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By: Michael J. Sullivan
Copyright 2008-03-16 

In Acts 1-3 there are direct statements concerning the Second Coming of Jesus. A “common sense” and natural reading for Theophilus and the church in the first century let alone in successive generations, would not necessitate that chapter 1 be dealing with the future coming of Christ, chapter 2 is an A.D.70 coming, and chapter 3 reverts back to the final future coming of Christ. Unfortunately, that is what Mathison and Mr. Gentry have artificially imposed upon these chapters.  

1) “to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.  And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me;  ”for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.“  Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. ”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.” Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.  And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:3-11)

As the 12 representatives of Israel spied out the Promised Land for 40 days so that they could see and understand visually what God had promised for them to inherit (Num.13); Jesus instructed His disciples for 40 days concerning the restoration of the kingdom they were to inherit. Under the old covenant it took 40 years of wilderness wanderings and then another recapitulated 40 years of David and Solomon’s reigns of war and peace before the full inheritance of the Promised Land was realized under the old covenant.   Now under the new covenant and new exodus, in verse 8 Jesus is giving the disciples the command to go and take possession of the kingdom/land by preaching the gospel and thus conquering the hearts of His people from Satan and their first century enemies who were the Pharisees and the apostate old-covenant system of Jerusalem from below/Babylon (Mt.21-22; Gals.4; Revelation). This commission would last around 40 years and extend throughout the then local world as they knew it. John Lightfoot made the theological connections between the 40 days and years of Israel in the old testament, and then the 40 days here in our text with the coming 40 years of Messiah before A.D.70.

Keith Mathison has sought to argue that since the disciples saw Jesus’ literal body ascend into a cloud and then vanish from their physical sight, that Jesus’ literal body must be seen literally at His Second Coming to end history (Acts 1:9-11). Since Mathison reasons this did not happen in A.D. 70 and until it has, the Second Coming has not taken place (WSTTB, 184-188, 204).

Let us briefly examine the context of Acts 1:9-11. In verse 5, Jesus invokes themes of salvation by contrasting the baptism of water administered by John the Baptist with the baptism of the Holy Spirit that Jesus Himself was going to administer. The combination of Jesus speaking both of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God and of baptism prompts the disciples to ask Him in verse 6 about the timing of the kingdom’s arrival. 

Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus does not give them a day or hour, but He reminds them in verse 8 of the “sign” of the Great Commission which had to be accomplished before He would restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:8; Matt. 24:3, 14). Mathison breaks from the majority of Reformed, Evangelical, and preterist theologians, who all see one Great Commission in the Gospels and in the book of Acts, and not two.  

Mathison ignores the immediate context and states: 


The first thing that must be observed when we examine this account is that no reference to time is connected with the prediction of the return of Christ (WSTTB, 185).  


However, in another book Mathison states:


The time frame is hinted at in the preceding context. The disciples are given a commission to be Christ’s witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (v. 8). The implication is that Christ’s visible return will follow the completion of the mission to the remotest part of the earth.”[2]


So according to Mathison, when the sign of the Great Commission in verse 8 is fulfilled, then the Second Coming of verse 11 will occur. Mathison’s contention that there are two Great Commissions given in the New Testament —one fulfilled before A.D. 70 and the other which will be fulfilled before the allegedly future Millennium— is arbitrary. It is a position he is forced to take (like his doctrine of the two future “comings” of Christ in the New Testament) because of his inconsistent partial preterist framework. Mathison’s dichotomizing approach to the Great Commission does not merit a serious rebuttal and can be rejected out of hand. Therefore, if we can prove that the Great Commission was fulfilled in the days of the New Testament, then we can establish with certainty that the coming of the Lord was fulfilled in those days as well. This, of course, is easily done: 


               PROPHECY                                                     FULFILLMENT


“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world (Greek oikumene) for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).

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


“And the gospel must first be published among all nations (Greek ethnos).” “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations (Greek ethnos)…’” “…I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen” (Mark 13:10; Matthew 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 phile) and tongue (Greek glossa), and people. (Greek laos)” (Revelation 1:1; 14:6; cf. 10:6-7) Satan was bound so that the Great Commission to the nations would be accomplished during the “millennium” (Revelation 20:3).


Arguing against Amillennialism and Dispensationalism, Mathison writes of Matthew 24:14, “the fulfillment of this gospel mission is recorded in Scripture itself.  It began with Peter’s sermon to Jews from across the empire on Pentecost (Acts 2:5) and is spoken of by Paul as having been fulfilled (Romans 10:18; Colossians 1:6, 23).”  But what Mathison doesn’t tell you is that Romans 10:18 also uses another Greek word–ge to describe that the Great Commission had already gone into all the earth/land and thus had been fulfilled by A.D. 70.  In Acts 1:8, Jesus once again reiterates the Great Commission command except this time He uses the Greek word ge for “earth/land.”  How is it then, that when Mr. Mathison comes to Acts 1:8, he does not cite the same passage Romans 10:18 to demonstrate the fulfillment of the Great Commission?“  Once again we catch Mathison making arbitrary and creedally selective parallels to defend his partial preterist postmillennialism against other groups, but somehow when we use the same parallel hermeneutical procedure we are “heretics”?  If Mathison can make the Matthew 24:14/Romans 10:18 command/A.D. 70 fulfillment parallel using oikumene, then why can’t we make the Acts 1:8/Romans 10:18 command/A.D. 70 fulfillment parallel using ge?” 



Acts 1



The Olivet Discourse


The arrival of the kingdom (v. 6)


The arrival of the kingdom (Lk. 21:31-32)


Only the Father knows (v. 7)


Only the Father knows (Matt. 24:36)


The Great Commission precedes Christ’s return (v. 8)


The Great Commission precedes Christ’s return (Matt. 24:14)


After commanding His disciples to take possession of the kingdom through the Great Commission, Jesus ascended in a cloud, hidden from the disciples’ sight (v.9). Mathison says, “According to BDAG lexicon, the verb is used in Acts 1:9 in the sense of ‘to cause to ascend, take up.’”[4] However, even admitting this is could be a possible textual rendering of the passage, Mathison still insists that Jesus’ physical body was seen as the cloud caused Him to ascend. However, the verse plainly says that the cloud “received Him out of their sight.”  

Jason Bradfield gives a helpful illustration here. “I remember one time at the airport, a little girl with her dad was looking out the window, watching her mom board the plane. And then as it took off, she pointed at it and said, ‘Look, there goes the airplane that contains the body of my mom!’  Is that what she said?  No.  Pointing to the plane, she said, ‘Look, there goes mom!’”[5] According to the Greek text and to various commentators[6] and even to Mathison himself, it is altogether possible that Christ came into the glory of His Father (John 17:5) in Acts 1:11, and that the glory-cloud enveloped Him in the presence of His disciples, and that it was therefore not His physical body that was seen ascending, but His glory.  

In verse 11, the disciples are told that Jesus will come “in like manner” as He had entered heaven. The continuity of Him coming back as He had entered heaven is in the fact that He would appear in the heavenly glory-cloud of His Father (Matthew 16:27), as the Father had appeared many times in the Old Testament. Jesus was not physically seen after going into the glory-cloud and He would not be physically seen “coming into” or “dwelling within” the church at His revealing in the end of the age (Luke 17:20-37; John 14:2-3, 23). 

In the Old Testament, God was never bodily or literally seen coming in or on the clouds when He judged Israel and the nations. In like manner, Jesus was “hid” and not seen again once He entered the glory-cloud. He was “taken up in glory” (I Tim. 3:16), and He would come back in glory as the God of Israel. 

Through the incarnation, God became flesh. John bore testimony that looking at and touching Jesus was to look at and touch God Himself (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1). God was physically seen in the “flesh” but this was only a transitionary period for the second person of the Godhead (Heb. 5:7), even as He had been born into and under the old-covenant “fleshly” system with its physical transitionary types and shadows (Gal. 4:4; Rom. 5-8; 2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8:13)The fleshly covenant-system would give way to the spiritual and eternal new-covenant creation in A.D.70. Therefore, after Jesus’ ascension we are told, “…though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Cor. 5:16).  

This was the point of the angels’ question, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” It was futile for the disciples to long for Jesus to return to the transitory form He took when He was born of Mary. After His ascension, Jesus was no longer in His physical body but had returned to His glory. 

We agree with the majority of commentators and cross reference systems which see the in-like-manner coming of Jesus in Acts 1:11 as being parallel with the coming of Jesus on or in the clouds in Matthew 16:27-28, 24:30-31, 26:64-68; Revelation 1:7. Mathison, Gentry and Sproul though arbitrarily disconnect Acts 1:11 from those scriptures, saying that Christ was figuratively “seen” (perceived, understood)[7] 

at His figurative “coming” in/on the clouds in A.D. 70, in fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 16:27; 24:30; 26:64-68; Revelation 1:7, but that He will (sometime in our future) literally be seen literally arriving in the flesh “in like manner” as He ascended.  

Their arbitrary dichotomizing hermeneutic eventually causes them to descend into an abyss of hopeless exegetical confusion. Mathison writes of Matt. 24:30, “The ‘coming’ of the Son of Man is His coming in judgment upon Jerusalem (see vv. 23-28), which is intimately connected with His ascension to the right hand of God (cf. Dan. 7:13-14).”[8]   For Mathison, Christ’s “coming” in Dan. 7:13-14 is somehow both a literal, visible “going up” in a literal cloud in about A.D. 30 and a figurative, invisible “coming” to Jerusalem in figurative clouds in A.D. 70. Even though Mathison says that Jesus’ “coming” in A.D. 70 was “intimately connected with His ascension,” and even though both comings were with a cloud/clouds and in the glory of the Father, Mathison says that Jesus’ “coming” in A.D. 70 was not the “in-like-manner” coming promised in Acts 1:11. Mathison’s position is a jumble. We would refute it if it were comprehensible. 

Milton Terry in contrast took a lucid, biblical approach, seeing Acts 1:11, Revelation 1:7 and Matthew 24:30-31, 34 all being fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem:  

To press the literal import of the words “every eye shall see him,” and insist that at the parousia Christ must literally appear on a cloud, and be visible to every person on the habitable globe, involves manifest absurdities. The statement of the angels in Acts 1:11, is that the Lord would come again in like manner as the disciples beheld him going into heaven; but that ascension, like the appearance of the angels, was visible to only a chosen few. That he personally came again in that generation, and was seen by multitudes, and by those who were guilty of his blood, we accept upon the testimony of the Scriptures. But no person or phenomenon in the clouds of heaven could be visible, at one and the same time, to all the inhabitants of the earth; and no one pretends that the Son of man is to pass through the clouds and make the circuit of the globe so as to appear literally to every eye. The words of Rev. 1:7 are, therefore, to be understood in general harmony with both the temporal and geographical limitations of the prophecy.[9]

The immediate context links Christ’s return to the teachings of John the Baptist (verse 5; Matthew 3:2-12), the kingdom’s arrival in that generation (verse 7; Matthew 24:30-36; Luke 21:27, 31-32), and the fulfillment of the Great Commission (verse 8; Matthew 24:14, 27, 30; Romans 10:18). Jesus was visibly “lifted up.” Then the glory-cloud of God received from sight. Then he ascended into heaven in the cloud. He returned in the same manner in which He ascended into heaven: hidden in the cloud of the glory of His Father.  

This was the one and only future coming of Christ that was promised in the New Testament. It is the same coming that Jesus promised in Matthew 16:27-28, 24:30-31, 26:64-68; Revelation 1:7. Therefore, Christ returned in A.D.70. The analogy of Scripture confirms our interpretation. It does not confirm Mathison’s, which rips Acts 1:9-11 from its immediate and broader New Testament contexts. We agree with Terry’s comments on Revelation 1:7m Acts 1:11 and Matthew 24:30-31, 34. “We accept upon the testimony of the Scriptures” that Christ returned on/in the clouds in that generation. 

2) Acts 2: 1) The “last days” 2) The charismata 3) The great and dreadful day of the Lord and 4) “This perverse generation.”  

The Holy Spirit is poured out on Pentecost upon Jews “from every nation under heaven” in verse 5. This would serve as the tongues of angels/messengers that would return back to these nations in order to fulfill the great commission. I would agree with amillennialist G.K. Beale that the nations listed in verses 9-11 are in “abbreviated form” the table of nations listed in (Gen.10-11) and God is now reversing and restoring the scattering judgment that took place at the tower of Babel.[10]

 It is no surprise to me that in a 350 page book with a 4 way debate over “ARE MIRACULOUS GIFTS FOR TODAY? 4 VIEWS” that the ONLY person mentioning the relationship between the “last days,” the charismata, and the coming of the Lord in verse 20 is the Pentecostal/Charismatic debater, “Finally, the last days do not conclude until the Lord’s return (Acts 2:20b). There is not a scrap of biblical evidence that the last days are subdivided, postponed, or changed prior to the day of the Lord. Indeed, all evidence indicates that the last days continue in characteristic fashion without any pivotal changes until the Lord brings them to a close with his return (cf. 1Tim. 4:1; 2Tim. 3:1; Heb. 1:2; James 5:3; 1Peter 1:20; 2Peter 3:3; 1John 2:18).”[11] I would respond to our charismatic friend, that there is not “a scrap of biblical evidence” that the “last days” has anything to do with the last days of the new-covenant age of the church which is described as having no end! The “last days” is referring to the end of the old-ovenant age and was the age that Jesus definitively closed at His return in A.D.70.  

We concur with the views of Owen, Lightfoot and contemporaries such as DeMar that understand the term “the last days” here and “the great and terrible day of the Lord” as strictly referring to “the last days of Jerusalem,” “the Jewish economy,” and thus God’s judgment upon “the Jewish world.”[12]


The great and dreadful day of the Lord in verse 20 is not a different great and dreadful day of the Lord than John as the Elijah to come, came to prepare the way of (Mt.3:2-12/Isa.40/Mt.11:14/Mal.3:1-2, 4:1-6). Allowing Scripture to interpret itself, this coming cannot be separated from the judgment, rewards given, and the time of the harvest/resurrection! The passage in Joel ends with, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Saved from what? Contextually, this is from Christ coming in judgment upon Jerusalem in A.D.70.   Peter appeals to two more eschatological texts in this chapter in (verses 34-35/Ps. 110), and (verse 40/Deut.32).   Peter understands the enemies of (Ps.110) being the first century Jews as did Jesus, as those crucifying Christ in verse 36. Peter rams the point home with the words, “With many other words he warned them, and he pleaded with them, “save yourselves from this corrupt generation” in verse 40.” This is a direct reference to a very specific “latter days” “perverse and crooked generation” of Israel (Deut. 4:30, 31:29, 32:5, 20). Peter identifies his contemporary generation as that “last days” generation. This further supports what we have seen all along and that is, the second coming and the “last days” has nothing to do with an end to the new covenant age of the age of the church, but rather the end of the old-covenant age in A.D.70.   

3) “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, “and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, “whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. “For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. ‘And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ “Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.  (Acts 3:19-24).  


Mathison tying this text to the preceding fulfillment of the Davidic covenant states, “The New Testament tells us that Jesus will remain in heaven until the restoration of all things (Acts 3:19-21; cf. Rom. 8:19-22; Phil. 3:20-21).” “However, the fact that the kingdom has been inaugurated does not mean that it has come in its fullness. Jesus has been given the kingdom, but he must still subdue his enemies over time. In this, the inauguration of Christ’s kingdom parallels the inauguration of David’s kingdom.” (WSTTB?, p.188 & n.45). BUT both David and Solomon’s reigns over Israel through war and peace, were periods of 40 years. Jesus as King over Israel subdued His apostate enemies that crucified Him and shed the blood of His apostles and prophets in a “this generation” period as well.  

As usual Mathison does not develop the context of very important texts he assumes teaches a future second coming. As we saw before in chapter two Peter is exhorting his contemporary audience “men of Israel” verse 12, “You handed Him over to be killed” verse 13, “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One…,” verse 14, “You killed the author of life,…” verse 15, “You acted in ignorance…” verse 17. Likewise, they are exhorted to “repent” in order to obtained forgiveness or salvation at the coming of the Lord in verses 19-21 which were the exact same motifs found in Peter’s previous sermon in Acts 2! The old-covenant wrath and judgment to fall upon Israel foretold by Moses simply cannot be mistaken in verses 22-23 and is referring to God’s judgment in A.D.70. Unlike Mathison, Kenneth Gentry acknowledges verse 23 and states, “This call to repentance from their sins contextually speaks of their horrible guilt in the crucifixion. With an eye to the coming A.D. 70 judgment, Peter issues a warning from Moses…”[13]

 Gentry now finds himself in a pickle because verses 19-21 speak of the second coming and “the restoration of all things.” So Gentry claims the “restoration of all things” is not something that comes “until” God sends His Son from heaven in the second coming event, but decides the “restoration of all things” is a 2,000+ years process and the sending of the Son from heaven is actually a sending of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of these Jews whom repented. (Gentry, Dominion, ibid., p.489). Because this is somewhat laughable exegesis, Gentry admits this is just as much of an “awkward” exegesis of the passage as it is for a futurist second coming interpretation, “This understanding of the “sending” (apostello) of Jesus in salvation is no more awkward than is the Second Advent view.” (Gentry, Dominion, ibid., p.489 emphasis added) “This particular sending of Christ does not await His Second Advent. Why would Peter tell the Jews that if they repent today, God will send the Son thousands of years later? Christ is being presented to them at that very moment.” (Gentry, Dominion, ibid., p.490).             

How is this any less “awkward” than the same Jewish contemporary audience being exhorted to be saved from the imminent coming of the Lord in their generation in (Acts 2:20-21, 40)?!? The two sermons are exhorting the same first century Jewish audience that had crucified Christ to be saved from an imminent old-covenant wrath that was looming over their generation. This old-covenant wrath predicted by Moses would be poured out upon them by the sending of God’s Son from heaven or described as the great and dreadful day of the Lord in A.D.70. Acts 2-3 is only “awkward” when trying to be interpreted through a futurist paradigm!  

Kistemacker gives a straightforward interpretation but contradicts both Mathison and Gentry in claiming that the great commission of (Mt.24:14) has still not been fulfilled, “He must stay in heaven.” In his discourse on the end of the age, Jesus told the disciples that no one but the Father knows the exact time of Jesus’ return (Matt. 24:36). Therefore, God the Father determines when Jesus will come back to restore everything. In the meantime, while Christ’s gospel is preached on earth, Jesus remains in heaven, from where he directs the development of his church and kingdom. He will not return until “this gospel of the kingdom [has been] preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then will come the end” (Matt. 24:14).[14] True as these comments are, the great commission of (Mt.24:14 & Acts 1:8) had already been fulfilled by A.D.70 (Rms.10:18/11:26-27/13:11-12).  

The Greek word here for “restore” is apokatastasis and it is only this one time in the new testament, while it’s kindred verb to “restore” is found in (Acts 1:6 & Mt.17:11). We have already seen the fulfillment of the great commission and therefore the “restoration” of (Acts 1:6-8). According to Jesus, John was the Elijah about to come whom prepared the way for the “great and dreadful day of the Lord” which would restore all things by A.D.70. The “all things” is defined later in verses 21-24 as prophecies that came through “all the prophets” from Moses, Samuel, and on. Peter is only reiterating what Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse, “For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.” (Lk.21:22). In fact all of the elements in Acts 1-3 point to an A.D.70 fulfillment when compared to the Olivet Discourse. 1) The great commission needed to be fulfilled first (Mt.24:14/Acts 1:6-11) and was. 2) Those whom put Jesus to death (and would put to death his apostles and prophets) among the “tribes of the earth/land” would mourn and experience His old-covenant wrath and judgment if they did not repent (Mt.23-24/Acts 2-3; cf. Rev.1:7). And lastly, 3) All prophecy found in the law and the prophets concerning the “restoration of all things” – the judgment, resurrection, and Christ’s second coming would occur within “this generation” (Acts 2-3/Mt.24:1-34). 

4) “the times, indeed, therefore, of the ignorance God having overlooked, doth now command all men everywhere to reform, because He did set a day in which He is about to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom He did ordain, having given assurance to all, having raised him out of the dead.” (Acts 17:31 YLT & WEY).  

The command of the great commission was DETERMINED TO be fulfilled by A.D.70, “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary (Greek dei) for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, “and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Lk.24:46-47). “And the gospel must (Greek dei) first be preached to all the nations.” “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” (Mrk.13:10, 30). The Greek word for “necessity” here is dei and Strong’s Concordance defines it as, “Necessity established by the counsel and decree of God, especially by that purpose of his which relates to the salvation of men by the intervention of Christ and which is disclosed in the Old Testament prophecies.” Our reformed opponents have no problem accepting the sovereign purpose and time frame of the crucifixion, “But first he must (Greek dei) suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation.” (Lk.17:25). In fact they cringe at the dispensational theory that God could have saved the Jews through some other means than the cross, or that God postponed or altered His “at hand” kingdom plans.[15]   But what my two opponents – Mr. Mathison and Mr. Pratt consistently fail to submit to, is God’s purpose and decree to fulfill the great commission “to all nations” and send His Son in the same exact time frame! This same word is used in the great commission in Mark’s account of the Olivet Discourse (Mrk.13:10, 27-30). There is no way it could have failed to happen because it had been decreed and purposed by God to be fulfilled within that specific time period! Paul used every Greek word that Jesus did in the “command” of the great commission to say that it had been (past tense) fulfilled in his “this generation”: 


Command                   Commandment Fulfilled

1) Mt. 24:14                 Rms.10:18 “all the world” oikoumene;  


2) Mrk. 13:10              Rms.16:25-26 “all nations” ethnos; 

3) Lk. 24:46-47            Rms.16:25-26 “all nations” ethnos; 

4) Mrk. 16:15              Col.1:5-6 “all the world” kosmos;

5) Mrk. 16:15              Col.1:23 “every creature” kitisis;

6) Acts 1:8                 Rms.10:18 “ends [or all] of the earth/land” ge & oikoumene.[16]

 The above point in and of itself destroys Pratt and Mathison’s theory of a postponed parousia due to God’s alleged 2,000 + years “longsuffering” in the great commission command. We are not talking about anthropomorphic language here or God’s “permissive” will. We are discussing His decretive will. Oh, but there is more on this crucial point. 

God had “cut out” “determined a day” in which He would judge. In (Acts 17:31a.), the word for “appoint” or “set” (Greek histemi) carries with it, “of making a definite plan appoint, decide, determine (LU 22:22).” [17] And, “to stand ready or prepared. To be of a steadfast mind. Of quality, one who does not hesitate, does not waiver.[18] No one disagrees that this is referring to the “day” of Christ’s second coming as predicted in the Olivet Discourse. But as we have seen the discourse is not divided up to teach two second comings and judgments, but one, in Jesus “this generation.” So is Luke and Paul consistent with what Jesus taught as far as the time frame of this sovereign plan?  

Our text teaches God was “about to (Greek mello) judge” the world and He would NOT “hesitate” or “waiver” in His decretive plan to accomplish it – thus crushing the postponement theories of the kingdom’s arrival within dispenstational and reformed theology! God “about to” do this is equivalent to Jesus promising to return in “this generation” (Mt.24:34). God having “determined the day” is equivalent to no man knowing the day and hour of it (Mt.24:36). 

The passages states that God was about to judge “the world.” Please pay close attention to what Mathison says of the judgment for those Jews in (Acts 17) in connection to his preterist interpretation of (1Thess. 2:16 & 1 Thess. 5), “…the subject of 5:1-8 is the destruction that will come upon at least some unbelievers. Chapter 5 seems to be dealing with the same subject as the one discussed in 2:16, namely, the time when the Jews who are persecuting this church will be judged (cf. Acts 17:5). (Postmillennialism, p.226, emphasis added).   

Paul in 1Thess. 2:16 says that these Jewish countrymen whom were persecuting the church in Thessalonica, “were forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.” Paul is getting this from Jesus who said of these same Jews, “Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!” Jesus specifically gives a time frame in which the judgment and wrath would be poured out upon them – “this generation” (Mt.23:32-36). Therefore, we have a very specific time frame of when this wrath and judgment would be poured out upon the Jewish persecutors Mathison has identified in (Acts.17:5)! These Jews had claimed Paul and Silas had “caused trouble all over the world (Greek oikoumene) 17:6. Obviously the entire globe is not the subject here. Mr. Mathison would concede that Luke is NOT discussing the entire globe in ANY of these texts where he uses oikoumene, 

1) The globe was not taxed by Caesar Augustus (Lk.2:1).  

2) The wrath and judgment in (Lk.21:26) was upon the local land of Palestine to be fulfilled in Jesus’ “this generation.” (vs.32).  

3) A severe famine did not affect the entire globe in (Acts 11:28). 


4) The entire globe was not worshipping “the great goddess Diana” (Acts 19:27). 

5) Paul was not guilty of stirring up sedition among the Jews throughout the globe (Acts 24:5).  


Therefore, the exegetical “burden of proof” is upon Mathison and the reformed futurist community to demonstrate how Luke changes the meaning of world/oikoumene here in 17:31 to be a global  judgment when the globe is not the focus of his attention elsewhere. The oikoumene that had heard the gospel (Rms.10:18) was no longer in a state of “ignorance” and therefore was “about to be judged.”     

5) “then Paul said unto him, ‘God is about to smite thee, thou whitewashed wall, and thou—thou dost sit judging me according to the law, and, violating law, dost order me to be smitten!’” (Acts 23:3YLT).  

Here is another reference in Luke’s writings where mello is teaching imminence. The background passage to this in Jesus’ teaching is Mt.26:64-68 where He promised the High Priest and the apostate ruling Sanhedrin that they would see Him coming on the clouds to judge them. Mathison claims this Matthew text was fulfilled at the ascension event and extending to the end of time (WSTTB, 183). Of course there were no un-believers at the ascension event, and Paul sees the rulers of Israel to be smitten and judged in an “about to” time period in the future. This text in Acts or the Matthew passage is not teaching a 2000+ year time period before the judgment of Jesus’ and Paul’s contemporaries!    

6) “Having hope toward God, which they themselves also wait for, that there is about to be a rising again of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous;” “But when he dealt with the subjects of justice, self-control, and the judgment which was soon to come, Felix became alarmed…” (Acts 24:15 YLT & WEY; 24:25WEY & YLT).  

Within the immediate context of our passage, we have the fulfillment of the “signs” mentioned by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse to take place before He would return in judgment within that generation: 1) Paul has been preaching throughout the “world” (verse 5/Mt.24:14) which is 2) resulting in persecution and being led before rulers and kings (verse 1ff./Mt.10:18-22; 24:9). Paul claims the resurrection that is “about to” take place is found in the “law and prophets” (verse 14/Lk.21:22). Should it be any surprise contextually and exegetically, that Paul would not be preaching an imminent judgment and resurrection when he is personally living out those signs of which Jesus foretold would come about before He would return in judgment to raise/gather the dead? The phrase “a rising again” and a resurrection of both “the righteous” and “the wicked” is in harmony with Jesus’ teaching in (Jn.5:21-30). Paul is identifying with his Jewish opponents that had known of God raising the dead of their nation in times past. Just as the Son had watched the Father raise the dead and “gather” Israel in the past (vs.15/Jn.5:19-29/Mt.24:30-31/Isa.27/Ezk.37), so too there was “about to be” “again” a rising of the dead among Israel.

Let’s review what Mathison, Sproul, and even Gentry himself, has to say of what mello means here in our text,  

“Nevertheless, when used with the aorist infinitive –as in Revelation 1:19—the words predominant usage and preferred meaning is: ‘be on the point of, be about to.’ The same is true when the word is used with the present infinitive, as in Rev.3:10. The basic meaning in both Thayer and Abbott-Smith is: ‘to be about to.”[19]


Our text here in 24:15 is using mello with the present infinitive and on top of that the immediate context is surrounded with A.D. 70 “signs” to support Paul’s mindset of imminence. This is what we call a double whammy or slam dunk! Paul and the New Testament remains consistent from the teachings of John the Baptist and Jesus concerning an “about to come” and “at hand” kingdom, wrath, judgment, and harvest / RESURRECTION all the way to Revelation.   

Summary of the theology of Acts. Contrary to what dispensational theology and Richard Pratt’s theology teaches, the book of Acts is not about what takes place after a sad realization of a “postponed” kingdom or parousia has occurred, due to the alleged  will of man frustrating God’s plans or God deciding He changed His mind. It is about the unfolding of the great commission within the Roman Empire which marked an “about to” come judgment and resurrection by A.D.70. Neither is the book of Acts about God being finished with national Israel at the cross as traditional amillennialism teaches. God was not finished with Israel at the cross and then started over with a bunch of new eschatological promises made to the Church concerning the end of her age. No! The book of Acts shows us repeatedly how all of Israel’s promises contained in the law and the prophets were being fulfilled and that the promises of an “about to be” resurrection were the “hope of Israel.” This would coincide with an “about to be” judgment within Moses’ and Peter’s terminal “perverse or crooked generation.” Nothing could be plainer!     

[1] John Lightfoot, ibid., Vol. 4, pp.7-8. “It is a tradition. On the evening of the Passover they hanged Jesus. And a crier went before him for forty days, saying, ‘Behold the man condemned to be stoned, because by the help of magic he hath deceived and drawn away Israel into an apostasy. Whoever hath any thing to allege in testimony of his innocence, let him come forth and bear witness.’ But they found none that would be a witness in his behalf.” But he himself (O thou tongue, fit to be cut out) gives a sufficient testimony of his own innocence; having for the space of forty days conversed amongst men after his resurrection from death, under the power of which he could not be kept by reason of his innocence.  “It is a tradition. R. Eliezer saith, ‘The days of the Messiah are forty years,’ according as it is said, ‘Forty years shall I be grieved with this generation.’” The Gloss is, “Because it is (in the future tense) it is a sign the prophecy is concerning the time to come.” It is ingenuously done, however, of these Jews, that they parallel that faithless generation that was in the days of the messiah with that perverse and rebellious generation that had been in the wilderness: for they will, both of them, prove a loathing and offence to God for the space of forty years. And as those forty years in the wilderness were numbered according to the forty days in which the land had been searching; so also may those forty years of the Messiah be numbered according to forty days wherein he was conversant amongst mankind after his resurrection from the dead. But you must compute warily, lest you stumble at the threshold about the year of Tiberius wherein Christ rose again; or at the close about the year of Vespasian wherein Jerusalem was taken.”


Keith Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1999 [emphases added]), 117

[3] “First, it must be noted that the ‘world’ in this verse translates the Greek word oikumene, which often refers to the Roman Empire (cf. Luke 2:1; Acts 11:28; 24:5). As Kenneth Gentry points out, ‘The western hemisphere is not in view in…Matthew 24:14.’ Second, the phrase ‘all nations’ in this context refers to the nations of the Roman Empire. Third, this witness was primarily a witness to the Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire that Jesus is the Messiah (cf. Acts 21:21; 24:5). The destruction of Jerusalem would prove the truth of this witness. Fourth, the prophecy is one of worldwide witness, not necessarily worldwide conversion. Fifth, the fulfillment of this gospel mission is recorded in Scripture itself. It began with Peter’s sermon to Jews from across the Empire on Pentecost (Acts 2:5) and is spoken of by Paul as having been fulfilled (Rom. 10:18; Col. 1:6, 23).” (ibid., 112-113) 

[4] Keith A. Mathison, Acts 1:9-11 and the Hyper-Preterism Debate, (Ligonier Ministries, 2004), 28,

[5] Jason Bradfield, Acts 1. 11 and Hyper-Creedalism

[6] For example, “…one may prefer to employ “he was hidden by a cloud” or “he was no longer visible because of a cloud.” If the verb hid suggests some intentionality on the part of the cloud, one may employ “because of the cloud he could not be seen” or “…they could not see him.” Newman, Barclay Moon ; Nida, Eugene Albert: A Handbook on the Acts of the Apostles. New York : United Bible Societies, 993], c1972 (UBS Handbook Series; Helps for Translators), S. 19


For example Gentry writes of Rev. 1:7, “In various places in Revelation “seeing” does not demand a physical beholding, but sensing or realizing, just as we say, “I see,” when a teacher shows us a math solution.” “…Yet this is a type of “seeing.” Kenneth L. Gentry, FOUR VIEWS ON THE BOOK OF REVELATION, (Grand Rapids Michigan: Zondervan, 1998), 47 n.28


Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism An Eschatology of Hope, (Phillipsburg New Jersey: 1999) 114 

[9] Milton S. Terry, BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS A Treatise on the Interpretation of the Old and New Testaments, (Grand Rapids Michigan: Zondervan, 1986), 468 

[10] G.K. Beale, ibid., pp. 201-203. I thought I was the only one that saw the connection between Jesus sending out 70 disciples (Lk.10:1-12) to correspond to the 70 nations of (Gen.10-11) but Beale has too. I would only add that this is the restoration of Israel as well – pictured through the 70 children that came through Jacob (Ex.1:5; & elders Ex.24) making up Israel. As Israel is a corporate Adam, so too Israel is a representation of the nations of the world in (Gen.10-11). The other nations would “learn righteousness” from how God dealt with Israel in salvation and judgment.      

[11] Wayne A. Grudem Editor, Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Robert L. Saucy, C. Samuel Storms, Douglas A Oss, ARE MIRACULOUS GIFTS FOR TODAY? 4 VIEWS, p. 267, Zondervan pub., 1996.

[12] John Lightfoot, Vol. 4, p.30 ibid.   

[13] Kenneth Gentry, Dominion, ibid., p.488. 

[14]Kistemaker, Simon J. ; Hendriksen, William: New Testament Commentary : Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids : Baker Book House, 1953-2001 (New Testament Commentary 17), S. 136

[15] John H. Gerstner, WRONGLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH A CRITIQUE OF DISPENSATIONALISM, pp.194-204, Soli Deo Gloria Pub., 2000. I don’t have a “similar problem” with the plan of salvation found in Adam “had he not sinned,” because I am a supralapsarian Calvinist. Mathison, DISPENSATIONALISM ibid., p.109-110. 

[16] Don K. Preston, Into All The World THEN COMES THE END, pp.4-8. I have heard Don discuss God’s sovereign purpose and plan of the great commission to be fulfilled in Jesus’ generation using the word “dei.” The problem is with Don’s Arminianism. According to Don’s theology, God was not sovereign in the great commission because according to him Christians did and continue to loose their “eternal life.” Don also mocks the idea that God has planned all things even the very course of a fly landing where it will. In other words there are some things God has not planned out fully and in Don’s theology the “free will” of man can eventually frustrate and end up altering God’s will and redemptive plans for His Kingdom. I don’t believe Don’s Arminianism can consistently refute open theism or Pratt’s futurism.          

[17]Friberg, Timothy ; Friberg, Barbara ; Miller, Neva F.: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 2000 (Baker’s Greek New Testament Library 4), S. 285

[18]Strong, James: The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. electronic ed. Ontario : Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996, S. G2476

[19] Sproul, Last Days According To Jesus, ibid, p.139-140 emphasis added.


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Mike Sullivan