QUESTION 76: If Christ returned in A.D. 70, does that now relegate the Holy Spirit to a non-functional role?
ANSWER: The Holy Spirit did have an eschatological work that He finished, even as the Son had an eschatological work that He finished. That does not imply though that the Son or the Spirit ceased to "function" after A.D. 70.
The Last Days work of the indwelling Holy Spirit was to give the Lord's revelations, doctrines, commandments, miracles and gifts to the Church, (Mk. 13:11; Lk. 12:12; Jn. 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7,13-14; Acts 2:4,17; 13:2,4; 15:8; 16:16; 19:6; 20:23,28; 21:11; Heb. 2:4; I Peter 1:12) and to thereby build up the Church to become the sanctified Temple of the Father and of the Son. (Rom. 15:16; Eph. 2:18-22; 4:11-13)
When that work of temple-building was completed, and the Father and the Son came to indwell the Church, (Jn. 14:23) the Spirit did not then leave His Temple, or cease to "function." The Spirit's eschatological work ceased in 70, but His New Covenant ministry "remains" in glory forever. (I Cor. 3:8-11) The eternal ministry of the Holy Spirit, and of the Son, and of the Father is revealed in the terms of the New Covenant:
"...This is the [New] Covenant...: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts. [THE HOLY SPIRIT] And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. [THE FATHER] ...I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." [THE SON] (Heb. 8:10-12)
It is through the Holy Spirit that God writes His laws upon our hearts; (I Cor. 2:11; II Cor. 3:3-8) that we are enabled to trust in Jesus; (I Cor. 2:14; 12:3) and that we are saved, cleansed and made new. (Matt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16; Jn. 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; Titus 3:5)
This is why believers were baptized into the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 28:19) It is through the Holy Spirit that God pours out His love into our hearts; (Rom. 5:5) that we have fellowship with one another; (II Cor. 13:14) and that we pray for one another and are comforted. (Acts 9:31; Rom. 8:26; Eph. 6:18; Jude 1:20)
The Kingdom of God itself is "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom. 14:17; cf. I Thess. 1:6) From the heart of God's Kingdom flows the "River of the Water of life," from the throne of the Father and the Lamb. (Rev. 22:1) That River is the Holy Spirit. (Jn. 7:38)
The New Covenant Age is not an age wherein the Holy Spirit no longer functions. It is the age wherein the Holy Spirit flows forth like a mighty river from the Father and the Son, and gives life to the world through faith in the blood of the Lamb. (Jn. 6:63; II Cor. 3:6; Heb. 9:12-14) It is the age wherein the Triune God dwells in us and with us forever:
"And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, [The Holy Spirit] that He may be with you forever. ...He abides with you, and will be in you. ...If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We [the Father and the Son] will come to him, and make Our abode with him." (Jn. 14:16-17,23)
QUESTION 77: The prophets predicted peace in the Kingdom after the coming of the Messiah. If the Messiah has come, and if the Church is the Kingdom, then why has the Church been fragmented and divided for centuries? Fragmentation and division is not "peace." Something is very wrong here, wouldn't you say?
ANSWER: "Something is very wrong here" if the prophecies of the Kingdom are interpreted using a wooden or nationalistic literalism, and if we thus expect to see "world peace," or perfect ecclesiastical harmony after the Parousia.
The fragmented and divided Church (i.e., the "visible Church," which includes false believers) is not the Kingdom that God purged in A.D. 70. (Matt. 13:41; Rev. 21:27) His Kingdom is "righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom. 14:17) It is the fellowship of true believers who love one another in Christ. (Heb. 8:11; I Jn. 4:12) It is "Christ in you." (Lk. 17:21; Col. 1:27)
The "peace" of His Kingdom is primarily the peace we have "with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," (Rom. 5:1) and the absence of the "wall of partition" that divided the elect before the Advent of the Son. (Eph. 2:14) The Kingdom is not a wooden or nationalistic fulfillment of the prophets. It is the great Mystery that the prophets described, as it were, from behind a veil.
This is not to say that God cares only about the Kingdom (or the "invisible Church") and has no concern about the peace of the "visible Church." Though the "visible Church" and the Kingdom are distinct, they are not separate. As the Kingdom increases and does its healing work, the "visible Church" reforms and more faithfully reflects the Kingdom, to the glory of God.
If we are troubled by a perceived lack of progress in the historic, "visible Church," we should remember that in the preterist worldview we are still in the early days "of the increase of His Government." (Isa. 9:7) We are still in the early stages of "the healing of the nations." (Rev. 22:2) In a very real sense, the New Covenant Church has only just begun. Therefore, to be skeptical of the Presence of Christ now because of the Church's sins is not only short-sighted, but it is an unrighteous judgment by appearance. (Jn. 7:24)
Though the "visible Church" has been fragmented for centuries, there are better days and better millennia ahead, as God illumines the hearts of His saints in every generation, (Eph. 1:18) and as the Church continually reforms in doctrine and in practice, and as the Kingdom continually spreads and transforms mankind throughout history. What was true of the Kingdom in the 1st century is equally true today:
"...God ...always leads us in triumph in Christ... The weapons of our warfare are ...divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (II Cor. 2:14; 10:4-5)
Not even the "visible church," with its multitude of sins, and its multitude of conflicting doctrines and traditions, can withstand the onslaught of God's ever-increasing Kingdom. In time, by the grace and power of God, the historic Church, united in truth, will follow the example of the saints of that eschatological generation, and will obey the divine exhortation:
"...that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment." (I Cor. 1:10)
QUESTION 78: How do you interpret Daniel 7 (specifically, the little horn; and the ten kings, three of which were uprooted) and Rev. 17:10-11 (the seven heads, one wounded; the seven kings, five fallen, one is, the other is not yet, and the Beast is an eighth)?
ANSWER: Most partial preterists and preterists interpret "the Beast" of Dan. 7; Rev. 11,13-17,19-20 as the Roman Empire generally and as Nero (the little "horn") specifically. The "seven kings" of Rev. 17:10 are usually interpreted as the first seven Caesars (Julius Caesar to Galba); and the "eighth" in Rev. 17:11 as either Vespasian or Titus (although neither of them "went to perdition" in A.D. 70). I have never seen an explanation as to who the "three kings" were that were supposedly "uprooted" before Nero. (Dan. 7:8)
The above is the majority answer. Some (full) preterists though have interpreted "the Beast" and / or the little "horn" as being apostate Israel of the last days. The explanation I offer here is similar to that view. The following is only my personal opinion and I welcome any comments or corrections, publicly or privately.
First the short answer:
Daniel's "ten kings" were the first ten kings of the Roman Empire (Julius Caesar to Vespasian). The three "uprooted" kings were the seventh, eighth and ninth kings of the Roman Empire (Galba, Otho, Vitellius). The "seven kings" in Rev. 17:10 were Daniel's "ten kings" minus the three "uprooted" kings. The wounded "head" in Rev. 13:3,12,14 was the death of the fourth king of the Roman Empire (Caligula). The "eighth" (which is also "the Beast") in Rev. 17:11 was the same as Daniel's little "horn," which was the same as "the Man of sin." (II Thess. 2:3)
"The Beast" was a spirit (or perhaps a legion of spirits) through which apostate Israel united with the Roman Empire in order to destroy Jesus' disciples. (A.D. 64-68) "The Beast" was the "king," the "destroyer," the "exterminator" that rose up from the abode of demons. (Rev. 9:11) It was the spirit that led the Antichrists of the last days. (I Jn. 2:18,22; 4:3; II Jn. 1:7) It was "the natural Man" gone wild with murderous self-deification. It was "all men" / "all nations" united in hate against Christ's Church. (Matt. 24:9; Mk. 13:13) In the end of the age, (A.D. 68-70) the home of "the Beast" was apostate Israel.
Now the long answer:
The "ten kings" of the fourth beast / kingdom in Daniel 7:7,20,24 were the ten Caesars who reigned until A.D. 70:
1. Julius Caesar (49 - 44 B.C.)
2. Augustus (31 B.C. - A.D. 14)
3. Tiberius (A.D. 14 - 37)
4. Caligula (A.D. 37 - 41)
5. Claudius (A.D. 41 - 54)
6. Nero (A.D. 54 - 68)
7. Galba (A.D. 68 - 69)
8. Otho (A.D. 69)
9. Vitellius (A.D. 69)
10. Vespasian (A.D. 69 - 79)
Galba, Otho and Vitellius were the "three kings" out of the ten who were "uprooted" before "the little horn." (Dan. 7:8,20,24) The "ten kings" minus the three "uprooted" kings are the "seven kings" of Rev. 17:10-11:
1. Julius Caesar
5. Claudius ("Five have fallen.")
6. Nero ("One is.")
-1. "Uprooted": After ruling for seven months, Galba was mutilated and beheaded by his soldiers in the streets of Rome.
-2. "Uprooted": After ruling for three months, Otho committed suicide with a knife after his army was defeated by Vitellius' troops.
-3. "Uprooted": After ruling for eight months, Vitellius was butchered and dismembered by a mob in the streets of Rome.
7. Vespasian ("The other has not yet come.")
The seventh king, Vespasian, remained "a little while" (Rev. 17:10) until the Kingdom came in A.D. 70 (though he lived on as Caesar after that time).
The "eighth" (corresponding to Daniel's "little horn," before whom three of the seven Caesars were "uprooted") was the "king" of the Abyss; the spirit of Antichrist. It was the unholy union of apostate Israel with Rome against the Church. In the end of the age, the body of "the Beast" was revealed to be apostate Israel.
Three Objections Answered:
Objection 1: The "seven kings" were seven individual, gentile kings. Therefore, the "eighth" must also have been an individual, gentile king and not a spirit, or a group of men who were not even kings themselves.
Answer: The Lord never prophesied the advent of one individual False Christ, or of one individual "False Prophet" or of one individual Persecutor. He spoke only of many false christs, many false prophets and many persecutors; and most of the persecutors of whom He spoke were Jewish (Matt. 24; Mk. 13; Lk. 17,21). (The Lord did prophesy of gentiles persecuting the Church in the Last days, but in the context of the Jews betraying and handing over believers to pagan rulers.) In the same way, the Apostle John never spoke of one individual "Antichrist," but of "many Antichrists," who together made up the one Antichrist. (I Jn. 2:18; II Jn. 1:7)
When "the Beast" first appeared in the book of Revelation, it killed the saints in Jerusalem (not in Rome). (Rev. 11:7-8) Likewise, even though it was "the Beast" that killed the saints throughout the book of Revelation, it was in "Babylon" (Jerusalem) that the blood of the saints was found. (Matt. 23:35-36; Rev. 18:24)
Furthermore, it is easy to overlook the fact that the "seven heads" were not only seven gentile Caesars, but they were first and foremost, "seven mountains" where Jerusalem was sitting as Queen. (Rev. 17:9; 18:7) The "seven heads" primarily symbolized Jerusalem's world-dominion, i.e., the Kingdom that she had over all the peoples and kings of the whole earth. (Rev. 17:1,15,18).
The "seven heads" were firstly Jerusalem's kingdom, ("the kingdom of this world" --Rev. 11:15) and secondarily seven gentile Caesars. It was through the manipulations and instigations of the Jews that the rulers of the Roman world killed believers --even as it was through the Jews that the Roman governor Pilate handed over the Lord of glory to be crucified. It was Israel, not the Roman Empire, who had "the greater sin" on the day the Lord was betrayed and murdered (Jn. 9:11), and it was the same when the children of Queen Jerusalem united with the King in Rome (Nero) to persecute the saints in c. A.D. 64. (Lk. 12:47-48)
Lastly, one aspect of "the Beast" that has been largely ignored is that "the Beast" was not only a "flesh and blood" entity or power (such as Rome, or Nero, or apostate Israel), but it was ultimately a spirit, angel or demon, or a collective of demons, as was Legion.
The Beast was likely the "king" of the "locusts," "the angel of the Abyss," who was called Abaddon ("Destruction") and Apollyon ("One that Exterminates"). (Rev. 9:11) His coming "up out of the Abyss" (the abode of demons) indicates that he was a demonic force --one of the "world forces" that had been unleashed against the Church in the Last Days:
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."
I Jn. 4:3:
"Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world."
Apostate Israel became the home of "the Beast" out of the Abyss. The destroying spirit of the age of the gentile Roman Empire came to dwell in the reprobate Jewish nation:
"Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. "Then it goes, and takes along with it seven other spirits ["the Beast"] more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation." (cf. Lk. 23:21)
(More on this point below.)
Objection 2: Israel was not "of" the seven Caesars. (Rev. 17:11)
"As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out, saying, 'If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.'" (Jn. 19:12)
"'They therefore cried out, 'Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!' Pilate said to them, 'Shall I crucify your King?' The chief priests answered, 'We have no king but Caesar.'" (Jn. 19:15)
"...They all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." (Acts 17:7)
The apostate Jews of the last days were not Jews. (Rom. 2:28-29; Phil. 3:3; Rev. 2:9; 3:9) They had become gentiles. They were "of this world." (Jn. 8:23) They were blasphemers, idolaters and false messiahs, just like the pagan Caesars. The only difference was that the apostates committed their atrocities after receiving the full knowledge of the Truth, and hypocritically covered up their iniquities with a "form of godliness." (II Tim. 3:5)
Objection 3: Israel did not cause the "uprooting" of Galba, Otho and Vitellius.
Answer: Daniel did not actually say that the little horn directly caused the uprooting of the three kings. Dan. 7:8 says that the three kings were uprooted "before" the little horn; and Dan. 7:20 says that the three kings fell "before" the little horn. And Dan. 7:24 says that the little horn "humbled" the three kings. (See Jay P. Green's Literal Translation and Young's Literal Translation.)
These descriptions of the relationship between the little "horn" and the three kings harmonize with what happened in the days of Galba, Otho and Vitellius:
The great Rebellion of the Jews in Judea was a clear and present danger to the stability of the Roman Empire. After Rome had suffered an inexplicable and humiliating defeat at the hands of the Jews in A.D. 66, Nero Caesar was in a state of terror as to whether or not he could put down the Jews and keep their rebellion from spreading to other nations. (Josephus, Wars, iii, i, 1-8)
Nero eventually sent the veteran General Vespasian to put down the rebellion. After Vespasian and his son Titus and their vast armies had been fighting the war against the Jews for about a year, Nero committed suicide on June 9th, A.D. 68, and the Empire quickly fell into anarchy because of widespread rebellion. As a result, Vespasian and Titus were forced to suspend the war, and the rebels in Judea became the temporary victors over Rome. It was in those dark days that Galba, Otho and Vitellius were "uprooted" in rapid succession.
It may even be that if Vespasian, Titus and their legions had not been away putting down the great Rebellion of the Jews --a rebellion that was already destabilizing the Empire-- Rome might not have descended into lawlessness after the death of Nero. If that is the case, then it was the Rebellion of the Jews that indirectly caused the anarchy that humbled and uprooted the three kings, Galba, Otho and Vitellius.
In Rev. 13:3,12,14, one of the "seven kings" (one of the "seven heads") received a "death-wound" by "the sword." (Rev. 13:14) This could refer to the murder of one of the seven Caesars with a literal sword, or it could refer to a special judgment of one of the seven Caesars by "the Word of God." (Or it could mean both.) If we take "the sword" to mean a literal sword, then Caligula (the fourth king) is the king that received the "death-wound," as he was the only king out of the seven who was killed with a literal sword. Some of his own soldiers killed him with their swords. (Julius Caesar was killed with daggers; and Nero killed himself with a dagger.)
But if we take the death-wound of "the sword" to mean "death by a special judgment of the Word of God," Caligula is still the outstanding king among the seven. Caligula's assassination was, for God's people, a miraculous deliverance from certain destruction. In A.D. 40 Caligula, in his insanity, had ordered his statues to be erected in the Temple of God in Jerusalem. After the Jews refused to obey his command, and after a standoff that lasted for months, Caligula ordered the unconditional destruction of the Jewish nation.
Remarkably, the delivery of Caligula's command to his general in Judea was delayed for three months because of a storm at sea, so that a subsequent letter containing news of Caligula's death arrived in Judea twenty-seven days before Caligula's orders of destruction finally arrived. Because Caligula was dead, his belated command to destroy the Jews was null and void. (Josephus, Antiq., xviii, viii, 9; Wars, i, x, 5)
That episode has not received much attention as being an event of much, if any, eschatological significance. Yet in A.D. 40 (when Caligula ordered Israel's destruction), the Gospel had not yet been preached to the gentiles. The destruction of the Jewish nation in A.D. 40 might have meant the complete destruction of the infant Church (especially if it had happened on a feast day). Caligula's command then was nothing less than Satan's (and the Beast's) first attempt to destroy and exterminate the Church.
When God thwarted that attempt through the death of Caligula, God had inflicted a "death-wound" upon one of the "seven heads" of the Beast, and God cast the exorcised demon (which perhaps had literally possessed Caligula) into the Abyss.
Thus when the book of Revelation was written, (during the reign of the sixth king, Nero) "the Beast" was "not." (Rev. 17:8,11) Then later, probably in c. A.D. 64, (the year that the Jewish-Neronian, i.e., worldwide, Persecution of the Church began) the unclean / gentile spirit was "resurrected" from out of the Abyss, and it entered into the "eighth," the little "horn," "the Man of sin," "the Antichrist": Apostate Israel in its adulterous union with Nero Caesar against Christ.
Not only was it the apostate Jews who used the power of Caesar to "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame," (Heb. 6:6) but it was the apostate Jews themselves who hated Jerusalem, who made her desolate and naked, and ate her flesh and burned her with fire. (Rev. 17:16) The Roman armies under Titus simply effected the final end of the wild Beast who, on the Last Day, was cornered and trapped in the doomed City:
c. December A.D. 69:
"[The rebellion in Jerusalem is] like a wild beast grown mad, which, for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh." (Josephus, Wars, v, i, 1; cf. Wars, iv, iv, 3)
1. Julius Caesar (49 - 44 B.C.)
2. Augustus (31 B.C. - A.D. 14)
3. Tiberius (A.D. 14 - 37)
4. Caligula (A.D. 37 - 41) (Death-wound of the Beast)
5. Claudius (A.D. 41 - 54) ("Five have fallen.")
6. Nero (A.D. 54 - 68) ("One is.")
-1. Galba (A.D. 68 - 69) (Uprooted)
-2. Otho (A.D. 69) (Uprooted)
-3. Vitellius (A.D. 69) (Uprooted)
7. Vespasian (A.D. 69 - 79) ("The other has not yet come. ..."He must remain a little while" [i.e., until the end in A.D. 70])
8. "an eighth" / the little "horn": Antichrist Israel of the last days united with the Roman world against the Church (c. A.D. 64) (The "the Beast" came out of the Abyss, its death-wound healed; and it was destroyed shortly thereafter in the fire of A.D. 70.)
QUESTION 79: What is "the creation" in Rom. 8:19-22? In what sense was it "subjected to vanity?" How was it suffering "the pains of childbirth?" And what does it mean that it was "set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God?"
ANSWER: Compare Rom. 8:19,21 with Heb. 11:39-40:
"...The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. [the New Covenant Church] ...The creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God [the New Covenant Church]." (Rom. 8:19,21)
"And all these [the saints who died before the coming of Christ], having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us [the New Covenant Church] they should not be made perfect." (Heb. 11:39-40)
These two passages have a common theme: Those who were longing for the promise and who were to receive it only with the Last Days Church.
The above comparison is one reason I believe "the creation" in Romans 8 was the "world" of the faithful "in Adam"; (Jn. 3:16-17; Rom. 5:15-19; I Cor. 15:22) the saints who had not yet received the promised indwelling Spirit of God; (as is implied in Rom. 8:23; cf. I Cor. 15:47-49; Heb. 11:13,39) especially those saints who were under the Law of Moses. (Rom. 5:20; 7:13; Heb. 9:15)
All of the saints in Adam had been "subjected to futility" and were in "slavery of corruption" insofar as they had remained condemned, despite their desire to live righteously before God. (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 10:3-4) Sin, not Christ, had made its home in them. (Rom. 7:17,20) Despite their holiness, they had been led into captivity and slavery to the law of sin, and into the fearful death of Sheol. (Rom. 7:23; 8:15; Gal. 4:24; 5:1; Heb. 2:15) The commandments of God, which they loved, ultimately had served to kill them because they were sinful (unredeemed). So they groaned in bondage and in the vanity of their existence, longing for the Redeemer, because their works of faith had resulted only in death. (Rom. 7:5,24)
As Solomon wrote:
"'Vanity of vanities,' says the Preacher, 'Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun?'" (Eccl. 1:2-3)
And as Isaiah wrote:
"For Sheol cannot thank You; death cannot praise You. Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness." (Isa. 38:18)
Travailing, Anxiously Awaiting the Sons of God
"The whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." (Rom. 8:22)
The Last Days were a time of great upheavals, or "birth pangs," not only for the Church on Earth (Rev. 12:2), and not only for the wicked on Earth, (who were "giving birth" to "destruction" and "wind") (Isa. 26:17-18; Matt. 24:8; Mk. 13:8; I Thess. 5:3), but also for the dead. Hades (Sheol) was under siege, (Matt. 16:18; Rev. 12:7) and the departed saints in Adam were anxiously longing for their impending redemption in Christ, (Lk. 18:7-8; I Peter 4:6; Rev. 6:9-11) and were eagerly expecting to be set free (resurrected) at the revelation of the New Jerusalem (the New Covenant Church). (II Cor. 3:17; Heb. 11:10; Gal. 4:22-31)
The eventual birth, or "rebirth," of the dead (Matt. 19:28; cf. Isa. 26:19 NASB, NIV) would not happen apart from the eschatological saints in Christ, who were enduring, suffering and dying with Christ on behalf of the dead. (Matt. 23:34-35; I Cor. 15:29-32; Rev. 6:9-11) The Church, as "firstfruits," had first to be perfected through suffering with Christ before the dead would be "harvested," or gathered, in the end of the age. It was only as the Last Days Church endured to the end that the dead were preserved through the eschatological time of "childbirth" and finally set free (resurrected) in A.D. 70.
Paul reiterated this doctrine in I Tim. 2:15:
"And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. But she [Eve] shall be saved through the childbearing if they [the women of Paul's generation] continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint." (I Tim. 2:14-15)
Though Paul was writing concerning women, (vs. 9ff) the doctrine he was teaching was not limited to women (Compare I Peter 3:6). The righteous descendants of Adam and Eve were suffering the eschatological pains of "childbearing," and would be preserved through their throes only as the Body of Christ on Earth endured in the Faith and attained unto the Resurrection of the dead. (Phil. 3:11)
The Revelation of the Church
In that Day, the pre-Cross world of sin, death, condemnation and alienation melted with "fervent heat." The man-made Tabernacle was thrown down by the judgment of God and the children of the flesh were swept away. What remained was the Body of Christ, vindicated and confirmed to the world as the true and purified Tabernacle of the God of Israel. Then all of the elect, the living and the dead, were redeemed, and were gathered together under His wing; and they became One in Him. (Col. 1:20)
Today we live in a "new heavens and a new earth." "Vanity" ("futility") is a thing of the past for all who dwell in the City of God, who have been "set free" through faith in the blood of Christ. The members of our bodies no longer bear fruit unto Death. In Him, our works of faith are now incorruptible. They are of eternal value, and they follow us into Heaven. (Rev. 14:13)
Now instead of futility, slavery and the corruption of sin, condemnation and death, the children of God in all of Heaven and Earth have eternal redemption, forgiveness, freedom, sonship, and unfading glory though the incorruptible Righteousness of the indwelling Son of God.
God had subjected the saints in Adam to futility through His commandments. His commandments had served to increase transgressions and to reveal His unredeemed saints to be bound to the law of sin and death. But God had given them hope (Rom. 8:20) that they would be delivered from the bondage of corruption ("sin, death, condemnation") into the glorious liberty ("no condemnation") of the New Covenant Church. (Rom. 8:21)
In the Last Days, the saints in Adam were earnestly expecting and eagerly awaiting the manifestation of believers in Christ as the true sons of God. (Rom. 8:19) The whole body (of the saints in Adam) was groaning and suffering the pains of childbirth together. (Rom. 8:22)
Their time of waiting, expecting, groaning and travailing came to an end when the children of the flesh (the unbelieving Jews) were disinherited, and the followers of Jesus were vindicated and revealed to the world to be the true sons of God. In that Day, the universal convocation of the saints was united in Christ. Through His blood they were adopted, redeemed and gathered into His eternal Kingdom --the Kingdom in which we dwell today through faith.
QUESTION 80: Doesn't Zechariah 14:4-5 plainly teach that Jesus will come back and stand on the Mount of Olives and cause it to be split in two? How can preterists possibly spiritualize that away and claim that it was fulfilled in the first century?
"And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. And you will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!" (Zech. 14:4-5)
If one begins with the presupposition that the Parousia is yet future and that it is going to be a literal descent and landing of Jesus in the flesh, then one would be tempted to interpret this prophecy as referring to a literal splitting of the literal Mount of Olives. (After all, Jesus already literally stood on the Mount of Olives, so why should He not do it again at His Second Coming?)
While this approach to Zech. 14:4-5 seems credible at first, there are problems with it even in a futuristic framework --problems that have caused most futurist interpreters throughout the ages to interpret the prophecy symbolically.
First, the immediate context mentions events that took place in the first century. Most notable is the prophecy of the "living water" (Zech. 14:8). A comparison of Jn. 7:38-39 and Acts 2:17-21 confirms that the coming of the "living water" which would flow out from Jerusalem was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.
Since verse 8 was fulfilled at Pentecost, a futuristic interpretation of verses 3-7 would force us to impose a 2,000-year "leap" or "gap" upon Zechariah 14 --from the yet future Second Coming in verses 3-7, back to the day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago in verse 8, forward to a yet future "millennial reign" in verse 9.
(Such exegetical "ping ponging" through the aeons may be acceptable to one who clings to a dispensationalist framework, but it is offensive to any who would reverently let God's Word say what it says.)
Second, there is no other prophecy in Scripture that speaks of the "landing" of Jesus, or the resulting split of the Mount of Olives. If we interpret this prophecy literally, we turn it into a "stand alone" prophecy with no parallel in Scripture. We make it a weak proof text.
A literalistic approach to Zech. 14:4-5 is contextually awkward and exegetically wanting, but a symbolic approach finds that Scripture illumines the prophecy:
"...so will the Lord of hosts come down to wage war on Mount Zion and on its hill'" (Isa. 31:4).
"For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. The mountains will melt under Him, and the valleys will be split, like wax before the fire, like water poured down a steep place." (Micah 1:3-4)
"He stood and surveyed the earth; He looked and startled the nations. Yes, the perpetual mountains were shattered, the ancient hills collapsed. His ways are everlasting." (Hab. 3:6)
These Scriptures, and their contexts, reveal that the prophetic image of God standing on a mountain, or on mountains, and causing it to split or shatter or melt under Him is a symbol of God waging war against His enemies and delivering His saints.
Note that in Zech. 14:4-5, a mountain became a valley of salvation; and what were once valleys became mountains. This is virtually the same metaphor that was used by Isaiah, Matthew and Luke:
"...Make ready the way of the Lord. Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Isa. 40:3-4; Matt. 3:3; Lk. 3:4-5)
According to this prophecy, whatever stood in the Church's way was going to be removed. Instead of a rough and winding highway over a mountain range (the wearying burden of the corrupted Jewish leadership), the Church would be given a straight and smooth road (the easy yoke of Christ). The Way of escape and salvation would overcome all that opposed It.
So in Zech. 14:4-5, the obstacle that opposed the Church would be shattered and overcome by a great valley that would extend to the other side of the obstacle. This is why Zechariah mentioned "the Mount of Olives" by name. That mountain stood in front of the City of Jerusalem, in the path of any who would flee directly to the East away from the City. The Mount of Olives thus served as a physical symbol of a spiritual obstacle or barrier, because of its location in front of Jerusalem.
As Zechariah's obstacle was split and made into a way of salvation, so through Christ Jesus was the "veil" of condemnation torn in two and replaced with the Way of salvation for all men. (Matt. 27:51; Heb. 9:8; 10:19-20) So too was the barrier of "the dividing wall" torn down and replaced with the peace of Christ in all nations. (Eph. 2:14-15) And so too was the destroying "mountain" of Babylon (the Jerusalem of slavery) burned up, cast into the sea, and replaced with the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Jer. 51:25; Matt. 21:21; Mk. 11:23; Rev. 8:8)
Zech. 14:4-5 is a prophecy of Gospel salvation. Before God destroyed His enemies in A.D. 70, He removed the barrier between His elect and their salvation. He provided a Way of escape and of salvation for His Church. That "Way" was Christ, His Word, His Gospel. At the sound of His Gospel-Voice, His disciples fled from the corruption of the world and from the wrath of God (Matt. 3:7; Lk. 3:7; 21:36; Rom. 2:3; Heb. 2:3; 6:18; 12:25; II Peter 1:4; 2:20; Rev. 12:6; 18:4). Abiding in His Word, they were hid under the refuge of the shadow of His Wings, in the valley of His Mountains. (Zech. 14:5)
QUESTION 81: God tells us in Isa. 65:20 that there will come a time when there will be no more infant deaths, a time when a hundred years old will be considered young. Obviously, Isaiah was talking about a time in our future (the Millennium) when people will have longer life spans than we have now. As a preterist, how do you get around the plain and obvious teaching of Isa. 65:20?
"There shall no longer be thence an infant of days, nor an old man who has not filled his days: for the child will die a hundred years old; but the sinner being a hundred years old will be accursed." (Isa. 65:20)
If we interpret this verse as a promise of biological longevity, we are faced with a contradiction:
1. "There shall no longer be ...an old man who has not filled his days."
2. "The child will die a hundred years old."
If a hundred years old will be the age of a child, and if there will be children who will die at that age, then those children will not grow old and fill their days. Yet Isaiah says that everyone will grow old and fill their days. These two promises cannot both be literally true.
This apparent contradiction can only be resolved when we interpret Isa. 65:20 in its context, which is a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem (in A.D. 70), and the coming of the New Jerusalem (the Church in the New Covenant world) and her spiritual children (believers). In light of this context, we should expect to see Isaiah speaking of eternal, spiritual life, and not of biological longevity.
Here is a summary interpretation of Isaiah chapter 65:
Verse 1a: The coming in of the gentiles through the Gospel. (This verse is quoted in Rom. 10:20, and establishes the first-century context of Isaiah 65.)
Verses 1b-5: God's indictment of Gospel-resisting Israel. The sins of their fathers to be repaid into their bosoms. (This was fulfilled in Christ's generation, at the destruction of Jerusalem / "Babylon," according to Matt. 23:35; Rev. 18:24)
Verses 6-7: God's promise of vengeance against His rebellious nation. (This was fulfilled in the Great Tribulation that was consummated in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, according to Lk. 21:22ff)
Verse 8-16a: Four contrasts between the chosen remnant and God's enemies:
REMNANT ENEMIES 1. Inherit the Promise (Heb. 12:22; Rev. 21:7-10) 1. Slaughtered with the sword (Lk. 21:24) 2. Eat and drink (Matt. 5:6; Lk. 6:21; Jn. 4:13-15; Rev. 7:16-17) 2. Hunger and thirst (Lk. 6:25; Jn. 6:35) 3. Rejoicing (Lk. 6:21,13,23) 3. Shame, mourning, broken heart (Lk. 6:25; Rev. 3:18; 16:15) 4. Called by God's name (Acts 15:14; II Thess. 1:12; I Peter 4:14; Rev. 2:17; 3:12; 14:1; 22:4) 4. Name left for a curse. (Mal. 4:16; Gal. 3:10; Rev. 14:11; 19:3)
Verses 16a-19: God's promise to abolish the former things, i.e., the terrible curses that came upon His nation because of their perpetual sin under the old covenant (See the four points under "ENEMIES" above.), and to create a New Covenant world (a New Heavens and a New Earth; a New Jerusalem where there would no longer be any mourning for the nation because of God's curse upon it).
Verse 20: In the New Covenant world, the sons of the New Jerusalem never die, neither as a result of a weak birth (I Peter 1:23) nor as a result of old age. They all have life, and have it abundantly. (Jn. 10:10) Even if they die at the age of one hundred, they are but youths (Ps. 103:5; II Cor. 4:16; Eph. 4:23; Col. 3:10), and they live on. (Jn. 11:25) But those outside the City, even if they live to be a hundred years old, are accursed. (Compare Rev. 21:6-8.)
Verse 21-23: Under the old covenant, God sent foreign nations to conquer and destroy His sinful nation, so that the works of His people were done in vain. In the New Covenant world, His people will never be cursed by Him, or conquered or destroyed by another nation. They will never be plundered of the fruits of their labors (Rev. 14:13). They are established as a tree. (Ps. 1:3; 52:8-9) Throughout every generation, they outlive their works. (In other words, believers have eternal life.)
Verses 24-25: God brought all of this into being by His election of grace. Through the Gospel, He made peace where there was enmity, having brought His enemies into His fold. (Rom. 5:21; Col. 1:21) He made an end to war in His Kingdom, having replaced the warring hearts of His enemies with hearts of gentleness and servanthood. And those who resisted His Kingdom to the end, He put to shame through the sin-forgiving grace and world-conquering power of His Gospel. (Micah 7:15-18; I Cor. 1:27; Titus 2:8; I Peter 3:16; I Jn. 2:28; 5:4; Rev. 3:18; 16:15)
The next verses of Isaiah, to the end of the book, continue the themes of the creation of the Church and the destruction of the city and sanctuary in A.D. 70. Isa. 65:20 does not speak of an alleged "millennial longevity." That doctrine is not only foreign to the surrounding context, but it is also foreign to any other text in the whole of Scripture.
Isa. 65:20 foreshadows the Gospel: All who are in Christ have incorruptible life. Even if we die physically at the ripe old age of a hundred, we are yet young. But the one who rejects the work of the Savior (Isa. 53:5,8,10) cannot escape the curse of death, even if he should live to be a hundred years old.
QUESTION 82: When was Matt. 23:39 fulfilled?
"For I say unto you [Jerusalem, the scribes, the Pharisees], You shall not see Me henceforth, till you shall say, 'Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (Matt. 23:39; Lk. 21:35)
All the tribes of the Land of Judea saw Jesus again and acknowledged Him as King in A.D. 70:
"Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the Land will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen." (Rev. 1:7)
"...Then all the tribes of the Land will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the heavens with power and great glory." (Matt. 24:30; Mk. 13:26; Lk. 21:27)
"...Hereafter you [Caiaphas the high priest, the scribes, elders, chief priests, the whole Sanhedrin] shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." (Matt. 26:57-64; Mk. 14:53-62)
"Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie-- behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you." (Rev. 3:9; cf. Isa. 60:14)
"And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the Face of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of Their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?" (Rev. 6:15-17)
Most futurists interpret Matt. 23:39 as an implied promise of salvation for "the Jews" in our future. They see the verse as a declaration that the Jews would go through a long time of spiritual blindness until they are converted to Christ shortly before His Second Coming at the end of "the Church Age."
That interpretation seems credible in a futuristic framework. However, the context (Matt. 23-24) indicates that the verse is a promise of judgment against the first-century Jews; and as other Scriptures (some cited above) reveal, Jerusalem did "see" Jesus again when He Appeared the second time (Heb.9:28) to destroy the holy City and its Sanctuary, (Dan. 9:24-27; Heb. 9:8) and to set up His eternal Throne among believers. (Rev. 22:3)
Matt. 23:39 was a prophecy of final subjugation, (Ps. 110:1; Matt. 22:44; Mk. 12:36; Lk. 20:43; Acts 2:35; I Cor. 15:25, 27; Eph. 1:22; Heb. 1:13; 2:8; 10:13) not of salvation. When the Son of Man came in the cataclysm of A.D. 70 to violently take the Kingdom from His enemies (i.e., the scribes, Pharisees, etc.) and give it to His Church (Matt. 21:43), the unbelieving Jews were forced to see (perceive, understand, know) and forced to admit that Jesus is the King, the Son of God --though their recognition and confession of Him in that mournful hour was too little and too late:
"Many will say to Me on that Day, 'Lord, Lord...' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness." (Matt. 7:22-23; cf. Heb. 10:26-27; 12:17)
QUESTION 83: Eph. 4:11-13 says that the gifts of "apostles," "prophets," "evangelists," "pastors" and "teachers" were given to believers "until" the Church reached maturity. If that Scripture was fulfilled in A.D. 70 does this mean that "evangelists," "pastors" and "teachers" existed only "until" A.D. 70 and that they no longer exist today?
"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ." (Eph. 4:11-13)
Neither the cessation nor the continuation of any of the gifts can be inferred from the word "until" in verse 13. The word "until" only implies, "reaching a point." "Until" implies nothing as to whether a state that existed until a point, continued or ceased after the point was reached. Sometimes the word "until" is used in a context of continuation (Rom. 5:14; I Tim. 6:14) and sometimes it is used in a context of cessation (Matt. 13:30; Heb. 9:10), but the word need not be used in a context of either continuation or of cessation. "Until" in Eph. 4:13 is in such an ambiguous context.
There is nothing in the context of Eph. 4:13 that implies whether any of the gifts were to cease or were to continue after the Church became the completed Body of Christ in A.D. 70. Neither the issue of cessation nor the issue of continuation is addressed. The only issue in view is the eventual attainment of the Church to maturity / perfection through the gifts of the Spirit. We must go elsewhere in Scripture to find out if any of the gifts were to be abolished in A.D. 70. (Dan. 9:24-27; Zech. 13:1-6; I Cor. 13:8-11; 14:21-22; Heb. 1:1-2)
QUESTION 84: The historic Church told us which books belong in the New Testament. Therefore, the only way we can be 100% certain that we have the true words of God in the New Testament is to believe in the infallibility of the Church, because if the Church is fallible then it would be possible that the Church made a mistake and put uninspired books in the New Testament. How can you avoid this logic?
ANSWER: Because the Church is no longer a source of divine revelation, the Church is necessarily fallible. Because the divinely inspired Scriptures are the only source of revelation since the close of the prophetic age in A.D. 70, the "uninspired" Church's authority since then is invariably subordinate to the Scriptures. Because the Church is no longer receiving new prophetic revelation / knowledge, the Church is able to err in its "official decrees," and must therefore submit its fallible knowledge to the authority of the Word of God.
Though the Church is fallible (not a source of revelation), there are many reasons we can be sure that the Church chose only God-breathed books for the "New Testament." Perhaps the most basic reason is the word of Scripture that the Church hears only the Lord's voice, and will not hear another (Jn. 10:5,27). We may infer from this precept that the book that the historic Church has always held as the Word of God, is the Word of God.
Preterists especially can see how that history itself wonderfully demonstrates both the fallibility of the Church and the incorruptibility of the Scriptures:
For nearly 2,000 years the historic Church has officially held to "futurism." If the Church had not been guided by God's sovereign hand in history, the Church would have certainly inserted futurist writings into the canon, such as The Shepherd of Hermes, The Epistle of Barnabas or one of many other ancient, futurist books. Yet despite the futurism of most, or all, of Christendom for centuries upon centuries, the books that remain in the canon are the books that uniformly contradict the established eschatology of the very Church that formed the canon! For preterists, this must serve as solid, faith-building evidence of God's sovereign care and preservation of His Holy Scriptures.
We must also remember that preterism teaches the timely fulfillment in Christ's generation of all things written, which doctrine demonstrates yet again the divine inspiration of the New Testament. (Deut. 18:22) In contrast to preterism, traditional eschatology sees prophecy-postponement (or even prophecy-failure), which inevitably casts a shadow of doubt on the inspiration of the New Testament. It is no wonder that many futurists have eventually felt compelled to rely on "ecclesiastical infallibility" to validate God's Word, since the futuristic interpretation ultimately serves to undermine the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture.
God's Word stands firm, not thanks to a church that supposedly receives infallible, prophetic revelation / knowledge today, but thanks to God's historical providence and faithfulness in keeping His promise to preserve His Word in His Church. Though human doctrines (such as "futurism") will come and go with the winds of history, His words "shall not pass away." (Isa. 40:8; Matt. 24:35; Mk. 13:31; Lk. 21:33; I Peter 1:24-25)
"Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in Heaven." (Ps. 119:89)
QUESTION 85: In your Q&A #84 you said that one reason that we can be "SURE" that the post-apostolic Church chose only God-breathed books for the "New-Testament" canon is that "the Church hears only the Lord's voice, and will not hear another (Jn. 10:5,27)." Aren't you in essence saying that the Church "hears infallibly?"
ANSWER: In a manner of speaking, yes.
The historic Church is what it is: The hearer and follower of Christ. The historic Church cannot NOT be what it is. "The Word of Christ" that the historic Church has recognized, heard and followed as "the Word of Christ" is necessarily the Word of Christ, because the Church is what it is: The hearer and follower of Christ.
In the same way, the Gospel that the Church has historically preached is necessarily the true Gospel, because the Church is what it is: The hearer and follower of Christ. If the historic Gospel that the Church has "always and everywhere" preached is not the true Gospel, then the historic Church is not the true hearer and follower of Christ. The historic Church necessarily is and does that which defines it as the Church.
The above describes a tautological, pan-historical "infallibility." (The Church is forever the Church.) It does not involve new revelations or new knowledge or new divine utterances, as in the charismatic and Catholic views. It in no way implies that any individuals or councils after the apostolic era have ever spoken infallibly. Conciliar decrees may be confirmed by the historic Church in subsequent millennia to have been inerrant, but that does not imply that any councils were or are, at any point, unable to err in their decrees.
QUESTION 86: Assuming that the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats was fulfilled in A.D. 70, my question is how was it fulfilled? Was it fulfilled symbolically on Earth, or was it fulfilled in Heaven?
ANSWER: The prophecy of Matt. 25:31-46 was fulfilled in Heaven. It was a prophecy (not a "parable") of the Judgment of the dead of Christ's generation.
Sequence of events:
1. First the Coming of the Son of Man in A.D. 70 (Matt. 25:31)
2. Then the gathering of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:32)
3. Then the separation of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:32)
4. Then the casting out of the wicked into the eternal fire (Matt. 25:41,46)
The same order of events is given in the parable of the Wedding Banquet:
"...But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire. THEN he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.' And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'" (Matt. 22:7-13)
1. First the destruction of the City in A.D. 70 (the Coming of the Son of Man) (Matt. 22:7)
2. THEN the gathering together of the righteous and the wicked (the sheep and the goats) (Matt. 22:8-10)
3. Then the separation of the righteous and the wicked (the sheep and the goats) (Matt. 22:11-13)
4. Then the casting out of the wicked (the goats) into outer darkness, the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 22:13)
The prophecy of the Sheep and the Goats is a reiteration of the prophetic teaching of the parable of the Wedding Banquet. In both passages, the gathering and judgment of the righteous and the wicked (the sheep and the goats) take place after the destruction of Jerusalem. Both passages were fulfilled after God's eschatological judgment on Earth was finished in A.D. 70, (Lk. 12:59) which means that both passages were fulfilled in Heaven, which means that the post-Parousia Judgment was the Judgment of the dead. As Rev. 11:18 says:
"And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged...'"
In the parable of the Wedding Banquet, the gathering of the good and the evil (the sheep and the goats) after the destruction of the city represented the gathering of the dead of Christ's generation to His heavenly Tribunal after the destruction of Jerusalem.
The man in the parable who was cast out of the banquet (Matt. 22:13) represented the murderers ("the goats" / the Pharisees, etc.) who were destroyed when Jerusalem was burned, (Matt. 22:7) and who were then raised to "a resurrection of condemnation." (Jn. 5:29)
Rev. 20:11-15 is another parallel Scripture to the prophecy of "the Sheep and Goats," and it confirms again not only the post-Parousia time of the Judgment of the sheep and the goats, but also, more strikingly, the heavenly location of that Judgment:
"And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:11-15)
In Rev. 20:11-15; Matt. 22:7-13; 25:31-46, we see the following:
1. The passing away of Heaven and Earth (the end of the old-covenant world / the Coming of the Son of Man / the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70)
2. THEN the gathering together of all men (the righteous and the wicked / the sheep and the goats) for Judgment
3. Then the judgment of all men (the righteous and the wicked / the sheep and the goats) according to their deeds
4. Then the casting of the wicked (the goats) into the fire; outer darkness, the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Rev. 20:11-15 reveals not only that the Judgment took place after the consummation of God's eschatological purging of His Kingdom on Earth, but also that those who were judged were "the dead" --those who had been gathered from out of "the sea" and from out of "death and Hades."
Lastly, Matt. 8:11-12; 10:15; 11:22,24; 12:42; Lk. 10:12,14; 11:31; 13:25-28 also lead us to interpret the prophecy of the Sheep and the Goats as having been fulfilled in Heaven, as those verses tell us that at the Judgment, "the goats" saw the peoples of past generations:
"There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you [the Jews to whom Jesus was preaching as He made His way to Jerusalem] shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves cast out." (Lk. 13:28)
Summary interpretation of the prophecy:
Though the post-Parousia Judgment was a judgment of all generations from Adam to Christ, the prophecy of the Sheep and the Goats is concerned only with the judgment of the dead of Christ's generation. God's scapegoat was that reprobate generation that despised and rejected the Body of the coming King. (Matt. 23:45)
The "goats" were those of that generation who had no compassion for the King's suffering brothers (as the Rich Man had no compassion for Lazarus). The "goats" were chiefly the Jews of Judea, in union with their brothers who were scattered among "all the nations" of the Roman world. (Matt. 25:32; Jn. 11:48-52)
They had excluded believers from the synagogues and from the commonwealth of Israel. They had not only persecuted them, but they stood idly by, justifying themselves, while their brothers suffered deprivation and imprisonment through the hatred that the whole world had held against Christians. (Matt. 7:22; Jms. 2:14-17; I Jn. 3:17; Rev. 11:10)
The "sheep" were those who had loved and cared for the King's suffering brothers (as the Good Samaritan had compassion and cared for the man on the road from Jerusalem). They were believers; those whom the Father predestined to eternal life from the foundation of the world; those who love their brothers. (Matt. 10:40-42; I Jn. 4:16-17)
By about September of A.D. 70 (the fall of Jerusalem), immense multitudes of Christians had been murdered, and even greater legions of Jews and Pagans had been slaughtered in wars. When Christ's eschatological judgment on the earth was finally finished in A.D. 70, He gathered the vast myriads of the dead of that generation to His Judgment-Seat.
He gave His brothers (who had been "last" in the world) the Kingdom in which we dwell today through faith; the Inheritance of eternal life that fills Heaven and Earth. But He sent the goats (who had been "first" in the world) into the punishment of the eternal fire. (Matt. 22:13; 25:41; Rev. 20:10)
Since that Day, the Judgment-Throne of our King remains, and His rule will never end:
"But of the Son He says, 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.'" (Heb. 1:8)
"Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." (Ps. 2:11-12)
QUESTION 87: Do preterists believe that certain gifts were for the 1st century church only and have since ceased?
ANSWER: I think that most preterists are cessationists when it comes to the gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge, i.e., the "revelatory gifts." (I Cor. 13:8-13)
The cessationist interpretation of I Cor. 13:8-13 is that the revelatory gifts were abolished when the Church became the perfected Temple of God through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. This happened at the "fulfillment of all things written," when Christ came to indwell His Church in the consummation of the old-covenant age. I take this position in my two articles, The Gift of Tongues and That Which is Perfect and With Unveiled Face: A Response.
I've seen two "continuationist" explanations of I Cor. 13:8-13:
1. I Cor. 13:8-13 teaches only that spiritual gifts are "made useless" or unprofitable whenever immature Christians misuse them through a lack of love. In this view, the passage says nothing of any abolition or cessation of any gifts, and all the gifts continue today exactly as they did in the 1st century. This is the view taught at Preteristvision.
2. I Cor. 13:8-13 teaches the abolition and cessation of new Truths about God's Kingdom (new doctrines, new Scriptures), but the passage does not imply the abolition or cessation of revelatory gifts for particular purposes. The revelatory gifts continue today in local and individual situations, but their "universal" use for the entire covenant-community has ceased. That is the position of Dr. Richard Leonard.
QUESTION 88: The Bible says that one would be taken and one would be left. This is obviously talking about the Rapture. How was this prophecy fulfilled?
ANSWER: The prophecy of some being "taken" and others being "left" (Matt. 24:26-28, 37-42; Lk. 17:23-37) is not a prophecy of the "rapture." It is a prophecy of the terror and death that was going to take place throughout the city of Jerusalem. Here are four reasons why I believe this:
1. Those who were going to be "taken" were not righteous, but were wicked people:
"For as in those days which were before the flood . . . they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left." (Matt. 24:38-40)
Noah's flood took the wicked away. Thus would be the coming of the Son of Man: Many would be taken away. Those who were to be "taken" (destroyed) were the wicked. This was why the Lord added this warning:
"Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming." (Matt. 24:42)
If His disciples were not alert in that sudden catastrophe, and failed to immediately flee from the city as the Lord had commanded them, they would have been in grave danger of being trapped in the city and sharing in the fate of the wicked.
2. Those who were "taken" were "raptured" to a horrible death.
The disciples asked the Lord "where" the "taken" ones were going to be taken. (Lk. 17:37) The Lord's reply was not, "Heaven," or "to My right hand" or "into clouds." Rather, His answer was ominous and dreadful:
"Where the corpse is, there also will the vultures be gathered." (Lk. 17:37)
The "taken" ones were going to be carried away and left unburied, to be eaten by vultures. This is exactly what happened to those who were trapped in Jerusalem throughout the Great Tribulation. The whole city eventually became littered with unburied corpses.
3. The time when some would be "taken," and the time of the gathering / rapture were two separate times.
The time when some would be "taken" was going to be synchronous with the time that the Christians were fleeing the city. (Lk. 17:31-37) Not only does it not make biblical sense that the Church would flee in haste out of the city to escape the looming wrath of God, only to be "raptured" away into Heaven after escaping the wrath, but Matthew 24 reveals that the time of the Christians fleeing the city (and therefore the time when some would be "taken") took place well before the "gathering" / "rapture" of the Church (Matt. 24:15-31; II Thess. 2:1).
4. The time when some would be "taken" did not happen "in the twinkling of an eye."
The time when some would be "taken" was going to happen at "night" (Lk. 17:34) when the people of Jerusalem slept, and it was also going to happen in the daylight when the people of Jerusalem were working (at the mill, in the field, etc.). This means that the event was not going to be a pin-point in time, but that it was going to continue for some time -- for days, or months or years.
This was a significant difference between the days of Noah and Lot and the Coming of the Son of Man. The days of Noah and Lot were sudden extinctions. They were virtually instant destructions of the wicked. But the Revelation of the Son of Man was not going to be the same in that regard. It was going to be a time of "Great Tribulation," a time of affliction, terror and slaughters.
The Son of man was going to come suddenly and unexpectedly, as in the days of Noah and of Lot. And the righteous were going to be taken out of the way (by fleeing the city by the Lord's command), as in the days of Noah and of Lot. And the wicked were not going to escape, as in the days of Noah and of Lot. But the difference was that in the Coming of the Son of Man, the destruction of all the enemies was going to take place over many days of great terror and bloodshed.
The Coming of the Son of Man was also not going to be like the coming of a prophet who might appear in the wilderness or in inner rooms. It was going to be a great calamity that would be recognized immediately by all the inhabitants of the city, like a lightning-flash that filled the heavens. Then His fiery Presence was going to continue throughout the remaining days of tribulation and slaughter. (Matt. 24:26-28; Lk. 17:23-24)
What is depicted in the Lord's prophecy of some being "taken" and others "left" was a time of peril and atrocities. Many were going to be slain throughout the city, and carried away ("taken") to be eaten by dogs and vultures, while many others were going to be left alive, only to envy the dead. (Rev. 9:6) The Church, in contrast, immediately fled the city by the Lord's command and escaped the horrors of His wrath. (A.D. 68-70) See Josephus, Wars, iv, 121 - vii, 4.
QUESTION 89: How do you interpret the "thousand years" of Rev. 20? Assuming you believe the Millennium was fulfilled in A.D. 70 (as most other preterists today seem to believe), how do you exegetically justify spiritualizing away a "thousand years" to mean merely a literal 40 years?
ANSWER: I interpret the "thousand years" of Rev. 20 to symbolize the eschatological "fulness of the times," when all things were fulfilled and filled up in Christ. (Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10, 23; 4:10)
Ps. 50:10 is often cited, usually by postmillennialists, to teach that "a thousand" symbolizes literally "many thousands or millions":
"For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills." (Ps. 50:10)
The postmillennialists reason that God owns the cattle on every hill, therefore "a thousand hills" symbolizes or represents "many thousands or millions of hills." Thus, they reason, we are led by Scripture to interpret the "thousand years" in Rev. 20 to mean "many thousands or millions of years."
That reasoning sounds solid at first glance. However, the context of Ps. 50:10 does not lead us to a principle that a symbolic "thousand" always signifies "many thousands." Rather, it leads us to the principle that a symbolic "thousand" signifies "all" (of something), or more specifically, the "fulness" (of something). Ps. 50:10 is in fact reiterated and its "thousand" is interpreted for us two verses later:
"...The world is Mine, and the fulness thereof." (Ps. 50:12b)
In Ps. 90:4 a "thousand years" is as "yesterday" and as "a watch in the night." In II Peter 3:8 a "thousand years" is as one "day." In those verses, a "thousand" (and "yesterday" and "a watch" and a "day") is used to denote how that God fills up time itself, whether the time of yesterday or of a day or of a night or of an aeon. (Compare Job 7:7; Ps. 39:5; 90:2; 144:4; Heb. 13:8; Jms. 4:14.)
In Ps. 105:8, a "thousand" corresponds with "forever," i.e., eternity:
"He has remembered His covenant forever, the word that he commanded to a thousand generations." (Ps. 105:8)
In Scriptural usage, a symbolic "thousand" can correspond to "1" (day / yesterday / a watch in the night), or to "13,169,103" (hills), or to "eternity" ("forever"). A "thousand" can be likened unto, or used to represent, a number lesser or greater than a literal thousand. Only its context can determine its literal numerical meaning. The basic idea that is communicated by the symbol is "fulness."
As I understand it within a preterist framework, the biblical and eschatological context of Revelation 20 should lead us to interpret the "thousand years" to signify the fulness of the times of the Christological fulfillment and filling up of all things.
The exact, literal, historical dates for the beginning and the end of "the millennium" are sometimes a subject of debate among preterists. Generally though, the beginning of the millennium is placed somewhere between Christ's first Appearance and the beginning of Paul's ministry to the gentiles. And the end of the millennium is generally placed in the years A.D. 66-70 (the years of the Jewish War that ended in the fiery destruction of the persecuting, old-covenant world).
QUESTION 90: In Heb. 11:5, it says that Enoch "did not see death." But then in Heb. 11:4-13, it says that Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah "all died in faith." See the apparent contradiction? Also, Heb. 9:27 says that "it is appointed for men to die once." (Heb. 9:27) Which is it? Did Enoch not see death? (Heb. 11:5) Or did he die "once" (Heb. 9:27) / die "in faith"? (Heb. 11:13)
ANSWER: Enoch's father Jared died (Gen. 5:20) and Enoch's son Methuselah died (Gen. 5:27), but Enoch himself was uniquely "transferred" by God from the earth so that "he did not see death." (Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5)
When Heb. 11:13 says that "all these died in faith," "all these" does not refer back to Abel, Enoch and Noah in verses 4-7. "All these" refers only to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah in verses 8-12. We know this from verses 13-16, which describe "all these" as those who never took the opportunity to return to the country from which they had departed:
"All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return." (Heb. 11:13-15)
"All these" (verse 13) are "they" (verses 13-16) who lived as strangers and aliens on the earth after having left their country by God's command. Neither Abel, Enoch nor Noah wandered about as aliens outside their home country. Only Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob did that. (Gen. 12:1-5; Heb. 11:8-12) "All these," therefore, does not refer to Abel, Enoch or Noah, but only to Abraham and his family (Heb. 11:8-12).
Concerning Heb. 9:27: Enoch was by no means the only exception to the rule that "it is appointed for men to die once." Not only was Elijah a similar exception (II Kings 2:11), but so were those who were raised from the dead throughout the Old Testament. Those people died not once, but twice. The writer of Hebrews was aware of the exceptions to Heb. 9:27 when he said that, "women received back their dead by resurrection." (Heb. 11:35) (There is no hint in the Bible that those who were raised from the dead in the Old Testament were "raptured" to Heaven before they could die a second time.)
Summary: Enoch was not included in "all these" who died in Heb. 11:13. "All these" were Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob. (Heb. 11:8-12) While it is appointed unto men once to die, (Heb. 9:27) there are biblical exceptions to that rule. Enoch and Elijah did not die at all, and others died twice.
QUESTION 91: I recently read in a preterist article that since believers are citizens of a heavenly Kingdom (Christ's Kingdom is "not of this world."), and since no outward law can change people's hearts (Only Christ can change the heart.), it therefore follows that God has not called the Church to be involved in enacting worldly laws (We should only pray and preach the Gospel.), and that the Church also should not pledge allegiance to a worldly government (We should pledge allegiance to Christ and His Kingdom alone.). Do you agree with those arguments from that preterist author?
ANSWER: Yes and no.
I agree that God did not call the Church to be a legislative body in the civil realm. On the other hand though, God is pleased when civil justice is administered. And that happens only when civil authorities pass just laws and uphold them justly. And that happens only when just men are themselves in authority.
"When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan." (Prov. 29:2)
Therefore, God is pleased when His just ones exercise civil / legislative authority. Though civil rule is not the calling of the Church, it is the calling of many believers to hold civil / legislative power, and to do so in accordance with God's precepts, i.e., justly.
I also agree that laws don't change people's hearts. (That was never God's purpose for imposing laws.) That in no way changes the fact though that unjust laws were, are, and always will be an abomination to God and an affront to all who love justice. Therefore, Christians who hold legislative power are called to administer laws that please God.
"Woe to those who enact evil statutes...." (Isa. 10:1)
I also agree that the Church is a spiritual Kingdom / Nation and that its "allegiance" is to the King of kings. That does not mean though that God has not also ordained lesser, earthly authorities to which Christians are to be subject. The Apostle Paul identified himself as a citizen of the beastly Roman Empire, (Acts 22:25,27) and he told believers to "be in subjection" to that empire, because like all other human authorities, it was "established by God" as an authority among men. (Rom. 13:1-2) And even though the beastly Roman Empire systematically made war against the Church, the Apostle Peter likewise told believers to, "submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority." (I Peter 2:13)
We believers are sons of the Kingdom of Heaven, and Christ is our transcendent King, and under His rule we are called to willingly put ourselves in "subjection" to the civil government under which we live (even if that government is as antichrist as Nero's Rome). Though there is a time for godly disobedience against earthly authority (Acts 5:29), we are nevertheless called to be committed and faithful to our civil government and, if only implicitly, to pledge our allegiance to it under God and for His sake.
QUESTION 92: Luke 21:24 seems to say that FIRST, the Jews would be "led captive into all the nations" (in A.D. 70), and THEN, Jerusalem would be "trampled under foot by the Gentiles" (until 1948? until our future?) What exactly are the times of the Gentiles? When did those times begin and when will they (or did they) end?
ANSWER: And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Lk. 21:24)
The "times of the nations" were the times of war, (Lk. 21:20,24) vengeance, (Lk. 21:22) great distress and great tribulation, of fleeing and of "wrath." (Matt. 24:21; Lk. 21:21,23) They were the "times" in which the peoples of Judea were slaughtered and subjugated, (Lk. 21:24) and in which Jerusalem was "trodden down" or "trampled" by "the nations." (Lk. 21:24) Those "times" began between late A.D. 66 and early A.D. 68, and reached their fulfillment (completion) in Jerusalem's prophesied "destruction" in A.D. 70. (Lk. 21:20)
The first half of Lk. 21:24 describes the state of things in Judea ("the Land" in verse 23) during the "times of the nations," while the second half of Lk. 21:24 describes the state of things in Jerusalem during the "times of the nations."
Here is a summary of Josephus' history of those times:
In the summer of A.D. 66, in the midst of great signs and wonders in the heavens and earth, (Wars, vi, 288-309) a revolt against Rome broke out in Jerusalem. The city became divided into two warring factions, pro-Rome and anti-Rome. During the revolt, perpetual slaughters took place in the city until September of that year, when the anti-Roman faction finally took control and treacherously murdered the last Roman garrison in Jerusalem. (Wars, ii, 277-456)
On that very same day, the Judean uprising against Rome began, and Judea became a bloodbath. From then onward, terror filled the Land, and the people of Judea fell by the edge of the sword and were every day led captive into all the nations. (Wars, ii, 457-512)
Later in September of A.D. 66, the rebels at Jerusalem fought the armies of Cestius Gallus, the Roman proconsul of Syria, who had come to Jerusalem to put down the revolt. Unexpectedly, the rebels defeated Gallus' forces in November, killing 5,680 of his soldiers. (Wars, ii, 513-555)
That victory over Rome meant inevitable doom for Jerusalem, because overwhelming vengeance from Nero was sure to come. The city mourned, and many fled, but the rebels appointed generals for war with Rome. More signs of doom were seen at this time, and the Zealots now began their rise to absolute power in the City of God. (Wars, ii, 556-654)
About four months later, in about March of A.D. 67, Vespasian and Titus began Nero's war in Judea, intending to conquer Jerusalem last of all. (Wars, iii, 1-8) By this time, Judea was overrun by reprobates. The whole Land was filled with wickedness, so that, those people that were the dearest to one another, brake through all restraints with regard to each other . . . All the people of every place betook themselves to rapine; after which they got together in bodies, in order to rob the people of the country, insomuch that for the barbarity and iniquity of those of the same nation did no way differ from the Romans; nay, it seemed to be a much lighter thing to be ruined by the Romans than by themselves. (Wars, iv, 132-134; Matt. 24:12; II Thess. 2:7)
Soon the leaders of the rebels joined together from all parts and became one band of wickedness, and crept together into Jerusalem --which was by this time in near anarchy. Those men, who were to become the direct cause of Jerusalem's fall, began to murder people in the city in broad daylight, even cutting the throats of the most prominent citizens. (Wars, iv, 135-146)
Eventually their arrogance reached such a height that they even disannulled the succession of high priests and made a laughingstock of both the priesthood and the Law. They hailed a mock "priest" and adorned him as if they were acting out a play. The legitimate priests wept at the spectacle. (Wars, iv, 147-157)
At last, the rebels took their seat in the Temple of God itself and made it their strong hold and their shop of tyranny:
" The House of God [is] full of ...abominations, [and] these Holy Places [are] trodden upon at random, filled with the feet of these blood-shedding villains. ...Will you bear to see your Sanctuary trampled on? Will not you pluck [these profane wretches] down from their exaltation? For even by this time they had proceeded to higher enormities, if they had been able to overthrow any thing greater than the Sanctuary. They have seized upon the strongest place of the whole city; you may call it the Temple, if you please, though it be like a citadel or fortress. Some that have been born in this very country, and brought up in our customs, and called Jews, do walk about in the midst of the Holy Places, at the very time when their hands are still warm with the slaughter of their own countrymen." (Wars, iv, 163-183)
Up until this time there was still resistance to the rebels in Jerusalem, and many were hoping to overthrow them and save the city. But those hopes were utterly and forever dashed in about February of A.D. 68.
At the invitation of the Zealots, twenty thousand Idumeans (Edomites) marched against Jerusalem. The city became "besieged on both sides" --by the Zealots within the walls and by the Idumeans without the walls. (Wars, 4, 283)
And on the night the Idumeans arrived, "there broke out a prodigious storm , with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continual lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake. These things were a manifest indication that some destruction was coming upon men, when the system of the world was put into this disorder." (Wars, 4:286-287; Lk. 21:26)
It was during that upheaval that the Idumeans secretly entered the city and joined forces with the Zealots. The city was caught completely by surprise, as it were by a flash of lightning. A night of horror and carnage ensued. The combined army of Zealots and Idumeans slaughtered the two most respected high priests. They cast out their naked corpses and left them unburied. After that night, the morning saw the outer courts of the Temple overflow with the blood of 8,000 corpses. (Wars, iv, 300-325)
That very day marked the beginning of the end of the Great City --and the true beginning of "the Great Tribulation." From then on, Jerusalem was utterly trampled under and made desolate under the feet of demon-possessed tyrants. (Wars, iv, 318-325)
Abject terror gripped the city. The rebels began mercilessly to torture and murder its inhabitants by the thousands so that the living began to envy the dead. (Wars, iv, 326-333) Many tried to flee the city every day to find safety with the Romans. But their flight was extremely difficult, because the Zealots killed everyone who attempted to escape. And along all the roads from the city laid vast numbers of corpses in heaps. (Wars, iv, 377-380)
Over two years later, during Titus' siege of the city (c. May of A.D. 70), many of those who were fleeing, and who had actually made it to the Romans, had bellies that were swelled with hunger because of the plague of famine that was ravaging the city. (The rebels within the city had insanely destroyed the city's food supply.) And when these poor souls who fled ate the food that the Romans gave to them, they "all on the sudden overfilled those bodies that were before empty, and so burst asunder." (Wars, v, 548-549)
Others who fled the city in those days met an even worse fate. Because some of them had been caught swallowing pieces of gold to smuggle out of the city, many who fled were captured by certain troops of Roman soldiers, who promptly cut up those that came as supplicants, and searched their bellies. "In one night's time about two thousand of these deserters were thus dissected." (Wars, v, 550-552)
In the two and a half years that followed the night that the Idumeans entered the city, things went from ghastly to unthinkably ghastly. Not only did the rebels every day inflict unspeakable atrocities upon the people of the city, and not only did they fill the city with abominations and perversions, but they also warred against each other in a mad self-destruction. Thus they themselves brought the city of Jerusalem to its desolation and ruin.
Finally, in about August of A.D. 70, the armies of Titus threw up a bank (rampart, trench) before Jerusalem and surrounded the city. Later that month the Temple of God was destroyed; and in September, Titus' armies leveled the Holy City to the ground, along with the reprobates who were destroying her from within her walls. And the Romans left not "one stone upon another." (Lk. 19:43-44; Wars, vi, 220 - vii,4)
Thus ended the God-ordained "times of the nations," with the destruction of the old, earthly Jerusalem and its hand-made, earthly tabernacle.
What Josephus could not perceive was that in the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, the Son of Man had come and had cast His enemies out of His Kingdom and had redeemed His bride, His Church. And in His Parousia, all of His chosen and sanctified people, the living and the dead, had become the City and Tabernacle of God. Never again shall Jerusalem be under the curse of God:
And I saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the Tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall tabernacle with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them. And God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no longer; nor mourning, nor crying, nor distress shall be any longer; because the former things are passed away.' (Rev. 21:2-4)
QUESTION 93: In I Cor. 15:1-19, Paul said that some at the church in Corinth were saying, "There is no resurrection of the dead." Were those resurrection deniers saying that it was unbelievable that decomposed, dead bodies could be raised back to life? Were they annihilationists? Or did they believe in bodiless soul-immortality?
The short answer:
The error in the church at Corinth was not an objection to the idea of dead bodies being raised back to life. The error was not a scientific skepticism about the reanimation of decomposed corpses. Nor was it a belief in annihilation or in bodiless soul-immortality. The error at Corinth was a denial that the pre-Christian saints would be raised up in Christ with the Church in the end of the age. The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers looked forward to the resurrection of the Body of Christ, (the Church) but they denied that the pre-Cross world (the dead) had any part in that Body.
The long answer:
The reason that some believers in the church at Corinth could not accept the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead was because they believed that the dead had no body with which they could be raised. (I Cor. 15:12-13, 35)
In our deeply engrained futurist mindsets, the meaning of the error under discussion in First Corinthians chapter fifteen seems, at first, simple and straightforward. Our futurist ears tell us that there were some at Corinth who thought that it was beyond belief that dead bodies could be reconstituted and brought back to life. We reflexively think that some at Corinth were saying:
How could the dead come back to life? They will have no bodies with which to rise. Their bodies have decomposed and turned to dust over time.
Futurism has greatly clouded First Corinthians chapter fifteen. It has caused countless interpreters to disagree with other countless interpreters as to its meaning. Even as preterists today, we find it difficult to read the chapter apart from deeply entrenched futurist assumptions. The chapter has thus always been, in varying degrees, an enigma for futurists who study it closely, and it remains even now a passage of some contention among preterists.
One aspect of First Corinthians chapter fifteen that makes it difficult to interpret for both futurists and preterists is the implicit nature of Paul's arguments. Reading Paul's refutation of the error at Corinth is a bit like listening to one side of a phone conversation. We read what Paul said against the error, but we do not see the error itself described in much detail.
The only way to understand the error at Corinth correctly is to draw numerous inferences from Paul's refutation of it. If we do not make the correct inferences from Paul's arguments, we will not only misunderstand the error, but we will also misunderstand the defense against the error. And that in turn will cause us to misinterpret Paul's teachings about the resurrection of the dead.
And because First Corinthians chapter fifteen is the lengthiest dissertation on the resurrection of the dead found in all of Scripture, correctly understanding the biblical doctrine of the resurrection of the dead depends very much on our making correct (biblical) inferences from the chapter.
I believe that in order for us to understand Paul's teaching concerning the resurrection of the dead in First Corinthians chapter fifteen, there are two primary inferences that we must draw from his refutation of the error at Corinth:
1. The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed in previous resurrections:
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. (I Cor. 15:13-16)
In the above Scripture, Paul showed the resurrection deniers the monstrously absurd results of their error. He reduced their doctrine to conclusions that they did not assert. What we may infer from Paul's reductio ad absurdum is that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers already agreed with Paul on these points:
1. Christ HAD been raised.
2. The apostolic preaching was NOT vain.
3. The faith of believers was NOT vain.
4. The apostles were NOT false witnesses of God
The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed in the physical / biological, historical resurrection of Christ (who Himself had raised Lazarus from the dead after four days), (I Cor. 15:13,16) and they believed in the authority and veracity of the apostles (who themselves had raised dead people back to life). (I Cor. 15:14-15) (We might also add that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were members of the church at Corinth, which was filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including healings and miracles).
Yet the resurrection deniers could not accept the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, because they could not conceive of how the dead could have a body with which to be raised. (I Cor. 15:35) The very idea was beyond their belief.
How could this be?
Futurism causes us to impose an absurdity upon the chapter. It forces us to maintain that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers could not conceive of how dead bodies could be raised back to life, even though they believed in the resurrected and resurrecting Christ and were followers of the dead-raising apostles and were members of the gift-filled (and perhaps even dead-raising) church at Corinth.
Granted, the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers at Corinth were ignorant and foolish as to the implications of their doctrine, but it is not reasonable to portray them as arguing in schizophrenic non sequiturs (believing in the resurrection of dead people and not being able to conceive of the possibility at the very same time).
It is much more likely that our futurist premise is flawed, that the resurrection deniers were not objecting to a future "Resurrection of the Flesh," and that their objection, "With what body...," (I Cor. 15:35) was not an objection to physical / biological resurrections (resucitations).
2. The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed in future resurrections.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we are hoping in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. (I Cor. 15:17-19)
Paul here continued his argument to absurdity. If the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were right, then other doctrines --doctrines that they did not assert-- were also true. What we may infer from the above Scripture is that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers agreed with Paul on the following points:
1. Christ HAD been raised.
2. The faith of believers was NOT vain or worthless.
3. Believers were NOT still in their sins.
4. Those who had fallen asleep in Christ had NOT perished (i.e., They had NOT died in their sins).
5. The apostolic preaching was NOT vain.
6. The apostles were NOT found to be false witnesses of God.
7. The apostles did NOT have an empty and fleeting "hope" in Christ, and were therefore NOT of all men most to be pitied.
If Christ had not been raised from the dead, then the sufferings that the apostles were experiencing "in this life" were the sum total of their "hope" in Christ, and they were of all men most to be pitied. Paul's argument above implies that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers rejected that notion. They, along with the apostles, had an eschatological "hope," (I Tim. 4:8) and they also believed that those who had fallen asleep in Christ were waiting with them for the fulfillment of that Hope.
Paul and the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers agreed that the apostles and all believers were hoping in Christ, and they agreed that believers continued to hope in Christ after they had fallen asleep in Christ. And the Hope of all believers was the Resurrection at the Parousia. The hope of Paul and of the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers was that they and all Christians, living and dead, would be raised up the spiritual Body. See verse 46:
However, the spiritual [body] is not first, but the natural [body]; then the spiritual [body]. (I Cor. 15:46)
The implication of that argument is that the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed in the Christological, spiritual body, but denied its connection to the first, Adamic, natural body. Their error was like denying that trees come from seeds. (I Cor. 15:37)
Though the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers denied that "the dead" were going to be raised, they agreed that those who had fallen asleep in Christ (the dead in Christ) had not perished and were waiting, with living believers, in hope of being raised with the spiritual body, i.e., the body that will be, in I cor. 15:37.
Again, either the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers were steeped in abject absurdity --believing in the resurrection of dead people and being unable to conceive of the fact at the very same time-- or we need to consider that our fleshly assumptions about the nature of the resurrection of the dead are not in harmony with the assumptions of both Paul and the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers.
How could they have believed in previous resurrections, including the resurrection of Christ, and yet have been unable to conceive of the very possibility of future resurrections? And how could they have believed in the future resurrection of Christians (the spiritual "body that will be") and yet deny the future resurrection of "the dead?"
In the futurist framework, these questions are unanswerable. The questions themselves seem invalid. But in the preterist framework, the answers come to light:
The Corinthians knew that the resurrection of the dead was about to happen when Paul wrote First Corinthians. (Acts 24:15) It was going to happen before all of Paul's contemporaries fell asleep. (I Cor. 15:51; cf. Matt. 16:27-28) The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers and all believers of Christ's generation were acutely aware that they were living in the consummation of the ages. (I Cor. 10:11) They knew that the time had been shortened (I Cor. 7:29) and that the old, pre-Christ world was passing away. (I Cor. 7:31)
In that historical-covenantal moment, there was a distinction between the great cloud of saints who had before lived and died in the now-fading old world, and the members of the Body of Christ who were now about to inherit the eternal Kingdom. (I Cor. 15:18; I Thess. 4:16) There was a distinction between those saints who, for millennia, had gone to Sheol / Hades, and Christians who died in Christ and who now immediately went to be with Christ in anticipation of coming back quickly with Him to judge the world, the living and the dead. (Phil. 1:23)
The "dead ones" in the context of First Corinthians chapter fifteen were those "out from among" whom Christ had been raised. (I Cor. 15:12,20) Christ had been among the Hadean dead. When He was dead, He was among the generations of saints who had died from Adam (I Cor. 15:21-22,45,47) until the Cross. He was raised out from among those souls. Those were the dead ones whose resurrection some in the church at Corinth denied.
The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers did not deny the resurrection of Christians, living or dead. They denied only that the dead would have any part with the soon-to-be-resurrected Church. They believed that all the pre-Cross generations had fallen asleep without hope of receiving forgiveness of sins in Christ, and that those dead ones would therefore not inherit the Kingdom of God with the Body of Christ.
The root error of the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers was that Christ had not died for the pre-Christian world.
Contrary to futurist myth, the objection of the resurrection-of-the-dead-denying believers at Corinth was redemptive, not scientific. Neither Paul nor those in error at Corinth knew anything of a "Resurrection of the Flesh" on the Last Day. There was no cause for the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers to raise objections about molecules, or about the food chain. Their objection was not that it was impossible for God to re-assemble dust particles of decomposed corpses. (It is more than probable that the miracle-believing resurrection-of-the-dead deniers would have agreed that such a re-assembly is indeed easy for God to accomplish.) Paul was not defending such a re-composition and neither were the resurrection deniers objecting to the possibility of such a re-composition.
The error at Corinth was not a belief in the impossibility of physical resurrections. For the resurrection deniers believed in the resurrection of Christ and in other resurrections. They also were waiting in the "hope" that all Christians, living and dead, would be raised up on the Last Day.
The error at Corinth was not a belief in annihilation. For the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed that dead Christians had not perished and were waiting in "hope" along with the living.
Nor was the error a belief in soul-immortality. For the resurrection-of-the-dead deniers believed that dead believers were, with the living, hoping in Christ, looking forward to the consummated spiritual Body, the Body that would come in the Resurrection of life. (Jn. 5:29)
The error at Corinth was that the pre-Christian world (the dead, i.e., Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Malachi, etc.) would not participate in the impending Resurrection. The resurrection-of-the-dead deniers looked forward to the Day when the Body of Christ would inheriting the Kingdom of God, (I Cor. 15:50) but they excluded "the dead" from that Hope.
QUESTION 94: Why is death considered to be an enemy and how can it be destroyed, if it is the only gate of blessedness? (1 Cor. 15:26)
Physical death is, as you said, a "gate of blessedness" for those who are in Christ. (Rev. 14:13) But it was not always such a "gate" for God's children. Before Christ came, physical death was a gate to Hades. (Matt. 16:18)
Hades was a mysterious place (or state) that the saints dreaded. (Heb. 2:15) They feared the other side of this life because they were still dead in their sins, under the power of the devil. (Heb. 2:14) Death in sin (spiritual death) made physical death a thing of futility / vanity for the saints of old. Because their sins were not yet done away in Christ, physical death for them was a cutting off from the covenant- and worship-community, and a loss of all the works they had done.Thus the ultimate Enemy of the people before the Advent of Christ was the Death of Adam, which was alienation from God through sin. (Gen. 2:17)
In the redeemed Kingdom today, there is "no more Death." (Rev. 21:4) It was utterly destroyed, along with the Devil, through the Atonement (the Cross and the Parousia) of Christ.
Though believers continue to die physically, they never die in sin; (Jn. 11:26) they never become separated from the City of God; and they never lose the fruit of their labors, because there is now no condemnation for us who are in Christ. And so, because of the destruction of the Adamic Death, physical death itself is now become a "gate to blessedness" (i.e., a "gate" to eternal rewards for our works in Christ).
Because of the age-changing work of the Life-Giving Spirit (in A.D. 30-70), all of the saints in Heaven and on Earth (from Adam to the present day) are resurrected and alive in the Kingdom of God. We are no longer alienated, but we are one in Him, "Who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him." (I Thess. 5:10; cf. Eph. 1:10)
"Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Hades, where is your sting?" (I Cor. 15:54,55)
QUESTION 95: Jesus said that "not one stone" of Jerusalem or of the temple would be left upon another. (Matt. 24:2; Mk. 13:2; Lk. 19:44; 21:6) But even preterists know that the Wailing Wall still stands in Jerusalem to this very day. So it goes without saying that Matthew 24 was NOT fulfilled in A.D. 70, and that Matthew 24 remains unfulfilled as long as the Wailing Wall stands intact, stones and all. Okay, how are you going to spiritualize this one away?
Jesus was not implying that if one searched through the rubble after the destruction of Jerusalem and found one stone literally on top of another stone that that would be the signal that the prophecy had not actually been fulfilled after all. We strain at a gnat if we demand that the ruins of the city had to be an area where each and every single stone was flat on the ground with no other stones beneath them.
Jesus was using a figure of speech. (We use a similar figure today when we say that, "We left no stone unturned." We mean that we made a complete and thorough search.) The meaning of the Lord's prophetic hyperbole was that the city and temple of God were going to come to their final end. They were about to be permanently thrown down (destroyed, demolished, dismantled, dismembered) and leveled (dashed, razed) to the ground. (Lk. 19:44)
That happened in 70, in fulfillment of all things written. (Lk. 21:22) The existence of some stone monuments of Roman victory in no way diminishes that fact. (Josephus, Wars vii, 1-3)
QUESTION 96: How do you interpret Daniel's Seventy Weeks?
"Seventy weeks have been determined for your people and your holy city, to shut up the transgression, to seal up sin, to cover over iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophet, and to anoint the Most Holy Place. (Dan. 9:24)
So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the Prince, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and trench, even in times of distress. (Dan. 9:25)
Then after the sixty-two weeks the Anointed One will be cut off and nothing shall remain to Him [or, but not for Himself]. And the people of a coming prince [or, of [the] coming Prince] will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will be with the flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. (Dan. 9:26)
And He will confirm a covenant with the many for one week, and in the middle of the week he will cause sacrifice and offering to cease; and on a wing [or, overspreading] of abominations will come a desolator, even until the end. And that which was decreed shall pour out on the desolator." (Dan. 9:27)
Here is a short answer to your question (with approximate dates):
The first seven "weeks" began in 538 B.C. with the issuing of the word of Cyrus to rebuild the temple and the city.
The first seven "weeks" ended and the sixty-two "weeks" began in 445 B.C. when Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem.
The sixty-two "weeks" ended and the last "week" began in A.D. 28, with the anointing of the Lord at His baptism. During that "week," He confirmed the New Covenant with "the many" (His disciples). Also in that week, in A.D. 30, He was "cut off." (murdered)
The cessation of "sacrifice and offering" that took place "in the middle of the week" might refer to the atoning death (cutting off) of the Messiah. (I will discuss below other possible meanings of the cessation of "sacrifice and offering.")
"The Desolator" was the body of Jewish reprobates who captured and desecrated the temple, and who flooded the city with war, abominations and desolations in A.D. 66-70.
The last "week" ended and the "seventy weeks" were fulfilled in A.D. 70, when God poured out His wrath on "the Desolator," when the people of a coming prince (or Prince) destroyed the city and the sanctuary. The people of the coming prince might refer to the Roman armies of Caesar. (I will discuss below other possibilities as to who the "prince" and the "people" might have been.)
Christ's "week"-long work of Covenant-confirmation then came to an end. The old covenant disappeared and the New Covenant was established. The reign of Sin and Death was abolished, and everlasting righteousness was brought into Israel and Jerusalem. "Vision and prophet" were sealed up (brought to an end / abolished), and the Most Holy Place (the universal Church) was anointed.
The seventy weeks covered a period of roughly 600 years, from about 538 B.C. to A.D 70, from the time of the fall of Babylon to the fall of Babylon (Jerusalem).
(To see why I do not interpret the seventy weeks as seventy weeks of years, (490 years) please see Q&A #97.)
Here is a more detailed exposition of Dan. 9:24-27:
When Daniel received the prophecy of the "seventy weeks," the people of Israel including Daniel himself were in captivity in Babylon. The City of Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians, and they remained in ruins.
Jeremiah had prophesied that after seventy years of captivity were completed, God would destroy Babylon and would restored the people of Israel to Jerusalem. (Jer. 25:11,12; 29:10-14) Daniel understood that he was living in the last hour of that seventy-year Babylonian captivity, and this is what prompted him to pray (Dan. 9:2,3):
"O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name." (Dan. 9:16-19)
VERSE 25: The first "seven weeks" were God's answer to Daniel's prayer for his people and for his holy city, and it was in less than a year after Daniel received the prophecy of the "seventy weeks," in about 538 B.C., that the first "seven weeks" began. After the Kingdom of Babylon fell in 538 B.C., the Persian king Cyrus issued, "the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem." (II Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; Isa. 44:24,26,28; 45:13; Dan. 9:25; Josephus, Antiquities, xi, 6,12) Thousands of Israelites immediately packed their belongings and began the journey back to Judea.
The end of Israel's seventy-year Babylonian captivity was the beginning of the "seventy weeks." The two periods of time were consecutive.
The first "seven weeks" lasted about ninety years and ended with the rebuilding of Jerusalem by Nehemiah in about 445 B.C. (Neh. 2:5; 6:15) The times of distress during which the city was rebuilt are related in Neh. 1:3 - 6:13. Because the city had no walls and no gates, the people were constantly being mocked, demoralized, threatened, accused, deceived and terrorized by their enemies. (Neh. 2:19; 4:1-3,7,8,11,12,14,16-23; 6:1-13) Because of these things, the nation was in great distress and reproach. (Neh. 1:2-4; 2:3,13,17) The times of anxiety ended with the completion of Jerusalem's walls and gates in about 445 B.C.
The sixty-two weeks were from the completed rebuilding of Jerusalem by Nehemiah until the first appearing of the Anointed One, (Messiah) the Prince, (the Ruler, the Leader). The sixty-two weeks ended at the beginning of Christ's ministry, when God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and power in about A.D. 28. (Lk. 3:22-23; Acts 10:38) The sixty-two weeks covered the intertestimal centuries from Nehemiah / Malachi to the anointing of Jesus. It was a period of roughly 470 years.
VERSES 26 & 27: The last week was from Christ's first appearing at His baptism to His Second Appearing at the destruction of the city and the sanctuary in A.D. 70. It was from the anointing of Messiah the Prince to the anointing of the Most Holy Place. The last week lasted about 42 years. It was the period of time in which Christ the Ruler, through His earthly ministry and through the Holy Spirit, confirmed the New Covenant with the many:
For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers. (Rom. 15:8)
Because the last week began with the baptism of Christ, the covenant that was confirmed during that week can be none other than the New Covenant. There was no other covenant that began to be confirmed at the beginning of Christ's ministry.
Within that week of Messianic Covenant-confirmation, Messiah was cut off. He was rejected by the leaders of the people and put to death outside the city in about A.D. 30.
"And in the middle of the week," He caused "sacrifice and offering to cease." (Dan. 9:26) Here are three possible ways of interpreting what this means:
1. For those who put their trust in the blood of Christ, there was no longer any offering for sin. (Heb. 10:18) For believers, Christ's sacrifice ended the need for animal sacrifices. If this is the meaning, then the cutting off of the Messiah and the cessation of sacrifice and offering are virtually synonymous, and both took place in the middle of the week.
2. The Messianic cessation of sacrifice and offering could refer to God's giving up of fleshly Israel to reprobation. After the nation had thoroughly rejected the blood of the New Covenant, Israel became apostate, and there no longer remained a "sacrifice for sins. (Heb. 10:26,27) In this interpretation, the cessation of sacrifice and offering refers to a spiritual, national catastrophe. This, I think, is in harmony with the symbol of the middle of the week (a broken time of tragedy). Also, if the cessation of sacrifice is God's reprobation of the apostates, then the abominations in the next phrase are the direct and immediate result of that national reprobation. (This second interpretation is the one I prefer.)
3. The Messianic cessation of sacrifice and offering might be taken in a strictly literal sense. As a consequence of the offering-ceasing sacrifice of the Messiah, (Heb. 10:18) and of the national cessation of sacrifice for sins due to Israel's apostasy, (Heb. 10:26) Jerusalem became flooded with abominations and wars, until the daily animal sacrifices literally ended in about August of A.D. 70, shortly before the city and the sanctuary were destroyed. (Josephus, Wars, vi, 94)
In the time of Israel's apostasy, in about A.D. 66, a "Desolator" came on a wing of abominations. The "Desolator" filled the Holy City with abominations and desolated it with the flood of war, until the end.
The end was when God poured out His wrath on the the Desolator, when the people of a coming prince (or of the coming Prince) completely destroyed the city and the sanctuary, along with the Desolator, in August-September A.D. 70.
On a wing of abominations: The word wing could be a reference to the temple (a wing or pinnacle of the temple). If this is the meaning, then the phrase could mean that the abomination of desolations (Septuagint) issued forth from the temple of God and filled the city. This agrees with the history of the times:
In about A.D. 67, the Zealots captured the temple and made it their fortress and their shop of tyranny. (Josephus, Wars, iv, 151) From God's house, they terrorized the people and spread abominations and desolations throughout Jerusalem until the city was utterly consumed in the flood of war in A.D. 70.
Or the word wing might instead be a metaphorical reference to the overshadowing or overspreading (KJV) of abominations throughout the city. In this interpretation the basic meaning is the same, but there is no reference to the temple. In either case, the entire city was going to be filled (covered, overspread) with abominations.
Compare Isa. 8:7,8, which uses both the metaphors of a flood (Dan. 9:26) and of overshadowing wings (Dan. 9:27):
Now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory; and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks. And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel. (Isa. 8:7,8)
The Desolator: The Desolator, as we have said, filled the city with abominations, desolations and war until the end, when God poured out His wrath on the Desolator in the destruction of the city and the sanctuary. History tells us that the Jewish reprobates in Jerusalem, from about A.D. 66 to 70, filled the temple and the city with abominations and desolations during their continual wars. Their beastly desecrations of the holy places and their slaughters of the people did not cease until the end, when Titus and his legions leveled the city, along with the reprobates, in September of A.D. 70.
Let us look for a moment at the wording of Dan. 9:26:
" The Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary " (Dan. 9:26)
In this verse, the destruction of "the city and the sanctuary" in A.D. 70 immediately followed the cutting off of the Messiah in A.D. 30. We should infer from this that the destruction of Jerusalem was the direct consequence of the cutting off of Messiah the Prince.
This means that the desolators who were destroyed in the city were themselves guilty of crucifying Christ. (See Rev. 1:7) Jesus confirmed this teaching in Matt. 21:37-45; 22:7. The chief priests and the Pharisees murdered ("cut off") the Messiah, and because of that crime, God brought those murderers to a "wretched end" when He sent "His armies" and destroyed the City and the Sanctuary, in fulfillment of Daniel's "seventy weeks."
The people of a coming prince: Here are three ways of interpreting what this might mean:
1. The Roman armies of Caesar (Vespasian or Titus): If this is the meaning, then this reference to Caesar the prince is a parenthetical statement between two statements about Messiah the Prince. (This, incidentally, was John Calvin's interpretation of the people of the coming prince.)
2. The Roman armies of Christ: The Romans could have been designated the people / armies of Messiah the Prince because they were sent by His decree and for His purpose. (Compare Matt. 22:7.)
3. The followers of Christ: Christians destroyed the city and the sanctuary through their faith, (Matt. 21:21; Mk. 11:23; Rev. 8:8) through their prayers (Lk. 18:7) and through their God-given judgment on the Last Day. (Zech. 14:5; I Thess. 4:14; Jude 1:14,15; Rev. 17:14; 18:20) Believers were the Lord's invading army. (I Cor. 14:21-22) The angels (messengers) who poured out the wrath of God upon apostate Israel in the book of Revelation were Christians. (Compare Rev. 21:9 and 22:9; KJV, NASB) The term coming Prince may be a reference to Christ's Second Coming after His having been cut off. (This third interpretation is the one I prefer.)
Some preterists have proposed that the Jews were the people of the coming Prince, because the Jews were Christ's people, and it was the Jews themselves who destroyed Jerusalem. In my opinion, that interpretation conflicts with the history of the event. Though the reprobate Jews did bring Jerusalem to ruin and desolation, they did not destroy the city and the sanctuary. It was the hands of the Romans that brought upon the Jews that final stroke, against the will of the rebels within the city. (Lk. 19:43,44)
VERSE 24: In the end of the "seventy weeks, seven things were fulfilled concerning Daniel's people and concerning his "holy city":
1. The destruction of the city and the sanctuary
2. The shutting up of the transgression
3. The sealing up of sin
4. The covering over of iniquity
5. The bringing in of everlasting righteousness
6. The sealing up of vision and prophet
7. The anointing of the Most Holy Place
These last six things were all in process of being fulfilled during the last week, the week of Messianic Covenant-confirmation. These blessings were not fulfilled for Daniel's people and for his holy city before A.D. 70. Daniel's people (i.e., all Israel, the elect, the living and the dead, including Daniel himself) were not freed from sin until the Parousia:
And thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob." (Rom. 11:26)
Transgression / sin was not finished for the holy city, until after the abominations came to an end in the city in A.D. 70. Only after Jerusalem was destroyed did God cleanse Jerusalem of all her sins and make her new:
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband . . . and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Rev. 21:2,7)
The wages of sin is Death (condemnation and alienation with God). But when Death was destroyed in the Kingdom of God in A.D. 70, sin was shut up and forever sealed. Death no longer issues forth from the sins of God's children, because the power of His Cross swept away the Ministry of Condemnation and Death (the Law) in A.D. 70, robbing sin of its power, and robbing Death of its sting. Through the work of the Son, Death is nullified and Sin is defeated. In the New Heavens and New Earth, the sins of all God's holy ones, living and dead, are "covered over," buried in the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19), forever forgotten, and hidden from the eyes of God:
The former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes. For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. (Isa. 65:16,17; cf. Deut. 32:43)
The Advent of the New Heavens and the New Earth in A.D. 70 also marked the consummation of the Advent of eternal righteousness:
"But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells." (II Peter 3:13; cf. Rom. 4:23,24; Gal. 5:5)
"For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness." (Gal. 5:5)
Also at that time (A.D. 70), vision and prophet were sealed up (brought to an end). This is parallel to I Cor. 13:8-10, where God said that when "that which is perfect" came, (i.e., the perfected Most Holy Place) then prophecy, tongues and knowledge (i.e., revelatory gifts) would be abolished. This happened when all things were fulfilled, when the sinful city and the hand-made sanctuary fell, and when the sinless City and the God-made Sanctuary came down from out of Heaven in A.D. 70. (Lk. 21:22; I Peter 4:7)
Finally, it was through the anointing of the Holy Spirit that the whole City of Jerusalem became the Tabernacle of God, when the worldly Holy Place fell in 70. (Heb. 9:1,8) Under the old covenant, every article of God's tabernacle was consecrated by the anointing of oil. (Ex. 30:25-30; 40:9; Lev. 8:10,12) In the same way, in the Last Days, God taught His elect ones the truth of His Gospel through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, (II Cor. 1:21,22; I Jn. 2:20,27) until all of them had come to know Him. (Jn. 6:39) Then came "the end," (Dan. 9:26) when the whole Body of God's holy ones, the living and the dead, was raised up to become His anointed (Spirit-taught) "Most Holy Place" in the New-Covenant world. (Jn. 6:44,45; Eph. 2:21,22; Heb. 8:11-13; Rev. 21:3)
One final thought: To the prophet Daniel, the prophecy of the "seventy weeks" might have sounded contradictory. Gabriel first told him (in verse 24) that at the end of "seventy weeks," the transgression would be finished, an end would be made of sins, atonement would be made for iniquity, everlasting righteousness would be brought in and the Most Holy Place would be anointed. It is safe to say that Daniel rejoiced when he heard these promises.
But then when Gabriel came to the end of the prophecy, he said that the Messiah would be killed and that the city and the sanctuary would be destroyed. Gabriel offered no further explanation.
How could the devastating ending of the "weeks" in verses 26 and 27 be compatible with the joyful ending of the "weeks" in verse 24? How could the "seventy weeks" be consummated in both the destruction of the temple (Dan. 9:26) and in the anointing of the temple? (Dan. 9:24) Or how could the resurrection of the dead and glorification of the saints be fulfilled when the power of the holy people is shattered? (Dan. 12:1-3,7)
This paradox is the heart of the preterist interpretation of Bible prophecy. It is what the futurists and the "Jews" have missed for centuries upon centuries: The destruction of (earthly) Jerusalem meant the advent of (heavenly) Jerusalem, and the destruction of the (earthly) Most Holy Place meant the consummated anointing of the (heavenly) Most Holy Place. The (spiritual) sons of the kingdom inherited the kingdom when the (fleshly, unbelieving) sons of the kingdom were cast out of the kingdom. (Matt. 8:12; 13:38,43) This is the preterist key that unlocks the meaning of the "seventy weeks."
QUESTION 97: You said that the "seventy weeks" lasted about 600 years. But doesn't "seventy weeks" mean "seventy weeks of years," that is, 490 years?
Before I answer that question, let me first answer another question:
When did the seventy weeks end?
Perhaps the most common view among preteristic interpreters is that the seventy weeks ended around A.D. 35, or so. Many say at the martyrdom of Stephen. Here are four reasons why I disagree with that view and hold to an A.D.-70 consummation of the "seventy weeks":
1. If the "seventy weeks" were fulfilled in about A.D. 35, then the Parousia and the destruction of the city and the sanctuary are reduced to a supplemental appendix or an addendum to Gabriel's prophecy of the "seventy weeks." The Parousia becomes a subordinate episode in the prophecy, an event that took place some 35 years after the time that was determined for Israel and the Holy City. It seems to me that to relegate the Parousia to such secondary status is strangely out of step with the spirit of the prophets.
2. Gabriel's prophecy begins with this statement: Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city (Dan. 9:24) Then the prophecy ends with the destruction of the holy city. It is reasonable to infer from the words of the prophecy that the shattering of the power of Daniel's "people" (Dan. 9:24; 12:7) and the complete destruction of Daniel's "holy city," (Dan. 9:24,25,26) were both included in the things that were "determined" for Daniel's "people" and for his "holy city."
3. In the previous Q&A, we saw that the six blessings of Dan. 9:24, which all took place in the end of the "seventy weeks," were consummated in A.D. 70, in the destruction of "the city and the sanctuary."
4. If the destruction of Jerusalem falls outside of the seventy weeks, then we are forced to hopscotch through verses 26 and 27. The first part of verse 26 is within the "seventy weeks," but then the second part of verse 26 is some 35 years after the fulfillment of the "seventy weeks." And then the first part of verse 27 is within the "seventy weeks," and then the second part of verse 27 is some 35 years after the "seventy weeks."
Now to answer your question: Doesn't "seventy weeks" mean "seventy weeks of years," that is, 490 years?
Because the seventy weeks were consummated in Christ's Parousia in A.D. 70, they could not have been speaking of a literal 490 years, for two reasons:
1. There were more than 3 ½ years (or even 7 years) between the cutting off of the Messiah and the destruction of the city and the sanctuary. That makes the last week at least 40 years long.
(Some preterists have proposed a "gap" in or before the last "week," between the cutting off of the Messiah and the Jewish Wars that led to the destruction of Jerusalem. This was Max King's position in his 1971 book The Spirit of Prophecy. In my opinion, that "solution" is an attempt to force fit the "weeks" into the mold of a literal 490 years.)
2. Because the seventy weeks were consummated in the Parousia, the seventy weeks could not have been a literal chronology. If they were, it would have become possible to calculate the years to the Parousia. Since no man could know the times or the seasons or the day or the hour, not even the Son of Man, (Matt. 24:36; Acts 1:7) the seventy weeks had to have been meant symbolically.
The seventy weeks were seventy undefined periods of time that were to be consummated in the fulfillment of all vision and prophecy. In using the symbolic word weeks, the angel Gabriel was being intentionally indefinite as to the time that would reach unto the Parousia. Seventy weeks (or seventy sevens) is no more literal than seventy times seven in Matt. 18:22. It signified the completion or "fullness" of redemption that would come at the Parousia, at the destruction of the earthly city and sanctuary.
QUESTION 98: Do you believe in "replacement theology?" Was Israel replaced by the Church? Since the Jews are no longer God's chosen people, does that indicate that Jews are an accursed race because of what they did to Christ?
Abraham's descendants were not cut off and "replaced" by a gentile church. The Jews never became an accursed race.
Yes, there was a wicked and perverse generation of accursed Jews in the Last Days. (Matt. 25:41; Mk. 11:21; Gal. 3:10) And yes, after A.D. 70 Abraham's descendants were no longer in any sense uniquely God's chosen people. But those facts in no way indicate that the Abrahamic blood-line became accursed.
Israel was hardened "in part" in the Last Days. (Rom. 11:25) It was through the world-changing, Last-Days work of the Holy Spirit that the "firstfruit" remnant of Israel was saved, (Rom. 11:5,16) and that "the fulness of the gentiles" was brought into Israel, (Rom. 11:25) and that the pre-Cross saints ("the dead" / "all Israel") were resurrected. (Rom. 11:15,26,28) All were gathered together at the Parousia of Christ and united into one eternal, spiritual, resurrected Body. (Rom. 11:26)
In the ages before the Advent of the Son, God's people were not only separated from Him (as the animal sacrifices testified) and separated from each other (the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah) and separated from the unclean, gentile world, but wars with each other and wars with gentiles, and ultimately Death itself, separated every son of the kingdom from the worship of the Father.
Through the power of the Cross of Christ, those "old things" of "tears," "death," "sorrow," "outcry" and "pain" passed away in the end of the age. (Rev. 21:4) In His Parousia, the historic kingdom was transformed. It was changed from having been a worldly, hand-made kingdom that embodied Condemnation (separation), Sin and Death (Heb. 9:1,11,24), to being the God-made Kingdom "from out of Heaven" (II Cor. 5:2; Rev. 21:2,10) in which all the elect, the living and the dead, Jew and gentile, were united and made alive in Christ, never again to be separated from God or from each other.
Now all the saints are granted free and equal access to the throne of grace, through faith in the Son. (Heb. 7:12) Now all the saints are "priests of God." (I Peter 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10) Now all the saints worship Him "face to Face." (I Cor. 13:12; Rev. 22:4) Now all the saints are One in Christ. (Jn. 17:11-23; I Thess. 5:10)
The Church, which Israel's Messiah bought with His own blood, was not the replacement or condemnation of biblical Israel. (Jn. 3:17) It was its fulfillment. Christ's Kingdom today is the full and perfect realization of the hope and goal of Old-Testament Israel.
( Please see Q&A #11.)
QUESTION 99: Matt. 24:14 and several other scriptures reveal that Christ came again after the Gospel was preached in the whole "world." Yet Matt. 10:23 says that Christ came again before all the cities of Israel were covered. How do we reconcile Christ's statement in Matt. 10:23 with His statement in Matt. 24:14?
"...You shall not finish the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes." (Matt. 10:23)
This verse does not say that the Son of Man came before all the cities of Israel heard the Gospel. It says that the disciples did not finish the cities of Israel "until" the Son of Man came. It says, in other words, that the disciples finished the cities of Israel when the Son of Man came.
Here is a paraphrase of Matt. 10:23:
"When the Son of Man comes against the cities of Israel (c. A.D. 66-70), only then will your mission to Israel be fulfilled. Only then will your work of calling Israel to repentance be finished. Only then will your sufferings in Israel be filled up. You must endure the hatred of this people until 'the end,' when the Son of Man will finally come to cast them out of His Kingdom." (Matt. 13:41)
QUESTION 100: Jesus said, in Matt. 22:30; Mk. 12:25; Lk. 20:34-36, that in the age to come there would be no more marriage. I've heard preterists explain this by saying that ever since A.D. 70, there has been no more marriage in a spiritual sense. They point out that now the children of the covenant are spiritual only, and that there is also "neither male nor female" today. (Gal. 3:28) Do you agree with that interpretation?
"For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (Matt. 22:30)
"For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (Mk. 12:25)
"The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection." (Lk. 20:34-36)
Jesus did not say that there would be no more marriage in the age to come (the Christian age). He said that in "the resurrection from the dead," "when they rise from the dead" (meaning, on the Last Day when the dead would rise from out of Hades), those who rose from the dead would not marry or be given in marriage. (Mk. 12:25; Lk. 20:35)
The Sadducees' question and Jesus' answer concerned only those who died and who were to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Those saints did not get (re)married when or after they rose from the dead in A.D. 70, because they were not raised back into the cycle of reproduction and death. They were instead raised to a non-biological, death-less Life, having become "equal to angels."
GO TO ANSWERS 1 - 25
GO TO ANSWERS 26 - 50
GO TO ANSWERS 51 - 75
GO TO ANSWERS 101 - ?
GO TO QUESTIONS
Back to The Preterist Cosmos Homepage