By Samuel M. Frost, Th.D.
In my recent debate with Stacey Turbeville, he entirely did not answer the objection I raised against his insistence that he, a Full Preterist, still “preaches the Gospel.” Indeed, a good deal of Full Preterists claim to preach the Gospel today, even though “all things” have been “fulfilled”.
However, what I brought up was the fact that Paul stated that his Gospel message included the doctrine of the Day of Judgment. In Romans 2.5, we find Paul speaking of, “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” In 2.16 he wrote, “on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” What happens on this day? “God will give to each person according to what he has done” (2.6).
The phrase, “God will give to each person according to his deeds” is found in Job 34.11; Psalm 62.12; Proverbs 24.12; Jeremiah 32.19; Revelation 2.23; Revelation 20.12,13. The context of Proverbs 24.12 has long been regarded as Paul’s thought, as it states, “If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” Indeed, Jesus stated, “I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts. And I will give to every one of you according to your works” (Revelation 2.23).
For Paul, then, this “Day of God’s Wrath” and “Day of Judgement” is when God will judge the “secrets” of our hearts, of every human being. It is the Day pictured in Revelation 20 – the End. Up until this point, Paul wrote, “Do you suppose, O man – you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself – that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2.3-4). It is here that he mentions, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (2.5). At the end of this thought is, “as my Gospel declares” (2.16).
We find the exact same message in Paul’s preaching of the “Gospel” to the non-Jews, i.e., the Greeks, in Acts 17.22-ff. There he says concerning God’s patience and longsuffering, all people “should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17.27). Indeed, God is “near”; not “far”. And then he says this: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17.30). Note this: in times of ignorance, God overlooked. He exercised patience and forbearance, which leads to repentance. He wrote the same sentiment in Romans 3.25, “because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed.” Indeed. God has shown grace and patience, bringing people to repentance and salvation. He has not brought about the Day in which “each man will give an account for his deeds.” The Last Day.
But, Paul continues his “gospel” message in Acts 17: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17.30-31).
Thus, we can see the clear message: Patience and Grace brings repentance – and in repentance God “overlooks” sins and ignorance, and does not bring “the Day” of eternal judgment. However, “because” of the resurrection of the man, Christ Jesus, Paul can plainly announce, “he has fixed a Day in which he shall judge the world”. When he will “give to each man according to his works.” This, Paul concludes, “as my Gospel declares.”
So, why is it that Paul is so firm and certain that this Day will come? “Because” that Day will be the Day of the resurrection of the Just and Unjust, the resurrection of the dead (2 Corinthians 5.10), as John saw in the vision given to him by Jesus: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing in the presence of the throne. And the books were opened: and another book was opened, which was the book of life. And the dead were judged by those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20.12). That Day will be the Day of Resurrection. However, Jesus, the First Fruits of the Resurrection, has been (and remains as) the First Immortal Man to receive the glorification of justification in resurrection – that is, Jesus of Nazareth demonstrates that the resurrection of the dead is not some pipe dream; some never-to-be-realized hope. Rather, his resurrection demonstrates the end of God’s design for God’s People: glorification and immortality; eternal, indestructible life. What Paul is arguing is plain to see: If God raised this man from the dead, then he shall raise all from the dead; his resurrection is the guarantee of the resurrection of the dead on the Day of Judgment.
What this also means is that God, until that Day, demonstrates patience, grace, and mercy, which brings about repentance generation after generation until his “wrath” and “judgement” in “that Day” comes. When that Day occurs, the patience of God, and the love of God as demonstrated in a sin sick, evil infested “world” will be made “complete” in his people. From that Day onward, the love of God will be made fully manifest in his people, and his people shall fully love him from their hearts…without the slightest interruption of sin.
Therefore, the Gospel of Paul – the Gospel – includes within it the message of the Day of Judgment to come, when God will render to each human being according to their deeds; those he deems Just, and Unjust. The severity of this Judgment Day is directly in comparison with the kindness and richness of his grace now demonstrated to mankind, putting up with their evil, and sin, letting them flourish, and live so that they may find him, for now he is very near, and not far away. He is nearer now in the man, Christ Jesus, who came down from heaven and became flesh, and is now talked about all over the world. The love of Jesus Christ manifested in the world through the Gospel contains within it the plea to a sin-sick world: Repent! Come to the Waters of Life! Be forgiven of your sins! Let the Spirit dwell in your mortal bodies, before these very bodies are raised to appear before him in Judgment. The gift is free of charge! Confess the man, Jesus of Galilee as Risen Lord! Place your allegiance to Him! Join in with those being gathered together upon Him! And love one another as he has loved you! Do you think you will escape the Judgment of God? No man will escape the day: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5.10).
It is quite plain, then, that this Day has not yet occurred. It was not 70 AD, either! That notion, laid aside the message contained in Paul’s Gospel, is ludicrous. And, for the Full Preterist, if you say you continue to “preach the Gospel”, does it include what Paul’s did: “the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel”? If that “Day” has already come and gone, then what Gospel are you preaching? A Gospel message without the coming Day of Judgment is no Gospel at all. The logic is inescapable.
By Samuel M. Frost, Th.D.