Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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Greeks and Pharisees

[Response To Gentry's Analysis of the Full Preterist View...]

[GENTRY] Seventh, regarding the teaching of Christ and the Apostles, we must wonder why Paul was mocked by the Greeks in Acts 17 for believing in the resurrection, if it were not a physical reality. We must wonder why Paul aligned himself with the Pharisees on the issue of the resurrection (Acts 23:6-9; 24:15, 21).

Seventh. Why was Paul mocked by the Greeks in Acts 17 if he was not teaching a physical resurrection? The Greeks indeed rejected the necessity of a physical resurrection. In fact, they rejected the need for any kind of resurrection at all. They believed the soul was already “immortal,” so there was no need for a resurrection of any kind. However, their concept of “immortality” was different than the biblical concept of spiritual life and immortality. The Greeks were reacting not only to the idea of a resurrection being necessary to obtain immortality, but also rejecting the Bible’s concept of what that immortality really is. According to Paul, a resurrection of some kind was necessary to get the biblical kind of immortality. The question is, what kind of resurrection was he talking about? We (full preterists) believe that a spiritual resurrection is necessary in order to have true immortality.

Gentry seems to believe that a “physical” resuscitation of our mortal body is necessary in order to gain immortality. Not only would the Greeks object to this, but Christians should as well. It poses a real problem. If Paul was indeed teaching that a physical resuscitation was necessary in order to obtain soul immortality, he was involving himself in a contradiction. He elsewhere teaches that flesh and blood (mortality) cannot exist in an immortal realm, and that we are raised immortal, ready to live in that realm, not raised mortal and then changed into immortal. It would also contradict his seed analogy in 1 Cor. 15. Gentry’s view of the nature of the resurrection involves Paul in an absurdity. The full preterist view is the only one which makes sense of it.

Notice what Paul says in Acts 17:30-32 –

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He is about to [Gr. mello “mello”] judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer...

The Greeks probably did not like the idea of an imminent judgment either. Notice Paul’s use of mello (mello, “about to”) in reference to the imminency of the resurrection and judgment in the quotation of Acts 17:30-32 above. This imminency factor should be cause for Gentry and any other futurist to pause, especially in view of what Gentry himself has to say about mello in BJF (pp. 141-142). Gentry said that one of the determining factors for him in deciding whether an eschatological passage is AD 70 or not, is the presence or absence of an imminency time indicator. Well, Gentry, this passage has one! What will you do with it? I can just see him now going to the lexicons to try to prove that the particular form of the Greek word “mello” here in this text can’t possibly mean “about to.” He will have to “tiptoe through the tulips” on this one, because that same form of the word is used in some of his other favorite “time indicator” texts (see BJF, pp. 141-142). He admits that it does mean “about to” in many texts, especially “when used with the aorist infinitive,” the “present infinitive,” and when the form mellein is used “with the infinitive.” Well, guess what! Acts 17:31 uses mello with the present infinitive (Gr. kri…nein, to judge). Does Gentry realize the implications of that? Whatever the judgment in that text is, it was something that was “about to” occur. And Paul mentions this judgment in the context of his teaching about the resurrection. What was this resurrection and judgment that was “about to” occur?

Albert Pigeon is “about to” finish a three year study of mello, to show how it has been translated in the various English versions. After cataloging every occurrence of the word in about 60 different translations, and statistically analyzing the eschatological passages versus the non-eschatological passages, he found that there was an evident bias among translators regarding the word mello. In non-eschatological passages, they were more likely to translate it “about to.” In the eschatological passages, however, they were more likely to translate it as “shall” or “will” or some other “un-imminent” rendering. The time statements are embarrassing to futurists because of the way liberal theologians use them to discredit the integrity and inspiration of Jesus and the NT writers, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that futurist translators would try to “de-imminence-ize” as many imminence passages they can. The word mello was an easy target for them. Go back and study all 110 occurrences in the 107 NT verses which contain some form of mello and plug the “about to” meaning into them to see what you discover. Note especially how the meaning of the eschatological passages would be affected if mello were consistently translated “about to.” Here’s the list:

Matt. 2:13; 3:7; 11:14; 12:32; 16:27; 17:12,22; 20:17,22; 24:6; Mark 10:32; 13:4; Luke 3:7; 7:2; 9:31,44; 10:1; 13:9; 19:4,11; 21:7,36; 22:23; 24:21; John 4:47; 6:6,15,71; 7:35,39; 11:51; 12:4,33; 14:22; 18:32; Acts 3:3; 5:35; 11:28; 12:6; 13:34; 16:27; 17:31; 18:14; 19:27; 20:3,7,13,38; 21:27,37; 22:16,26; 22:29; 23:3,15,20,27; 24:15,25; 25:4; 26:2,22,23; 27:2,10,30,33; 28:6; Rom. 4:24; 5:14; 8:13,18,38; 1 Cor. 3:22; Gal. 3:23; Eph. 1:21; Col. 2:17; 1 Thess. 3:4; 1 Tim. 1:16; 4:8; 6:19; 2 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 1:14; 2:5; 6:5; 8:5; 10:1,27; 11:8,20; 13:14; Jam. 2:12; 1 Pet. 5:1; 2 Pet. 1:12; 2:6; Rev. 1:19; 2:10; 3:2,10,16; 6:11; 8:13; 10:4,7; 12:4,5; 17:8.

Why did Apostle Paul “align himself with the Pharisees on the issue of the resurrection” if he was preaching a different kind of resurrection than the Pharisees? The Sadducees denied resurrection from physical death. (cf. Lk. 20:27-38) The Pharisees generally believed in a physical resurrection along with many other materialistic paradise ideas which the chiliasts (millennial literalists) carried over into early Christianity, and this view has been enshrined in the Talmudic and rabbinic writings down to this day. However, that was not the only view of the resurrection they debated in the Talmudic writings. There were other concepts. See Lightfoot’s Commentary on the NT from the Talmud, the Jewish Encyclopedia, and Everyman’s Talmud by Cohen for easy confirmation of this. If Paul was preaching a different kind of resurrection than the Pharisees, why does he seem to align himself with them here in Acts 23? I believe Max King has given a satisfactory answer to this:

[Paul] believed, as did the contemporary Pharisees, that there would be a resurrection of the dead. ....the resurrection which he afterwards preached through Christ was radically different from the traditional Jewish understanding of resurrection. ....His statement, as Paul anticipated, created a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, not because the Pharisees agreed with Paul’s new understanding of the resurrection, but because what Paul said served to rekindle a long-standing feud between these two rival parties over the traditional understanding of the resurrection as affirmed by the Pharisees but denied by the Sadducees. The Pharisees, for the time being, dropped their case against Paul lest the old Sadducean denial of the resurrection should be aided by the Pharisees’ denial of this new concept of the resurrection as preached through Christ. The fact remains, however, that Paul was opposed by both the Pharisees and the Sadducees, which means that gospel resurrection represented something other than that which before had been affirmed by the Pharisees but denied by the Sadducees. [The Cross and The Parousia, pp. 427-428]

The similarity between Paul and the Pharisees was that they both believed in a resurrection of some kind. The Pharisees allowed for different concepts of the resurrection to be held among them. The difference between their various concepts and Paul’s about the nature of the resurrection was definitely an issue the Pharisees were concerned about, but it was deferred when they were confronted by a greater challenge to their whole system by the Sadducees. They would rather admit that Paul might have received a revelation from an angel, than give the Sadducees further ground for strengthening their rejection of the resurrection. What Paul did was not only legal, but evidently under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It accomplished exactly what the Spirit had predicted would happen to Paul when he went to Jerusalem. Paul’s statement was correct. He was still a member of the Pharisee political party, and certainly a son of Pharisees, and he was on trial for the hope of Israel and the resurrection of the dead. He turned his case into a dispute over whether there was such a thing as a resurrection of the dead. The nature of that resurrection was not the focus of the dispute. The Pharisees allowed different concepts of the resurrection among their followers. Paul wanted to settle the issue of whether the Scriptures really taught a resurrection of the dead. Then he would have asked what the nature of that resurrection was, and how it would be fulfilled by the Messiah, but he never got the chance. All heaven broke loose and Paul was almost torn to pieces in the ensuing mayhem. The Romans had to come to his rescue. The fact that Paul used the Pharisaic belief in some kind of resurrection to aid his defense does not necessitate the conclusion that he believed in a physical resurrection, especially since the Pharisees already had several different concepts of the resurrection among them.


[GENTRY] We must wonder why we Christians still marry and are given in marriage, since Christ said in the resurrection we will not marry (Luke 20:35).

This is the story about the woman who had seven successive husbands who all died. Then the woman died. The Sadducees ask Jesus which one of the seven will have her as wife “in the resurrection.”

Gentry asks why we today still marry if the resurrection has already occurred. There are a few assumptions he makes here. The first is that the Sadducees had living people in mind when they talked about a resurrection, and secondly that living people could even be “raised” to enjoy this special status, before they had died. Jesus shows the living would not have that status until after they died in Christ.

Part of the reason this text is so confusing is because we are not aware of the various concepts of resurrection held among the Jews, and who are the ones being raised. One of the reasons the Sadducees denied a resurrection was because they just didn’t see the doctrine taught by Moses in the Law. They did not accept the rest of Scripture as authoritative on the same level as the Five Books of Moses. The Jews were also aware of the Ezek. 37 promise to send a Son of David to raise Israel in the Last Days and usher in the Golden Age of Israel, and many of them (esp. the Pharisees) understood this as a regathering from all the lands where they had been scattered, and a restoration to a totally regenerated land of Israel that would be a fantasy-paradise where every physical delight imaginable would be enjoyed. Not all the Jews held this view of the “world to come” (or “age to come”), but it was a significant view. The Sadducees probably wanted to see if this was what Jesus was teaching. If so, they had an answer all ready for Him. But Jesus was more than ready for them. He not only taught a different view of the resurrection than the popular one (to answer the Pharisees), but He substantiates it from the very Law of Moses which the Sadducees held in higher regard than the other books in the OT canon.

Comparing this text with its parallels in Matt. 22:23-33 and Mark 12:18-27 should help us determine who are being raised. I have reprinted the salient parts of all three accounts below:

“In the resurrection therefore whose wife of the seven shall she be? For they all had her.” But Jesus answered and said to them, “...in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matt. 22:28-30, emphasis added)

“In the resurrection, when they rise again, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.” Jesus said to them, “...when they rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Mk. 12:23-25, emphasis added)

“In the resurrection therefore, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had her as wife.” And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” (Lk. 20:33-36, emphasis added)

The Sadducees told the story about the woman who had seven husbands, each of which died. Then she died as well. All eight of these folks were dead. These “dead” persons were the subject of the Sadducees’ question and of Jesus’ answer. If anyone doubts that, just look at all three parallel accounts above to verify it. Notice my boldfaced emphasis of the subjects in all three texts. But also, why would they be talking about a resurrection of living people? Living people can’t be resurrected if they haven’t died yet. So this discourse of Jesus is dealing only with the effect of the resurrection for dead saints, not for the living.

In Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts it is very obvious who are the subjects under discussion. These eight people were being used as a test case to determine what Jesus was teaching about the nature of the resurrection. These were dead people. The dead are the subjects of the Sadducees’ question and Jesus’ answer, not the living. This is not as obvious in Luke’s account as it is in the other two parallels (see the quotations above). But you can still see it in Luke when you consider the phrase, “neither can they die anymore.” The assumption here is that these are people who had already died. In fact, they had already died and been raised. And, they can’t die again. Jesus uses this fact to explain the nature of the resurrection state they were in. Living saints were not in that state, even though they lived after the resurrection event, simply because they had not died yet and were still in their earthly bodies.

Luke’s account is the only one of the three which carefully defines just who it is that will get to be a part of the resurrection from out of the dead. It would not be ALL “the sons of this age.” It might not even be any of the seven husbands or the one wife. It would instead be only “those who are considered worthy.” This blew away another of the current theories among the Jews that any circumcised (or law-keeping) Jew would automatically “have a share in the age to come.”

Who are “the sons of this age” and what is “this age?” The only other NT passage which mentions the “sons of this age” is Lk. 16:8 (but compare Eph. 2:2). There it is talking about a dishonest steward who exhibited shrewdness in his business dealings. Jesus challenged the “sons of light” to be as shrewd in doing good as “the sons of this age” were in doing evil. It seems like this is another example of Jesus’ rebuke of the Jewish leadership who were the contemporary stewards of God’s household in that age. Jesus was challenging His disciples to be as shrewd in managing God’s kingdom honestly and faithfully, as the Jews had been in their dishonest management. So, the “sons of this age” were the current Jewish leadership who were doomed to dispossession of their stewardship position. Only those among them who were “considered worthy” would “attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead.” The Jews were the sons of this age, and “this age” was the OT Jewish age that was about to be changed into “the age to come.” The resurrection was the age-changing event. So, Jesus was simply saying, “Dead Jews of the old age who are worthy to attain to the resurrection from out of the dead will not be raised into a state where there is marriage and giving in marriage. Those worthy dead will receive a resurrection state wherein they “neither marry, nor are given in marriage; for neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God.” Again, this is talking about the state of the worthy dead after their resurrection into the heavenly realm, not the state of the living in the visible church after the change of the ages. It was a status that the living worthies would get as soon as they died, but not while they were still living. And this was a status that was not available even to the dead OT worthies until after the resurrection at the change of the ages in AD 70.

Luke’s account goes further and shows that Jesus was defining not only what the status of the resurrected worthies would be, but also exactly who would get to be a part of that resurrection. The dead who were “worthy to attain to that age” would not be raised to enjoy physical marital relations again, nor would their resurrection give them mortality again as Lazarus had after his physical resurrection. When “the resurrection of the dead” occurred, those who were worthy of it would not have to live out the rest of their resurrected life and die again like Lazarus. The dead who would be raised “in the resurrection” would never die again (unlike those in the Pharisees’ schema). They would be like angels (immortal and not subject to physical death). Jesus said all the dead are conscious and are alive to God. No soul-sleep doctrine is taught here! Neither is a physical resurrection taught here. They are raised immortal, not subject to physical relations and physical death again. Gentry’s view would play right into the hands of the Pharisees’ physical paradise idea.

The reason this text seems to be a problem for preterists is that we forget who Jesus and the Sadducees are talking about (people who had already died). They were not talking about people still alive and what life on earth would be like in “the age to come” after it arrived. Jesus was talking about the effect the resurrection would have on the worthy dead. Jesus clearly repudiates the popular notion that the dead would be raised to a physical paradise with marriage and physical relationships. The thought of a physical resurrection is definitely not to be found here. Nor is the idea of a physical resurrection with an immediate change into an immortal body even hinted at. The worthy dead are raised in the unseen realm to a status which was not characterized by physical relationships and mortal limitations.


[GENTRY] We must wonder why the apostles never corrected the widespread notion of a physical resurrection, which was so current in Judaism (cf. Josephus, Talmud, etc.). We must wonder why we "resurrected" Christians must yet die; why should we not leave this world like Enoch and Elijah? Furthermore, where and what is the resurrection of the lost (John 5; Rev. 20)?

I have a hard time believing Gentry is serious when he says, “We must wonder why the apostles never corrected the widespread notion of a physical resurrection, which was so current in Judaism (cf Josephus, Talmud, etc.).” Peter, Paul and John most certainly did counter the popular notions about a physical resurrection, as we have already shown above. Paul especially dealt with the immortal nature of the resurrection body in 1 Cor. 15. And Jesus certainly countered their views in His response to the Sadducean test about the woman with seven husbands, which we discussed above. Is Gentry suggesting that the apostles were teaching something different than Christ, and that they agreed with the Jewish literal physical concepts that were formulated to go along with their physical paradise ideas of the world to come?

Then Gentry asks, “We must wonder why we ‘resurrected’ Christians must yet die; why should we not leave this world like Enoch and Elijah?” Who said we as individual Christians are already living in our immortal bodies? We already have resurrection life, but we are still in the physical body. Our immortal bodies are ready for us when we lay aside the physical shell. Gentry is confusing the Ezek. 37 collective resurrection of True Israel with the implications of it for the Christian after physical death. Yes, the corporate body of true Israel has been raised out of its subjugation to the ultimate enemy of spiritual death, but the individual Christian does not enjoy the full benefits of that until the outer shell dies and the distractions of this physical life are removed (as discussed above).

What is the resurrection of the lost? (John 5; Rev. 20) When the ultimate enemy of mankind (spiritual death) was swallowed up in victory at AD 70 by the final crushing of God’s enemies, the righteous dead were rewarded with life back in the presence of God again for the first time since they lost that presence in the Garden. The lost dead were judged and cast away from the presence of God. This happened in the invisible realm, where Christ and the angels were fulfilling all the things Gentry says the book of Revelation discusses related to those days. Just look at the number of things Gentry understands as happening in the spiritual realm during those days leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in his books, The Beast of Revelation and BJF. I’m not saying anything more revolutionary than he, Gary DeMar or David Chilton have already said.


[GENTRY] Paul considered Hymenaeus and Philetus as having made ship-wreck men's faith by saying the resurrection is past (2 Tim. 2:17-18). A wrong view of the resurrection is a serious matter to Paul.

What about Hymenaeus and Philetus? (2 Tim. 2:17-18) Has Gentry finally scored big here? I don’t think so, but I am content for the reader to judge for himself. Here are a few thoughts about Hymenaeus and Philetus for us to consider:

How could people with a supposedly pure physical concept of the resurrection ever get the idea that the resurrection had already taken place? It would have been too obviously wrong. Paul could easily refute it by saying, “Look around folks, the tombs are still occupied.” How could Hymenaeus and Philetus have missed such an obvious dilemma, and how could the faith of the saints be so easily upset with such irrefutable evidence readily available? It is clear that Hymenaeus and Philetus didn’t conceive of the resurrection in physical resuscitation terms.

This begs the question: If they didn’t hold the common physical concept of resurrection, what was their concept? Where did they get it? In what sense did they believe it was already past? Notice Paul doesn’t challenge their concept of the nature of the resurrection, but rather their timing of it. It should have been obvious to Paul that they didn’t have a physical concept. Why didn’t he challenge their non-physical concept if he was in fact teaching a physical concept (as Gentry alleges)? Preterists are not the only ones who have some hard questions to answer here.

Why was it considered straying from the truth and upsetting to the faith of some for Hymenaeus and Philetus to say the resurrection was past before AD 70? What was at stake here? The consummation of the transition from the old fleshly sacrificial system into the spiritual temple system was threatened by those who said the resurrection was past already. This implied that they already had everything they were going to get. It implied that the sacrifices, which were still ongoing, were to continue in the New Covenant system which they thought had already fully arrived. The full and final consummation of the change of covenants was jeopardized by saying the resurrection had already happened. That would have left the church in a very confused and immature state of unfinished transition, like trying to live in a house half-finished. The plumbing is in the house, but the water and sewer pipes are not connected yet. The gas and electricity are not connected yet. Pretty primitive. Paul knew the church was still in a partial status and that the fullness had not yet arrived. And the fleshly sacrificial system was not to be a part of the new temple system. To say the resurrection had already happened was equivalent to telling the builders (the apostles) to quit working on the house, and to stay with the one they already had in Judaism. It was painting a very different picture of the finished kingdom than what God was revealing through Paul and the other apostles. Hymenaeus and Philetus were saying the transition was complete. They were looking at the “already” and assuming there was no more “not yet.” They saw the “earnest,” “pledge” and “seal” of their inheritance and assumed they already had “the full inheritance.”

Why isn’t it just as wrong today to say the resurrection is past as it was in Paul’s day? Because the house has been finished now. Christ now dwells in that spiritual house (the church, the new spiritual temple, the kingdom). The resurrection was the final act of completing it. The resurrection demonstrated that the final nail had been driven in the coffin of the last enemy, Death, and that the gates of Hades had utterly failed to prevail against the church. It signaled the fact that the Serpent’s head had finally been crushed. That crushing was still future (but imminent) when Hymenaeus and Philetus were saying it was already past. (cf. Rom. 16:20) A wrong view of the resurrection is certainly a serious matter. The church needs to take a more careful look at its views to see if it has gone to an unnecessary and un-biblical extreme regarding the nature of the resurrection body, and the time and nature of fulfillment of the resurrection event.

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