Is the end near?

By Dr. Samuel M. Frost

Dedicated to Elton Hollon

As an academician I get to read “papers” and such, and have access to, that are not generally read by the public.  Academic writing, too, is often technical, or elaborate in verbiage.  The paper I read this morning, as per my usual routine, is by Jeffery B. Gibson (D. Phil. Oxford), a Faculty Member of the Harry S. Truman-City Colleges of Chicago.  Dr. Gibson, also, is the author of ‘Matthew 6:9–13//Luke 11:2–4: An Eschatological Prayer?’ (SAGE Publications, Biblical Theology Bulletin, 2001, Volume 31), wherein he argues the same issues in the paper I am now considering, ‘Mark 14:38 as a Key to the Markan Audience.’ 

Engaging with the ‘consensus’ reading of Mk 14.38, Gibson alerts us to an allusion to Ps 78 where the ‘same situation’ existed there for Mark’s audience.  The imperative verbs, ‘watch and pray’ is followed by a hina clause with the aorist subjunctive: watch and pray so that (hina) you enter not into testing.  Rather than read ‘testing’ (peirasmos) here as objective, Gibson convincingly argues for a subjective reading.  That is, Jesus is commanding his disciples to watch and pray as for “help to avoid their perpetrating a ‘testing of faithfulness’, and more specifically a particular ‘testing of faithfulness’ –namely, the one expressly forbidden to any who would be among the faithful of Israel: the ‘testing of the faithfulness of God’” (2).

This needs explanation.  Mark’s emphasis on ‘ the way of the cross’ as opposed to the Gentile ‘way of the sword’ and ‘authority over’ power-enforcement strategy (Rome) is Jesus’ model for how to ‘rule.’  One rule’s by becoming a servant.  Carrying the cross, washing feet, and sacrificial service are the ‘weapons’ of God’s love.  However, in the climate of religious zealotry, political power struggles, and a possible leveraging of who gets to ‘sit at the right hand’ of Messiah (as per James and John), denotes the current wind in the air that since the ‘son of man’ has arrived (Jesus), then the political structures would crumble.  This would require, of course, a host of government ‘aids’ for setting up God’s Kingdom on earth, and James and John were only too eager to “offer” their help.

Jesus rebukes such contests among his followers.  Rather, following the way of the cross is ‘the way’ of the Messiah’s advent and kingdom – which has come.  The arrival of the kingdom, and Messiah’s Advent, however, took on a ‘hidden’ or ‘veiled’ element that is hinted at in the Prophets.[1]  As the God of Abraham certainly ruled the nations and kings as depicted in the Hebrew Bible, yet without being ‘seen’, so Messiah’s rule would be of the same nature; Messiah, ruling at the right hand of God from heaven, would ensue for an indefinite period of time before the expulsion of the wicked from his Kingdom finally arrived.[2]  As God ‘put up with’ wickedness, and wicked people, Messiah-at-God’s-right-hand-where-God-is would (is), for an extended time, do(ing) the same.

This is not at all a denial of the finality of God’s pogrom against the wicked; his final, once and for all extermination of the wicked from his world, otherwise known as the eschatological Day of the Lord, but that as that Day was constantly threatened in the Prophets, yet never realized in toto (God is patient), the Messiah, being of the same character of God to a tee, would exercise the same constraints, even though, like God (as God), he could annihilate the wicked at the ‘blast of his nostrils.’  For right now, he chooses not to.  Little ‘flare ups’ of wrath in the world here and there suffice (see, Ps 2.12).[3]

The point of all of this brief explanation for Gibson’s paper is that he roots Mk 14.38 within the confines of the troubles of the Jewish war in 66-70 CE (and later, 135 CE under Simon Bar Kochba).  That is, the ‘audience’ of Mark’s readers, would have been ‘those professing loyalty to the God of Israel who were sufficiently caught up in the revolutionary fervor of the years 68-69 to be drawn over or severely attracted to the Zealot cause’ (11).  Since the ‘way of the cross’ promoted fleeing the city of Jerusalem (Mk 13.14), leaving behind possessions ‘where moth and rust destroy’ (Mt 6.20), the temptation would have been to stay and fight.  This, in turn, would be ‘putting God to the test’ since God has announced through Jesus and the ‘way of the cross’ the means by which his kingdom program is established.  ‘Fierce loyalty’, however, to the cultic-life and symbol of the temple – and a theological grip that firmly outlined the idea that God would save Israel through warfare, ‘coming down himself’ to rescue the Jews from Rome’s barbarity – persuaded many of those zealous for Israel (as Paul certainly was) to stay and fight.  The choice between hearing the Prophet, Jesus ben Miriam of Nazareth, and rejecting standing by fellow kinsmen for the battle perceived as ‘belonging to the Lord’ would have been an agonizing one.  What if Jesus were false?  What if God will deliver Jerusalem, and Jesus’ followers had fled the city?  How would they have been treated if victory were secured?

The fact of the matter is that Jesus clearly stated that ‘the end is not yet’ for which they hoped (Mk 13.7).  He told them to flee the city, and leave their belongings.  And this is where Gibson is spot on: ‘The background and occasion for all of this is surely the time and circumstances in which Zealot beliefs regarding the inviolability of the Temple, the righteousness of their cause, and the divine sanctioning of the means by which they sought to implement it seemed most assured even to those who had originally been skeptical of their truth. And this was only in late 68 or early 69 CE, when Jerusalem was basking in the glow of a third Sennacherib like salvation’ (11).  Further, ‘One notable thing about Mark 13 is that all of its characteristic exhortations – ostensibly given by Jesus to the disciples but more accurately given by Mark to his readers (cf. Mk. 13:14) – to ‘take care’ to avoid being deceived by the course of events that are outlined within 13:4-23 into thinking that the Day of the Lord and God’s deliverance of Jerusalem is at hand, is that they are set within a framework of an anti-Temple polemic that not only is contextualized by Jesus’ pronouncement in Mk 11:17 that the Temple had been turned into a den of thieves and therefore would be destroyed not saved, but is rife with language and imagery taken from Jeremiah‘s denunciations of his contemporaries’ declarations that the Temple guaranteed them safety from, and victory over, any pagan forces arrayed against it (cf. Jer. 7)’ (10).

In conclusion, the Day of the Lord, as pictured as when God himself would restore all things in creation through resurrection of the dead is ‘not yet.’  We find this sentiment in Luke 21.8, ‘And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.’  There are two sayings here, ‘I am he’ (false Messiahs), and ‘the time is at hand’, meaning God’s deliverance is now come to rescue the city: and Jesus tells them the exact opposite: ‘the end is not yet, and is not at hand.’  How, then, does this square with the announcement that ‘the time is at hand’ in Rev 1.3?  Either we have a contradiction (as the critical scholar suppose – that Luke later rewrote the original imminent message of Jesus to deal with the so called ‘delay of the parousia’), or we can plainly see that the apostles use of this phrasing, and the Zealots use of it as well, had two different meanings.  By saying, ‘the time is at hand’ coupled with, ‘the end is not yet’ allowed for a considerable space of time between Messiah’s ascension to heaven and resurrection.  For the Zealots, however, we find their sentiment in Luke 19.11, ‘As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.’  That is the language of imminence.  Jesus did not preach this idea of a ‘sudden’ appearance, and he instructed his disciples who would have heard others during the revolt in the sixties saying, ‘it is near’ (imminent), to ignore them.  The inauguration of God’s kingdom program started with Jesus’ ministry, already.  His exaltation to the right hand of the Father, sitting in David’s promised seat, had already come to fruition, and thus they were able to say, ‘the time has come near’ (perfect tense in Greek).  Jesus’ inaugural, interim reign ‘in the heavens’ was just beginning, and would continue ‘until the end’, in the last day, when God raises the dead and ushers in the new heavens and new earth.  Specifically, ‘no man knows’ that day or hour, which allows for the considerable amount of time to walk ‘the way of the cross’ until the end comes.  This was not only, then, a message for them, but a continuing message for us.  Ignore those who say, ‘the time is at hand’ – for in the apostolic message, His time is always at hand in terms of his exaltation, and the NT deliberately shifts focus from ‘when’, to ‘who’.  ‘Who’ is Jesus Christ, who is at the right hand of the Father until he descends from heaven to raise all who the Father has given to him.  Therefore, ‘Today! If you hear his voice, repent, for the kingdom of heaven has drawn nigh.’


[1] Mt 11.25 notes that the kingdom has arrived, but is ‘hidden’ from the world.  The understanding of Messiah’s exaltation-through-death which secures the resurrection of the dead to come, must be received through ‘revelation knowledge’ by a direct act of the Spirit.  This will not be the case when the reality of ‘things not seen’ are made to ‘be seen’, obviously.

[2] Mt 13.35 also denotes the ‘hidden’ things of God, in the same way that they were to those during the times before Messiah’s arrival.  They have to be grasped by faith.  The Parables, then, tell us that ‘the world’ is God’s ‘kingdom’, or ‘the field’ in Mt 13.38; where in verse 41 ‘they will gather out of his kingdom’ is parallel with ‘the world’.  The world has always been God’s created kingdom, wherein he rules over the just and the unjust.  The mystery, and indeed the perennial ‘problem of evil’ in the world, is how and why God ‘allows’ such evil acts done by evil people.  We know that he has the power over all things to carry out mass extermination of the wicked, and that there is the constant threat of doing so in the OT.  Jesus, in the parable of the Wheat and the Tares, declares that ‘at the end of the age’ such a pogrom will happen – but until then, ‘let both the evil and the good grow together’ (Mt 13.30). 

[3] Psalm 2 is heavily alluded to and quoted in the NT, particularly Revelation.  It is often missed that verse 12 contains the familiar phrasing, ‘en tachei’ – ‘lest his wrath flare up en tachei’ or ‘quickly.’  The son of man in John’s visions uses this phrase repeatedly, in that he ‘comes (present active, often times) quickly’.  That is, he comes in judgment often and occasionally to immediately render a verdict in time and space.  As Yahweh ‘quickly’ rendered judgements over Israel’s enemies through plague, famine, extermination, what have you, yet never entirely eradicated their problems, so we should understand in Revelation that John’s use of the phrase, en tachei carries the same semantical meaning as it does in the OT.  That is, he was shown ‘things’ (plural – a multiple amount of things) ‘that must take place in speed’ (en tachei, Rv 1.2).  That is, each ‘thing’ that must take place, will take place ‘with quickness’ (adverbially).  Several commentaries have made the mistake of taking this phrase as an indicator of the Second Coming being expected as ‘shortly’ to happen (which, these same commentaries would deny happened).  These scholars labor under the delusion of the Critical School of thought that the early disciples expected the so called Second Coming to take place within their lifetime (imminently).  A growing wave of scholars, however, are coming to strongly reject this claim.   We should not expect the wrath of the Lamb of God to be an only, once for all time act, but rather a series of acts (as exactly Yahweh acts in the OT) within the world, before God decides to utterly change the world. 

Author: Samuel M. Frost, Th.D.

Samuel M. Frost has gained the recognition of his family, peers, colleagues, church members, and local community as a teacher and leader.  Samuel was raised in the Foursquare Gospel tradition and continued in the rising Charismatic Movement of the early 1980’s.  While serving in local congregations he was admitted to Liberty Christian College in Pensacola, Florida where he lived on campus for four years earning his Bachelor’s of Theology degree.  It was there under the tutelage of Dr. Dow Robinson (Summer Institutes of Linguistics), and Dr. Frank Longino (Dallas Theological Seminary) that he was motivated to pursue a career in Theology.  Dr. Robinson wrote two books on Linguistics, Workbook on Phonological Analysis (SIL, 1970) and Manuel for Bilingual Dictionaries: Textbook (SIL, 1969).  It was under these teachers’ guidance that Frost entered into his Master’s studies, being granted a scholarship for Greek I and II at Pentecostal Theological Seminary, accredited, in Cleveland, Tennessee (adjunct of Lee University).  Frost completed his study under Dr. French Arrington (The Ministry of Reconciliation, Baker Books, 1980), who used the text of J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners. Frost studied Hebrew for two years under Dr. Mark Futato (author, Beginning Biblical Hebrew, Eisenbrauns, 2003) and Dr. Bruce K. Waltke (author, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Eisenbrauns, 1990) at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida. With combined credits from PTS and RTS, Samuel completed his Master of Arts in Christian Studies and Master of Arts in Religion from Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida under the direct tutelage of Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, co-author of the well reviewed work, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism (Whitefield Media, 2005) with Dr. Gary Crampton (and Foreword by the late, Dr. D. James Kennedy).  Dr. Talbot also oversaw Samuel’s Dissertation, From the First Adam to the Second and Last Adam (2012) earning him the Magister Theologiae (Th.M.) degree.  He also helped put together A Student’s Hebrew Primer for WTS, designed and graded exams for their Hebrew Languages course. Samuel’s studies lead him into an issue in the field of Eschatology where his scholarship and unique approach in Hermeneutics garnered him recognition.  Because of the controversial nature of some of his conclusions, scholars were sharp in their disagreement with him.  Frost’s initial work, Misplaced Hope: The Origins of First and Second Century Eschatology (2002, Second Edition, 2006 Bi-Millennial Publishing), sold over four thousand units.  While arguing for the Reformation understanding of sola Scriptura as defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith, Frost’s book launched a heavily footnoted argument for a total reassessment of the doctrine known as the Second Coming of Christ.  The conclusion was that the events of the war of the Jewish nation against their Roman overlords in 66-70 C.E. formed the New Testament authors’ eschatological outlook, and went no further than their own first century generation; a view otherwise known as “full” or "hyper" Preterism.  Internationally recognized Evangelical author and speaker, Steve Wohlberg remarked, ‘On the “preterist” side today…we have such influential leaders as Gary DeMar, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., David Chilton, R.C. Sproul, Max King, James Stuart Russell, Samuel M. Frost, and John Noe.  To these scholars…the beast is not on the horizon, he’s dead” (Italics, his)” (End Time Delusions, Destiny Image Publishers, 2004, page 133).  It should be noted that only Noe, King and Frost supported the “full” Preterist position. Thomas Ice and co-author of the best selling Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye, quote Frost’s work, Misplaced Hope, as well in their book, The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming under Attack (Harvest House Publishers, 2003, page 40).  Dr. Jay E. Adams, who single handedly launched “a revolution” in Christian Counseling with his work, Competent to Counsel: An Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling, (1970, Zondervan), also wrote an analysis of Frost’s work in Preterism: Orthodox or Unorthodox? (Ministry Monographs for Modern Times, INS Publishing, 2004).  Adams wrote of Misplaced Hope as a "useful, scholarly work" (p.6 - though he disagreed with the overall thesis).  Dr. Charles E. Hill, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, wrote of Misplaced Hope that Frost, “attacks the problem of the early church in a much more thoroughgoing way than I have seen” (When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper Preterism, Ed. Keith Mathison, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2003, ‘Eschatology in the Wake of Jerusalem’s Fall’ p. 110-ff.).  There were several other works as well that took the scholarship of Frost seriously, like Ergun Caner in The Return of Christ: A Premillennial Perspective, Eds., Steve W. Lemke and David L. Allen (B&H Publishing, 2011). Because of the controversial nature of Frost’s conclusions on these matters, it was difficult to find a denomination within the Church-at-Large to work in terms of pastoral ministry.  That situation changed when Samuel was called by a Bible study group in Saint Petersburg, Florida to found a congregation.  Christ Covenant Church was established in 2002 operating under the principles outlined by Presbyterian historian James Bannerman’s work, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, original, 1869).  By-Laws and a Constitution were drawn up in the strictest manner for what was considered an “Independent” establishment of a Presbyterian Church, granted that a “call” was received and recognized by Presiding Elders duly ordained from existing and recognized denominations.  Two Elders, one ordained in the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Mike Delores), and another ordained in the Presbyterian Church of America (Dr. Kelly N. Birks, now deceased) tested and reviewed the call, ordaining Samuel on October 20th, 2002, the Twenty Second Sunday after Trinity.  Proper forms were submitted to Tallahassee, Florida with the stamp of a Notary Public Witness.  Christ Covenant Church (CCC) functioned as a local church for five years with a congregation as large as 30 members.  Frost was gaining recognition after Misplaced Hope had been published in January of that year, and conferences were hosted that included debates with another prominent "full" Preterist educator, Don K. Preston.  CCC hosted best-selling authors, Thomas Ice, and Mark Hitchcock from Dallas Theological Seminary; and Dr. James B. Jordan (Westminster Theological Seminary), well-known author/pastor in Reformed theological circles.  Frost was invited for the next several years to speak at over 25 conferences nation-wide, was featured in articles and an appearance on local news in Tampa for one of CCC’s conferences.  The Evangelical Theological Society also invited Samuel to speak at the Philadelphia conference (Frost is currently a Member of ETS as well as Society of Biblical Literature). During this time Samuel had submitted one more book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection of the Dead (TruthVoice, 2008; repr. JaDon Publishing, 2010); and co-wrote, House Divided: A Reformed Response to When Shall These Things Be? (Vision International, 2010).  Frost also wrote several Forewords for up and coming authors who were influenced by his teaching materials, as well as cited many times in books, lectures and academic papers.  However, because of certain aspects of Hermeneutics and Frost’s undaunted commitment to scholarship (with always a strong emphasis on the personal nature of devotional living to Christ), several challenges to the "hyper" Preterist view he espoused finally gave way, largely due to the unwavering commitment to Samuel by the Dean of Whitefield Theological Seminary, Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, who continually challenged him.  In what shocked the "hyper" Preterist world, Samuel announced after the Summer of 2010 that he was in serious error, and departed the movement as a whole, along with Jason Bradfield, now Assistant Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Florida .  Christ Covenant Church had dissolved after 2007 while Samuel continued as a public speaker and writer, largely due to reasons that would unravel Frost’s commitment to "hyper" Preterism as a whole. The documentation of Frost’s departure was published by American Vision’s Founder, Gary DeMar, with a Foreword by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry.  Why I Left Full Preterism (AV Publishing, 2012) quickly ran through its first run.  The book was later republished under the arm of Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry and is sold today (GoodBirth Ministries Publishing, 2019; though still available in Kindle form from American Vision).  Dr. Gentry also gave mention to Frost in his book, Have We Missed the Second Coming: A Critique of Hyper Preterism (Victorious Hope Publishing, 2016), noting him as "one of the most prominent" teachers within Full Preterism (135).  Dr. Keith Mathison, Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida, endorsed the book as well.  Samuel has gone on to write, Daniel: Unplugged (McGahan Publishing House, 2021); The Parousia of the Son of Man (Lulu Publishing, 2019); God: As Bill Wilson Understood Him, A Theological Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous (Lulu Publishing, 2017).  He is also active as a certified Chaplain with the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana, and enrolled with ICAADA (Indiana Counselor’s Association on Alcohol and Drug Abuse), and worked directly under Dr. Dennis Greene, Founder of Christian Counseling and Addictions Services, Inc., for a year.  Frost’s passion is in the education of the local church on various issues and occasionally works with Pastor Alan McCraine with the First Presbyterian Church in Lewisville, Indiana, and Bethel Presbyterian Church, Knightstown, Indiana, where he periodically is called upon to give the sermon. Samuel, with his wife, Kimberly, helped to establish Heaven’s Bread Basket food pantry that donates food items to local families in need once a month – a ministry of the Session of First Presbyterian Church, Lewisville, Indiana. Samuel also works part time at Ace Hardware in New Castle, Indiana for several years.  He has a solid, family reputation in the community, and has performed local marriages and funerals.  He also sits on the Board of the Historical Preservation Committee in New Castle. Recently, he has completed his two year quest for a Th.D from Christian Life School of Theology Global, Georgia.

6 thoughts on “Is the end near?”

  1. Wow, good work here brother. I enjoyed the reading. I have to look more into the suggested life setting for Mark 14:38. The time of trial here looks naturally to reflect on Jesus’s trial and those of his immediate followers. We can generalize to all Christians, but it’s difficult to tie it down to conflicts during the Jewish Revolts and the disputes over whether Christians should stay and fight in the war. By extension, if it’s more general then it could be applied here, but I’m not sure this was Mark’s intention. These are my initial thoughts anyways. The support drawn from Mark 13 makes sense, but this also assumes that Mark is not writing after 70 CE and so using Mark 14:38 more generally.

    Thanks for sharing the reflection on Christ’s present rulership and future expectation too. Of course, the idea of present rule is consistent with either futurism or preterism about bible prophecy, but the notion of future expectation is only consistent with futurism or partial preterism. So, there’s room to disagree about the handling of the time texts for orthodox Christians. I appreciate the suggested interpretations. I do not see why we should read each cited text in the same way, apart from trying to get out of a bind, but I understand the claims. The whole discussion is presented clearly and persuasively.

    Thanks for bringing Gibson’s work to my attention too. I’ll be reading up when time permits. Staying busy with work and research/writing.

    God Bless Always.

    Brothers in Christ,
    Elton Hollon

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  2. Oh, I recall some prior research I conducted on the trial narrative in Mark. It looks like Jesus’ trial is meant to provide an example for how Christians should respond at trial, ‘he gave the good confession’. I found a parallel between Peter’s three denials and the three times Christians are asked to denounce Christ in Pliny’s letter to Trajan (112 CE). Since there’s a thematic and numerical connection between Mark 14:38, the trial narrative, and the procedure described by Pliny, I hypothesize that the testing in Mark 14:38 likely encourages Christians during times both of real trials and internal conflict, since the judicial settings would give rise to internal conflicts when Christians are asked to deny Christ at trial. So, I’m not sure the objective-subjective distinction is helpful.

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  3. Come to think of it, the emerging pattern looks like Roman trials in the 60s viz Nero’s great conflagration, the 70s in Mark, the 90s in John (who also has three denials by Peter in the trial narrative), and the 110s in Pliny. This is probably not a coincidence. It looks like the concern is with real Roman trials against Christians and not specifically an admonition against joining the resistance during the Jewish Revolts. You can probably tie it in the way Gibson does, but the primary or initial concern seems to be confessing Christ and staying strong during Roman trials when Christians were routinely asked to deny Christ three times. If they did not, they were executed.

    Well, these are the sources and reasoning I found relevant in identifying the sociological context for the trials and three confessions. Hopefully some of it will be helpful in your research.

    Brothers in Christ,
    Elton

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