Preston Takes the Bait

By Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

In my article, ‘Another Full Preterist Fallacy Faulted’, written here on my blog, Don Preston, leading teacher of Full Preterism, responds, and, as I predicted plays the “shell game”.  First off, let it be known that Preston has no kind words to say concerning my leaving the heresy known as Full Preterism.  “In reality, the problem was that Frost could not bring himself to jettison church history and the creeds. He chose the works of men over the Word of God.”  This is simply false, and thoroughly documented since my departure years ago, and also in my book, Why I Left Full Preterism.  It’s a blatant, false accusation.

Be that as it is, and it is, Preston boldly issues his own downfall: “Frost well knows that it is impossible to refute Covenant Eschatology without negating the force of Jesus’ emphatic words.”  Catch that.  If the words of Jesus in question (Matthew 5.17-18) do not support Preston’s claims, covenant eschatology (i.e., Full Preterism) is negated.  This passage of Scripture is a lynch pin.  If Preston’s claims about it are false, then his Covenant Eschatology is also false.  It all stands on what Preston believes are Jesus’ claims here.

Now, let us begin.  The first thing to note is our agreement.  In a previously written entry on Facebook I more or less, though far more brief than my article, stated the same conclusions.  To that Preston responded.  Here are Preston’s own words:

“Frost says: “Jesus said the Law and the Prophets, which, as can easily be shown, can mean the entire Hebrew Bible, with all of its promises, prophecies, psalms, laws, proverbs, histories and the like.

“Response: Thank you, Mr. Frost! This is precisely accurate, but, that means that until “the entire Hebrew Bible with all of its promises, prophecies, psalms, laws, proverbs, histories and the like” was fulfilled, not one jot or one tittle of the entire Hebrew Bible could pass. That is, after all, what the Lord said: “Not one jot or one tittle shall pass from the law until it is ALL fulfilled.”

So, let it be known to all that the phrase, “The Law and the Prophets” stands for “the entire Hebrew Bible.”  “Bible” (Greek, biblios, simple means a “written book”).  Further, again from Preston’s own words:

“Frost says: “If we take Jesus’ second mention of “the Law” to mean an ellipsis (a shortening) of the antecedent “Law or the Prophets”, then what he is saying is simply repeated: not one stroke will not come to pass from the Law and Prophets until heaven and earth disappear.

“Response: Thank you again, Mr. Frost! Jesus said “not one stroke will not come to pass from the Law and Prophets until heaven and earth disappear.” Jesus was saying– the words are emphatic– “not one jot or one tittle of the law shall pass until it is all fulfilled.”

So, again, Preston agrees with me that even the phrase, “the Law” stands for, elliptically, the entire Hebrew Bible.  Please keep this in mind, and please keep in mind that so far, Preston and Frost are in total agreement.   The “Law and the Prophets” and “the Law” both stand for the entire Hebrew Bible from Genesis to Malachi.  I am not misquoting Preston, not twisting his words, not making him say something he isn’t.  In fact, he thanks me!

Now, watch this.  In his most recent attack on the historic faith, ‘The Passing of the Law of Moses and Sam Frost’s Increasing Desperation #1,’ Preston, right out of the gate, moves the shell on the unsuspecting observer: “Not one jot or one tittle of the Law of Moses could pass until it was all fulfilled, brought to pass, fully accomplished,” he says.  Did you catch that shift?  Jesus did not say, “the law of Moses”.  He said, “the law” and “the law and the prophets” – which we already seen above that Preston equates with the entire Hebrew Bible!  Now, I am not at all saying the laws of Moses are not included, since they are in the Hebrew Bible, and the entire Hebrew Bible can also be called for short, ‘the law.’  It’s like Christians saying, “the word of God” when meaning “the Bible”.  But, God did not utter every word in the Bible (although he inspired them).  Daniel’s words, David’s words, and Nebuchadnezzar’s words are in the Bible, the word of God.  Likewise, the “laws of Moses” make up roughly four books (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).  There are 613 to be exact.  Was Jesus just speaking of these commandments and these commandments only?  Hardly.  And Preston, as seen clearly above, agrees.

Preston then issues the challenge: “The Law of Moses contained prophecies of the resurrection, the judgment, the end of the age and the coming of Christ.  Therefore, until the resurrection, the judgment, the end of the age and the coming of Christ took place, not one jot or one tittle of the Law of Moses could pass.”  One can only shake their head at the shell game going on here.  The entire eschatological catalogue are contained in the 613 commandments (the laws of Moses)!  What happened the Prophets?  As in, “the law and the prophets”, and “the entire Hebrew Bible”?  Preston follows with blind allegiance to the idea that the entire Hebrew Bible, every jot and tittle, is the old covenant.  This is about as false as saying my mother makes horrible ham and beans!

Again, Preston smuggles in his premise: “You cannot have the passing of the law of Moses without the fulfillment of the resurrection, the judgment, the end of the age and the coming of Christ.”  This is, of course, based upon his already proven to be erroneous claims.  In fact, what he is saying is the direct opposite of what Jesus said, as we will show.  His second false premise is based on the first: “If the resurrection, the judgment, the end of the age and the coming of Christ have not taken place, every jot and every tittle of the Law of Moses remains valid and binding.”  This, again, is patently false based on what we both agreed upon above.  He smuggles in this word “valid” (i.e., in full force to be obeyed).  Jesus did not say, “the law of Moses remains in full force until they are fulfilled.”  He said, “the law shall not disappear (pass away).”  Apparently, Preston takes “disappear” to mean “in full force until”, which is simply false.  The word “disappear” means “disappear” – gone, vanished, out of here.  And, if Preston is correct, none of the jots and tittles of the entire Hebrew Bible have any force since, in his fanciful argument, all was “accomplished” in 70 A.D.!

Now, I must comment that Preston also misunderstands my own argument when he wrote, “In other words, every single stroke of the pen of the Law and the prophets would remain valid until every thing in the Law and the prophets would be accomplished” (surmising my argument).  But, I did not say that.  “Remain valid” is not in my article, anywhere.  Preston is under the spell that unless every prophecy is fulfilled, then every prophecy is remains valid.  But, again, this is patently absurd, for as even he admits: “I agree with Frost when he observes that Jesus’ words, of necessity, mean that what had to be fulfilled, in the future from when Jesus spoke, were the prophecies and elements of the Law that had not yet been fulfilled when he spoke. After all, when Jesus spoke these words, some prophecies of the Law had already been fulfilled, i.e. his Virgin birth among others.”  Well, hallelujah!  If SOME have been fulfilled, but not ALL, then ALL will NOT DISAPPEAR until ALL are fulfilled.  Strict, pure, syllogistic logic.  Therefore, if the “covenant” made with Moses (just one covenant out of many) is set aside because it was fulfilled, and since the one covenant made with Moses is not EVERY jot and tittle of the entire Hebrew Bible, then it follows on hard logic that the fulfillment of the laws of Moses is NOT the accomplishment of EVERY jot and tittle that comprises the Law and the Prophets (the entire Hebrew Bible).  Preston confuses the promises (made before the covenant of Moses, and after the covenant of Moses) with the setting aside of the covenant of Moses.  The author of Hebrews goes out of his way to show that this is not the case at all.

Allow me to continue this point of either the shell game, confusion, or both on Preston’s part: “He said, “The least stroke of the pen of the Law and Prophets remains until all things concerning them are ‘accomplished.’” (p. 2 of 13). In other words, every single stroke of the pen of the Law and the prophets would remain valid until every thing in the Law and the prophets would be accomplished.”  See that?  I wrote, “remains” and he added “remain valid.”  That’s con artistry.  Another example: “Frost well realizes that if he follows the logic of his own words, and the words of the text of Matthew 5, that Torah remains valid today– every single jot and tittle.”  This is what Preston wants the reader to think, but the only way Preston can reach this false conclusion is by smuggling in his own definitions and words into my argument!

He then quotes scholars, none of which would agree to his radical conclusions, and cherry picks a few quotes (as I used to do) to support his claims.  I guess we are lead to believe that none of the Hebrews knew what “heaven and earth” meant!  Abraham was asked to look at the heavens, the stars and number them, and walk the earth, and wherever his foot stepped on earth, was his.  I guess this is all symbolic of the temple!  I digress.  But, quoting scholars is a moot point with Full Preterists such as Preston, for whoever he quotes, whether France, Gumerlock, Wright, Beale, or Hays makes no difference.  For me, as for them, we have worshipped at the feet of false doctrine instead of Preston’s Covenant Eschatology.  And, it makes me chuckle a bit when Preston accuses me of “inventing” and “creating” a “novel view.”  Ahem.  Max King, anyone?  If Preston could simply state his own battle with his own words and stop pretending that the “scholars” are all behind him (which they are not).   What does he need the “scholars” for anyway?  Doesn’t he have his Bible?

Let’s back up here.  Preston, in the beginning of this article, clearly in his own words, thanked me for saying that the Law and the Prophets made up the entire canon of the Hebrew Bible.  The, he turns right around and equates all jots and tittles with the “laws of Moses” only.  Then, since the laws of Moses are no longer in full force today (or after the cross and resurrection of Christ in view of the millions of mislead scholars), then all the promises are fulfilled, too.  Folks, this is the old shell game.  It’s sophistry.  Jesus was not saying at all what Preston is forcing him to say.  This is another reason why Theonomy (i.e., Greg Bahnsen) never caught hold.  It’s not what Jesus was saying.  Very simply, Jesus said that HE came to accomplish EVERY SINGLE jot and tittle of the entire Hebrew Bible that, up to his own day, had not yet been accomplished.  That heaven and earth will not pass away, that not ONE jot and tittle of the sacred text will DISAPPEAR, until he accomplished all.  NO prophecy has “disappeared”.  They are all there for all to read.  No law of Moses has disappeared.  They are all there for all to read, every jot and tittle of the text (for that’s what a jot and tittle are – swipes of a pen on paper).  However, just as some prophecies have been fulfilled (as even Preston admits), does not mean that they remain VALID, or in force.  How could they?  They are fulfilled!  Have they disappeared?  No.  Are they still valid and in force?  No, they are fulfilled.  Therefore, a prophecy can REMAIN fulfilled, yet not in force precisely because it is fulfilled.  It will REMAIN (not disappear) until ALL of them are fulfilled, and then ALL of them will disappear together.

Hopefully, Preston will continue to respond, and I will continue to offer up the proper defense which as stood the test of time over and against his novel, made up, and invented “covenant eschatology.”

Analysis of Matthew 5:17-18

By Samuel M. Frost, Th. M.

“”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” – Jesus.

1.1 Several things can be readily seen from this text before we begin to offer an interpretation.  “To fulfill” the Law or the Prophets, is the opposite of “to abolish”.  Second, heaven and earth “disappearing” and the “disappearing” of the least stroke from the Law and the Prophets are coincident.  Therefore, the fulfilling of the Law and the Prophets is a “disappearance.”  The fulfilling will cause disappearance, but not abolishment (this would involve a contradiction).  The Law and the Prophets remain until heaven and earth disappear, which, whenever and whatever that means, logically implies that they, too, will disappear along with the heavens and the earth.  Also, whatever “fulfill” means, the Law and the Prophets will no longer stand in need of such, but will have been entirely exhausted as to their purpose or need of continued fulfillment.

1.2  The least stroke of the pen of the Law and the Prophets will, eventually, “disappear” (that is, because they are fulfilled).  Heaven and earth will also “disappear.”

The final phrase, “all is accomplished” is coincident with the “disappearance” and the “fulfillment”.

Based off a strictly literary reading, adding no context or interpretation, but solely taking the syntax and logic of the grammatical construct, we can say that the disappearance, all is accomplished, and the fulfillment are when the Law and the Prophets and heaven and earth disappear, are accomplished, and fulfilled.

1.3  The heavens and the earth are not the Law and the Prophets.  They are in relation to each other in that whatever the heavens and the earth are, they stand in relation to the Law and the Prophets in terms of the latter’s being fulfilled.  That is, when the Law and the Prophets are fulfilled, then the heavens and the earth will disappear so that two things are seen as “disappearing”: A, the Law and the Prophets, and B, The heavens and the earth.  Fulfilling the law and the prophets causes their disappearance and the disappearance of the heavens and the earth.

The least stroke of the pen of the Law and the Prophets remains until all things concerning them are “accomplished.”  That means, not one word of them is ever abolished (destroyed), and neither is one word caused to “disappear” until “all things are accomplished” in them.

Not one word of the Law and the Prophets are caused to disappear until heaven and earth disappear, which will happen when all things contained in the Law and Prophets disappear.  This will happen when all the words, the least strokes, of the Law and the Prophets are “fulfilled.”  Thus A will happen which in turn causes B to happen.  A is not the same thing as B, but both stand in an inseparable relationship of cause and effect.

2.1 The way the text is structured, a cause and effect relationship between A and B, is based on the content of the Law and the Prophets which stand in need of “fulfillment.”  This brings us to consider the third syntactical relationship which further highlights the contingency.

3.1  The least stroke of the pen of the Law and the Prophets is in parallel with “all is accomplished.”  “All” stands grammatically to “All” (down to the least stroke) presumably “written” in the Law and the Prophets (we can infer this from the fact that “pen” infers “words on a page” or “paper”, which comprises the Law and the Prophets).  Further, we can also infer that the disappearance of the heavens and the earth is included in what the strokes of the pen of the Law and the Prophets say.  That is, the Law and the Prophets contain within them the fact that the heavens and earth will disappear.  If this were not the case, then heaven and earth disappearing has nothing to do with the disappearance of the least stroke.  However, if the strokes of a pen contained within them the disappearance of the heaven and earth, then when one is fulfilled or accomplished, so is the other.  When the strokes of the pen of the Law and the Prophets are caused to disappear then along with that are the heavens and the earth.  They both stand and disappear together, one causing the other.

4.1  The Law and the Prophets are to be brought to their fullest end before they disappear, along with the heavens and the earth.  Until this, the words of the Law and the Prophets remain.

4.2 “All is accomplished” means, by strict inference, not “all is accomplished” yet (at the time of Jesus speaking).  However, contained in the Law and the Prophets are many “fulfilled” prophecies.  That is, prophecies that have been announced before hand, then at a later time, “fulfilled”. Therefore, not all that is within the Law and the Prophets stands in need to be fulfilled.  Also, by deduction, “all is accomplished” pertains to what still stands in need of being fulfilled.  Another way of saying this, then, would be, “I have not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill what remains left to be fulfilled.  Til heaven and earth disappear, not one jot or tittle of the Law and the Prophets will disappear.”  That is, then, saying that since many prophecies have been already fulfilled, the jots and tittles of the entire contents of the Law and the Prophets will still remain – until every prophecy is fulfilled to its fullest, those prophecies which remain in need to be fulfilled, then every prophecy will still remain (will not disappear, in spite of the fact that many of them have been fulfilled).  That is, even the fulfilled prophecies will not disappear until every single prophecy that remains unfulfilled is fulfilled, also.  “All” stands in direct relation to “one” – “not one jot or tittle of the law and prophets will disappear until all, every jots and tittles be accomplished.”

4.3  I may speak analogously here and say, “the bottle of wine will not disappear until every last drop is drank.”  Some of the wine has been drunk.  But not all of it.  Therefore, the whole bottle remains until every drop is drank.  Jesus is stating the obvious. He is not going to do anything out of line with the Scriptures (the Law and the Prophets).  Even what may appear to be in contradistinction with Moses, and even in setting aside Moses’ law, he is fulfilling what the Law (Moses) and the Prophets said.  We may gather from this, then, that Jesus had a supreme regard for the Scriptures.  They must be fulfilled.  The passing of heaven and earth with the passing/disappearance of the Law and the Prophets means that the very fabric of the heavens and the earth depend on the Word of God.  The Word of God upholds the heavens and the earth.  Second, the emphasis should not be on anything else other than the admission that He was going to bring about their fulfillment.  Jesus is, in effect, placing upon Himself the burden of fulfilling the Word of God – bringing it to its fullest meaning and expression in all of its purpose and intent.  This is a radical claim, claimed by no other Prophet, not even Moses who looked ahead to one greater than even himself.  Jesus, in fulfilling all that is left to be fulfilled is also announcing the disappearance of the heavens and the earth, and the disappearance of the Scriptures, for they will have served their purpose, and will have been so thoroughly exhausted that not one jot or tittle will be in need to stand.  The jots and tittles of the Law and the Prophets will disappear.  Heaven and earth will disappear.  All will have been accomplished – every jot and tittle.  Some prophecies have already been accomplished, yet heaven and earth, and the appearance of all the jots and tittles (in contrast to their disappearance) still remain.  The Scriptures are still here, in full display.  The jots and tittles are still here.  We read them daily, even the fulfilled jots and tittles.  This means that not every jot and tittle has been fulfilled, and, therefore, not ONE jot or tittle will disappear until every jot and tittle is fulfilled.  The Scriptures, then, stand as a witness and testimony to themselves.

4.4  There are four words here that need addressed.  “Destroy”, “Fulfill”, “Disappear” and “accomplished.”  The first we may note is the opposite of the other three.  Jesus’ mission is not at all an attempt of destroying the Law or the Prophets.  Rather, he has come to “fulfill”, bring in their fullness.  Fulfill and “accomplish”, then, are parallel terms.  Destroy and “disappear” are antithetical terms, and there is no negative connotation to be derived from the disappearance of the Law and the Prophets, that is, the writings, for we infer this from the “least stroke of the pen” or “jot and tittle.”  “Destroy” is the only negative term, and Jesus’ mission is not this.  That is, when all is accomplished, the Law and the Prophets will “disappear”, “pass away”.  The materiality of the written form will eventually pass away, as will the materiality of the heavens and the earth, for they will have served their purpose and that purpose will have been entirely accomplished; exhausted.  In another place, the author uses the same expression: “The heaven and the earth shall disappear, but my words shall not disappear” (24.25).  Jesus’ words are contrasted with what disappears.  His word sustains all things, holds all things together, and with his words all things pertaining to the heavens and the earth and the Law and the Prophets will eventually disappear.

Interpretation

By a close examination of the words of Jesus they denote that his mission was not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, and by this phrase we mean the Hebrew Scriptures themselves.  The form of the Scriptures is what is to be noticed here, inferred from the explicit mention of “jots and tittles” – written strokes of Hebrew letters on paper.  The audience in Jesus’ time were focused on the scrolls found in their synagogues – the Law and the Prophets is an abbreviated phrase meaning to convey the entirety of the Hebrew corpus.  Elsewhere, even the phrase, “the law” was an elliptical form to denote the entirety of the written word, the scrolls (or whatever form they had).  It is interesting, perhaps, that grammatically, the opening phrase, “think not” or “do not think” may imply that many were thinking that he had come to do away with the Scriptures.  It certainly lends itself to the idea that Jesus may have appeared to be doing just that.  But, the author of Matthew uses a host of quotations and allusions to the Scriptures to show that Jesus was, indeed, fulfilling them, not destroying them.  In this sense, it may seen that Jesus is pointing to the fact that He is the One to fulfill, and that he will not destroy the Scriptures.  It also means that the Scriptures contain all that he will fulfill in terms of his mission and reign, from beginning to end.  Jesus is not fulfilling something entirely foreign to the Scriptures or not mentioned in them, for if that were that case, Scriptures would not be able to attest and prove  that he is accomplishing all things contained therein.  The Church must know what he is doing at all times, and what he will do in terms of the revelation of the jots and tittles (the written word).

If, say, he did destroy them, what would that look like?  It would have to mean that if, say, Scripture X said thus and thus was to happen, and Jesus came and did not fulfill it, but rather, set it aside so that it would not be fulfilled, ever, then he has in effect destroyed it.  The function of prophecy is in its remaining until fulfilled state.  That is, it is not complete, or full.  If Jesus said that Scripture X will not be fulfilled, then he would have been destroying it – putting it out of commission – cutting off its life.  However, when a Scripture is fulfilled, it has reached its purpose and is completed.

This has already been stated in that many prophecies have been fulfilled in the past in the Hebrew Scriptures, and there is no shortage of examples. Many of the prophecies, for example, contained in Isaiah have been fulfilled, directed as they were to the surrounding nations and to Israel and Jerusalem.  The point I wish to make, which is often missed, is that Isaiah still remains.  Isaiah, the text, the jots and tittles, have not disappeared even though many of his prophecies have, in fact, been accomplished.  Many still, at least as the author of Matthew uses them, were fulfilled by John the Baptist, and Jesus’ birth, etc.  Jesus was fulfilling them.  There will be no more expectations concerning the birth of the Chosen One.  That prophecy is fulfilled, accomplished.  Yet, the written text of Isaiah has not disappeared.  Neither has the Law, Genesis, or Job.  The jots and the tittles, the written form of the text of the Hebrew Scriptures will not disappear, until all of the jots and tittles are fulfilled, accomplished.  Then, they will disappear, pass away – which is a far more respectful word to use.  When the Scriptures have reached their fullest measure, there will no longer be any more need for them.  This is no way denigrates their authority or supreme importance, but rather upholds them in the highest expression that they must be entirely fulfilled before the heavens and the earth themselves pass away.

Having discussed the prophecies, we may now move on to the Law, which again is an all encompassing term, or may, more specifically, refer to the laws of Moses as found in the covenant God made with Israel through Moses.  It is here, perhaps, that Jesus could have easily been interpreted by his actions that he was setting aside the covenant with Moses for the Nation and People of Israel (see Deuteronomy 5.1-ff). He certainly took a strong and antagonistic aim towards the Pharisees, the guardians of the Law.  And, on the night he was betrayed, he announced at the Paschal Feast (Passover), the new covenant, cut in his own blood and body.  This fact had extremely serious implications for the covenant made with Moses, the people of Israel as a whole and their destiny.  This announcement, and the following way in which the death of Jesus was interpreted (again, appealing to the prophecies and their fulfillments), would indeed set aside the need for the sacrificial system of the covenant of Moses.  Was this to be seen as destroying the law?  Not at all.  It is fulfilling the Law.  The Law demanded blood on behalf of the penitent.  The Law demanded a sacrifice for the broken hearted.  The Law demands faith.  It demands a High Priest, and Altar, Cherubim, the angelic hosts, the acceptance of the sacrifice and the forgiveness of sins.  It demands a location, Jerusalem, and it equally demands a Temple.  Without going into the wealth of the New Covenant Scriptures (commonly called the New Testament), this is how they saw the ministry of Jesus on earth and now ascended into heaven.  Jesus could not be accused of destroying the Law of Moses, yet he most certainly announced and commanded that its form under the rubrics of how its practices were carried out under Moses’ covenant be set aside.  Not set aside because there was no alternative, but precisely because there was an alternative in the fullness of what Jesus accomplished and who Jesus is.  Jesus did not say, “you do not have to sacrifice animals any longer.  I am setting aside that commandment, that jot and tittle.”  Rather, “I am fulfilling that jot and tittle Moses commanded you, and giving you the fullness of what those jots and tittles pointed to.  The jots and tittles of the Law will not disappear, they will remain for all to read until I have fulfilled even everything concerning the Law and the Prophets.”  As we have already seen with prophecy, the fulfillment of multiple prophecies does not mean they disappear at that moment.  They remain because there are other jots and tittles that equally need to be fulfilled that have not yet been fulfilled.  Therefore, all the jots and tittles will remain – will not disappear ­until all of them are accomplished.  Heaven and earth will remain until this is accomplished.

Therefore, we need not marvel over the fact that the Mosaic Covenant has indeed been fulfilled in the implementing of the New Covenant through the blood of Jesus. Jesus was not saying that the Mosaic Covenant remains in force in every jot and tittle “until heaven and earth” pass.  This has lead many believers down a wrong path, thinking that 1.  The Laws of Moses, as they stand written (jots and tittles) remain in force until the heavens and the earth pass away.  Since the heavens and the earth have not passed away, then the laws of Moses remain in force.  This is simply not at all what Jesus is saying and would involve a glaring contradiction in the Apostles’ Gospel, for they hardly enforced the jots and tittles as they stood written upon their non-Jewish converts.  In fact, they did just the opposite.  Did heaven and earth pass?

This second question has brought about another error, more fanciful than the first.  “Heaven and earth” do not mean what every ordinary man and woman in Jesus’ audience would have thought, or what everyone knows the expression to mean today.  Rather, it is a cryptic term, without any explanation in the immediate pericope, used to denote the Herodian Temple/Tabernacle (heaven) and the Land (earth) of Israel.  This reasoning, then, applies the passing of “heaven and earth” to mean the destruction, captivity and exile of the Jewish people from their land at the hands of the Romans and their alliances in 70 C.E.  Yet, this pernicious error is in response to the previous one, for these adherents are entirely at odds with any notion of the laws of Moses, as they stand written (the jots and tittles of the pen on paper), being applied today, or having any significance in terms of New Covenant faith and practice (i.e., Christianity).

Further, since the heaven and the earth passed in 70 C.E., in their reasoning, then the Mosaic Covenant passed as well, which implies that it was in force until such passing.  This is contradicted, however, by the plain evidence of the New Testament itself in the ministry of the Apostles, and, most explicitly in the inauguration of the New Covenant at the Cross of Christ, the night he was betrayed.  Jesus’ sacrifice as the Lamb of God immediately discounted all animal sacrifices “once and for all.”  They had no efficacy whatsoever to God, or man.  They were fulfilled.  But, and here is where the point is often missed, the jots and tittles did not immediately disappear from the Law – the text.  They are still here to this day.  From Jesus’ words, then, we must infer, and indeed can only infer, in order to avoid the two obvious errors above, that the fulfillments of the jots and tittles, the text, the Scriptures, will not disappear until all is accomplished.  All has not yet been accomplished, therefore, the text remains.  Just as all prophecies that have been fulfilled still remain in their written form (jots and tittles) – they have not disappeared – then, too, Jesus was able to fulfill the Mosaic Covenant and set aside its former regulations as they applied to Israel under Moses without the disappearance of them.  By seeing that Jesus has in mind the disappearance of the written text, the written text will not in one jot or tittle disappear until everything in them is fulfilled.  Then heaven and earth will disappear, too.

As hinted at above, the passing of heaven and earth along with the text of Scriptures, the written form (our Bibles, and their various translations, various interpretations, etc.), notes the these two forms stand together.  Heaven and earth are held together by the fulfillments of the written word of God.  Heaven and earth cannot pass away, it is impossible for them to pass away, until the words of God are fulfilled.  This is a staggering thought.  Jesus is the One “through who the ages were made” by his word.  His Word will never disappear, but the heavens and the earth will, along with the written texts of Scripture.  He is the Word of God, living, personal, alive.  He cannot pass away.  His word sustains eternity itself.

In rightly interpreting this saying of Jesus, we are informed that all is not yet accomplished in the redemptive Purpose of God.  Jesus has given us two witnesses to this: the Scriptures and the heavens and the earth have not disappeared.  They will “when all is accomplished.”  Secondly, we avoid the errors of those that seek to place each and every burden of Moses on our shoulders.  Their fulfillment does not mean their disappearing, for the Law, considered as the laws of Moses given to the covenant nation of Israel, do not make up every jot and tittle of the Scriptures.  And, in this interpretation, does not necessarily exclude their principles and applications by the fact that they have not disappeared, and therefore, serve a necessary purpose and function bound up in the accomplishment of every jot and tittle.  We avoid the errors of those who fancifully seek to equate “heaven and earth” with the destruction of the Temple and expulsion from the Land in 70 C.E., for if that is the matter, then the jots and the tittles of the Hebrew Scriptures have “disappeared” – they are exhausted and no longer serve any function.

In effect, then, Jesus said this: “Don’t anyone think, or let anyone tell you that I, Jesus, have come to destroy the Scriptures.  I have not come to destroy them at all, but rather I have come so that they may be fulfilled.  Mark my words, until heaven and earth disappear, not one of the least marks of the Scriptures, or the stroke of a letter made by pen shall disappear from the Scriptures, until every mark and stroke be accomplished.”  And, we may heartily say, “amen” to this for the least mark and the slightest stroke of the Scriptures have not disappeared, and neither has the heaven and the earth.  Many strokes and many marks have been fulfilled, indeed – have been accomplished.  But, not all of them have been, and until all of them are fulfilled, none of them will disappear.

To make this even plainer, if we could visualize Jesus holding scrolls of the synagogue Bible in his hands and saying, “do not think that I have come to strip away from these scrolls, the Law and the Prophets, or take words away from them.  I will not take one word from them, but will fulfill every word of them!  Heaven and earth will not disappear, and not one yod or a hook of a letter will disappear until every one of them are accomplished.”

 

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.

Taking on Don K. Preston’s Jesus

In a recent and rather long, written “debate” with Full Preterist leader and teacher Don K. Preston on Facebook, it has become clear to this theologian that Mr. Preston advocates a different version of Jesus than espoused by the Church.

First, some preliminary remarks.  Mr. Preston teaches a view of Eschatology (or “end times” thought) that is called, Full Preterism.  That is, every single prophecy that can be called a prophecy in the Bible is fulfilled within the generation of Jesus’ original hearers and followers.  The culmination of this was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (and their alliances) in 66-70 A.D.  Much can be said about the importance of this event for biblical interpretation of prophetic events and has been said.  However, by and large, the message Preston brings is rejected within Christendom because it does not do justice to the “purpose of God” (Ephesians 1.11), which is seen as encompassing all human history from beginning to end.  Preston utterly rejects the idea that the Bible anywhere speaks of the end of history or time.  All Christian theology that has come down us and being worked out even today is based on the notion that time and history will end with the Jewish-Christian hope of a new heavens and a new earth (Christianity in Jewish Terms, 2000, Westview Press, xx).

It may seem entirely strange, indeed “bizarre” as one leading theologian put it, that someone professing the Christian faith would argue for such a proposal, but argue it they do.  Although there appears to be no groundswell among its adherents, one would not get that from their constant appeals to the “success all over the world” they claim.  This claim is not the point of my article.  It’s the doctrine of Jesus.  For Preston to make his claim, which in and of itself is outside the pales of orthodoxy for Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodoxy and mainline Evangelical communities, he has to redefine the nature of the Son of God as is commonly understood and believed.

First, then, allow me to define the Nature(s) of the Son of God (or, the Logos – Greek for “Word”).  I will utilize three references so as to show complete unity of doctrine on this matter from Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and mainline Protestant (Evangelical) churches.  First, the Creed of Chalcedon (451 A.D.): “We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body.”  It’s this last part that I wish to point out, “reasonable soul and body.”  This is the Christ that Christians “confess” and believe. This is what is reflected when the Nicene and Apostles’ Creed states, “Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man.”  “Was made man” means, “a reasonable soul and body.”  Greek orthodoxy expresses the same sentiment, and the Westminster Confession, following this tradition-based-on-Scripture does the same, “On the third day He arose from the dead, with the same body in which He suffered, with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of His Father, making intercession, and shall return, to judge men and angels, at the end of the world.”  The phrase, “with which also he ascended into heaven” is to be noted.  Thus, from this brief consideration Jesus, who is worshiped and confessed by the one, Holy Church is a man with a reasonable soul and body, with which body he ascended into heaven and sat at the right hand of the Father.  The God-Man, Two Natures, One Person.  Preston flatly denies this, and as we shall see, mocks it.

Now, to be fair, Preston acknowledges that the Son of God, the Logos, the Eternal, Uncreated Son, who is God the Son, became a human being (“flesh”) and had, had, mind you, a body.  However, this body was “shed” at his ascension recorded in Acts 1, and what remains of his human “nature” is not that which is “of the same substance with his Father according to his Divinity, and of the same substance with us according to his humanity; for there became a union of two natures. Wherefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord.”  As of the “substance” with us, Preston changes this.  The “nature” of Christ as it presently regards his humanity is merely the retaining of the “knowledge and understanding” (memory) of his days in the flesh.

In the “debate” with Mr. Preston I pressed him over and over to answer a question concerning this matter, “did the man, Christ Jesus, die twice?”  Preston would not answer the question but rather went on with pointing out my inconsistencies about all matters eschatological.  In other words, Eschatology, as we shall see, controls the entire doctrinal catalogue of Christian Theology proper.  Everything is read through the lens of Full Preterism.  It’s not that I cannot answer Preston on exegetical matters concerning Eschatology, it’s that in my view, Christology is more important than Eschatology.  If we can’t get WHO we worship correct (Christology), then it matters not about WHAT he has done or will do (Eschatology).  Mormons also say, “Jesus is Lord”, but when you ask them, “Who is Jesus” you get an entirely different answer than you would from the Church.  For Preston, this is not so important as is the matter of Eschatology.  If you get Eschatology wrong, then you get all the other doctrines wrong (and, he admits, as we shall see, that the Church has, basically, got it all pretty much wrong because her Eschatology is, pretty much, all wrong).

Allow me to let Mr. Preston speak for himself.  “I want everyone to pay particular attention here. We have Mr. Frost offering this: “I could care less who you think Babylon is….but, “who do you say that I am?” THAT’S fundamental to me. FAR more important than your eschatology. But, if your eschatology gets you to deny the Continued Incarnation of our Holy Lord, then it is WRONG, period, end of story.””  Yes, I wrote that.  I do not care what Preston thinks concerning his identification of Babylon in Revelation 17.  I do care about the identification of Babylon, just not his, and I note that (which he takes to mean that I have no care at all about who Babylon is in Revelation 17, but that’s not what I said, even in his quote from me!).  From my quote, Preston goes on: “Folks, here we have a man openly– overtly- scoffing at Biblical doctrine and truth. Scoffing and MOCKING the importance of properly understanding the identity of Babylon! Sam Frost does not care who Babylon was, in spite of the fact that I have shown, the coming of the Lord, the judgment and the resurrection were to occur at the destruction of Babylon! So, to mis-identify Babylon is to miss- to negate- to pervert, the Biblical narrative of eschatology! But, Mr. Sam Frost does not care! Instead, all he cares about is MOCKING the Biblical, exegetical arguments about the heavenly existence of Jesus.”  Again, that’s not what I am “mocking” (actually, I am not mocking anything).  I said, I do not care what Preston thinks about his interpretation of Babylon, not about who Babylon is (I have my own opinion on that).  But, Preston is right on this matter: I do care about the mocking of the present heavenly existence of Jesus, who I worship.  Correct.

Preston continues, though, and watch the slide into even greater exaggeration: “HE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT ESCHATOLOGY, AS LONG AS HE CAN HOLD ONTO HIS PRECONCEIVED, MISGUIDED, BUT, CREEDAL!!!- VIEW OF JESUS STILL POSSESSING A PHYSICAL, BODY OF BLOOD, FLESH AND BONE! It is truly a sad day when a man openly says he does not care about what the Bible says about the subject that is mentioned more times than any other subject– eschatology!”  (his words are capped by him).  From “I do not care what you (Preston) think about Babylon” to “Frost does not care about who Babylon is” to “Frost does not care about what the Bible says about Eschatology.”  Somehow, Preston thinks himself of such great importance that to not care what he thinks about a topic is not to care at all about that topic (Babylon), to not caring at all about the entire subject matter (Eschatology) of which that topic is contained!  I can’t make this stuff up.

I’ll let all of that slide, for Preston is prone to self-importance.  In this last quote he admits that my position is, in fact, “creedal.”  Thus, my position, which is in full creedal agreement with the Holy Church, Greek, Roman and Protestant Evangelical on this matter of Jesus’ heavenly existence is “misguided”.  Further, Preston writes, “Mr. Frost says that I MOCK, the doctrine of Christ and his body. No, Mr. Frost, I simply reject your distorted view of Christ’s body.”  My “distorted view of Christ’s body” as it is in heaven is “creedal”.  Therefore, by strict logic, the creedal view is “misguided”, “distorted” and to be “reject[ed].”  This is as clear as an admission as one can get: Preston’s Full Preterism rejects the creedal doctrine of Jesus’ continuing Incarnate body.

Mr Preston does indeed mock the Christian position: “It means that the coming of the King of kings, was not to be– and was not– the physical, literal, coming of Jesus as a 5′ 5″ man in a body of flesh, blood and bone descent out of heaven on a literal cloud! The NATURE of the parousia– and the RESURRECTION– is fully established and it repudiates Mr. Frost’s position.”  In other words, the confession of the Church is that Jesus will return bodily at the end, when he will destroy all rule, power and authority and raise the dead at the last day, bodily. I say, “bodily” because the doctrine of the Continued Incarnation of the Lord is bodily.  That is why it is added in some Christian creeds, “and we believe in the bodily, visible return of the Lord.”  Preston mocks this bodily Jesus, rejects its very idea, and scorns those who hold to it: the Church.  Now, it is hypothesized that Jesus, while on earth, had weight, height and occupied space (in theological terms, localized, spatial, limited).  The Logos, however, although dwelling with the “reasonable soul and body” of the man born of the Virgin Womb, is , was, and always will be, God, Omnipresent, without locality, dimension or weight and height.  Two Natures, One Person, the God-Man (as expressed by the Holy Church).  There is the man, Christ Jesus, who is also, presently, “the man from heaven” (and keep in mind, Man, as defined, is a “reasonable soul and body”).  But, for the sake of argument, let us say that this Hebrew was 5’5″ tall.  Let us say, with all conjecture (I might be off a foot or an inch or two, but that’s irrelevant), that this is the man the Disciples saw ascend in a cloud.  For Preston, this man is no longer at all in any way, shape or form, that man “with a reasonable body and soul” any longer from that point onward.  The Church believes that he is.  Has always taught that he is.  That he, a man, a priest, a king and Lord entered into the Most Holy Place and redeemed his people.  That he, a man, is also, God, the Logos, the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, two natures, One Person.

Now, to be fair, Preston does state, “I have never- ever- denied that Christ has a body in heaven.”  What body?  What other “body” would it be?  It can’t be the Logos, for the Logos, in and of Himself, God, may He forever be praised, has no body.  The only “body” the Logos has was added at the Incarnation of our Blessed Savior in the conception of his mother’s womb.  That’s the only body mentioned in the Bible: “Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it…” (John 19.40).  Maybe he got another body at his ascension.  I digress.  Preston never explains or defines what this “body” is.  In another place he wrote, “And, the Logos– who had taken the form of man, the body of flesh- did not die when he divested himself of that flesh.”  Thus, whatever “body” Christ has “in heaven”, it isn’t the same body he had on earth!  Now, this gets back to the original question I posed for Preston: did Jesus, the man, die twice?  He never really answers that explicitly.  In a round about way, he says that the Logos “did not die” when he “divested himself” of the flesh Jesus had while on earth.  But, “divest himself” is simply a way around saying that Jesus “died” again.  Preston calls it “divested” flesh, and I call it “dead flesh.”  A separation of soul and body is, well, for all ordinary folks, “death.”  Jesus “died” when he “gave up his spirit” on the cross.  The Logos, of course, did not “die” (let’s hope not, since the Logos holds all things together in creation!).  But, that was never my question.  I didn’t ask, “did the Logos, die?”  But, in divesting himself of the flesh, the man Christ Jesus, of a reasonable soul and body, died….again.  Once at the cross, and another at the Ascension.

Apparently, Preston equates the Logos (the Divine Nature, God the Son, Eternal, Uncreated) with the Man, Christ Jesus (created, incarnate, with a reasonable soul and body).  The Logos “became man” and the result of this was the Two Natures, Divine, Eternal, and Human, created.  In other words, the Creeds state that the two natures are “distinct” with  a “hypostatic union” yet not “co-mingled.” The Man in heaven is with a reasonable soul and body and is the Logos, Eternal, Uncreated, God.  Just so that I am clear, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) states, “Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection” and he ascended to the right hand of the Father “where he…is seated bodily” (Part 1, Art. 6, 659-663).  I can hear the remarks now coming from the Full Preterists that I am quoting the Catholic catechism.  Well, yes.  The catechism here expresses what the Westminster Confession states, the Belgic Confession states and what is found in literally all mainline churches in their “doctrinal beliefs.”  It is not the intent of this paper to prove such assertions from the Bible (the catechisms and confessions of each particular church has what are called “scriptural proofs” supplementing these propositional assertions).  My intent is to point out what the Church believes in unity over and against what Preston believes (rather, what his Eschatology forces him to believe).

If I may add a little more from W.G.T. Shedd, whose Dogmatic Theology (3 volumes – 1888-1894) has long been considered a classic.  The human nature the Logos took upon himself, and in this nature “made himself nothing” (Philippians 2.7), was fully human, “a real substance having physical, rational, moral and spiritual properties” (Vol 2, 289).  Jesus Christ is, thus, One Person with Two Natures, fully human, fully divine.  To deny this is to deny the teaching of Scripture.  Jesus “died, was buried, and was risen.”  The man, Christ Jesus.  The Logos did not “die” and was not “risen” from the dead from the standpoint of the Divine Nature.  From this a question has arose.  Is the human being, Jesus, present wherever the Logos is present?  That is, is the man, Christ Jesus, omnipresent?  No.  The man is present in heaven, local and spatial.  But the hyspostatic union of the Divine and Human natures are not separated, though distinct, so that “Christ’s deity never is present anywhere in isolation and separation from his humanity” (327).  Shedd’s illustration is suffice: a man partaking of the Eucharist in London enjoys the Presence of the Divine Nature in his soul.  The Divine Nature is conjoined with the Human Nature, which is in heaven and not in London.  “This conjunction of both is equivalent to the presence of both” (327).  In other words, Shedd respects the Divine Nature (Eternal, Uncreated, God the Son) and the Human Nature (Man, reasonable soul and body, will and conscience, created, risen from the dead, ascended into heaven).  The very idea of Jesus “taken from you” (Acts 1.11) and “must remain in heaven” (Acts 3.21) is in relation to the man, Christ Jesus – spatial, distant.  Obviously, millions of pages have been written on this matter, and I cannot do justice here to this doctrine other than asserting that this is what the Church believes, historically and presently.

As our debate continued, Preston attempts to answer my question, “Did Jesus die twice?”  So that I am fair, read his own words: “The Transfiguration vision was the vision of Christ’s parousia, but, the Transfiguration is an utter rejection of Mr. Frost’s idea that Christ will come in his Incarnate body.”  He will not come in it because, as we already quoted, he “divested himself” of it.  Again, “Every description of the parousia is a total repudiation of the idea that Jesus will one day come out of heaven as a 5’5″ Jewish man in a body of flesh, blood and blood.”  In somewhat confusing fashion, Preston writes, “But, if believers now go to heaven when the die, they patently do not need biological, physical bodies of flesh, blood and bone, that Mr. Frost says Jesus MUST HAVE, in heaven!

“Mr. Frost, how is it that “billions of believers” have died and gone to heaven without biological, physical bodies of flesh, blood and bone, and yet, Jesus cannot be there unless he has a biological, physical body of flesh, blood and bone? (BTW, folks, did you notice Mr. Frost scoffing at the idea of the Logos “learning” the experiences of sympathy, empathy, i.e. the human experiences? Hmm, wonder why the author of Hebrews said “though he were a son, YET LEARNED HE OBEDIENCE THROUGH THE THINGS THAT HE SUFFERED”? Per Mr. Frost, the Logos did not even need to put on the flesh to experience and “learn” because he was omniscient.”  This is an amazing admission.  The Logos, apparently, needed to “learn” something.  This shows the considerable intermingling of the Natures of the Logos (condemned as heresy).  The human nature “grew in wisdom and stature” was “born” and “died.”  The Logos is the unification of two natures, not a transmutation of one nature into another.  “The properties of the Divine Nature cannot be either destroyed or altered” (Shedd, 266).  The Logos is the Person, the God-Man, who, by the human nature (incarnation), acquired the human experience of suffering, thirst and death.

Preston goes on, “I am arguing that although the Logos divested himself of the form of God– he put off the form- morphe– of God, but, he did not die although he DIVESTED himself of that form of God!”  Again, in biblical theology, the Logos, who is God the Son, divested Himself of no such thing in and of Himself as God.  By the Incarnation, the human nature, equal with God because of the union of the two natures in One Person (Logos), emptied himself (“made himself nothing”).  The Logos is the God-Man (God first, Man second).  The Logos took upon Himself, without any alteration of His Diety consisting in and of Himself, the human nature of Man, and this Nature “emptied himself” (did not rely upon, but was made fully man), and is now “exalted” to the right hand of God.  The Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, God, was not “exalted” (for He is eternally exalted with the glory of the Father), but the human nature was exalted, the Man Christ Jesus, of a reasonable soul and body.

In a more explicit way, Preston writes, “Mr. Frost, if the Word could DIVEST HIMSELF OF THE FORM OF GOD, WITHOUT DYING, please tell us why the Word, after the resurrection, and at the entrance into the Glory that he had with the Father before the world began – could not divest himself of the body of flesh, blood and bone– and still maintain the full knowledge, the full experience, the full empathy and sympathy “gained” by his Incarnation– the putting off of the form of God.
Are you going to tell us that the Omniscient Word would forget and forfeit the knowledge, the understanding of the “days of his flesh” because he divested himself of that form? (BTW, those days were past when the Hebrews writer wrote those words, Mr. Frost).”  This admission is in denial of what we have discussed thus far.  Apparently, the Logos, as he understands it, ceased being “in the form of God” while in the “days of his flesh.”  The Logos put off that form and took on himself another form, a human form, temporarily.  After his earthly life, the Logos sloughed off the human form and took back on the form he had in the beginning.  In other words, one form was exchanged for another form and then re-exchanged into the original form of God.  This is in complete and utter denial of the One Person, Two Natures, Divine and Human.  Now, after having divested himself of the human form, all that the Logos now has in heaven of that former form is memories.  This is not the God of the Bible.  It is not the God the Church worships.  Even if we were to emphasize the passages of Jesus coming on the clouds of heaven, he says, “you will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven.”  The Logos is eternally the Son of God, uncreated, and the Son of Man, created together.  Two Natures, not one Nature (God) and some memories (former son of man).

Now, this passage, scrutinized beyond all scrutiny in the early church for two centuries before it codified our faith in the Christological affirmations, recognizes that Paul here is using the Greek term “form” (morphe) for “nature.”  It is also recognizing, utilizing all that the Scripture has to say on this matter, that the Logos is God.  The Second Person of the Trinity.  This Person “took upon” himself the nature of a servant, and this servant, Jesus Christ, counted equality with God as graspable.  Yet, this man emptied himself within his human nature of any such reliance so that, in union with the divine, unalterable, unchangeable nature of the Logos, he became fully man, relying on the power of God as would any of us would.  His human nature, the man Christ Jesus, did this.  The Logos (who is two natures) on one hand was lowly, meek, and a servant, and on the other was God, omnipresent, omniscient.  Hardly was God’s “form” divested as it relates to the Divine Nature of the One Person.  But, this is what Preston has explicitly stated.  Thus, in his view, the Logos ceased being God for a time, became a man for a time, and then became God again with human memories of the days of his being man.  As for the man, Christ Jesus, he also ceased to be except for the memories the Logos “maintains” while he was a man.  Having these memories allows for Preston to say that he still has a human dimension to him, but he won’t call it “human nature” which is defined as a “reasonable soul and body.”  Folks, this has been attempted before and the Church roundly rejected it from all four corners of the earth.

Now, and finally, why does Preston place himself at such odds with orthodoxy (he writes, “I make no claim to being “orthodox” since, orthodox basically means to run with the crowd, whatever the crowd deems to be correct at that time.”)?  We have already noted that Preston’s eschatology drives every other doctrine he entertains.  Every prophecy, including any coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead, the complete perfection of the saints, etc. are all fulfilled in AD 70.  Now, what happens when you have Jesus, the man, raised bodily from the dead and ascending bodily into heaven as a man?  Well, passages like “he has been taken from you” and “he must remain in heaven” take on a wholly different idea.  It localizes the human being, Jesus Christ.  It also defines the nature of Redemption and Resurrection: body and soul.  By sloughing off the body of Jesus, and his human nature for that matter, Preston can then argue for an entirely invisible resurrection of the dead and an entirely invisible coming of the Lord.  He can argue for an entirely invisible transformation of the living when He comes as well.  He must do this because he knows that these events did not take place in AD 70 on any visible scale.  Bodies were not raised, the living were not transformed (glorified) and no one saw a 5’5″ Jesus coming on clouds (and never will).  By effectively changing the nature of the eschaton discussed in the Bible from visible to invisible, Preston can effectively argue his case that all prophecy was fulfilled on the basis of several passages in the New Testament that speak of that generation, the destruction of Jerusalem, coming again on clouds in judgement, etc.  In doing so, even passages that speak of raising the dead in 1st Corinthians 15 is made invisible, as well as Jesus putting an “end to all rule, power and authority”.  Yes, even so far as saying that the last enemy, Death, is abolished at that time, too.  For, you see, death is not physical, but covenantal.  Death is merely separation from God in terms of justification.  Since Jesus now justifies believers, death is now abolished.  Sorry for you folks having to attend funerals with the misguided hope of resurrection and end to death.

This very strange theory Preston has of the Logos is entirely incompatible with the inspired record.  Yet, it is one that is needed in order for his eschatological musings to have any validity.  Thus, in order to follow Preston, one must not only abandon his Christology for another, but his Eschatology for another and in the end, neither is Christian except in name only.  I urge the reader to ponder these considerations in order to understand that Full Preterism is not just another eschatology, but is a serious error that jostles all the other received doctrines of the Church.