Menu Home



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

1) “…The Lord is at hand.” (Phil.4:5)

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

Categories: Uncategorized

Mike Sullivan