10th Oct 2018

Introductory Remarks: Ed Stevens, President of International Preterist Association, and the lead proponent of the idea that there was a literal, physical rapture in AD 70, and I have agreed to engage in a formal written debate on that issue. Per our agreements, I will lead off in the affirmative, Each man will have four presentations in both affirmative and negative.

AD 70: Rapture or No Rapture – Don K. Preston’s First Affirmative

My proposition: “The Bible teaches that 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, i.e. the coming of Christ at His parousia in A.D. 70, was the return of God to man, to dwell forever, reuniting heaven and earth in spiritual fellowship and life, versus a departure or removal of the then living saints from the earth.”

I am affirming a bit of a negative, but, Ed and I have agreed that this is acceptable for this discussion.

I am honored to participate in this discussion and know that it will be a cordial exchange of ideas.

 

Let me define my terms:

By “The Bible” I mean the 66 books of the Bible, both Old Covenant and New.

By Teaches: I mean imparts understanding and the reality of truths.

By 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18– I believe this is self-explanatory.

By “the coming of Christ at His parousia in A.D. 70” – I mean what is commonly referred to as Christ’s “second appearing” which was “for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28). Ed and I are both full preterists, believing that Christ’s end of the age coming and the resurrection occurred in AD 70.

By “reuniting heaven and earth in spiritual fellowship and life” – By this I mean that as a result of the Adamic Curse of the Death of Genesis 2:15-17, heaven and earth were divided, separated from one another due to that sin and death. Fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven was broken and forfeited. It was thus God’s eternal plan and purpose that fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven would be restored by Christ and in Christ (Ephesians 1:9f).

By, “versus a departure or removal of the then living saints from the earth” – I mean that there was not a physical removal of the then living saints (living in AD 70) from the earth.

 

  1. So, my position is that at the coming of the Lord in AD 70 the fellowship that was forfeited (lost) through the sin and the death of Adam (and Eve) was restored. Heaven and earth were reunited in fellowship. It is my contention that since it was fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven that was lost, that there was no need whatsoever for any of the saints (living in AD 70 or at any other time) to be “raptured” removed from the earth. All that was needed, all that was foretold, was that the fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven would be restored. This goes to the very definition of “parousia” the presence of Christ.

 

  1. What this debate is NOT about. It is NOT about the nature of the resurrected body of Christ. It is NOT even about the nature of our body in heaven. It is about whether the saints, alive in AD 70, were removed from the earth.

 

  1. Let me state my affirmative in the following manner:

 

If the goal of Biblical eschatology was the restoration of what was lost through sin and the death of Adam

And,

If fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven is what was lost through sin and the death of Adam,

 

Then, it must be true that the goal of Biblical eschatology was the restoration of the fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven.

 

That argument leads to this:

 

It is true that the goal of Biblical eschatology was the restoration of what was lost through sin and the death of Adam.

It is true that fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven is what was lost through sin and the death of Adam,

Therefore, it must be true that the goal of Biblical eschatology was the restoration of the fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven.

 

  1. Now, there is virtually no debate as to whether the goal of Biblical eschatology is the restoration of what was lost through sin and the death of Adam– (Romans 5 / 1 Corinthians 15:22). If Ed wishes to deny that this is true, he can make his argument.

 

  1. There is likewise virtually no debate as to whether fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven was lost through sin and the death of Adam. If Ed wishes to differ with this and challenge it, he can present his arguments.

 

  1. Ed believes that what was lost through Adam’s sin and death was more than fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven. I asked him about the death that God threatened Adam with for sinning. I asked him if that death included physical death; he said it did. This logically demands that the threat of death included two deaths: (Ed says it was actually three).

☛ Spiritual death, i.e. alienation and separation from God.

☛ Physical death.

 

  1. Let me say again: since Biblical eschatology was focused on the restoration of what was lost in Adam, and the reality that what was lost in Adam was the fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven, I suggest that there was no need for the removal of man from earth for that fellowship to be restored. After all, if fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven was the goal of Biblical eschatology, then why would God have to remove man from earth – even one generation of men – to restore that fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven?

 

  1. Paul affirmed that the eternal purpose of God was the reconciliation of heaven and earth:

 

“Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.” (Ephesians 1:9-11).

 

  1. Thus, for Paul, the re-unification of heaven and earth, in Christ, was God’s eternal purpose. The physical removal of that first generation of believers from the earth would run counter to that goal of eschatology. How would the removal of the first generation of the reconciled, signal the accomplishment of God’s purpose of reuniting heaven and earth? Their removal would not indicate that restoration at all.

 

  1. I ask Ed to explain for us, carefully and exegetically, what was the need for God to remove that one single generation of believers, in order to restore what was lost in Adam – i.e. fellowship between heaven and earth?

 

  1. Ed says that part of the Adamic Curse was physical death. He admits that Adam died “spiritually” – by being separated from God – the very twenty four hour day that he sinned. However, he did not die physically that day because God killed the animals as a substitutionary sacrifice. The animal sacrifice forestalled Adam’s physical death for 900 years.

 

11-b – This issue has a direct bearing on the resurrection and the rapture. (When I say things like, “Ed believes…” I am referencing his answers to a series of written questions that I submitted to him in preparation for this debate).

 

  1. Ed believes that due to the substitutionary animal sacrifice, Adam’s physical death was delayed for 900 years. He says that because of the substitutionary death of Christ, we do not die the day we sin- but we do die later. This raises severe problems.

 

  1. What does “substitutionary” mean? It means “in the place of, instead of.” When the Passover lamb was slain, it died “in the place of, instead of” the firstborn in the houses where the blood was applied. The firstborn did not die due to the substitutionary Passover sacrifice.

 

  1. If Jesus’ physical death was substitutionary, – and it was – then those in the power of that death should never die physically – period. If only the first generation of saints were the object of Jesus’ promise to never die, as Ed suggests, (Response to my question #22) then, that demands that only the first generation of saints were recipients of Jesus’ promise to never die. Yet, Ed says that Christ’s substitutionary death does apply to us today, even though we will die for our own sins.

 

If those in Christ do not die physically, then certain things would be necessary, if the ultimate goal / home of the saints is heaven (which Ed believes):

 

14-A. If Christ’s physical death was substitutionary, and those in him never die, then those in him already possess the gift of eternal life, incorruptibility, and do not have to die physically to inherit eternal life.

 

14-B. If heaven is the ultimate home of the saints then an on-going rapture of believers and thus, recipients of the promise of never dying, would be necessary to take them to their ultimate home in heaven. In other words, the rapture would not be, as Ed posits, a one time, for all time event. It would be an on-going, unending reality, since Ed does not believe in an end of time. That is patently not a reality.

 

14-C. If the death of Christ was substitutionary – as Ed believes – then no saint since the first century should have died physically– “If a man keep my saying, he shall never die.” We should have 2000 year old saints among us. If not, why not? Incredibly, Ed makes Jesus’ promise of “never dying” applicable exclusively to that first century generation of believers – not to us today! That essentially means that the Gospel of John – at the least – with all of the promises of eternal life, not dying, etc., has no application to us today! To sustain his position, Ed must prove definitively that Jesus’ promise: “Those who believe in me shall never die” – applied exclusively to the first century saints who were raptured and has no application to us today. Ed’s claim that Jesus’ promise applied exclusively to the first century generation is a frightening prospect!

 

  1. I agree that the death of Christ was substitutionary, but, it was not his physical death that served as the substitute. Jesus was alienated from the Father spiritually as he hung on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” His (necessary) physical death, shedding his blood for forgiveness, was the visible proof of the greater spiritual realities taking place. But, his physical death was not the substitutionary death or else the difficulties delineated here present themselves.

 

  1. Ed realizes there is a conundrum in the substitutionary death of Christ. So, he offered this:

 

“You are probably wondering: “So why do we still die physically if Jesus died physically in our place on the Cross?”…. “We are supposed to die “on the very same day we sin,” just like Adam. But Adam did not die physically “on that very day” simply because the lamb died physically in his place. And we do not die physically “on the very day we sin” simply because Jesus died physically in our place. So physical death (“on the day we sin”) is still a part of the consequences (wages) of sin, along with spiritual condemnation and eternal separation. And the only reason we are not struck dead “on the very day we sin” (just like Adam would have been if the lamb had not died in his place) is because Jesus died physically in our place “once for all” (1Pet 3:18; Gal 3:13; Eph 2:16-18; Col 1:21-22).”

 

  1. So, Ed says that the reason Adam did not die the very day he sinned (as he was supposed to) was due to the substitutionary death of the animals. The animal sacrifice delayed that death for 900 years. Ed says that we do not die the very day that we sin because of Christ’s substitutionary death. Yet, he knows that we will all die physically. This raises several questions.

 

17-A. Why doesn’t the death of Christ delay our physical death at least as long as the animal sacrifice delayed Adam’s physical death? Why doesn’t the death of Christ delay our physical death for even one single day? Christians die at every stage of our lives – just like non-Christians. Why doesn’t the substitutionary death of Christ at least delay our physical death longer than the death of the reprobate sinners? The truth is that it should totally prevent it!

 

17-B. If the substitutionary death of the animals forestalled the physical death of Adam for 900 years, why did it not delay his spiritual alienation (death) from God on the very day he sinned? If the animal sacrifice could prevent him from dying physically for 900 years, why didn’t it postpone his expulsion from the Garden for even one day?

 

In similar fashion, man is alienated from God (he dies spiritually) the day he sins (Cf. Colossians 1:20f / 2:12-13). Yet, in Ed’s paradigm, the death of Christ does not extend our physical life by even one day. It is undeniable that the substitutionary death of Christ does not delay our death for even a fraction of how long the animal sacrifice delayed the death of Adam. Why? And, Christians do not live any longer – at all – than the most reprobate of sinners. Once again, the physical death of Christians is not forestalled by even one moment longer than the death of sinners.

 

17-C. Why doesn’t the substitutionary death of Christ totally prevent our physical death – “If a man keep my saying, he shall never die”? For Ed to say that we do not die immediately because of the substitutionary death of Christ is patently false. The question is: why do we die at all?

 

Which raises another related question.

 

  1. Since Christians do not die immediately when they sin, as a result of the substitutionary death of Christ, why is it that non-Christians, who hate Christ, do not die the very day that they sin the first time? They are not under the power of the blood of Christ, are they? So, what is keeping them from dying immediately upon sinning? Is the blood of Jesus being applied to the unbeliever in the same manner as it is to the Christian? This is hugely problematic for Ed’s view.

 

  1. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The “law of sin and death” says that, “You sin, you die.” This was the law of the Garden. Adam sinned, he died spiritually the day he sinned. Ed says he should have died physically that day, but, God provided a substitutionary sacrifice that postponed his physical death.

 

  1. Paul says that the Christian is no longer subject to the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2). Living in Christ, where his Atoning blood continually washes us (1 John 1:7) means that we have eternal life (1 John 5:11-13). It means that we shall never die. Amazingly, Ed says Christians are not subject to the law of sin and death. This is patently false if the law of sin and death meant, “If you sin, you die physically.” This is logically irrefutable.

 

Notice the argument:

 

Sin brings death– “the wages of sin is death.” Sin alone is that which brings death. Ed says this includes physical death.

The Christian is forgiven of sin, and continually cleansed through the blood of Christ (Romans 8:1-2 / 1 John 1:7f) . The Christian is not subject to “the law of sin and death.”

Therefore, the Christian never dies (should never die, physically).

But, all Christians do die physically, just as non-Christians die physically.

 

One can only conclude that the Christian is not truly forgiven of sin and still lives under the condemnation and penalty of sin – physical death. If physical death was the Adamic Death, then since we experience physical death, that means that we must experience Adamic Death – surrendering to the condemnation of “the last enemy” – in order to then receive eternal life! (?) We are most assuredly subject to the law of sin and death- if the law of sin and death is “You sin, you die physically.”

 

  1. There is something wrong with the idea that Christians are forgiven, that we live in a state of no condemnation, yet, at the same time we must still experience the “wages of sin” i.e. the condemnation of death, as opposed to the first century saints who did not have to die. How does experiencing the Adamic Death bring about eternal life? How does dying as a result of our sin manifest the forgiveness of our sin? How does dying due to sin demonstrate that Christ died a substitutionary death? How does dying as a result of our sin prove that we are forgiven and have received the promise of Christ that those in him never die?

 

  1. Since it is sin alone that brings death, then to reiterate, the Christian, ostensibly forgiven of sin, should never die. This is what Jesus was promising: “If a man believes in me, he shall never die.” Now, if Christians did not die today, an on-going, unending rapture, to remove Christians from the earth to their heavenly home at some point in their life would be necessary. Clearly, that is not the case.

 

  1. The resurrection would be to restore what was lost in Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22) – “As in Adam all men die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” If it is true that physical death was a part of that Adamic Death Curse then of logical necessity, physical death must be overcome in order to restore what was lost. It is untenable to deny this. You cannot include physical death in the original death threat, without including physical resurrection in the solution to that problem. This would demand one of a few possibilities:

 

23-A. Physical resurrection – which is the futurist view of 1 Corinthians 15.

 

23-B. People never dying at all, due to the power of the substitutionary death of Christ – “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). But, as we have seen, if Christians did not physically die, that would necessitate a physical rapture of Christians throughout endless time, as they are translated to heaven.

 

23-C. If physical death is part of the Adamic Death Curse, then physical death remains the enemy of the child of God that is forgiven of sin until the abolition (not the experiencing) of physical death. Thus, logically, a preterist cannot affirm that physical death was part of the Adamic Curse without demanding a future physical resurrection.

 

  1. If physical death is included in the Adamic Curse, then as long as physical death holds sway over the Christian, the Adamic Curse is imposed. Dying physically is NOT an escape from the death that came through Adam, if the death that came through Adam was physical death. Dying is being totally subjected to it. Thus, if physical death is part of the Adamic Death, then the physical death of every Christian is a manifestation of the undeniable reality that the Christian is subject to “the law of sin and death,” still subject to the Curse of Adam. How is having to experience the Death of Adam, physical death, in any way a manifestation of the victory of Christ over the Adamic Curse?

 

  1. The ONLY manifestation of the victory over the death of Adam would be to never experience the Adamic Curse of physical death – or – to be delivered out from it. Thus, as suggested, that would necessitate the on-going, un-ending rapture of living Christians from the earth, or physical resurrection.

 

  1. If physical death was part of the Curse, then physical death is the enemy of the Christian since we experience physical death. If physical death is the enemy, then until physical death is overcome – at the parousia – physical death remains the enemy of even the child of God. Remember, since Ed says the rapture was a one time for all time event, it cannot fulfill Jesus’ promise that believers will never die.

 

  1. If the parousia is past, (as Ed and I agree), then the death that was the enemy, the Death of Adam must have been “abolished.” According to Paul, the last enemy, death, was to be abolished (katargeo) at the parousia / resurrection. Death is not “abolished” by having to die. How then can Christians still be subject to it, if it was “abolished”?

 

But, physical death (part of the Adamic Curse, per Ed) is still the fate of even the most faithful Christian today.

 

Therefore, either the resurrection and parousia – when “the death of Adam” would be abolished – has not occurred (thus falsifying Ed’s espoused preterism), or,

The Death of Adam did not include physical death.

 

  1. Now, if the Death of Adam was not physical death, there was literally no need for a physical rapture, since the story of redemption is to restore what was lost in Adam– spiritual life / fellowship. Man does not have to be removed from the earth to be restored to fellowship with the Lord. If so, then all Christians should be removed (raptured) from the earth in order for fellowship to be restored– or – Christians are not restored to that fellowship until they die physically. But remember that fellowship between heaven and earth was fellowship between God in heaven and MAN ON EARTH! It was not a fellowship that demanded the removal of man from the earth.

 

  1. This is important: Since man, on earth, was in fellowship with God, and it was that fellowship that was forfeited through sin, then what is the reason, or need, to remove man from the earth in a rapture in order to restore the fellowship between heaven and earth? And, why must Christians experience the Death Curse of Adam to be restored to that fellowship? To experience the Curse of Adam is to be separated– not restored!

 

Ed believes that the resurrection and the rapture were one time for all time events. While I agree that the resurrection was a one time event, Ed’s view of the rapture cannot be true in light of the above. Why? Consider:

 

  1. Christ’s substitutionary physical death is not a “temporary fix” for death, lasting only for a short time. His substitutionary death was not to just postpone our physical lives for an indeterminate period of time that is far shorter than the extension of Adam’s life after we sin. His substitutionary death is directly linked to his promise that those who believe in him will never die.

 

  1. However, if Christ died physically in our place, then logically, we (not just the first century saints) should never die physically unless the substitutionary physical death of Christ somehow loses its efficacy. In Ed’s paradigm, it clearly does, since, although we do not die physically immediately when we sin, we still ultimately do die physically. However the fact that sinner and saint both die, with no delay granted to the saint over the sinner, falsifies Ed’s claim. Exactly how does the substitutionary physical death of Christ benefit the Christian over the non-Christian – in regard to physical death? It patently doesn’t. I suggest that this proves that the death of Adam was unrelated to biological death.

 

  1. It is untenable to posit the physical death of Christ as substitutionary, and yet, say that we still must die physically and that our physical lives are not extended in any way as a result of that substitutionary physical death. It is only by identifying the death of Adam – and Christ – as alienation from the Father that we properly understand the true nature of the death of Adam.

 

  1. Keep in mind that Jesus did not say, “If you believe in me, you will die physically, but when you die you will receive immortality.” No, he posited the reception of eternal life prior to physical death (John 11:25-26; those “who believe in me never die”). Eternal life is bestowed based on our faith, before death, not after our death. Eternal life is “in him.” Thus, if we are “in Christ” we possess that eternal life (1 John 5:11– “the life is in his Son.”). It should go without saying that this eternal life is not physical life. It is not never dying physically. Jesus never said, “You will die (due to sin) but, after you die you will never die.”

 

  1. How could experiencing the death that comes as a direct result of sin, then result in our reception of eternal life? If we die as a result of sin- as Ed says- then dying in sin, from sin, should not result in eternal life, but condemnation! I thought dying in sin was spiritually fatal! If not, why not? But, Jesus said that those who believe in him will never die, and that those who believe in him, when they do die they will then live. Never dying is, well, never dying!

 

  1. And, this promise from Jesus that those who believe in him will never die was not a one time for all time event. It is the promise of the Gospel of Christ, that has no end (Matthew 24:35). However, if the rapture doctrine has merit, certain things follow.

 

  1. If Christ’s promise – i.e. those in him never die, and that includes physical life- is applicable today- then believers should never die physically. If his substitutionary physical death is applicable today, then Christians should not die. This is inescapable. But, as noted above, the inevitable physical death of every Christian demonstrates that Jesus’ substitutionary death was not related to physical death. His physical death does not postpone or prevent our physical death. This is prima facie true, as we observe daily.

 

  1. If the promise of life was physical life, then from the first century onward, no true believer should have died. But, if “heaven is our home” then there must currently be an on-going rapture of living – immortal- saints, off of the earth to the heavenly home. But, of course, this is not true. If there is no rapture now, there was no rapture then, since the promise of never dying was not applicable to that generation alone.

 

  1. This proves that if there was a rapture of living (non-dying) saints in the first century, then they were the only ones to experience the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of never dying; they were the only ones to ever receive the application of his substitutionary death. But, if they were the only ones to receive that fulfillment, then we today are excluded, since we patently do die physically. To say this is troublesome is an understatement!

 

The Gathering of the Saints as Promised in the Tanakh

 

  1. I want now to turn my attention to the idea of the “gathering” – which Ed applies to the rapture. That promise must be viewed from the perspective of the OT prophecies, since all NT promises of the eschatological consummation spring from the Tanakh. Now, I will be unable to do an exhaustive linguistic study, as the data is so vast. But, what I will do is focus on the OT Messianic prophecies of the gathering. To do that, I will focus on a distinctive Greek word “episunagogee” and its cognates sunago, sunagogee, etc. So far as I can determine, there is no substantive difference in meaning of these cognates. Sunago and episunagogee mean a gathering, a gathering together (episunagogee).

 

  1. My argument, simply stated is this:

The OT prophecies of the eschatological gathering (sunago and episunagogee, etc.) refer to a spiritual gathering, a covenantal gathering into fellowship with the Lord. They do NOT refer to a literal, physical gathering of people into either a geographical location, or, a removal of man from the earth.

Since the Tanakh promised the gathering and that gathering was not a literal or physical gathering into a geographical venue or a removal of man from the earth, then, when Jesus and the NT writers spoke of and anticipated the eschatological gathering, the fulfillment of the OT prophecies, they were not anticipating a literal, physical gathering of people into either a geographical location, or, a removal of man from the earth.

 

  1. With this basic statement before us, let’s take a look at just two of the major OT prophecies of the end time gathering. (Many more could be examined, and we may do so as this proceeds, but, these will suffice for now).

 

  1. Psalms 102 is a prediction of the coming of the Lord in glory (v. 16-17), when heaven and earth would be destroyed (25f). This is therefore, the eschatological Day of the Lord.

This is the time of the glorification and exaltation of Zion, v. 21.

Notice verse 22 speaks of that time, and says it would be when the people and the kingdoms are “gathered together (episunagogee) to serve the Lord.”

We thus have the “gathering of the people and the nations” at the Day of the Lord. But, it is the gathering into and of the people for serving the Lord – in Zion. This is terminology that is used to speak of something we do on earth as followers of the Lord. Thus, God’s people are depicted as “gathered” to Him in service, in the kingdom on earth, in Zion. When we examine Hebrews 12:21f we find that the first century saints, on earth, were receiving the kingdom, and they had arrived at Zion. They had not been removed from Zion or earth, but were awaiting the imminent coming of that kingdom (13:14) TO THEM! There is no hint of a removal of the saints from the earth. Such an idea has to be read into the text.

 

  1. Isaiah 27:13– “So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, And shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.”

 

  1. It is to be noted that the word episunagogee or cognates does not appear here. However, virtually all scholars are agreed that in Matthew 24:31, Jesus is citing Isaiah 27:13, when he said, “The Son of Man shall send forth his angels and they shall gather together (episunagogee) the elect from the four winds…” So, we thus have the gathering of the elect at the coming of Christ in AD 70. Chapter 24:31 is Christ gathering together those who did accept his desire to gather the obedient. He “synagogued” them to himself. What kind of gathering is / was this? For the answer to that, we can turn back to Matthew 23:37 and forward to Matthew 25:31-32.

 

  1. Matthew 23:37 – “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered your children together (episynagagein, from episunagogee) under my wings, as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but, you would not.” Again, here is Jesus’ desire to gather the “children” to himself. They refused as a nation, but, not all of them did. Thus, at his coming, he gathered together those who accepted him.

 

  1. Now, in 23:37 was Jesus saying that he had wanted to rapture his audience, or, was he saying that he wanted to gather them into a covenantal fellowship? I believe that Matthew 11:28-29 is helpful: “Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The “rest” here is the word that is often used of Sabbath rest. Jesus was offering the rest of salvation – fellowship with him. There is no hint of a desired rapture here. If, in 23:37 he expressed his desire to gather them into a covenant fellowship with him, into his rest, then that means that 24:31 is that very kind of gathering. It is NOT a rapture. And that is confirmed by the next text.

 

  1. Look now at Matthew 25:32. At the coming of the Son of Man– this is Matthew 24:29-31 – ALL THE NATIONS ARE GATHERED (synachthēsontai) before Him. This is a cognate (future tense) of sunago / episunagogee, and is squarely based on Isaiah 66:18, where at the Day of the Lord, “I will gather (from sunagagein, LXX ) all the nations and the tongues.” It is patently the same gathering as 24:31, and unless Ed can demonstrate otherwise, linguistically and contextually that it is otherwise, it is the fulfillment of Jesus’ desire in 23:37.

 

  1. So, from Matthew 23:37, to 24:31 to 25:32 we have a consistent thread of usage of the concept of the gathering– and it all stems from Isaiah 27 (as well as Isaiah 66). The words used all come from the same Greek family with the same meaning. And there is not a hint of a literal rapture. A rapture is actually excluded.

 

  1. My argument is this:

Matthew 24:31 is the gathering at the Day of the Lord.

Matthew 25:32 is the gathering at the Day of the Lord. Based on Isaiah 66.

 

Now, if the gathering of 24:31 is a literal rapture and removal of the saints from the earth, then of logical, contextual necessity, at the coming of the Lord in AD 70– all the nations were literally, physically removed and gathered. That patently did not happen.

Matthew 25:32 is but an expanded discussion of 24:31. If not, what is the difference?

The saints in 24:31 are the obedient. The rewarded ones in 25:32f are the obedient.

Those gathered in 24:3 are (ostensibly) gathered into the kingdom (Matthew 13:39-40).

The obedient in 25:32f are gathered into the kingdom.

 

If there is no difference, then Ed must argue that ALL NATIONS WERE LITERALLY, PHYSICALLY GATHERED– removed from earth– in AD 70.

 

  1. And, let’s apply this to 1 Thessalonians 4:

 

The gathering of the saints, the harpadzo, (the catching) of 1 Thessalonians 4 is the gathering of the saints of Matthew 24:31 and Matthew 25:32.

The gathering of the saints in Matthew 24:31 and 25:32 was not a literal rapturing / removal of “all the nations” or, therefore, not all the saints, from the earth.

Therefore, the gathering of the saints, the harpadzo of the saints in 1 Thessalonians 4, was not a literal rapturing / removal of “all the nations” or, therefore, not all the saints, from the earth.

 

  1. Countering this argument:

To counter this argument, Ed must demonstrate that in the chain of usage of sunago / sunagogee and cognates, that a literal rapture is demanded.

To counter this, he must show that some of the usages of sunago / episunagogee in that chain speak of different kinds of gatherings, some spiritual, some literal.

To counter this, Ed must prove that “all the nations” were literally raptured in AD 70.

To counter this, Ed must prove that the gathering of all the nations is not the gathering of 1 Thessalonians 4.

 

  1. Let me summarize what I have said in this first affirmative.

 

  1. I have shown that the Death introduced by Adam could not have included physical death.

 

  1. I have shown that what was lost in Adam was to be restored in Christ. What was lost was spiritual / covenantal fellowship between man on earth and God in heaven. Thus, there was no need – ever- to remove man – any generation of men from earth, in order to restore that fellowship.

 

  1. I have shown that Jesus’ promise that those who believe in him shall never die was not a one time event but rather an on-going, unending promise. But, this means that he could not have been referring to physical life or death, since all Christians– those who believe in him – do die physically.

 

  1. Similarly, I have shown that the substitutionary death of Christ could not be focused on physical death. If (since) he died “in our place” we should never die – period – if the focus is on physical death.

 

  1. This proves that if there was a rapture of saints in the first century, then they were the only ones to experience the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of never dying, and they were the only ones to receive the application of his substitutionary death. But, if they were the only ones to receive that fulfillment, then we today are excluded, since we patently do die physically even though he died in our place. So, once again, to sustain his view of a one time for all time rapture, Ed must prove that none of Jesus’ promises of never dying, receiving eternal life through faith, have any application to us today. He must show that Christ’s substitutionary death is not applicable to us today, since it is prima facie evident that we today do still die. We do, in spite of our faith in him, still die. This is troublesome!
  2. I have shown that to affirm that Christians still die physically as a result of our sin means that we remain under the Curse of Adam. We remain subject to the law of sin and death. We remain subject to the last enemy, and must – even as Christians – die in total subjection to the Adamic Curse of physical death. The substitutionary death of Christ does not prolong or prevent our physical death. Christ’s substitutionary death does not even do for Christians what the animal sacrifices did for Adam and Eve in Ed’s paradigm. It does not do for us what it did for the first century raptured saints.

 

  1. But, I have shown that Jesus’ promise of eternal life is “in him” for those obedient to him while alive physically. Thus, eternal life is our’s now, not in prospect for only when we die (experiencing the Curse of Adam). That means that we do not have to die to receive life and immortality. That is now our’s in Christ. This proves that the life promised by Christ is not physical life, and it is not physical immortality.

 

  1. In my second affirmative, I will further develop the concept of “the gathering” that was promised by the NT writers as their eschatological hope. I will show that the gathering that was promised was – as suggested here– the restoration of the spiritual fellowship between God and man – man on earth. I will once again tie that concept in with 1 Thessalonians 4.

 

In the meantime, I await Ed’s response to this affirmative. It is his responsibility to follow each of my points and address them.

 

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Source: Don K. Preston

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