A RESPONSE TO MIKE BULL’S PARTIAL PRETERIST ARTICLE “THE LAST TRUMPET”
DEALING WITH A PARTIAL PRETERIST ADMISSION THAT CHRIST’S ONE COMING/PAROUSIA OF MATTHEW 24:27-31 AND 1 THESSALONIANS 4:15-17 TOOK PLACE IN AD 70
BY MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN
It is not uncommon to find Partial Preterists pushing their “Inconsistent Orthodoxy” and hermeneutic closer and closer to Full Preterism while at the same time trying to maintain their “orthodox” and “scholarly” standing in hopes of keeping their creedal jobs and financial support. For a few examples (that are documented in our book and off of my site): 1) Gary DeMar and Keith Mathison do not take a division theory in Matthew 24-25 and accept that the coming of the Son of Man in both chapters took place in AD 70. 2) Peter Leithart, James Jordan, and Joel McDurmon understand that the resurrection of the just and unjust of Daniel 12:2-3 and the harvest of Matthew 13 took place at the end of the Old Covenant age in AD 70. 3) Sam Frost is now trying to make a name for him by still hanging onto some FP beliefs – admitting that the millennium of Revelation 20 was between AD 30 – AD 70 – trying to bring some FP through the back door of “Orthodox” Partial Preterism. And then there is 4) this very important admission coming from Partial Preterist Mike Bull that the typical PP view which teaches two comings or parousias in the NT is “confusing” and that Matthew 24-25 and 1 Thessalonians 4-5 speak of the same event and both were fulfilled in AD 70. These are all progressive “Inconsistent Orthodox” PP admissions that have always been FP propositions which continue to lead their readers into our view. They try to deny this, but the testimony of FP, Dispensationalists, Premillennialists, and Amillennialists (all in print) – readily recognize that their hermeneutic leads to ours.
Let’s now examine Mike Bull’s view that Matthew 24:31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 was fulfilled at Christ’s coming in AD 70 “in the flesh.”
Bull at least is honest enough to see the parallels between Matthew 24-25 and 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and recognizes that these are the same eschatological events – one coming and rising of the dead that took place at the end of the OC (Old Covenant age). As documented in our book, I pointed out the incredible inconsistent logic and hermeneutic that PP have used in paralleling Matthew 24 and 25 source material with various chapters in 1 and 2 Thessalonians (finding AD 70 fulfillments everywhere), but then IGNORING them where they are found the most (ie. in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)! I am still awaiting a written and public response from Mr. Mathison on this subject. He no longer makes a division in Matthew 24-25 and makes parallels between Matthew 24 and 1 Thessalonians 5 (and takes all of 1 and 2 Thessalonians as fulfilled in AD 70), but because the resurrection is in view in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, he arbitrarily and cowardly sticks his head in the sand with these parallels and Matthew 24 source material (see my response to Mathison in our book House Divided, pp. 107-110). Along with FP, most Reformed interpreters of 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (and the two modern Reformed Study Bibles I have), have long recognized Paul’s source material to be Matthew 24 and or accept the parallels to be one and the same eschatological event.
However, here are just a few problems for Mike Bull’s alleged “mediating” view between PP and FP as he calls it:
FP and his PP brethren would point out that church history tells us that the Apostle John was not caught away or raptured to heaven “in the flesh,” but himself “was seen” by the Church after AD 70.
Bull’s PP brethren would respond that if there were a rapture of the living (Jewish and Gentile) Christians, then where is the documentation of this event? Why didn’t the early church recognize or write about its fulfillment? Church history tells us that the Apostle John and the Christians that fled to Pella – whom were dispersed within the Roman Empire were very much alive on planet earth. 1 Thess. 4:16 mentions the rising of the dead. Since Bull equates this passage with Matthew 23-25 as the same event, he needs to explain how a vindication and resurrection “in the flesh” of all the righteous dead from righteous Abel and on, took place in AD 70 without anyone noticing all of the tombs being emptied/disturbed and writing about it? And was it just the tombs of the righteous that would be raised “in the flesh”?…
In Matthew 25:31ff. we see that the gathering into the kingdom at Christ’s coming in AD 70 is not just a gathering/resurrection “in the flesh” of the righteous, but affects the wicked who are thrown into “eternal fire.” We see this taking place for both groups at the harvest at the end of the OC age in the parable of the wheat and tares as well in Matthew 13 (cf. Matthew 3:7-12). And as noted previously, PP are now admitting the parable of the wheat and tares took place in AD 70 along with the resurrection of the wicked unto everlasting condemnation in Daniel 12:2-3. That being the case, how were the wicked raised “in the flesh” at Christ’s one parousia at the end of the OC age? This is consistent with Paul’s teaching elsewhere that according to the Law and Prophets (cf. Daniel 12:2-3) that there was “ABOUT TO BE a resurrection of BOTH the righteous AND THE WICKED.” (Acts 24:14-15 YLT WEY).
The “Last” or seventh “Trumpet” found in Revelation 11 and 1 Corinthians 15 is connected to the final and yet imminent parousia or coming of Christ.
In Revelation 11 it involves the time in which the dead are judged (v. 18, cf. 1 Peter 4:5-7, 17). These are not just the dead of a small first century group of Christian Jews and Gentiles in the first century. In the book of Revelation most Reformed commentators (along with FP and PP Sam Frost) accept the recapitulation structure of the book of Revelation in that Revelation 20 is not a different judgment/vindication and resurrection of the dead that hasn’t already been previously described for us in the previous chapters. Bulls’ view (in my opinion and perhaps that of the PP Sam Frost, and Amillennial view) is that it arbitrarily separates Revelation 20 from the rest of the recapitulation structure of the previous chapters. Your view of a future resurrection and judgment of the dead in Revelation 20 is not only out of harmony with the rest of the book, but that of the NT in general. I would agree with Mr. Gentry’s criticism of the Premillennial view in that Revelation 20 is not the only place the thousand years or millennium is discussed – It is found everywhere in the NT. The NT places a first century fulfillment upon all of events discussed in Revelation 20:
Verses 2-3 discusses the success of the Great Commission to the “nations” beginning with the binding of Satan (Mt. 13:10=Rms. 16:25-26).
Verses 4-6 discusses the persecuted and martyred Church rises from the dead and whom reigns with Christ (Ephs. 2:1-7) for the thousand years (the interim period between Christ’s first coming and His Second Coming which takes place at the end of the [OC] age and brings about the eternal “age to come”). You have conceded that the “gathering” of Matthew 24 and the “redemption” of Luke 21 and the “catching away”/rising of the dead of 1 Thess. 4 is addressing a resurrection and change of the living and dead in AD 70. Again, Matthew 23-25 and the other NT imminent texts which address the judgment and resurrection of the dead deal with a comprehensive judgment and resurrection of the righteous and wicked – not just a few martyred first century Jewish and Gentile Christians (Acts 24:14-15 YLT WEY).
Verses 7-10 discuss the Roman armies (that were composed of all of the known nations of that time) surrounding Jerusalem for the final war and the final destruction of Satan (Luke 21:20-32; Rms. 16:20/Gen. 3:15).
Verses 11-15 discusses: 1) the passing of heaven and earth of the OC system (Mt. 24:34-35), 2) all of the dead being judged with the wicked being thrown into the eternal lake of fire (as in Revelation 11 and other passages already addressed Mt. 3, 13, 23-25; Acts 17:31 YLT WEY; Acts 24:14-15 YLT WEY; etc…), 3) the time in which dead were judged according to what was recorded in the books. In regards to the books being opened as the time for the judgment and resurrection of the dead to take place, remember that in (Acts 17:31 and 25:14-15 YLT) that Paul was teaching the judgment and resurrection found in the law and prophets – specifically Daniel 7 and Daniel 12 as these echoes are clearly identified here by John in the book of Revelation. Daniel 12:1-7 is a recapitulation of Daniel 7 and would all be fulfilled when the power of the holy people would be completely shattered.
Mike’s futurist view of Revelation 20 is not consistent with the internal structure of the book of Revelation as demonstrated by the classical Amillennial view, the FP and even some PP. Nor does it pass the analogy of Scripture test.
Now let’s discuss the trumpet call in 1 Corinthians 15. “Most” reformed scholars connect Matthew 24:27-31 with 1 Thessalonians 4-5 as the same event and same time of fulfillment – as do all FP and yourself. This of course is the Achilles heel of most Partial Preterists that Bull is trying to distance himself from and which we as FP have done many years ago. Unfortunately for Bull’s view, everyone connects 1 Thessalonians 4 with 1 Corinthians 15 as all FP do. His theory that 1 Corinthians 15 is discussing three resurrections (1. Christ’s, 2. a fleshly biological resurrection of an isolated Jewish and Gentile group of Christians in the first century at the parousia, and 3. Another biological fleshly resurrection at “the end” of time) is not only unorthodox, but more importantly it is not grammatically or contextually accurate. It is rather discussing the resurrection of Christ and the final resurrection of the Body of Christ at “the end” of the OC age when death will be finally swallowed up in victory – at Christ’s parousia – the final period of the harvest.
Paul’s OT appeal to Isaiah’s little apocalypse (Isaiah 24-28) nor (Hosea 13) have anything to do with a resurrection “in the flesh” of corpses at the end of time.
The last enemy (“the death” that came through Adam the day he sinned) was in the process of being destroyed – “As a last enemy, death is being abolished,…” (1 Cor. 15:27 WUESTNT). If the present tense is recognized here, it should also be accepted in verses 15-16, 29, 32, 38, 43-44 in which God was already in the process of raising the dead, giving a body, the body was being sown and being raised into a spiritual body, etc… This being the case, an imminent and not so imminent overcoming of a “in the flesh” casket resurrection at “the end” and parousia just won’t fly. But understanding that “the death” was spiritual and that the fading glory of the administration of death (the Old Covenant mode of existence) is at the heart of the matter here – makes sense of Paul’s use of the present tense (see 2 Cor. 3-4; Heb. 8:13).
Bull has claimed that the parousia of 15:23 took place in AD 70, and yet the purpose of the parousia is to raise “all” those who belong to Him at “the end” in verses 23-24. Bull communicated with me that he doesn’t believe Christ has handed over the Kingdom to God and destroyed all dominion, authority and power and that they have been placed beneath Christ’s feet (vss. 24-28) – and yet the parousia and “the end” are grammatically inseparably connected to these events and is what fulfills them Mike – you can’t have one without the other! Good try though. Paul is using Psalm 110 here the same way the writer to the Hebrews uses it in Hebrews 10:13-37. In verse 27 (YLT WEY) we understand that the “enemies” of verse 13 were to expect a raging fire of judgment that was “about to” consume them (“the enemies of God”) at Christ’s “in a very little while” coming of verse 37. Context is king and the “enemies” of verse 13 are clarified as “about to be” destroyed by fire in the judgment of verses 25-39. Similar contextual limitations of “all” of God’s enemies being put down under Christ’s feet are before us in 1 Corinthians 15 and realized at “the end” (ie. at His parousia – the end of the OC age when the tares would be collected and burned up – Mt. 13). Another point of comparison between the theology of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and that of the book of Hebrews is that all of the “better things” of the New Covenant are spiritual anti-types of the literal Old Covenant ones. The “better resurrection” of Hebrews 11 is no exception and harmonizes with Paul’s description of a “spiritual body” not as you say “in the flesh” as allegedly found in 1 Corinthians 15.
We do agree on one thing though. You did mention that Israel’s understanding of being raised “in the land” is a picture or type of us being raised “in Christ” under the New Covenant. As some Jews affirmed the resurrection of those who died and whose bones were buried “in the land,” and yet denied the resurrection for those Jews whom had died and were buried outside of the land; there were some in Corinth who did not deny Christ’s resurrection or those “in Christ,” but rather that of “the dead” (a separate group) – those who had died previous to the work of Christ and had not partaken of the Spirits work or in the inauguration and transformation of NC resurrection life.
Mike Bull, thanks again for your time in trying to explain your view, but I don’t see it being a “mediating” one between PP and FP, but rather it is one that brings more PP “confusion” to the table and is but yet another example of what many (Amills, Premills, Dispy’s, and FP) would call “Inconsistent [arbitrary and confusing] Orthodoxy” from the PP community. The FP view is truly the mediating view:
Classic Amillennialism – There is one coming/parousia of Christ and it takes place at the end of the (one) end of the age at which time the judgment and resurrection of both the righteous and unrighteous (the living and dead) take place.
Partial Preterism – The coming/parousia of Christ took place in AD 70 at the end of the OC age in which the living and dead (of the righteous and wicked) were raised and judged.
Full Preterism – The one coming/parousia of Christ took place in AD 70 – at the (one) end of the OC age – in which the living and dead (of the righteous and wicked) were raised and judged.
 Sam Frost, David Green, Edward Hassertt, Michael Sullivan, House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to When Shall These Things Be?, (Ramona, CA: Vision Publishing, 2009) 219-231. Sam Frost has confessed to his three FP co-authors that the reason for him getting “sucked back” into Partial Preterism was because of: 1) “greed,” and 2) a desire to please and give into the pressure from his friends within the Partial Preterist community – primarily his old mentor Dr. Talbot. Sam has since expressed his desire to become ordained within Talbot’s self-made denomination and seminary. I have been publicly criticized by Sam for allegedly “reading his heart and motives” as to why he left FP for PP. But let me finish this debate very quickly and just quote Sam himself: “I owe you an apology, Dave. I just wrote, http://thereignofchrist.com/2009/09/ban-on-preterist-blog/ (that of course was deleted by Sam and Jason) I owe Mike one, too. And Ed. I got greedy. These constant attacks from Nut job Dee Dee Warren, Roderick supposedly stepping down, Dr. Talbot…all of it….I went after something that was not there, and my hand got hacked off. I have such a strong bend in me to get along with others….I believe in peace. I hate arguing. I was wrong about those guys….they are not Christians, as far as I am concerned. They may be, who knows, but it is not the Christianity I care for. I am a Full Preterist. I see your point. There is no prophecy not fulfilled. I stress effects, but realize salvation as the fulfillment. Sorry guys……the pressure here is great….every day, sam frost, sam frost, sam frost………..I want to move ahead. I am a Full Preterist. Period. It’s what the Bible teaches.” Frost continues to dodge the parallels between Matthew 24-25 and 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and if he and his follower Jason are still heading in the direction of Mike Bull’s “in the flesh” interpretation of these texts. I challenged Frost to a debate in which he at first accepted and then declined. Sam continues his “make it up as he goes” “Inconsistent Orthodoxy”/eschatology driven by “greed” and desire to please and fear man more than God along with rejecting what he knows the Bible teaches – again per Sam Frost.
 Mike Bull, The Last Trumpet, http://www.bullartistry.com.au/wp/2011/06/05/the-last-trumpet/comment-page-1/#comment-9653. I am also addressing comments Mike has made on this text off of his facebook page.