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.

 

Author: Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

With a B.Th. (Liberty Christian College), Samuel completed a M.A. in Christian Studies; M.A. in Religion, and Th.M. from Whitefield Theological Seminary, Lakeland, Florida (with combined credits in Hebrew from Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida – and in Greek from Church of God School of Theology, Cleveland, Tennessee; Now, Pentecostal Theological Seminary). Author of Full Preterist works, “Misplaced Hope”, “Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection of the Dead” and “House Divided” with Mike Sullivan, Dave Green and Ed Hassertt. Also edited “A Student’s Hebrew Primer” for Whitefield Theological Seminary. Samuel M. Frost co-founded Reign of Christ Ministries, and has lectured extensively for over 8 years at Full Preterist conferences, including the Evangelical Theological Society conference, of which he was a member (also a past member of Society of Biblical Literature). Samuel has been ordained, and functioned as Teaching Pastor at Christ Covenant Church in St. Petersburg, Florida (2002-2005). He helped host the popular debates between highly regarded Full Preterist author Don Preston and Thomas Ice (with Mark Hitchcock), and Don Preston and James B. Jordan. Samuel is widely regarded by many of his peers as being one of the foremost experts on prophecy, apocalypticism, and Preterist theology. He was highly influential in the Full Preterist movement, having been published by Don Preston (Exegetical Essays), footnoted in several Full Preterist works, as well as by scholars against Full Preterism (When Shall These Things Be?; Preterism: Orthodox, or Unorthodox; The Second Coming under Attack) and authored one Forward, “Reading the Bible Through New Covenant Eyes”, by Alan Bondar. He has come to denounce his Full Preterist views in 2010 and affirms the historic Christian Faith and orthodoxy. He penned a book detailing his departure by American Vision Publishing entitled, “Why I Left Full Preterism.” Frost is also the author of "God: As Bill Wilson Understood Him" - a history of Alcoholics Anonymous (2015).

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