God Determines Human Decsions — NECESSARY FOR PROPHECY TO BE FULFILLED

What follows are two articles designed to demonstrate that prophetic events happen as and when God says they will because He has sovereignly foreordained them to take place through the decsions of men – through hardening or openning the heart.  The first article is given by me and mainly addresses God’s foreordination and omniscience in the fulfillment of prophecy (with emphasis on the Great Commission in 2 Peter 3:9 and Mark 13:10, 30).  The second article is given by Michael Grace which was an article/post on the SGP web site — as he meditates upon reading Gordon Clark on the subject.  Enjoy!

THE FAILED REDEMPTION OF ARMINIANISM, DISPENSATIONALISM AND A FUTURISTIC CALVINISM
BY:  MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN


“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,'” (Isaiah 46:10).

Does God simply react to the “free will” decsions of man?  Or are prophetic events fulfilled becasue God has foreordained all things to come to pass as and when He wills them to take place?   It is my proposition that God knows what the future is BECAUSE He has ordained and sovereignly planned what will take place in the hearts and minds of men and women – either hardening or openning the heart.        

GOD’S OMNISCIENCE

“The manner in which God knows all things, is incomprehensible by us; we can say but little of it, ‘such knowledge is too wonderful for us’, Ps 139:6 we can better say in what manner he does not know, than in what he does: he does not know things by revelation, by instruction, and communication from another; or any way by which men come at the knowledge of things from others; for ‘shall any teach God knowledge?’ or ‘who has taught him?’ #Job 21:22 Isa 40:13,14 all things were known to God from eternity, when there were none in being to inform him of anything: besides, to suppose this, is not only contrary to his eternity but to his independency; for this would make him beholden to, and dependent on another, for his knowledge; whereas ‘all things are of him, for him, and through him’. Nor is his knowledge attained by reasoning, discoursing, and inferring one thing from another, as man’s is; who not only apprehends simple ideas, but joins and compounds them, and infers other things from them; but then this implies some degree of prior ignorance; or at best, imperfect knowledge, till the premises are clear, and the conclusion formed; which is not to be said of God: and this method of knowledge would be contrary to the simplicity of his nature, which admits of no composition, as well as to his perfection: nor does he know things by succession, one after another; for then it could not be said, that ‘all things are naked and open to him’; only some at one time, and some at another; which would also argue ignorance of some things, in one instant and another; and imperfection of knowledge; and would be contrary to his immutability, since every accession of knowledge would make an alteration in him; whereas with him ‘there is no variableness’; he sees and knows all things at once and, together, in one eternal view. In a word, he knows all things in himself, in his own essence and nature; he knows all things possible in his power, and all that he wills to do in his will, and all creatures in himself, as the first cause of them; in whose vast and eternal mind are all the original ideas of them; so that the knowledge of God is essential to him, it is his nature and essence…”   (John Gill, A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, p. 778 Online Bible software).

OMNISCIENCE, FOREKNOWLEDGE, AND FOREORDINATION

God knows all things (He is omniscient) because He is the Sovereign creator of all things and has the power (omnipotence) to execute His predetermined will   (foreordination and predestination) over His creation.  The actions of created men do not take place because they are merely foreseen by God to be events certain to take place, but rather they are foreseen to be certain in God’s eternal omniscience because they are willed or foreordained by Him to take place.  It is His all-sufficient will and His power to execute that will that makes His eternal knowledge exhaustive.   Prophetic events both good and evil are sure to take place because God had determined them to be so.  The fact that God knows all things implies certainty, and certainty implies foreordination.  Stephen Charnock correctly stated, “As God sees things possible in the glass of his own power, so he sees things future in the glass of his own will.” (Stephen Charnock, “The Existence and Attributes of God” Vol.1, p. 433). 

“The Arminian doctrine, in rejecting foreordination, rejects the theistic basis for foreknowledge.  Common sense tells us that no event can be foreknown unless by some means, either physical or mental, it has been predetermined.  Our choice as to what determines the certainty of future events narrows down to two alternatives – the foreordination of the wise and merciful heavenly Father [which is the teaching of Scripture], or the working of blind, physical fate [humanism].” [parentheses MJS] (Loraine Boettner, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, P&R Publications, p. 42).

“Some [Arminians] have gone so far as to tell us plainly that men had better reject foreknowledge than admit Predestination.  Others have suggested that God may voluntarily neglect to know some of the acts of men in order to leave them free;  but his of course destroys the omniscience of God.  Still others have suggested that God’s omniscience may imply only that He can know all things, if He chooses, – just as His omnipotence implies that He can do all things, if He chooses.  But the comparison will not hold, for these certain acts are not merely possibilities but realities, although yet future; and to ascribe ignorance to God concerning these is to deny Him the attribute of omniscience.  This explanation would give us the absurdity of an omniscience that is not omniscient.” (Boettner, ibid, p. 43).

“Since God’s foreknowledge is complete, He knows the destiny of every person, not merely before the person has made his choice in this life, but from eternity.  And since He knows their destiny before they are created, and then proceeds to create, it is plain that the saved and the lost alike fulfill His plan for them; for if He did not plan that any particular ones should be lost, He could at least refrain from creating them.   We conclude, then, that the Christian doctrine of the Foreknowledge of God proves also His Predestination.  Since these events are foreknown, they are fixed and settled things; and nothing can have fixed and settled them except the good pleasure of God, – the great first cause, – freely and unchangeably foreordaining whatever comes to pass.  The whole difficulty lies in the acts of free agents being certain; yet certainty is required for foreknowledge as well as for foreordination. The Arminian arguments, if valid, would disprove both foreknowledge and foreordination.  And since they prove too much we conclude that they prove nothing at all.”  (Boettner, ibid. p. 46).   

Speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 as an illustration that God takes pleasure in even His judgments, Gordon Clark wrote, “the fulfillment of any one prophecy requires control of the whole universe, lest something prevent its occurrence.  When then God says, My counsel shall stand, he asserts omniscient control.   This is his pleasure.  He has arranged things so.  He did not merely look ahead and see what would happen independently of him.  Nothing is independent of him.   He created all things.  Thus the course of history from the past on to the things that are not yet done are parts of God’s plan; and God, declaring the end from the beginning, says, my counsel, my plan, my decree shall stand, and I shall do all my pleasure.   Nothing that God wants done is left undone.  If God had not wanted Jerusalem destroyed, he would have prevented it.  Clearly he wanted it destroyed.”  (Gordon H. Clark, “Predestination”, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., pp.50-51).   

Clark also correctly stated, “If God did not determine them [‘them’ being sinful acts of men], then there must be in the universe a determining force independent of God.  You can escape this conclusion simply by denying that God knows all things.  This simple escape is simply an escape from God and the Bible.” (Clark, ibid. p. 45).  Let’s take a look at the “escape from God and the Bible” that Arminians make. 

ARMINIANISM AND GOD’S OMNISCIENCE

“Decisions not yet made do not exist anywhere to be known even by God.  They are potential-yet to be realized but not yet actual.  God can predict a great deal of what we will choose to do, but not all of it, because some of it remains hidden in the mystery of human freedom.”  (Clark Pinnock, “A Case for Arminianism”, Zondervan Publishing House, p. 25).  This is the conclusion of the Arminian view. 

The Arminian will not bow to God’s sovereignty in His predestinating and foreordaining some men to salvation and ordaining others to judgment.  In his rebellion to defend his “free will”, he is forced to deny not only God’s sovereignty but others of His attributes such as His omniscience.  This is not a Scriptural view, nor is it a Christian one.   

DISPENSATIONALISM AND RICHARD PRATT

Dispensationalists teach that Jesus was offering a literal nationalistic kingdom on earth.  As the theory goes, He postponed the kingdom.  Of course NO WHERE in the Gospel’s does Jesus mention He was offering a literal earthly kingdom but these men are bent on such a carnally minded “hope.”  We read just the opposite of what dispensationalism reads into the teachings of Jesus, for He clearly taught concerning the kingdom of spiritual water, bread, that His Kingdom is NOT of this world, that it is “in” and “within” an individual etc. (John 4-6, 7, 18).  Nothing of a postponed kingdom either!  The rejection of Jesus by the first century Jews was God’s means of ordaining the establishment of the kingdom hardly postponing it!  

Richard Pratt has essentially denied the sovereignty of God by regurgitating dispensational postponement views claiming the Second Coming was genuinely near in the first cetury but it allegedly got postponed because not enough people from the covenant community repented (in When Shall These Things Be?).  No such teaching exists anywhere in the N.T.!  The kindom was established within Jesus’ “this generation” time frame when He returned in A.D. 70 (Luke 21:20-32; Mark 8:38-9:1). 

GOD’S WILL THAT NONE SHOULD PERISH AND THE GREAT COMMISSION  “MUST” BE FULFILLED BY JESUS’ “THIS GENERATION” – 2 PETER 3:9 AND MARK 13:10, 30.

The 2 Peter 3 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 in his book on 2 Peter 3 and based upon an Arminian theology is forced in teaching: 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 as Don says, “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), but some did and continue today to loose eternal life in the new-covenant age to come, then as Don says, “your theology says that God failed, and you need to change your theology!” Its really that simple. http://treeoflifeministries.info/index.php?view=article&catid=3…

Don in the past has made some good comments on Jesus’ command, “And the gospel MUST first be published among all nations.” (Mark 13:10). But let’s take a good look at the definition here of dei – “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.” The prophecy of the Great Commission could not be fulfilled according to the “counsel” “decree” and “purpose” of God without Him determining the rejection and acceptance in each individual response to that gospel proclamation! It was to be fulfilled within a determined specific generation AD 30-70, among very real individuals fulfilling prophecy – Judas and say Paul. The cross would never have come about without God decreeing and planning Judas rejection and the GC could never have been fulfilled unless the conversion of Paul took place – “WHEN IT PLEASED GOD to reveal His Son in me…”

It is much more than just understanding that God decreed the Great Commission and that nothing would stop it being fulfilled by AD 70. We must bow before a sovereign God in understanding God determines Human decisions as a necessary element FOR PROPHECY (such as the Great Commission) TO BE FULFILLED.  It is simply not enough to say that God foresees what will happen and THEN He makes a plan around what man will or will not do. 

God determines Human decisions — NECESSARY FOR PROPHECY TO BE FULFILLED

God Determines Human Decisions

From PREDESTINATION by Gordon H. Clark

The material above shows clearly that God plans, decrees, and controls all events.The world goes on just as God pleases.This general principle is logically sufficient to justify predestination. But emphasis on one type of event seems psychologically required. The trouble is that some people concede that God controls large historical trends and yet at the same time fail to understand that this requires control of human decisions.This illogical quirk leads these people to deny that

God decrees and causes each individual choice.

But the Bible is not only explicit; its examples are numerous. First, some Old Testament verses will be quoted.

Deuteronomy 2:30 says,

“Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the Lord your God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into your hand.”

But wait a minute. Someone, reading over the previous verses, might wish to remark that God does not cause the events there referred to, but that he merely permits them to happen. Such a remark ignores God’s omnipotence and sovereignty. It presupposes that there is some force in the universe independent of God; no doubt God could counteract this force, but he does not; and the force or agent causes some event entirely apart from God’s causation.

Now, it is true that Daniel 11:36 does not say explicitly that it was God who determined what should be done.Yet who else could?

It is also true that Isaiah does not say explicitly that God does everything: Isaiah merely says God does everything he wants to. So also, when Job 23:13-14 say that

“the Lord performs the thing that is appointed for me,”

there is no explicit assertion that God appoints and does everything for everybody. But how could it be otherwise, if the verses are to fit into the general argument of their context?

What troubles certain Christians is the idea that God causes evil events. Some Christians even want to withdraw some good events from God’s power.When Dr. Billy Graham preached in Indanapolis, I went to hear him.Toward the end of the service he asked people to come forward and a crowd came.With them before him evangelist Graham addressed the large audience still in their seats and delivered a five or ten-minute diatribe against presbyterianism. Don’t pray for these people who have come forward, he said.You may have prayed for them before, and that is good.You can pray for them later on, and that will be good too. But right now prayer is useless, for not even God can help them. They must accept Christ of their own free will, all by themselves, and God has no power over the will of man. Of course, this is full-fledged Arminianism.

But most Christians are more perturbed about God’s causing evil events. The first verse of this subsection says explicitly that God hardened the heart of Sihon, King of Heshbon. Perhaps Pharaoh should have been used for this point. When Pharaoh is mentioned, some people grudgingly admit that the Bible says God hardened his heart, but make the quick comeback that the Bible also says Pharaoh hardened his own heart.This, however, is not very effective as a comeback. Admittedly God often acts through human instrumentalities.The important question, therefore, is whether or not God is the cause of these instruments.

Now, in the book of Exodus the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is mentioned eighteen times, plus one more verse that applies to the Egyptians in general. Exodus 421; 7:3,13; 9: 12; 10: I, 20,27; I I: 10; 14:4, 8 all say that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.The extra verse says the Lord hardened the hearts of the Egyptians (Exodus 14: 17). This is eleven times out of nineteen. In Exodus 7: 14,22; 8: I 9; 9:7,35 no explicit mention of who hardened Pharaoh’s heart is made.This is five times. The other verses, three in number, 8:15,32 and 9:34, say that Pharaoh hardened his heart.Who then, in the face of eleven statements that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, can deny that God is the cause of this hardening? Not only is this statement made three times as often; but it is made three times before the other statement is made even once. After all, who runs Egyptian affairs, Pharaoh or God?

Naturally Pharaoh also hardened his own heart, for God often uses human instrumentalities in certain situations. But the ultimate, original, and first cause is God.

Now, after this digression on the parallel case of Pharaoh, we can return to the less-well-known case of Sihon, King of Heshbon, whose spirit the Lord made obstinate for the purpose of delivering him into the hands of Moses. We can indeed return to the verse, Deutevonomy 2:30, but we can hardly say anything further, except that there is no statement that Sihon hardened his own heart.The immediate conclusion, therefore, is that the hardening ofhuman hearts is within the scope of divine activity.

Later on in the Bible 1 Samuel 16:14 says,

“But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.”

This verse indicates that Saul’s previous policies, victories, and successes in unifying Israel had been accomplished through the Spirit of the Lord. The Holy Spirit had given him wisdom and strength. Now the Holy Spirit leaves Saul. At the moment no inquiry will be made into the question whether Saul had been regenerate and was from this point on unregenerate. The Holy Spirit may dwell with a man, especially a divinely selected King of Israel, with several results.What is clear here is that the Lord sent a spirit to Saul to trouble or terrify him.

That this is not an altogether singular occurrence will be seen in the next passage. In 1 Kings 22:20-23 the inspired author writes,

“The Lord said,Who shall persuade Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead.. ..
And there came forth a spirit and stood before the Lord and said, I will persuade him.. . . I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he [the Lord] said,You shall persuade him and prevail also: Go forth and do so.”

This passage asserts that the Lord wanted Ahab to attack Ramoth-Gilead and be killed there. Ahab himself also wanted to attack Ramoth, for he expected to capture it from the Syrians. All the false prophets, knowing the king’s desire, told him what he wanted to hear and prophesied success. Jehoshaphat, however, the King ofJudah, who was to accompany him in battle, wanted a prophecy from the Lord. Micaiah, a true prophet, but a man Ahab hated, was found and brought.

First Micaiah agrees with the false prophets – perhaps half-heartedly or in some way disclaiming responsibility. His manner was evident for the king said,”How many times shall I adjure you that you speak unto me nothing but the truth in the name ofJehovah?” Being thus put under oath, Micaiah predicted death for Ahab. Micaiah even told Ahab that God had sent an evil spirit to him to entice him to his death. In spite of such plain speech, Ahab attacked Ramoth-Gilead and was killed, for Ahab could not resist the lying spirit whom God sent. Ahab could not resist because God had decreed,”You shall persuade him and prevail also. In the sequel God directed the flight of an unaimed arrow to the aperture in the joints of AhabS armor, and he died. Now, note, it was as easy for God to control Ahab’s decision as it was to control the unaimed arrow.

It is most probable that some persons, reading all this, will deny that the Bible says any such things; or they may, after checking in the Bible to see that the quotations made here are accurate, complain that these remarks give a very one-sided and hence distorted view of what God does.

The first group of people are those who think that because they are Christians (of some sort), anything they believe must be sound Christian doctrine simply because they believe it. They believe, for what reason it is hard to say, that God is not the first and ultimate cause of all things because he just cannot be the cause of evil.This point of view is, of course, utterly Antichristian; the Bible contradicts it from cover to cover; and their profession of faith is no reason for supposing that their beliefs are Biblical.

The second group of people are better informed.They have read the Bible and at least grudgingly admit that God is the cause of everything. But they complain that the material here covered is one-sided and therefore constitutes a distortion of the Biblical position.This complaint has indeed a certain initial merit. It is true that the material of this chapter is one-sided. Whether it is therefore a distortion or not is a different question. In whatever way any book begins to explain any subject, its opening argument must be one-sided, for the simple reason that all sides cannot be printed on the same page.The side that has been given in the last several pages is the side that most needs to be given.

No noticeable group of people who believe in God at all denies that God causes good events, even if some deny that God causes all good events.The popular and widespread misunderstanding of the Bible consists in denying that God causes evil events. Therefore, this fact must first be established by numerous examples from all parts of Scripture. This is not where the matter will be left. If the account of predestination stopped here, one could rightly say that it was not only one-sided but also distorted.The culminating and most immediate object of predestination is the salvation of believers. Faith is the gift of God, and God chooses, elects, or predestinates those to whom he will give faith.This idea, and its concomitants, will not be omitted from this explanation of predestination.And then it will be seen that the whole is not so one-sided after all.

Nevertheless, in order that the happy side be properly understood and not misconceived in an un-Biblical background, the present series of verses must continue a little longer.The aim is to show that God causes all things – all bad things and all good things.

The next verse is 2 Chronicles 25:16, which says,

“Then the prophet forebare and said, I know that God has determined to destroy you.”

The prophet had just been upbraiding King Amaziah for his idolatry. The King said he had heard enough, and if the prophet did not want to be beaten up, he should keep quiet. So the prophet ended his speaking with the statement, “I know that God has determined to destroy you.”

The next instance of God’s determining and causative activity is not necessarily a causation of evil. It is a collection of events, some of which may be evil and some good.The verse is Job 14:5, which says,

“His days are determined; the number of his months are with you; you have appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.”

This verse refers to the life span of every person. “Man that is born of a woman is of few days.. . .” How long a man lives, the number of his months, is decided by God. If God has decided that Moses or Joe Doaks should live fifty-nine years, three months, and eleven days, that is it.That is the boundary or limit beyond which he cannot pass.

AfterJob comes Psalms, and Psalm 102.25 :says,

“He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtly with his servants.”

This is a reiteration of what was found in Exodus, and it brings us back to the title of this
subsection.The subsection has really been aiming at two slightly different things. The main one is that God determines the choices that men make. But since men often make evil choices, some attention has also been given to the fact that God causes evil. Here the evil thing is a human choice. The Psalmist is referring to the Egyptians whom the Lord, years after the death of Joseph, caused to hate the Israelites. Hatred is a mental state, a choice, possibly an emotion. It is not merely, mainly, or even at all an overt action. It may result in overt actions, but the hatred itself is entirely mental.This mentality is what God caused in the Egyptians. God made them think that way.The verse says plainly that God turned their heart to hate his people.

Although evil and hatred have received some emphasis in this discussion, for this is what many people miss when they read the Bible, God also causes good decisions, even turning hatred to favor. For

“the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked” (Exodus 12:36).

Here God completely altered and reconstructed the mental attitude of the Egyptians. Obviously he controls what people think.

The next verse contains a little puzzle that need not now be solved, for one of the points remains unaffected.. Proverbs 16:1 says,

“The preparations of the heart in man and the answer of the tongue is from the
Lord.”

The American Revised Version, the French, and German translations have it: “The plans of the heart belong to man; but the answer of the tongue is from Jehovah.”At first sight the KingJames translation makes excellent sense, and it fits in perfectly with the course of the present argument.Thus the verse would mean that the Lord controls both what a man thinks and what he says. However, because there is a question about the translation, it would be unwise to select one that is alternative simply because it fits the present argument so well.The present argument is so abundantly buttressed that it does not need a doubtful support. The other translation might seem to say that regardless of what a man thinks on his own initiative, God controls the words he speaks; so that he may intend to deny a request for a loan, but finds himself granting it in speech.This surely cannot be what the verse means; but whatever the whole meaning may be, the idea is included that God controls what a man says.

The next verse again is not specifically a case of evil, but either good or evil as circumstances indicate. It is, however, a specific assertion that God controls men’s thoughts. Proverbs 21: I says,

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord as the rivers of waters: He turns it whithersoever
he will.”

This verse states the general principle, and a particular example is found in Ezra 7:6, “And the king [of Persia] granted him [Ezra] all his request, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him.” God controls all governmental policies and decisions. Not only did God cause
Pharaoh to hate the Israelites, he caused Cyrus to send the captives back to build Jerusalem. He also caused Adolph Hitler to march into Russia, and he caused Lyndon Johnson to escalate a war inVietnam. God turns the mind of a ruler in whatever direction he wants.

If now we have hesitated to say that Proverbs 16:1 asserts that God controls a man’s thoughts as well as his speech, Proverbs 21:1 says so clearly. God controls the thoughts, plans, and decisions of men. Next is Isaiah 19: 17, which says,

“And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt.. .because of the counsel of the Lord of hosts, which he has determined against it.”

There is nothing particularly new in this verse; it is just one more that attributes to God the determination to bring trouble upon a nation.

Jeremialh 13: 13-14 are similar but fuller:

“Thus says the Lord, Behold I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the lungs that sit upon David’s throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with drunkenness. And I will dash them one against another.”

Here the destruction determined is not directed against a nation merely mentioned by name and in general, but specifically against individuals. God will fill these persons with drunkenness and dash them one against another.

To conclude this series of verses in the Old Testament, it is appropriate to quote Lamentations 3:38:

“Out of the mouth of the most high proceeds not evil and good?”

Here Jeremiah confronts the objector who thinks that God sends good only and not evil.This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the divine nature and activity. God is the original cause of everything. Out of his mouth proceed both good and evil.

It is now time to turn to the New Testament, and once again a series of verses will be selected, beginning in Matthew and going toward the end. With the exception of the first verse, they all contain the word and the idea of determination.

The first verse contains the idea but not the word itself. Matthew 26:53-54 read,

“Do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently [immediately] give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?””

Thus it must be” are the important words. Jesus had just been betrayed. Peter, so we learn from John, drew his sword and cut off the ear of a servant.Then Jesus rebuked Peter and told him that he, Jesus, could summon twelve legions of angels; but if he did so, how could the Scriptures be fulfilled which said,Thus it nust be?The word tlius includes the betrayal by Judas, the arrest, and by implication the trials and the crucifixion.These things had to be as they occurred.

One should think carefully about the implications of prophecy with reference to the extent of God’s causative activity. It is not the act prophesied that alone in its individuality is fixed and determined by God’s decree. All the details that preceded the event and made it both possible and actual had to be included, for otherwise the event would not have happened. Judas was chosen for his reprehensible role, but in anticipation Judas’ parents had to be chosen. Does anyone think that God could have chosen Judas and could have prophesied that thus it must be, without knowing who Judas’ parents were to be? If thus it must be, then it was determined that the high priest should employ a certain man as a servant and send him out that night.The man could not have fallen sick in the afternoon and taken to bed, for it must be thus.At the same time Jesus chided the officers.Why did they come upon him at night with a traitor? Could they not have arrested him in the daytime when he was teaching openly in the temple? This, of course, indicates the cowardly character of the priests, but the priests were cowards and the officers came at night and “all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”

The next six verses all contain, at least in Greek, the word determine. They each indicate some aspect of God’s determination.

Luke 22:22 says,
“The Son of man goes, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!”

This verse is Christ’s prediction, while still seated at the table in the upper room, that Judas was about to betray him.To be noted is the fact that what was about to happen had been determined. It was not Judas who determined what was to happen. Judas no doubt intended to betray Christ, but he might have failed. It was not he who controlled all the circumstances.
Only God can determine the future. God determined how the Son of man should go.

Similarly the next verse, Acts 2:23, says,

“Him being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.”

The verse is similar in thought, but more explicit. In the preceding verse it was necessary to conclude that the determining power was God by eliminating every other possibility. Here not only is God explicitly mentioned, but there is added emphasis in the words “determinate counsel and foreknowledge.”

This indicates deliberate planning. As this event, the death of Christ, was foreordained, so too every event is foreordained because God is omniscient; and no detail, not even the number of hairs on one’s head, escapes his foreknowledge and deliberate counsel. Everything is a part of his plan. Of everything God says, “Thus it must be.”

Perhaps the most explicit and most emphatic verse along these lines is Acts 428. Acts 4:27-28 read,

“For of a truth against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, in order
to do whatsoever your hand and your counsel determined before to be done.”

Note the amount of particular detail in this passage. The context of the two verses is a spontaneous prayer on the part of a company of believers to whom Peter and John reported their experience with the Sadducees.The people thank God for the deliverance of the apostles. They glorify God as creator.They acknowledge that he spoke through David concerning the enmity of the heathen against God. And they particularize this enmity in the recent crucifixion of Christ.”Of a truth,” they say in their prayer,”in this city” (a phrase omitted in the King James Version), “against your holy servant Jesus” (servant, rather than child, in reference to Isaiah 42: I; 43 : 10; 52: 13, and similar verses) “whom you have anointed” and set apart for a specific purpose,”Herod and Pontius Pilate came together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel to do whatever your hand and your counsel foreordained to happen.”

Here it says in the one word “whatever” that God foreordained or predetermined the crucifixion of Christ with all its attendant circumstances. Explicitly mentioned circumstances were the two men, Herod and Pontius Pilate.

One cannot suppose that God from all eternity foreordained the crucifixion to happen on a certain date – the fulness of time, not when his hour had not yet come (John 7:30,8:20), but only when his hour had come (John 13: I, 17: I) – and then hoped that someone would turn up to crucify Christ. Quite the contrary, Herod and Pontius Pilate were individually included in the eternal plan; and because they were so foreordained they came together to do whatever God had before decided.

The word is “foreordained” or “predetermined.” Must not they who say that God does not foreordain evil acts now hang their heads in shame?

The idea that a man can decide what he will do, as Pilate decided what to do with Jesus, without that decision’s being eternally controlled and determined by God makes nonsense of the whole Bible.

Verses enough have now been cited, but, to make the array more massive, a few verses of lesser importance will be added. Ads 10:42 gives another instance of God’s determining decision.The verse says,

“It is he (Jesus] which was ordained of God to be the Judge of living and dead.”
No comment is needed.

The next passage is Acts 17:24-26, which says,

“God.. .has determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation.”

One is more impressed by the force of this verse if one has studied the wanderings of peoples. Most high-school students know of the invasions from Asia which swept over Europe around the seventh and eighth centuries. They may also remember the barbarian invasions during which Rome was sacked in A.D. 410. Later the Normans invaded France, and the Angles invaded England. It is also said that the inhabitants of France or Gaul emigrated to Galatia. And why is it that Lithuanian peasants can understand simple sentences in Sanscrit? Though it may take careful scholarship and long research to trace the paths of these migrations and to fix their dates, the cause of them all, in date, in geographical limit, and in the human decisions that initiated these movements, is the decree of God.

It is God who decided which peoples should move, when they should move, and precisely where they should choose to stop moving. Let these verses suffice for the moment.

http://preterism.ning.com/forum/topic/show?id=1632544%3ATopic%3A8301

 

 

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Chuck Smith’s Prophetic Confusion

Chuck Smith’s Prophetic Confusion
by Gary DeMar
11/20/2007

In Chuck Smith’s Revelation commentary Dateline Earth he informed his readers in 1989 that “the rapture is at hand.”1 Earlier he wrote, “Very soon there are going to be some strange and terrible things happening on this planet of ours.”2 These “very soon” happenings are based on his reading of Revelation. He reinforces this claim when he argues emphatically, “Jesus is coming back, and He’s coming back soon.3 In his book The Final Curtain, he writes, “It is later than you think. It is time to wake up from your lethargy and realize that the coming of the Lord is at hand!”4 Notice the use of “soon” and “at hand,” a phrase that is most often translated as “near” (Matt. 24:32–33; 26:18; James 5:8; 1 Pet. 4:7; Rev. 1:3; 22:10)

As a reader, what do you think Smith wants to convey when he uses “soon” and “at hand”? He sees them as time indicators. By his use of them, Smith is conveying his belief that the prophetic events he has been describing in all his prophecy books since 1976 is that the “rapture” is on the horizon not thousands of years in the future. So why is it when the Bible uses “at hand” (lit., “near”) that it does not mean soon to take place? Skirting the implications of the time references in the Bible is a major problem with dispensationalism.

Smith maintains that as a futurist he “believes that Revelation says what it means and means what it says, and he or she does not need to twist its words to make them fit any particular doctrine. The futurist believes this book is to be taken at face value. . . .”5 In Dateline Earth Smith argues that much of Revelation is “symbolic in nature,” so “the seven churches are used to signify that the message is for the complete Church—for all of God’s people, in every country and in every age.”5 If Revelation says what it means and means what it says, then why don’t the seven churches mean seven literal named churches in Asia Minor (Rev. 2–3)? Where does Revelation say, as Smith tells it, that “these churches are representative of the universal church,” each representing “a particular period of Church history”?7 How does he know, for example, that the church at Pergamum “represents the beginning of the church-state system that developed under Constantine”8 or the church at Sardis is the church of the Protestant Reformation?9 Revelation doesn’t say any such thing? Smith is reading his interpretive system into the Bible. Smith follows the same non-literal interpretation in his most recent prophecy book The Final Act.10

Dispensationalists have been teaching that the rapture could have come at any moment during the so-called church age, which is now nearly 2000 years long. But this is impossible given Smith’s interpretation of Revelation 2 and 3 which he claims describes the entire history of the church age up to our time. This means, following his interpretive system, the rapture can only take place at the end of the Laodicean period, the symbolic church of our time. So then, the any-moment rapture was never a tenet of dispensationalism until just recently.

I was truly surprised when I read endorsements of The Final Act from Joel Rosenberg, Mark Hitchcock (who knows better), Dave Hunt, David Hocking (who ought to know better), and Greg Laurie. If The Final Act is representative of dispensational scholarship today, then the title is appropriate.

http://www.americanvision.org/articlearchive2007/11-20-07.asp

1 Chuck Smith with David Wimbish, Dateline Earth: Countdown to Eternity (Old Tappan, NJ: Chosen Books, 1989, 38.

2 Smith, Dateline Earth, 21.

3 Smith, Dateline Earth, 25. Emphasis in original.

4 Chuck Smith, The Final Curtain (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today, 1984), 46.

5 Smith, Dateline Earth, 20.

6 Smith, Dateline Earth, 20

7 Smith, Dateline Earth, 28.

8 Smith, Dateline Earth, 28–29.

9 Smith, Dateline Earth, 33.

10 Chuck Smith, The Final Act: Setting the Stage of the End times
Drama
(Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for today, 2007), 113–144.

Prophetic Pronouncements Under the Microscope
by Gary DeMar
11/19/2007

Chuck Smith, founder of Calvary Chapel and senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California, has authored another prophecy book: The Final Act: Setting the Stage of the End Times Drama. The book carries the ringing endorsement of Tim LaHaye, co-author with Jerry Jenkins of the widely popular Left Behind series of prophetic novels. LaHaye offers the following complimentary words: “This unique dramatic treatment is both true to the Scripture and practical—both hallmarks of all Pastor Chuck’s teaching! I found it very interesting.” In addition to his new prophecy book, Smith has written the Foreword to Breaking the Apocalypse Code co-authored by Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice. Breaking the Apocalypse Code is said to be a “point-by-point” critique of Hank Hanegraaff’s The Apocalypse Code (2007).

I found it ironic that LaHaye would write that Smith’s teaching is “true to the Scripture” on the subject of prophecy when Smith has been so wrong on the subject for more than 30 years. I was surprised that Ice would want Smith to publish1 and write the Foreword to a book on prophecy when Ice has written “Why the Bible Still Prohibits Date Setting.”2 Has Smith read Ice’s paper, and has Ice read Smith’s prophecy books? Norman Geisler’s claim that Breaking the Apocalypse Code is “an excellent point-by-point critique of the fallacious claims . . .  [of the] preterist interpolation of the End Times” stunned me since Smith has had a long history of making “fallacious claims” in his “interpolation of the end times.” Dr. Geisler is the dean of Southern Evangelical Seminary and the founder and president of the International Society of Christian Apologetics. He is applying a hermeneutical double standard, critiquing the interpretive methodology of Hanegraaff’s Apocalypse Code (a legitimate academic exercise) but saying nothing of the date-setting methodology of Chuck Smith.

In his 1978 book End Times, Chuck Smith wrote the following: “If I understand Scripture correctly, Jesus taught us that the generation which sees the ‘budding of the fig tree,’ the birth of the nation of Israel, will be the generation that sees the Lord’s return. I believe that the generation of 1948 is the last generation. Since a generation of judgment is forty years and the Tribulation period lasts seven years, I believe the Lord could come back for His Church any time before the Tribulation starts, which would mean any time before 1981. (1948 + 40 – 7 = 1981).”3 If this prophetic math sounds familiar, it’s because the same end-time logic was used by Hal Lindsey in The Late Great Planet Earth (1970).

In order to cover himself against charges of date setting, Smith wrote that “it is possible that Jesus is dating the beginning of the generation from 1967, when Jerusalem was again under Israeli control for the first time since 587 B.C. We don’t know for sure which year actually marks the beginning of the last generation.”4 A 1967 starting point to begin calculations and a 40-year generation would mean the rapture should have taken place before 2000. While it sounds like Smith is simply engaging in conjecture, in his book Future Survival, which was first published in 1978 and updated in 1980, his prophetic dogmatism is retained:

“We’re the generation that saw the fig tree bud forth, as Israel became a nation again in 1948. As a rule, a generation in the Bible lasts 40 years. . . . Forty years after 1948 would bring us to 1988.”

Keep in mind that it’s not only important to show where Smith was wrong in his predictions, it’s crucial that we understand that he is using an interpretive model that leads him to make these predictions. We could easily turn Geisler’s criticism around and point it at Smith and much of the date-setting rhetoric of futurists: “This is an excellent point-by-point critique of the fallacious claims . . .  [of the] futurist interpolation of the End Times”.

Smith wrote in 1980 that from his “understanding of biblical prophecies, he was “convinced that the Lord [would come] for His Church before the end of 1981.” He did add that he “could be wrong” but went on to say in the same sentence that “it’s a deep conviction in my heart, and all my plans are predicated upon that belief.”5 Notice the last statement. He may have voiced some doubts, but actions speak louder than words. He made plans based on his beliefs that were founded on his “understanding of biblical prophecies.” Remember, LaHaye wrote that Smith’s teaching is “true to the Scripture” which is a hallmark “of all of Pastor Chuck’s teaching.” On these and other prophetic claims, the test of time has proved Smith to be wrong.

On December 31, 1979, Smith told his church audience that the rapture would take place before the end of 1981. He went on to say that because of ozone depletion Revelation 16:8 would be fulfilled during the tribulation period: “And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun; and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.” In addition, Halley’s Comet would pass near the Earth in 1986 and would wreak havoc on the earth for those left behind as debris from its million-mile-long tail pummeled the earth.7 Here’s how Smith explained the prophetic scenario in his book Future Survival which is nearly identical to what appears on the taped message:

“The Lord said that towards the end of the Tribulation period the sun would scorch men who dwell upon the face of the earth (Rev. 16). The year 1986 would fit just about right! We’re getting close to the Tribulation and the return of Christ in glory. All the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.”8

Nothing significant happened in 1986 related to Halley’s Comet, and there is no reason why it should have since it’s been a predictable phenomenon for more than two millennia that can be seen every 75 to 76 years. In fact, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) was a better prophet than Smith. Clemens was born on November 30, 1835, two weeks after the comet’s appearance. In his biography, he said, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year (1910), and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’” Clemens died on April 21, 1910, the day following the comet’s appearance.9

To be fair, in a March 30, 1989 interview with William Alnor, Smith admitted that he “was guilty of coming close” to “date setting,” and this was wrong.10 But when we look back over Smith’s statements about the timing of specific prophetic events, we can see that he did more than come close to date setting. He wrote, “We’re the generation that saw the fig tree bud forth, as Israel became a nation again in 1948.” We are nearly 60 years removed from the 1948 founding of Israel. The interpretive methodology used by Smith, Lindsey, Dave Hunt, and others making the 1948–1988 connection was fundamental to their claim that they were following a literal hermeneutic. If a literal hermeneutic results in near certainty of when prophetic events will take place but ends in a colossal miscalculation on a key element of their system, how should the interpretive methodology that brought them to that calculation be evaluated? To paraphrase Jesus, An interpretive tree is known by its fruit, and the 1948–1988 timetable has turned out to be rotten fruit no matter how you slice it.

http://www.americanvision.org/articlearchive2007/11-19-07.asp


1 The books are published by The Word for Today, the publishing arm of Calvary Chapel and The Word for Today Ministries.

3 Chuck Smith, End Times (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today, 1978), 35.

4 Chuck Smith, End Times, 36.

5Chuck Smith, Future Survival (Costa Mesa, CA: The Word for Today, [1978] 1980), 17.

6 Chuck Smith, Future Survival, 20.

7 Halley’s Comet also appeared in A.D. 66 and passed over Jerusalem, four years before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans.

8 Chuck Smith, Future Survival, 21.

10 Chuck Smith’s interview with William M. Alnor in Soothsayers of the Second Advent (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1989.


Gary DeMar is the President of American Vision.

 

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The Date of Revelation: Geisler vs. Geisler

The Date of Revelation: Geisler vs. Geisler
by Gary DeMar
7/25/2007
 

In the ongoing debate over Bible prophecy, a number of issues keep coming up. One of the biggest disputes is on the dating of Revelation. Was Revelation written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or nearly 40 years later? Late-date advocates are almost solely dependent on the ambiguous testimony of Irenaeus (120–202). I deal with this bit of external evidence in my book The Early Church and the End of the World.
1 The late date for Revelation does little to help dispensationalists since there are amils, postmils, and non-dispensational premils who hold to a late date. The same is true for advocates of the historicist and idealist positions on Revelation. There are early and late date advocates for these positions. In addition, there are a number of prophecy writers who hold to a late date for the composition of Revelation and argue for a preterist interpretation of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:34).
           
Norm Geisler’s review of Hank Hanegraaff’s The Apocalypse Code deals with several of HH’s arguments for a pre-A.D. 70 date for the composition of Revelation. One argument that HH uses is that Revelation would have referred to the destruction of Jerusalem if it had been written post-A.D. 70. Here’s how Geisler argues against HH’s claim:

As for the a priori argument that if John wrote after AD 70 he would have highlighted the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction ([The Apocalypse Code] 252), we need only observe that John is not writing a history of this whole period but only of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. So, there was no reason to refer to an event nearly 40 years later. The other Gospels were written before AD 70. So, they have predictions of Jerusalem’s destruction in them.

This is a curious way to argue for a late date since Geisler argues for a pre-A.D. 70 date in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, a book that Geisler co-authored with Frank Turek. In their chapter on the early testimony about Jesus, they write that “most if not all [of the NT] books were written before A.D. 70.”2 Consider the following:

Well, here’s the problem for those who say the New Testament was written after 70—there’s absolutely no mention of the fulfillment of this predicted tragedy anywhere in the New Testament documents. This means most, if not all, of the documents must have been written prior to 70.3

* * * * *

So if we would expect tragedies such as Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to be mentioned in the relevant writings of today, we certainly should expect the events of A.D. 70 to be cited somewhere in the New Testament (especially since the events were predicted by Jesus). But since the New Testament does not mention these events anywhere and suggests that Jerusalem and the temple are still intact, we can conclude reasonably that most, if not all, of the New Testament documents must haven been written prior to 70.4

Paul Benware, who also holds to a late date for Revelation, describes the above line of reasoning an “argument from silence.”5 But Geisler and Turek do not see it this way, “for the New Testament documents speak of Jerusalem and the temple, or activities associated with them, as if they were still intact at the time of the writings.”6 They cite Revelation 11:1–2 to support this claim.7 Since, according to Geisler and Turek, all the New Testament books were written prior to A.D. 70, then Revelation 11:1–2 must refer to the pre-A.D. 70 temple and not a future rebuilt great-tribulation temple. But this can’t be if Revelation was written around A.D. 95 as Geisler in his critique of The Apocalypse Code contends.
           
So which is it? Is Geisler arguing for a pre-A.D. 70 date for Revelation or a post-A.D. 70 date?

http://www.americanvision.org/articlearchive2007/07-25-07.asp



1Gary DeMar and Francis X. Gumerlock, The Early Church and the End of the World (Powder Springs, GA: American, 2006): www.americanvision.org/store/pc-249-9-early-church-and-the-end-of-the-world.aspx

2Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 204), 237.

3Geisler and Frank, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, 238.

4Geisler and Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, 238–239.

5Paul Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach (Chicago: Moody Press, 2006), 167.

6Geisler and Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, 238.

7Geisler and Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, 425, note 20. Benware contends, “Whether or not there was a temple in existence when John received this vision is not relevant and, therefore, Revelation 11 simply has nothing to do with the dating of the book of Revelation.” (Understanding End Times Prophecy, 167). So much for a “literal interpretation of Revelation.” Benware uses Ezekiel’s measuring the temple as a parallel to John measuring the temple in Revelation 11:1–2. Since the temple Ezekiel measured was a future temple, then it’s most likely that the temple in Revelation is a future temple. There is a problem with this line of reasoning. Ezekiel is not the one measuring the temple; it was a man, and the man was not Ezekiel (Ezek. 40:5–6). The accounts are not content parallel.


Gary DeMar is the President of American Vision.

 

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Norman L. Geisler and “This Generation”

Norman L. Geisler and “This Generation”
by Gary DeMar
7/10/2007

One of the foundation stones of dispensationalism in particular and futurism in general is the claim that “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 either refers to a future generation (“the generation that sees these signs”) or the Jewish race. Norman Geisler, in his critique of Hank Hanegraaff’s The Apocalypse Code, argues that the Greek word genea should be translated “race.” He writes: “as virtually all acknowledge, it can mean ‘this [Jewish] race’ will not pass away—which it has not. Greek experts Arndt and Gingrich acknowledge that the term genea can have an ethnic use of ‘family, descent, . . . clan, then race (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 249, emphasis added).” Notice that Geisler says “can have.” The problem is, there is no place in the NT where genea is translated as “race,” and the lexicon cited by Geisler does not point to a verse where “race” would be the appropriate translation.1 Moreover, Geisler does not tell his readers that the Greek-English Lexicon also states that genea (generation) means “the sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time. Generation, contemporaries.”2 The passages referenced as examples of this definition are Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32 where the text reads “this generation.”
           
I’m surprised that Geisler would even consider the genea–as–race argument. While the Scofield Reference Bible takes this position, almost no one today, including dispensational authors, argue that “this generation” should be translated “this race.”

There are two problems with the “race” translation. First, as we’ve seen, the Greek word used in Matthew 24:34 is genea, a word that in other contexts means “generation.” Try using “race” where “generation” appears in these verses: Matthew 1:17; 11:16; 12:39, 41, 42, 45; 16:4; 17:17; Mark 8:12, 38; 9:19; 13:30; Luke 1:48, 50; 7:31; 9:41; 11:29, 30, 31, 32, 50, 51; 16:8; 17:25; 21:32. Geisler even admits this, but claims that it can have a different meaning in a “prophetic context.” What is the basis for this line of argument? He never tells us.

Second, if Jesus wanted to say that “this race will not pass away until all of these things take place,” He would have used the Greek word genos to clear up any possible confusion. He uses genea (“generation”) not genos (“race”).

Third, there is a logical problem if genea is translated “race.” Since “race” is a reference to the Jewish race, Matthew 24:34 would read this way: “This Jewish race will not pass away until all these things take place. When all these things take place, then Jewish race will pass away.” This doesn’t make any sense, especially for a premillennialist like Geisler who believes the Jews will reign with Jesus for a thousand years after the period described by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse. Fellow dispensationalist Stanley Toussaint dismisses Geisler’s line of argument:

It is difficult for dispensational premillennialists to take this view because this would imply that Israel would cease to exist as a nation after the Lord’s return: “This race of Israel will not pass away until the Second Advent.” But Israel must continue after the Second Advent into the millennium in order to fulfill the promises God made to that nation.

Fourth, each and every time “this generation” is used in the gospels, it refers to the generation to whom Jesus was speaking. The use of the near demonstrative “this” locks the time of “this generation” that was near to Jesus. If Jesus had a future generation in mind, He would have said “that generation,” as in, “that generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Consider what these Bible commentators say about the meaning of “this generation”:

  • D.A. Carson: “[This generation] can only with the greatest difficulty be made to mean anything other than the generation living when Jesus spoke.”4
  • William Sanford LaSor: “If ‘this generation’ is taken literally, all of the predictions were to take place within the life-span of those living at that time.”5
  • John Lightfoot: “Hence it appears plain enough, that the foregoing verses are not to be understood of the last judgment, but, as we said, of the destruction of Jerusalem. There were some among the disciples (particularly John), who lived to see these things come to pass. With Matt. xvi. 28, compare John xxi. 22. And there were some Rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these things, that lived until the city was destroyed.”6
  • Thomas Newton: “It is to me a wonder how any man can refer part of the foregoing discourse to the destruction of Jerusalem, and part to the end of the world, or any other distant event, when it is said so positively here in the conclusion, All these things shall be fulfilled in this generation.”7
  • [T]he obvious meaning of the words ‘this generation’ is the people contemporary with Jesus. Nothing can be gained by trying to take the word in any sense other than its normal one: in Mark (elsewhere in 8:12, 9:19) the word always has this meaning.”8
  • John Gill: “This is a full and clear proof, that not any thing that is said before [v. 34], relates to the second coming of Christ, the day of judgment, and the end of the world; but that all belongs to the coming of the son of man in the destruction of Jerusalem, and to the end of the Jewish state.”9
  • William Lane: “The significance of the temporal reference has been debated, but in Mark ‘this generation’ clearly designates the contemporaries of Jesus (see on Chs. 8:12, 38; 9:19) and there is no consideration from the context which lends support to any other proposal. Jesus solemnly affirms that the generation contemporary with his disciples will witness the fulfillment of his prophetic word, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the dismantling of the Temple.”10
  • “Matthew uses genea here for the tenth time. Though his use of the term has a range of emphases, it consistently refers to (the time span of) a single human generation. All the alternative senses proposed here (the Jewish people; humanity; the generation of the end-time signs; wicked people) are artificial and based on the need to protect Jesus from error. ‘This generation’ is the generation of Jesus’ contemporaries.”

Norman Geisler needs to take a second look at his claim that “this generation” can be translated as “this race.” All the evidence points to the generation Jesus was addressing and not the “Jewish race” or a future generation.

http://www.americanvision.org/articlearchive2007/07-10-07.asp


Gary DeMar is the President of American Vision.

1 The King James Version translates genos as “generation” in 1 Peter 2:9.

2I’m using the fourth revised edition of Arndt and Gingrich (1952). The page number in this edition on genea is 153.

3Stanley D. Toussaint, “A Critique of the Preterist View of the Olivet Discourse,” Bibliotheca Sacra (October December 2004), 483–484.

4D.A. Carson, “Matthew” in The Expositor=s Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, 12 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985), 8:507

5William Sanford LaSor, The Truth About Armageddon: What the Bible Says About the End Times (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987), 122.

6John Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, 4 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, [1658–1674] 1859), 2:320.

7Thomas Newton, Dissertations on the Prophecies Which Have Remarkably Been Fulfilled (1754).

8Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene A. Nida, A Translator’s Handbook of the Gospel of Mark (New York: United Bible Societies, 1961), 419.

9John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament, 3:296.

10William L. Lane, Commentary on the Gospel of Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), 480.

11John Nolland The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 988–989.

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Denying Sola Scriptura The Attempt to Neutralize the Bible

Denying Sola Scriptura
The Attempt to Neutralize the Bible

By Gary DeMar

I WAS RAISED Roman Catholic. My religious upbringing included Catholic school through the fifth grade and service as an altar boy through my teen years. My first dose of a foreign language was Latin, a necessary prerequisite if you wanted to be an altar boy. There is much I appreciate about my Catholic training. I was taught the cardinal doctrines of the faith as expressed in the Apostles’ Creed. The ethical precepts I had been taught in Catholic school kept me from straying too far in my rebellious years. Guilt and fear of judgment are strong motivators when it comes to keeping young people in moral check. Of course many children raised in Protestant homes can make similar claims. So my experiences perhaps are not unique to Catholicism.

Many of the basic tenets of Catholicism are biblical. One of the distinguishing characteristics of a cult is the denial of the divinity of Christ. There is no such denial in Catholicism. Roman Catholics teach and adhere to the Apostles’ Creed. This is why men like Luther and Calvin are called Reformers: they wanted to reform the church, not replace it. They recognized that not everything within Catholicism was in error. On another level, the same can be said about Judaism. There is truth within Judaism because Christians and Jews share a portion of the same revelation — the Hebrew Scriptures or what Christians call the Old Testament. But as a system of theology, both Catholicism and Judaism fall short of the whole truth; Judaism because it does not recognize the revelatory status of the New Testament, and Catholicism because it puts tradition on an equal footing with both the Old and New Testaments.

Questioning Catholic Doctrine

After becoming a Christian in February of 1973, I began to question a number of Catholic doctrines. The Bible had become the standard of faith for me. It was sola scriptura — Scripture alone — not the Bible plus anything else that led me to reconsider what I had been taught as a child about Catholicism. Those doctrines that lined up with the Bible, I retained. Those doctrines that could not be supported by an appeal to the Bible, I rejected. Again, sola scriptura was the reference point. The doctrine of sola scriptura has been questioned by a number of former Protestants who have embraced the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Once the doctrine of sola scriptura is rejected, a Pandora’s Box of doctrinal additions is opened. As one Catholic writer asserts, “Scripture has been, and remains our primary, although not exclusive, source for Catholic doctrines.”1 This is the nature of the dispute. While the Protestant believes that Scripture is the “exclusive” source for doctrine — what the Westminster Confession of Faith calls “faith and practice” — the Catholic Church asserts that extra-biblical tradition plays an equal role.

Former Protestants Speak

Former Protestants Scott and Kimberly Hahn have written a book that is getting a great deal of praise from Catholics and Protestants. The Hahns have become effective apologists for the Catholic position. Scott, a former Presbyterian minister, and his wife consider their embrace of Catholicism as a homecoming. In fact, the title of their book is Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism.2 While there are many issues in this book that I would like to address, my goal is to concentrate on the central issue — sola scriptura.

Roman Catholic Propaganda

There is no doubt in my mind that Rome Sweet Home is a cleverly devised piece of propaganda published mainly for Catholics. Very few Protestants would ever be convinced by the arguments put forth by the Hahns. The book is designed to keep Catholics in check, most of which do not know their Bibles. The reasoning goes something like this:

Consider the Hahns. Scott and Kimberly were forceful Catholic antagonists while they studied in one of America’s leading Protestant seminaries. Scott had a promising career as a pastor and seminary professor. But as the Hahns studied the Bible more closely they found that they could not answer the most basic objection to Roman Catholic doctrines. In time they began to see what you already know: The Roman Catholic Church is the true church.

After reading Rome Sweet Home I came away bewildered. I could not believe how poorly the Hahns argued Catholic dogma.

Justifying Praying the Rosary

Kimberly Hahn discusses her struggle saying the Rosary, a belabored recitation of the “Hail Mary” and other prayers. She had always thought that the practice was “vain repetition” (Matthew 6:7). After some instruction by a nun, Kimberly saw the error of her ways. The nun told Kimberly that we are like children. Would parents consider it “vain repetition” if they heard their child repeat the same request over and over again, day in and day out, with little or no variation? Speaking as one parent, I would consider such a monotonous and persistent request annoying and childish. While I might tolerate my children speaking this way when he was first learning to talk, I would instruct him as he grew in understanding that such “vain repetition” is not acceptable for a child

of his age. The Bible tells us that we are to “grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2; also Ephesians 4:15). Consider these passages that speak about spiritual maturity:

  • “For every one who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14)
  • “Therefore, leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1)
  • “When I was a child I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

While we are God’s children, we are not encouraged to act childish. More importantly, the “Hail Mary” must be rejected based on its unbiblical line of “Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”3 If any prayer is to be repeated over and over again, why not use the one Jesus taught His disciples to pray? Why not the Lord’s Prayer? When Jesus’ disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He didn’t teach them the “Hail, Mary.”

An Appeal to “Tradition”

No biblical justification can be found for praying the Rosary. But this does not matter to Catholics since they claim the authority of tradition. The real debate is whether sola scriptura is a doctrine that is taught in the Bible. Does the Bible teach that the Bible alone is the Christian’s “only rule of faith and obedience?” Scott Hahn and other Catholics maintain that it does not. The issue that sent Scott Hahn over the edge into considering Roman Catholic doctrine was a question a student asked him about sola scriptura. Here is how Scott recounts the confrontation:

“Professor Hahn, you’ve shown us that sola fide isn’t scriptural [sic] — how the battle cry of the Reformation is off-base when it comes to interpreting Paul [sic]. As you know, the other battle cry of the Reformation was sola scriptura; the Bible alone is our authority, rather than the pope, church councils or Tradition. Professor, where does the Bible teach that ‘Scripture alone’ is our sole authority?”4

What was Scott’s response? “I looked at him and broke into a cold sweat.” Scott writes that he “never heard that question before.” This encounter shook Scott. He writes that he “studied all week long” and “got nowhere.” Then he “called two of the best theologians in America as well as some of [his] former professors.”5 I must admit that if I were to accept the non-answers that Scott received from these “two best theologians in the country,” I too would have to give up the doctrine of sola scriptura.

Jesus and Sola Scriptura

What amazes me is that a seminary-trained scholar like Scott Hahn had to make these calls. Demonstrating sola scriptura from the Bible is not very difficult. Jesus used the Bible to counter the arguments of Satan. Scripture was quoted, not tradition (Matthew 4:1-10 and Luke 4:1-12). The same can be said about His debates with the religious leaders. He asks them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures?” (Matthew 21:42). He appeal is not made to any ecclesiastical body, the priesthood, or tradition.

The Sadducees, who denied the doctrine of the resurrection, hoped to trap Jesus with a question that seems to have no rational or biblical answer. Jesus, with all the prerogatives of divinity, could have manufactured a legitimate and satisfactory answer without an appeal to Scripture. He did not. Instead, he tells them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). Here we find Jesus rejecting ecclesiastical opinion — as represented by the Sadducees — in favor of sola scriptura.

To whom does Abraham appeal in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus? Does he point to tradition? He does not. Ecclesiastical Authority? No. A saint? (Abraham himself may have qualified.) No. Abraham answers, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). The rich man is not satisfied with this response. “No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!” (verse 30). Maybe a miracle is in order, the rich man suggests. Abraham’s appeal, however, is to Scripture: “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead'” (verse 31).

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus presents an argument to explain His death and resurrection: “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). No mention is made of tradition. If you want eternal life, what are you to search? The Bible says, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of me” (John 5:39). The religious leaders were searching the correct revelation, but they were looking for the wrong savior.

The Pharisees, who were notorious for distorting the Word of God by means of their “tradition” (Mark 7:8), still could speak the truth as long as they stuck with sola scriptura. When the “scribes and the Pharisees” seat “themselves in the chair of Moses,” that is, when they are faithful in their use of Scripture, “do and observe” what they tell you (Matthew 23:2-3).

Paul and Sola Scriptura

When Paul “reasoned” with the Jews, what revelational standard did he use?” And according to Paul’s custom “he reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2). Paul, who claimed apostolic authority (Romans 1:1; 11:13 1 Corinthians 9:1; Galatians 1:1), did not rebuke the Berean Christians when they examined “the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things” he was telling them were so (Acts 17:11). Keep in mind that the Bereans are described as “more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica.” Could a Roman Catholic put the Pope on the spot like this? Could a Catholic challenge a Church doctrine with such an appeal? Notice that the Bereans were equal to Paul when it came to evaluating doctrine by means of Scripture.

Paul’s argument for the defense of sola fide is an appeal to Scripture: “For what does the Scripture say?” (Romans 4:2). Roman Catholic doctrine would add, “and Church tradition.” Paul “opposed” Peter, supposedly the first Pope, “to his face” on this doctrine (Galatians 2:11), demonstrating that “a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith [fide] in Christ Jesus” (verse 16).

Acts and Sola Scriptura

When church leaders met in Jerusalem to discuss theological matters, again, their appeal was to Scripture. Their deliberations had to “agree” with “the words of the Prophets” (Acts 15:15), The Book of Acts is filled with an appeal to sola scriptura: the appointment of a successor to Judas (1:20); an explanation of the signs at Pentecost (2:14-21); the proof of the resurrection (2:30-36); the explanation for Jesus’ sufferings (3:18); the defense of Stephen (7); Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian and the explanation of the suffering Redeemer (8:32-35): “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture [Isaiah 53] he preached Jesus to him” (verse 35). In the Book of Acts the appeal is always to Scripture (10:43; 13:27; 18:4-5; 24:14; 26:22-23, 27; 28:23). The word tradition is nowhere to be found.

Scripture and Tradition

But what of those verses that discuss the validity of tradition? These were very troubling to Scott and Kimberly Hahn, especially 2 Thessalonians 2:15: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” Before we look at this verse, consider the Old Testament. Prior to its inscripturation, most people heard God’s Word “in many portions and in many ways” (Hebrews 1:1). Some of this revelation came by way of oral instruction and written communiqués. Over time, this revelation came together in inscripturated form, designated “Scripture” in the New Testament. By the time of Jesus’ birth this body of written revelation was recognized as being authoritative (Matthew 2:5; Luke 2:22-24). No church council was called to place its imprimatur on these Old Testament books. The Old Testament canon — Scripture — was not the product of the Old Testament church. “The church has no authority to control, create, or define the Word of God. Rather, the canon controls, creates and defines the church of Christ.”6

Once the completed written revelation was in the hands of the people, appeal was always made to this body of material as Scripture. Scripture plus tradition is not a consideration. In fact, Jesus condemns the Pharisees and scribes because they made the claim that their religious traditions were on an equal par with Scripture (Mark 7:1-13). The Roman Catholic answer to this is self-refuting: “Jesus did not condemn all traditions; he condemned only erroneous traditions, whether doctrines or practices, that undercut Christian truths.”7 Precisely. But how does one determine whether a tradition is an “erroneous tradition”? Sola scriptura! The Catholic Church maintains that the appeal must be made to the Church whose authority is based on Scripture plus tradition. But this is begging the question. How could anyone ever claim that a tradition is erroneous if the Catholic Church begins with the premise that Scripture and tradition, as determined by the Catholic Church, are authoritative?

How, then, is Paul using tradition in 2 Thessalonians 2:15? New Testament tradition is the oral teaching of Jesus passed down to the apostles. This is why Paul could write:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which you also stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

In time, these New Testament doctrines — traditions — became inscripturated in the same way Old Testament doctrines became inscripturated. When the Old Testament canon closed, the canon was referred to as Scripture. The same is true of the development of the New Testament canon. After a complete end had been made of the Old Covenant order in A.D. 70, the canon closed. All New Testament books were written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. All that God wanted His church to know about “faith and life” can be found in Scripture, Old and New Testament revelation. The Westminster Confession of Faith states it this way:

All synods and councils, since the Apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both (Ephesians 2:20; Acts 17:11; 1 Corinthians 2:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14) (WCF 31:4).

Any “tradition” that the church develops after the close of the canon is non-revelational. Its authority is not in any way equal to the Bible. All creeds and confessions are subject to change based on appeal to Scripture alone.

The denial of sola scriptura is Roman Catholicism’s foundational error.

http://www.americanvision.org/articlearchive/denying_sola_scriptura.asp

 

End Notes

(1) Bob Moran, A Closer Look at Catholicism: A Guide for Protestants (Dallas, TX: Waco, 1986), 60.

(2) San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1983.

(3) This line is not found in the Bible. Most of the “Hail Mary” is a patchwork of Scripture verses that are descriptive of Mary and her special calling (Luke 1:28, 30, 48). The angel Gabriel is not uttering a prayer, nor does he encourage anyone to turn his words into a prayer.

(4) Hahn, Rome Sweet Home, 51.

(5) Ibid, 52.

(6) Greg L. Bahnsen, “The Concept and Importance of Canonicity,” Antithesis 1:5 (September/October 1990), 43.

(7) Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on “Romanism” by “Bible Christians” (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1988, 141.

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THE TEMPLE IMAGERY IN GENESIS 1-4 AND REVELATION 21-22 THE COSMOLOGY OF ISRAEL’S COVENANT, LAND AND TEMPLE PROMISES FULFILLED IN AD 70 AND IN THE NC “AGE WITHOUT END”

THE TEMPLE IMAGERY IN GENESIS 1-4 AND REVELATION 21-22
THE COSMOLOGY OF ISRAEL’S COVENANT, LAND AND
TEMPLE PROMISES FULFILLED IN AD 70 AND IN THE NC “AGE WITHOUT END”

By:  Michael J. Sullivan
copyright 2008

Editorial note:  Years ago I spoke at a Preterist conference and developed the temple imagery from Genesis – Revelation.  The message was never taped and I didn’t have time to cover all of my material.  Here is some of that material I covered at the conference.  I do NOT make Genesis issues a test of fellowship and I try and approach the subject with some humility since I still have a lot to work through.  The purpose of this article is to explore some of the Dispensational and Reformed views of Genesis 1-3 and see how they may or may not fit within the Biblical Preterist View.  I hope you enjoy this article and it stimulates your thinking and studies.

As of late, I been revising this article and added two appendix sections dealing with the “rapture” – John 14 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.  Why?  Well, for one, John 14 is rich in temple imagery and secondly, I will be arguing that the “rapture” was fulfilled “within” the minds and hearts of God’s people in the early Church and is still the realm by which we know and experience Him today in the New Covenant age.  This will become relevant towards the end of the article when I demonstrate that Solomon’s temple is patterned after the anatomy of a man and where and how God’s glory cloud and presence guides our lives today.  These articles on John 14 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 were not originally designed to harmonize with this article, but I think you will find how they correlate as you go through them.  Lord bless.       

Genesis 1 – 3 and the “Restoration of Creation” Motif

Keith Mathison in his book (When Shall These Things Be?) seeking to refute Biblical Preterism does not inform his audience of the different reformed views of the creation account in the early chapters of Genesis; but simply plugs in his personal presuppositions and shallow exegesis of (Gen. 1-3) into such texts as (Isa. 64-66; Rom. 8; 2 Pet. 3; & Rev. 21-22). He simply assumes that at a future second coming the curse of Adam’s physical death and decay which allegedly has been passed down upon all mankind and animal life will one day be “restored” to a state of non-biological death and decay. Mathison believes that any futuristic paradigm (even Dispensationalism) is to be preferred over the “Hyper-Preterist” view when it comes to “the end” in (Mt. 24-25; I Cor. 15; & Revelation). Therefore, according to Mathison’s logic he and his readers should equally be open to considering some developments of the “beginning” in (Gen. 1-3) from those within his reformed tradition and other futurists (including Dispensationalists).

Here is a list of combined admissions from reformed and dispensational theologians that unravel Mathison’s presuppositions in Genesis of which I feel better fit a preterist interpretation and emphasis of what the “restoration of creation” is as seen through the New-Testament. I will focus on the views held by Augustine, Milton Terry, the Day Age view (David Snoke), the Framework view (Meredith Kline), and comments made by dispensationalist John Sailhmaer. These combined admissions build the following paradigm:

1).  The 7 days of creation and the Sabbath rest of God in (Gen.1-2) are not literal 24 hour days but symbolic and figurative. Augustine argued this position 14 centuries before Darwin and evolution was ever an issue. In other words his concerns were exegetical and no one was accusing him of being a liberal or evolutionist for making his exegesis![1] He argued that there cannot be three 24 hour days without the creation of the sun and solar system which were created on the fourth day. Building upon Augustines exegesis, reformed theologian Meredith G. Kline has likewise argued that the days are not 24 hour days set forth in perfect chronological and sequential order, but rather are described with Hebrew parallelism using Sabbatical symbolism.

Days 1 & 4 – The creation of light on Day 1 is further described in parallel recapitulation with Day 4 in the creation of Luminaries which were to govern the day and night and separate the light from the darkness.

Days 2 & 5 – The creation of the sky and seas on Day 2 is further described in parallel recapitulation with Day 5, which describes the creation of the animals that would rule within these kingdoms.

Days 3 & 6 – The creation of the land and vegetation on Day 3, corresponds to the creation of animals and man that inhabit and rule in this domain – with man commissioned to rule over them all.

Day 7 – On this day God using anthropomorphic and metaphorical language “rests.” He is King over all of the dominions and creatures created on the 6 Days.

Kline is also in agreement with reformed Day Age advocates that Scripture teaches prior to the fall of Adam, animals were carnivorous, died, and that apart of man’s dominion over them was that he could kill them for warmth and food.[2]

2).  Milton S. Terry who is referenced by many Christians scholars understood the 7 days of creation figuratively as he did the 7 trumpets in Revelation–which he saw as corresponding to a judgment upon the local land of Palestine in AD 70,

“The seven days of the cosmogony are no more to be interpreted literally than are the seven trumpets of the Apocalypse. Indeed, the repetitions of “God said” in Genesis suggest some analogies to be found in the sounding of the seven trumpets. At the sounding of the first trumpet the earth was smitten; at the second, the sea; at the third, the rivers and fountains; at the fourth, the sun; at the fifth, the abyse; at the sixth, the armies of Euphrates were set loose, and, at the seventh, “great voices in heaven” announced the advent and reign of the Lord and his Anointed. The days of Genesis are as symbolical as the trumptest of the Apocalypse, and can no more successfully be identified (or shown to correspond) with ascertained aeons of geology and cosmical evolution than can the trumpets with successive historical events.”[3]

Terry points out that even many hyper-literal Rabbis understood the early chapters of Genesis in a not so literally way, but rather as a,

“vivid pictorial representation of the origin of growth and sin in the human heart” or “…guilt in the human consciousness.” (Ibid., 50-51).

3).  Reformed theologian and Day Age advocate David Snoke does not believe there is a gap between (Gen.1:1) and the rest of the creation account and states that (Gen.1:1) should probably be translated “heavens and land.”

“It is enough to say that the term “the heavens and the land” refers to “everything as far as the eye can see.” “…The beginning of the Bible is concerned about the physical land of the Hebrews, and it stays focused on that physical history up through the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”[4]

4).  Dispensationalist John Sailhamer sees the emphasis of (Gen.1:2-chapter 2) as dealing with the creation of a localized area of land (Heb.eretz – Eden) and not the globe. Like others, he points out the recapitulation and Hebrew parallel structure of the two chapters,

“Often the two creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 have been thought to be only loosely connected: While Genesis 1 is about God’s preparing the earth, Genesis 2 is about the garden. Such a reading, however, misses an important point. In their present placement within the Pentateuch, the two narratives are about the same events and have the same setting. What we see God doing in Genesis 2, the garden of Eden, is the same as that of chapter 1, the land. Since chapter 2 is clearly an account of God’s preparing the garden of Eden as man’s dwelling place, chapter 1 must also be about God’s preparing the garden.”[5]

Many reformed theologians have made the theological connections between the land of Eden and the Garden with that of the promised land of Israel. However, Sailhamer went a step further and indicates that not only are there theological connections but perhaps geographical ones that need to be considered as well,

 “The garden of Eden extended from the “river that flows through all the land of Cush” to the “River Euphrates.” Since in Genesis the land of Cush is linked to Egypt (Genesis 10:6), the second river, the Gihon (Genesis 2:13), was apparently understood by the author as “the river of Egypt.”

“…When we move to Genesis 15, we find that the land promised to Abraham – the promised land – is marked off by these same two rivers, the Euphrates and the River of Egypt (Genesis 15:18). Note that the area marked off by these two rivers in Genesis 15 is essentially the same region covered by the garden of Eden in Genesis 2. When the general boundaries are compared, it becomes clear that the writer of the Pentateuch intends us to identify the two locations with each other. God’s promise of the land to the patriarchs is thus textually linked to His original “blessing” of all humanity in the garden of Eden.”[6]

The Hebrew communicates that the state of the land of Eden in (Gen.1:2) would better be translated as “uninhabitable,” “inhospitable,” or “wilderness” as was the wilderness area Israel wandered in for forty years before inheriting the promised land (Sailhamer, ibid., pp.63-66). These are excellent observations and I would add that when Israel broke law in the promised land God was able to turn her land back into a wilderness (Deut.28) using (Gen.1:2) as a creation/de-creation referent, “I beheld the earth (better translated – “land”), and indeed it was without form, and void; And the heavens, they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, And all the hills moved back and forth. I beheld, and indeed there was no man, And all the birds of the heavens had fled. I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, And all its cities were broken down At the presence of the LORD, By His fierce anger. For thus says the LORD: “The whole land shall be desolate; Yet I will not make a full end. For this shall the earth mourn, And the heavens above be black, Because I have spoken. I have purposed and will not relent, Nor will I turn back from it. The whole city shall flee from the noise of the horsemen and bowmen” (Jer.4:23-29).

5).  Snoke and other reformed theologians see Adam as being created a physically dying creature along with all the other plant and animal life. This position also holds that there were carnivorous animals, pain, and physical death in the creation before Adam sinned. Physical pain in the birth of offspring was already present and Eve’s would simply be “increased” after the curse. God’s “good” creation already had elements of judgment built into Adam’s environment such as physical death, darkness, and the threat of the sea and Leviathan, etc. to communicate the goodness of God’s hedge about him in the Garden.[7] Snoke also believes that the same laws of physics and the world that existed before the fall is essentially the same world we live in today.

“We do not have to imagine an entire reshaping of the world, with new laws of physics and new, carnivorous species of animals, for creation to be groaning. It is perhaps not going too far to say that the increase of the woman’s labor pains in the curse of Genesis 3:16 is symbolic of the increase of the labor pains of the whole world.” “…God could, presumably, make a world in which time existed but not decay. But such a world would have to have utterly different laws of physics from our own world—and the world of Genesis 1 sounds very much like it is supposed to be our world, not another.”[8]

I agree with Snoke that the planet before and after the fall is the same, but I would disagree that the physical planet is currently in a state of “decay” to the point of eventually running down until it is re-created at Christ’s return (Snoke allegedly sees this taught in Rev.21-22). Scripture simply does not teach the destruction or re-creation of the planet and if the physical planet is being addressed in Ecclesiastes, it would necessitate that God has given it the ability to rejuvenate itself and last “forever,” “Generations come and generations go, but the earth abides forever” (Ecl.1:4). And I don’t think Snoke is “going too far” in seeing Eve’s labor pains being “increased” as “symbolic” with the world “groaning” in (Rms.8). But as Snoke points out the story of redemption involves Christ dieing for men not giving eternal life to animals and trees (Old Earth, p.64). Therefore, the world or intelligible creation (Gk. kistisis) of men under sin through Adam in (Rms.8) definitely groan and experience “futility” and “vanity” (cf. ecl.) apart from Christ. However, when it come to groaning in labor pains, I see the symbolism more with Israel “groaning” under the yoke of Torah and in labor pain never able to produce Gentile children/converts into the kingdom (Isa.26:17-18) whereas the Church did and continues today in the new covenant age.

6). The Framework view defended by reformed theologians Herman Ridderbos and Meredith Kline see the Genesis account not so concerned with a strict literalism, but rather is a form of literary genre set forth in a covenantal framework to help us understand the introduction of sin in mans heart and conscience.  Again, Farrar and Milton Terry would seem to agree, “Even the rabbis, stupidly literal as were their frequent methods, were perfectly aware that the story of the fall was a philosopheme—a vivid pictorial representation of the origin and growth of sin in the human heart.” And “We behold in symbolic outline the development of the sense of guilt in the human consciousness.[9]

7).  John Walton goes as far as to say,

“Genesis 1 was never intended to offer an account of material origins and that the original author and audience did not view it that way.  In fact, the material cosmos was of little significance to them when it came to questions of origins.”

“I propose that people in the ancient world believed that something existed not by virtue of its material properties, but by virtue of its having a function in an ordered system.  Here I do not refer to an ordered system in scientific terms, but an ordered system in human terms, that is, in relation to society and culture.”

“In a functional ontology, to bring something into existence would require giving it material properties.  Consequently, something could be manufactured physically but still not “exist” if it has not become functional.  (John Walton, THE LOST WORLD OF GENESIS ONE Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, see pp. 26, 113).  For Walton, the ancients simply assumed God or the gods created all that they saw and that their creation accounts focused more on “functionality.”  In other words what theological function and message could they relay with the materials of creation.

***  At the end of this article in addressing the temple imagery in Revelation 21-22, I will seek to pull some of these concepts (1-5) together and demonstrate how the book of Revelation uses material within the physical creation in order to give them “functional” significance by depicting the Old Covenant world passing away and yielding to the New Covenant world at Christ’s “soon” AD 70 coming.

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Genesis 1-4 Temple Theology and Imagery

copyright 2008 – this image may not be used for any other articles or for any purpose without the permission of Michael J. Sullivan.

The Holy Place and Most Holy Place

Adam was formed from the dust of Eden (the inner courtyard) and “put” in the Garden (Holy Place). The Hebrew word for “put” in (Gen.2:15) elsewhere in the O.T. has to do with God’s “rest” and “safety” for the Israelites in the Promised Land and the “dedication” of something before the Lord (Gen.19:16; Deut.3:20; 12:10; 25:19; Ex.16:33-34; Lev.16:23; Num.17:4; Deut. 26:4, 10 “under the altar” – Jewish “firstfruits” Christians and martyrs under the “altar” Rev. 6 & 20). The idea is that like Israel, God put Adam in His presence to test him. If He obeyed law in the Garden he would be rewarded with God’s presence and experience His blessings of protection. If he disobeyed, he would covenatally and spiritually die and be driven eastward out of God’s presence.

In ancient times “images” of the god’s were placed within the temples and Kings of these Nations themselves were seen to reflect the “image” of the gods. Adam was given the first torah (law) and made in the “image” of God and was thus God’s first covenant “priestly” or “kingly” representative commissioned to have dominion over the land beginning in the Garden/Holy Place area – to “be fruitful and multiply,” “keep,” and “guard” (manage) the area.

Many are correctly seeing that Adam was much more than a gardener as the Aramaic translation of (Gen.2:15) would indicate,

“to toil in the Law and to observe it’s commandments.” Sailhamer translates the Hebrew and grammar of this text as, “to worship and obey” (Sailhmer, ibid., p.76).

The idea being that of Adam being commissioned to serve and worship God in the Garden and guard the area from unclean intruders – such as the serpent. When these two words are used together in the O.T. they reflect this meaning and refer to the priests and Israel keeping God’s law and the priests having the authority (equipped with swords) to slay intruders (like the cherubim). When Israel would not “keep” the law and would “serve” other god’s they were banished into exile from the sanctuary/land as Adam and Cain were (1Kings 9:1).

Some futurists such as Dick Fischer do not believe that Adam was the first man but should probably be considered the first covenant man typofying the Great Commission realized in Christ,

“Adam, as God’s chosen, was the first man capable of achieving God’s kingdom, and that was passed down through his generations until Christ’s sacrifice at the cross changed the equation and brought a new covenant. Presumably any outsiders in Adam’s day would have been outside the covenant, and unable to enjoy this unique status…”   “…As the first type of Christ, Adam may have had a similar mission. Adam’s task was probably to bring the word of God’s kingdom to the polytheistic heathen living all around him.” (Dick Fischer, In Search of the Historical Adam: Part 1,  http://home.att.net/~jamspsu84/ttocartic.html).

G.K. Beale following the lead of N.T. Wright and others, correctly makes the connection of the Great Commission of Adam in Genesis 1:28 being passed down to Noah, Abraham, and his descendants (citing:  Gen.1:28; Gen. 9:1, 7; Gen.12:2-3; Gen. 17:2, 6, 8; Gen.22:17-18; Gen.26:3-4, 24; Gen.28:3-4; Gen.35:11-12; Gen.47:27). Beale and G. Vos make the accurate connections with the early patriarchs in Genesis of making small scale sanctuaries to be pointing to the establishment of God’s presence in the temple in Jerusalem and then ultimately to God’s presence in the New Creation.[11]

The scattering and covenantal spiritual death of Adam.

Adam as God’s Kingly High Priest was put in the Garden (the Holy Place) and in the midst of the two trees (the Most Holy Place). Within the MHP of the tabernacle and then Israel’s temple was the Ark of God’s presence where the two tablets of Torah [tree of knowledge of good and evil] and two items representing eternal life or the Tree of Life [Aaron’s staff miraculously budding and the heavenly manna].

Adam and Eve were told by God and the Serpent that in the day they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they would: 1) “die” (Gen.2:17) and 2) their “eyes would be open” (Gen.3:5). The account tells us that the very day Adam sinned against God he died a covenantal or spiritual sin/death in which his eyes were opened to his shame and guilt before God. Some reformed theologians have conceded that Adam would have died like all of the other animals in the Garden had he not eaten of the fruit. Therefore, God and Moses point in describing Adam’s biological death in (Gen.3:19) is where he would die – outside of the Garden (Holy Place and MHP) and thus outside of God’s presence back to the “dust” (the Inner Courtyard) where he was first formed. To be outside of God’s presence is to be dead spiritually and the place of his physical death would bear witness to his spiritual state.

Adam is pictured as the High Priest of Israel going into the MHP “presence of the Lord” to be tested and commissioned to pray, worship, and offer up the sacrifice in the “cool of the day.”[12] When the Priest would go into the Sanctuary to offer up sacrifices to God on behalf of the people, they would tie a rope around his ankle in case his heart was not right and God struck him down dead in His presence. In this way Adam is seen as failing the test and God is now driving (dragging him out) of His presence from the HP and MHP of the Garden sanctuary. In the “dust” of this area Adam would be called to labor verses worship, and it would be “increased” through the sweat of his brow in the same way that Eve’s labor pain would be. This is not a proof text that this was the first time a weed, a thorn or pain for Eve was ever present in creation let alone outside the Garden where the “dust” was. The hardness of the ground and the toil and work involved here is communicating the result of the spiritual death, shame, and guilt  infused upon the heart and conscience of Adam after he sinned. In the same way God would bring drought and famine hardening the land of Israel (Deut.28) when as God’s son he  sinned. This was an outward sign communicating the hardness of their hearts in rebellion against His law. Through the prophets He would thus exhort them to “break-up the fallow ground” of their hearts through repentance and enter back into covenant relationship to Him.

 The Outer Courtyard: The scattering of Cain and vindication of Abel.

Cain killed Abel at the entrance of the Garden under the “altar” which was as close to the Garden/Sancturary to offer up sacrifices as they could get. “Under the altar” is where all of the martyrs from Abel to the New-Testament Apostles and Prophets would be until God would vindicate and reward them with entrance into the New Creation in Jesus’ “this generation” and in an A.D. 70 “little while” and “soon” time frame (Mt.23:30-36; Rev.6:9-11; Rev.20; 22:12/Mt.16:27-28). We must challenge the Reformed “preterist” authors of WSTTB? Gentry and Mathison, with a question since both admit that Abel was vindicated and rewarded in an A.D. 70 “this generation” and “in a little while” time period.[13] The question being, “HOW was Abel, Abraham, Daniel, and Peter rewarded with the MHP New Creation of (Rev.21-22) in a “little while” associated with the “soon” coming of Christ, without be resurrected at that time?

Sticking with the temple imagery in (Gen.1-4), Cain is banished even further eastward than Adam to live outside the Land of Eden altogether into the Outter-Court of the Gentiles. He is banished to live among the people of Nod (Gen.4). There of course has been controversy within various theological views over who the people and civilization of Nod were. Were these people the products of incestuous relations between the offspring of Adam and Eve before the gene pool got contaminated? If not, was this a contemporary people and civilization living during the time of Adam and his clan to whom he had a commission to?

No matter how one answers these questions, it is irrelevant to the theological point of the text. That being, when one dies spiritually he continues on a journey (pictured eastward) into futility, fear, and bondage outside of God’s land/presence into the death and darkness of being in the outer-court of the gentiles. The ancient city of Babel also resided eastward, in the out-court of Eden as the enslaving power of Babylon lay in the out-court of Israel’s Promised Land.

Harmonizing the Theology and Imagery of Genesis 1-3 with Revelation 21-22 and Bringing Man Into The Kingdom Of Heaven or the Most Holy Place Presence of God

In evaluating some of the most important thinkers within the development of reformed and dispensational theology on the early chapters of Genesis, we get the following results which help develop what the NT teaches concerning the new creation and unravels Futurist presuppositions of Genesis 1-3.  Let’s look at some of these Futurist concepts and then apply them to a proper Full Preterist paradigm — as it pertains to how the NT develops the corporate body / temple and individual body / temple concepts and how God uses these concepts to describe His relationship with us.

1).  The 7 days of creation are not literal 24 hour chronological days, but written in: a) symbolic, b) sabbatical, c) covenantal, d) with Hebrew parallelism and recapitulation, and contain genre of e) allegory, metaphor, and apocalyptic language.

2) Before Adam sinned there was biological death, pain, and decay of plant and animal life – which included Adam. The laws of physics have not changed pre-fall or after Adam’s sin.

3) The narration and theological emphasis of Adam’s fall communicates “a philosopheme—a vivid pictorial representation of the origin and growth of sin in the human heart.” And “We behold in symbolic outline the development of the sense of guilt in the human conscience.”

4) The theological emphasis of the temple cosmology of (Gen.1-2) is the local Land (Hebrew eretz) of Eden which is theologically connected to the Promised Land of Israel.[14]

5) Moses creation account (given through the direct revelation of God) serves as a theistic apologetic to the surrounding enemies and nations of Israel. Another apologetic of Moses is his use of the genealogies of Israel tracing them them back to Adam – the first covenantal man in their land. This communicates that they not only have a direct commission by Jehovah to inherit the land, but they have a legal right through decent as well.

6) I would agree with Kline in seeing Adam as a real historical figure and not a “myth.” Jesus is described as the New Creation within another 7 day picture in John’s prologue to his gospel (Jn.1-4) which is arranged topically to communicate this New Creation motif.[15] This of course does not mean that Adam was described as a “myth” anymore than Jesus was.

I personally believe elements of the Day Age and Frame Work views better support the exegesis of what the new-testament teaches concerning the “restoration of creation.” As the theological emphasis on (Gen.1-2) is on the local land of Eden which is both theologically and geographically tied to Israel’s Promised Land and the “earth/land” of their surrounding civilizations or nations (Nod, Babel, Babylon Assyria, ect.); so too is the emphasis and development of the new-testament being a great commission preached to the nations of Israel and the Roman Empire with a localized judgment affecting the nations of the those worlds by A.D. 70. Both of these localized and covenantal judgments affected and continue to affect all people everywhere. The introduction of sin described by its spiritual death, guilt, and shame within the human heart and conscience of man through Adam, is overcome by Christ’s death, resurrection, and parousia/presence in A.D.70. All men and nations of the world find themselves relating theologically to being in or out of Adam, Israel, Christ, and the New Jerusalem as the gospel continues to bring healing and judgment to the nations today (Rev.21-22). I would agree with David Snoke that God had sovereignly created evil, death, pain and suffering before Adam’s fall and that these serve his purposes. I would simply add that the evil of sinners outside the City of God continuse to serve His purposes as the everlasting gospel continues to be preached (Rev.21-22).

Mathison’s postmillennial thesis is that the fall of Adam affected more than man’s heart and conscience, in that it brought about physical death, pain, suffering, and decay for the globe. Until a successful global great commission of the planet’s nations has been achieved in putting down all of God’s enemies and physical death and pain have been completely eliminated, Christ’s return and the new creation cannot be said to have come in their fullness – per Mathison. However, as we will see, Mathison’s propositions are not exegetically sound. I will be refuting Mathison using a corporate covenantal view of redemption using temple imagery from Genesis to Revelation. My primary emphasis and motifs through using this structure will be on developing two main themes: 1) Death and life through Adam and Israel, and 2) the Great Commission being preached to the “nations” of the Jewish and Roman “world” by A.D. 70.

We are now prepared to examine some of these themes throughout the O.T. and examine there N.T. fulfillments. We also have a better picture of (Gen.1-3) and therefore to understand Biblically what is meant by the “Restoration of Creation.” This is further illuminated through seeing the old-covenant people of God and their temple as a creation of the “heavens and earth/land.” Therefore, let’s focus our attention on these elements of the creation.

Mathison begins his section of “Old Testament Eschatology” with God redeeming Israel and making a covenant with her at Mount Sinai (WSTTB?, p.157). However, he conveniently does not tell his readers that this redemption from Egypt and gathering at Sinai, was a creation of the “heavens and earth/land.” As one of the greatest thinkers ever produced within reformed theology, Dr. John Owen, states of (Isa.51:15-16),

“…the time when the work here mentioned, of planting the heavens, and laying the foundation of the earth, was performed by God when he ‘divided the sea’ (v. 15), and gave the law (16), and said to Zion, ‘Thou art my people’- that is, when he took the children of Israel out of Egypt, and formed them in the wilderness into a church and state. Then he planted the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth-made a new world; that is brought forth order, and government, and beauty, from the confusion wherein before they were. This is the planting of the heavens, and laying the foundation of the earth in the world.”[16]

And the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge agrees,

The heavens. ‘Heaven’ and ‘earth’ are here put by symbolic language for a political universe. That is, that I might make those who were but scattered persons and slaves in Egypt before, a kingdom and polity, to be governed by their own laws and magistrates.”[17]

During this creation, God had made Mnt. Sinai a temporary temple structure that would be further realized in the hand made building of the tabernacle and temples of Israel. These would find there spiritual and anti-type fulfillments “In Christ” and through His Body – the Church as the New Temple and Mount Zion:

  1. Moses as High Priest permitted in Most Holy Place / at top of the mountain (Ex 24:2).
  2. 70 Elders functioning as Priests enter Holy Place (Ex 19:22; Ex 24:21).
  3. Israelites at base of mountain where Moses offered up burnt offerings and sacrifices and placed the blood on the altar (Ex 19:12,23; Ex 24:5,6).

In the Jewish mind however, God’s creation of the heavens and earth/land in (Gen.1-2) and (Isa.51:15-16) were not completed until God had created the “heavens and earth/land” of the tabernacle and God’s presence rested in the midst of them,

“When, however, the Tabernacle was set up and the Holy One, blessed be He, caused the Shecinah to rest within it, He said, “Let it be written that on this day the world was created”’ (Num. R. x111. 6). The implication seems to be that until the Shechinah took up its abode among men through the erection of the Sanctuary, the world could not really be said to exist in the full sense of the term.”[18]

This seems to support John Walton’s understanding of the ancient mind, in that, something doesn’t truly exist until it has a “functional” meaning to the covenant community.

In the “creation of the world” of the tabernacle, God creatively says in fiat language seven times: “The Lord said,”[19]

Genesis 1 Creation of the“Heavens and Earth/Land”

“God said…” 7 times

Exodus 25, 30, 31 Creation of Tabernacle“Heavens and Earth/Land”“The Lord said…” 7 times
1) Gen.1:3 1) Ex.25:1
2) Gen.1:6 2) Ex.30:11
3) Gen.1:9 3) Ex.30:17
4) Gen.1:14 4) Ex.30:22
5) Gen.1:20 5) Ex.30:34
6) Gen.1:24 6) Ex.31:1
7) Gen.1:26   cf. vv. 11, 28, 29 7) Ex.31:12

Reformed professor at R.T.S. in Atlanta J.V. Fesko, follows Beale’s research and has made even some more parallels:

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)

[20]

Unlike the “Hyper-Creedalists,” Jesus and the NT authors did not have two separate eschatons – one for Israel in AD 70 and one at the end of the Church age that reverts to a literal re-creation of Genesis 1-2. The Jews such as Josephus whom lived during the times of Jesus & the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, understood the temple as referring to the heavens and earth and the temples destruction was the context of Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse (Mt.24:1-35 –Mt.25).[21]

Reformed theologians such as Amillennialist G.K. Beale admit the O.T. “heavens and earth” can be referring to the physical Temple and the City, “…heaven and earth” in the Old Testament may sometimes be a way of referring to Jerusalem or its temple, for which ‘Jerusalem’ is a metonymy.”[22] Some evangelical theologians agree,

“The Temple was far more than the point at which heaven and earth met.37 Rather, it was thought to correspond to, represent, or, in some sense, to be ‘heaven and earth’ in its totality (H.T. Fletcher-Louis, ibid. p.157).

Having seen that Israel’s land, city temple and covenant was referred to as “heaven and earth” and represented such, let’s briefly look at the Israelite trip through Israel to the temple as recapitulating Israel’s OC redemptive history.  After this we can continue breaking down the various sections and items of the temple to see what they represent.

The Exodus and the Trip Through Israel to the Temple

When a pilgrim traveled to Jerusalem for the feasts they were recapitulating Israel’s history.  So too, when the Priests walked through the courtyard to the Holy Place (and the High Priest through to the Most Holy Place), they were recapitulating Israel’s redemptive history – a trip from bondage to paradise:

  • Egypt –>Israel
  • Goshen –>Priests court
  • Israelite house and blood on doorposts –>Altar
  • Red Sea–>Bronze Sea
  • Mt. Sinai (functioned as temple)/Promised Land/Paradise–>Temple/Paradise.

Between AD 30 – AD 70 that generation was undergoing a second exodus (Isa. 11), whereby the remnant believing Jews and Gentiles were coming out of the bondage and slavery of Adamic sin/death and OC Jerusalem (in Revelation described as Egypt or Babylon) — through the blood of Christ and His parousia – bringing them into and making them God’s MHP dwelling.  It was also understood that Messiah would recapitulate Israel’s redemptive history and we see this in His ministry as well.

NT Parallels of the New Exodus Theme:

1) An edict was sent out to kill the male children during the time of Moses (Exodus1:22) and an edict was issued by Herod to kill the male children in hopes of killing Jesus (Matthew 2:16).

2) After killing the Egyptian Moses fled to Midian until the wrath of the king passed (Exodus 2:15) and Joseph and Mary, fled with Jesus to Egypt until the wrath of the king passed (Matthew 2:14).

3) God called Moses back to his country to be his people’s deliverer (Exodus 3:10) just as Jesus was called back to His country (Matthew 2:20) to be their deliverer.

4) God kept Moses 40 days in the wilderness before giving the law on a mountain (Deut. 9:11; Exodus19) and He likewise kept Jesus 40 days in the wilderness before placing Him on a mount to give the New Covenant law and thus the true interpretation of the old (Matthew 4:1-chapter 5). Both received glory on top of a mountain. While being tested by Satan for 40 days Jesus quotes three scriptures found in the Exodus wilderness testing: (Matthew 4:4/Deut. 8:3; Matthew 4:7/Deut. 6:16; Matthew 4:10/Deut. 6:13 & Deut 10:20).

5) God through Moses appointed 70 elders (Numbers 11:16) and Jesus appointed 70 disciples (Luke 10:1). Old Covenant Israel consisted of 12 tribes and Jesus forms the restored Israel with an inner core of 12 disciples.

6) God’s Old Covenant people were delivered from His judgment upon Egypt by the first Passover. This deliverance was substitutional in nature and was brought about through the shedding of a lamb’s blood. God’s New Covenant people were delivered from the wrath (“His blood be upon us and our children”) that would be poured out upon Jerusalem/Egypt/Revelation 11:8 through the New Covenant Passover blood of Jesus (the lamb of God). In the first exodus the death of “first born” of humans and animals were to appease God’s wrath. In the New Covenant exodus Jesus is both the “first born” and the “Lamb.”

7) In God forming Old Covenant Israel during this time it was a creating of the heavens and earth (Isa.51:15-16). Through the cross and parousia of Jesus a New Covenant heavens and earth were being created and would replace the former Old Covenant one “shortly” (Isaiah 65-66; Matthew 5:17-18; Matthew 24:35; 2 Peter 3; and Revelation 21-22).

8) In the formation of Old Covenant Israel, God was bringing about deliverance from the physical bondage and slavery of Egypt. In the New Covenant transitionary period, God was creating and delivering a remnant of New Covenant Israel out from the spiritual bondage and slavery of the Old Covenant “elements of the world” which was the law.

9) Fifty days after the first Passover and the giving of the law (Exodus 19) 3,000 died for idolatry (Exodus 32:28). Fifty days after the Passover in Jesus’ blood 3,000 are saved and filled with the Spirit (Acts 2).

10) There was a miraculous outpouring of the Spirit’s work in building the Old Covenant tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-11). The AD 30 – 70 generation also saw the miraculous work of God in profound ways. There was a miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s work in the “last days” in which the building and erecting of the spiritual New Covenant tabernacle/temple of God was taking place. The first was a physical building with the hands and the later was a spiritual building by the laying on of hands of the Apostles. The Church was and is clearly the New Covenant kingdom tabernacle or temple that was predicted by the prophets of which Jesus was the corner stone (Acts 15/Amos 9; Mark 12:10-11; Acts 4:11/Psalm118, Ephesians 2:20, 1 Peter 2:4-10/Psalm 118, Isaiah 28:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16/Ezekiel 37:26-27). Just as Micah 7:15 predicted miracles would occur in this new exodus under Messiah – so the miracles lasted until He returned to end her age and fulfill Israel’s promises (Mark 16:15-18/Matthew 28:18-20, 1 Corinthians 13:8-12).

11) God was grieved with the unbelieving Old Covenant generation and did not allow them to enter the promised land (Heb.3:10). God was grieved with the adulterous and wicked generation of His day and did not allow them to inherit His heavenly rest in His kingdom – “In Christ” (Mark 8:31-9:1, Matthew 23:34-46, Hebrews 3-4).

12) The wilderness wandering generation was baptized into Moses by passing through the red sea whereby they would receive a physical salvation from their persecutors. The water which did not touch them did destroy their enemies (1Corinthians 10:1-2). There likewise was a baptism of fire and persecution in which the first century Church underwent that was separating the gold (true believers) from the wood (professing believers) and would eventually burn up the persecutors (Matthew 3:11; Luke 8:13-14; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 1 Peter 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 2- 3; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-12). The children or remnant of Moses generation that went through the red sea would enter into the rest and salvation of the Promised Land. Likewise the remnant of spiritual Israel would inherit and enter the Heavenly Country “In Christ” (Hebrews 3-4, 12) with Peter describing the spiritual New Covenant salvation and entrance into the kingdom as the salvation of the “soul” (1 Peter 1:4-12).

Deuteronomy 32’s Terminal Generation

“And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end (Matthew 10:22-23, Matthew 24:3, Matthew 13:39-40,) shall be: for they are a very perverse generation (Matthew 23:36, Matthew 24:34, Mark 8:38; Acts 2:40), children in whom is no faith. They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people (Romans 10:19, 11:11); I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation (Mt.21:43; 1 Peter 2:9). For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire (2 Peter 3; Revelation 8:8) the foundations of the mountains.” (Deut. 32:20-22). Again this “perverse generation” was prophesied in the OT to reject Christ and thus be destroyed by Him at His coming. This is the generation Jesus addresses throughout His ministry and the one the NT authors confront and comfort in the first century concerning an imminent judgment and salvation.

So exactly how did the OC tabernacle/temple and her city represent the “heavens and earth/land”?  And if Solomon’s Temple is patterned after the anatomy of man, how does this system or building represent man’s relationship with God?The Ark of the Covenant – contained the 10 commandments (1 Kings 8:6-7) The Altar of Incense (1 Kings 7:48-50) The Holy Place (2 Chronicles 3:3-7) Table of Showbread (2 Chronicles 4:8) Lampstands (2 Chronicles 4:7) The Porch (1 Kings 6:3) The Pillars (2 Chronicles 3:15-17) The Copper Sea (2 Chronicles 4:4-5) The Sacrificial Altar (2 Chronicles 4:1) The Courtyard (2 Chronicles 4:9-10) Storage Rooms (1 Kings 6:10)

1).  The Inner Courtyard 

The bronze basin or laver was described as the “sea” (1Kings 7:23-26) and refers to the crossing of Israel through the Red Sea.

The altar which was on a little hill in the courtyard, in a proper Hebrew translation means and symbolized “from the bosom of the earth” or “the mountain of God” (Ezk. 43:14-16). These two items in the inner-courtyard represented the waters and seas (the crossing the Red Sea / Jordan) and of Mount Sinai or Mount Zion associated with the known land that the Hebrew nation was familiar with throughout her redemptive history. The common Israelite was permitted within the gate of the inner courtyard only on certain occasions. Thus Israel in the Promised Land represented redeemed humanity/a redeemed cosmos or “kingdom of priests” to the surrounding Nations (Ex. 19:6).

2). The Holy Place 

Unknown-2The golden lamp stand of 7 lights represented the seven visible light sources of ancient man and the Hebrew Nation – sun, moon, and 5 planets. The Hebrew word “lights” meorot,  in Gen.1 and throughout the Pentateuch is used of the “lights” of the tabernacle lampstand. These were given to serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years” for Israel (Gen.1:4):

  • 7th. Day of the week is the Sabbath.
  • 7th. Month of the year – is the month corresponding to the Day of Atonement. (Lev.16:29)
  • 7th. Year is for the release of debts and slavery (Deut.15)
  • 7th. Of the seven year cycle would be the year of jubilee (Lev.25).[23]

The Second coming or Day of the Lord has arrived and there is no more darkness in this eternal day of the kingdom. There are no more holy days for everyday is a Sabbath and celebration in God’s Kingdom under the new creation.

The Holy Place had ten stands that held a lamp stand with seven candles/lights.  Ten times seven brings us to the number seventy which may correspond to the number of persons representing Israel (cf. Ex. 1:5) and the nations of the world (cf. Gen. 10-11).  The total length of the temple from the porch through the MHP is also marked by the number 70 (cubits).  Perhaps the concept of Israel being a light to the nations is involved here and was ultimately fulfilled through the New Covenant Israel of God or the Church bringing the gospel to every nation under heaven by AD 70 and today in the NC age (Acts 2; Rms. 10:18; 16:25-26; Cols. 1:5-6, 23; Rev. 22:17).

The light also represents God guiding Israel in the wilderness by a pillar of fire at night.  These are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus who is the light and life of the world.

The showbread was a memorial of God’s provision in the wilderness through the giving of mana from heaven, which again pointed to Christ (described in Revelation as God’s “hidden Mana” as a reward to the Church Rev. 2:17) and eternal life (John 6).

Underneath the showbread table were pitchers and cups to drink wine.  The bread and the wine together symbolized the flesh and blood or mortality of man.  The torso of the HP represents the physical body or mortality of man, while the MHP represents his soul/spirit that continues into the heavenly realm at death for believers.

In the temple representing a human figure, the altar of incense represents the sacrifices of the heart and the smell of this ascending into the MHP or entering up to and through the nostrils of God in heaven (pictured by the two poles of the Ark).  The smell enters God’s nostrils and proceeds into the Ark where the two trees are and is the basis upon which God judged the heart of man.  God alone can judge the heart based upon approaching Him through His Son (the Tree of Life/Arron’s rod blossoming/Manna) or seeking to approach Him through self-righteousness and one’s own works or the works of the law (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil/tablets of Law).

3). The Most Holy Place

Unknown-3

The Ark has many functions soteriological and eschatological functions.  Visually it depicts God’s nose smelling the sacrifice of the heart (the altar in the HP) just outside the curtain and in front of the MHP.  It also carries with it the idea of a throne, chest and footstool.  It represents heaven, the unseen realm where God dwells and is where God’s presence dwelt in the earthly tabernacle with His “footstool” touching their land. The two golden cherubim guarding and looking down into the ark with no visible image of God between them, represents God’s presence among the angels in heaven and His invisible presence among His people on earth. As mentioned earlier, the items of the law, Aaron’s rod, and Unknown-4manna, represent the two trees in the garden and man being in Adam or Christ – under the curse of the law or under grace in Christ.

In Jeremiah 3:16-17 it is predicted in the Messianic NC age that the Ark would not be around or be remembered because God would be enthroned and rule through the Church – NC “Jerusalem.”  The concept of God on a throne ruling  today in the NC age is Him ruling through the minds and hearts of His people (the New Jerusalem).

It is also important to point out why the MHP was elevated and the significance of the foundational rock it was built upon.

Tony Badillo writes,

“Jewish tradition tells us that Jacob (father of the twelve Israelite tribes) saw the Temple in advance in his dream at Luz.  After seeing angels ascending and descending on a stairway (‘ladder’), he says in Genesis 28:17, ‘This is none other than God’s house …,” and in v. 19 renames the place Bethel, House of  God, which is also a designation for the Temple. Later he changes it again to El Bethel (God house of God) 35:7; and God, in turn, renames him Israel, 35:10.  As shown below, Jacob’s raised head corresponds to an elevated Holy of Holies and his ‘pillow stone’ (28:11)  to the Even Shetiyah or ‘Foundation Stone’ where Abraham had earlier bound Isaac (22:9 -11). In other words, as he slept – unbeknownst to him – his head and body became a model for the Temple that was eventually built atop Mount Moriah by King Solomon (2 Chronicles 3:1). Today this site is called Haram al-Sharif by the Arabs, and the  Temple Mount by the Israelis and others.

Why was Jacob given the dream at this time? Not solely because he was fleeing the wrath of his brother Esau, but also because he was on his way to Mesopotamia to find a wife and create a family, i.e., a “house”. Isaac practically ordered him to leave and start his own family (Genesis. 28: 1, 2), that he might multiply and become an “company of peoples,” v. 3; and later it is said his two wives are the “builders” of the House of Israel, Ruth. 4:11. Jacob, therefore, constructed a human temple, a house of twelve tribes (plus the Levites) and centuries later these twelve, with hired Phoenician craftsmen, raised Solomon’s stone temple, the ‘House of God’. Therefore, the dream concerns the building of two houses, Israel’s (Jacob’s) and God’s.” (Tony, Badillo, www.templesecrets.info).

The Veil Between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place

jacob5Margaret Baker correctly notes that the veil between the Holy Place and Most Holy Place represented the barrier between the physical heavens and earth and the spiritual realm of heaven where God abides,

“Josephus, who was himself a priest (Life 1), says that the tabernacle was a microcosm of the creation, divided into three parts: the outer parts represented the sea and the land but ‘…the third part thereof… to which the priests were not admitted, is, as it were, a heaven peculiar to God’ (Ant.3.181). Thus the veil which screened the holy of holies was also the boundary between earth and heaven.”  (Margaret Barker, Beyond the Veil of the Temple. The High Priestly Origin of the Apocalypses).

Just a little more on the veil between the HP and MHP which divided the physical earth with the unseen realm of heaven where God abides.  Don Preston correctly points out,

“Both Josephus and Philo explore at some length the cosmic symbolism of the tabernacle / temple and its paraphernalia (Philo Mos. 2:71-145; Josephus Ant. 3:123, 179-187).54 Both agree that the woven work of the tabernacle and the temple veil are made from four materials symbolizing the four elements – earth, water, air and fire (War 5:212-213; Ant. 3:138-134; Quaestiones in Exodum 2:85, cf. Mos. 2:88).” [24]

I would agree with Preston that these elements are “…the stoicheia, that Peter refers to in 2 Peter 3:10!”[25] The precursor to the “elements” of the old covenant law disappearing and the elements of the new covenant creation beginning to take its place, was graphically experienced when the veil was ripped in two at Christ’s crucifixion (Mrk. 15:28; Mrk. 14:24). This was understood as an omen or sign of things to come for the Jews whom had heard Jesus prophecy of the destruction of the temple and the end Israel’s old covenant age within their generation. Complete access to God for the new covenant community would be achieved when these “elements” (2Pet. 3:10) of the old covenant veil/world, would be completely taken out of the way and the new stood complete and mature in an AD 70 time frame (Heb. 8:13; Heb. 9:6-10; Heb. 10:25-37).

Since the veil separated the physical creation of “earth” from the spiritual realm of “heaven,” if the temple also is patterned after the anatomy of a man, what does this signify?  Most likely just that man was created to function both in the physical realm and is a spiritual being — able to have a relationship with God (who is Spirit) and has a soul/spirit that can continue in God’s presence and exist forever.  Man is divided into two parts – a physical body that is temporal and a spirit/soul, that can potentially continue into God’s presence.

There has been a lot of speculation on the meaning of the three chains over the veil.  I’ll offer my theory.  In Revelation 1:18 Jesus has the keys of death and Hades.  When the OC economy (represented by the Holy Place) was removed and OC Jerusalem/Babylon judged in AD 70, this marked the historical event by which one could know that the judgment and resurrection of the dead took place and access to the Most Holy Place was granted (cf. Rev. 11).  The judgment and resurrection of the dead in Revelation 11 is recapitulated again in Revelation 20 which is when death and Hades is emptied and those souls/spirits were judged and burned in the lake of fire, or rewarded into the MHP of heaven and God’s presence.  During His death, Jesus preached to the spirits in prison – and no doubt informing them that His time to judge the wicked and or grant access for the righteous into God’s presence had come.  In Hebrews 9-11, at Christ’s “in a very little while” “second appearing” He would remove the “first” (OC Holy Place) and restore and perfect the “second” (NC Most Holy Place) by opening it up and bringing about the “better resurrection.”  Peter was given the keys (cf. Mt. 16:18) and in the book of Acts, he instructs the Jewish Church in Jerusalem that God had placed Gentiles on the same level as they had been, and that access to God’s presence and power had been granted to them as well – and James confirms this by teaching their conversions is how the tabernacle of David was being restored and rebuilt.

Let’s now look at how the veil was the barrier between the OC age and the NC age and the transition period between AD 30 – AD 70.   The HP represents the physical temporal types of the OC system and the MHP the spiritual anti-types of the NC system where God abides with His people today.

The Old Covenant Age = the Holy Place & The New Covenant Age = the Most Holy Place

The ESV helps clarify that the “first section” of the HP represents the OC age/system and the “second” represents the MHP as the NC age or things about to come at the “time of reformation”:
 
“1 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. 2 For a tent[a] was prepared, the FIRST section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence.[b] It is called the HOLY PLACE. 3 Behind the second curtain was a SECOND SECTION[c] called the MOST HOLY PLACE, 4 having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. 5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
 
6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the FIRST SECTION, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the SECOND only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy place(s) (I PREFER NKJ here – “HOLIEST OF ALL” or MHP) is not yet opened as long as the FIRST SECTION (HP) is still standing (or still has legal standing cf. Mt. 5:17-19)9 (which is SYMBOLIC for the PRESENT AGE = OC AGE).[d] According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body IMPOSED (OC body “first section” – still has legal standing but passing away 8:13) until the time of reformation (physical or “first section/HP” body yields to “second section/MHP” or NC spiritual body).”

Of Hebrews 9:8 the JFB commentary correctly notes,

“The Old Testament economy is represented by the holy place, the New Testament economy by the Holy of Holies.” 

The Holy Place was 40 cubits long (1 Kings 6:17) and I believe this to be representing Israel’s 40 years wilderness wanderings before entering the Promised Land and the 40 year reigns of David and Solomon in which God granted a typological peace in the land – when Jerusalem was taken by David, and Solomon built the Temple (whereby God dwelt with His people).  David and Solomon’s reigns mark the end to the typological exodus in the OT.  So in my mind, the 40 cubits represented a testing and transition place for the High Priest to travel before entering into the Most Holy Place to perform his priestly duties on behalf of the people once a year on the Day of Atonement.  I believe the 40 cubits of the temple also may point us to the NT anti-type 40 year transition period in which the Church is led into – and actual becomes God’s Most Holy Place by AD 70 at His return (Rev. 21:16—22:6-7, 10-12, 20) and brought the in-breaking NC “age about to come” to its mature state.  The first compartment physical/typological (OC / HP) is now gone, and the spiritual/anti-type everlasting NC / MHP remains. 
 

Israel’s Great Commission and 40 years of War and Peace

God chose Israel (a corporate Adam) to be His elect son and commissioned him to now subdue (Hebrew kabash) the wicked nations of the land (Num. 32:29; 2 Sam. 8:11; 1 Chron. 22:18-19) and to have dominion (Hebrew radah) (rule, reign, possess, plunder, & make slaves of) the other nations of the land (Lev. 25:44-46; 1 Kings 4:21-25; Isa.14:2). Under the old-covenant God primarily dealt with His chosen Nation Israel and His purpose among the Nations was to drive them out and exterminate them and their idol’s from His Land (Deut.6-7). The Jewish mindset considered the Promised Land of Israel with its Holy City and temple to be the Garden of God and where the light and life of Torah resided. They considered the heathen Gentile Nations to be dogs and wild beasts of the field in utter darkness and death needing to be re-created and subdued under the teaching of Torah. At times members of some of the surrounding Gentile Nations would hear and witness the power of Israel’s God and would want to be gathered into the Nation and land in order to worship and serve Jehovah. The rabbinical usage and terminology of describing this conversion was to refer to the Gentile convert as a “new creation” or “creature.” Thus the “subduing” and exercising “dominion” over the earth/land finds its fulfillment in the conversion of the hearts and minds of people (Jew and Gentile) to the law of God. God said to not turn away the Gentile “alien” because at one time Israel’s forefathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) were “aliens” and “sojourners” in Canaan and Israel herself were “aliens” in Egypt – therefore they were to love them and treat them as if they were one of their own (Ex. 6:1-4; Lev.19:34). The Gentile “aliens” would be circumcised and partake of the Passover (Ex.12:48). They could offer up burnt offerings and sacrifices to God, had to keep torah just as the Israelites, and were likewise susceptible to the covenant cursings if they disobeyed just as the native born Israelites (Lev.17:8-13; Num.15). It is a point of debate, but it appears that even in type form, they could inherit the land as well (Ezk. 47:22-23). This lays the foundation for seeing the Jew / Gentile oneness “In Christ” under the new covenant. Even a precursor glimpse of the OC Jew/Gentile type of NC salvation destroys true “hyper-preterism.”[26]      

Although it can be correctly stated that Israel was not successful in fulfilling the great commission and being a light to the gentiles due to their propensity to fall into the sin of an exclusive self righteousness, it can also be stated that she temporary (in type form) did fulfill the great commission in a limited way. As God promised, Israel through Jehovah’s power did subdue and rule over all the land driving out the unclean beasts of the gentile nations: (Josh. 21:43-45; 1 Kings 8:56; Neh. 9:7-8). They experienced a typological subduing of God’s enemies and peace through the 40 year reigns of David and Solomon, which typified the warfare and peace of Christ’s pre-parousia reign and the early Church in subduing their enemies (Psalm 110/Heb. 10:13-37/1 Cor. 15:23-26) — this being a 40 year millennial reign before Christ returned in A.D. 70.  The Great Commission was fulfilled in Jesus’ and Paul’s generation:

                                          PROPHECY            FULFILLMENT

“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world (Greek oikumene) for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14)
“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:

‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Greek oikumene)” (Romans 10:18)

“And the gospel must first be published among all nations (Greek ethnos)” “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, (Greek ethnos)…” “…I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.” (Mark 13:10; Mt.28:19-20) “…My gospel… has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations (Greek ethnos)…” (Romans 16:25-26)
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world(Greek kosmos) and preach the gospel to every creature” “…And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues (Greek glossa) (Mark 16:15, 17)

 
“…of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world(Greek kosmos), as is bringing forth fruit…,” (Colossians 1:5-6).
And he said unto them ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Greek kitisis) “ (Mark 16:15) “…from the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature (Greek kitisis) under heaven, of which I, Paul became a minister” (Colossians 1:23)
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth/land (Greek ge)” (Acts 1:8).

 

Prophecy had begun to be fulfilled: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues (Greek glossa), as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation (Greek ethnos) under heaven.

 
 
 
 
 
 
“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth/land (Greek ge), and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18)
 
 

Prophecy would be fulfilled “shortly” : “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth/land (Greek ge), and to every nation (Geek ethnos), and kindred (Greek phule) and tongue (Greek glossa), and people, (Greek laos)” (Rev.1:1; Rev.14:6). See also Revelation 10:6-7; 20:3; 22:10-11 in regards to the Great Commission success to the “nations” and imminent fulfillment of the Great Commission motif.

 
All of the terms and Greek words Jesus used for the Great Commission were used by Paul in the past tense to communicate the commands fulfillment within their contemporary generation.  These terms were never meant to be global and it is pure eisgesis to read and understand them through Western eyes and vocabulary.  
Having examined how the Church fulfilled the Great Commission before Christ returned to close the OC age and bring the NC age to maturity in AD 70, let’s consider more how the temple was laid out in the form of a man and make some observations.   

The Temple / Heaven and Earth and the Conscience

Some Christian theologians (such as James B. Jordan, Tony Badillo and even some so-called “Jewish” ones) have seen that the Temple represents man’s anatomy.  Special thanks to Tony Badillo for his labors in this field and the artwork provided in this section is from his web site: http://www.templesecrets.info/

If this is true, per the garden temple and what was in the Ark of Israel’s Temple (Arron’s bud=Tree of Life & tablets of stone=Law) represents what is taking place in man’s mind and conscience. Man can be ruled by Christ and have the NC mind of Christ (the Tree of Life/Eternal life) and experience sabbath rest, love, joy and peace, or he can try and live a life of

independence and rebellion against God and or seek to approach Him through the self-righteous works of the law (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) which leads to futility, despair and spiritual death and separation from Him.  We learn from the book of Hebrews in chapters 9-10 that the blood of bulls and goats could not atone for sin and overcome the guilt that sin produces.  But the blood of Christ as the perfect sacrifice and His appearance a second time out of the Temple (as both the sacrifice and the High Priest) to sprinkle and apply that blood to the eagerly awaiting congregation solved this problem and produces a clear conscience before God’s presence in the NC age today.

I believe the Holy Place represents the physical part of man (his heavens and earth) and the Most Holy Place – his soul or spirit, that relates to God in the spiritual realm.  The physical body is like the HP OC system in that it was designed and purposed to be temporal and pass away – while the spirit/soul/personality/conscience of a believer is like the MHP NC system, which was designed to reach into the the spiritual realm and have a relationship with God and continues in God’s presence forever.  The only barrier today that exists are those who are inside the New Jerusalem and those outside her gates.  When one becomes born from above he inherits the kingdom of heaven or access to God’s presence in the New Jerusalem (MHP Rev. 21:16; 22:17).  Before that time, he is a natural man governed by the things of earth in hopeless darkness and separation from God.  At physical death another transition occurs where the physical body (heaven and earth) passes away and the spirit or soul (“heaven” – continues into the spiritual heavenly realm in God’s presence):  Adamic Messianic Body Temples CBV IBD Harmonized?

We have seen how Israel’s physical Temple was not only referred to as “heaven and earth,” but represented the cosmos as ancient Israel understood it in relation to her promised land.  And since the Temple imagery is taken from man’s anatomy, it is no wonder why theologians have pointed out that the High Priest himself is a microcosmos,

“Both Josephus and Philo understand the jewels on the priestly breast-piece to be symbolic of the twelve constellations.  Josephus (War 4.324) affirms that priests are referred to as leading the ‘cosmic worship.’  Likewise, both Josephus and Philo understand the garments of the high priest to symbolize the whole cosmos (Philo, Vit. Mos. 2.117-126, 133-135, 143; Josephus Ant. 3.180, 183-187).” (G.K. Beale,The Temple and the Church’s Mission a biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, 47).

“One of the Aramaic translations of Exodus 28:17 and 39:10 affirms a cosmic symbolism of the stones:  the ‘four rows of precious gems [were] corresponding to the four corners of the world.” (Ibid., 48).

Putting this all together, the priests torso with the twelve stones represents the physical heavens and land / Holy Place / Old Covenant economy and the priests head represents heaven where God dwells / the Most Holy Place / New Covenant economy.

In the MHP above the Ark was what was called the “golden attic” and behind the MHP were some priest cells and a place to store the treasure.  God’s glory cloud rested above the Ark and close to the “golden attic.”  God’s glory cloud (pictured by the high priest’s turban) above the Ark represented the presence, mind and will of God or man’s mind needing to be renewed and transformed to do God’s will and have dominion as His image bearer through the preaching of the gospel and healing the nations.  The inscription of “Holy to the LORD” over the priests forehead corresponds to dealing with the conscience/mind/spirit/soul of man — where he has the potential to meet with God and have a relationship with Him.  The goal of redemption was to purge the conscience (Heb. 9-10) and have man become “Holy to the Lord.”  At Christ’s imminent Second Coming, God “raptured” the Church into His presence or into the MHP glory cloud(s) (1 Thess. 4:15-17).  In AD 70 and into the NC age, The Godhead has made His home “in” us (Jn. 14:2-3, 23) and because this is not something that can be seen, it required faith to realize it’s fulfillment (Jn. 14:29; Lk. 17:20-21–37; 21:27-32; Mrk. 8:38-9:1).  When one trusts in the finished work of Christ, God’s glory cloud/presence purges the conscience and enlightens the mind – to have the mind of Christ.  He truly is enthroned in our hearts and minds and is at work in us both to will and do according to His good pleasure.  Since Christians today in the New Covenant age are the MHP/NJ of God, we have become a spiritual and heavenly people.  We have a spiritual/heavenly birth/seed, are a spiritual/heavenly temple/man/New Jerusalem, are a spiritual/heavenly land and are a spiritual/heavenly New Heavens and New Earth.  God has established heaven on earth, in that He resides within His people and is accomplishing His will through us – as we are instrumental in bringing healing to the nations through preaching the everlasting gospel (Rev. 22:17).

I would add that to experience God’s presence, to know our purpose in life, be guided by Him and to do His will — is the ultimate “treasure” for the child of God.  Selah.

God will sovereignly draw His people, open their hearts and enlighten their minds to His redemptive work as preached through the everlasting gospel. There are no grounds for boasting for “salvation is of the Lord.”

Conclusion:  Revelation 21-22 — We Have Eternal Life/Tree of Life, No More Death, Tears or Pain.

Having examined how God designed Eden as a Temple structure let’s now see how God fulfills these promises with the Most Holy Place of the New Jerusalem and God’s presence with His people today in the NC “age/world without end.”

Because “the death” that came through Adam is spiritual death (alienation from God) realized through the commandment-breaker Adam and amplified or increased under the Law of Moses (the old covenant), we can see how God gave His elect the victory over “the death” in the end of the old covenant age of condemnation. The fact that men die physically is in no way evidence that the “spiritual conflict” of “the death” continues for the church throughout the new covenant age.

God’s people under the old covenant, unlike God’s people today, experienced covenantal and spiritual death (cf. Hosea 13:1–14; Isa. 25–27; Eze. 37). What made physical death dreaded for the saints under the old covenant was that they died with the awareness that their sins had not yet been taken away. In the new covenant creation, Jesus promises that whether we biologically die in Him or biologically live in Him, we “never die” (John 11:25–26). This was not the case before Christ.

Thus under the old covenant, the residents of Jerusalem wept because they did not have a lasting atonement or eternal redemption. They longed and groaned for the day of Messiah’s salvation. Until that day would come, they knew their sins were not put away (Heb. 9:26–28; 10:4, 11). The promise that there would be no more mourning or crying or pain does not refer to any and every kind of mourning, crying, and pain. It refers to mourning, crying, and pain concerning God’s people being dead in sin under the condemnation, curse, and slavery of God’s law. That sad Adamic state is no more. In the Son, God’s people are “free indeed” (Jn. 8:36).

As Athanasius wrote in his Festal Letters, iv. 3, “For when death reigned, ‘sitting down by the rivers of Babylon, we wept,’ and mourned, because we felt the bitterness of captivity; but now that death and the kingdom of the devil is abolished, everything is entirely filled with joy and gladness.”

Under the old covenant, when David or the nation was exiled from Zion and God’s city and temple, there was much inner pain, weeping, and bondage that followed (2 Sam. 15:30; Ps. 137; Isa. 14:3; Isa. 22:4–5; Jer. 9:1; 13:17; Jer. 22:9–10; Lam. 1:16; Joel 2:17). Under the new covenant, the heavenly country and Jerusalem are not subject to being made desolate or shaken by invading armies as was the old (Isa. 62:4; Heb. 12:27–28). The concept of the gates of the New Jerusalem always being open, even at night (Isa. 60:11; Rev. 21:25), is not merely a picture of evangelism; it is also a picture of security for the residents of God’s City. The believer, through faith in Christ, is the new covenant creation and it is impossible for him to be exiled from the City (2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 3:12; 22:12). The new covenant believer is characterized as one whose weeping has ended, because God has forever taken away his sin and united Himself with him (Isa. 60:20; 65:14, 18–19; Jn. 17:21–23).

Christians in the new covenant world do not shed tears in agony and cry out to God to save them from the Adamic Death of Sin, as Jesus Himself did on our behalf (Heb. 5:7). “The sting [pain] of the Death” cannot harm us anymore (1 Cor. 15:56) because the power of Sin has been removed through Jesus, the Law-Fulfiller who clothes us and indwells us. Now we live and reign with Christ in the new covenant world, wherein dwells the Righteousness of God.

It is again noteworthy that many Partial Preterists tell us that we are to take Christ coming “shortly” in the NT to refer to Christ’s coming in AD 70 and yet when it is applied to the ultimate destruction of Satan, they don’t want to discuss Romans 16:20 because to interpret this passage as it should would require going against the creeds.  For example Keith Mathison avoids any mention of Paul’s declaration that Satan would be “crushed” “shortly” (Rom. 16:20) in his work on Postmillennialism and in his chapter addressing the time texts in WSTTB. The reason for this is that the majority consensus among all brands of commentators is that the “crushing” of Satan in Romans 16:20 is a direct reference to the final “crushing” of Satan as predicted in Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 20. Manifestly , the judgment and wrath that came in AD 70 was not merely “a” “minor” judgment. It was “the” judgment. It was the crushing of Satan.

Future eschatologies would challenge us with the empirical reality that Death and Satan could not have met their ultimate demise in AD 70 because, after all, just look around and you will clearly see that people still physically die and that there are wars and murders taking place all over the world today. Are these clear evidence that Satan and his demonic hordes are active in our world?

There were certainly times that Satan moved men, such as Judas, to commit sins. But the Bible does not teach us that this was ever the norm. James tells us that wars and fights come from within men (Jms. 4:1) instead of from Satan and demons. Satan’s primary purpose has come to an end: He can no longer function as the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10), because Christ came out of Zion a second time at the end of the old covenant age to put away Sin once and for all for His church (Acts 20:28; Rom. 11:26–27; 13:11–12; Heb. 9:26–28).

Our salvation and Christ’s Second Appearing/Coming as the Churches great High Priest are not events that take place at the end of time, but rather within time – namely at the end of the OC age in AD 70.  The seed of the woman has overcome the Sin, the Death, the Law and crushed Satan for His heavenly people – the Church/New Creation.  You may not feel perfect or like a city of jewels and gold, but that is how God views you through His Son’s finished redemption –  accomplished and applied for you through His work on the cross and Second Appearing.  Go now and preach this message (Rev. 22:17)!

The early chapters of Genesis were never meant to be interpreted with a hyper-literal  hermeneutic and nor should they be viewed through the lens of science.  From Genesis to Revelation we have a story of God’s redemptive plan whereby His goal is to overcome spiritual death and separation and abide with His people forever through faith in His Son.
Adam’s story is Israel’s story — and Adam and Israel’s story is the story of man in general.  Put in the best conditions, we will always fail and realize we are dead and unable to please God.  Without the coming of Christ (the seed of the woman cf. Gen. 3:15) to take the Adamic curse upon Himself and give His New Covenant Church perfect righteousness and life, we have nothing to offer God and will die in our sins.  Therefore, we have something better than Adam or Israel ever had — eternal life “in Christ.”
The Jewish mind understood his land and temple to not just be “heaven and earth,” but to be heaven on earth where God’s light of the Torah resided. The light of Torah was to function as a vehicle to conquer and convert the unclean nations outside her land. These nations were in “darkness.” This is the imagery we see in how Revelation ends. The emphasis is not global but local. The New Creation comes down in the form of a City and in the shape of a perfect cube communicating that the Church is the New Creation that has become the Most Holy Place of God. It then rests in a local area with the nations of the world in darkness coming to her to enter the gates for healing through the light of the Gospel. While this is the familiar local imagery and theology the Jewish mind would understand, the reality is under the NC there is no longer “sacred space” as there was under the OC or in other religions. This was made clear by Jesus in that His Kingdom (that would come at His Second Coming in their generation) would not come physically, but would be located “within” the heart where the living waters flow from to heal the nations (cf. Lk. 17:20-37/Lk. 21:27-32; Jn. 7:37-38/Ezek. 47/Rev. 21-22:17).
 
Christians today are not “in the land” nor are we to set our minds on the things of the land (per Premillennialism and Postmillennialism), but rather are “in Christ” having the mind of Christ — a clear conscience and have inherited eternal life and will “die no more.” We rejoice that Jesus appeared at the end of the last days of the old covenant age.  He came during that time to establish and fulfilled the “another day,” and “sabbath rest” which was imminently approaching and truly did come “in a very little while” and did “not tarry” through His redemptive work in the cross and Hi parousia in AD 70.  The Second Coming is an in time event and not an end of time event.  This is the good news of Sovereign Grace Full Preterism.  Futurism teaches a “sick” “hope deferred” eschatology while Sovereign Grace Full Preterism teaches a hope realized and access to Christ / The Tree of Life right NOW for the sinner outside the gates of the New Jerusalem (cf. Prov. 13:12/Heb. 10:37/Rev. 22:4-17).  Weary sinner, lay down your life of self and trying to be independent of God, so that you may find true and abundant life in Christ.  

[1] Meredith Kline, The Genesis Debate, p.90, Crux Press, 2001.
[2] Meredith Kline, KINGDOM PROLOGUE GENESIS FOUNDATIONS FOR A COVENATAL WORLDVIEW, p.54, Wipf & Stock pub., 2006. 
[3] Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ, p.44, Baker Book House, 1988. 
[4] Snoke, ibid., p.133-134.
[5] John Sailhamer, GENESIS UNBOUND, pp. 50-51, , Multnomah Books, 1996.     
[6] Sailhamer, ibid., pp. 72. Sailhamer also finds reformed theologian John Lightfoot agreeing with some of his observations here, see p. 216 n.3.
[7] David Snoke, A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, pp. 47-98, Baker Books pub., 2006.
[8] Snoke, ibid., pp.73-74 emphasis added.
[9] Terry, ibid., pp.50-51. 
[10] chart taken from: Earnest L. Martin, PhD, 1977, The Temple Symbolism In Genesis http://askelm.com/doctrine/d040301.htm
[11] G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Churches Mission, pp.96-98, Apollos Press, I.V.P., 2004. As I pointed out to Mr. Beale on the John Anderson radio show in critiquing and asking questions of his book, that the great commission had been fulfilled by A.D. 70 and the Church is currently in the “new world” (Cols.1:5-6, 23). His response was that the “new world” has been “inaugurated” and that the Greek in these texts communicates that the great commission was and still is in the process of being fulfilled. After getting cut off, and Beale calling me and all preterists “heretics,” I sent a private email letter to Mr. Beale pointing out his error and reminding him that his statements were false, “This is simply a false statement.  Paul states that the gospel “had been preached to every creature under heaven.”  Not only is the past tense obvious in the English translations, but surely you know that it is in the Aorist passive tense here?  Something cannot be bearing fruit unless it had been planted first.  There is nothing logical or exegetical in your comments of (Cols.1:23).  This is the same “argument” Thomas Ice uses with no success.”
[12] The sacrifices in Israel were performed in the “cool of the day” around 9 a.m. or 3p.m. when the cool sea breeze would sweep over the Palistine region (ibid. Martin).  
[13] Mathison, Ibid., Postmillennialism An Eschatology of Hope pp.111-112ff., pp.143-144, 148. Interestingly we find Mr. Mathison much bolder in this work on the time texts referring to A.D. 70 than he is in his response to us J     
[14] The ancient mind saw their people, their land, and their religion, as the center of the “heavens and earth/land.” In other words, their world poetically speaking, revolved around them as the center of the universe. This does not mean however, that they could not conceptualize nor believe that their God or gods had made the dry land, sky, universe, or the spiritual realm as far as their eye could see and heart could image the unseen realm. The creation of all things presupposes and is necessary to understand the various creation accounts of the “heavens and earth/land” of ancient eastern culture and the areas their God or gods mandated them to conquer.         
[15] David Chilton, PARADISE RESTORED A BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF DOMINION, pp.61-63, Dominion Press, 1985.
[16] Owen, John, The Works of John Owen, Banner of Truth pub., Vol.9 pp. 134-135.
[17] Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge Revised and Expanded, Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 802
[18] A. Cohen, Everyman’s TALMUD, p.43, Dutton pub. 1949, emphasis added. 
[19] Beale, ibid., p.61. Beale also quotes a Rabbi who says, “the Tabernacle is equal to the creation of the world” and then substantiates the claim by comparing the various things created on each day of creation to the seven similar items created in the tabernacle (Tanhuma Yelammedenu Exodus 11:2
[20] 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.”  
[21] Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, The Works of Josephus, p.87, Book 3, Chapter 6, Par. 4, Section 123, Hendrickson pub. 1987. Josephus, ibid, p.90, Book 3, Chapter 7, Par.7, Section 181. “However, this proportion of the measures of the tabernacle proved to be an imitation of the system of the world: for that third part thereof which was within the four pillars, to which the priests were not admitted, is, as it were, a Heaven peculiar to God…” “When Moses distinguished the tabernacle into three parts, and allowed two of them to the priests as a place accessible to the common, he denoted the land and the sea, these being of general access to all; but he set apart the third division for God, because heaven is inaccessible to men
[22] Beale, ibid., p.25. On the John Anderson radio show I challenged Beale’s thesis in reverse stating that the context and de-creation language of (Mt.24:1-3, 35) was the judgment upon Jerusalem and her temple in A.D. 70. Beale HAD NO ANSWER TO THAT.  
[23] Vern Poythress, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, pp. 18-19, P&R pub., 1991.   
[24] H.T. Fletcher-Louis, ibid., pp.145, 152, 160-161. Emphasis added
[25] Don Preston, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heath, p. 198, JaDon Productions LLC, 2006.  I was reading G.K. Beale’s work on The Temple And The Churches Mission and it further solidified my view that “heavens and earth” of Mt.24:35 was referring to the Temple. I sent a copy of the book to Don to take a look at. It helped Don develop his chapter on “Israel, The Temple And “Heaven And Earth.”  
[26] I have only interacted with one “hyper-preterist” and they are very few in number. They claim that the O.T. and N.T. only taught that God would save Jews and that Gentiles are not included in the resurrection that occurred in A.D. 70. They assert that the scattered tribes of Israel are the “Gentiles” of the NT.  They believe there is no salvation for anyone post AD 70.  The truth of course is that Gentiles were included in the exodus and in coming back into “the land” with the Israelites under the OC.  And when converted the Gentile proselytes were labeled by the Rabbis as a “new creation” along with them.  Typologically speaking, this points us to the NC and Jews and Gentiles being united “in Christ” as a “new creation.”  Gentiles and “foreigners” were to be included in the NC second exodus and salvation in Christ (Isa. 11; 49; 56).  We need to keep our definitions clear. As a real Calvinist would object to Arminians and 4 point “Calvinists” who would say that 5 point Calvinists are really “Hyper-Calvinists” because of their “logic,” we too reject to the false label of “Hyper-Preterists.” Theologically a “Hyper-Calvinist” is one who does not see the necessity of evangelism and likewise a “Hyper-Preterist” doesn’t see the need to preach salvation today.  We reject both “hyper” views and preach the Sovereign and Free gospel of Christ today in the New Covenant “age without end.”

Appendix A John 14 and Temple and Wedding Imagery and the Charismata 

Since many have enjoyed an article I did on John 14 demonstrating the betrothal/wedding and temple imagery connected to Jesus’ Second Coming, I will begin with some of that material by way of introduction and then address verse 12 interacting with Brown and Waymeyer.

Introductory meditations on John 14 and wedding / temple imagery

Jewish weddings began with the groom presenting the father and his potential bride with a ketubah or covenant which would include the dowry price etc…  The man would pour his potential wife a cup of wine (which represented a blood or oneness covenant) and if she drank from it, she agreed to become his wife – to become one with him (cf. John 6; Matt. 26:17-30).

After this, the groom would announce that he was “going to prepare a place” for her and would “come again when it was ready” (cf. John 14:2-3). The Church is “bought” (dowry) with the price of Christ’s blood.[3]  The Holy Spirit’s power and presence with the early church was also a down payment or earnest guaranteeing the inheritance or promise of Christ’s return and that full redemption would come in that first century generation (Lk. 21:27-32).

The groom would have already gotten his father’s permission to build a room or honeymoon suite onto his father’s house where he would then consummate his love for his bride. When the groom was asked when the wedding would take place, he replied that “only his father knows the time” (cf. Matt. 24:36; Acts 1:6-7).

I also should note that before the betrothal period it was customary for both the bride and groom to be baptized (a ritual called mikvah).  Jesus of course was baptized in order to fulfill the law, and by one of His groomsmen at that – John the Baptist (cf. Matt. 3:13-17; Jn. 3:29-30).

During this betrothal period (which could last up to a year or two), the groom would have up to two groomsmen which would help facilitate and mediate issues between the groom and bride (in the NT I believe John the Baptist [the friend of the Bridegroom] and the Apostle Paul [betrothing the Church to Christ] fulfill these roles between Christ and the Church (cf. Jn. 3:29-30; 2 Cor. 11:2).

In the Jewish betrothal period/covenant, fornication was very serious and grounds for divorce (Matthew’s gospel being primarily written to Jews adds this material on divorce and re-marriage [along with Joseph wanting to “divorce” Marry] while the others do not – cf. Matt. 1:19; Matt. 5:31-32).

Once the room/honeymoon chamber was ready and built onto the father’s home, the groom and his friends would come for the bride – blowing a trumpet (Matt. 24:30-31/1 Thess. 4:16-17/1 Cor. 15:52; Rev. 10:6-7; 11:15-19).

The bride and her bridesmaids had their oil and lamps next to their beds in order to be ready for this event (cf. Matt. 25:1-13).

Once at the “room” of the father’s house, the couple would then engage in a seven-day honeymoon period and the feast would follow. The sheet with the blood of the bride would be hung outside the room proving she was a virgin and that the marriage was officially consummated.

Jehovah’s Betrothal/Marriage to Israel

Some debate if at mount Sinai, God betrothed or married Israel as a covenant people to Himself. When Israel split, the imagery became God being betrothed or married to two sisters. God would “divorce” the ten northern tribes through the Assyrian invasion/judgment, with the promise that He would one day again “betroth” her to Himself in the “last days” in the “desert.” He remained betrothed or married to Jerusalem – the other sister (for through her salvation and Messiah would come).

John the Baptist (the last of the OT prophets) was the groomsman whom in the desert was calling Israel to repentance and pointing her to the way of her Messiah/Groom.  Jesus’s blood inaugurated the NC and in drinking that wine, the Church agreed to be united to Him as His bride. The work and power of the Holy Spirit within the believer was the agent for the “building” up process of the “rooms” – which were within the spiritual realm (i.e. of God’s people).

In John 4, we are told that Jesus “must” go through Samaria, but why?  This is in order to fulfill OT prophecy concerning Israel’s last day’s betrothal process for the scattered Ten Northern Tribes that had been sown in the land of the Gentiles through the Assyrian captivity.  Jacob meeting his bride at the same well as Jacob was typological of Christ beginning his betrothal process for the Samaritans (pictured through the woman at the well).   In Jesus’ earthly ministry He touches the Jew, the Samaritan and Gentiles (all the groups that form the NC Bride).  As we will see, the book of Acts follows Jesus’ pattern and prior to AD 70 that mission was complete (Acts 1:8 –> Cols. 1:5-6, 23; Rms. 10:18; Rms. 16:25-26).

In AD 70, judgment and divorce would now finally come upon God’s other unfaithful sister/wife – OC Jerusalem (through stoning and burning – a judgment prescribed in the law for the adulterous wife of a priest).  This was done by means of sending “His armies” (the Idumeans and Romans) to “destroy the city” while at the same time consummating His marriage to His beloved NC Jerusalem in the same AD 70 “shortly” and “soon” time frame (cf. Rev. 1:1—chapters17-22; Mt. 22:1-14).

John 14

a).  The context or audience (vss. 1-2).

The promise of Christ’s return is given to the “your” and “you” of verses 1-2 and are the eleven Apostles.  This is consistent with the “you” and first century “this generation” of Matthew 24 that is promised to experience the coming of the Son of Man (the parousia) or Second Coming.  While the Church in the NC age post AD 70 will share in the benefits and blessings of Christ’s parousia (with the Father and Son making their home within them), this is a promise given the the Apostles and their contemporaries.

b).  “In my Father’s house are many rooms;…” (vs. 2).

Here the Father’s “house” is His spiritual heavenly Temple (2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Cor. 6:16; Rev. 21-22) and the “rooms” are the side rooms that surrounded the Holy Place of the Temple. As Arthur Pink notes,

“The many rooms in the temple prefigured these (see 1 Kings 6:5, 6; Jer. 35:1-4, etc.).”[4]

Under the OC the Father’s “house” was the earthly Temple that the Jew’s were making a den of robbers (cf. Matt. 21:13). But under the NC, the Church is God’s “house”/Temple that He was preparing (cf. Ezek. 37:27/2 Cor. 6:16; 2 Cor. 5:1).

The side rooms surrounding the Holy Place were used for: 1. The priests to dwell in. 2. To change into their priestly garments.  3. To store gold and silver (bounty), tithes, and the articles used in the Temple.  The Church during AD 30 – AD 70 is described as a Priesthood being changed into the glorious image of Christ (a spiritual and non-physical process).  The OC Tabernacle and Temple were erected gloriously with the gold and silver that Israel got from their enemies and through their tithes. In the NT, there are two things that are more costly than gold and silver and they are Christ’s blood and the God given faith given to the saints. This holy exchange is how the the NC Temple was being built up, and how believers continue to walk through the gates of the New Jerusalem post AD 70.

The imagery of “going to prepare” these side rooms is that of wedding terminology:

“…in 14:3, “I will come again and take you with me, so that where I am, you will be as well” (cf. 17:24), echoes the terminology found in Song 8:2a, where the bride says that she will bring her lover to her mother’s house. Here Jesus, the messianic bridegroom (3:29), is said first to go to prepare a place for his own in his Father’s house and then to come to take them home to be with him.”[5]

So the side rooms of the Temple are the honeymoon suites being prepared for those being built up as the spiritual/heavenly Temple during the AD 30 – AD 70 transition period – before Christ’s Second Coming occurred to close the OC age. Here the many “rooms” (plural) emphasize the individual (or “the many”) of the living saints anticipating Christ’s imminent coming in AD 70. Elsewhere, the Most Holy Place and New Jerusalem represent the NC corporate body (or “the one”) of the Church (2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Cor. 6:16; Rev. 21:16 [the NJ is a perfect cube representing the MHP]; Heb. 9:8-9/cf. JFB commentary where the OC economy = the Holy Place and the NC economy = the Most Holy Place).

“Dwelling places” “rooms” – Greek mone and the Second Coming.  

This Greek word for “room(s)” is mone and is only used twice in the NT (here in Jn. 14:2, 23).  It’s second use is found in verse 23 – “…we (The Father and Son) will come to him and make our home (Greek mone) with him.” The later here in verse 23 explains how Jesus would “receive” His people — when He and the Father (Who are the Temple Rev. 21:22) came to make their “dwelling” or abode/home within His Church.  God’s presence (the Triune God) being restored to and within the believer is what the Second Coming (or Greek parousia -presence) is all about (cf. Matt. 24:27; 1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15; Rev. 21-22).

In Revelation the New Jerusalem in the form of a perfect cube (Rev. 21:16 – which is communicating that it is the Most Holy Place), was in the process of coming DOWN from heaven to earth (Rev. 3:12 NIV).   The purpose of Jesus receiving the Church to be where He was (in the Father’s presence) – is just that, to bring God’s full presence to and within the believer (while here on earth).

There are five references to the Second Coming in John 14:

1).  “I will come again,” and “take or receive you to myself” (v. 3).

2).  “We will come to him and make Our home with him” (v. 23).

3).  “I am going away and coming back to you” (v. 28).

4).  “At that day (“the last day” or the day He comes to “receive” and “manifest Himself to them”) you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (v. 20).

5).  “And when it (His return) does come to pass, you may believe” (v. 29).

What is interesting are the last two references to His return #4 and #5.  If it were a physical and literal “reception” “rapture”/“resurrection,” or “catching away,” then why the words “then you will know that I am in My father, and you in Me, and I in you” and “that you may believe”?   Obviously if one was whisked away in the literal clouds and your body had been literally transformed, you would “know” and there would be no doubt about it that Christ had returned (no need to “believe” that it has happened).  Jesus’ words indicate that His return and Kingdom was something that could be missed and not seen with the physical eye (Lk. 17:20-21, 21-37) – thus a need to “believe” that it had come in the spiritual realm.  This is consistent with what Jesus taught in (Mrk. 8:38-9:1) as well.  In other words the Christians remained on the earth in AD 70 and Christ and the Father made their “dwellings” “within” them (Jn. 14:2-3, 23; Cols. 1:27; 1 Pet. 1:19; Lk. 17:20-21)!

c).  “I go to prepare a place for you” (vs. 2).

How was Jesus preparing a dwelling place for His people?  In context, He was going to give them the Holy Spirit Who would be apart of the process of forming and transforming Christ and His image in them (1 Cor. 6:19; Gals. 4:19; 2 Cor. 3-4; Phil. 2:5/Rms. 12:1-2) until the “light” or “Day Star” (Christ) rose in their hearts completely (2 Pet. 1:19; cf. 1 Jn. 2:8).  They were in the process of “being built up” as the Temple (1 Pet. 2:5) of God and “putting on” the “new man” which is another metaphor for putting on the wedding garments of Christ’s righteousness which would become their own (Ephs. 4:24; Isa. 52:1/Rev. 21:2; Mt. 22:11; Rev. 16:15; 19:18/1 Cor. 1:30/2 Cor. 5:21).  This was taking place until they were fully “adorned” as the Most Holy Place or City of the Living God.  This City was likewise in the process of coming down from heaven (Rev. 3:12 NIV) and would fully come in an “at hand” time frame to bring healing to the nations.  At that point in AD 70 God’s people were found to be “glorified” “in” Him and He “in” them (2 Thess. 1:12; Rms. 8:8-11, 18 YLT; Jn. 14:20).   Thus at Christ’s coming in AD 70, the Father’s House/New Jerusalem/Most Holy Place came down to earth and fully clothed the Church and therefore the Kingdom [of heaven] was fully prepared and formed within the Church.

d).  “Truly, truly, I ay to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater worksthan these will he do, because I go am going to the Father” (v. 12).

The phrase “truly, truly” or “verily I say unto you” links this verse back to the previous verse which describes Christ’s miraculous “works” (v. 11).  Jesus appealed to the crowds to believe on Him based upon His teachings and the miracles or “works” He performed (cf. Jn. 5:36; 10:25, 26, 37, 38; 20:30-31).  Therefore, in context, the “works” the Apostles would perform are miracles as Jesus performed.  MacArthur denies this claiming these “greater works” are “spiritual rather than physical miracles” and that “Jesus did not mean greater works in power, but extent” (cf. Acts 1:8).[6]  But a hermeneutics professor Matt Waymeyer, at The Master’s Seminary disagrees with MacArthur and points out the same contextual connection that these are literal miracles:

“Brown is correct in his assertion that Jesus was referring to miraculous works in John 14:12 when He spoke of “the works that I do.” This is clear not only from the immediate context of John 14 (see verses 10-11) but also from the greater context of John’s Gospel in which the miraculous works of Jesus gave evidence of His identity (see 5:36; 10:25; 20:30-31). And what miraculous works was Jesus referring to? He doesn’t name them, but the Gospel of John—which records only a fraction of the signs and wonders Jesus performed (21:25)—provides several examples:

  • Jesus changed water into wine (2:1-11).
  • Jesus healed a boy who was about to die (4:46-54).
  • Jesus healed a man who had been crippled and unable to walk for 38 years (5:1-9).
  • Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish (6:1-14).
  • Jesus walked on water (6:16-21).
  • Jesus healed a man born blind (9:1-41).
  • Jesus resurrected a man who had been dead for four days (11:1-45).

According to John 14:12a, these are the kinds of miraculous works that will be performed by “he who believes” in Jesus.”[7]

I believe these literal miracles were “greater” in the extent that over a period of roughly forty years (not a mere three) more miracles and more souls were saved during the Apostles ministry (and those they laid hands on before Christ came to close the OC age), than Christ Himself performed.  They were not “greater” in the sense that their miracles were more miraculous than Christ’s miracles were, for clearly they were not – walking on water, feeding 5,000 and even raising Himself from the dead.

If Brown makes John 14:12 a promise for all believers throughout all time, Matt Maymeyer claims Brown in essence has proven too much:

But what initially appears to be Brown’s strongest argument ultimately turns out to be the most significant problem for his view. By assuming that “he who believes” is also universal in John 14:12, Brown ends up arguing that every single believer in the history of the church has performed (or will perform) the same miraculous works as Jesus, works such as healing the crippled, giving sight to the blind, and raising people from the dead.

Apart from the obvious observation that there are more than a few believers in the past two thousand years who have never raised the dead or given sight to the blind, the apostle Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 12:27-30 that it was never God’s design to give every Christian the ability to perform the miraculous…”

The implied answer to each of these rhetorical questions is, “No, of course not!” If it was never God’s design that all believers perform miracles and healings, how can Brown affirm an interpretation of John 14:12 which says that it was?

Brown’s interpretation of John 14:12, then, faces a significant obstacle. Even though it is undoubtedly true that every single believer will have eternal life (John 3:15, 16, 36; 6:40, 47), is not judged (John 3:18), will never thirst (John 6:35), will experience the rivers of living water (John 7:38), will live even if he dies (John 11:25, 26), believes in the Father (John 12:44), and will not remain in darkness (John 12:46), it is simply notthe case that every single believer does (or will do) the miraculous works that Jesus did (2:1-11; 4:46-54; 5:1-9; 6:1-14; 6:16-21; 9:1-41; 11:1-45). This was never the sovereign design of God for the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27-30), and it was not promised by Jesus in John 14:12.

So what does Jesus mean when He says that “He who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also”? The key is found in remembering the original audience of Jesus. In John 14-16, Judas had already departed and Jesus was exclusively addressing the eleven disciples, the very ones He would soon send out as His apostles. Even though much of John 14-16 can be applied to every believer by extension, all of what Jesus says in these chapters applies directly to the apostles and some of what He says applies onlyto the apostles (e.g., John 14:25-26; 16:13). John 14:12 falls into this latter category.

In John 14, Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father (v. 8). Jesus responded by rebuking Philip (v. 9) and asking him whether or not he believed that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him (v. 10). Then Jesus widened the scope of His instruction (the Greek transitions from singular to plural) by addressing all of the disciples and exhorting them twice to “believe” in Him (v. 11). Therefore, when Jesus referred to “he who believes in Me” in the very next verse (v. 12), it makes good sense to conclude that the scope of that phrase is limited to those whom Jesus was addressing, namely the eleven disciples. As Richard Mayhue writes, “Christ’s charge to the disciples [in John 14:12] should not automatically be assigned to all believers throughout the ages unless specifically indicated by the text. Nothing here points beyond the disciples” (The Healing Promise, 162).

The promise of John 14:12, then, is that once Jesus sends the disciples out as His apostles, they will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform miraculous works just like He did. Not only does this interpretation fit the immediate context of John 14-16, but the Book of Acts records that the apostles did indeed perform the miraculous works promised by Jesus in John 14:12: “many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles” (Acts 2:43; emphasis added). If the promise of John 14:12 is universal and every believer performed signs and wonders, why does Luke single out the apostles in Acts 2:43? Where is the biblical account that “many wonders and signs were taking place through all the brethren”?”[8]

Brown has responded to Waymeyer’s article in that his appeals to 1 Corinthians 12 and Acts in essence proves too much for his position because:  1.  The ability to perform miracles is given to members of the local church and not just to the Apostles, 2.  within the context of the letter the miraculous gifts are given to members of the body until Christ’s Second Coming (which Matt Waymeyer and Brown affirm is future) (cf. 1 Cor. 1:7-8; 13:8-12), and 3.  Stephen and Philip (not just the Apostles) were performing signs and wonders in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 6 & 8) and this would continue throughout the “last days” (Acts 2).

While I couldn’t agree more with Waymeyer’s contextual comments that “…though much of John 14-16 can be applied to every believer by extension, all of what Jesus says in these chapters applies directly to the apostles and some of what He says applies only to the apostles (e.g., John 14:25-26; 16:13). John 14:12falls into this latter category…,” this still does not address his Futurist position and problem that in Acts and in the various churches signs and wonders were performed by others than the Apostles and that this would continue throughout the “last days” or until the Second Coming would arrive.  Brown points out he has only addressed 3% of his arguments while avoiding the others related to eschatology and the Second Coming. This of course is not a problem I have as a Full Preterist, as I continue to overturn virtually all of Brown’s Charismatic arguments listed in Authentic Fire.

e).  The Holy Spirit would be a “helper” “advocate” (Greek paraclete) to provide power (v. 16 – and the dunamis/power and commission of Acts 1:8).

The Greek word for “helper” here is paraclete and as R.C. Sproul pointed out in his lecture at MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference this word carries with it more of a sense of giving power than merely comforting the disciples,

“…before His ascension, He told His disciples that they should tarry in Jerusalem inasmuch as they would receive power and after they would receive power they were to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth.

We also know that in the Upper Room, Jesus gave His longest discourse on the Holy Spirit when He said that when He would leave, He would not leave us comfortless, but that He would send along with the Father the paraclete, or what the Old King James Version of the Bible translated as the Comforter.  And there’s a little problem with that use of the term “Comforter” in translating the Greek parakletos because it goes back to earlier English, indeed Elizabethan English, when the English language was more closely informed by ancient Latin than it is today.  And the translation “comforter” had its roots in the Latin cum forte.  So what Jesus was saying when He was saying, “I’m going to send you a Comforter,” what the King James called the Comforter, was that He was saying I’m going to send you the One who will come with strength.  You know, we say a person may have a particular strength and we call it his forte and the use of the term forte is familiar to those of you who are engaged in music.  You know, that little “f” or the double “ff” stands for forte, it means you play it with strength and with power.

And so what Jesus was saying is, I’m not sending the Holy Spirit to dry your tears, to console you, to make you feel better after you’ve been beaten up by your adversaries, although He does that.  Rather the promise of the coming Spirit was for power and for strength.”[9]

He continues to point out that the book of Acts for the most part follows the Great Commission (GC) described by Jesus in Acts 1:8 — the gospel would be preached to:  1. Jerusalem, 2.  Judea, 3.  Samaria and 4.  To the Uttermost parts of the earth.  He argues that there were four Pentecost’s in the book of Acts that were unique in redemptive history (not to be continually repeated for believers throughout all ages – per Brown).  There purpose was to show the exclusive Jew (even believer) that all these groups: 1.  Jews (Acts 2), 2.  Samaritans (Acts 8), 3.  God-fearers (Acts 10), and 4.  the Gentiles (Acts 19) were on equal footing in the NC fulfilling the mystery contained in the OT Scriptures (the Jew / Gentile oneness in the NC Kingdom).[10]

But Sproul’s argument is exegetically inconsistent since he still believes that we are baptized by the Spirit today to receive power to fulfill Acts 1:8.  Where does the NT teach that one group gets baptized by or with the Spirit with one kind of dunamis/power that results in speaking in tongues and prophesying in order to fulfill the GC of Acts 1:8, while today we get baptized by the Spirit to receive a different kind of dunamis/power that doesn’t result in tongues, prophesying, or the working of miracles (just boldness) to fulfill the same GC of (Acts 1:8)?!?  Even Brown says of Acts 1:8,

“This did not only mean boldness; rather, it referred in particular to the supernatural enduement of divine power to work miracles in Jesus’ name,…” (Authentic Fire, 191).

As I pointed out in addressing Brown’s GC argument already in this series, both Mark 16:15-18 and Acts 1:8 are the same GC, and it is clearly stated that the miraculous sign gifts continue in order to fulfill that commission.  Sproul in his book, The Last Days According to Jesus appears to be somewhat confused or inconsistent on the “last days” of Acts 2 which encompasses the GC of Acts 1:8 as well, and this continues to muddy the waters for him and those listening to his teaching on the subject.

As I have demonstrated in this series, the “last days” were OC Israel’s last days ending in AD 70 and not the last days of the NC Church closing world history.  And the GC described by Jesus as a sign to be fulfilled before He would come and bring an end to the OC age in AD 70 (cf. Mt. 24:14/Mrk. 13:10/Mrk. 16:15-18/Mt. 28:18-20/Acts 1:8) was also fulfilled according to the inspired teaching of the Apostle Paul (Cols. 1:5-6, 23/Rms. 10:18/Rms. 16:25-26).

Brown asks,

“When did the dunamis of the Spirit change?  Where is it written or even hinted at that the Spirit no longer includes God’s dunamis (Authentic Fire, 192)?

Yet Brown concedes that the miraculous sign gifts continue until the GC is fulfilled (suspecting that everyone agrees it hasn’t been fulfilled or can’t prove it has).  So unlike Sproul, the Full Preterist can truly and consistently say these four Pentecost’s of the outpouring power of the Holy Spirit were unique events in redemptive history that fulfilled Acts 1:8 bringing the church to her maturity or to “the unity of the faith” (Ephs. 4) in AD 70 — whereby we don’t need more miraculous confirmation that all men are on equal ground in the NC age.  The OC with all of its distinctions between the various people groups vanished in AD 70.  Today post AD 70 we don’t live within a transition period whereby the OC and NC are overlapping, but rather as we preach the gospel (cf. Rev. 22:17) living in the mature NC age — there are only two classes of people – believers and unbelievers (those within the gates of the NJ and those without).  But before this, God had to give the early Church roughly forty years and the dunamis of the Spirit to confirm and figure this out.  It took thirty years before Peter and the Jewish Church believed Peter’s testimony of what happened to Cornelius and the Gentiles with him – proving Gentiles could be fellowshipped with and were co-equals in the NC Kingdom.

Brown admits the Spirit was a “deposit of what was to come (see Ephesians 1:14)” (Authentic Fire, p. 199).  And yet Paul tells us the what and the when of the “what was to come” in just seven verses — “not only in this age (OC), but also in the one (NC age) 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” in AD 70.

f).  The Holy Spirit would infallibly remind and inspire the Apostles concerning the time frame of Christ’s return (v. 26 / Jn. 16:13).

This is devastating to both Brown and Waymeyer’s Premillennial Futurist eschatology since both agree these passages apply only to the Apostles. As the NT is being written by the Apostles (and those under their authority) towards the end of that AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation,” the Apostles are being “led into all truth” “concerning things to come” (prophecy), teaching that Jesus’ Second Coming, Judgment and Resurrection of the living and dead were “about to” be fulfilled “shortly,” soon,” “quickly,” “in a very little while,” and would “not be delayed” (cf. Acts 2:20, 40; Acts 17:31YLT; Acts 24:15YLT; Rom. 8:18-23YLT/AV; Rom. 13:11-12; Rom. 16:20; 1 Cor.7:29-31; 1 Cor. 10:11; 1 Cor. 15:51; Phil. 4:5; 1 Thess. 4:15ff–5:1-10; 2 Thess. 1:5-10; 2 Tim. 4:1YLT; Heb. 8:13–10:37; Heb. 13:14YLT; James 5:7-9; 1 Pet. 1:4-12; 1 Pet. 4:5-7, 17; 1 John 2:17-18; Rev. 1:1–-22:6-7, 10-12, 20).

Clearly the NT authors (who were inspired and not simply giving their opinions) understood and were being reminded of Jesus’ teachings (Mt. 10:22-23; Mt. 16:27-28; Mt. 24:1-34) on when their Lord would return much better than the Charismatic TV “prophecy experts,” “Reformed Scholars” and many Pastors and teachers coming out of The Master’s Seminary do.  A Full Preterist is willing to “let God be true and every man a liar” if need be. Are you?

Conclusion

The focus of this article on John 14:12 was to demonstrate that the eleven Apostles were directly told (and again in Acts 1) that through their ministries they would receive the outpouring and power of the Holy Spirit.   Not only this, but they would do greater miraculous works than even Christ did.  Over roughly a forty-year period they laid their hands on and led many to Christ in fulfilling the GC of Acts 1:8.  In doing so, they indeed did do more miracles and led more to Christ than even their Lord had.  We also saw how how the eschatological imminent “not yet” wedding/temple imagery inseparably connected to Jesus’ Second Coming to “come again” and “receive” the Church was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 (as we saw of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 in our last study).

The one point of agreement between Brown and Waymeyer on John 14:26/John 16:13 destroys their Premillennial Futurist eschatology – the Holy Spirit did infallibly lead the Apostles and those under their leadership “into all truth” concerning “things to come” (i.e. the first century imminent time frame for their Lord’s return) and therefore it was fulfilled at the end of the OC age in AD 70.

The pre-AD 70 purpose for the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit has reached its eschatological goal:

  1. To demonstrate the Jew/Gentile oneness in the NC Body/Kingdom.
  2. To confirm the Apostles authority and testimony while…
  3. Leading (infallibly by divine inspiration) the Apostles “into all truth” concerning “things to come” (i.e. the timing and nature of the Second Coming).
  4. To empower the Church to fulfill the GC – which would bring with it:  a). the complete ushering in of the NC age while brining the OC age to it’s end and b). to fulfill and bring about the full inheritance of Christ’s parousia (where the Father and Son now make their home within the believer – her chief reward).

These were unique eschatological events taking place between the overlapping of the OC and NC ages and fulfilled within history – not brining an end to it.  Therefore, the unique purpose of the miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit does not need to be repeated throughout the ages of the Church beyond AD 70 – as Dr. Brown has assumed and incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures.

Dr. Brown’s appeals to John 14:12 for the continuance of the sign and revelatory gifts today has once again been overturned by the sound and consistent exegesis that Full Preterism provides the Church.  Dr. Brown is willing to meet me at The Master’s Seminary to try and prove me wrong.  Will Matt Waymeyer of The Master’s Seminary be willing to address more than Brown’s 3% of texts dealing with the cessation issue?  Being a hermeneutics instructor will he be able to prove that the Full Preterist heremeneutic which correctly literalizes the time texts and allows apocalyptic language to be interpreted non-literally is someone a false or heretical hermeneutic?  Please accept our challenge to you Mr. Waymeyer – which is also extended of course to Pastor MacArthur or any instructor at the Seminary or University.  Does not our Lord instruct you to “always be ready” to defend your future hope?

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

Part 1 – My Full Preterist Response to John MacArthur’s Appeals to Church History and Reformed Theology to Solve the Charismatic Dilemma http://fullpreterism.com/1-corinthians-138-12-a-full-preterist-response-to-the-strange-fire-conference-macarthursproulpennington-cessationists-v-authentic-fire-brownwilsonpiper-cha/

Part 2 – An Overview of the Various Views of “That Which is Perfect” (1 Cor. 13:10) http://fullpreterism.com/1-corinthians-138-12-a-full-preterist-response-to-the-strange-fire-conference-macarthursproulpennington-cessationists-v-authentic-fire-brownwilsonpiper-cha/

Part 3 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 Demonstrating That the Miraculous Sign and Revelatory Gifts of Tongues, Prophecy and Knowledge Ceased and Passed Away with the OC Age in AD 70 and John MacArthur’s Inability to Deal with the Passage  http://fullpreterism.com/my-full-preterist-response-to-john-macarthurs-strange-fire-cessationist-v-michael-brown-authentic-fire-charismatic-part-3-argument-1-an-exegesis-of/

Part 4 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on the “Last Days” of Acts 2 and John MacArthur’s Inability to Deal with the Passage http://fullpreterism.com/my-full-preterist-response-to-michael-brown-charismatic-authentic-fire-vs-john-macarthur-cessationist-strange-fire-the-last-days-acts-2/

Part 5 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-20 and John MacArthur’s Inability to Deal with the Passage http://fullpreterism.com/my-full-preterist-response-to-john-macarthurs-strange-fire-cessationist-v-michael-browns-authentic-fire-charismatic-part-5-argument-3-the-great-commission/

Part 6 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on the “Already and Not Yet” of the Kingdom and John MacArthur’s Inability to Respond Biblically http://fullpreterism.com/my-full-preterist-response-to-john-macarthurs-strange-fire-cessationist-v-michael-browns-authentic-fire-charismatic-part/

Part 7 – My Full Preterist Response to Charismatic Michael Brown’s Argument on John 14:12 and John MacArthur’s (The Master’s Seminary) Inability to Deal With the Passage and the Infallibility of the Scriptures going on into John 16 http://fullpreterism.com/my-full-preterist-response-to-john-macarthurs-strange-fire-cessationist-v-michael-browns-authentic-fire-charismatic-part-2/

Part 8 – My Open Letter to my Former Pastor John MacArthur and The Master’s Seminary to Interact with Myself and Dr. Michael Brown on These Passages and When the Bible Teaches Tongues, Prophecy and Knowledge Are to Cease That Has NEVER Been Responded to http://fullpreterism.com/open-letter-to-pastor-john-macarthur-and-faculty-at-the-masters-college-seminary-sullivan-v-brown-debate-symposium-challenge/

[1] Matt Waymeyer, Michael Brown, Authentic Fire, & John 14:12, http://thecripplegate.com/michael-brown-authentic-fire-john-1412/

[2] Dr. Michael Brown, The Master’s Seminary Professor and John 14:12, https://askdrbrown.org/library/masters-seminary-professor-and-john-1412

[3] Tom Holland, CONTOURS OF PAULINE THEOLOGY A RADICAL NEW SURVEY OF THE INFLUENCES ON PAUL’S BIBLICAL WRITINGS, (Scotland, UK:  Mentor Imprint by Christian Focus Publications, 2004), 119-120.

[4] Arthur W. Pink, EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 758

[5] Köstenberger, A. J. (2007). John. In Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (p. 489). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos.

[6] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, 1613.

[7] Matt Waymeyer, Ibid.

[8] Ibid.,

[9] R.C. Sproul, Undervaluing Pentecost, http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/TM13-3/undervaluing-pentecost

[10] Sproul, Ibid.

Appendix B – The Trumpet Catching Away and Trumpet Gathering of Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

Editorial Note:  This is a combination of various lectures and articles I have done on the “rapture” of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.  Again, this was an internal and spiritual event, just like the New Jerusalem / Most Holy Place is not a literal cubed city that someday is going to hang off of or consume the planet earth.  We are the MHP / NJ of God’s presence and in AD 70, He gathered or caught her away into His glory cloud/presence and we enjoy that presence in our hearts and minds today.

What you have below is mainly a refutation I did of the Partial Preterist Postmillennial view that concedes the coming and gathering of Christ in Matthew 24:30-31 was fulfilled in AD 70 and has a spiritual application and fulfillment, but then they arbitrarily claim this SAME coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 is somehow a different coming of Christ and then begin to literalize that language.

Introduction: 

At this point I’m going to be combining some material I produced for a lecture I did at one of the Berean Bible Conferences dealing with refuting the various literal rapture positions of some Postmillennialists and Partial Preterists with what I presented this year at the PPW Conference on the Problems for Postmillennialists in Matthew 24-25. 

In order to exegetically and logically reconcile the various Postmillennial and Reformed views on Daniel 7:13; 12:1-7; Matthew 24:30-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15, I must demonstrate that the trumpet coming of Christ and the resurrection of 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 1 Corinthians 15 are the SAME spiritual coming of Christ and spiritual resurrection Postmillennialists are saying was fulfilled in Matthew 24-25 and Daniel 12 to close the OC age in AD 70.  This is not difficult.

Again, my approach is to simply follow the hermeneutical methods of the Reformed and Postmillennialist community to build my case:

  • Paul in 1-2 Thessalonians is using Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 as his source.
  • The “parallels” and use of “similar language” between Paul’s writings and Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 prove the same coming and eschatological event is in view.
  • Following the “scriptural references” or the use of the analogy of faith found in The Reformation Bible produced by two Postmillennial editors.
  • The coming of the Son of Man and the resurrection of Daniel 7:13 and 12:2-3 is the ONE Second Coming and resurrection event as described for us in Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.
  • The resurrection of Daniel 12:2-3 was fulfilled spiritually at Christ’s parousia in AD 70.

The Second Coming and Resurrection Event

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the tribes of the earth [land] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Mt. 24:30-31).

In the Reformed Study Bible edited by Postmillennial Partial Preterists R.C. Sproul and Keith Mathison we learn this of Matt. 24:30-31:

“But the language of Matt. 24:31 is parallel to passages like 13:41; 16:27; and 25:31 [passages Postmillennialists such as Mathison and DeMar say were fulfilled in AD 70], as well as to passages such as 1 Cor. 15:52 and 1 Thess. 4:14-17The passage most naturally refers to the Second Coming.”

This is more than a bit odd since R.C. Sproul and Keith Mathison believe and teach the coming of Christ in Matthew 24:27-30 (and Mathison 25:31) was spiritually fulfilled in AD 70 – and yet we learn in their own Study Bible these passages “most naturally refer to the Second Coming”!

John Murray appealing to the “analogy of faith” principle of interpretation in examining this passage writes,

“There is ample allusion to the sound of the trumpet and to the ministry of angels elsewhere in the New Testament in connection with Christ’s advent (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16).  Hence verse 31 can most readily be taken to refer to the gathering of the elect at the resurrection.” (John Murray, COLLECTED WRITINGS OF JOHN MURRAY 2 Systematic Theology, (Carlisle, PA:  THE BANNER OF TRUTH TRUST, 1977), p. 391).

Before developing the “parallels” and the analogy of faith principle of interpretation between Matthew 24, 1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15, let’s first examine the fact that Postmillennialism admits Paul is drawing from the OD in 1 and 2 Thessalonians and that they recognize the use of parallels to be a legitimate use of exegesis.

Since Kenneth Gentry has to get rid of the apostasy in order to prop up Postmillennialism, he has to have 2 Thessalonians 2 fulfilled in AD 70.  In order to do this, he has to appeal to the OD and recognize that Paul is drawing from material Jesus says would be fulfilled in the AD 70 “this generation.”   Therefore, Gentry admits that,

“Most commentators agree that the Olivet Discourse is undoubtedly a source of the Thessalonian Epistles.” (Kenneth Gentry, Perilous Times: A Study in Eschatological Evil (Texarkana, AR: Covenant Media Press, 1999), 100, n. 19. Here Gentry cites D.A. Carson, Matthew, in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 8:489; and G. Henry Waterman, The Sources of Paul’s Teaching on the 2nd Coming of Christ in 1and 2 Thessalonians, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 18:2 (June 1975); 105–113.

Yet, Gentry’s sources of authority end up “proving too much” in that both D.A. Carson and G. Henry Waterman make virtually the same parallels between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4–5 that we do (big “oops”).  But before we get to those parallels, let’s continue to examine the “parallel” hermeneutic of Postmillennialism.  Keith Mathison following Gary DeMar believes 2 Thessalonians 2 was fulfilled in AD 70 and Paul was following Jesus’ eschatology in Mt. 24 because of “these parallels”:

  1. a coming of our Lord (2 Thess. 2:1; cf. Matt. 24:27, 30),
  2. a gathering together to Him (2 Thess. 2:1; cf. Mattt. 24:31),
  3. apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3; cf. Matt. 24:5, 10-12),
  4. the mystery of lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:7; Matt. 24:12),
  5. satanic signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9-10; cf. Matt. 24:24),
  6. a deluding influence on unbelievers (2 Thess. 2:11; cf. Matt. 24:5, 24).” (Mathison, From Age to Age, 515).

And Postmillennialist Gary DeMar in his Last Days Madness teaches the coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 5 was fulfilled in AD 70 because Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in the OD using “similar phrases” or language such as Him coming “like a thief” or the use of “birth pains.”  But notice ALL of the “parallels” and use of “similar language” Paul is taking from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 that DeMar arbitrarily passed over:

Matthew 24 1 Thessalonians 5
1.  Exact time unknown (24:36) 1.  Exact time unknown (5:1-2)
2.  Christ comes like a thief (24:43) 2.  Christ comes like a thief (5:2)
3.  Unbelievers caught unaware (37-39) 3.  Unbelievers caught unaware (5:3)
4.  Birth pains (24:8) 4.  Birth pains (5:3)
5.  Believers are not deceived (24:43) 5.  Believers are not deceived (5:4-5)
6.  Believers told to be watchful (24:42) 6.  Believers told to be watchful (5:6)
7.  Exhortation against drunkenness (24:49) 7.  Exhortation against drunkenness (5:7)
8.  The Day, Sunlight shinning from east to west, (24:27, 36-38) 8.  The Day, sons of light, sons of day (1 Thess. 5:4-8)

The reason why Postmillennialists such as DeMar don’t want to develop ALL of the parallels between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 5 is because if they do, the reader will inevitably see all of the parallels between Matthew 24 and the coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 4 and that of course would prove the eschatological trumpet gathering and catching away of Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 are the same event and were thus fulfilled in AD 70 as well.

Having looked at the main authors defending Postmillennialism today and The Reformation Study Bible(which they have edited and produced) when it comes to the use the analogy of faith, “parallels” and the use of “similar language” to make their cases in connecting Matthew 24 with that of 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians 15, let’s now be more exegetically consistent and bridge the gap between their irreconcilable differences (that their creedal doctrine of a physical resurrection at the end of world history has created for them).

The Analogy of the Faith or Scripture Hermeneutic:  Teaches us that Scripture interprets Scripture and that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture.  Yet, so far from the writings and co-authors of Postmillennialists on Matthew 24; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 15 we are getting contradictory interpretations that can easily be resolved. 

In mathematics and logic: If A bears some relation to B and B bears the same relation to C, then A bears it to C.  If A = B and B = C, then A = C.  Therefore, things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another. If equals be added to equals, the wholes are equal.

  • A = (Matt. 24:27-31, 34)
  • B = (1 Thess. 4:15-17)
  • C = (1 Cor. 15)

Premise #1:  Since it is true and orthodox to believe that the coming of Christ in A (Matt. 24:27-31, 25:31ff.) was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 (Postmillennialism & Full Preterism agree).

Premise #2:  And since it is also true that A (Matt. 24:27-31; 25:31ff.) is the same or ONE Second Coming event described for us in B (1 Thess. 4:15-17) and C (1 Cor. 15) (Amillennialism, Historic Premillennialism and some Postmillennialists agree with Full Preterism),

Conclusion:  Then it is also true and orthodox to believe that both B (1 Thess. 4:15-17) and C (1 Cor. 15) were fulfilled spiritually at Christ’s ONE parousia or Second Coming event in AD 70. In other words, “Things which are equal to the same thing are also equal to one another. If equals be added to equals, the wholes are equal.”

Since A (Mat. 24) is = to B (1 Thess. 4) or “if A bears some relation to B”

Matthew 24 1 Thessalonians 4-5
Christ Returns from Heaven 24:30 4:16
With Voice of Arch Angel 24:31                                      4:16
With Trumpet of God 24:31                                             4:16 – The trumpet gathering resurrection of Isa. 25-27
Caught/Gathered Together with/to Christ 24:31 4:17 – The resurrection of the dead of Isa. 25-27
To “Meet” (marriage term) the Lord in the Clouds 24:30 & 25:6 4:17 – The wedding/resurrection of Isa. 25-27
The Exact Time Unknown 24:36 5:1-2
Christ Comes as a Thief 24:43 5:2
Unbelievers Caught Off Guard 24:37-39 5:3
Time of Birth Pangs 24:8 5:3
Believers Not Deceived 24:43 5:4-5
Believers to Be Watchful 24:42 5:6
Exhorted to Sobriety 24:49 5:7
Son/Sunlight Shinning From E. to W. / Sons of the Day 24:27, 36, & 38 5:4-8  *This is a unique parallel that I have developed.

My Brief Testimony

Now one can see why Postmillennialists such as Gary DeMar or Keith Mathison deceptively (in my opinion) do not want to consistently draw attention to all of the “parallels” or use of “similar language” between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 5 since such a hermeneutic would beg the question from the reader, “well, what about all the ‘parallels’ and ‘similar language’ between Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17”?!?

This is exactly how I became a Full Preterist (even though I didn’t know such a view existed).  In 1990-91 I had a hard time with Postmillennialists only giving an exegesis of Matthew 24 up to verse 34-36.  I was doing a study on Christ coming as a thief and noticed that David Chilton in his writings (Paradise Restoredand Days of Vengeance) applied Christ coming as a thief in 24:43 as fulfilled in AD 70.  This was my conclusion as well, but this meant there were not two comings of Christ in Matthew 24-25 and Postmillennialists such as Chilton at the time was hiding this belief and not trying to develop it due to it’s conflict with the creeds.  I agreed with Amillennialists and some historic Premillennialists that saw ALL the parallels between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonains 4-5 as ONE event, and yet at the same time I believed Postmillennialists were accurate to believe Matthew 24 happened spiritually in AD 70.  I concluded that the “rapture” and resurrection of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 must be understood spiritually as well.  And if Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in the OD, then Paul is using apocalyptic language just as Jesus did.  It is important to note that it was in reading Scripture and Reformed works on eschatology that brought me to Full Preterism.  There were no other outside influences.  Over time God would lead me to men that saw what I was seeing – and that was very comforting!

Reformed Eschatology Makes the Same Parallels

Reformed theologian G.K. Beale agrees with Full Preterism on two issues here.  First he agrees that Paul is using recapitulation between 1 Thessalonians 4-5 (or that both chapters describe the same coming and event) and secondly, he agrees with us that Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24,

“…1 Thess. 4:15-17 describes generally the same end-time scenario as 1 Thess. 5:1-11.  Specifically, Paul narrates the resurrection at the end of the age and then recapitulates in chapter 5 by speaking about the timing of this event and about the judgment on unbelievers, which will also happen at the same time.  That both 4:15-18 and 5:1-11 explain the same events is discernible from observing that both passages actually form one continuous depiction of the same narrative in Matthew 24,…” (G.K. Beale, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series 1–2 Thessalonians (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2003), 136).

As I have previously demonstrated, Jesus used recapitulation in Matthew 24-25.  In 24:30-31 Jesus’ coming is describing the gathering or resurrection of believers.  In 25:31-46 His coming includes a judgment (and thus resurrection) for the unbelieving dead as well.  So it should not surprise us that Paul is using recapitulation here to connect 1 Thessalonians 4-5.  In 4:16-17 the emphasis on His coming is the resurrection of believers.  In chapter 5 His coming includes the judgment for unbelievers.  One has to be blind not to notice what Beale sees, “…both passages [1 Thess. 4-5] actually form one continuous depiction of the same narrative in Matthew 24…” and one has to be equally blind not to notice that Jesus’ places this coming in His generation!

Beale goes on to connect 1 Thessalonians 4-5 with Matthew 24:

“Other significant parallels include: the use of the word parousia for Christ’s coming; reference to Christ’s advent as “that day” (Mt. 24:36) or “the day of the Lord” (1 Thess. 5:2); and a description of someone coming to “meet” another (eis apantesin autou, virgins coming out to “meet” the bridegroom in Mt. 25:6; eis apantesin tou kyriou, believers “meeting” the Lord in 1 Thess. 4:17; see further Waterman 1975).”  (Beale, Ibid, 136–137).  Once again the eschatological time of the wedding in AD 70 creates problems for Postmillennialists, because this is also synonymous with the time of the resurrection of Isaiah 25:6-9/1 Cor. 15:54-56.

The “Thorny Problem” For Beale and Reformed Eschatology

In a more recent work Beale now seems to lean in the direction of Partial Preterism – that the coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 24:30 was fulfilled in AD 70 and not at the end of history:

“The clearest reference to Jesus as the Son of Man from Daniel 7:13 come in the third category (which he identifies as “those that refer to Jesus’ future coming in glory”), where there are quotations of Dan. 7:13 (Matt. 24:30, Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27).  However, it is likely better to see most of these third-category references fulfilled not at the very end of history but rather in AD 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem, in which the Son of Man’s coming would be understood as an invisible coming in judgment, using the Roman armies as his agent.  The reference in Matt. 25:31 to “the Son of Man” who will “come in His glory” and “sit on His glorious throne” is not a quotation of but rather an allusion to Dan. 7:13-14, which clearly is applied to the very end of the age at Christ’s final coming. 

If this view is correct, it may be that the AD 70 coming of Christ in judgment as portrayed by the Synoptics is a typological foreshadowing of his final coming in judgment.  However, the traditional view that the coming of the Son of Man in the Synoptic eschatological discourse refers to Christ’s final coming certainly is plausible.  This issue is a thorny one that still deserves much more study.” (G.K. Beale, A NEW TESTAMENT BIBLICAL THEOLOGY THE UNFOLDING OF THE OLD TESTAMENT IN THE NEW, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic, 2011), 396 n. 27—397.  (emphases added)).

This indeed is a “thorny” problem for Mr. Beale to affirm in one work that the coming and implied resurrection gathering at the end of the age in Matthew 24:30-31 is the same Second Coming of Christ and resurrection event as described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and is now trying to affirm that the coming and resurrection gathering of Matthew 24:30-31 was fulfilled in AD  70.  Why? Because both of these are full preterist or “hyper-preterist” interpretations to take on these texts.  Beale due to creedal commitments, will not accept that full preterism has done the “more study” necessary in order to reconcile the exegetical problems he and his “orthodox” colleagues have created.

But is Beale then saving himself from this “thorny” problem by citing Matthew 25:31 as “clearly” the end of time or end of the age coming of Christ?  Not when you consider that partial preterists combined such as Mathison, DeMar and McDurmon have clearly seen this passage was fulfilled in AD 70 as well and not Christ’s “actual” Second Coming. But this then creates more thorny problems for these men such as the marriage that follows Matthew 25:10 (as I discussed in lecture one on the marriage feast).  How many times does Christ in His Parousia consummate His marriage with the church within Postmillennial theology?  How can they criticize Dispensationalism for having TWO resurrections and TWO eschatological weddings when their Partial Preterism is forcing them into the same error, just a different version of TWO fulfillments for these events?!?

Mathison attempts to avoid the unified parallels between Matthew 24–25 and 1 Thessalonians 4–5 by claiming that his Reformed brothers and “hyper-preterists” merely assume that “Jesus is speaking of his second advent when he speaks of ‘the coming of the Son of Man’ in Matthew 24 and that Paul is speaking of the same thing in 1 Thessalonians 4.” (Mathison, From Age to Age, 515).  The self-evident fact of the matter however is that Mathison turns a blind eye to overwhelming evidence because Mathison assumes that partial Preterism is right. It is more than inconsistent to claim preterist parallels between Matthew 24 and 2 Thessalonians 2 and between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 5, and then deny the obvious parallels between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 4. But this is what partial preterists such as Mathison do.  (Mathison, Postmillenialism, 226, 230).

Because Gentry’s Postmillennial colleagues such as DeMar and Mathison no longer divide the OD, he remains committed to the creedal view that the OD does discuss the Second Coming event but now concedes that Matthew 24–25 does not necessarily need to be divided and that all of Matthew 24 could be addressing one coming of Christ in AD 70:

“Orthodox preterists see no doctrinal problems arising if we apply all of Matthew 24 to A.D. 70. We generally do not do so because of certain exegetical markers in the text. But if these are not sufficient to distinguish the latter part of Matthew 24 from the earlier part, it would not matter.” Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion (Draper, VA: Apologetics Group Media, 2009), 540).

The fact of the mater is that they do see a “problem” here if the OD is only addressing Christ coming in AD 70 – they just don’t want to admit it.  The “problem” is that virtually all scholars and commentators tell us that Matthew 24–25 forms the foundation to and contains parallel prophetic material to Matthew 13; 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Thessalonians 4–5; 2 Peter 3; Revelation 20–21; etc… Yet Mathison and DeMar claim Matthew 24–25 was fulfilled in AD 70 and Gentry doesn’t see a problem with it?!?  How can these things be, indeed?  This is why partial preterism gains a following for a short period, and then its students end up coming to “hyper-preterism” for a more consistent and exegetical approach that is in harmony with the analogy of Scripture.

Another problem for Postmillennialists is that they admit that the last trumpet of Revelation 11 was fulfilled in AD 70, but they do not discuss the fact that the time of the last trumpet was the time for “the dead” to be judged (Rev. 11:18). This is the same problem they face in the immediate context of 1 Peter 4:7. How were the dead judged in AD 70 without the resurrection of the dead taking place? And how is this time for the dead being judged different from the time in which the dead are judged in Revelation 20? And how is this trumpet judgment in Revelation 11 different from the one in Matthew 24:30–31, 1 Thessalonians 4, and 1 Corinthians 15? The analogy of Faith and that of Scripture nullifies with finality the arbitrary Scripture-dichotomizations of partial preterism.

Important Postmillennial and Partial Preterist Admissions

In 1998 Postmillennial Partial Preterist R.C. Sproul Sr. in his book The Last Days According to Jesus was either misinformed or dishonest with the Reformed and Evangelical community when he claimed that the main difference between Full Preterism and Partial Preterism was that Partial Preterists do not believe there was a rapture or resurrection of the dead that took place at Christ’s parousia in AD 70 (see his chart on p. 157).

Postmillennial author Mike Bull departs from other Postmillennial Partial Preterists and admits,

“The similarity of the events described in [1 Thess. 4:16-17] with those described in Matthew 24 and 1 Corinthians [15] means that full preterists are correct when they observe that all three passages clearly refer to the same event.” (Bull, Those Who Have Fallen Asleep, http://www.biblematrix.com.au/those-who-have-fallen-asleep/).

One of Postmillennialists main sources of authority in building their Preterist views is Milton Terry.  However, unlike DeMar, Terry (like Postmillennialist Mike Bull) correctly saw that Paul in 1 Thess. 4:16-17 and 1 Cor. 15:51-52 was following Jesus’ teaching and eschatology in the trumpet gathering of Matthew 24:30-31.  Terry was insightful and correct to disagree with John Lightfoot (and therefore with men like DeMar and Gentry) whom see this trumpet gathering at Christ’s coming as some kind of post AD 70 evangelistic gathering lasting thousands of years and not the rapture or resurrection event that Jesus said would be fulfilled at His coming to close the OC age.  Terry criticized Lightfoot’s view for not holding to the analogy of faith hermeneutic and said it would be “accepted by very few” (Hermeneutics, 447-448).

Unfortunately for Milton Terry and Postmillennialist Mike Bull, they are off base to teach that the coming of Christ and gathering or harpazo of Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 was some kind of partial physical resurrection and or physical rapture.  I will discuss the problems with this literal interpretation later, but the fact is Postmillennial Partial Preterism or Partial Preterism in general DOES see a “rapture” or “resurrection” event taking place in AD 70 – contrary to R.C. Sproul’s comments.  Clearly Sproul knows of Milton Terry’s works!  And Postmillennialists such as Jordan, DeMar and Gentry have finally conceded that the resurrection of Daniel 12:2-3 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70.  And surely Sproul cannot be so blind as to not see that his Reformation Study Bible is forming our view by admitting Matthew 24:30-31; 1 Thessalonains 4:16-17 and 1 Corinthians 15 are descriptions of the SAME and ONE parousia of Christ while also admitting in their other writings that Christ’s coming in BOTH Matthew 24-25 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70?!?

Laying the context for 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 

Before giving an exegesis of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and solving the “thorny problem” Beale and the Reformed community have created for themselves (in adopting a physical coming of Jesus to perform a physical biological resurrection at the end of time), I want to develop the context of Christ’s coming and eschatology for Paul in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. 

1 Thessalonians 1:10

“for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1:9-10).

The Thessalonians were to eagerly wait for Christ.  The definition of anaménō

“…(from 303 /aná, “up, completing a process,” which intensifies 3306 /ménō, “wait, remain”) – properly, earnestly wait (linger, abide); actively wait with rising intensity and clarity about what is hoped for (note the prefix, ana).  Thayers – “to wait for one (with the added notion of patience and trust).”

Even Dispensationalists such as Pastor John MacArthur writes of this passage, “…the immanency of the deliverance was something Paul felt could happen in their lifetimes.  Did Paul just “feel” it could happen or did he write it as an inspired and authoritative Apostle being led into all truth “trusting” in the very words of Jesus Himself that He would return at the end of the OC age, in their generation, and in some of their lifetimes (Matt. 10:22-23; 16:27-28; 24:27-34)?!?

Christ comes “from heaven.”  The definition of “heaven” here can mean the literal sky and clouds where the birds fly, but in Pauline eschatology the term “from heaven” is primarily dealing with God’s heavenly dwelling where His presence is along with the angelic hosts.

Christ comes to “rescue” the Thessalonians to Himself.

The definition of rescue here is  rhýomai (from eryō, “draw to oneself“) – properly, draw or (pull) to oneself; to rescue (“snatch up”); to draw or rescue a person to and for the deliverer.  To draw or snatch from danger, rescue, deliver. This is more with the meaning of drawing to oneself than merely rescuing from someone or something (Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament(electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers).

Christ comes to rescue the Thessalonians from the “coming wrath.”

God laid a trap for the persecuting Jews whom went to Jerusalem for the feast days in AD 66 and they experienced God’s wrath.  Christians that did go to Jerusalem to fellowship with the  Jerusalem Church in AD 66 fled the city and were rescued from this wrath.

Jews who especially sympathized with the Jewish revolt were persecuted throughout Rome during this period – 50,000 died in Egypt alone.  Christians were known for being peaceful law abiding citizens for the most part.

Paul’s doctrine on an imminent coming of Christ and wrath is in line with Jesus’ teaching:

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. “Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Lk. 21:20-23).

And Postmillennialists admit the coming of Christ in Matthew 25:31 was fulfilled in AD 70 and there was a judgment of the dead that took place as well according to 1 Peter 4:5-7, 17 and Revelation 11.  Therefore, Jesus responds to the dead as well about this being a time of wrath,

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fireprepared for the devil and his angels. “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Harmonizing the coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 with 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17

1 Thessalonians 1:10 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
1.  First century audience – “you” “us.” 1.  First century audience – “we.”
2.  Eager expectation – imminence 2.  “We who are still alive…” – imminent expectation.
3.  Christ comes “from heaven.” 3.  Christ comes “from heaven.”
4.  Jesus’ resurrection is mentioned as a sign or event guaranteeing that the living would be rescued. 4.  Jesus’ resurrection is mentioned as a sign or event guaranteeing the dead in Christ would be raised and the living would be brought into God’s presence.
5. “Snatches” from wrath but to Christ. 5. “Catches/snatches away” to Christ.

Kenneth Gentry & Keith Mathison

Mathison and Gentry don’t deal with the imminence here in connection with Jesus’ teaching in the OD.  This is odd since they claim to want to address imminence and they both admit Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in the OD!  They also fail to demonstrate how the deliverance from this wrath here in chapter 1 is an allegedly future event for us, while Paul’s treatment of Christ coming attended with “wrath” in the very next chapter (cf. 1 Thess. 2:16) is fulfilled by AD 70.  Again, no consistent hermeneutic and no agreement among them. 

Gary DeMar

 Unlike Gentry and Mathison, Gary DeMar concedes that the coming of Christ here in 1 Thessalonians 1:10 was fulfilled in AD 70.  But Gary fails to do any exegetical work to harmonize his Preterist interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 1:10 with his futurist creedal view of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.  In both passages Christ comes “from heaven” to “snatch” or “catch” away His people to Himself. On what exegetical grounds is the first apocalyptic while the later is physical?!?  Again, no consistent hermeneutic or flow of Paul in his writings per Postmillennialis.  Why would the Thessalonians think these are two different comings of Christ “from heaven” to “snatch” or “catch” His people to Himself?!? 

1 Thessalonians 2:14-20 

“For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, forbidding us to speak to the nations that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always, but the anger did come (past tense) upon them – [even] to the end!  “…For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us.  For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” (2:14-16, 19-20)

We learn several things about this passage in connection with chapter 1:

  1. The “waiting process” of 1:10 is further clarified in chapter two as waiting for their

Jewish persecutors to “fill up the measure of their sins” before Christ comes to execute this wrath.

  1. The YLT and JFB catch something interesting about this wrath, in that it had already       begun and is actually in the past tense – “forbidding us to speak to the nations that                        they might be saved, to fill up their sins always, but the anger did come (past tense) upon them – [even] to the end! (1 Thess. 2:16).

Speaking about the past tense here JFB says this,

“not merely partial wrath, but wrath to its full extent, “even to the finishing stroke” [Edmunds]. The past tense implies that the fullest visitation of wrath was already begun. Already in A.D. 48, a tumult had occurred at the Passover in Jerusalem, when about thirty thousand (according to some) were slain; a foretaste of the whole vengeance which speedily followed (Lu 19:43, 44; 21:24).”

*This may be the event or “Day of the Lord” in judgment that the false teachers and prophets were saying had “already” been fulfilled in 2 Thess. 2?  1 & 2 Thessalonians were written between AD 50-52.

  1. 1 Thess. 2:14-20 – This “wrath” would be fully realized at “the end” (or the wrath that would be poured out at the end of the “time of the end” or end of the OC age – Dan. 12:4; Matt. 13:39-43; Matt. 24-25). 
Matthew 23-24 1 Thessalonians 1-2
1).  Prediction of persecution, suffering & death. 1).  Present persecution & suffering.
2).  The Jews killed the prophets, Jesus predicts His death (cf. Lk. 17:25), and that of the deaths of the NT prophets He would send in that generation. 2).  The Jews killed Jesus & the prophets.
3).  Jesus pronounces seven “woes” upon the Jews. 3).  Paul says the Jewish persecutors are not pleasing to God.
4).  Jews sought to hinder Christ from “gathering” and preaching the gospel to Jerusalem’s “children” so that they could be saved. 4).  Jews sought to hinder Paul from preaching the gospel so that others might be saved.
5). The Jews were “filling up the measure of their sin.” 5)  Paul says the Jews were “filling up the measure of their sins.”
6).  Christ was going to come (Gk. parousia – implied from heaven) to deliver Christians and render wrath and judgment upon that first century Jewish audience and upon their Temple – in their “this generation.” 6).  Christ was going to come (Gk. parousia – from heaven) to deliver Christians and render wrath and judgment upon that first century Jewish audience.
7)  The coming of Christ in salvation and wrath takes place at “the end (Gk. Telos) of the age” (i.e. OC age). 7).  The coming of Christ in salvation and wrath upon persecutors takes place at “the end” (Gk. Telos).
8)  Judgment of living (those Pharisees) and dead (judging Cain for Abel’s blood) & gathering of all the elect at trumpet call – in their “this generation.” 8)  Judgment of living. 

*If one were to be consistent in admitting that Christ came in AD 70 to vindicate the martyrs one would have to believe that there was a judgment and resurrection for the living and the dead (cf. Rev. 6; 11; 20). 

1 Thessalonians 3:13 

“May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” (3:13)

The Thessalonians would be blameless (or “spotless”) and holy at Christ’s parousia.  Paul is using the eschatological marriage terminology here of Blameless / Holywithout spot.  Keith Mathison writes of this passage in connection with the resurrection,

“Paul teaches that all believers will be resurrected at Christ’s second coming (1 Cor. 15:23).  He teaches that all believers will be presented as a spotless bride at that time (Eph. 5:25-27; cf. 1 Thess. 3:13).” (Postmillennialism, 177).

And yet Gary DeMar admits 1 Thessalonians 3:10 was fulfilled in AD 70.  So per the passages Mathison appeals to in connection to the fulfillment of this passage, DeMar should believe the resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15:23 was also fulfilled in AD 70 if he believes 1 Thessalonains 3:10 was.  We agree of course.  But since Mathison believes the coming of Christ and wedding or wedding feast of Matthew 8:10-12; 22:2-7; 25:1-13; Rev. 19-21 was fulfilled in AD 70, how does this coming and wedding motif get magically pushed thousands of years away into another wedding and coming of Christ?!? 

Christ comes with all his holy ones (angels, people, or both)?

First view – Angels:   The argument for angels here is that this is how the LXX of Zech. 14:5 is understood (from which this passage and Matt. 25:31 is derived from).  Angelic beings are how the term is understood in the OT (ex. Job 5:1; 15:15; Ps. 89:5,7; Dan. 8:13), and by the intertestamental period (ex. 1 En. 1:9) depicting God’s angels as being present on the last day of judgment.

Although the key word “holy ones” is not used in 2 Thess. 1:7 but rather the noun form with Christ coming with the “powerful angels,” the concept is the same.

Second view – Saints/people: In 2 Thess. 1:10 Christ comes to be glorified “in” His “holy ones” which are people “who have believed” the passage states.

Third view – “all” here refers to both people & angels – Some commentators suggest that both are in view.  This is my view – after looking at what the OT says, what the intertestamental period teaches, and finally what the NT teaches on the subject.

Let’s once again get the contextual flow as Paul gets into 1 Thessalonians 4 that Postmillennialists don’t want to recognize. 

The contextual flow from 1 Thess. 1:10–3:13 leading into 1 Thess. 4:16-17

1 Thessalonians 1:10—3:13 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17
1.  First century audience – “you” “us.” 1.  First century audience – “we.”
2.  Eager expectation – imminence 2.  “We who are still alive…” – imminent expectation.
3.  Christ comes “from heaven.” 3.  Christ comes “from heaven.”
4.  Jesus’ resurrection is mentioned as a sign or event guaranteeing that the living would be rescued. 4.  Jesus’ resurrection is mentioned as a sign or event guaranteeing the dead in Christ would be raised and the living would be “caught” away into God’s presence.
5. To be “snatched” away from wrath but to Christ. 5. To be “caught” away to Christ.
6.  Christ comes (Gk. Parousia). 6.  Christ comes (Gk. Parousia).
7.  “The end” (Gk. Telos) here is Daniel’s “time of the end” or at the “end of the age” when the judgment and resurrection takes place (Dan. 12:1-13; Matt. 13:39-43; Matt. 24:30-31; and 1 Cor. 15:24). 7.  No one disputes that the resurrection here is the resurrection to take place at “the end” in Daniel 12:1-7 or “the end” (Gk. telos) in 1 Corinthians 15:24.
8.  Christ’s coming is described with wedding terminology – they were to be “spotless” or “blameless” and “holy” in coming into the presence of their coming Groom. 8.  Paul uses a well known wedding term in which a bride would “meet” her groom.
9.  Christ comes with all His “holy ones” – that is angles and the dead he raises in chapter 4 which constitute the rest of the bride. 9.  Christ comes with those dead saints that He raised out of Abraham’s Bosom or Hades to go “meet” them so that they all could be “with the Lord forever. 

And Harmonizing Paul’s eschatology with Jesus’ 

1 Thessalonians 1:10—3:13 Matthew 23-24/Luke 21
1.  First century audience “you” “us.” 1.  First century audience “you.”
2.  Eagerly wait – imminence. 2.  “This generation.”
3.  Christ comes (Gk. Parousia) 3.  Christ comes (Gk. Parousia).
4.  Christ comes from heaven. 4.  Christ comes on clouds.
5.  To “snatch” from wrath to Christ. 5.  To “gather” to Christ.
6.  Delivers from wrath. 6.  Saves from wrath.
7.  Jews killed prophets, Jesus & persecuting Thessalonian. 7.  Jews killed prophets & will kill NT prophets Jesus sends.
8.  Jews filling up the measure of their sin of blood guilt. 8.  Jews filling up the measure of their sin of blood guilt.
9.  Wrath poured out at “the end” (Gk. Telos). 9.  Wrath poured out at “the end” or “end of the age” (Gk. Telos).
10.  Christ comes with all His holy ones (including angels and the dead per chapter 4) – which constitute the rest of the bride 10.  Christ comes and sends his angels to gather all the elect (dead and living)
11.  Christ’s coming is described with wedding terminology – they were to be “spotless,” “blameless” and “holy” in coming into the presence of their coming Groom. 11.  Christ’s coming is described with wedding terminology – “Here’s the bridegroom!  Come out and meet Him.”

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 

A day was approaching when Christ would deliver believers from their persecutions and pour out His wrath upon their persecutors (1 Thess. 1:10; cf. 2 Thess. 1:6–7). When that day came, the Lord descended from heaven with a word of command (or “a shout”), with archangelic voice, and with a trumpet call of God; and the dead in Christ rose.  Then the living in Christ and the dead in Christ were simultaneously “caught up” in “clouds” to “a meeting of the Lord in the air.”

Since the cloud-covered mountain is not literal, but is heavenly, neither then is the meeting that takes place in the heavenly mountain (i.e., in the clouds in the air) literal. Therefore, the shout, voice, trumpet, mountain, cloud, and meeting of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 are all spiritual antitypes of the literal shout, voice, trumpet, mountain, cloud, and meeting of Exodus 19 and 20 (Heb. 12:18–22).

What we have then in 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 is the “rapturously” metaphorical language of a prophet who is speaking of antitypical, spiritual realities —the transcendent profundities of Christological glory in and among the saints in the consummation of the ages.  If this sounds

like an over-spiritualization, it shouldn’t. The Lord Jesus Himself was opposed to a literal removal of the church out of the world:

I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. (John 17:15)

The “rapture” passage is no more literal than the prophecy of Ezekiel 37:4–14. In that passage, God caused a valley full of dry bones to come together. He attached tendons to them and put skin

on them. Then He caused the bodies to breathe and they stood on their feet as a vast army. The bones represented the house of Israel.  They were hopelessly cut off from the land, and were said to be in “graves.” As God had done for the dry bones, He was going to do for the house of Israel.

In the same way, in 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17, God raised up His church —the first fruits of the resurrection-harvest— which was anxiously longing for the consummation of redemption and atonement.  As a mighty warrior, the Lord issued forth his shout of command and sounded the trumpet of God. Then His spiritual army arose by His power. They met Him on His way to His temple to judge the enemies in His kingdom (Mal. 3:1). That is when God afflicted the persecutors of His church, when He gave His people relief and glorified Himself in them (2 Thess. 1:8–10).

Being revealed with Christ in glory (Col. 3:4) and becoming like Him and seeing Him in His Parousia (1 Jn 3:2) had nothing to do with escaping physical death or with being literally caught up into the literal sky or with being biologically changed. It had to do with God’s people, living and dead, being “gathered together” to become His eternal Tabernacle, His spiritual Body, the New Man, the heavenly Mount Zion, the New Jerusalem in the Spirit. “This mystery is great” (Eph. 5:32), and is therefore communicated in the accommodative “sign language” of prophetic metaphor.

Since our Lord came “with His saints” and destroyed the earthly temple in AD 70 (Heb. 9:8), the church of all ages lives and reigns in glory with Him forever (Rom. 6:8; 2 Cor. 13:4; 2 Tim. 2:11–12). Now whether we are alive or asleep, we “live together with Him” (1 Thess. 5:10). This

was not the case in the Old Testament, when to die was to be cut off from the people of God. As Paul says in Romans 14:8–9, “ . . . whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” 

“According to the Lord’s own word” (4:15)

Matthew 24 – Fulfilled in AD 70 1 Thessalonians 4-5 Fulfilled in AD 70
1.  Christ comes from heaven (24:30) 1.  Christ comes from heaven (4:16)
2.  With archangelic voice (24:31) 2.  With archangelic voice (4:16)
3.  With God’s trumpet call (24:31) 3.  With God’s trumpet call (4:16)
4.  Gathered/Caught to Christ (24:31) 4.  Gathered/Caught to Christ (4:17)
5.  Believers meet Christ in clouds (24:30) 5.  Believers meet Christ in clouds (4:17)
6.  Use of contemporary “you” and parousia to be fulfilled in their contemporary generation (24:34) 6.  Use of contemporary “we” and parousia expected while some are still alive (4:15)
7.  Exact time unknown (24:36) 7.  Exact time unknown (5:1-2)
8.  Christ comes like a thief (24:43) 8.  Christ comes like a thief (5:2)
9.  Unbelievers caught unaware (37-39) 9.  Unbelievers caught unaware (5:3)
10.  Birth pains (24:8 – fulfilled in AD 70) 10.  Birth pains (5:3)
11.  Believers are not deceived (24:43) 11.  Believers are not deceived (5:4-5)
12.  Believers told to be watchful (24:42) 12.  Believers told to be watchful (5:6)
13.  Exhortation against drunkenness (24:49) 13.  Exhortation against drunkenness (5:7)
14.  The Day, Sunlight (bright light) shinning from east to west, (24:27, 36-38) 14.  The Day, sons of light, sons of day (1 Thess. 5:4-8)

The fact that Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in the OD not only destroys the two comings theory of Postmillennial Partial Preterism, but the two comings theory of John MacArthur’s Pre-trib. Dispensationalism.  In his Study Bible he arrogantly and blindly writes of Paul’s words, “by the word of the Lord,”

“Was Paul referring to some saying of Jesus found in the gospels?  No.  There are none exact or even close.”

What amazing and willful ignorance it takes to look at all of these parallels and conclude that there’s nothing “even close” connecting the two!

Even if someone wants to deny that Paul is drawing from Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24, the fact remains that both Jesus and Paul are referring to some of the same OT prophecies concerning the Second Coming and resurrection.  Jesus said He came to fulfill all the the law and prophets and it would “all” be fulfilled at His coming in His “this generation” (Mt. 5:17-18; Lk. 21:22-32).  And since Paul taught no other things except that which could be found in the law and prophets, then his sources are Jesus’ sources.  Mathison’s Postmillennial theory that Jesus didn’t discuss His “actual” Second Coming in the gospels, but rather Paul was the one God had develope this doctrine is a joke on many levels.  It separates the unity between Jesus’ eschatology and Paul’s and it ignores the fact that both are teaching that they are getting their eschatology from the same OT law and prophets!

“…WE who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord…” (v. 16)

1 Thessalonians 4 Luke 21/Matthew 24
We who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord.” (v. 15) When you see…,” “…your redemption is drawing near,” “This generation.” (Lk. 21:20-32)

Keith Mathison

Mathison argues: Some have said that since Paul used the word “we” in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 and 17, Paul expected the events of 1 Thessalonians 4 to occur within his own lifetime. “The problem with this interpretation is that in several other epistles Paul talks as though he could die soon.”  Therefore “Paul [was] simply using the pronoun ‘we’ in a general way to mean ‘we Christians.’ As far as Paul knew, Christ could have returned in his lifetime, but there was nothing that demanded He do so” (WSTTB?, 194). 

To my knowledge, no preterist thinks that Paul assumed that he himself would be included in the group of believers who would remain alive to the coming of the Lord. If I were to say, “We who live long enough to see the year 2030,” there is no reason to think that I would be assuming that I myself would be among the living in 2030. My only assumption would be that some of us today would be alive in 2030.  In the same way, Paul’s words imply only that he knew that some of

his contemporaries would still be alive when Christ returned, as Christ Himself promised would be the case in Matthew 16:27–28; 24:34.

According to Postmillennialists like DeMar and Mathison, all of Paul’s “we,” “you,” and “our” statements in 1 and 2 Thessalonians refer to Paul’s own first-century audience and address Christ’s coming in AD 70—except for the statements in 1 Thessalonians 4 (“the rapture”).  Mathison and DeMar magically decide that “we” in 1 Thessalonians 4 means something other than what it means everywhere else in 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Suddenly in chapter 4, “we” includes Christians who potentially will not be alive for a million years from today. Now let us move on from arbitrary Mathisonian constructs to a biblical look at “the rapture” passage, 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17.

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven…” (v. 16) 

The “thorny problem” is solved when the parallels between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonains 4 are accepted, the first century audience expectancy is accepted, and apocalyptic language is accepted in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 just as it is in Matthew 24 (basic Hermeneutics 101 observations).

 

1 Thessalonians 4 Matthew 24
1).  The Lord comes down from heaven (v. 16). 1).  The Lord comes in or upon the clouds of heaven (27-30).
2)  Since this is the same event as Mt. 24:27-30, why isn’t it considered “orthodox” to interpret Paul as using apocalyptic language? 2).  That Jesus is using spiritual and apocalyptic language here is accepted as “orthodoxy.”

How had God described His “coming down from heaven” to “reveal Himself” (2 Thess. 2:7) and “rescue” (1 Thess. 1:10) His people being persecuted in the past?

Apocalyptic language Psalm 18  

“6 In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. 7 The earth trembled and quaked (literally?), and the foundations of the mountains shook (literally?); they trembled because he was angry. 8 Smoke rose from his nostrils (literally?); consuming fire came from his mouth (remember 2 Thess. 1:7 – Jesus is “revealed from heaven in blazing fire…”) , burning coals blazed out of it. 9 He parted the heavens and came down (literally?); dark clouds were under his feet. 10 He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky. 12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced (literally?), with hailstones and bolts of lightning. 13 The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded (a literal voice?). 14He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. 15 The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare (literally?) at your rebuke, LORD, at the blast of breath from your nostrils. 16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. 17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.

Christ is coming here in 1 Thessalonains 4:16-17 as God had come from heaven and on the clouds in the OT – ex. Did God come on a literal cloud when he judged Egypt by means of the Assyrian’s in 670 B.C.: “Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt” (Isa. 19:1)?

OT Echo to 1 Thessalonians 4:16

Other than the trumpet gathering and resurrection of Isaiah 27:12-13, G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson connect this coming of the Lord “from heaven” with Isaiah 2:10-12’s “in that day” “Day of the Lord” judgment,

“The main clause of 1 Thess. 4:16, “because the Lord himself will come down from heaven,” recalls…the prophetic literature of the OT that envisions “the day of the Lord,” when God will come to judge the wicked and save the righteous (Isa. 2:10–12;…) (Weima, J. A. D. (2007). 1-2 Thessalonians. In Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament (p. 880). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic;  Apollos).

But they also connect 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 with Isaiah 2 which reads, 

“This (in context – giving the Thessalonians relief from their Jewish persecutors) will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out (excommunicated [from the heavenly Temple] as they had done to the Christians) from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

Of this passage Beale and Carson write,

“eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” This description clearly echoes the triple refrain of Isa. 2:10, 19, 21, where on the day of the Lord the wicked are commanded to hide themselves behind rocks and in caves “from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might whenever he will rise to terrify the earth.” (Ibid. 885).

So since both 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 fulfill the coming of the Lord “from heaven” in the judgment found in Isaiah 2, let’s examine when Jesus and John see Isaiah 2 being fulfilled.

Jesus – Luke 23:27-30: 

27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us (from Isa. 2:19 and Hos. 10:8).

There’s a consensus among the commentators that this passage was fulfilled in God’s judgment upon Jerusalem in AD 70.

John – Revelation 6:15-17: 

15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us[a] from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

Postmillennialists correctly tell us that every reference to the coming of the Lord in Revelation was said to be fulfilled “soon,” “at hand,” “quickly” or “about to be” fulfilled in AD 70.

This is when the martyrs blood would be vindicated in just – “a little while longer” (vss. 10-11).

Concerning Isaiah 2; Revelation 6; and 2 Thessalonians 1, Gentry argues that Christ had to come in judgment in AD 70 to vindicate those being persecuted in Revelation 1-3 & Revelation 6 because if He hadn’t (per futurism), God would be “mocking their [first century] circumstances.”  Gentry also appeals to Matt. 23-24 in developing the AD 70 time-frame for the fulfillment of the Thessalonians to be relieved and vindicated from their Jewish persecutors in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-20.  But this begs the obvious heremeneutical question – as to why doesn’t 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 also form the foundation for Christ’s coming to relieve the Thessalonians from their first century Jewish persecutors?!?

If futurism’s 2,000+ year delay of Christ’s coming creates a “cruel mockery” for the persecuted in the book of Revelation, then why doesn’t Gentry’s futuristic 2000+ years delay of Christ’s coming to relieve the Thessalonians and judge their persecutors in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 create a “cruel mockery” for their first century “circumstances?” Again, this is why Gentry’s critics charge him with inconsistent hermeneutics and holding to a view that only serves as a stepping stone to Full Preterism.

Premise #1 – If it is true and orthodox to believe that Luke 23:27-30; Revelation 6:10-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:7 all fulfill the “last days” “in that day” judgment of Isaiah 2.

Premise #2 – And if it is true and orthodox to believe that 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7 are the same and ONE Second Coming coming event and that both passages fulfill the “last days” “in that day” judgment of Isaiah 2 (Full Preterists agree with Amillennialists and Premillennialists),…

Premeise #2And if it is also true and orthodox to believe that 2 Thessalonians 1:7 fulfills Isaiah 2’s “last days” “in that day” judgment in AD 70 (Full Preterists agree with Partial Preterists such as Gary DeMar on this point),…

ConclusionThen it necessarily follows and is also true and orthodox to believe that the ONE Second Coming event of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 fulfilled the “last days” “in that day” judgment of Isaiah 2 in AD 70 just as 2 Thessalonians 1:7 was fulfilled at this time. 

“…with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (v. 16)

1 Thessalonians 4 Matthew 24
Trumpet call & resurrection (v. 16) Trumpet call & gathering/resurrection (v. 31)

Beale correctly sees the gathering of the elect at the end of the age in Matthew 24:3 in his commentary on 1 & 2 Thessalonians as he resurrection event,

“Paul’s particular combination of references from Matthew 24 shows that he interprets the whole of the Matthean text as referring to woes preceding the final coming of Christ (and though Matthew does not explicitly mention the idea of resurrection, he implies it in the phrase “gather his elect” in 24:31, which implies the gathering of all believers, both living and dead).” (p. 138).

But again in his recent book, A New Testament Biblical Theology the Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New, he writes,

“…it is likely better to see [Matt. 24:30]…fulfilled not at the very end of history but rather in AD 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem, in which the Son of Man’s coming would be understood as an invisible coming in judgment, using the Roman armies as his agent.” (p. 369).

Again, Beale admits that holding to both of his views creates a “thorny problem” for him that deserves “further study” to resolve.  I told him at the Criswell conference when he spoke on the millennium with Gentry and Preston that I quoted him in our book and solved the “orthodox” “thorny problem” he has created for himself.  I have yet to hear from him!

Premise #1If it is true that the resurrection and Second Coming of Jesus as found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 is the same “end of the age” resurrection and or Second Coming event as described for us in Daniel 12:2; Matthew 13:39-43; and Matthew 24:30-31 (Amillennialists & Full Preterists agree).

Premise #2And if it is true that Paul expected the resurrection of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 to take place within the lifetimes of some of those he was writing to (and this is further confirmed to us by what he taught in Acts 24:15 YLT – that the resurrection of Daniel 12:2 was “about to be” fulfilled) (Orthodox commentators, lexicons & Full Preterists agree).

Premise #3And if it is true that the Apostles and writers of the NT were infallibly inspired and “led into all truth concerning things to come” (cf. Jn. 14; 16 – the time and nature of Christ’s coming and the resurrection event) (all should and claim they agree with this).

Premise #4And if it is true that the “end of the age” “gathering” in Matthew 13:39-43 and 24:30-31 are the same Second Coming end of the age resurrection events (Amillennialists & Full Preterists agree).

Premise #5And if it is true and orthodox to believe that the “end of the age” and coming of the Son of Man in Matthew 13:39-43 and Matthew 24 were fulfilled by the end of the OC age in AD 70 (Postmillennialists & Full Preterists agree).

Premise #6And if it is true and orthodox to believe that the resurrection of Daniel 12:2-3 was fulfilled spiritually at Christ’s parousia to close the OC age in AD 70 (Partial and Full Preterists agree).

ConclusionThen it necessarily follows and is also true and orthodox to believe that the NT authors wrote under inspiration that the ONE Second Coming and resurrection events as described for us in Daniel 12:2-3; Matthew 13:39-43; Matthew 24:30-31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; and Acts 24:15YLT were “about to be” fulfilled spiritually toward the end of their generation to close the OC age in AD 70 (Full Preterism – “Reformed and always reforming”).

OT Echo: Isaiah 27:12-13

Beale and Carson also connect the coming of Christ, the trumpet or gathering of Matthew 24:30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and 2 Thessalonians 2:1, to be the fulfillment of Isaiah 27:12-13.  But this trumpet gathering resurrection, is when Israel’s sin of blood guilt would be dealt with (Isa. 27:9) and the resurrection of “Isaiah’s little apocalypse” fulfilled (Isa. 25:6-7; 26:19-21).

 “Gathered up” – Harpazo (v. 17)

The NCV translates harpazo as “gathered up” thus giving it a theological and parallel connection to the eschatological gathering of (Mt. 13:39-43; Mt. 24:30-31 & 2 Thess. 2:1). Other translations render it “snatched away” or “will be seized.”

Harpazo means to “take one’s plunder openly and violently,” “catch or snatch away.”  Liddel-Scott gives an additional meaning – “to captivate” or “ravish” – ex. “I was so captivated or enraptured (inwardly) by my wife’s beauty, that I didn’t realize what time it was.”  But is 1 Thessalonians 4:17 discussing an inward or outward and upward catching away and ravishing of God’s people into the glory cloud of His kingdom?

Here are some very clear uses of harpazo:

Matthew 12:29 – Satan was “bound” and Christ was “carrying away” (harpazo) his plunder which were people that were rightfully his (that is Christ’s) held captive by Satan and demons.  But how was He doing this?  It was by casting out demons (an inward reality), and in some cases actually giving faith to these individuals to follow him (again an inward reality).

Matthew 11:12 – “the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing (Christ casting out demons openly and publicly taking Satan’s plunder), and (in return) the forceful men (believers) lay hold of it(harpazo – through faith, vigor, power, and determination in light of present persecution – such as the case of John).

Matthew 13:19 – In the parable of the sower, the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart (again, an inner spiritual reality)

John 6:65 – “No one can come to me unless the Father has (Greek didómi) caused, drawn, dragged or enabled him.”  A different Greek word is used here, but the concept is that God opens the heart first and inwardly drags/draws/causes the person to believe in Christ.  Without this active inward rescuing and initiative from God, no one can believe.  This is an inward “dragging.”

John 10:12 – “…the wolf (Pharisees sons of Satan) sought to snatch and scatter” the sheep/ people of Israel.  How did the Pharisees seek to “snatch” and “scatter” the Jews from following Jesus?  The first phase involved seeking to deceive them in their hearts and minds (an inward snatching) that He was not the Christ by perverting the Scriptures.  The second phase was a physical excommunication or scattering of Christians from their synagogues.

John 10:28-29 – Anyone who has faith in Jesus cannot be “snatched” out of the Father’s hand.  That is, that he cannot be influenced (snatched inwardly) in his or her mind and heart to leave God.  Like Peter, “Where else can we go Lord, you alone have the words to eternal life.”

Acts 8:39 – This simply means that the Holy Spirit directed Philip in His heart and mind (inwardly) to go elsewhere and the Eunuch did not see him again.  Nothing in the text to support that Philip was “raptured” into the atmosphere (waved to some birds) and was then dropped off miles and miles away from where they were.

The eschatological “already” of the inward kingdom gathering and catching away was spiritual and the eschatological “gathering” and “catching away” in the kingdom at Christ’s return would be at the end of the OC age in AD 70.  But was this “not yet” aspect an inward event as well? Jesus said when the kingdom would come at His return to gather all His elect, that it would be an experience to occur “within” an individual and not something that could be seen with the physical eyes—Luke 17:20-37/Luke 21:27-32/Matthew 24:30-31.

The inward realm of redemption or catching away is further evident from a study of the next two words “clouds” and “air.”

“…in the clouds…” (v. 17)

As I have demonstrated thus far (per the OT and NT prophets) Christ coming on the clouds is apocalyptic language and not referring to literal clouds.

To “meet” the Lord… (v. 17)

This Greek word to “meet” the Lord, is wedding language and is only used twice in the NT – here and in the wedding motif Jesus develops in Matthew 25:1-13 which Postmillennialists such as Mathison and DeMar are admitting was fulfilled in AD 70.  In Jewish betrothal, it was customary for the groom to consummate his marriage sexually at her father’s house before taking her to his father’s house where they would continue consummating for seven days and having the feast.  Again, since the wedding banquet follows the wedding in Jewish culture, AND the resurrection takes place at this time (cf. Isaiah 25:6-8/1 Cor. 15:54-55), then Postmillennialists are now forced to concede that the ONE eschatological wedding and resurrection was fulfilled in AD 70, or teach that there are two weddings for the Church to match their two comings, resurrections and weddings with that of Dispensationalism’s version.  Selah.

This Greek word for “meet” was also often used of a King or dignitary coming to make his home in a city in which his Empire or Kingdom had conquered. On the news of the imminent coming of the King or dignitary, the members of the city would go out of the city and “meet” him and escort him back to their home/town. The King’s presence is established WHERE the people already lived. Again, the imagery does not support a literal “rapture” of people off of planet earth, but rather of God coming to rule and reign in the hearts of His people where they are – living on planet earth.

“…in the air” (v. 17)

But what of this meeting the Lord in the “air” (Greek eros)?

Strong’s Greek Dictionary, defines it as: “From “aemi”, to breath unconsciously, to respire.By analogy, to blow.  The air, particularly the lower and denser air as distinguished from the higher and rarer air.”  So the point is that this is the air “in” or “within” us.

 

The Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains lists (Eph 2:2; 1 Th 4:17; and Rev 16:17) in its definition of eros as meaning, “the space inhabited and controlled by [spiritual] powers.”  The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament says of Ephesians 2 – “…Jewish conceptions, according to which, among other things, the air is the abode of demons.”

Ephesians 2 refers to Satan as the “Prince and Power of the AER.” He dwelt in the spiritual realm not the physical – flying through the literal clouds and sky with the birds.  The war we see Christ and Satan fighting over in the NT is for the spiritual condition of men – within their hearts and minds.  Paul goes on to say that Satan, “now works in the children of disobedience.” And consistently Jesus defines His kingdom as something that He is setting up “in” and “within” men and transforming them into His image spiritually.

Prior to AD 70, Satan used his demonic legions to “possess” individuals within the realm of their minds and the spiritual realm of their being.  Satan used the old-covenant Mosaic law to blind their spiritual eyes, hearts and minds in the realm of the “air”—within their souls, hearts, and minds to produce an arrogant and zealous self righteousness which apart from Christ could only lead to utter despair (2 Cor. 3; Gal. 4:17-18; Rms. 7). Christ “bound the strong man” and was raising and delivering Christians from the darkness and death of this spiritual kingdom realm into His Ephs. 2:1-10. Christ snatched away His beloved and spoke peace and joy into the “air” of her heart, soul, and mind, when He said, “It is finished” (Rev. 16:17/Heb. 9-10/1 Cor. 15)! The powers of Satan, demons, the condemnation of the law, and the spiritual death Adam brought upon men, have all been conquered by Christ at His parousia in AD 70 and for those that put their faith in Him.

Had Paul meant to clearly communicate that believers would physically fly off the planet into the sky and atmosphere above, he would have used the Greek word “ouranos” which clearly states this as its meaning.

The picture of the “rapture” is that Christ came down from heaven in / on a cloud to earth where He gathered the living into His presence “within” us.  Just as we see in Revelation where the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven to earth and God establishes His presence with His Church here.

11 Problems for the Postmillennial or Literal AD 70 Rapture or Resurrection Views

1).  For Partial Preterist Ed Stevens – If the language of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and Matthew 24:31 is allegedly “clear” and some kind of literal expectation, then he should be consistent with other Postmillennial Partial Preterists such as Mike Bull and begin teaching that the resurrection language is also a literal expectation and therefore the dead were raised from their physical graves and the literal dust in AD 70 as well.  And why not begin teaching that Jesus came physically in AD 70?  And while carrying out this physical expectation he might as well “reason” and go all the way in his thinking and conclude that since the de-creation language in Matthew 24 also sounds like a literal expectation, that either the prediction failed (liberalism), or spiritualize the time statements and continue hoping for these literal expectations (Futurism).  Futurism and the skeptic are his only choices at this point when he begins reasoning along these lines.

2).  Paul could have easily rebuked the false teachers and Christians that were tempted to believe the Lord had “already come” in 2 Thessalonians 2 by simply saying, “Aren’t you still here and the dead still in their graves?  Obviously He has not come!”  But since Paul did not hold to the literal rapture view or a literal resurrection view attended with Christ’s parousia, and was a real Full Preterist, he did not argue in such a way.

3).  The coming of Christ in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 is the coming of the Lord in Isaiah 66:5, 15 of which there are Christian survivors (66:19) whom are found alive on planet earth continuing to preach the gospel in the New Creation and New Covenant age.

4).  In Mark 8:38-9:1 the Greek is different than Matthew 16:27-28 and actually teaches that those that were alive to witness Christ’s coming would be able to look back (while still alive) on the historical events of Him coming in power and great glory in the destruction of Jerusalem and thus know that He had “already come.”

5).  After Christ and the Father come and make their home (dwelling mone John 14:2, 23) within the believer, they are told, “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.” (14:29).  If they were literally raptured, I don’t think they would need to be reminded to believe that it had been fulfilled!  These words make more sense if it was a spiritual fulfillment that could not be seen with the literal eyes and to be realized “within” (cf. Lk. 17:20-37).

6)  Contrary Russell, Terry, Stevens, Bull and others — Jesus of course promised not to remove the Church off of planet earth (John 17:15).

7).  Church history tells us that Christians were not raptured but fled to Pella.  Church history tells us that the Apostle John was still alive during Domician’s reign in the mid AD 90’s and that Timothy, Titus, and Luke lived beyond AD 70.  Stevens claims not all the Christians were raptured, only the super spiritual ones — the others were apparently unfaithful “sleepers” he claims.  Odd, that Stevens claims to be a Calvinist and teaches such non-sense as the carnal Christian heresy!  So I guess according to this heretical view, John, Timothy, Titus, and Luke became unfaithful “sleepers” and missed the rapture of the faithful.  Oh boy!

8).  If there was a literal resurrection in AD 70 to go along with a literal rapture, we have to wonder how everyone missed recording that “all” the righteous and unrighteous dead were literally raised from the dust of the earth in fulfillment of Daniel 12:2/Acts 24:15YLT/John 5:28-29/Rev. 20:5-15 along with tens of thousands of living Christians that just simply disappeared?!?

They have tried to avoid this by claiming there was a small number of faithful Christians that were “raptured” and not all the dead were raised in AD 70.  But obviously this is NOT what Daniel 12:2 says, nor is this how it is developed in the NT.  David Green writes concerning the world “many” in Daniel 12:2,

“Regarding the word “many” in Daniel 12:2: The word is not used in contrast to “all” (as “the many” is used to limit the term “all men” in Rom. 5:12, 15, 18-19) or in contrast to “a few.” The angel simply referred to a large number of people; to multitudes (NIV). No inference can be made from the context as to whether “many” referred to all or to only a portion of the dead. Only subsequent scriptures revealed that the “many” in Daniel 12:2 referred to the whole company of all the dead from Adam to the Last Day.” (HD, 178).

9).  If the “gathering” and “catching away” of Matthew 24:31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 were the same event and if the “gathering” of Matthew 24:31 and Matthew 13:39-43 are the same event, then why weren’t the “wicked” “tares” or “weeds” “gathered” (i.e. “raptured”) off of planet earth (the same way the wheat were “gathered” into the kingdom) in AD 70 and thrown into the fire and judged (the Lake of Fire)?

10).  During the OC to NC AD 30 – AD 70 transition period, we have the “already—becoming/transforming—and not yet” process of salvation and resurrection taking place.  If a physical transformation of the literal living or the dead was the eschatological goal of the parousia, then why weren’t the living physically being “transformed” and literally “seeing” God’s face in some way before He came?  Why weren’t they physically glowing a little before they were totally transformed into the NC glory they were receiving by AD 66?  How was “the death being destroyed” and the dead “being raised” physically in 1 Corinthians 15 prior to the parousia?

11).  Ed’s main premise for believing a literal rapture is because we don’t have any early church fathers teaching the parousia or Second Coming was fulfilled in AD 70.  Ed claims he “lost sleep” over this subject and God showed him that the literal rapture solves his sleep problem.  Of course Partial Preterists don’t have any early church fathers teaching that Babylon was OC Jerusalem or that Matthew 24:31 or 25:31 was Christ’s coming in AD 70 either.  The Reformed church didn’t have any early writings about forensic justification by faith alone prior to Luther.  Did Ed loose sleep over those things?

But Ed saws off the branch he is sitting on when we point out and ask – if Christians were literally raptured, and immediately after that, the Christian “sleepers” who were left repented of their sleepiness and started preaching the gospel—why didn’t they record the literal “rapture” of the faithful?!?  It just gets more and more foolish.  Literal rapturists argue the “sleepers” didn’t want to discuss or record God’s faithfulness in rapturing the faithful, because they would be persecuted.  This is supposed to explain the reason for the silence.  Well, if there was no literal rapture, then why couldn’t this same reasoning apply for the silence of those still alive on planet earth?  Per the rapturist, the living were afraid of persecution.  Their reasoning applies to both groups and solves no problem.

The bottom line – those that hate the truth concerning a spiritual fulfillment in AD 70 would not believe even if we had documentation of the event say in AD 85.  They would simply reason, “Oh, this is when the gnostic heresy of Full Preterism began.”  I don’t loose sleep over what the Word of God says – it actually strengthens my faith and gives me peace.

Concluding the Second Coming and Resurrection Event of Matthew 24:30-31=1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 in Relation to Daniel 7:13 and 12:2-3

When we combine what Postmillennialists and Reformed eschatology is teaching on these texts we conclude that Daniel’s soul — along with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the OT worthies such as in Heb. 11, were spiritually raised out of Hades in AD 70 into God’s presence and inherited eternal life and the Kingdom along with the living today in the NC age.

In our next study, I want to demonstrate how the coming of Christ and resurrection of 1 Corinthians 15 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 as well.

To Watch these Lectures or Read this Series go to:  

1).  First Lecture at the PPW 2017 Conference Part 1: Problems for Postmillennial Partial Preterism – My Approach and Methodology (the Analogy of Faith) http://fullpreterism.com/my-lecture-on-the-problems-of-postmillennialism-at-the-2017-ppw-conference-the-wedding-and-resurrection-motif/

2).  First Lecture at the 2017 PPW Conference Part 2:  Problems for Postmillennial Partial Preterism – God’s Divorce, Re-marriage and NC Betrothal http://fullpreterism.com/my-lectures-given-at-the-2017-ppw-on-the-problems-with-postmillennialism-wedding-resurrection-part-2-gods-ot-marriage-divorce-betrothal-and-remarriage-promises/

3).  First Lecture at the 2017 PPW Conference Part 3:  Problems for Postmillennial Partial Preterism – Wedding and Resurrection (Jn. 3-5) http://fullpreterism.com/my-2017-ppw-lecture-on-the-problems-with-postmillennialism-wedding-resurrection-part-3-john-3-5-and-nt-betrothal-and-marriage/

4).  First Lecture at the 2017 PPW Conference Part 4:  Problems for Postmillennial Partial Preterism – Wedding and Resurrection (Mt. 8:10-12/Mt. 22:1-14/Mt. 25:1-13) http://fullpreterism.com/my-2017-ppw-lecture-on-the-problems-with-postmillennialism-wedding-and-resurrection-part-4-mt-810-12-221-14-251-13isa-256-9/

5).  Second Lecture at the 2017 PPW Conference Part 5:  Problems for Postmillennial Partial Preterism – The Parable of the Wheat and Tares and the Resurrection (Mt. 13:39-43/Dan. 12:2-3) http://fullpreterism.com/my-2017-ppw-lecture-on-the-problems-with-postmillennialism-in-the-parable-of-the-wheat-and-tares-the-end-of-the-age-and-the-resurrection-mt-1339-43dan-122-3/

6).  Second Lecture at the 2017 PPW Conference Part 1:  Problems for Postmillennial Partial Preterism in the Olivet Discourse – Structure, Context, the Disciples Question(s), the end of the age and the Great Commission (Mt. 23-24; Mt. 24:3, 14 = Acts 1:8-11) http://fullpreterism.com/lecture-2-at-the-2017-ppw-problems-for-postmillennialism-in-the-olivet-discourse-house-divided-the-break-up-of-postmillennialism-and-the-formation-of-full-preterism-taking-its-place/

7).  Second Lecture at the PPW 2017 Conference Part 2:  Problems for Postmillennial Partial Preterism in the Olivet Discourse – “In Fulfillment of ALL that has been Written” (Lk. 21:22 = Dan. 7:9-14; 12:1-7, 13; Isa. 25:6-9—27:12-13) http://fullpreterism.com/2804-2/

8).  Second Lecture at the PPW 2017 Conference Part 3: Problems for Postmillennial Partial Preterism in the Olivet Discourse (Resurrection Cont.) – the Trumpet Gathering of Matthew 24:30-31 = the Trumpet Catching Away of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 http://fullpreterism.com/my-ppw-conference-lecture-2-the-problems-for-postmillennialism-in-the-olivet-discourse-matthew-2430-31-1-thessalonians-415-17/

9).  Second Lecture at the PPW 2017 Conference Part 4:  Problems for Postmillennial Partial Preterism in the Olivet Discourse (Resurrection Cont.) – the Trumpet Gathering of Matthew 24:30-31 = the Trumpet Change of 1 Corinthians 15 http://fullpreterism.com/ppw-2017-the-problems-for-postmillennialism-the-olivet-discourse-matthew-24-25-and-the-resurrection-of-1-corinthians-15/

10).  My Second Lecture at the PPW 2017 Conference Part 5:  Problems for Postmillennial Partial Preterism in the Olivet Discourse (Resurrection Cont.) Redemption and Redemption of the Body Luke 21:27-28 = Romans 8:18-23YLT/11:15-27/13:11-12 http://fullpreterism.com/my-ppw-conference-lecture-2-problems-for-postmillennialism-in-the-olivet-discourse-part-4-resurrection-cont-the-redemption-and-redemption-of-the-body-luke-2127-28-romans-818-23ylt/

11).  My Second Lecture at the PPW 2017 Conference Part 6:  Problems for Postmillennial Partial Preterism in the Olivet Discourse – Bringing Healing and Bridging the Gap between Gentry and DeMar’s Eschatological Madness and House Divided Approach to Matthew 24:35—25:31-46 and Revelation 20:5-15 http://fullpreterism.com/my-ppw-lecture-2-problems-for-postmillennialism-in-the-olivet-discourse-part-6-the-eschatological-madness-of-gentry-and-demar-in-matthew-24-25-and-revelation-205-15/

Cross-Examining the Critics of Preterism – A Response to Kenneth Gentry

 

Cross-Examining the Critics of Preterism
A Response To Kenneth Gentry

 

 

© Copyright by Edward J. Hassertt – Oct. 20, 2005

 

All Rights Reserved. 

 

Edward. J. Hassertt

18928 NE 150th St

Woodinville WA 98004 USA

cell phone: 425-330-5673

 
Email: ed @reasonbyfaith.net
Website:  www.reasonbyfaith.net
 
Rev. 10/20/05
 
 

10,992 words (including footnotes)

 
 (TLM editorial note:  Special thanks to Ed Hassertt for allowing TLM to print this response to Mr. Gentry.  Our responses to the various Reformed authors of WSTTB has been modified.  This is “extra” material.  I wanted to post this so that Gentry and the authors of WSTTB will get a taste of what is coming.  You can also get a feel of the giftedness of Ed as a writer and thinker.  I know you will enjoy!)

When addressing the scholars of the Reformed community, care must be taken to get our facts, logic, and scripture correct. Unfortunately, those scholars do not take the same careful approach in dealing with Preterist Theology or the people involved. These scholars play loose with the facts, use logical fallacies, special pleading, and personal attacks. What is even more disturbing is their pointed criticism of the “difference” in theology shown by preterists when even those organized to argue against it (e.g., the contributing authors in Mathison’s book) cannot agree on the interpretation or application of the key eschatological texts of Holy Scripture. Despite the overwhelming fact that they cannot agree on the most simple aspect of their own eschatology, these glass-house dwellers try to dispel their own disunity by casting stones at those trying to be biblically consistent with their theology and hermeneutic. If internal confusion and hasty attack were sound argumentative techniques, the responses to preterism would be daunting. As it is, however, they represent nothing more than a loud, shrill, persistent (but not ultimately significant nor convincing) critique of preterist theology. 

As an introduction to the type of criticism being leveled against biblical preterism I will first deal specifically with the introduction to the Keith A. Mathison edited book, “When Shall These Things Be”, penned by R.C. Sproul, Jr. I will follow with a thorough cross-examination of the testimony offered in the chapter authored by Kenneth Gentry. In the end the evidence will show a consistent misrepresentation of the preterist position and its adherents. It will also demonstrate that the criticism is unfounded being precariously founded on ill-formed arguments and attempts to impugn preterist through constant repetition of guilt by association claims. The attack on preterists for using improper hermeneutic and argumentative tactics fails due to lack of evidence with regard to either charge. Without showing any preterist who uses the techniques they condemn, there mere assertion proves nothing. With regard to the argumentative techniques they criticize it is quite telling that Dr. Gentry often uses the same tactics he previously condemned. This inconsistency in the facts and the form of their arguments should be enough to give any reasonable reader pause. In my case it invokes a need for a deeper investigations into what they are attempting to prove. But such a deeper look, only reveals a dependence on history unsupportable from scripture, with little else to back it but the traditions of men. When we cross-examine the testimony of these men against preterism we form more than a reasonable doubt that their claims are true, we find their evidence insufficient to even form a prima facie case against preterists and preterist theology. 

Contrary to the assertions of these men, not being radical Anabaptists, Reformed Preterists hold great respect for those who have traveled this path before us. But as we examine such people, we can find great inconsistency in how key scriptures are interpreted. Contrary to the constant refrain of the critics of preterist theology, there has never been a period of consensus and unity on doctrine among members of the body of Christ.  The diversity even in the Reformed community, with many arguing vehemently that certain scriptures are yet to be fulfilled, while other Reformed scholars claim the very same verses are examples of fulfilled prophecy, should give any reader pause when the current witnesses claim that a difficulty with the preterist position is diversity of opinion among preterists. Such inconsistency should at least open the door for reasonable mind to consider the preterist thesis. The volume in question, instead of a coherent, unified, biblical response to preterism, reads more like a knee-jerk reaction, mixed with ad hominem attacks, straw-man arguments, proving very little. In the end, all Sproul and Gentry seem to offer us, as an answer to the compelling preterist interpretation of scripture is an old playground taunt, “because I said so.” Actually the form is “because the man-made creeds say so,” but the general effect, and evidentiary value, is the same.

            Since this is an important issue and both Sproul and Gentry think they have made a definitive blow against biblical preterist eschatology it is important to dissect their case piece by piece. As we examine their evidence, cross-examine their witnesses and dissect their arguments, we will see that their prosecution of the preterist position, falls far short of creating the guilty verdict they attempt to thrust upon us. As a lawyer, I will present my case against their positions, show their inconsistencies, and bring in supporting evidence from many Reformed scholars, to show that their claims are little more than a smokescreen that hides their elevation of man-made creeds above the scriptures. While others will deal specifically with the creedal arguments, my position is that the inconsistencies in the arguments and evidence presented by these men, and other Reformed scholars fails to show that biblical preterism is heretical, or that it is not the true interpretation of scripture. Since their case fails to prove what it claims, the charges against preterism fail as well. The rest of this volume presents the positive arguments for preterism.

            Now I will begin to examine the argument presented by these two men. The introduction to the volume gives us a key insight into the direction of the entire volume. Since the “opinion argument” of this case against preterism is written by R.C. Sproul, Jr. I will first interact with his statement. A very key starting point to responding to this volume is that early on we realize that this argument is not about sola scriptura for the Reformed futurists. R.C. Sproul, Jr. does not begin his address from scripture, but instead from the creeds. What is a derivative from God’s word becomes a substitute for God’s word in arguing against preterists. Is it any great wonder that most preterists find these arguments unconvincing? Sproul asserts that “the Spirit of God tells us that doctrine unites.” And then proceeds for several pages to show why doctrine should cut off the Reformed preterist from fellowship with the Reformed futurist. If that is not using doctrine to divide, we must be dealing with a radically different definition of unity than the one Jesus himself uses in John 17:20-21. [1] Where does Jesus say anything about the contrived “unity of doctrine” invented to drive out dissenters and silence arguments? 

Sproul claims that preterist want to “crash” the party by telling a different story than the one found in the confessions. Unfortunately for him, the Roman Catholic Church consistently used the same arguments against Calvin, Luther and the other Reformers. As, I am sure Sproul, will agree, their “party crashing” was a necessary Reform of the corrupt doctrine represented by the Roman See. I for one am proud that he uses the same label for us, which a Pope once used for Luther, “aberrant.” (Mathison, viii)

Sproul disingenuously cites the differences between preterist concerning the nature of the Resurrection, calling it bickering, yet fails to address the constant bickering we see among Reformed churches on such foundational issues as justification, biblical law, common grace and polity. If such disagreement is a sign of poverty in preterist theology, it must point to an absolute state of bankruptcy in Reformed circles since their disagreements are legendary and span many generations!

Sproul betrays his argument by calling preterism “the brave new world,” (Mathison, ix) in a misguided attempt to impugn preterists with Huxley’s label. Since the Reformation could rightly be called a brave new world in Christendom with regard to justification, it would not be improper to consider the possibility that preterism represents a brave new world with regard to eschatology. 

In the body of his argument Sproul cites personal reasons for wanting the story to be his way, his own failing body and his daughter’s health. While my compassion runs deep for him as a fellow Christian and father, personal feelings are no basis for a theological position. Yet, since Sproul does not present a biblical argument against preterism that is all he leaves us to go on as his Forward closes. Of course he must lash out with one ad hominem, just for good measure, but preterism is far from a “hopeless folly” as it gives us true hope, in the true promises of God’s word, instead of the fantasyland created by disparate futurist visions of the coming world. 

While Sproul’s dismissal of preterism with a creed and an emotional appeal is unconvincing and void of any evidence, Gentry’s contribution goes beyond this lack into a real effort of manufacturing evidence and creating conspiracies where none exist. If we accepted guilt by association, Gentry’s arguments may work. But the problem is that his arguments would deal a much more devastating blow to his Reformed faith than he could ever meet against preterist positions. I will now turn my cross-examining eye to the criticisms offered by Dr. Gentry.

It should be telling to the lay reader that Dr. Gentry, like Sproul, does not start his argument from scripture, since that is the Achilles heal of futurist criticism, but instead begins with the creeds. My opinion, take it for what it is worth, is that if there were a convincing scriptural argument against preterism, Dr. Gentry would start with it, camp on it, and conclude with it. His failure to use Biblical exegetical argumentation tells us something significant.

Dr. Gentry has testified concerning consistent preterism and his view of biblical orthodoxy. He has also made several accusations concerning the intelligence and character of preterists as well as the threat that preterists pose to the Christians’ faith and practice. We need not make a supposition concerning Dr. Gentry’s views, we can read the constant barrage of logical fallacies, personal attacks and “chicken-little” prognostications in Dr. Gentry’s own words. The problem is, that once the rhetorical smoke clears, there is little substance, almost no evidence and little real force to his criticism of preterism. His arguments amount to the claim that preterism is bad because it disagrees with other Christians and because he says it can lead to bad things. 

By the underlying standard of Gentry’s argument, there are very few Christians that could pass muster. It is a fact of history that very few Christians have agreed with each other on doctrinal issues at any given time in history, outside of the violent imposition of tactics like the Spanish inquisition. It is also a fact of history that sinners, evil men, and corruption of Christianity have emerged from all types of Christian groups, including Gentry’s own brand of Christian orthodoxy. If we applied Gentry’s standard to any group of Christians, the same condemnation could be made. This, in the end, makes Gentry’s arguments little more than a subjective dislike for preterism, instead of any logical or biblical presentation of theological criticism. But let’s cross-examine the witness and see if his testimony is consistent and probative on the issue of the accusations of heresy and danger to the Christian faith.

            In his opening statement of purpose for writing Gentry leads with his conclusion, which we will see is unsupported by anything that follows. He calls preterism “a corrosive theological fad.” (Mathison, 2)   He also claims that he is defending “the historic, corporate, public, universal, systematic Christian faith,” and adds “ We do so against the eroding forces of novelty flowing from the tributaries of historical confusion, exegetical failure, theological naiveté, and logical fallacies.” While this is clever sounding prose, it begs the question of the nature of preterism. But it is only fitting, when looking at the rest of his arguments that he would lead with a logical fallacy as his foundation.

Gentry suggests that the argument should begin with the creeds. This is exactly backward, as theology should begin with God’s word, and the creeds should spring from them. It is Gentry’s mistaken foundation that leads to many of his faulty conclusions and misstatements in the rest of his article. The creeds, while very important, should always be subject to the test of scripture. Unlike his accusation, preterists are not calling for individual interpretation to trump the interpretation of the corporate church any more than Calvin wanted his individual interpretation to trump that of the Roman Church. 

Dr. Gentry starts early with his accusations. He claims that .“Hyper preterism has arisen among Christians who express little interest in the creedal integrity of the historic faith.” (Mathison, 3) As we cross-examine such bold claims we must ask Dr. Gentry, what his evidence is for such a sweeping generalization. Of course anyone who makes such a claim would need to provide compelling Biblical argumentation, or see his case summarily dismissed on grounds of insufficient evidence. The only evidence Dr. Gentry provides is a statement by Edward E. Stevens that the time has come for the creeds to be revised. This is hardly supportive of his contention that Stevens has little interest in the creeds. A claim of necessity for revision of the creeds, far from being “little interest” in creedal integrity, shows a great deal of interest by wanting the creeds to be as biblically accurate as possible. Stevens did not call for a rejection of the creeds, which would support Dr. Gentry’s accusation of anti-creedalism, instead he calls for revision along biblical lines. Contrary to Dr. Gentry’s claim, the call within Reformed Preterism is not the abolition, but reformation of the creeds in conformity (orthodoxy) with scripture. This shows much more interest in creedal integrity on Stevens’ part than Gentry’s refusal to apply scripture to the creeds in a meaningful way. Gentry assumes the creeds are absolutely infallible, and then uses the creeds (without Scripture) as if it is all he needs to overthrow another creedal system (preterism). Gentry is merely pitting his futurist creed against the preterist creed. But one creed cannot refute another. Only scripture (sola scriptura) can decide which creed is orthodox (straight in line) with scripture. So Gentry’s faith in his futurist creed as sufficient evidence against preterism is misplaced, and his creedal arguments carry no weight. All true Reformers (not Romanist-leaning, pseudo-protestant, pseudo-reformers) know that ultimately only scripture (sola scriptura) can expose the flaws in a creedal system (regardless of whether it is a futurist or preterist creed).

There was indeed a time when none of these creeds existed. By Dr. Gentry’s account of the situation, those who formed these creeds would have to have “little interest in the creedal integrity of the historic faith.” They changed the prior regime, to draft the new creeds in light of biblical truth. The accusation that Gentry makes against preterist could equally be made against those who formed the original creeds, as well as the Reformers in whose shoes he tries to step. If Reformation to bring the Christian faith back in line with biblical truth is showing “little interest in the creedal integrity of the historic faith,” then Gentry’s accusation is as true of Calvin and Luther as it is of the preterists. And as those of us who know church history realize, the same accusation was made against those men by the Roman Catholic church of their time. So the best we can say about this criticism of preterist is “we are in good company.”

Dr. Gentry, repeatedly criticizes preterism for the diversity that exists within its ranks. This is the height of hypocrisy from Dr. Gentry, as he contradicts his own claims. He states “although some contributors to this book are not preterists, I am-in the historic and orthodox sense of the term.” If disagree is not a sure sign of a heretical view for his fellow contributors, it could hardly be one for preterists. Since this argument from diversity is easily refuted by analogy to other Reformed Christians, it hardly warrants any more attention.

As we continue we note that Dr. Gentry is not beyond the use of hearsay and innuendo to make his point either. As flimsy as his biblical evidence is, his physical evidence borders on chimerical. He cites anecdotal evidence of ”immature Christians,” “cultish arrogance,” preterists disrupting “the unity and peace of the church,” and “obsessive single mindedness.” For now we will overlook the consistent theme that such accusations were often made of the reformers, since that point has already been made. We will just move on to examine Gentry’s evidence for such bold and inflammatory accusations. Of course any Christian interested in truth would want clear evidence before making such claims about others, would he not? So what is the good Doctor’s evidence for making such vile accusations against fellow Christians? Let us examine his own words to see:

The first evidence Dr. Gentry provides is embedded hearsay. Gentry tells the reader of the stories pastors have told him about what others have said or done. He is not specific. His claim amounts to nothing more than hearsay about hearsay. Such statement are the flimsiest of evidence not even admissible in most pre-trial proceedings, let alone in indictments of the nature Dr. Gentry makes. Of course, he thinks you, the reader, will not catch one to how tenuous this evidence is and will just nod your head in agreement and move on to his next point. The only possible shred of real evidence is his claim to have “witnessed hyper-preterists causing problems because of their obsessive single-mindedness.” Single-mindedness seems to be contagious if we try to follow the criticism of preterism. Once again, the disruptions and single-mindedness he accuses preterists of could easily be descriptive of many Reformed Christians with whom Dr. Gentry does fellowship. Like his argument from diversity, his argument from disruption fails to prove his point against preterism.

            Just to add a little historical perspective to Dr. Gentry’s accusations look at what the church authorities said of the Reformer Martin Luther. Johannes Cochleaus is summarized as saying: 

 

Luther is a child of the devil, possessed by the devil, full of falsehood and vainglory. His revolt was caused by monkish envy of the Dominican, Tetzel; he lusts after wine and women, is without conscience, and approves any means to gain his end. He thinks only of himself. He perpetrated the act of nailing up the theses for forty-two gulden- the sum he required to buy a new cowl. He is a liar and a hypocrite, cowardly and quarrelsome. 

[2]

 

            I guess, once again, preterists are in good company as Luther was divisive (quarrelsome), disagreed with the creedal church of his day and a heretic!

It is hard to understand how Dr. Gentry could find his arguments persuasive, especially being Reformed, not Roman Catholic. We can see a bit of Dr. Gentry’s motivation from a psychological level, however, as he laments his treatment at the hands of his ordination committee. (Mathison, 4) It may be his attempt to distance himself from the criticism leveled against him at that point in his life which leads him to such unfounded conclusions and accusation against Reformed preterists to this day. We will probably never know how this has affected his judgment on this matter. Experience suggests however that it could still be a quite prominent event in his thinking and the shaping of his theological arguments. None of us has our thinking, even in theology, untainted by our past. Dr. Gentry is a biased and hostile witness on these issues because of the events that happened in his past which directly relate to the issue of preterism.

Dr. Gentry is still not content to turn to theological or other argumentation concerning preterism. He must still remain on the level of personal attack as he declares about preterism that “its enthusiastic adherents loudly demand that those who disagree with them stop their full-time labors and deal with all their questions – or die the death of a thousand e-mails.” We need not address the lack of truth in this statement since it is obvious that most preterists who are addressing these issues have full-time jobs themselves.   It seems Dr. Gentry is perfectly content to criticize preterists from a distance. He of course refuses to obey Matthew 18 and discuss his accusation with preterists personally and appears to see such an exercise of biblical restraint as offensive. Dr. Gentry may consider himself to be so important in the Christian world that he is no longer required to practice biblical charity or consideration for biblical modes of conflict resolution. He seems to find such attempts annoying, possibly because he has no real answers to give. Of course in keeping with this elitism he complains of the role of theological laymen in preterism completely ignoring the fact that most preterist teachers are highly experienced pastors and educated laymen. Since his accusation would clearly count against several of the apostles as well, we can dismiss them as the puffery that they are. This argument from elitism is no more persuasive than his previous in personum attacks.

The more we read the critics of preterism, it should be obvious to all but the most stalwart members of the opposing party, that most of the arguments leveled against preterism amount to little more than personal attacks and vain prognostications. It is sad that this is all that we seem to be offered, but not surprising since a direct attack through scripture is impossible.   Scripture supports Preterism consistently as the other contributors to this volume have so adequately demonstrated. In lieu of a biblical argument, Dr. Gentry resorts to the ad hominem. We can closely examine the arguments he presents against Stevens since these are indicative of his contempt for all preterists. Dr. Gentry has made his attacks personal, rather than Biblical or theological, but we will attempt to focus on the issues instead of on Dr. Gentry personally. We can only pray that in the future, he will extend the same courtesy to us. 

It seems redundant to keep reiterating the historic irony of Gentry’s claims against preterism, but he repeatedly belabors the issue of creedal history as if it is the most significant argument anyone could ever consider against preterism. He laments what can happen when preterism “shakes itself free of creedal constraints.” (Mathison, 6) He then continues by claiming that “hyper-preterism is constructing a new, aberrant theology; it is radically reworking the Christian system.” (6) Gentry’s article in Mathison’s book is his attempt to prove these unfounded claims. But as our cross-examination of his arguments will show, these accusations lack the support that even most rumors can boast.

While others in this volume have addressed the issue of the Resurrection, something must be said of the political hay Gentry tries to make of the resurrection. The first of his many tactics is the use of “guilt by association” to equate preterism with cult groups. This would allow him, by mere suggestion, to use weak arguments to do the heavy lifting for his insupportable claims. He tries, albeit in a footnote, to mention Mormons along with preterists in a vain attempt to invoke guilt by association. (footnote 20, page 7) This is such a cheap tactic of misdirection and obfuscation that it seems out of place in the writings of a man of the caliber of Dr. Gentry, yet this footnote is just his warm-up. He revisits this same logically fallacious nonsense over and over again throughout his chapter.

            Acting as though such claims can be persuasive about the truth of preterism he continues stating that “we should note that some of Stevens’ followers have even become Unitarians.” (8-9) Why Dr. Gentry thinks this is relevant to his argument against preterism escapes even the farthest speculation of the logical mind. Does the fact that Arminius was Reformed disprove Reformed theology? Does the fact that many liberals, skeptics, atheists, Universalists, Amyraldians, and Hyper-Calvinists have come out of Reformed churches need to be noted as proof against Reformed theology? The fact that sinners who reject God’s truth exist in all churches is no more an argument against preterism than it is against Dr. Gentry’s own brand of Theonomic-Reconstructionist theology. Dr. Gentry, quite frankly, should be ashamed to have to resort to such low-ball tactics, but the fact that he does reveals volumes about his lack of any serious biblical arguments against preterism. If he could have refuted preterism with properly exegeted Scripture, he would have. Instead, he resorts to these shameful tactics that, if they were proper to be used, could be used to speak much more against his kind of theology, than ours. What does it tell us that most preterists come from the Reformed camp? Should this be noted as well? Perhaps that is why Mathison produced this book with Sproul’s and Gentry’s uncharitable articles at the front, to be used to “poison the well” and scare their people away from preterism before they get a Berean chance to examine the Biblical evidence for it. No objective truth-seeker should fall for that high-handed tactic.

Dr. Gentry continues such claims throughout his chapter. But he should realize that his claims are a two-edged sword that cut more against futurist Reformed theology than against preterism. Many more “heretics,” atheists, and deniers of scripture have sprung from Reformed churches than from preterist circles. Knowing that this tactic is not proper we do not wish to use it against Dr. Gentry, but he seems content to level such a specious argument against preterism. Instead of scripture, he brings the old shibboleth of “guilt by association.” How sad to have to read such tripe from a man of Dr. Gentry’s scholarly stature.

In keeping with this pattern of argumentation, Dr Gentry again makes a baseless accusation, supported only by his own presupposition: “Hyper-preterism, untethered from the anchor of historic Christianity, is being blown about by every wind of doctrine.” (10) This claim is not substantiated with any different or more compelling arguments than the Roman church’s claims that the Reformers were untethered from the One True Universal Church. Of course Dr. Gentry does make the promise that he will show that “hyper-preterism” is heresy, but as we examine his arguments and illogic we will see that he does no such thing. (10) As we move though Dr. Gentry’s arguments they become less and less grounded in scripture and reason and much more speculative and personal.

            As we saw earlier, Gentry claims that tolerance and diversity were welcomed among those who drafted the volume against preterism, and then from the other side of his mouth, he claims that such tolerance is a sign of theological relativism and “extremist theology.” (10) Which is it Dr. Gentry? Or is it merely that diversity of opinion is allowable for those who agree with you against preterism, but unallowable for preterists? This is the old “privilege character” idea. Gentry seems to reserve for himself the freedom to take exception to certain articles in the creeds and confessions, but will not allow that same freedom to preterists? These double standards strike another blow to the credibility of Dr. Gentry’s testimony against preterists. 

            In our examination of Dr. Gentry’s arguments to this point, we should note that Dr. Gentry has still not addressed preterism from a scriptural standpoint. Instead he is making arguments about those who depart true Christianity from the preterist ranks (just as they do from his Reformed ranks). He is discussing what he sees as an unusual tolerance of differing opinions (which earlier in his chapter he called for among the various eschatological opinions of the writers of the current volume). For good measure he also uses progressive “guilt by association” fallacies. The latter was exhibited as he tried to associate preterists with theological liberals, Unitarians and Mormons with little more than a passing reference to the groups as being similar. If there are doctrinal linkages between preterism and those other groups, they definitely should be documented and refuted with Scripture, but Dr. Gentry offers little more than his own assertion that preterism is connected with these groups in some doctrinally-significant way. 

            Unfortunately, Dr. Gentry is not through. Just in case anyone is still scratching their head at his sleight of hand, he throws out the name of Jehovah’s Witnesses as well. He seems to be hoping that the mere mention of such groups will scare his readers away from preterism and make it unnecessary for him to provide any Biblical argumentation. (12) This is nothing more than “guilt by association” and “poison the well” tactics, and does nothing to substantiate Dr. Gentry’s case against preterism.  It is mere political grandstanding, playing to the crowd, preaching to the choir. Surely Dr. Gentry can produce a better (Biblical) argument than this? 

Since most heretical groups have sprung from futurist churches, the long list of associations would weigh more against futurists than preterists, if indeed such an argument were valid. But unlike Gentry, preterists need not resort to such desperate measures to make our point, when we have Scripture on our side. This is why we can progress through most of Dr. Gentry’s pages without quoting a single scripture. All one needs to refute a bald (unsupported with Scripture) assertion is another bald counter assertion. Most of the scriptures he does cite are often on tertiary subjects. Refusing to address preterism from Scripture, and instead relying on association, innuendo and creeds (instead of God’s Word), should signal to any Berean truth-seeker that foul things are afoot in Dr. Gentry’s claims against preterism. 

            Dr. Gentry wrote a tract entitled, “The Usefulness of Creeds.” By observing how he seemingly prefers using the creeds (instead of Scripture) against preterism, it implies that he considers creeds more valuable and authoritative (and useful) than Scripture. It is interesting to note here that the Roman Church leaders similarly found their creeds quite useful against the Reformers. 

            Dr. Gentry quotes what he calls an old adage, “Men are seldom opposed to creeds, until creeds have become opposed to them.” (13) Does that sound more like the Romanists or the Reformers? Of course it fails to substantiate his point on any level. Most soldiers are not opposed to a foreign nation until that foreign nation is opposed to them in war. That kind of argument fails to prove that opposition to the creeds is illegitimate. In fact, it is putting a stamp of approval upon the Romanist use of the creeds against the Reformers. I can just see the Romanists smiling at Gentry’s use of their argument and saying, “Reformers are seldom opposed to Roman tradition, until Roman tradition has become opposed to them.” They love Gentry’s seeming approval of their extra-biblical approach, and would not skip a beat turning it back upon him, demanding that he “come back to mama!” (i.e., “mother church” Rome) They can legitimately and consistently use that approach. Gentry cannot. Therefore, we have to reject his creedal arguments as “illegitimate, nugatory, and gossamer,” as David Chilton would say.

            Of course Dr. Gentry is quite accurate in his claim that “breaking with historic Christian doctrine is a necessary starting point for cultic aberrations.” (13) But as an argument against preterism it begs the question, since it represents two uses of that fallacy. It begs the question that preterism has broke with historic Christianity, and it begs the question that preterism is a cultic aberration. These are both ideas that Dr. Gentry continues to assume as the foundation of his discussion. Dr. Gentry then elevates begging the question to an art form as he cites his arguments; he claims that preterism displays “a few danger signals that suggest that we may be witnessing the sprouting of a new unorthodox sect that could eventually blossom into a full-fledged cult.” Now he is not going to waste any space trying to prove these assertions or even show that they even support his conclusion. Dr. Gentry is merely waving his magic wand and hoping that by mere suggestion of guilt he can get the reader to overlook the unfounded nature of his mere assertions. I ask our readers not to be distracted by the thin facade of Dr. Gentry’s criticism and look beyond it to see the deeper biblical truths of preterism. 

            Dr. Gentry begins to cite these “danger signals” which he seems to have cleverly crafted to form his argument against preterism alone. His first “danger signal” is Creedal Resistance (13). Once again we see his sleight of hand as he tries to show how preterists and cultic groups share anti-creedalism. Of course he is insinuating such a common bond necessarily is evidence against preterism.   This is again begging the question. Dr. Gentry has failed to show that preterists are anti-creedal just because they seek revision of the creeds as even his Reformed sect has done in the past. It would be just as illegitimate to say that the fact that Reformed churches use instruments in worship is a “danger signal” of liberalism because Unitarians use instruments in their worship. The logic is tenuous at best, and deceptively formulated at worst. The argument ignores the truth in favor of swaying opinion by emotion and rhetorical sleight-of-hand. Of course, thinking this to be a valid way of proceeding, Dr. Gentry, who seems to forget his Introduction to Logic course, uses the same fallacy to association preterist with Jehovah’s Witnesses. (14) Does Dr. Gentry believe that continual repetition of the same logical fallacy will eventually cloud the judgment to of the reader and help her forget that he has not produced a single scriptural argument against preterism? All we see from Dr. Gentry is rhetorical word play and logical fallacies.

Dr. Gentry’s second “danger signal” is a surprising one as it represents the missionary zeal all Christians should display. A zeal for truth should permeate all Christians, yet Gentry makes it a point of disdain calling it “Zealous calls to Follow” when preterists act like other Christians in this area. Of course knowing how weak these two points are, Dr. Gentry tries to go back to his well-worn path of guilt by association. He tries to “prove” that preterism is wrong by linking its past to the Church of Christ. It would be the same as a Baptist condemning a Reformed believer because they came out of the Roman Catholic church. Dr. Gentry’s attack is emotionally charged, yet quite ineffective in proving his claim.

Dr. Gentry’s further danger signals would almost be laughable if they were not so serious and not intended to damage to Christians. He laments that preterists celebrate the Lord’s Supper instead of remembering it. (19) Guilty as charged! I would only pray that all Christians would learn to celebrate God’s gifts.   He also complains that Christian who are preterist see the Parousia as an important historical event. Again, guilty. Scripture also seems to think it is an important historical event (even most futurists agree on that point). Finally, Dr. Gentry decries the production of a preterist study bible. Since we have a Reformation Study Bible and a Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible used by many Reformed Christians once again, Dr. Gentry’s criticisms of preterism are equally applicable to his own brand of Reformed theology.

After much name-calling, bad logic, and personal attacks, we now proceed with the hope that Dr. Gentry will get into the substance of his argument a he begins a section entitle “The Importance of the Creeds.” (20) Dr. Gentry finally presents his first actual scriptural claim, that “scripture required the church to produce” creeds. Since most Reformed preterist do not deny this to be true, it is mere blustering to use such an argument as in opposition to preterism. Most of us would indeed agree with Dr. Gentry’s claim and especially with his quote from A. A. Hodge that “In a fundamental sense the creed is simply the way the church reads scripture.” If we take Gentry’s quote as true, then what, I must ask, is wrong with the church changing the way it reads scripture as God imparts continued grace and spiritual growth. Many former Arminians changed the way they read scripture when they became Reformed. Many atheists changed the way they read scripture when they became Christians. Many Roman Catholics changed the way they read scripture when they joined the Reformation. Since, as Dr. Gentry seems to agree, creeds are just the way the church reads scripture then it is hardly an argument against preterists that they do what the Reformers and converts have done consistently in the past.

If the Roman Catholic church was correct in the way it read scripture, the Reformation would not have been necessary. If all churches were correct in the way they read scripture, an eschatological Reformation would be unnecessary. But, the Reformation proves the church sometimes reads scripture wrong. It,, by simple syllogism follows, if creeds are simply the way the church read scripture, then creeds can sometimes be wrong.   Simple logic prevails over veiled rhetoric.

 

Even in his creedal adherence Dr. Gentry picks and chooses which creeds to which he adheres.    It is quite telling that in his recitation of creeds that the church follows, he fails to mention creeds that the church has followed with which he disagrees. If he can pick and choose which creeds he will follow, why does he have such a problem with preterists simply trying to bring the creeds more in line with the teaching of scripture? Why are some creeds definitive for Dr. Gentry, while others are not even worthy of being mentioned?

Dr. Gentry does hit the nail on the head with regard to the purpose of the creeds, although he fails to follow it to its logical conclusion. HE cites the Apostles creed as a creed formulated specifically to combat the Gnostic heresy. It was a polemical and militant creed, designed to preserve the church from the assault of Gnosticism. As such it must be read the Gnosticism in mind, not as a declarative of all that scripture teaches. If the creed fails to match the teaching of scripture, why should it be upheld for all generations? It makes me wonder what Dr. Gentry is trying to hide from searching minds when he constantly ridicules anyone who wishes to compare the claims of the creeds to the teaching of scripture. Even though he complains about such statements, it is indeed true that God’s word is inspired and infallible, manmade summaries of scripture are not, no matter how much Gentry seems to wish they were.

The Nicene Creed, as Gentry clearly points out, fills out, the doctrine of the deity of Christ. This necessary revision of or addition to the apostles creed brought creedal recitation more in line with scriptural teaching on the Trinity. But what was necessary for the Council of Nicea, is now called heretical and cultic by Dr. Gentry. Once again, the double standard of judgment sheds light on the weakness of futurist claims against preterism. Does Dr. Gentry have a clear answer as to why it was proper for Nicea to revise the Apostles creed to show the proper view on the deity of Christ?   If as he has claimed, such revisions are a departure from the historic Christian faith at what point in history did it become so?

For a moment we need to turn the tables on Dr. Gentry briefly. Where in the historic Christian church is there any evidence of Dr. Gentry’s eschatological views? Since he reads his view back into the creeds instead of reading them out of the creeds, he is guilty of the same anti-creedalism he attacks preterists for, but on a much subtler, more nuanced way. The fact that he is able to hide his beliefs without a reinterpretation of the creedal language does not make him more historical linked to the church of the ages, it instead just makes him more creative. At least preterists are honest is saying that their view is not present in many of the creeds. Dr. Gentry cannot provide a single shred of evidence that those who drafted or used the creeds for centuries contemplated his eschatological views. The real problem is that he fails to see the real inconsistency in accusing others of undermining the creeds, while he himself departs from the spirit to live under their letter.

In trying to support the tenuous suggestion that his eschatological views were at least contemplated or allowed within the drafting community of the creeds, Dr. Gentry claims that “many items of eschatological interest have been left out of creedal constraints for further elucidation.” (26) He spends some space quoting others against the view that creeds are comprehensive, systematic and complete, to defend how his own novel theological concepts fit within the creeds, yet denies the same consideration to others. His reinterpretation of the creeds for his own use while decrying others for doing the same thing is either the height of hypocrisy or the height of self-deception. I see no other way around his constant inconsistency in condemning preterists for doing what he himself does while all the while maintaining that he is not doing it. Methinks he doth protest too much… Of course he attributes the confusion to others, despite his inconsistency and failure to apply the same standards to himself that he applies to others.   I eagerly await his proof that any of those who wrote the creeds had his form of postmillennial preterism in mind when the creeds were drafted. Otherwise his theological view is just as much a departure from the spirit of the creeds as he claims the preterist departs from the letter of the creed. His is a technical adherence without the spirit while ours is a truly spiritual adherence without being bound by any text that violates scripture.   By reading his theology back into the creeds, Dr. Gentry does the same thing as preterists, merely without the same level of integrity to admit that revision of these man-made, fallible, words of sin-filled humans may be necessary if they do not conform to the teaching of scripture.

It continues to amaze most preterists, how men like Dr. Gentry can respond to biblical arguments with quotes from men instead of God’s word. He outlines what true orthodoxy is by quoting Philip Schaff. (28) Do not underestimate the significance of this. He is attempting to show that preterism does not fit in history, but that is not the point. He must show that preterism does not fit with scripture, something that he does not even attempt in this response. The Reformation did not fit with history either, yet that was not the issue for the Reformers, scripture was. The reason the Reformers acted was not because of history, but because of scripture. Now Dr. Gentry tries to make history, the “we have always done it that way” argument, a refutation of preterism. It is baffling how he imagines this will hold any weight with anyone not already convinced. 

Dr. Gentry turns his attention to specific views of preterists with which he disagrees. At his point in his discussion, he does engage in a type of pseudo-scriptural discussion in his comparison of interpretations of the resurrection. Seemingly knowing how weak his argument is he again resorts to his now tedious guilt by association argument. He again hopes that by merely mentioning cultic groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the same paragraph as preterists, he can create an emotional reaction that will overshadow his lack of evidence, logical argumentation, or refutation of preterism that was promised at the beginning of his chapter. 

Of course this would be the perfect point in the discussion for Dr. Gentry or present his scriptural argument that refutes the preterist understanding of the resurrection. But once again we here from Clement, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, and others. (30) Why the preterist should accept the authority of these men over scripture is something that Gentry fails to explain. His question begging is all too obvious. He claims the historical position on the resurrection is right because it has been the historical position. It is hardly the kind of evidence he promises, yet he finds it convincing. I can only pray that others will see through this thin veil of reason disguised as history and search the scriptures instead of Tertullian. We can indeed learns a great deal from the cloud of witnesses that have gone before us, but I daresay that there are many theological issues with which Gentry disagrees with the historical church. What makes the historical view authoritative on issues Gentry agrees with but irrelevant in issues he disagrees with? The inconsistency of Gentry’s position opens wide the chasm of doubt in his method and conclusions.

Moving from the resurrection, Dr. Gentry uses similar historical, but not scriptural, arguments against the preterist view of the Second Advent. He cites a future advent as “the virtually universal belief of the ancient church.” (32) The same argument has indeed been made of other theological viewpoints that Dr. Gentry consistently denies. Anabaptists make the same claim about adult-only baptism and immersion. [3] Roman Catholics make the same claim about sacramental re-sacrifice based on the statements of many of the same men Gentry quotes to support his eschatological viewpoint. [4] Why these men are authoritative for Dr. Gentry on eschatology, yet easily dismissed on sacramentology is a wonder. Where is the consistency in that? Chiliasts make the claim that pre-millennialism was the original view in the early church. [5] Why doesn’t Gentry accept their views of eschatology since they are using the same kind of historical approach to buttress their eschatology that Gentry is? One must wonder about Gentry’s consistency when he arbitrarily accepts the testimony of the early church on certain issues that he agrees with, while rejecting their testimony regarding things he disagrees with. Such appeals to uninspired and unauthoritative tradition are flawed from the outset. Ultimately, it matters not whether every uninspired church father in church history taught a certain doctrine. Christians do not decide truth on the basis of majority vote, nor on who can stack up the most or the earliest church fathers on their side. The only thing that can validate a doctrine is rightly-interpreted, inspired, infallible, and absolutely authoritative Scripture.

Gentry’s inconsistency seems even worse when we remember that he already applies many of the endtime prophecies to AD 70 in the same way we do, including many of the so-called “second coming” texts which two-thousand years of church tradition (including even “Reformed” theology) has consistently applied to the future. For instance, he has written two whole books, Before Jerusalem Fell and The Beast of Revelation, arguing strenuously for a pre-70 date of the book of Revelation and a pre-70 Nero beast. This forces him to apply many (but not all) NT eschatological texts to AD 70. And it appears that he arbitrarily assigns the rest of those events to the future because of his desire to remain within what he believes are the boundaries of the historic (i.e., creedal) church. It doesn’t look good for Gentry when the only justification he can muster for his arbitrary application of these eschatological texts to the future is that it is consistent with the creeds. He rejects the creeds’ future application of some of the eschatological texts, yet accepts the future application of others. Then he clobbers us for consistently applying all the eschatological texts to AD 70 using the very same hermeneutics that he uses for his AD 70 texts. What goes here? Is Gentry a privilege character? Is he the only one who has the right to arbitrarily pick and choose which creedal applications he will conform to? I fail to see any consistency in that.

I admit it is sheer speculation on my part and would welcome a showing by Dr. Gentry that his objections to preterism are scriptural and not merely a misguided loyalty to the traditional interpretations of the historic (i.e. creedal) church. He, like most protestants, pick and choose which historical positions to adhere to, so it seems disingenuous to reject some of that history while calling others who follow the same pattern “heretical.” Dr. Gentry draws an arbitrary line in the sand between what portions of church tradition he accepts and rejects. He does the same thing with prophecy, drawing an unnatural line between fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecy so he can still call himself creedal. If Dr. Gentry is able to decide which parts of church history are viable by reading them through the lens of scripture it makes one wonder what kind of special pleasing allows him to condemn preterists for exercising the same discretion.

Dr. Gentry makes a radical overstatement when he claims that “creeds arose as a response to division and error; they did not create the divisions.” This is historically naïve as the creeds were originally and often used as a power-base for the church in its persecution and excommunication of others in their midst who disagreed with the formula. While these actions may have indeed been the proper actions, to label such division as “unity” is doublespeak at its best. The irony of this statement springs to the fore as Gentry spends 60 plus pages using the creeds as a means to divide preterists from the rest of Christianity. He is using the creeds as a tool of division while claiming the creeds are not such tools. 

While another able defender of biblical preterism is addressing the creedal objections specifically, I will cross-examine the “evidence” Dr. Gentry claims the preterist view of creeds presents against the truth of preterism. 

First, Dr. Gentry claims that Stevens “poisons the well” by correctly pointing out that the creeds were formulated by majority vote and power struggles within the church. (34-35) Of course, as with his other arguments, Gentry offers no evidence that Stevens’ characterization of the creedal formulation is wrong, he just acts as if such a claim is offensive without telling the reader why. Why is speaking the truth about history somehow poisoning the well? It is quite ironic, once again, that Dr. Gentry laments the inconsistency of preterist argumentation while ignoring his own inconsistent application of the creeds, church history, and scripture. (35) 

In an interesting twist, Dr. Gentry curiously accuses preterists of having “faulty assumptions that the theologians of the ancient church had no systematic, exegetical foundations for their eschatological views.” (36) Gentry himself declares the creeds only give us “a bare-bones eschatology.” (26) He also favorably quotes John Murray’s “The Creedal Basis of Union in the Church” as saying that the creeds do not represent “a commentary on the whole of scripture nor is it a systematic theology.” (27, quoting The Collected Writings Of John Murray, 1:283). Which is it Dr. Gentry? How can he commend one writer for saying that the creeds are not a systematic theology and then condemn another for saying basically the same thing? Again, inconsistency seems to be the watchword of Dr. Gentry’s criticism of preterism, as this conflicting view is expressed within 10 pages of his commendation of the same view! As another footnote to this discussion on ancient theologians, Dr. Gentry laments the lack of reading of the church fathers by preterists (36), a claim that again is based on his petty speculation with no evidence whatsoever. Interestingly, he also subtly contravenes this argument by never once quoting those church fathers and instead only quoting what others have said about them. He wishes for preterists to use these theologians works, but seems to find little or now value in them himself. He wishes to hold preterists to a higher standard than he is willing to impose upon himself.

            As this portion of his argument winds down, Dr. Gentry provides a long litany of men who support the use of creeds to divide one group of Christians from another. (37-40) Of course it need not be mentioned that Dr. Gentry has already said that such division is not the role of the creeds; More inconsistency. Unfortunately, Dr. Gentry’s quotes are still begging the question. He has yet, 40 pages into is article, to prove that the creeds should hold such authority. He just says they do and then quotes others who say they do, without ever proving the case to be true. Historical practice can be wrong, even if thousands of people support it. The Reformation should have taught us that lesson. But some, like Dr. Gentry, still seem to need to learn that lesson again.

            As expected Dr. Gentry tries to sidestep the scriptural argument by claiming that he has published several works that argue for “the historic, orthodox Christian view of eschatology.” (42) Since even contributors to the volume in which he makes this statement differ with his view of what the historical orthodox Christian eschatology is, we can dismiss such a claim as much puffery as much of the rest of his argumentation. Where is there any evidence of the partial preterism he espouses in the historical church? 

To emphasize the bankruptcy of Dr. Gentry’s arguments, I would like to do a word experiment with one of his statements. He states, as a response to what he wrongly calls a false dilemma between scripture and the creeds: “Which would you rather throw our the window, the novel theological position of Ed Stevens or the conviction of the universal church of all ages?” (42) Now it takes very little imagination to recast this to prove its absurdity and the disingenuousness of Gentry’s attacks on preterists. One could imagine the Papal bull which declares “Which would you rather throw out the window, the novel theological position of Jean Calvin or the convictions of the Universal Christian church of all ages.” If the argument would hold no force against Calvin, it holds none against Stevens. Gentry then wants to move on to new ground.

Again, almost intuitively knowing the weakness of his argument, Dr. Gentry resorts to his “guilt by association” argument once more. Since the logical reader will see the hole in his argument, he tries to sway by emotion by labeling preterists as being “like” the Jehovah Witnesses. (42) The association holds no more weight at this point than it did in the earlier parts of Dr. Gentry’s chapter. But Dr. Gentry, after his interlude, wants to steer the discussion back to the creeds.

Although Dr. Gentry denies claiming that the creeds are infallible, he plays words games, making a statement that makes the same truth claim without saying the exact words. He calls the doctrines of the creeds “infallibly certain.” (44) Only the most imaginative lawyer, who argues the meaning of “is” and “property” on a regular basis could convince anyone that claiming that the doctrines of the creeds are “infallibly certain” differs in any real way from claiming the creeds to be infallible. Is pure sophism on Gentry’s part that tries to make a distinction between the two claims that encompass the same proposition. The proposition is more simply stated that the creeds cannot possibly be wrong, hence are infallible. 

            As the argument progresses, Gentry, seemingly realizing, he is losing the logical battle, decides he must, once again resort to personal attacks. He claims that the debate is with a “band of untrained theological innovators in the present.” (45) Since theological seminaries of are a novelty of the recent past, I can only assume that Gentry only calls preterists untrained because they did not attend the same school he did. Since many of the preterists involved in this debate have a great deal of ministry experience and a high level of advanced education, I can only assume the Dr. Gentry is willfully ignorant of these facts and hopes his impugning of the education of preterists somehow wins his argument for him. Unfortunately for him, the education of an individual, is not a logical evaluator of the truth of their arguments. God has often chosen the foolish to confound the wise. So even if Gentry’s statements about preterists were true, which they are not, it holds no force in proving preterists to be wrong. It is mere elitism masked as an argument. Even a basic logic course would teach Dr. Gentry how futile such a claim is to prove his point.

In a curious claim, Dr. Gentry cites the writing of new confessions in the Reformation as a view of creedalism he embraces. (46) In this case why would he object to preterists drafting new confessions as well? It would seem from Gentry’s accumulated argument, as long as preterists hold to “a” creed that is written and uniform among preterists, he could have little objection. If it was acceptable for those in the Reformation to draft new statements of belief, it is hypocritical to deny the preterists the same consideration today.

            After many pages arguing that the creeds are universal statements of Christian belief from which true Christians cannot depart Dr. Gentry gives up the force of his argument in providing a quote from J.N.D. Kelly. He Quotes Kelly as stating that the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed was the only one for which “universal acceptance can plausibly be claimed.” (46 quoting Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, 296). Dr. Gentry has spent much ink and paper trying to prove that preterism is outside of Christianity because the creeds it seeks to revise were universally accepted through church history. He then quotes favorable a statement which directly contradicts that claim. Now the inconsistency in Dr. Gentry’s testimony against preterists reaches a fever pitch. 

We see from these statements that Dr. Gentry defines the entire a debate which ensures that his unhistorical views are acceptable while those of the preterists are seen as heretical. Nowhere is this clearer than in his dispatch of Stevens’ claims concerning the creeds. Gentry states that “Millennial systems are not the issue.” (49) Of course they cannot be the issue or Dr. Gentry would have to defend his position as well. The historical church has no signs of his eschatological view either, but he must frame the debate to make inquiry into his own departure from historic eschatology irrelevant instead of the large beam that obstructs his view of the specks he seeks to remove from the eyes of others. Every single criticism Dr. Gentry levels against preterists could just as easily be used by other eschatological views against Dr. Gentry’s views. His views are novel; were not included in the original understanding of the creeds; and mark a departure from the historic Christian faith. It is only his mere unsupported assertion that makes his views immune to these criticisms while subjecting preterists to them.

            Of course departure from confessions which other Reformed scholars deem to be as certain as the creeds is acceptable for Dr. Gentry. He allows for his departure from the Westminster confessions through amendments but denies preterists the same freedom. (54) Inconsistency has become the watchword of Dr. Gentry’s arguments.

Dr. Gentry showing signs the force of the arguments against him continues to poison the well, again mentioning Stevens’ past as being one who came from the Church of Christ. (56) Was Calvin wrong because he used to be a Roman Catholic? Hardly. Such fallacious arguments continue to mount as a frustrating part of Gentry’s entire argument against preterism. One hoping for a sound, scriptural, logical argument against preterism must look elsewhere, away from the name-calling, ad hominem, well-poisoning, and guilt by association arguments that represent the entire bulk of Gentry’s objections to preterism.

It should speak volumes to those honestly exploring these issues that Gentry takes several pages quoting and arguing that the language of the creeds are superior to the language of scripture and claiming that anyone who wishes to use the language of scripture is following the “pattern of ancient heretics.” (59) Since Gentry does not use scripture to support his claims against preterism and then laments those who see scripture, God’s infallible word, as taking precedent over man-made creeds, we must wonder where his loyalties lie.   His fear of scripture and the Holy Spirit transform faith into scholastic dogmatism.   In his conclusion, Gentry again tries to use his Guilt by Association argument this time with Joseph Smith. (61) Unfortunately for him, as the eyes of the reader is opened we can see that the same arguments are just as applicable to the Reformers and Gentry himself. 

I must give credit where it is do and concur with one approach of Dr. Gentry. The inconsistency of his arguments and reliance on logical fallacies and guilt by association show “why many of us find interaction with” critics of preterism “frustrating, wasteful, and counterproductive.” When we want to discuss God’s word, they continue to discuss the words of men. When we want to discuss the biblical record, they want to play games and try to find someone to associate us with for emotional force. Instead of openly debating us they would rather caste aspersions and insults to try to dissuade people from listening without even disproving what we are saying. They apply one standard to their theological novelty and another to what they call aberrant in our theology. Such tactics are indeed frustrating and unbecoming those who claim to be leaders in the Reformed community. 

Somehow Dr. Gentry is convinced that saying that preterists say similar things to group “x” somehow makes what preterists say untrue. He also seems to be convinced that saying that preterists disagree with man-made creeds automatically means that what they are saying is untrue. Finally, Gentry is convinced that the education level of a person determines whether their statements are true or false. All of these claims are not only wrong, they border on absurd. But they are the only arguments presented by Gentry against preterism. 

As we assess the overall force of Dr. Gentry’s response to preterism we realize that he is dismissive and argumentatively weak in his assessment and criticism of preterist theology. I had hoped for a more substantial response from someone of his caliber and learning, but the name-calling, guilt by association arguments, and rhetoric gamesmanship are a thin veil over a weak argument. He presents very little evidence to support his accusation and connection between preterists and cultic groups, yet uses them to do most of the heavy lifting in his argument. Use of scripture is sparse and hardly ever on point. Finally, even where Gentry presents an occasionally cogent argument, the same argument could be used just as equally and with just as much integrity against the position of any Reformed believer as against the preterists. Dr. Gentry’s case is only able to stand up in a book sold to people who already believe its proposition. In genuine debate or in a court of law his flimsy evidence, hearsay, and logical fallacies would prove nothing other than a personal bias unfounded by fact, and more importantly unsupported by God’s word.

            My only prayer is that, you, the reader, will evaluate these arguments for yourself and not let the emotional appeals, name calling, and associations drawn by Dr. Gentry to deter you from seeing what scripture itself teaches. In the end it does not matter what Dr. Gentry asserts, or what Ed Hassertt, or David Green argues. In the end the only question that needs to be asked is, “What does God say in His Holy Word?”

            This article is not meant to be an exegetical defense of preterist theology, but rather an explanation of how weak Gentry’s arguments against preterism really are. Others in this volume present the biblical, historical, and theological basis for the truth of consistent preterism. With such sound, solid, biblical reasoning supporting preterism, and such bankrupt, incoherent, inconsistent, arbitrary, and illogical arguments raised against it, I pray that the reader will take the noble-minded Berean approach by “searching the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) Look to scripture and see if what we are saying is consistent with God’s infallible word. That, in the end, is what really matters about preterism – not how many insults a leader of the Reformed community can sling at it; not how many cult groups he can associate us with hoping to sully our name; not how many scholars he can get to agree with him; not how many creeds or church fathers he can stack up on his side. Only what God has revealed to us matters on this question. God’s Word is explicitly clear for those who honestly examine it. An honest examination of scripture can allow for no other conclusion than preterism. Read the rest of this volume closely. The lack of evidence, biblical exegesis and logical argument seen in Gentry’s criticism, is filled in exceptionally with the work of able biblical scholars and logicians. God is calling for a new Reformation away from the speculation of futurist theology and to a realization of all God has completely accomplished in history as predicted and revealed in His Holy Infallible Word.



[1]I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word,that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

 

[2] Joseph Lortz, The Reformation in Germany, trans. Ronald Walls (London: Darton, Longman & Todd 1968), 1:296.)

 

[3] need to reinsert footnotes

[4] See: Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1); Justin Martyr (First Apology 66); Irenaeus (Against Heresies 4:33–32); Tertullian (The Resurrection of the Dead 8)

[5] See: Justin Martyr (Dialog with Trypho, sec. 2)  

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