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House Divided Chapter Four Partial Preterist Keith A. Mathison Vs. Full Preterist Michael J. Sullivan Part 13 What About Hymenaeus and Philetus 2 Timothy 2:17-18?

House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to

When Shall These Things Be?

Chapter Four

The Eschatological Madness of Mathison or How Can These Things Be?

Part 13 – What About Hymenaeus and Philetus 2 Timothy 2:17-18? 

 Michael J. Sullivan

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2 Timothy 2:17–18 

I recently received an email and phone call from an elder in a church

who was secretly placed under church discipline and then excommunicated

for studying the preterist view of Bible prophecy. He and his family

were told that their salvation was in question unless they repented of

studying (let alone holding to) this position. The source material that

was used against them was When Shall These Things Be?, and the Bible

text that was used to anathematize them was 2 Timothy 2:17–18. Apparently

the eldership of the church did not see the irony. The editor

of When Shall These Things Be? concedes that 2 Timothy 2:18 “cannot”

be used even to “criticize” preterists, much less anathematize them, because

according to Mathison, it may very well be that “the resurrection

of 2 Timothy 2:18 truly did take place in AD 70:


. . . [2 Timothy 2:1–18] cannot be used to criticize hyper-preterism

until . . . [it can be] demonstrated from other texts that

nothing of the sort occurred in A.D. 70. (194)


This is quite an admission from a man who says that hyper-preterism

is “a much different religion” than Christianity (213). What Bible verses

can Mathison use, other than 2 Timothy 2:17–18, to brand preterism as a

different religion? Answer: There are no other verses. Without 2 Timothy

2:17–18, Mathison doesn’t have a biblical leg to stand on in his condemnation

of preterists. All he has are the baseless words of those, like

himself, who have set themselves up to condemn us based solely on the

assumption that our rejection of futurism is a damnable error.


We agree with Mathison that 2 Timothy 2:17–18 cannot be used

to criticize us. But we must go further than this. Far from being an

anti-preterist passage, 2 Timothy 2:17–18 is actually a condemnation

of the implications of futurism. Allow me to explain. First of all, Hymenaeus

and Philetus were Judaizers. They were of a class of deceivers

who taught Jewish “myths” and “genealogies” (1 Tim. 1:4; Titus 1:4), and

were self-appointed “teachers of the Law” (1 Tim. 1:7). They taught

believers to abstain from foods (1 Tim. 4:3), no doubt using the Levitical

dietary laws as a basis of their teaching.


It is because Hymenaeus and Philetus were Judaizers that Paul

compared them to “Jannes and Jambres” (2 Tim. 3:8). According to

ancient historians, Jannes and Jambres were Egyptian magicians who

challenged Moses’ authority in Egypt. Like Jannes and Jambres, Hymenaeus

and Philetus were teaching the strange doctrines of “Egypt”

(Rev. 11:8), and were challenging Paul’s gospel-authority, attempting to

deceive Christians into believing that God’s new wine (the new covenant

land of promise) could be contained within the old, “Egyptian”

wineskins of the old covenant world.


Likewise in 2 Timothy 2:19, Paul connects Hymenaeus and Philetus

to the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16:5, 26.[1] Korah had led hundreds

of the sons of Israel to challenge Moses’ authority. As God had

destroyed Korah and his followers in the wilderness, so God was “about

to judge” (2 Timothy 4:1) and destroy the Judaizers Hymenaeus and Philetus

and others like them (cf. Heb. 3:16–19).


According to the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus, because Jerusalem

and the temple still stood (in about AD 67) after the resurrection

had allegedly already taken place, it irresistibly followed that “the

sons according to the flesh” were now the heirs of the eternal kingdom

and that Paul’s Jew-Gentile gospel of grace was a lie. The blasphemous

error of Hymenaeus and Philetus was that the world of the Mosaic covenant

would remain forever established after the fulfillment of the Law

and the Prophets had taken place and the new heavens and new earth

(“the resurrection”) had arrived.


This “Hymenaean” heresy is the diametric opposite of preterism.

According to preterism, the old covenant came to an eternal and irrevocable

termination in “the resurrection,” when all things were fulfilled

in AD 70. There is absolutely no theological connection between preterism

and Hymenaeus’ blasphemous lie of an everlasting “ministration

of death.”


However, there is a clear connection between the heresy of Hymenaeus

and the implications of futurism: If “the Law and the Prophets

are not fulfilled today, and “heaven and earth” have not passed

away, and the jots and tittles of the Law have not passed away, and all

things are not yet fulfilled, as futurism says, then logically and scripturally,

the Law of Moses remains unfulfilled and “imposed” to this day

(Matt. 5:17–19; Heb. 8:13; 9:10). This implication of futurism is exactly

what the Judaizers, Hymenaeus and Philetus, taught when they said the

resurrection was already past in AD 67.


As we have seen on virtually every page of WSTTB, Mathison and

his co-authors are in conflict over a multitude of eschatological passages.

It comes as no surprise that they are in conflict even in regard to

how or even if the Bible anathematizes preterists. And it is more than

ironic that the one passage in all of Scripture that can conceivably be

perceived as decisively anathematizing preterists is in reality applicable

to the implications of futurism.[2] Selah.


Partial Preterist Mr. Gary North, has said that if one side of the debate ceases to respond to the others arguments then the one who has responded last (thus silencing the other) in essence has won the debate (my paraphrase).   He has also written of dispensational scholars and their inability to keep up with postmillennial works and critiques, “Like a former athlete who dies of a heart attack at age 52 from obesity and lack of exercise, so did dispensational theology depart from this earthly veil of tears.  Dispensational theologians got out of shape, and were totally unprepared for the killer marathon of 1988.” (Greg L. Bahnsen, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., HOUSE DIVIDED THE BREAK-UPOF DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY (Tyler, TX:  Institute for Christian Economics, 1989), Publishers Foreword, xx.).  In the same book DeMar claims that “Any theological position divided against itself is laid waste” and “shall not stand” and is guilty of “Theological Schizophrenia” (Ibid. 349-350).  Apparently Mr. Mathison was not prepared for the killer marathon of 2009 and since that time has been too busy engorging himself from the profits P&R provided him and is simply too scared and out of shape to open our book let alone read and respond to my critique and response to him?  And we document the “House Divided” “Theological Schizophrenia” and contradictory approach Reformed eschatology has sought to use against us let alone the contradictions (and yet at the same time progressive views moving towards Full Preterism) that are within Mathison’s writings alone. 

Therefore, I have decided to post my chapter response to his online (in small parts) in hopes that both the Futurist and the Full Preterist communities will contact him for an official response.  If no response continues to come, then I will allow him to be judged by the same standard that his own postmillennial partial preterist colleagues have set up, and accept that he is unable to respond and has lost our debate.

[1] William Hendriksen; Simon J. Kistemaker: New Testament Commentary:

Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House,

1953–2001), 268.

[2] For more on 2 Timothy 2:17–18, see David Green’s response to “Strimple

Argument #1” in chapter seven of this book.

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Mike Sullivan