Tuesday, 30 June 2020

What About the Violent-Genocidal God of the Old Testament?

Anticonservative author Peter Enns wonders, “How can Christians condemn another religion as inherently violent when their own binding documents depict their God as extremely violent, one who commands genocide and for whom mass killing seems to be his preferred method of conflict resolution …. There’s no escaping the fact that Christians who take the Bible as a God-given dependable, trustworthy, and accurate source of information about God have some thinking to do.”1

Does Dr. Enns, and centuries of likeminded skeptics, have a point? Do questions like this pose a legitimate challenge to the believer’s faith? To be swayed by such argumentation one must first have a predisposition against the Bible and/or know very little about it. In fact, familiarity with scripture exposes the above accusation as a major overstatement that has targeted and distorted a tiny, cherry-picked fragment of the overall biblical story. Detractors are either unaware of key qualifying information, or they willfully ignore, deceptively omit, or stubbornly dismiss the rest of what the Bible teaches.

Say what you will, but the biblical record is honest and real. It has obviously not attempted to hide material that critics could use against it. The Bible does not present an idealized, glamorized, or romanticized version of history or its most notable characters. Supernaturalism aside, biblical narratives correspond to reality and cannot be properly understood apart from their own literary, historical, cultural, and religious environment. Before attacking the Christian faith and Almighty God himself, surely all pertinent information should be collected and scrutinized. Otherwise, the message of scripture is mischaracterized and misjudged.

The Sovereignty of God

How much arrogant superiority must one have to accuse the God of the Bible of arrogant superiority? Who among mere mortals is in the lofty position to challenge the actions of the omnipotent creator of the universe? If there is no God, upon whose moral standard does one judge a God who does not exist? “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other’” (Isa. 45:18).2

One could argue that if God gives life, he can take life (Job 1:21; Heb. 12:9). But what does this actually mean? From a biblical perspective, life does not really end but transitions from the temporary physical realm to the eternal spiritual realm (Eccl. 12:5-7). God cannot be charged with “murder” if he simply ushers people into the next life. Moreover, how can antitheists or antibiblicists be consistent if they reject the God of the Bible because he allows evil to exist, yet criticize him whenever he puts an end to it? And is a pro-abortionist justified in choosing to terminate physical life but God is not?

The People of Canaan

One gets the impression from the selective and embellished observations of critics that the Canaanites were innocent victims and the God-driven Israelites were malevolent and barbaric. But is there more to the story the uninformed are not being told? Would these same critics denounce the involvement of the Allied Forces in World Wars I and II? If not, apparently they have not gathered all the facts about Israel’s ancient foes.

What about the Canaanites who had violently stolen the land from previous settlers? (Num. 21:26-30). Characterized as fierce and menacing, these people were known for their aggression and warmongering (Gen. 14:1-12; Num. 13:31-33; 21:21-25, 33; Deut. 1:28, 44; Josh. 10:3-5; 11:1-5; 24:8-11; Judg. 1:7, 34; 5:19, 30; 6:1-6; 2 Kings 3:21-23). Adversarial interlopers are hardly innocent victims.3

What about the destructive influence of communities rife with wickedness? (Ex. 34:11-16; Num. 25:18; 31:16; Deut. 7:1-6; 9:5; 12:29-32; 18:9-14; 20:16-18). These people had drifted so far away from the divine standard of morality as to be guilty of all sorts of perverse evils—depravity, cruelty, brutality, even human sacrifice, including the torture and murder of children (Deut. 12:31; 18:9-10; 2 Kings 3:27; Jer. 19:5).4 “[F]or whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you” (Deut. 18:12). Is the preservation of righteousness an ignoble quest? 

What about the Lord’s incredible longsuffering with the iniquity of these people? (Gen. 15:16; cf. 2 Pet. 3:9, 15). While the God of the Bible is merciful, he is also a God of justice (Gen. 18:25; Deut. 32:4; Isa. 30:18). As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live …” (Ezek. 33:11). The inevitable consequence of rejecting God’s goodness and forbearance is his righteous judgment (Rom. 2:4-9). 

But what about the innocent children who died in these conquests? None of us possesses divine foreknowledge, and from a very limited human perspective we may be missing the bigger picture. Alternatives would include the prospect of tortured and sacrificed children (burned alive) in their own depraved cultures, and the likelihood of survivors growing up to be just as evil. 

The providential victories of the Israelites were not because of their own virtue or superiority. Beyond the extreme wickedness of these Canaanite societies, there was a greater purpose to fulfill through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deut. 7:7-10; 9:4-6; cf. Gen. 26:3-4).

Israelite Ethics of War

The conquest narratives in the books of Joshua and Judges ought to be read through the moderating lens of Deuteronomy’s war ethics. Ancient near-eastern literature portrays military violence as morally acceptable and necessary to impose dominance and social order. Yet warfare regulations in the Hebrew scriptures are unparalleled in war texts of other nations.5

To fight against the people of God was to face annihilation. Nevertheless, enemies not yet meriting total destruction were to be given the opportunity to make peace (Deut. 20:10). Otherwise, combatants would be put to death while women and children spared (vv. 12-15). Compared to typical ravages of war, and in contrast to the ruthless societies surrounding them, the Israelites had strict laws for how captives were to be treated (Deut. 21:10-14; cf. 2 Kings 6:18-23).6 Unfortunately, “There was not a city that made peace with the people of Israel except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. They took them all in battle” (Josh. 11:19).7

Lest the Lord be accused of categorical favoritism, the same punishments were executed against Israelites who resisted the way of righteousness and chose the way of evil (Deut. 13:11-18; Judg. 2:11-23). Remember the atrocities inflicted by the Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Seleucids, et al.

Divinely sanctioned war occurs primarily during the conquest period but significantly declines through the historical narratives, defensive survival notwithstanding. By the time Jewish refugees return from Babylonian exile, there were no military strategies or campaigns. 

A Higher Purpose

We need to take a step back and see how each account fits into the overall biblical narrative. Taken as a whole, the Bible’s story is of a loving and compassionate God seeking to redeem a lost and broken world, while maintaining his justice and holiness. The intention all along has been to bless all people of all nations of all time.8 But free moral agency rejecting the righteous ways of God, resulting in sin, corruption, and evil, persistently gets in the way. 

If the Supreme Deity, as sovereign creator and sustainer of all, reserved a geographical territory as a national setting to bring forth the world’s redeemer,9 what fallible human being is justified in saying he had no right to do so? Through the centuries the Lord has patiently endured, made the tough calls, has been rejected and ridiculed, but his mercy endures forever.10

Undergirding the Old Testament’s turbulent history, God ultimately seeks the salvation of mankind through the preservation of the messianic seed-line.11 Israel’s chosen status and protection was the means through which the Savior was ushered into the arena of fallen humanity.12 When the Israelites sinned like other nations, they were punished. If God had ignored their sins or had completely annihilated them, all accountable persons of every generation would be lost without hope of redemption. 

Conclusion

Many are quick to say, “If I were God, here’s how I would do it …” A better approach would be to appreciate our minuscule place in the universe and the creator’s infinitely broader perspective and insight (Isa. 55:8-9). When God is judged as a petty human being, the biblical message is twisted and misunderstood (cf. Hos. 11:9). To portray him as a cruel, vindictive, malicious tyrant, most of the biblical record has to be ignored, his justice and holiness misconstrued, and divine attributes like love, grace, and mercy overlooked.13

Here is a suggestion for those who are troubled by a select handful of Old Testament texts: read the New Testament, where God’s purpose is more fully revealed and understood in Christ Jesus.

--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Pete Enns, “The Bible’s Violent God Isn’t,” HuffPost (16 Nov. 2014), <Link>.
     2 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2016).
     3 See Jonathan M. Golden, Ancient Canaan and Israel: An Introduction (Oxford: University Press, 2009): 6-7.
     4 See Keith Paterson, “Did The Canaanites Really Sacrifice Their Children?” Bible Reading Archaeology (13 May 2016), <Link>; also Joshua J. Mark, “Canaan,” Ancient History Encyclopedia (23 Oct. 2018), <Link>.
     5 See Susan Niditch, War in the Hebrew Bible: A Study in the Ethics of Violence (NY: Oxford University, 1993).
     6 See K. L. Moore, “Does the Bible Condone Sexual Assault?” Moore Perspective (7 May 2019), <Link>.
     7 On the matter of the LORD hardening their hearts (Josh. 11:20; cf. Rom. 2:4-5), see K. L. Moore, “Did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart” (6 Feb. 2015), <Link>.
     8 Gen. 12:3; 18:17-19; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; 1 Kings 8:38-43; 1 Chron. 16:7-36; Isa. 9:2; 42:1-6; 49:6; Jer. 16:19-21; Jonah 1:1-2; Hab. 2:14; Zech. 8:20-23; Acts 3:25; et al. The canonical Psalms contain around 175 references to the universality of God’s reign; cf., e.g., 22:27-28; 33:5-12; 57:9; 66:7; 67:1-7; 72:11, 17; 82:8; 86:9; 96.1-13; 108:3; 117:1-2. “In the Psalms there are seventy-six references to the ‘nations’, even though the Psalms are part of the worship of Israel. And if you add references to ‘all the earth’ and ‘the peoples’ it is quite startling to see how much the Psalms teach us of God’s concern for all mankind” (Michael Griffiths, What on Earth Are You Doing? [Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1983]: 12).
     9 Gen. 12:1-7; 13:14-17; 15:5-7; 22:17-18; 26:3-4; Ex. 3:7-8; 32:13; Deut. 1:8; 4:1; 16:20; Psa. 37:3-34; 46:7-11105:42-45; Isa. 2:1-4; 9:6; Mic. 4:1-5; Acts 3:24-26; 7:2-5, 17, 45; Gal. 4:4-7. Note, however, the land inheritance was conditional (Lev. 20:22, 24; Deut. 28:1-2, 15; Josh. 23:13-16; 1 Kings 9:6-7; 2 Chron. 20:7), and Abraham’s descendants did not remain faithful to the covenant with God (1 Kings 19:10; Jer. 31:32) and eventually lost the land (Josh. 23:13-16). See K. L. Moore, “The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth (Part 1),” Moore Perspective (22 April 2020), <Link>.
     10 1 Chron. 16:34, 41; 2 Chron. 5:13; 7:3, 6; 20:21; Ezra 3:11; Psa. 106:1; 107:1; 118:1-4, 29: 136:1-26; 138:8; Jer. 33:11.
     11 Gen. 3:1-13 records the entrance into the world of Satan’s power of sin and death, and v. 15 is the earliest reference to God’s plan to destroy Satan’s power. The “seed” promise began in Gen. 3:15, was carried through the OT (e.g. Gen. 22:18; 28:14) and fulfilled in Christ (Gal. 3:16). The serpent’s “seed” would be all who reject God’s will and become the devil’s progeny (John 8:44; Eph. 2:2-3; 1 John 3:10; cf. Matt. 12:30). The woman’s seed (Christ) became the offering for sin (Isa. 53:5, 10), whose suffering was the means through which the serpent’s head was struck, destroying the power of sin and death (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). See also Rom. 16:20; Rev. 12:1-17; 20:2, 10; cf. Psa. 68:21; 91:13.
     12 Gen. 22:18; 26:4; Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Matt. 1:1-23; Luke 24:27, 44-45; Acts 13:23; Gal. 3:16; 4:4-5; Heb. 2:9-18.
     13 Ex. 15:13; 20:6; 33:19; 34:6-7; Num. 14:18-19; Deut. 5:10; 7:7-9; 13:17; 30:3; 2 Sam. 24:14; 1 Chron. 16:34, 41; 21:13; 2 Chron. 7:3, 6; 20:21; Ezra 3:11; Neh. 1:5; 9:17; Psa. 13:5; 17:7; 23:6; 25:6; 36:7; 40:10-11; 51:1; 63:3; 69:16; 103:4; 119:77, 156; 145:9; Isa. 30:18; 54:8, 10; 63:7, 9; Jer. 9:24; 16:5; 33:11; Lam. 3:22, 32; Dan. 9:4, 9, 18; Hos. 2:19-23; 6:6; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2; Mic. 7:18-20; Nah. 1:3; et al.


Related articles: Dave Miller's Violence in the OT vs. Quran?

Image credit: adapted from Michelangelo’s fresco (1511), https://exequy.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/yahweh/

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Preterism: What’s the Big Deal? (Part 4 of 4) Concluding Observations

Overly-Simplified, Overly-Complex

The fundamental weakness of hyper-preterism is its overly-simplistic method of interpretation, which creates an overly-complex belief system. When a biblical text does not seem to fit the preterist model, it has to be reinterpreted or spiritualized.1 When a biblical text does seem to fit, context is sometimes ignored or explained away.2 If one has not fully embraced the preterist system, it is extremely difficult to see in the Bible what preterism claims is there. In fact, it has been less than 150 years since this novel eschatological perspective was first introduced.3

Preterists insist theirs is the only “consistent” interpretive model, so much so that consistency of meaning is demanded even when appropriated scriptures are scattered across a variety of literary and historical-cultural settings. Strict preterism fails to appreciate that biblical terminology can be used in a variety of ways with different contextual connotations.4 The result of preterist methodology is an overly-simplified, overly-complex, acute imbalance.

A More Balanced Approach

Does the Bible speak of the Lord’s representative “coming”? Yes, but not always. Yahweh came representatively against Babylon via the Medo-Persians (Isa. 13:1-22; 26:21; 27:1). The Father’s presence was represented in his Son (John 14:7-11). Jesus sent the Spirit as a divine representative (John 14:16-18, 23-26; 15:26; 16:7-15). The Lord came in judgment against Jerusalem representatively by the Romans (Joel 1:9-16; Matt. 24:1-34). This does not mean, however, there can be no personal appearance of the Lord in the future, which a number of NT passages seem to affirm (John 14:2-3; Acts 1:9-11; 1 Cor. 15:23-24; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:6-10; Heb. 9:28; 1 John 3:2-3; etc.). Why feel the need to force symbolization onto these verses unless there is an underlying agenda one is trying to defend? 

Now and Not Yet

Throughout the NT there is an obvious tension between “now” and “not yet.” Salvation is viewed not only as a past occurrence (Rom. 8:24; Eph. 2:5, 8), but also a present reality (1 Cor. 1:18; 15:2; 2 Cor. 2:15) and a future hope (Rom. 5:9-10; 9:27; 10:9; 1 Cor. 3:15; 5:5). Spiritual life is available right now (John 11:26; 1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 4:16–5:17), while those experiencing this newness of life still anticipate what is to come (Matt. 5:12; Rom. 8:24-25; Phil. 3:20; 1 Pet. 1:3-7). 

Does the Bible teach initiated eschatology (past), realized eschatology (present), or future eschatology (yet to come)? Yes it does! The long-anticipated arrival of the Messiah to usher in God’s final dispensation was in fact realized with Jesus’ physical presence on earth (Matt. 12:28; Luke 17:20-21) and the formation of his church (Matt. 16:18-19, 28). But it is also “unrealized eschatology” because there is more to come. The messianic kingdom has been inaugurated and is moving toward heavenly consummation (1 Cor. 15:23-26). Biblical eschatology is realized but not fully realized.

Other Timeframe Issues

Based on passages like 1 Cor. 7:29-31; 15:51; and 1 Thess. 4:15, liberal critics have long argued that certain NT writers and early disciples were anticipating in their lifetime the second advent of Christ at the end of the age, but they were wrong. Preterists agree that some biblical texts allude to the imminence of eschatological events, but rather than mistaken the prophecies were fulfilled in a non-literal sense in the summer of AD 70. 

Both of these conclusions, however, do not reflect the broader scope of what the scriptures teach. Even Jesus did not know whether or not his return would be imminent (Mark 13:32). Paul understood that he and his contemporaries may or may not still be living at the Lord’s parousía (cf. 1 Thess. 5:2-3, 10; 1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14; Phil. 3:11). Although nearness in time was surely possible, it was never definitively affirmed as the only possibility.5

Another timeframe issue, upon which preterism stands or falls, is the dating of the book of Revelation. For futurists, it doesn’t matter. But for preterists, the close of the NT canon must have been prior to mid-AD 70 in order for their theory to seem plausible. Internal evidence places the most probable context of Revelation toward the end of the reign of Domitian (AD 95-96), supported by the weight of early testimony.6

Does it Really Matter?

The biblical doctrine of the parousía is foundational to the Christian faith (1 Thess. 1:10; 4:14-18). To allege it has already occurred is deceptive (2 Thess. 2:1-3), as well as cancerous, a deviation from the truth, undermining the faith of some (2 Tim. 4:17-18). The future judgment has always been part of the gospel message that provides an incentive to obey (Acts 3:19-21; 10:42; 17:30-31; 24:25; Rom. 2:4-6; 2 Cor. 5:10-11; 2 Thess. 2:5; Heb. 9:27-28; 1 Pet. 4:5; 2 Pet. 3:11, 14). 

The promise of the Lord’s parousía and accompanying experiences gives hope and reassurance to believers (Acts 23:6; 24:15; 26:6-8; 2 Cor. 4:14; Phil. 3:10-11; 1 John 3:2-3), “awaiting the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Tit. 2:13).7 Teaching otherwise causes unnecessary apprehension and discord (2 Thess. 2:1-2) and counters the persistent admonition to be prepared, watchful, and alert (Matt. 24:36, 44; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:1-11; 2 Pet. 3:10-18). Yes, it matters.

-- Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 For example, Matt. 24:36–25:46; 28:18-20; Luke 20:33-36; John 5:25-29; 6:39-44; 12:48; 14:2-3; Acts 1:11; 24:15; 1 Cor. 15:20-28, 35, 42, 52; 2 Cor. 4:14; 5:10-11; Phil. 3:10-11, 20-21; 1 Thess. 2:19; 4:13–5:11; Tit. 2:11-13; Heb. 9:28; 1 John 3:2-3; Rev. 20:11-15.
     2 For example, Matt. 10:23; Acts 17:30-31; 24:25; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 2 Thess. 1:6-12; 2:1-3; 2 Tim. 2:17-18; 4:18.
     3 James Stuart Russell, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming (London: Daldy, Isbister, & Co., 1878). Notwithstanding 1st-century heresies (1 Cor. 15:12; 2 Thess. 2:1-3; 2 Tim. 2:17-18).
    4 For example, while the return of Christ is sometimes referred to as “the day of the Lord” (2 Pet. 3:10), the same expression is used elsewhere in scripture with reference to six other days of the Lord’s judgment. It is a mistake to overlook the historical and literary contexts in which this phrase and comparable expressions are so often used. If the number seven is consistently employed throughout scripture to symbolize completeness, and the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem was the sixth so-called “day of the Lord,” should we not expect a seventh and final day of the Lord’s judgment? See K. L. Moore, “The Day of the Lord,” Moore Perspective (1 Feb. 2014), <Link>. No doubt adding to the confusion is the fact that the language used is clearly apocalyptic. “A real event is being described, but it is one which cannot be described literally since the direct activity of God cannot be fully comprehended in human language. The biblical writers have therefore to resort to analogy and metaphor, the language of symbol, in order to convey their message” (I. Howard Marshall, 1 and 2 Thessalonians [Vancouver: Regent College, 2002]: 128).
     5 See K. L. Moore, “Anticipating Christ’s Return (Part 1),” Moore Perspective (31 Jan. 2018), <Link>; and “Anticipating Christ’s Return (Part 2),” Moore Perspective (7 Feb. 2018), <Link>.
     6 See K. L. Moore, “Introducing the Book of Revelation (Part 2),” Moore Perspective (14 Nov. 2018), <Link>.
     7 Scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.

Addendum: Borrowed from Brian Giselbach -- The Bible's Christ-centered Message: I. Jesus Christ is Coming (Gen. 1:1 - Mal. 4:6); II. Jesus Christ has Come (Matt. 1:1 - Acts 28:31); III. Jesus Christ is Coming Again (Acts 1:9 - Rev. 22:21).


Image credit: https://www.triumphmodular.com/blog/contemplating-modular-construction/

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Preterism: What’s the Big Deal? (Part 3 of 4) Timeframe References

Preterists highlight three timeframe references in Matthew’s Gospel (10:23; 16:28; 24:34), conflating the verses to make the preterist theory appear more credible. But their eisegesis is less convincing when each passage is carefully examined in context.

Timeframe Reference #1: Matthew 10:23

In Matt. 10:23 Jesus says to his twelve apostles, “but when they persecute you in one city, escape to the next. For truly I say to you, you will most certainly not have completed the cities of Israel until the Son of Man has arrived.”1 The verbal érchomai denotes general motion or progress, and in Matthew’s Gospel its nuances include “coming” (3:11; 6:10; 8:9a; 23:35; 25:31) and “going” (2:8, 9; 8:7), but particularly “arriving” (2:2, 11, 23; 3:7, 14, 16; 4:13; 5:17, 24; 7:15, 25, 27; 8:9b, 14, 28, 29; 9:1, 10; 11:19; 16:28; 21:40; 24:46). The emphasis is not on the process or expectation of coming (not there yet) but the actual arrival. 

The surrounding context of the statement in question (for which there is no parallel in the other Gospels) is Jesus sending out his immediate disciples on what has historically been called the limited commission (Matt. 10:1–11:1; cf. also Mark 6:7-13, 30; Luke 9:1-6, 10). While the six pairs of evangelists were making their circuit through various Israelite communities (Luke 9:6), the Lord himself “departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities” (Matt. 11:1, 20). Before they had completed their mission, Jesus refers to his present earthly ministry as “the Son of Man arrived [érchomai] …” (Matt. 11:19). Preterists and futurists will continue debating whether Matt. 10:23 predicts the Lord’s coming in judgment in AD 70 or in the distant future, but the immediate context reveals the statement’s fulfillment long before either.

Timeframe Reference #2: Matthew 16:28

The next timeframe reference is Matt. 16:28, where Jesus affirms, “Truly I say to you, there are some standing here who will not experience death until they have seen the Son of Man arriving in his kingdom” (with parallels in Mark 9:1 and Luke 9:27). The context and subject matter are not the same as the previous discussion. Jesus is no longer alluding to his arrival in Israelite cities. Contextually he is speaking to a crowd, including his disciples (Mark 8:34), about sacrificing worldly pleasures to gain spiritual life (Matt. 16:24-26). As an apparent incentive he says, “for the Son of Man intends to come [érchomai in the sense of a future arrival] in the glory of his Father, with his angels, and then will give to each one according to his deeds” (v. 27). Judgment is implied here, so is it the judgment against rebellious Jews in AD 70 or the final judgment of all at the end of time? Preterists and futurists are at a stalemate.

For the purpose of our current study, however, the more pressing question is whether vv. 27 and 28 refer to the same event, or does v. 28 reveal a necessary prelude to what Jesus has just projected in v. 27? The interpretive key is the subject matter. What and when is this forecasted “kingdom”? The premillennialist says it is a physical kingdom on earth not yet realized. The amillennialist contends it is a spiritual kingdom inaugurated at Pentecost AD 30. The preterist maintains it is a spiritual kingdom established when Jerusalem fell in AD 70. 

The premillennial view is challenged by the Lord’s promise to his contemporary listening audience, “some standing here who will not experience death until they have seen …” Attempts to overcome this exegetical hurdle include (a) allusion to the transfiguration, where three disciples witnessed Jesus in his majestic glory (Matt. 17:1-13); or (b) the “some” refers to the generation alive to observe the signs of the Lord’s parousia (Matt. 24:34) in the remote future. Both interpretations seem forced, and neither is faithful to what the text actually says.

That the promised kingdom is spiritual in nature is surely confirmed by Jesus’ words, “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36a), in light of his persistent contrast between the heavenly and the earthly, the temporal and the eternal, the physical and the spiritual.2 It is hard to escape the clear implication of all three synoptic accounts that the Lord’s spiritual kingdom was to be witnessed in the lifetime of his contemporaries (Matt. 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27), i.e., relatively soon rather than millennia in the future (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7).

Preterists may not totally agree on when Christ’s dominion began, whether at his ascension or at Pentecost, but they do agree that the kingdom “really did not exist in its fully established and glorified manifestation until the events of 70 AD.”3 This position, however, downplays and practically skips over the extraordinary happenings four decades earlier at Pentecost (Acts 1:3-8; 2:1-47), while over-emphasizing the admittedly significant, albeit far less significant, events of AD 70. 

It is hard to miss the integral connection between the Lord’s kingdom and his church (Matt. 16:18-19; Col. 1:13, 18). From the historical record of Acts 2 onwards, the church Jesus promised to build was existing and growing and recognized as “the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:2-8; 2:1-47; 8:12; 14:21-22; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31; Eph. 2:19; 3:10; Col. 4:11; Rev. 1:6, 9; 5:10). These early Christ followers were also anticipating a future inheritance in the eternal heavenly realm (Matt. 5:12; 25:34; 1 Cor. 15:50; 2 Tim. 4:1, 18; 2 Pet. 1:11).4 A transitional period from infancy to maturity unfolds in the NT record, but marking the fullness of the kingdom’s establishment at AD 70 is mere conjecture. 

Timeframe Reference #3: Matthew 24:34

In the final week before his crucifixion, Jesus spoke these words: “Truly I say to you that this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matt. 24:34). Which “generation” is he referring to, and what are “all these things”? The answers often depend on one’s favored brand of eschatology. 

The statement, of course, is just a tiny segment of a much broader context, commonly referred to as the Olivet Discourse, recorded in the 24th and 25th chapters of Matthew and paralleled in Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36. Premillennialists claim the entire prophetic message refers to the end-time judgment yet to be fulfilled, while preterists maintain the entire prophetic message applies to the AD 70 overthrow of Jerusalem. But there is a third option we will present below.

Contextually Jesus is having a private conversation with just four of his disciples: Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 13:3). Nevertheless, for Matthew, Mark, and Luke to have recorded the conversation, it was obviously revealed to a wider audience. The discussion begins with Jesus bringing up the complete demolition of the Jewish temple and its buildings (Matt. 24:1-2). A handful of inquisitive disciples later ask about “the sign” of the Lord’s parousía and “the end of the age.” It seems many interpreters place as much exegetical weight on the queries and assumptions of these clueless fishermen as on what Jesus actually says in response.

The Lord is asked two questions: (a) “tell us, when will these things be?” (i.e., the temple’s demise), and (b) “what is the sign of your parousía and the end of the age?” (v. 3). Jesus answers the first question, concerning the temple’s destruction, in verses 4-34. This is where the statement in question occurs: “Truly I say to you that this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” The most straightforward reading of these words is that the signs of the previous verses culminated in Jerusalem’s fall just four decades later.

The premillennialist would disagree because of the wording and fantastic descriptions in vv. 27-31. It might be helpful to note, however, the transition into symbolism in vv. 27-28. The language of this brief section is comparable to Jewish apocalyptic literature, vividly portraying with cataclysmic images the Lord’s judgments against various nations (cf. Isa. 13:1-11; 14:4-12; 19:1; 34:1-5; Jer. 4:5, 13; 6:17; Psa. 104:3). Considering the Jewish context, one cannot insist on an absolutely literal interpretation of these verses.5

The preterist would be in agreement so far but would then continue this application through the rest of the discourse. However, after affirming the certainty and permanency of his words in comparison to the eventual passing away of the cosmos (Matt. 24:35), Jesus then answers the second question he had been asked, “what is the sign of your parousía and the end of the age?” Notice carefully the words “these things” and “those days” (vv. 3, 6, 8, 19, 22, 29, 33, 34) in contrast to “that day” (v. 36). There will be no signs pointing to the end of the world; it will be sudden and unexpected (vv. 35-51).

Conclusion

Rather than conflating all the timeframe references in Matthew’s Gospel, our contextual study proposes four separate occasions: (a) the Lord’s earthly ministry (Matt. 10:23); (b) the Lord’s inauguration of the kingdom at Pentecost (Matt. 16:18-19, 28); (c) the Lord’s judgment against Jerusalem (Matt. 24:34); and (d) the Lord’s final judgment (Matt. 24:35–25:46).

--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     2 See K. L. Moore, “The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth (Part 3),” Moore Perspective (6 May 2020), <Link>.
     3 John McPherson, “The Kingdom of Heaven,” The Preterist Archive (retrieved 12 May 2020), <Link>. See also Kurt Simmons, “How Do Preterists View the Kingdom of Christ?” PreteristCentral.com (retrieved 12 May 2020), <Link>; and Ward Finley, “The Kingdom of God,” Eschatology.com (retrieved 12 May 2020) <Link>.
     4 See K. L. Moore, “The Kingdom of God (Part 3),” Moore Perspective (25 Jan. 2014), <Link>.
     5 See K. L. Moore, “The Day of the Lord,” Moore Perspective (1 Feb. 2014), <Link>; also “Matthew 24: the End of the World or Jerusalem’s Fall? Moore Perspective (8 Feb. 2014), <Link>.


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Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Preterism: What’s the Big Deal? (Part 2 of 4) Misinformation

Contextual Dislocation

When context is afforded its rightful place in the study of scripture, a number of preterist proof-texts and interpretations are exposed as forced and misleading. Reading Jerusalem’s AD 70 destruction into almost every prophetic statement in the NT may seem convincing to some, but only if context is ignored. 

Paul called on Athenian pagan philosophers to repent right now because God “has set a day in which he intends to judge the world in righteousness …” (Acts 17:30-31).1 What motivation would this have given, or what relevance would it have had, if referring to the judgment against nationalistic Judaism, two decades later, hundreds of miles away, on the opposite end of the Mediterranean Sea? 

As Paul stood before the Roman procurator Marcus Antonius Felix in Caesarea, not only did he mention “a resurrection of both righteous and unrighteous,” he spoke more directly about “righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:15, 25). Since Felix was on the side of the Romans rather than the Jewish rebels, what was Paul using as an evangelistic incentive that struck fear in this man’s heart? Compare 2 Cor. 5:10-11.

James, in the 5th chapter of his epistle, declares judgment on dishonest, wealthy oppressors (vv. 1-6). He then encourages his readers to persevere “until the parousía of the Lord” (v. 7). Addressed to Jewish Christians “in the diaspora” (1:1), i.e., far away from the land of Judea, the Lord’s approaching judgment against Jerusalem would not particularly apply. 

Whether the fate of these doomed tyrants was to be actualized in their lifetime or in the age to come, James tells his readers, “strengthen your hearts, because the parousía of the Lord has drawn near” (5:8). Rather than surely affirming Christ’s imminent return, however, nearness phraseology emphasizes the certainty of fulfillment and encourages readers to live in a constant state of expectancy of the Lord's parousía always at hand. Even more so, what was needed to reassure their troubled hearts was a reminder of the nearness of his presence. The next verse includes this idea of spatial proximity: “Behold, the judge is standing before the doors” (v. 9b). Compare similar passages with which James audience would have been familiar (Deut. 4:7; Psa. 34:18; 85:9; 119:151; 145:18; Isa. 51:5; 55:6; Jer. 23:23).  

When the apostle Paul later writes to the saints at Philippi, a Roman colony nearly a thousand miles away from Jerusalem, he reassures them with these words: “the Lord is near” (Phil. 4:5b). Because of the less-than-precise verse divisions in our English Bible, modern readers might fail to appreciate that this statement readily serves as a motivation for what follows. The apostle is alluding to the fact that the Lord is close, nearby, looking on (cf. vv. 7, 9, 13, 19; Acts 18:9-10; 2 Tim. 4:17). Therefore, “do not be anxious about anything …” (Phil. 4:6a).

Deceptive Argumentation

Paul warns his readers of the deception involved in claiming that the Lord’s parousía has already transpired (2 Thess. 2:1-3). If a preterist argument on the surface sounds compelling to some, like all teaching it needs to be put to the test (1 Thess. 5:21).

The preterist asks when will futurists observe communion with the Lord? Jesus said, “I will not eat thereof until it is fulfilled in God’s kingdom” (Luke 22:16). Yet in the observance of the Lord’s Supper, Paul said to the mid-1st-century Corinthians, “you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). They were not communing with the Lord but anticipating his return (in AD 70). If there is no communion with the Lord until he comes, and if there is no communion after his coming, when will futurists ever commune with the Lord?! 

This flimsy, deceptive argument is created by altering and mixing the terminology of two separate passages in two very different contexts. In Luke 22:16 Jesus speaks of communing with his disciples in the kingdom (fulfilled in his church). Abuses notwithstanding, in 1 Cor. 11:26 Paul is speaking to citizens of the kingdom who regularly commune with the Lord as they observe the Lord’s supper (10:16-17), and by so doing, “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” The preterist argument crafts a false antithesis by alleging the Corinthians were looking for Christ’s return instead of communing with him, but surely this is not an “either-or” scenario! Jesus’ words in Luke 22:16 were fulfilled when the church began (Acts 2:42). Since then Paul’s observation in 1 Cor. 11:26 has been implemented weekly, recurring until the Lord’s parousía.

The Last Days and the End of the Age?

When scripture speaks of “the end of the age,” preterists insert “Jewish.” When scripture speaks of “the last days,” preterists add “of the Jewish dispensation.” They contend that the last days (of old-covenant Judaism), and the end of the (Jewish) age or the (Jewish covenantal) world, point to the summer of AD 70. Thus, there is no end to history. “Our physical world and cosmos are without end.”2

I am reminded, especially when I hear or read the musings of militant preterists, of the apostle Peter’s foreseeing “in the last days scoffers,” who cynically ask, “Where is the promise of his parousía?” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). This is followed by a vivid description of the day of the Lord’s judgment, when the physical world and cosmos will be incinerated (vv. 7-14). Then Peter issues a warning about those who distort the scriptures and lead others astray with error (vv. 16-17). 

There is no question that the violent overthrow of Jerusalem in AD 70 was the deathblow to nationalistic Judaism in the 1st century, and the period leading up to this catastrophic event was in fact its last days (the events of 1948 notwithstanding). But to so narrowly interpret similar terminology in contextually unrelated passages is to lose sight of God’s much broader scheme.

The historical turning point between old-covenant Judaism and the new-covenant messianic age occurred about four decades earlier at the cross. “And through this [Jesus Christ] is mediator of a new covenant, so that, death having occurred for redemption of transgressions of those under the first covenant, those having been called might receive the promise of the everlasting inheritance. For where there is a will, death of the one having made it is necessary to uphold it. For a will is secure upon death, since it is not enforced at the time when the one having made it is living” (Heb. 9:15-17). The old-covenant system of Judaism had served its purpose and the Lord officially replaced it at Golgatha, “having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14). 

The messianic age was inaugurated at Jesus’ atoning death, soon followed by his resurrection, ascension, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and other extraordinary events at Pentecost. Granted, while traditional Judaism was still alive and well with many unsuccessful attempts to thwart God’s work in his church, this came to an abrupt halt about forty years later (cf. Heb. 8:13b). Nevertheless, the temple’s removal was certainly not at the center of God’s redemptive plan. The atoning death of his Son served this distinctive purpose (cf. John 19:30).3

At Pentecost Peter and his contemporaries were living in “the last days” (Acts 2:16-17), not merely the final days of old-covenant Judaism, which the Lord had already rendered obsolete (Heb. 8:13a), but the final period of biblical history (cf. 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:1-2; 9:26; 2 Pet. 3:3-4). Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching observance of all his commands, with the assurance of his abiding presence “until the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). The serious Bible student must decide which of these is or is not still applicable.

Appealing to Matt. 24:3 to link the expression, “the end of the age,” to the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem might carry more weight if it were not the words of confused, uninformed disciples. Since other passages (e.g. Matt. 13:39, 40, 49; 2 Tim. 3:1; Jas. 5:3) tend to be interpreted according to the interpreter’s eschatological presuppositions, we will not prolong the never-ending debate in the present study.  

--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     2 John NoēThe Perfect Ending of the World (Indianapolis, IN: East2West, 2011): xv. Contra the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
     3 Psa. 22:16; Isa. 53:8-9; Matt. 16:21; 17:12, 22-23; 20:18-19; 21:37-39; 26:2; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:19-20; John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32-33; Acts 2:23, 36; 3:18; 4:10, 27-28; Rom. 5:6-11; 1 Cor. 1:13, 17-29; 2:2; 15:1-4; 2 Cor. 13:4; Gal. 1:4; 2:20; 3:1, 13; 5:11; 6:12; Eph. 1:7; 2:15-16; 5:25; Phil. 2:8-9, 18; Col. 1:14, 20; 1 Tim. 2:6; Tit. 2:14; Heb. 2:9-17; 6:6; 9:12, 22, 26; 10:4; 12:2; 1 Pet. 2:24; Rev. 5:6, 12; 13:8. See K. L. Moore, “The Christianization of a Pagan Symbol,” Moore Perspective (24 Dec. 2019), <Link>.

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Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Preterism: What’s the Big Deal? (Part 1 of 4) Introductory Matters

Defining Terms

1. Eschatology (from Greek éschatos, “last”) is the study of last things or the final events of history. Eschaton, the neuter form of the Greek term, is often used with reference to the end of the world.

2. Futurist Eschatology contends that the Bible’s end-time prophecies –Christ’s second coming, the resurrection of the dead, the end of the world, the final judgment – are yet in the future. Supporters of this view are called futurists.

3. Preterism (from Latin praeter, “past”) or Preterist Eschatology is the belief that all biblical prophecies were completed long ago. “Partial preterism” or “moderate preterism” considers most (not all) biblical prophecies to have already been accomplished, while “full-preterism” or “hyper-preterism” affirms the past fulfillment of all biblical prophecies, including Christ’s return and the final judgment.1 Since the primary historical focus of this theory is the Roman ransacking of Jerusalem in the summer of AD 70, it is also known as the AD 70 Doctrine. Those espousing this view are called preterists.

4. Realized Eschatology or Fulfilled Eschatology is the designation generally applied to the idea of all end-time prophecies having been fulfilled, particularly at the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem.2 However, many who affirm a future eschatology acknowledge a sense in which some eschatological elements (e.g. God’s spiritual kingdom, Christ’s messianic rule, the last days, newness of life) are current realities linked to future expectations. Many futurists also maintain a partial-preterist interpretation of prophecies in the book of Revelation.

5. Revised Eschatology is the assertion made by liberal critics that Jesus and his earliest followers believed in the imminent consummation of end-time prophecies, but as years passed with hopes unfulfilled, concessions had to be made for a less-certain, future expectation.3 Preterists claim the best response to this erroneous charge is their “consistent” interpretation of biblical prophecies.

6. Parousia is the term frequently used in reference to events accompanying Christ’s return. It is transliterated from the Greek parousía, meaning “presence,” opposite of appousía, “absence” (see Phil. 2:12). It could refer to one’s immediate presence or appearance (2 Cor. 10:10) but more often applies to someone whose presence or arrival is anticipated, so the word “coming” is typically used in translation (see 1 Cor. 16:17; 2 Cor. 7:6, 7; Phil. 1:26). In this study the term parousía will be left untranslated to avoid potential confusion between the “presence,” “arrival,” and “coming” nuances.4

The Importance of the Doctrine in the Early Church

Having spent less than a month proclaiming God’s word in Thessalonica, Paul and his coworkers placed much emphasis on the Lord’s parousía (Acts 17:2; 2 Thess. 2:5, 15; cf. 1 Thess. 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 5:23), with extensive follow-up information communicated not long afterwards (1 Thess. 4:13-18; 5:1-11; 2 Thess. 1:7–2:17). This teaching was considered just as foundational to the Christian faith as Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Thess. 1:10; 4:14; 5:10).

The apostle clearly affirmed a future eschatology, looking ahead to what was to come. Yet the doctrine was later misconstrued by some, maintaining a realized eschatology as if the day of the Lord had already arrived (2 Thess. 2:1-3).5 This seriously troubled and confused the young church, seeing they had learned from God’s emissaries that the day of the Lord would be sudden and unexpected (1 Thess. 5:1-6) and could not be missed (1 Thess. 4:16-17). For anyone to say otherwise was perplexing, disconcerting, and deceptive. 

Modern-day preterists insist these allusions refer to the Lord’s representative coming in judgment via the Romans against Jewish rebels in Jerusalem about two decades later. But how would this have provided comfort and reassurance to Gentile Christians, nearly a thousand miles away, who were worried about their deceased loved ones missing out on the parousía?  (1 Thess. 1:9-10; 4:13-18) 

The Thessalonians were assured of this future eschatological experience involving “the Lord himself” (1 Thess. 4:16), an emphatic statement affirming his personal return (cf. 1:10; 2:16; Acts 1:9-11). This is in contrast to past divine judgments carried out indirectly through the agency of temporal forces.6 The NT doctrine of the parousía is universal and Christocentric, not localized and Romanocentric.

Irrespective of when and where the Thessalonian documents were published, we see how important eschatology was in the early church and the seriousness with which misinformation was confronted. We also witness the discord generated by unorthodox teachings. 

The Resurrection of the Dead?

Paul was dismayed that some in the church, not having God’s knowledge, were claiming “there is no resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:12, 34). First-century preterests like Hymenaeus and Philetus were alleging, “the resurrection has already happened,” which Paul calls a cancerous message, a deviation from the truth, subverting the faith of some (2 Tim. 4:17-18).

Modern-day preterists believe there is no future resurrection of the dead because, they say, it has already happened. They maintain that the biblical meaning is not the bodily raising of corpses but is strictly spiritual in nature, applicable to the time immediately following the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem. It was “a release from Sheol of all who had been waiting through the centuries to be reunited with God in the heavenly kingdom,”7 involving a “change” in both departed and living saints to immortality and full access to God’s presence, “from being ‘dead in their trespasses and sins’ to ‘alive in Christ Jesus’ ...”8 However, Jesus affirmed the resurrection of “all” who have passed from this life, both “those having practiced good” and “those having practiced evil” (John 5:28-29), followed by Paul’s inclusion of “both righteous and unrighteous” (Acts 24:15).

Jesus certainly believed in the future resurrection of the dead (Matt. 22:23-33; John 5:28-29; 6:39-40, 44, 54; cf. 11:24). In fact, he makes a clear distinction between “this age,” where people “marry and are given in marriage,” and “that age,” inclusive of “the resurrection from the dead,” where people “neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20:34-38). Why do preterists still get married?

Paul’s hope was in the future resurrection of the dead (Acts 24:15), taking issue with those who denied this truth (Acts 23:6-8; 1 Cor. 15:12-58). While the apostle and his fellow believers were already raised out of spiritual death to newness of life (Rom. 6:4; Eph. 2:1-6; Col. 2:12), they were still hoping “to attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3:11; also 2 Cor. 4:14).9  Bodily resurrection and final judgment at the Lord’s parousía are assured by the fact that Jesus is literally and physically risen from the dead (Acts 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:20-24). 

--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     1 The Spanish Jesuit Luis del Alcázar wrote Vestigatio arcani sensus in Apocalypsi (1614), advocating a partial preterist view of the NT book of Revelation. James Stuart Russell’s The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming (1878) is probably the earliest exposition of full preterism. Max King and his father-in-law C. D. Beagle championed this view in churches of Christ in Ohio in the 1970s. 
     2 Brian L. Martin, Fulfilled Eschatology: A Brief Introduction (Goodyear, AZ: BMD, 2018): 1, <Link>.
     3 Gunther Bornkamm, Paul 206-207; Donald Coggan, Paul: Portrait of a Revolutionary 87, 236; James Denney, The Epistles to the Thessalonians 177; James E. Frame, Thessalonians (ICC) 172-73; Arland J. Hultgren, “The Pastoral Epistles,” in Cambridge Companion to St Paul (ed. J. D. G. Dunn) 143; Alan F. Segal, Paul the Convert 161-62. For a response, see K. L. Moore, “Did Paul believe and teach …” Moore Perspective (24 Jan. 2018), <Link>.
     4 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation. In describing the Lord’s coming presence, the word parousía mostly occurs in the Thessalonian letters (1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8), and just one other time in Paul (1 Cor. 15:23). Elsewhere in the NT only in Matthew (24:3, 27, 37, 39) and in the writings of the three “pillars” (Jas. 5:7, 8; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4, 12; 1 John 2:28). Other descriptive terms include epipháneia (“appearing,” “manifestation”) in 2 Thess. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 1:10; 4:1, 8; Tit. 2:13; and apokálupsis (“revelation”) in 2 Thess. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:7, 13; 4:13; cf. Rom. 2:5.
     5 The text reads “has come” [enéstēken – perfect active indicative] (v. 2), not “at hand” (ASV, KJV); cp. “has come” (CSB, ESV, NASB, RSV), “had come” (NKJV), “has already come” (ISV, NIV). 
     6 The six occasions in the OT described as “the day of the Lord”: (a) judgment against ancient Israel (Amos 5:1-27), fulfilled in 722 BC by the Assyrians; (b) judgment against ancient Judah (Lam. 1:12; 2:1, 21-22; Ezek. 7:19; 13:5; Zeph. 1:7, 14-18; 2:2-3), fulfilled around 586 BC by the Babylonians; (c) judgment against ancient Egypt (Jer. 46:1-28; Ezek. 29:1–32:32), fulfilled in 568 BC by the Babylonians; (d) judgment against ancient Babylon (Isa. 13:1-22), fulfilled in 538 BC by the Medo-Persians; (e) judgment against ancient Edom (Isa. 34:5-12; Ob. 1-21), progressively fulfilled between the 4th and 1st centuries BC by the Maccabees; (f) judgment against ancient Jerusalem (Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Zech. 14:1-2; Mal. 4:1-6), fulfilled in AD 70 by the Romans (cf. Luke 1:16-17; 21:20; Acts 2:16-21). See K. L. Moore, “The Day of the Lord,” Moore Perspective (1 Feb. 2014), <Link>. If the number seven is employed throughout scripture to symbolize completeness, should we not expect a seventh and final “day of the Lord”?
     7 David B. Curtis, “The Resurrection from the Dead,” The Preterist Archive (9 May 1999), <Link>.
     8 Edward E. Stevens, Stevens Response to Gentry: Detailed response to Dr. Ken Gentry’s critique of the Preterist view entitled, “A Brief Theological Analysis of Hyper-Preterism” (Bradford, PA: International Preterist Association, 1999): 65.
     9 Paul taught extensively on the general resurrection of the dead (Rom. 8:11, 23; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:12-57; 2 Cor. 4:14; 5:1-5; 1 Thess. 4:13- 18; 2 Tim. 2:18), as did others (Matt. 22:29-32; Luke 20:37-38; John 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:25; Acts 4:2; 17:18; 23:6; 24:15; Heb. 6:2; Rev. 20:4-6, 13).

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