Friday, August 23, 2013

Curing Confusion: Session #1

As a part and continuation of my series on how to "recover" from and to immunize against hyperpreterism, I am taking some time after prayer and meditation to answer questions from emailers. First up are 3 questions as follows:

1) Is "THIS" generation really means the Generation when Jesus is speaking or THAT/THOSE generation in the future who sees all the signs. They say that Jesus [was not] mistaken grammatically, when he said that THIS means THOSE or THAT? Any thoughts on this?
2) Does "Coming in the Clouds" mean "Coming In Judgment" I know it's literal, but they say in the Old Testament. Coming in the clouds is related to Coming in judgment. Is it true.
3) Does the "ELEMENTS" will be melt with fervent Heat." in 2nd Peter 3 means the Elements of the old covenant and not the literal Physical elements on Earth or heavens. They say it's "STOICHEON" in Greek which means not material.
The source verse in question is Mt 24:34/Mk 13:30/Lk 21:32 which in the NKJV reads:
"Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place."

The subject and object of the verse is "this generation" and "all these things". So our question and answer must address the identity of "this generation" and "all these things".

Two interpretations are typically put forward.
1) This generation = The immediate generation in which Jesus was living (within the scope of 40 years).
2) This generation = Whatever generation will eventually see "all these things" take place.

First, we must approach this "themely" -- that is, what is the overall theme of the Bible when it uses the phrase "this generation"?  Per the NKJV has 27 instances of "this generation". The overall theme of those 27 verses can include more than a 40 year time period, as we see in Gen 7:1, Noah's family compared to "this generation" -- as we see, God considered the world corrupt even before Noah began building the Ark (see Gen 6:11).  From the time Noah "begot" his sons to the time he completed the Ark, it was 100 years.

However, let's contrast that with Lk 17:25 which reads:
"But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation."

So, what generation or group of people rejected Jesus? Rather; when did Jesus suffer? He isn't still suffering so we must conclude that at least in Lk 17:25, "this generation" is indeed Jesus' immediate audience.

One more point before we move on to the definition of "all these things".
As a Christian, dear reader you are NOT a lone-ranger or a private interpreter. Jesus founded The Church -- which is the collective of all Christians that have ever been and ever will be. It is thus important that in all things you look at the overall Christian perspective; not just your own. How has Christianity in general interpreted the "this generation" verse?

The Geneva Bible notes [link] (Geneva Bible was the English Bible brought to America, before the KJV existed)
"This age: the word "generation" or "age" is here being used for the men of this age."

John Gill Commentary [link] (Gill was an English Baptist pastor that lived 1697-1771)
"Not the generation of men in general; as if the sense was, that mankind should not cease, until the accomplishment of these things; nor the generation, or people of the Jews, who should continue to be a people, until all were fulfilled; nor the generation of Christians; as if the meaning was, that there should be always a set of Christians, or believers in Christ in the world, until all these events came to pass; but it respects that present age, or generation of men then living in it; and the sense is, that all the men of that age should not die, but some should live."

John Lightfoot Commentary [link] (Lightfoot, often quoted by hyperprets, was an English scholar that lived 1602-1675)
"Hence it appears plain enough, that the foregoing verses are not to be understood of the last judgment, but, as we said, of the destruction of Jerusalem. There were some among the disciples (particularly John), who lived to see these things come to pass. With Matthew 16:28, compare John 21:22. And there were some Rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these things, that lived till the city was destroyed, viz. Rabban Simeon, who perished with the city, R. Jochanan Ben Zaccai, who outlived it, R. Zadoch, R. Ismael, and others."

The overall theme and conclusion is that at least in  Mt 24:34/Mk 13:30/Lk 21:32 "this generation" meant Jesus' immediate audience. The interpretations that say "this generation" means some future generation or the race of the Jews themselves; is out of line with the overall Christian interpretation. So, any alternate interpretation is not "Christian".

So, if the conclusion is "this generation" was indeed the time frame Jesus lived, then we can see how the hyperpreterist interpretation looks valid and how the confusion can happen. But we must remember the way the biblical writers use hyperbole or exaggeration is no different than we use it today. We often use very inclusive words and phrase such as "all" and "whole" and "every" when we really mean a very limited and specific object.

What "things" are being addressed in  Mt 24:34/Mk 13:30/Lk 21:32?
Hyperpreterists would have us believe that "all things" means every prophetic event in the Bible will take place before Jesus' generation passed away. This leaves the hyperpreterists in a conundrum because they then have no applicable instruction or example for living a Christian life today. (I address this in my 10 part podcast series with a hyperpreterist that goes by the name "RiversOfEden" [link])
In Mt 24/Mk 13/Lk 21, called collectively; "The Olivet Discourse" because Jesus supposedly gave these speeches while on Mt. Olive we see Jesus talking about the impending destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, in Mt 23, Jesus basically writes off the Jewish religious class as failures.
In Lk 21:20 Jesus says:

"But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near."

So, "all these things" were to take place BEFORE this generation passed away...and indeed it did.

Jesus intended and the Church as a whole has interpreted  Mt 24:34/Mk 13:30/Lk 21:32 as a prophecy about the destruction of the Jewish Temple and Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D.  Despite how hyperpreterists try to paint it; they do not own this interpretation. It wasn't until the Dispensationalists came along in the 1800s that the interpretation became construed with them trying to claim "this generation" was some future generation or the race of Jews. There was no need to play with the words or fret over the meaning "all these things" since Christianity has rightly understood  Mt 24:34/Mk 13:30/Lk 21:32 before the hyperprets came along and yet never went into the heresy of hyperpreterism.

First, the phrase "coming in the clouds" isn't necessarily "literal" -- meaning, it doesn't always mean to see visibly someone or something in a physical cloud. For example, we use an expression today; "waiting in the wings". What do we mean by this? Do we mean literally "in" or "on" wings? It is an expression or idiom that originates with how actors would wait in rooms (or wings) adjacent to the stage. So, the expression, "waiting in the wings" means to be ready to go at any moment.

The question is if "coming in/on/with the clouds" is an idiom.
See my detailed interaction with this topic here. While in the Old Testament, we are led to believe that people often literally or physically saw a cloud; such as when God was leading the Jews out of Egypt via a cloud (Exodus 13:21), are there other usages of this phrase that is idiomatic?

Jesus often used the phrase  "coming in/on/with the clouds". In Mt 26:64 Jesus said to the Jewish 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.

Now stop there for a moment. If Jesus said this to the High Priest in Jesus' time then did the High Priest literally/physically see Jesus sitting at the right and of the Power [God], and coming on the clouds of heaven?
Hyperpreterists want people to believe that Jesus came back in the 1st century and if we interpret Mt 26:64 in a literal/physical way, it might seem like the hyperpreterists are correct.

However, let's look at Dan 7:13 compared to Mt 26:64

Dan 7:13Mt 26:64
"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."“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.”

Notice that in Dan 7:13, the Son of Man is "coming with the clouds"...not coming BACK but coming before or to the Ancient of Days, the Power, God.  Compare to Mt 26:64 where Jesus is "coming on the clouds" AND at the same time sitting at the right and of the Power/God.
The point of this phrase is glorification/vindication. Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah/God Himself in the flesh and He would soon/shortly/at hand/within their generation PROVE it to even the High Priest when Jesus came in glory in/on/with the clouds...not BACK to earth, but TO the Father in glorification and vindication.

Again, we want to see if this interpretation is just a private interpretation or is it the overall Christian interpretation? For consistency's sake, let's use the same commentaries as earlier

Geneva on Dan 7:13:
Which is meant of Christ, who had not yet taken upon him man's nature, neither was he yet the son of David according to the flesh, as he was afterward: but he appeared then in a figure, and that in the clouds, that is, being separated from the common sort of men by manifest signs of his divinity.
(b) That is, when he ascended into the heavens, and his divine majesty appeared, and all power was given to him, in respect that he was our mediator.

Geneva on Mt 26:64:
This word [hereafter] distinguishes his first coming from the latter.
(e) Sitting with God in like and equal honour at the right hand of his power, that is, in greatest power: for the right hand signifies among the Hebrews that which is mighty and of great power.
[from Mt 24:30 comment] Sitting upon the clouds, as he was taken up into heaven.

Gill on Dan 7:13:
and his coming with the clouds of heaven denotes the majesty, visibility, and swiftness, with which he came to take open possession of his kingdom and glory...this is not to be understood of his first coming in the flesh, which was from his Father, and not to him; nor of his ascension to heaven, exaltation and session at the right hand of God, when he indeed received the kingdom from the Father, and was made and declared Lord and Christ; but this seems to respect what shall be upon the destruction of the fourth beast, when Christ shall receive and take to himself his great power, and reign, and more visibly appear by his Father's designation and appointment, and his open glory, to be King and Lord over all

Gill on Mt 26:64
yet he [Jesus] knew they [the Jews and the High Priest] would not believe; and therefore refers them to an after proof thereof, which whether they would or not, would oblige them to acknowledge the whole:...when he says they should "see" him, his meaning is not, that they should see him at the right hand of God with their bodily eyes, as Stephen did; but that they should, or at least might, see and know by the effects, that he was set down at the right hand of God; as by the pouring forth of the holy Spirit upon his disciples, on the day of pentecost; by the wonderful spread of his Gospel, and the success of it, notwithstanding all the opposition made by them, and others; and particularly, by the vengeance he should take on their nation, city, and temple; and which may be more especially designed in the next clause; and coming in, the clouds of heaven. So Christ's coming to take vengeance on the Jewish nation, as it is often called the coming of the son of man, is described in this manner, Matthew 24:27. Though this may also be understood of Christ's second coming to judgment, at the last day; when as he went up to heaven in a cloud, he will return, and come also in the clouds of heaven; see Acts 1:9 Revelation 1:7, when he will be seen by the eyes of all, good and bad; and when this sanhedrim, before whom he now was, will see him also, and confess that he is Lord and Christ, and the Son of God. Though the former clause seems to have regard to what would quickly come to pass, and what they should soon observe, and be convinced of..."from this time"; meaning, that in a very little while, they should begin to see the effects of his being set down at the right hand of God, and which would be full proofs of it, and should see him come in the clouds of heaven, at the last day: reference seems to be had to Daniel 7:13, where one like unto the son of man is said to come in the clouds of heaven

Lightfoot doesn't comment on Dan 7 or Mt 26, but we see from the Geneva and Gill commentaries that our interpretation is in line with theirs. There is indeed a comparison and connection between Dan 7:13 and Mt 26:64 and the idea that "coming with/on/in the clouds" while possibly literal/physical and in reference to some future endtime event, does at least carry in these verses, the sense of glorification and vindication -- not merely at Christ's ascension but in the effects of His ministry immediately after his death burial and resurrection and ascension but "hereafter" or from that time onward.

The conclusion is that while it is possible and often interpreted that in the future, Jesus will come BACK in/on/with the clouds, there is a sense that the phrase is also idiomatic or an expression of general effect and glorification and vindication of Christ's kingdom affecting the world as it has. No one even today can doubt that after (or "hereafter") Jesus' death, burial, resurrection and ascension the world was changed. Christianity eventually even overtook the Roman Empire itself. They truly did see Him sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming in/on/with the clouds in the sense of His effects on their culture.

First, the general sense is that someday God will destroy the world by fire but is it the typical Christian interpretation? 

2 Peter 3:10-12 says:
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?"

It certainly seems plain enough that this passage is talking about the destruction of both the earth and the works that are in it.

This time, lets begin with the commentaries.

Geneva on 2 Pet 3:10-12:
A very short description of the last destruction of the world, but in such sort as nothing could be spoken more gravely.

Gill on 2 Pet 3:10-12:
the elements seem to be meant the host of heaven, being distinguished from the heavens, as the works of the earth are distinguished from the earth in the next clause; and design the firmament, or expanse, with the sun, moon, and stars in it, which will be purged and purified by this liquefaction by fire...the earth also will be purged and purified from everything that is noxious, hurtful, unnecessary, and disagreeable; though the matter and substance of it will continue:...Some are of opinion that these words refer to the destruction of Jerusalem; and so the passing away of the heavens may design the removal of their church state and ordinances, Hebrews 12:26, and the melting of the elements the ceasing of the ceremonial law, called the elements of the world,...and which destruction was a prelude of the destruction of the world, and is sometimes expressed in such like language as that is; but then this must not take place, to the exclusion of the other sense: and whereas this sense makes the words to he taken partly in a figurative, and partly in a literal way; and seeing the heavens and the earth are in the context only literally taken, the former sense is to be preferred; and to which best agrees the following [verse 12].

Again, Lightfoot makes no comment.  What we see though is that these commentaries interpret the text to be a literal/physical destruction of the things on the earth. According to Gill, his interpretation is that the physical planet remains. He does address the preteristic interpretation of the "elements" being merely the "elements" of the Jewish religion that were indeed burnt up during the conflagration of Jerusalem; but even if that were understood Gill says he sees it as a prelude of the destruction of the world itself as the further verses seem to best agree.

Let's again consult blueletterbible for this. We see that in the KJV this Greek word is translated in English; 4 times as "element(s)", 2 times as "rudiment(s)" and 1 time as "principle(s)".  This would seem to agree with the hyperpreterist interpretation that Stoicheia is the burning up or destruction of the Jewish elements/rudiments/principles order/system.  However, in classical Greek, stoicheia carries with it the original sense of what the ancients believed to compose all matter; the four elements of earth, water, air, and fire. [see here for more details] So, while stoicheia does indeed contain the meaning of principles/systems, the ancient idea was that everything; including the system or principles of  the universe were part of the stoicheia -- the elements. So, it is not out of line to say that 2 Peter 3:10-12 had in mind, the destruction of the stoicheia; the system of the universe and not just the Jewish system of religion. It makes more sense to interpret 2 Peter 3:10-12 as including the destruction of the earth in general since those verses mention the earth and the works within the earth.

The hyperpreterists gain no ground on trying to make 2 Peter 3:10-12 mean only the destruction of the Jewish system, even though at first glance it appears stoicheia means merely elements/rudiments/principles, we see that it more classically encompasses matter and existence itself as the ancients believed all things including humans are composed of some or all stoicheia. So, saying that the stoicheia is going to be destroyed is equal to saying that matter itself it going to be destroyed.

I hope some of this has helped answer some questions and helped to inoculate you against the sneaky and clever misleading by hyperpreterists (Romans 16:17-18).  The key is to know your Bible and read it ALONG with your fellow Christians throughout time. Do not become a private interpreter or else someone like the hyperpreterists will come along and trick you into accepting their private interpretation.  As a Christian, you are PART of the larger group of Christians. We MUST consider that the Holy Spirit is guiding Christianity as a group.  If not, then we are hopeless, because at any time a private interpreter can come along and give us an interpretation that at first glance sounds "logical" when in reality it is NOT the Christian interpretation.

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