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(how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference)

Why the end of the world is the end of the world

What happens at the end? What sort of transformation does John have in mind when he says that earth and heaven “fled away” from the presence of God at the judgment of all the dead (Rev. 20:11)? Are we to suppose that the world-as-we-know-it must finally disappear—or perhaps be destroyed—to be replaced by an utterly new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1)? That has probably been the traditional view, but other interpretations are available. J. Richard Middleton, whose stimulating book A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology I have been poring over recently, insists that what John describes is not cosmic destruction but the renovation of this world. Others will argue that John, like Isaiah, uses the language metaphorically to speak of the restoration of God’s people following the judgment of AD 70. Here’s why I think the “traditional” view is nearer the mark.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them…. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (Rev. 20:11; 21:1)

1. Middleton thinks that we are “justified in taking the fleeing of heaven and earth as a vivid representation of the cosmic shaking that accompanies God’s righteous presence” (205). The perturbation of heaven and earth is a common feature of theophanies: “LORD, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the region of Edom, the earth trembled and the heavens dropped, yes, the clouds dropped water. The mountains quaked before the LORD, even Sinai before the LORD, the God of Israel” (Jdg. 5:4–5); “the heavens, and the earth, and the abysses are shaken at the presence of His majesty” (T. Levi 3:9). But in none of these texts do heaven and earth flee away, and we should probably assume that John is trying to make a different point here: “fled away” does not mean “were shaken”.

Spot the deliberate mistake...

2. The “great white throne” is still there after earth and heaven have fled away. Does that mean, as Middleton supposes, that heaven “has not been obliterated” after all (205)? The argument seems a bit literalistic for a vision of this nature, but it is also relevant, surely, that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). At this final judgment of humanity and vindication of the creator, it makes sense that the judge is seen apart from both the heavens and earth which he created.

3. Middleton also observes that after heaven and earth have fled away “the sea gave up the dead who were in it”. So the sea is still there—it hasn’t been destroyed. But when the new heaven and new earth appear in Revelation 21:1, the sea “was no more”—it has passed away along with the “first heaven and the first earth”. Presumably the sea is kept back so that it can give up the dead who have not been consigned to Hades. Aune notes a “popular belief that the souls of those who died at sea did not enter Hades but remained where they died in the water”.1 Once the sea’s dead have been recovered for judgment, there is no further need for it.

4. To underline the fact that earth and heaven have fled away, John adds that “no place was found for them” (topos ouch heurethē autois). The phrase is found verbatim in the Theodotion translation of Daniel 2:35: when the stone hits the brittle feet of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the statue disintegrates and is blown away by the wind like chaff, and “no place was found for them” (topos ouch heurethē autois). It is not much to go on, but the force of the expression would appear to be that the thing has ceased to exist.

5. One final argument that Middleton puts forward is that the passing away (apēlthen) of heaven and earth is of the same type as the passing away of the “old” in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away (parēlthen); behold, the new has come.” Middleton asks: “Are we to believe that Paul thinks that the passing away of the old life is equivalent to the obliteration of the person, who is then replaced by a doppelgänger?” I’m not sure this works: Paul is not saying that the person “passes away”; it is the “old things” (ta archaia) that have gone, and “new things” (kaina) have come.

Also, I don’t think that the distinction between aperchomai in Revelation 21:1 and parerchomai in 2 Corinthians 5:17 can be so easily dismissed (“the prefixes… do not indicate any discernable [sic] difference in meaning”). Parerchomai has a well established existential or apocalyptic usage: “our life will pass away (pareleusetai) as the traces of a cloud” (Wis. 2:4); the “whole world shall pass away (pareleusetai)…” (T. Job 33:4). This does not appear to be the case for aperchomai, which means to “go away, depart” and in this context simply corresponds to “fled away” in Revelation 20:11.

But in any case, if there is any analogy between the transformation of the person and the transformation of the cosmos here, it is between the resurrection of the person and the remaking of creation. A person who is “in Christ” is “new creation”, but he or she still dies. When that person is raised from the dead, the old natural perishable body is replaced by a new spiritual imperishable body, because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Cor. 15:42-50). The new creation which John sees in Revelation 21:1 is as different from the old creation as the imperishable resurrection body is different from the perishable natural body.

So to conclude, it seems to me that John means to describe a fundamental disjunction rather than mere “cosmic renovation”. It is a mistake to imagine that the world-as-we-know-it is being progressively redeemed. A redeemed people is called to bear active corporate witness to the blessedness of created life as long as the world exists, but in the end—whatever that means—humanity will be decisively “judged”, evil and death will be destroyed, and a new creation will come into existence.

It is an obvious corollary of this argument that, at this point, the Preterist view is also mistaken. John does enough, I think, to dissociate his narrative from the prophetic metaphor. In his mind, what is at stake in the end is whether God or evil will have the final word.

  • 1. D.E. Aune, Revelation 17–22 (1998), n.p.

Comments

On the analogy of the new creation with the resurrection body - on the one hand, for most people, this will mean a replacement. Their physically dead bodies will not be renovated because, in most cases, the body isn’t there to renovate. But on the other hand, Jesus’ resurrected body was not only recognizable as Jesus (at least when he wanted it to be) but also bore the scars from his crucifixion, which seems to suggest a high degree of continuity.

In John’s vision of the new creation, if it is a total disjuncture, the world that is remade does seem a rather lot like the old one with the possible exception of the sea and the sun (if we take the absence of the sea and sun with a high degree of literalism).

Then there’s the analogy in Peter of the Flood, which was on the one hand a huge disjuncture (“the world that then was”), but at the same time also did not remove the physical world and replace it with something wholly new.

So, I don’t know. I’m getting a strong disjuncture vibe, and I certainly don’t think we can gradually transform the world into what John describes, but I’m also not sure what we’re seeing is a picture of total discontinuity.

Phil,

May I suggest to you that the reason for all the confusion and inability to connect it all together stems from one underlying faulty assumption? Both Andrew and Middleton work under the assumption that Heaven and Earth are references to the physical world. It does not. And until this is recognized, there will never be clarity.

May I direct you to three articles that will introduce you to a more correct understanding?

One, two and three.

Godawa writes:

In these texts, and others, God does not merely appeal to his power of material creation as justification for the authority of his covenant, but more importantly He uses the creation of the heavens and earth, involving subjugation of the sea and dragon, as poetic descriptions of God’s covenant with his people, rooted in the Exodus story.

I would agree with him. If I have understood him correctly (I’m not sure he is entirely consistent) , he does not deny that God created the heavens and the earth (“material creation”), but he points out that the language of creation is also used poetically or metaphorically to describe God’s covenant with his people. That’s fine. The cosmic language can be metaphorical but it doesn’t have to be; it can also speak of the literal “material creation”.

But he later states, with no justification or support—though there is a footnoted reference to Gentry:

The inauguration of the New Covenant through the incarnation of Christ is reaffirmed in Revelation as a new heaven and earth cosmos coming out of heaven to eliminate chaos (the sea) and bring a new sacred space of holy city and temple fulfilled in Christ…

That seems to me an unwarranted move. Like Middleton (though for different reasons) he assumes that the shaking of heaven and earth is the same as the fleeing away of heaven and earth. The sea in this passage is not chaos but a place of the dead. All the dead are raised, not merely Israel’s dead. There is a decisive destruction of death and Hades that is not found in any of the covenant texts. There is no reference to a covenant, and presumably no need for one now that sin and death have been eradicated and the dwelling of God has descended to be with humanity.

The text gives us no reason to think that this renewal of heaven and earth is a poetic description of a historical event. There is no history here—there is nothing comparable to Isaiah’s account of the restoration of Israel following the exile or Jesus’ narrative of the war against Rome. So all in all, it seems to me much more likely that John is speaking here of the “material creation”.

I would add, finally, that Godawa does not discuss the characteristic argument in the prophets that YHWH differs from the gods of the nations in that he is the creator of all things. That argument would make no sense if creation/cosmos is purely descriptive of God’s covenant with his people.

Andrew,

First, I must state upfront I don’t agree with Brian 100%. He, like you, still holds out on some physical end. He even still has a second second coming of Christ in conjunction with this end.?.?. I do agree 100% with his connection between Creation (not a physical one) and Covenant, which I must admit baffles my mind how you, as a person with a seemly clear and keen mind, can’t see. In fact, when you stated:

That seems to me an unwarranted move.

I was wondering if we had read the same article. Of course I, and Brian, may only see the move warranted because we already have the understanding all worked out in our minds from all the prior reading and studying of the subject.

Nevertheless, I only presented Brian’s article because he does get a lot right. i.e the covenant and creation/de-creation connection.

he does not deny that God created the heavens and the earth (“material creation”)

This statement is a bit tricky. Nobody, including Brian, is denying that God created the material universe. It’s just that Genesis (see Walton’s works), nor Revelation, are accounts of its creation or de-creation.

Look, Rich, we can agree that creation language is used throughout scripture as a metaphor to speak of the covenant relationship between God and his people. But that only works biblically because there is also an account of the creation of the cosmos with which to compare the covenant relationship.

Please explain to me in simple terms why I should not read Genesis 1 as an attempt to state how God created the actual heavens and earth.

Andrew,

But that only works biblically because there is also an account of the creation of the cosmos with which to compare the covenant relationship.

May I suggest what I think would be a more accurate statement? I would say it works biblically because there was already a cosmos (material creation), not an account of creation, to draw upon. Thus, the author of Genesis was drawing upon the material world around him to create the metaphor for the covenant world (Genesis 1’s “heaven and earth”) God established with Adam.

I am glad to see you recognize the creation language used to speak of Israel’s Covenant relationship with God. So what of the fact that in the NT where Jesus, for example, says Heaven and Earth must pass prior to the law doesn’t say a “metaphor” merely ceases he says a heaven and earth, which he holds in contrast to the Law, ceases. This heaven and earth is every bit as real as a Covenant, even though both are not physical things. The same goes for the heaven and earth in 2 Peter 3. It’s not a metaphor that is destroyed; it’s a heaven and earth, which you yourself stated was in the judgment of AD70. Both of these (Jesus’ and Peter’s) are one and the same, the Heaven and Earth from Genesis one. Thus, the Heaven and Earth from Genesis 1 isn’t the physical world, and as such you can’t read the account as a material creation. This is true of Rev. 21 as well. Rev. 21 makes reference to the “first heaven and earth”, which is clearly a reference to the Ge. 1 heaven and earth. It then says a “new heaven and earth” replaces the one from Ge. 1. If the one from Ge. 1 isn’t physical then the one replacing it isn’t physical. That’s just one simple reason. See Beyond Creation Science for an exegetical comparison between 2 Peter 3, Jn. 1, Heb. 1 & 12, Rev. 21-22 and Ge. 1. You spent the time reading Middleton’s book, why not Tim Martin’s?

Another simple reason for not reading Genesis one as a material account is the fact that if you do it becomes the most contradictory story ever told. If you aren’t aware of the all the problems just visit some atheist’s website who has a grudge against Christianity and he’ll be all the more eager to point out all the contradictions. Tim Martin’s book also points out many of them. Sure Christianity over the centuries has tried to deal with these problems, which any honest person can see the utter failure in the arguments presented, but we’ve accepted them because we had no choice. The alternative was to admit it couldn’t be inspired by God.

Rich, this makes no sense to me:

Both of these (Jesus’ and Peter’s) are one and the same, the Heaven and Earth from Genesis one. Thus, the Heaven and Earth from Genesis 1 isn’t the physical world, and as such you can’t read the account as a material creation.

The fact that Jesus and Peter used the passing away of heaven and earth as a figure or metaphor for the passing way of an old covenant or age or world, does not at all lead to the conclusion that Genesis 1 is not talking about the creation of the physical world.

The prophets use exodus language to speak of the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon. That does not mean that the exodus from Egypt was not to their minds a real event. A modern politician may speak of a crisis as his “Waterloo”. That doesn’t mean the battle of Waterloo didn’t happen.

The original event and the metaphorical use of the event are not “one and the same”.

“Why I should not read Genesis 1 as an attempt to state how God created the actual heavens and earth?”

Andrew,
This question shows your presuppositions. No ANE creation text writes from a 21st century scientific perspective. They all write from their own cosmology. John Walton has shown this same thing in the “Lost World of Genesis 1.”

The burden of proof would be on someone in your position to show why an ANE creation story would be about the beginning of the material creation instead of set in the context of ANE ancient cosmologies.

The Covenant Creation guys have had their work out there for over a decade. It is time to interact with them in a real way.

This question shows your presuppositions. No ANE creation text writes from a 21st century scientific perspective.

Micah, surely this is beside the point. Of course these texts are not written from a modern scientific perspective, but that does not rule out the possibility that they were written in order to explain the origin of all things. This is how the Enuma Elish begins:

When in the height heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;
Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven,
Lahmu and Lahamu were called into being….

That is not written from a modern scientific perspective—we can agree on that—but we can still ask whether or not it is a cosmogonic text: does it give an account of the creation of the cosmos? We don’t have to assume a creation ex nihilo, but there is clearly some sort of primal beginning happening here. Even if it was written to validate a particular kingdom or civilisation, it is still an attempt to say how everything began.

The burden of proof would be on someone in your position to show why an ANE creation story would be about the beginning of the material creation instead of set in the context of ANE ancient cosmologies.

So my question to you is: what is your reason for assuming that an ANE creation story such as Genesis 1 is not about the “beginning of the material creation”? The fact that an account is “set in the context of ANE ancient cosmologies” does not in itself settle the matter. There is no reason in principle why ANE cosmologies should not speak about a primal beginning.

You can complain about my presuppositions, no doubt with some justification, but that doesn’t let you off the hook. You still have to give reasons for not taking these texts at face value as accounts of the creation of the cosmos. The burden of proof lies on both sides.

Actually, I think the ANE origins of the Genesis text are a problem for the Covenant Creation view.

There are striking similarities between Genesis 1 and other ANE creation accounts, none of which are talking about the formation of Israel or the Old Covenant. In this way, Genesis 1 would have to be radically discontinuous from ANE literature.

Thanks, Rich.

I’ve been through the covenantal creation stuff. I appreciate many of the insights, especially over and against the prevalent literalist hermeneutic in evangelicalism, today. We’d probably agree more than disagree.

But I think, in some cases, it may be operating at a level of abstraction that seems to me to slip into not just being transhistorical, but transmaterial.

2 Peter 3:4-7 is certainly tricky:

They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Pet. 3:4–7)

I would suggest, though, that Peter is not describing a final event, that we are here much closer to Old Testament accounts of judgment either on Israel or on the pagan nations. Peter addresses those who ask, “Where is the promise of his coming?”, and I don’t think the “coming” of Jesus is an end of the world event. It is a coming to deliver and vindicate in the midst of history. In that case, the analogy with the flood makes good sense. There is both discontinuity and continuity.

No, that’s a good point. I had completely overlooked that Peter’s language was tied to the parousia.

Phil,

Yes, Peter’s language is directly tied to Christ’s Parousia! And at this parouisa “the heavens and earth” (referenced in 2 Peter 3:7, which is the same “heavens and earth” from Genesis 1) was “stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” This day of judgement was in AD 70, just as Andrew pointed out.

So, we have the “heavens and earth” from Genesis 1 being destroyed in AD 70, which means:

1) that the Genesis 1 “heaven and earth” is not a reference to the physical world - See also John Walton’s fantastic works, “The Lost World of Genesis 1”, “Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible and “Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology”, which are both rocking the evangelical world and getting massive acceptance by layman and scholars alike as he demonstrates most clearly it’s not a material account but a functional one and a temple text.

2) since Genesis 1’s “heaven and earth” wasn’t physical, then the “new heaven and earth” of Rev 21:1 isn’t physical either because it replaces the “first heaven and earth” of Rev. 21:1-3, which is clearly a reference the Ge. 1’ heaven and earth.

I highly recommend you get Tim Martin’s book, “Beyond Creation Science: New Covenant Creation from Genesis to Revelation”, and of course Walton’s works (especially the short, easy and simple Lost World of Genesis One. The other two are much more scholarly).

There was one particular critique of Beyond Creation Science that (which I can’t seem to find online now -sorry) and was replied to be Jerel Kratt that is germane to this post. I only mention it because the critique was based upon 2 Peter 3. The very text you brought up. Jerel’s response was very thorough and informative. Highly recommend it to you. Can read it here.

Hi Rich,

Thanks for the links. I did read Jerel’s paper. It is very well thought out, and I think he did a good job of dealing with his opponent, but I still find the overall scheme unconvincing.

Just fyi, I’m (more or less) a theistic evolutionist and quasi-Preterish, so I don’t need selling on the idea that apocalyptic language is generally not literal and ancient OT history is generally not literal historiography. I think 70 AD does a fine job of satisfying the vast majority of eschatological language and dominates the apocalyptic landscape, probably because it’s coming up quick for most of the authors/readers.

However, I still can’t buy into the plausibility that all these OT and NT authors were consistently using terms like “heaven,” “earth,” “world,” “sea,” “land,” and so on as more or less an allegory for people groups and their relationship to YHVH. I might be more convinced if I saw midrashim or any kind of early Jewish awareness that they understood these texts in this way (and they were clearly not your literal Genesis 1 readers).

I guess another facet is that it would make the Genesis 1 story completely unique in the Near East despite its similarities to other Near Eastern creation stories. I mean, it’s already unique in that YHVH does not battle with primordial chaos and create the universe out of its remains; He commands and it comes to pass. But the events, the temple-building motif, all those things have commonality with neighbors, so once again, I’d need to see some evidence that there was a self-awareness in the ancient Israelite authors that was absent from their neighbors.

In order for this scheme to work, this somewhat elaborate complex of terms would have to be, not only known, but consistently delivered over the centuries, and I find it unlikely that some of those authors would have been familiar with such an allegorical understanding of those texts, although certainly possible.

I think Peter’s example here does not require the complexity Jerel gives it with different nuances of meaning based on whether or not the author uses “earth,” “heavens and earth,” or “world,” especially so in 2 Peter. I think, in his mind, you had the World That Then Was that had its creation, history, apocalypse, and eschaton in a re-creation event. I think, in his mind, this was a historical judgement on the physical earth - how much he believed it was apocalyptic generality, I don’t know - he may have believed in a worldwide Flood or he may have thought that the story was an apocalyptic image for the intensity and scope of God’s judgement.

It makes good sense to take that ancient story and repurpose it for he sees is about to come, which is another intense and widespread historical judgement that will affect not just Jerusalem but the nations.

I guess my main dissonance here is that the Covenant Creation folks seem to make the highly significant events in the life of the people of God covenantal transitions. The things that make AD 70 an act of apocalyptic judgement is the end of the Old Covenant, and that is the primary referent for Israel’s deliverance.

I just don’t think they saw it that way.

But I do want to say that I think the position is very well thought out - much more so than Young Earth Creationism or any of the other fun ways the kids are reading the Bible these days. So, I’m not rejecting it out of hand. It’s not impossible. I’m just not convinced.

Once again, if you could dig up some extra-biblical literature that would establish this was a par for the course way for Israel to understand her Scriptures, that would go a long way toward convincing me.

Hey Phil,

Thanks for this very well thought-out reply. I really appreciate it. You know there’s a ton of stuff in it that I agree with. I didn’t see this comment when I replied to you just a few minutes ago, so now I know that you read my article. I’m very appreciative of that. It was written 5 1/2 years ago, and today I agree with you that too much was made of the Greek words.

I also have some hesitancy about how the ancients would have read the text (I think there is some good evidence that covenant [“bara” is a root word for covenant) is part of the story in Gen. 1). But to me, the end of the story is almost easier to figure out than the beginning. I think the arguments for why Rev. 21 and 2 Peter 3 are not the literal universe are very strong. If however stronger evidence could be presented that the ending of the universe is the last step in God’s prophetic plan, then I would have to posit still that the second coming occured in AD70 with no future coming and that the general resurrection occured also in AD70 with an ongoing resurrection at death since then.

Hi Jerel,

We are certainly in agreement about the parousia and related events (like the first resurrection) beginning in 70 AD.

I also think the arguments for Rev. 21 not meaning the literal universe are pretty decent. I’m not compelled by them, but they are good ones and probably where I would head next if/when I become dissatisfied with where I’m at.

Thanks Rich. I agree with you but understand the hesitancy of Phil and Andrew. This is such a massive paradigm shift that it is difficult for many to make. I appreciate their arguments and try to balance it with what I see as tighter arguments regarding this issue.

I may be jumping (or seen to be jumping) off a tangent here, but I can’t help but to make this one connection. If the Great White Throne scene is after the arrival of the New Heavens and Earth (which I believe it is), then that means that the emptying of Hades and the Sea is at this time. If this is yet future to us, it would mean that the Hadean system of the seperation of the person from God, at least in the sense of not yet being fully in the presense of God in Heaven, is still in operation in our day and time. That would then logically suggest that all Christians who have died since the Day of Pentecost (and specifically since the fall of the Temple in AD70) would go to “Hades” after their death, making their post-mortem state no different than those under the Old Covenant. Christ’s death and resurrection affected nothing tangibly different for them than anyone prior to Christ.

Some have argued that the souls in Hades were brought into a lower level of heaven at the ascension (or into a compartment of it called Abraham’s Bosom), using the inner and outer parts of the temple court system as a pattern. That may be so, but the impact this future system has on atonement is profound. Hebrews 9 is quite clear that the Levitical system, Day of Atonement ritual, and standing of the temple/tabernacle system, was a symbol for their present time, awaiting it’s fulfillment at the second coming of Christ (“he will appear [out of] a second [time]”). This connects the completion of “the restoration” and the “reformation” with the second appearance of Christ (cf. Acts 3:21). Yet Andrew has argued quite effectively that the second appearance of Christ happened at the end of the age in AD70. How can one have the completion of all things, i.e. the restoration/reformation of all things, in the future at the “real” second coming of Christ, when that second appearance/presence was in AD70? How can one seperate the final restoration of “all things” millenniums later from the time when it was said to happen? Unless one is willing to posit another, second (third) coming of Christ? And if so Andrew, I’d like to see what Scriptures you see positing that.

One must ask, what did Isaiah look forward to in Isa. 65-66? When was it (or will it be) fulfilled? I find it the height of irony that Andrew recently posted an excellent blog on how prophecy doesn’t have double fulfillment. Since it is clear that both Peter and John are referring to this text (Peter specifically said “as promised” and John’s whole revelation is a perfect recapitulation of the OT prophets particularly Ezekiel and much of Isaiah) - in fact, with Revelation specifically being about the fall of Jerusalem as Gentry effectively argues, and with Isaiah 65 specifically talking about the covenant Israel being cut of withhe sword and a new people being given the kingdom with a new name, and since these OT prophets looked no further than the end of the age of Moses and the temple and the initiation of the age of Messiah, under what scriptural hermenuetic or authority can one disconnect Rev. 21 from it’s OT promise and root?

I may not have made the point as strong as I would have liked in my third paragraph above. One of the things I was trying to say specifically is that the Hebrew writer understood himself to be in the middle of the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement. He said that it would be complete at the second appearance of Christ. If this is yet future than we are still in a transition between the old covenant and new covenant. If one admits this second appearance to have occured in AD70, then that means that the restoration of all things that the prophets spoke of have also occured (Acts 3:21). If one posits a future second appearance then one is going to have a huge mountain to climb to overcome the overwhelming evidence that the NT writers only saw one future appearing of Christ to them, the one at the end of the age of Moses, in “this generation.”

I don’t know how familiar any of you are with the concept of the fulfillment of the Jewish Feasts/festal calendar, but it’s widely accepted in many Jewish and Christian scholarly circles that the 7 feasts represented 7 aspects of the fulfillment of all prophecy. Most Christians believe we are in the gap between the 4th and 5th feast - Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Pentecost, (all fulfilled in Jesus’ death and Pentecost, then millenniums in gaps until) Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles. The Tabernacles is when “the tabernacle of God is with man” - Rev. 21). But if the old covenant tabernacle system was a then-present shadow of the new as the Hebrew writer said (and Paul said several times), and if the day of atonement couldn’t be completed until the old system was removed per Heb. 9, how can one divorce the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21, Heb. 9) from the removal of the old covenant tabernacle system? It just doesn’t make any sense. But if the Day of Atonement was completed in AD70 as the Hebrew writer strongly posited, and since the Tabernacles feast follows immediately the Day of Atonement celebration on the calendar, then the fulfillment of Rev 21 follows immediately the second appearing of the High Priest to declare atonement.

It’s well attested that Josephus called the Temple that fell in AD70 the “heavens and earth.” It was a recreation of the ANE understanding of the cosmic heavens and earth. It’s hotly debated, and many try to obfuscate from the simple meaning, but it just makes good common sense to understand this is the meaning of “heavens and earth” in Jesus’ use of it here:

Matt 5:18 ESV For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

If not the smallest part of the Law would pass until the heavens and earth passed (not shook, but pass), then if this is the material creation in our future, then not one aspect of the Law - all the Law - has been removed. It’s very clear, simple meaning, yet I’ve never seen so many hoops or invented things said to avoid this.

Well I missed Andrew’s article on Middleton and the Restoration of All Things from two weeks ago. It seems that Andrew is taking all those passages except two - Rom. 8 and Rev. 21 - as referring to the restoration of the people of God as pertains to Israel. I personally can’t see how excluding those two passages is at all justified, given how disjointed that then becomes from the entire meta-narrative of the prophets and the NT, and the horizon that Jesus laid out regarding the kingdom and Israel. I think a strong case is made for Rev. 21 to be the completion of the story of the restoration of the people of Israel as regards covenant, fellowship, atonement, and status (and also I think there’s a connection to the end of the Divine Council story and the satan/Belial, as seen in 1 Enoch).

Also, I saw ontological presupposition built into the concept of attaching the resurrection of the body with the material creation (planet Earth). The resurrected body is composed of pneuma, which though the Stoics saw as being material (see Dale Martin’s “The Corinthian Body”), was in no way tied to whether or not the planet still was in existence, recreated, or not. God himself is made of pneuma and his existence is not tied to the existence or non-existence of the planet. Creedal Christianity has attached great significance to the ontological state of Jesus post-resurrection, but it is clear from Scripture that such state was never intended to define the ontological state of the resurrection body of the saints. If so, John would have said something completely different here, since he held and beheld the resurrection body of Jesus:

1Jn 3:2 NASB Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

Hi Jerel,

Thanks for all the work you did in putting all that together. I still need to go through it, but a couple of things stood out to me that perhaps you could speak to.

First, given that centuries separated the writings that were eventually collated into the Bible spanning multiple authors in different cultural worlds, is it intrinsically problematic to say that particular terms or phrases could mean a different thing in one book than in another? So, what if the author of Genesis means physical heaven and earth, but Jesus uses “heaven and earth” as a catch phrase for kosmos or “the present system of things?” What’s the necessary problem with that?

Second, I’m having trouble understanding your argument in the last paragraph. What does seeing Jesus’ resurrection body have to do with being like God when we see God?

Hi Phil. Thanks for the kind response.

As to your first question, yes I don’t really have a problem with what you propose. In the paper I wrote on 2 Peter 3 (which was a “scholarly” attempt to refute a view similar to that by a man named Sam Frost), I argued that the heavens and earth in Genesis 1 had to be what was ended in AD70. I may have backed off from that at least as strongly as worded in that paper, but I think most of it is still pretty solid. Maybe give that a look if you have time?

As to your second question, what I was referring to was what John said in 1 John, regarding having seen and handled the Word, and we know from the end of the gospel of John that he did handle the resurrected body of Jesus, but then in this epistle he says that he and they didn’t know what Jesus would be like when he appeared again but when he did, they would be like him. Since I’m arguing from the orthodox presumption that the general resurrection occurs at the second coming of Christ, it follows that this “what we will be like” is referring to the resurrection body. It then logically follows that since John knew what Jesus’ resurrection body was like, but didn’t know what his parousia or heavenly body was like, that the resurrection bodies of the saints were not ontologically the same as the resurrected body of Jesus. Hopefully that made sense, if not please let me know.

Thanks!

Jerel,

significance to the ontological state of Jesus post-resurrection, but it is clear from Scripture that such state was never intended to define the ontological state of the resurrection body of the saints.

Yes, you are 100% correct here. Jesus said the resurrection of his physical body was a “sign”.

Matthew 12:38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

A sign is never the things itself. A sign always points to something else. Jesus’ physical resurrection was a sign pointing to the true resurrection/restoration of Israel which we learn elsewhere (1 Cor. 15 & Romans 6-8) was the resurrection of his “body” (corporate), the true Israel of God, the Church - for a full exegetical presentation see Max King’s, The Cross and the Parousia of Christ - pgs. 381-666.

You also raise a good point concerning Matthew 5:17-18.

Matthew 5:17–18 (ESV) — 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus is clear the “Heaven and Earth” was to pass prior or in conjunction with the law. The law passed in AD 70, so a Heaven and Earth must have passed too. Is this not the one in Rev. 21? If not, then how many Heavens and Earths does Andrew have existing? When was the creation of the one that passed in AD70? Was this the same one from 2 Peter 3? If not, when was 2 Peter 3’s Heaven and Earth created? What of the one in Hebrews 1? Or Hebrews 12? Sure seems like there are a lot of heaven and earths.

Well, before we become too pleased with ourselves, I have a question for you.

Jesus is clear in John 2:19 that, if you tear down this Temple, he will raise it up in three days. The Temple in Jerusalem was not raised in three days, but Jesus’ body was, so the Temple must be referring to him, as John (or a helpful scribe) indicates to the reader.

Is this not the Temple in AD 70? If not, then how many Temples do you have existing? When was the creation of the one that was raised in three days? Is this the same one in 1 Corinthians 6:19 and 1 Kings 6? If not, when were those temples raised in three days? What of the one in Ezra 5? Or Ezekiel 8? Or Hebrews?

Sure seems like there are a lot of temples.

Phil,

Ok, I’ve put a frown back on my face. ;)

I’m not following your reasoning. I agree the temple Jesus referred to was his body, but I don’t think Jesus had in mind only his physical body. While his physical body was raised I think it served as an outward sign (Matthew 12:38-40) pointing to something (his inclusive body) which Israel was to be raised in. Jesus was Israel’s second Adam, its federal head – basically he was Israel. For Jesus to be raised is for Israel to be raised.

“Is this not the Temple in AD 70?”

No, his temple/body was not the temple destroyed in AD 70. That was the physical temple that was standing in Jerusalem. There are only two temples. The physical one that was standing in Jerusalem and destroyed in AD 70, and the spiritual temple made up of Jesus’ inclusive body, the Church, which Christians are grafted into thus becoming part of it. This spiritual body/temple was created at Jesus’ resurrection and then consummated in AD70.

Ha! Well, it’s my intent to make everyone a little more despondent.

So, obviously, I agree with you about pretty much everything you just said about the temple - that Jesus’ body is not the building in Jerusalem.

My point was that, when it comes to Temple, there are a number of different referents for that word depending on where you are in Scripture. In one place, it could be Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. In another, it could be Zerubbabel’s. In another, it could be a heavenly temple. In another, it could be Jesus’ body. In another, it could be the body of the faithful.

What we don’t do is find a clear referent for “Temple” and then project that into every other instance of the word “Temple.” The primary referent for the word can be multiple things throughout the whole of Scripture, even though a core concept unites them.

So, what is the reasoning behind identifying “heavens and earth” as one thing and concluding that it must mean that thing everywhere it appears?

Phil,

I certainly agree you can’t take a words meaning in one place and project it onto the same word elsewhere.

Concerning heavens and earth.

I would start off recognizing it’s a phrase which isn’t used that often and since it’s a phrase it just might (not saying it is, but ups the odds) have the same meaning or be closely related throughout.

Secondly, you can also look for details in the text it’s used in for clues. For one example, Isa. 65 says God was going to create a “new heavens and earth”. Rev. 21 says God was going to create a “new heavens and earth”. They’re probably both speaking of the same thing. If not, when did the one from Isa. 65 come and go, and how does it relate to the one in Rev. 21-22? If so, Isa. 65 speaks of children being born and people still dying. That means children are being born and people are still dying in Rev. 21’s new heaven and earth. But what of death that Rev. speaks of, that Andrew takes as physical death, being destroyed? It doesn’t line up. Maybe the text is speaking of a different kind of death (which it is)? This will eventually lead to realizing physical death is never stated to end in the Bible. Anyway, it goes on and on.

Thirdly, one can compare the different accounts. Are there similaties?

Lastly, does it fit the over all narrative of the Bible, and does it all fit together without contradictions and issues?

Of course none of that is new to you I’m sure. Again, highly recommend Tim’s book. Pretty dog-gone thorough and a lot of history covered.

Well, I’d say the core significance of the phrase is something along the lines of “the present order of things.” The specific implementation of this concept depends on context.

For example, there are times when the Lord calls heaven and earth as witnesses in His suit against Israel as violating the covenant. It seems more likely to me that He is talking about the actual physical creation than the covenantal administration.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that I don’t see a particular need or impetus as to why it is more likely that phrase has exactly the same referent in every book, every author, every historical epoch than not. It seems like an unfounded assumption.

Now, if you were to argue that, in exegeting all these passages, the most likely referent is a covenant administration and, lo and behold, it’s the same everywhere, that’s cool. But to start with the assumption that it is most likely they all mean the same thing and exegete accordingly, that seems less credible to me.

Rich,

I’ve read Max King’s massive tome “The Cross and the Parousia” two times with a fine tooth comb (no small job as this book is like 900 pages or some crazy thing), and I’ve studied and held the Full Preterist Corporate Body View of 1 Cor. 15 for a long time until recently. I don’t think his view on 1 Cor. 15 really holds up to serious scholarly scrutiny particularly his flaw in basing Jewish and Hellenistic worldviews from John A.T. Robinson. I don’t want to go down that road here and detract from the main OP, but I did want to propose to you that I think there is a better workable solution to the general resurrection happening in AD70 that doesn’t have the problems that King’s approach does without going downt they hyper-literalist rapture road that Ed Stevens goes down.

Jerel,

Yes, that book is a beast. I would be interested in why you have moved from the Corporate Body position. Perhaps you could contact me via email at jrinad70[at]gmail[dot]com. I am always open to investigating other positions when presented with them. Is there a particular book that started your move? I would also like to hear what you think are the problems with the corporate body position.

Rich, sorry it has taken me so long to reply. I’ve been incredibly busy with work and I’m about to (Greek: mello) leave on vacation soon. LOL.

Ok, just to be completely accurate, I haven’t moved completely off of CBV (corporate body view). But here are some of the problems I have with the CBV. I agree that the story of the restoration of Israel in the prophets is used to define resurrection of the “body” in the NT. What that means however is where we might part, somewhat. There is a lot of conjecture within CBV about a corporate body of Moses, Israel, and Adam. I don’t think this covenantal language in the OT is the end game or reality that it pointed towards. The restoration of the corporate body of Israel into the corporate body of Christ, using resurrection language, clearly was also used in the NT (and arguably, Daniel 12) of the individual’s unique resurrection of their own spiritual body. The need for CBV to make everything into only a corporate body has resulted in some of the most absurd interpretations of scripture IMO. I know, I’ve been deep in the trenches for a long time and have spoken and written on it a lot. So I don’t say that without due caution and seriousness.

I guess where I’m at today is that while I see CBV as part of the overall story, I see resurrection as meaning more than that. I no longer take the CBV view for passages like 1 Cor 15, 2 Cor 5, and Phil 3 for example. I take an IBV (individual body view) for those passages. Unlike most IBV, however, I see Covenant Eschatology/Covenant Creation being the overarching story, but that story was being used also in expectation of an individual resurrection by the time of Jesus. Lazarus was individually expected to be resurrected at the end of the age.

There’s some exegetical problems I have with the CBV’s use the word “body”, and a lack of understanding of the actual Greek and Jewish views of “body” at the time of Jesus. I find John AT Robinsons work (that King relied on) to be falsified, and the CBV requirement of the singular uses of “body” when accompanied by a plural possessive pronoun (eg, “our body”), to not require under the rules of Greek that there only be one body in view as they claim. I could list some of the scholars I’ve read on this, but I’m running out of time.

I think that the NT language regarding “resurrection” is both relational (restored covenant status with God), and also corporeal, which has a location or “direction” (heaven) but the emphasis was not on location or direction but on corporeal matter: pneuma. I base that on years of recent study about the Greek and Jewish worldviews regarding body and spirit. I believe people are resurrected relationally today into the body of Christ, and that also upon death the pneuma already within them takes on bodily form in heaven/the heavens, whatever and wherever that is.

That’s a quick overview of where I’m at today. I don’t have time to flesh this out any more, I’ve got to get back to work.

Jerel,

and I’m about to (Greek: mello) leave

Now that was funny!

Interesting thoughts. On the surface, I probably don’t disagree all that much. You know, I think if we were to ever sit down (maybe at some preterist conference sometime) and discuss this topic I think we would both be surprised. Have to leave it at that. Good to run into you here.

-Rich

Excellent discussion. Josephus has been mentioned with regards to the tabernacle (Temple) and the creation-type language used in describing such… here are two quotes:

Book 3. 6:4 However, this proportion of the measures of the tabernacle proved to be an imitation of the system of the world; for that third part thereof which was within the four pillars, to which the priests were not admitted, is, as it were, a heaven peculiar to God. But the space of the twenty cubits, is, as it were, sea and land, on which men live, and so this part is peculiar to the priests only.

Book 3. 7:7 When Moses distinguished the tabernacle into three parts, and allowed two of them to the priests, as a place accessible and common, he denoted the land and the sea, these being of general access to all; but he set apart the third division for God, because heaven is inaccessible to men.

I think most people are ok with the concept that the temple was a representation of the cosmos to some degree or another, but do we have anything that tells us that OT references to the cosmos were always understood as the temple?

I don’t think the OT references to heavens and earth “always” refer to some sort of temple motiff, but I think some do. I also see them used to reference military or political shakeups, and I also think there is a connection to the Divine Council in 1 Enoch and it’s prophesied end both there at the end of the 70 generations, and also as part of the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32 which specifically looked forward to the last generation of Israel from Jesus to the Roman Invasion.

I want to focus for a moment on the sufficiency of the left over prophecy from the point of view of Partial Preterism when it comes to describing the future end of human history and the universe. As Jerel pointed out, Andrew has said that he thinks the key passages that haven’t been fulfilled are Romans 8 and Revelation 21. There may in fact be a few more, but that won’t change the nature of my point. One of the biggest problems that Partial Preterists of all stripes have is that there is simply not enough prophetic material left to give fair warning to humanity about the end of the world that is clearly seen in their system as a judgment against those humans.

In the Old Testament, in every case of judgment that we are aware of, God still sent prophets to make a clear warning. God didn’t rely on similar warnings to other people that had already been fulfilled, so you can’t say that the fulfilled types and shadows other than Romans 8 and Revelation 21 are enough to give fair warning. You need authenticated prophets (those who do miracles, preach publically, and write authoritative prophetic scripture) in order to do this warning. This is the modus operandi of God. Unless God has suddenly changed how he does business for the final climactic prophetic event that is 1,000 times larger than any before you will need such prophets again. In fact, given the scale (Old Testament prophets spoke about issues affecting a few million people at most; the end of the universe if it were to happen in 2015 would affect at least 7 billion people) I propose that you’d need at least 1,000 prophets who would write approximately 5,000 additional pages of scripture.

On the other hand, the bucket containing future prophetic scripture from the Partial Preterist point of view is almost empty. And, the pieces that are left are ambiguous so that there are alternate explanations for them even within regularly accepted theology. If we take God at his word in Jonah, that he sent a bona fide prophet because he doesn’t consider it fair to wipe people out without warning them, then 1) how are we supposed to authenticate such future prophets, 2) how are we supposed to authenticate their new scripture, and 3) why would be expect that anything prophetic is going to happen until at least several years after they arrive?

Hey Doug,

I’d disagree with the premise that apocalyptic warnings in the New Testament do not use fulfilled warnings from the old. In fact, the vast majority of Revelation is repurposed from the prophetic warnings of Israel’s historical judgments.

But I do agree it makes sense that, if there is an upcoming historical judgment, there would be new prophecy. And how would that look? Well, probably similar to the OT variants.

I don’t know that such prophecies would be “Scripture,” necessarily. Acts has many instances of such prophecies. But I assume the validation would look a lot like the OT. It’s not like Ezekiel sat down and wrote the book of Ezekiel and passed it around. He acted out his warnings and declared them, and some people believed, and some did not. Same with John the Baptist or any of the apocalyptic prophets, really. They didn’t have some special prophet halo or anything. They presented their message to the community (on occasion accompanied by signs and wonders), and the community members were moved to repent/flee/brace themselves or just continue life as they knew it.

I don’t have problem with old prophecies being rolled into new ones. What I meant by that is that unless they are in fact rolled into new ones they are inadequate on their own. So, though I disagree that the Olivet Discourse has a “double meaning”, the only way for it to be proven that it does have such is for a new prophecy to repurpose it. As it stands, it is not adequate to predict future events from our perspective.

New prophets would need to record their material. They might act it out, but at some point the prececent is for it to be written down. But, whether it is or not, the problem is still how to authenticate the new material. In Preston’s debate with Steve Gregg, Gregg said that believers having the gift of prophecy would be adequate. I don’t think this would work.

So to conclude, it seems to me that John means to describe a fundamental disjunction rather than mere “cosmic renovation”.

A disjunction brought forward and reflected, in part, in Jesus’s ‘first’ coming?

A disjunction, in part, rather than harmonious continuity between Old and New Testament?

This argument has legs.

BTW for those following it at home, I was defenestrated, and am now a defrocked assistant leader of a charismatic church. I’m rather enjoying the experience. Any jobs going out there?

Last night I dreamed that I had arranged an overnight stay for my wife and myself at a B&B. Some confusion with the bookings developed when other friends arrived looking for a room, and my interventions seemed only to exacerbate the situation. The proprietor, affable but distracted and looking like he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days, was seated at a small wooden desk drinking coffee and studying some old and thick theological tome. It was Andrew. A sumptuously appointed sprawling two-storey, the house was exceptionally luminous. The Scandinavian color scheme contributed to the effect, but I think there must have been a lot of daylight streaming in through the many large windows.

Naturally I assumed that the dream was portentious. After long absence I click onto P.OST and what do I discover but that my old interlocutor has been stripped of his frock and tossed out the window. I don’t think this would have happened at Andrew’s B&B. But hey, it ain’t the end of the world.