House Divided Bridging the Gap in Reformed Eschatology A Preterist Response to
When Shall These Things Be?
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. 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
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. 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.
 William Hendriksen; Simon J. Kistemaker: New Testament Commentary:
Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House,
 For more on 2 Timothy 2:17–18, see David Green’s response to “Strimple
Argument #1” in chapter seven of this book.