Sunday, December 12, 2010

House Divided; Interaction with Pages 102-109

As part of my promise to answer some initial questions posed by hyperpreterist, Mike Sullivan I am going to interact with pages 102-109 of House Divided (by Dave Green, Ed Hassertt, Mike Sullivan and Sam Frost).

I will now proceed with HD pages 102-109. Sullivan, first correctly notes that many commentaries parallel Acts 1:11 with a "like-manner" return of Christ at some future date. A citation of some of those commentaries on Acts 1:11 is as follows:

"When we stand gazing and trifling, the thoughts of our Master's second coming should quicken and awaken us: when we stand gazing and trembling, they should comfort and encourage us. May our expectation of it be stedfast and joyful, giving diligence to be found of him blameless." -- Matthew Henry

"reproving them for their curiosity in looking after Christ with their bodily eyes, who was no more in common to be seen this way, but with an eye of faith; and for their desire after his corporeal presence, which they were not to look for; and as if they expected he would return again immediately, whereas his return will not be till the end of the world:" -- John Gill

"as if your now glorified Head were gone from you never to return: He is coming again; not another, but 'this same Jesus'; and 'as ye have seen Him go, in the like manner shall He come'--as personally, as visibly, as gloriously;" -- JFB

"they hoped that he would return again straightway, that they might enjoy the sight of him again, when as lie did ascend to stay in the heavens until such time as he should come to judge the world. Wherefore, let us first learn out of this place that we must not seek Christ either in heaven, either upon earth, otherwise than by faith; and also, that we must not desire to have him present with us bodily in the world;...Jesus, which is taken up into heaven There are two members in this one sentence. The first is, that Christ was taken up into heaven, that they may not henceforth foolishly desire to have him any longer conversant with them upon earth. The other is straightway added as a consolation concerning his second coming." -- John Calvin
So, as we can see by this cross section of commentators, it is accurate for Sullivan to say many commentaries associated Acts 1:11 with the "Second Coming" of Christ.

Sullivan goes on to note,
"[Keith] Mathison and [Kenneth] Gentry, however wrench Acts 1:11 from those Scriptures [the ones that seem to speak of the Second Coming]. They admit that Christ was figuratively "seen" (perceived, understood) at a figurative "coming" in/on the clouds in AD70, but they deny that this was the fulfillment of Acts 1:11" (HD, page 102)
As I'm not here to speak for or defend either Mathison or Gentry, I will address this generally. Yes, many so-called "Partial-Preterists" do IN FACT say Jesus came in AD70, but they claim He came "only in judgment". Now, I think Mathison and Gentry may differ somewhat as I know at least in private interaction with Mathison, he has related less about Jesus coming in judgment and more about Jesus coming, not to earth but BEFORE the Ancient of Days, as per Dan 7:13, again not in judgment but in glory, power and vindication. I believe Mathison differs on his interpretation from Gentry where Gentry actually claims Jesus came in judgment; Mathison claims Jesus came not back to earth, but before God. I tend to agree with Mathison on this.

"Full Preterists" have pointed out that the Partial-Preterist contention that "Jesus came in judgment" would cause Jesus to actually come a 3rd time if such Partial-Preterists contend Jesus is yet to come in the future. FPs have also pointed out that that view is as "non-creedal" as is FP.

Sullivan says Mathison identifies "the coming of the Son of Man" with the Ascension. However, Mathison actually uses the phrase "may have been referring". Mathison clearly wasn't being dogmatic. Sullivan however pushes the point, as if Mathison is dogmatic.

Sullivan says,
"Yet there is not one instance where Jesus spoke of the coming of the Son of Man where it can be taken to be a reference to His Ascension. In every case, it is His coming to earth in judgment and salvation." (HD, page 103)
Well, I'm not so certain this is accurate since we have Dan 7:13 which clearly says:
"I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him." -- Dan 7:13
When did Jesus come before the Ancient of Days? Note the "coming with the clouds" language. We can see this language all through Scripture, denoting the "glory" of God, usually not the judgment but rather the "glory"/revelation (Shekhinah) of God (see here). This conclusion that Jesus often spoke not of a Second Coming but of a vindication is supported by these verses:

Matthew 24:30
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (see also: Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27)

Matthew 26:64
Jesus said to him [the High Priest], “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (see also: Mark 14:62)

There are certainly OTHER "cloud coming" verses that seem to speak of the return to earth (whether physical or "spiritual") but perhaps the confusion is caused with limiting the definition of "coming on the clouds" to merely a return. In the same way, it seems FP cause confusion when they limit resurrection to a singular event. For example, when a person is "born-again" as per Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:1-12), can they not be said to be "resurrected" anew? And when Jesus spoke with Martha, telling her (almost appearing to correct her) that He is the Resurrection and who ever believed would have life and never die (John 11:23-25). Is that not also a type of instant resurrection at the moment of belief??? However, the apostles continued to speak of a resurrection of the believers in the future. So, even if FP believe THE resurrection was in AD70, they also too narrowly define that word.

The point is, the contention of Jesus the entire time He was here was that He is the Messiah, yet people were denying that. I submit, that many of the passages about Him "coming in/on/with the clouds" was more about Him proving or vindicating that claim than about any sort of first-century judgment, since as we know none of His apostles except perhaps the apostle John was alive in AD70 to "see Him coming" if He had meant they would see Him come down on a cloud, spiritually or physically. The same is true of Mt 26:64, when Jesus told the High-Priest that he would see "the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, [God] and coming on the clouds of heaven". Note the parallel with Dan 7:13, since Jesus says He'll be where God is, yet also coming on the clouds. Again, this is not about a return but about a vindication, a glorification of Christ as the King, Messiah, God He claimed to be.

Lastly, as we know that only perhaps John was alive in AD70, also the High-Priest to whom Jesus spoke [Caiaphas] was more than likely NOT alive in AD70. He certainly was no longer the High-Priest in AD70. (see list of Jewish High-Priests) So what does this mean for Mt 26:64?

So, is Sullivan accurate when he says of the "cloud coming" verses that, "In every case, it is His coming to earth in judgment and salvation"??? I think not, yet grant that more work needs to be done to ascertain which verses apply to Christ coming before the Throne of God in vindication and which verses apply to a return, AND which could possibly be covering both events, since Hebraic writing often utilizes this structure of dual or telescopic meaning.

Sullivan goes on to give us a quote by Milton Terry (HD, page 103) where Terry says that "Christ must literally appear on a cloud, and be visible to every person on the habitable globe, involves manifest absurdities." AGREED! We must be careful since often, FP will make their arguments not against historic Christian interpretation but against Left-Behind Dispensationalism as if there were only the options between Left-Behind Dispensationalism (LBD) and FP.
LBD has fulfilled the absurdities of every eye seeing by such things as saying it will be broadcast on every TV station. Well, I can just about guarantee you that even in the year 2055 (or whenever Christ might come), not everyone will own a TV. However, we must keep in mind, Terry was making these statement BEFORE the invention of TV (in the 1800s), so whether the angels meant to imply Jesus would be seen by every living person or not, in this day in age, that possibility is not as "absurd" as it was in Terry's day.

Terry concludes, "The words of Rev 1:7 are, therefore, to be understood in general harmony with both the temporal and geographical limitation of the prophecy".

The problem with Terry's conclusion is, just like with Acts 1:11, most of the original disciples would be dead by AD70. The High-Priest was most likely dead. So, what do we make of the connection between the various "cloud coming" statements and about people "seeing" Christ come? Come how??? Back to earth or in power and glory? Not merely in AD70 but over the span of the next 40 years from His crucifixion.

I will forgo interacting with Sullivan on 1 Thess 4 as I have answered that elsewhere (see link). However, Sullivan does make it appear as if Mathison is posing something odd (HD, page 104-105) in claiming that the "we" in 1 Thess 4:15,17 , though I have previously demonstrated, right or wrongly, this telescopic view of the "we" in 1 Thess 4:15,17 IS the historic Christian interpretation of the text, even by John Calvin, thus Mathison's interpretation is not an "arbitrary construct" compared to the bulk of historic Christianity.

Before I move on, I want to note a specific statement by Sullivan;

"[1 Thess 4] had nothing to do with escaping physical death or with being literally caught up into the literal sky or with being biologically changed. I had to do with God's people, living and dead, being 'gathered together' to become His eternal Tabernacle, His spiritual Body, the New Man, the heavenly Mount Zion, the New Jerusalem in the Spirit." (HD, page 106)
Well, first note that as I indicated earlier, many FP spend a lot of time debating LBD and not historic Christianity. Looking at historic Christian commentaries, most of them do not interpret 1 Thess 4:15-18 as speaking of a "rapture" of any kind (see here). But what is more interesting is that if we compare Sullivan's conclusion about the "gathering" (with a terminus of AD70) with Mt 24:31, on what basis would FP think that any MORE "Elect" are going to be "gathered" beyond AD70? Also comparing Sullivan's contention of the "new man" with Eph 4:24 which appears to be a perpetual process, how then do FP conclude all Christians are now this "new man". And if such a status change happened in AD70, how do Christians enter into this new status today? Automatically?

Next, Sullivan repeats something I have not found to be true, at least not of the commentators I've read (perhaps Sullivan is reading LBD commentators???). Sullivan says:
"Virtually every commentator and cross reference system parallels 1 Thess 4:15-16 with Mt 24:30-31 and 1 Cor 15:51-52 , and agrees that Paul is using Christ's Olivet Discourse as the foundation for his teaching concerning Christ's Parousia throughout the Thessalonian epistles." (HD, page 107)
Actually, when I presented the various commentators during my 1 Thess 4:15 posting (see here), it can be seen that "virtually NONE" of these commentators cited the Olivet Discourse in association with or as the basis of Paul's 1 Thess 4:15 teaching. Further, the reader can check the cross-reference notes for both the NASB and ESV and NEITHER of these cross-reference 1 Thess 4:15 with the Olivet Discourse, though it is true they cross-ref 1 Cor 15:52 (see here ).

However, Sullivan goes on to make it look like "Mathison...avoids the obvious parallels between 1 Thes and Mt 24" (HD, page 107). Well, if Mathison is doing such, then so are a whole host of other Christian commentators including Calvin. So, maybe it either is not so "obvious" or it is not correct to parallel these verses, G.K. Beale's quote notwithstanding.

Further, Sullivan does cite Gentry as claiming there is at least an Olivet Discourse connection for 2 Thess. I agree that Gentry's drift more and more, even now as Sullivan points out conceding ALL of Mt 24 could be speaking completely of an AD70 coming (in judgment) of Christ is problematic (HD, page 109). This is a marked change of how Partial-Preterists would often split Mt 24 at verses 34-35 with everything between verses 1-34 being about AD70 and everything between verses 35-51 being yet future. However, I don't agree with the entire Partial-Preterist, "coming in judgment" interpretation anyhow. I agree, that how Partial-Prets interpret the text is either as anti-creedal as FP or it should lead right into FP, if a person is consistent. Sullivan even points this out:
"This is why partial preterism gains a following for a short period, and then its students end up coming to 'hyper-preterism' for a more consistent and exegetical approach..." (HD, page 110)


Again, this was simply an answer to Sullivan who requested I interact with pages 102-109. I am not seeking a protracted "debate". Thanks again for the opportunity to give an answer, especially here in "hostile" territory instead of potshotting from another blog as some are doing. [I briefly proof-read, forgive typos and grammar issues. I tried to source link and link to the Bible text so as to allow easy verification.]

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