The “already and not yet” or “in-breaking” of the Kingdom of God
I am continuing my series in critiquing Charismatic Dr. Michael Brown’s arguments that he has levied against Cessationist Pastor John MacArthur (my former Pastor and College President). This series deals with answering the question as to which event does the NT teach the charismata or miraculous sign gifts in the NT will cease and if they in fact did post AD 70. While addressing Dr. Brown’s arguments, this series also deals with Pastor MacArthur’s inability to counter most of these arguments due to his unbiblical commitment to Futurist Premillennial Dispensationalism. So far I have examined:
- Brown’s Second Coming and New Creation “that which is perfect” argument (1 Cor. 13:8-12) and MacArthur’s inability to address it with honest exegesis. The Puritans and Reformed theology (something MacArthur esteems) affirm two things at the same time — a). 1 Corinthians 13:10-12 is the same event as Revelation 22:4-7 and deals with the Second Coming. And yet at the same time b). the New Creation and “soon” coming of the Lord here was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70. Therefore, the “soon” Second Coming and spiritual New Creation attended with the spiritual seeing of God “face to face” was fulfilled in AD 70 and in the NC age.
- Brown’s “last days” (Acts 2) argument. The NT along with some Puritan and Reformed authors correctly understand the “last days” to be a period roughly between AD 30 – AD 70 – the “last days” of the OC age.
- Brown’s “end of the age” argument (1 Cor. 10:11). Paul places the fulfillment of the promises in the OC age(s) to be fulfilled within the lifetimes of his first century audience (not ours). This again has orthodox Puritan and Reformed support.
- And the last argument we addressed of Brown’s is his Great Commission argument (Mrk. 16/Mt. 28). The gospel had already reached the ends of the world and to every creature under heaven throughout the Roman Empire as a sign of Christ coming in the AD 30 AD 70 “this generation” (Mt. 24:14/Mrk. 13:10/Acts 1:8 = Cols. 1:5-6, 23/Rms. 10:18/Rms. 16:25-26.We now address one of his last arguments which involves “the already and not yet” or “in-breaking” phase of the Kingdom.
Pastor MacArthur in his Strange Fire book nor any of his speakers at his Strange Fire Conference addressed ANY of these exegetical arguments (except a very brief attempt of 1 Cor. 13:10-12) I used to use as a Charismatic and Dr. Brown has made in his book Authentic Fire and in his debates with Cessationists. MacArthur nor any of his staff is willing to debate Dr. Brown, while I have challenged him to a debate on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and he has accepted. I am trying to have the debate hosted by The Master’s University or Seminary, but so far nothing.
We now address one of Dr. Brown’s last argument and Pastor MacArthur’s inability to deal with it – “the already and not yet” or “in-breaking” phase of the Kingdom. The bulk of this article gives an exegesis of Luke 17:20-37, Luke 21:27-32 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 demonstrating how the “not yet” of the Kingdom came in the AD 30 – AD 70 “at hand” “this generation” time frame.
Dr. Michael Brown in his book, (Authentic Fire, pp. 173-180) reasons that if we are still in the eschatological “already and not yet” or “in-breaking” phase of the Kingdom awaiting the Second Coming, then the Kingdom is still “at hand.” If the Kingdom is still “at hand” and the Second Coming is still a future event, then Jesus’ command to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons is still to be obeyed, enforced and to be practiced in the church today (ex. Mt. 10:7).
Some brief history in Brown using this argument – in his debate with Reformed theologian and author and Pastor Sam Waldron, Brown used this argument and all Waldron said in response was that Satan has been bound in this phase of the Kingdom and redemptive history. But this hardly answer’s Brown’s argument. For one, Waldron believes Satan was “bound” during the “in-breaking” phase of the Kingdom and the earthly ministry of Christ and this phase will continue until the Second Coming and Kingdom arrives at the end of the NC or Church age. So Waldron simply agreed that we are still in the “already and not yet” or “in-breaking” phase. The argument was simply not addressed.
As a former Charismatic, I too once used this argument. The problem for Dr. Brown and the Charismatic movement as a whole, is that John the Baptist, Jesus and the rest of the NT authors place the imminent future of the “not yet” aspect of the Kingdom and Jesus’ Second Coming to be fulfilled in some of the lifetimes and generation of the first century church – thus closing the OC age and ushering in the NC Kingdom age in an AD 70 “at hand” time frame. Another issue for Dr. Brown is that when the “already” aspect of the Kingdom is described as coming in “at hand” or “this generation” time frame (i.e. in Jesus’ earthly ministry or in the coming events of the cross and ascension), for Dr. Brown, “at hand” and “this generation” literally mean what they say. But when the “not yet” of the Kingdom is described as “at hand,” or taking place within that same “this generation” time frame, he and other futurists have to adopt unbiblical meanings to these terms.
The message of John the Baptist and Jesus that the Kingdom of God was “at hand,” does not just encompass the “already” aspect of the Kingdom (which most place in Jesus’ earthly ministry, ascension, or Pentecost), but it also encapsulates the imminent time frame in which Jesus would fulfill all the OT promises – to be brought to there fullness at His Second Coming in the AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Lk. 21: 22-32). Israel and the nations of the world had been waiting for thousands of years for the long awaited seed of the woman and His Kingdom to arrive. John the Baptist and Jesus in no uncertain terms describe its arrival as being “at hand.” Upon this background (of waiting thousands of years), Israel waiting a period of roughly 40 years constitutes a literal fulfillment of “at hand.”
In this article I will try and stick with passages that address both the arrival of the Kingdom and the Second Coming. Therefore, there will be some repeat on such texts as Matthew 10; 16; 24/Lk. 21. This is not meant to be a complete study on the Kingdom and every NT text addressing the subject.
- John the Baptist Matthew 3:1, 7-12; 11:10-15 / Mark 1:2-3
In context, John’s message of an “at hand” Kingdom (Mt. 3:1) cannot be separated from the imminent judgment and salvation that would attend its arrival (cf. Mt. 3:7-12).
If the Pharisees and those John preached to would not repent, they were to suffer a wrath or punishment that was “about to” (GNT – correctly translates mello here) come upon them (v. 7). In harmony with John, Jesus would reiterate that this wrath was coming in their AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Lk. 21:20-24).
In the context of the Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3 quotes in Matthew 3 and Mark 1, the “way of the Lord” John was preparing did not just encompass an “already” aspect to Kingdom salvation, but the “rewarding” of a coming judgment associated with the Second Coming or the great and awesome day of the Lord (v. 3/ Isa. 40:3-10; Mrk. 1:2-3/Mal. 3-4).
“The ax” (the judgment) was “already laid at the root of the trees” (Mt. 3:10) – again communicating the first century imminence to this coming Kingdom inseparably connected to the judgment.
Messiah’s mission included a coming “baptism of fire” [ie. judgment] (Mt. 3:11).
His “winnowing fork” was already in His hand (Mt. 3:12). The winnowing fork was a tool used at the end phase (the imminent “not yet” aspect of the coming Kingdom) of the harvest process. Again this is communicating that the imminent kingdom connected with the end time harvest (of salvation and judgment) was to arrive in the first century [i.e. the end of the OC age] – not at the end of world history. The imminent harvest results in the righteous being gathered into Messiah’s Kingdom/House with the wicked experiencing an unquenchable fiery judgment.
Contextually, John’s message (the fulfillment of the coming of Elijah) of an “at hand” arrival of Messiah’s Kingdom cannot be separated from the imminent judgment, salvation – attended with Christ’s Second Coming. Yet MacArthur ignoring the symbolic nature of the book of Revelation and chapter 11, still believes (in spite of Jesus saying John was the Elijah about to come) Moses and Elijah (“probably”) need to come first before the Second Coming (Rev. 11:3-13).
Commentators and authors are conflicted as to if John’s eschatology (arrival of the kingdom, judgment, salvation, great and awesome day of the Lord) was fulfilled at the coming of the Lord in AD 70 or if it is referring to His Second Coming (in the alleged future). But both are correct – the Kingdom/judgment/salvation came when Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 at the great and awesome day of the Lord (i.e. the Second Coming).
- Matthew 10:7, 17-23
a). Healings & the Kingdom being “at hand” (v. 7). The “you” in this context whom are to preach the kingdom was “at hand” is Jesus’ first century disciples not us. If it is, then has Michael Brown raised the dead and cleansed those that have leprosy in that “revival” that was named after him? I would like him to provide documentation for those kind of “kingdom miracles” he personally has performed.
b). Specific persecutions (vss. 16-22). The book of Acts confirms these first century disciples were handed over to local councils and flogged in their synagogues and brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles just prior to AD 70. These are the persecutions predicted in Daniel 7 that would take place right before the Son of Man would come upon the clouds and the righteous would poses or inherit the kingdom.
The disciples did not run out of cities of refuge to flee to in being persecuted (as they preached the gospel to Israel) before the Son of Man came in the judgment of AD 70. They fled to Pella and were safe.
c). The Preaching (vss. 17-23). The preaching of the gospel to the towns of Israel here is obviously local and therefore this could have been and was accomplished prior to Christ coming and closing “the end” to the OC age in AD 70.
d). “The end” (v. 22). This is Daniel’s “the time of the end” (not the end of time) and is referring to the end of the OC age addressed in Daniel 9 and 12 in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 or when the power of the holy people would be completely shattered.
e). “Before the Son of Man comes” (v. 23). Again, this is a reference to the Second Coming of Jesus described for us in Daniel 7:13. He would come before these first century disciples would run out of cities (of refuge) to flee to (as they preached the gospel to the towns of Israel) in AD 70.
f). Matthew 10 & Parallels with the OD – This is a snap shot of Jesus’ teaching in the OD, where these same events are brought back up with the same first century time of fulfillment:
|Matthew 10:7, 17-23||Matthew 24/Mark 13/Luke 21|
|1. Delivered up to local councils and synagogues – Matt. 10:17.||1. Delivered up to local councils and synagogues – Mark. 13:9.|
|2. Brought before governors and kings to be witnesses to the Gentiles – Matt. 10:18.||2. Brought before governors and kings to be witnesses to the Gentiles – Mrk. 13:9.|
|3. Holy Spirit would speak through them – Mt. 10:19-20.||3. Holy Spirit would speak through them – Mrk. 13:11.|
|4. Family members would betray and kill each other, all men would hate disciples, but he that would stand firm to “the end” (OC age) would be saved – Mt. 10:22||4. Family members would betray and kill each other, all men would hate disciples, but he that would stand firm to “the end” (OC age) would be saved – Mrk. 13:12-13.|
|5. Although the first century disciples and Apostles would be persecuted as they preached the gospel to the cities of Israel, they would not run out of cities of refuge to flee to for safety before the Son of Man would come- Mt. 10:23.||5. The Apostle Paul and the other first century disciples did preach the gospel throughout the Roman world and to all the nations before AD 70 – Matt. 24:14=Rms. 10:18; Mrk. 13:10=Rms. 16:25-26.|
|6. Kingdom was “at hand” – Mt. 10:7.||6. Christ’s coming and kingdom arrived in Jesus’ contemporary AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” – Lk. 21:27-32.|
Premise #1 – If it is true that the command and ability to perform miracles was to last until the disciples preached the gospel to the cities of Israel – before “the end” and Second Coming of Christ would take place (Matt. 10:7, 17-23) (Full Preterists & Charismatics agree)…,
Premise #2 – And if it is true that Christ and the kingdom in our text were fulfilled by the end of the OC age in AD 70 (Full Preterists & Reformed theology agree),
Conclusion – Then it is also true that the command to perform miracles has ceased since Christ and His kingdom arrived in AD 70 at the coming of the Son of Man or Second Coming event.
MacArthur places all of this into the future – so he is wide open to the Charismatic arguments. If the persecutions and evangelism to Israel transcend the first century disciples and applies to the Church in our day, then so too would Jesus’ command to preach the “at hand” nature of the Kingdom and the miracles that attend it! Yet John wants his readers to follow the writings of the Reformers and Puritans, many of whom understood Matthew 10:22-23 as being fulfilled at the coming of Christ in AD 70. If John would follow his own advice, he would have an exegetical apologetic against Dr. Brown and the Charismatic arguments here.
- Matthew 13:39-43
Consistent with John’s AD 70 eschatology of an imminently approaching Kingdom/harvest, is Jesus’ teaching that the Kingdom/harvest would take place at the end of His first century audiences OC Jewish “this age” (Mt. 13:39-43). As I have pointed out already in this series and elsewhere in my/our book, the Jews understood the end of “this age” to be the end of the OC age, and not the end of the NC age. And there are “Reformed” (something MacArthur values) authors that have correctly identified that the end of the age harvest here in Matthew 13 was fulfilled at the end of the OC age in AD 70 and is not referring to an end of world history Kingdom/harvest time.
- Matthew 16:27-28
a). The Son of Man was “about to” or “soon” to come (v. 27/YLT – correctly translates mello here). This is consistent with what we have seen thus far and is in perfect harmony with Jesus coming in some of the lifetimes of those first century disciples He was addressing in the crowd (v. 28).
b). Jesus would come in the glory of His Father (v. 27). As the Father had come in glory on the clouds judging the nations in the OT (non-literal apocalyptic language), so too the Son would come (through the Idumean and Roman armies).
c). At this time, He would “reward” the righteous and wicked for what they had done (v. 27). This is the reward and judgment that John was predicting and preparing the way for (Isa. 40:10). Still within an AD 70 “soon” time frame, John confirms the truly imminent nature of this judgment (cf. Rev. 22:10-12).
d). Jesus connects verse 27 with verse 28 with the phrase “verily I say unto you” (v. 28). In verse 27 Jesus was “about to come” or “soon” to come in judgment and in verse 28 it is reiterated that it would in fact take place before some of them standing there would die! Jesus’ phrase “verily,” “truly,” or “most assuredly I say unto you,” is used some 90 times in the gospels and gives the meaning of “Absolutely,” “really,” “may it be fulfilled,” and is used as a phrase of emphasis to drive home a point that has gone before it. It is never used to introduce a new subject (such as the transfiguration event). MacArthur does not deal with this exegetical and grammatical issue anywhere that I’ve seen.
e). Like Matthew 10:7, 17-23, Matthew 16:27-28 is just a snapshot of Jesus’ teaching on His Second Coming and the arrival of the Kingdom that will be developed more in the Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24/Lk. 21). Here we clearly see that both of these “not yet” Kingdom predictions come within the lifetime of the first century church and in their AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation”:
|Matthew 16:27-28 & Parallels||Matthew 24 / Luke 21|
|1. Christ comes in glory (Mt. 16:27).||1. Christ comes in glory (Mt. 24:30).|
|2. Christ comes with angels (Mt. 16:27).||2. Christ comes with angels (Mt. 24:31).|
|3. Christ comes in judgment (Mt. 16:27)||3. Christ comes in judgment (Mt. 24:28-31, 25:31-46)|
|4. Christ and the kingdom come in power (Mrk. 8:38).||4. Christ and the kingdom come in power (Lk. 21:27-32).|
|5. Some of the disciples would live (Mt. 16:28).||5. Some of the disciples would live (Lk. 21:16-18).|
|6. Some of the disciples would die (Mt. 16:28).||6. Some of the disciples would die (Lk. 21:16).|
|7. At Christ’s coming, He would be ashamed of some living in that contemporary generation (Mrk. 8:38).||7. Christ’s coming and kingdom would be fulfilled in their AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation” (Mt. 24:34/Lk. 21:30-32).|
f). In the parallel in Mark, Jesus teaches, “…There, are, certain of those here standing, who shall in nowise taste of death, until they see the kingdom of God, already come in power” (Mrk. 9:1 Rotherham Translation). Here in Mark’s account, he uses the perfect participle while Matthew uses the future tense. In other words, Mark is saying that some of the disciples in the crowd would live to be able to look back on this event knowing that the coming of the Lord and His kingdom had already come in power. Per Jesus, we can look back upon the historical events of AD 70 and know that the Second Coming and Kingdom had come in power.
- Matthew 21:33-45
Michael Brown is found of accusing Preterism or Covenant Theology in general with teaching “replacement theology.” Apparently Dr. Brown must condemn Jesus and the NT authors of this. Jesus in the parable of the tenants clearly teaches that there was coming a time in which the Kingdom would be “taken” from the Jews and “given” to another “nation” or “people” producing its fruits (Mt. 21:43). The chief priests and Pharisees understood that this parable and the crushing judgment pertained to them (v. 45). The next parable of the wedding feast describes how Jesus was going to put them to death (Mt. 21:41). Here He sends armies to burn their city (cf. Mt. 22:7) which most commentators understand to be Christ coming in the AD 70 judgment.
This is as simple as the Old Covenant (OC) Kingdom (with its literal types and shadows) being replaced with the New Covenant (NC) Kingdom (with its spiritual substance) in AD 70. Roughly between AD 30 – AD 70 there were two Jerusalem’s (or Kingdoms) one from below (which corresponded to the OC) and one from above (which corresponded to the NC) (cf. Gal. 4). In AD 70 the OC Jerusalem/Kingdom “vanished” (Heb. 8:13) and the NC Jerusalem/Kingdom stood mature. Per Jesus and the NT, in AD 70 the OC Kingdom vanished and the NC Kingdom stood mature and complete.
- Luke 17:20-37
In Luke 17 we have another snapshot of what is coming in the OD (Luke 21) when it comes to Jesus’ teachings on the arrival of the Kingdom and His Second Coming.
a). When the imminent Kingdom comes it would be spiritual (vss. 20-21). The realm of the Kingdom is “within” a person and not something that people will be able to physically see with their eyes. They would be able to see with their physical eyes the outward destruction of the OC Kingdom in the events of AD 66 – AD 70 being “taken” from OC Israel, and therefore be able to see/perceive/discern that the NC Kingdom had come and been “given” to them – “within.”
b). This spiritual Kingdom would arrive at Jesus’ Second Coming (vss. 22-37). Contrary to many and MacArthur’s view, when Jesus answers the Pharisees question on when the Kingdom would come and its spiritual nature (in verses 20-21), He is not merely covering the “already” aspect of the Kingdom but He goes on in His discussion with the disciples to elaborate on the when subject. They would long to see one of the days of their Messiah as He would be revealed at His return (vss. 22-37). The Pharisees, false prophets, messiahs, and teachers would be saying “look there” or “look here” for their carnal and physical expectation/manifestation of the Kingdom over the Romans (vss. Mt. 24:23-26). But per Jesus, the Kingdom would not be physically seen in the realm of a false messiah or prophet’s declarations to be within a particular place (or secret dark place), but rather would be manifested as lightning or sunshine flashing or shining from one end of the sky to the other (or shining from the east to the west).
c). “This generation” (v. 25). But before Jesus would be revealed at His Second Coming, He must first be rejected by that “this generation.” It should be noted that “this generation” is clearly the AD 30 – AD 70 generation, but in Luke 21:32 or Matthew 24:34 MacArthur and Brown won’t let genea mean what it always means (a total perversion of Scripture on their part)! For Brown, it mystically takes on a different meaning in those texts – the Jewish race.
d). “Days of Noah” and Lot – one will be taken the other left (vss. 26-37). Prior to AD 66, the unbelieving Jews paid not attention to the signs Jesus gave (Mt. 24/Lk. 21) – they were going on with their daily and usual business. But as a result of them staying in the city (listening to the false messiahs and prophets), those that didn’t die in these years would be taken into captivity throughout the Roman Empire paraded as spoil of victory, experience slavery, or die with the sword or animal in the arenas – while the Christians would flee to Pella and be safe.
- Luke 21:5-36
Since Luke’s account of the Olivet Discourse (OD) mentions the arrival of the Kingdom and Second Coming of Jesus to take place together within the AD 30 – AD 70 generation (Lk. 21:27-32), I will focus on Luke’s account.
a). The context and question of the disciples (vss. 5-7). Jesus mentions that the offerings and beauty of the Temple (“these things”) will be destroyed and the disciples simply ask when these things would be fulfilled and to give them some signs to look for before it takes place. In Matthew’s account the disciples correctly associate the coming of the Son of Man and the end of their OC age with the destruction of the Temple.
The disciples understood their Scriptures in that when the destruction of the Temple and judgment on Jerusalem would be take place would be when the “time of the end” and coming of the Son of Man upon the clouds would be fulfilled (cf. Dan. 7:13; Dan. 9:24-27; Dan. 12:7). As we have seen, Jesus has already informed them that He would come within some of their lifetimes and just previous to Matthew 24, Jesus touched upon His coming connected to the Temple’s destruction and the vindication of all the martyrs in Matthew 23. And Matthew clearly tells us that they “understood” Jesus’ teaching concerning the “end of the age” (Mt. 13:39-51).
Futurists such as Brown and MacArthur impose upon or read into the text (eisegesis) that the disciples were “confused” to associate the coming of the Son of Man and the end of the age with the same time the Temple would be destroyed. Why? Because this eisegesis now gives them an excuse to claim Jesus goes on to discuss the end of world history, when in fact this was never the subject of the OD. The only ones truly “confused” in what the disciples were asking and how Jesus answers them in the discourse, are futurists such as Brown and MacArthur. Selah.
Jesus clearly tells the disciples in verse 32 that “all” (the Temple’s destruction, the signs, His coming and “the end,”) would be fulfilled in their “this generation.” Nothing could be clearer, but futurists like Brown and MacArthur once again need to read into the text a meaning of “some” of these events would be fulfilled by AD 70, not “all” of them as Jesus states so emphatically.
b). General signs of false messiahs, wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, persectutions, signs in the heaves (vss. 8-11). Jesus gives two general signs that would characterize events in their generation, but would not be an indicator of “the end.” So here Jesus identifies the destruction of the Temple and the signs (verses 5-7) with “the end” or in Matthew’s account “the end of the age” as the disciples connected them. But these are only general signs, Jesus in Luke’s account will give a more specific sign – when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, they would know “all” these things (including all the OT prophets) would be fulfilled (vss. 20-22).
False Christ’s / Messiah’s
This prophecy came true – Theudas (Acts 5:36; 13:6), Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37), and Simon (Acts 8:9-11) to name a few. In the epistles of John, John writes (as that generation was ending) the first century Church that they knew it was “the last hour” because the Antichrist’s had arrived (1 John 2:17-18). For those who understand the “Antichrist” and “Man of Sin” to be the same person, we should point out that this individual was alive and “already at work” during the time of Paul (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8).
The Jewish historian Josephus writes of a false prophet during the destruction of Jerusalem which deceived the Jews to stay and fight the Romans:
“Of so great a multitude, not one escaped. Their destruction was caused by a false prophet, who had on that day proclaimed to those remaining in the city, that “God commanded them to go up to the temple, there to receive the signs of their deliverance.” There were at this time many prophets suborned by the tyrants to delude the people, by bidding them wait for help from God, in order that there might be less desertion, and that those who were above fear and control might be encouraged by hope. Under calamities man readily yields to persuasion but when the deceiver pictures to him deliverance from pressing evils, then the sufferer is wholly influenced by hope. Thus it was that the impostors and pretended messengers of heaven at that time beguiled the wretched people.” (Josephus, Wars, 6.3.6.).
“Wars and Rumors of Wars”
“In AD 40 at Mesopotamia, there was an upheaval that resulted in the deaths of more than 50,000 people. In AD 49, at Jerusalem 10,000 to 20,000 died. At Caesarea, over 20,000 Jews were killed. The Syrians killed an additional 20,000. At Scythopolis, over 13,000 Jews were killed. In Alexandria 50,000 were killed. At Damascus, 10,000 were killed in just an hour’s ti
Famines and earthquakes
Again, the Bible and history record famine and pestilences during “the last days” (AD 30 – AD 70) of the Mosaic old-covenant age and generation (Acts 11:27-29). In AD 40 and AD 60 there were pestilences in Babylon and Rome where Jews and Gentiles alike suffered. The book of Acts records for us an earthquake occurring in the Apostolic generation (Acts 16:26). Prior to AD 70 there were earthquakes in Rome, Judea, Smyrna, Miletus, Chios, Samos, Laodicea, etc…
It should be pointed out that these signs are OC cursing signs that would come upon Israel when she broke covenant (Deut. 11; 28; 32; Lev. 26). Prior to AD 70, the OC was still in force but was “ready to vanish” (Heb. 8:13; 9:8 – has legal standing) therefore God was enforcing the curses upon Israel for rejecting Him. Post AD 70 there is no OC, so for futurists such as Brown and MacArthur to apply these to current events is an exegetical error on many levels.
Persecutions & the Holy Spirit
As we saw in Matthew 10:17-23, these persecutions were fulfilled in the book of Acts just prior to AD 70.
In comparing Matthew 10:19-20 and Mark 13:11 with Luke 21:14 we learn that the Holy Spirit was miraculously giving these disciples what to say in the midst of their persecutions. As I pointed out in our study of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, this was the miraculous gift of knowledge that was given to the early church to interpret OT Scripture (even in the midst of persecutions).
Signs in the heavens
Josephus records that there were comets and blazing stars – a flaming sword (or a comet like one) hanging over Jerusalem, and angelic armies in the air warring against each other. Some claim to have seen a man on a could over Jerusalem with flaming swords.
c). Specific sign – Jerusalem surrounded by armies in fulfillment of all OT prophecy (v. 20-22) Now Jesus shares with the disciples a more specific sign which would mark the nearness of “the end” or “end of the (OC) age” – namely Jerusalem being surrounded by armies. Jerusalem was surrounded by the armies of the Idumeans and then the Romans and we know that the Christians fled to Pella when they observed this sign. But the clear meaning of the words of Jesus and history itself is not enough for Pastor MacArthur because he needs to defend his Premillennial Dispensational system when he writes,
“A comparison with Matt. 24:15,16 and Mark 13:14 suggests that this sign is closely associated with “the abomination of desolation”… This sign of Jerusalem under siege was previewed in A.D. 70, but awaits its fulfillment in the future.” (MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, 1558).
Matthew’s “abomination that causes desolation” connected to the “holy place” and Luke’s description of this event as the armies surrounding Jerusalem making her “desolate” are not “closely associated” events, they are two different descriptions of the SAME event! The Jews understood their land to be a “holy place” (2 Maccabees 1:7; 2; 3:1). So when the Christians saw the armies surrounding Jerusalem (the holy place that would become desolate), they fled. Men like MacArthur need to make distinctions where there are none or only see AD 70 as a “preview” of another fulfillment, so that they can toll the Premillennial Dispensational line.
The description of the flight indicates a first century historical situation. The keeping of “Sabbath” and the fact that they needed to pray that it would not take place on the Sabbath (Mt. 24:21), because historically the gates of Jerusalem would be closed and this would hinder their flight.
Jesus informs us that the Christians flight from Jerusalem in AD 66 and then her imminent desolation would be the “time of punishment” that would fulfill “all that is written” (v. 20-22). Daniel indeed does see all of the major eschatological events to be fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed or “when the power of the holy people is completely shattered” (cf. Dan. 12:1-7):
1). The Great Tribulation (Dan. 12:1 = Mt. 24:21/Lk. 21:23).
2). Abomination & desolation (Dan. 9:26-27 = Mt. 24:15/Lk. 21:20).
3). Judgment & deliverance (Dan. 12:1 = Mt. 24:13/Lk. 21:18-28).
4). The resurrection of the dead (Dan. 12:2-3 = Mt. 24:30-31).
5). The end or end of the (OC) age (Dan. 12:4, 6… = /Mt. 24:3, 14).
The NT follows and confirms Jesus’ teaching here in that the “end of ALL things was AT HAND” (1 Pet. 4:5-7; 1 Pet. 1:1-12; 1 Cor. 10:11; Acts 24:15YLT; Rev. 1:1–22:20).
In Matthew’s account, Jesus gives another specific sign – the fulfillment of the GC before “the end” or “end of the (OC) age” would transpire (Mt. 24:14). But as I have pointed out before in this series, this sign as well had been fulfilled prior to AD 70 (cf. Cols. 1:5-6, 23; Roms. 10:18; Roms. 16:25-26).
d). Great distress/tribulation and wrath “in the land” against this people (v. 23). Jesus continues describing the destruction of Jerusalem in the events leading to AD 66 – AD 70 when he continues to describe the conditions of the flight and the time of great distress/tribulation and wrath coming against the Jews. Its hard to avoid the grammatical connections of “those days” and connectors such as “for…”
Again we have Luke describing the “great tribulation” of Matthew 24:18-21 somewhat differently due to his Gentile audience, but again this is just a different author describing the same event using different terminology. One of MacArthur’s Dispensational co-authors has made a big distinction here between “great tribulation” and “great distress.” Apparently because there are two different words, Matthew’s account is an alleged future event to us, while Luke’s description was fulfilled in AD 70. But lexicons list the two terms ananke and thlipsis as synonymous terms.
MacArthur and other Premillennialists insist that this time of tribulation/distress and wrath against this people (the first century Jews) could not have happened in AD 70 because these are global terms and not local. Yet Jesus in Luke tells us this time of great tribulation / distress and wrath would be “in the land” (v. 23) and poured out upon “this people” (those first century Jews that rejected Him). But one will object in that in verse 26 Jesus states these were coming expectations about events that would encompass the “earth.” These two verses are easily harmonized when we understand that the Greek word here for “earth” (oikouménē) simply means literally “the inhabited land.” It was originally used of the Greeks to describe their land verses others. Some dictionaries give the meaning of the Roman Empire or the local land of Palestine. The context dictates the meaning and clearly the focus is on a great tribulation or distress “in the land” against the Jews to be fulfilled in their generation.
Many such as MacArthur are confused and assume much over the phrase Jesus uses when He says, “…unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again” (Mt. 24:21). This language is exagerated speech (hyberbolic or proverbial). An example of this can be seen in the Babylonian judgment/exile on the Jews in (Ezekiel 5:9) – “And because all your abominations, I will do among you what I have not done, and the like of which I will never do again.”
e). Fall by the sword and be led captive into all nations (v. 24). The immediate context continues to inform us this is about events taking place in AD 66 – AD 70 and are not global events. 110,000 were slain by the sword and famine. When Rome desolated Jerusalem: they kept the young men parading them as spoil, those older than 70 were taken to Egypt for slaves, and those younger than 70 were distributed throughout Rome as slaves or slain in the theatres (this group alone was 97,000).
f). And Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (v. 24). The “times of the Gentiles” refers to a period of prophetic time (42 months the Romans trampled Jerusalem), or the time in which the Gentile world powers (ex. Egypt, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece & Rome) would no longer be able to trample and dominate Israel. In AD 70, OC Jerusalem was trampled for the last time because the Kingdom was “taken” from her and given to the NC Jerusalem (spiritual) which cannot be “shaken” or trampled by the nations of the world. The NC spiritual & everlasting Kingdom came during the Roman Empire – at Christ’s coming in the AD 30 – AD 70 generation and through the gospel (sword of the Spirit) she now brings healing to the nations (cf. Dan. 2; 7/Lk. 17:20-37/21:27-32; Rev. 22:17-20).
Analogy of Scripture:
1). “[A]nd they [“the nations”] will trample under foot the holy city for forty-two months.
1). “Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the nations until the times of the nations [forty-two months”] be fulfilled (Lk. 21:24).
In both of these verses, the nations trample Jerusalem for a period of time. There is more than similarity of language here. Jesus and John prophesied the same event — an event that was “near” and that took place in Christ’s “generation” (Lk. 21:32; Rev. 1:3; 22:10). Forty-two months or “a time, times, and half a time” does not signify 2,000+ years & counting, but rather some months or years between AD 66 – AD 70 (the destruction of city & sanctuary) – when the consummation was fulfilled (i.e. when the “power of the holy people was completely shattered” (Dan. 12:7).
g). De-creation, apocalyptic, metaphoric or prophetic language and the coming of the Son of Man (vss. 25-27).
God’s coming on the clouds and stars falling from heaven as used elsewhere in the Bible, are metaphors referring to the judgment of nations, not the destruction of the physical planet. This can be seen in such OT passages referring to the fall of Babylon, Egypt, Edom, and Israel (Isa. 13:9-10; 19:1; 34:4-5; Ezk. 32:7-8; Amos 5:21-22; Ps. 18; Ps. 104; Hab. 1:2ff.). 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)? Was the literal heaven “dissolved” and rolled back like a scroll and did literal stars fall down from heaven when National Idumea (or Edom) was judged by God in (Isa. 34:4-5)? No, this was common metaphoric language used by the OT & NT prophets.
Jesus nor the NT writers ever predicted the end of the planet earth as is simply assumed by so many here in Luke 21:25-26 (or its parallel in Matthew 24:3, 29, 35) and elsewhere in the NT. When we take a combined look at some of the best theologians within the Reformed and Evangelical communities, we find a Preterist interpretation of virtually every eschatological de-creation prophecy in the Bible. Combined, John Owen, John Locke, John Lightfoot, John Brown, R.C. Sproul, Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, James Jordan, Peter Leithart, Keith Mathison, Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis, Hank Hanegraaff, and N.T. Wright teach that the passing away of heaven and earth (Matt. 5:17–18; 24:3, 29, 35; 1 Cor. 7:31; II Peter 3; I Jn. 2:17–18; Rev. 21:1) refers to the destruction of the temple or to the civil and religious worlds of men—either Jews or Gentiles; and that the rulers of the old covenant system or world, along with the temple, were the “sun, moon, and stars,” which made up the “heaven and earth” of the world that perished in AD 70 (cf. John Owen, The Works of John Owen, 16 vols. (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1965–68), 9:134–135. John Lightfoot, Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica: Matthew – 1 Corinthians, 4 vols. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, , 1989), 3:452, 454. John Brown, Discourses and Sayings of our Lord, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust,  1990), 1:170. John Locke, The Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke: A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St Paul Volume 2, (NY: Oxford University Press, 1987), 617–618. R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998). Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), 363–365. Kenneth Gentry (contributing author), Four Views on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998), 89. Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church (Powder Springs: GA, 1999), 68–74, 141–154, 191–192. James B. Jordan, Through New Eyes Developing a Biblical View of the World (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, 1998), 269–279. Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis (contributing author) Eschatology in Bible & Theology (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1997), 145–169. Peter J. Leithart, The Promise of His Appearing: An Exposition of Second Peter (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2004). Keith A. Mathison, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1999), 114, 157–158. N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 345–346. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 645, n.42. Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 84–86. C. Jonathin Seraiah, The End of All Things: A Defense of the Future (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2002).
h). The redemption draws near and or the eschatological gathering (v. 28). The gathering of the elect in Matthew 24:31 that is the result of the Second Coming and the redemption here – are again different ways of describing the same event or result of the Second Coming – i.e. the resurrection. This is not a post AD 70 second GC as Partial Preterists propose.
- Jesus has already informed us that the gathering at the end of the (OC) age was the fulfillment of Daniel 12’s resurrection and glorification (cf. Mt. 13:39-43/Dan. 12:2-3).
- The parallels between Matthew 24:30-31 with 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 make it clear that this is the resurrection event:
|Since A (Mat. 24) = B (1 Thess. 4)|
|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|
|Caught/Gathered Together with/to Christ||24:31||4:17|
|“Meet” the Lord in the Clouds||24:30 & 25:6||4:17|
|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|
|And B (1 Thess. 4) = C (1 Cor. 15)|
|The Sleeping to Be Raised||4:13-14||15:12-18|
|The Living to Be aught/Changed||4:15-17||15:51-52|
|Christ’s Coming (Greek: Parousia)||4:15||15:23|
|At the Sound of the Trumpet||4:16||15:52|
|Encouraged to Stand Firm||4:18||15:58|
|Same Contemporary “We”||4:15-17||15:51-52|
|Then A (Matt. 24) = C (1 Cor. 15)|
|Christ to Come (Greek: Parousia)||24:27||15:23|
|His People to Be Gathered/Changed||24:31||15:52|
|To Come with the Sound of a Trumpet||24:31||15:52|
|To Be “The End” (Greek telos, the goal)||24:3, 14||15:24|
|Kingdom Consummation (goal reached)||Luke 21:30-32||15:24|
|All Prophecy Fulfilled at This Point||Luke 21:22||15:54-55|
|Victory over the Law/Temple||Mat. 24:1||15:55-56|
|Same Contemporary “We”||Mat. 24:2ff||15:51-52|
Two or More Things that Are Equal to Another Thing Are Also Equal to Each Other.
Matthew 24 1 Thessalonians 4 1 Corinthians 15
|At His Coming (24:27-31)||=||At His Coming (4:16)||=||At His Coming (15:23)|
|At the Trumpet (24:31)||=||At the Trumpet (4:16)||=||At the Trumpet (15:52)|
|Dead Raised, All Gathered (24:31)||=||Dead Raised (4:16)||=||Dead Raised (15:35-44)|
|All Living Gathered
|=||Living Caught Together to Him (4:17)||=||Status of Living Changed (15:51)|
While Dr. Brown (a Historic Premill. post-triber) and the classic Amillennial view would agree with me at this point in the use of the analogy of Scripture (Mt. 24:30-31=1Thess. 4:16-17), Pastor MacArthur’s pre-trib. rapture glasses (that has to support two comings of Christ separated 7 years) has to try and dismiss them,
“Was Paul referring to some saying of Jesus found in the gospels? No. There are none exact or even close.” (MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, 1848).
In AD 70 the dead were raised out of Abraham’s Bosom or Hades and gathered in the Kingdom or into God’s presence to inherit eternal life. The living were likewise spiritually gathered into the Kingdom or in God’s presence (God making His home or Kingdom “within” them) to inherit eternal life.
The catching away is when the eschatological “not yet” entrance and inheritance of the Kingoom takes place (1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Thess. 1:5). The concept behind the Greek word harpazo – “catching away” or “gathering up” (NCV) of 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is to take one’s plunder from another. In this case, it is God taking His people from the spiritual slavery of sin or Satan/demonic (the kingdom of darkness). A study of the word indicates this is a spiritual inward snatching (Mt. 11:12; 12:29; 13:19; Jn. 10:12, 28-29; 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. There is nothing in the text to support that Philip was physically “raptured” into the atmosphere (waved to some birds) and was then dropped off miles and miles away from where he originally was].
The harpazo takes place “in the air” (Greek eros). Strong’s Greek Dictionary, defines it as: From “aemi”, to breath unconsciously, to respire. By analogy, to blow. (1) The air, particularly thelower 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.
Prior to AD 70, Satan used his demonic legions to “possesses” 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. 9-10/1Cor. 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.”
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.
This concept is further brought out in that this harpazo would be a “meeting.” This Greek word for “meet” was 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.
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.
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. This is consistent with what we saw in Mark 9:1 and after the consummation the gospel continues in the NC age (Rev. 22:17).
Now back to our text in which the result of Christ’s coming is “redemption” (Lk. 21:28). Redemption (Greek apolútrōsis) carries with it the same idea of harpazo in that it is a buying back of men from the captivity of inward sin/death and the kingdom of darkness. It’s also a coming physical salvation or redemption from the physical calamities coming upon Jerusalem in the years AD 66 – AD 70. This looking up for this redemption, gathering in the Kingdom, or harpazo is not a literal snatching of bodies off the earth or their transformation, anymore than David was taken off the planet when he was delivered from his enemies in Psalm 18:6-17:
“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. The earth trembled and quaked (physically?), and the foundations of the mountains shook (physically?); they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils (physically?); 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. He parted the heavens and came down (literally?); dark clouds were under his feet. He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind. He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him— the dark rain clouds of the sky. Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced (physically?), with hailstones and bolts of lightning. The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded (a literal or physical voice?). He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy, with great bolts of lightning he routed them. The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare (physically?) at your rebuke, LORD, at the blast of breath from your nostrils. He reached down from on high and took hold of me (physically?); he drew me out of deep waters (physically?). He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.”
Christ’s parousia or Second Coming in AD 70 resulted in the inward salvation/redemption from the slavery of spiritual sin/death and the kingdom of darkness, while at the same time deliverance from the coming destruction of the city from the powerful armies God was sending in judgment.
i). “So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place (or are fulfilled)” (vss. 31-32). This is devastating to Dr. Brown’s Charismatic “already and not yet” Kingdom argument and the futurism of MacArthur. Jesus has already informed us that when the Kingdom would come at His return it would be spiritual or “within” (Lk. 17:20-37). Now He informs us that “all” – of the signs, the end, His coming, and the eschatological “not yet” of the Kingdom would be fulfilled within His audiences contemporary AD 30 – AD 70 “this generation.” MacArthur being a wooden literal Dispensationalist ironically claims Preterists interpret “this generation” with a “wooden literalness.” If by “wooden literalness” he means we interpret Jesus’ phrase “this generation” as it is ALWAYS used and understood in the gospels, then I’m guilty as charged!
Collin Brown writes of “this generation” (Greek genea),
“In Matt. it has the sense of this generation, and according to the first evangelist, Jesus expected the end of this age (Time, art. aion) to occur in connection with the judgment on Jerusalem at the end of that first generation (see Mk. 9:1 and Matt. 16:28).” (Colin Brown, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. 2, (Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 37-38 (bold emphasis added).
“But if these events were expected within the first generation of Christians (and “generation” is the most probable translation of genea), either Jesus or the evangelists were mistaken…” or “…there is an alternative interpretation of the passage which points out that insufficient attention has been paid to the prophetic language of the passage as a whole.
The imagery of cosmic phenomena is used in the OT to describe this-worldly events and, in particular, historical acts of judgment. The following passages are significant, not least because of their affinities with the present context: Isa. 13:10 (predicting doom on Babylon); Isa. 34:4 (referring to “all the nations”, but especially to Edom); Ezek. 32:7 (concerning Egypt); Amos 8:9 (the Northern Kingdom of Israel); Joel 2:10 (Judah). The cosmic imagery draws attention to the divine dimension of the event in which the judgment of God is enacted. The use of Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:15-21 provides an instance of the way in which such prophetic cosmic imagery is applied to historical events in the present (cf. also Lk. 10:18; Jn. 12:31; 1 Thess. 4:16; 2 Pet. 3:10ff.; Rev. 6:12-17; 18:1). Other OT passages relevant to the interpretation of the present context are Isa. 19:1; 27:13; Dn. 7:13; Deut. 30:4; Zech. 2:6; 12:10-14; Mal. 3:1. In view of this, Mk. 13:24-30 may be interpreted as a Son of man will be vindicated. Such prophecy of judgment on Israel in which a judgment took place with the destruction of Jerusalem, the desecration of the Temple and the scattering of Israel – all of which happened within the lifetime of “this generation.” “…Such an interpretation fits the preceding discourse and the introductory remarks of the disciples (Mk. 13:1ff. par.).” (Brown, Ibid., 38-39, bold emphasis mine).
Collin Brown is at least attempting to allow the Bible to interpret itself. He also seems to be consenting that the “rapture” or resurrection passage of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 can been seen as fulfilled by the “historical event” of AD 70 using apocalyptic language just as Jesus uses in Matthew 24. Partial Preterists have already consented that 2 Peter 3:10 and Revelation 6:12-17 should be interpreted this way. And since Partial Preterists have also conceded that the resurrection of Daniel 12:2 was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 (Kenneth Gentry and James Jordan) with souls being raised out of Hades or Abraham’s Bosom to inherit eternal life, this begs the question as to why 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 is not referring to this spiritual resurrection for the dead in AD 70! MacArthur is correct on at least one point and that is Partial Preterists are inconsistent in their hermeneutics and if the analogy of Scripture is followed, Full Preterism is where it leads. No debate there!
Unfortunately, Collin Brown was inconsistent in interpreting 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 elsewhere in his writings with a Preterist or using an OT apocalyptic/figurative “in history” (not at the end of history) hermeneutic. I have provided the exegesis of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 that demonstrates that Paul was not only following Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24:30-31, but he is also using the same kind of apocalyptic (non-literal) language.
Dr. Michael Brown in some of his debates, has tried to avoid and twist Jesus’ teaching on “this generation” to mean the “Jewish race.” Of course if Jesus wanted to communicate this He would have used the Greek word genos (which means race).
Therefore, both Brown and MacArthur are guilty of twisting God’s Word in order to defend their Premillennial (one Historical the other Dispensational) Futurist systems. It’s the classical case of both being guilty of the blind trying to lead the blind when it comes to trying to persuade each other on this issue of when the miraculous sign gifts were/are to cease when it pertains to the timing of the Second Coming and arrival of the “not yet” phase of the Kingdom.
- The NT follows Jesus’ teaching that the eschatological “not yet” of Christ’s Kingdom and Second Coming would be fulfilled imminently by AD 70.
a) “I do fully testify, then, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is about to judge living and dead at his manifestation and his reign/kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1).
b) The Hebrews were in the process of receiving a spiritual Kingdom that could not be shaken (as the OC was subject to) at Christ’s Second Appearing to close the OC age in a “very little while” of which He would “not delay” (Heb. 9:26-28; 10:37; chapt. 12).
c) As in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, Paul’s first century “we” expectation in 1 Corinthians 15 communicates a fulfillment of the parousia, Kingdom and resurrection in some of their lifetimes – i.e. in AD 70. This is when “the end” (of the OC age) would be fulfilled or when the “Kingdom” would arrive (1 Cor. 15:24). The last enemy to be destroyed or conquered was “the death” (spiritual death/separation that came through Adam the day he sinned) (1 Cor. 15:26). The result of the parousia (presence of God) and these promises is that “God may be all (when the Father Son, and Holy Spirit) in all” (fully in Jew and Gentile) (1 Cor. 15:28).
d). The first century Christians were heirs to the Kingdom that would no doubt fully come at Christ’s “at hand” AD 70 coming (Jms. 2:5; 5:7-9).
e). The eschatological “not yet” salvation of the soul, glory, inheritance and “entrance into the everlasting Kingdom” prophesied in the OT would be fulfilled in the days of Peter’s first century audience – thus “the end of all things was at hand” (1 Pet. 1; 4:5-7; 2 Pet. 1:11).
f). In the book of Revelation, at the seventh and last trumpet (the same as Mt. 24:30-31) when the Great City/Sodom/Egypt or the harlot Babylon (OC Jerusalem where Jesus was slain 11:8) would be judged, is when the kingdoms of this world became the Kingdoms of the Lord. This was all to take place “shortly” at Christ’s “soon,” “quickly,” “at hand” AD 70 coming (Rev. 1:1; chpts. 10-11; 22:6-20).
MacArthur and the Kingdom
As we wrap things up on the issues related to the Kingdom of God, I should briefly point out that MacArthur’s Progressive Dispensationalism and traditional Dispensationalism is a “house divided” against itself that simply cannot stand no matter how hard he and The Master’s University and Seminary try. The bottom line is that the foundation to Dispensationalism is that promises made to OC Israel cannot be fulfilled in or by the Church. Yet MacArthur and progressives do teach that Israel’s Kingdom promises are being fulfilled by the Church in the Church age. So not only is MacArthur not able to answer Brown’s Charismatic arguments here on the Kingdom, he, his church, University and Seminary are in an unbiblical and illogical place when it comes to working out their Premillennial Dispensational false doctrine within and without it’s system.
It is deplorable exegesis to acknowledge “at hand” means true imminence when the “already” aspect of the Kingdom is in view, but when “at hand” is used in connection with the “not yet” coming Kingdom associated with Christ’s Second Coming, it takes on a totally different meaning. It is also deplorable exegesis to acknowledge “this generation” refers to the AD 30 – AD 70 generation that brought about Christ’s suffering (and establishing the “already” of the Kingdom), but when “this generation” is used to answer the question as to the “not yet” Second Coming and coming of the Kingdom, it also takes on a mystical and un-natural meaning.
While Dr. Michael Brown’s Charismatic “already and not yet” Kingdom argument may work with other Premillennial Futurists and Cessationists like MacArthur or even Reformed Futurist Cessationists (such as James White or Sam Waldron), it does not hold water when we examine the Scripture or when Dr. Brown encounters the exegetical arguments of Full Preterism. The eschatological “not yet” Kingdom and Second Coming were “at hand” and thus fulfilled When Christ came to close and bring an end to the OC age in AD 70. This is when the spiritual “within” NC Church/Kingdom was received/inherited and brought to maturity – having separated from and fulfilled the OC system and her promises. Between AD 30 – AD 70 Israel’s Kingdom (with her signs and wonders) was being transformed from OC Kingdom glory to NC Kingdom glory. When the immature and childish OC Kingdom glory vanished so too did tongues, prophecy and knowledge cease – i.e. when the NC Kingdom became a mature spiritual man in AD 70.
This is why Dr. Brown is NOT speaking miraculously in human languages that he never studied or knows (as in Acts 2). This is why Dr. Brown never has nor ever will be healing every disease, raising the dead, or cleansing lepers as the first century disciples were doing (Mt. 10:7). The “at hand” or eschatological “not yet” aspect to the in-breaking of the Kingdom (and the sign miracles inseparably connected to this process) does not continue up to the end of world history to close the NC or Church age, the “not yet” imminently arrived in AD 70 when the OC age vanished. Selah.