You are hereHospitality and Judgment in the Gospel of Matthew

Hospitality and Judgment in the Gospel of Matthew

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By Jer - Posted on 13 May 2008

by Jeremy Lile
This is part two in a series aimed at reexamining the doctrine of hell. In
part one, Otherworld
Journey: The Origins of Hell in Christian Thought
,i
we argued that from an early date the church had united underworld
mythology with futurist eschatology. Additionally, since the
eschatology of hell in a traditional framework presupposes futurism,
its very foundation is false. Therefore, hell should be reassessed in
light of preterism. Having considered the evidence for that
conclusion in part one, part two offers an alternative interpretation
of key judgment passages in Matthew that honors both the cultural and
historical contexts.
This is part two in a series aimed at reexamining the doctrine of hell. In
part one, Otherworld
Journey: The Origins of Hell in Christian Thought
,i
we argued that from an early date the church had united underworld
mythology with futurist eschatology. Additionally, since the
eschatology of hell in a traditional framework presupposes futurism,
its very foundation is false. Therefore, hell should be reassessed in
light of preterism. Having considered the evidence for that
conclusion in part one, part two offers an alternative interpretation
of key judgment passages in Matthew that honors both the cultural and
historical contexts.
Hospitality

Many
cultures in the ancient world developed rules for governing
guest-host relationships, something we might call
hospitality.
However, our term
hospitality
does not adequately reflect the intricacies of the ancient guest-host
custom.

Malina writes:


[To show hospitality] is the
process of “receiving” outsiders and changing them from
strangers to guests. This value clearly serves as a means for
attaining and preserving honor, a core social value. In the world of
the Bible, hospitality is never about entertaining family and
friends. Hospitality always is about dealing with strangers. To show
hospitality to strangers is “to receive” them. ii

Malina goes on
describe the three stages of receiving a guest. First, the stranger
must be tested “as to how they might fit in and as to whether
they will subscribe to community norms.” (Pilch and Malina)
Assuming he cuts the mustard, his status of stranger changes to that
of guest. At this point, the guest and host have mutual obligations.
The guest must not dishonor his host through insult, hostility or
rivalry. The guest must not overstep his bounds by making himself too
“at home.” The guest must also accept what is offered, be
it food, bedding, etc., rather than make demands. The host has
similar responsibilities. He must protect the honor of his guest,
which can lead to some extremely difficult situations. The host must
not insult his guest and refrain from showing any hostility or
rivalry. The host must attend to the basic needs of his guest such as
food, water, shelter, etc. Finally, at the end of his stay, the
guest changes status again to either a friend or an enemy. If a
friend, the relationship can last for generations. If an enemy, the
host would then seek satisfaction.

We can see, then,
that both guest and host were expected to follow a certain protocol;
they had mutual obligations. Yet anyone who failed to fulfill his
role would be subject to more than the social sanctions of chafed
mortals:


. . .some of the gods' expectations were codified in a moral order
with rules of behavior for human beings. For example, the Greeks
believed that the gods demanded hospitality for strangers and proper
burial for family members and that the gods punished human arrogance
and murderous violence. iii

The guest-host
relationship was overseen by a god—Zeus, in the case of the
Greeks. For the Hebrews, it was Yahweh who said, “You shall
neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him.” As we shall see,
hospitality is covered quite extensively in the Law of Moses. In
fact, the relationship between God and Israel is likened to the
guest-host relationship. God also expected Israel to be his agency in
order to extend hospitality to strangers and foreigners, as even she
was a guest on his land. Should Israel fail to fulfill her duties, it
would bring dishonor to God. As the one slighted, God could
rightfully seek retribution.

When Jesus sends
out the twelve as messengers of a new covenant in the Gospel of
Matthew, he expects Israel to live up to her covenant obligations.
However, when she does not extend hospitality to the apostles, she
dishonors the first covenant and in the process spurns the one who
sent them. At the judgment, she is reminded of her obligations as a
host and her failure to meet them. It is then revealed to Israel just
whom she has rejected.

In this session,
we will give an overview of hospitality in both Greek and Hebrew
culture and then demonstrate the expectations of hospitality that
underlie two Matthean judgment scenes. We will first establish the
cultural and historical context for the judgment pictured in Matthew
25:31f, along with its parallel in Matthew 10, and then offer an
interpretation that counters both futurism and myth.

Hospitality Among the Greeks

Given the fact
that there were no rest areas, hotels or roadside diners in
the modern sense
, hospitality in the ancient world makes
practical sense. Reciprocity worked. The practicality of this social
custom was reinforced by the fear of a deity. For Greeks, Zeus was
the patron god of guests and hospitality. One should be wary of doing
wrong to a stranger or taking advantage of a host's hospitality lest
he anger Zeus and suffer his wrath:


Zeus has a special concern for the relations which bind strangers to
one another: guests, suppliants, and those bound by oaths—Zeus
Xenios, Hikesios, and Horkios. Athena and Hera
hate Troy because Paris spurned them; Zeus resolved to destroy the
city because Paris violated the laws of hospitality. iv

You may have heard
it asked of Helen: “Was this the face that launched at a
thousand ships/And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?” v
However, it was not the beauty of Helen that started this trouble.
Homer tells us that violated hospitality led to that famous war.

With the help of Aphrodite, Paris had
slighted Menelaus' honor by making off with his wife Helen and
household goods. On the way back to Troy, winds forced Paris and his
men to land in Egypt. When the king of Memphis learned of Paris'
deeds, he chastised him and gave him till sundown to get out of
Dodge. Herodotus records the king's words:


Were it not that I count it a matter of great moment not to slay any
of those strangers who being driven from their course by winds have
come to my land hitherto, I should have taken vengeance on thee on
behalf of [Menelaus], seeing that thou, most base of men, having
received from him hospitality, didst work against him a most impious
deed. For thou didst go in to the wife of thine own host; and even
this was not enough for thee, but thou didst stir her up with desire
and hast gone away with her like a thief. vi

In the Iliad, the wronged host
Menelaus seeks to reclaim his honor by laying siege to Troy and
killing Paris. He is convinced that Zeus will bring Paris to justice.
As he engages the cad in combat, Menelaus prays:


Grant me revenge, Lord Zeus, on godlike Paris, the man who wronged me
in the beginning. Use my hand to bring him down so that our
children's children will still shudder at the thought of wronging a
host who has offered them friendship.vii

Though Paris escapes this encounter and
the battle rages on, Menelaus is resolute in his belief that Zeus
will one day bring about the destruction of Troy due to Paris'
inhospitable act. Menelaus splits the skull of poor Pisander, sets
his heel upon his chest and taunts the Trojans saying:


That's how you'll be retreating from the Greek ships, you insolent
Trojans, always spoiling for a fight! Not that you are amateurs in
other forms of abusive and shameful behavior. Look at how you abused
me, you dirty dogs, when you broke the laws of hospitality and defied
the wrath of loud-thundering Zeus, protector of guests, who is going
to bring Ilium tumbling down before long. viii

Contra Paris and
Menelaus, the Iliad also contains an example of the ideal
guest-host relationship in an exchange between two combatants,
Diomedes and Glaucus. Their conversation reveals the value placed on
such friendships, an ideology that Paris did not share. Martin
summarizes:


Excellence as a moral value also carried with a strong notion of
obligation and responsibility. The strongest of these duties was the
requirement that ties of guest-host friendship (xenia) be
respected no matter what the situation. In the Iliad, for example,
the Greek Diomedes is preparing to battle an enemy warrior, Glaucus,
when he discovers that Glaucus's grandfather once hosted his own
grandfather as a guest while he was traveling abroad in Glaucus's
land. This long-past act of hospitality had established ties of
friendship and made the men “guest-host friends” of one
another, a relationship that still remained valid for the two
descendants and had to be respected even in the heat of battle.
“Therefore,” says Diomedes in the story, “let us
not use our spears against each other. . .There are many other
Trojans and their allies for me to kill, and gods willing, and many
other Greeks for you to slay if you can” (Iliad 6.226-229) ix

The issue was not
so much the hand of a beautiful women, but hospitality—or
better yet, the lack of it. Violated hospitality could start a war.
Conversely, respect for generational friendships could cause fighting
to cease. We will see that hospitality is likewise serious business
in the Old Testament. The value placed on this custom could cause
people to do some pretty strange things in an effort fulfill one's
obligations and maintain one's honor.

Hospitality Before Moses

Some may question
the use of comparative studies. However, such a scope can at times
provide us with additional cultural knowledge that is not explicit in
our biblical texts. Scripture is what is called high context
literature. In high context literature, authors write for readers in
their own culture. They can assume that the intended audience shares
similar cultural knowledge. For example, a newspaper headline might
read: “Giants Bash The Cubs, 14-2.” The copy will provide
details about the game, but the sportswriter assumes that his
audience is familiar with baseball; its rules, history, and
tradition. The newspaper is high context. Someone from, say, Papua
New Guinea may find it difficult to understand the sportswriters
message. Without specific knowledge
about the rules, history, and tradition of baseball, t
he
uninitiated may even conclude that the United States is peopled by
larger than average bear-clubbing humanoids. Other documents, such as
Sports Illustrated or The Baseball Encyclopedia provide
supplementary information to help one understand the custom of
baseball within the broader culture.

In the same way,
being acquainted with texts from the past and the values that they
espouse can provide us with the appropriate background to understand
some of the cultural assumptions made by biblical writers. For
example, now that we have been
introduced to the concept of hospitality,
the Iliad can
give us a more complete understanding of Genesis.

In Genesis 12:10,
we find Abram making his way to Egypt due to a famine. From the
get-go, we are told that Abram is a stranger or foreigner
in that land. This information is crucial in that it sets up the
scene that follows—at least for the original audience. Abram
tells the Egyptians that Sarai is his sister. That was a bad move
because Sarai is taken into Pharaoh's household. Abram himself is
treated quite well and even showered with gifts. As far as the
Egyptians are concerned, they are following protocol. As we know, at
least according to Herodotus, the Egyptians had high regard for
hospitality. God, on the other hand, is not so happy with this
arrangement and strikes the household of Pharaoh with disease.
Pharaoh did not intend to “work against [Abram] a most impious
deed,” to borrow the phrase from Herodotus. So, Pharaoh
complains to Abram, “Why did you say, 'She is my sister,' so
that I took her to be my wife? Here is your wife! Take her and go!”

In
chapter twenty, Abram, now Abraham, is again introduced as a
stranger
or
foreigner.
Again, he states that Sarah is his sister, and King Abimelech repeats
Pharaoh's mistake by taking Sarah to be his own. However, God appears
to the king in dream and says,
“You are as good as dead
because of the woman you have taken, for she is someone else's wife.”
Or, in less P.C. Hebrew language, “she
is owned by an owner.” (Genesis 20:3) The king confronts
Abraham,
“What have you done to us? What sin did I
commit against you that would cause you to bring such great guilt on
me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be
done!” (Genesis 20:9) God had prevented Abimelech from
committing “adultery.” In fact, the text is clear: “Now
Abimelech had not gone near her.” (Genesis 20:4) So, what is
this guilt? Violated hospitality.

In both Genesis
stories, the account is introduced by the fact that Abraham is a
sojourner, that is, a stranger or foreigner. The reader is now setup
to expect a certain protocol between Abraham and his hosts. According
to his hosts, Abraham was guilty of “wronging a host who has
offered [him] friendship,” the same transgression committed by
Paris.
Abraham's half-truth caused his hosts to violate the
honor of their guest. That is, Pharaoh and Abimelech took a woman who
was “owned by an owner.” Sarah, as a female in their
culture, would be viewed as embedded in her head-male Abram. To
violate her was to dishonor him. Since he was a guest, this would
certainly violate the laws of hospitality and incur divine wrath.
Accordingly, God struck the household of Pharaoh with disease and
threatened Abimelech with death. The author assumes that his readers
share a similar view of hospitality. But if we are unaware of such
values, we can miss some of interplay in the story.

Once we know what
to look for, there are numerous examples of the guest-host motif in
the Old Testament. We'll consider
one more example. Afterwards, we'll take a quick run through the
various laws of hospitality, which will give us a better idea of what
was expected once these customs became codified.

Protocol Revisited

Hosts are the
fathers of households in their own villages (Abraham, Gen. 18; Lot,
Gen. 19; Laban, Gen 24). The family head is the one to offer an
invitation. The guest may refuse the initial request to “turn
aside,” but the host will offer a second time. Once the guest
has accepted, the host will provide water so that the stranger's feet
may be washed. This signifies a change in status from stranger to
guest. The host is now obligated to provide food and protection. Food
need not be anything but the bare essentials, such as bread and water
(e.g., Lot). Abraham goes above and beyond as he sacrifices a fatted
calf. (Gen. 18:7-8) x

As
mentioned above, strangers may refuse first invitation and accept
second. This allows the potential guest to make his intentions known,
that is, he does not intend to threaten or impose. The guest will
then
remain for the agreed upon period of time, which may be
extended. The guest must respect his host by accepting what is
offered and not coveting the host's goods. Upon leaving, the guest
may bless the house if he is leaving as a “friend.”
xi

Protocol In Action

In Genesis 18, Abraham bargains with
God for the fate of Sodom, eventually settling on ten righteous men
to spare the city. What follows in chapter 19 is a test of the city's
hospitality. Two messengers are sent to Sodom. When the strangers
arrive, Lot meets them in the town square and bids them, “Stay
the night and wash your feet. Then you can be on your way early in
the morning.” (Genesis 19:2) They rejected his invitation,
saying that they would spend the night outdoors. After Lot entreated
them again, the men relented and went to Lot's house where “[h]e
prepared a feast for them, including bread baked without yeast, and
they ate.” (Genesis 19:3) Lot has himself behaved like the
consummate host. At least one righteous man had been found. Of
course, we know the story takes a turn for the worse at this point.
The men of city gather outside Lot's door and wish to rape his
guests. How does Lot respond? Curiously, he offers up his virgin
daughters in place of his guests while pleading, “Only don't do
anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my
roof.” (Genesis 19:8)

Lot would give his daughters to be
ravaged by a mob rather than transgress the custom of hospitality.
Recall what Malina wrote: “[Hospitality] clearly
serves as a means for attaining and preserving honor, a core social
value.” It was Lot's sense of honor, his own honor and that of
his guests, that caused him to bargain so. In Judges 19, the Levite's
host tries to make a similar deal with unruly Benjaminites:

Here are my virgin
daughter and my guest's concubine. I will send them out and you can
abuse them and do to them whatever you like. But don't do such a
disgraceful thing to this man! (Judges 19:24)

Although having
“spoiled” daughters would be a great shame to Lot, it
would be much worse for him if he failed to protect his male guests.xii
Many might think Lot was a cur for suggesting such a thing.xiii
But this story does illuminate the value placed on both honor and
hospitality. How different we are in our culture.

Hospitality In The Law Of Moses

Later on, the custom of hospitality was
given expression in Israel's law. Israel is often pictured as God's
wife. Her judgments at times are described in terms of violated
marriage contracts. Although it may not be apparent to us, guest-host
friendship is another “interpersonal” analogy of Israel's
relationship with God:

The land must not
be sold without reclaim because the land belongs to me, for you are
foreigners and residents with me. (Leviticus 25:23)

Israel is the guest, God is the host.
As such, they have certain obligations to one another. Much like a
human host, God is the protector of Israel. He also provides her with
basic needs such as food, rain, etc. According to protocol, Israel is
not to dishonor God, insult him, or provoke him to jealousy (rivalry
with other gods). Throughout Leviticus 26 she is warned not to show
hostility toward God. This is the language of guest-host friendship.

But Israel's responsibilities extend
beyond her duties to God alone:

You shall have the
same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am
the LORD your God. (Leviticus 24:22; see also Ex. 12:49)

There is more to this command than
making outsiders conform to community norms. This was a law to
protect strangers.

Also you shall not
oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you
were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9; see also Ex.
22:21)

Israel's treatment in Egypt is an
example of how not to treat foreigners. God rightfully judged the
people of Egypt for this violation—and he would do the same to
Israel if she were to follow Egypt's example.

The following sums up all these
commands:

For the LORD your
God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and
awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers
justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger,
giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you
were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)

God is a God of hospitality and Israel
was his agent. She was told that she “must love [the foreigner
who resides with you] as yourself, because you were foreigners in the
land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:33-34) In other words, she must
mirror her relationship with God to those around her. What a striking
picture of Israel's responsibilities. She also owed this care to her
fellow countrymen:

If your brother
becomes impoverished and is indebted to you, you must support him; he
must live with you like a foreign resident. Do not take interest or
profit from him, but you must fear your God and your brother must
live with you. (Leviticus 25:35-36)

Yes, fear God. Failing to fulfill her
role dishonored him. Accordingly, God could seek retribution for her
inhospitable acts toward her own countrymen. Now we must ask: how
would she respond to Jesus' disciples who were sent “to the
lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6),
impoverished, with nothing but the clothes on their backs? Would she
open her doors and wash their feet? Or would the disciples shake the
dust off their own feet? If so, her judgment would be worse than that
of Sodom, the violator of hospitality par excellence.

Hospitality In The New Testament

As we have seen, hospitality was
covered extensively in the Law of Moses. When doing comparative or
historical investigations, one must avoid creating anachronisms.
However, in this case we are on solid ground. To borrow a phrase from
linguistics, a “diachronic” xiv
study of this custom reveals that hospitality had a long history in
both Hebrew and Greco-Roman cultures.

Guest-host friendships show up often in
the New Testament. Luke makes mention of two hosts by name in the
book of Acts. He informs us that Peter was a guest of Simon the
tanner. (10:6, 18, 32) Later on, Paul and his companions stayed with
Mnason of Cyprus, “a disciple from the earliest times.”
(Acts 21:16) The epistles have
their share of examples as well. The writer of Hebrews admonishes his
readers not to neglect hospitality (13:2). Philemon is a letter to
another host of Paul. (Phm 1:22)
Paul points out the honor due
his host at the close of the Roman epistle. (Romans 16:23) In
his third epistle, John expresses his gratitude for the hospitality
shown to the brothers and acknowledges the fact that such deeds are
know to the church. (3 John 1:5-8) In short, guest-host friendships
facilitated the spread of the Good News by providing for traveling
evangelists. The church learned from Christ as he too used
hospitality as a tool for evangelism.

Hospitality and Judgment in the
Gospel of Matthew

Matthew chapter 10 gives us an overview
of the apostles' mission to Israel, from beginning to end. Matthew
includes material in this chapter that is scattered throughout Luke's
gospel. But we're not concerned with these differences at the moment.
The question is: why is Matthew's material arranged in such a manner?
He has purpose in mind. As we'll see in the sections that follow, the
author is developing themes introduced by the prophets and
foreshadowed early on in his own gospel.

In Matthew's account of the
commissioning the twelve, Jesus' instructions begin with the
proclamation of the coming kingdom and continue throughout the entire
chapter; including mention of persecution, judgment, and, ultimately,
the advent of the kingdom at his coming. This discourse does not
conclude until chapter 11 begins. At that point, there is no mention
of the apostles leaving or returning. So, instead of an immediate
sending out (v 5), as in the other gospels, Matthew gives us a
protracted view of their entire mission from commissioning to
judgment.

In
addition to the scope and detail of Matthew's version, his account has
another distinctive feature. Jesus' instructions are prefaced by:

Do not go to
Gentile regions and do not enter any Samaritan town. Go instead to
the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 10:5-6)

Matthew sets up his account by
narrowing the focus to Israel. Jesus continues:

Do not take gold,
silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for the journey, or an extra
tunic, or sandals or staff, for the worker deserves his provisions.
Whenever you enter a town or village, find out who is worthy there
and stay with them until you leave. (Matthew 10:9-11)

France comments on Mark's somewhat
parallel account:

In Middle Eastern
society the expectation of hospitality for visiting teachers is no
surprise; they ought to be able to take if for granted. xv

The disciples may have taken
hospitality for granted, but the commentator doesn't tell us why it
would be assumed in this context. We can pare down “Middle
Eastern society” to Israel. The apostles were instructed to go
to “the house of Israel,” who, by Law, must extend
hospitality. Duties include taking care of basic needs such as food
and shelter. Jesus used this custom to his advantage: spend some
time, share some food, and spread the Good News. As we will see,
acknowledging the connection between the apostles' mission and
Israel's laws of hospitality has an affect on how one interprets
Matthew's eschatology.

Jesus informs his disciples that a warm
welcome would not occur in every place. Not everyone would invite the
apostles to turn aside, wash their feet and change their status from
stranger to guest. If no Lots could be found in a town, the apostles
would be left to shake the dust off their feet in protest against
that inhospitable place.

And if anyone will
not welcome you or listen to your message, shake the dust off your
feet as you leave that house or that town. (Matthew 10:14)

Anyone who failed to open his door to
such travelers would be guilty of breaking the Law, specifically its
ordinances concerning hospitality. Hence, the reminder of violated
hospitality from Israel's sacred writings:

I tell you the
truth, it will be more bearable for the region of Sodom and Gomorrah
on the day of judgment than for that town! (Matthew 10:15) xvi

The wickedness of those who would
refuse to receive Jesus' disciples exceeds that of Sodom and
Gomorrah. Why? Israel knew better. She was God's ambassador. Her
responsibilities were clearly defined by her law and her covenant
relationship. Rejecting the apostles is a breech of the first
covenant and a spurning of the second along with its kingdom
proclamation. Actually, Israel's rejection of the apostles was
ultimately a rejection of God:

Whoever receives
you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent
me. (Matthew 10:40)

Or, as Luke puts it in the negative:

The one who
listens to you listens to me, and the one who rejects you rejects me,
and the one who rejects me rejects the one who sent me. (Luke 10:16)

But to those who extend hospitality to
Christ's disciples, a promise is made:

And whoever gives
one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a
disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
(Matthew 10:42)

They didn't have to provide a fattened
calf like Abraham. The bare necessities were all that was required.

To summarize Matthew 10, Jesus
commissioned his apostles to spread the word about the coming
kingdom. They were sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. No
provisions were allowed—they are to rely on Israel's laws of
hospitality. Should Israel fail to care for the basic needs of the
apostles, and thus inhibit the spread of the Gospel, the divinely
commissioned messengers were to leave from that place and shake the
dust from their feet. Nevertheless, the kingdom—and
judgment—was coming anyway. The cities and towns which failed
to receive the glad tidings, or worse yet, drove the apostles out,
would be repaid for those inhospitable acts. Their fate would be
worse than that of Sodom. The rejection of the messenger was revealed
to be a rejection of the one who sent them, God. However, those who
received the disciples would be rewarded for their hospitality.

Hospitality and Judgment in the
Gospel of Matthew: Revisited

The above summary might sound familiar
because it foreshadows another scene in Matthew's gospel, chapter
25:31f. This section forms the end of the Olivet Discourse and Jesus'
pronouncement against the temple and that “generation of
snakes.” In v. 31 we read:

When the Son of
Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit
on his glorious throne. (Matthew 25:31)

Matthew presents us with the coming of
the king and his kingdom. These same themes were introduced in
Matthew 10. The apostles were sent out with the charge to proclaim
the imminent coming of the kingdom. But not only that, the apostles
were assured that the advent of the kingdom, as well as the king,
would transpire in their lifetime:

Whenever they
persecute you in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth,
you will not finish going through all the towns of Israel before the
Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:23)

Unless one wishes to argue that there
are, or were to be, two advents of the king and his kingdom, it seems
reasonable to conclude that Matthew 10 and the Olivet Discourse of
Matthew 24/25 are dealing with the same event. If so, at least in a
preterist framework, we have a historical context. The remainder of
chapter 25 supports this conclusion.

In Matthew 10, the disciples were sent
to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Apparently,
the disciples encountered a few goats along the way. In v. 32, the
king separates the sheep from the goats. xvii
He then explains why the righteous are to inherit the kingdom:

For I was hungry
and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to
drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was naked and you
gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison
and you visited me. (Matthew 25:35-36)

But the righteous are confused. They do
not recall such deeds. They ask when did they see him and when did
they show him hospitality. We know from Matthew 10 that the king had
already sent his ambassadors to them, impoverished and with nothing
but the clothes on their backs, to announce his coming. The king
instructed his representatives saying, “Whoever receives you
receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
(Matthew 10:40) So, the king answers the puzzled righteous whom he
had placed on his right:

I tell you the
truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers of
mine, you did it for me. (Matthew 25:40)

God had repeatedly admonished Israel to
show love to strangers by providing food and clothing—“to
love him as yourself.” (Deu 10:18-19; Lev 19:34) This why Jesus
and his disciples could take hospitality for granted. The righteous
honored the first covenant by receiving the apostles and gained an
inheritance in the second. But there's still the matter of those
goats.

The king recounts their inhospitable
acts. They had failed to provide him with food, clothing or shelter.
The unrighteous were also confused. But it is revealed that those who
had refused to extend hospitality to the king's ambassador's
ultimately rejected the king. In the Law, providing for a stranger
honored God, failing to do so dishonored him. Jesus puts himself in a
similar position when he says as king:


I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least
of these, you did not do it for me. (Matthew 25:45)

The king, as the one who was
dishonored, could seek retribution for such inhospitable acts. So, we
are informed in Matthew 25 that those goats would be judged
accordingly. There are two verses in Matthew 25 that are of interest
to us with regard to the judgment of the goats, vv. 41 and 46.

Let's make some initial observations
before moving on. Matthew 25:31f is a pictorial metaphor of Israel's
judgment in the first century, the same judgment we encountered in
Matthew 10. That means Jesus did not actually sit on a throne, line
people up, move them to one side or the other, and utter this dialog
during the destruction of Jerusalem. We apply the same standard to
vv. 41 and 46. “Eternal fire” is understood to be a
metaphor for divine judgment, as it was in the Old Testament. If one
wishes to argue for the literalness of this “eternal fire,”
then one must use the same standard for the rest of the scene in
Matthew 25 as well. That would be quite difficult in a preterist
framework. Now, let's take a look at these verses:

Then he will say
to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal
fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels!' (Matthew
25:41)

And these will
depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
(Matthew 25:46)

These verses have been used in support
of eternal conscious torment, that is, hell,
in futurist eschatology
. But instead of filtering these verses
through tradition, let's keep in mind what we've covered up to this
point. First, this judgment is the judgment “the house of
Israel.” It is part of the Olivet Discourse and Jesus'
pronouncement against the temple. Second, in both Matthew 10 and
Matthew 25, Israel's laws of hospitality take center stage. Since the
judgment involves Israel and the Law of Moses, Matthew's focus is
covenantal. Third, there is nothing to indicate that the scene in
Matthew 25 is a postmortem judgment. The author of John is quite
convinced that “eternal life” is obtainable in this
world. Is not the converse also true? Life and death are defined by
covenant: it is the letter that kills, but the Spirit give life. xviii
So, in Matthew 25 we are looking at the same this world,
covenantal judgment mentioned in Matthew 10. Fourth, this judgment of
Israel was to take place at the advent of the kingdom, which both
Matthew 10 and Matthew 24/25 posit within the first century.
Therefore, these verses do not speak to individual, biological death
after the fact. Fifth, Matthew 25:41 and 46 have a parallel in
Matthew 10 that sheds some light on the author's idea of “eternal
punishment”:

Do not be afraid
of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear
the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.
(Matthew 10:28, emphasis added)

What better commentator than the author
himself? We can debate the meaning of destroy, but it is
difficult to read the traditional notion of hell,
that is eternal conscious torment,
into that text—especially
in light of the cultural and historical context. Some might point out
that just because God is able to destroy both body and soul does not
mean he will. However, Paul counters that when he states explicitly
that “punishment” is “eternal destruction.”
(2Th 1:8-9) Matthew himself may be countering similar notions from
this period: “Let us not fear him who thinketh he kills; for a
great struggle and peril of the soul awaits in eternal torment those
who transgress the ordinance of God.” (IV Maccabees 13:15)
Considering his doctrine of eternal torment, it should not surprise
us that the author of IV Maccabees was “[a] student of Greek
philosophy. . .” xix
But if we have our timing out of whack, we might have the wrong idea
about Matthew's view of punishment anyway. The judgment scene in
Matthew 10 and Matthew 24/25 is very focused and very this
world. Let's get down to the brass tacks.

The Hircine Judgment and Punishment:
A Closer Look At The Historical Background

Matthew did not invent his themes of
hospitality and judgment. The author introduces his source early in
the gospel. John the Baptist steps on the scene in the third chapter.
The coming of John the Baptist and his connection to the prophet
Malachi are well known. John is the one who was to come in the spirit
and power of Elijah (Matt. 17:11) before the great and terrible day
of the Lord (Mal. 4:5). Much of the third chapter in Matthew's gospel
is used to argue in favor of the preterist framework. For example:

But when he saw
many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them,
“You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the
coming wrath?” (Matthew 3:7)

Preterists will often point out the
imminence of this judgment by arguing for a more accurate translation
of the Greek participle. Look too at the people involved—Israel's
religious elite. John continues to castigate them. His use of “chaff”
and “fire” echo the words of Malachi, the prophet who had
announced John's mission:

Even now the ax is
laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce
good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you
with water, for repentance, but the one coming after me is more
powerful than I am – I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He
will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is
in his hand, and he will clean out his threshing floor and will
gather his wheat into the storehouse, but the chaff
he will burn up with inextinguishable fire. (Matthew 3:10-12; cf.
Malachi 3-4)

The Baptist warned Israel of judgment
on the horizon—one involving “inextinguishable fire.”
(This, by the way, is a synonym for “eternal fire” in
Matthew 25:41.) Jesus himself would separate the wheat from the chaff
(or the sheep from the goats or wheat from tares) and burn them up
with unquenchable fire. This is where the discussion usually ends in
preterist circles. Then, it's off to the “time texts” to
bolster the case. There is nothing wrong with this approach. However,
Malachi had more to say, specifically about why judgment was
coming:

“I will come
to you in judgment. I will be quick to testify against those who
practice divination, those who commit adultery, those who break
promises, and those who exploit workers, widows, and orphans, who
refuse to help the immigrant
[i.e., stranger or foreigner] and in
this way show they do not fear me,” says the LORD who rules
over all. (Malachi 3:5, emphasis added)

Among Israel's catalog of covenant
breakers are those who fail to extend hospitality, an act that
dishonored God and violated Torah. Matthew develops the themes set
forth by the prophet Malachi which are: God would come to Israel in
judgment (Mal 3:1). The messenger of the covenant would be sent
beforehand to “clear the way” (Mal 3:1, 4:5) Among
Israel's crimes was the failure to extend hospitality (Mal 3:5).
Evildoers would be burned up like chaff (4:1). From beginning to end,
Matthew's gospel expands on the themes of Malachi. In other words,
the introduction of Malachi in the third chapter of Matthew
foreshadows the judgment scenes in chapters 10 and 25. But not only
this, Matthew's use of Malachi provides us with both a historical and
a covenantal context. For both authors, this judgment involves
Israel and hospitality. It is covenantal. It is
eschatological. It is clearly this world, not an otherworldly
or end-of-time judgment.

Now that we have established the Old
Testament source of Matthew's themes and his this
world focus, we need to make a few points about Gehenna and
“unquenchable fire” that counter otherworld tradition.
Although, Gehenna is usually rendered as hell, the
valley is actually on the south side of Jerusalem—and it had a
long history prior to the New Testament period. It was in this valley
that the covenant people of God practiced idolatry and sacrificed
their children to false deities. Although it was known by a different
name at the time, God's people had met their maker at Gehenna in the
past. In Jeremiah 7, God says their dead bodies would be stacked high
and deep in Gehenna as a result their crimes:

“They have
also built places of worship in a place called Topheth in the Valley
of Ben Hinnom [Gehenna] so that they can sacrifice their sons and
daughters by fire. That is something I never commanded them to do!
Indeed, it never even entered my mind to command such a thing! So,
watch out!” says the LORD. “The time will soon come when
people will no longer call those places Topheth or the Valley of Ben
Hinnom. But they will call that valley the Valley of Slaughter and
they will bury so many people in Topheth they will run out of room.
Then the dead bodies of these people will be left on the ground for
the birds and wild animals to eat. There will not be any survivors to
scare them away. I will put an end to the sounds of joy and
gladness, or the glad celebration of brides and grooms throughout the
towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. [cf. Rev 18:23] For the
whole land will become a desolate wasteland.” (Jeremiah
7:31-34)

Over time, the valley came to signify
reproach, shame, defilement and judgment. Gehenna is mentioned about
a dozen times in the New Testament. Here is an interesting fact: no
Gentile is ever threatened with punishment in Gehenna. This place is
only mentioned within earshot of Judeans—God's covenant people.
In light of the cultural and historical background of Matthew 10 and
the Olivet Discourse, this is no surprise. In biblical literature,
both OT and NT, Gehenna signified the divine judgment of Israel, not
the mythological underworld and eternal conscious torment that have
been passed down to us by the traditions of futurist eschatology.
Simply put, Gehenna is not hell.

Once again, at the close of that first
century generation, Israel would meet her maker in this valley. Jesus
chastises the leaders of his day saying, “You snakes, you
offspring of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of Gehenna?”
(Matthew 23:23, my trans.) Jesus then tells his antagonists, who
belong to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” that
he is sending them “prophets and wise men.” (Do you think
the “prophets and wise men” were to rely on hospitality?)
His messengers would be persecuted or even killed, but nevertheless
“the judgment of Gehenna” would come in that generation.
(Matt. 23:38) This is the same scenario presented in both Matthew 10
and 25. Furthermore, Jesus' use of Gehenna and the accusation of
questionable birth parallels the “inextinguishable fire”
and “viper” parentage of Matthew 3.

“Inextinguishable fire” and
similar terminology signify divine judgment, not the torment of
disembodied souls. Is it not inconsistent to search out the Old
Testament background of de-creation language (e.g., sun and moon
darkening, stars falling, etc.) contained in the Olivet Discourse and
yet fail to apply the same standard to “unquenchable fire”
and like terminology? We believe it is—especially since
Jerusalem had suffered such a conflagration before at the hands of
the Assyrians:

“Now I will
rise up,” says the LORD. “Now I will exalt myself; now I
will magnify myself. You conceive straw, you give birth to chaff;
your breath is a fire that destroys you. The nations will be burned
to ashes; like thorn bushes that have been cut down, they will be set
on fire. You who are far away, listen to what I have done! You who
are close by, recognize my strength!” Sinners are afraid in
Zion; panic grips the godless. They say, 'Who among us can coexist
with destructive fire? Who among us can coexist with unquenchable
fire?' (Isaiah 33:10-14; See also Isaiah 29:6, 34:9-10; Rev 19:3)

“God is a consuming fire”
(Deu. 4:24) and both “consuming” and “unquenchable”
fire imagery accompany his judgment. Based on the Old Testament use
of such language, it is evident that the point is not the duration of
the fire but who is executing the judgment. Perpetual burning
and smoking are hyperbole—check with Google maps. These
passages in Jeremiah and Isaiah refer to this world judgments,
not torment in Sheol.

“Unquenchable fire” and
Gehenna signify divine judgment—only Yahweh had this kind of
power in the Old Testament. The New Testament is consistent with this
usage. Jesus himself warns Israel about another date with Gehenna and
“unquenchable fire.” xx
In doing so, Jesus claims the power of Yahweh for himself. Wow! The
divinity of Jesus was revealed by his ability to execute divine
judgment “in the glory of his father.” What we see in
Matthew 25 is that Christ would make good on Malachi's prophecy. He
came to Israel in judgment as avenger of violated hospitality, among
other things, and burned her up with unquenchable fire. At that time,
it was clear to Israel just whom she had spurned: “. . .the one
who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects the
one who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

In summary, Malachi forms the Old
Testament background of Matthew's eschatological judgment scene. Both
authors are concerned with “the house of Israel.” The
charges against her are based in the Law of Moses, specifically the
laws of hospitality. The judgment is covenantal and eschatological.
Matthew borrowed the “unquenchable fire” terminology from
Malachi and other prophets and applied it to Israel's first century
judgment. The Old Testament usage of such language refers to this
world judgments, not the torment of departed souls. Matthew is
consistent with this usage. There is nothing to suggest that
Matthew's judgment takes place beyond the grave. Likewise, Gehenna,
mistranslated hell, has its roots in the Hebrew Bible and not
Homer. In the past, God had judged his covenant people in this
valley. In the spirit of Jeremiah, Jesus too announces the “judgment
of Gehenna” (Matt. 23:23) on God's covenant people of the first
century. Again, Matthew is consistent with the Hebrew prophets. Like
Yahweh in the Old Testament, Christ would bring Israel to judgment in
the valley of Gehenna and burn her up with unquenchable fire that he
might say, “They will know that I am the LORD; my threats to
bring this catastrophe on them were not empty.” (Ezekiel 6:10)

To read hell mythology into Matthew
25:41 or 46 one must ignore the covenant context that both Malachi
and Matthew have clearly established. But there is no hint of
individual eschatology based on biological death. The judgment the
biblical writers present is a this world judgment. To retain
the traditional view of hell, one must also redefine the biblical use
of judgment language like “unquenchable fire.” But the
terminology in the Hebrew scriptures clearly refers to God's divine
judgment and not the torment of disembodied souls. Additionally, any
view that fails to account for the value of hospitality in Israel's
Law and the significant place it holds in Matthew's judgment scene is
incomplete at best. Of course, if one concedes that point, it becomes
clear that Matthew is focused on the covenantal aspect of judgment;
not an end-of-time, hellfire, eternal conscious torment judgment that
we have been taught by futurist eschatology. More to the point:
preterism undermines both eternal conscious torment and hell
mythology.

Conclusion

We have surveyed
the value place on hospitality in both Greek and Hebrew writings. We
have seen that hospitality could start a war, stop fighting, cause
kings to relinquish their would be wives and even drive a man to
sacrifice his daughters to protect the honor of himself and his
guests. Hospitality was that influential. These customs were codified
by Moses and enforced by God. So, fear God, that is honor him, and
love the stranger as yourself. These core values of honor and
hospitality underlie the mission of the twelve and the judgment that
would follow them. Matthew develops themes contained in Malachi 3 and
4. Accordingly, Matthew focuses on the covenantal aspect of judgment.
Jesus sent his apostles to the “to the lost sheep of the house
of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6) expecting them to receive food,
clothing and shelter. During their stay, the apostles were to
announce the coming of the kingdom. However, if a household or town
was inhospitable, they were to leave shaking the dust from their feet
in protest. Nevertheless, judgment was coming. Those cities would
have to answer for their deeds within a generation's time. At that
point, it would be revealed just whom they had rejected. Following
Malachi's lead, Matthew paints a pictorial metaphor of the judgment
to come upon Israel in the first century in his twenty-fifth
chapter—the same this world judgment presented in
Matthew 10. The author's charges and language are drawn from the Old
Testament, not the poets or philosophers of Grecian fame. This is the
cultural, historical and covenantal context of Matthew's judgment, a
counter to both futurist eschatology and its hell mythology.



Notes


iOtherworld
Journey
was a presentation at Truthvoice 2008. As of this May,
2008, it is being edited for a future posting.




iiPilch,
John J. & Maline, Bruce J. "Hospitality." Handbook
of Biblical Social Values
. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1998. 115-18.




iiiMartin,
Thomas R. Ancient Greece. New Haven: Yale University Press,
1996. 125




ivBurkert,
Walter. Greek Religion. Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
1998. 130




vMarlowe,
Christopher. “The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus.”
Old English Plays No. 1. Ed. F.J. Fox. Westminster: Francis
Griffiths, 1907. 66.




viHerodotus.
An Account of Egypt.
Sioux Falls: NuVision Publications, 2005. 46




viiIliad
3.350f, Peter Jones translation.




viiiIliad
13.620f, Peter Jones translation.




ixMartin,
Thomas R. Ancient Greece. New Haven: Yale University Press,
1996. 44




xIn
2 Samuel 12:1f, David is doubly shameful according to the parable.
The rich man went above and beyond the basic needs of his guest by
providing a lamb. However, it was stolen from a poor man. Increasing
one's honor by deception and thievery is a bad idea, so is making
one's guest a party to it. David claims such scheming was deserving
of death.




xiThe
previous paragraphs summarize a chart in: Matthews, Victor H., and
Don C. Benjamin. Social World of Israel 1250-587 BCE.
Peabody: Hendrickson, 1993. 83




xiiIt
is also interesting to note that Lot's daughters were betrothed at
his point. In an effort to protect his own honor and that of his
guests, Lot attempted to encroach on the honor of his son-in-laws.




xiiiAfter
hearing my negative impression of Lot on the Truthvoice 2008
recording, I was reminded that Lot was declared a righteous man in 2
Pt 2:7. I am of the opinion that Lot was “credit[ed]
righteousness apart from works” and that “faith was
credited to [him] as righteousness.” (See Ro 4:6-9) So,
it is possible for Lot to be declared righteous because of his faith
and still view the incident in Sodom as an unrighteous act.




xivThat's
for you, Mr. Douglas.




xvFrance,
R.T. The Gospel of Mark: New International Commentary on the
Greek Testament
. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002. 250




xviThe
note in the NET Bible reads, “The allusion to Sodom, the most
wicked of OT cities from Gen 19:1-29, shows that to reject the
current message is even more serious than the worst sins of the old
era and will result in more severe punishment.”




xviiAlthough
v. 32 mentions “all the nations,” this does not
necessary include Gentiles. (Cf Mt. 12.18) Matthew's source,
Malachi, seems to have this covenantal focus as well. (See the
following section.)




xviiiSee,
for example, John 3:36, 5:24; 2 Cor. 3:6




xixCharles,
R.H. The Apocrypha and
Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament: Vol 2
. Berkley: The
Apocryphile Press, 2004. 653. See also part 1: Otherworld Journey:
The Origins of Hell in Christian Throught.




xxFor
Gehenna, see Matt. 5:22, 29f; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mk.
9:43, 45, 47; Lk. 12:5. For fire of various kinds, see also
Matt. 3:10-12; 7:19; 13:40; 18:8; 22:7; 25;41


davo's picture

G'day Jeremy… great article, I only just got around to reading it myself – very informative.Simply put, Gehenna is not hell. … “Inextinguishable fire” and similar terminology signify divine judgment, not the torment of disembodied souls. …there is no hint of individual eschatology based on biological death. The judgment the biblical writers present is a this world judgment. To retain the traditional view of hell, one must also redefine the biblical use of judgment language like “unquenchable fire.”Yes indeed… and thus the "eternal" nature of these things is "qualitative" – speaking to the TOTALITY of the destructive this worldly EVENT; as opposed to the traditionally held "quantitative" LONGEVITY ascribed to some otherworldly perpetual and punitive PROCESS.Is it not inconsistent to search out the Old Testament background of de-creation language (e.g., sun and moon darkening, stars falling, etc.) contained in the Olivet Discourse and yet fail to apply the same standard to “unquenchable fire” and like terminology? We believe it is—especially since Jerusalem had suffered such a conflagration before… Here is an interesting fact: no Gentile is ever threatened with punishment in Gehenna. This place is only mentioned within earshot of Judeans—God's covenant people.I believe it is thus prêteristically more consistent to understand such "conflagration" as we find in the NT's "lake of fire" as historically, covenantally and eschatologically indicative of Israel's AD70 SECOND DEATH from which there was no promised resurrection [of that which was "old"]; thus viewing Israel's previous "de-creation" destruction that befell her, from which there WAS a promised resurrection [Ezek 47 et al] as Israel's FIRST DEATH. This I believe honours an historical, covenantal and eschatological "this world" hermeneutic, i.e., it is prêteristically more consistent. Or, as you most aptly said in the article: "More to the point: preterism undermines both eternal conscious torment and hell mythology."

davo

OSTRALOA's picture

Davo,

Couldn't disagree more with Jeremy's:
"More to the point: preterism undermines both eternal conscious torment and hell mythology."

Wrong! This statement is totally out of bounds. First of all we are talking about Scripture and Christianity not just preterism. Secondly, his "hell mythology" is just that which assumes that Roman Catholic late model of Sheol/hades being the only alternative to the Scriptural reality of the true place and state of Sheol/hades.

This is a totally incorrect assumption on Jeremy's part of the nature of Sheol/hades and the pit being totally incongruent with the facts of Scripture therefore, both Jermey and the Roman Catholic "Dante Inferno" are in error.

Logic of Jeremy's false presuppositions:

Dante's Inferno is Roman Catholic
Therefore, hell is a popish error post-A.D. 70

Hades was in Greek mythology
Therefore, it's basis is 100% not true

Hades was Greek mythology
Therefore, The Book of Enoch borrowed Greek myth

The Valley of Hinnom was the Jerusalem trash pit and burned refuse
Therefore, Gehenna did the same only at A.D 70

All of Jeremy's assumptions above are can can be shown to be Scripturally false. If one eliminates eternal punishment as universally applicable then other presuppositions based upon eisegesis are instantly superimposed upon Scripture and the salvific function of Christ and his eternal kingdom are nullified. If you could answer my three points in my prior posting above if Jeremy, Virgil or even Ed will not I would greatly appreciate it. Blessings.

In Christ,

Paul

Jer's picture

Hi Paul:

Your bits are in bold:

Logic of Jeremy's false presuppositions:

Dante's Inferno is Roman Catholic
Therefore, hell is a popish error post-A.D. 70

One will find neither the premise nor the conclusion that you have attributed to me in anything that I have written; your "reconstructions" are not only illogical but imaginary. I consider such a misrepresentation to be dishonest. I do hope that such was not your intent.

In any case, this will be my last post in reply to you.

Good luck to you in your studies.

Jer

OSTRALOA's picture

Jeremy,

Thanks for the reply.

I am not supposing a lost tribes of Israel or the other ideas from sources you mentioned. As for the Book of Enoch as a source, we do disagree as I recall. I also have not seen from you anything on the nature of Sheol/hades pre or post A.D. 70. As I have seen it has been limited to Gehenna yet I have been out of the country for years so I am not up on your sources and views as others apparently are.

My own sources however are firm and I have cited them with references on this site which I will not repeat. No one responded to my lengthy post on this cite when given. Also, no one of your opinion has of yet provided the Greek word in Scripture proving annihilation of the soul pre or post-AD. 70. Since this has not been provided and I have asked repeatedly, I will close on this topic too.

Opinions and theories of man are a crutch in the face of Scripture. Blessings.

In Christ,

Paul

davo's picture

OSTRALOA: If you could answer my three points in my prior posting above if Jeremy, Virgil or even Ed will not I would greatly appreciate it.

Paul as this is Jeremy's article, and your post wasn't really in response to the thoughts I shared, I think it best then to refer you HERE.

davo

Barry's picture

I really enjoyed your article Jeremy.
The hospitality issue is well brought out and very insightful IMHO.
Such also speaks of the degree of the rejection of the “Judaizers” in 2 John verse 10.

Hope you don’t mind, my writing out a few of my own thoughts which my vary a little from some of your conclusions.

Quote.
Unless one wishes to argue that there are, or were to be, two advents of the king and his kingdom, it seems reasonable to conclude that Matthew 10 and the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24/25 are dealing with the same event. If so, at least in a preterist framework, we have a historical context. The remainder of chapter 25 supports this conclusion.
End quote.

Great point IMHO.
There is a transitional divide in the chapter, which starts around verse 8.
The Gospels allow for this from the position of ministry “prelude” or “rehearsal” to the Cross to the Parousia. The “prelude” functions much like the first three days of the 6-day creation. The Prelude involves “Judas” (Matt. 10:4-5) but the more defined transition of the ages does not. Some portions of Matthew 10 are purely prophetic of the cross to the Parousia.

Quote:
Simply put, Gehenna is not hell.
End quote.
Nicely put IMO.

Quote:
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. (Matthew 10:28, emphasis added)
End quote.

The destruction of the "soul" is the end of the "old covenant" "person" of the flesh. As one need only crush the "head", Gehenna is spesific to the daughters of Jerusalem that then was.

Act 3:23 And it shall come to pass, [that] every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
Act 3:24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.

The crushing of the head was a "local" judgment with comprehensive results.

The end of the age (from "Adam") did however end comprehensively, the "person of the flesh".

Rom 2:9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
Rom 2:10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
Rom 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
Rom 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

Rom 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
Rom 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and [their] thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
Rom 2:16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Act 17:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
Act 17:29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
Act 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Act 17:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by [that] man whom he hath ordained; [whereof] he hath given assurance unto all [men], in that he hath raised him from the dead.

Wherein the "world" of Israel's covenantal influence that the "Gospel" was preached to represented "humanity" at large.
The extensiveness of that "world" is clearly seen in Paul's writings:

1Cr 2:6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:
1Cr 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, [even] the hidden [wisdom], which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

1Cr 3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

1Cr 5:10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

1Cr 7:29 But this I say, brethren, the time [is] short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none;
1Cr 7:30 And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not;
1Cr 7:31 And they that use this world, as not abusing [it]: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

Quote:
“Inextinguishable fire” and similar terminology signify divine judgment, not the torment of disembodied souls.
End quote.
and,

Quote:
“God is a consuming fire” (Deu. 4:24) and both “consuming” and “unquenchable” fire imagery accompany his judgment. Based on the Old Testament use of such language, it is evident that the point is not the duration of the fire but who is executing the judgment. Perpetual burning and smoking are hyperbole—check with Google maps. These passages in Jeremiah and Isaiah refer to this world judgments, not torment in Sheol.
End quote.

If we can maintain an audience relevance perspective then we can approach the issue of "eternal fire" from both a "consuming" and a "perpetual" attribute as such is attached to a historical "shame" upon that which has historically been consumed.

Isa 33:14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?

Such is attached to the "person of the flesh". That being the "self defined ego". In this way Sodom was an example of "eternal fire". Used "historically" to the "shame" of those who were destroyed for what they were when destroyed.

Isa 66:24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm SHALL NOT DIE, neither shall THEIR FIRE BE QUENCHED; and they shall be an ABHORRING unto all flesh.

Such was a "this life" Judgement.
As such the "smoke of their torment rises forever and ever".
Such does not nullify forgiveness of sins.

Eze 16:63 That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord GOD.

Mar 3:28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:
Mar 3:29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:

1Cr 5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

In audience relevance "judgment" is spoken to the "person of the flesh".
The "self defined ego" which had its standing in the precedence of types and figures is annihilated in the end of the age. Thus for all intensive purposes that "person" that "soul" for how they then saw themselves is historically shamed.
It is this "person" that is being addressed when Judgment is being foretold.

The Global message of the Bible is more about the inflated ego than anything else. Man does not and cannot own himself for himself. God is sovereign creator and sovereign over His image.
The self defined ego is not however the "image of God".

Just a few thoughts,
Blessings Barry

we are all in this together

OSTRALOA's picture

Jeremy,

Please inform us of the words in the Greek NT you would see to prove the case of annihilationism of the wicked post-A.D. 70 or in any time period of biblical history for that matter proving beyond a shadow of doubt that any soul can simply cease to exist at biological death.

Secondly, can you prove the concept of Hades of the ancient Grecians was 100% false? That there never was anything under our feet where the righteous and reprobate went after biological death as you seem to implicate except graves for both. You then believe the souls of men only went to the grave and only since A.D. 70 either go to annihilation or heaven? This all can easily be countered in Scripture.

Lastly, I would caution you against falling into the same "false mythology" you trying to dispel. You then believe that Gehenna was just like a trash burner and extinguishes the soul as well?? That Hell was literally made of a lake of fire with brimstone? Did New Jerusalem literally descend and fall on peoples heads? Preterists must take care of falling into the false literalisms that they seek to avoid from futurism. Blessings.

In Christ,

Paul Anderson

Jer's picture

Hi Paul:

Your bits are in bold.

Please inform us of the words in the Greek NT you would see to prove the case of annihilationism of the wicked post-A.D. 70 or in any time period of biblical history for that matter proving beyond a shadow of doubt that any soul can simply cease to exist at biological death.

I'm sorry, but I do not allow for the assumption that the soul of man is inherently immortal. One must first prove the case for inherent immortality.

Secondly, can you prove the concept of Hades of the ancient Grecians was 100% false? That there never was anything under our feet where the righteous and reprobate went after biological death as you seem to implicate except graves for both. You then believe the souls of men only went to the grave and only since A.D. 70 either go to annihilation or heaven? This all can easily be countered in Scripture.

In our last discussion, you repeatedly refused to divulge your sources. Do you recall this? I was informed that I would have to wait for your forthcoming book to verify your claims. However, you did let something slip. When discussing the underworld in a previous post, you asked,
">"No one answered why 141 East and 84 N is forbidden overflight."

After doing some research, I found UFO ROUNDUP Volume 8 Number 50 December 31, 2003:

"The most plausible location for a north polar opening that leads into the interior of the Earth is located at 84 degrees North latitude and 141 degrees East longitude," the Web site stated, "Don't miss this chance to personally visit that paradise within our Earth via the North Polar Opening and meet the highly advanced, friendly people who live there. We are of the opinion that they are the legendary Lost Tribes of Israel who migrated into the North Country over 2,500 years ago and literally became lost to the knowledge of mankind."

You also stated, "The truth of the so called 'Hollow' or caverness Earth was also advanced by Sir Edmund Halley and Leonard Euhler. The Book of Enoch also verifies the location of former compartments of Sheol as being in the far midddle of the earth."

Now, to answer your question: Other than my interpretation of scripture, no, I cannot "prove the concept of Hades of the ancient Grecians was 100% false." But I cannot prove that the centaurs, satyrs and Santa do not exist either. One cannot prove a negative existential claim. However, you will have to forgive me should I decline further discussion with you regarding the nature of Hades since you apparently wish to use your interpretation of scripture to substantiate UFOs, Lost Tribes, and a Hollow Earth peopled by an advanced civilization. I personally have no interest in such things.

Lastly, I would caution you against falling into the same "false mythology" you trying to dispel. You then believe that Gehenna was just like a trash burner and extinguishes the soul as well?? That Hell was literally made of a lake of fire with brimstone? Did New Jerusalem literally descend and fall on peoples heads? Preterists must take care of falling into the false literalisms that they seek to avoid from futurism.

I never said that I believe anything of the sort.

Jer

Reformer's picture

Dear Jeremy,

It seems to me that the everlasting form of the kingdom came -- i.e., came fully established in the flesh of a baby boy at Jesus' birth (Isa. 9:6-7; Dan. 2:44; Col. 2:9-10). And from there it increased. That's why Jesus presented it as a then-and-there present reality during his earthly ministry -- and with no qualifiers. Of course, it was also to come in power in A.D. 70. But isn't that an intrinsic dynamic of its established nature and present reality?

Where am I wrong on this? Or am I?

Duncan's picture

John,

The kingdom of God was fully established on earth at the AD 70 destruction of those who were destroying (i.e morally ruining) the Land of Israel. It was at this time that God took His great power began to more directly reign in the kingdoms of man.

Then the seventh angel sounded; And there were loud voices in heaven, saying ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth’ [tēn gēn, the Land]. Rev. 11:15-18 NASB

Duncan

Reformer's picture

Duncan,

I must respectfully disagree. As I responded to Jer. above . . .

The context of Isaiah 9:6-7 begins with "For to us a child is born." The most natural way of understanding this pericope is "from that time on and forever" refers to the beginning phrase. Moreover, Jesus' presentation of the kingdom and his terminology during his earthly ministry is consistent with this understanding.

When was Jesus given "all authority in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18) and "all judgment" (John 5:22)? That was certainly before his ascension. So, yes, I'd go with "at birth" (or at least by his anointing).

Where's the error in my logic here?

Duncan's picture

John

Jesus received all authority in heaven and earth at His ascension (Dan. 7:13-14; cf. Matt 28:18). If you look at John 20:15-18 Jesus said He was about to ascend to His father right after His resurrection; I can only conclude that that is what he did at that time. I see Daniel 7:13-14 as showing us the heaven side vision of that ascension. Dan. 7:13-14 is certainly not showing the physical birth of Jesus.
Jesus took His great authority He received at AD 30 and fully started reigning with His Father at AD 70 (Rev. 11:15-18).

The destruction of Nebuchadnezzar's image in Dan 2:34-35 and 44-45 was not at the birth of Jesus. It was in the days of the 10 kings of the fourth empire. Now Daniel 2 does not specifically say that Neb's image had ten toes, but when the subject of the fourth kingdom and the full coming of God's kingdom comes up again in Daniel 7, the fourth beast has ten horns (Dan. 7:7). Thus ten rulers are in view. The tenth Caesar of Rome was Vespasian (AD 69-79). It was early in his reign (at AD 70) that the kingdom of God was fully established on earth (Rev. 11:15-18; cf. Rev. 2:26-27).

So Neb's image did not fall at the birth of Jesus; it fell at AD 70, the time when the kingdom of this world became the kingdom of God. Prior to AD 70 Satan was still allowed to be the god of the pre AD 70 kingdom age (2 Cor. 4:4). Prior to AD 70 the world was still under the sway of Satan (1 John 5:19 cf. Luke 4:5-17; Rev. 13:4).

Duncan

Reformer's picture

Duncan,

"Jesus received all authority in heaven and earth at His ascension" -- that's funny because it was prior to his ascension that He said He had already received it. Dittos for "all judgment" (John 5:22).

Furthermore, if Jesus did not start reigning with his Father until AD 70, what was He doing during his earthly ministry -- only "warming up" ???

Also, the only time restriction in Dan. 2 was the establishment of the everlasting form of the kingdom would come during "the days of those kings (four world kingdoms)." This did not specify which kingdom or when during those times.

So, once again, I must disagree with your conclusion that "the kingdom of God was fully established on earth . . . at AD 70."

Take a close look at Col. 2:9-10. This presents a strong support for the establishment (and full establishment) being at his birth, along with a consistent understanding of Isaiah 9:6-7.

Perhaps, the difficulty for preterists is they want to load AD 70 up with as much significance as possible. But deferring the establishment or full establishment of the kingdom until that time must ignore or attempt to explain away to many scriptures and statements of Jesus to the contrary, in my opinion.

Duncan2's picture

Hmm, I am kind of swimming up stream on this one but let me give it one more shot.

Jesus received world wide authority at His ascension (Dan. 7:13-14; cf Matt 28:18); that kingdom authority was shared with His people at AD 70 (the time when the saints inherited the kingdom Dan. 7:17-27; cf. Rev. 3:21).
This is also shown in the parable of the minas. A nobleman goes to receive a kingdom and then returns and shares his reign with his faithful followers (Luke 19:11-27).

As I mentioned, John 20:11-18 indicates that there was an initial ascension (before His public ascension) of Jesus to His Father right after His resurrection. Do you think Daniel 7:13-14 is referring to Jesus' birth?

Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45 is referring to the same time as Rev. 11:15-18. This was the time when God took His great authority and the kingdoms of this world fully became the kingdom of God. This happened at the AD 70 destruction of those who were destroying the Land (or do you think Rev. 11:15-18 is also referring to the birth of Jesus?).

Daniel 7 parallels the full establishment of the kingdom in Daniel 2. It show the four beasts all losing their authority at the destruction of the fourth beast (Dan. 7:9-12). Again, this happened at AD 70 (or do you think the fourth beast was destroyed at Jesus' birth; if so what do you attribute its 11 horns/rulers to?)

Duncan

Reformer's picture

Duncan,

I believe I have already addressed this.

But let me say it again. Prior to his ascension Jesus said He already had (past tense) "all authority."

Jesus did share his authority with his disciples when He sent out the twelve and the seventy.

Pre-AD 70 believers were already receiving the kingdom (Heb. 12:28).

The kingdoms of this world are still in process of becoming the kingdom of God -- i.e., to this kingdom's increase there shall be no end (Isaiah 9:6-7). But the everlasting form of God's kingdom was established "in the days of those kings" (four world kingdoms - Dan. 2:44).

Get it yet?

Virgil's picture

Maybe that's why I am not getting some of the things you are saying. To me the idea of the Kingdom seems to be much more elegant and dynamic than "the kingdom is a, b and c" and the kingdom came in "year blah."

We are getting bogged down in semantics, jots and tittles and we will start missing out on the contemporary relevance of the kingdom. Remember..it's called "kingdom" for a reason - it was meant to be subversive to a "king" and to a status quo relevant to 1st century contemporaries. We call it a kingdom today, but what does that mean to us, citizens of a republic, or a democratic country who really have no idea what it's like to live under a king.

Duncan2's picture

Virgil,

Both things are important. Obviously the contemporary relevance of the kingdom is important. It is also important, however, to be able to explain the many time indicators that are given for the establishment of the kingdom: e.g. Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45; Dan. 7:9-11 cf. Rev. 20:4; Daniel 7:17-27; Matt. 21:33-43; 25:31-46; Luke 19:11-27; Rev. 12:1-12; Rev. 11:15-18. This is especially true if one is dealing with a futurist who says the kingdom has not come yet; such a person will want the timing of those verses explained to them.

Duncan

Reformer's picture

Yes and Amen, Duncan! You are absolutely right on this point. The timing (establishment) and nature of the everlasting form of the kingdom of God are essential. We must get both right, biblically, historically, and relevantly to today.

Duncan2's picture

No need to get snide John. I addressed the ascension part. You are either not reading it or you don't get it. You are ignoring Daniel 7. The four beasts all lose their authority at the destruction of the fourth beast (Dan. 7:7-12). This is when the saints inherited the kingdom at AD 70 (Dan. 7:17-27). Have you done any in depth work on Daniel 7?

Duncan

Reformer's picture

Duncan,

I did not intend to be snide. In fact, Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 25:34. Therefore, I don't have any problem with the inheriting being at AD 70, and as part of the increase (Isa. 9:6-7). But that was not the establishment of the kingdom nor when Jesus received "all authority."

Duncan2's picture

I didn't say AD 70 was when Jesus received all authority. I said that Jesus received all authority at His ascension. When do you see Daniel 7:13-14 as being fulfilled?

It was at AD 70, however, when this authority was fully applied, as God took His great authority and the kingdom of this world fully became the kingdom of God (Rev. 11:15-18).

Duncan

Reformer's picture

Duncan,

Jesus said -- PRIOR TO HIS ASCENSION -- that He had already received "all authority."

And we agree, Dan. 7:13-14 was fulfilled at his ascension. BUT Matt. 28:18 was spoken PRIOR to that, as well as John 5:22. How do you reconcile that?

And, yes, AD 70 was AN application of his judgment authority in ending the OC age and in keeping with many comings of the day of the Lord in the OT.

But the Rev. 11:15-18 speaks of propositional truth that is increasingly (yet today) being realized. And, we got a long way to go.

And, yes, the kingdom did come in power (Matt. 26:64.

Duncan2's picture

I answered this on 5-14 at 15:46 (see above) but here it is again:

Jesus received all authority in heaven and earth at His ascension (Dan. 7:13-14; cf. Matt 28:18). If you look at John 20:15-18, Jesus said He was about to ascend to His father right after His resurrection; I can only conclude that that is what he did at that time. I see Daniel 7:13-14 as showing us the heaven side vision of that ascension. Thus Jesus had received all power and authority at this initial post resurrection ascension; that happened before his public ascension.

As you agree, Dan. 7:13-14 is certainly not showing the physical birth of Jesus but His ascension. Just how many times do you think Jesus was given all power in heaven and earth?

Duncan

Reformer's picture

Duncan,

Correct me if I'm wrong. But I see nothing new here. I refer you back to my previous responses.

Life14all's picture

First of all, great series of articles Jeremy. I found the interaction between John and yourself to be pretty refreshing in its tone and grace.

With all due respect, I'm in agreement with Reformer as Jesus' birth being the "full" establishment of the kingdom and I would like to tie it with the very first prophecy we read about Jesus.

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Gen 3:15

It would seem to me that through this covenant promise we find in Genesis that God Himself preserved and established the Kingdom of His Son since the beginning. Every prophecy after this only confirms this first promise and it was at Jesus' birth that man got to see it fully for the first time. All authority was always His from the very beginning and through Him everything was made. Especially the covenant of grace we experience today.

I would like to hear both your thoughts on this.

Blessings,

Jim Kessler
www.InChristVictorious.com

PreteristArtist

Jer's picture

Hi Jim:

Thanks for the question.

I don't see a great distinction between John and myself. Neither of us view the kingdom as "static." Both of us recognize the importance of the entirety of Christ's work; his birth, ministry, death, burial, resurrection and subsequent judgment. However, my emphasis is on the entire scope of Christ's work within his generation. And the saints are said to "inherit" the kingdom at the judgment.

Let me see if I can clarify this. John does not see a distinction between "establish" and "fully establish;" I do. 'to establish' is "to found, institute, build, or bring into being on a firm or stable basis." In other words, the groundwork has been laid. To say that something is "fully established" means, to me anyway, that the "building" process is done. My issue is with the "fully" part. I do not believe that one can say this occurred at his birth. He was not to be an "earthly" king. His kingdom was not of that world. It was necessary for him to be put to death in the flesh and made alive in the spirit. Otherwise, he could not have "ascended" to the throne of David.

That's my take, anyway :)

Time for lunch!

Jer

Paige's picture

I wonder if a good analogy might be in the form of a question...When do we move into a house? When the foundation has been poured and set, or when it is fully built?

Paige

Jer's picture

Now, why couldn't I come up with something as clear and succinct as that? Thanks, Paige. :D

Jer

Ed's picture

I would say that everything after the birth of Christ was his "world-conquering." He was born king, anointed by John the Baptist (a prophet), and ruled over his Father's kingdom until all enemies had been put under his feet. The world he conquered was old covenant Israel, and the world he established is new covenant Israel. His reign is now from sea to shining sea and everywhere. It was fully established in AD0, and he conquered all his enemies in AD70.

that's my opinion anyway,

ed

ed

Papa is especially fond of us

Jer's picture

Hi John:

Thanks for the question. I assume that this paragraph is what prompted your question:

Unless one wishes to argue that there are, or were to be, two advents of the king and his kingdom, it seems reasonable to conclude that Matthew 10 and the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24/25 are dealing with the same event. If so, at least in a preterist framework, we have a historical context. The remainder of chapter 25 supports this conclusion.

I do not believe the kingdom "came fully established in the flesh of a baby boy at Jesus' birth," as I understand you. There was a future aspect of the kingdom that was tied to judgment (Dan 7.21-22; Matt 25.34). After which, the saints are said to "take possession of" or "inherit" the kingdom. Of course, this does not preclude a "then-and-there present reality" in some sense.

Jer

Reformer's picture

Dear Jeremy,

I was referring to some of your statements like:

p-8: "judgment, and, ultimately, the advent of the kingdom at his coming."

p-10: "the coming of the king and his kingdom . . . to proclaim the imminent coming of the kingdom."

p-11: "Fourth, this judgment of Israel was to take place at the advent of the kingdom,"

May I suggested (still assuming that my previous comments about the then-fully-present reality of the kingdom are true) that (as you say) this "future aspect of the kingdom that was tied to judgment" and the taking "of possession of" and "inherit" are part of the increase of that established kingdom as prophesied by Isaiah 9:6-7.

Therefore, there is no need to qualify the everlasting form of the kingdom Jesus brought by using such non-scriptural and compromising phrases like the futurists all do of "in some sense" or "already/not yet," or "inaugurated but not consummated."

Jer's picture

Hi John:

Thanks for the clarification.

Let me ask you this: If Jesus had only been born, yet not vindicated by the Spirit, not seen by angels, not proclaimed among the nations, not believed on in the world, not taken up in glory, would his kingdom still be "fully established in the flesh of a baby boy"?

Isaiah had much to say in addition to, "For a child has been born to us. . ." Verse 7 reads, "He will rule on David's throne and over David's kingdom, establishing it and strengthening it by promoting justice and fairness, from this time forward and forevermore."

Did Christ ascend to the throne "establishing it (i.e., his kingdom) and strengthening it" at birth? Both Isaiah and Acts 2.34-35 seem to present a different picture.

So, I don't see how my statements are "non-scriptural and compromising," as you stated.

Jer

Reformer's picture

Jer.

1. Of course, your first question is hypothetical. But Paul says that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead our faith would be in vain (1 Cor. 15:14). So, I'll answer using his same logic, "no."

2. That's why I also cited verse 7 (as part of the increase). But the context begins with "For to us a child is born." The most natural way of understanding this pericope is "from that time on and forever" refers to the beginning phrase. Moreover, Jesus' presentation of the kingdom and his terminology during his earthly ministry is consistent with this understanding.

3. When was Jesus given "all authority in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18) and "all judgment" (John 5:22)? That was certainly before his ascension. So, yes, I'd go with "at birth" (or at least by his anointing).

Where's the error in my logic here?

Jer's picture

Hi John:

Your bits are in bold.

1. Of course, your first question is hypothetical. But Paul says that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead our faith would be in vain (1 Cor. 15:14). So, I'll answer using his same logic, "no."

If the other elements mentioned were essential to the establishment of the kingdom, then "the kingdom came. . .fully established in the flesh of a baby boy" is false.

2. That's why I also cited verse 7 (as part of the increase). But the context begins with "For to us a child is born." The most natural way of understanding this pericope is "from that time on and forever" refers to the beginning phrase. Moreover, Jesus' presentation of the kingdom and his terminology during his earthly ministry is consistent with this understanding.

I will have to respectfully disagree.

"He will rule on David's throne and over David's kingdom, establishing it and strengthening it by promoting justice and fairness. . ."

[E]stablishing it refers to the preceding clause, not the preceding verse and his birth. The antecedent of 'it' is 'kingdom.' The 'kingdom' entails the enthronement of the king.

The NT confirms this. Luke's birth narrative would be the perfect place to find confirmation of your view:

Luke 1:32-33 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end.

However, Luke does not tell us that Christ received the throne at birth--even though he refers to Isaiah 9. When would Christ sit on David's throne? The same author picks up this theme in Acts 2.

Acts 2:30-31 30 So then, because [David] was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, 31 David by foreseeing this spoke about the resurrection of the Christ. . .

Jer

Reformer's picture

Jer,

Interesting. But I believe you missed my meaning in point #1. These other elements were NOT essential to the establishment of the kingdom, but were essential to and part of its increase per Isaiah 9:6-7.

Point #2 -- then certainly, He ruled on David's throne, and as part of the kingdom's increase, at his anointing or, perhaps, his ascension. But this cannot be held off until AD 70, as important as that event was, in my opinion.

After all, "all authority in heaven and on earth" included David's throne, didn't it?

John

Jer's picture

Hi John:

Your bits are in bold.

Interesting. But I believe you missed my meaning in point #1. These other elements were NOT essential to the establishment of the kingdom, but were essential to and part of its increase per Isaiah 9:6-7.

My question was: If Jesus had only been born, yet not vindicated by the Spirit, not seen by angels, not proclaimed among the nations, not believed on in the world, not taken up in glory, would his kingdom still be "fully established in the flesh of a baby boy"?

To which you replied, "no." Perhaps I am confused. However, you have switched terms: "establishment" and "fully established" mean two different things to me. "Fully established" implies that nothing else is needed, while "establishment" leaves room for development. In any case, if Christ had not been raised, his kingdom would not be "fully established," as he is not an "earthly" king.

Point #2 -- then certainly, He ruled on David's throne, and as part of the kingdom's increase, at his anointing or, perhaps, his ascension. But this cannot be held off until AD 70, as important as that event was, in my opinion.

Are you conceding my point? It sounds like you have moved from his birth to his anointing or ascension, but why not AD 70?

After his resurrection, The Lord said to my lord, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." (Acts 2.34-35)

Yet in Matthew 25:31, we read "When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne."

Do you see a distinction between sitting at the right hand and sitting on a glorious throne? The former anticipates judgment, the latter is the execution of it. (cf. Matt 16.28)

Did you find the article informative or interesting otherwise?

Jer

Reformer's picture

Jer,

Point #1 -- Obviously (to me), your question here was somewhat of a trap question. But I answered it, anyway. Fact is, if Christ had not been raised, our whole faith would be in vain, according to Paul (1 Cor. 15:14f). But Paul and we all know that that was not the case.

Point #2 -- I cannot be dogmatic that this happened at his birth (see Col. 2:9-10 for good support for this, however). But I can be that it happened prior to his ascension. Likewise, Jesus was already sitting on the throne prior to his AD 70 coming in judgment. And, no, I do not make a distinction between sitting at the right hand and sitting on a glorious throne. How many thrones are there for Jesus to be sitting on, anyway? Or, are these various expressions descriptive of different aspects of that one throne?

Also, see my most recent comment to Duncan. And, I repeat a portion of it here . . .

Perhaps, the difficulty for preterists is they want to load AD 70 up with as much significance as possible. But deferring the establishment or full establishment of the kingdom until that time must ignore or attempt to explain away to many scriptures and statements of Jesus to the contrary, in my opinion.

Jer's picture

Hi John:

Your bit is in bold.

Perhaps, the difficulty for preterists is they want to load AD 70 up with as much significance as possible. But deferring the establishment or full establishment of the kingdom until that time must ignore or attempt to explain away to many scriptures and statements of Jesus to the contrary, in my opinion.

I don't believe our views are as different as you think. However, you keep using terms interchangeably that I view as distinct. As I said before, "establishment [and] full establishment of the kingdom" mean different things to me. The point of my so-called "trap" question was to make it clear that "full establishment" required more than his birth.

But it was not my intent to argue for the "establishment" or "full establishment" of the kingdom in this article. As stated in the introduction, "In this session, we will give an overview of hospitality in both Greek and Hebrew culture and then demonstrate the expectations of hospitality that underlie two Matthean judgment scenes. We will first establish the cultural and historical context for the judgment pictured in Matthew 25:31f, along with its parallel in Matthew 10, and then offer an interpretation that counters both futurism and myth." Since you did not answer my last question, should I assume that you did not find the subject matter of the article interesting or informative? I really would like to know :) Thanks for your comments.

Jer

Reformer's picture

Jer,

I would not differentiate between "established" and "fully established" either. It is redundant. But the dialogue in theological circles creates this partialness -- i.e., "in some sense," "already/not yet," and "inaugurated / consummated." So, I find it necessary to make this clarification -- especially in futurist circles.

As far as the main thrust of your article. I thought the Gehenna and cultural and historical contexts emphasis was good and the hospitality portion was okay but too long. Keep up the good work!

Jer's picture

Thanks for the feedback :)

In the admittedly lengthy hospitality portion, I wanted to give readers who may have been unfamiliar with the concept a sufficient introduction. So, I felt that I needed to go beyond a simple definition and not only highlight the scope of the custom but show it action as well. This background was, in my mind anyway, essential to understanding Matthew 10 and 25 and their connection with Malachi 3 and the Law.

That said, I do work without an editor :) I asked three people to proof the article, but I did not receive any feedback.

Thanks again. I do appreciate your cordialness.

Jer

Ransom's picture

Thanks for the bone, Jer. Woof woof.

Jer's picture

I knew you would read the footnotes ;)

Jer

Ransom's picture

Oh, and by the way, excellent research and fascinating topic. What brought the topic of hospitality to your attention?

Jer's picture

Thanks.

Well, several years ago--six or seven--I read Sketches of Jewish Social Life. There was a section that covered hospitality, which I'll post in part:

Israel was always distinguished for hospitality; and not only the Bible, but the Rabbis, enjoin this in the strongest terms. In Jerusalem no man was to account a house as only his own; and it was said, that during the pilgrim-feasts none ever wanted ready reception. . .Readers of the New Testament will be specially interested to know, that, according to the Talmud (Pes. 53), Bethphage and Bethany. . .were specially celebrated for their hospitality towards the festive pilgrims. In Jerusalem it seems to have been the custom to hang a curtain in the front door, to indicate that there was still room for guests. Some went so far as to suggest, there should be four doors to every house, to bid welcome to travellers from all directions. The host would go to meet an expected guest, and again accompany him part of the way (Acts xxi. 5). The Rabbis declared that hospitality involved as great, and greater merit than early morning attendance in an academyof learning. They could scarcely have gone farther, considering the value they attached to study. . .

But let there be no misunderstanding. So far as the duty of hospitality is concerned, or the loving care for poor and sick, it were impossible to take a higher tone than that of Rabbinism. Thus it was declared, that "the entertainment of travellers was as great a matter as the reception of the Shechinah." (47-48)

I found the custom to be fascinating, so that bit stuck with me--on the back burner.

Later on, I began to study Greek culture and mythology. After reading Burkert (quoted in the article), I was more sensitive to the presence of hospitality. It began to show up quite a bit in my readings.

But what made everything click was an entry in the Handbook of Biblical Social Values. If I remember correctly, John Pilch was the author of the article. He was writing about the different values placed on sheep and goats in Mediterranean culture. He touched on Matthew 25 and mentioned hospitality. Then, Edersheim's stories popped back into may head. I began to search through the Old Testament for examples of Jewish hospitality.

That's pretty much how it started... the short version anyway :)

Jer

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