Monday, November 28, 2016

The Teachings of the Epistles Concerning the Resurrection and Judgment

The General Resurrection and Final Judgment in the Epistles

The teachings of the Apostles concerning the last judgment and the general resurrection are consistent with those of Jesus and the Prophets. According to the Gospels and the epistles, the Second Coming of Christ is accompanied by the rapture, the simultaneous resurrection of the just and the unjust, and the final judgment of both the righteous and the wicked. Furthermore, the Second Coming is not preceded by a secret, preliminary coming of Christ in the clouds for His saints. As discussed in preceding blog posts, the Second Coming, or the Parousia of Christ, is one single, visible, and glorious event.

In our previous study of 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10, we understood that at the Lord’s Apokalupsis, which is also known as the Parousia, all the dead will be resurrected and the persecutors of the Church will be judged. The elect will be glorified and will spend eternity with the Lord, while the wicked dead will be consigned to hell. This is when the angelic legions will remove the tares from among the wheat, and deliver the reprobates to eternal perdition (Matt. 13:36-43).

William Grier writes concerning 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10:

“We may notice that when the Saviour comes for the deliverance of His troubled saints, He comes ‘in flaming fire’ – no secret rapture here! But it is even more important still to notice how the reward of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked are interwoven with each other as to time, and made to follow, both of them, immediately on the coming of the Lord. Surely this passage should make perfectly clear that there is no secret rapture to be followed at an interval of seven years by an open revelation of the Lord and His glory to the world. Surely it is perfectly clear also that since the coming of the Lord brings upon the wicked ‘eternal destruction away from the face of the Lord,’ there are no wicked who will survive His coming to be ruled over in a millennium to follow. But there must be wicked people surviving, according to the premillennial scheme. And even at the very close of the millennial reign there are wicked in number as the sand of the sea (Rev. 20:8), according to the pre-millennial scheme of interpretation.”[1]

Romans 2:5-8

“But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath (Rom. 2:5-8).”

The final judgment of both the just and the unjust is likewise taught in Romans 2:5-8. This general judgment will take place on the same day, and is not separated by one thousand years. “The day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom. 2:5)” is synonymous with the Day of the Lord, which is also referred to as the Parousia in the New Testament. At the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54), Christ “will render to every man according to his deeds (Rom. 2:6).” The saints shall receive “eternal life (Rom. 2:7),” while the reprobates will face the “wrath (Rom. 2:8)” of God.

Robert Mounce comments,

“This wrath will be brought against them on the day when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. The wrath of God spoken of in [Romans] 1:18 is being revealed in the present time. In [Romans] 2:5 it is eschatological. It belongs to the end time when God will reward righteousness and punish wickedness.”[2]

There should be no doubt as to what “the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom. 2:5)” is. Moo perceives that the “day of wrath” is “quasi-technical biblical language for the time of final judgment. This strongly suggests that Paul is looking here at the climactic outpouring of wrath at the end of history; and the Jew who refuses to repent is even now accumulating the wrath that on that day will be revealed.”[3]

William Shedd concurs with Moo that, “This day is the great day of final judgment.”[4] This is the day when all man will be resurrected and judged, “they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29).”

1 Thessalonians 5:1-10

Paul consistently taught in his epistles that the Second Coming of Christ, the simultaneous resurrection of the just and the unjust, and the final judgment will all occur on the same day: the Day of the Lord. We discussed in chapter six that “that day should [not] overtake [believers] as a thief (1 Thess. 5:4).”[5]

Although the Day of the Lord will come like “a thief in the night (1 Thess. 5:2)” upon unbelievers, “Paul did not apply the implication of the thief analogy to believers. They were, in fact, specifically excluded. The Lord’s coming will not be as a thief in the night for members of the church (v. 4). Believers expect it, though they do not know when the day will arrive.”[6]

The Parousia of Christ will arrive suddenly. In that day, both believers and unbelievers will have to face God’s judgment. In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10, “Paul associates the second coming with the resurrection and the ensuing glory of the saints and the sudden destruction of the wicked. Without the shadow of a doubt, that day has its reference to both parties:—believers are to look for it (1 Th. 5:4-10), for then they shall obtain salvation in all its fullness (vs. 9), then they shall ‘live together with him’ (vs. 10); while that same day will bring the false security of unbelievers to an end in their ‘sudden destruction.’”[7]

It should be obvious to readers that Paul did not have in mind the secret removal of Christians seven years prior to the Second Coming of Christ. Paul, in fact, exhorted believers to “watch and be sober (1 Thess. 5:6).” He said, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. (1 Thess. 5:4-5).” The Day of the Lord should not overtake Christians unexpectedly. In other words, believers are to expect the Day of the Lord and the final judgment; they are to watch for the signs of the times.

Simon Kistemaker comments,

“Jesus says that the believer must watch the signs of the times. Some of these signs are the proclamation of the gospel to all nations (Matt. 24:14), the appearance of false Christs and false prophets (Mark 13:22), a period of increased lawlessness (II Thess. 2:7), and the coming of the Antichrist (1 John 2:18). By observing the signs, believers are strengthened in their faith that God is at work in directing world history to the glorious day of Christ’s return.”[8]

Contrary to Bible Presbyterian belief, saints are not raptured away secretly in the pretribulation rapture. Furthermore, if all the wicked are suddenly destroyed (cf. 1 Thess. 5:3) at the Parousia, and if all the saints are given glorified bodies, no humans will be left on Earth to reproduce and to populate the planet during the one thousand years reign of Christ. Glorified saints do not give birth, and they definitely do not require the services of obstetricians.

Nevertheless, Walvoord writes, “As children are born in the Millennium and grow up, many of them may not trust in Christ. Those who rebel against Him will be punished (Zech. 14:16-19), and some will be put to death. And unbelievers living at the end of the Millennium who rebel with Satan against Christ will be judged by Him (Rev. 20:1-9).”[9] His views are echoed by Bible Presbyterian scholars in Far Eastern Bible College.[10]

If, according to Paul, the entire wicked population is to be annihilated, while all the saints are to be glorified at Christ’s Parousia, how do we explain the dispensational phenomenon of mortals being born during the earthly millennium? Moreover, Dispensationalists and Bible Presbyterians believe that the millennial birthrate is high enough to produce generations of wicked pagans to rebel against Christ and the saints, who are allegedly encamped at Jerusalem towards the end of the millennium. The onus is, therefore, on the Bible Presbyterians to resolve this logical inconsistency.

1 Corinthians 15

Unequivocally, the Apostle Paul taught that the Parousia of Christ and the resurrection of the saints will occur immediately before the final state. At the resurrection of believers, the final enemy – death – will be destroyed forever. There shall no longer be death after the glorification of the saints. The Second Coming of Christ will usher in the consummation of this age.

Paul wrote:

“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:20-26).”

As “the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18),” Christ is the first fruit of the resurrection of life (1 Cor. 15:23). Christ’s resurrection will ensure the full harvest in due time; this will be the resurrection of all the saints. But this passage cannot be made to support the notion that a sequence of resurrections, or even a series of seven resurrections according to Walvoord, will take place in the future.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 described two categories: Jesus Christ and the saints. The order of resurrection in keeping with Paul’s teaching is, firstly, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, and secondly, the resurrection of all the saints at His Second Coming. The general resurrection is immediately followed by the final state, “Then cometh the end (1 Cor. 15:24).” Corroborating this passage with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, we learn that during His Parousia, the dead in Christ shall resurrect first, followed by the saints who are alive at His Coming. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:16-17).”

Consistent with the eschatology laid out in his epistles to the Thessalonians, Paul, in the succeeding context, revealed to the Corinthians a mystery,

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory (1 Cor. 15:50-55)?”

Due to the fact that “corruption” cannot inherit the incorruptible Kingdom to come, the bodies of the saints will be transformed into incorruptible bodies at Christ’s Second Coming. “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:54),” Death shall be defeated forever.

Commenting on 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, Simon Kistemaker writes,

Looking back at Jesus’ triumph over death and forward to the resurrection of all believers, Paul bursts out in jubilation. He understands the demise of life’s mortal enemy: death. Even though death continues to wield power as Christ’s last enemy (v. 26), Paul knows that God will destroy it. Death’s days are numbered.”[11]

Indeed, at the Parousia of Christ, with the resurrection of the saints “at the last trump” (1 Cor. 15:52), Death shall be annihilated. This doctrine of Paul apparently opposes the Premillennialist’s teaching that there will be death in the millennium. How can there be death after the permanent defeat of Death at Christ’s Second Coming?

Premillennialists believe that Christ will come before the millennium to set up the Davidic Kingdom. But the concept of death in the millennium contradicts the clear teachings of Paul. Dr Quek Suan Yew, in his lecture notes on the book of Revelation, wrote:

“There are two kinds of saints entering the millennium. The saints with the glorified body where they can never sin again or die will be the first group. The second group of saints would include the 144,000 Israelites mentioned in Revelation 7 together with other Gentiles and the Danites. The second group include (sic) those who have come through the Great Tribulation with their mortal bodies. The sinful nature would still reside in their mortal body. They will still be able to procreate and have children. They would live long years like the time before the Great Flood of Noah’s time. There will still be death.”[12]

Evidently, Dr Quek’s doctrine of the millennium cannot be differentiated from that of Dispensationalist professor, Dr John Walvoord. Walvoord taught:

“The subjects of the kingdom will include (a) all those who have been resurrected, that is, all the righteous (Old Testament saints, church-age saints, and martyred Tribulation saints), and (b) those who have survived the Tribulation, whether Jews (believing Israelites restored to their land) or Gentiles, still in their natural bodies. Presumably those in their natural bodies will bear children; then they will die after their normal course of life is complete. There will be sin, though it will be sharply curtailed by the righteous rule of Christ (Isa. 65:20). . . . The Scriptures are silent as to the ultimate destiny of believers in the Millennium who will die, but undoubtedly they will be resurrected at some time, perhaps at the end of the Millennium. The Bible is also silent on what will happen to the saved who will still be in their natural bodies at the end of the millennial kingdom. Apparently these, too, will be given resurrected bodies.”[13]

Despite the apparent contradiction with Paul’s teaching of a final victory over Death at the Parousia, some Premillennialists insist that 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 supports premillennialism. Reverend Charles Seet, a dispensational premillennialist and a Bible Presbyterian minister, comments on 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 in his defense of premillennialism:

“Although there is no mention of a thousand years in these verses, there is clear evidence of a long time-gap between Christ’s second coming and the end of the world. . . . The first resurrection was that of Christ, and that took place nearly 2000 years ago. The second one will occur at the Second Coming of Christ - this is when those that are His will be resurrected from their graves. The third one will occur at the end, when death itself will finally be defeated, resulting in all the rest of the dead being resurrected. But when will that take place? Now look at verse 24 and you will see that the verse begins with the word “Then.” Now this word “then” does not mean “at the time of Christ’s coming,” but “after that.” It actually has the same meaning as the word “afterward” used earlier on in the verse, and we have already seen that that word could mean a time span of 2000 years! Since there are clearly two time intervals in this verse, the second one, which is between Christ’s coming and the end must then refer to the millennium by comparing this scripture with Revelation 20.”[14]

Is it true that there is an indeterminable time gap between verses 23 and 24 of 1 Corinthians 15, and that “there are clearly two time intervals” in this passage? Kistemaker explains that in 1 Corinthians 15:24, “the first clause of the Greek text lacks a verb; one must be supplied to complete the thought. This supplied verb can be either “comes” or “will come.” The end will occur after the resurrection of the people whom Christ redeemed.”[15]

This is why the Authorized Version translates this verse as, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” Kistemaker proceeds to elucidate that the alleged time gap between verses 23 and 24 of 1 Corinthians 15 is unjustified:

“With the word then Paul introduces not the resurrection of a third group but simply the end. In other words, this adverb does not necessarily suggest an interlude between the resurrection of the believers and the end of time. Because of its brevity, the clause then comes the end does not appear to support the teaching of an intermediate kingdom before the consummation of the age. Rather, it signifies that “after all this has happened, will the end or the consummation of Christ’s Messianic work come.” The words the end suggest not only “last in sequence” but also the conclusion of Christ’s redemptive work for his people.”[16]

In his commentary on First Corinthians, New Testament Scholar Gordon Fee agrees with Kistemaker:

“Although the third item is prefaced with another “then,” it is unlikely that Paul intends by this yet another event in the sequence begun by Christ’s resurrection. The “order” of resurrections is only two: Christ the firstfruits; the full harvest of those who are his at his Parousia. Paul shows no interest here in anything beyond these. The “then” in this third instance is sequential to be sure, but in a more logical sense, meaning that following the resurrection of believers at the Parousia the final two “events” transpire. With the resurrection of the dead, the end, or goal, has been reached.”[17]

To place an indeterminable time gap between verses 23 and 24 is eisegesis, whereby the exegete fallaciously forces his eschatological schema to fit into the passage of Scripture.[18] It is clear that Paul has only two categories in mind: the Lord Jesus, and those that are His. In this passage, Paul lays out the sequence of resurrection. At the consummation of this age, when Christ returns to glorify His saints, He will usher in the New Heavens and the New Earth. Nowhere does Paul mentions a third category – the millennial saints.

If a time gap exists, and if Paul has in mind an earthly Davidic Kingdom of one thousand years duration, he would have mentioned the resurrection of the millennial saints which should occur after the millennium. But 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 only speaks of two categories of resurrection, “Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” In order to avoid the amillennial view, the premillennialist has to squeeze the millennium into 1 Corinthians 15:23-24.

Gordon Fee writes,

“It is pure presumption to read into this text a third resurrection. So also is the concern to find here an intermediate stage between the resurrection of “those who are Christ’s” and the final handing over of the kingdom to God the Father. Paul may have believed in such, but it lies quite outside his present concern. The point is that he neither explicitly nor allusively speaks of such, which he was fully capable of doing, had it been of any interest to him. What he says is, “then the end.” Without a verb this can only mean that following the resurrection of believers is the end, which then is described in its two parts.”[19]

Charles Seet rightly says that “the way to test any doctrine is to compare it with other verses of Scripture.”[20] According to him, “there are actually other significant verses that support the literal interpretation of Revelation 20. One important verse is 1 Corinthians 15:23-24.[21]

However, it seems that Seet failed to even consider the immediate context of the passage, especially 1 Corinthians 15:50-55. Paul, in this passage, emphasizes that the end result of the Parousia and the resurrection is the abolition of Death itself. “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory (1 Cor. 15:54).” The defeat of death is an everlasting victory. The notion of having death in the millennium contravenes Paul’s proposition of a permanent victory over Death.

Commenting on 1 Corinthians 15:54, Gordon Fee writes,

“With the rhetorically powerful full repetition of the two clauses from v. 53, Paul advances the argument by indicating the net results of the Parousia-resurrection-transformation process - the abolition of death itself. In vv. 23-28 he had argued that resurrection is a divine necessity, inaugurated through the resurrection of Christ, as God’s way of destroying the last enemy, death. Now he returns to that theme, not so much in terms of its necessity as in exultation and triumph. “Take that, death,” he exults, “for when mortality is clothed with immortality, you have lost both your victory and your sting.” No more can death tyrannize, because it has been “swallowed up” by resurrection. . . . At the resurrection-transformation God will abolish death forever, just as he promised in the words of the prophet.”[22]

By comparing 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 50-55 with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, it is incontrovertible that Paul is elucidating that the defeat of Death occurs immediately after the resurrection of the saints. If only Reverend Seet had compared 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 “with other verses of Scripture,” he would have concluded that the final state will commence simultaneously with the Parousia of Christ. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Rev. 21:4).”

2 Peter 3:3-12

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. . . . But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. . . . But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat (2 Pet. 3:3-4, 7, 10-12)?”

In this passage, the Apostle Peter is teaching about the Parousia of Christ using the Old Testament concept of the Day of the Lord. His eschatological model is perceptibly identical to that of Paul’s. The Day of the Lord is an expression which is found throughout the prophetic literature of the Old Testament. In order for us to understand the Day of the Lord, we have to peruse the two age eschatological framework presented in the New Testament.

Jewish apocalyptic writings as well as canonical Scripture see time in terms of two ages or aeons: this present aeon, and the aeon to come.[23] The “present age” is the present course of history before the return of Christ, which is temporal and passing away. The “age to come,” in contrast, is an age of eternal life and immortality.[24] The Jewish expectation of the “age to come,” which is the age of peace and righteousness under the rule of the Son of David, becomes a present reality with the First Advent of Christ.

Hoekema explains that according to the New Testament, the “age to come” is already present in the midst of us. The New Testament believer therefore lives in “this age” and in the “age to come,” all at the same time. Hoekema writes:

“In his Pauline Eschatology, published in 1930, [Geerhardus] Vos further developed these insights [that the “age to come” is anticipated in the present], particularly as they reflected the teachings of the Apostle Paul. For the Old Testament writers, he states, the distinction between “this age” and the “age to come” was thought of simply in terms of chronological succession. But when the Messiah whose coming these Old Testament writers had predicted actually arrived on the scene, the eschatological process had in principle already begun, and therefore the simple scheme of chronological succession between this age or world and the age or world to come was no longer adequate. The Messianic appearance now began to unfold itself into two successive epochs; “the age to come was perceived to bear in its womb another age to come.’”[25]

Ellis further elaborates that the two age model of the New Testament is distinct from that of Judaism, in that the “age to come” has been ushered into the “present age” with the First Advent of Christ. Existentially, the believer is living both in the present, as well as in the eternity future. “The New Testament’s modification of Jewish apocalyptic rests upon the perception that in the mission, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah the age to come, the kingdom of God, had become present in hidden form in the midst of the present evil age, although its public manifestation awaits the parousia . . . of Jesus.”[26]

Thus, the Kingdom of God is inaugurated with the First Advent of Christ, but the consummative phase of the Kingdom awaits the Parousia. Ellis elucidates that,

“The two-fold consummation of judgment and deliverance that characterized the teaching of apocalyptic Judaism becomes, in the teaching of Jesus and his disciples, a two-stage consummation. As ‘deliverance’ the kingdom of God that Judaism expected at the end of the age is regarded as already present in the person and work of Jesus. As ‘judgment’ (and final deliverance) the kingdom awaits the second, glorious appearing of Messiah.”[27]

With regard to the two age eschatological framework, this present age is evil and beyond salvageability. The coming aeon is the golden age of the Messiah. However, the transition from one age to another requires divine intervention; human endeavors cannot redeem this planet. According to Jesus and the apostles, this time of intervention is called the Day of the Lord, the Day of Christ, the last day, or that day. This day will come without warning, like a thief in the night (1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10). It is a time of judgment and terror for unbelievers, and includes a universal conflagration which will destroy the present creation. At this last day, the planet earth will be destroyed by fire. This is followed by the ushering in of the New Heavens and the New Earth.

In the Old Testament, the Day of the Lord is a term reiterated by the prophets to refer to impending judgment on gentile nations and Israel.[28] Herman Bavinck elaborates further on the meaning of this expression,

“In Old Testament times the day of the Lord was the time in which God, in a marvelously glorious way, would come to his people as king to redeem it from all its enemies and to settle it with him in Jerusalem in peace and security. In that event of God’s coming began the great turning point in which the old aeon passed into the new and all conditions and connections in the natural and human world changed totally.”[29]

According to the New Testament, the last portion of the present age commenced with the First Advent of Christ. This last segment of the present aeon is also known as the last days or the last hour (1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:2, 9:26; 1 John 2:18). The Parousia or the Second Advent of Christ will usher in the age to come (Matt. 19:28; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30, 20:35; 1 Cor. 15:23; Heb. 2:5). On the Day of the Lord, the age to come begins; the Parousia, the general resurrection of the just and the unjust, and the final judgment of both the saints and the reprobates occur contemporaneously. This is accompanied by the creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth.

In 2 Peter 3:3-12, the apostle describes the Second Coming of Christ in terms of the Old Testament picture of the Day of the Lord. Peter begins by elucidating that in the last days (verses 3-4), there shall be scoffers “walking after their own lusts.” These mockers will deny the Second Coming of Christ and His final judgment so as to support their libertinism. They are false teachers, “the servants of corruption” who “allure through the lusts of the flesh (2 Pet. 2:18-20).” Lenski wrote,

“Who could let himself go into immoral excess if he believed that the Lord is ready to return to judgment at any time? The climax of the “heresies” mentioned in 2:1 is the denial of Christ’s Parousia. Peter crushes this denial and thereby destroys all the other lesser heresies that cluster around this main one.”[30]

Apparently, the scoffers know the teachings of Scripture, but they will not accept its authority. They will deliberately trample the truth of God’s Word under their feet (Matt. 7:6). In modern times, these scoffers can come in the guise of scholars, philosophers, scientists, or even false teachers in various churches. However, the multifarious forms adopted by such scoffers should not detract from the fact that they are essentially licentious lovers of self (2 Pet. 3:3).

Simon Kistemaker explains further:

“Scoffers will come, scoffing.” These people know God’s revelation and his impending judgment. Because they are familiar with the Scriptures, they have become habitual mockers of God and his Word. Scoffing should not be confused with jesting. Jesting depicts frivolity, but scoffing is a sin that is deliberate. Scoffing occurs when men show willful contempt for God and his Son. . . . Arrogantly they deny that the judgment day will come. They repudiate the message that they must give an account of their words and deeds. They scoff at Jesus’ promise that he will return on the last day and contemptuously they ask, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?”[31]

Philosopher Bertrand Russell, a vocal critic of Christianity, is an exemplar of such “last days” scoffers. In Why I Am Not a Christian, he mocked the doctrine of eternal punishment, and attacked the character of Christ:

“There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in Hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting Punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching – an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers.”[32]

Mockers of Christianity are not uncommon in the last days. Believers should be wary of the philosophy of men (Col. 2:8), especially hypotheses that masquerade as empirical science (1 Tim. 6:20). These theories may appear reasonable, but ultimately, they will lead believers to deny the very Lord who redeemed them. In his exegesis of Second Peter, Kenneth Wuest reveals that certain rationalistic theories and philosophies not only question the veracity of Scripture, but also the very Person of Christ:

“The end-time mockers will mock at the promise of our Lord’s second Advent. The basis of their rejection of the second Advent according to John in his second letter (v. 7) is that they deny that Jesus Christ comes in flesh. That is, they deny that the Jehoshua of the Old Testament (Jehovah who saves) who is designated as the Anointed One (Christ) in the New Testament, ever would become incarnate, assume a human body and put Himself under human limitations without its sin. The denial of an incarnation today is given a rationalistic basis in the theory of evolution which teaches that the universe and man are such today by reason of the operation of a resident force in matter and man that is developing both from a crude beginning toward a perfect conclusion without the aid of any outside force. In short, the theory will not permit the introduction of anything or anyone from the outside into the unbroken continuity of existence, hence, no incarnation.”[33]

The Christian is, therefore, reminded that certain philosophical worldviews are not compatible with historic Christianity and the Reformed faith. The theory of evolution, for example, cannot be incorporated into the text of Scripture, and the believer will do well to avoid such exegetical gymnastics.

In reply to the scoffers, Peter explains that “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).” Although scoffers may scoff for a time, the apostle Peter declares unambiguously that God will judge the reprobates on the Day of the Lord. “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Pet. 3:7).” The Parousia and the final judgment of the wicked is essentially a theodicy. Peter explains that this present age will terminate with the day of judgment (2 Pet. 2:9) or the Day of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:10). At the last day, the present creation will be destroyed by fire (2 Pet. 3:12). The mockers will be judged for their sins, and there shall be no escape from the wrath of the thrice-holy God. Christians will finally be able to spend eternity with Christ in the New Heavens and the New Earth (2 Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:1-4).

Anthony Hoekema elaborates,

“When will the final judgment take place? Though we cannot place it with precision on a kind of eschatological timetable, we can say that judgment will occur at the end of the present age. Peter tells us that the heavens and earth which now exist are being kept until the Day of Judgment (II Pet. 3:7), implying that the new heavens and the new earth will come into existence after the judgment (v. 13).”[34]

In 2 Peter 3:10-13, the apostle Peter teaches unmistakably that the Parousia of Christ is accompanied immediately by the dissolution of the old earth and the creation of the New Earth.

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Pet. 3:10-13).”

The Parousia will come like a thief in the night (2 Pet. 3:10; cf. 1 Thess. 5:2), and the wicked will be taken by surprise. There will be no warning for the mockers. In conjunction with Isaiah’s prophecy (Isa. 34:4), Peter predicts that the heavens will vanish at Christ’s Second Coming, and the celestial bodies “shall melt with fervent heat.” All the works of man will be judged before the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Since everything will be destroyed, Peter exhorts Christians to live holy and godly lives. “Peter’s point is that, though the present earth will be “burned up,” God will give us new heavens and a new earth which will never be destroyed but will last forever. From this new earth all that is sinful and imperfect will have been removed, for it will be an earth in which righteousness dwells. The proper attitude toward these coming events, therefore, is not to scoff at their delay but to be eagerly waiting for Christ’s return and the new earth which will come into existence after that return. Such waiting should transform the quality of our living here and now.”[35]

Verse 12b repeats the wording of verse 10, “the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” Here, the apostle reiterates that during the Parousia of Christ, the New Heavens and the New Earth will be ushered in, and the present creation will be completely obliterated. Peter’s eschatological complex is plain: the Second Coming of Christ, the final judgment, and the final state occur contemporaneously. There is no mention of an intermediate reign of Christ on the old earth for a millennium. This present age will pass away, and the new age will begin immediately upon Christ’s return.

“The millennium of the premillennialists, therefore, is something of a theological anomaly. It is neither completely like the present age, nor is it completely like the age to come. It is, to be sure, better than the present age, but it falls far short of being the final state of perfection. For the resurrected and glorified saints, the millennium is an agonizing postponement of the final state of glory to which they look forward so eagerly. For the rebellious nations, the millennium is a continuation of the ambiguity of the present age, in which God allows evil to exist while postponing his final judgment upon it.”[36]

The apostles Paul and Peter teach that Christ will return and judge the wicked on the Day of the Lord. But according to the premillennialist, Christ does not come from heaven to judge the wicked at the Great White Throne Judgment; He is already on earth and reigning from Jerusalem during the millennium! However, Scripture speaks of Christ coming from heaven to execute judgment and to glorify the saints (1 Thess. 4:14-17; 2 Thess. 1:6-10). In conclusion, premillennialism introduces an interim or intermediate kingdom of one thousand years between “this age” and the “age to come,” contradicting the explicit teachings of both apostles.

Concerning abbreviated references: Please refer to previous posts for more details of repeated references

[1] William J. Grier, The Momentous Event: A Discussion of Scripture Teaching on the Second Advent (Belfast: Evangelical Bookshop, 1945; reprint, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1970), 71-72.
[2] Robert H. Mounce, Romans: The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), 90.
[3] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans: New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1996), 134-135.
[4] William G. T. Shedd, A Critical and Doctrinal Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1879; reprint, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001), 38.
[5] For a discussion of the Day of the Lord in the Old Testament, see H. H. Rowley, The Faith of Israel (London: SCM, 1956), 177–201; B. K. Smith, “Obadiah,” in Amos, Obadiah, Jonah: New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 195–201.
[6] Martin, 1, 2 Thessalonians, 159.
[7] Grier, The Momentous Event, 54.
[8] Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude: New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books House Co, 1993), 327.
[9] Walvoord, End Times: Understanding Today’s World Events in Biblical Prophecy, 199-200.
[10] For example, see Quek, DAY FIVE: Revelation 19-22, 149; Khoo, Fundamentals of the Christian Faith, 136.
[11] Simon Kistemaker, Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians: New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books House Co, 1993), 585.
[12] Quek, DAY FIVE: Revelation 19-22, 149, emphasis added.
[13] Walvoord, End Times: Understanding Today’s World Events in Biblical Prophecy, 199.
[14] Charles Seet, “Premillennialism,” The Burning Bush 3, no. 2 (1997): 102-103.
[15] Kistemaker, Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, 551.
[16] Ibid., 552, quoting Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 184.
[17] Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1987), 753-754.
[18] For further information, see Wilber B. Wallis, “The Problem of an Intermediate Kingdom in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 18 (1975): 229-42; C. E. Hill, “Paul’s Understanding of Christ’s Kingdom in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28,” Novum Testamentum 30 (1988): 297-320; Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2000),1230-1231.
[19] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 753 n. 38.
[20] Seet, “Premillennialism,” 102.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 803-804.
[23] The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha such as the Sibylline Oracles, the Apocalypse of Ezra, the Apocryphon of Ezekiel, and the Apocalypse of Daniel, often view cosmic eschatology as two aeons. The present aeon is ending, and the coming aeon is to be ushered in via the divine intervention of the Messiah. For example, “in the second half of the Apocalypse [of Daniel] (chaps. 8-14) Daniel describes the end of the age, the Antichrist, the day of judgment, and the appearance of Christ.” Craig A. Evans, Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992), 28. Also, “Sib. Or. 4 gives an eschatology that includes an ekpyrosis or universal conflagration because of wickedness (4:159-61, 171-78), followed by a resurrection and judgment of all, with the wicked assigned to Tartarus and Gehenna but the righteous living again on earth (4:179-92). Sib. Or. 5 also includes destruction by fire (5:155-61,527-31).” Lester L. Grabbe, Judaic Religion in the Second Temple Period: Belief and Practice from the Exile to Yavneh (London: Routledge, 2000), 120. “One view [of Jewish cosmic eschatology] was that the approaching end time would be heralded by a series of eschatological “troubles” or “woes” (sometimes referred to as the “Messianic woes” or “birth pangs of the Messiah”). These have a parallel in some of the classical writers (e.g. Herodotus) who report “prodigies” that herald important events. In Jewish literature a major feature of these “woes” is the reversal of normality: the world is turned upside down; the expected order of society has become its opposite; nothing is the way it should be; chaos has reentered the cosmos. Yet even though these increase the suffering of mankind, they are welcome because God will soon intervene to bring an end to all human suffering. In some cases, the righteous escape the endtime woes, but this does not always seem to be the case.” Grabbe, Judaic Religion in the Second Temple Period, 269-270.
[24] Earle Ellis elaborates, “Jesus and the New Testament apostles and prophets are at one with apocalyptic Judaism in several respects. 1. They conceive of history within the framework of two ages, this world or age and the age to come, and they identify the kingdom of God with the coming age. 2. They view themselves to be living in the last (ἔσχατος) days preceding the consummation. 3. They proclaim God’s final redemption to be a salvation in history, that is, a redemption of matter in time.” See Ellis, The Old Testament in Early Christianity, 102.
[25] Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 298, quoting Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1930), 36. This two age eschatological model of the New Testament is developed by various New Testament scholars, particularly Geerhardus Vos. For a detailed discussion on the structure of Pauline eschatology, see Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1930; reprint, Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1994), 1-41. For the recent trends in eschatology, see Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 288-316.
[26] Ellis, Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity, 165.
[27] Ibid., 164. The “already-not yet” concept of the Kingdom of God is discussed further in chapter 22 of this book.
[28] For example, in Isaiah chapter 13, the prophet Isaiah issued a warning of judgment upon Babylon: “Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. (Isa. 13:9-13).” Likewise, in Joel chapter 2, the prophet Joel declares looming judgment upon Israel: “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations. . . . The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call (Joel 2:1-2, 31-32).” Referring to imminent judgment on Judah, the prophet Zephaniah prophesied about the great Day of the Lord: “The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land (Zeph. 1:14-18).”
[29] Bavinck, The Last Things, 131-132.
[30] R. C. H. Lenski, Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, St. John, and St. Jude (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1966), 335.
[31] Kistemaker, Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and of the Epistle of Jude, 325.
[32] Bertrand Russell, Bertrand Russell’s Best, ed. Robert E. Egner (London:Routledge, 1958), 53-54.
[33] Kenneth S. Wuest, “In These Last Days,” Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1954), 65.
[34] Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 255.
[35] Ibid., 284.
[36] Ibid., 186.

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