hebrew and Gentile (Noahic) — but this was not God’s original purpose. The bifurcation of humanity had a special and limited purpose: to manifest God’s covenant until the coming of the Messiah and the restoration of the world (Ex. 19:6; Dt. 4:6-8).

During the Old Covenant there were many Gentile believers who did not become Israelites. There was no reason why a Gentile believer should become circumcised, unless he felt some calling of God to join the priestly nation. As an uncircumcised “God-fearer” he had access to the Tabernacle (Numbers 15) and to all the feasts except Passover. (For a full discussion, see chapter 2 of my book Sabbath Breaking and the Death Penalty; and chapter 3 of my book The Sociology of the Church.)

In the Book of Romans, Paul is concerned about this bipolar world from start to finish. The burden of Paul’s “mystery” is that in the New Covenant, this bipolarity no longer can exist. All believers are one in Christ. There can no longer be any such thing as a Jew, and since Gentiles are defined in relationship to the Jews, there can no longer by any such thing as a Gentile either. There can only be Christians and non-Christians. Yet though this bipolarity was judicially overcome in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it was not actually overcome until later. Just as individual salvation has a beginning, a development over time, and a culmination in glory, so the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile as One New Man in Christ had a point of inception at Pentecost, a development during the period of the Interim, and a culmination in A.D. 70.

The calling of Israel all along was to minister God’s promises to the Gentiles. That is what Abraham was called to do, and we see him doing it. Joseph did it. Moses married an Ethiopian. Samson offered marriage to a Philistine. David converted the Philistine city of Gath. Elijah went to a Gentile widow. Elisha cured a Gentile soldier of “leprosy.” Thus, it is no surprise that when Jesus appears on the scene, as the True Israelite He ministers to the Gentiles, warning Israel in Luke 4:18-30 that they may well lose the privilege of being priests.

The ascended Christ, as True Israel, sends the gospel to the Gentiles. On the day of Pentecost, the gospel was preached in every language except Hebrew, a sign that True Israel was going about His priestly work. This was also a sign, however, that the Babelic world was being overcome, and if there is no longer a Babelic curse, there is no longer any need for a priestly nation of Israel. Remember, the two go together. As Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22, speaking in tongues was a sign to Israel that her history was over because her purpose had been accomplished by True Israel.

It was still necessary, however, for believing Jew and believing Gentile to be united as one people in Christ. As I mentioned, this was effected judicially in A.D. 30, but the outworking of the restoration of the world took some time. The events leading down to A.D. 70 brought about the end of the Babelic/Jewish world in the judgments of both Rome and Jerusalem. It brought about the filling up of both Gentile and Israel, and ended in a harvest of fulfilled Gentile and Jewish believers. The end result of this process was that after A.D. 70, the bipolarity no longer exists.

The reason this bipolarity had to be overcome is that the rent body of the human race is a form of death. God’s scattering judgment on Babel was a manifestation of death, and the continuing presence of both Jew and Gentile in the world manifested the presence of death. Just as the individual’s physical body dies if ripped to pieces, so does the body politic. God’s scattering of Israel at the Exile, and His regathering of her at the Restoration, is pictured as death and resurrection in Ezekiel 11:17; 22:15; 36:19; 37:1-28. God’s resurrective regathering of Israel overcame the judgment-division of the nation into two halves (Ezk. 37:15-22), a type of the future union of Jew and Gentile.

A man rent his garments to symbolize rending himself, identifying himself with death. Similarly, rent garments could symbolize the ripping apart of the body politic (1 Sam. 15:27-28; 1 Ki. 11:30-31). Such images as these establish the conceptual correlation between individual death and political death, both through tearing, and lead to a correlation between individual resurrection and political resurrection. Individual death happens when the life (soul, personality) is torn from the body, and individual resurrection happens when the body is revived. Political death happens when a society is torn apart, scattered. Political resurrection happens when a society is reunited.

Two further points needs to be noted. First, Ezekiel 37 establishes for us that it is only believers who experience resurrection in the positive sense. It is believing Ephraim and believing Judah who are reunited in the resurrection of Ezekiel 37. Similarly, it is believing Jew and believing Gentile who are reunited in the New Covenant gospel.

Second, during the time between Rehoboam’s reign and the Restoration from the Exile, believing Ephraim and believing Judah were kept apart by God. It took God’s action to reunite them after the Exile. Similarly, after Babel, it was God’s will for believing Jew and believing Gentile to be in separate bodies politic. It took God’s action to reunite them after the Cross. Any divisions and separations within the believing community today are not caused by any judicial act of God, and are solely the fault of sinful Christians.

The purpose of the gospel is not simply individual salvation, but also cosmic salvation. The rent body politic of humanity has to be restored. The reuniting of believing Jew and believing Gentile in one body undoes the death-judgment of Babel, and thus is a political resurrection. This resurrection occurred in A.D. 70, as an outworking of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in A.D. 30, and as a foretaste of the eventual physical resurrection of all believers at the Last Judgment.

After A.D. 70 the gospel has no more message of reconciliation between believing Jew and believing Gentile. That reconciliation has been accomplished once and for all. Babel has been undone. Now what the Church must do is call all men into herself, to be reconciled to God.

In other words, the work of reconciling all things to God has two states. The first stage, during the Interim (A.D. 30-70), reconciles the Church to herself. The Old Testament Church, which had two different companies, is gradually united during the Interim. The second state, after A.D. 70, is the reconciliation of all humanity to God. During both stages, those who refuse reconciliation are allowed to develop and are eventually judged. Accordingly, the judgment on Jerusalem in A.D. 70, because she refused to be reconciled, is a type of the eventual judgment on impenitent humanity at the Last Judgment.

In A.D. 70 the Babelic/Jewish world was put to death, and resurrected in Christ as the Unified Church. At the Last Judgment, the whole history of humanity will be put to death, and resurrected in the Eternal Kingdom. The former typifies the latter, and both are historical outworkings of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at the cosmic-political level.

Thus, throughout the New Testament there is a constant expectation that Christ is coming soon to render a judgment on the Church and on the old Babelic/Jewish order. He is “near,” “at the door,” “coming soon,” because it is the “last days,” even the “last hour.” Jerusalem will be destroyed, as will the Roman Beast, and the Church will yield a first-fruits harvest. This event will usher in the New Covenant in a fullness not previously seen, because now at last the residue of the Old Covenant will be gone. The events surrounding A.D. 70 happen “in Christ,” as a sign of the completion of His work. “In Christ” both the Interim Church and the Babelic/Jewish world die, and “in Christ” the Church is resurrected. These events illustrate the nature of Christ’s ensuing work throughout future ages until His Final Return.

The failure to understand the Babelic context of Israel’s history results in a failure to understand the purpose of tongues in the New Testament, and a failure to understand the historical transition that took place between A.D. 30 & 70. God judged Babel because if the people were united, nothing would be withheld from them (Gen. 11). Jesus prays that His people would be united, so that nothing will be withheld from us (John 17). It was necessary for Jewish and Gentile believers to overcome the Old Covenant bipolarity and be united, before the Gospel could really go forth in full power. After A.D. 70, with Jew and Gentile united in one Church, nothing can be withheld from us, unless we choose by our sin to be disunited. After A.D. 70, there is no longer any God-instituted historical disunity in operation.

We need to push this discussion back one more step before we move to Romans. The bi-polarity of Jew and Gentile came into being because of the sin at the Tower of Babel, but what made it possible for God to do this was the design of the world in the first place. The Garden of Eden, in the Land of Eden, was the center of the world, with other lands downstream from it. Apart from sin, the world should have been united by a geographically central sanctuary. Because of sin, that world unity was slain, and the bi-polarity of Eden and Outlying Lands became an expression of death. The destruction of Temple and Jerusalem in A.D. 70 ended that whole first creation by removing the geographically central sanctuary. Now the sanctuary is with Christ in heaven, and there is no center on earth; or rather, there are as many centers as there are churches.

 

For this reason, Jesus said that the destruction of Jerusalem would pay for all the murders since that of Abel (Mt. 23:35). All the prophets murdered by God’s people in His land, from the murder of Abel in Eden forward, would be put in Jerusalem (Rev. 18:24, “earth” = “land”). By implication, all the murders outside the land from Lamech forward (Gen. 4:23) could be put upon the Beast. The entire bi-polar world of the first creation would be destroyed.  

 

A Glance at Romans

The Letter to the Romans is not a piece of systematic theology. It is full of systematic theology, but that theology is adduced to demonstrate a Biblico-theological point. We fall short of an understanding of Romans if all we see in it is a discussion of justification, sanctification, election, and holy living, with a “little parenthesis on the Jews” stuck in the middle. A full understanding of Romans needs to take into account that the redemptive-historical concern overarches everything else. Justification, sanctification, election, and holy living are implications of the Coming of the Kingdom, and they are laid out in Romans to make the point that the Coming of the Kingdom overcomes the Jew/Gentile distinction and creates One New Man in Christ.

Paul starts in Romans 1 by saying that his ministry is to Gentiles, though the gospel is to the Jew first (1:13-16). The gospel is necessary because of the fall of man into idolatry (1:17-32). The gospel is the revelation of the righteousness of God at this time in history (1:16-17). Romans concerns the implications of that revelation, which includes the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the inner man, the coming of the Spirit, and climactically the resurrection of the political order of the world.

All men come under judgment, but in the Old Covenant Gentiles could be saved if they trusted God and followed His ways apart from the Law, while Jews were saved if they trusted God and followed His ways revealed in the Law. Moreover, the faithful Noahic Gentile believer had a true inward circumcision, while the faithless Jew had negated his own outward circumcision (chap. 2). In other words, as far as salvation was concerned, the Jew had no special place in the Old Covenant order.

So then, why did Jews exist? They were set aside to minister the oracles of God as priests to the nations (3:1-8). These oracles of God were the Law-Word of the Old Testament. Apart from a living faith-relationship to God, however, the Law-Word only killed men by condemning them. The living faith-relationship, which existed provisionally in the Old Covenant, has now arrived in its fullness because of the work of Jesus Christ. This faith-relationship establishes the Law-Word in a sphere of life instead of death (3:9-31).

In the Old Covenant, the faith-relationship was something Jew and Gentile had in common, as we see from the fact that Abraham had it as a Noahic believer before he was circumcised (chap. 4). The benefits of resurrection-life, seen in the opening of Sarah’s dead womb, came to both Jew and Gentile through the faith-relationship.

One of the purposes of the Law, considered in redemptive-historical terms, was to put sinners to death. It showed men their need of resurrection, and thereby pointed to the need for the faith-relationship. The Law came in a context of death, not only the death that came from Adam’s sin, but also the political death-context that resulted from the Jew-Gentile split. The Law could never overcome that political death, because it was part of it. Only when the Jew-Gentile split had been overcome through resurrection could the Law be re-established in a sphere of life. Those who are united to Christ through resurrection have a new positive relationship with the Law (chaps. 5-6).

Being raised from the dead, we are no longer subject to the total killing force of the Law, seen especially in the laws of uncleanness and sacrifice, but since we are still sinners, the partial killing force of the Law is still necessary for our personal mortification and sanctification (chap. 7). The Law helps show us our wickedness, purges us, and drives us to Christ in the quest for renewed experience of resurrection life. The work of the Holy Spirit continually serves to deliver us from the old world of the flesh into the new world of resurrection life (chap. 8).

I have only surveyed these chapters in a cursory manner, obviously, but I have done so to show that Paul is concerned from the beginning with the Jew-Gentile bipolarity, so that the idea that Romans 9-11 is a parenthesis is nonsense. Romans 9-11 carries forward the redemptive-historical themes of Romans 1-8. Romans 9-11 shows the outworking of the resurrection in its political dimension, the overcoming of the Babelic order by the reuniting of believing Jew and Gentile into one body. The climax of the whole first eleven chapters is the Amen at the end of chapter 11.

Then Paul applies his theme. In chapters 12-13 he applies the fact that we are now one body in Christ to righteous living in the Church and in the world. In chapters 14-15 he addresses the conflict that existed in the Interim Church between converted Jew and converted Gentile. The Jews tended to want Gentiles to come under the Law, a tendency that went to seed among the apostate Judaizers. The Gentiles, rejoicing at last to be in the Kingdom on an equal basis, tended to react against the Jewish believers and mistreat them. This was a problem unique to the Interim Church, though of course the Post-Holocaust Church faces similar problems and so these chapters are still very relevant to us today. Paul’s argument to the Romans is this: The night is almost over, and the day is at hand, so bear with one another for the present, because in a few years this phase of redemptive history will be over (Rom. 13:11-12).

If we look back now at Romans 9-11, we can see that Paul is concerned with those Gentile believers who were reacting against the Jewish believers. He warns them not to despise the Olive Tree, and tells them that the history of Israel is not quite over yet. There is at present, he says, a Remnant in Israel, and before Jerusalem is destroyed, many Jews will be saved and there will be a great harvest. He says that this “fulfillment” of Israel will work a great benefit to the Gentile believers, for it will be a political resurrection that finally overcomes the Jew-Gentile bipolarity for all time (11:12).

 

Romans 9 & 10

Paul begins by speaking of the duties and privileges of Israel. Only in Romans 9-11 does Paul use the term “Israel,” while everywhere else in Romans he uses the term “Jew.” The word “Jew” is associated with the Restoration Covenant, and was the peculiar term for the people at that time, for the New Covenant superseded the Restoration Covenant. In social and political terms, the bi-polarity in the New Testament Church was between Jew and Gentile. Paul goes back to the term “Israel” here because his stress is on the calling of these people to be priests to the nations, a calling made most explicit at the time of the Mosaic Covenant, which was when the term “Israel” replaced “Hebrew” as the name for these people. Paul is saying that the special relationship of Israel to the nations is not yet over. Jerusalem continues to be the center of the world until A.D. 70.

Paul then moves to a discussion of the Remnant. Not every Israelite was a true Israelite, for being a member of true Israel was never a matter of race but of calling and election (9:6-13). The Remnant is to the ungodly nation as Jacob to Esau, and as Israel to Egypt. The refusal of Israel to enter the New Covenant is analogous to Pharaoh’s refusal to hear God. Just as God raised up Pharaoh, so He raised up Israel. God dealt with Pharaoh by showing Him mercy between each plague, with the result that Pharaoh got harder and harder against God. Similarly, Israel became harder and harder under the judgments God visited upon her throughout Old Covenant history. Each time God withdrew His judgments, Israel became worse than she had been before (9:14-18).

The Remnant had readily confessed that God was the Potter and they were the clay (Is. 64:8). They were ready to change under God’s reshaping hands, and enter the New Covenant. Apostate Israel, however, resisted God and became a broken pot, henceforth good for nothing but unclean uses (9:19-22). God was mixing the soft Remnant clay with the Gentiles and making a new, more glorious pot (9:23-26). (Remember, man is made of earth, so clay is a pregnant analogy.)

During this Interim, however, the Remnant still existed and had a function. They had not yet become completely blended with the Gentiles into the Church. The Remnant within Israel protected her from wrath. God was willing to spare Sodom if only ten righteous people were found in it. Jerusalem is called Sodom (and Egypt) in Revelation 11:8, and Paul says that it is Remnant in Sodom that preserves her (Rom. 9:27-29). When the Remnant flees, and the rest of it slain, then Sodom will have no more protection. The Man of Sin will no longer be restrained (2 Thess. 2).

In Romans 10 Paul argues that the Law should have led them to faith. Romans 10:4 says that Christ is the goal of the Law, so that anyone who kept the Law in faith would be led to Christ. Verse 5 says that anyone who kept the Law in faith would find life, and verses 6-11 expand that thought. (Verse 6 should begin with “and,” not “but.” The Greek word is a simple connective, ho de, not the adversative, alla.)

Anyone who really understood the Law, says Paul, would see that salvation is by faith, both for Jew and Greek (10:11-13). The peculiar task of the Jew (Israelite) was to be a preacher to the Gentiles (10:14-15). God sent prophets to Israel so that Israel would be faithful, and by becoming faithful, minister to the Gentiles. When Israel refused to fulfill her calling to be priests to the nations, God would take His message directly to the Gentiles in order to provoke Israel (10:16-21).

Taking the gospel to the Gentiles was designed to make Israel “jealous” (Dt. 32:21; Rom. 10:19). This term is neutral. In a positive sense, Israel’s jealousy should lead them back to the Lord. In a negative sense, Israel’s jealousy would cause them to become furiously angry at God, His prophets, and the Gentile converts. When Jesus brought this up in Luke 4, His home town tried to kill Him. The book of Acts shows that Paul’s ministry among the Gentiles was treated the same way (cf. esp. Acts 21:28ff.).

At the beginning of both Romans 9 and 10, Paul expressed that his personal desire was to see Israel saved. His ministry among the Gentiles, while designed for their good in itself, was also designed to provoke Israel (cf. 11:13-14). During the Interim period, this provoking ministry was going on. It is not going on today. Modern Jews are not in the least provoked by the fact that non-Jews believe the Gospel. Modern Jews get angry with Jews convert, not when “Gentiles” do. In this respect, Modern Jews are just like any other non-Christian group. This is strong evidence that Romans 9-11 is concerned only with the early days of the Church.

 

Romans 11

Paul returns to the Remnant in 11:1-10. He says that at the present time, there is still a Remnant of Israel. He is one such, he says. He points back to Elijah. The nation might have been destroyed in Elijah’s day, except for the Remnant 7000.

The Remnant and its provoking work will have the effect of making the Jews “jealous.” The fact that gospel has gone to the Gentiles, and they are inheriting the riches of the Old Testament promises, is not the last word. Paul reveals that the Remnant’s work will bear fruit among the Israelites, so that Israel will experience a “fullness” (v. 12). When this “fullness” happens, it will be “life from the dead” — resurrection (v. 15). We shall return to this in a moment.

Having established that Israel has a future, Paul exhorts the Gentile believers not to lord it over Israel. Just as the Jews are not to dominate the Gentiles in the Church, so neither are the Gentiles to despise the Jews. God had grafted the Gentiles onto the patriarchal stock of the Olive Tree, but soon He will graft Israel back in, making One New Tree (11:16-24).

Verses 25-26 say that the partial hardening of apostate Israel will last until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, and then all Israel (not just the Remnant) will be saved.

So, the fullness of the Gentiles comes first, and then the fullness of Israel. What does this mean? In context, I believe that the fullness of the Gentiles has to mean the transfer of the riches to them, as mentioned in verse 12. This transfer of treasures went on during the Interim, and it is seen particularly in the completion of the canon of the New Testament, because the New Testament interprets and applies (transfers) the Old Testament to the New Covenant situation. The fullness does not refer only to words, however, but also to the completion of the formation of the New Covenant Church, which was a large part of Paul’s own (Israel-provoking) mission. Just as Old Covenant Israel was to minister to the Gentiles by preaching and obeying God’s law, so the New Covenant Gentile Church was to minister to Israel by preaching the New Testament and living righteously. Just as the Old Covenant Gentiles would admire Israel if she were faithful (Dt. 4:6-9), so it was necessary for the New Covenant Gentiles to be faithful in order to draw Israel into the Church. (This role reversal may be part of the reason why Jerusalem is called Babel in the book of Revelation.)

Why did this fullness of the Gentiles have to happen first? Because only then would the fullness of provocation be possible. The presence of the New Covenant Church and its true interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures had the effect of gradually stripping away the veil that lay over Moses’ words (2 Cor. 3), which was but the outworking of the rending of the Temple Veil that happened at Christ’s death. When the Church was fully formed, and the Scriptures completed, then the veil was fully removed, and the provocation to jealousy reached its most intense development.

The purpose of the provocation was the salvation of Israel. True, for many, the provocation resulted in wrath, but for others it would result in repentance. Paul says that in the future (their future, not ours), this provoking work would bear fruit. Not just a Remnant but “all Israel” would turn to the Lord. At this point, Jew and Gentile would finally be One New Man in Christ, and this would be the political resurrection of the world that removed the bi-polarity of Babel and Israel.

 

The Book of Revelation

Paul does not describe how this would come about in detail, but we can see from the Book of Revelation what actually happened. A full discussion of this history would require us to delve into Josephus and other ancient writers. For now, I only want to show how Revelation delineates the Pauline prophecy.

Revelation concerns the judgment of the Old Creation, both Jewish and Gentile. Since Eden-Jerusalem is the center of the world, the book is centrally concerned with Jerusalem, but it also devotes attention to the Havilah-Roman Beast as well. The entire bifurcated Old Covenant order is going to be torn down.

I believe Revelation 7 shows the salvation of the Jewish Remnant and the initial Gentile Church. The 144,000 are the Remnant, and the great multitude from the nations is the “mixed multitude” that accompanied them out of the Egypt of rebellious Judaism (cf. Rev. 11:8). These are sealed against the initial outpourings of wrath against Jerusalem and the world.

I believe that Revelation 10:7 points to what Paul called the fullness of the Gentiles, for it says that the mystery of God has been completed. At this point, it becomes necessary for John to preach again, this time to bring about the fullness of Israel. Right away we are shown the ministry of the two witnesses in Jerusalem, and their martyrdom. Here is jealousy and wrath poured out against those who provoke Israel, but the result of the witnesses’ deaths is that many feared and gave glory to God (11:13; cp. Acts 5:11-14). This, I believe, is the “fullness of Israel.” Immediately we are told that the world has become the kingdom of Christ (Rev. 11:15).

Revelation 12 & 13 back up to provide context for what follows, which is the harvest of this Fulfilled Church. On the basis of my studies in the Abomination of Desolation, it seems to me that the martyrdom of the two witnesses is the Desolating Sacrilege, or at least part of it. At this point, many of the Remnant fled Jerusalem and were saved (Rev. 12:14).

The new converts, the Fullness, were stuck in Jerusalem. I believe they are seen in 14:1, standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion. As long as these believers remained in Jerusalem, the city could not be destroyed. Thus, they had to be harvested first. The harvest of these saints is simultaneously the filling up of the cup of Jerusalem’s wrath, for the massacre of these saints eliminates Jerusalem’s protection, and calls down the full wrath of God against her.

The angels reap the harvest of the Fullness (14:14-20). (Chilton and others err in seeing this as a picture of God’s wrath against the wicked.) We see the Fullness standing in heaven with God in Revelation 15. They were faithful to death. Their blood is the wine of God’s wrath, which He will make their killers drink (14:10). The Fullness joins their Lord outside the city (14:20), privileged to join Him in martyrdom (Col. 1:24).

The blood of these martyrs is put into chalices and poured out on Jerusalem, to her destruction (15:7; 16:1-21). The city is seen drinking this blood, taking into herself the death she visited upon them (17:6).

It is my opinion that the martyrdom of the Fullness of Israel is what brings about the “life from the dead” that Paul spoke of in Romans 11. Thus, after the destruction of Jerusalem we are shown that Satan, who was on the earth during the Interim (12:9, 12), is cast into the abyss to deceive the nations no longer. The Church comes to life again, seated on thrones, and ruling with Christ for the millennium, which begins at that point (Rev. 20:1-6). This initial resurrection of the saints is a foretaste of the final resurrection to come at the end of history.

(A footnote: The current Reformed view is that the millennium is the entire Church Age, either in heaven or on earth, from A.D. 30 forward. But in that case, how can the millennium end before the final apostasy [20:7ff.]? If I am right that the millennium begins with the political resurrection of A.D. 70, that would explain why the millennium ends before the second coming of Christ, with the release of Satan. The millennium is bracketed on both sides by short periods during which Satan is not bound in the abyss.)

 

Conclusion

In these short essays I have obviously not taken up every question surrounding this issue. I have sought to make a case for a preterist view of Romans 11. I think it is a very credible case, and I am pretty much convinced by it. Filling in the details will have to wait for another occasion.

If Romans 11 was fulfilled in the first century, does it have any use for the Church today? I believe so. The issue Paul was addressing can be generalized to address a common issue today. The hardened Israelites were those who had inherited the tradition of the faith but were not living it. They are analogous to liberal and dead orthodox Christians today. Surely it is true that such people are greatly offended by faithful Christians. They are provoked to jealousy and wrath, and go out of their way to persecute those who show up their cardboard faith for what it is. Paul’s admonition throughout all his letters, however, shows us how to deal with such people. We are to be all the more faithful and loving in our own circles, because the more visible our own “fullness” becomes, the better our witness becomes. Just as the fullness of the Gentiles eventually led to the fullness of Israel, so the fullness of faithful Churches today can and will lead to the fullness of unfaithful liberal and dead orthodox Christian communities.

 

The content of all essays published in Biblical Horizons is copyrighted, but permission to reprint any essay is freely given provided that the essay is published uncut, and that the name and address of Biblical Horizons is given.

http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/  (TLM Editorial note):  Although James is a partial preterist, I recommend most of what he has written in this article.  The old-covenant is gone and there is no eschatological “time clock” for a future “ethnic Israel” to start up again post A.D. 70 – per dispensationalism and postmillennialism.  I also highly recommend the Jordan / Preston debate/interaction.  I was also impressed with Jame’s view of the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked in his new commentary on the Book of Daniel – James B. Jordan, THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL A Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Powder Springs, GA:  American Vision Inc., 2007), 618-628.  When this view of the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked (associated with the gospel proclamation) is taken to have happend at the end of Israel’s “this” old-covenant age, the view is solid (Mt. 13:1-43).  Jordan falls short of addressing Matthew 13:40, but did admit the old-covenant age could be the issue in his debate/interaction with Preston.  This same kind of resurrection is taking place in Revelation 20-22 even post A.D. 70.  When the wicked reject Christ as the Tree of Life (as the only way they can be purged of their sins), they experience the “second death.”  The first death came when Adam rejected the Tree of Life in the garden.  The second – is similar – a rejection of Christ as the Tree of Life within the new-covenant age.  When Christians embrace this truth through saving faith, they are raised and glorified when they enter the gates of the City.  Upon physical death, the righteous continue to experience and see this “light” while the wicked do not Psalm 49:14-15, 19.  This is why entitled my book – Gospel Eschatology:  “A Better Resurrection.”        

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THE ESCHATOLOGICAL TIME TEXTS IN 1 & 2 PETER

THE ESCHATOLOGICAL TIME TEXTS IN 1 & 2 PETER 

By: Michael J. Sullivan 

Copyright 2008 – Thank you for your Christian integrity and professionalism in advance


Peter’s Eschatology in 1 & 2 Peter

 

(TLM Editorial Note: I will not be responding to Richard Pratt’s chapter in our House Divided book. I have yielded that chapter to another author. However, here is some material I had developed as a response to Mathison and Pratt on Peter’s eschatology. This, like virtually all of my articles on this site, are still in rough draft form. I hope you enjoy.)

 

Since all of the authors of WSTTB are united on a futurist interpretation of 2 Peter 3, and Richard Pratt rests his entire postponement theory of the Second Coming in the New Testament on (2Pet. 3:8-9), I have decided to respond to both Pratt and Mathison here on this important chapter. Pratt, Mathison, and their co-author team reason that since the planet earth did not catch on fire and underwent a literal transformation process, this means Christ’s Second Coming was either postponed or the New Testament time texts were never meant to be taken literally. In other words their reasoning is just like the dispensationalists – since the fulfillment doesn’t match the way they think the prophecies were supposed to be fulfilled, it must not have happened when God said it would. We beg to differ. Here I will address the timing of Peter’s eschatology with his epistles along with the spiritual nature of fulfillment.  

1) who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1Pet. 1:5)   

The Greek word here for “ready” is Hetoimos and means, “…ready at hand.”[1] 

 

Peter tells the church that “salvation” was “ready” or “at hand” to be revealed for these first-century Christians. The Bride had been exhorted to make her self ready Mt. 25:10 and now the consummation in the form of the wedding and wedding banquet was now “ready at hand” (Mt. 22:4, 8) to be revealed! The phrase “in the last time” singular is a more imminent time statement than the “last times” plural in verse 20. The first is communicating the idea of Christ’s Second Coming arriving on the last day, which would be found within the last days or “last times” period.  The “last times,” encompassing Jesus’ earthly ministry and redemptive work upon the cross. 

 

This imminent “salvation” and “inheritance” in verse 4 within the immediate context of this chapter was about to be revealed at “the revelation of Jesus Christ” in verses 7, 13. This would be the “end” or goal of their salvation which was the “salvation you’re your souls” in verse 9. The Greek word here for “soul” is psuche and means, “the breath of life,” “the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions (our heart [cf. 1:22-25], soul etc.),” and or “the soul as an essence which differs from the body and is not dissolved by death (distinguished from other parts of the body).” [2]

Once again we are faced with the reality that Scripture involves a salvation and redemption associated at Christ’s return that involves the soul, heart, mind, and conscience of man.   

Peter makes it also clear that of this ew-covenant salvation and inheritance which included the revealing of Christ, of which the Old Testament prophets predicted would come, was never intended to be fulfilled in the prophets day, but in the time in which Peter and his first century audience lived–verses 10-12. This of course means that there were fulfillments in the Old Testament that were typological and pointed to a greater consummation of new covenant fulfillment such as the “another day” of Hebrews 3-4.  The passage is also teaching that all the eschatological promises  given through the Old Testament prophets concerning the Second Coming, judgment, resurrection, and new creation were “ready” and “at hand” to be fulfilled in Peter’s day as welll (Isa. 24-28; 63-66; Hos. 13; Dan. 9:24-27, 12:1-7).  

Peter, in chapter two confirms for us further that a first century judgment and fulfillment is meant when he quotes Ps. 118 in 2:7. Jesus used this very Psalm in connection with the parable of the wicked vinedressers n Mt. 21:33-45 to refer to a coming judgment that they correctly understood applied to them (vs.45)!  Mathison does not really comment much on this Psalm or the New Testament passages where it is cited, but does briefly in his work against dispensationalism, “The kingdom of God was taken from Israel as a nation and given to the true Israel (Matt.21:43; cf. Luke 12:32).” (Mathison, Dispensationalism, ibid., p.30). The kingdom of God was completely and covenantally taken from Israel indeed when God judged her in A.D.70. During the transition period the Church was in the process of being built up 2:5 as the new covenant kingdom of God that would soon completely replace the old. But with the old covenant kingdom promises being fulfilled and then judged and thus made obsolete by A.D.70, the new would stand matured and glorified for the church to enjoy Isa. 60-66; Rev. 21-22.   

The consummation of the judgment is buttressed with Peters follow up appeal to Isa. 8:14 in 2:8 right after quoting Psalm 118, which is exactly Jesus’ pattern in the parable found in Luke 20:17-18. Jesus describes the judgment in A.D.70 as Him being a stone which will come in judgment and grind them into powder.  In Isaiah 8:14-15 it is said that this stone (Jesus) would be “a stone of stumbling for both houses of Israel as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” And this is exactly what happened! When all the religious Jews and Israelites from every nation under heaven gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover, is when the false prophets arose to deceive the people to stay and fight the Romans. God had put a lying spirit in their mouths to deceive the people and thus the “snare” and “trap” was set! The Isaiah text says that they would “fall” be “broken” and “taken” into captivity. This indeed happened in A.D. 66-70! Those that were not crushed by the 100 pound stones the Romans catapulted over the walls or destroyed through famine and civil war, would eventually be taken away into slavery by the Romans. Peter sees this prophecy as ultimately being fulfilled in a judgment that was imminently applicable to his contemporary audience, because the prophecy had long ago been “appointed” to them for this end.  

2) who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us––baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (1Peter 3:20) 

 

John Lightfoot understood “baptism” here to be referring to John’s baptism and the “saving” here to refer to being saved from the wrath about to come upon that nation in A.D.70. “…as Noah and his sons were by water delivered from the flood, ‘so as baptism now, the antitype of the type, saveth us’ from THE DELUGE OF DIVINE INDIGNATION, which in a short time is to overflow the Jewish nation.” (Lightfoot, Vol. 2, ibid., p. 78). We believe he correctly sees the connection of baptism to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70, but Preterist theologian David Green is probably closer to the truth in identifying the “baptism” here as a spiritual baptism and baptism of persecution and suffering, not an old or new covenant ritual when he states,  

“There is another problem though with the idea of the saving baptism in I Peter 3:21 being a ritual, and that is the tense of the verb “saves.” The verb is present tense, active voice, and the phrase literally reads, “baptism is now saving you.” The meaning seems to be that just as Noah and his family were in process of being saved by a baptism in the ark, so were the first-century believers in process of being saved by baptism. This should further lead us to consider the saving baptism as being spiritual.

Thus far, general hermeneutical principles of typology, the weakness and temporary nature of the old-covenant rituals and the tense of the verb “saves” (“saving“) direct us toward the idea that the baptism of I Peter 3:21 might be a non-ritual, spiritual baptism. But what kind of a non-ritual baptism could have been in process of saving the first-century Christians?”[3]

Green argues for a spiritual baptism from such passages as (Mt.3:11; Joel 2/Acts 2, 10-11; Ephs.4:5; 1Cor.12:13; Gals.3:27; Cols.2:11-12; Rms.6:1-11). It was a spiritual baptism of being in union with Christ through faith and the power of the Holy Spirit who was transforming them into Christ’s image that is here meant. This spiritual baptism and transformation into Christ’s image in His death and resurrection also included a baptism of suffering:  

Union / identity with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection is the essence of spiritual baptism. In I Peter, it is the “suffering” or “fiery” aspect of spiritual baptism for Christians that is the running theme. Peter wrote his epistle to the persecuted, scattered Jewish believers who were living as aliens and strangers (1:1; 2:11). Many of them were being distressed by various trials (1:6), being slandered, reviled and maligned (2:12; 3:16; 4:4,14); their faith was being tested by fire (1:7).  

This same baptism was predicted by Jesus in Matt. 20:22,23 (AV); Mk. 10:38,39 (cf. Lk. 12:50), where Jesus asked James and John, “Are you able to . . . be baptized with the baptism which I am baptized?” And they answered, “We are able.” And Jesus said, “. . . You shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.”  

Christ was prophesying to His disciples that they were going to become sharers of His sufferings, i.e., they were going to be experientially / spiritually unified and identified with Him in His sufferings, death and burial. They were going to be “crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20; 5:24) through persecution, but were also going to endure unto victory through the power of Christ’s resurrection. 

Union with Christ in His sufferings was further borne out in I Peter when Peter told his readers that it was their calling to patiently endure their persecutions, just as Christ when He suffered, kept entrusting Himself to God. (2:23) “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose” (4:1), and, “you share the sufferings of Christ” (4:12,13).

It was this spiritual baptism that was saving the first-century Christians. Just as a small remnant, eight souls (I Peter 3:20), had been brought safely through the flood waters in Noah’s day (I Peter 3:20), so was a small remnant (Rom. 9:27,29) being brought safely through the fire of God’s Last-Days wrath. (Matt. 24:38,39; Lk. 17:26,27; II Peter 2:5-9)

{5}

Their saving baptism was a refining, purifying baptism, as they were being sovereignly preserved by God through their persecutions until the end of the age. As Paul said in II Cor. 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (Cf. Acts 14:22).” (Green, ibid.) 

Green concludes,  

“As Noah and his family endured patiently in the ark, so were the first-century Christians patiently enduring a spiritual and fiery baptism, sharing the sufferings of Christ. Old-Covenant baptisms were a fading and ceremonial removal of the filth of the flesh, but New-Covenant, spiritual baptism in Christ was the appeal of a good conscience toward God. (Heb. 10:2) By means of it, believers remained faithful through the power of God in Christ, and retained a clean conscience. (I Peter 3:16) And as Christ was exalted after He patiently endured, so to was His Church-Body called and chosen through His resurrection-power to soon be exalted with Him in the end of the old-covenant age.” (Green, ibid.) 

The rain and wrath of God poured down upon the wicked of the land for 40 days and nights in Genesis 7. As God had preserved Noah and his family through these 40 days, God was preserving and saving His Church during this 40 year transition period. This is similar to what we had seen in the development of the type and anti-type in the wilderness exodus motif 1Cor. 10:11; Hebs. 3-4/Ps. 95. Just as God had preserved the faith of Joshua and Caleb during the 40 days of spying out the land and then another 40 years before entering it, God was preserving the faith of these Christians through the persecutions and fiery trials they were undergoing. As the gospel was going throughout the land, it was a living river that by A.D.70 would have reached to the heads of the Christians producing salvation Ezk.47. But for the wicked and unbelieving, the wrath of God remained upon them and thus they were n the process of perishing and would be finally swept away in the fiery flood that consumed and baptized Jerusalem in A.D.70.   

3) They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” “But the end of all things is at hand;…” “For the time has come for [the] judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”  (1Peter 4:5, 7, 17). 

In Mathison’s other eschatological works, a discussion of these three very important eschatological passages are completely missing!  Mathison has pleaded the fifth and adopted a “no comment” policy on verses 5 and 17.  Of verse 7 he once again adopts the “maybe it means this or maybe it means that, ‘interpretation,’ but it most assuredly can’t mean what it actually says.”  

In verse 5 we read that God was “…ready to judge the living and the dead.” Although Mathison doesn’t want to tackle this text, Gentry has cited it as a New Testament time text that was fulfilled in A.D.70 in his writings (usually somewhere in a footnote), but he of course never tells us how it was fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem! Mr. Gentry, please tell us who are the “living and the dead” here and how were they judged without the resurrection being involved? 

 [4] In fact, what I find completely amazing is that in two of the books he cites this text being fulfilled in A.D.70, they are in the context of debates with 3 other futurists on the very issue of eschatology and yet none of his opponents even asks the begging question, “How were the living and the dead judged in A.D.70 without the final coming of Christ occurring at that time and the general resurrection taking place?” In fact one of the debates is with Robert Strimple! So we have asked that question and expect an answer forthcoming.  

In verse 7 we read, “The end of all things is at hand.” Mathison ignores this passage while Gentry seeks to be bold asking the question, “How else could the New Testament express nearness more clearly?”[5]

But Strimple at least counters Gentry on this text by saying, “Gentry repeatedly emphasizes that the struggle between Christ and Satan is a “historical struggle [that] ends in historical victory.” This is true. And it will end in total and perfect victory at “the end” of history (Gk. to telos, 1 Cor. 15:24; 1 Peter 4:7), the end of “this age,” which will come when Christ comes…”[6]

The truth is to be found in our position which bridged the gap between the two–Peter couldn’t be any more clear in communicating the nearness of [the] consummation which included the end of [all] the promises of the old-covenant age of the law and the prophets 1 Peter 1:4-12! Therefore, Peter’s “all things” includes the resurrection of Daniel’s “all these things” Daniel 12:1-7. It is parallel to Jesus’ “all these things” of His second coming and the gathering/resurrection to occur in His “this generation” (Mt. 24:27, 30-31, 34). It concerns the “things” of the prophecy of Revelation which were “shortly” to take place which included His Return to reward all men Revelation 1:1, 22:12.  

Verse 17 reads, “THE TIME has come for THE JUDGMENT…” In the Greek the definite article “the” is present before “time” and “judgment.” In context, Peter is not addressing the nearness of “a” minor judgment of the “living and the dead,” but the consummative judgment”! Gentry, of course pleads the fifth on this text and has learned to adopt a “no comment” to it as well in trying to harmonize it with verses 5 and 7. Again the Greek word for “time” here is kairos and means, “a fixed and definite time, the time when things are brought to crisis, the decisive epoch waited for.”[7]

 

The meaning of “the time” has already been spelled out for us in the first chapter of this letter – “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (Gk. kairos) 1:5,11! In eschatological contexts, it is referring to the time of the harvest/resurrectionMt.21:34, 41; Rms. 13:11, and thus the time to receive rewards at the Second Coming Mt. 24:45; Acts 3:19, and to emphasize that “the time was short” (1Cor.7:29), and “at hand” (Rev.1:3). Probably a more parallel passage would be the book of Revelation where “the time” of “the dead” to be judged and rewarded would happen “quickly” at the Second Coming when Babylon “the Great City” would be judged (Rev.11:18; 22:12).

We must ask all the authors of WSTTB, and the reformed and evangelical community in general, “how much clearer could Peter have been in stating that the consummation of “the time” and “the judgment” constituting “all things” pertaining to this judgment of “the living and the dead” was “at hand”? 

Another important text in this chapter that is sandwiched between verses 5-7 and verse 17 is verse 13 which reads, “but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings (40 years Cols. 1:24 – baptism of suffering), that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” Anyone who is really interested in context and exegesis can see Peter is identifying the “all things” of which is “at hand” to be referring to “the time” of “the judgment” in reference to the “living and the dead” at which time Christ’s Return is stated here as “His glory is revealed” occurs. And to drive the point home even further by way of introducing our next time text, let’s look at the time frame of the reception of this “glory.”  

 

 

4) “Elders who are among you, I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of the Christ, and of the glory about to be revealed a partaker,” (1Peter 5:1 YLT) 

The WEY translation renders, “…a sharer in the glory which is soon to be revealed.” See also the DARBY, HCSB, & WUESTNT translations that also render mello here as “about to be.” So we have further clarification as to when the “glory” of 4:13 was to be revealed in the previous verses and which coincides with the judgment just three verses preceding this text. This passage has both the suffering motif with the glory about to be revealed as we developed in Rms.8:18. Imminence and references to the Second Coming are everywhere! The Second Coming is again mentioned in v.4 with the metaphor of Christ coming as the “Chief Shepherd” appearing to give “the crown of glory.” The “crown of glory” or “crown of life” is the reward of the new creation that was about to be received at the imminent return of Christ in Revelation Rev.2:10/3:11; 21-22:12. It was also described by Paul as the “crown of righteousness” that was “about to be” given by the appearing of the Judge in (2 Tim. 4:8)!   

All one needs to do is follow Peter’s use of the words “appear(ing)” “glory” “reveal(ing)” “all things” “at hand” and “about to be” within this letter, especially within chapter 4-5, and he will easily see Peter is discussing a first century imminent Second Coming, judgment, and rewarding of the crown of “glory” or the glorification of the Church. I must appeal to common sense in asking the questions, “Is it not a purely arbitrary hermeneutic that Mathison has employed, in which time texts in the book of Revelation refer to A.D. 70 but then he decides to not want to discuss pertinent time texts in the rest of the N.T.? Is it not creedally arbitrary that he claims Christ came and was glorified “in” the persecuted saints of 2Thess.1:10 as an A.D.70 redemptive event, but then fails to take the plethora of time statements here in 1Peter directly linked to being a partaker and sharer in the “glory” as an immient A.D.70 event?” And how can he or Gentry ignore the immediate context associated with these time texts in which a discussion of “the time” of “the judgment” pointing back to the “living and dead” as referring to the same imminent A.D.70 event! It is not that this cannot be proven from the immediate context and context of Peter’s writings themselves, but because there is a creedal a priori arbitrary hermeneutic that is guiding men like Mathison and Gentry to not follow what partial preterists claim to be a “common sense” approach to their alleged “exegetical eschatology.” The “ready” “at hand” and “about to be” reception and revealing of God’s “glory” or the glorification of the Church, is clearly evident to the sincere seeker of the truth. The facts are simply too obvious – the imminent reception of this glory at Christ’s return in “the judgment” of the “living and the dead” is just to close to the subject of the resurrection, and so these texts go un-cited or un-clarified with their “preterist” or “possible” preterist interpretations of 4:5, 7!  

Peter closes his first letter by referring to the place in which he was writing his letters from (Jerusalem), as apostate “Babylon” (v.13). The early Christians were in the process of “coming out of her” spiritually and when the armies surrounded Jerusalem they would literally come out of her. This historical event communicated to all the nations that they had an eternal and enduring City who’s maker and builder was God and their predictions of it coming down from heaven to be received “in” them in an “about to be” time frame had been accomplished. This is but one of many reasons the Great Harlot City Babylon in Revelation is Jerusalem where the Lord was slain Rev.11:8 and another N.T. proof text for a pre-A.D.70 date for Revelation.[8]

 “By Way of Reminder” & The Eschatological Time Texts in 2 Peter 

  

 

Peter begins this second letter in chapter 1 by telling his first century brethren that he is going to “remind” them of what he had written to them in his first letter about God’s “precious promises” and their “abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom” (2Pet.1:4/1Pet.1:10-12, 2Pet.1:11-15). Clearly the salvation that was “ready” to be revealed to them in his first letter is the “entrance into the everlasting kingdom.” So right off the bat anyone with common sense can realize that the time texts that applied in his first letter now apply to the second! The sign of Mt.24:11 and the presence of false teachers and mockers Jesus had warned would come before His return are now present accusing Peter and the other apostles of making up and following cunning devised fables in their teachings about Christ’s Second Coming of which he addressed in his first letter–see verses 14, 2:1ff.. 

In chapter two Peter discusses the “judgment” of these false teachers using once again the example of Noah and the flood. Since Peter is “reminding” them of this judgment, then this is obviously referring to “the judgment” in (1Pet.4:5, 7, 17) that was “ready” and “at hand” and involved “the living and the dead.” It is worth re-iterating, that the sign of deception and apostasy Jesus had warned would come as a precursor to His return in their “this generation” (Mt.24:5, 11, 23, 27-34), Peter tells his first century audience was already present in the form of these false teachers presently challenging his teaching and they would eventually gain ground with their deceptions 1:16, 2:2. This “sign” is important when we discuss Mathison and Gentry’s futuristic interpretation of the “last days” and their postmillennial eschatology concerning the apostasy.  These men claim there are no signs before the Second Coming of Jesus and that all the signs in the Olivet discourse apply to Christ’s A.D. 70 return. 

1) “In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed.” (2Pet.2:3 NLT)   

Contrary to Richard Pratt’s theory of a postponed Second Coming concerning the judgment of these men that are persecuting and seeking to undermine Peter and the church, Peter assures them that God was not asleep, idle, or lingering, and therefore, He would “not be delayed” in bring His judgment upon them – for their lack of repentance within “the covenant community.” Since we saw in (1Pet.4:5, 7, 17 – 5) that the judgment was “ready” and “at hand” in its approaching relationship to the revealing of Christ, we understand what Peter means when he writes God “will not be delayed.” This judgment is also called “the day of judgment” in verse 9 in which Peter says God had [pronounced] their judgment “long ago” in verse 3 and they have been sovereignly “reserved” or “held in custody” as a prisioner that were ready for execution!   

But the exegete needs to ask, “But where in the Scriptures had God “condemned them long ago”? This is not difficult to answer since Peter makes at least two references to Deut. 32:5-6 in this chapter alone–verses 1, 12-13. Peter first describes them as “denying the Lord that bought them.” This is usually brought up as an Arminian or 4 point “Calvinist” “proof text” to support the unproven theory that Christ died for even those who were ordained or made for destruction. If this is speaking of Christ’s atonement it would be coupled with the purchase price such as His “blood” etc. This however is an echo of Deut. 32:5-6 in which Peter is saying in effect, along with verses 12-13, “they claim to be of Moses, Abraham, and the ‘fathers’ having been ‘bought/made/and acquired’ of Him at the first exodus, but because they in effect deny His Son (the pre-incarnate Jehovah), they are in reality only “spots” and “blemishes” and not His true children as we are.” It had first appeared that they had “escaped” the corruptions and bondage of the elements of the old-covenant world, but because their natures had not been undergoing a real changing process into the new creation of God, they would return to the deeds of their true nature–as a dog or pig returns to its vomit and mire (1:4/2Cor.3-5:17/Gals.4:3, 9,19; 2Pet.2:22).

As we have seen before, Peter’s appeals to the Song of Moses Deut. 32 are not new.  In (Acts 2:40), he quotes old covenant Israel’s “last days” terminal generation in (Deut. 32:5, 20) and exhorts his contemporaries to save themselves from the judgment of “the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” by stating, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” POINT: Peter has not invented TWO different “last days” judgments or one period spanning thousands of years in his appeals to Deut. 32 in Acts and then moving into 2Pet.2-3! It is the same judgment and will occur within their generation as Moses and then Jesus had predicted.

Before leaving chapter 2 and entering into the hotly debated chapter 3, let’s not forget that Peter is constantly bringing up the theme of the flood judgment as a type of “THE judgment” of which it is said was “ready” “at hand” and would “not tarry” (1Pet.3:20-21/4:5, 7, 17, 2Pet.2:3, 5, 9). Having laid this as a solid foundation, let’s see if somehow chapter 3 is completely separated from what Peter has taught in Acts and in his first and second letters up to this point.

 

2) The Lord is not slack [Gk. Braduno- or is not tarrying or “slow” cf. Heb.10:37b althoughadifferent Greek word, the same concept] concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us–ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2Peter 3:9)

 

 

The main debates and eschatological questions that are usually generated out of a study of 2 Peter 3 are the following: 1) “Is verse 8 is a passage in which all the time texts in the New Testament can be funneled through to justify a delayed 2000+ years of Christ’s return?” 2) “Is there a connection between Peter’s subject matter of a 1,000 years and new creation with John’s in Revelation 20-22?” And lastly, “Since the mockers and Peter appeal to passages in Genesis 1-7, doesn’t that mean that the “elements” of this creation are dealing with the planet earth and not the dissolution of the old-covenant?”

a) Is Peter trying to communicate in (2Pet. 3:8) that “the end of all things is at hand” (1Pet. 4:7) could mean a 2000+ year delay of Christ’s return?  

Peter clearly begins by stating what follows is a “reminder” to what he had written in 1 Peter! Therefore, the Second Coming, reception and inheritance of the kingdom and glory, the judgment of the living and the dead, and the “end of all things” being “at hand” are now subjects Peter is going to continue to discuss in this chapter. The time frame remains the same except Peter is going to expound upon some of the “prophets” and their predictions he had earlier said would be fulfilled in his day in 1Pet.1:4-12, but now is going to narrow down to one of these prophets and prophecies —namely Isaiah 63-66.  

It is alleged that this is the only text in the New Testament that turns the plethora of over 100 clear time texts to total and compete irrelevance, “There is no doubt that in the New Testament the nearness of the end is limited to one generation. But this error of perspective (“Perspektivenirrtum”), which is corrected in only one place of the New Testament (2Pet. 3:8)…”[9]

Again, this is the contradictory “the end is always near” “faith makes every generation to be the terminal generation” theology that Sproul correctly identified as being liberal and unorthodox to Christianity! Any student of hermeneutics knows one is never to build a doctrine off of one verse of the Bible especially when it contradicts an overwhelming amount of very clear passages! And if Peter is here trying to change the meaning of “at hand” (1Pet.4:7) to possibly mean thousands of years, then why don’t we find Paul or any of the other New Testament writers under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit giving such contradictory qualifiers as Ridderbos falsely accused Peter of doing here?  

Since Richard Pratt wants to do some parallels with 2 Peter 3:8-9 to that of some Old Testament texts (WSTTB?, pp.151-154) I welcome the challenge and will condemn his interpretation as the theology of the “mockers” in this very chapter.  

In the Old Testament, God was very angry when mockers would come denying and twisting His time texts and change “near” predictions to become “far off” ones! Any cross reference to (Ezk.7:5-10; 12:22-28) should be considered at this point. I find it odd that many commentators and cross reference works do oddly turn to this parallel passage which ends up refuting and condemning their futuristic interpretations of 2 Peter 3:8! Even futurist commentaries acknowledge that one of the sins of the false prophets and apostates of Eziekel’s day was not that they denied a coming judgment, but that they sought to change the meaning of “at hand” to “far off.” “…here formalists do not go so far as to deny that a day of evil is coming, but assert it is still far off (Am 6:3).”[10]

  The application of God’s Word here is firm and clear to the futurist who seeks to twist His time texts to fit into his uninspired creedal theology. As discussed in my section on Hebrews, this is a direct assault on the very nature of God Himself and portrays Him as a “liar” and unfaithful to keep His covenant oath and promises! Even reformed futurist Gary DeMar comments on the parallels of Ezekiel’s prophecy with that of Jesus,’ “Ezekiel’s description of the imminent destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem parallels what happened to Israel after the ascension and enthronement of Jesus. A warning of impending doom had been given to the nation. Many ignored the warning and died in the conflagration that came upon the city in A.D.70, on generation after Jesus pronounced His judgment (Matthew 24:14, 34; 1 Peter 4:7; Revelation 1:1, 3).” And , “Based on the way “quickly,” “near,” and “shortly” are used in Genesis through Revelation, any student of the Bible who does not interpret these time texts to mean anything other than close at hand is in jeopardy of denying the integrity of the Bible.”[11]

 

Let’s not hold back here, all of our reformed opponents (including the partial preterist ones – Genrtry and Mathison) are united (WSTTB?, pp.203, 326) in portraying Christ as “slow” “delayed” and thus un-faithful to keep His promises to return and judge in the imminent time frame Peter has described in both of his letters and in his sermons in Acts! 

Isaiah prophesied that Babylon’s judgment was “at hand” and would not be delayed (Isa.13:6, 9, 22). Indeed God’s judgment of Babylon occurred through the means of the Medes and Persians and was not “prolonged” let alone delayed thousands of years because God is said to be “outside of time.” The de-creation language of verses 9-10 refer to the civil and religious powers of Babylon falling in this in time historical judgment. However one wants to understand the army of the locusts in Joel’s prophecy, it was described as the “Day of the Lord” and was “at hand,” and therefore the people facing this imminent event needed to repent (Joel 1:2-3, 11, 13, 15, 2:15). Zephaniah prophesied that the “Day of the Lord” was “at hand” againt Judah by means of the Babylonian armies and it also was not delayed thousands of years. Nor was “at hand” understood to mean thousands of years because God was “outside of time.” 

Men such as Richard Pratt and John MacArthur
[12]

have attempted to refute us by arguing from verse 9 that God has postponed or delayed His Second Coming because of His attribute of being “longsuffering” towards sinners. It is also argued by these men that the Great Commission hasn’t been fulfilled and is thus another reason God has “delayed” some 2,000+ years and counting. I have already refuted these arguments by demonstrating that the commandment of the Great Commission had already been fulfilled before A.D.70: 1) Mt.24:14/Rms.10:18 “all the world” oikoumene; 2) Mrk.13:10/Rms.16:25-26 “all nations” ethnos; 3) Lk.24:46-47/Rms.16:25-26 “all nations” ethnos; 3) Mrk.16:15/Col.1:5-6 “all the world” kosmos; 4) Mrk.16:15/Col.1:23 “every creature” kitisis; 5) Acts 1:8/Rms.10:18 “ends [or all] of the earth/land” ge & oikoumene. The concept of God’s “longsuffering” does not necessitate a 2,000+ year “delay” of Christ’s return! The text clearly says God would not be slow or delay as stated in Heb.10:37! Allowing Scripture to interpret itself, His “longsuffering” was directed towards sinners living in and coming to repentance within a very specific time frame—their–“this generation” and no other!   

 

Our text is very clear that God was not willing (Greek Boulomai) that His elect (in context, the “beloved” Jewish and gentile) “any” and “all” should perish. This is the strongest word in the Greek language to communicate the determinative will of God. Peter’s theology is consistent–God would not delay or be slow nor was His decretive will to save and judge sinners in an “at hand” “ready” “be saved from this crooked and perverse generation” time frame–to be postponed!  Everything was going as planned and decreed by God!  To argue any other way is to align oneself with the mockers of Peter’s day, deny inspiration, adopt a liberal view of interpreting Scripture, and deny ones own Calvinism—selah. Peter goes on to say that God’s longsuffering was “salvation.” None of God’s elect that He had sovereignly foreordained unto eternal life “perished” or were “appointed to wrath” in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70. To be an Arminian preterist and teach otherwise is to teach God failed and continues to fail in His redemptive purposes and essentially is to deny ones preterism—selah. This is a fundamental flaw to the “sovereignty” of God arguments that Don Preston uses against futurists who postpone Christ’s kingdom plans either in His first or Second Coming, as God “altering” His kingdom plans. Don states, “His Son would not fail! IF YOUR THEOLOGY SAYS THAT GOD FAILED, YOU NEED TO CHANGE YOUR THEOLOGY!”[13]

And yet Don gives the following propostions:  1)  Christ died potentially for the entire race, 2)  it is God’s sovereign will to save them, BUT 3)  their “free will” “alters” God’s redemptive will and plans! As much respenct as I have for Don, I believe he needs to be consistent in his sovereignty of God arguments within his preterist beliefs, and become a Calvinist, or be consistent in his Arminianism and become a Universalist like Max King. If Christ died for all mankind and it is His will to save all of them then “your theology says that God failed, and you need to change your theology!” If Christ saved believers and it was His will that they not perish then or today (pre or post A.D. 70), and some did and continue to today in the new-covenant age, then, “your theology says that God failed, and you need to change your theology!” Its really that simple.  

 

Before leaving the “timing” issue in this chapter, we need to briefly go over again Peter’s “last days” period involves two signs” in Matthew 24 that were to precede the Second Coming of Jesus. He discusses the “scoffers” that would come during the “last days” which correspond to the false teachers and prophets Jesus had warned of in the Olivet Discourse. The “scoffers” work would obviously lead to the apostasy which was another “sign” Jesus gave. The majority of commentators such as Kistemaker, agree with us, that these mockers had already arrived and are described in the previous chapters. They also accurately parallel them with Mt.24:3-5, 11, 23-26. Therefore, it is not true for Mathison to say that the presence of the scoffers “is explicitly said to be future” in hopes of extending the “last days” into our future (WSTTB?, p.190). And although Kistemaker does admit that the scoffers were present and remain a factor in the future before Christ returns, neither Mathison nor Kistemaker can prove that “the future” for Peter and his audience is a 2000+ years and counting “future” time! It would be nice if Mathison would read Peter’s previous discussions of the scoffers and even Jude’s treatment of them in Jude 17-18 before claiming this prophecy “is explicitly said to be future” when this is just dead wrong! Gentry and Mathison are in trouble here because Peter is clearly discussing two “signs” Jesus gave in the Olivet discourse. But according to their artificial division theory of the discourse, there can be no signs preceding the “final” Second Coming of which they claim 2 Peter 3 is addressing. Peter is obviously not following the two section theory and two coming theory that Mathison and Gentry have invented in Matthew 24. This is consistent with what we saw in the writings of Luke in Luke 17 and Paul in 1Thessalonians 4-5. Neither of them followed a two sections or two second coming theory of  Matthew 24. Peter is discussing the same signs and the same coming of Christ in Mt.24:5-34 and it would occur within Peter’s “this generation” and therefore would not be delayed as some were tempted to think and heckled.

Peter tells his audience to not be alarmed because not only were the “scoffers” a prediction of what Jesus said would come in their generation, but they were also the fulfillment of the “last days” prophecies predicted in the “prophets.” In Isaiah these scoffers are identified in (Isa.1-2, 28:14, 22). As we have already seen there are “survivors” of this “Day of the Lord” and both Jesus and John in Revelation apply the prophecy to A.D.70 (Lk.23:30/Rev.6:9-15) and therefore these “scoffers” would be judged in a “little while.”

b) “Is there a connection between Peter’s appeal to a 1,000 years and the new creation with John’s in Revelation 20-22?” 

Since Peter quotes from Psalm 90, we need to examine its context to better understand where this 1,000 years is originating from. I would agree with the commentators that see Moses statement of man returning to the dust and the appeal to a thousand years in (Ps. 90:3-4) as a reference to Adam and his judgment and mortality being contrasted with God’s holiness and immortality. Of verse 4, “Even were our days now a thousand years, as Adam’s, our life would be but a moment in God’s sight (#2Pe 3:8).[14] Many commentators make this connection.[15]

Many have wondered if there is any connection between Peter’s 1,000 years and new creation motif in 2 Peter 3 with that of John’s in Rev.20-21. I believe there is. Based upon Psalm 90, the Jews understood the Messiah’s intermediate millennial reign to be the antitype fulfillment of Israel’s 40 years of wilderness wanderings and at the same time a literal or figurative antitype fulfillment of Adam’s 1,000 years probationary period leading to his death in the first paradise. Reformed theologian G.K. Beale addresses both of these periods being derived from Psalm 90:  

“There are numerous Jewish traditions about the nature and length of the future messianic reign. Some speculated that there would be no messianic reign at all, while others proposed periods of an intermediate reign from 40 to 365,000 years.”

“see the surveys of rabbinic views in b. Sanhedrin 97a-b, 99a; Midr. Ps. 90:17; Pesikta Rabbati 1…”[16]   

And now of the thousand years:  

“The thousand-year period in Jub. 23:27-30 is clearly figurative for the complete perfection of the eternal time of blessing for God’s people: “The days will begin to grow many and increase among those people until their days become one thousand years, and a greater number of years than before is the number of the days. And there will be no old man… And they will complete all their days and live in peace and joy … and rejoice with joy forever and ever.” The number one thousand is derived from Jub. 4:29-30, which alludes to Isa. 65:22 LXX (“the days of my people will be as the days of the tree of life; they will long enjoy the fruits of their labors”): “Adam died … he lacked seventy years of one thousand years; for one thousand years are as one day [Ps. 90:4] in the testimony of the heavens, and therefore was it written concerning the tree of knowledge: ‘On the day you eat of it you will die.’ For this reason he did not complete the years of this day; for he died during it.” Jubilees understands that the ideal life of the probationary period (“day”) in Eden should have been one thousand years (so also Midr. Rab. Gen. 19.8; Midr. Rab. Num. 5.; Midr. Ps. 25.8 on the basis of Psalm 90). The Jubilees text concludes that the future messianic reign must achieve what Adam did not because Adam did not live one thousand years, because Isa. 65:22 prophesied that the messianic age will last as long as the ideal meant for the first paradise (likewise Test. Levi 18:8-13), and because of Ps. 90:4 (the Jubilees tradition of the ideal millennial span of the first paradise is reflected in Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 5.23:2).At least in part, Jub. 23:27-30 was influenced to conceive of this millennium figuratively by the Psalm 90 formula, whereas early church fathers like Justin Martyr (Dialogue 81) used the same reasoning to formulate a literal premillennial persepective…” (Beale, ibid, p.1019)  

Peter has been appealing to Genesis 1-7 in verses 4-6, and he now cites a Psalm that does the same–all the while upholding the “this crooked and perverse generation” transition 40 year millennial time frame to be the period of God’s “long suffering” before an “at hand” “not delayed” “end” and “judgment” arrives! Adam falling short of the 1,000 years (Genesis 5:5 – 930) represents him being created a mortal being and him perishing outside of God’s presence in sin. Therefore, it is more than reasonable, that the number 1,000 took on the symbolism and representation of God’s immortality, completeness, and eternality as being contrasted with mans temporal, dependency, and mortal frailty apart from God’s salvation. When Messiah would come He would not fail any kind of testing or probationary period Adam or Israel had undergone in the past. Peter has addressed both time frames, one with a new exodus 40 year “this generation” motif in his sermon in (Acts 2:40) and I believe here he is addressing the new creation 1,000 year millennial motif that was common among the Rabbi’s of his day as well. From what I understand from Beale’s comments, some Rabbis thought the 1,000 year transition millennial period of Messiah derived from an antitype of Adam in Gen.5:5/Ps.90:3-4 would be a literal 1,000 years while others took the 1,000 years to be a figurative number–similar to what we have today within the premillennial, postmillennial & amillennial debates. I concur with those futurists that have sought to see a relationship between the 1,000 years of Peter and John in Revelation 20 while at the same time agreeing with amillennialists that the 1,000 years is a figurative number. 

Through faith and our union with Christ as our Last Adam, the Tree of Life, and New Creation, Christians have achieved what Adam did not–we have been clothed with “immortality,” live to be a thousand years, or “never die” (2Cor.1:20; 1Cor.15:45-53; Rev.21-22; Jn.11:26-27).  In Revelation 20, the Church awaiting an imminent Second Coming during this 40 year transition period were living and reigning with Christ for a 1,000 years. The “Tree of Life,” of which Adam never partook of in the first creation and was thus banished from, had been given back to the new-covenant people–a new and glorified man, the Church.  They were coming to life and lived and reigned a thousand years under the new creation. We remain in God’s eternal day as His new creation bringing light, immortality, and healing to the nations of the world as we preach the everlasting gospel 2 Timothy 1:9-11; Rev. 20-22. 

c) “Since the mockers and Peter appeal to the creation in (Gen.1-7), doesn’t this mean the “elements” of the de-creation/re-creation is involving the literal planet and not the old-covenant creation?”   

 

Reformed theologians such as John Owen and John Lightfoot along with many others, correctly understood the “elements” here not as the rocks and tress of the planet earth, but of the old-covenant law and the “Day of the Lord” occurring in A.D. 70. John Owen stated of our passage here,

“Peter tells them, that, after the destruction and judgment that he speaks of, verse 13, ‘We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth,’ etc. ‘They had this expectation. But what is that promise? Where may we find it? Why, we have it in the very words and letter, Isa. Lxv. 17. Now, when shall this be that God will create these ‘new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness?’ Saith Peter, ‘It shall be after the coming of the Lord, after that judgment and destruction of ungodly men, who obey not the gospel, that I foretell.’ But now it is evident, from this place of Isaiah, with chap. Lxvi., 21, 22 that this is a prophecy of gospel times only; and that the planting of these new heavens is nothing but the creation of gospel ordinances, to endure for ever. The same thing is so expressed, Heb. Xii. 26-28. Let others mock at the threats of Christ’s coming. – he will come, he will not tarry; and then the heavens and earth that God himself planted, – the sun, moon, stars of the Judaical polity and church, – the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinacy against the Lord Christ, – shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed. This, we know, shall be the end of these things, and that shortly.’”[17] 

And John Lightfoot agrees,  

“‘The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,’ &c. Compare this with Deut. 32:22, Heb. 12:26: and observe that by elements are understood the Mosaic elements, Gal. 4:9, Col. 2:20: and you will not doubt see that Peter speaks only of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation, and the abolishing the dispensation of Moses.”[18]

Notice how both Owen and Lightfoot state clearly the old creation and the new in our passage “only” refer to the passing of two covenantal worlds by the “Day of the Lord” in A.D.70. The text is in no way discussing the passing and re-creating of the planet earth.  Gentry[19] and Mathison both reason that since Peter is making some connections to the “beginning” of (Gen.1) that this passing of the elements and world must be discussing the destruction of the literal planet. And yet both of them claim in John’s vision of “…the first heaven and the first earth had passed away,..” in (Rev.21), that this is the old- covenant Mosaic creation passing in A.D.70 with the new taking its place! Mathison writes, “Revelation 21 introduces the vision of a new heaven and a new earth and the new Jerusalem. This fulfills Isaiah 65:17-25 and numerous other Old Testament prophecies. Revelation 21:2-22:5 describes the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven. In this vision, we see the original covenant purposes of God fulfilled. (Postmillennialism, ibid., p.157, emphasis added). Gentry states, “The heavenly Jerusalem is the bride of Christ that came down from God to replace the earthly Jerusalem (Rev.21:2-5) in the first century (Rev.1:1, 3; 22:6, 10). With the shaking and destruction of the old Jerusalem in A.D.70, the heavenly (re-created) Jerusalem replaced her…” And again, “The New Heavens and New Earth here (and many places elsewhere) has reference to the New Covenant era.[20] James Jordan reaches back to Genesis 1 as well, “…the distinction between an Edenic land and other lands is eliminated. In fact, since the Gentile lands are often pictured as the sea, “there is no longer any sea” (Rev.21:1). “We no longer have five environments with five different degrees of access to God (Heaven, Firmament-Heaven, Sanctuary, Land, World). Now all believers have the same access, and all unbelievers are outside. There are only two environments.” “The whole order of the first creation, with its Heavens-Sanctuary-Eden-World divisions, was going to be wiped out. A new creation had come. Thus, the cosmic model presented in Revelation 21-22 is different from anything found in the Old Testament. There are only two environments: inside the New Jerusalem and outside the New Jerusalem.” “It is sanctuary and land rolled together, and set up “on earth as in heaven,” so that it is four-square in shape like the heavenly Most Holy (21:16).”[21]

If Mathison and Gentry agree that John’s de-creation/re-creation of the “original” creation in Genesis 1-2 occurred in A.D.70 because the time texts demand it, then how can Gentry and Mathison then make a case for the passing of the creation in 2 Peter 3 to be the “literal” planet, because Peter mentions Genesis 1 material? The fact that both John and Peter are referring to the same A.D.70 de-creation/re-creation event and coming of the Lord is further established in that both Revelation 21 and 2 Peter 3 are drawing from the very Old Testament prophecy found in Isaiah 65-66. Remember, “Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to each other.” Gentry tries to do some hermeneutical gymnastics claiming John’s de-creation/re-creation interpretation of Isaiah 65-66 was spiritual and occurred in A.D.70, while Peter decides to “expand” the Isaiah passage to a literal fulfillment, “…Yet as an inspired apostle he expands on that truth, looking to the ultimate outcome of the spiritual new heavens and earth in the eternal new creation.”[22]

The text of course does not say this but it is theologically necessary for Gentry to read his “expanded” literal fulfillment into the text in order to support his creedal philosophy. The problem Mathison and Gentry have created for themselves, is they have invented out of thin air, another “already” and “not yet” New Testament eschatology with two Second Comings to bring an end to two “ages” to usher in two new heavens and earths, where the New Ttestament only addresses one! It is more than Gentry and Mathison being out of step with other reformed partial preterists such as John Owen and John Lightfoot here in 2 Peter 3 that is in view here. It has more to do with following the sound laws of hermeneutics. Based upon Mathison and Gentry’s arbitrary hermeneutics, how can they object when dispensationalists take various Old Testament texts and deny the timing and spiritual nature of their New Testament fulfillments when they “expand” them to fit into their artificial and man made eschatology? When dispensationalists or partial preterists run into passages that don’t fit their artificial systems, they just “expand” their meanings! The “elements” and “heavens and earth” that were burned up here in connection to the “Day of the Lord” are those referred to by our Lord in Matthew 24:27-35 in connection to the destruction of the temple in A.D.70:

 

Day

 

Creation

 

Tabernacle

 

Day 1

 
Heavens are stretched out like a curtain (Ps. 104:2)
 
Tent (Exod.26:7)
 

Day 2

 
Firmament (Gen. 1:2)
 
Temple veil (Exod.26:33)
 

Day 3

 
Waters below firmament
 
Laver or bronze sea (Exod. 30:18)
 

Day 4

 
Lights (Gen.1:14)
 
Light stand (Exod. 25:31)
 

Day 5

 
Birds (Gen. 1:20)
 
Winged cherubim (Exod. 25:20)
 

Day 6

 
Man (Gen. 1:27)
 
Aaron the high priest (Exod. 28:1)
 

Day 7

 
Cessation (Gen. 2:1)
 
Blessing (Gen. 2:3)
 
Completion (Gen.2:2)
 
Cessation (Exod. 39:32)
 
Mosaic blessing (Exod. 39:43
 
Completion (Exod. 39:43)
 

 

  

Genesis 1-7 Parallels to the salvation & judgment of 2 Peter 3 

 

Peter’s parallel’s with Genesis 1-2.
As stated earlier, I do believe Reformed theologians such as Herman Ridderbos, Meredith Kline, and more particularly Milton Terry, were on the right track in pointing out the theological framework and emphasis of God’s creation, covenant, and judgment with man in Genesis 1-3 is focused upon mans heart and mind in relation to his guilt or innocence before God. Up to this point, Peter has been discussing the saving of the soul – “the breadth of life” (1Pet.1:9/Gen.1:7), and partaking of the divine nature or image of God (2Pet.1:4/Gen.1:26). These are themes leading his readers into another discussion of the transformation and imminent inheritance of the new creation of which the prophets foretold a fulfillment for his day (1Pet.1:4-12; Gen.1-2/Isa.65-66). Both Paul and Peter in their writings are dealing with a completely NEW creation of being in Christ – the last Adam—a heavenly man–and a life giving spirit. Peter also echos Genesis language with what was taking place for the Church as God’s new creation with the theme of a division between the light and darkness in 1Peter 2:9. The “light” and “day” coming “in” their hearts at Christ’s parousia in (2Pet.1:16-19), was not and did not affect the globe. Here in chapter 3 Peter has referenced the creation of the third day which as we have seen in Hebrew parallel structure corresponds to the 6th day of creation as well. In Genesis on the third and sixth days, the land is formed and fashioned out of the dark chaotic waters and man is formed from the dust of the land. But the six days of creation still remain in the realm of an ongoing process, because it is not all completed until God rests on the 7th and final day. Likewise, the light and glory of the new covenant’s “world of righteousness” has entered the dark and evil old covenant age/world, and is transforming it and in a “very little while” the Sabbath rest of the final day of this creation would be accomplished (Heb.3-4, 10:25, 37). As Jordan pointed out the “land” represented Israel and the “seas” represented the gentiles. The land of the new-covenant Jerusalem was being separated and created out from among the apostate old-covenant sea of Babylon/Jerusalem. The holy temple/mountain theme found in the prophets (cf. Isa. 2; Dan. 2) arising up or being built up from among the chaotic and hostile groups of the Jews and Gentiles to be at peace and form one elect and holy Nation (1Pet. 2; cf. Ephs. 2). Christ (and the Church in union with Him) was a precious Corner Stone temple/mountain “made without hands” which had covered the known world/land of Israel and the Roman Empire. This fulfilled the Great Commission and Christ came and established the “the world of righteousness” in the events of leading up to A.D.70.

Peter’s parallels with the flood in Genesis 7.
We now move on to making some parallels that can be made concerning the salvation and judgment in the flood with that of the salvation and judgment/wrath that was “about to” occur in A.D.70. Peter is following Jesus’ teaching and his parallels with the judgment of the flood in Noah’s day as being a type and paralleled to His Second Coming as taught by Jesus in Matthew 24-25 and Luke 17. There are more parallels here than a mere suddenness of judgment if futurists want to push more parallels. Reformed theologians (as well as preterists) debate the extent of the flood as being either local or global as they do the age of the earth. I would agree with those evangelical and reformed theologians that believe in a local flood.
[24] Defending that position here would be to develop a book or significant chapter in and of itself. But what it really comes down to for me is just looking at how the words for earth/land are used in the Hebrew-eretz and then in the Greek-ge and at the same time analyzing similar phrases such as in (Genesis 7:23 ESV and Luke 21:32, 35). Many futurists such as Kistemaker, merely assume and then falsely argue because the flood was global, the judgment by fire, the great tribulation and judgments in the Olivet discourse and the Book of Revelation must also be global events, “Notice that Peter draws a parallel (see vv. 6 and 7); he contrasts the ancient world with the present heavens and earth. The world of Noah was destroyed by water; the present world will be burned with fire. The conclusion seems to be that the flood was universal, much the same as the imminent destruction by fire will be universal.[25]

Apparently in Mr. Kistemaker’s logic, God is saying, “I promised to never destroy man and animal life globally by water, but I never said anything about fire – gotcha, ha, ha” (Gen.9:15-16).

 

After studying the New Testament’s use of ge which is the equivalent to its Hebrew father eretz, I find the parallel’s to be local and not global when the judgment of the flood is compared with the judgments described by Jesus, Peter, and John in Luke 17; Matthew 24; 2 Peter 3; & Revelation. In the spiritual and unseen realm however, angels and spirits of men were judged and a new creation was established in the hearts of God’s people. Within the local geographical judgment and sphere of A.D.66-70, redemption had been accomplished and secured universally for God’s elect throughout all of time and history pre or post A.D.70. The local geographical judgment upon Jerusalem is no less significant and universal in scope than Christ being crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem!

God in Noah’s day allowed the barrier of the threatening waters to cross on to the local land to purge and cleanse it. Likewise the Roman army consisted of the “nations of the earth” and God was going to send them to judge and sweep the ungodly away from Jerusalem.[26]

Both judgments involved a local land setting and not a global one. How about the parallels to the salvation of the righteous in A.D.70? Adam’s sin entailed the spiritual death of his soul and an experience of guilt and shame in the unseen spiritual “in” or “with in” realm of man. Therefore, the souls of the remnant were “saved” and purged from dead works at Christ’s Second appearing in A.D.70. Their flight from Jerusalem did not entail a global exodus or “rapture” to heaven, but a local flight to Pella. The realm of this exodus from sin is spiritual, taking place in the heart, and the physical aspect of this salvation entailed a local deliverance and not a global one. For those futurists that want to push global parallel’s, these would be the parallels local ones I see with the Genesis 1-7 that Peter is interacting with concerning an imminent reception of a salvation/new creation and a judgment for the wicked in A.D.70.

 

“But how was (Isa.65:17-22) fulfilled in A.D.70?”

Before leaving this chapter, I hear the above objection ringing in my ear so let me briefly address it and tie it into the thousand years of verse 8 and Psalm 90:3-4. Remember in my quote of Beale, the Rabbis equated Isaiah 65:22 with that of Psalm 90:3-4 to establish this 1,000 year millennium period! I agree with the connections. This passage in Isaiah 65:20, 22 is a poetic description of covenantal blessings being a type of eternal life. The 100 years is an echo of the blessings and curses of the old-covenant creation in Deut. 28, while the tree of life or age attaining to trees, is an echo to Genesis 1-5. When God’s people under the old covenant obeyed God they usually saw long life. An example of experiencing this covenantal blessing of long life can be seen in Moses living to be a 120 years, (cf.Gen.6:3)[27] and Joshua’s 100 years. Long life in relation to trees could be speaking of the long life that man enjoyed in early history such as Adam 930 years, or speaking directly of the Tree of Life–Christ and our eternal life found in Him. These descriptions of long life in the Old Testament are describing in type form of abundant and eternal life in Christ under the new-covenant creation. Jesus said, “…I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (Jn.11:25-26). Although not Biblical Preterists, John Gill and Matthew Henry comments are somewhat helpful on Isaiah 65:22), “The allusion may be to the tree of life in paradise, and may be expressive of the long life of good men in this state; and as the tree of life was typical of Christ, who is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon him, it may denote that eternal life his people have by him[28]

“…as the days of the tree of life; so the LXX. Christ is to them the tree of life, and in him believers enjoy all those spiritual comforts which are typified by the abundance of temporal blessings here promised; and it shall not be in the power of their enemies to deprive them of these blessings or disturb them in the enjoyment of them.”

[29]

The “curse” of sinners and “death” is referring to a rejection of the gospel which is the second dead, or a spiritual death experienced outside the gates of the City (Jordan’s “two environments”). The cursed also live for a 100 years indicating the opposite of eternal life–the wrath of God abiding upon the wicked in the gospel dispensation and their eternal torment which follows their rejection into eternity.  

But how are we to reconcile physical birth and death in Isaiah 65:20 with that of eternal life and “no death” with deaths defeat in A.D.70 in Isaiah 25/1Corinthians15/Revelation 21? The physical utopia concept of a new heavens and earth of creedalism is not taught here. If a literal hermeneutic is insisted upon the traditional futuristic paradigm is in trouble for there is physical birth, death, sinners, agriculture, labor, and house building taking place in the new creation or the “age to come.” We must ask our Reformed futuristic and dispensational opponents, “Is there going to be “tears” over the physical “death” of loved ones in the new heavens and new earth?” And “where are these births coming from if we are going to be like the angels in heaven and not marriages are going to take place? If literal, are these illegitimate children being born?” In our view of the new heavens and earth having come at Christ’s Second Coming in A.D.70, we can both explain why there is physical death and tears and yet no death and no tears for the Christian at the same time. At Christ’s Second Coming He conquered the curse of spiritual death that was magnified through the old-covenant Mosaic law. When the outer shell of the old Mosaic covenant system collapsed, this was a sign that the spiritual death it magnified had been conquered and destroyed for those “in Christ.” Physical death still exists and will always exist for Christians and non-Christians alike. But because Christ has come and given His Church eternal life, we “never die.” The law does not condemn us therefore weeping over a need for a mediator, priest, or sacrifice to take away our sins completely is not necessary. 

The “birth” of children in our passage is not referring to physical birth, but being born again or born from above through the gospel under the new-covenant creation and then preaching the gospel and raising up seed in the kingdom through the Word of God (Jn.3:6-8; 1Jn. 3:9; 1Pet.1:23; Acts 8/Isa.53-56; Rms.4:16; Gal.3:29). Labor and agriculture is a reference to our labors in the gospel and the fruitful benefits that come from such an undertaking (Mt.11:28, 13:8, 23, 21:33-43; Jn.4:36-38, 6:27, 15:5; Rms.6:22, 7:4, 15:28, 16:12; Phil.1:11, 22/2:25, 4:17; 1Tim.5:17; Heb.4:11, 6:10; Rev.22:2). Such laboring in the Gospel was not in vain (1Cor.15:58). We have fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and children in the gospel and enjoy the fruits of the Spirit that come forth from such labors and fellowship in the family of God (Mt.12:48-50). 

And what of Isaiah 65:25? Here it is stated that the “wolf and the lamb will feed together.” This is parallel imagery to Isaiah 11:6-9 and we understand this language metaphorically being descriptive of peace within the heart or between Jew and Gentile in the Kingdom. This is how most Reformed theologians understand this kind of prophetic language as well.  We just don’t read into the New Testament their “expanded” and “physical phases” of which these texts never discuss![30]

Concluding the eschatology of 1 & 2 Peter:

Like the writer to the Hebrew’s, Peter specifically taught Christ would not “delay” or be “slow” to return, but indeed was faithful to preserve the Church and establish her as His new creation within that specific “last days” A.D.70 generation. The passing and dissolution of the “elements” of the first creation, and entering and inheriting “the world of righteousness,” had to do with the “saving of the soul.” Peter’s theology is that of John’s in the Book of Revelation. The amillennialist consistently sees 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21-22 as literally being fulfilled and culminating in a physical and literal coming of Christ at the end of history. Mathison and Gentry either need to revert back to this kind of literal consistency, or move on into a more “progressive preterist” position that does not break-up the harmony of the New Testament Scriptures in either the imminent timing or the spiritual nature of fulfillment of prophecy. Gentry, Mathison, and rest of the authors of WSTTB,, break from the reformed tradition of men like Owen and DeMar, and believe the “last days” of verse 3 is referring to the end of time and not the end of the old-covenant age. Peter has already addressed the “last days” earlier in his first letter as the “last time” and “last times.” It was clear in chapter 1 of first Peter that the Second Coming and their inheritance of which ALL the Old Testament prophets had predicted would come, had arrived, and was “ready” to be fulfilled in their day – not a future one! Peter’s second letter and specifically within the controversial chapter 3, is a “reminder” of the imminent inheritance/entrance and judgment he spoke of in his first letter. There is no exegetical evidence for Pratt’s theory whereby Peter is allegedly learning that the Second Coming was going to be postponed or delayed because of a lack of repentance from the covenant community. It was this lack of repentance from those who were not ordained to eternal life which caused Christ to return imminently, and it was the repentance of the remnant within that generation which secured the imminent “salvation of the soul” at Christ’s return in A.D. 70. 

Conclusion  

Pratt concludes his chapter by quoting Revelation, “This hope still inspires us to remain faithful to our Lord today. As in the first century, Christ’s imminent return is offered to us, and we too pray that he will fulfill that promise in our day. “’Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). This is odd because according to Pratt Christ was genuinely planning on coming in the first century but His return got postponed and yet the book of Revelation knows of no such concept from beginning to end. The first verse of Revelation states, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants––things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,” (Rev. 1:1). Again, this Greek word for “must” dei, means, “necessity established by the counsel and decree of God, especially by that purpose of his which relates to the salvation of men by the intervention of Christ and which is disclosed in the Old Testament prophecies.” And the passage in Revlation 22:20 of which Pratt closes his chapter, uses a couple of words worth mentioning. Jesus gives “solemn testimony,” “swears” or “testifies” (Greek martureo) not that He will certainly come someday, but that He will come “soon”! To have Jesus teach otherwise is to declare Jesus a false witness or giving false testimony! The other word here is “Amen” (Greek nai) which means “to be firm, steady, trustworthy.” Pratt’s view makes God’s eternal counsel and decree to send His Son within a specific generation and in a “soon” time frame as “NOT being of necessity firm, steady, or trustworthy.” 

Perhaps while here in Revelation, we should address a seemingly obscure passage, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” (Rev. 22:11-12). Commentators state, “This rather strange command is explained by the fact that the End will come soon, and there is no time left for people to change their way of living. This situation can be clearly expressed by beginning the verse “In the meantime” or “Meanwhile.”[31] Mounce suggests that “from the perspective of the Seer the end is so close that there is no longer time to alter the character and habits of men.”24 This might imply that John’s view was incorrect because, from a retrospective historical view, there has been plenty of time for change.[32]

But John’s view was not “incorrect” and He sees Christ’s coming towards the end of His generation and so “soon” that nothing is going to thwart the timing of this event! Unbelief or a lack of repentance from the “covenant community” did not “alter” God’s Kingdom plans to return “soon”!  

As we have seen, God used the same exact Greek words to describe God’s sovereignly decreeing and giving counsel for the Son to come into the world and die for His elect at a very specific time and generation within time and history that He used to describe the sending His Son to return and secure redemption for His Body – the Church!  

When we view the writings of Sproul, Mathison, Gentry, DeMar, and Pratt together, they offer a more than “house divided” apologetic against us! According to Sproul and DeMar, Kistemaker and Pratt are using a neo-orthodox approach to the imminent time texts and are undermining the integrity and inspiration of Scripture! We agree. Jesus did not say that His return “might be” or “could be” “near”! I believe Pratt’s approach to Christ’s return has more in common with the reasoning found in the teachings of the last days cults, liberalism, open theism, armininianism, and dispensationalism, than it does with what the Bible teaches. That Pratt’s chapter was even considered a “possible” approach by Mathison and the Reformed community is itself a sad commentary on the state of futurist eschatology and specifically Reformed eschatology. It is a clear denial of the sovereignty of God. They teach God was unable to accomplish redemption for the Church how He said He would and when He said He would do it! We do not worship such a God. Our God accomplished redemption for the Church as and when He promised.  

Jesus clearly taught in Mark 8:38-9:1 that the disciples and the Church would be able to “already” know that the kingdom and the Son of Man had come when Jerusalem was destroyed in power. Pratt has a theory in which Christ promised to return in the first century but decided to postpone it because of a lack of repentance. I have demonstrated that he has no New Testament Scripture or authority to support his theory that the Second Coming got postponed! Where is the inspired record to substantiate this postponement of the Second Coming? We have inspired and authoritative witness from Scripture itself that the Church did and can look back upon the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and know that Christ returned as and when He promised – selah! 


 

[1]

Online Bible Software,Ibid., Greek English Online Bible Greek Lexicon.

[2]

Online Bible Software,Ibid., Greek English Online Bible Greek Lexicon, [cf.1:22-25 added] .

[3]

David Green, http://www.preteristcosmos.com/Bapsave.htm

[4]

Gentry, FOUR VIEWS ON THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p.246n.45, ibid. Gentry, BEFORE JERUSALEM FELL, pp.142n., 235n., ibid. Gentry, FOUR VIEWS ON THE BOOK OF REVELATION, p.43, 89, ibid.

[5]

Gentry, FOUR VIEWS ON THE BOOK OF REVELATION, p.43, ibid.

[6]

Robert B. Strimple, FOUR VIEWS ON THE MILLENNIUM AND BEYOND, p.61, ibid.

[7]

Online Bible Software, Greek English Online Bible Greek Lexicon, ibid.

[8]

Joseph R. Balyeat, BABYLON THE GREAT CITY OF REVELATION, pp.87-102, Onward Press, 1991.

[9]

Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 453, P&R pub. 1962, emphasis MJS

[10]

JFB, Online Bible, emphasis added.

[11]

Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness, p.296, ibid. emphasis added.

[12]

John MacArthur, The Second Coming Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age, pp.58, 213-215, ibid.

[13]

Preston, Don, The Last Days Identified, p.104,JaDon Productions 89 Magnolia St. Ardmore, OK.

Online Bible JFB. Ibid Psalm 90:3-4.

[15]

Carson, D. A.: New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA : Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, S. Ps 90:3 “The endangered species. For forty years Moses watched sadly as time, like an ever-rolling stream, bore all its sons away (3–6, Nu. 14:23, 29; Dt. 2:14–16) and recognized behind what he saw the dread reality of the anger of God against sin (7–11). But the truth he expressed is true of all humankind: threatened by impermanence (3–6), and blighted by wrath (7–11). It is by the agency of God that we suffer the insecurity of transience. It is by his decree (Gn. 3:19) that we return to dust—an inescapable fate, for (4) even those whose life-span was near-millennial (Gn. 5) came to death like all others and for all alike the fresh grass of the morning is the dry vegetation of the evening (5–6). Why should this be? Why should a species destined to eat of the Tree of Life and live for ever (Gn. 2:16; 3:22) crumble to dust and sleep in death? Restoring ‘For’ to the beginning of v 7 gives the answer—divine angerindignation against iniquitiessecret sins (8), wrath (9)!

[16]

G.K. Beale, The New International Greek Testament Commentary The Book of Revelation, p. 1018 -19, Eerdmans pub. 1999, emphasis MJS

[17]

 

Owen, John, The Works of John Owen, Banner of Truth pub., Vol.9 pp. 134-135, emphasis added.

[18]

 

Lightfoot, John, COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT FROM THE TALMUD AND HEBRAICA, Vol.3, p.452, Hendrickson pub, 2003, emphasis added.

Gentry, Dominion, p.304, ibid.
Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, ibid., pp.363-365.

[21]

James Jordan, Through New Eyes Developing a Biblical View of the World, pp.271-272, of (2Pet.3), p,302, ibid.

Gentry, ibid., p.305, emphasis added.

[23]

J.V. Fesko, Last Things First Unlocking Genesis 1-3 with the Christ of Eschatology, p.70, Mentor Imprint Christian Focus Publications, 2007. I would agree with the premise of the book, “…one must interpret Genesis 1-3 in the light of Christ and Eschatology.”

[24]

David Snoke, ibid., pp.158-175. Although I am not a big fan of reading let alone of promoting women seeking to teach men publicly in the Scripture, Carol Hill’s article has some good scientific arguments that are worth reading: The Noachian flood local or universal?

 

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2002/PSCF9-02Hill.pdf

[25]

Kistemaker, Simon J. ; Hendriksen, William: New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude. Grand Rapids : Baker Book House, 1953-2001 (New Testament Commentary 16), S. 330

[26]

For a discussion of “all nations of the earth/land” and the “last days” final battle of the prophecies of Zechariah 12:19 & Rev.16 as not being a global battle of “all nations” of the planet but the local lands and world as they knew it, see Gary DeMar, ZECHARIAH 12 AND THE “ESTHER CONNECTION” pp11ff., Prophecy Press / American Vision, 2005. See also Gary DeMar, LAST DAYS MADNESS, 219-227, ibid.

[27]

Some have thought that Noah preached for 120 years, others contend that the math actually comes out to a 100 years of preaching and man’s life spans were reduced to 120 as was the case with Moses.  

[28]

John Gill, Isa. 65:22, Online Bible Millennium Edition, 2003, emphasis added.

[29]

Matthew Henry, Isa. 65:22, Online Bible Millennium Edition, 2003, emphasis added

 

[30]

 

John Gill, Online Bible Software, Isaiah 11:6 – “the creatures shall be restored to that state of innocency in which they were before the fall of man. But this is not to be understood literally, which is a gross and vain conceit of some Jews; but spiritually and metaphorically, as is evident. And the sense of the metaphor is this, Men of fierce, and cruel, and ungovernable dispositions, shall be so transformed by the preaching of the gospel, and by the grace of Christ, that they shall become most humble, and gentle, and tractable, and shall no more vex and persecute those meek and poor ones mentioned Isa.11:4, but shall become such as they; of which we have instances in Saul being made a Paul, and in the rugged jailer, Acts 16, and in innumerable others.”

[31]

Bratcher, Robert G. ; Hatton, Howard: A Handbook on the Revelation to John. New York : United Bible Societies, 1993 (UBS Handbook Series; Helps for Translators), S. 319

 
 24
Ibid., 392–93.

[32]Beale, G. K.: The Book of Revelation : A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, Cumbria : W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999, S. 1132

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IN THE RESURRECTION WHOSE WIFE WILL SHE BE? MATTHEW 22:23-33 / LUKE 20:27-39

IN THE RESURRECTION WHOSE WIFE WILL SHE BE?  
Matthew 22:23-33 / Luke 20:27-39
 
By Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2008
 

Some have tried (unsuccessfully) to refute Preterism, with an appeal to the debate over the resurrection between the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Jesus in Mt.22/Lk.20. It is assumed with no exegetical support, that Jesus sided with the “normative Judaism” of the Pharisees in their view of a physical resurrection. It is also argued unsuccessfully from futurists that Preterists can’t say that we are currently in the resurrection or “age to come” because we marry and are given in marriage today.   

In this article I will refute the above futuristic arguments and provide several affirmative observations and arguments of my own that need to be considered when looking at this crucial passage.  

1) Is there going to be polyandry in the resurrection, age to come, or new creation if the Mosaic law continues? 

The Sadducees posed a question to the Pharisees and then to Jesus – as to applicability of the Mosaic law (in this case the Leverite marriage law of Deut.25) in the resurrection and thus in the new creation. They were accustomed to have the Pharisees tell them that even the Torah taught a resurrection of the dead[1] but they still needed to harmonize their views of the new creation and the resurrection with their understanding of the Torah abiding in the new creation. And I believe this is the challenge presented to the Pharisees and Jesus. The Sadducees “argument” worked very well with the Pharisees carnal views of the resurrection and the laws applicability at that time. Since most of the Pharisees understood the new heavens and earth in (Isa.65) the same way futurists do – climaxing with a biological resurrection and then being in a new creation wherein CHILDREN are being produced; the futurist is placed in the same dilemma the Pharisees were in. It wasn’t just the belief that the Pharisees had in a biological resurrection (that the Sadducees denied) that caused much heckling from the Sadducees, but it was also the inconsistency of the Pharisees application of the Mosaic law during this time that had the Pharisees over a barrel. The Sadducees wanted to know how the OC Levirate law would be applied in physical relationships in the resurrection in the New Jerusalem and New Creation. In other words if the Leverite law was still in effect (a man had to marry his brothers wife if he died without children) and after all parties were raised biologically, “whose wife would she be for they all had her?” Since there is child birth going on in the resurrection and new creation (Isa.65) then is this woman going to be sleeping with all 7 men or to whom will she be married in order to keep producing children in the resurrection?!? Sam Frost in my opinion has come the closest in pointing out the logical and exegetical trap that was posed to the Pharisees and Jesus by the Sadducees: 

 

“It is possible that the Sadducees posed this question to the Pharisees before. This one was one of their favorites. The Pharisee would have two choices: endorse polygamy or the law has no application in the ‘age to come.” And “Here is the force of the question: Does Moses’ law apply in the resurrection? If so, how can it in this case? Since it cannot in this case, the resurrection is absurd, for it is better to serve the law, than to believe in something that counters the law. In Mark’s gospel, however, Jesus is no stranger to countering a false understanding of Moses’ law, and that is exactly one of the implications of his answer that Mark has in mind.”[2] 

 

The modification here is that the Pharisees view of a physical resurrection and the use of the law during that time forced them to believe in polyandry (a woman who has more than one husband) not polygamy (a man having more than one wife). The law did not forbid polygamy so there would not be a logical trap here for the Pharisees to fall into if they saw the Mosaic law continuing into the resurrection. 

Therefore, the issue here is not polygamy and the law (even though that was debated among the Jews), but rather a situation under the law’s continuance into the time of the resurrection that would contradict the law – polyandry. This was a practice that ALL Jews and Pharisees rejected as not lawful under Torah.  

This “argument” worked with the Pharisees so now it was time to try it on Jesus. Jesus and Paul taught that there would be two groups affected at the second coming – those who had physically died and would be raised out of Hades, and those who were alive and would be changed and gathered into the NC Kingdom.  

For futurists to say my view isn’t true or consistent because I have been married all the while claiming I’m in “the resurrection” age – is hardly an argument. Jesus taught that in the resurrection those who had died and believed in Him (Jn.11:25) would be raised to never die and no doubt be like the angels. And the same principal would apply for those being physically alive transitioning from the OC age to the NC age post AD 70 – because after believing and being raised (Jn.11:26; Jn.8:51; Jn.10:27-28) – they too would “never die” and there would neither be male nor female under the NC (Gals.3:28). Upon belief in Christ is the futurist going to deny that in his “this age” he will “never die” or that they are no longer a biological male or female?    

2) Producing children In “this age” and “the age about to come” – exposing futurist assumptions and contradictions!  

Jesus said that the sons of “this age” married and were given in marriage (Lk.20:34) in the context of the question concerning the applicability of the OC Levirate marriage law that had to do with land inheritance rights under the Old Covenant. Think about it for a minute – in what “this age” would this OC Levirate marriage law apply in the immediate and historical context of the passage – the Christian NC “this age” or the OC “this age”? Were Jesus, the Pharisees, and Sadducees living in the “this age” in which this law was being practiced or were they living in the “this age” of the NC Christian Church age that hadn’t even begun yet?!? We love it when futurists want to discuss this text with us.  

Jesus and John the Baptist taught an “at hand” kingdom, an “about to be” coming wrath and judgment, and thus an imminent harvest/resurrection would occur at the end of the OC “this age” in AD 70 (Mt.3:2, 7, 10-12; Mt.13:40). This of course being consistent with Jesus’ teaching that when the Temple or “power of the holy people” would be completely shattered and experience abominations and desolation in His generation, is when the prophecy of Daniel’s last things would be fulfilled (Mt.13:40-43/Dan.12:2; Mt.24:15, 34/Dan.9:27/Dan.12:7).  

Then there is the issue of the Greek word mello being used to communicate the imminent nature of the coming resurrection or “age about to com” as developed by Jesus in:

“And whoever shall speak against the Son of Man may obtain forgiveness; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, neither in this nor in the coming (Greek mello – “about to be” or “on the point of”) age shall he obtain forgiveness.” (Matthew 12:32 WEY)

A better translation would read, “…nor in the age about to come.” Christ lived on earth and the Apostles wrote their epistles while living in the old covenant mosaic age which was in the process of “passing away” (Hebs. 8:13, 2 Cor. 3:11) while anticipating the arrival of the “age to come” which corresponds to the Christian new covenant or Messianic age. All Christ is saying here is that whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit in the old or new covenant age, he shall not obtain forgiveness. If the “age to come” is referring to the bliss of heaven and the afterlife, are Christians are in heaven going to be able to speak against the Holy Spirit in that age? Will Christians have the ability to blaspheme God in heaven? If that is the case, wouldn’t we be better off down here For “he who is born of God cannot sin, nor will he, for His seed remains in him.” (1 Jn. 3:9)? No, this is speaking of the Christian age where the everlasting gospel is still being preached and thus the speaking against the Holy Spirit is a possibility. Again, Jesus does not share completely in the views of the Pharisees or Creedalists regarding the “age to come.” After the resurrection in The New Heavens and Earth there would be physical death, sinners, work, and even evangelism (Isa.65-66). The resurrection in the “age to come” was an event that Jesus taught elsewhere was “about to” take place – and not an event 2000+ years away. Does the rest of Scripture support this? And what do futurist theologians say of the Greek word mello? My favorite quote on this subject can be found from the writings of R.C. Sproul and Kenneth Gentry. I will quote this so that the reader can see the arbitrary hermeneutics employed by these men in order to appease their fear of men. Also I will quote this section as it has to do with the resurrection and the revealing of the sons of God in (Rms.8) where mello is used and completely ignored by these men. Here is a section taken from my book, Gospel Eschatology: A Better Resurrection,

“Let me give the reader another example of how futurists violate their own hermeneutics when it comes to the “at hand” kingdom “end of the age” harvest/resurrection that John and Jesus preached was coming and would occur at the end of their “this age.” R.C. Sproul agrees with futurist Kenneth Gentry about the traid of imminent statements in Revelation refering to a soon coming of Christ in A.D. 70. They are as follows according to these men: 

1) taxos word group – “shortly” or “quickly” (Rev.1:1; 2:16; 3:11; 22:6, 7, 12, 20).            

2) engus word group – “near” or “at hand” (Rev.1:3; 22:10). 

3) mello word group – “about to” or “on the point of” (Rev.1:19; 3:10).

Sproul summarizes Gentry’s case on these time frame references as clearly A.D.70 events and states:

“Gentry argues that commentators would render the term differently from the lexiographical consensus only if influenced by an interpretive controlling a priori.”[3] 

Our point of interest here is the third word group listed above – mello “about to” or “on the point of.” Sproul quoting Gentry says of this word,

“Certainly it is true that the verb mello can indicate simply ‘destined,’ or it can be emplyed in a weakened sense as a periphrasis for the futre tense,” Gentry says. “Nevertheless, when used with the aorist infinitive –as in Revelation 1:19—the words predominant usage and preferred meaning is: ‘be on the point of, be about to.’ The same is true when the word is used with the present infinitive, as in Rev.3:10. The basic meaning in both Thayer and Abbott-Smith is: ‘to be about to.”[4]  

Well, just as Sproul and Gentry accuse other futurists as having a priori reasons for not taking the time texts throughout Revelations to be speaking to A.D.70 events, they likewise bring their creedal presuppositions to the book and pick and choose what texts they want to be A.D.70 events and which ones are allegedly 2000+ years removed. Nowhere does John say that “some or most of the things I am writing to you will shortly come to pass,” he states, “I am writing to you about things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev.1:1). It is only the judgment associated with the resurrection that apparently the time texts throughout the book does not address! And when the same Greek construction that renders mello to have the “predominant usage” and “basic meaning” of “be on the point of, be about to” in the book of Acts concerning the resurrection preached by Paul — we don’t find any comment from Gentry, Sproul, or any partial preterist futurist on these texts: 

1) ”because He has appointed a day on which He mello is about to judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)

2) ”I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there (Greek mello)is about to be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts.24:15)    

You don’t think that they themselves have any “a priori” creedal biases on the resurrection that cause them to contradict their previous statements about mello or that cause them to flat out avoid these passages do you?!? This is a classic case of taking the eisegetical plank out of your eye first before seeking to take it out of other eschatological views! Clearly the “kind” of resurrection/harvest associated with the kingdom and judgment John the Baptist was preaching to be “at hand” in (Mt.3:3, 10-12) and Jesus discussed to take place in his “this age” (Mt.13:40) is what Paul under inspiration understood to be “on the point of being fulfilled” in his day! Clearly when we don’t approach the Scripture with futuristic (no matter what brand it is packaged in – even partial “preterism”) “a priori” presuppostions, Scripture interprets itself. Paul in Romans likewise taught an imminent “redemption of the body” and thus a “glory about to be revealed”

“For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory about to be revealed in us;” (Rms.8:18 YLT) 

“Why, what we now suffer I count as nothing in comparison with the glory which is soon to be manifested in us.” (Rms.8:18 WEY) 

Peter said the same thing about the glory “about to be” (Greek mello) revealed (1Pet.5:1YLT).  

Not only do partial preterists and futurists ignore mello in Rms.8, but R.C. Sproul tells us that the time statements in (Rms.13:11-12) can “reasonably” (hermeneutically) apply to previous passages in Romans:

“…you are treasuring up for yourselves wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”… (Rom.2:4-6)

…in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” (Rom.2:16)

Paul refers to “the day of wrath” and “the day when God will judge the secrets of men.” Presumably both references are to the same “day.” Traditionalists see them as references to the yet future last judgment. Preterists like Russell interpret these references as they do all other references to the day of the Lord: this is the dark day of judgment that befell Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem.

Though the above texts lack time-frame references, they may reasonably be linked to later references Paul makes in the same epistle: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand…” (Rom.13:11-12)

[5]

Therefore, according to the partial preterist position: 1) mello is a time statement that needs to be taken literally (so why not here in Roms. 8, & Acts 17 & 24?) and 2) the time statements in (Rms.13:11-12) can “reasonably” be linked to earlier chapters such as once again (Rms.8). We appreciate the “reasonableness” on the one hand, but on the other, there is clearly some man fearing dishonest eisegesis taking place here folks!” (Mike Sullivan, Gospel Eschatology: A Better Resurrection). 

Since it is not my intention in this article to go at depth into (Roms.8) as I have elsewhere, I shall summarize it’s teaching:  

Romans 8 summarized

1) The redemption of the body (singular) is dealing with the Church – the Body of Christ. Mortal bodies (plural) are identified covenantally with what corporate body they are in – in Adam (body of sin, body of death, flesh) or the Body of Christ – the Church. Being “mortal” or “weak” and the like phrases, are referring to the weakness and futility of the law to purge the conscience of dead works and bring about salvation and justification.     

2) This was a redemption and glory that was “about to be” revealed in them. 

3) The “creation” and “creature” (Greek kitisis) is an intelligent creation – ie. people not squirrels and rocks. Paul preached to every creature under heaven (Cols.1:5-6; 23) and he wasn’t preaching to rocks, trees, and squirrels. We have a better creation/building (Greek kitisis) under the NC (Hebs.9:11). And Christ being the High Priest of these “good things” in regard to this new tabernacle creation was “about to” (Greek mello) occur to the audience of the Hebrew letter.    

4) The present suffering in the text is a specific eschatological suffering preceded by the parousia consistent with what the prophets and Jesus taught. These are the eschatological “birth pains.” This is not dealing with me loosing my hair, people getting cancer, and squirrels getting hit by cars, etc. And in context with the previous chapters it is dealing with groaning under the weight and condemnation of the law.      

The children of God being revealed and the resurrection are both themes of (Rms.8-11) and it was an “about to be” event folks just like the resurrection and “end of the age” according to Jesus’ teaching. 

Under the OC children were born of flesh and blood and by the will of man and thus inheritance rights to the land of Israel were necessary for it’s covenant establishment and continuance. Jesus came preaching a NC kingdom in which one needed to be born from above (Jn.3; Jn.1:12-13). Being born from “above” was the geography of the NC kingdom and those that worshiped God wouldn’t be confined to a literal mountain but worship in “spirit and in truth” because the Kingdom was “not of this world” but rather “within you” (Jn.4:10-24; Lk.17:20-21; Jn.18:36). Inheritance rights and “raising up seed” with the firstborn male child may have been an issue under the OC Levirate marriage laws; but under the NC, Christ, His Bride (even Eunuchs), and His progeny – all fulfill the seed promises and thus produce children through the Gospel whom inherit a heavenly country (Gals.3, Isa.56:3-8/Acts 8:26f.; Rms.4; Rms.8-9; Hebs.12,). Like every covenantal promise in the OT Christ and the Church fulfill the “raising up seed” and resurrection promises within the New Creation (2Cor.1:20) – Praise God!  

3)      More Futurist Assumptions Upon This Text 

Many simply assume that Jesus believed the same kind of resurrection that the Pharisees believed in. However, where is this in the text?!? All that can be said is that Jesus agrees with the Pharisees that the Sadducees erred in denying the power of God in rejecting the afterlife – “He is the God of the living.” That’s it folks. He set the Sadducees straight on the after life, and set the Pharisees straight on the NON-applicability of the OC law in the “resurrection” or “age to come.” As usual our Lord left both groups speechless and dismantled their “arguments.”

 

Most simply see Jesus regurgitating the argument of Rabbi Gamaliel in his debate with the Sadducees in defending a physical resurrection of the dead. Jesus’ teaching and the N.T. writers teaching, is allegedly “normative” Judaism – Jesus towing the theological line of the Pharisees views.[6] Granted there are some similarities. The Talmud teaches,

“The Sadducees asked Rabbi Gamaliel, ‘Whence do you know that the holy one, blessed be he, will raise the dead?’ To which he replied, ‘From the law, the prophets, and the Hagiographia: from the law because it is written, And the Lord said to Moses, Behold, thou shalt lie down with thy fathers, and this people shall rise again (Deut 31:16): from the prophets because it is written, Thy dead men shall live, etc. (Isaiah 26:19); and from the Hagiographia because it is written, And the roof of thy mouth, etc. (Song of Songs 7:9).’ The Sadducees, however, would not accept these passages till he quoted the passage, ‘The land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give it to them’ (Deut 11:21). He promised it to them, i.e. to the living, and not to the dead; but as they were now dead, it is evident that there will be a resurrection if the promise is to be fulfilled.” (Sanhedrin, 90 b)

A couple of observations. First, I kind of laugh when I hear reformed theologians such as Chuck Hill tell us that Jesus, Paul, and the N.T. taught “normative Judaism” concerning a general biological resurrection of corpses at the end of time. And yet a Dispensationalist such as John MacArthur seeks to rebuke both reformed theologians such as Mr. Hill and preterists in our views of the Messianic Kingdom – claiming any good Jew within “normative Judaism” knowing his scriptures, taught a nationalistic kingdom on earth and a physical fulfillment of the land promises.[7] So what is “normative Judaism” to one group of futurists isn’t always the standard of the other. Thus the “normative Judaism” “argument” quickly becomes a “house divided” point among futurists. Jesus spent His entire earthly ministry rebuking the “normative” views of the religious leaders of His day which included BOTH the Pharisees and the Sadducees. If Pharisees such as Nicodemus (and no doubt Gamaliel before him) didn’t even understand what it meant to be “born again,” and were rebuked by Jesus in not knowing the Scriptures as to Zion’s giving birth (Isa.26; 49), surely they did not know the nature of God’s Spirit and wind blowing in the nature of Her resurrection and land promises (Ezk.37:9-10).        

Secondly, as I have pointed out above, Jesus is not just rebuking the Sadducees views of the resurrection, but that of the Pharisees as well. The Mosaic law would not continue into the resurrection or “age to come.” All things would not continue as they had with the Fathers, and the old wineskins of the old covenant would not be able to contain the new wine of the New Covenant when it came to the issue of raising up seed in the Messianic kingdom or new creation. Gamaliel did not understand the OT passages he quoted from to the Sadducees properly, but his point that the promises were made to the Father’s who had died and that they would live (their souls not terminating like the Sadducees taught) to realize them with their descendants, proved that they would “live” to experience them in the resurrection. The Sadducees obviously had a hard time refuting the Abrahamic promise as taught in the Torah (only the first 5 books – they viewed as authoritative) and how the patriarchs would benefit from the promise made to them and not just their descendants. That’s about the only thing Jesus shares in common with the Pharisees in refuting the Sadducees. Although the Sadducees had a hard time with the Gamaliel argument, it did not “silence” them as Jesus’ argument did (Mt.22:34). For the Sadducees were able to show the contradictions of the Pharisees views of a biological resurrection, child birth in the new creation, a nationalistic kingdom, and the continuance of the Mosaic law. Jesus was the Great Master, and answered the dispute of both groups once and for all! Just as Gospel Eschatology brings healing to the “normative Judaistic” errors within the teachings of such men as Chuck Hill and John MacArthur J.    

4) How about answering some of my questions now?

But now I have some challenging questions for my futurist friends since I have covered the (Mt.22/Lk.20) challenge. How is it that there is birth and death in the literal new heavens and earth paradise of (Isa.65)? Are you not speaking out of both sides of your mouth by claiming that after the resurrection and in the “paradise” of the new creation there won’t be marriage and the producing of children, and yet the text clearly teaches there will be child birth? Are these illegitimate relations going on in the New Creation producing these children Isaiah talks about?!? You claim there won’t be biological death in the new creation and yet Isaiah clearly says there will be. You claim there won’t be sinners there either or any unclean thing and yet Isaiah says there are sinners. To our Dispensationalist friends we need to remind them that they need to read Isaiah 65 “literally” and so answer our questions. 

 

Some futurists claim that Isaiah’s prediction of the new creation has a lot of metaphors describing life in the Kingdom now for Christians – in the gospel age. They go back and forth trying to explain what is literal in the new creation when Christ comes to restore the planet earth and what is being experienced now for Christians in a spiritual way. Somehow the no tears and no death passages of (Isa.65-66/Rev.21/22) are supposed to be taken as experiencing joy and “eternal life” today, and then other times the no tears and no death passages are to be taken literally. It’s rather a hermeneutical and exegetical arbitrary mess! Then there are men like Kenneth Gentry who tell us that the passing of the old creation is the old covenant and the new creation of (Rev.21-22 – which is the promise of Isa.65-66) is to be understood spiritually as the new covenant creation for us today – post AD 70. But then out of the other side of Mr. Gentry’s mouth, somehow (2Pet.3 – which is likewise the promise of Isa.65-66) is to be realized in a physical materialistic way!?! This is no less of an hermeneutical and exegetical nightmare than Dispensational interpreters of this passage.[8] 

  
Conclusion
 

1)      Jesus rebukes and corrects the false teaching of both the Sadducees and the Pharisees concerning the resurrection and the age to come. In similar fashion to the Pharisees Jesus uses the Torah to rebuke the Sadducees’ view of the afterlife and the age to come. He likewise corrects the Pharisees misunderstanding of the Mosaic law’s function in raising up children in the age to come. 

2)      Futurist’s such as Chuck Hill have to resort to the use of arbitrary traditions among “normative Judaism” to read into the text a physical resurrection of corpses at the end of time in this passage! So why doesn’t Mr. Hill believe in the “normative Judaistic” understandings of a nationalistic Messianic kingdom on earth in Jerusalem – that MacArthur and Dispensationalists teach?   And Mr. Hill as well as all futurists on this text ignore:

3)      That the “this age” of the passage is addressing the old covenant “this age” awaiting the Messianic or NC “age to come,” and not the NC age “this age” awaiting the “age to come” of the “perfect state” of the afterlife and purified planet earth. And,

4)      Jesus and the N.T. writers taught that the coming resurrection in the age to come – was “about to” and “on the point” of coming, not an event some 2000+ years away. Scripture interprets Scripture and once again futurism is found wanting in the exegetical arena. 

 
 


[1] Cohen, Boaz, Everyman’s TALMUD, pp.357ff., Dutton pub. 1949

 

[2] Frost, Samuel, Exegetical Essays On The Resurrection of the Dead, p.102 & p.104, The Truth Voice pub. 2004. 

 

[3] Sproul,R.C. The Last Days According To Jesus When Did Jesus Say He Would Return?, p.188, Baker Books pub. 1998.

 

[4] Sproul, ibid, p.139-140 emphasis MJS

 

[5] Sproul, ibid., p.99, emphasis MJS

 

[6] Mathison, Keith, When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response To Hyper-Preterism, p.97-98, P&R pub. 2004. This section written by Charles E. Hill. 

 

[7] MacArthur, John, The Second Coming Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age, pp.71-81. MacArthur employing the same logic of Charles Hill, feels comfortable in interpreting OT kingdom passages in a earthly nationalistic way just as “normative Judaism” taught.   

 

[8] See my other articles critiquing Gentry’s contradictions on (2Pet.3/Rev.21-22/Isa.65-66).  If Peter can “expand” a literal interpretation to 2 Peter 3 and John gives a spiritual interpretation to Isa. 65-66, then I guess Gentry shouldn’t be a critic of how dispensationalists abuse OT quotes in the NT!

 
 
 
 
 
 

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THE ESCHATOLOGICAL TIME TEXTS IN PHILIPPIANS

 

The Eschatological Time Texts in Philippians
By:  Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2008

 
1) “…The Lord is at hand.” (Phil.4:5)
 

Mathison once again with political double talk, seeking to keep both sides of his creedal house from collapsing, states in vague language, “In Philippians 4:5, for example, Paul says, “The Lord is at hand.” This would seem to mean that he is coming soon.” “It is possible, therefore, that “the coming of the Lord” spoken of in James (and implied in Philippians) is a coming of Christ’s judgment upon His enemies.” (WSTTB?, p.201, emphasis added). But another of Mathison’s co-authors Kenneth Gentry, along with R.C. Sproul and Gary DeMar are not as confused as Mathison is on this time text and apply it to the coming of the Lord in A.D.70.[1]  

 

There are some obvious problems for the Reformed partial preterist in Philippians. Paul does not make any distinctions between two different comings in this letter let alone in the entire New Testament. So the “Day of the Lord” earlier in the letter 1:6-11, 2:14-16 is not a different coming of the Lord which is described here as “at hand” towards the end! Paul does not have to attach a time text to every reference to the second coming in a letter! And remember according to what R.C. Sproul said of Rms.13:11-12, it is not “unreasonable” to apply time texts that appear in one part of Paul’s epistle to another area of it which do not have time texts. Therefore, in chapters 1-2 the coming of the Lord was “at hand” for the purpose of “completing” the “working out” “salvation” process and to make them “pure” and “blameless.” Their boldness and contending as a corporate body/fighter, would be evidence of an imminent destruction for their first century enemies vss.27-28. 

 

2) Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”(Phil. 2:14-16)

 

Paul further locks in another A.D.70 time reference to the second coming when he (like Peter in Acts 2:40), quotes the terminal last days “perverse and crooked generation” of Deut.32:5, 20! The other old-testament passage Paul is referencing here is the shining of God’s people in evangelism and in the resurrection of (Dan.12:2-3 as Jesus cites Mt.13:40-43). They were shining as “lights in the world—The Greek expresses ‘as luminaries in the world,’ as the sun and moon, ‘the lights,’ or ‘great lights,’ in the material world or in the firmament. The Septuagint uses the very same Greek word in the passage, Ge 1:14, 16; compare Note,, see on Rev 21:11.”[2] This is what the parousia is all about, Christ coming bearing the title of the “Sun of Righteousness” “…from the east shining to the west” or the “Day Star” and “Day” dawning in the hearts of His people Mal. 1:1, 4:1-6; Mt.24:27; 2Pet.1:19; Rev.2:28, 21:23, 22:12, 16.[3] Christ came in A.D.70 to cast down the governing stars and heavenly bodies of the Pharisees and the old covenant system in order to establish a new heavenly people/body that would rule with Him as the light and luminaries of the world.[4] As we have seen in our study of Mt.24:30-31, 34, the gathering/resurrection along with the second coming would occur within the same time frame – their “last days” terminal “this generation.” Paul is being consistent with Jesus’ teaching all the way through.    

 

In chapter 3 we find the “already” and “not yet” or perhaps better phrased the “becoming” (“shining” in chapter 2) of the resurrection. Paul claims that he had attained to this to some degree. This too is consistent with what we saw Jesus teaching as an “already” and “not yet” of the judgment and resurrection in Jn.4-5. The references to the second coming in chapter 3 includes the “heavenward” or “upward call” from which they “eagerly awaited” Christ to come (cf. Acts 3:20-23). At which time the “goal” and “prize” would be given in verses 14-21. In context, the goal and prize are referring to the attaining of the righteousness that comes from the faith which has as its focus the resurrection and transformation of their Body in verses 8-21. 

 

Since we agree with Reformed Pauline theologian Tom Holland that Paul was concerned with “consistency” in how his terms and language would be understood as his letters were read in the churches throughout the Roman Empire; we can understand Paul seeking to be in the “likeness” of Christ’s death and resurrection in 3:10-11 is parallel with (and elsewhere described by Paul in) Rms.6 as a non-biological likeness. According to Pauline theology, to achieve the likeness “like him” of Christ’s death and resurrection does NOT entail physical corpses coming out of the ground at the end of time! It has to do with what we saw Paul teaching in Galatians and Romans – a dying to and leaving behind the old-covenant world system of which he once lived and boasted as a Pharisee in verses 4-11. Again, in context this coming of the Lord and resurrection were inseparably tied together and “at hand” 4:5! Mathison sees the lights of the exegetical and contextual resurrection train coming that cannot be separated from this “at hand” return of the Lord. This is why he opts for a “possible” A.D.70 coming of Christ without discussing the context of the verse! Unfortunately for Mathison and the rest of his co-author team, it is more than “possible” and their position won’t stand up to the contextual evidence. The coming of the Lord and the resurrection of the “Body” or elsewhere described, as the vindication and salvation of the corporate “one man” 1:27-28 occurred in an “at hand” A.D.70 time frame when they were vindicated and their enemies destroyed.



[1] Kenneth Gentry, FOUR VIEWS ON THE BOOK OF REVELATION, p. 41n.12, ibid. See also Sproul quoting Gary DeMar, THE LAST DAYS ACCORDING TO JESUS, p.86-88. 

[2]Jamieson, Robert ; Fausset, A. R. ; Fausset, A. R. ; Brown, David ; Brown, David: A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, S. Php 2:15

[3] I realize translators have rendered astrape in Mt.24:27 as “lightning,” but I suggest the “sun” is a better translation here “…sun from east and shining to the west.”   Paul elsewhere describes the second coming of Christ as being “high time” and “the night is far spent and the day is at hand” Rms.13:11-12. Matthew Henry almost saw this when he wrote of Mt.24:27, “Gospel light rose with the sun, and went with the same, so that the beams of it reached to the ends of the earth, Rom. 10:18. Compare with Ps. 19:3, 4. Though it was fought against, it could never be cooped up in a desert, or in a secret place, as the seducers were; but by this, according to Gamaliel’s rule, proved itself to be of God, that it could not be overthrown, Acts 5:38, 39” Henry, Matthew: Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1991, S. Mt 24:4. Through the gospel, the Sun was giving light and life to His garden, causing them to bear fruit and “blossom” at His return Mt.24:14/Cols.1:5-6, 23; Lk.21:28-31/Isa.27:7; 35; 44; 55:10-13; 60:20; 61:10-11/Ezk.16:7/Rev.21:9- chapter 22. The Sun would effectively give life to His garden and at the same time burn up “seven times” and thus separate the tares and the wicked from the righteous in the day of judgment at harvest time Mt.13:6-9/Jms.1:11-18/5:1-9; Mt.13:43; Judges 5:31; 2Sam.23:4-7; Ps.121:6-7; Isa.30:26-27; Isa.16:19.       

 

[4] Lightfoot correctly stated of the heavenly bodies in Mt.24:29, “The sun is the religion of the church; the moon is the government of the state; and the stars are the judges and doctors of both. Compare Isa.13:10, and Ezek. 32:7, 8 &c.” (Lightfoot, Vol.2, pp.319-320, ibid.)

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Baptism Now Saves You

Baptism Now Saves You

By
David A. Green

All the fountains of the great deep burst open and the floodgates of the sky were opened… after Noah and his family of seven had entered the ark. It rained for forty days and forty nights, the waters rose above the mountains, and the ark floated on the surface of the water… All flesh that moved on the earth perished… and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark” (Gen. 7:11,18,21,23).

“…the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you – not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience – through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . . ” (I Peter 3:21)

What was the baptism that was saving the first-century saints? We have two basic choices: It was either a ritual baptism or a spiritual (or non-ritual) baptism.

If we say that the New-Testament saving baptism to which the Noahic experience corresponded was a ritual baptism, one of many problems immediately presents itself:  It is Biblically incongruous that an old-testament event prefigured a ritual. It is on the other hand an established hermeneutical principle that old-testament rituals prefigured New-Testament events / experiences / realities. And since old-testament rituals (such as sacrifices) symbolized New-Testament non-rituals (such as the death of Christ/the believer’s sacrifice of praise), it seems even more likely that the non-ritual Noahic salvation foreshadowed a New-Testament non-ritual baptism.

But ignoring this obstacle for now, let us examine how I Peter 3:21 might be understood to teach that the salvation of Noah and his family in the ark could have somehow typified a ritual-baptism:

Perhaps Peter might have been speaking of one of the ritual baptisms mentioned in Heb. 9:10,13,19-22 (“various washings” in 9:10 is literally “various baptisms“). The problem with this proposal is that those baptisms were only to be “imposed until a time of reformation” (Heb. 9:10), that is, until the consummation of the old covenant. It is hardly believable that ritual-baptisms which could not perfect one’s conscience (Heb. 9:9), and which were destined to be done away in the disappearance of the old covenant (Heb. 8:13; 9:10) were “saving” the Christians in the apostolic era.

But perhaps Peter was talking about the ritual-baptism which was being administered to converts to Christianity. If we are going to say this, we must presuppose that Christian ritual-baptism was not included in the “various baptisms” of Heb. 9:10 that were only to be imposed until A.D. 70. If Christian ritual-baptism came out of the old covenant, and was thus to be no longer “imposed” after A.D. 70, then it would be axiomatic that Christian ritual-baptism was not the saving baptism of I Peter 3:21. (We will save a discussion on the cessation or continuation of Christian ritual-baptism for another place.)

There is another problem though with the idea of the saving baptism in I Peter 3:21 being a ritual, and that is the tense of the verb “saves.” The verb is present tense, active voice, and the phrase literally reads, “baptism is now saving you.” The meaning seems to be that just as Noah and his family were in process of being saved by a baptism in the ark, so were the first-century believers in process of being saved by baptism. This should further lead us to consider the saving baptism as being spiritual.

Thus far, general hermeneutical principles of typology, the weakness and temporary nature of the old-covenant rituals and the tense of the verb “saves” (“saving“) direct us toward the idea that the baptism of I Peter 3:21 might be a non-ritual, spiritual baptism. But what kind of a non-ritual baptism could have been in process of saving the first-century Christians?

 

Spiritual Baptism

The first New-Testament reference to a non-ritual baptism is found in Matt. 3:11 (and Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; cf. Acts 1:5), where John the Baptizer said, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He Who is Coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” {1}

The old covenant could offer only typical and temporary ritual-baptisms such as the one John was offering. {2} But Christ was coming to administer the true, spiritual, New-Testament Baptism to the people of Israel, which baptism was first experienced on the day of Pentecost when the Scripture was fulfilled: “I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind” (Acts 2:17,18; Joel 2:28,29). That baptism was later accompanied by signs a second time in Acts 10:44-46; 11:15,17 when the first Gentiles were converted to Christ. As Peter said concerning that time, “the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also” and, “the Holy Spirit fell upon them.” (Acts 10:45; 11:15) {3} Subsequently, the Lord baptized all believers with the Holy Spirit: “For with one Spirit (cf. Eph. 4:5) we were all baptized into one Body.” (I Cor. 12:13)

In this spiritual light we should understand Gal. 3:27, “All of you who were baptized into Christ {4} have clothed yourselves with Christ“; and Col. 2:11,12, “In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, . . . having been buried with [Christ] in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God . . . “; and Rom. 6:3,4, “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death. Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

Spiritual baptism coincides with receiving the Spirit of God (Acts 2:17,18; 10:45; 11:15), with being spiritually clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27) and with being circumcised with the circumcision made without hands (Col. 2:11,12). And as we shall see, the ongoing spiritual baptism for the believer is equivalent with being daily and experientially unified / identified (Ps. 133:1,2; Rom. 6:5; Eph. 4:3-13) with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:1-11).

Union / identity with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection is the essence of spiritual baptism. In I Peter, it is the “suffering” or “fiery” aspect of spiritual baptism for Christians that is the running theme. Peter wrote his epistle to the persecuted, scattered Jewish believers who were living as aliens and strangers (1:1; 2:11). Many of them were being distressed by various trials (1:6), being slandered, reviled and maligned (2:12; 3:16; 4:4,14); their faith was being tested by fire (1:7).

This same baptism was predicted by Jesus in Matt. 20:22,23 (AV); Mk. 10:38,39 (cf. Lk. 12:50), where Jesus asked James and John, “Are you able to . . . be baptized with the baptism which I am baptized?” And they answered, “We are able.” And Jesus said, “. . . You shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.”

Christ was prophesying to His disciples that they were going to become sharers of His sufferings, i.e., they were going to be experientially / spiritually unified and identified with Him in His sufferings, death and burial. They were going to be “crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20; 5:24) through persecution, but were also going to endure unto victory through the power of Christ’s resurrection.

Union with Christ in His sufferings was further borne out in I Peter when Peter told his readers that it was their calling to patiently endure their persecutions, just as Christ when He suffered, kept entrusting Himself to God. (2:23) “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose” (4:1), and, “you share the sufferings of Christ” (4:12,13).

It was this spiritual baptism that was saving the first-century Christians. Just as a small remnant, eight souls (I Peter 3:20), had been brought safely through the flood waters in Noah’s day (I Peter 3:20), so was a small remnant (Rom. 9:27,29) being brought safely through the fire of God’s Last-Days wrath. (Matt. 24:38,39; Lk. 17:26,27; II Peter 2:5-9) {5}

Their saving baptism was a refining, purifying baptism, as they were being sovereignly preserved by God through their persecutions until the end of the age. As Paul said in II Cor. 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (Cf. Acts 14:22)

 

Not the Cleansing of the Flesh, but a Good Conscience

What did Peter mean when he said that the saving baptism was “not the removal of the filth of the flesh?” Heb. 9:8-10 helps us to understand this: “[At] the present time, . . . both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to . . . various baptisms, regulations for the flesh imposed until a time of reformation.”

Ritual baptisms removed the filth of the flesh, or as Heb. 9:13 reiterates it, they only “sanctified for the cleansing of the flesh.” That was their purpose. They could not make the worshipers perfect in conscience. Only spiritual baptism could effect that result. In saying then, “not the removal of dirt from the flesh,” Peter was explaining to his readers that the baptism that saves is not ritual (“not the removal of dirt from the flesh“) but spiritual.

This spiritual saving baptism of suffering was for Peter’s brothers “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” As I Peter 2:19 says: “For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly,” and in I Peter 3:16,17, “Keep a good conscience . . . For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right . . . “

Paul wrote similarly in II Cor. 1:12 of the intense sufferings of the apostles: “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our consciences, that in holiness and godly sincerity, . . .we have conducted ourselves in the world . . . “

The writer of Hebrews also, in writing to his persecuted brothers, promised a clean conscience through spiritual baptism, in Heb. 9:14, “. . . the blood of Christ . . .[will] cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Without the cleansing baptism from God above, the Church was not, and could not, be ultimately saved, for it was only that divine baptism of Spirit-power that could keep the Church faithful and spotless through the fiery judgment of God unto the end. {6}

 

Conclusion

As Noah and his family endured patiently in the ark, so were the first-century Christians patiently enduring a spiritual and fiery baptism, sharing the sufferings of Christ. Old-Covenant baptisms were a fading and ceremonial removal of the filth of the flesh, but New-Covenant, spiritual baptism in Christ was the appeal of a good conscience toward God. (Heb. 10:2) By means of it, believers remained faithful through the power of God in Christ, and retained a clean conscience. (I Peter 3:16) And as Christ was exalted after He patiently endured, so to was His Church-Body called and chosen through His resurrection-power to soon be exalted with Him in the end of the old-covenant age.


 

Footnotes:

1. The predicted baptizing with the Holy Spirit here is a future-active baptizing, which corresponds with the present-active saving work of the baptism in I Peter 3:21, indicating that I Peter 3:21 is a record of the fulfillment of John’s prediction of the coming spiritual baptism.

2. The fact that John was administering an old-testament ritual is borne out in Jn. 1:25 where the Pharisees asked him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ?” We should infer from this question that the Scriptures teach that Messiah was to come baptizing as John was doing, and that John was thus working in accordance with the Law.

3. Note that the mode of spiritual baptism in these passages was pouring. It is not unlikely then that John’s baptism, which was a symbol / foreshadow of spiritual baptism, was administered by pouring (or sprinkling), the water coming from above as the Spirit from heaven.

The references below demonstrate that spiritual baptism was not an immersion but a pouring / sprinkling:

Isa. 44:3, “For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants.”

Zech. 12:10, “And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced….” (See also, Prov. 1:23, Isa. 32:15;45:8; Eze. 39:29).

Isa. 52:15, “He will sprinkle many nations.”

Eze.36:25, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.”

4. Christian ritual-baptism was administered by men with water, and was a baptism “into the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” in Matt. 28:19; “into the Name of the Lord Jesus” in Acts 8:16; 19:5; “in the Name of the Lord” in Acts 10:48 (Some manuscripts have for Acts 10:48, “in the name of Jesus Christ“); and “on the name of Jesus Christ” in Acts 2:38. (Cf. I Cor. 1:13,15).

In contrast, spiritual baptism is administered by God with His Spirit, and is a baptism not into the “name” of, but into Jesus Christ in I Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:3; and Gal. 3:27 (Cf. I Cor. 10:2).

The difference between being baptized into the name of someone and being baptized into someone is the difference between ritual and non-ritual baptism. The one is a sign and the other is what the sign signified.

5. It was a fiery baptism (I Peter 4:12) of which Peter spoke as being the antitype to the experience of Noah and his family “through waters,” even as Peter made the same water / fire parallel in his second epistle:

“…The world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire…” (II Peter 3:6,7).

6. Note that the mode of the various baptisms that could not make the worshipers perfect in conscience in Heb. 9:9,10 was explained to be that of “sprinkling” in Heb. 9:13,19,21. Note also (below) that the mode of spiritual baptism in the context of keeping a good conscience is spoken of as “sprinkling.” That baptism was the sprinkling of the redeeming blood of Christ on the hearts of believers:

Heb. 10:22 (cf. 12:24), “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts having been sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our body having been washed in pure water [of the Word].” (Cf. Eph. 5:26).

I Peter 1:2, “…unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”

It is also helpful to note here that Christ’s “one baptism” of the Church with the Holy Spirit was a triune baptism:

1. a pouring out of His “Spirit” upon the Church (uniting the church with Christ),

2. a spiritual sprinkling of His “blood” on the heart of the Church (creating a clean heart and conscience), and

3. a spiritual washing of the Church body with pure spiritual “water” in the Word (making the body and works of the Church acceptable to God).

This reveals the meaning of I Jn. 5:8: “There are three who bear witness on the earth: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three agree in one.”

www.preteristcosmos.com/

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GARY NORTH: POSTMILLENNIAL OR NEO-MANICHEAN?

GARY NORTH: POSTMILLENNIAL OR NEO-MANICHEAN?

By David A. Green
July, 2001

The appendix to Gary North’s new commentary on First Corinthians is called “Full Preterism”: Manichean or Perfectionist-Pelagian? This article is a response to that appendix. Here are the main points of this response:

1. Preterism is not Manicheanism.

2. Preterism does not imply an eternal “parallel” (equality) between sin and righteousness.

3. If preterism does necessarily imply an eternal parallel/equality between sin and righteousness, then futurism must necessarily imply a temporary parallel/equality between sin and righteousness until the “end of time.”

4. The doctrine of a temporary parallel/equality between sin and righteousness until the “end of time” is Neo-Manicheanism.

5. Preterism necessarily implies the ever-increasing dominion and triumph of the Church over sin, “world without end,” though sin will continue to exist. This doctrine is not Manicheanism.

IS PRETERISM MANICHEANISM?

The main contention of Gary North’s article is that preterists are “Manicheans” because preterists believe in the eternal existence of sin and righteousness on Earth with no future final judgment.

According to North, a (full) preterist worldview must logically see a Church that is forever in bondage to Satan’s work, Satan’s influence, sin, struggling, suffering, and the Curse of sin itself: Death. (“FULL PRETERISM”: MANICHEAN OR PERFECTIONIST-PELAGIAN?, Was He Really a Manichean?) Preterism, North says, must logically see a world where God’s enemies and God’s sons have equal, open-ended claims to the earth. Or in North’s words, preterism sees “the equal ultimacy of good and evil forever, world without end, amen” (Ibid., Conclusion). North calls these alleged implications of preterism “Manicheanism.”

We will demonstrate in this article that these inferences of North do not follow from preterism. But first, let’s answer this question:

Is the doctrine that sin and righteousness will exist on Earth forever “Manicheanism?”

Answer: No.

Let’s set the record straight right now:

Manicheanism (Manichaeism) taught that from eternity past there existed two separate, opposite and equally ultimate Principles (or Kingdoms): the Light and the Darkness. This concept is known as “dualism,” and it is the heart and soul of Manicheanism. (Note: Preterists do not believe that sin / evil existed from eternity past.) Though Manicheans believed that these two Principles (Light and Darkness) were “equally ultimate,” they did not believe the two Principles were equally ultimate in their respective effects in history.

Manicheans did not teach, as North leads his readers to believe, the doctrine of a never-ending non-victory of good over evil. Manicheanism had an End. The “eschatological” goal of Manicheanism was the release and gathering of the “Particles of Light.” This concept was similar to Buddhism’s “Nirvana.” It was to be realized, for the most part, through the purifying works of certain followers of Manichaeus who were called “the elect.”

It was taught that when the gathering of the Particles was finally realized, the material cosmos would be destroyed in an inferno that would continue for 1,486 years. After the universe eventually burned itself out, the separation of Light from Darkness would be complete. Then the Darkness would be closed off forever, and eternal peace would reign in Light.

In Manicheanism, the two Principles of the cosmic struggle were eternal. The struggle itself was not eternal.

Here is an ancient, blasphemous hymn that expressed the futuristic “eschatology” of the Manicheans:

This whole World stands firm for a Season, since there is a
great Building being erected outside of the World,
At the Hour when its Architect shall complete it,
the entire World shall be dissolved.
It shall be set afire, that fire may melt it away.
All Life, the Remnants of Light in every Place
he shall gather to himself and form of it a Statue.
Even the Resolution of Death also, the whole of the Darkness,
he shall gather in and make an image of itself
along with the Archon.
In a moment the Living Spirit shall come.
It will succor the Light,
but the Resolution of Death and the Darkness
it shall lock away in the chamber
that was built for it
that it may lie in chains in it forever.
There is no other means save this means to bind the Enemy,
for he shall not be received into the Light
because he is a stranger to it, but he shall also not be left
in his Land of Darkness,
lest he may wage a greater war than the first.
A new Aeon shall be built in place of this World,
which shall be dissolved,
so that the Powers of Light may reign
since they have performed and fulfilled the whole of the Fathers will.
They have overthrown the hateful one, they have defeated him forever.
This is the Knowledge of Mani,
let us worship him and bless him.
Blessed is every man that shall trust in him,
for he shall live with all the Righteous.
Honor and Victory to our Lord Mani, the Spirit of Truth,
that cometh from the Father and has revealed to us
the Beginning, the Middle and the End.
Victory to the Soul of the Blessed Mary.


Gary North called preterists Manicheans about thirty times in his appendix, defining Manicheanism as the doctrine of “an eternally unresolved struggle between good and evil.”

Did North accuse preterists of “Manicheanism” using a popularized, laymen’s misconception of the ancient heresy?

Yes.

But North did not do it accidentally:

After about the twentieth time that he said that preterism is Manicheanism, he qualified the term “Manicheanism” with a one-word modifier: “Operational” (which he never repeated elsewhere in the article). Toward the very end of his appendix North inserted the statement that preterists affirm “an operational Manicheanism: a world without end and also without deliverance from sin” [Emphasis added] (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?)

North knows that Manicheanism did not actually teach “a world without end and also without deliverance from sin.” He also knows that the doctrine of the “future eternality” of sin on Earth (which is implicit in preterism) does not imply that sin always existed from eternity past, and it therefore does not imply that sin is co-equal with God (dualism). North himself believes in the “future eternality” of sin in the Lake of Fire. That does not imply the “past eternality” of sin (dualism).

So in qualifying the word “Manicheanism” with “operational,” North was hinting that preterists affirm a quasi-Manicheanism, that is, a “Manicheanism” that is not truly Manicheanism, but that operates / functions like that ancient heresy.

In North’s mind, preterism operates like Manicheanism insofar as it puts sin and righteousness on Earth for future eternity, and thereby makes sin and righteousness practically / functionally / operationally co-equal. (We will address this argument below.)

Because the one word, “operational,” toward the end of North’s lengthy article was the only place that he inserted the qualification that preterism is not truly Manicheanism, North’s liberal repetition of the accusation of Manicheanism throughout the rest of the article was misleading and inflammatory, especially in light of the fact that Manicheanism also taught that Manichaeus was the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was the serpent in the Garden, that the human body is the product of a devil, and that Satan and the Father are co-eternal and therefore co-equal.

It is notable that North employed the same misleading and equivocal method of demonization elsewhere in his article:

North said that preterists are guilty of “recruiting in the shadows” (Ibid., The Structural Necessity of Subversion), that they have a “strategy of subversion” (Ibid., Heretical Preterism; “But I Don’t Believe That!”; Dealing Institutionally With Heretical Preterism), and that they “clandestinely …seek to recruit [fellow laymen]. (Ibid., The Structural Necessity of Subversion; “But I Don’t Believe That!”)

North repeatedly affirmed these things as absolutes, as though such things are the very definition of preterists’ behavior.

But then, almost at the very bottom of the appendix, North unexpectedly qualified the accusation and, as before, inserted a one-word adjustment:

“[Preterists] are sometimes clandestine in their promotion of these opinions.” [Emphasis added.] (Ibid., Dealing Institutionally With Heretical Preterism)

North equivocated when he repeatedly called preterists “Manicheans,” and he equivocated when he repeatedly portrayed preterists as those who behave like the ancient Manicheans.

Ironically, North’s own belief (postmillennial futurism) has much more in common with Manichean “eschatology” than does “heretical preterism.” North and Manichaeus are in a sense, eschatological brothers. They have extremely similar expectations:

The burning up of the universe, followed by the absolute separation of light / good and darkness / evil (Ibid., Church Militant and Church Triumphant).

Preterism rejects both North’s and Manichaeus’ sensational “melting galaxies” doctrines as much as it rejects Manichaeus’ “gathering of the Particles” doctrine. Both mythologies are equally extra-biblical.

As we will soon see, North is not only in basic agreement with Manichean “eschatology,” but his appendix demonstrates that, in his attack against preterism, he is implicitly in agreement with Manichean cosmology as well.

NORTH’S ALLEGED IMPLICATIONS OF PRETERISM

So far, we have demonstrated that preterism is not Manicheanism, and that the doctrine that sin exists on Earth forever (which is an implicit doctrine of preterism) does not imply “dualism” (which is the heart and soul of Manicheanism).

However, is the doctrine that sin eternally exists on Earth practically the same as Manichean dualism? If it is not actually Manicheanism, does it nevertheless and for all practical purposes result in a Manichean worldview? Does it imply an eternal “parallel” between good and evil on Earth? This is the underlying argument of North’s article.

North is right that preterists believe that sin and suffering on Earth will exist forever, or at least into an indefinite futurity. However, North infers too much from that premise. Here is the preterist’s first response to North’s alleged implications of preterism:

The Church on Earth, generation after generation, is eternally and increasingly triumphant over sin. The eternally increasing triumph of the Church over sin is not the doctrine of a “parallel” (equality) between sin and righteousness on Earth.

North anticipated this response, and briefly addressed it. This was all he said:

“…Progressive sanctification without final sanctification, i.e., the permanence of residual sin forever …[is] Manicheanism.” (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?)

According to North, the doctrine that the Church on Earth enjoys victory and dominion over sin, generation after generation, forever and ever, world without end, is actually “Manicheanism” if “residual sin” (original sin) continues to exist. Or in other words, no matter what Christ accomplished on the Cross, if sin continues to exist then the result is Manicheanism.

Surely North knows that the existence of sin in the members of Christ’s victorious Church does not imply an “operational Manicheanism.” Victory over sin is not negated by the existence of sin. The existence of christologically-defeated sin is not a characteristic of a world wherein sin and righteousness are “equal and opposite” forces. The existence of sin today does not make the Christian Age a “Manichean age” until the discontinuous transformation of the universe at the “end of time.”

There is a reason that North only briefly addressed preterism’s anti-Manichean doctrine of the eternally increasing Kingdom of Heaven among sinful men on Earth. His labeling of that doctrine as Manicheanism was self-refuting and ultimately antichristian. If the existence of defeated sin implies Manicheanism, as North said, then it necessarily follows that Christ’s Cross is ineffectual until sin is absolutely exterminated at the discontinuous “second coming” at the “end of time.”

This is why North quickly went past that argument in favor of a different approach. He chose not to elaborate on his position that the ever-increasing work of the Holy Spirit on Earth (sanctification) results in a Manichean world as long as “residual sin” continues to exist. Instead, North put his efforts into building a case that the ever-increasing work of the Holy Spirit on Earth is not even an implicit doctrine of preterism.

North made his case by two main arguments:

1. Since preterism is silent about the ultimate destiny of the human race on Earth, preterists can be either optimistic or pessimistic about history, and the future is therefore “open-ended” for preterists. Either good or evil can have dominion on Earth for eternity (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?).

2. “Since preterism is not necessarily postmillennial, [it] can be interpreted as teaching that the church militant will suffer ever-more grievously at the hands of covenant-breakers in history, which will never end.” (Ibid., Heretical Preterism)

In response to the first argument: The belief that we do not have specific knowledge as to what the ultimate “destiny of the human race” on Earth will be does not suggest anything contradictory to the doctrine of the eternal, progressive dominion of the church on Earth. Will our sun burn itself out in A. D. 1,000,000? Will mankind live on other planets in A. D. 2,000,000? Who knows? Ignorance of future events on Earth does not imply a “toss up” between good and evil in history. Ignorance of “the secret things” of God does not change the fact that the Church will have dominion over the earth forever (Deut. 29:29; Rev. 22:5). The fact that we don’t know “the beginning” or “the end” does not somehow negate the doctrine of the triumphant church in history (Eccl. 3:11).

In response to the second argument: It is not correct that “preterism is not necessarily postmillennial” (i.e., optimistic). It is only correct that partial preterism is “not necessarily postmillennial.” True preterism is necessarily “postmillennial” (optimistic / dominionistic). Partial preterism is not, because in accordance with the arbitrary hermeneutic of partial preterism, many partial preterists postpone the fulfillment of the “progressive dominion” passages in the Bible to a yet-future, post-Christian age. For this reason, partial preterism can be absolutely pessimistic about the future of the Christian Age.

True preterism is invulnerable to that mistake. True preterists are necessarily “postmillennial” (i.e., holding to an optimistic worldview of increasing Christian dominion) because preterists necessarily believe that God’s name today will “increase as long as the sun shines….” (Ps. 72:17), and that from today onward, “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace….” (Isa. 9:7). It goes without saying that for true preterists, such “progressive dominion” prophecies are fulfilled and are therefore being fulfilled every day.

Even the “progressive dominion” passages that preterists say were fulfilled in A.D. 70 (such as the parable of the wheat and tares) necessarily define the Church’s character and work throughout the ages. The Church did not stop being the Church after it reached maturity in 70. It was born conquering, it was established conquering and it forever conquers to the glory of Christ, “world without end! Amen.” (Eph. 3:21)

North’s ultimate attempt to make sin and righteousness “parallel” (equal) in the preterist view is found in his Conclusion, where he argues that preterism implies, “the equal ultimacy of good and evil forever.” In other words, if both good and evil exist on Earth forever and ever, that necessarily makes them “equally ultimate,” and therefore “parallel” (equal).

There is an easy answer to this objection. I say “easy,” because the answer comes straight from Gary North. In offering the objection of “equal ultimacy,” North apparently forgot his own distinction between “equal ultimacy” and “ equal effects.” The words of Gary North:

What I am arguing in this book is that the two aspects of the covenant –blessing and cursing– are not equally ultimate in their respective effects in history, just as they are not equal in their eternal effects.  …The working out of the principle of covenantal blessing can lead to the positive feedback operation: Historical blessing to covenantal reaffirmation to greater historical blessing . . . (Deut 8:18).  (A theonomic postmillennialist should argue that it does eventually operate in history in this fashion, leading to millennial blessings.)  The working out of covenant cursing leads to temporal scattering and destruction (Deut. 8:19-20).

  (Dominion & Common Grace, Chapter one, The Favor of God ; Equal Ultimacy, Unequal Effects ; pg. 32)

North teaches that though blessing (for obedience) and cursing (for sin) are both equally ultimate, they are not equally ultimate in their respective “effectsin history. Sin leads to cursing, which leads to scattering and destruction, but righteousness leads to blessing and increased dominion. 

This is exactly what preterists are bound to believe. Preterists necessarily believe that the dominion of the righteous on Earth today increases forever, whereas the wicked experience scattering and destruction.

To sum up:

1. The doctrine that sin exists on Earth forever does not imply an eternal “parallel” (equality) between sin and righteousness.

2. The doctrine of the ever-increasingly triumphant Church on Earth “world without end” is not Manicheanism, even if “residual sin” continues to exist.

3. Preterism necessarily implies the doctrine of the ever-increasingly triumphant Church on Earth “world without end.”

4. “Equal ultimacy” does not imply “equal effects.” Though sin and righteousness are “equally ultimate” in future eternity, their “effects” in history are not equal: The Church necessarily enjoys eternal increase while the wicked experience increasing defeat.

Where is the supposed Manichean equality (or “parallel”) of sin with righteousness on Earth that is allegedly implicit in preterism?

It does not exist.

NORTH’S NEO-MANICHEANISM

If we look at North’s arguments closely, we can detect a disturbing presupposition. North, who is an “optimistic” postmillennialist, is actually arguing against preterism from a basis other than that of postmillennialism.  His argumentative premise is actually a kind of Neo-Manicheanism.

What Gary North says preterists must logically believe about eternity, North himself must also believe about the present age, until the discontinuous “end of time.” If, as North said, “progressive sanctification with …the permanence of residual sin forever …[is] Manicheanism” (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?), then it necessarily follows, in the futurist view, that the Christian Age is a “Manichean age” because “residual sin” continues to exist in this age.

If preterism necessarily leads to the doctrine of sin and righteousness being “parallel” (“equal and opposite” forces), and if the only thing that distinguishes North’s view from preterism is the discontinuous, history-ending, cosmos-burning, matter-transforming, sin-exterminating, divine Intervention at the “end of time,” then it necessarily follows that in North’s view, before the “end of time” takes place, sin and righteousness are “parallel” powers, and God and Satan are “equal and opposite” forces in the Christian Age.

There is no escape for North on this, as long as he says that preterism is necessarily “Manicheanism.” What North says that preterists must believe about the eternal Christian Age, North himself must also believe about a temporary Christian age. If preterists are necessarily “eternal Manicheans,” then North is necessarily a “temporary Manichean,” and the Christian Age is necessarily a “Manichean age.”

The implications of North’s anti-preterist attack are “Neo-Manichean” (i.e., rooted in a presupposition that God and Satan are “equal and opposite” forces on Earth, until the “end of time”). In North’s own words, the implications of his anti-preterist arguments are, “heretical, and not just a little heretical.” (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?)

North needs to answer these three questions in writing:

1. Is the sin that the church militant struggles against equal to (i.e., “paralleling“) the righteousness and triumph of God and the saints in heaven, until Judgment Day at the end of history? 

2. Are the righteousness of God in heaven and the sinfulness of man on Earth “equal and opposite” forces, until Judgment Day at the end of history? 

3. Are the Church and Satan on Earth in a deadlock / stalemate, until Judgment Day at the end of history?

If North says no (and as a postmillennialist, he must), then he is confused (Ibid., “But I Don’t Believe That!”), and his accusation that preterists are necessarily “Manicheans” is nonsense.

North should have given more serious consideration to the idea that in preterism, the Church militant must necessarily be  increasingly triumphant over sin world without end” (Eph. 3:21). The existence of “residual sin” does not nullify the victory of Christ’s Cross in history. Even if North is right and preterism is false, North is in serious error to refute preterism by characterizing the historic, New-Covenant Church on Earth by non-victory, imperfection, curse and sin. Other postmillennialists routinely rebuke Dispensationalists for making that very same error.

When postmillennialists refute Dispensationalists, they wax eloquent about the progressive dominion of the Kingdom of Christ.  They teach that the now-present Kingdom will triumph in history, and that it will someday blossom into a kind of Paradise on Earth through the power of the Cross.  They rebuke the Dispensationalists for being so pessimistic about history and about future history.  They say the Bible teaches an optimistic worldview, one in which the Gospel of Christ will eventually be victorious in converting the vast majority of humanity.  How glorious the Christian Age will eventually be, they say, and its wonders might even increase for a million years or more, who knows?

But now the postmillennialists are encountering ”heretical preterists.”  Suddenly, the postmillennialists (or at least Gary North) are beginning to adopt some kind of an “operational Gnosticism” as an argumentative premise. Suddenly the Church is actually in need of “deliverance from history! (Ibid., Heretical Preterism) Suddenly, the prospect of a million years of Kingdom-increase through the power of the Cross of Christ is “some hope” for the Church on Earth, as Gary North said sarcastically: 

“Some hope!” (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?)

It is difficult to believe, but if North is representative, this is now the postmillennial response to preterism:

Because of the existence of original sin and physical death, history is a prison for the Church. The ever-increasing Kingdom of Heaven in history is an anemic hope for the Church on Earth.

It is incredible, but that is North’s implied defense in his attack against preterism!

How depressing. Not only is it fundamentally un-postmillennial, it is not even Christian.

It appears that this is what has happened: In order to refute historical pessimists (Dispensationalists), they became optimists (postmillennialists).  Now in order to refute optimists (preterists), they are beginning to argue again from a presupposition of historical pessimism.

They are moving targets.

This immediately raises a serious question:

Are men like Gary North truly long-term legacy builders?  Or are they just “spoilers of other men’s legacies?” (Ibid., The Structural Necessity of Subversion)

CONCLUSION: THE QUAIL OF FUTURISM

Gary North is correct about one thing. Preterists see no prophecy in the Bible that says that believers on Earth will one day be absolutely and literally and in every sense free from all sin and suffering. Preterists in fact see verses that teach that the existence of sin will continue forever.

For instance, let’s look at the last verse of the last vision of the last book in the Bible. It is a sign that depicts the final, full establishment of the “eternal Age.” It describes the time in which the saints reign on Earth “forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). It is the state of things in the “post-millennial,” “post-resurrection” Age. In other words, it is a prophecy that goes as far into the future as the Bible ever goes. Rev. 22:14-15 relates the “final state” on Earth, and it explicitly speaks of sinners living on Earth:

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying” (Rev. 22:14-15).

In the same passage, the “Tree of life” is said to yield its fruit every month, and its leaves are “for the healing of the nations.” (Rev. 22:2) This teaches us that in the new earth, “the nations” are in need of continual healing “forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).

In light of Scriptures such as these, it must be understood that the existence of sin on Earth in no way implies the victory of sin. Nor does the continued existence of sin on Earth at all imply a stalemate (“parallel”) between righteousness and sin. If it did, we would be forced to say that God has as of yet won zero victories over sin on Earth, since sin still exists. The idea that the existence of sin on Earth implies the non-victory of righteousness on Earth is at best an existential philosophy that devalues all that has thus far been wrought by the Cross of Christ.

Sin exists, yet God is victorious over sin every day:

Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the Land, so as to cut off from the City of the Lord all those who do iniquity” (Ps. 101:8).

The problem we are seeing today is that futurists like Gary North are ultimately discontented with the eternal Ministry of Christ’s Cross (Ps. 110:4; Rev. 14:6). For them, an eternal age wherein Christ Jesus increasingly brings healing and peace to generations of terrified consciences is not good enough.

Like atheists, futurists like Gary North have been driven to ultimate dissatisfaction with the Age of Christ’s Cross, because of the continued existence of sin and suffering.

Like Gnostics, they are beginning to see history as something from which the reigning Church needs to “escape” (Ibid., Heretical Preterism).

Like the first-century Jewish leaders who were disappointed with the Messiah, futurists are ultimately disappointed with Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, as they are yearning for a radical, discontinuous change.

Like the Israelites of old, futurists desire the termination of the Manna from Heaven, and are crying out for the “quail” of futurism (Num. 11:4-33).

And like wicked youngsters, they are longing for the day when their entire house (the universe) will burn to the ground, so that they can be free from the “curse” of their father’s loving and “light and momentary” discipline and training (II Cor. 4:17; Heb. 12:4-11).

God said that His creation is “very good,” and He promised to never again curse the ground or destroy mankind as He did in Noah’s day. It should come as no surprise then to find that the Scriptures tell us that the Kingdom, and the generations of man, and the earth itself are all to continue “forever” (Ps. 104:5; 145:13; Eccl. 1:4; Dan. 4:3,34; 7:14,18,27; Lk. 1:33; Eph. 3:21).

The Bible describes the Kingdom of Christ as a kingdom that would increase until it covered “the whole earth” “as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9; Dan 2:35; cf. Matt. 13:33). According to the Scriptures, it would grow on Earth until all of God’s enemies were “under His feet” (I Cor. 15:25). The Scriptures further say that the Kingdom would bring blessing to “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:3; Ps. 22:7); to “all the nations” (Matt. 28:19; Ps. 72:17; Ps. 86:9); to “all men” (Isa. 66:23), even to “the very ends of the earth” (Ps. 2:8; 22:27; 72:8; Isa. 11:9; Zech. 9:10; Acts 1:8; 13:47).

Though preterists see the above “dominion verses” as being fulfilled in 70 (and so interpret the verses synecdochically and hyperbolically), preterists necessarily infer from those passages what is the divine character and work of the Church on Earth. The above descriptions of the Church’s first-century victory in the world invariable betoken the Church’s progressive dominion throughout eternity. As we said above, the Church did not stop being the Church after it was established in 70. Rather, it was born conquering, it was established conquering and it forever conquers to the glory of Christ! As the Scriptures teach:

May his name endure forever; May his name increase as long as the sun shines….” (Ps. 72:17)

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore….” (Isa. 9:7)

Gary North says that preterists teach that, What we see now is what we Christians will get in history forever” (Ibid., Heretical Preterism), but that is not what preterists say, either implicitly or explicitly. Postmillennialist North himself does not say, “What we see now is what we Christians will get in history during the Millennium before the discontinuous end of time.” Neither do preterists say that, “What we see now is what we Christians will get in history forever.” How could we say such a thing? History for true preterists is defined as:

The eternal increase of God’s name and of Christ’s government. Amen.

Preterists do not know future events, but we know that whatever the conquering Savior pleases to do, He does, “on Earth as in Heaven” (Ps. 135:6; cf. Dan. 4:35). Surprisingly, North does not believe that Ps. 135:6 is true yet. He does not believe that God’s will will ever be done “on Earth as it is in Heaven,” until the “end of time” when there will be biological, motivational and behavioral errorless-ness throughout the universe (except in the Lake of Fire). (Ibid., Was He Really a Manichean?)

Contrary to North’s unbiblical imagination, “Your will be done on Earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10), was a prayer of agreement with and submission to the Purpose of God (cf. Lk. 22:42; Acts 21:14); and God’s Purpose in the apostolic generation was the fiery death of the old-covenant world and the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, i.e., the Christian Age. “The Lord’s Prayer” is not a request for a literal “Paradise On Earth” as per the fancies of teachers such as Gary North and Charles Taze Russell (Ibid., Dealing Institutionally With Heretical Preterism).

The eternal, ever-increasing Kingdom is here now, and not in an “already-but-not-yet” sense. It is not marked by non-biodegradability, but it is “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17), and it is fulfilled in Christ: “…His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:34).

If this is the case, and if sin continues to exist, and if history is not going to end, then toward what is the eternal Kingdom on Earth progressing? The goal of the Gospel of the Kingdom is this:

That forever and ever, every generation in every nation will attain unto “the chief end” for which man was created:

To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36-40; Mk. 12:30-31; Lk. 10:27-28).

The goal is as simple as it is profound. Its power is the indwelling Spirit of God. Its evidence is our obedience to God’s Law, and its implications are as vast as the cosmos. We must not imagine that the continued existence of sin invalidates the possibility or the perfection of the realization of that goal.

Whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. …If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” (I Jn. 2:5; 4:12)

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace…” (Isa. 9:7)

APPENDIX I

North says that preterist church members “should be brought before the church’s session or other disciplinary body and asked the following six questions in writing.” (Ibid., “But I Don’t Believe That!“)   Submitted below are answers to North’s six questions:

1.   Is God’s final judgment (Matt. 25:31- 46; Rev. 20:12-15) behind us historically?

Yes.

God’s corporate judgment of all men is behind us historically, and God continues to judge all men of every generation, in history (Zech. 14:16-19) and at each man’s death (Heb. 9:27).

2.   Is the physical resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15; I Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 20:12-13) behind us historically?

No.  The spiritual Resurrection of the dead is behind us historically.

3.   Will the church militant struggle against sin in history forever, parallelling the church triumphant’s eternally sin-free existence in heaven?  

This question has ambiguities, making it impossible for a preterist to answer it with an unqualified yes or no.

Does the church’s “struggle against sin” imply the church’s non-triumph over sin on Earth?  If so, then No, the church militant will not “struggle against sin in history forever.”

What does “paralleling” mean?  Does it mean that the power of sin and Satan on Earth is equal to the power of God and His Righteousness in Heaven?  If so, then No, the church militant’s struggle against sin in history will not forever “parallel” the church triumphant’s eternally sin-free existence in Heaven.

Let us put it this way:

The church militant will increasingly triumph over sin and sinners in history forever, paralleling the church triumphant’s eternally sin-free existence in Heaven.  God’s will is being done “on Earth as it is in Heaven.”  

4. Will sin and its curse, including physical death, continue throughout history, parallelling sin-free eternity in heaven?  

Sin will continue throughout history, but believers have been forgiven of their sins. Death is no longer a curse for believers who fall asleep.  Death no longer has any sting for them.  There is nothing for them to fear (Heb. 2:15). Because they trust in Jesus and keep His word, they will never die (Jn. 8:51; 11:26).   

Again, what does “paralleling” mean?  Does it mean that sin and its curse on Earth are equal to the Righteousness of God in Heaven?  If so, then No, sin on Earth is absolutely not equal to (parallel to) the Righteousness of God in Heaven.  There is no “parallel” between sin and God’s Righteousness.  God wins.  Sin loses, even if sin continues to exist

North understands this, since he is a postmillennialist.  The mere existence of sin and suffering does not imply the non-triumph of righteousness.  If it did, we would be forced to say that the Cross of Christ has as of yet won zero victories, beyond Christ Himself.  

5.   Is original sin a temporary condition of mankind in history?

No. Otherwise, how could Christ Jesus be a “Priest forever?” (Heb. 7:21-25)

6.   Are the Nicene Creed and Apostles’ Creed incorrect when they identify Christ’s final judgment of the living and the dead as being in the future?  

Absolutely.  

APPENDIX II

Gary North and the Ecumenical Creeds

Gary North believes that since the Ecumenical Creeds teach a yet-future final judgment, this proves that:

“[God’s final judgment] cannot have been an event in the past” [Emphasis added] (Ibid., Creeds and Confessions on the Final Judgment), and preterism is therefore, “of necessity a permanent movement of laymen.” [Emphasis added] (Ibid., The Structural Necessity of Subversion)  

These statements are examples of the “creedal presuppositionalism” that is so prevalent among protestant preterist-haters today. The term “creedal presuppositionalism” is not meant as a criticism of creedalists like North for presupposing that the Gospel is effectively communicated in the Ecumenical Creeds. It is a criticism of the refusal of the creedalists to even entertain the possibility that the creeds might contain a serious, yet nonfatal, eschatological error.  

Preterists are saying that the historic creeds are seriously wrong eschatologically, but preterists do not reject the general bindingness of the creeds, because preterists believe that traditional futurism is a nonfatal error. They therefore call only for creedal revision, not abandonment. Disputing the accuracy of the eschatological statements of the creeds does not necessarily necessitate a wholesale rejection of the creeds, as North and other creedalists imply.  

It is ironic that Gary North himself actually believes that the Ecumenical Creeds should be challenged and revised as the Church advances in theological progress:

Look at the Apostles’ Creed. Then look at the Westminster Confession of Faith. Only a fool or a heretic would deny theological progress. …The creeds have been steadily improved.

[Van Til’s] ideas have made creedal revision mandatory, but he was unwilling to call publicly for a revision of the creeds leading to more biblically precise definitions.

(Gary North, Dominion and Common Grace, Chapter 4, Van Til’s Version of Common Grace, Differentiation and Progress, pg. 101; Chapter 5, Eschatology and Biblical Law, Postmillennialism and Common Grace, Van Til’s Dilemma, pg. 115)  

North courageously and publicly calls for creedal “revision.” Now that the preterists have arrived and the time for creedal revision has begun to appear on the horizon, North refuses to even momentarily consider the theory that the church has been in a serious, nonfatal eschatological error.  

Instead, North rushes headlong to announce to the world an ecclesiastical and theological emergency on the level of Y2K.

SCRIPTURE’S ANTI-DUALISTIC DOCTRINE
OF THE
ETERNALITY OF EVIL

(A Response to Gary North’s Article: DUALISM’S DOCTRINE OF THE ETERNALITY OF EVIL: A CRITIQUE OF HERETICAL PRETERISM)

By David A. Green
October, 2001

INTRODUCTION


On May 5th, 2001, Gary North released an article on the Internet entitled “Full Preterism”: Manichean or Perfectionist-Pelagian? North introduced the article saying that it was going to be the appendix to his upcoming commentary on First Corinthians. As the title suggested, his point was that preterists are either Manichean or Perfectionist-Pelagian.

Since preterists deny that the Bible teaches an “end of history” and since they deny a yet-future “final judgment,” they must either believe that sin and righteousness will continue on Earth forever, or they must believe that sin on Earth will eventually be annihilated by means of progressive sanctification. As North understood that most, if not all, preterists today reject Perfectionism / Pelagianism, he dedicated most of his article to condemning the preterist doctrine of sin and righteousness existing on Earth forever, calling that doctrine “Manicheanism.”

Essentially, North’s argument was this: Preterists believe that sin and righteousness exist on Earth forever, which is the damnable heresy of “Manicheanism.” Preterists, therefore, must be excommunicated.

In July, 2001, I responded (on the Internet) to North’s article.1 My response was entitled Gary North: Postmillennial or Neo-Manichean?

In that article, I basically argued that the preterist doctrine of sin and righteousness existing on Earth forever is neither “Manicheanism” nor “dualism.”

“Manicheanism” (which was a “dualistic” religion) taught that sin and righteousness both existed from eternity past and that they are therefore “equal and opposite forces.” Preterists do not believe that doctrine. Preterists believe that even though sin continues to exist on Earth for eternity-future (or at least into the unknown eons of time), the Church is increasingly victorious over sin, “world without end,” through the blood of our High Priest. The doctrine of the eternal, Christological victory over sin in history is not negated by the continued existence of sin in history.

MANI WHO?

On September 29, 2001, Gary North responded to my article (and to Walt Hibbard’s article. See Footnote 1.) with a “revision” of his original article. North’s new article is entitled, DUALISM’S DOCTRINE OF THE ETERNALITY OF EVIL: A CRITIQUE OF HERETICAL PRETERISM.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this “revision” concerns the word “Manicheanism.” The word no longer appears in the article, nor does any variation of the word. Many of its instances were deleted along with their surrounding contexts, and all the other instances of the word were replaced with the word “dualism.” What is remarkable about this omission is that nowhere in North’s revised article does he acknowledge, imply or hint that he had ever mentioned the concept of “Manicheanism” in his first article.

In other words, North silently rescinded his public accusation against preterists that they are “Manicheans,” even though the main message of his original article was that preterists are Manicheans, and even though he called preterists “Manicheans” about thirty times in his article, and even though his article was probably read by hundreds, if not thousands, of Christians on the Internet (through Gary North’s autoresponder which distributed the article via e-mail, and at The Preterist Archive).

Question: Would it not be appropriate now for Gary North to publicly confess that he inaccurately accused preterists in public of being “Manicheans?” Even if preterists are damnable heretics, does this give one a license to wrongly accuse them and then to pretend like the accusation was never brought forth?

It is possible that Gary North will never forthrightly confess his inflammatory mislabeling of preterists as “Manicheans.” In his revised article, he explains that his “original intent” in writing his first article was to “force the hand of …a few [preterists] to defend their heresy forthrightly in public.” (DUALISM’S DOCTRINE OF THE ETERNALITY OF EVIL: A CRITIQUE OF HERETICAL PRETERISM, Heretical Preterism) Apparently, this means there was a method to North’s madness. It seems his “original intent” was to falsely accuse preterists of being Manicheans in order to “force” them to deny the charge by defining what they really believe by contrast.

As we know, North believes that preterists are worse than Jehovah’s Witnesses and that they should be excommunicated. If North is correct in that belief, does that mean he has the liberty to inaccurately demonize preterists in public, for whatever purpose? Does Gary North believe he has immunity from the Law (Deut. 19:18-19; Prov. 25:18) when dealing with heretics? If he offers no public confession of his false accusation of “Manicheanism,” we can safely infer his answers to these questions.

CREEDS FIRST, SCRIPTURE SECOND

 

In North’s previous article, after discussing Manicheanism, he quoted the entire texts of I Cor. 15:50-55; Rev. 20:7-15 and I Thess. 4:13-18 and offered various thoughts related to those texts. After that, he went on to quote creedal statements. In contrast, in his revised article North almost immediately launches with the Creeds. His discussion of them is lengthier and his quotes are more numerous than in his original article.

This rearrangement of North’s arguments indicates what preterists have been maintaining: That the bulk of the evidence against preterism lies in the Creeds; that the Scriptures must take a “back seat” if there is to be any authoritative word against preterism.

North’s main argument in his revised opening section is that creeds are inescapable, and that they are necessary tools used for screening, judging and sanctioning. To my knowledge, there are no “reformed preterists” who disagree with this.

Preterists do not deny that preterism is a serious or major departure from the creeds. Yet preterists still consider themselves to be members of the historic, Creedal Church. Why? Because preterists deem creedal futurism to be a nonfatal historic error. Therefore, preterists do not call for creedal abandonment, but only creedal revision (of eschatological statements).

Since serious, nonfatal errors can exist and have existed in the historic Church, futurism could conceivably be such an error. Therefore, it must be “the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scriptures,” Who is “the supreme Judge” in the futurism / preterism controversy (WCF, Chapter I, Section X). It follows then that it is vanity for North and all others to base their defense against preterism primarily on Church-tradition, and then only secondarily on the Scriptures.

Accordingly, when North dealt with Scriptures in both of his articles, he for the most part skimmed over them with a broad brush and made assertions about them based on the presupposition that the timing and nature of creedal eschatology is correct. North’s comments on biblical passages are theological and not exegetical. Instead of exegetically demonstrating how he derives futurism as opposed to preterism from Scriptures, he quotes large blocks of Scripture and then presents a system, appealing loosely to the Scriptures cited.

One could just as easily respond to North’s theological system with another theological system, but that would be equally unproductive. What would be helpful is if North and the other pseudo-preterists would begin to seriously exegete Scripture in their fight against preterism.

IS PRETERISM DUALISM?

In a nutshell, here is North’s “second shot” at preterism:

1. Dualism teaches that evil is eternal.

2. Preterists teach that evil is eternal.

3. Ergo, preterists are dualists.

There is basically not much more to North’s revised article than this, and in truth his reasoning is no more logical than this:

1. Islam teaches that God ordains evil.

2. Calvinists teach that God ordains evil.

3. Ergo, Calvinists are Mohammedans.

 

In my response to North’s first article I began by defining “Manicheanism.” Now let us define “dualism”:

“Dualism” has many usages, but in relation to the issue at hand, it is essentially the doctrine of the past eternality of both good and evil. Whenever the Church condemned someone for being a “dualist,” this was the root doctrine that was being condemned. A dualist teaches that good and evil are co-eternal (i.e., from eternity past), and are therefore co-equal. In dualism, good and evil are “equal and opposite forces.”

The ancient Manicheans resolved the dualistic conflict by having good and evil eternally separated at a futuristic “eschaton.” As I pointed out in my previous response, Gary North adheres to the same basic futurology as the Manicheans. For most futurists, whether Manichean dualists or Gary-North-style Postmillennialists, the story is the same: A radical discontinuity brought about by a universal conflagration, followed by absolute errorlessness in every sense of the word.

As we know, preterists do not believe in the “past eternality of evil” (dualism), but they do believe in the “future eternality of evil” on Earth. Preterism could be considered “dualism” in an operational sense if preterism also maintained that sin is equal (“parallel”) to righteousness, and that sin and righteousness are in a cosmic “stalemate.”

However, that is simply not the preterist view of sin, or of history.

2 Nor can it be. For Scripture explicitly teaches the “heretical preterist” worldview:

 

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore…. (Isa. 9:7)

 

Isaiah taught the eternally increasing victory of the Church in history. This is sheer preterism. The Scriptural teaching of the never-ending increase of Christ’s government on Earth in history is not “dualism.”

 

The notion that “preterism = dualism” has been more than sufficiently invalidated, yet Gary North has refused to respond to the main Scriptural and logical arguments that were presented, whether in my article or in Walt Hibbard’s article. North’s primary “response” was to silently remove his false accusation of “Manicheanism” and to adjust it into a false accusation of “dualism.”

THE FUTURE ETERNALITY OF SIN

 

“The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’ The Lord will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, ‘Rule in the midst of Your enemies.’ Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’ The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the chief men over a broad country. He will drink from the brook by the wayside; Therefore He will lift up His head. (Ps. 110:1-7; cf. Heb. 5:6; 6:20; 7:17,21,24)

 

Psalm 110 is the most quoted prophecy in the New Testament. This may be because it gives the most succinct summary of the reign of the Messiah in Scripture. According to this prophecy of David we see that:

1. Christ was going to sit at God’s right hand and reign as Priest.

2. God was going to stretch forth Christ’s scepter so that He would rule in the midst of His enemies.

3. Christ’s rule was going to continue until the Parousia, at which time God and Christ came with the saints, and Christ’s enemies became a “footstool” for His feet.

4. Then Christ was to continue to reign “forever” as Priest.

 

Is this prophecy fulfilled? Was only part of it fulfilled? Does point number three refer to the destruction of Christ’s old-covenant enemies who were subjugated in A.D. 70? Or does it refer to a judgment at “the end of time” when sin will no longer exist on planet Earth?

 

To determine whether or not point number three will only be fulfilled at a sin-exterminating “end of history,” we need only to answer a question regarding point number four:

What does Christ Jesus do as “Priest forever?”

Answer:

He saves sinners:

…Because He abides forever, He holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb. 7:24-25)

 

How long does the priestly ministry of Christ continue? For as long as Christ “always lives.” For as long as the New Covenant continues. In other words, “forever.” Christ’s priesthood is permanent.

 

How long then does the Christian Age (the Age of the priesthood of Christ) continue? Forever. How long then do sinners continue to be born? Forever.

 

Is it any wonder then that the Gospel is called the “eternal Gospel?” (Rev. 14:6). The ministry of Christ and His Church is an eternal ministry in which the nations enter into the Holy City and receive “healing” “every month,” “year to year,” “forever and ever.” (Zech. 14:16; Rev. 21:24-26; 22:2,5,14) And those nations that rebel against Christ are without the City, (Rev. 21:27; 22:15) suffering deprivation, remaining separated from His Presence. (Zech. 14:18)

 

This biblical / preterist worldview is simply not dualism. The wicked do not subsist under some “eternally preexistent principle of evil” whereby they may be regarded as “parallel” to the righteous. The righteous, on the other hand, are clothed with the eternally preexistent Righteousness of Christ. Those who are without are not “equal and opposite” to those who are within the City. The “dogs” outside the City are not a threat to Christ or to His Church. Rather, the ever-increasing City is the threat to those who are without, until they kiss the Son and take refuge in Him. (Ps. 2:12) In short, the endlessly increasing dominion of the righteous over the wicked is victory, not stalemate.

“THE WHOLE CONSPIRACY OF THE ENEMY”

 

As I pointed out in my response to Gary North’s first, unrevised article, his defense against the preterist worldview was, in spirit, non-postmillennial, even Gnostic. His revised article is unchanged in this regard. He continues to characterize the Messianic (Christian) Age as an age in which God’s people are in need of “deliverance from history,” because they remain under the curse of Satan, sin and death.

One might expect a “Hal Lindsay” or a “Jack Van Impe” to put forth such arguments, but it is unexpected when they come from the postmillennial camp. To further undo North’s chillingly satanic and conspiratorial view of the Kingdom of Heaven in history, let us hear the traditional teaching of that great “partial preterist” defender of Orthodoxy, St. Athanasius:

 

For now that He has come to our realm, and taken up His abode in one Body among His peers, henceforth the whole conspiracy of the enemy against mankind is checked, and the corruption of death which before was prevailing against them is done away. For the race of men had gone to ruin, had not the Lord and Saviour of all, the Son of God, come among us to meet the end of death. (Athanasius’ On the Incarnation of the Word, Section 9 Verse 4; cf. I Cor. 15:21-26)

The Devil, that tyrant against the whole world is slain. …No more does death reign; but instead of death henceforth is life, since our Lord said, ‘I am the life’; so that everything is filled with joy and gladness; as it is written, “The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice. (Athanasius’ The Festal Letters, Letter IV. No. 3,4)

For He raised up the falling, healed the sick, satisfied those who were hungry, and filled the poor, and, what is more wonderful, raised us all from the dead; having abolished death, He has brought us from affliction and sighing to the rest and gladness of this feast, a joy which reaches even to Heaven ….How must all [of Heaven’s] hosts joy and exult, as they … look … on the enemy who lies weakened, lifeless, bound hand and foot, so that we may mock at him; ‘Where is your victory, O Death? Where is your sting, O Grave?’ Let us then sing unto the Lord a song of victory! (Athanasius’ The Festal Letters, Letter VI. No.9-12)

 

In stark contrast to the wise Athanasius, what is Gary North’s answer to Paul’s rhetorical question? “Where, O Death, is your sting?” This is North’s answer:

The sting of Death is here, now, in the Kingdom of Christ, throughout all history, until the end of time.

 

Why would a Christian believe such a doctrine? Jesus said that those who believe in Him will “never see death.” (Jn. 8:51) They “will never die” (Jn. 11:26). Heb. 2:14-15 says that Christ’s death caused the Devil to cease in his power over death, and that Christ thereby freed believers from their fear of death. I Jn. 3:14 says that believers “have passed from death into life,” and Rev. 21:4 reiterates that for those within the City, “there is no longer any death.”

So why would a Christian believe that the Christologically redeemed Kingdom of God in history is beset with the curse of Satan, sin and death?

There is only one answer: Because his eyes do not see a state of non-biodegradable errorlessness in the universe. And this has caused him to either flatly deny the fulfillment of many prophecies of Christ, or to change the fulfillment of many prophecies of Christ into “Yes and No.”

NORTH’S UNJUST MEASURE

 

As I pointed out in my response to North’s first article, if preterists are “eternal Manicheans,” then North is a “temporary Manichean.” Now that he has made his adjustment from Manicheanism to dualism, the same line of argument holds true: If preterists are “eternal dualists,” then North is a “temporary dualist.”

According to North, dualism is the eternal coexistence of sin and righteousness on Earth. Therefore, according to North’s definition, futurism teaches a “temporary, operational dualism,” because in futurism sin will continue to exist on Earth until God miraculously exterminates it at “the end of history.”

But this is according to the equivocal definition of “dualism” that North uses to attack preterism. In reality, the existence of sin does not imply its equality, parallel or stalemate with righteousness (i.e., dualism). We know that North understands this, because he is expecting the Christian Age to eventually blossom into the glorious “Millennial Age,” and this before the miraculous extermination of sin from Earth. Would we ever hear Gary North referring sarcastically to the future Millennium as “some hope” for the Church on Earth, or as an age in which sin and righteousness will be in an “equal-and-opposite” stalemate, or as an age that will be characterized by the curse of Satan, sin and death?

Certainly not.

Why then does Gary North insist on characterizing the unending increase of God’s Name and of Christ’s government in history as the unending curse of Satan, sin and death? There is no rational explanation. North judges his “Millennium” by a different standard of measure than he judges preterism’s eternal age of the ever-increasing government of Christ. For North, the former is a glorious and enduring victory, and the latter is “some hope.” North makes no sense on this point. His argument seems more designed to inflame than to explicate truth.

CONCLUSION

 

Abstaining from painstaking exegesis in favor of broad-brushing over large blocks of Scripture won’t do it. Abstaining from painstaking exegesis in favor of expounding on tradition (the Creeds) won’t do it. Abstaining from painstaking exegesis in favor of trying to force-fit preterists into the mold of certain ancient heresies won’t do it.

If preterists are ever to be universally and authoritatively excommunicated, then sufficient evidence against the teaching must be presented. Where might this evidence be found? In Scripture? If so, the world awaits the painstaking exegesis from the preterist-haters.

Irenaeus exegetically refuted the Valentinians. Tertullian exegetically refuted the Marcionites. Athanasius exegetically refuted the Arians. Augustine exegetically refuted the Manicheans, Donatists and Pelagians. Countless saints painstakingly exegeted Scriptures in refutations of damnable heresies. They were very effective.

Gary North pointed out in both of his articles that the Apostle’s Creed is more clearly anti-“heretical preterist” than it is anti-Arian. This assessment of the Creed is accurate. However, if the Creed accurately elucidates the Bible’s eschatology, then the Bible should also be more clearly anti-preterist than it is anti-Arian. But this is a problem for the creedalists. Where are the Scriptures clearly anti-preterist, as are the Creeds? Or where is an exegetical treatise of a modern-day Augustine or Athanasius “contra preterism?”

If heretical preterism is a “lofty thing” that has been “raised up against the knowledge of God,” (II Cor. 10:5) then the creedalists are obliged to use “divinely powerful …weapons” for its “destruction.” (II Cor. 10:4) Their front-line weapon of offense must be the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). Using the Word of God as a backup weapon if the Creeds don’t do the trick won’t defeat preterism, even if preterism is falsehood.

Therefore then, if preterism is false, let Scripture prove it false. And if preterism is true, let Scripture prove it true. May our creedalist brothers be given the grace to let the Scriptures so speak.

 

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)

 



FOOTNOTES:

1. In August, 2001, Walt Hibbard also responded to Gary North’s article. His response is entitled: A Courteous Response to Dr. Gary North’s Vitriolic Essay: “Full Preterism”: Manichean or Perfectionist-Pelagian?

2. When Gary North discreetly ceased calling preterists “Manicheans” in favor of the more generalized term “dualists,” he implicitly conceded that he is unable to categorize preterists into any specific, early dualistic heresy. Yet even the generic term “dualist” does not fit, since preterism does not teach the implicit “Deity of evil,” which was characteristic of every dualistic heresy that was ever condemned by the Church.

www.preteristcosmos.com/

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THE ESCHATOLOGICAL TIME TEXTS IN COLOSSIANS

 

The Eschatological Time Texts in Colossians 

By:  Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2008


1) “…which things are a shadow of those things about to come. But the body belongs to Christ.” (Cols. 2:17WUESTNT) 

This imminent time text is consistent with the immediate context of the Great Commission having been fulfilled by Paul in the first century Mt.24:14/Col.1:5-6, 23. The great commission here is the fulfillment of Gen.1:28 and paradise is being restored and about to come in its fullness. G.K. Beale correctly makes the parallels:

 
Genesis 1:28
Colossians 1:6, 10

increase [auxano] and multiply and fill the earth…and rule over all the earth’.

‘in all the world also it [‘the word of truth, the gospel’] is bearing fruit and increasing [auxano] (v.6); ‘in every good work bearing fruit and increasing [auxano]…’ (v.10).

 

“Several commentators have noticed that verse 6 and 10 are an allusion to Genesis 1:28 (and perhaps 1:22). It appears that the Hebrew text may be the focus, since the Greek Old Testament renders the Hebrew para (‘bear fruit’) by auxano (‘increase’) and raba (‘to multiply’) by plethuno (‘to multiply’).”[1] 

 

There is a new Adam—Christ, and He is exercising dominion through His seed and progeny–the Church. This is being accomplished in Paul’s day by the gospel filling the earth/land in expelling the darkness of the evil one’s kingdom in plundering his house by taking back the hearts of His people shining through them as God’s new creation in (verse 3; cf. 2 Cor. 4:6; 5:17). Christ is the Sun of Righteousness who through the Holy Spirit and the gospel, is bring to life Israel (“the fig tree”) and the Gentiles (“and all the trees”) as a new creation before the old-covenant “heaven and earth” passed away (Lk. 21:29-33).  

In Colossians 1:15-20, Christ is the new Adam carrying the fullness of God’s “image” and is therefore the “head” and “firstborn” of this new-covenant creation. He was the sustainer of the old-covenant creation of Israel and has now begun a creation (the “already”) process through the cross, reconciling things in heaven (regenerated Jews) and things on the earth (regenerated Gentiles) for Himself and therefore is the “head” of the Church (the new creation). Since I favor John Locke and other’s interpretation of “heaven” (being the Jews) and “earth” (being the Gentiles) in Ephesians 1:9-10, it seems only natural according to Pauline theology, to identify the same terms here as Jew and Gentile being reconciled together under the headship and placed within family of God–the church.   

He is the “first born from among the dead” meaning He is the first to rise victoriously over the spiritual sin/death that came through Adam and in Him is realized the new-covenant Passover and redemption. Christ is not reconciling fallen angels or rocks and trees to himself “on the earth” or “things in heaven” through His blood. These are the souls of people – Jews / Gentiles, making up Christ’s new creation.     

Once again we encounter the traditions and philosophy of the Judaizers whom are seeking to deceive these Gentile Christians to become enslaved to the “elements” of the old covenant world in Colossians 2:8. But since only “in Christ” can all the fullness of all of God’s promises be realized, they too share in this fullness through faith. Therefore, according to Paul’s logical argumentation they are not subject to these self seeking religious authorities, because they are united to Christ who is ruling over them 2:9-10. The “already” of overcoming the law and participating in a new circumcision and life has come through Christ’s victory in the cross–verses 11-15. The reason these Gentile Christians were not subject to these old-covenant foods, festivals, and Sabbath days, is because in Christ the substance of these types were found. The “things” of this new covenant creation or the substance of what the old pointed to, were “about to come” in there fullness in verse 17. An imminent expectation of the “about to come” new covenant or new creation promises (cf. Heb.10:1WUESTNT) included the coming of Christ in a “very little while” (Heb.10:37).  

Amillennialists and sovereign grace new covenant theologians make a mistake in positing the cross as the termination and fulfillment of the old-covenant Mosaic law. As we have seen in our study of Matthew, all the Mosaic law would not fully pass until “heaven and earth” passed away (Mt.5:17-19). The New Testament authors tell us the promises contained in the “shadow” of the old-covenant law found in the Law and the Prophets, were “ready” or “soon” to disappear Heb.8:13 and so too were the “elements” of that old-covenant world in which Paul references here in Cols.2:8, 20à2Pet.3:10/1Pet.4:7. Since the old were only “shadows” of the new which was “about to come,” and they had died to that old world, Paul exhorts these believers to not be “subject” to these regulations.  

Gentile Christians are predominantly addressed here as was the case in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Paul preached to the Jew first and then to the Greek or Gentile, as he traveled to various synagogues or religious institutions throughout the Roman Empire. The first Gentiles to be converted had already been apart of the Jewish old covenant system for they were proselytes. Some of these Gentile believers had already undergone circumcision while others believed in Jehovah from afar, in order to avoid this painful ritual. So it is proper to have Gentile Christians dying to that system along with Jewish Christians since it would “soon disappear.” Jewish Christians however did continue to obey the law of Moses as exhorted by Christ (cf. Mt.5:17-19/Acts 21), which included observing Jewish ceremonial and civil laws of the land. However, this observance was not in the sense that the Judaizers were trying to impose the law upon the early Church – Jewish or Gentile. They sought to obey and be justified through the law in order to achieve a works righteousness in the continuance of the Mosaic economy. Paul would have none of this! Obedience to the law of Moses never could bring complete justification for the observer but only a painful awareness of ones insufficiency (cf. Rms. 4 and Paul’s struggle in Rms. 7).        

It is often taught that Paul is combating Gnosticism in Colossians but Gnosticism would not be a major issue for the church until post A.D.70. Issues surrounding “the flesh” and “the Spirit” in Pauline theology often have to do with dying to the old-covenant mode of existence and living in the new. As in Galatians and Philippians there is a heavy tone of the Judaizers influence in the areas of obeying feast and Sabbath days along with succumbing to “the mutilation” or circumcision. To deny that Christ came in the flesh and died in or to that realm (as was an error corrected in John’s writings) is a false teaching that more applies to the Judaizers whom wanted Christ PLUS the continuance of the fleshly old-covenant system. Recent scholarship has proven that Gnosticism could hardly be seen as having an influence on the church during this period.
[2] 

When Christ would return, the church would be manifested with Him in glory 3:4. This was their hope – “Christ in you the hope of glory” 1:27. They were “about to” have complete access through being gathered into His kingdom or entering the gates of the Most Holy Place – the City of the Living God Rms.8:18-23; Lk.21:27-32/Mt.24:30-31; Heb.9:6-10; 12-13:14; Rev. 20-22.  


[1] G.K. Beale, The Temple, ibid., p.264.

[2] Tom Holland, ibid., p.52. 

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THE ESCHATOLOGICAL TIME TEXTS IN EPHESIANS

 

 

The Eschatological Time Texts in Ephesians

 By:  Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2008 – Thank you for your Christian integrity and consideration.


1)
 “not only in this age, but also in the one about to come. (Ephs. 1:21WUESTNT)

 

Once again the Pauline theme of the two ages of the old and new covenants are being contrasted with the new on the verge of “about to come.” And once again we have Mathison dodging the issues! We know that “this age” is not the new-covenant age for within this very letter Paul describes it as an “age (Grk. aion) without end” (Ephs. 3:20-21). The Bible is abundantly clear that the new covenant Kingdom/age is “without end,” is “forever,” and thus will never be “shaken,” or “destroyed” (Dan. 2, 7; Heb. 12)! This in and of itself demolishes the faulty presuppositions of Mathison and his co-author team as identifying “this age” in the new testament as the new-covenant age and allegedly ending with a delayed future second coming! Paul’s old-covenant “this age” continues to be in line with the teaching of Christ as coming to an “end” in their “this generation.” 

Paul is stating in no uncertain terms, that Christ has received power and authority over all religious and civil authorities within their old-covenant age, and likewise over all authorities in the age “about to come.” Obviously Paul is not discussing the end of time because it is assumed that there will be human authorities in the age that was imminently approaching in which Christians would be engaging in future generations. The time of fulfillment to bring things both in “heaven” and on “earth” under Christ had come 1:9-10. Puritan John Locke correctly understood “heaven” and “earth” here as discussing Jew and Gentile,

“If our Tanslators have render’d the sense of ἀναϰεϕαλαιώσασθαι, right, by “gather together into one,” it will give Countenance to those, who are inclin’d to understand, by “things in heaven and things on earth,” the Jewish and Gentile world…” “…the Apostle’s Design here, where he says in express words, that Christ makes τὰ ἀμφότερα ἕν, makes both Jews and Gentiles one, Eph. ii. 14. Now, that St. Paul should use heaven and earth, for Jews and Gentiles, will not be thought so very strange, if we consider that Daniel himself expresses the nation of the Jews by the name of heaven, Dan. viii. 10. Nor does he want an example of it, in our Saviour himself, who, Luke xxi. 26, by “powers of heaven,” plainly signifies the great men of the Jewish nation; nor is this the only place, in this epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, which will bear this Interpretation of Heaven and Earth: he who shall read the fifteen first verses of chap. iii. and carefully weigh the Expressions, and observe the drift of the Apostle in them, will not find that he does manifest Violence to St. Paul’s sense, if he understands by “the Family in Heaven and Earth,” ver. 15, the united Body of Christians, made up of Jews and Gentiles, living still promiscuously among those two sorts of people, who continued in their unbelief.”[1]

Locke is right on target because Paul’s use of the Jew/Gentile union is described as the “mystery” in verse 9 and is a dominate theme not only here in Ephesians but in the rest of Paul’s writings. John, in the Book of Revelation describes this “mystery” and all nations coming under the authority of Christ as occurring in an imminent time frame as well in Revelation 1:1, 10:17-11:15ff. All civil and religious rulers “in the heavenly realms” of the old-covenant’s “this dark age” (Ephs. 3:10, 6:12), would likewise meet their demise within the same imminent time frame as that of the crushing of Satan (cf. Rms. 16:20).

In our study of Romans we saw how John Lightfoot (and John Gill to a certain extent) understood that it was exegetically absurd to have the literal planet involved in Paul’s argumentation of the “creation groaning” and falling into a state of “decay” in Romans 8.[2]  Similarly, Locke trying to be faithful to Paul’s flow of thought and argumentation in Ephesians, considers the idea of Paul appealing to the planet earth here in 3:9, would be to portray Paul as a “loose writer,” and “weak arguer.” Locke understood the phrase “God created all things” of Ephesians 3:9 to be the new covenant creation,

“Now if the Creation of the material World, of this visible Frame of Sun, Moon, and Stars, and heavenly Bodies, that are over us, and of the Earth we inhabit, hath no immediate Relation, as certainly it hath not to this Mystery, this Design of God’s, to call the Gentiles into the Kingdom of his Son, it is to make St. Paul a very loose Writer and weak Arguer, in the middle of a Discourse which he seems to lay much stress on, and to press earnestly on the Ephesians (for he urges it more than once) to bring in things not at all to his purpose, and of no use to the business in hand. We cannot therefore avoid taking the Creation, and things created, here to be those of the new Creation, (viz.) those of which the Kingdom of Christ, which was this new Creation, was to be made up, and in that Sense,…” “…who created all things by Jesus Christ, is a reason to shew why God kept his purpose of making the Gentiles meet to be Partakers of the Inheritance of the Saints, or as he expresseth it, ch. 2:10. that they should be his Workmanship created in Christ Jesus unot good Works…”[3]

Locke paralleled this passage to the new creation of 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15.

According to Locke, the context was addressing God’s intention to display this new covenant creation before “the rulers and authorities in heavenly realms,” which I believe he correctly understood to mean primarily the Jewish and old-covenant authorities who sought to exclude the Gentiles,

“But the knowledge spoken of here, as communicated to these Principalities and Powers, being only in consequence of St. Paul’s preaching,’ tis not easy to conceive, that the Revelation and Commission given to St. Paul, for the declaring the Mystery of God’s purpose, to take the Gentiles into the Church,…” “…The High-Priests, Scribes and Pharisees, who are the Rulers of the Jewish Nation, and alone pretend to any Authority in these Matters, deny the Converted Heathens to be the People of God, because they neglect the Law and Circumcision, and those other Rites, whereby God has appointed those who are his People to be separated from the rest of the World, and made holy to himself. And so far most of the Converted Jews agree with them, that they will not allow the Converted Gentiles to be Members and Subjects of the Kingdom of the Messiah without being circumcised, and submitting to the Laws and Ceremonies of the Jews, as the only Religion and way of Worship wherein they can be allowed to be God’s People, or be accepted by him. Now, says St. Paul, God of his special Grace has commission’d me to preach to the World this hidden Purpose of God, of taking the Gentiles into the Kingdom of his Son, that so by the Church, consisting of Members who are God’s People, without being circumcised, or observing the other Mosaical Rites, might, which the Jews could be no means conceive, now be made known, and declared to the Leaders and Chief of that Nation the manifold Wisdom of God, which is not, as the Jews imagine, tied up to their own way, but can bring about his Purposes by sundry manners, and in ways that they thought not of. This seems sutable to the Apostles Meaning here, for though the Jews were not hereby converted, yet, when urged by the Converted Gentiles, it served to stop their Mouths, and thereby to confirm the Gentiles in the Liberty of the Gospel. And thus by the Church, to whom St. Paul says, Col. 1.26. and 2.2. God would now have made it manifest by his Preaching, is this Mystery made known to Principalities and Powers, i.e. the Rulers and Teachers of the Jewish Nation, the Saints, who were apprised of it by St. Paul’s preaching, urging and manifesting it to them.”[4]

Because of this covenantal judgment and sign in A.D.70, Isaiah declared the Gentile nations would learn righteousness from observing the destruction of the old-covenant world and the establishing of the new. At the same time, this historical event would confirm and strengthen the churches mission to “show the incomparable riches of his grace” as God’s new creation in the coming age(s) “world without end” (cf. Ephs. 2:7-10, 3:20-21). 

Salvation and experiencing the heavenly realm is both a present and imminently approaching reality in this epistle. Christians through the redemptive work of Christ had been raised from the dead and seated in heavenly places with Him, and yet were still in the process of “being built up” as the new-covenant temple (Ephs. 2:19-22). According to Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 60 in 5:14 to “awake” followed by an exhortation to not get drunk in verses 15-18, Paul is following Jesus teaching in Matthew 24:49-25:13 as we saw him do in 1Thessalonians 5. This is in anticipation of the resurrection that will be attained in the age which is “about to come.” It is when the new covenant people will be “radiant” Isaiah 60:5 and they as a new covenant temple will stand matured and glorified Ephesians 2:19-22; 4:12-13/Isaiah 60:7. This is describing the new creation of Isaiah 65-66 and Revelation 21-22 which is glorified not at the end of time, but is glorified within time (i.e. in A.D.70) to further serve in its role to bring healing to the nations–as the Gentiles continue to bring their wealth/faith through its gates.   


[1] John Locke, A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of Paul, Vol. 2, ed. Arthur W. Wainwright (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 618. John Eadie cites others who take “heaven” as Jews and “earth” as Gentiles, “…according to Schoettgen, Baumgarten-Crusius, Ernesti, Macknight, Schleusner, and Koppe—Jews and Gentiles;…” John Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of Paul’s Letters To the Ephesians, (Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005) 55.

[2] “…this vanity is improperly applied to this vanishing, changeable, dying state of the creation. For vanity, doth not so much denote the vanishing condition of the outward state, as it doth the inward vanity and emptiness of the mind.” The Romans to whom this apostle writes, knew well enough how many and how great predictions and promises it had pleased God to publish by his prophets, concerning gathering together and adopting sons to himself among the Gentiles: the manifestation and production of which sons, the whole Gentile world doth now wait for, as it were, with an out stretched neck.” And again, “The Gentile world shall in time be delivered from the bondage of their sinful corruption, that is, the bondage of their lusts and vile affections, (under which it hath lain for so long a time,) into a noble liberty, such as the sons of God enjoy.” If it be inquired how the Gentile world groaned and travailed in pain, let them who expound this of the fabric of the material world tell us how that groaneth and travaileth. They must needs own it to be a borrowed and allusive phrase. But in the sense which we have pitched upon, the very literal construction may be admitted.” (Lightfoot, ibid., pp.158-159).

[3] Locke, Ibid., 641 (bold emphasis added)

[4] Ibid., 642-643 (bold emphasis added)

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THE ESCHATOLOGICAL TIME TEXTS IN GALATIANS

 

THE ESCHATOLOGICAL TIME TEXTS IN GALATIANS
By:  Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2008

 

1) who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Gal.1:4)

 

The mention of deliverance from “this evil age,” corresponds to the end of “this [old- covenant] age” in Matthew’s gospel 13:39-43, 24:3. For Mathison, the phrase “this present evil age” is discussing the new covenant age, pointing to “…the “not yet” aspect of Christ’s kingdom” (WSTTB?, p.188).  As my friend David Green says to Mathison’s deplorable exegesis here, “Oh joy to the world…”  Did Christ come and lay down His life to establish an “evil age” for the church – for some 2000 + years and counting?  The problem for Mathison is that the “not yet” of the kingdom as described by the new testament authors is not a 2,000+ years and counting process, but rather a “this generation” and “about to be” “not yet” process.    Wouldn’t it make more contextual and logical sense to describe the old covenant as “this evil age” over against the righteousness of the new of which Christ died to establish for His church? Again the Jews commonly understood and talked about two ages, the old- covenant Mosaic age which was marked out by evil and persecutions followed by the new covenant Messianic “age to come” which would be characterized by peace and prosperity. The new-covenant age was not described as “evil”! Since the then present “this evil age” of the old-covenant overlapped the new before A.D.70, Paul is describing the old as “evil” not the new. Paul makes it clear what evil age he is discussing when he points out Jesus was born under “the law” in order to “redeem those under the law” 4:4-5. To be delivered from the then present “evil age” is equivalent to Christ coming to “redeem those under [the evil age of] the law.” 

 

Somewhat controversial Puritain John Locke, whom studied at Christ Church, Oxford under John Owen (being his Dean), understood this passage to be referring to the deliverance from the Mosaical age or world and not the new covenant age, “Aiwnoj toutou, 1 Cor. 2:6, 8, and in other places, plainly signifies the Jewish nation under the Mosaical constitution; and it suits very well with the apostle’s design in this epistle that it should do so here.” “And this kingdom of God under the Mosaical constitution was called aiwnoj toutou, this age, or, as it is commonly translated, this world, to which aiwnoj enestwtoj, the present world, or age, here answers. But the kingdom of God which was to be under the Messiah, wherein the economy and constitution of the Jewish Church, and the nation itself, that in opposition to Christ adhered to it, was to be laid aside, is in the New Testament called aivwvllwn, the world, or age, to come; so that Christ’s taking them out of the present world, may, without any violence to the words, be understood to signify His setting them free from the Mosaical constitution.”[1] But another system of freedom and life was breaking in upon the old and was “about to be” completely revealed and manifested.   

 

2) “And before the coming of the faith, under [the] law we were being kept, shut up to the faith about to be revealed,” (Gals.3:23 YLT) 

 

The “faith” of the new covenant system which was “about to be” revealed corresponds to the coming of Christ and His kingdom that was “about to be” (Greek mello) revealed and would be “at hand” toward the end of their generation (Lk.21:7, 36, 28-32; Gals.3:23). Other translations render law in this passage with the definite article making “The faith” being contrasted with “being kept under the law” (the “elements” of the old covenant “world” Gals.4:3, 9/2Pet.3:10). The only other text in the new testament that use the two Greek words mello “about to be” and apokalupto “revealed” together is 1Pet.5:1. This text is clearly describing the glory of the new covenant salvation which was “ready” to come in its fullness in Peter’s day (1Pet.1:4-12, 4:7). 

 

Paul quotes (Hab.2:4) both here in 3:11 and in (Rms.1:17) where he says, “…the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” There was a system of faith under Abraham and Moses of which pointed in symbolic and typological form to the promises of the new covenant or gospel age under Messiah. Salvation history was moving from “the law” to “the faith” or from old covenant faith in promise form to new covenant faith being realized and “about to be” consummated.     

 

3) “which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar––for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children––but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.” (Gal. 4:24-26) 

 

 

Another term to describe the then present “evil age” of the old-covenant law was the then “present” or “now is” old-covenant Jerusalem of “bondage.” Both the then “present” evil age of 1:4 and the then “present” “now is” Jerusalem of bondage are equivalents and Paul has clearly identified them as the old-covenant age or world. In describing the new, there are only positive things to say of this Jerusalem from above or “the faith” which was “about to” come. Since Christ comes at the end of “this age” in the gospels, and it is described here as the then present “evil age,” and Jerusalem that was then present was destroyed in A.D.70, this necessitates that the second coming occurred in A.D.70 as well. The old-covenant “evil age” and “Jerusalem” can no longer be said to be “present” or “now is.” 

 

The in-breaking gospel of the kingdom and new-covenant life was making them free children by transforming them into the image of Christ from old-covenant glory to new- covenant glory 2Cor.3:3-14. They were moving from the types and shadows of old- covenant faith into the substance of their new-covenant faith. In Galatians, Paul describes this non-biological transformation process from old-covenant to new-covenant glory and faith as, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal.4:19). “The faith” answered to the New Jerusalem (the new covenant) that was “from above” and was delivering them from the bondage of the Jerusalem that was then present (the old covenant). 

 

The imagery of Mount Sinai is also a fitting description of the then “present evil age” or old-covenant age 4:21-31, cf. Heb.12. John tells us that the new-covenant Jerusalem was coming down out of heaven to earth inseparably connected with Christ coming “shortly” (Rev.21-22:12). This is the same new covenant Jerusalem that Paul describes as “from above” and “the faith” from which was “about to be” revealed. Within that same time period there would be a passing of the old creation or a mountain burning with fire cast into the sea Rev.8:8/Rev.21:1. This mountain on fire corresponds to Paul’s old covenant “MountSanai” that according to Pauline theology produced “the death.” This mountain and its curse of “the death” were destroyed for Christians during the same imminent time frame Rev.8:8/20:14 YLT, 22:6-7, 10-12, 20. The “elements” of that “world” or “first heavens and first earth” were about to be destroyed and “the faith” of the new creation system was “about to be” established and consummated in taking its place. Paul, John, and Peter are discussing the same covenantal “elements” “ages” and “worlds” with the same exact consummative time frame references! Although not a preterist, commenting on Paul’s theology of a new age coming in Galatians Bruce W. Longenecker correctly states, “What Paul has in mind when he envisages the inauguration of a new world is not, of course, the establishment of a completely new physical universe of matter – a world of caused-and-effect relationships, held together by forces of gravitational attraction at the molecular level. Instead, he envisages the establishment of a new realm of existence. It is a sphere of life wholly differentiated from the ‘cosmos’ that has been crucified to Paul, a domain where distinctive patterns of life are operative.”

[2]



[1] John Locke, Paraphrase and Notes on Galatians. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1556&chapter=81025&layout=html&Itemid=27

[2] Bruce W. Longenecker, The Triumph of Abraham’s God The Transformation of Identity in Galatians, p.37, T&T CLARK pub., 1998

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