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Acts 1:9-11 and the Hyper Preterism Debate

By Keith A. Mathison


Response to the Full Preterist Criticisms of Dr. Kelly Nelson Birks | Mathison's Material Breach | John Humphrey Noyes and Hyper-Preterism


"The hyper-preterist rejection of the traditional interpretation of Acts 1:9–11 has not led to anything even remotely approaching agreement on an alternative interpretation of these three verses. The clarity of what Luke tells us in Acts 1:9–11 is probably the reason why this text is either ignored or else passed over with relatively little detailed discussion in most hyper-preterist literature."

"It is ironic that Stevens quotes Hebrews 10:37 here in an attempt to prove that the Second Advent of Christ was to occur very soon after the writing of Hebrews. Hebrews 10:37 is a quotation of Haggai 2:7, which was written around 520 years before Christ. If Haggai 2:7 is a prophecy fulfilled in Christ’s first advent, his "little while" was at least 520 years. The author of Hebrews quotes the prophecy to refer to something still in the future at the time Hebrews was written, so Haggai’s "little while" appears to be an even longer period of time than that. If Haggai’s prophecy had an initial fulfillment in his own time as well as a later fulfillment in the time of Christ, then the fact that he used such language ("little while") supports the possibility of multiple fulfillments of prophecies."


What do YOU think ?

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25 Apr 2004


Very interesting! Thanks for the work, Keith.

26 Apr 2004


It is interesting - interesting that Mathison continues to snipe from the sidelines while refusing to debate the issue. He is right, there is a "vigorous ongoing debate" on this issue. Perhaps the time will come when he, and others like him, will actually engage it. Then they will be compelled to let preterists speak for themselves instead of filtering everything their audience hears. Those who applaud Mr. Mathison (Sproul Jr. and others) should be encouraging them to accept invitations from Don Preston and other preterists to debate the issue. Their response to date has been to "respectfully decline" such invitations. If the position they advocate is truth, it will certainly win the day. I would be embarrassed to have a champion who refused to enter the arena.

26 Apr 2004


Amen to the brother who calls for the debate. Truth will stand even under fire. Doug Radcliffe

06 May 2004


It's amazing to me that with all of the "cloud coming" references in the Gospels concerning the parousia, guys like Mathison refuse to see the answer to this question found in Acts 1:9 - Acts 1:9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. Did you catch the last part of this verse - "and a cloud received him out of their sight." "He cometh with clouds" is your answer Mr. Mathison. JRP

10 May 2004


perhaps he won't debate you guys because of statements like the last one. he was RECEIVED is a logically different proposition than he COMMETH! This is sad. You guys are in serious error. I know that cults are attractive, but you can leave. Remember, virtually every cult which apes Christianity has at least ONE thing in common, "The ENTIRE history of the Church has been wrong...join US and we will show you the light." You guys are in good company...not. -paul

18 May 2004


sad...paul is sad...pffff..."this same Jesus shall come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven"...on the clouds...on the clouds...on the clouds...the cloud received him out of their sights...the kingdom of God commeth not with observation...I think you need to compare what the bible says about the assention and the 2nd coming and then you, if you can metally dislodge yourself, will see that you can not possibly draw a comparison of the those two events if visable sensory perception is what the scriptures and angels are talking about. Adam Boone (if you respond please put your e-mail address or are you affraid...I'm sure you are but you will probaly say you don't want to give prets the time of day or somethin arrogant like that)

23 May 2004


No, what's really sad Paul, is the fact that my point was completely lost on your hot temper and arrogant attitude. Yes Paul, I do in fact understand the difference between RECEIVED and COMMETH. This is hardly a valid rebuttal because these two words have absolutely nothing to do with my point. You know what else is sad? I sat and listened to my pastor today comment on Revelation 22 where Jesus says, "Behold I come quickly." He said Jesus hasn't come back in 2000 years, but He can STILL come back quickly. WOW!!!-and just think, we preterists are called heretics! JRP

22 Sep 2004


For Mr. Mathison, Scripture no longer interprets Scripture, not here anyway - Acts 1:9-11 You see, the partial preterists don't have any more verses. All of the verses that they used to use, back when they were still futurists, to interpret this passage are now AD 70 for them. So, Acts 1:11 stands alone, and in their mind's interpretation alone; not Scripture Alone (Scripture interpreting Scipture). Below is a LINK to an article that I wrote back in February 2001 that specifically dealt with this: J. E. Gautier Jr.

18 Dec 2004


I am disappointed by Keith A. Mathison's 4/22/04 article,"Acts 1:9-11 and the Hyper-Preterism Debate." From the outset, Mathison comes across as one who is more interested in affixing the unfavorable descriptive, "Hyper-Preterism," than in exploring why fellow disciples of the Lord earnestly come to hold their views. I had hoped for better things from the ministry of R.C. Sproul who wrote more prudently a few years ago in his preface to Russell's work, "The Parousia." The acknowledged growth of interest in the matter should give the hint that many Bible students are finding some answers to unsatisfied questions about the timing and nature of the Lord's Return; questions long unsatisfied by "traditional orthodox eschatology," (as if there ever was such a monolithic stance). I will continue to respect Ligonier Ministries for the sake of the wholesome words I receive from time to time, even if its reputation suffers by way of this recent staff article by Keith Mathison. I would like to see a humbler, more respective tone towards those who respectfully disagree with Mr. Mathison and Ligonier on this perplexing issue.

25 Feb 2005


Hebrews 10:37 is NOT a quotation from Haggai 2:7. but rather from Habakkuk 2:3. Why the discrepancy, who knows? Makes one wonder about any other references or quotations by the author. Like many quotations by NT writers of OT Scriptures, they are many times paraphrases. Such is the case here. Habakkuk 2:3 reads: "For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal, and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay. Habkkuk is indicating something for an "appointed time" that "tarries," but will "certainly come" and "will not delay." This is in the context of the prophet asking basically "Why will God use wicked people to punish Judah?" Hebrews is apparantly paraphrasing Habakkuk and bringing what he said to apply to the near future when God again used a "wicked" people (the Romans) to "punish" Israel, to occur, relative to Hebrews, "in a very little while." James Ellis

Date: 18 Sep 2005
Time: 20:18:36


Dear Sirs: Can any one here tell me what hyper-preterism is (full preterism?), and, any of you, who, are partial preterists, like myself, tell me why you are only partial preterists, and, why, hyper- or full preterism is a heresy? Also, are any of you historicists, and is historicism compatible with partial preterism? Is the Roman papacy the Antichrist, or, is it futile to try to identify "The" Antichrist (as if there is only "one" of them)? Take care. If any of you are patient enough to answer briefly all these questions, and or, to direct me to authors who have already answered them in their books, kindly contact me, Scott R. Harrington, B.A. at: Take care. And God bless all of you to be in Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ save us all Amen. Sincerely, Scott R. Harrington, in Erie, PA, USA

Date: 07 Jun 2006
Time: 14:16:17


Who told Mr. Mathison that Haggai's prophecy was fulfilled in his own time? The scripture does not say this. Isn't it clear that the writer of Hebrews by quoting the passage thought it was not yet fulfilled? I suppose Mr. Mathison also believes that the Abomination of Desolation was fulfilled twice as well! The lord Jesus said that it was fulfilled when Jerusalem was surrounded by Armies (Romans 67-70AD). Can Mr. Mathison show a double fulfillment of any prophecy in the scriptures?

Date: 21 Jul 2006
Time: 18:04:21


Keith Mathison seems to be reapproaching catholicism when he speaks of the "traditional interpretation." Remember what J. Eck said to Luther? "None of the Fathers taught this..."

Date: 24 Aug 2006
Time: 16:15:06


I recognize the strength of the full Preterist argument which appeals to the timing of the major eschatological events. However, I have yet to see a plausible explanation of the nature of some of these events in light of this timing. I have tried to come up with one, I have read most if not all of the full Preterist authors' attempts to come up with one and no one has been successful. The full/partial Preterist interpretations of Acts 1:9-11 are a good example of this. Mathison's arguments are very good. The passage is clear in what it says. But there is this lingering problem of the timing of the second coming that compels full Preterists to try and find away around the obvious meaning. Of course Mathison is no less guilty I'm sure when it comes to the timing texts (it's been awhile since I read his stuff addressing them, but I'm fairly confident this belief would prove true again). It is this problem between the nature of the events and their timing that is, IMO, the nail in the coffin.

Date: 10 Oct 2007
Time: 08:40:28


A NEW THOROUGH-GOING BRAND of Preterism that comes out of Seoul, South Korea, is called 'Rational Preterism.' It was previewed before PhD students at Yonsei University in 2007. In July 2008 a paper on this topic will be presented at The XXIInd World Congress of Philosophy by Mr. Morrison Lee.

The paper will offer three experiments to show that the current paradigm of futurism:
. has it's root and basis in human reasoning
exclusive of any single biblical time fact
. is maintained by special non-biblical rules
. is defended by circular reasoning
. is based on terms unknown to the bible
. cannot maintain its conclusion without non-
biblical reasoning
. actually denies the observable biblical facts it
purports to explain.

Yet in spite of the above and the fact that:
. future to 2007 is not suggested by any biblical
. future to 2007 does not explain any biblical fact
. future to 2007 predicts no new fact nor has
united the field after 2,000 years, notwith-
standing it still asserts it is a 100% "certain-
and-biblical" explanation of the facts.

However future to us in 2007 is a conclusion which breaks every known rule for a good theory, for it:
. cannot be observed
. cannot be tested
. cannot be proven
. cannot be falsified
. begins from human reasoning and
. is maintained by free inventions of fiction.

Conversely the 2008 will recommend Preterism on three grounds:
1. It is suggested by biblical facts.
2. It answers more and more biblical facts.
3. It has a simpler premise and observable basis
in the facts, and adresses all of the
shortcomings of a futurist view in unfamiliar,
yet biblical ways.

Rational Preterism is an objective, rational and systematic past-view of biblical eschatology measurable and defensible by mature standards and tests. Additional information may be obtained directly from Morrison Lee at:

Date: 28 Jun 2012
Time: 10:01:59

Your Comments:

Here are my thoughts in reply to this essay by Mathison...

"Acts 1:9-11

"9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." ESV

In Keith Mathison's essay, "Acts 1:9–11 and the Hyper-Preterism Debate", Keith points out saying, "The word translated “will come” is eleusetai, which is the future indicative form of the verb erchomai." So let's begin by saying that the words "will come" are correctly translated into the verse. There is little room for debate regarding the word "eleusetai" involving the future here. That being given, we must look at the "context" of the claimed future coming revelation....that is, to whom is it being told that a future coming is going to occur? 
Also importantly, what context are they in while the information is being told to them? That is, what are the people being spoken to doing, and why are they doing it? This context is vitally important in these verses. Otherwise we have the information about a future coming just being told to people that could have been doing anything for any reason. That is clearly not the case here though. We have people doing something specific and for a specific reason. We have people looking towards the sky above them after a person that is very close to them suddenly vanishes into a cloud. This was a very shocking thing to witness, thus it is no wonder that they would be staring into the sky where Jesus just vanished into a cloud. It was a dramatic event to those that witnessed it, and it was an event that was very personal to them, that is, it left a very powerful personal impression upon their minds and eyes. This was an experience that they were feeling very strongly and were intimately involved with personally. 
That moment of !
awe and most certainly some sadness was at the forefront of their thinking at the time. It is what was consuming them at the time. So at this all consuming moment, what happens? 2 men in white speak to them. It is not known who they were, angels or otherwise, suffice to say that they would be perceived to be of God. And what do these 2 men in white say? They ask the people who were all consumed with staring into the sky where Jesus had vanished into a cloud, why they were doing what they were doing. The 2 men in white were "addressing" what the people were doing. 
This concept of "addressing" is so very important here. The 2 men in white did NOT just tell the people, "This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven". Instead of just doing that, the 2 men in white started out by "addressing" what the people were doing at the time, staring into the sky where Jesus vanished into a cloud. Why did the 2 men in white bother to "address" what the people were doing at the time? There is only one possible logical explanation as to why the 2 men in white "addressed" and dealt with what the people were doing. It is because what the 2 men in white were about to say dealt with them personally.
What the 2 men in white were about to say dealt with the people that were staring into the sky. If the future coming that is spoken of by the 2 men in white referred to a future coming that was in our present day future, and was far beyond the lifespan of those being spoken to, (it has been around 2,000 years now since they were spoken to), then that future coming would not have the personal significance to those staring into the sky at the time to warrant the 2 men in white "addressing" what they were dong at the time, that being staring into the sky where Jesus vanished into a cloud. This is so obvious once one looks at the facts honestly. It simply can not be denied or overlooked. 
This future coming obviously was to take place withi!
n the lifespan of those present and being spoken to. After one properly concludes that the future coming that is being referred to here is in the lifespan of those present, it is fairly easy to figure out what this future coming is referring to. It obviously is referring to a "coming on the clouds" judgment coming. "Coming in the clouds" is referred to as a judgment coming throughout the Old Testament and New Testament. Jesus ascended into a cloud, and he was to return in a judgment cloud. Jesus did this during the years leading to the destruction of the temple in 70AD.

By Roy Le Scott


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