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
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! 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). 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.”
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). 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.”
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.”
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. 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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.” 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. 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.
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. 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.”
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.”
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:
- Moses as High Priest permitted in Most Holy Place / at top of the mountain (Ex 24:2).
- 70 Elders functioning as Priests enter Holy Place (Ex 19:22; Ex 24:21).
- 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.”
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,”
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 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)
|Cessation (Exod. 39:32)
Mosaic blessing (Exod. 39:43
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).
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.” 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?
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
The 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).
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
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 manna, 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
Margaret 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).” 
I would agree with Preston that these elements are “…the stoicheia, that Peter refers to in 2 Peter 3:10!” 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
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.”
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:
|“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.
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)!
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. 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).
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.).”
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.”
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). 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.”
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”?”
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.”
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).
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).
“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?
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:
- To demonstrate the Jew/Gentile oneness in the NC Body/Kingdom.
- To confirm the Apostles authority and testimony while…
- Leading (infallibly by divine inspiration) the Apostles “into all truth” concerning “things to come” (i.e. the timing and nature of the Second Coming).
- 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/
 Matt Waymeyer, Michael Brown, Authentic Fire, & John 14:12, http://thecripplegate.com/michael-brown-authentic-fire-john-1412/
 Dr. Michael Brown, The Master’s Seminary Professor and John 14:12, https://askdrbrown.org/library/masters-seminary-professor-and-john-1412
 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.
 Arthur W. Pink, EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 758
 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.
 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, 1613.
 Matt Waymeyer, Ibid.
 R.C. Sproul, Undervaluing Pentecost, http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/TM13-3/undervaluing-pentecost
 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.
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. 4:14-17. The 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”:
- a coming of our Lord (2 Thess. 2:1; cf. Matt. 24:27, 30),
- a gathering together to Him (2 Thess. 2:1; cf. Mattt. 24:31),
- apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3; cf. Matt. 24:5, 10-12),
- the mystery of lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:7; Matt. 24:12),
- satanic signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9-10; cf. Matt. 24:24),
- 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  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.
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:
- 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.
- 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 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 / Holy – without 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)|
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 #2 – And 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),…
Conclusion – Then 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 #1 – If 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 #2 – And 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 #3 – And 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 #4 – And 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 #5 – And 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 #6 – And 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).
Conclusion: Then 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/