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 2 – The Latter/Last Days
Michael J. Sullivan
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The Latter/Last Days
Isaiah 2:2–4 speaks of “the latter days.” Mathison says that this passage
“seems to point to something that even now has not been completely fulfilled.
There are still wars, for example, and all nations have not yet bowed
the knee to the Lord” (167). Mathison adds that although it is true that
“in some sense” the last days “were already present immediately after the
first coming of Christ,” some New Testament texts such as 2 Timothy 3:1
and 2 Peter 3:3 imply that the last days “are still future [to us]” (189–190).
In Isaiah 2:2–4 the prophet spoke of the time when Messiah would come
and establish His mountain (Mount Zion), house, and city among Jews
and Gentiles. As the New Testament reveals, this prophecy speaks of the
spiritual peace that comes through the gospel, wherein Jew and Gentile
are united in Christ into one spiritual nation and kingdom. Jesus said
that His kingdom was “not of this world,” and the New Testament writers
confirmed His teaching, telling believers that the kingdom they were
receiving was not physical-literal, but spiritual (2 Cor. 6:16; Gal. 4; Heb.
9:24–27; 12:18ff.; 1 Peter 1:4–13).
In Luke 23:30, Jesus quoted Isaiah 2:10, 19 as prophesying the judgment
that was to befall Jerusalem in AD 70. Virtually every futurist commentator
agrees with this interpretation. The Apostle John referred to
the same prophecy in reference to the same event (Rev. 6:15–17). Isaiah
chapter 2 is intimately connected to the last days of old covenant Israel,
not to the end of the planet or an alleged “end of time.”
Many within the Reformed community understand “the last days”
in the New Testament to be referring to the end of the old covenant
economy in AD 70. For instance, Gary DeMar:
The last days are not way off in the distant future. The end came to
an obsolete covenant in the first century. In A.D. 70 the “last days”
ended with the dissolution of the temple and the sacrificial system.
David Chilton, before he converted to (full) preterism:
The Biblical expression Last Days properly refers to the period
from the Advent of Christ until the destruction of Jerusalem in
A.D. 70, the “last days” of Israel during the transition from the
Old Covenant to the New Covenant (Heb. 1:1–2; 8:13; James
5:1–9; 1 Pet. 2:20; 1 John 2:18).
And John Owen in his exposition of Hebrews 1:2:
It is the last days of the Judaical church and state, which were then
drawing to their period and abolition, that are here and elsewhere
called “The last days,” or “The latter days,” or “The last hour,” 2 Peter
3:3; 1 John 2:18; Jude 1:18. . . . This phrase of speech is signally used
in the Old Testament to denote the last days of the Judaical church.
Mathison says that 2 Timothy 3:1 and 2 Peter 3:3 imply that the last
days are still future. Let us see if that interpretation holds water.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come (2
In his book, Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope, Mathison
writes to futurists concerning this verse and its context:
The . . . “last days” . . . and similar phrases are often used to refer
to the last days of the Jewish age (e.g., Heb. 1:2; 1Pet.1:20;
1John 2:18). . . . [This passage] speaks to a pastoral situation
that Timothy was dealing with in his own day. It is not a prophecy
of conditions at the end of the world.
But five years later, in WSTTB, when debating “hyper preterists,”
Mathison says that the very same last days prophecy (2 Tim. 3:1) will be
fulfilled in our future:
. . . [Some] New Testament texts . . . seem to refer to “the last
days” as something yet to come. Paul, for example, warns Timothy
that “In the last days perilous times will come” (2 Tim. 3:1;
cf. 1 Tim. 4:1). Peter warns his readers “that scoffers will come
in the last days” (2 Peter 3:3). [Paul and Peter] say . . . that “the
last days” will be the time in which something that is future will
happen. The coming of “perilous times” and of “scoffers” is explicitly
said to be future. The future times during which these
things will come is called “the last days.” The implication is
that “the last days” referred to in these texts are still future.
So while we are already in the last days, there is still some sense
in which the last days can be considered future.
But then yet another five years later, in his new book, From Age to
Age, Mathison reverts to the biblical-preterist view that the last days in
2 Timothy 3:1 refer to the first century.
According to some, these verses refer to an apostasy to occur in
the time immediately preceding the second coming of Jesus. There
are at least three reasons, however, to doubt this conclusion.
Who do we believe? The 1999 preterist Mathison (Postmillennialism)
or the 2004 futurist Mathison (WSTTB) or the 2009 preterist
Mathison (From Age to Age)? Are the last days in 2 Timothy 3:1 the
last days of the “Jewish age,” as Mathison implies while defending partial
preterist postmillennialism against other futurists? Or are the last
days in 2 Timothy 3:1 the last days of a future end of world history, as
Mathison implies while attempting to refute biblical preterism?
Mathison says “the last days” are past when he is refuting other
futurists because he knows that if “the last days” are still future, then
the growing and increasing apostasy which characterizes those “perilous
times” are still present and future for us as well; and if this is the
case, then there is nothing left to his “optimistic” and “successful”
postmillennial “golden age” that will gradually blossom before Jesus
allegedly comes back peacefully for His Second (Third) Coming in
But Mathison does not concern himself with this implication of
making “the last days” future when he refutes “hyper-preterists.” His
only concern when dealing with us is to counter “hyper-preterism” at
any cost, even, apparently, at the cost of his own doctrinal integrity.
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come
with their mocking, following after their own lusts. (2 Peter 3:3)
The majority of futurist commentators, men such as Mathison’s coauthor
Simon Kistemaker, are certain (as are we) that Peter’s “last days”
involves at least one or two signs that Jesus spoke of in the Olivet Discourse,
namely, false prophets and the apostasy (2 Peter 1:16; 2:1ff; cf.
Matt. 24:3–5, 11, 23–26; 27–34). This fact leads us to an AD 70 fulfillment,
not a future-to-us fulfillment.
The “mockers” and “ungodly men” of 2 Peter 3:3–7 are the “false teachers”
of 2 Peter 2:1–3, whose destruction was imminent in Peter’s day. Partial
preterist Peter Leithart writes of these false teachers and mockers:
Peter says explicitly that the destruction of false teachers is
coming “soon.” Their destruction is the same event as the destruction
of the present heavens and earth, the “day of judgment
and destruction of ungodly men” (3:7). If the destruction
of false teachers was near when Peter wrote, so also was the
destruction of the heavens and earth and the coming of a new
heavens and earth.
Peter responds to mockers who doubt the promise of Jesus’ coming
because time has passed without any sign of the Parousia.
If there were no time limit on the original prophecy, then the
mockers would have no grounds for their mockery and no way to
attract converts to their skeptical views. Therefore, the original
prophecy must have included a time limit, a terminus ad quem,
and that time limit must have been the lifetime of the apostles.16
Since these mockers were already present, it is illogical for Mathison
to say that the perilous times of the last days will take place in our
future (190). There is not one scintilla of evidence, whether explicit or
implicit, for Mathison’s contention that “the future” for Peter and his
audience is still “the future” for us.
According to Isaiah, the coming of the Lord and His righteous
judgment of these scoffers would be likened to the Lord’s return in
judgment upon the Philistines and the Amorites at Mount Perazim
and the Valley of Gibeon (Isa. 28:21). These were not global judgments
that burned the face of the planet or that disintegrated the elements
of the periodic table.
Isaiah repeatedly tells us that there were to be “survivors” of this
“Day of the Lord” even after the “earth”/“land” is burned with fire and
the new creation takes its place (Isa. 1–5; 24–25; 65–66). This precludes
the notion that Isaiah was speaking of a fiery destruction of the face of
planet Earth and of the stars and planets.
The Law and the Prophets never predicted a literal torching of the
planet. “The last days” were the last days before the judgment of apostate,
old covenant Judah/Jerusalem and the “elements” (rudiments) of
her world, and cannot be applied to an alleged ending of the eternal,
new covenant age/world. There can be no “last days” of an age that has
“no end” (Isa. 9:7; Eph. 3:21). There is therefore no 2000+ year extension
or expansion of the “last days” into our future, as Mathison and other
It has now been 4 years since I have responded to Keith A. Mathison’s chapter in WSTTB? in our book HD. For me Mathison’s excuse for not responding “I have been too busy” has expired.
One of Mathison’s postmillennial partial preterist colleagues 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 a “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 and 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 toward 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.
 DeMar, ibid., 38 (emphasis added). See also Joel McDurmon of American
Vision on 2 Timothy 2–3; Hebrews 9:6; 1 Peter 1:20; Acts 2:16–17 and Jude
17–18, (Joel McDurmon, Jesus v. Jerusalem A Commentary on Luke 9:51–20:26,
JESUS’ LAWSUIT AGAINST ISRAEL, (Powder Springs, GA: The American
Vision, Inc., 2011), 198–200.
 David Chilton, The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of
Revelation (Ft. Worth: Dominion Press, 1987), 16, n35; 51.
 Owen, John, The Works of John Owen, Vol. 19, 12–13, Books For The
Ages, AGES Software Albany, OR, USA Version 1.0 © 2000.
 Postmillennialism, 215 (emphasis added)
 WSTTB, 189–190 (emphases added)
 Keith A. Mathison, From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology
(Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), 609
 Peter J. Leithart, The Promise of His Appearing: An Exposition of Second
Peter, (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2004), 67–68.