From: A Torah Commentary on First Corinthians 15 Return to Home
By Roland H. Worth, Jr. © 2012
Pauline Resurrection Teaching to
Gentile Philosophers and Rulers
: The Pauline resurrection doctrine outside 1 Corinthians: Acts 17 and the Athenian philosophers.
: The Pauline resurrection doctrine outside 1 Corinthians: Acts 24 and the Roman officialdom.
: Additional resurrection related positions as seen from the Full Preterist standpoint.
: The Pauline resurrection doctrine outside 1 Corinthians: Acts 17 and the Athenian philosophers. In Acts -32
we find the apostle Paul addressing some of the intellectual elite of
30 "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." 32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter" (Acts 17:30-32).
A. Efforts of 70 A.D. advocates to deal with the rejection of Paul by the Athenian philosphers.
[Page 185] 1. Limiting the source of the rejection. One method of ameliorating the damage
that Acts 17 does to TFE is by limiting those opposed to Paul to one particular
type of philosopher. Hence
Roderick Edwards insists,
The dissolution of the body in death, Epicurus taught, leads to the dissolution of the soul, which cannot exist apart from the body; and thus no afterlife is possible. As you may know Epicurus was the founder of the group of Epicureans Paul was addressing in Acts 17:18, thus we can see they weren't offended that Paul was advocating a physical resuscitation of the body (because he was not), but that Paul was advocating an afterlife.
Then would not Luke have substituted for “they heard of the resurrection of the dead,” something along the line of, “they heard of the survival of death?” After all, that was their “real” problem and surely Luke, a Gentile himself, would have been alert to that and recorded the incident more accurately.
Furthermore, his followers would have been upset at the doctrine of physical resurrection above and beyond it showing a survival of death. Looking at Epicurus’ Principal Doctrines (= Sovrn Maxims), a collection of forty quotes summarizing his teaching, we need combine only two of them.
Maxim 3: reads “The magnitude of pleasure reaches its limit in the removal of all pain. . . .” Combine this thought with Maxim 2, “Death is nothing to us; for that which has been dissolved into its elements experiences no sensations, and that which has no sensation is nothing to us.”
Add death is not to be feared for it removes all sensations to the idea that pleasure is maximized when all pain is removed, then resurrection means being restored to a world in which the sensation of pain both occurs and is assured. Mock the resurrection even independent of the issue of death survival? Of course, for it returns an individual to a cosmos in which the things we so dread are lurking in the shadows and the only question is when and not whether we will be plagued by them!
The Biblical assumption is that believers are resurrected and removed into a far better and different cosmos than this current one, but work from the assumption that it is the same unchanged world that we will be resurrected to and live in and, yes, resurrection would be something to be feared. And the followers of Epicurus would surely have been hostile to the idea on that ground as well as its implication that death is not extinction of being. A double body blow to their philosophical assumptions.
Furthermore, Acts 17:18 tells us that “certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered” Paul in the marketplace. It was not Epicureans alone. Furthermore they took him to the Areopagus (), where an even wider selection of philosophers could be found: In a place open to all, it was hardly likely to be a place where only one school of them were present. Nor even just the Epicureans and Stoics alone.
Even so, there was still a general rejection of the doctrine of resurrection by the audience–it wasn’t just a tenet that upset one group; it annoyed those of other factions as well. As we will see later--in our discussion of the Gentile context of anti-resurrection sentiment--the Epicureans, the Stoics, and the Platonists all had their own reasons for denying bodily resurrection.
Hence it wasn’t a denial unique to one spectrum of Greek philosophical thought. Of course this is certainly an oversimplification of their reality: Just as preterism is
[Page 186] divided into “partial” and “full” advocates and each sub-divided into groups agreeing and disagreeing with the others on various points, Greek philosophical thought--as actually practiced rather than summarized--must surely have been equally complex. So which aspect of their thought they emphasized in rejecting the resurrection, would surely have varied in emphasis, tone, and even wording from one factional follower of each philosophical school to another.
2. Making the text refer only to a controversy about Jesus’ resurrection rather than the believers’ resurrection as well. Some choose to limit the issue this way and, if true, would be a valid way to removal the similarly physical and bodily resurrection of believers from the current discussion. That of Jesus is certainly pivotal to Paul’s argument since the first resurrected One will judge the world (). Therefore “the resurrection of the dead” () might be read of how and when all would be enabled to face judgment (that is, by being raised) or simply a reaffirmation of the resurrection of Jesus mentioned in the previous verse.
The latter seems extremely unlikely, however. Why resurrect Jesus to judge those who haven’t been resurrected? If the disembodied are being judged wouldn’t the “disembodied” Jesus have been the natural form wherein it was done? Furthermore as one reads 17:31-32 as a unit, it sounds more like Jesus is introduced as an example—the most important example—of a phenomena that will ultimately happen to all.
Be that as it may, let us assume for discussion that only Jesus is under discussion, the one and only one to undergo such an event from the first century forward. . . . would not the logical course have been to reassure the listeners of that? That Jesus was bodily resurrected as the unique exception to fulfill some irreplaceable role that none would ever again be called upon to do? As no threat to their fundamental conception of the afterlife, it would only become a theological oddity of little or no threat to their general judgment of post-life nature.
3. Making the issue a different one than resurrection. Edward B. Stevens argues that the critics mocked because they already believed in the “immortality” of the soul and, therefore, were convinced that the resurrection was not needed to obtain it: “The Greeks were reacting not only to the idea of a resurrection being necessary to obtain immortality, but also rejecting the Bible’s concept of what that immortality really is.”
Unlike those limiting the passage to Jesus’ resurrection alone, Stevens appears to concede that a human resurrection—rather than just that of Jesus--is under consideration in the text. The question becomes how to obtain the resurrection and what that resurrection and “true immortality” really are.
It is utterly fascinating that we are now dragged into a dispute over “immortality” and how to obtain it. Paul, however, does not present any such argument. He argues, instead, that Gentiles are to repent because Christ was raised and is going to judge us all--after the resurrection. One might argue that they weren’t even offended at His resurrection, but at the idea that anyone could set in judgment on them. At least that would be related to what is said.
One certainly isn’t entitled to drag into the discussion a topic Paul hasn’t mentioned (please find the term “immortality” or its equivalent in our text!) and use that as a rationale for rejecting the very “kind” of resurrection Paul upholds—physical
[Page 187] resurrection. Since the apostle cites Jesus as the prototype of our resurrection, that argues powerfully that, to Paul, it was the one and sole definition of any resurrection that yet lay in the future. Immortality was not the issue Paul presented; physical, bodily resurrection was.
4. The judgment Paul predicts was close at hand; that will fit 70 A.D. but nothing in our own future. Edward B. Stevens also appeals to the Greek behind the future time reference in Acts 17:31 in presenting his case for full preterism, “He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world. . . .” He comments that, “The Greeks probably did not like the idea of an imminent judgment either. Notice Paul’s use of mello (mello, ‘about to’) in reference to the imminency of the resurrection and judgment. . . .”
A consulting of a variety of translations will show that only a few do render it that way. My quick consultation reveals these:
Young: “He did set a day in which He is about to judge the world in righteousness.”
One will note that these
all have one thing in common: they are
all one person translations, not the collaborative work of many scholars
joining together to produce their best work.
We should also note that while
Stevens has a confident explanation for the rendering of the bulk of translations: translators’ bias to remove some of the sting from Modernists’ citation of the texts as proof that Jesus and the apostles erred in their predictions. To translate them accurately would have given their criticism unwanted strength and credibility.
By this logic of theology
dominating translation candor, the dissenters’ translations should—far
more often than not—reflect a bias against the reliability of Jesus and
His apostles for their rendering enhances the argument against their
Our point is this: if intentional bias is not an adequate explanation for the “imminence” renderings, why should we regard it as the reason behind group translation efforts that omit it? Why not simply say that all were trying their best. But if we concede that, we are faced with the possibility that these translators—who knew at least as much Greek as these sole individuals—were well aware that it might have imminence overtones; that they avoided it when clearly uncalled for or when the non-Greek specialist might read far more into the rendering than the original authors may have intended.
[Page 188] In other words, to us it may sound clear cut, but not to the original recipients. Or to approach it a slightly different way: The Greek reader would have been alert to such “overtones” in the use of tenses and words; the non-Greek speaker would be unaware of them and read it as asserting more than was necessarily originally required.
Which brings us to Stevens’ citation of the work of Albert Pigeon’s study of the 110 occurrences where mello is found in 60 English versions. Stevens sums up Pigeon’s findings (our emphasis added): “he found that there was an evident bias among translators regarding the word mello. In non-eschatological passages, they were more likely to translate it ‘about to.’ In the eschatological passages, however, they were more likely to translate it as ‘shall’ or ‘will’ or some other ‘un-imminent’ rendering.”
Notice that double “more likely.” They followed no uniform rule. Doesn’t that fit better with our suggestion of translator dedication to avoiding misunderstanding than to that of intentional bias?
We will have more to say on mello when we get to Acts 24:15 further below, where the same argument is also analyzed.
Before we pass on, however, one final observation should be made: if the “timing” argument be accepted, it intensifies our own earlier contention: we have no judgment to face—and no need to repent to prepare for it—because that one time, not to be repeated event, happened two millenniums in the past. To rectify the problems with one’s theology by, if one is consistent, doing away with human answerability for behavior in later generations will strike many as the equivalent of shooting off your foot because you have a toe ache.
B. The church/collective resurrection proposal and its difficulties with this passage. We have spent considerable space discussing the efforts of TFP advocates to avoid “fall out” from Acts 17 that would compromise their insistence upon making the resurrection a non-physical event. But now let us spare a moment for the collectivity resurrection scenario in particular and its relationship to this text since this is the “resurrection” Paul was supposedly preaching in 1 Corinthians 15, here, and elsewhere.
The “dead” of Acts , however, does not refer to a collectivity but to individuals, as Wayne Jackson points out when he argues,
Of special interest in this text is the word “dead,” in Greek, nekron. The term is plural, that is, the “dead ones.” The implication is this—that Paul had not only preached the resurrection of Christ, a bodily resurrection, but he had taught them concerning the general resurrection as well. If the resurrection of Christ in this setting is a bodily resurrection, when Luke uses the term “resurrection” with reference to others, in the same context, what kind of resurrection is indicated? It is the bodily resurrection of Christ, and the bodily resurrection of the dead ones! To argue that Christ’s resurrection was of one kind (bodily) in verse 31, and that the resurrection in verse 32 is of an entirely different kind (a spiritual resurrection of the church), just has to be one of the most egregious examples of Bible distortion ever concocted.
And when Paul defends the resurrection of all believers in 1 Corinthians 15 on the basis of Christ’s resurrection does not consistency of interpretation require us to put the same meaning on “resurrection” in both Acts and there? That both have physical
[Page 189] resurrection explicitly in mind?
Even if one argues that individual human resurrection was the philosophers’ deduction from Paul’s upholding that of Jesus, this was still a physical, literal resurrection. And Paul does nothing to correct their “error.”
That leaves three major problems that Covenant Eschatology must deal with:
1. The first issue is the moral one: why didn’t the apostle correct their misunderstanding of “physicality” being involved in the resurrection? Instead, Paul is silent. He permits them to maintain their “misunderstanding.” Since he doesn’t repudiate it, we see no choice but to argue that his silence tells us emphatically that he too considered the resurrection something “temporal,” “physical,” quite “literal” and involving the fate of specific individuals in distinction from movements and their acceptance or rejection by deity.
But let us assume that we are in error and he, somehow, really believed in a non-physical resurrection. In that case, silence would have been brazen and intentional misleading of them as to his true convictions—an absurd proposition on its own merits but even more so when we recognize that a non-physical explanation would have been understandable to them (see the second difficulty below).
If one denies the ethical rectitude accusation, how does one explain how it was moral for Paul to discuss resurrection and not spell out that it truly meant only the destruction of Judaism and the gaining of Christian ascendancy among monotheists—Jewish faith being put to death and Christian faith ascending?
The Athenians weren’t given the opportunity to reformulate their frame of reference from “physical” resurrection to something else. They thought in terms of raising the physically dead and were permitted—by Pauline silence, encouraged—to do so. Is it ethical--is it even rational—not to correct them? Especially when you are trying to gain their support? And the presentation of “your true belief” provides far greater opportunity to gain acceptance? At the minimum, it would have given him the best chance of grinding the mockery to a halt.
2. The second major problem that must be faced by Covenant Eschatology is why the Athenian philosophers would have found a non-literal collective resurrection repugnant. Or of any symbolic and figurative/non-literal “resurrection.”
The philosophers were surely acquainted with the idea of nations and even religions more or less “dying”—going into massive decline and disappearing as significant influences—yet being “resurrected” or “reborn” to noteworthy or major status at some later date. From their polytheistic standpoint, the “collectivity resurrection” doctrine would have been as if a deity had once had followers who had abandoned it (the Jews) but had gained a new group of devotees (the Judeo-Christian movement). The god’s cause would be resurrected; it was the “resurrection” of the movement (collectivity) from death back to life.
An individual physically dying and then being literally restored from the dead, well that is what they had problems with. And it is only within that subject being the one intended that the resistance to Paul make full interpretive sense.
I concede that they would have thought it impossible that this motley group of usually middle and lower class people like Paul—these Christians—might triumph over [Page 190] Judaism. On the other hand, anti-Semitism was so deep and pervasive in the Roman world, that they could hardly have considered it anything but joyous news, even if they thought it was silly pretentiousness. To get these strange weird Jews off their hands and only have to put up with this minor sect which surely must die off for lack of support! (If these deluded souls thought it was “resurrected” let them enjoy their delusion!)
Hence, disbelief that the Christians could pull it off and become anything of a major challenge, yes. Wish they could? They would have sung an ancient equivalent of the “Hallejulah Chorus” at the pleasure it would give them. So the transplanting and destruction of Judaism as a religious system would have found a very, very receptive audience—though not for the right reasons.
So how could collectivity resurrection have been what Paul was preaching if it aroused such passionate dismissal?
3. Then we must also consider why he bothered to teach the need for moral reform to the philosophers at all. God “commands all men everywhere to repent” () because of a coming judgment by Christ (), at which time “the resurrection of the dead” will occur (). In traditional interpretation this makes perfect sense and its applicability clear cut.
But for Covenant
Eschatology and its associated variants, the admonition doesn’t make
sense. The “judgment” is strictly upon
Why then teach the Athenian Gentiles “to repent?” They aren’t Jews or advocates of the Jewish religious system. “But don’t they still need repentance?” some might wonder. Because the only judgment to come was in 70 A.D. and it wasn’t targeted at them. . . . Because all prophecy has been fulfilled. . . . there were no further judgments for them to face.
There is at least a
partial way out of this. There seems a
predilection about Covenant Eschatology advocates to believe that Revelation solely
targets the Jews and the events leading up to the 70 A.D. destruction of the
The limitation of
the judgment to Jews, however, requires remarkable mental agility and abuse of
symbols that far better fit
The problem is that “repent” is presented in Acts 17 as if an individual demand; it is, therefore, extremely hard to conclude anything but that the language requires an individual judgment as well. Especially when the admonition is not accompanied by the demand that they should repent because it coming upon their people.
What happened at
[Page 191] Hence Revelation must refer to a different judgment than Acts 17, arguing at least two times of judgment are referred to in the New Testament: (1) in 70 A.D., a Judgment on Jerusalem / Israel / the Judaism then being practiced there and (2) a totally independent judgment on individuals regardless of ethnicity, place of origin, or religion.
Contrast the Old Testament language calling for repentance. Yes, individual change is called for, but as often as not in order to create a national result. In New Testament teaching individual change is demanded but because of its personal consequences—not its national. We, as individuals, are the ones facing judgment.
In the OT it is often repent or the nation faces disaster. In the NT the closest parallel appears to be when citing the example of Nineveh from the Old Testament and even there the emphasis is on individual behavior (how the individuals, “they repented,” Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32) and the emphasis is on what those individuals did rather than the community result.
And, in passing and to return to the central point we are making in this section, if the predicted judgment occurred in 70 A.D. and there is no more prophecy to be fulfilled then no one after that date has any reason to anticipate being judged. No need to “repent” to prepare for that judgment. It becomes an antiquated and unneeded requirement. If you consistently “play out” the consequences of Covenant Eschatology.
: The Pauline resurrection doctrine outside 1 Corinthians: Acts 24 and the Roman officialdom. Standing before the Roman authorities, he stressed the trumped up nature of the charges against him (Acts 24:10-14, 20-21). In this context he adds, “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (24:15).
In other words: (1) Paul believed that the resurrection involved both categories. (2) His critics interpreted the Old Testament in the same way he did on this point.
This remark argues that the group sent to the governor was composed either heavily or predominantly of Pharisees. At the minimum, that they represented such a significant percentage of the delegation, that any Sadducees dared not speak up lest they even more clearly reveal that it was not a violation of Roman law that was really behind their accusations but intra-Jewish theological disagreements.
might conjecture a symbolic resurrection of the just and even of the repentant
unjust on the basis of the Old Testament analogy of
So within that “resurrected” nation there would still remain an element of the impious. Yet such Old Testament passages surely assume that the renewed nation—more or less as a whole—had re-embraced Torah justice and principles; otherwise it would have been merely rewarding the unconcerned and oppressive.
If the Christian/New Testament usage of “resurrection” truly refers to some type of non-literal, non-bodily, non-physical event in A.D. 70 and if Paul ties himself with a rope into the Jewish Pharisee view of the subject, then it is imperative to find a definition [Page 192] conceptually parallel to that of Covenant Eschatology in what Pharisees meant by their language. If one takes the approach that their views on the subject were actually in radical disagreement--with the implication that this text profoundly papers over that reality--then one would still need to find a reasonable explanation of how Paul could dare tie the Christian and Pharisee doctrine on the subject so tightly together if they really meant two drastically different things.
regard to possible symbolic usages of language by the Pharisees, one could
imagine a spiritually reborn figurative usage of “resurrection”
The Sadducees—with their
firm hand on control of the Sanhedrin—had every reason to wish for a symbolic
rebirth of the Jewish nation: it would
vastly enhance their power as rulers of the
In short, there was little or no grounds for conflict if a national spiritual resurrection / renewal was what the Pharisees meant by the term. Yet with the Sadducees denying “resurrection” and Pharisees accepting it, the term could hardly have meant that to the two sides when both had every reason to wish for it. And since Paul was in agreement with the Pharisees in affirming the resurrection, his usage can not be to such an approach either!
1. The challenge as to whether the Pharisees actually believed in the dual resurrection of both the redeemed and the condemned. Even fervent opponents of TFP sometimes question this. Brian Schwertley parenthetically throws in the passing remark, “(Interestingly, the teaching of Jesus and Paul regarding the universal resurrection from the dead of all men, whether saved or unsaved, explicitly contradicted the teaching of the Pharisees [and the Talmud] which believed that only the righteous would experience a bodily resurrection.)” Oddly enough, he quotes Acts 24:15’s “both of the just and the unjust” but makes no reference to explaining how Paul could attribute that belief to his opponents if this were true.
One apparent traditionalist, wondering out loud as to just what the differences in the two resurrections would be, quotes Josephus as saying, “They hold the belief that an immortal strength belongs to souls, and that there are beneath the earth punishments and rewards for those who in life devoted themselves to virtue or vileness, and that eternal imprisonment is appointed for the latter, but the possibility of returning to life for the former.”
He takes this to mean that “a majority of Pharisees taught that the unjust dead will not be [bodily] resurrected.”
Was Josephus right or was Paul? Personally, I will go with the apostle! If Paul was not in basic agreement with the Pharisees on this issue, how in the world does he escape the just charge of blatant misrepresentation and dishonesty?
[Page 193] Not only do I choose the accuracy option for obvious reasons such as that, but also because Josephus was trying to explain Judaism to a pagan world without making things too complicated. Paul’s speech, in contrast, was recorded for Christians and those monotheistically inclined already and he could speak with greater specificity than would be appropriate with an uninformed, outside audience.
Laying aside how many Pharisees were present to challenge the alleged misrepresentation, the high priest was in the delegation bringing the charges (Acts 24:1)—a Sadducee with every reason to challenge Paul if he were misrepresenting their convictions. How rarely he had the opportunity or excuse to defend his religious foes! (And simultaneously annoy them as well by defending them!)
Furthermore, the governor, Felix, had served “for many years [as] a judge of this nation” (24:10). Because of the religious peculiarities of the locals (monotheism), he had every reason to become well-briefed—too well briefed in his own mind, one suspects—as to the major tenets of that religious belief system. He even had “more accurate knowledge of the Way” that Paul preached (24:22), indicating a rooting in basic Christian assumptions and convictions as well.
In short, having made a “shared convictions” argument, the apostle was before those who would not find it credible if clearly untrue.
Aside: If one wishes to be contentious, we don’t know the composition of “the elders” who came to court (24:1). If one assumes that they included a number who were neither Pharisees nor Sadducees, I suppose they could have constituted the believers in the dual resurrection doctrine. Though it is virtually impossible to even guess at the identity of that third party group, assuming it was such.
Of course, in real life not every one was—or is today--fully aligned with a specific religious faction. Is Paul saying that these “non-aligned” were believers in dual resurrection? It seems simplest to stick with the known group of traditionalist Jewish resurrection believers—the Pharisees. There we have something concrete to work with; with hypothetical groupings (formal factions or not), we don’t.
2. Fitting the resurrection of the unjust into Full Preterist eschatology. We have seen earlier how in Covenant Eschatology the resurrection is for the collective entity of the faithful / redeemed / church. There isn’t any logical room in this for the unfaithful being resurrected. Yet Paul says they will be resurrected as well.
Hence my first reaction, naturally, was that this passage seems utterly devastating to the collectivity part of Covenant Eschatology. There is no reason for anything to happen to the lost; they already are lost. Nothing changes. What they were in 69, they are in 79. Nor is there is room in the redeemed collectivity for the lost—unless we adopt a universal salvation doctrine. Some are apparently already edging into that today, and it unquestionably was a component of Universalist Full Preterist concepts in the 19th century.
Short of that “universal redemption” scenario, why go to the trouble of bringing them back at all? In an individual resurrection doctrine, we can grasp that resurrection might well encompass all individuals—not because they are saved or lost but because they are distinct individuals deserving and receiving individualized judgment.
Furthermore, once we shift to a resurrection of the collectivity rather than the individual, one has to wonder just what collectivity the lost are now brought into or
[Page 194] become. For the saved, the collectivity is turned into something the individuals were not already—a new, different, and permanent entity. What new, different, and permanent entity are the unsaved transformed into?
Yet they still need to be brought back, it seems, in order to give them a kind of official and formal permanent rejection. (Of course this explanation works just as well in regard to a physical resurrection of all mankind.) It does nothing to change the “entity group” that they are already in. In a Full Preterist context, this is naturally viewed as occurring at the Fall of Jerusalem. As David Green explains it (his emphases retained):
11:1-18 reveals that God judged the living and the dead, the just and the
unjust, at the fall of
"The kingdom of this world" was the kingdom of the Pharisees and chief priests. (Amos 9:8; Matt. 8:12; Heb. 9:1). The Church became the eternal Kingdom of the Father and the Son (Compare Jn. ; Rev. 22:3) when the unredeemed sons of the kingdom were cast out in 70 (Matt. ). . . .
Revelation 11:18 reveals what happened when the Kingdom was taken from the Pharisees and given to the Church: "And the nations were wrathful, and Your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and to give the reward to Your bond-servants the prophets and to the saints and to those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth."
. . . In
that Great Day, the dead were raised, both the just and the unjust, and were
judged according to their works. (Dan. 12:1-2) The sons of the flesh were cast
out, but the Church was perfected, confirmed, and established, and was given
eternal dominion over the earth as God's Kingdom of priests. (Dan. 12:3; I
Peter 5:10-11; Rev. 5:10; 22:5)
There are some—well, oddities, in this. It used to be people would quote John 18:36: Jesus answered, “ ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.’ ” Now we discover that that worldly kingdom was actually under control “of the Pharisees and chief priests”—would that have given a laugh to the Romans; in effect, the Jews actually ruling Rome and the world! Furthermore “the Church” now has “eternal dominion over the earth.” Makes papal medieval theocratic claims look downright restrained in comparison.
Of course the author doesn’t mean any of this in the language you and I would use. It’s emblematic of the “special language” problem so endemic to Full Preterism, where words take on unexpected and special usage. Of course “the Church” really means Christ in heaven—changing the subject from the ruled to the ruler. A rather major difference in meaning!
Likewise, the “kingdom of
this world” is not really the world, it really means the religion of
this world or, strictly speaking, the Jewish world. Actually not even that much: more properly speaking—that of
“The Pharisees and chief
priests.” That designation presents a
problem in itself in light of what appears to be the universally received fact
that the Sadducees were in control of the religious establishment (Sanhedrin)
and not the Pharisees. (They had
been ousted from control before Jesus’ ministry and their replacements
successfully retained it till
Furthermore, to prove that the Jewish religious establishment claimed authority over a greater group--world-wide Judaism--you are going to have to maximum the “claim” part and minimize real world “authority.” This is the unpleasant dilemma that traditional Catholicism had in the second half of the twentieth century—“claiming” a lot more authority and power over Roman Catholics worldwide than they discovered they could actually exercise.
To what extent the Sanhedrin claimed universal jurisdiction would be interesting to see documented. One immediately thinks of the yearly temple tax but, beyond that, what would it be?
Inherently, it had to be extraordinarily limited: (1) the broader authority claimed, the harder to enforce it. (2) Local Jewish groups who lived in an extremely different environment would have been strongly inclined to believe that on non-temple matters they were the experts and not the Sanhedrin. (Isn’t that how humans act today unless local control has been rigorously suppressed?)
Laying aside those “earthly,” “this world” problems with Green’s analysis (which naturally intrigue me as a historian), the strictly religious aspects also strike me as rather odd. He seems to reduce the spiritually lost to just those who were the:
(1) Religious elements.
(2) Religious elements that were strictly within the confines of Judaism—no Gentiles or polytheists hinted at. “The sons of the flesh were cast out” (i.e., the Jews): that limitation excludes Gentiles (except for proselytes?) being under discussion. So it’s not really even all the unrighteous dead who are judged! Including them, though, wouldn’t help in this reconstruction: in what sense could Gentiles be described as “cast out” as God’s kingdom since they were never in it?
(3) Religious elements within Judaism dominated by the religious establishment of Pharisees and chief priests. Will anyone deny that many were not happy with the leadership of either the Pharisees or chief priests and did their best to stay out from under their authority? The Essenes are a well documented case. Judaism within Galilee was not thrilled about such folks either--at least judging by passing remarks I have read from Jewish scholars about the rabbinic interaction with the locals in the century or two after Jerusalem was destroyed.
Truth be told, rabbis of the first and century appear to have had a near contemptuous attitude toward the common people—regardless of region—because they were not solely centered on the study of Torah and tradition. This resulted in a religious [Page 196] elite who behaved with conscious condescension toward those less “piously dedicated” to such matters. These may “run” a religious establishment, but they are hardly likely to be given anything more than limited and grudging authority by what was once called “the unwashed multitude.”
(4) Religious elements without consideration of their or non-believer’s moral behavior: conspicuously absent in this “Final Judgment” is any condemnation on the basis of immoral and unjust actions in any of their wide variety of manifestations. It’s almost as if the only thing that brings God’s wrath and being “cast out” is religious error, not moral transgression.
Consider carefully how there is no discussion of what happens to that vast majority of the little concerned (morally or religiously) and those outright hostile to limitations on their behavior. These don’t even get hinted at!
Green doesn’t even attempt to explain how—or whether--the rest are judged on that day who do not fall wholly or mainly into the category of violators of religious law. For brevity reasons? For their being no convenient way to fit this far larger proportion of the unrighteous dead into his interpretive scenario? When that vast bulk of the human population gets cavalierly dismissed from one’s Final Judgment description, isn’t that a sign of major weakness in the reconstruction of events?
Forgive my drifting so long, but the quotation deserves at least this much detailed analysis because it stands as representative of the “over interpretation” (= vivid imagination, to its critics) that so plagues Covenant Eschatology and its compatriots in Full Preterism.
One final aspect of the remarks still needs to be considered, however: We are told by Green, “The Church became the eternal Kingdom of the Father and the Son . . . when the unredeemed sons of the kingdom were cast out in 70. . . .” The church was transformed into something different.
What then were the rejected transformed into? To make the collectivity scenario work, don’t both groups need to be transformed into something significantly different than what they were previously? My mind stumbles at trying to conjecture a possibility (perhaps others can do better): individually, they were the lost. A faithful believer was a Christian (as an individual) and part of the church collectivity (so far as a group association goes). Unbelievers were lost as individuals and, if they were to be regarded as anything at all collectively, as the Kingdom of the Lost. (I can’t recall, however, a “group label” ever actually being applied to the lost. Perhaps my memory falters?)
The church enters 70 A.D. as just the church; it leaves it as the Kingdom. The two are different Green assures us and insists that this transformation occurred.
The collectivity / Kingdom of the Lost entered 70 A.D. as that; it leaves the year as—what? Something dramatically different would seem to be required. At least the 19th century universal salvation scenario offers a transformation into something different from what they already were: transformation / addition into the kingdom of the redeemed!
Laying aside this question of fitting the resurrection of the unjust into the eschatological scheme of Covenant Eschatologists and other Full Preterists, the remainder of our discussion will be devoted to efforts to prove that the resurrection Paul predicts in Acts 24 must refer to first century events. Obviously, if it did, then the interpretation of 1 Corinthians must be seriously altered. The opposite is also the case, [Page 197] however: If 1 Corinthians really does teach what it appears to do (bodily, physical resurrection) then putting an “imminent” interpretation on what Paul says in Acts 24 is blatantly improper.
The apostle can’t be both “inspired” and wrong on such an explicit teaching. Though there is always the option of “defining downward” any definition of inspiration to make it better fit the alleged existence of “contradictions” some too readily speak of.
3. Arguments that Acts 24 must have a (relatively) near term resurrection event in mind.
A. The Full Preterist contention that this resurrection was “soon” and that fits a first century date and not one millenniums later. A typical Full Preterist response to Acts 24:15 is to argue that it has been mistranslated and must refer to an imminent event. The argument may begin and end here, while others may “play it out” to additional suspected links to a first century fulfillment.
Michael Sullivan quotes
Gentry’s able book Before
In what would probably be an amused voice if it came from me, he immediately adds, “Gentry is correct. The problem, however, is that when the word mello refers to the resurrection and judgment of the living and dead in Acts 24:15 and 24:25, it is used with the present infinitive. So Gentry boldly ignores the word in those texts.”
Although he barely discusses the verse further—his interest lies elsewhere and this is tangential to it—he does have this to say,
Moreover, claims that the teaching of “the” judgment and resurrection of the living and the dead were not given with imminence indicators tied to them directly are simply not true. Acts 24:15, 25 reads, “Having hope toward God, which they themselves also wait for, that there is about to be a rising again of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous. . . . But when he dealt with the subjects of justice, self-control, and the judgment which is soon to come, Felix became alarmed . . .” (cf. Acts 17:31, YLT/WEY; WUESTNT; emphases added).
The renditions he cites of Acts 24:15 begin with Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)—many love it. For decades I’ve wondered the basis of this strange obsession that elevates “literalness” to a point that too often compromises (to near incoherence at times) the readability of the version. If a translation is so “literal” it discourages readers from using it, in my judgment, it’s fatally eliminated any reason to regard it as a primary resource. At the most it becomes an alternative, secondary research tool.
WEY refers to
However, the overwhelming bulk of translators reject such an addition to the wording of Acts 24:15:
New King James Version and World English Bible: “that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.”
Revised Standard Version: “that there will be a resurrection of both the unjust and the unjust.”
New International Version: “that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”
Darby: “that there is to be a resurrection both of just and unjust.”
International Standard Version: “that there is to be a resurrection of the righteous and the wicked.”
Holman: “that there is going to be a resurrection, both of the righteous and the unrighteous.”
New American Standard Bible: “that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”
Contemporary English Version: “that God will raise from death everyone who is good or evil.”
Today’s English Version: “all people, both the good and the bad, will rise from death.”
Bible in Basic English: “that there will be a coming back from the dead for upright men and wrongdoers.”
God’s Word: “that people with God’s approval and those without it will come back to life.”
We could, of course, lengthen this list considerably but this one represents a wide variety of approaches to translation and with varying types of theological assumptions dominant among the different groups behind them. This widespread a number doesn’t prove that Sullivan’s argument is wrong; it does show that it has failed to convince the overwhelming bulk of those whose field is Bible translation.
They aren’t always right,
but abandoning their approach should be done only with greatest caution. It should be noted that even
Samuel Frost, a former Full Preterist, now looks back with a degree of sadness over how he oversold the “mello requires imminence” interpretation. He points to Robertson’s classic Grammar (page 187) and how when the infinitive is used (as in Acts 24:15, 25), it “affirms and not merely predicts,” that is, “it gives the sense of certainty.” The usage is a means of expressing full confidence in the prediction/claim, not merely providing a chronological reference point.
He also adduces this from other Greek resources. His point is that the certainty aspect is the dominant idea regardless of whether imminency is intended, regardless of whether it is on the verge of happening.
[Page 199] Dan Trotter makes two very effective citations to develop the “certainty” argument when he quotes Acts 26:22 about how “what the Prophets and Moses said was going to (mello) take place” is interpreted by the speaker as referring to “that the Christ was to suffer”—which did not occur until many centuries later. In Romans Adam is described as “a type of Him who was to come (mello).” Again “about to” won’t fit the context—the coming of the Messiah, far distant in the future. In both cases certainty of what is said is the point of the word, not imminence.
Steve Thurstan provides a very useful, in-depth article on how the issue of mello revolves around not just literal definitions but also grammatical usage of words—which involves what Greek grammars have to say and not just how Greek lexicons define terms.
He notes that the present active participle mello is used of Peter and John “about to” go into the temple—the usage implying they are standing near or just outside the temple. Yet Thurston notes that “mello is used in Mathew 3:7 and Luke 3:7 of John the Baptist saying to the Pharisees and Sadducees, ‘Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come’ (or ‘about to come;’ Greek, mello, present active participle), a wrath that he was most likely referring to that was to be poured out upon them and upon Jerusalem in 70 AD, some 43 years later.” Seconds versus decades covered in the two “about tos.”
The time reference can also refer to events totally in the past and mello apply to things that were to occur in its future, which is in our past,
The present participle verb “about to” or “about to be” can have as its starting point either the past, the present, or the future; but never just always in the present, and never with a duration that is limited until expressed otherwise in a given context. In an example of the present tense usage of a participle verb having as its starting point at a place and time in the past, A. T. Robertson makes note of this with regards to John 9:25, stating that “by the use of arti the present participle is made to refer to past time” (p. 380).
We also see
this usage with the present active participle, mello, in Revelation 12:4, concerning Christ’s past
tense birth of “the woman who was about to
give birth,” and possibly even in Luke 24:21, where the two disciples on the
road to Emmaus told Jesus that they had “hoped that He was the One who was
going to [about to] redeem Israel.”
Seek a larger time frame for imminent language? We can see it in Matthew 11:14’s description of John the Baptist, “he is Elijah who is to come.” Thurstan notes that here, again, we have “Greek, mello, present active participle” that it could, therefore, be properly rendered as “about to come.” “Clearly, John the Baptist wasn’t ‘about to’ come sometime later in the future after Jesus had said this, but this prophecy’s starting point or origin was in the days of Malachi, some 400 years or so before the Spirit of Elijah, in the person of John, was ‘about to’ come.”
One final example (briefly referred to already) puts thousands of years into the duration of mello,
Consider also this next verse for one moment with regards to all of this. In Romans 5:14, it says of Adam in his fall that he was “a type of Him who is coming” (YLT; Gk. mello, present active participle). This “type,” or figure of [Page 200] Adam wasn’t a “type” that was developed until he fell into sin about 4,000 years before Christ came on the scene. It was at that moment in the past that he became a “type” of Christ who was “about to” come sometime in the future. But He didn’t “come” until 4,000 years later.
Hence we see yet more examples that certainty of accomplishment can be superior to the element of imminence in the use of mello. Hence Acts 24:15, for example, could refer to either.
If you assume that Full Preterism is “full gospel reality,” then the probability is very high for duration / quickness being in mind; if you believe that has nothing to do with what was being discussed, you dismiss it with equally full confidence in favor of Paul expressing the absolute reliability of the prediction and the certainty of the event. In short, the use of mello—by itself—is inadequate to establish the point and we have seen texts where it is not only inadequate but outright impossible for it to carry that intent.
So when does the “certainty” element yield to the “chronological” element? Context can provide a major key—does the speaker clearly intend immediacy? Does the passage make sense without it?
Samuel Frost cites 2
Timothy 4:1 as another example of how Wuest (cited above in the context of
translating Acts 24) renders Jesus as “about to” judge the living and
But, also, if Paul wrote II Tim in the mid sixties [the dating runs the gauntlet from c. 63 to 67 A.D., RW], how can “five years” away (AD 70) be ‘something on the verge’ of happening. Tell your spouse you are “about to” make the bed. Then, make it five years from then. One can just as easily choose to translate 4.1 with “who will certainly appear”. Linguistically, lexically, there is no problem doing this. . . .
I used the example of Acts where Luke uses a construction with mello three times. Two times it appears from the context that “about to” works: the famine “about to” come upon the land (which did shortly after, within a few months), and the ship Paul was on was “about to” break apart. There, “on the verge of” can be used. But, why? Context of time.
Paul was in the immediate participation of the boat as it was being torn apart; about to rip in half. However, Luke uses the phrase for “the resurrection about to be of the dead”. Let’s assume Paul, here speaking in the late fifties (Acts 24), had in mind “about to”. How many years, according to the Full Preterist, was he off? 12? 11? Really? “about to” means 12 years?
In short probability argues intensely against imminency being in the apostle’s mind when he spoke.
B. Since it was an imminent resurrection—and Paul was certainly not in error—then it had to be of a non-physical nature. David Curtis begins with the mello [Page 201] argument, “Whenever mello in the present active indicative is combined with an infinitive, it is consistently translated ‘about to.’ Paul told his first century audience, ‘there is about to be a resurrection.’ ” Actually he did no such thing. As we can verify from the large number of translations we presented above, some will translate it that way but the bulk don’t. Probably Curtis meant to write that it “should be consistently translated” that way, rather than “is consistently translated.” Even so we have seen the significant evidence against that conclusion should be accepted.
Working from the mello argument as a guaranteed, unshakable foundation, he then makes the argument we’ve presented in our heading to this section,
If we are going to understand what Paul is saying about the resurrection, we must understand ‘audience relevance.’ Paul is not talking to us; he is talking to Felix, Ananias, Tertullus, and the elders. Paul told them that there was about to be a resurrection. So if the timing of the resurrection was ‘soon,’ what does this tell us about the nature of the resurrection? It must be spiritual! Time defines nature.
Hence the argument in an imminent resurrection requires a spiritual resurrection doctrine. This can, of course, be reversed: Because they had every reason to believe that the resurrection would be just as “physical” as the one the Pharisees accepted and since that did not happen, mello can not universally have the overtone of imminency but the element of certainty must be made primary. (Which, of course, mello typically does.
Related to this is the same fundamental flaw noted in the previous sections: can “about to be” constitute a proper description for something that was over a decade in the future? Taking mello in the sense of absolute reliability removes that difficulty.
: Additional resurrection related positions as seen from the Full Preterist standpoint. Although we do not intend to go into all the arguments TFP advocates make concerning the resurrection, it is probably wise to at least concisely touch upon four arguments in order to provide a fuller introduction to their theology. They deserve to be considered—in passing—even if not directly connected with Acts 24 or 1 Corinthians 15, if for no other reason than that at least some of them play major roles in Full Preterist thinking about the resurrection and its “real” nature. The knowledge of these will better prepare the reader for any future investigations of the subject they might wish to undertake.
1. The resurrection hope was
uniquely that of the Old Testament. David
Curtis quotes Acts 26:6-8 concerning how “our twelve tribes hope to attain” the
“promise made by God to our fathers” and the following remark that those who
accept that premise should have no problem in accepting that God “does raise
the dead.” From this he argues, “The
promise of the resurrection was made to Old Covenant
True, resurrection teaching was not “newly given in the New Testament” but it is stressed as something just as applicable to Gentiles as to the “twelve tribes,” as seen in [Page 202] Paul’s firm teaching of it in 1 Corinthians 15—to a strongly Gentile congregation. An emphasis that is surely lacking in the Torah and the prophets, we might add.
One of the oddities of
Full Preterism is its strange willingness to embrace Old Testament national
resurrection while ignoring those OT texts that seem to argue for individual
resurrection. Of course this is done in
order to make the national “resurrection” promised to
This conspicuously plays down and pushes aside those Old Testament texts that have traditionally been interpreted as either possibly or certainly alluding to individual resurrection. Likewise, traditionally interpreted, 1 Corinthians 15 describes that event in more detail than any single passage in the Old Testament. Certainly, in that interpretive approach, individual resurrection is far more emphasized and put to the forefront in the New than the Old. Mentioned in the Old Testament, yes, but not put front and center. And therefore to be interpreted as to meaning by passages found in the New Testament just as much—or even more so—than by those in the Old.
Hence the New has full right to put its distinctive mark on the subject as to its nature and we have no obligation to force that doctrine into one stream of Old Testament resurrection language (the national) rather than into the other—the individual. We have to determine which stream of thought is being perpetuated and built upon.
Indeed, the proper New
Testament age parallel to Israelite national resurrection would be found (if
you are of a Disciples /
The Old Testament national resurrections that occurred in the centuries prior to Jesus of Nazareth involved the resurrection and purification of Judaism and not its replacement by a new religious system. Likewise the “national / church collective revivals” that have occurred since Jesus’ earthly life have involved the existing religious collectivity and not its replacement—at most its drastic purification and purging out of non-Biblical appendages and beliefs.
But does not the New Testament utilize a national resurrection text in 1 Corinthians 15, thereby compelling us to argue that a collective concept is what Paul has in mind? As if Paul had no right, as an inspired author, to make his own distinctive application of such texts! Even so, this is a reasonable challenge.
It won’t produce the desired result, however.
We saw in our discussion of Isaiah 25:8 [in this book’s Chapter 5], that that passage—supposedly one teaching national “resurrection” and which may even have been so intended in any immediate or relatively short-term application—actually pointed toward far more.
Looking at its wording in
detail, we found that, when fulfilled in its completeness, it promised something
dramatically more revolutionary: the creation
of a new internationalized community of faith, a replacement for the
narrow, ethnically confined
[Page 203] To the extent that “resurrection” occurs in
Isaiah 25:8, it is of the individuals whose renewed or recently produced
faith—their individual “resurrection” from their past spiritually dead
lives (cf. Acts 2:38)--has resulted in the creation (not resurrection)
of a new collectivity of believers. A
collectivity that soon made room for Samaritans and then made the bold step of
reaching hands out to even Gentiles.
Without circumcision. Without
obeying the traditional rules of Torah Judaism.
Thereby producing a multi-ethnic, internationalized
We have written everything up to this point under the assumption that Curtis works from, that the subject matter of the text is believer resurrection.
But what if it isn’t even under discussion?
Indeed, it is extremely
improbable that the resurrection doctrine was at issue at all in Acts 26. Let us look at the quoted words along with what
comes next (using the
now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers;
7 the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they
earnestly serve God night and day. And
for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. 8 Why is it
considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead? 9 So
then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name
of Jesus of
This is to interpret the “hope of the promise” in its actual contextual setting rather than as an apologetic tool to advance one’s agenda. When one can do both at the same time that is traditional “fair game,” but when one shifts the subject under discussion this way, it is not.
think of it this way: (1) The hope of
Does believer resurrection enter the picture at all in this sermon? Yes it does, but considerably later:
22 "Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come -- 23 that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles."
[Page 204] Jesus would be “the first to rise from the dead.” His rising was to be the forerunner of ours. And what was the nature of His resurrection—physical or spiritual? Reject the latter? Then do not the words require that our resurrection share in a physical nature as did His?
If “resurrection” were to shift meanings, would not Paul have had to say something along the line of, “all will rise, but He was the first and only to rise physically from the dead”?” If he doesn’t say that—and he conspicuously does not—how could Paul’s listeners conclude that he believed that the resurrection of others would be anything but physical in nature as well?
We can hardly avoid stressing where this leads us: It indicates that Paul had individual resurrection in mind by the term and not a collective one. A collectivity might be somehow “spiritually” raised but only the individual can be physically.
Of course one might say that all the individuals in the collectivity are physically raised, but then that would result in the denial of Covenant Eschatology’s attempt to insist on collectivity resurrection as the replacement for an individual one. It would also make impossible the total removal of the physicality element as they so strive to do.
2. Adam only brought spiritual death into the world; even before he sinned, he was already destined (as a human) to die physically. To this is blended in the resurrection and salvation to produce this result: The resurrection is not from physical death but from spiritual death; the forgiveness of sin is obtained at that time.
As Curtis explains it, “We looked last time at the fact that resurrection is resurrection from the dead. And we saw that death was spiritual. When Adam sinned, he died spiritually, not physically. Man's problem is spiritual death; separation from God.”
We just spent considerable time studying Acts 24:15’s assertion “that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” In light of what has just been claimed, let’s work out the implications:
The resurrection brings freedom from “spiritual death,” i.e., salvation.
The unjust are resurrected.
Conclusion: the unjust are freed from “spiritual death,” i.e., are saved.
Result: Universal salvation.
Laying aside this particular “can of worms” for you to consider at your leisure, let us just concentrate on Curtis’ assertion as to the death that is not “man’s problem.”
The Death under Discussion in “Resurrection”
Man’s problem is not physical death, Curtis insists. Hmm. Not many grieving widows (or widowers) have that view. Not many with a dying teenager, or child, or infant, either. And it is a problem not just for the individual but for generic man, for it affects all of us at some point in our life.
Truth be told, man’s problem is a double one: physical death and spiritual death. And the traditional interpretation finds exactly that in the fall of Adam. Now we are told [Page 205] that it is merely spiritual death that was his painful legacy to the human race.
This won’t fit the Genesis text very well. When they were expelled from the Garden it was to cut them off from the tree of life and to remove their ability to eat of it,
22 Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" -- 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3)
Prior to this they had full right to partake of it, whenever, wherever, and as much as they wished. One tree and one tree only was off of bounds. As Eve recalled the instruction, “We may eat of the trees of the garden” except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for it would result in their death (Genesis 3:2-3). Her memory served her well, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).
A tree of life is what, logically speaking? That which keeps you alive so long as you regularly partake of it. Did the tree of life keep them alive so they could “live forever” spiritually or physically? If spiritually, they could eat of the tree of knowledge every single day, rush over, grab the fruit off the tree of life and—should we say “neutralize” or “remove” their sin? For the tree of life must produce the forgiveness of sin in this scenario.
On the other hand, if the tree of life was what assured them staying alive physically, then being cut off from it began them dying, at the very least. They were “walking dead men” from the minute they were cut off from it.
Hence unless one is going to contend that partaking of the tree was what kept them alive spiritually (and we already saw the profound difficulties with that approach), then being separated from it was what doomed them physically. So, yes, physical death began on that fateful day. It was not merely spiritual death that entered the world from their transgression.
(For the related issue of whether salvation was available before the Fall of Jerusalem see the next section.)
3. At the Fall of
it wasn’t just a promise to
[Page 206] At this point Curtis’ argument implodes, in
our judgment, for, to use his logic, the words should read, “since the
promise was made to
Or, yet a third alternative is possible: argue that the Christian age also ended in 70 A.D.—after all the “church age” did then end and was replaced by the “kingdom age” in their theology. This must be or the church could not have undergone the transformation into the kingdom they say occurred at that time--even though Full Preterism also asserts that Jesus’ reign is still in effect today. (That would, seemingly, mean that both the Mosaical and the gospel laws were removed since the latter were given for church members rather than kingdom members, leaving Jesus reigning by what law’s rules and regulations?)
Be that as it may—confusing, if nothing else--the non-Full Preterist reader should note this ongoing effort to cram everything back into the narrow confines of the Old Testament. Even when, as here, there is no logical reason to put the subject matter within that narrow a boundary since resurrection has a Christian application as well as a Jewish!
as to the issue of whether separation from God/spiritual death had to wait
to 70 A.D. to be obtained: Were not
believers spiritually resurrected from sin already, at conversion? Cf. Romans 6:3-5 and the various texts
referring to the requirements for salvation.
Instead of having a spiritual resurrection (now) and a physical one
later (at “the end”), we are now told first century Christians had two
spiritual resurrections and them only—at baptism and at 70 A.D. In contrast, we only have the first one
because our faith is post-destruction of
(Aside: Even if salvation weren’t fully their’s at
conversion, that in no way proves the event would occur at the fall of
Of the many scriptures that are extraordinarily hard to fit in with the Full Preterist delayed salvation doctrine, we will list only two. Since the tenses tell us whether salvation was already available and an accomplished reality--or something to be waited for in the future--we will use Young’s Literal Translation and those of Weymouth and Rotherham, three versions that we found clasped to the rhetorical bosoms of Covenant Eschatologists in our previous discussion of certain other texts. If these don’t make it future you are hardly likely to find it proved by any other translation!
(Young) In whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.
(Young) And you--being dead in the trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh--He made alive together with him, having forgiven you all the trespasses.
Much more could, obviously, be said but there comes a time when “belaboring of the obvious”—and rebutting the dodges to avoid accepting it—becomes tenuous and tiresome. So let us leave it at this:
Yes, there are senses in which it is yet future for us. Just as it was for those who lived through the trauma of 70 A.D. Salvation doesn’t become an irrevocably accomplished reality—for us or them—until we die. Then we have successfully navigated the reefs of sin and reached the Promised Land. But so long as we live up to our commitment at conversion and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for our transgressions, then in that sense salvation is fully granted now just as it was in 65 A.D., 70 A.D., 90 A.D. or any other year in which one commits to the Lord.
But in the sense of being saved as a current and immediate reality, then--unless the New Testament preachers were thoroughly misleading their hearers--the converts had it as soon as they turned to the Lord. There is a profound difference between CE’s assertion that these folk never had it until 70 A.D. and the Biblical teaching that these folk had it in hand, but retained the freedom of action to later repudiate it. In light of the evidence in the other direction, what Covenant Eschatology needs is a passage that clearly teaches that the promise of salvation—once one had obeyed its prerequisites—was not immediately granted.
typical Covenant Eschatology response to passages like those we have examined
is: They had the promise of
salvation but the accomplishment of it wasn’t till the fall of
Now the apparent reason that salvation wasn’t actually available on Pentecost was because Jesus’ blood had not yet been offered in the heavenly tabernacle. Covenant Eschatology tells us that didn’t happen till 70 A.D. Odd isn’t it? Under the Old Covenant no one would have thought to wait between the shedding of a sacrifice’s blood and its formal offering to God. It was done immediately.
But the blood of Christ—of such lesser significance than that of bulls and goats?—could and had to be delayed about forty years. Of course Full Preterists don’t believe that parenthetical interjection for a second, but doesn’t the validity of it seem inescapable once one accepts their premises?
[Page 208] 4.
Resurrection is not having our bodies back but being transported to heaven /
The end of the authority of the Mosaical Law only came with the destruction of
To be taken out of Sheol and brought into the presence of the Lord is what the Bible calls resurrection. Resurrection has nothing to do with physical bodies coming out of graves. Daniel spoke of this in: "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt”. (Daniel 12:2 NASB)
According to the Bible, when was the resurrection to take place? The Scriptures testify that the time of the resurrection was to be at the end of the Old Covenant age, "But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age." (Daniel 12:13 NASB)
We know this to have happened in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Jewish Temple. The disciples knew that the fall of the temple and the destruction of the city meant the end of the Old Covenant age and the inauguration of a New Age.
On Daniel 12
Assuming that Daniel 12 has reference to the same resurrection event that Paul does in 1 Corinthians, that still leaves major problems:
1. “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake” (12:2): “Many” implies the total would be numerous. However, “many of” would normally mean that not every one in that category was involved. Yet the “many” includes both those facing “everlasting life” and those facing “disgrace.” So who are the rest of the “many” not being discussed?
2. The wicked face “disgrace and everlasting contempt” (12:2). Punishment in a sense, but is that anything close to any traditional concept of “eternal punishment?”
3. “Those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake” (12:2) That sure sounds like the traditional “graves being opened.” Out of “the dust of the ground” surely doesn’t sound like being liberated from Sheol—unless you mean liberated from the grave. (For Your Information: The Jehovah Witnesses insist that Sheol always means the grave; at least some Full Preterists—what proportion I do not know—insist that Sheol never means the grave.)
4. Covenant Eschatologists keep insisting that the “collectivity” is resurrected. In Daniel 12, it is clearly the individual who is “resurrected”—“many” of them; a collectivity will result from that action on individuals, but it is not a depersonalized group entity that is “resurrected” in place of individuals. So we have severe tension here concerning the core nature of resurrection--between that of a collectivity and that of individuals.
national resurrection of
[Page 209] Likewise it would fit the image of an arising from “the dust of the ground.” We still use the imagery of armies and causes being ground into “the dust.” The application to a nation would be obvious. Think of the Germans and the Japanese rising from “the dust” after World War Two. We had (justifiably) ground them into the earth. But the nations “rose again” to international prominence, far better countries that they had been previously. In a Jewish context, think of a nation “reborn” into loyalty to Jehovah and Torah.
(Aside: Even literally, survivors in the ancient world would arise from “the dust of the ground” when that was a viable option. They would take refuge in caves, storm drains, anything that would get them beyond the sight of the enemy until they left or their blood-taking fever was over. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn’t.)
This approach would also provide a satisfying explanation of why the evil face “disgrace and everlasting contempt” rather than eternal punishment—they had tried to stay out of the unavoidable, been slackers, cowards or had openly backed the oppressor. Those who had refused to do their part are always looked down upon afterwards with “contempt” because of their “disgrace(ful)” behavior.
“Forever” they would bear that stigma of not supporting the resurrection of nationhood. Likewise, those who had been brave and supported both Torah and country and had been opposed the pagan enemy would “awake . . . to everlasting life.” “Forever” they would have their good reputation.
Is this a “perfect fit?” No. But it is a far better one than the results that occur when we put the Full Preterist interpretation on Daniel 12:2. Truth be told, I’m not fully sure what to do with Daniel 12. The time frame and textual description of that chapter do seem to fit Antiochus IV far better than either 70 A.D. or some yet future event. I have a fair collection of notes and research, but I venture this only tentatively and to provoke thought. What I do know is that the Full Preterist approach has massive difficulties with our text and results in conclusions that appear irreconcilable with what other passages teach. (Assuming, of course, as we do, that the interpretation of those are valid.)
Note that we are discussing only what has been brought up: chapter 12. What seems inevitable is that folks will now run to other chapters in Daniel to try to salvage their case. Isn’t it far better procedure to prove it from the “proof text” you introduce in the first place rather than “play tag” through one of the most misused books in the Old Testament?
On the Implications for Jesus’ Resurrection
We are told that, “To be taken out of Sheol and brought into the presence of the Lord is what the Bible calls resurrection. Resurrection has nothing to do with physical bodies coming out of graves” (our emphasis).
There are really only two alternatives:
(1) Jesus was never physically resurrected; it was all (in some sense) a spiritual phenomena.
The Scriptures take firm issue with this. Remember Psalms as quoted in Acts and applied to Jesus, “For you will not leave my soul in Hades nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:27); Psalms 16:10: “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”
The no “corruption” reference would be nonsensical if the resurrection body was [Page 210] to be anything other than physical. He would appear in it and it would lack decay. Furthermore, we see in Acts 2:31, “Foreseeing this, [he] spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.” (Acts ).
The resurrection is here defined as involving the “flesh,” not just the “soul.” And it was that flesh that Thomas was ordered to touch to convince himself that it was real, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39).
(2) Jesus did have a physical body, but His having one had nothing to do with being resurrected.
Likewise Jarius’ daughter (Mark 5), the widow’s son (Luke 7), and Lazarus (John 11). Apparently what happened to them weren’t really resurrections at all. I wonder what we should call them? Certainly in Acts 2 the phenomena is presented as “resurrection.” Indeed, defined by the text as involving having a temporal body.
Now I can understand defining resurrection as involving two phenomena: (1) bringing the soul out of Sheol / Hades and (2) reuniting it with its original fleshly body. Indeed, there is complete logic to that; it makes full sense. But making it only the first is scripturally untenable. A resurrected being not only can have flesh; it is inherently involved in being resurrected. In all of the cases we saw above.
On the Ending of the Mosaical Law as Authority
The Non-Full Preterist reader should also pay close attention to those words “the end of the Old Covenant age” and how it occurred in 70. Most will be more than a little questioning of how in the world this squares with passages speaking as if it were removed at the crucifixion. We’ll limit ourselves to one text, in four translations--including the three that Full Preterists seem to deem authoritative on the Greek tenses when other translations don’t provide them with the needed evidence:
(NKJV) Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
(Young) Having blotted out the handwriting in the ordinances that is against us, that was contrary to us, and he hath taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Even the Covenant Eschatologists’ favored translations tell us (1) that the Law was already removed as authority at the time Paul wrote and (2) that it was removed at the cross. That God permitted it to be followed, without censure, until later is far different that it being still Law, i.e., obligatory and essential to salvation. Indeed, if it had [Page 211] been, it seems hard to see how Gentiles could have avoided the obligation to be circumcised. Only if a new law had taken its place could there be room for a people of God without circumcision. (Note also verse 13, which presents salvation as already in hand when Paul wrote, flying in the face of the CE assertion that it did not become a reality until 70 A.D.)
 Roderick Edwards, “Preterists Do NOT Deny the Resurrection.” Part of the New Jerusalem Community website. At: http://www.newjerusalemcommunity.net/?c= 54&a=1706. [March 2011.]
 Epicurus, Principal Doctrines (Sovran Maxims). Unidentified translation on the Epicurus & Epicurean Philosophy web site. At: http://www.epicurus.net/en/ principal.html. [June 2011.]
 Cf. Brian Schwertley, “Full Preterism Refuted, Part 2.”
 Edward B. Stevens, “Greeks and Pharisees.” Response to Gentry’s Analysis of the Full
Preterist View. 1997. Part of the International Preterist Association
http://www.preterist.org/articles/gentry/greeks_and_pharisees.asp. [July 2011.]
 Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., “A Brief Analysis of Full Preterism or Hyper Preterism.” At: http://fide-o.com/2009/05/full-preterism/. [February 2011, March 2011.]
 John Stevenson, “Why I Am Not a Preterist.” On the John Stevenson Bible Study Page. At: http://www.angelfire.com/nt/theology/preterist.html. [February 2011.]
 Brian Schwertley, “Full Preterism Refuted, Part 1: The Rapture of the Saints: An Exposition of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.” At: http://www.entrewave.com/view/ reformedonline/PreterismRapture.htm. [October 2011.]
[Page 212]  Josephus, Antiquities, 18.1.3, as quoted by Rick C. [Anonymous], “Reconsidering the: ‘Resurrection of the Just and the Unjust.’ ” Part of the Theologica website. At: http://theologica.ning.com/forum/topics/reconsidering-the-resurrection. [October 2011.]
 Dee Dee Warren, “ ‘Grave’ Error: Hypper-Preterism and the Response of the Church.” Part of the PreteristSite. At: http://www.preteristsite.com/docs/ warrengrave.html. [October 2011.]
David. “Question 51.” Part of the Questions, Questions, Questions
http://www.preteristcosmos.com/questionsandanswers4.html#note51. [October 2011.] Also quoted at length on this and other
matters Adan Maarschalk, “Revelation 20: Minority Views on the Millennium (Part
 I do not have the time to go back and dredge up those sources since they are so marginal to the concerns of this chapter. Some of the core data, though, will be found in the next footnote.
 A quick introduction to the rabbinic attitudes in general can be found in the on-line essay of Jeffrey Spitzer, which includes the following remarks:
“He found that the largest group of cases prior to Rabbi
“The Tannaim themselves were probably not concerned about this state of affairs. Tannaim expressed disdain for the common folk whom they called ammei ha'aretz, the people of the land. The Tosefta (Berakhot ) refers to a rabbinic blessing praising God for having ‘not made me an outsider (bur),’ explaining that an outsider, that is, one who does not adopt a rabbinic lifestyle, cannot really fear sin. The Mishnah (Avot ) expresses disdain in claiming that ‘sitting in the assemblies of ammei ha'aretz drives one out of the world.’
“The early rabbinic response to the ammei ha'aretz was separation, not education. In general, the Tannaim chose to teach their traditions orally, which necessarily limited the audience to those who would study with a master. Indeed, most of the learning occurred in small disciple circles. This was, at least partially, an effort to control the flow [Page 213] of information:
“ ‘The [subject of] forbidden sexual relations may not be explained in the presence of three, nor the work of creation [speculations about cosmology] in the presence of two, nor the chariot [mystical lore] in the presence of one, unless he is a sage and already understands out of his own knowledge’ (Mishnah Hagigah 2:1).”
Cohen writes, ‘a limited number of masters teaching a limited number of
disciples in a limited number of disciple circles was not the vehicle for mass
education.’ (‘The Place of the Rabbi in
Jewish Society’ in The
Jeffrey Spitzer, “The Rabbis and the Common Folk: The Evolving Relationship between the Rabbinic Sages and the Jews on the Street.” Part of the MyJewishLearning website.
At: http://mobile.myjewishlearning.com/history/ Ancient_and_Medieval_ History/539_BCE-632_CE/Rabbis_and_Common_Folk.shtml. [October 2011.]
quoted by Michael Sullivan, “House Divided:
Imminent Redemption in Luke 21:27-28 and Romans 8:18-23.” Dated
 Ibid., Footnote 16. At: http://fullpreterism.com/michaelsullivan/house-divided-imminent-redemption-in-luke-2127-28-and-romans-818-23/. [July 2011.]
quoted by Samuel Frost, “Mello.”
 Consider his other remarks in Ibid.
 Dan Trotter, “A (Somewhat) Irenic Response to Certain Naughty Heretical Preterists.” Part of The Preterist Site. At: http://www.preteristsite.com/docs/ trotterirenic.html. [July 2011.]
 Samuel Frost, “Mello.”
 Of the latter, survivors of the fall of the temple in 70 A.D. were known to hide in the storm drains, usually unsuccessfully, because the Romans decided to dig into them. For interesting pictures of one of the storm drains, entrances into it, and what was above it, see those attached to the sermon of Bruce Wersen, “The Good Shepherd: Part 11 (August 7, 2011). Part of HisPlaceChurch website. At: http://www.hisplacechurch. com/resources/uploads/1829. [October 2011.]
 Curtis, “The ‘About To Be’ Resurrection--Acts 24:15.”