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My Response to Ed Stevens Book: "Expectations Demand a Rapture"
By Nathan DuBois
I promised Ed Stevens my critique on his book and I will do my utmost to be thorough and precise in everything he has written and everything I espouse. I will respond in the order that Ed has presented the arguments in this book, from preface to conclusion. I, from the beginning, admit this is an area where I have a strong stance against a physical rapture. As I have stated to many of my friends in correspondence and debate, a proper understanding of exactly what the first century Christians did expect is important in our understanding of the whole gospel and it's place in our lives toady. This is an important issue, not to salvation, but to the knowledge of our Lord God and His plan for mankind in this world, which human kind will inhabit forever.
The first thing that stands out about Ed's book is his title. He readily and honestly admits that a title "Silence Demands a Rapture" makes it seem as if he is making an argument from silence. He readily acknowledges this would be a mistake and has changed the title to "Expectations Demand a First Century Rapture." This only points out the necessity I see in having this debate. As I said above, understanding the first century Christians expectations are key to understanding the completed and fulfilled gospel. This is a serious issue.
Ed says that the change in title came after reflecting on some input from others who said that the previous title gave it's perceived weakness of trying to make an "argument from silence." This is no doubt true. The position I take on this point is that by changing the title, he still did not change the fact that his book is admitting to come from an insecurity in dealing with the silence of post AD 70 Christendom. The need to settle his own questions and the questions of the preterist critics concerning this infamous silence is still the basis of the book and appears (my assumption) to be the basis for his abandoning and "spiritual rapture" position.
Ed claims that the Bible contains Biblical "expectation statements" that need to be answered. The fact that the church is curiously silent about the fulfillment of these things is a puzzling element in Ed's view. He says:
This stance on the "expectation statements" that Ed is taking I believe is not the right way to view it. What he has just done is come full circle to the argument of the dispensational believer who cannot let go of the "literal fulfillment of prophecy" which they hold according to their own understanding! Christ was notorious for not meeting the expectations of an audience who were out for their own benefit. The fulfillment of expectations cannot be based on the literal writings of a man, who is addressing an audience of an event, which he describes as a "mystery." What was a mystery to them is not clear to us by just translating their expectations literally according to our understanding throughout church history.
I cannot agree with the above statement for another reason. "Expectation statements" are by no means a kin to "time statements" nor do they hold the same weight. God has proved Himself faithful to the exact on His time statements. From the time given for the slavery of the children of Abraham, to the time in captivity at Babylon and then the 70 weeks, God was always on time. Because time is always exact, we can base interpretations of hard to understand prophecy on the event that occurred "on time." The case is not the same for "expectation statements." They cannot be determined by what silence may assume. They must be interpreted by the result of what we know to be true, based on the timing of God and the end result for the whole.
Understanding what the "expectation statements" mean, like prophesy, must be proved by the "time statements" and history. The result of the event and it's impact for you and I, as well as when the expectations were to be fulfilled, is the key to us 21st century Christians understanding the expectations of the Apostles and the first century Christians. It is not the other way around. Expectations can be as hard to understand as prophecy, as this situation proves. We are both preterists, the time statements are unmistakable due to God's track record, which is why Ed and I do not dispute this, however, the expectations of Paul and the first century Christians are not this concrete according to our understanding. This explains the difference in the debates between preterists over the conclusions that the timing leads to. The conclusions are not easily understood.
Further along Ed's preface he mentions again the need to try to understand these "expectation statements" due to the silence that followed.
I must be honest and say that I do not see where this causes an issue. I will address these issues as Ed does along this critique, however I will give you the basics of my thoughts in response to this quote.
The fact that the there is no writings to follow up the "sheer volume of 'expectation statements'" is irrelevant. There are, in fact, writings to follow up the "time statements" of the second coming the church writers of the second century and beyond, which have agreed that the timing of Matthew 24 and Luke 21 were fulfilled in Ad 70. The fact that they would assume some of Revelation would be fulfilled, but not all, states that they acknowledged the judgment of God on Jerusalem based, at least partially, on the "time statements" of Christ. They then ignore the timing of Daniel 12 out of their need to have the expectations fulfilled. This was not based on lack of writing, even though there were none, this was based on false expectations. It is possible for some theologians to be mistaken on the total fulfillment of Revelation was based on the false expectations.
Why were they not asking the same questions as Ed? Why did they take the timing, which so clearly would have proved a total first century fulfillment, and change the truth to fit their false expectations? Wouldn't silence prove the very rapture they agree with? Wouldn't a disappearance of thousands, and possibly millions, prove the rapture? The issue here is not that the lack of post-AD 70 writing proves a literal physical rapture but, in fact, the silence proves the opposite. If there was ever a time to show the truth of God, it would have been out of the mouth of some non-Christian historian, noting the fact that a million inhabitants, who were known as rabble rousers and Jew antagonists, suddenly disappeared after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.
The Christians were persecuted and known by their neighbors and the Roman Empire itself. If Ed believes that Nero was the beast, which I assume he does, then Ed should acknowledge that the Christians would have been well known by the Roman Empire due to their rejection of the "mark." They would have been hunted, persecuted, and well known by their neighbors and the government. The disappearance of these individuals, who stood out as not having the "mark of the beast," would have been noticed if they were to have simply vanished. Yet not one historian marks this account, rather, the church writers have said that the Christians fled to the hills of Pella. Silence ultimately demands nothing, however if anything, it refutes a disappearance of known, persecuted, and "unmarked" men.
The second issue I have with the above quote is the fact that it uses weakly the fact that no "apostolic father" wrote concerning the rapture, but the validity of their word is disputed anyway when Ed says, "who was supposedly still around," when referring to the "sighting" of the Apostle John in AD 95-96. If Ed can denounce the validity of the of the "apostolic father's" because it causes difficulty to his claim, and my belief, that Revelation was written before AD 70, then no amount of writing by these men would convince him of a spiritual rapture or literal one. I agree that the testimony of an Apostle John sighting is weak, but we should not appear to reject this "evidence," and then appeal to the same men for more "evidence" when discussing the rapture issue.
The notion that John did not write anything is not disputed. All preterists must agree that no Apostle wrote of the parousia post-AD 70. There is no problem here based exactly on the reason Ed says he is troubled. He acknowledges that "they would 'know' when the parousia occurred, and 'see' it, and experience it." I would ask Ed, then, what is the point to write about it? The majority, nay, all of the text we have in scripture is a reaffirmation of beliefs in the face of adversity. From the gospels to the Revelation, the New Testament was written to encourage, correct, reprove, and instruct. The purpose was to carry the firstfruits of salvation from faith, to realization. If this purpose was complete then there would be no need for more epistles. We simply do not have friendship letters of any kind from that period that are absent from the message of the common faith in future salvation, so to expect those type of letters, post-AD 70 is no proof at all. If they no longer had faith, but "knew," if they no longer had hope, but perfect confidence in their savior, in the fact that those who were asleep in Christ were now dwelling with God, if they could "see" their salvation as being accomplished, they would have no greater response, then to just live as gloriously as we can live in this same truth today. I will go into much greater detail on this further into the discussion.
Ed must also acknowledge the lack of what we call "apostolic authority" post-AD 70. If this were the case, the writings of John would have been mere fallible letters. If he had written, this would be a complication and actually lend credence to the possibility that "apostolic authority" went beyond AD 70. The lack of this authority does not prove a disappearance, however it acknowledges the judgment of the Apostle John who, to the best of our knowledge, remained silent and content on the island of Patmos well into his life post-AD 70. To dispute this evidence only damages Ed's reliance in any "evidence" that may or may not be produced in the future. Rather, the receipt of evidence, or lack of, is irrelevant as to what Paul taught, God revealed, and mankind received.
This brings me to the conclusion of my critique of Ed's preface. His address as to the grammar usage is not a conflict in this portion of his book. I will thoroughly address his grammatical problems when I reach that section of his book. I want to instead finish by responding to what he calls the "three factors."
Ed is right that there are evident historical and grammatical problems when addressing this issue. Where we disagree is when we discuss who it is that has the problem, the preterist, or the "apostolic fathers." Ed shows his distrust in the church historians who claim that the Apostle John was alive on Patmos in Ad 95-96. Ed would also dispute any church father that claimed any book of the New Testament was written post-AD 70. If it does not fit into the "time statements," then Ed would rightly dispute it. Likewise we cannot allow the lack of evidence by the historians to be a basis for or against. We cannot side with their misunderstood expectations; yet dispute any evidence that does not agree with the "time statements." Ed relies on the "evidence" when it is convenient, and refutes it when it is not. It is not the preterist that has been mistaken for 2000 years as to the fact of an AD 70 return of Christ. It is not the preterist that has been wrong all this time, and is still defending the misunderstood expectations of the first century Jews, even to this day.
The issue shows the lack of understanding of the final result of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I will chose to pick sides on this issue, the issue of the final result of the parousia, based on the results for mankind. What occurred to the first century Christians, would be something that would be carried on forever in the "age to come." The benefits of the parousia and the rapture would be experienced by all Christians in the future. If the rapture is literal, what benefit do we reap in this life? If a physical rapture or resurrection was the hope of salvation, what benefit does that give me who will continue on this earth until death? I know Ed would not dispute the advantages we Christians have today apart from the law, in perfect communion with God the Father, but can he adequately define what purpose there is to life in the here and now, if it is the hereafter that was the hope and focus of Paul and the first century Christians? Can he adequately describe what our benefit is, truly, if the expectation of the first century were in a disappearance? If the rewards that we are to be experiencing are so great, why did they need to be swept away from it?
The end result and expectation of Paul and the first century Christians was life with God, "whether awake or asleep." The Bible, in Revelation 21 and yes, even First Thessalonians 4, will be shown to declare that the hope of salvation was life with God. The grammar Paul used in this powerful passage itself, so misunderstood and wrongly interpreted proves that "God with man" is the end result of the "hope of salvation." The reason this is not understood is due to the misunderstanding of the curse, cross and coming. The curse was not physical death, the cross did not by itself bring life, and the coming was not to help the firstfruits of salvation escape a world that God would be leaving to two-thousand years worth of believers as their "age to come." God was not helping the first fruits escape their inheritance.
Response to Section 1: The Expectations and the Silence
1. What Is Suggested
In the first section of the book, Ed again brings the impact of his argument back to a lack of writing concerning this event. I do agree that this book will contain plenty of positions brought to bear by the "expectation passages" more so than the fact there is a simple lack of evidence. I concede to Ed that he simply is giving his point of view on these passages from a scriptural interpretation standpoint that fits within Preterism. What has caused Ed alarm and concern over the whole issue, what has brought him to question his former position, however, is still the issue of silence. It is the silence, which appears to support a rapture claim, which causes Ed to abandon a "spiritual rapture" view. Whether or not the meat of his argument is in pointing out the lack of evidence, one cannot dispute that his method of interpreting the first century scriptures is grounded in the idea that this silence is so puzzling and supports the seemingly obvious "literal rapture" theory that the modern dispensational church holds to. His bias is that because of the puzzling silence, it is only obvious that the "expectation passages" are affirming to the believers a "literal rapture," just as the church has been teaching for almost 1900 years.
Ed again explains his questioning in the following quote.
Ed has again beautifully showed his ability to side with the dispensational in their argument against any rapture at all! They first believe that scripture was written after AD 70. If some believe that it was all written before, it is clear to them that most of the Apostles were probably dead, as church history records, and that the Apostle John was simply imprisoned until he died. Why does Ed have such a hard time with these explanations? Church history records that Peter, James and Paul were killed during the reign of Nero. The only other popular Biblical authors are John and Luke. I admit ignorance in what may have happened to Luke, however Johns imprisonment easily explains his lack of writings considering the fact that there was no more need to warn, sustain, and instruct, nor was there the authority to do so.
Ed's statement also answers itself when he says, "at a time when there should have been clarity and confidence of the fulfillments that had just occurred." How does Ed know that there was no clarity or confidence after AD 70? He admits there are no writings saying so one way or the other! If the Christian world were to receive the rest of God from their labors, if they were going to inherit the fruits of their toil, would not they be in perfect confidence when they received it? Would they not have had perfect clarity after the whole world had witnessed the march on and destruction of Jerusalem? They had just received salvation from the persecution of the Judaizers. They had just received confirmation that every word their Lord had spoken was true and accurate, and it happened right before their eyes! Ed has no evidence that they were not clear or confident.
Silence in this situation would actually point to the opposite. The purposes and reasons for writing scripture had vanished when the Romans marched to and on Jerusalem. Think about the fact that the Jews had been pestering and rebelling against the Romans for too many years. They were a thorn in the Emperor's side for so many years, in fact, that the Roman Emperor himself went to Jerusalem first hand. I would bet that on the way, they did not leave a single Judaizing synagogue alone. The Romans were marching from Italy to their little province of Judea to crush a rebellion that was faith and race based. Would any person, who has any knowledge of warfare or history, dispute that probably not a single synagogue was left unmolested along the way? Pure vindication and rest had come to the Christian, throughout the Roman world, when God judged the Jews in AD 70 for the blood of the martyrs, prophets, and Christ Himself. Pure confidence and clarity came to the Christian in AD 70, when the words of his Messiah were confirmed in that time. When the Jew was judged as the Ishmael and the Christian, elect of the Jew and grafted in Gentile, were proven the true "sons of Abraham" then there was perfect clarity and perfect confidence. There was no need to write anything.
The next question Ed asks is why the Christians never wrote about "the single most significant factor shaping the history of eschatological study." He correctly states that, "all of church history and its interpretation of Bible prophecy is deeply affected by this silence." What is interesting is that these questions never change the fact that history and the world has been left in silence after "the single most significant factor shaping the history of eschatological study" has just taken place! This is a more critical question that needs to be answered which Ed's view does not adequately address. We are living in what was called the "age to come." Obviously it was God's will to leave us with pure silence after the events of AD 70. Neither literal rapture or complete rest, clarity, and confidence will change the fact of silence. So what is this "age to come" that the world inherited and why was a rapture significant to it? Why did God not just simply end the world in AD 70 if the "hope of salvation" was found in a literal rapture? If that was the hope, then what hope have we? Ed's view creates the same "what hope is there now" scenario for the preterist that every dispensational asks in any debate. Rather than understanding a "hope of salvation" that the first century Christians had that relates to their inheritance of an "age to come," he has diminished their true hope and minimized the real "hope of salvation" by siding with the irresponsible hermeneutics of a group of Christians who will not be satisfied until God creates their version of Armageddon which their many science fiction books proclaim as doctrine! The fact is all of church history and the "age to come" has been left in silence. This silence was God's will and we would be better served understanding the points of view of what the Christians actually received "on that day" and what we were left with "beyond the end times" instead of trying to focus on a silence that does nothing more than leave speculative questions for conspirator people. The silence is answered in the true "hope of salvation" that we can and should, as preterists, realize. This "hope of salvation" that the first century Christians had brought pure freedom, perfect clarity, relief from persecution, perfect confidence, and a perfected conscience.
2. Why They Failed to Document It
The problem I have with this section is it forces me to repeat my opinions on the matter of silence that I have already addressed. I do not want to beat a dead horse with why there was silence and lack of documentation because that will be dealt with in the exegetical portion as well. However, the question of this section specifically concerns the silence as a reason for concern. The problem of silence seems to stump many Christians, including preterists and so the logical reasons for silence without it demanding a literal rapture must be stated and emphasized.
Ed is absolutely correct in his assumption that "they would be of such a nature that they could be seen and experienced by the true Christians..." This is all he need say though concerning who would know. The true Christian would be "spiritually discerning enough to know" so to add that as a qualifier for those who would understand it is unnecessary. This was the point of the epistles and the preaching of the apostles. They were to prepare the church for what was to happen. The church needed to have it's hearts and minds prepared and therefore the apostles taught them both in person and through epistles. Every "true" Christian would be "spiritually discerning enough."
Would Christ return if those who were to be the elect, the "firstfruits of salvation" were not prepared to meet their husband? Would Christ return if the number He had set apart for salvation were not completed and made ready?
The idea here clearly is that Paul's mission was to present the Bride as acceptable, ready, and pure. Paul did not only take this mission upon himself, but he also put this task upon Timothy who also was to keep the commandment "without spot or blame until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." The commandment Timothy received was to keep the church and instruct them. He was to preach the truth and to avoid false doctrines. If these commands could not be kept, why did Paul give them to Timothy? In Ephesians Paul also speaks of the mission in similar terms.
The question here is how would they attain the "whole measure of the fullness of Christ." This is what I believe occurred at the parousia. They reached unity in the faith, they had full knowledge of the Son of God and they attained the whole measure. If they had not attained, there would still be apostles. They were appointed "until" according to Ephesians. If apostles no longer exist, who were led into all truth, who were appointed according to this mission Paul explains, then the mission has been accomplished at the time apostles were no longer needed. This occurred at Ad 70. The church was led into all knowledge. This is also what Paul says would happen when Christ returns. When the "perfect comes" there would be a change, an experience, a knowledge, an understanding that took place.
This statement by Paul is either true or it isn't. Paul, and every Christian who would have lived through this event, must have known as they were "fully known." This is not hope or faith; this means they had knowledge and utter confidence. It is not easily understood what this statement means. This is clearly one of Paul's expectation statements however he does not make it clear what the result of being "face to face" means. The clue to this is that he would "know." Paul's reliance of the fact that he would "know" is a clue to what he really expects. Some people see this as a proof text that Paul would be "face to face" with God Himself. This cannot make sense in light of the fact Paul mentions that at that present time, he sees "indistinctly, as in a mirror." Paul is not saying he will see the literal face of God at the parousia in the future any more than he is saying he is looking into a literal mirror in the present. The point here is knowledge, and at that point, there would be no reflections of who God is, no mystery to what he sees and knows, he would see and know as if face to face with God Himself. He would know God as God knows him. This is the expectation Paul had, to understand it all completely, and not "in part."
I really find it funny that this question is raised at all, even by a dispensational, considering the fact they believe that scripture had been written beyond AD 70 and yet the Bible itself does not record any of this most significant event in Jewish or Church history. The Bible does not even record the Neronian persecutions, which all but wiped out the remaining apostles. It is a silly question by men who assume authorship of New Testament text post AD 70, one that could go in circles, and has, for years.
This last statement is impossible in the light of the scripture I produced. One thing that cannot be disputed is that whether there was a literal rapture or a spiritual one, confusion, misunderstanding, or lack of knowledge would not result for those who awaited the parousia. Lack of knowledge is not a reason for silence no matter who is correct in this debate. The question for silence is again answered in the knowledge itself. They did "see their vindication and relief come" and therefore had a perfect understanding. There was no more need for the apostles to write about it, to instruct about it, to declare it, because Paul himself declared it was going to be perfectly understood.
Silence did not answer nor leave unanswered Jewish objections to the validity of Christianity. I am amazed a preterist would raise this objection in light of the known vindication they and Christ Himself received in the act of AD 70 itself. Who was left to question the Christian? Was the priesthood that was destroyed in the temple left to raise objections against Christianity and persecute the Christians? Were the Jews, who now suffered the wrath of Rome throughout the empire and witnessed the destruction of their law, raising objections to Christianity? The events of AD 70, Christ alone vindicated the Christians. Christ answered all objections in the definitive when He came and destroyed the temple like He said He would. When the Christian was left standing as the true "sons of Abraham" and the Jew was persecuted by Rome and taken captive, that was all the answer Christianity needed.
The silence of post-AD 70 Christendom was a natural result of pure freedom, perfect clarity, relief from persecution, perfect confidence, and a perfected conscience. The silence of post-AD 70 Christendom is a natural result of the mission of the Church leaders being accomplished when the Church reached their fullness in Christ. The silence of post-AD 70 Christendom is a natural result of the apostolic authority that was once held by the Apostle John no longer being applicable or needed. We have no record at all of normal letters from any of the apostles to the churches. All epistles were written in an effort to accomplish the mission as declared in Ephesians, as given to Timothy and as handed down to the disciples from our Lord. It is not disputed that this mission was accomplished. If we did not have non-instructive, uninspired regular celebratory letters pre-AD 70 between Christians or the apostles, why is it so surprising that none exist afterwards?
This is a perfectly true statement. The falsehood found within this statement is the assumption that silence means it was missed by the "true Christians." I have showed why silence does not determine the result one way or the other. Silence can confirm my belief in a spiritual rapture as easy as it forces Ed to question one. In this debate it is clear that silence is being used to determine the means of fulfillment of the "expectation passages" by Ed. He has laid his case to interpret the "expectation passages" in a literal way due to the silence. Silence is still ultimately the reason Ed has for questioning his past held beliefs of a spiritual rapture. Silence is ultimately what demands Ed to look at the "expectation passages in a literal way. Silence, in Ed's view, does demand the literal rapture.
3. What They Expected to "See"
It should be already obvious to the reader in this debate that what Ed will produce is the literal fulfillment idea for the "expectation statements" of what the apostles and first century Christians expected to see, and I will produce an idea of spiritual fulfillment. His questioning of the silence brings about Ed's literal approach. He admits to holding a spiritual view of these events until he could not answer the silence question. I have shown that silence is, by no means, a problem in my interpretation and so I will base my interpretations on what it is they, and we who are living in that "age to come" have received. I will interpret these passages based on the purpose and result of the gospel itself as understood through a preterist interpretation. I will not take the literal reading of these passages any more than I will take the literal reading of prophecy to determine the fulfillment. Like in proving the truth of preterism itself, I will take historical events and results based on timing and gospel implications to show what it was that the first century Christians really expected. I will not take the fulfillment of an even Paul describes as a "mystery" (1 Cor 15:51) and interpret it literally. A grammatical, historical and big picture understanding of the gospel is required to unlock the "mystery" which was unlocked completely for the true Christian in AD 70.
The answer is an emphatic "YES!" The answer is also that they received such a visible relief and reward in a physical and spiritual fulfillment. They physically received relief from the persecution of Judaism and spiritually received the reward of eternal life. They were physically able to rest from the fear of persecution from the Jew who continually stoned them and brought them before tribunals. They physically received relief from the Roman who had focused his attention on the Jew and quelling their rebellion and turned their anger away from the Christian, allowing Christianity to grow to incalculable numbers after AD 70. They spiritually received rest from their conscience, which was unable to be perfected before AD 70 (Heb 9:9-10, 10:1-14). They spiritually received rest from the temptation to return to Judaism. This was the biggest struggle for a Christian. A very pervasive theme of most of the epistles was to help them remain confident and strong in the face of Judaizers who were trying to convert the Gentile to Judaism and bring the Jew into apostasy. They received rest from this spiritual battle.
These are just a few of the things that the parousia brought, which a literal rapture minimizes. We are not in their place, so to ask questions which appear to say that without literal disappearance and that without literal and visual "face to face" with the Messiah Himself, they could not have rest, is to minimize the results of the parousia itself, to minimize the results of the gospel, and to minimize the struggle they dealt with. It also strips us of the important understanding of the gospel and what it does for us today. If a literal rapture was the "hope of salvation," then we are in a world without hope.
I will cover the expectation points Ed brings up and deal with some of them more thoroughly than others. Some we already agree upon and do not require debate.
A. Expectation 1
This expectation is agreed upon and the Bible itself shows a small debate with Peter, John, and Christ discussing the issue of John possibly living through it and Peter dying before it. Since the truth of the Preterism is not at debate here, but the conclusions of Preterism are, I will not address the first expectation because it is agreed.
B. Expectation 2
(1) Text 1
The proof text for this expectation and the reasons for the questions I will address in order. 1 Cor 16:22 is only significant for it's use of "Marana-tha."
(2) Text 2
"Philippians 3:20 but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."
Our citizenship was in a place called the "heavenly Jerusalem" which came out from heaven down to earth. It is in the New Heavens and New Earth. Hebrews describes this place of our citizenship thoroughly and Revelation also does so prophetically. It is a citizenship that all believers belong to, both past and present, and one that describes our place in covenant with God, not our literal place in relation to time and space. Though heaven, life after death, exists, the place of our citizenship is the "New Jerusalem." The New Jerusalem had not "come down" to man yet in Paul's day. This is what AD 70 was bringing and this was his hope. The covenant of death was to be done away with; it was vanishing. The covenant of righteousness was coming down to man at the end of the age. This was the "age to come;" the age of the New Covenant. The result of the New Covenant is the literal meaning of Emmanuel, "God with us [man]."
The conclusion of the context of the hope of the Christian is summed up in verse 10. The culmination of the hope of the Christian was nothing other than a relationship with the Almighty God of heaven and earth: to be “saved” from the present body and to be present with the Lord. However, the result of this hope was God dwelling with man. Whether he was “awake or asleep” man would forever be in relationship with “Abba Father.” The old order would pass away and the new order, which was the Edenic relationship, had been restored. The writer of Hebrews [I emphatically believe to be Paul] expresses this coming of the New Covenant, or God with man, when he addresses the coming of the "heavenly Jerusalem."
Paul is expressing the hope of a perfect tabernacle that was replacing the imperfect tabernacle which was of the worldly creation; the temple. Daniel was the first to link the "shattering" [RSV] of the "holy people" to the judgment, rapture/resurrection (Daniel 12). Christ again linked the destruction of the temple to the judgment Matthew 23 and to the rapture/resurrection in Matthew 24. The Revelation 19 links the judgment of the harlot Babylon to the time of vengeance taken against the slayer of the saints, which Christ clearly declared against first century Jerusalem.
With these undeniable links to the visible judgment of Jerusalem which would culminate in the destruction of their temple, it is easy to see that this time of judgment would bring about the coming of the "perfect tabernacle" at this same time. This was the writer of Hebrews hope, Paul's hope, and the hope he taught in his epistles.
It is easy to see how this passage perfectly links the hope of the "perfect that was coming; "which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises," with the establishment of the new covenant; "when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah," with the end of the offices in AD 70 that took away apostolic authority and the coming of the perfect knowledge and clarity Paul expected; "And they shall not teach every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know me," and finally, with the destruction of the law which would be the visible sign that all was consummated; "He has declared that the first is old and what is old and aging is about to disappear."
This vanishing of the old and establishment of the new is by no means a new theme in Paul's writing. He was assured that the coming covenant of righteousness was so glorious, that what the people experienced at Mount Sinai in Exodus was nothing in comparison to it. The glory of the New Covenant was a thing not to be taken lightly, nor is it right for us to minimize its coming. We have no concept of how deeply enslaved the people were by the persecution of Judaism and its law. The persecution from the Judaizers and the judgments of the law were all things that had to be done away with in order that the conscience of the believer be perfected once and for all. This was occurring at that time and the relief of such deliverance cannot and must not be minimized or understated. It is the freedom even Christianity today longs for and cannot find because we have hid it in a hierarchical system of man through priest, man through altar calls, man through guilt to get to God. However, God had done away with any hindrance or mediator other than Christ once and for all in AD 70 and He established a New Covenant, a tabernacle not of this creation, a city who's maker s God, a covenant of righteousness whose glory surpasses that of the covenant of death so much so, that Mount Sinai doesn't even rate to be called glorious anymore. This cannot be minimized!
Second Corinthians provides us with a beautiful link to exactly what Hebrews 8 is speaking of. The coming "ministry of righteousness" would be so glorious that the "ministry of death" could not even compare. To think that this is speaking alone of its coming would be a mistake. Though the events of AD 70 were visibly terrifying, and though I do believe that the shikinah glory of God was visibly seen over the city, it was the ministry that is being compared and the effects of Moses' face afterwards, which are being compared. This may be used as a proof text to say that the individual glorified bodies of believers would have more glory that the face of Moses. This would be a grave mistake since the thing here that has glory has nothing to do with personal glorification, but it is the ministry, which has the glory. It was the covenant, which would be glorious. Even more so than all the physical, visible evidences of glory from the ministry of death, the ministry of righteousness would not even allow Moses' personal, physical glorification to compare to it!
Read Hebrews again. It was the physical covenant, which could not perfect the conscience of the worshipper, which was of this creation and imperfect, which was enacted on promises that do not compare to the promises of the new covenant, which was vanishing (Heb 8:1-13, 9:1-14, 10:1-14). This was the hope, this was the point, and this is what is minimized if a literal rapture is true. A literal disappearance is not what they waited for. Individual glorification was not the result of the glorification of the ministry of righteousness. It was glorious because it perfected, it was glorious because righteousness is a much more perfect promise than death. Eternal life is a much better hope than the promise of death.
It is also a promise that they would be made perfect. If the downfall of the old covenant was that its external practices could not perfect the conscience of the worshipper, and the promise of the new covenant was better because it gave what the old covenant could not give, then perfection of the conscience of the worshipper was a key promise of the new. Paul describes being made perfect in Hebrews 11. He says it would not happen apart from the patriarchs of the faith. They were not made perfect before Paul was. They would all be made perfect in AD 70. Paul links this being "made perfect" with the coming of the new covenant and the arriving at the promise of the "heavenly Jerusalem."
What was better that they were receiving was already shown in Hebrews 8. However the writer of Hebrews goes into his description of the homeland that they were citizens of, the homeland he describes Abraham as waiting for but not receiving. It is in direct relation to the citizenship of the believer in the text that Ed provides in Philippians 3:20. It was a city that would not be inherited until all the firstfruits were ready. It was an inheritance of a "city," a "heavenly land," a perfection that would not be attained without the whole batch. Hebrews 12 describes this very "city" and its glory.
The hope of the Christian was a New Covenant, a "house not made with hands" a "kingdom which cannot be shaken" a "better land," a "ministry of righteousness." Paul was expecting and teaching that they would receive the new covenant at the second coming of Christ. The covenant of death would be taken away once for all. Only upon this removal was the way to life opened for all (Cor 15:54-56, Heb 9:8-11).
(3) Text 3
Hebrews 9:28 says they were eagerly awaiting for Him to appear a second time for salvation and not to deal with sin. Sin had already been dealt with. Christ had lived a sinless life and proved He alone held power over the grave. What was remaining was for Christ to apply this power to the believers who were eagerly awaiting salvation. As long as the law still existed, then sin still had power, and death still held its sting. These did not go away until Ad 70, and until the resurrection. Dealing with this issue, the fear and sting of death, was the primary concern of the Thessalonians in First Thessalonians 4.
(4) Text 4
The knowledge that Paul spoke about in First Corinthians 13, the knowledge of eternal life and receiving that eternal life, the ministry of righteousness, is specifically mentioned here as the mercy they were expecting. Jude clearly notes his expectation of mercy to be fulfilled with receiving eternal life. Eternal life is something that would be received without dying first or being raptured. The fear of no life after death was very troublesome to the Thessalonians and they were encouraged to take hope in the fact that those who had fallen asleep would indeed rise to be with God at His parousia.
This verse gives us the entire context of the "hope of salvation." These verses are the beginning of the rapture/resurrection passage that is at the heart of this debate. Here Paul is responding to a worry of the Thessalonians that their brethren who have fallen asleep before the parousia would not rise. He was putting to rest their worry that the dead in Christ had somehow perished for not living until the parousia occurred. This may be because of the passage in Daniel that blesses the man who comes to the 1335 days, or possibly the passage, which says, "he who endures to the end shall be saved." Either way, they had a fear of hopelessness concerning those who had dies before the parousia. Paul was addressing this fear.
He did not want them to grieve like those who had "no hope." They did have hope and all their saved brethren who had died in Christ had this same hope. Because of their "hope of salvation," they need not grieve. Their hope would not disappoint. Paul specifically addresses their hope in a statement in verse 14. God would come down so that those who had fallen asleep in Him would be "with Him." Christ was going to "receive them unto himself" when He returned.
This was the answer given to Peter when he wanted to follow Christ and declared he would follow Him, even to death. Christ gave Peter His opportunity to make good on his pledge to the Lord, and when Peter died, he, like those in First Thessalonians and Daniel also, would await the return of Christ, which is described in this First Thessalonians passage, before they would "rise" to be with God.
I must address a misunderstanding to verse 14 of First Thessalonians before I go any farther. The dispensational takes verse 14 and does some serious twisting to what is being said here. The idea is that since Christ rose, the dead in Him will also rise. Paul says that in the same way that Christ rose from the dead, so God will bring the dead to be with Him when at the return. The church has taught that this says, "since Christ's physical body rose, so will the physical bodies of the dead rise. God will bring with Him the spirits of the dead, they will reenter the physical body and then they will rise."
Here Paul is not saying that the dead will come down with God to reenter their physical bodies. This cannot be so because Paul himself teaches that the dead are not with God until the resurrection! There are no spirit bodies to come down with Him. They are still dead until He raises them. However Paul is saying that just like Christ rose to be with God, when God comes, the dead in Christ will also go to be with Him. It is exactly what Christ told Peter and what Paul reaffirms in verses 15-16.
When they witnessed this "visible" return in the clouds of heaven at AD 70, just as Christ had decreed, as the whole world was witness to the judgment of God on Jerusalem, the Thessalonians were then fully knowledgeable and assured that their dead loved ones were with God at that time. They had perfect peace that the God they believed was true, for He had vindicated them exactly as and when He had said He would. The witness of the Apostle Paul had proven to be true, and the unrest in their minds and souls concerning those who had fallen asleep before had vanished. They had clarity, peace, and rest in their perfected consciences and assurance of their presently held eternal life. Their longing for the loved ones was fulfilled.
(5) Text 5
This passage also goes to the heart of the debate. How was it that they received this deliverance? Was this deliverance the same as what the rapture/resurrection would be? I do not believe that the deliverance from the wrath is the same as the event known as the rapture/resurrection. I believe this is confirmed in Daniel 12 and Matthew 24. Daniel says that "your people" would be delivered during the tribulation such as the world had never known.
This is not saying that the Christians did not live in a time of tribulation or a time of trouble. The time that Christ declared was "the beginning of sorrows" or the "birth pains" was occurring all throughout the empire from the beginning of persecution of the church by the Judaizers through the Roman persecution under Nero. No matter what tradition says, there is no set 7 year time period, there is only a set 3 1/2 year period of a "time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time." This time of "wrath" is what the Christians would be delivered from, according to Daniel.
When a proper reading of Matthew and Daniel are considered, it is impossible that this deliverance in Daniel 12:1 is the rapture. The rapture would occur only after the resurrection, and the resurrection would not occur until the "end of the days." These days are the 3 1/2 years of wrath (Daniel 12:6-13), the 42 months of the "time of vengeance" in which the gentiles would trample the city (Luke 21:20-24, Rev 11:2). These are the days that the Christians would be delivered from but this is not the rapture. Matthew 24 gives us a good description of this event that I call the "deliverance of Daniel 12."
This is a perfect picture of the time of wrath. If we all recall the time of Noah, he had to build an ark, he had to obey the Lord upon entering it. He did all this after suffering the scoffing of those who did not believe there would be a flood. They were mocked and persecuted for building a boat in the middle of dry land, big enough to house 2 of every type of creature and even 7 of some others, not to mention his family. Noah had to specifically obey and follow the instructions of the Lord, according to his faith, in order to be saved from the "wrath" of God on that wicked generation. Christ said that the second coming would be in the same way. In other words, the Christians would have to obey, in faith, their Lord and they would have to follow the signs laid down and flee the "wrath to come." They would be witnesses to the destruction of Jerusalem from afar, after they obeyed the Lord and fled the city.
Christ was affirming Daniel 12 and was providing their deliverance in the same means as Noah, by their obedience in faith to the warnings of Christ. This is why the warnings were so important. I would not even limit the fleeing to Jerusalem alone. If I were a Christians and the hand of God in the form of the Roman Empire was moving out against the Jew and Judaism, in order to crush it, I would not be found anywhere near a synagogue where I could be mistaken as a Jew myself. This is a part of our understanding of what was really going on. In the crusades, the Jews and Muslims were tormented and murdered all the way from the British Isles to Jerusalem. The empire of Constantinople suffered greatly by the pillaging and murder of the crusaders. Likewise, I have to believe that the persecution of Judaism, from the just punishment of God, was being felt all throughout the empire. Any Christian anywhere, would have been wise to heed the warning to flee to the hills.
Christ further likens the time of Noah when specifically referring to the taking and leaving of individuals during that time. If it was the family of Noah that is considered taken, it is still not the same type of "taken" as happened to Elijah. If it was the Christian who was to be taken, like Noah, then the Christian would be delivered like Noah, by faith in obedience to the Lord when they fled to the hills. However, a better reading of this entire passage shows it is the wicked who were being taken. When Christ compares it to Noah, he said the flood "took them" when referring to the wicked. So like in the days of Noah, it would be the wicked who were taken by the wrath of God and the destruction that the Romans would bring upon the Jews, specifically in Jerusalem, but also throughout the empire.
If it was not as it was in the days of Noah, and God had planned to rapture the Christians as the form of deliverance from the "wrath to come," then there would be no need for them to "watch" or "flee." However, Christ declares it would be like in the days of Noah. Christ specifically addresses the sweeping away of the wicked in Noah's day when discussing those who would be "taken." Matthew 24 is not a proof of a literal rapture nor can it be used to prove that a rapture would be the means by which the Christians were delivered from wrath.
Daniel 12 seals up the difference between the rapture/resurrection and the time of deliverance from the "time of trouble" and "the wrath to come." It is clear that the deliverance would occur before the "time of trouble "and before the "wrath to come." However, Daniel 12 makes it clear that the resurrection would not occur until those days were over. Daniel himself was told to go his way and that he would rise "at the end of the days."
If the resurrection of the dead in Christ occurs before the rapture of the living, then the rapture took place after the deliverance of Daniel 12:1 and Matthew 24. This means that there was no deliverance by disappearance that was being hoped for by the Christians in Thessalonica or anywhere else in Christendom, because deliverance by disappearance was not taught. The deliverance from wrath which is in First Thessalonians 1:10 that was expected was not a rapture. The rapture was an event that is was a mystery and was linked to the resurrection, where the living are clothed in incorruption.
(1) Text 6:
There is so much happening in this passage it will by far be the biggest section in this response. The parallels and misunderstandings of this passage are astounding and even the preterist gets caught up in them. I see the parallels when reading this passage, others see the literal text and think this is a perfect proof of individual glorification of the "body" at the rapture/resurrection. However, like all prophecy must be understood through other parallel text and similar fulfillments in past history, so this passage cannot stand alone to the literal reader. Romans 8 must be interpreted by other scripture. Once seen in the light of other parallel passages, the message of their expectation should be clear.
First Paul claims that his sufferings will not even be comparable to the glory, which will be revealed to them. I have already addressed the glory of the "ministry of righteousness" that was to be revealed would surpass the glory of the "ministry of death." I have already described how this ministry of righteousness and being made perfect is considered side by side with receiving the promise of perfection and the inheritance of the "heavenly Jerusalem." The glory of this "heavenly Jerusalem," of the "ministry of righteousness" is what would be revealed to them at the parousia.
The heavenly Jerusalem was not a place they would go to, but a place that would come down from heaven when God would dwell with man. Revelation 21 does a beautiful job of painting a prophetic picture of our covenant with Him when Revelation 21 was revealed to John. The idea of this "city" is that it is the inheritance Abraham was waiting for, it is the citizenship that he belonged to. The result of the parousia would be this city, coming down from out of heaven to be with man. This is what was glorious. It was not a physical manifestation, it was not a covenant that was "of this creation," nor was it a city that could "be touched." It is a kingdom here on this earth. It is a spiritual kingdom that Christ taught about. It is a kingdom that does not require a literal rapture to attain it and therefore, did not have a literal rapture facilitate its coming.
Paul declares that the "creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God's sons to be revealed." This is a parallel to Galatians and Ephesians where Paul discusses the true sons of Abraham and heirs to the throne are those who are under faith. Why would creation eagerly await the revelation of the true heirs of Abraham? Why would creation be set free "into the glorious freedom of God's children?" How did the literal creation receive this freedom?
This creation is not talking about the days of creation in Genesis; the planet, stars, animals, and humans. This creation is that which was planted in the Middle East on the west side of the Jordan River. This creation is the one who received the law on Mount Sinai so that God might "plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth." This creation is the one that was being made new by having the "former things" pass away. This creation was the elect, covenant children of God, from the time of Abraham until the time of Paul. And this creation longed for the freedom of God's children. A freedom, which was held by faith, believed in, hoped for, but was not attained (Rom 8:24-25, Phil 3:12-14).
It is entirely possible that the creation Paul spoke about was the creation of the people of God. When He gave the Israelites His laws, He set apart for Himself a people. His elect, His remnant, have always been people of faith, and those of faith, from the time the Law was given, have been in bondage to the law. Freedom from that law was the freedom that all creation groaned for and anxiously awaited.
It is not coincidence that Paul, in the preceding verses, mentions the fact that they were co-heirs with Christ and would receive the glory that He received. As Jude says, that glory was eternal life. As Paul says, that glory, that eternal life, was bestowed upon receiving the ministry of righteousness.
This is the freedom longed for by the creation. The elect of God had not all come in at this point. Romans 11 speaks of a time in which "all Israel" would be saved. Paul built his case on the fact that all Israel was not speaking of the entire bloodline of Hebrew people, but that the elect were the ones who would come in by faith. When this occurred, and all the elect had turned to Christ, the idea of "all Israel" being saved was accomplished. For this to happen, the veil had to be lifted from their hearts, so that they could see the glory, not of the individual, but of the "ministry of righteousness." This lifting of the veil, which was to take place at the destruction of the temple, was what creation eagerly awaited. The creation of the covenant people of God awaited the glory that came in the freedom from the law.
This is the meaning of Hebrews 9. The veil that stood over their hearts was there because of the law and the temple. Christ did a great job of pointing out how the law was standing in the way of the Jew. They had taken the heart out of the laws of God and tried to follow the letter of it to the point of excluding its true purpose. He came to show the true meaning of the law to those whose hearts would receive it. The only ones who would receive His teaching were those whom the Father had called (John 6:44, 14:17). Christ links the blinding of the Jews to the destruction of Jerusalem.
They would suffer the wrath of God for their blindness. Christ said that the law and Moses testified of His coming but they did not see or believe. Paul says in Romans 11:25-32 that a "partial hardening" [because some of elect Israel was being saved currently] was taking place, even for the elect of Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles had come in. Once this fullness came in, the veil would be lifted and the elect of Israel, who had not yet turned to the Messiah, would "receive mercy." The mercy Jude called "eternal life." This was the creation that was eagerly waiting for the redemption of their body. The covenant body, the covenant creation of God was eagerly waiting for its liberation into the freedom of the sons of God.
A proper view of the Romans passages concerning the elect of Israel being saved is important to understand Romans 8. Clearly in Romans 11, the elect of Israel had not all come in to its fullness yet. The number of the Gentiles was being added daily and when their fullness had come in, then the Jews would be made jealous and the veil would be lifted and they would turn to the Messiah. Nothing changes the fact that it is only the "elect" of Israel that this passage is talking about though. This elect is a "creation" of covenant people who were being set apart for God. This is why Romans 8 separates the creation, which has been groaning with "labor pains until now" and those who have "the Spirit as the firstfruits." Paul was speaking to a current group of Spirit-filled Christians about the entire elect who would receive the glory of the freedom of the sons of God, even though some of those who were groaning for this freedom, had not come in yet because the veil had not yet been lifted.
Paul concludes that it is "this hope," that of being set free from the "bondage of corruption" and receiving the "redemption of our bodies," which they were saved in. The problem here is the context of Romans 8 is not saying that the bondage of corruption is the creation of the planet, the bondage of corruption is the slavery to the flesh that we have. Now the question is what keeps us in slavery to the flesh? Is it God's intention to free us of the flesh? Is this the result of salvation? If so, then why does there need to be a physical resurrection? Once we are dead, the dispensational teaches, our spirits are already with the Lord. If this is true then "hallelujah!" I am finally freed from the flesh! However they believe in a resurrection of the flesh and a literal rapture. Where is the benefit of having my body again, glorified of not, if I am already freed of the "bondage of corruption" being out of the flesh with God in Spirit? This truly puzzles me.
What I believe Paul was alluding to in being set free and receiving the redemption is the fact that they would be set free from the thing which caused them to be slaves to the flesh. This bondage was in the law. This bondage was the law of "sin and death."
There are many who will immediately say that these verses prove conclusively that the believer, prior to AD 70, was already made alive and freed from that "bondage of corruption" spiritually speaking. The only thing left to be done was to have the mortal body brought to life as Paul says in Romans 8:10. Then what, I ask, is the meaning of these statements by Paul?
"Rom 8:10 Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin..."
Does Paul mean that the physical body is currently dead as he was writing this? What can Paul mean that the body was currently "dead?" The flesh was incapable of producing fruits of righteousness to life. No matter what Paul did he was always, and his flesh was always, under the penalty and imprisonment of death so long as he was trapped in the "body of death." He had been set free from sin in his "mind," but in his flesh he was a slave to the "law of sin." How long would he remain a slave to the "law of sin?" What would set him free from this "body of death to bring about the resurrection he had hoped for?
There is obviously something different going on here than what has traditionally been taught. Was Adam physically changed at the moment of sin? If he had a living mortal body, but died at the point of sin, what changed physically? How could Paul consider himself "dead," at that current time, when referring to his mortal body? He then cries out for the freedom from the "body of death," and says that it will occur through the Spirit that was already in him. His mortal body, which was currently dead, would be brought to life through the Spirit. What would be the result of it? What would this accomplish? What did the resurrection accomplish?
Salvation through faith in Christ, which was consummated at the resurrection, brought a freedom from the penalty of sin, which was death.
Christ said that all who had faith in him would never die. Clearly everyone who has believed in Christ over the past 1,974 years since the cross have still physically died. However this death is not the second death. Anyone who believed in Christ would pass from life to life. For this to occur, the sting in physical death had to be taken away. The Bible says the "sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." Sin separated us from God. Sin is what caused Adam to be separated from God and kicked out of the garden. When one physically dies, it has its sting if that person is in danger of being separated from God in the afterlife. A separated person is not even considered alive in the afterlife, but considered "eternally damned." They will suffer the second death. However, the resurrection took away the penalty of sin when Christ, through His Spirit, brought life to the mortal bodies.
The rapture/resurrection would bring an end to the power of sin and take the sting out of death.
Paul says that with his mind he was a slave to Christ, but with his flesh he was a slave to sin. In order to release him from this power and give his mortal body life, Christ needed to remove that thing which gave sin its power. The law had to be removed!
Paul says in this passage that only after or immediately at the rapture/resurrection, would the saying take place that death had no more sting or victory. If the sting equaled sin, and sin had its power from the law, then the removal of the law would be the time that this statement would come true. Only at the removal of the law, would sin lose its power, and death lose its sting. Simultaneously, the mortal body, which was held a prisoner to the law of sin, would be "changed." In the words of Paul, the mortal body would be "clothed with immortality." This occurred at the destruction of the temple, which was the physical removal of the law (Matt 24:3) at the end of the age, which stood as the veil (2 Cor 3:13-14) that blinded the eyes from the "holy of holies" (Hebrews 9:8-9) of those who were of the "creation" that was eagerly awaiting the freedom of the sons of God (Rom 8:18-25).
This process of bringing life to their "mortal bodies" was not an easy thing to understand. Paul says "I am telling you a mystery: 'we will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed.'" He is saying that though not everyone will be dead when the resurrection occurs, everyone will be changed, both those who are asleep and those who are awake. The reason anyone who was alive would also be changed is that they were considered currently dead according to Paul in Romans 8:10! They were already a dead being. Yet it is clearly not their physical body that was dead and in the grave, it was their soul that was dead! Paul even says that his mind was free from the law of sin but his "body" was not. He says that his "body" was dead, yet it is clear that his physical body was still living! He was a prisoner to the desires of the flesh, because his "body" was dead, even though his mind was free. This truly is a mystery! How do we sort this out?
Some people have taken this bride aspect and taken the personal meaning out of resurrection that the Romans, First and Second Corinthians passages clearly imply. There is too clearly a personal aspect to this marriage as well as there is a personal aspect to this struggle Paul had over his flesh following the "law of sin." This issue holds personal implications. Eternal life would be personally experienced on an individual level. Individual "mortal bodies" would be made alive at the resurrection, at the same time that the ministry of death would vanish and the glory of the ministry of righteousness would be consummated. However, it is the nature of these "mortal bodies" that have given theologians confusion as to the nature of the resurrection based on the preterist implications of timing.
We must have a renewed understanding of the "mortal body." The dead mortal body is not the physical body that was clearly living. The dead mortal body is not the "flesh and bone" which could not inherit eternal life. The idea of the "mortal body" and the physical body are not one in the same. There is a "mortal body" which was dead when Paul was physically alive. First Corinthians offers great insight into this "mortal body" when Paul discusses the marriage and the act of immorality.
Numerous statements are made here. Paul is battling immorality in the church. It is clear that the church in Corinth was overstepping their "freedom" by sinning against the body. Paul excuses the eating of foods, in this case, because nothing a man can eat sins against the body. However he goes on to say that sexual immorality does sin against the body because the body is for the Lord. How can one eat junk food to the point of obesity and not sin against the body?
If the physical body is the "mortal body" or "flesh" that Paul is referring to, how come there is nothing we consume that can sin against the "body?" It is clear that Paul says God will do away with food and the physical "body" in this passage. Yet we know that the "mortal body" was to be "changed," and those who are asleep will have their "mortal body" resurrected. It is also clear that the resurrected body does not have a stomach (vs. 13). If we rise in a physical body, why does the stomach disappear from our new state? Don't we need to have communion with the Lord at the "marriage supper of the Lamb?" These questions are not sarcastic. Though they may seem silly, these questions are legitimate. How can the "physical body" be said to be done away with yet still have the "mortal bodies" brought to life?
The interesting part of this is Paul says that no food can sin against the body but sexual immorality does. He stresses the importance of sinning against the body with sexual immorality because the body will be raised. Wouldn't cancer and heart disease causing obesity equal STDs in the sense of "sinning against the body" according to God? Paul contrasts the differences between the physical "body" and the "mortal body" later in this chapter. Paul uses marriage to show what type of body He is discussing.
The body Paul is referring to, that Paul says will rise, cannot mean a physical body. He says that the food, which is physical, is for the stomach, which is physical, and both will be destroyed. Paul then says the "body" will be raised, and since they are joined in Spirit with the Lord, like a married couple (the bride of Christ), they are not to commit sexual immorality and become one with prostitutes.
In the teachings of marriage we know that two, who come together in sexual relations, are made "one flesh." Their spirits are joined in a marital union. When someone commits sexual immorality, they sin against that union. If someone commits sexual immorality with a virgin, do they sin against the physical body if their body is in no danger of contracting a disease? Is the physical body damaged? No! Just like with food, it is not the outward act that causes sin against the body that Paul is referring to. It is the spiritual union with someone other than your wife that is sin against the "mortal body." The "one flesh" that two married couple has made together is affected.
Sexual immorality sins against the "one spirit" that a Christian has with the Lord, according to Paul. Food does not interfere with the relationship with the Lord. It is the reason Gentiles did not have to abstain from pork. God made all creation good and worthy to eat. Eating foods and drinking wine does not sin against the "body." The body Paul is concerned with is the "one spirit" with the Lord. Sexual immorality sins against the soul. We commit adultery on the Lord when we commit fornication in this life. We have left our one spirit union with Him and joined ourselves with a prostitute in sin. Therefore we sin against the body!
Paul has already showed it is not the physical body that is affected by the sin of sexual immorality. It is not the outward physical act of sin that is considered against the "body" that will be raised. The body Paul refers to as the "mortal body."
Showing us the nature of the body in which a marriage inhabits shows us the nature of the body that will rise. Sinning against the body through sexual immorality is a spiritual reality. It is the spiritual body, the soul of a man, which was to rise on resurrection day. The flesh that Paul speaks of is not the physical body. the flesh that was to rise and to change at the rapture/resurrection was not the physical body. There is more than one type of "flesh." The type of flesh Paul speaks of is not the physical body, just like it was not the physical body that would rise or change, according to First Corinthians 15.
Paul could not get any clearer. The resurrection is not exactly like Christ because we do not rise in the body in which we die. The physical body was only a seed that must die for the new body to rise. Think of a seed: it dies and is planted and what grows with water and nutrients are the insides that spring to life. Our physical bodies, like a seed, dies, and what is inside rises. Paul himself said it is like a seed.
Paul then specifically addresses and clarifies the natures of flesh, specifically, the flesh that is to rise. Remember, the flesh that will rise according to First Corinthians 6 is the "mortal body" that is sinned against in the act of sexual immorality.
Here it is! The champion verse of a resurrection of the physical body proves its worst enemy. Paul says the seed and different body analogies are like the "resurrection of the dead." He said that the resurrection of the dead is like the bodies he was talking about. He does not say anything about a physical body rising from the dead. The body that is like Adam, the "man of dust," will return to dust, but the body that is like the heavenly man, the "life-giving spirit," will "bear the image of the heavenly man." He affirms the resurrection of believers in a spiritual body! The "mortal body" that would be given life (Rom 8:11) is the soul. The "flesh" that would be made alive, that was dead at the present time that Paul wrote Romans 8, was the soul. He was a prisoner to the "law of sin" because his soul was dead and he could not, in his dead state, stop the physical acts of sinning. It was a war he fought daily and why he said he daily had to crucify his "flesh," which was obviously not a literal statement, and live according to the spirit.
Paul says: "so it is with the resurrection of the dead." The dead are sown in bodies of corruption, "mortal bodies," and raised in bodies of "incorruption." The dead sow a natural body and rise in a spiritual body! Like a seed, the corruption must die and the shell open up so that what is inside may sprout to life. This is the nature of the resurrection according to Paul. What part of a living, physical, sinful man is dead? The soul. They are spiritually dead because of sin. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then continue to sin and party. Paul says that since Christ rose, there is a resurrection of the dead, so the dead will rise and answer to God.
Let me address verses 47 through 49 because people will claim this means we will have a body exactly like Christ. The verse says "we will also bear the image of the heavenly man." In scripture, Adam was made in the image of God. Was Adam divine? Was God made of flesh and blood? The answers to these are obvious; man was in the image of God but not exactly like God. Being recreated in the image of Christ does not mean our resurrection is exactly like Christ's. All it means is we rise also, and bear the image of the heavenly man. On earth we were made in the image of God, but not exactly. When resurrected, the dead were made in the image of Christ, but they were not exactly like Christ. Likewise, the change that occurred in the event know as the rapture was not a physical change into a physically renewed body exactly like Christ, but it was a process of their "mortal body" being brought to life, even in their current, earthly, physical state.
With this understanding of the body, and with the necessity of the law being removed for the "mortal bodies" to be brought to life, it is clear to see in Second Corinthians, where Paul addresses the "tent" that he longed to be freed from, that Paul was referring to the "ministry of death." It was being freed from this "ministry of death" that would allow his "mortal body" to be changed, to be brought to life. To be free from the "ministry of death" was to be made alive, through faith, in his mortal body. To be free from the "body of death" did not require Paul to die physically or Paul to experience a literal rapture, it required Christ to return a second time for salvation (Heb 9:28) by the law to be physically removed, and the Spirit of Christ would then make alive the creation who eagerly awaited the freedom of the sons of God.
Why then does Paul use the seed analogy in First Corinthians 15 and say that the body must die for someone to rise? Again, therein lies the mystery! Not all would die but all would be made alive. When Paul answered the question of the nature of the resurrection body, he was referring to those who had already died physically while they currently had a dead "mortal body." Does a man who is already alive, after he is changed during the rapture/resurrection, need to "rise" when he physically dies? Does a man who has a "mortal body" that has been freed from the "body of death," been made alive, need to rise from the dead? No! For that individual now never dies, and his soul never sleeps nor needs to be risen!
This statement became true once the "ministry of death" vanished (Heb 8:13, 2 Cor 3:11). This statement became true once the sting of death had been removed through the elimination of the power of sin, the law. This only occurred at the rapture/resurrection (1 Cor 15:54-55).
The context of Second Corinthians 3-5 is discussing the coming kingdom. Paul is saying that the "ministry of death," which was the law, came with glory on Mount Sinai. He is declaring that the ministry of righteousness will come with even greater glory. The ministry of righteousness would be so glorious, in fact, that the ministry of death would seem as if it had no glory at all in comparison. Paul then explains the ministry of death is fading away.
Paul goes on to explain that he counted his suffering worth it because of the glory that was to come.
Paul again is discussing "what is temporary" and "what is unseen." Paul, when discussing the preaching of the "ministry of righteousness," knows he is doing it to spread the "light of the knowledge of God's glory." This glorification is again not a glorification of the individual resurrected bodies, but the glorification of the "ministry of righteousness" that comes through knowledge. He says he carries the "death of Christ in our body, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." Paul is referring to his personal afflictions under his life in the "ministry of death." His life in the "ministry of death" consists of a daily death. When he suffers death daily, though he does not physically die daily, he does it because his eyes are on the unseen and eternal reward. If he was not under the "ministry of death," he would not need to die daily, because his "mortal body" would already be alive. To be free from his persecution while spreading the "light of the knowledge of God's glory," he first needed to be freed from the "ministry of death." To be made alive, he needed to be under the consummated "ministry of righteousness." He was renewed daily because his eyes were on his reward, eternal life, which would come with the consummation of the "ministry of righteousness." This brings us to chapter five.
Though Paul spoke of his afflictions in his physical body in verse four, he clearly only suffered them because he was preaching against the "ministry of death" which he was under. Being relieved from the "ministry of death" would bring relief from his persecutions. I have already discussed how the destruction of Judaism would bring an end to the persecution from the Jews and Romans and would give the Christian the ultimate vindication of their beliefs. In chapter five, Paul speaks again on the covenant, he was expecting, as Hebrews does, which would bring about the pure freedom, perfect clarity, relief from persecution, perfect confidence, and a perfected conscience that he longed for. He compares what is seen with what is not seen using language which links these passages directly to Hebrews.
(6) Text 7
In chapter 5 Paul again describes the passing away of the “old,” of the “tent,” the “earthly house.” Many Christian confuse this to mean the resurrection of the physical human body because he had just gotten done speaking about his physical suffering. However, they forget the context of these chapters which is the difference and the fading glory of the "ministry of death" compared to eternal "ministry of righteousness. They do not understand that it was the freedom from the "tent" of the old covenant that brought about the relief Paul longed for. That relief was again, pure freedom, perfect clarity, relief from persecution, perfect confidence, and a perfected conscience. They lose the entire context of chapter three, which precedes chapter four, and gives the basis and cause of his suffering! They take away his hope and confidence in the "light of the knowledge of God's glory," which would come with the consummation of the new covenant, and replace it with a false expectation; that Paul was teaching that his human body was a tent, which would be replaced.
Paul was by no means speaking of a bodily resurrection in chapter 5. He was describing his hope, the New Covenant. The first key to this is the preceding chapters. The second is verse 1.
Why did Paul use the words "a house not made with human hands?" Paul was comparing the house to come with a house made by human hands. The "tent" Paul referred to was the tabernacle. Hebrews is the perfect link to this chapter just as it was to chapter three.
The tabernacle was a tent! The parallels of these passages are undeniable. The "tabernacle," "tent," represented the old covenant. The current temple, whose destruction was linked to the judgment of Jerusalem at which time the rapture/resurrection was to occur according to Daniel 12, was the symbol of the "ministry of death" and was the symbol of the veil that was upon their eyes (2 Cor 3, Heb 9). It was of "this creation" and "made with human hands." The new covenant, however, was a heavenly Jerusalem, a city whose builder and maker is God, "eternal in the heavens." This passage is speaking of the eternal. He says he was waiting for a house “not made with human hands.” This statement makes no sense if it is referring to the human body. Who has a physical body that was made with human hands? In fact, where does Paul refer to the raising of his flesh in the preceding chapters at all? This is again speaking of the ”vanishing” old covenant, which was "made with hands" compared to the “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
The writer of Hebrews clearly emphasizes what Paul preached about as the hope for the Corinthians and for all Christians. This is what Paul was holding onto when he suffered his persecutions. In chapter four of Second Corinthians Paul emphasizes that he focuses on the unseen, eternal hope. That hope was in a covenant enacted on better promises. A "ministry of righteousness" whose glory surpassed the glory of the "ministry of death."
The explanation of the Romans 8 text, which is used to ask the question; "Was their longing fulfilled," holds no mystery. The longing Paul had and shared in His epistles as the "hope of salvation" was fulfilled. It was fulfilled with the destruction of the Jerusalem, the vanishing of the law, the loss of sins power, the removal of deaths sting.
(7) Text 8
Amen! This is saying that when Christ was with them, they had no reason to fast, when He is "taken away from them," they will fast. My question is do we still need to fast if we have received "God with man" in this eternal covenant? Many preterists are cessationists. If this is the case, how did AD 70 change our position on earth so that we would no longer need the Comforter in the way they did? The answer can only be that the kingdom was handed over to the Father, who dwells with man forever on this earth. Therefore, we no longer need the Comforter and we no longer fast.
This also is a key verse that leads to the differences of the two positions. In one position, it creates the need to be in some other realm with God the Father. They still cry out as Paul, "Oh wretched man that I am." They long to be free from the physical body even though they have been made alive in their "mortal bodies." They do not understand perfection of conscience in this life. It is tragic and weakening to the believer.
The other position allows one to live in confidence that God is with them every step of the way. Through the knowledge they have, that their "mortal bodies" have been freed from the "corruption" of the "body of death," they can live with perfected consciences and in perfect rest. This does wonders to our ability to reject sin outright and cast it away from us. It strengthens the believer to know that there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty. It liberates the believer to know, for a fact, that they are made alive and have no enslavements to sin that Paul himself dealt with. In the absence of law and guilt, comes perfect freedom, victory, and sinless living.
I am not sure of the problems between the view I hold and the literal expectation of a rapture that Luke 12:35-40 (text 9) are listed here to present. It is the parable about keeping their lamps lit. They needed to be ready for the groom would come at an hour they did not expect. This is all good with the spiritual rapture view. This is not concerning the rapture at all but the deliverance I addressed earlier. What purpose would they have to keep their lamps lit if they had already fled to the hills and were hidden? They had to be "ready" because when the Lord would come in an hour they did not expect, like the flood, they would have to be ready to go. It is made clear by First Thessalonians that the reason to be ready was so that they would be ready! The Christian who was not in darkness would not be overtaken like a thief.
It is clear that Paul is referring to the times and seasons of the expectant rapture/resurrection he had just mentioned in chapter four. He said they were well aware of the signs and didn't need to be reminded of them. Like in Matthew 24, the Christians would know when it was time to flee, because they would need to be sober and heed the words of Christ and flee. Like Noah, they would need to take action to be delivered from the wrath. During this time in the hills, when the temple was being destroyed and the "ministry of death" was vanishing, the rapture/resurrection event would occur. As in Daniel, it would happen at "the end of the days."
This passage in First Thessalonians so clearly parallels Christ's own parables about the virgins being watchful and keeping their lamps lit, that it is speaking of the same event. They would be delivered by wrath, because the watchers would need to obey and "flee the wrath to come." The sons of the light would not be taken as by thieves in the night. Because the hour would be unexpected, they would always need to be expecting it!
(8) Text 9
1 Corinthians 1:7 says they were rich in everything so that they would not lack any spiritual gift while eagerly waiting for the "revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." What was this revelation? Was is literally visual or was it a matter of perfect knowledge of the life they had received? I have already showed that Paul said that he then looked as in a mirror, but that he would later be "face to face." Was Paul literally looking into a mirror so that he would literally be "face to face?" What was the result of Paul's "face to face?" He said that he would know as he is "fully known." Perfect knowledge was the result of the "face to face" analogy he used in conjunction with his mirror analogy. What does the book of Hebrews say is the result of the new covenant of "God with man?" Hebrews declares that they would not need to teach their brother saying, "know the Lord, for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest...and I will remember their sins no more. " Once again the result is perfect knowledge and a perfected conscience. The revelation of Christ was the knowledge and perfection they would receive.
What does the Bible say would happen when the ones who pierced the Lord "saw" Him? How would He reveal His truth to them? How would He reveal Himself to them? During their judgment they would know it was Christ, whose words at that time would be coming true to the letter, that they had nailed to the cross and they would mourn. It is their knowledge that they had killed their Messiah that would make them mourn. They would know this because they would realize that their day of visitation had come and gone.
(9) Text 10
Once again Paul is preaching about the knowledge. The Thessalonians were sons of the light. Light and knowledge are synonymous in the scripture. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet." They knew the signs because they were "of the light." It was the knowledge of the Truth, that Hebrews declares and Paul affirms, that is the light, which would "reveal the intentions of the hearts." The world would know the true sons of God by their obedience and lives in that time. They would be left standing as the vindicated sons of God.
(10) Text 11
Those who "loved His appearing" would receive the "crown of righteousness." Those who did not love His appearing, because it came to them as judgment, would not receive the "ministry of righteousness." What is the difference? Would Paul get a literal crown on his head? Did he wear a literal "breastplate?" Did he carry a literal "sword of truth?" His reward was the thing he expected, the mercy that Jude called "eternal life." The two came simultaneous. When the "ministry of death" had vanished, the reward, the mercy, life, had come with the "ministry of righteousness." There was one reward taught in scripture under many picturesque descriptions; eternal life.
1 Peter 1:13 (text 12) tells the believers to have their minds "set for action." Why would they need to be "set for action" if they were going to be delivered miraculously and without effort? This verse actually confirms the opposite. They needed to be ready to take action at the "revelation of Jesus Christ." When Christ lived up to the words He spoke against Jerusalem, exactly and on time, He would be revealed as the true Messiah and the believers would be revealed as the true sons of God. They needed to be ready to flee. Their grace at that time was freedom from the wrath and life "at the end of the days." The grace and the mercy would come and they would have perfect knowledge and perfected consciences.
Revelation 6:10 addresses the judgment on those who were guilty of the shedding of the blood of the martyrs and saints. This was a judgment given specifically to the harlot "Babylon" in Revelation and Christ Himself decreed this punishment against the Jews in Matthew 23:31-38. It addresses the one "time of vengeance" in scripture which occurred in AD 70 during the 3 1/2 years of wrath. This expectation by the saints under the altar was completely adjudicated in AD 70.
C. Expectation 3
There are equally as many listed proof texts for these expectations. I have already showed that it is not the passages used that I disagree with, it is the interpretation that goes beyond the results of AD 70 and makes literal interpretations out of a need to explain the silence where I find disagreement. As I cover these verses I will again show how it simply was that they did receive complete relief of conscience and body. This happened when they were vindicated as the true sons of God and the Jews were judged. It would have been an experience felt and known all throughout the empire and the persecution would have been silenced. They would have been perfectly knowledgeable of this relief because Paul said they would. How could they not know they were no longer being persecuted by a religion on the run from the empire? How could they not know that they had received all they expected when Christ lived up to His decree and returned how and when He had said He would? How did they not experience the guilt free relief of a perfect conscience? How did they not see, or perceive that they had perfected consciences when their God lived up to every detail of His promised mercy and grace? How did they not experience physical relief from persecution when their antagonists had been taken captive or slaughtered after the Christians had fled to the hills?
(1) Text 1
Once again Christ makes it clear that like in Noah's day, they would need to take action to escape the things listed in Luke 21. Luke 21 is the passage where Christ warns them to flee to the hills when armies surround Jerusalem, because that was going to be the "time of vengeance." They would have to heed the signs and seasons, for which they were to be watchful and sober, and then obey their Lord by fleeing to the hills to escape the wrath to come. If they were expecting a miracle vanishing, which required no action, why did they need to pray for "strength to escape?" Fitting with the context of verses 20-35, they would have to physically flee to the hills.
(2) Text 2
This passage only confirms even more that the way that God would be glorified would be in the "light of the knowledge of God's glory." The knowledge that the "ministry of righteousness" had arrived and was true, is the means by which they would be glorified. Christ would be glorified "in His saints" because the ones who had believed the true testimony would be left standing and the enemy, who had persecuted them, would be judged.
Let's look at this from a literal rapture perspective and ask concerning this passage; if all righteous would be rewarded with eternal life and relief, and all wicked would be rewarded with "everlasting destruction," then why would only the Christians disappear from the earth? Why would the wicked not also be raptured to judgment? Clearly there is a truth to the thought that the judgment against the Judaizers would be felt all throughout the world by all the wicked. Did they all disappear too? The only feasible explanation is that the Romans took vengeance against Jews everywhere, and the Christian escaped this destruction. If there is as equally a widespread aspect to the judgment as there was to the reward, then both parties would have had to disappear and literally face the white throne, or neither was literally whisked away. Instead, it was in the knowledge that came with the judgment by the Romans when the Jew was taken and the Christian remained, that the Jews and Christians alike would realize that the true sons of God were the believers because they were the ones left standing. This perfect clarity, by both parties, sealed their fate for eternity. One was able to carry on in perfect confidence, knowledge, and conscience, while the other was slayed, enslaved, and/or eternally condemned in conscience.
(3) Text 3: Dealing With the Elect and the Gentiles
2 Peter 2:9 (text 3) declares the power of God to deliver the righteous from trials and hold the wicked under punishment until the day of judgment. There is nothing in this verse to swing the expectations one-way or the other.
I discussed the new heavens and new earth which arrived in AD 70. They describe the new covenant of God with man. What I have not discussed yet is the reason that there was such an important need for the elect who were being brought in to remain separate and "without spot and blemish." I have hinted to the need but I want to deal with it more firmly now.
It is their faith that saved them. Faith was a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9) that came through revelation from the Spirit (1 Cor 2). They would not be made "perfect" until the parousia (Rom 8, 1 Cor 15, Heb 11), however they were to live lives separate from the world and be kept without spot or blemish. I believe these statements are the same. Being separate from the world would keep them without "spot or blemish." Timothy was told to "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness" and have "made a good confession before many witnesses." Christ said that a believer would be known by his fruits. Paul declared that being in the Spirit showed in a man by his producing the fruits of the Spirit. Separation from the world was what kept them "without spot and blemish."
There were other ways in which believers were being showed as being separated from the world. In the case of baptism, it was being separate from the branches that were to be "cut down and thrown into the fire." In the book of Luke, at the story of Christ's baptism, John the Baptist related baptism and the producing of fruits "consistent with repentance." Baptism was an external sign that they were repenting. It was a sign of separation. Christ declared it was the way in which they were to "fulfill all righteousness."
What is taking place here is not new to the preterist, but I do believe the understanding of the separation in repentance, producing the works of repentance and the Spirit, and the necessity of the absolute truth have been lost to some degree. The elect needed to be a separate entity from the world, or Judaism. The elect had to include the gentile for God to become "all in all." This was the result of the parousia, God becoming "all in all."
Ephesians 1:23 states this same result in a way a little better understood. God was going to fill "all things in every way." Colossians clarifies what it meant to be "all in all" even more and also gives us a critical foundation to begin to understand the separation of the elect and the Judaizers and the inclusion of the Gentile.
Once again this is speaking of the glory at the parousia. The glory that was to be revealed in them with Him is the revelation of the "sons of God," the true sons of Abraham (Romans 8:18-19, Gal 4:1-7, Eph 3:1-13). Why was this glorious? Because the revelation of whom the "sons of God" were to the world, would confirm and consummate the coming and permanence of the "ministry of righteousness" whose glory outshone that of the glory that was present with the giving of the "ministry of death" (Col 3). Paul said that they would reflect the glory with "unveiled faces." To be unveiled was to be revealed to the world. If Paul states that the literal veil Moses wore remained over the hearts of the Jew at the reading of the law, then this aspect of showing the glory of the "ministry of righteousness" without a veil would mean that the veil over the hearts would be lifted. The law represented the veil (Heb 9:8-9) and the removal of it proves the consummation of the "ministry of righteousness." Being glorified, lifted up, stood up, confirmed, as the only "sons of God," when those who hated and persecuted you and your Lord were removed, judged, enslaved, and killed, would indeed be a revelation to the world. It would indeed fulfill the idea that the "ax is ready to strike the root of the trees."
Once again we see this aspect of the fruits of repentance and being separated. Because they were to be in the Spirit, separate from the world, they were to act separate from the world. It was the behaviors of the world, which would identify them as being "in" the world and would lead them into the wrath of God. They would be "cut off." The works of righteousness and fruits of the Spirit showed that the Christian, who were claiming the rights as heirs, according to their faith, were separated from the world. It is clearly important that those who would be proven the "sons of God," live lives worthy of the calling. Their "love" and works of righteousness would prove who the elect of God were. When the set apart elect, who had faith in Christ and claimed the rights as heirs, were left standing, it revealed the glory of the Lord and the "ministry of righteousness" to the world.
In no better words could the meaning of "all in all" be revealed to us. When God set apart His elect in righteousness, through a "baptism of repentance," in faith, and then vindicated them in that time we know as the destruction of Jerusalem, that is how the glory of God was revealed. The "sons of God" received the confirmation of their adoption in AD 70. The glory of the "ministry of righteousness" shone on the faces of those who were redeemed when the elect was confirmed holy and their consciences were made perfect. The claim of having Abraham as an earthy father was proved to be an illegitimate claim when it was the elect of the Jew and the grafted in Gentile who were remaining. This knowledge brought the perfect clarity Paul desired when God revealed Himself to them "face to face." His intentions, character, and plan for man was confirmed. His promise of "eternal life" through the blood of Christ was proven true when His word of returning in that generation came to fulfillment. Ultimate vindication, pure freedom, perfect clarity, relief from persecution, perfect confidence, and a perfected conscience is what the Christian expected and received in AD 70.
Romans eleven gives the picture of the elect in the process of God becoming "all in all." Paul is discussing the sons of Abraham and their claim as the "sons of God." In chapter nine he declares, like John the Baptist, that being a Jew does not give automatic claim to inheritance. He says that "neither are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants," because it is "the children of the promise are considered the seed." This means that the true Israel are those Jews who pursued righteousness by faith (Rom 9:30-33). Likewise, those who were being called "heirs" included the Gentile (Gal 3).
This inclusion of the Gentiles was going to be a means of making all Israel (all the elect who would be set apart by faith) jealous and they, as a whole (all the elect), would turn to God. The idea that "all Israel" would be saved does not change the condition laid upon salvation; faith. In fact, the identity of Israel was conclusively shown to be those who were of faith (Rom 9). Being of the bloodline of Abraham did not make them secure as an heir (Luke 3).
Here the necessity for the inclusion of the Gentile into the promise of Abraham is shown in making God "all in all." When confirmation of the "sons of God" came to the elect, which included Jew and Gentile, it showed God as "all in all." If the firstfruits were shown to be holy, the whole batch would be holy. If the root (Christ) was proven holy, then the whole batch (the elect of Jew and Gentile) was also holy. Christ's return in judgment proved that the "sons of God" were those who were set apart. Those who received the "baptism of repentance," who lived by the "fruits of the Spirit," who lived in the "light of the gospel of the glory of Christ," who were being taught and believed in the "ministry of righteousness," were the ones who were proved the true "sons of God." It was they who received the "freedom of God's children," it was all the elect, which was "all creation" who groaned for the "adoption." It was the Jew and Gentile of the elect who were vindicated, proving that God was "all in all."
How could this vindication be done by a disappearance? Why would the saints disappear to reward but the wicked receive a temporal judgment? If the wicked received a temporal judgment in AD 70 that brought them from death to 2nd death, why didn't the saints receive a temporal reward that lasted from life at AD 70 to life after death? A disappearance would not accomplish this worldwide recognition of the true sons of God. The fact is that Christ was going to be revealed to the world. They would "see" this revelation when they knew that the Christian remained and they were killed, enslaved, judged. The world knew who the sons of God were and there was no need to "teach his brother," preach it, declare it, nor state it as if it was not already completely understood. Silence proves that they received exactly what they expected, and rested in that knowledge.
(4) Text 5
1 Thessalonians 1:10 is addressed above with the texts from the second expectation quote from the book.
(5) Text 6
I must ask a few questions to bring this into perspective. Is this a literal crown he wanted to wear or is it righteousness he expected? Was it a crown that held the glory or was it the "ministry of righteousness?" Was it the expectation that he would be made righteous or an expectation that he would receive a crown, which held him to keeping the faith? There was a breastplate of righteousness also, but it was not literal. One was how he armed himself in his actions, the other was how he was crowned a prince, a "son of God" and made righteous. God is not the God of the dead and the dead are not righteous. For Paul to be a son, a crowned prince, he needed to be made righteous. Being made righteous was the result of being vindicated and declared one of the true "sons of God." It was not a literal crown he would put on his literal head. Paul awaited the "crown of righteousness" like Jude awaited the mercy of "eternal life." Paul would be crowned righteous and Jude would be granted merciful eternal life. It was manners of speech about the expectation, not declarations of literal treasures to be received in heaven.
The text also says that he would not be the only one to receive this crown of righteousness, but also those who "loved His appearing." This is indeed curious language. Some would clearly love His appearing and some would not. Those who did love it would receive the crown. This is not a phrase that declares an expectation of disappearing, but rather one that shows that all who loved His appearing would receive the gift of being crowned righteous. What would those who did not love His appearing get? They would obviously know He appeared but still not love it. They would be judged for it. They would more than likely received condemned consciences. This language declares as I have been saying, that clarity would come to all concerning this coming. The wicked would know it and hate it and it would condemn them. The faithful would know it and love it, and it would perfect their conscience.
(6) Text 7
First Peter could not be any more clear about what the hope of salvation is. The hope of salvation that Paul taught, the expectations that the believers awaited, was the "salvation of your [their] souls." The "goal" of their faith was not a physical resurrection. The "goal" of their faith was not a disappearing. The "goal" of faith was the salvation of the soul. It has been shown clearly that the salvation of their souls was to come when the law went away. To have a saved soul does not require a literal rapture. To have a saved soul means to be in relationship with God. All those dwelling in the "ministry or righteousness," in the heavenly Jerusalem, are there because they received this salvation. Access could not be granted to God for dead men, they had to be made alive. The goal was salvation of the soul, which meant life with God, either in this world or the next.
It is no coincidence that Peter refers to the inheritance as being "unfading." The glory of the "ministry of righteousness," which brings life to the believer, will never fade. Some might say that the inheritance is "kept in heaven" and we do not receive it until we die. Revelation 21:3 declares it differently. The inheritance, the heavenly Jerusalem where righteousness dwells, was an inheritance that came "down" from heaven and then John saw that God's dwelling was with man. First Thessalonians 5 declares that whether they were dead or alive, "awake or asleep," the result of the rapture/resurrection would be God with man, to be "with Him." This is possible in this life and continues to the next.
Peter also addresses the aspect of a literal physical aspect to the reward they awaited. If some are expecting a literal crown made of gold, Peter says that the inheritance is "more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire." Why would the inheritance be compared to this material metal, which represents physical wealth, and then have them teach that they will receive that very same type of corruptible wealth? I think it is clear that the scripture teaches that all physical aspects are perishable and the reward they were to receive in eternal, imperishable, and invisible.
So far Paul, Peter, Jude, and Christ have all told them to expect a reward from heaven. They have all taught that reward to be eternal life and that it was to come "soon" and was "at hand." I truly am baffled at those who still feel the necessity to add a physical aspect to the eternal God's reward when all things He has declared as eternal are "unseen," "spiritual," and "not of this creation." There was no expectation of physical resurrection or a literal catching away. It was "God with man," Edenic restoration, covenantal permanence, life after death, which they expected.
Text 8 was addressed in the second expectation.
(7) Text 9
Paul says he expected to be "further clothed with life." Paul says the "ministry of righteousness" had an unfading glory. Paul was expecting the crown of righteousness, which Peter declared would not fade like gold. Now Peter calls his crown an "unfading crown of glory." The crown he would receive, that Paul would receive, that would cloth him, is eternal life in the unfading "ministry of righteousness." Every verse produced shows this to be the truth more conclusively. The uses of these descriptions for the expectations reduce the opposing interpretations to rubble. Either the expectation was "physical" resurrection, a literal crown of gold and jewels, a literal catching away into the presence of God, or the expectation was eternal life with God, whether "awake or asleep" in the unfading "ministry of righteousness;" the new covenant.
(8) Text 10
Preterists understand that the Judaizers were the harlot Babylon of the book of Revelation. Christ declared it was upon the unrepentant Jews that the blood of the saints and martyrs would be avenged culminating in the desolation of their temple (Matt 23:31-38). This was the same reason that the harlot Babylon would be judged (Rev 19). In Revelation 19 the heavenly multitude said that He has judged the notorious prostitute who "corrupted the earth with her sexual immorality." Likewise, in chapter eleven verse 18, it declares that it was time to "destroy those who destroy the earth." To corrupt the earth and destroy it are the same in this sense because they are both addressing the judgment at the time of vengeance, which came upon the same group of people, the Judaizers and Jerusalem, specifically, to avenge the blood of the saints, prophets, and martyrs.
With that background we can see that it was at this time that the judgment was going to take place. This timeline is in perfect concert with Luke 21, Daniel 12, and Matthew 23-25. The judgment to the wicked was death, the reward for the righteous was eternal life. It came in AD 70 when the temple was destroyed, exactly when, how, and why Christ said it would.
Second John 1:8, which is the eleventh text in this section is speaking of losing what they worked for. They were to keep the teachings of Christ and not turn away from it so that they may receive a "full reward." They were to remain separate and holy in order to receive the reward, just as John the Baptist and Paul also taught.
Hebrews 10:35, which is the twelfth text in the this section, encourages the believer to also not throw away their "confidence, which has a great reward." They were to hold to the faith as Paul encouraged Timothy, and to "run with endurance" in the same manner as the patriarchs (Heb 12:1), keeping the unity in faith till the time of "fullness"(Eph 4:13).
(9) Text 13
Once again the language of scripture goes against a literal and miraculous disappearance in the fact that they were to remain on "guard" and sober so that they may not be taken "unexpectedly." Like Paul said to the Thessalonians, they were not of the darkness for that day to overtake them "as a thief." The true "sons of God," who were set apart from the world and watched for the coming of the Son of Man would need to "have strength" for they would need to "flee the wrath to come." This is because just 13 verses prior Jesus said that at the time of vengeance and judgment, which was the time the Son of Man was to come (Dan 7), they would need to flee to the hills (Luke 21:21). If this salvation and protection was a magical and involuntary disappearance, why did they need to "watch?" Rather, this was a time that was as in the days of "Noah." Noah had to build an ark in faith, and then Noah had to manually go into it when he was told. Noah's faith and action produced the salvation of the Lord when the wicked were judged and "taken" and the righteous were vindicated for their faith and "left."
Romans 8, the fourteenth text, has already been addressed at length in the second section of the expectations.
Revelation 3:10 again addresses their need to remain separate and faithful. If they remained faithful and endured they would be kept from the "hour of testing." The way in which they would be delivered has been addressed at length.
D. Expectation 4
I have already at length discussed the manner of revelation and sight and knowledge that the Christians would receive according to their expectations. It should be no surprise now in which manner I will address the following text for this section. First Corinthians 13 undoubtedly states that Paul expected to "know" as he was "known." I have already addressed my confidence in the fact that the first century Christians, and even the wicked Judaizers who hated His coming, had a perfect clarity as to what was taking place in AD 70, and they had no misgivings about who was being judged as wicked and who was being rewarded as the true "sons of God." Christ was not going to be seen by the righteous only, but also the wicked, and this is where the literalist in this aspect loses his argument. To be "revealed" is another way to describe being "seen." If a mans sins are revealed by the light, it means that others have seen their wickedness when they are made knowledgeable of their wrong doings. Likewise, when Christ's judgment came against the wicked, He was "revealed" by the fact that everyone "knew" that He was the Son of Man. This knowledge revealed the truth of Christ to the world, to the righteous and the wicked, and they "saw" Him. One does not need to see Christ's literal wounds, eyes, or face to have Him revealed. Likewise, the world did not need to literally "see" Him for Him to be "revealed." They saw Him when He was revealed to them in AD 70. He was revealed through His truth in the judgment against Jerusalem.
Does it require a literal viewing of Christ to be in His presence? When the glory cloud of God descended upon the temple and the people trembled at His presence, did they see His features? Likewise, God was going to come down to man and dwell with us forever. His presence would forever be with us and we would be with Him, whether "awake or asleep." Knowing that Christ was true in word and deed, being vindicated fully and having your faith confirmed in the deliverance from persecution exactly when you expected it, would no doubt create a joy that we, in the twenty-first century could not possibly comprehend. If we do not see it from their perspective, if we cannot grasp the fact that through the events of AD 70, they witnessed first hand their deliverance, then we will not be able to possibly understand their joy and our inheritance. This is why, though not critical, this topic is very important to our lives in the world today. Once we grasp the joy, freedom, relief, and knowledge they did receive, and leave behind the inaccurate and unbiblical ideas of things they did not receive, we will be able to change our lives and this world like never before.
Second Thessalonians 1:6-10, which is the first text in this section, was addressed in the last section. It again addresses the vengeance that would come against those who have afflicted the saints. This was the punishment against Jerusalem and Babylon as declared by Christ in Matthew and recorded in Revelation by John. The Lord would come down from heaven with His angels and punish the wicked. He would come in the clouds, as He did many times in the Old Testament. His judgment against the wicked would be eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord. His reward, as stated by Peter, was the salvation of their souls (1 Peter 1:9). Jude declared the reward to be eternal life (Jude 1:21). Both Peter and Paul declared the reward to be a crown of righteousness and life that had an "unfading" glory (1 Peter 5:4, 2 Tim 4:8).
Again the Bible declares that Christ, when He comes, would be "glorified" by His saints. What does it mean to be glorified? According to Paul, the glory of the visible faded, and the glory of what was unseen was eternal. The glory Paul expected was the glory of the ministry of righteousness. When Christ returned in judgment in AD 70, He was revealed to all. When the Christian was vindicated and the Judaizers were judged, Christ was lifted up, magnified, "glorified" in and by His saints. The Christians being left and the wicked being taken, as in the days of Noah, revealed the true sons of God to the world, and therefore, revealed the Messiah to the world as well. He was glorified in His saint and praised for this salvation by His saints.
First Peter 1:7, which is the second text in this section, was also addressed in the last section. It speaks of the glory that they would receive, better than gold, which fades "though it be refined," and would come at the revelation of Christ. The glorious "ministry of righteousness," which brought eternal life and God with man, was the glory that they received. The thirteenth verse of First Peter, which is the third text, describes the glory as "grace." Jude said that eternal life was the mercy that they were waiting for, likewise eternal life, which came with the ministry or righteousness, was the "grace" they were to receive.
(1) Text 4
Here Peter discusses the need for separation through works of repentance and actions consistent with the fruit of the Spirit. If there was a separation to occur, a vindication of on group and a judgment of the other, and this would be witnessed by the world, then it was of extreme importance that the Gentile witness the difference in their fruits. For the Gentile to see those who acted uprightly in the face of adversity, persecution, and violent scrutiny, would cause them to glorify the Lord in that day. They would "see" the true Messiah when the Christian they had witnessed living uprightly, was vindicated before the eyes of all men. The vindication received would prove who the "sons of God" were and by the Christian remaining blameless, the Gentile witnesses would be compelled to glorify God as well.
(2) Text 5
Peter encourages those being persecuted to rejoice. He says they would rejoice with "great joy at the revelation of His glory." The revelation of the glory of Christ would produce "great joy." How could it not produce joy when those who were being persecuted had been relieved from that persecution through the judgment and affliction on those who had "afflicted" them (2 Thess 1:6-10)? How could they not have exceeding joy and thanksgiving when they had just witnessed Christ revealed in glory as He came in judgment against those who the Christian received unending persecution? With the vindication came a relief from persecution, perfect confidence, perfect clarity, perfected consciences, and perfect rest. These were the results of the salvation of their souls. It is the inheritance that we can know if we understand what really occurred in AD 70. It gave them "great joy" as likewise it should give us great joy if we truly understand the results of the consummated kingdom of God.
First Peter 5:1, which is the sixth text in this section, declares that Peter was a witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and would participate in the "glory about to be revealed." Peter did, in fact, participate in the resurrection and rapture of the believer. His soul was saved when the "ministry of righteousness" had come in fullness and the revelation of the true sons of God came to the world. Peter, like Paul, knew that eternal life would be his at the coming of Christ. The unfading glory of the covenant he was going to receive was something he believed in and affirmed and we do it an injustice when we fail to understand its true nature and its implications for them in that day, and for us today.
I am actually surprised that 2 Peter 3:12, which is the seventh text used in this section, is used at all. I know that it is not believed by any full preterist that literal heaven and earth, meaning the planet and space, was dissolved in AD 70. Isaiah and Josephus are two good examples of those who addressed the "heavens and earth" as being represented by the temple and the law. The power and durability of the law was linked by Christ to the "heavens and earth" (Matt 5:17-18). The "end of the age" was linked by the disciples to the temple when Christ declared the temple would be destroyed and that revelation prompted them to ask Him when it would take place and what would be the sign of His coming and the "end of the age" (Matt 24:1-3). Daniel links the "shattering" of the "holy people" to the end of the days of the great tribulation, resurrection, and judgment (Daniel 12:6-7).
(6) Text 8
To be able to stand blameless at his coming was addressed by Peter when he said that the Gentiles would see their blameless behavior and glorify God in the day of visitation. They would do this, again, because they would witness the vindication of God for the Christian and the judgment of God against the Jew. It was their actions that would set them apart from the wicked in the eyes of the men that would see them. In this vindication, God likewise was declaring the Christian as blameless. They had faith in the Son of Man and His sacrifice and their faith would save them in the day of the Lord, when it was rewarded with eternal life; the salvation of their souls (1 Peter 1:9).
If man was judged by God and received eternal life as His reward, he would be blameless before God. One has to be blameless and without fault to be in the presence of God, and it was the presence of God that was coming down to dwell with man. The aspect of blameless before man and blameless before God both rested in the fact that they escaped the judgments of God and remained. For them to disappear would weaken this aspect of being declared blameless before both parties. For the Lord to be revealed to the world, and not just to the Christian, required a continuing presence of the believer on earth, as a standing testimony to prove that they were the true sons of God. It would then be stated by some that silence makes this entire point moot, however they fail to realize that this revelation of Christ, this clarity of whom the sons of God were, would be revealed to the righteous and the wicked. There would be no need to proclaim this victory in an epistle, when the world had just witnessed and realized it for themselves.
Matthew 25:1 and 6 are the ninth and tenth text in this section and are from the parable of the virgins. The parable of the virgins again explains a necessity to head the Grooms call. They needed to be ready and have their lamps filled so they could go "out to meet the groom." Some people believe the oil was the Spirit of truth, which I believe to be accurate. The believers were going to be sanctified in truth (John 17, 2 Thess 2:13). When the believers were warned of false teachers they would know them because they preached a different gospel. The false teachers did not have the whole truth. They needed to know the truth in order to take action and flee. To go to meet the groom, they would need to know the signs and when they hear the announcement of His coming, they had to "go."
Matthew 25:21 and 23 are the eleventh and twelfth texts in this section and speak of the workers who invested their talents receiving a reward and an increase in responsibility. If there was a literal rapture, how was there an increase in responsibility? What were they entrusted with in heaven? Instead, when they were vindicated, they were then looked upon and "revealed" as the true sons of God. Peter said that when that day came, the Gentiles would rejoice because of the believers blamelessness. They would now be the proven sons and the literal example of Christ on earth. They strove to be such before AD 70, but after God Himself separated the sheep from the goats in AD 70 with the world as witness, they would be an even larger example. The temporal reality of what occurred was that Christ was revealed to the world when the sons of God were left standing as the shining chosen of God.
(7) Text 13
Is this light that exposes literal of light of the knowledge of the truth? How can one be considered true? By their testimony proving accurate. Here we have another example of why they were to remain blameless. When the "revelation" of the Messiah and the sons of God was made, the evil ones would be exposed. This is not speaking of a literal forensics light which shows the blood on a crime scene that had been hidden by external washing, it was the light of clarity brought at the revelation of Christ. The wicked were exposed in the vindication of the righteous, when their testimony proved true.
(8) Text 14
The aspect of blamelessness as an example to the world is again the focus. When the vindication would come Paul could "boast in the day of Christ." He knew that the day of the Lord would prove his work worth while and he could be proud that he ran the race he did. Paul did not live till AD 70 according to tradition but all Christians who could not boast in themselves, would be able to boast in the Lord that He had proven to be true, and they, the true sons of God. It may be remarked that Paul said he would boast yet all we have is silence. However, how would they boast if they disappeared in "rapture" either? Rather, when the clarity came, the Christian could stand up in the truth that they had been vindicated, and the world had no other choice but to admit that fact. Christ glorified Himself in them, they would not lift themselves up, but would be lifted up. It was Christ's actions that proved them true, and His Spirit was the reason they knew the truth. The boasting came from God.
(9) Text 15
The context of this passage is lost without the entire chapter being read. This chapter is about their need to stray from sin and the world. There were anti-Christ's who had departed the fold and there were false prophets trying to return them to Judaism. They needed to remain steadfast in the faith and reject the wicked if they were to be saved. If they had fallen into the zealous Judaist cause they would have been caught unawares at His return and would have been destroyed with the rest who hated Him. They would know they had left the truth, when they saw Him coming with the armies of Rome, and trapped, they would have been ashamed. However, those who had remained steadfast would be bold that they had kept in the path of righteousness. They would know they had believed the truth and their consciences would be perfected before God and they could go to Him with boldness.
This aspect of boldness is another concept lost in the teaching of a literal rapture. When we have knowledge of the full truth we can see that we are cleansed and renewed with utter perfection. Before God we can be bold. Church is a place of altar calls and constant "renewal." However, if living in the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ, we have no need to beg forgiveness, ask for renewal, or be unsure before Him. Our consciences should be purified before him and we should be able to live lives full of the truth of His coming and our freedom.
(10) Text 16
Before dealing with the seeming difficulties of this passage, I want to address the issue of a physical resurrection. John had been a visible and present witness to the resurrected body of Christ. If a resurrection was to take place, exactly like Christ's, then this statement is false because he already did know what Christ was like in a resurrected state! However, as Paul said the change that was to take place was a mystery, so John also claims ignorance as to it's nature. The similarity between Christ's resurrection and the resurrection/rapture of the saints, is the fact that dead men are made alive again. They were going to live again. Because Christ rose from the dead, so would they. Life after death is the only similarity scripture makes certain, the rest is mystery.
First Corinthians 15 declares that those who were resurrected would bear the image of the heavenly man. Adam bore the image of God, but was not exactly like God. So John here, when he states that they would be "like Him, because we see Him as he is," he is making a statement that they would bear His image. Who Christ was would be made perfectly clear to them and the world at that time. They would know that their faith was true and that they had been brought to life at that time. They did not need to leave their physical body to be brought to life, but they needed to know that they were made alive, to live in that truth. Paul, in Romans 7, was distressed that his dead body warred against his renewed mind, however, at AD 70, they knew that their mortal bodies had come to life, and that war ceased. Christ revealed Himself in AD 70, and they had perfect clarity and were made alive in His image.
(11) Text 17
The goal was to be as He is "in this world." John again expresses the need for a remaining on this earth rather than a departure. He earlier said that anyone who says he has no sin is a liar. Did Christ have sin? No! But he compared them to Him and being as he is. This is what he was saying they would be after they stood before Him in confidence at the Day of Judgment. In the next verses he says they should not have fear because perfect love casts out fear and fear involves punishment. Those who loved Him at His coming would not have fear. They would be perfected in His love, and they would be "as he is in this world." Were they already "as He is?" It was a statement of faith he was making. They were the image bearers and were the ones who would be made like Him.
(12) Text 18
It is easily understood that at the coming of the Lord Paul believed that those he led to the Lord would be his crowning achievement. Even though he was persecuted, he considered it worth while to be persecuted for their sakes so that they might live (2 Cor 4). Why would they be his joy? They were going to be standing in the end when the wicked had fallen. When vindication came to the Christian and they were included, then God would be shown as "all in all." What Paul taught and believed in his labor for the Gentiles would be proven through them when they were left standing righteous. When the light exposed the wicked and justified the righteous, and the Gentile Thessalonians were included in that group of the justified who were given eternal life, that would be Paul's boast. That is what he would take pride in. Not that he had earned his salvation through them, but that he was counted worthy to suffer as Christ in being chosen as the vessel for God's truth to the Gentile, and that suffering would be vindicated at the coming and the judgment of the wicked who persecuted him.
Colossians 3:4, which is the nineteenth text of this section, is addressed in the area where I discuss the "elect and the Gentiles." Paul said they would be revealed in glory when Christ was revealed. This is again the aspect of being justified in the vindication and being lifted up as the true sons of God.
First Corinthians 13:12 is also addressed in the second part of the first section where I address why there was silence. Perfect clarity probably the biggest reason for the silence. If the whole world would "see" Christ revealed, then it was not just Paul who was going to receive clarity and it would not be just the Christian who needed a literal rapture if that was the means to deliver that clarity! Instead, perfect knowledge of who knew the truth, perfect solidity on who the sons of God were, came to Paul, the Christians, and the world in AD 70. Then Paul knew God as "face to face" and no longer in a "mirror." The same way John expected to see Him and then he would know Him; and they would be like Him.
Without question they saw and experienced the joy of His coming. They experienced the clarity and glory of the "ministry of righteousness." They experienced life. They knew what it was like to be made alive as He is alive. This did not require a literal rapture. It would not accomplish all it needed to accomplish for them if it did. Do we know what it is like to be guiltless before God? Do we know what it is like to be made alive and stand bold before God? We should, because it is our inheritance, our legacy. If the church doesn't know this life, this perfected conscience, this victory, then it is probably a good sign that they do not know the truth.
D. Expectation 5
Without hiding from any of the verses that have been used as proof texts for the expectations, I believe I have shown how a literal rapture view is not only unnecessary, but also would have been irrelevant to the results of what was occurring in that day. It has been the misunderstanding of a church that over 1934 years has minimized the events and climate of AD 70, which has led to even the preterists lack of grasping the impact of the temporal and eternal results of that day. Paul has been shown to believe he was already in possession of a mortal body that was dead and desired it to be brought to life(Rom 7-8). However we know that he was currently in a physical body when he made that statement. Paul also declared that the body that would be made alive in the resurrection/rapture was the same "one body" that is created when one is married (1 Cor 7). Jude has been shown to believe he expected the mercy of God, which he called "eternal life." Peter said that their current hope was the salvation of their souls (1 Peter 1). If Paul could have a dead mortal body in a living physical body, could he possibly have a living mortal body in a living physical body? Didn't Adam have a living mortal body in his living physical body before he sinned? Wasn't his living mortal body still capable of sin? He did eat of the apple while he was still perfectly alive!
With all these misunderstandings now set aside, it is no stretch at all to understand the verses of a "gathering" in a covenantal setting with spiritual implications. Every year God Himself, in the glory cloud, came down upon the temple with all His glory and the Jews trembled with fear. Revelation 21 said that God was going to come out of heaven and dwell with man. Paul said that man would be with God in First Thessalonians. Paul also declared that all believers, whether awake or asleep, would be with Him. Paul did not say that all believers, whether awake or asleep, would go to heaven. So here we have two situations, Revelation saying God would descend down to men, and Paul saying we would be with God. With these two situations one thing is constant; God with man. The matter or where we are when we are with God, what body we are in when we are made alive or "changed," and what it means to be in the presence of God, are yet to be finalized. That will be my goal in responding to each and every one of these "gathering" styled expectations.
(1) Text 1
This is not merely an expectation statement; it is prophecy. I will not go over and over how prophecy is not to be taken literally at a whim. The wolf lying down with the lamb is an expectation as well. As a matter of fact, the expectations of all the prophecies being taken so literally by an ignorant Jewish priesthood is what plagued them from understanding the prophecies of the Messiah even to this day. Are we now reversing the understandings of the preterist hermeneutics to make this verse fit what the dispensationalist believes because we cannot answer the question of silence? This is not where we should go because the moment we do, we allow the dispensationalist room to doubt the preterist understanding of other symbolic prophecy, even though his arguments have already been firmly defeated by the timing and history of Gods past fulfillments. I am distressed by this argument.
That being said, what does it mean to be "one?" Christ wanted the church to be united in His truth. They were going to be sanctified in His truth. Paul said that they were awaiting the "fullness" of Christ. When all people are of one mind, are they not together? When the body has been completed, come into fullness, are they not "gathered" together? If I am in the presence of God, and someone in China is in the presence of God, are we not "gathered" into the presence of God? As a matter of fact, I have gone one step too far, this verse never says gathered together." But as a whole "batch" (Rom 11:16) is gathered, wouldn't the elect be "gathered" unto God in His presence? Does this require every believer to be side by side, or does it mean that each person was in the presence at that one time, and therefore are "gathered" unto Him? This is prophecy, and the results of the parousia, the results that apply to all men forever, rely on a better understanding of this prophecy than the irresponsible, dispensational, literal interpretations so readily applied.
One point which cannot be overlooked is that the sheep would be gathered on one side, and the goats on the Lords other side. The "gathering" did not apply to just one party and the separation was the wicked from the righteous. If the wicked can be gathered together and sent into judgment while still in the temporal, yet have eternal aspects and consequence to this "gathering," then the righteous can likewise experience this same result in the temporal, with eternal aspects and consequence to the gathering of the "elect."
Matthew 6-10, which is the second text in this section, again is the story of the virgins who were to "go" to the groom. The prophecies concerning the "end of the age" are filled with the need to "escape," "take action," and "flee." The first century Christians had to flee the wrath to come when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20-22). This means that the virgins, by heading the Spirit of truth, would recognize the time of the parousia, and flee. When the parousia occurred, and the Christians fled to the hills, the "ministry of death" vanished with the destruction of the temple, and the Christina was vindicated and brought into the presence of God, under the ministry or righteousness," and therefore granted "eternal life," the salvation of their "souls," and life to their "mortal body." The aspect of the virgins being in the wedding feast and the wicked being left outside is the truth of the fact that only those who believed and obeyed and stayed separate from the world would be in the presence of God at the parousia. "Without are the dogs." The wicked were "together" in their judgment, the righteous are "gathered" in the presence of almighty God.
Luke 21:36, which is the third text of this section, was addressed in section 3 of my response. It concerns the idea of being made able to stand before God in the day of the Lord. They would "escape all these things" and stand before Him. The key here again is to escape. What seems to be missed here is that fact that the idea of them needing "strength to escape" means they had to take action, as all the other passages mention as well. If the Christians heeded their faith and obeyed the Lord in that day, in order to flee the wrath to come, they would have escaped the judgment. The whole idea of them escaping the judgment means they had and acted on their faith. When the Christians then witnessed the vindication brought by the Lord, they would then know beyond the shadow of any doubt that their Messiah was true, they were the true sons of God, that they had received the life they were promised, and that the covenant had been permanently established. If I had witnessed God vindicating me personally, over my accusers, I would know I was perfected in His eyes, like He promised, and I would be lifted up, be embolden, be confident, and stand up with assurance before My Lord and Savior. We cannot underestimate the clarity and assurance that came with the Christian witnessing the judgment against their accusers. This eye witness of that time would have certainly brought perfect clarity, perfect confidence, perfect rest, perfect freedom, and a perfected conscience.
(2) Text 4
"Joh14:3 If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you unto Myself, so that where I am, you may be also."
In the earlier text I had described that there was a place that Hebrews taught the people of God dwell. It was a "heavenly Jerusalem" where righteousness dwells. The place being prepared that Christ had to depart for was the covenant New Jerusalem. The city was a place where the righteous dwell here on earth. Revelation 21 said the city came "out of heaven." Hebrews declared that the patriarchs were awaiting the second coming to be made perfect so that they would inherit that promise together. Would Christ have needed to depart for a city to be built up in heaven? Did it take 40 temporal years for God to construct a literal city in the infinite heavens? Christ was preparing the world for the consummation of His new covenant. This preparation consisted mainly of the final gathering of the elect. The idea of separation and preparation is concerning those very critical verses in Romans 11. The "heavenly Jerusalem" was being prepared by the working of the Spirit on earth in the transition period between AD 30-70. This New Jerusalem had come down out of heaven in AD 70 when the "ministry of death" had faded from the earth and the glory of the "ministry of righteousness" had no more veil and the covenant of God with man was consummated. Where was it that Christ was that He would come back to bring those left behind? He was in the presence of the almighty God forever.
(3) Text 5
They, the dead, would be raised, and the living would be changed. Their mortal would put on immortality. The "ministry of righteousness," made manifest to man after at the parousia (Heb 9:8-9), brought to life the mortal bodies of the living and dead. The dead would clearly be raised in this case into the spiritual realms with the Lord, but the living would be made alive, like pre-sin Adam, to spend the rest of their days on this earth in a restored Edenic relationship with the Creator, with the "all in all." This was a must in order for the world to receive that revelation of Christ. The goats were judged and the sheep stood vindicated. The elect of Jew and the grafted in Gentile stood as a no doubt, clear revelation to the truth of Christ. This brought the perfect freedom, perfect clarity, perfect rest, and perfected conscience Paul and Hebrews taught. This did not require, and actually, insisted on the opposite of a literal rapture.
(4) Text 6
Once again this passage is all too easily read with a literal and a temporal mind. If the living Adam on earth, perfected, was considered in the presence of God, and the dead raised would also be in the presence of God, would they not both be in the presence of God, though physically, one remained on earth? Why do we insist of looking at these things as if God's presence is limited to the other world? They were collectively judged righteously, at the same time, even though not necessarily able to abide with one another in the same realm. Some were physically dead, some were physically living, all were made alive and brought into the presence of God at the same time, and all were collectively judged righteous.
(5) Text 7
The translation used in the book I am responding to mentions the "heavenly call" as the "upward call." Either way the meaning is the same. The citizenship, which is from heaven, is what Paul strove for. To be granted eternal life was the prize. It was a call from heaven. It was a race to be fully mature as a citizen of that "heavenly Jerusalem," which came down to earth out from heaven (Rev 21:1-3) so that God could dwell with man forever (Heb 8:10-12).
(6) Text 8
The covenantal change brought personal and real life to the people who had lived through the parousia. The covenantal body was vindicated and the "mortal bodies" of the individual were made alive, brought again to life as the pre-sin Adam was alive in his creation. John had declared he did not know the nature or appearance of his changed state after the parousia, only that he would be "like Him" (1 John 3:2). Paul considered it a mystery and he said that the life giving Spirit (Christ) would make the believer into the "image of the heavenly man." Adam was made in the image of God, but not an exact duplicate or replica of God. Christ was raised, and likewise the dead would raise. Christ had eternal life, and when death was made subject to Him in AD 70, so the living at the parousia, received life in their mortal bodies. This does not require a literal rapture.
1 Thessalonians 1:10, which is the ninth text in this section, is already addressed in the second section of the expectations. To be rescued from the wrath to come was to be given the opportunity to "flee the wrath to come." Why does one say "rescue" and the other say flee? Because the ability to "flee," and the opportunity to obey the warnings and the signs, would still require divine intervention to be accomplished. Just like God's own power closed the door on the ark, God's providence, provided the opportunity to avoid the slaughter and judgment that was coming upon the Jewish communities and Jerusalem specifically.
1Thessalonians 2:19, which is the tenth text in this section, is also addressed in the previous section. There would be joy unspeakable at the time of vindication? How could there not be overwhelming joy when the Lord return to vindicate His people? To believe there is no joy is to not understand their plight. To believe that they had joy and needed to write about it to express it shows a lack of understanding to the rest and the clarity they received in that day. The Christian had perfected consciences, the Judaizers had condemned consciences, however, to both parties, Christ was revealed. There was no need to "teach his brother, saying, 'know the Lord'" for they all had Him revealed to them, for better of for worse. The joy was extreme, and does not demand our possession of letters explaining something that did not need explanation.
(7) Text 11
And now we come to the meat at the heart of the matter. All the other verses stand or fall on their own in the light of what was truly expected. The expectation and reward are all summed up in the receipt of eternal life, which occurred at the dwelling of God with man. This dwelling can be both in a pre-sin Edenic relationship in the physical realm or in a resurrected state in the spiritual realm. Either way, an understanding of what they expected, which must be based on the time they received it, the climate in which they were living, and the knowledge of what occurred at AD 70 in temporal history reveal the meaning of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. This text is a parallel of Revelation 21:3, and the dwelling of God with man.
This issue dealt with to the Thessalonians in chapters 4 and 5 is the issue of the dead being made alive. The hope of the Christian was to be with the Lord, “whether we are awake or asleep.”
Paul often wrote of the same subjects to different churches. In this book Paul again alludes to the resurrection as he did in First Corinthians 15. They were being reassured of the fact that there is life after death through Christ. He does not want the Thessalonians grieving over their dead. They were worried that those who had fallen asleep would miss the second coming if they died before it had occurred. They appeared to be grieving as if they had no hope. Paul tells them not to grieve, since Christ rose, the dead in Christ would also rise. This is the same teaching he gave the Corinthians. Christ's resurrection assured the believer that the dead in Christ would also rise.
The dispensational takes 14 and does some serious twisting to what is being said here. The idea is that since Christ rose, the dead in Him will also rise is so obvious I can not understand the twist except that it is purposefully done to fit their false expectations. Paul says that in the same way that Christ rose from the dead, so God will bring the dead to be "with Him" at the parousia. The church has taught that this says, "since Christ's physical body rose, so will the physical bodies of the dead rise. God will bring with Him the little spirits of the dead, they will reenter the physical body as the flesh and bone inherits incorruption (which is against everything Paul taught the Corinthians), and then they will rise." This is the popular dispensational understanding, and does nothing but show the gross lack of understanding as to the state of those in Adam before He brought the victory at the parousia (1 Cor 15:54-56).
Here Paul is not saying that the dead will come down with God to reenter their physical bodies. This cannot be so because Paul himself teaches that the dead are not with God until the resurrection! There are no spirit bodies to come down with Him. They are still dead until He raises them, brings them to life, as Christ Himself was brought to life. However Paul is saying that just like Christ rose to be with God, when God comes, the dead in Christ will also go to be with Him. It is exactly what Paul reaffirms in verse 15-17.
Paul is clearly reaffirming the idea that the dead in Christ rise first. That they go to be with God when He comes to receive them. He is not saying the dead come down with Him, He is saying they go to be with Him. There is a big theological difference. The idea that the dead come down with God as spirits and re-inhabit their physical bodies upon resurrection is unscriptural. It is unscriptural because the dead are not with God until the resurrection and because the physical body is a seed that must die. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom and corruption cannot inherit incorruption. However the mortal bodies that had died at Adam's sin, the soul, would be resurrected and brought to life. The inside of the seed, the spirit man that had been dead since the sin of Adam, would receive life once again. This is not just a renewal of the mind, this was total spiritual regeneration. It was what occurred at the parousia, when the "ministry of death" had completely faded.
Paul discusses the idea that the time had not come yet. He told them to hold onto the hope that he had just explained to them, that the dead will rise and then the living will also be with the Lord. Paul ends the discussion of the second coming with warnings to watch, because that day should not overtake a believer like a thief. He ends the context with the summary of their expectation.
The conclusion of the context of the hope of the Christian is summed up in verse 10. The culmination of the hope of the Christian was nothing other than a relationship with the Almighty God of heaven and earth: to be “saved” from the present body and to be present with the Lord. However, the result of this hope was God dwelling with man. Whether he was “awake or asleep,” man would forever be in relationship with “Abba Father.” The old order would pass away and the new order, which was the Edenic relationship, had been restored.
This is the first real look at the passage with it actually confirming that man might be awake and remain on the earth in this final relationship. Paul uses some curious language when describing this hope and how it is fulfilled in verse 17.
The word for "cloud" in Greek is nefevlh - "a cloud, used of the cloud that led the Israelites in the wilderness." It was the presence of God, the shikinah glory, which led the Israelites out of Egypt.
Secondly, the word for air in Strong's refers to the atmosphere we dwell in now, the air we breathe, this atmosphere that surrounds us! The word for "air" in Greek is ajhvr - "from aemi (to breathe unconsciously, i.e. respire; by analogy, to blow) the air, particularly the lower and denser air as distinguished from the higher and rarer air."
The word for "them" is Aujtov▀ - himself, herself, themselves, itself , he, she, it. Based on the final outcome of Christ's return, God dwelling with man, the verse can be seen as a perfect parallel with Revelation 21. Here is the verse in a more literal rendering of the key words used in the original text.
The reason I link this verse to verse three of Revelation 21 is it's repetition of God with man. For lack of a better term, three seems to be a "magic" number in scripture. The gathering of God's people into His presence repeated three times in Thessalonians mirrors the declaration that God dwells with man three times in Revelation 21:3. This confirms the entire passage has nothing to do with those who were alive and remain being brought up to heaven with the dead! It is simply stating that we, as well as the dead, would dwell in the presence of God forever! Why else would Paul use the two phrases "who are left" and "alive and remain" in verses 15 and 17? Because those alive at the time of the rapture/resurrection, would remain on earth afterwards and live out their days in the New Covenant in God's presence here, on this plane!
What most people miss, due to the lack of understanding the final goal of the fulfillment of all things, is the proper interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The "rapture," what is better referred to the "change" in First Corinthians 15, is God coming to dwell with man. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 is the parallel verse of Revelation 21:3. It is not man going up to be with God in the third heaven as often interpreted. When God comes to be with man there is indeed a spiritual change. The hope of being saved became a reality. The dead in the graves had awoken to go to be with the Lord. The believers who were alive also changed. In order for God to be come their God, they had to have been made spiritually alive. this did not happen until AD 70 or else when they died they would have immediately gone to be with the Lord, which Paul, Christ, Daniel and the book of Hebrews stated did not happen until the resurrection.
2nd Thessalonians 1:7-10, which is the twelfth text in this section, says that they would receive "relief" and that Christ would be "marveled at." I covered this in the previous sections and will do so in the summary to all the expectations. Marveled at is the same as being glorified, lifted up, revealed, which Paul says would happen "in His saints." This is because there vindication would be a revelation of the true sons of God, and all the world would know it collectively. There would be no need to state it in writing.
2nd Thessalonians 2:1, which is the thirteenth and last verse in this section, states that they would be "gathered together" to Him. This only further declares the meaning of First Thessalonians 4:17 to state that the result was the believers being gathered into the presence of God, not that they were in some way being reunited in the spirit realm with each other.
F. Expectation 6
What we are expected to believe by these statements is that they somehow "saw" it by being literally raptured off of the world at that time. I have been emphatically pointing out how not only did the Christian have to see and experience is, but that the Jewish world would as well. There was either a rapture of both parties to fulfill the equal revelation of the Lord, or there was no rapture of either, because they were both being shown the Lord. One would see Him and be led to "weeping and gnashing of teeth" and the other would see Him and rejoice at His salvation because he loved His coming. They did see it and they saw it in the temporal realm the same way we can look back on it, and if we look back through their eyes, we can see how these events in the temporal, led to eternal life from life to life.
The strong moral implications was dealt with when I wrote about the need for them to be standing vindicated after AD 70. What kind of example would it be to the post-AD 70 world if it was a bunch of wicked men left standing and vindicated after the parousia? This was the purpose for Paul's and Peters exhortations. To be blameless was to show that God was vindicating those of faith, who upheld the life in the Spirit that God desires. Vindicating wicked men would make God wicked. Moral implications are easily understood and clearly required a remaining of the Christians post-AD 70.
Their "strong motivation" was justified, vindicated and fulfilled. They had the perfect clarity Paul desired when he saw Him in that time of "revelation" and the "light of the knowledge of the glory of God" was illuminated in the minds of all (1 Cor 13:12, 2 Cor 4:6, John 3:2). They received that perfect rest that comes with a perfect conscience before God (Heb 8-10). They received that perfect freedom that comes with a being the proven son of God (Rom 8:18-25). They received the grace and mercy that was eternal life when the "ministry of death" had faded (2 Cor 3:18, Jude 1:21, Heb 8:10-12, 10:11-14).
G. Expectation 7
The references here explain that their were signs that the believers would recognize but not the wicked. It was the signs that the wicked would not see and understand. This section is very important to clear up for the fact that the wicked would very much know the hour of their visitation at the parousia. The visitation they did not recognize, due to the veil of Moses, was His first coming. He would be revealed to the world in His second visitation, which some would love, and others would likewise mourn. The reason for their initial rejection was the lack of recognition during Christ's ministry.
The many text we have discussed in the past sections declare a judgment of the wicked. Does anyone really believe all the Jews died in Ad 70? That would be foolish. The Christian was perfected in conscience and the wicked would be condemned in conscience. They would "see" Him revealed and "mourn." Not all the wicked died, but all were judged. Their judgment happened in the temporal but had eternal implications.
Again, the reason nothing was said is because they received a clarity as well. They received a condemned conscience. They were also enslaved or dead. To whom would they speak? What is the purpose of acting as a witness in a written testimony for something that everyone witnessed? The judgment was final and would be eternal. The wicked would pass from death to death with condemnation and the righteous would pass from life to life with perfection. There was nothing left to be said. It was finished.
Everything they expected revolved around the resurrection of the relationship between God and Adam. Adam's soul had died on "that day" in the garden when he sinned. This sin resulted in Adam's separation from the presence of God. Many think this was restored at the cross, however we see in Paul's writings that his mortal body was still dead (Romans 8:11) and that no one was perfected until AD 70 (Hebrews 11:40). No one can be in the presence of God until they are perfected. The means to be perfected occurred at the cross, however the granting of perfection was not delivered to the saint until AD 70. Christ was perfected and given the power over death at the cross, but it is clear that the victory over death was not given to man until AD 70 (1 Cor 15:54-56, Heb 11:40, John 14:3). Was Adam in the spiritual world in his presence with God in the garden? Was Adam always satisfied with that pre-sin companionship?
God created Eve because Adam clearly had no mate or companion and even though in perfect relationship with God, in a perfect world, as a human the way God perfectly intended, Adam was still on a physical earth and needed a physical mate. Some may object saying that Christ said that in the resurrection men would be as the angels and not be given in marriage. Doesn't this mean a greater expectation for Paul and the first century Christians concerning this big event? I do not believe so, because the resurrection was not the rapture! Paul was clear about the resurrection. He knew that the body to be resurrected was not the physical body, that it would be spiritual (1 Cor 15:44) and he knew Christ taught that the dead would be raised and be "like the angels in heaven" (Luke 20:36). This much they knew, yet the change that occurred to the living was not known, it was a mystery (1 Cor 15:51) and even John, a witness to the resurrected body of Christ, said he did not know what the change would be but that he did know that he would be "as He is." Just because the resurrected were made to live and immediately ushered into the presence of God in the spiritual world, does not mean that the change that occurred required a literal "catching away." Rather, they were likewise made alive in their mortal bodies, however, remained on earth just as Adam was pre-Eden. They were perfected human beings.
Some may ask that if they were perfected like Adam and made alive, why can they still sin? I would ask; was Adam perfect in his pre-sin state? If so, wasn't he obviously also capable of sinning? You see, people teach that they believe in a perfect restoration of the pre-sin Eden, yet deny that a perfected "changed" person post-AD 70 can sin, even though Adam, pre-sin, had that very capability! There is no consistency to the view that expects a literal rapture either past or future. The difference is the guilt! Post-sin Adam hid from the face of God and then was judged and cast out. Adam hid himself from his maker because of his guilt. In church we all were taught that a backslidden individual naturally hides from the face of God when he sins out of guilt. If the freedom from guilt and penalty was realized, doesn't that mean or path to perfect behavior would be that much easier?
The reason this issue is important is because the proper understanding means the "truth." It was the truth that Christ declared would set people free. The reason the church of America reflects the habits of the lives that are in the world and unsaved are because we only believe or at least, only understand half of the truth. The church and literla rapture proponents believe that Romans 7-8 still applies to them. It does not! Thise who are saved do not need to war with their mind versus their "mortal bodies." They are no longer dead! In the "ministry of righteousness," the Christian is alive fully, as Adam was before he sinned. The victory comes with understanding the whole gospel, and receiving the gift of a perfected conscience that comes with the mercy of "eternal life."
This is the nature of life in the kingdom. We who have been made alive through the revelation of the truth of Christ are alive and have no need of a resurrection. We, at salvation, undergo what living first century Christians underwent at the rapture. We experience the act of being made alive and begin our lives dwelling with God. Because we are never under the "ministry of death," we are like those from Adam to Moses, where death reigned apart from the law. All we need to do is become citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem where righteousness dwells. We do this through the blood of Christ that was shed for us. We have no more sin, no more guilt, no more rituals that deal with food and drink for the body (Heb 8-10). We dwell in the presence of God (1 Thess 4:17, 5:9-10, Rev 21:3). We pass from life to life and will never die (John 11:25-26), which was not true of the believers who were alive pre-AD 70 (1 Thess 4:13-18, John 14:3, Daniel 12:13). Thank God for the whole gospel!
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