By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.
Okay. Due to an overwhelming flood of requests that I refute my own previously held position (known as, Full Preterism), I will now go ahead and grant the requests. The book I wrote, which Full Preterist Leader and Teacher Don K. Preston still publishes, is called Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection (JaDon Publications, 2010). If refute this book, which Preston hails as a “must read”, then I am, in fact, refuting Preston!
I don’t have to go through every page. I can just take one section and refute it, thus toppling the main plank the rest is built on. After watching the well over 100 videos on You Tube of Preston “explaining” a chapter that takes roughly ten minutes to read in the Bible (I Corinthians 15), I figure that this should be relatively simple.
Let us jump to the section in that chapter dealing with the resurrection body, 15.35-49. For the sake of space, get your Bibles. Let’s begin. After my translation of the Greek, I wrote, “Note that so far, Paul has not mentioned ‘soma’ (Gr- ‘body’) until this point. It is strange that if this is the major concern of Paul’s his lack of use is puzzling for the traditional view.” RESPONSE: Not really. I am using a negative fallacy (if it isn’t there, then it isn’t there argument). For example, “I am going to take out the trash.” Someone may respond, “you must be carrying it out piece by piece, because you did not mention a trash can.” A trash can is assumed. Fact of the matter is, Paul has been talking about resurrection bodies all through out because that’s what resurrection is. It is only here that he gets to the point (as all commentators recognize). The questions here tells me the subject matter: How are dead bodies raised? What kind are they?
But, old Sam Frost continues, “The use of the question is telling. The distinction between ‘they’ and ‘we’ is to be noticed.” Well, again, not really. “The dead” do not constitute “the living” (the one writing the letter and those listening to it being read), and thus, “they” is used. Paul would not say, “we” because, well, he wasn’t dead! Secondly, he states later that “we shall not all fall asleep”. The dead, they have fallen asleep, but we shall not all fall asleep. So simple.
Now, in the previous pages of this book, I defended the idea that “the dead” were old covenant Israelites, the faithful of the Hebrew Bible (like, David, Moses, Ruth, Naomi and Zephaniah). I wrote, “The deniers believed in their own resurrection, as well as those who fell asleep in Christ (those who accepted the gospel before seeing the parousia). The ‘dead’ are those who lived and died before the gospel was announced. This includes all of old covenant Israel.” Thus, I attempted to make a case that the deniers has three distinct groups of people here: the dead, those fallen asleep, and the living. This is basically following Max King and Don Preston. But, now, it is patently clear that the deniers that Paul has heard about among the larger Corinthian gatherings did not affirm their own resurrection. There is no resurrection, they say. This is plainly stated by Paul: “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?” And, so plainly, Paul adduces, “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised.” There are two legitimate ways to take this: that Christ was possibly affirmed as an exception (since he was raised only in three days and his was promised not to see decay),or we have what later came to be affirmed as Docetism: Christ appeared in risen form, but not materially. Since Jesus was raised in his self-same body (the tomb was empty), then the Full Preterists like King and Preston must affirm that he alone was the exception (and Preston goes even further, denying that the man Christ Jesus retains his earthly body in heaven. This point alone is damning, since Jesus stated that his body would be raised in three days, and he called it “the temple.” I guess Jesus got rid of the temple according to Don Preston!).
But, continuing, what indication is there that “the dead” here are exclusively Israelites. This is the hardest sell that Preston’s view has. Paul later quotes Isaiah 25.7-8: “And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering that covereth all peoples, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He hath swallowed up death for ever; and the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth: for Jehovah hath spoken it.” This promise is for “all peoples” and “all nations”, not just Israel. Again, this is so plain for Paul because he had previously written, “in Adam all die”, and then quotes this verse from the Prophet. All peoples, all nations die in Adam. The dead, then, would be inclusive of all. It is here that “the dead” in Preston’s view (and mine) is a code word for “old covenant Israel”.
Let me repeat this point: the deniers have reasoned among themselves that anyone before the hearing of the Gospel would not be raised. That only they and those who had fallen asleep, but heard the Gospel, would be “raised from the dead.” They denied, so Preston wants us to believe, that any Old Testament saint or faithful believer would be raised from the dead. They did not deny that they themselves and those fallen asleep would be raised.
Allow me to say that this positing of what the deniers believed is totally and entirely made up. It is an invented construction based on one thing and one thing alone: Full Preterists must locate resurrection of the dead in AD 70. I Corinthians 15 is a huge obstacle for that case. And, so, based upon the conviction that the resurrection of the dead did happen in AD 70, this passage must be re-defined, re-interpreted, re-invented, re-constructed and re-construed. There has never been a more plainer example on my part when I wrote Exegetical Essays than ‘reading into the text’ than this.
But, since I swallowed this pill, I was enabled to write, “This “Holy Spirit of the promise” (Eph 1.13) was promised to OT Israel.” Nope. “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh” – Joel 2.28. The question, then, concerning ‘what kind of body‘ would the dead get when they were raised has the deniers asking, “since the dead Israelites that died before the Messiah came in our generation, they never knew Jesus and, thus, they are not a apart of the Body of Christ, the Church. Since they are not part of that Body, what kind of Body are they raised with? How could God make them apart of the Body of Christ?” Folks, this makes these deniers look like a bunch of total idiots, and I doubt strongly that Paul would have engaged such nonsense. The fact is, the very plain fact that virtually every scholar sees, past and present, is that some among the Corinthian believers, being Greeks, had a hard time with the concept entirely unique to Judaism and Christianity: God raising up material bodies. The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead meant that God would raise up bodies that have been dead for thousands of years. Paul was Jewish, and this is what Jews in his day discussed (as is and can be thoroughly documented). This is the plain, ordinary reading of Paul and the plain ordinary understanding of the original audience.
But, in my former book I plod on: “Thus, this question is not asking, ‘how can dead people, long decomposed, be raised? In what body are they coming since the body that was buried is long disintegrated?’ That this is not the question becomes perfectly clear in the analogy Paul gives.” From this I go into 15.36-ff. But, I want to make one thing clear here at this point, because I remember writing this part and what I was thinking. I could not make a case solely from what I had already presented in the book. And, in fact, it was this section that caused me to accept what King, and later Preston, was teaching. This section, the so-called “seed analogy”, is what started it all when I “got it”. I remember it so vividly (this was back in 1992). Thus, I did not start with the convoluted idea of the deniers limiting resurrection to “the church” (that came later after I accepted this idea). I did have the assumption that whatever Paul was talking about here, it must be fulfilled in AD 70 (which is false, too, and based upon my Dispensationalist background that prophecy is an “all or nothing” event). I was wrestling with the idea presented by Ed Stevens (that there was a literal rapture of the saints, and the dead got “new bodies” – I remember sitting with John Anderson when Stevens came out with that one! You could have heard a pin drop). But, I rejected Stevens’ view because the Greek text (as noted by the vast majority of textual scholars) strongly states that the body that is corrupt is the body that is raised! Dear readers, you must understand that this fact was entirely critical for me. When I finally understood Max King’s view (after many chats), and saw that he strongly endorsed that the body that is corrupt is the same body that is raised, I knew I was on a firmer ground. Listen to me here: the only thing that needed to change in my traditional understanding at that point was a reconsideration of what “body” means in this passage. For Preston and King it is the “corporate body” of Christ, the Church, made up of the faithful from Adam to Paul’s day, who were “dying with” Christ and yet also “being raised” with Christ by the Spirit as they were transitioning from the old covenant to the new covenant.
Now, since there was much truth in the idea of the “corporate body” concept (neither King, nor Preston invented that one), then that was not so hard a pill to swallow. And, since there certainly was a “transitioning” of sorts from covenant to covenant (old to new) that created a huge issue for the church (Acts 15), then that was not an issue as such, either. They didn’t invent that. What King did was combine these two ideas and then read them into Corinthians 15. He did so by attempting to show that the “traditional view” could not possibly be sustained and involved huge contradictions. It is now that we get to those “contradictions” and show that King, and later Preston, Jack Scott, Larry Siegle, William Bell and myself all went horribly down the wrong road. I Corinthians 15 cannot sustain a Full Preterist paradigm.
Old Sam Frost wrote, “The ‘dead’ stand for the ‘seed.’” I footnote this a few pages later, “The translation above says, ‘the body is sown’ for verse 42, but the word ‘body’ appears in italics, meaning it is not in the text. It is just as possible to be ‘the dead’ here since ‘the dead’ occurs at the end of verse 45.” This is a case of being so blind to the text because of my conviction that Full Preterism is true. The translations in verse 42 are correct. The literal Greek reads, “it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.” The verb is singular. “The dead” is plural! Therefore, the dead cannot be the subject of the verb (neuter plural nouns can take a singular verb, but not masculine plural nouns. “The dead” is masculine plural)! Rather, Paul, in response to the questions of “how” and “why” speaks about “flesh” and “bodies (masculine plural)” immediately in the answer! He is clearly speaking about material creation. Oblivious to this point, I wrote, “The question is not “how will their bodies be raised” but, “how will dead ones be raised?” But, this completely ignores the plain fact that some may ask, “What kind of body” are the dead going to have? Watch this:
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. 37 And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain — perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. 40 There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.” All the words in bold are in the text. What kind of body are the dead to receive? Well, Paul expounds on bodies of flesh – created bodies. And, then he states “and so it is with the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, the body is raised in incorruption.” The body that is sown is the body that is raised. But, Paul is clearly, nowhere, mentioning that “body” here is the corporate concept of The Body of Christ, the Church! He’s talking about human bodies, fish bodies and animal bodies of flesh. He later defines this as the natural body, the flesh and blood body.
Now, here’s the whole kicker that got the ball rolling for me when I accepted King’s view. I wrote, “Paul has set out four things in his analogy that follow a sequence: 1). The existence of the seed, which stands for the ‘dead,’ in keeping with the question that was asked. 2). The seed is then sown into the ground. 3). The seed then dies. 4). It is also, at the same time, being brought to life. Let’s run the traditional view through this analogy.” Further, “In the traditional view, the dead body stands for the individual ‘seed.’ The dead body/seed is then sown (buried in a casket) into the ground. Then the dead body/seed begins to die, and is at the same time being made alive. Does this fit? Clearly, in the traditional view, the dead body/seed is already dead before it is sown! In Paul’s analogy, death occurs after it is sown. Also, how does the traditional view answer ‘being made alive’ as a process? Are physical bodies currently undergoing a death/life process in the casket until the resurrection of the dead?” Max King made the famous remark, “make sure I am dead before you bury me!”
First, point 1. I have already dealt with that one. The question that was asked is what kind of body are the dead going to receive? I erroneously make the seed “stand for” the dead. Point 2. The seed is is simply sown. Paul does not say, “first it is sown, then it dies.” This is where very strange attempts are made to press Paul’s analogy into some biological lesson on carpology. Some have said the seed is the soul, and the body is the shell, and the shell gives way so that the seed/soul “gets” a new body (tree). Others have noted that Paul is wrong here on agricultural grounds because, technically, seeds don’t die. Others have tried to link in seeds being planted with us being buried in caskets and lowered into a six foot hole (are any of these folks familiar with catacombs, and the fact that a great deal of human beings have never been buried at all in their demise?). Paul is simply talking about a seed, like his Rabbinical counterparts did. “‘Thou mayest deduce by an a fortiori argument [the answer] from a wheat grain: if a grain of wheat, which is buried naked, sprouteth forth in many robes, how much more so the righteous, who are buried in their raiment! An emperor said to Rabban Gamaliel: ‘Ye maintain that the dead will revive; but they turn to dust, and can dust come to life?‘ Thereupon his [the emperor’s] daughter said to him [the Rabbi]: ‘Let me answer him: In our town there are two potters; one fashions [his products] from water, and the other from clay: who is the more praiseworthy?’ ‘He who fashions them from water, he replied. ‘If he can fashion [man] from water,surely he can do so from clay!’ (Babylonian Tractate, Sanhedrin, Folio 90,91). Sound familiar? Paul was a Jew, arguing like a Jew and using Jewish phrases with Jewish definitions. I do not even hint at this in my book. Also, I Clement, written to the Corinthians as well, probably in the 90’s, states, “1Clem 24:5 The sower goeth forth and casteth into the earth each of the seeds; and these falling into the earth dry and bare decay: then out of their decay the mightiness of the Master’s providence raiseth them
up, and from being one they increase manifold and bear fruit.” The point of both Paul and Clement is plain: a seed is sown, and from its decay comes something marvelous. God’s Providence does this in nature. “So it is with the resurrection of the dead.” The appeal Full Preterists often make to “ordinary, plain meaning” goes entirely out the window when this chapter is read.
The fact is, the seed is sown and the seed, through corruption, also sprouts. God does this and to each seed He actively is involved in their germination (this is so Jewish!). God is a personally involved Creator. Then, Paul, after speaking about seeds, moves on to human beings, animals and fish, and then quotes Genesis 2! “And so the resurrection of the dead is like this. The body is sown in corruption. It is raised in incorruption.” Nowhere does Paul say that the seed dies before it is sown. He simply says, “the seed is not quickened unless it dies.” God is not done with a seed even in its corrupt state, but recycles it after its own kind. Corruption and deterioration is not the end of the matter (pun intended).
However, the Full Preterist Sam Frost would say, the point is the fact that the seed must die. And, commenting from scholar Gordon Fee, “Fee realizes that if the necessity of physical death is what Paul has in mind, then he contradicts himself in vss. 50-53, where ‘we shall not all sleep’ (or physically die). I find that Fee must devalue the seed analogy in vs. 36 and its point that ‘unless it dies’ because he cannot maintain his view and stay consistent. He cannot maintain that physical bodies must die in order to be raised, for that would indeed bring Paul into a severe contradiction.” And so it would. Back in the day, this supposed contradiction, as I have already mentioned, is what got the ball rolling for me.
But, there is one problem. And it’s glaring. “Sleep” and “falling asleep” are common phrases found in the Bible, and used exclusively for those who have passed away and entombed. ” R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Simeon b. Yohai: Whence do we know that the Holy One, blessed be He, will resurrect the dead and knoweth the future? From, Behold, Thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, and … rise again etc.” That is, the dead are those who have fallen asleep, and this speaks of the form of death before resurrection. Notice what I did in my comment from my book above: “‘we shall not all sleep’ (or physically die).” I do this throughout my book: “That Fee was correct to notice a contradiction has been noted. If Paul means that the physical body must die in verse 36, then he contradicts himself when he says, ‘we will not all die’ in verse 51. But, Fee is not entirely off the hook here. If those in verse 51 do not die, then how in the world can they be ‘made alive?’ Is it not ‘the dead’ that are made alive? Then how can Paul say, ‘we will not all die when he comes?’” Note, please, my switch of the word “die” for the phrase, “fall asleep” or “sleep.” Later on I wrote, “The very fact that Paul says that some ‘will not sleep’ proves that physical death is not necessary for obtaining to the resurrection of the dead. However, some kind of death is necessary, for without any death, resurrection is impossible.” This is just a plain old example of switching definitions in mid-stream. It’s sophistry. “Sleep” and “die” are not the same thing as I made them out to be.
First, “in Adam, all are dying” (15.22). All die. However, Paul does not say, and is careful not to say, that ‘we shall not all die.’ Instead, he said, ‘we shall not all sleep.’ Sleep refers to the state of the body post-mortem (after death). The eyes are closed. It is ‘laid to rest’ (see Daniel 12.13). This was the Rabbinical meaning. Paul is not, then, contradicting himself at all. If he said, “all die” and “all must die in order to be transformed” with “all shall not die, but all be transformed”, then, yes, we have a blatant, bona fide contradiction. However, if Paul said, “all die”, but “we shall not all sleep“, then we have two different terms here. In effect, all die, and all will die, but some will not undergo death in its usual manner with its accompanying funeral and being laid to rest (sleep). “We who are alive, at the moment of his return will be changed.” Sleep is bypassed. Death is not. The change from death to life is “in a nano-second, a twinkling of the eye.” Paul’s use of the perfect tense for those “having fallen asleep” (and are still asleep), speaks to the state of their rest, the state of their body. This specifically goes back to his statement that if the dead are not raised, then those who are now asleep have perished, because in Rabbinical thought the soul alone in heaven is not a resurrection nor a restoration. It is a unnatural existence (contra the Greek idea that the soul is freed from its prison house of the body and can now come into its fullest expression). All die, but not all will sleep is not a contradiction.
That removed the supposed “contradiction” set up by Max King. King forced an arbitrary “analogy”. He was not reading Paul as a rabbinical Jew, or a biblical Christian.
But, I am afraid, exposing myself, it gets worse. Here’s what I wrote in the book, “It must be noted that not everyone will physically die. Paul is clear on that. But what does he mean here? Will there be some who will ‘never see death?’ Is Paul getting this from Jesus (John 11.26)? What did Jesus mean that ‘those who believe in me will not ever see death?’ Did he mean that they would never physically die? That seems to be contradicted in 12.25: ‘he who believes in me will live, though he dies.’ Is it a spiritual meaning here? Those who believe in Christ will never see ‘the death’ (sheol, hades) even though they physically die. They will never go where the saints have been going since Adam onwards: the pit, sheol, hades, the grave. They, in short, will not ‘sleep.’ Their physical demise does not mean that they will enter into the pit, but will come into the life forever. They will never see the death.” I simply shake my head here at this point. In the book of Revelation, John sees “the death and Hades” hurled into the lake of fire. For Full Preterists, this has been fulfilled in AD 70. How, then, can “never die” mean “never see sheol” or “the death” when “the death” is destroyed in AD 70 for everyone? In the Full Preterist scheme “the death and the hades (sheol)” is destroyed in AD 70! Secondly, it cannot mean “spiritual death” (separation from God), because the fact of having faith in Jesus removes that issue. It must mean, then, what John called, “the second death” – the lake if fire. We do die (the first death), but we shall not see death (the second death).
Oh, it gets worse, because I follow this paragraph with this one: “When would these enemies, and the final ‘last enemy’ be vanquished? Paul has already alluded to this in vv. 20-25. The ‘end’ is when Christ comes. That is when ‘death is swallowed up in victory.’ Death is again addressed here in a personified form with the article, ‘the death.’ The death is a specific death that ‘reigned through the sin’ (Ro 5.13). The particular sin Paul has in mind is Adam’s. Through Adam’s sin, the sin, the death came to reign ‘the day he ate’ (Gn 2.17). Adam did not physically die the day he ate, however. What did happen to Adam? ‘So the Lord God banished him from the garden of Eden’ (Gn 3.23). Adam was severed from God, alienated, estranged, separated, condemned, banished, exiled, humiliated, dishonored, and defeated. Death ruled through his sin. The death ruled through the sin. That death was now ‘being destroyed’ by Christ’s reconciling, redeeming, recovering, honoring, exalting, restoring, justifying, adopting, and glorifying ministry.” Now I turn around and make “the death” mean “severed from God” and not “sheol, hades, the grave”! Was this death hurled into the lake of fire in AD 70? Talk about switching definitions amidst confusion! “[Adam] was condemned. When he finally physically expired, he did not inherit eternal life. He remained in the realm ruled by the Death, the Sin and the Torah: sheol.” Here, “the realm ruled by the death” makes the realm (sheol) and the death (separation from God) two different things! As a Full Preterist I have three definitions of death: physical death, sheolic death, and separation from God death! sheolic death is destroyed in AD 70. Physical death is not destroyed (obviously). Yet, “separation from God” death still remains.
But, this is where it gets really bad for Full Preterists: the Death that is thrown into the lake of fire is the very ‘the death’ that is foretold of in Isaiah 25.8. And, that ‘death’ is defined by Full Preterists as separation from God death!
“he will swallow up the death forever. Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken.” – Isaiah 25.8
“When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “The Death has been swallowed up in victory.” – I Corinthians 15.54
“Then The Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.” – Revelation 20.14
“and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and the death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away.” – Revelation 21.4
Please listen to this: the only death swallowed up and defeated in Revelation is the same death foretold of in Isaiah 25. “The second death” is not ever mentioned to be swallowed up or destroyed. This fact is the death-knell for Full Preterism. My considerably confusion, as I have shown here, in the book that Preston still publishes as a must read demonstrates that I was literally all over the place in order to make my “case”. I contradict myself, use false grammar, blur definitions, and redefine terms. It’s not too many times when you see an author ripping his own work to shreds, but here it is. I hope those of you that are following this will have your eyes opened to this egregious error.