Taking on Preston’s Jesus, Part 3

I watched Don Preston place great emphasis on the “present passive indicatives” in 1st Corinthians 15 in his You Tube series, ‘Morning Musings’, as if they were indubitable proofs of his view.  They are not.  As I have already noted, Preston publishes my book, written as a former Full Preterist, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection, in which he states that it is a “must read.”  In that book I make a case for the present passive indicatives (PPI).

First, what is a PPI?  Well, it’s Greek.  Greek conjugation, actually.  Take a Greek verb, for example, like luo (“I loose”).  This form is the present active indicative.  It is present in tense, and indicates a kind of “action” being performed by the subject.  That is what you would learn in first semester Greek.  In intermediate and advanced Greek it’s not that simple.

But, let’s cut right to the chase (that’s an idiom).  “…we witnessed of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised” (v.15 and following).  Now, this translation is from the English Standard Version.  The King James Version has this, “…we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.” You’ll note that the present tense is used in both, “are” and “rise.”  They are both passive, too (passive means the subject of the verb is being acted upon by another person or force).  No big secret going on here.

Here’s the issue: Paul is writing around 56 A.D.  Why would he use a present tense for the resurrection of the dead if, in fact, that event is to be regarded as wholly future?  He also uses it for the phrase, “death is being destroyed” in verse 26.  If we were to simply apply first semester Greek, we would conclude that at the time of Paul’s writing, the dead were being raised, and death was being destroyed.  Yet, in our 21st century mindset, the dead will be raised and then death will be destroyed.  That is, the resurrection of the dead has not yet happened and neither has the abolition of death, which, again, in everyday church thinking happens when Jesus returns.

Now, let’s look at some other forms before we get real detailed.  For Jesus himself, the perfect passive indicative is used: he has been raised.  Past tense.  Well, past tense with an emphasis on present state: he has been raised and presently is raised (“Jesus is Lord”).  This is an interesting point for Preston for he denies, as I have shown, that Jesus is in the same body that was raised, whereas here it is clear that the body he was  buried with is the same body he was raised with (and has).  But, this fact is beside the point: Jesus’ resurrection is past at the time of Paul’s writing. Question to be pondered: is it the verb itself that tells us this, or the context?  I’ll answer that later on, because we will be getting into intermediate stuff.

Paul uses the present tense for those who die, too: “in Adam all are dying” (present active indicative).  Now, it would appear to be true that at the time of Paul’s writing everyone was in the process of dying.  In fact, he uses another present tense: “I am dying daily” (verse 31).  So are you.  Ask any physiologist.  New converts are “being baptized” (verse 29, 30 – they don’t baptize themselves).

Wouldn’t this seem to suggest that the dead were in fact being raised at the time of Paul’s writing?  Well, no, because, you see, both Preston and the orthodox Christian would not ever state that dead souls were coming to life one by one at the time of Paul’s writing.  For Preston, “the dead” represent old covenant Israelites who died before Jesus was born.  Surely he would not suggest that they were “being raised” as Paul was dipping his pen into ink and writing to the Corinthians!  For Preston, the resurrection was future (70 A.D.).  For me and the rest of Christianity, it is at the end of history, “the last day.”  So, we can rule out the idea that the present indicative means “present actions occurring at the time of the speaker or writer.”  “It is raining!”  That’s present action happening at the time of the speaker.  Does the Present Tense (so-called “tense”) have any other nuances?  Yes.

For example, and we don’t have to venture far, Paul wrote in verse 32, “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are dying” (present active indicative).  What?  Are they not dying today, too? Just tomorrow?  2 Samuel 12.11 says, “I will raise calamity against you” and virtually all translations have it as the Future tense (“I will raise”).  But, the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, has a present active indicative: “I am raising calamity against you”.  The Hebrew is a participle.  When we turn to the experts, the Greek grammars, we are confronted with numerous examples of the present tense being used where it is impossible to understand the context as action presently occurring.  The grammarians call this a “futuritive present”.  Allow me to quote J.H. Moule: “…we may define the futural present as differing from the future tense mainly in the tone of assurance which is imparted – that the Present is not primarily a tense in the usual acceptation of the term is shown not only by the fact that it can stand for future time but by its equally well known use as a past” (Moulton, J.H. A Grammar of the Greek New Testament, Volume 3, p.120).  Now, before any Full Preterists get into a conspiracy theory that Moulton would only say something like this is because he is not a Full Preterist (and this, unbelievably, has been said), it must be shown that in this section of his work, he is not commenting at all on anything eschatological.  He’s just commenting on the several examples that can be shown where the context (the other surrounding words) prevent a present active indicative form from meaning that present continuous action is taking place at the time of the speaker or writer.  This brings us to a very important point about Greek (and any language): context determines the action, not the form of the verb.  The form alone is an identifier for the sake of classification.  The action is determined by context (surrounding words).  We also have to identify, if possible, the controlling verb in question.

Before we point out the controlling verb, let it be said that Paul does in fact use the Future Tense form for the resurrection.  “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”  All are dying, all will be made alive.  When?  After he has destroyed all power, rule and authority.  Even Preston, again, acknowledges the future here.”Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed…”  Those are future verbs.  When? “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall rise again incorruptible. And we shall be changed.”  All future verbs with surrounding words (context) that clearly state that the resurrection will happen “in a moment” in the future.  The resurrection of the dead and the change of those living is not a process and is not an ongoing thing happening at the time of Paul’s writing.  It is something in the future, and when it happens, it will happen “in a flash.”

Now, in light of this, what do we do with Paul’s use of the present tense form?  Are those fallen asleep in the Christ, the dead, “being raised” at the time of Paul’s writing?  That would contradict his statement that it would happen “in a moment” when it happens.  That’s the context.  Two answers, other than Preston’s, have been given.  The first has to do with the controlling verb of the entire discussion: “how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (verse 12).”  See that little word, “is”?  That’s a present indicative.  “There is no resurrection of the dead” is what was being said at the time of Paul’s writing.  “There is no such thing as the end of the world.”  The subject matter is the doctrine of “the resurrection of the dead”.  That’s a doctrine that is taught as being in the future (like the end of the world is).  Saying, presently, “there is no resurrection of the dead” is the same as saying, “the dead are not being raised.”  Grammatically, these two statements are saying the same thing.  You could substitute them if you want: “if there is no resurrection of the dead (i.e., that doctrine is not going to happen), then not even has Christ been raised.”  That’s the same thing as saying, “if the dead are not being raised, then not even has Christ been raised.”  Let’s use the English example: “there is no such thing as the end of the world.”  “If the world is not being brought to an end (present tense)” and so on.  The objection by Paul in the present tense is in order to meet the objection being issued in the present tense: there is no resurrection of the dead simply means, by transformative grammar, “the dead will not be raised.”

In fact, to bolster this argument, we have two examples of the Sadducees denial.  They are those “who say that there is no resurrection” (Mark 12.18).  This is repeated in the other Gospels (in loc) and in Acts 23.8.  Now, surely, the Sadducees in their denial were not imagining anything pictured as happening in the present!  They presently denied the presently held doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.  “The dead are not raised” is frequently heard even today.  If there is no truth to the resurrection of the dead, then, in objection, the dead are not being raised.

There is, also, another possibility considered by many leading commentaries.  Jesus was raised from the dead, and not in isolation, either.  Paul stated that he is not just the only one raised or ever will be bodily raised from the clutches of death.  He is the Firstfruits of the dead.  The first of an order.  Well, this changes the whole ballgame.  If some among the Corinthians were denying a future resurrection of the dead, yet affirmed the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (and with it, the benefits of salvation), then Paul has them in a corner: Jesus is, in fact, the First of an Order of the Resurrection of the Dead.  Paul’s logical argument, then, is clear: If there is no resurrection of the dead, and Christ is the First to be raised from the Dead, then this implies that those whom He is the First of will also be raised in the same manner.  But, if those of whom He is the First of are not raised, then neither is He raised of whom He is the First!  BOOM!  Mic drop!  In fact, Paul already said this in the same letter leading up to this discussion: “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (6.14).

This means that the resurrection of the dead has already began.  The same Spirit, the same God who raised up Jesus is already at work in the believers.  “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8.11).  As far the dead, those who have fallen asleep prior to their resurrection, Paul answers in the letter to the Thessalonians: they are already “with Jesus” and he will bring them at that time and raise their bodies: “God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep…For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1st Thessalonians 4.13-15).  The answer to the loved ones of the Thessalonians who have died is that they are “with him” in heaven.  And, he will bring them “with him” when he descends “from heaven”.  Well, if they are already “with him” then what is being “raised”?  The only logical answer is their bodies – that which is theirs, which is dead.  This passage is one of the more clearer passages of Paul’s belief in the resurrection of the dead.

In conclusion, Preston’s point that just because the present tense is used here must mean that his doctrine of the nature of the resurrection (corporate, invisible, of Israel’s dead only) and his teaching that the resurrection took place in A.D. 70 is false.  Preston wants to use the present tense here in order to demonstrate the nearness of the time of the resurrection in relation to the time of Paul’s writing.  That is, if Paul is using the present tense, then the resurrection must be near to his time.  But, this consideration is not at all what a present tense is.  In many cases it is to denote ongoing present action at the time of writing, not the nearness of an action.  Preston does not believe that the dead souls of old covenant Israel were presently being raised in the Body of Christ (corporately) at the time of his writing.  For Preston, that event took place in AD 70.  Therefore, and I missed this entire point in my book when I wrote it, the present tense does not denote the “nearness” of an event, but rather the assurance of the event (whether near or far is irrelevant).  Also, other considerations of the context must be considered without any exclusion.  The present tenses in 1st Corinthians 15 are not in any way a feather in the cap of Preston’s off the charts interpretation that the dead (old covenant Israel) were currently “being raised” at the time of Paul’s writing into the corporate “Body of Christ”.  This is defeated by the very fact that the resurrection, when it happens, will happen “in a moment.”  Yet, since Jesus, the First, is already raised, the inauguration of the resurrection of the dead has began through the Spirit who raised up Jesus, and is now at work in believers with the goal of bringing them to full resurrection life, in the same image of the First Man to be Raised.  We so long for that day!

 

Taking On Don Preston’s Jesus, Part 2

Recently, I have been involved in an informal written “debate” with my former mentor, Don K. Preston on Facebook.  What started this long overdue contention was that Mr. Preston started a video series (featured on You Tube) on 1 Corinthians 15.  Mr. Preston, a proponent of a doctrine known as Covenant Eschatology, or Full Preterism, began his series by promoting a book I had written back when I was a Full Preterist.  The title of that book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection (formerly published under the title, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection of the Dead, 2004 Truth Voice Publishing, now published by Mr. Preston’s company, JaDon Management, 2010) contains a verse by verse defense of the idea that the resurrection of the dead took place in A.D. 70 in and around the events of the destruction of Jerusalem by the hands of the Roman armies (and their allies).  That is, what most mainline Protestant churches, who are also aligned with the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church on this matter, teach is false.  If the reader is familiar with the Nicene Creed at all (which is recited each Sunday by hundreds of millions), it states, “And He shall come again with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead…And I look for the resurrection of the dead.”  According to Mr. Preston’s view, Jesus has already come again and the dead have been raised….in A.D. 70.  Let me give you a quote from Preston’s website concerning my book: “In this challenging, scholarly work, Sam Frost boldly challenges the prevailing traditions concerning the resurrection. He does so with respect for the world’s best scholarship. In fact, he utilizes that scholarship to help prove his case that the Biblical doctrine of the resurrection is not about the raising of human corpses out of the dirt!”

I have since left this teaching and even had a book published defending the reasons why I left (Why I Left Full Preterism, 2013, American Vision Publishing).  Needless to say, when I saw Mr. Preston promoting my book as a “must read” in order to understand the Apostle Paul on this matter, I had to issue a response.  I started a You Tube series myself that would offer a rebuttal of my former “exegesis” (eisogesis, more like it), and defend the traditional view.  It is estimated by Pew Research that there are 2.2 billion Christians (1.1 billion Catholics, 800 million Protestants and well over 200 million Greek Orthodox), not to mention the billions in the past 1900 years of Christianity. Faced with these numbers (which I believe is a direct result of biblical prophecy concerning the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ), why should I care about what a few thousand Full Preterists believe?  Well, I don’t.  But, then again, I do.  Issuing a rebuttal of sorts in print form and now in a video series once and for all clears my name and my conscience from ever having any responsibility for those I may have persuaded to follow this very pernicious doctrine.

Having said all of that, my You Tube series started a chain reaction on Facebook with supporters and critics, with one of them being Mr. Preston himself.  He started writing responses directed at my view in a way that is typical of his style, and, thus, a “debate” of sorts had begun.  As a theologian, however, I am always aware of the fact that when one touches any subject of biblical doctrine, one inevitably touches them all since they are all connected.  Thus,  I responded to Mr. Preston and he would write back with a longer reply.  Too long for my comfort in such a forum.  Therefore, I have decided to up this conversation a notch and blog on it.  The long overdue “debate” between Mr. Preston and Sam Frost has begun!  And, it’s free!  No one is making a dime off of it.  My pleasure.

Let me state that by writing this all out provides the proper forum for a much more detailed response to Mr. Preston than You Tube or Facebook can afford.  My videos are only 10 minutes in length and I wish to stay concentrated on the text at hand rather than constantly rabbit trail off of Preston’s “charges” and demands to each and every “challenge” he utters.  I can answer those.  Here.

Here’s the problem: the Church, historically and present, has affirmed and believed that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead occurs at the “last day” (John 6.44).  There, Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (see also, 6.39,40,54).  This is further stated, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (v.40).  “I will raise them up at the last day” (v.39).  Now, keep in mind that John’s style is what many scholars see as esoteric.  For example, if a believer needs to be “raised up” (resurrection), then obviously they died.  If eternal life is given at the point of belief in Jesus, which is itself resurrection life, then what is “raised up” at the last day?  Clearly, Jesus answered: “I will raise him (the one believing who has eternal life) up at the last day.”  A little later on, John offers this from the words of Jesus: “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11.25-26).

From this, the following excerpt from the Book of Common Prayer 1928 Edition sums up how the true Christian views such a thing.  From the section, ‘Burial of the Dead’, the Minister prays,”MERCIFUL God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life; in whom whosoever believeth, shall live, though he die; and whoso-ever liveth, and believeth in him, shall not die eternally; who also hath taught us, by his holy Apostle Saint Paul, not to be sorry, as men without hope, for those who sleep in him; We humbly beseech thee, O Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him; and that, at the general Resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in thy sight; and receive that blessing, which thy well-beloved Son shall then pronounce to all who love and fear thee, saying, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. Grant this, we beseech thee, O merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer. Amen.” This is pretty much the standard whether one is Protestant, Catholic or Greek Orthodox.  Mr. Preston completely overhauls this.  The “last day” in his view was in 70 A.D.  The resurrection spoken about above has absolutely nothing to do with a future event involving the bodies of believers.  Indeed, that future event will not ever occur.  Jesus is not coming back.  The dead, in the ordinary sense of the word, are not going to be raised.  The Church has made a terrible blunder here, offering a hope to billions over the centuries that will never come to pass.

This brings us to Mr. Preston’s first bone of contention with me.  It is about how one interprets the resurrection passage in Daniel 12.2, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (English Standard Version, ESV).  Again, in the Book of Common Prayer, the Minister says, “We commit his/her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life.”  In Preston’s view, this is a pointless prayer based on an erroneous tradition which, in turn, is derived from a gross misreading of the Scripture.

How in the world, some of you will ask, can it be possible that Mr. Preston can argue such a position that is at complete odds with Christianity as it has come down to us?  Well, I will tell you why.  Daniel 12.2 is a verse surrounded by other verses, and these verses provide what we like to call, “context.”  Here’s Daniel 12.1:

At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Now, of course, 12.1 is connected to 11.45 which talks about a furious king.  The identity of this king (Daniel 11.36-45) is notoriously difficult.  Some say it’s the Anti-Christ who has not appeared on the world scene, yet.  Some say it’s King Herod, but the majority of textual scholars (liberal and conservative) agree that it is Antiochus Epiphanes IV.

Now, we must move to the second point of Mr. Preston’s argument before we tie this together.  Jesus alludes to Daniel 12.1 in Matthew 24.21, “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world til now – and never to be equaled again.”  Just a few verses above Jesus said, “…spoken of by the Prophet Daniel” (24.15).  Now, Matthew 24 has been regarded by many scholars past and present alike as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  This is known as the Preterist interpretation.  Mr. Preston, however, is not a Preterist.  He is what is known as a Full Preterist.  That is, if Jesus is alluding to Daniel, and Daniel is connecting the resurrection of the dead to the same time Jesus is referring to (A.D. 70), then, logically, the resurrection of the dead happened in A.D. 70.  Got it?  Most scholars do not make this connection and the Orthodox teaching never did.  But, Mr. Preston can get around that.  The question is, is his interpretation correct?  Are the connections he makes correct?  Let me quote from the Facebook chronicles Mr. Preston himself: “Daniel foresaw the resurrection, he foresaw “the end.” He foresaw the Great Tribulation. In verse 6 one angel asks when all — not some, not a few, but when all of those antecedent things would occur. You already know the answer that heaven gave. It would be when “the power of the holy people has been completely shattered.” Not milennia (sic) afterward. Not before. Not at some proposed “end of time, but when the power of the holy people was shattered.”” (FB, Jan 20th).

I responded to this with, “there is no REASON in this text in the Hebrew (I read Hebrew) to CONNECT the time of Michael to the time of the resurrection. You use the old “force it into AD 70″ solution.” (FB, Jan 20th).  Preston fires back, “He has disconnected the resurrection from the time of Michael standing up for the people. He has severed it from the deliverance of those written in the book” (ibid. Jan 21).  Note this.  Charging that I “sever” resurrection from the time of Michael standing assumes they are connected.  And, of course many do connect them (especially the Dispensationalists).  And, many don’t.  Again, let me restate my position, “No logical necessary grammatical reason to connect the descriptive PROMISE to the events of “the end” (AD 70). Those that survive this time of distress are those who are found in the book, those who are promised resurrection of that which SLEEPS in the DUST of the GROUND (i.e., as any third grader knows, is the body)” (ibid, Jan 20th).  Preston replies, “Just one quick thought here. Sam’s comment that any third grader knows that what sleeps in the ground is the body shows how badly Sam has rejected the truth. He is arguing like a good Dispensationalist for sure. After all, “The Bible says what it means and means what it says!” Of course, this completely ignores, denies, or distorts the Hebraic world view– and Sam knew this, once. To the Hebraic mind, to be defeated, to be downtrodden, to be in exile, was to be “dead.” Not biologically, but covenantally. It was loss of fellowship. And this is the context of Daniel 12.

“BTW, Sam’s appeal to a third grader understanding of the body is specious and obfuscatory. Oh, but wait! A third grader can read “the coming of the Lord has drawn near”; or “in a very, very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not tarry”; “Behold, I comd (sic) quickly”– and know that the text was not talking about 2000 years and counting as Sam’s new twist on linguistics claims!” (ibid, Jan 21).

Now, let this soak in because in these few exchanges we find the real issues.  Mr. Preston makes it sound as if my understanding of the resurrection (those who sleep in the dust of the ground shall arise) is Dispensationalist.  It is true, Dispensationalist believe in the Orthodox Christian view.  But not everyone that believes this is a Dispensationalist.  Second, Mr. Preston knows that most scholars, past and present, liberal and conserative, view this text (Daniel 12.2) as the text that asserts the Jewish belief of bodily resurrection.  Preston completely ignores that consideration and moves the reader on to what are called, “the time texts.”  That is, first, resurrection is not bodily, it’s merely covenantal (invisible).  Then, it’s connected to the “near” and “at hand” statements in the New Testament.  If the resurrection is bodily, then obviously it didn’t happen in AD 70.  Preston, therefore, is forced to make it “covenantal”.  Not only has the Church got this wrong, but the Jews from the Maccabean period to this day have got it wrong (one only needs to read 2nd Maccabees, 170 B.C. – written with Daniel  in mind – apparently Preston understands Judaism more than those most closest to that time period).   An interesting fact about Full Preterists is that they will quote from scholars when necessary, then when you show in an area where they are at complete odds with the vast majority of scholars, they pull the, “I only believe my Bible and not man” act.

You see, Preston’s whole argument starts with the “time texts”, then proceeds on that basis to redefine resurrection.  In his own words, the time of the resurrection determines the nature of the resurrection.  Since, as he believes, the time of the resurrection is AD 70, then it cannot be bodily.  For Preston, “those in the dust of the ground shall awake” (which appears to be quite clear in what it is asserting), is trumped by “the time is at hand.”  The time texts determine his methodological procedure which is why he asserts that “any third grader” knows what “near” means.  Well, yeah.  Near means near.  But, “those who sleep in the dust of the ground shall arise” does not, Preston asserts, mean what “dust”, “ground”, “sleep” or “arise” ordinarily mean.  No, those ordinary words are covenantal words that need a bit (rather, a bunch) of explaining in order to get around the supposed obvious meaning.  Near means near, and any third grader knows that, but dust means covenantal dust, and only a learned Bible student like Preston knows that.

I propose a different solution and a different methodology.  In fact, mine isn’t new at all.  I gladly side with the majority.  Resurrection of the dead is clear in what it means in the Bible.  It’s bodily resurrection.  Paul is painfully clear in 1st Corinthians 15.  Daniel 12.2 is, too.  Any third grader knows that.  The Pharisees knew it, the Qumran Community (the Essenes) knew it.  The Sadducees knew it, too, but denied it entirely (at least they knew what it meant).  So, if “near” means “near” and the resurrection of the body means, well, resurrection of the body, then what can we do?  Is there a solution?  Mr. Preston adamantly says absolutely no.  It’s impossible.

Back to our verse: At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.  Let us say, for the sake of argument, that Preston is correct on certain points.  Herod is “the King” of 11.36-45, and “at that time” of Herod’s demise (in and around there somewhere), Michael, the Great Prince, shall arise (as depicted in Revelation 12, possibly).  The reference to Daniel by Jesus in Matthew 24 is placing this time in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  We have three time indicators directly linked to events: Michael shall arise, a time of trouble, that time, and at that time “your people” (Israel) shall be delivered.

We do not have a link in the next sentence (beginning with “and”), “and at that time many shall awake…”, that necessarily demonstrates that this awaking from the dead happens when the people are delivered.  Israel has been “delivered” in the past.  In fact, the same word is in 11.41: “He shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites.”  No resurrection going on there.  In Joel 2.32 we read, “Then everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be delivered.”  This verse is, of course, quoted by Peter in Acts 2, and does it mean that those who then called on the name of the Lord were also, immediately, raised from the dead?  Couldn’t be.  Or, rather, since Joel and Daniel have the same “time period” in mind (Paul quotes Joel, too, in Romans 10.13), did the resurrection “happen” at the same time of the “deliverance”?  We could easily translate, “and thy people shall be saved.”  Who are saved?  The descriptive clause tells us: those found written in the book.

Now, again, Mr. Preston sees the phrase, “writtten in the book” with “resurrection” and immediately goes to the Throne Judgment scene in Revelation 20.  It’s this type of stringing together that he does in order to impress his hearers (something like Jack Van Impe does). But, “written in the book” is not a new phrase to Daniel, or the Bible.  The Psalmist says, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living.”  Again, “in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.”  Moses says, “The LORD replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.”  The names are already written in the Book.  Those that are delivered (saved) are already written in the book.  Nothing new here.  Those who are written in the book shall awake, and we are entirely free to assert that no time designation is given here.  Those who are delivered are those whose names are in the book, and those who are in the book “shall awake.”  It’s a promise.

If we look further, it only says, “many” shall awake.  And, further, “many of those” shall awake unto perdition, not eternal blessedness.  This means that those “found written in the book” (apparently the “book of life”) are those who are “saved” and “awake unto everlasting salvation” whereas the others of the “many” of “thy people” (Israel) are not.  This is by no means a view of a “general resurrection” of “all those who believe”.  Jesus, as mentioned above, said that all those whom the Father has given to him shall be raised at the last day.  This in Daniel is a resurrection of Israel only (and many took it that way, too, in Israel).  Or, perhaps, Daniel is not excluding a resurrection of the Gentile believers, but is simply not referencing them here.  Possible, grammatically and logically speaking.

Preston resoundly disagrees with this analysis and thinks it is “impossible” to teach such a thing.  It’s not. He attempted to show that if I read the rest of the chapter, it would shown to be patently false that my view is absurd; the ravings of a lunatic.  I did cite one commentary (there are many I could cite) that noted a very observed principle when dealing with prophetic texts: events are often associated together, but not always fulfilled together.  Joel, again, is a prime book to demonstrate this.  In that Prophet, we see no reference to the death of Messiah, or resurrection or anything like that.  It’s a judgment against Israel written some time around 800 B.C.  After this judgment, with its repeated phrase of “the Day is at hand”, God will regather the exiles, the Spirit will be poured out and “never again” will Israel be uprooted.  Of course, as already noted, Peter quotes Joel and says, “this is that.” One would never get that out of Joel alone (and many critics note this).  Joel skips over a bunch of other events.  Judgement, exile, outpouring of the Spirit, restoration, in that order.  No death of the son of man, no ascension of any king to the right hand of God, the spread of the church, etc.  Events are placed together, but are not necessarily fulfilled together.  Take the “tribulation” in Daniel 12.  Those that are saved (delivered), are those who will awake, those found in the book.  That’s all it says.

Reading the rest of the chapter does not help, either.  Preston, again, simply links “the time of the end” in verse 6 to the awakening from the dead.  He can only do so based on other assumptions (which I do as well).  Daniel is told to “seal the book”.  What book?  Those found written in the book?  Same book?  No.  Further, Preston links “these wonders” and “the power of the holy people” being shattered to the “awakening”.  Again, this is not said.  Those “found written in the book” is a description of those who will be delivered, and those who will be delivered “at that time” are those also described as participating in the resurrection.

12.10 says that “they that are wise shall understand.”  Well, this would have to be those who “awake”, for it says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  If we followed Preston’s chronology, those who awake are those who are made wise and shine as a result.  Yet, here, the wise ones are those who understand before they awake.  “Many shall be purified, cleansed, and refined.”  Is this before or after they awake?  Or, are they promised to awake because they are made wise, shine, and are righteous?  These are those written in the book.  These are those who are promised resurrection (at an unspecified time).

Finally, the last verse: “But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”  “The end” here cannot be “the resurrection” simply because Daniel, even in Preston’s imagination, did not live til A.D. 70!  As the scholars see it, this is Daniel’s end, when he kicked the bucket.  And what happens to Daniel when he died?  He rests.  He sleeps in the dust of the earth.  Surely Daniel is one who is found written in the book.  Will he be “saved” in A.D. 70?  It says, “you shall rest, and you shall stand (rise).”  Same word in 12.2.  This can only be speaking of the body of Daniel (that which at rest in the dust) and not the soul of Daniel (God is the God of the living, not the dead).  in verse 12, Preston wants the last day of the 1335 days to be the day of resurrection, and link that to verse 13, “at the end of the days.”  But, this won’t work as already pointed out.  Daniel died.  He wasn’t around during the 1335 days.  He went to his end already.  Secondly, the 1335 days are for those who are wise, who shine, who are righteous during that time, who are promised resurrection because they are already written in the book.  Daniel is also promised this, even though he wouldn’t be around during those days, he is still promised resurrection at the “end of days” (not, “end of those days” which one would expect if Preston were correct).  The phrase, “end of days” simply mean, “last day” and not the 1,335th day.

So, what do we have?  Well, we have provided enough exegesis to halt the claims of Preston that his exegesis is the only sound exegesis of all others ever written until his time.  As grandiose as that sounds, it is the claim he makes.  There are other alternatives, utilizing the rule that Scripture interprets Scripture, grammar, logic and scholarship.  I know Preston’s view on this section, since I taught it, too (as he admits).  I know how to cite Daniel 12.2, flip over to Matthew 24, skip to Revelation 12, move on to Revelation 11, jump back to Isaiah 25, quote Joel 2.32 and Acts 1, then go to Paul in Acts and emphasize the Greek word “mello” and show, indubitably, without doubt, with such argumentation that only a moron would disagree that the resurrection of the dead took place in A.D. 70.  But, there are alternatives.  If the Full Preterist reading this says, “you have not proven anything”, well, okay.  I did, you just don’t agree with it, and that’s fine.  Persuading someone is not a logical demonstration.  “You start with the Creeds!”  Well, no, I start with the nature of the resurrection of the dead, which is clearly taught to which billions have attested.  Not a proof, but a real good place.  “You are twisting Scripture.”  Well, no, I wouldn’t admit to that.  I am reading Scripture and exegeting it based on every other text in this subject matter.  I have already gone long, but could go longer.

In conclusion, Daniel foresees a time when Israel is given over to various kings and nations.  It’s a time designated as 70 weeks.  Messiah comes, is rejected, and the temple is razed.  A great and horrible time will come, but Israel, at least those found in the book, will be delivered.  The saints will possess the kingdom.  They will become wise and made righteous.  They are promised resurrection.  But, Daniel skips over a few things as well.  He does not mention any outpouring of the Spirit.  He seems totally occupied with Israel only.  There is no mention of any spread of the Gospel, the Church, or the Nations being equally saved and promised eternal life in the Book.  There is no mention of the Ascension of this Messiah figure.  Surely these matters are to be had in mind when we come to this book.  Surely they are to play some interpretative role in assigning how we view the book as a whole, and surely we can conclude that Israel alone was not the only “people” promised resurrection of the dead.  That would entirely contradict the Bible.

 

An Encouragement: Buy This Book!

There have already been a few reviews of the new book by Douglas J. Douma entitled, The Presbyterian Philosopher: The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark (Wipf & Stock, 2016).  I have a pretty good grasp of Clark’s philosophy, but learned a great deal about the man himself from this work.  I had no idea that Billy Graham was a student of his!

My son is enrolled in a university pursuing Philosophy as his major.  He has often asked me over the years why Clark is not as celebrated (or quoted) as other contemporaries.  This book answers that question.  Clark was not out for fame or to make a name for himself.  He was, first and foremost, a dedicated academic of the highest caliber.  Back in the day, of course, and mostly during his tenure at Butler University as Chair of the Philosophy Department, many knew Clark and his work.  Perhaps one of the best and most known students of his was Carl F.H. Henry.

Reading the book, though, one sees that Clark was a “behind the scenes” kind of guy.  J. Gresham Machen?  Clark was there along his side.  Westminster Theological Seminary?  Clark was there in the beginning.  Evangelical Theological Society?  Clark.  Carl F.H. Henry and the magazine Christianity Today?  Yep.  Orthodox Presbyterian Church?  Yep.  Fuller Theological Seminary?  Wheaton?  Harold Lindsell?  The list goes on and on (throw in a little chess, too).

I started the book and simply could not put it down.  I do not wish to write a review (that’s been done), but merely to encourage anyone, everyone to get this book.  Evangelicalism is what it is today because, somewhere back there, Clark put in his two cents.

A large part of the book, of course, is centered around the so called “Clark-Van Til” controversy.  It’s amazing to me (and this book makes me even more amazed) that such a “controversy” came about at all.  Both men were stalwart defenders of the Faith at the highest level.  Another contribution of this well researched, excellently written work is a chapter on Clark’s contributions.  The section on Logic is so well stated that one wonders how in the world Bertrand Russell could ever defend the negation of subalterns.  Clark, back in the day, and because of his non-seminary position at Butler, was able to interact with secular academia on their own level.  Hardly anyone was reviewing the works of William James, John Dewey, Russell, Wittgenstein and A.J. Ayer, but he was.  These greats would (and have) shaped American culture.  Defeat Ayer’s brand of Atheism and, well, do I even need to read Dawkins or Sam Harris?  Pound the pragmatism of James, and do I even need to read what postmodernists are saying today about Education?  Clark (and his student Carl Henry) already did the work – read Henry’s 6 volume God, Revelation, and Authority – buy it, sell your dog if you have to).

I read a ton of books, and this one was refreshing.  Now, I am going back to read, Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and The Experimental Life (Shapin and Schaffer, Princeton University Press, 1985).  Clark taught me how to read critically.  He taught me how to ask questions about hidden assumptions.  Knowing more about his personal life as provided by Douma shows me that all that Clark did and stood for is not lost.  If only one will shut off the idiot box and read a book (rather, reading doesn’t teach anyone anything, the Word does, illuminating the mind and granting comprehension….wink, wink).

Vestments: A Defense for Dressing Like A Clown

Recently I have become more active in teaching and writing.  This came about in two ways.  First, Don Preston utilized a book I had written many moons ago when I was pastoring a congregation in St. Petersburg, Florida.  This book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection was written from a now discarded view I once held called Full Preterism (a view I now hold as heretical).  In his You Tube series, Preston touts my work as a “must read” and, of course, wanting to distance myself entirely from this so-called “movement”, I responded with my own You Tube presentations.

This was all during a time when my Dad was gravely ill.  The subject matter was “resurrection of the dead”, and of course, the timing was a bit strange.  I ministered to my dad in those final weeks and days with a heaviness I have never known.  Death became very real.  “The last enemy to be defeated is Death,” Saint Paul wrote.  “Enemy”?  That word leaped out at me. For Paul, Death (“the Death”as he penned it, personifying it) is a spiritual “principality” or “power” that is at work within all of us.  We do not ever die “from natural causes.”  An enemy is on the attack.  Although so-called natural causes are the visible manifestations (cancer, disease, blood clots, or heart attacks), they are, rather, to be seen as spiritual effects.  The Cause is Death itself (Lemmy Kilmister, rest in peace, of Motorhead opined in a great song called, ‘Killed By Death’).  Death is an enemy.  My Dad, a once lively, rowdy soul was being taken from us.

I read my Book of Common Prayer (1928) to him.  The same one I used while pastoring a church.  After the passing of his body and reception of his soul into the arms of Christ (so I hope with full confidence), I helped administer the service – again, using the Book of Common Prayer, my ever faithful companion.  Something in me, and I realize this is entirely subjective at this point, but I will deal with that in a bit, awoke.  A few days later I found while rummaging through his personal items, pictures of my ordination ceremony (with Presiding Elders Kelly Birks, Officiant, and Mike Delores, a Reformed Christian Church presbyter).  Dad also kept the ordination program handout and wrote the time (he had traveled all the way from Indiana to Florida to see it).  He also made note of it in his public journal of sorts.  I realized that he never saw me the same way again.  I was the “preacher” (think of the hills of Kentucky).  Very deep stirrings.

Now, I have always been enamored with the Cross of Jesus since a child.  My mom came home one day only to find in the front yard a huge cross made from two-by-fours.  That’s not something you want to see in Indiana!  White sheets and a vocabulary with a lot of “K’s” comes to mind.  I was about 8 years old.  I drew pictures of Jesus, and wanted a huge coffee table Bible for Christmas.  I begged a Catholic neighbor of mine to let me have her crucifix, which she had on her wall.  She relented (it can be seen in my You Tube lectures on the wall).  Jesus.  The Cross.  A man died for me.  I couldn’t get enough as a child.

Without going into a testimony about myself, for there are much better subjects than that, when I was a Full Preterist, I had received a call from a Bible study group who wanted to found a regularly ordered congregation (a “church”).  I had a Master’s degree by that time (and later completed my Theologiae Magister, Th.M. in 2012 from Whitefield Theological Seminary), and I certainly had a desire to teach and preach.  This lead to a full investigation, theologically and historically, as to what constituted things like “ordination”, “congregation” and “tenable status” as Minster.  How does one become a credible, recognized Minister in a day when anyone can get an ordination license on the internet?

Now, of course, in my undergraduate and seminary work we certainly covered those topics.  The first major verse that always popped up was 1st Timothy 3.1, ‘Faithful is this saying: If anyone aspires to oversight (episkopos in Greek), he desires a good work.’  From this it is recognized that the aspiration and desire arises from an individual’s heart.  That’s where it begins.  Now, in St. Petersburg we, as a congregation, were faced with the problem that we were, according to all things Orthodox, heretics.  We taught a doctrine (Full Preterism) that was not accepted (and still is not accepted) within any mainline denomination.  Of course, at the time, we thought of ourselves as enhancing historical Christianity, having solved a theological thorn in the side of the Church-at-Large when it came to the so-called, “end times”.  As a corporation entity in the State of Florida, we drew up our Constitution and By-Laws (which I still have) and, in those documents, made it plain to all that we wish nothing more than to be accepted, eventually, within a recognized denominational affiliation.  There were other Full Preterist churches, and we even sought to create our own denomination, as I have seen done many, many times in the history of Christianity.  These denominations, as they are called, were formed usually from breaks with an already formed one over doctrinal differences.  Well, we had a doctrinal difference.  What, then, is preventing us from establishing our own “denomination”?

The principle of Independent Churches, self established congregations with no affiliations with any major one (Baptist, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc) ran deep in Christianity since the time of the Reformation (1517).  When one, however, began to look at the founding of these now “mainline” denominations, one saw that they, too, had a “beginning” not in any association with something “legitimate.”  The Anglican Church (Church of England, the Episcopalians) split from the Roman Catholics.  The Lutherans split from the Roman Catholics.  The Methodists broke from the Anglicans, and so on.  Today there are churches called, “non-denominational” (which is sort of oxymoronic, since the phrase means, “no name”).  Regardless, when one reads their documents for establishing ecclesiastic bodies (which Catholics have a good laugh over, and the Greek Orthodox laugh at all of us) there are all sorts of justifications sought for – in the Bible.

It is indisputable that two main sources of church polity came from Die Juden, the Jews.  One was the synagogue and the other the Sanhedrin.  Later, after the third century A.D., a third source became a fixed form: Rome.  Considering Christians were largely made up of Jews in her earliest years, and spread to Rome in her ongoing years of Expansion, the coupling of these two(three) sources can be found in nearly every church building that can be called a church building.  That brings me to Vestments ( I would get there eventually).  Vestments (vestimentum, Latin for “clothing”) have a long history. The synagogue has them, and even the business suit and tie the Baptist preacher wears on Sunday is a vestment.  Thus, logically, it is not whether ministers and choir singers (choir robes) have clothing, but what kind of clothing they do wear.

There is a much history on clerical dress that I simply cannot get into here, and I have taken way too much of your time already.  The way I see it, Ordination, regardless of where it comes from, arises from a desire in the heart.  There is always succession involved since the founding of the “Church”.  That is, from Paul in Asia Minor, to Jerome, to Augustine to Pope Leo, to Luther to that guy (or gal) preaching down the road in the local Church of Christ or The Nazarenes there is a succession of Christians laying hands on other Christians in recognition of their desire to the episcopate.  This, in continued reading of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, is in keeping with the recognition of others (credentials) who are close to the person aspiring such an office.  Now, these two things, in and of themselves, do not mean that the person is, in fact, called of Christ.  David Koresh was not called.  Neither was Jim Jones or Charles Manson, even though they claimed it.  The Bible, then, becomes a “witness”, too.

In other words, two or three witnesses is needed, for anyone can say they have a desire to such an office or calling.  There must be an establishment of credulity in principle.  All recognize this in their own denominations.  1. The Call of Christ (which is subjective).  2. The testing of such calling (establishing credibility).  This latter point comes in a variety of ways today.  Training, internship, degree programs, etc.  Finally, some sort of ceremonial aspect plays a role in the finalization of all this (“laying on of hands” which is from the synagogue).  No single Christian just says, “hey, I ordained myself, I am called of Jesus, follow me.”  Don’t follow them.  L. Ron Hubbard comes to mind.  While each denomination today has their own “criteria” (some more rigorous than others), all of them have these principles at the bottom line.  These are biblical principles.  I recognize, then, all ministers that have them, even if they are Independent, Reformed, Catholic or Greek Orthodox (unified by our shared reading of the Nicene Creed).  If a Nazarene Minister has them, then he is a Minister, period.  I am not at all concerned with whether or not he can show “succession” from Luther or Calvin.  Can he show succession from other Christians in recognizing his own, personal desire and does he preach and teach the word of God in line with our inherited Christian Faith as found in the unity of the Nicene Creed?  Good enough for me.

Now, back to vestments and I why I wear them.  As a fool in attempting to justify my wearing of these clerical items of cloth, I do so for a couple of reasons.  1.  I do meet the principles already slightly elaborated on (much more elaboration can be done, filling a volume).  I have endeavored to meet them with full intention of meeting them.  Although I do not “have” a congregation at the moment, or might seek one through another ecclesiastical agency (denomination), there is an audience.  Paul had papyrus as a medium, we have the internet.  Media is media and communication is communication (although I am with a ministry that is allowing me to teach as well).  Second, historically, those who desire such an office usually have distinctive garb that represents such a call.  Look around, uniforms are all around us designating offices and job-callings.  So, there is nothing wrong with it, even if it is not commanded in the Bible (following the principle that we are at liberty in the Church to do things not expressly forbidden in Scripture, rather than the rule that we should only do those things expressly commanded).  It does have a history even within the old Israelite custom when the Tabernacle of Moses was active (and, in some part, forms a source for such vestment symbolism today).  For me, it connects with history, symbol and rite.  It’s personal.  I like it for all the right reasons.  Though some may have a power trip over wearing a clerical collar, as if that gives them some mystical prestige over others or something, or a “look at me” narcissistic ego thirst, it’s not the case with me.  I realize I look like a clown to many.  There is a humbling aspect about it.  In some ways, it is demeaning (the “stole” is a burden on the shoulders, the collar is a slave ring, and the alb is a simple piece of fabric, not elaborate or showy at all).  It is preparation.  I am getting ready to expound on the revelation of God’s word.  I must be careful here.  I will be judged for this.  God does care deeply about what others say concerning his revealed, written words.  This is not a calling one should aspire to, or take lightly in any way, shape, or form.  Lives have been wrecked.  We we all stand before the Throne of Christ and give an account.

Anyhow, that’s my two cents.  I am sticking with it.  It’s a pursuit my Dad put his mark on, and in the light of his passing, the passing of his body, rather, awaiting resurrection in Glory, a refreshing wind has blown.  Whither it goes, I do not know, but I am letting it blow in my sails and so far, the ride has been pretty tasty.