Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Preterist Time References, Part XIV

In Matthew 16:28, Christ indicates that some of the disciples will see Him coming in His kingdom. This is taken by Preterists as an indication that Christ will return in their lifetimes. However, it seems clear instead that this is a reference to the Mount of Transfiguration scene to follow. There are numerous reasons for understanding it this way.

1. The parallels indicate that this is a reference to God beginning to give the kingdom over to Christ.

And he said to them“I tell you the truththere are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mark 9:1)

 But I tell you most certainlythere are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:27)

I tell you the truth, there are some standing here who will not experience death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." (Matt 16:28)

The Son of Man coming in His kingdom is a parallel idea to the kingdom of God coming with power and the kingdom of God itself. We are told that the kingdom of God has already come. We are also told that the kingdom of God comes with power in Jesus' ministry. It also comes with power in the ministry of the apostles and the church in the coming of the Holy Spirit. But the point I would make here is that I think that Preterists miss the complexity of this verse by assuming that there is only one coming of Christ, only one reception of His kingdom, rather than many, as the New Testament indicates. They do not understand the micro-macro nature of apocalyptic speech, the already-not yet nature of a future fulfillment also being fulfilled in smaller ways before the time, and hence, they conclude by the language preceding Christ's statement here that this must refer only to the Second Advent, and not anything that might come before and would be spoken of as one with it, even though separated by time. 

2. The placement of the narrative.

But there is more to indicate that the fulfillment, at least the initial fulfillment of Christ's coming/reception of His kingdom is on the Mount of Transfiguration.

First, it is important to note that every single Synoptic places the Mount of Transfiguration scene immediately after Christ's statement here. This is significant, since the Gospel authors seem to have no problem moving things around in order to present their Gospels around their themes. Yet, even with differing themes and the recasting of many events, this one is placed immediately after what Christ says here in every one of them. 

Narrative makes it arguments this way. When an author places things together in a narrative he is often meaning to communicate that the one goes with the other. 

3. The mimicking of language from the Daniel 7 "Son of Man coming in the Clouds" narrative in the Mount of Transfiguration Scene.

But there is more to consider even than this. The language of coming, as we have seen in the other Gospel presentations of what Christ said, is actually the language of the Son receiving the kingdom. It is a royal conferment, the transference of majesty from the Father to the Son. This idea is taken from Daniel 7.

In Daniel 7, the Son of Man comes on the clouds of heaven and goes up the Ancient of Days, i.e., the Father, and receives the kingdom from Him. God is described as glowingly white like snow, like wool, and glowing like fire. 

In the Mount of Transfiguration scene, Jesus is the one glowing, a display of His deity, but he ascends/goes up to the Father on the mountain, they are enveloped in a cloud, and the Father confirms the authority/power the Son has and that all should now listen to Him. Even the declaration by the Father, i.e., the Ancient of Days, that Jesus is His one beloved Son, is terminology of kingship, as the anointed king was considered God's son. 

The coming language of Matthew 16:28 is explained as reception of the kingdom/conferment of the kingdom by the Father to the Son. It is a fulfillment of Daniel 7 (not the fulfillment, but a fulfillment), where God gives His majesty to the Son in the clouds of the sky, here upon the mountain top. 

So the Mount of Transfiguration is a beginning fulfillment that is witnessed by a few of the disciples a few days after Christ proclaims that some will not taste death until they have seen the kingdom of God//the kingdom come with power//the Son coming in/into His kingdom.

4. Peter links them together.

But there is even more than this that indicates that the Mount of Transfiguration fulfills this prediction, at least in part. Peter links the two ideas together himself.

In 2 Peter 1:16-18, Peter states the following:

For we did not follow cleverly concocted fables when we made known to you the power and parousia "coming" of our Lord Jesus Christ; no, we were  eyewitnesses of His majesty (i.e., royal conferment)For He received honor and glory from God the Fatherwhen that voice was conferred to Him by the Majestic Glory: “This is my dear Sonin whom I am delighted.”  When this voice was conveyed from heavenwe ourselves heard it, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

Notice, both the ideas that power and royalty were given to Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration, and this is referred to as Christ's parousia "coming." 

The disciples will also witness Christ's reception in His resurrection, His ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentacost, etc. Some will see it in His destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 as well. There are many "receptions/comings" of His kingdom that will lead up to the final and ultimate coming and reception of His total kingdom in the end. Indeed, as we have noted, He states to the priests before His death that "from now on, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Matt 26:64), which indicates an ongoing reception of the kingdom (note the contradiction between sitting at God's right hand and coming in the clouds if taken literally, yet both convey the reception of power in the Bible). 

Luke even records that the ultimate day, the final coming, will not be seen by the disciples even though they will see other days, other comings, that precede it. In Luke 17:21, Christ argues that the disciples already have seen the coming of the kingdom, but in v. 22, that they have not yet, nor will they, see the final coming of Christ in their lifetimes. 

Hence, the most natural understanding of Christ's words is to see them in light of the Mount of Transfiguration first. If there are other fulfillments the disciples will see, and there are, then they are secondary to the fact that Christ's prediction is already fulfilled a few days later.

Preterist Time References, Part XIII

As I've said before, I have no need to interpret these passages used by Preterists as referring to either the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or other events in the First Century or beyond. My understanding of apocalyptic speech frees me to allow the context to guide my interpretation. Having said that, I think the last remaining passages that are often interpreted to support Preterism are actually not referring to the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 at all. These are Matthew 10:23 and Matthew 16:28//Mark 9:1//Luke 9:27. I will discuss the former in this post and the latter in the next.

In Matthew 10:23, Christ tells the disciples that they will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. It is these last couple words, "the Son of Man comes" that I think leads the Preterist to assume that Jesus is talking about the second coming. Hence, it is argued that the gospel is preached to the entire world according to the New Testament before A.D. 70, the end is to come after it is preached to the whole world, and certainly the cities of Israel are included in that. Hence, since the disciples themselves are the ones doing the preaching, and they preach the gospel to the whole world, again, including Israel, before A.D. 70, this must mean that the disciples will be alive when Christ returns.

There are a couple of issues with this interpretation however. In the context, Christ is sending the disciples out to the cities of Israel during His earthly ministry. Verses 10:5-10 makes this clear.

Jesus sent out these twelveinstructing them as follows: “Do not go to Gentile regions and do not enter any Samaritan town. Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you gopreach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near!’ Heal the sickraise the dead, cleanse leperscast out demonsFreely you receivedfreely give. Do not take goldsilveror copper in your belts, no bag for the journeyor an extra tunic, or sandals or staff, for the worker deserves his provisions.

Notice that the disciples are told not to go to the Gentiles, which is the opposite of what Christ will command them to do at the end of the book in the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20). This tells us that this mission is a more localized one and one that comes before the other in Christ's earthly ministry. 

Christ also tells them not to bring provisions with them. This is also the opposite of what He will command them later when they go out to the nations after He leaves them (Luke 22:35-38). Again, this indicates that the mission in Matthew 10 is not the same one as the Great Commission later.

There is also a problem in harmonizing what is said here with the idea that this refers to the global mission that ends with Christ's return. Jesus states that the disciples will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. He does not say that they will finish before He comes. He states that it is not until the moment He comes that they will finish. His coming marks their completion of the mission and having gone through all the cities. It is the point of their finishing.

The world-wide mission is said to be completed long before Christ comes. Preterists are fond of quoting Paul who states that the gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven (Col 1:23), that the voice of those who preach the gospel has gone out to the ends of the world (Rom 10:18 quoting Psalm 19:4), that it is bearing fruit and growing in all the world (Col 1:6).

But Christ says that they will not finish going through the cities of Israel until He comes. What this indicates is that the Son of Man coming is throwing off the Preterist interpretation. They are reading an eschatological coming into the text when Christ is simply referring to Himself as the Son of Man who will come to them at the point when their temporary mission during His ministry is completed. 

And, indeed, the preaching itinerary of both Christ and the disciples indicate that they would have covered all of Israel within His earthly ministry. 

One might argue that the lost tribes of Israel were scattered among the nations, and hence, Christ is referring to the whole world, but the problem with this is that the text clearly states that Christ tells them NOT to go into any of the cities of the nations/Gentiles. They are not even to go into the towns of the Samaritans. So it is clear that this is referring to the northern towns of Israel, where the northern tribes were once located and still had members of those tribes in them. Again, the disciples would have completed this task within a short time frame. Northern Israel is not that big.

So His coming has to do with His coming to them at the completion of their mission, not some eschatological coming in A.D. 70 or otherwise.

Now, what of the argument concerning the end taking place once the gospel is preached to the whole world, as in Matthew 24:14? I think there is a twofold fulfillment of this in terms of the micro-macro argument. The end for Israel in the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 occurs after the gospel has been proclaimed to the whole Roman world. Matthew 24 is about the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, so this would make sense. So in a microcosmic manner, it is fulfilled in the same way that the destruction of Jerusalem is a microcosm of the larger destruction of the world to come.

However, it should be noted that it is not clear whether Christ is referring to the world in the same way that Paul is. Christ uses the word oikomene, which refers more the literal creation of the world, the entirety of the created order, the whole inhabited earth. Paul merely uses kosmos or ktisis in his hyperbole, but does not seem to be quoting Christ or alluding to the prediction in Matthew 24.

I would also argue that Paul is speaking in hyperbole, not literally. In fact, all must conclude this as the gospel had not, in fact, been proclaimed to all the world as a literal fulfillment. It had in terms of a representative fulfillment, a micro fulfillment of what would come, etc. The idea that Paul did not know of the world outside of Rome, of course, is complete nonsense. Everyone was well aware that a larger world existed outside of the Roman Empire. So Paul's declarations here are meant to be hyperbolic, but Christ's prediction seems to be literal.

Furthermore, Paul displays that this message being heard by all the nations from his own personal proclamation, as though he is the one personally to have told the entire world the gospel, which is another indicator that he is using hyperbole here, and is not literally saying that every nation has heard the gospel from his own lips. The idea instead is that the gospel has gone out, not only to Israel, but to the entire world, all of creation in a sense, and has spread beyond the borders of Israel to the furthest boundaries of the Western Empire and to much of the East, covering the expanse of the entire Roman world (cf. 1 Clement 5:5-6). Hence, one could argue that the entire world had the gospel preached to it in a hyperbolic manner, since Rome was not the entire world, but made up the entire Empire that ruled Paul's world. The gospel had not yet gone to China or to the tribes in the African bush, or to the Barbarian tribes outside of Rome, etc. all of which Paul would have known to exist. But he uses hyperbole to show just how extensive the preaching of the gospel, i.e., his own work, truly was. 

He likely states this as a counter to the claims of Judaizers that the gospel is for those who become Jewish. In any case, his claim uses hyperbole to counter the idea that it is for the Jew and not also for the Gentile (Hence, the two books in which he makes these statements are Romans and Colossians, two books dealing with heretical Jewish teaching).

But it is also clear that the gospel was meant to go out to the entire world, all of creation, not only in the hyperbolic sense in which Paul is using it, but literally. This is only being fulfilled recently in our own time. 

Either way, since Christ's prediction is literal and Paul's claim is hyperbolic, and because there are very clear microcosmic and macrocosmic fulfillments of this prediction (no one would argue that the gospel is actually proclaimed to the entire known world of the First Century audience), one can say that this both had a fulfillment in the First Century but also needed to be fulfilled in the future if it was to be fulfilled literally. 

In conclusion, Matthew 23:10 is not talking about some eschatological fulfillment, but merely stating that the disciples will not finish their work of going through the northern towns of Israel before Christ comes to them to end that temporal ministry.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Preterist Time References, Part XII

Crushing Satan Underfoot 

There are a few verses left that are largely taken out of context. For instance, Romans 16:20 says, "the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." The context is not the eschaton, but overcoming false teachers at Rome. The heretics are referred to as their source, i.e., Satan, and the God who brings shalom to His community will soon give victory to the faithful over these heretics. There is no mention of the end times. That is simply being assumed because of the use of Genesis 3:15, as though it were Christ crushing the serpent. Paul is clearly using this as his framework, but he applies it in way of application to this smaller victory of the saints over Satan's minions. It is simply eisegetical to insert some sort of time reference to the end of the age here.

The Antinomians under the Judgment of Christ's Final Victory

Jude 1:4, 14-15 states: . “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation. …About these also Enoch…prophesied, saying, 'Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly…'”

Now, notice the way Preterists chop this passage up. The question is whether this is talking about these specific men only, or these type of men, the group that makes up false believers, of which these First Century men are a part. The context makes it clear that this is a type of men that make up the group considered to be false believers. That is why the references are to OT false believers. These men are a part of that group. But none of that is quoted in order to make it seem like this verse is only talking about these men and not the larger group of which they are a part. 

It is the same thing here as we have in many places in the Bible and elsewhere, where the contemporary wicked will be placed in the larger context of those who have been predetermined for destruction. 

Jesus does the same thing with the Pharisees. "Rightly did Isaiah prophecy of you . . ." But it is clear that the prophecy in Isaiah is of disobedient and unbelieving Israelites in his own day. How can Jesus say that it is about the Pharisees? Because they are a part of the larger group that is being condemned. It is simply absurd to suggest that Jude is talking only about these specific false believers and no other false believers in other churches, throughout time, etc. And the partial quotation that leaves out that fact seems to indicate that the Preterist who quotes the passage this way knows it must be edited to give credence to his interpretation. The same can be said for 2 Peter 2:3, and any time a general judgment is associated with a people, whether for damnation or salvation. We speak to the part as partaking in the judgment of the whole. That is simply a common way of speaking for all languages throughout time.

The Way into the Holy Place
Hebrews is often taken out of context more than any other book, with the exception of Revelation perhaps. In Hebrews 9:8-10, Preterists argue that the temple still stands as a symbol that the old covenant still remains. Hence, the old covenant is still in effect until it is destroyed and that is in A.D. 70. The texts states:

“The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way of the [heavenly] Holy Places has not yet been revealed, while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.”

The problem is that Auctor nowhere talks about the temple. He does not even use the word once. He makes no reference to it at all. What Auctor is talking about is what the tabernacle IN THE PENTATEUCH symbolizes to the Israelites in the Pentateuch. He is arguing that the tent of meeting is a symbol for the old covenant because he wants to show the temporal nature of that covenant communicated through rituals, which then also were meant to be temporary.

We know this because, not only does he not refer to the temple (and the temple is never referred to in Hebrews as the tabernacle--they are two different structures), but also because he describes the tabernacle he is talking about, and guess what? That tabernacle has the ark of the covenant in it (v. 4). That is a dead give away that he is talking about the tabernacle in the Pentateuch, as the ark is lost after the exile, and the Second Temple does not have contain it. If someone wants to take issue with that and argue that they have a replica inside, he mentions that the ark has Aaron's rod and the two tablets of stone carved out by Moses in it. He is simply not talking about the Second Temple. These passages are completely taken out of context.

Now, when the New Testament authors relate a larger narrative they can often use the present tense to describe the narrative in a more vivid fashion ("it has [present aspect] the golden pot and Aaron's budded rod" v. 4), in order to place the audience back into the context of the story. Storytellers today do the same thing. This may be deceiving to the English reader sometimes when one does not realize the practice of storytelling is being utilized. But it is also clear that most authors are not consistent and will go back to narrative tenses. In 9:1, Auctor does just that. Notice that he speaks of this as something in the past.

"The first covenant had (imperfect) regulations . . ."

"There had been (aorist passive) a tabernacle . . ."

The point is simply that Auctor is arguing the old covenant has already passed away at the cross. It is no longer valid in God's eyes in his own day. All of the tabernacle passed away, and thus, all that it symbolizes (i.e., the ritual expression of teaching the law) is displayed as temporal as well. The passage, and the book, is simply being ripped out of context to make it refer to the Second Temple.

The translation that states it is a symbol for the present time is a bit misunderstood as well. Auctor is actually saying that it is a symbol for them, the ancient Israelites. He states.

This was a symbol for the time then presentwhen gifts and sacrifices were offered that could not perfect the conscience of the worshiper. They served only for matters of food and drink and various washingsthey are external regulations imposed until the new order came. (9:9-10)

There are two ways one can understand the verse. It can be translated as "this had been a parable for the contemporary time period," i.e., the current time of which the Auctor is speaking; or it can be understood as referring to the tabernacle in the Pentateuch serving as a parable of the old covenant up to the present. Either way, the temporary nature of the tabernacle symbolizes the temporary nature of the ritual communication of the holiness of the law, i.e., as said before, the old covenant is the manner in which the moral law is communicated and its external versus internal nature, not the moral law itself, which is now written on the hearts/minds of God's people. The tabernacle signifies this in the Pentateuch to the people, and it frankly can continue to symbolize the temporal nature of the first covenant to the Auctor, his audience, and to us, a couple thousand of years later. That is because it exists both for Auctor and us in the text of the Torah, not literally standing in Jerusalem.

So what this passage does not mean is that the tabernacle is still standing in the form of the temple in Auctor's day. That is not to what Auctor is referring. He is immersed in the Pentateuch and attempting to take his audience there. This passage, then, also is taken out of context, and in order to get a temple out of a tabernacle one simply has to change the context and ignore what Auctor is actually saying.

The Antichrist Is Already in the World
John indicates that the antichrist is already in the world. It is suggested that the antichrist marks the time of the end. This may or may not be true, but we will adopt it's truth for the sake of argument.

Preterists will often quote this passage: “This is that of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world" (1 John 4:3).

In context, however, John, in his typical already-not yet fashion, sees the antichrist as already come through the spirits of false prophets that have gone out into the world. Specifically, he is speaking of the alternate christs offered up by the proto-gnostics. So through these people, who have the same spirit as antichrist, the antichrist has already come--not because he is already here, but because those who typify him are.

John states:  "Who is the liar but the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This one is the antichrist: the person who denies the Father and the Son" (2:22). 

Notice, the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ, what some proto-gnostics were doing by divorcing the Christ Logos/Aeon from the human Jesus, is the antichrist. 

In 4:1-3, John makes it clear that he is talking about the spirit of antichrist that has gone out to many false prophets in the world. In fact, in 2:18, John flat out says that he is talking about these many antichrists (plural) that have already gone out (same terminology used of the spirit of antichrist in the false prophets) into the world. It is the spirit of the antichrist (4:3) in these false prophets that displays the presence of the antichrist in the present. Again, this is just another text taken out of context.

Putting the Prophets to Death
Another passage taken out of context is Revelation 18:24: "And in her [the Great City Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth." 

This is then compared to texts like Matthew 23:35-36 // Luke 11:50-51, where the Lord sent them messengers and prophets who they persecuted and killed.

Woe to you! You build 147 the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors 148  killed. So you testify that you approve of the deeds of your ancestorsbecause they killed the prophets and you build their tombs! For this reason also the wisdom of God said‘I will send them prophets and apostlessome of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that this generation may be held accountable for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary.  YesI tell youit will be charged against this generation. (Luke 11:47-51).

Notice first that the quote that God will send them prophets and messengers is a prediction made in the past. The generation is only being charged for the blood shed from Abel to Zechariah, not for the deaths of the New Testament apostles and prophets, so apostles and prophets here do not refer to New Testament apostles and prophets. They refer to the apostoloi/mal'akim "messengers" and prophets sent to Israel in the Old Testament. 

Revelation, however, is not referring to these people, as is made clear by who they are in the book. These are the prophets, apostles, and saints of the New Testament who overcome the beast, i.e., Domitian, by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony (6:9-11; 7:14; 12:11; 18:20). 

In 20:4, we see that these people are New Testament believers, not anyone who was executed between the times of Abel and Zechariah.

Then I saw thrones and seated on them were those who had been given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony about Jesus and because of the word of GodThese had not worshiped the beast or his image and had refused to receive his mark on their forehead or handThey came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years

Notice that these people are beheaded because they would not worship the beast and his image, i.e., Domitian, and because of their testimony about Jesus and the gospel. Notice also that the nation killing them is Rome. The Roman Emperor Domitian executed people for treason and to not worship him or his image was treason against Rome and the gods. Notice also the manner of execution. It is not stoning or most of the ways the prophets are said to have died (e.g., sawed in half, thrown off of cliffs, stoned to death, stabbed, etc.). Instead, they are beheaded, which is the most common manner of execution for Roman citizens. They would likely crucify Jews, and Jews stone others to death, even though they are not officially allowed to execute anyone at the time, but this death is by beheading by the one who Paul describes in Romans as not "having the sword for nothing." The sword is a synecdoche for the death it causes via beheading. 

So this is not Israel killing Old Testament prophets and messengers. It is Rome executing New Testament Christians, who live long after Zechariah, for the treason against gods and man that exists in not worshiping its emperor, Domitian. The cross references, therefore, are deceptive in that two different contexts with different characters involved are at play. The Preterist who uses this passage as a proof text has simply failed to note this.

The Coming of Christ in the Apocalypse of John
Revelation 2:25 is quoted as a reference to Christ's return in A.D. 70. "Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.” 

The problem with this interpretation is that Christ's coming in context is not about the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, but encouraging believers to remain faithful under the pressure of the beast to worship him and his image. If they are faithful, they will receive the reward of confirmation that they are Christ's true people. If they are not, they will have their lampstands removed from His presence.

"Thereforeremember from what high state you have fallen and repent! Do the deeds you did at the first; if notI will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place – that is, if you do not repent" (2:5).

This text, and the book itself, is all about encouraging Christians to remain faithful. Christ's future judgment of the world and the false church is seen as something that breaks into history before the time, where Christ comes now to judge His church and keep it pure. Hence, this coming is merely one of Christ's methods of receiving His purified kingdom/bride. It is not the macro coming, which is future, but a micro coming which is present with the believers in the First Century. Hence, He is coming to them (2:5, 16, 21-23; 3:3, 19-20).

So this is Christ coming to His churches and disciplining them. He is viewed as both coming and having already come and judged some churches/people; but this is not talking about the final judgment and coming of Christ, which the book depicts as something still to come after His people have overcome the world by His blood and their testimony, when the total destruction of the world's kingdoms takes place.