A Refutation of Stephen Whitsett’s “Cold Case” Chapter on Time Texts
By Bill Dolack
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place . . .
In his book “The Cold Case Against Full Preterism: AKA Realized Eschatology,” author Stephen Whitsett attempts to present “a clear cut case against the Full Preterist claims of the Second Coming is (sic) past . . .” In this paper, I will show that he is wrong in his attack on the time texts in the New Testament (as written in Chapter 5 and Appendix C).
Whitsett, an “Ordained Minister with the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel” (according to his back cover biography), begins his attack by focusing on Strong’s #5034, tachei, which is defined, he says, as “quickness.”
“ ‘quickness’ (sic) being a noun, modifies the verb ‘take place’, (sic) it expresses how the verb action is happening and Tachei – quickness (sic) means then the events are to take place quickly or ‘quickly take place’. (sic) The issue of translation is not implying that the events to be described in the Revelation are to happen soon in time as implied by some translations, but the events are to happen ‘quickly’. (sic)”
Whitsett goes on to say:
“ ‘I ran to the store in quickness’, (sic) or ‘I ran to the store quickly’ or ‘I ran quickly to the store’, (sic) tells how I ran to the store, it never tells me ‘when’ I ran to the store. The events happen ‘quickly’, (sic) not quickly in time.”
Whitsett makes two mistakes here. First, he ignores part of the actual definition according to Strong’s:
“From the same as tachus; a brief space (of time), i.e. (with en prefixed) in haste — + quickly, + shortly, + speedily.”
Likewise, Thayer’s says:
“τάχος, τάχους, τό, from Homer down, quickness, speed: ἐν τάχει (often in Greek writings from Aeschylus and Pindar down), quickly, shortly, Acts 12:7; Acts 22:18; (); Romans 16:20; speedily, soon (German in Bälde), Luke 18:8; 1 Timothy 3:14 L Tr WH; Revelation 1:1; Revelation 22:6.”
Whitsett totally ignores “shortly” in both definitions, and “soon” in Thayer’s. In “Cold Case,” he argues that τάχος does not – in fact, cannot – mean shortly or soon even though those are acceptable definitions!
Second, Whitsett also ignores the definition of the word “quickly,” which he assumes only means fast. According to the Consolidated Webster’s Encyclopedia Reference Dictionary, quickly means:
“Speedily; rapidly; nimbly; SOON; and WITHOUT DELAY.” (my added emphasis)
For more evidence, we can look at a copy of Webster’s Dictionary, published in 1860, 30 years before Strong first published his concordance, which he began assembling in 1855. It says:
QUICK’ LY, adv. Speedily; with haste or celerity.
2. Soon; without delay.
In the parlance of James Strong’s day, “quickly” clearly could mean “soon” or “without delay,” and was not restricted to Whitsett’s chosen definition of describing the “how” as opposed to the “when.”
Common sense also informs us that the use of the word “quickly” often combines both meanings. Consider this sentence from the website WordHippo.com:
“An efficient staff of workers replenished the trays of appetizers almost as quickly as guests emptied them.”
Yes, the action taken by the “efficient staff” was swift (in the sense of duration), but it also implies that the action was taken without delay. What sense would it make to describe the staff as efficient if they replenished the trays in a fast manner but only after an undetermined amount of time during which the guests had no appetizers? The trays would have to be replenished “soon” and “without delay” for the staff to be called efficient.
Here’s another sentence from the same source:
“Once stranded, large whales are crushed by their own body weight, if they cannot quickly return to the water.”
Again, imminence is key here. If, as Whitsett claims, quickly only refers to how long it takes to complete an action, and not when the action takes place, the whales could very well be dead. In order to survive, the whales must “quickly – without delay! – return to the water!
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Whitsett’s next attack is on the time statement in Revelation 1:3 (. . . for the time is at hand). His attempt to change the meaning of the phrase in order to further his eschatological agenda is perhaps one of the most convoluted I’ve ever seen. He says,
“ἐγγύς, the base form means to be “near” in place or time. Being an adverb, which is a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. (e.g., gently, quite, then, there). This then implies that time is near or at hand, the phrase ‘for the time is near’ modifies the phrase before it, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it.” The time is now, or here right now to read the words, to hear the message and to keep what is in it. This never implies “soon” is the time these events are going to happen as if they are some forty years into the future.”
Aside from the fact that Whitsett comingles an unattributed quote from the Internet (the description of an adverb) with his own writing, he actually starts our correctly by admitting that ἐγγύς means near in place or time. And Thayer says (emphasis added),
“2. of Time; concerning things imminent and soon to come to pass: Matthew 24:32; Matthew 26:18; Mark 13:28; Luke 21:30, 31; John 2:13; John 6:4; John 7:2; John 11:55; Revelation 1:3; Revelation 22:10; of the near advent of persons: ὁ κύριος ἐγγύς, of Christ’s return from heaven, Philippians 4:5 (in another sense, of God in Psalm 144:18 (); with the addition ἐπί θύραις, at the door, Matthew 24:33; Mark 13:29; ἐγγύς κατάρας, near to being cursed, Hebrews 6:8; ἀφανισμο , soon to vanish, Hebrews 8:13.”
But Whitsett finds this definition diametrically opposed to his personal beliefs and, in an attempt to divert readers from the phrase’s clear meaning, he ties ἐγγύς to reading, hearing, and keeping the contents of the prophecy, rather than to verse one – the things which must shortly come to pass – where it rightly belongs.
Remember, the word translated as “shortly” or “soon” in verse one can be, according to Strong’s, correctly defined as such. Likewise, “at hand” (verse three) means near in time or place. The parallel between the two verses is unmistakable: despite Whitsett’s attempt to claim otherwise, “at hand” refers to the things prophesied in Revelation.
It’s interesting that Whitsett goes against other futurists when he admits that “at hand” does indeed mean “at hand” (although he attaches the adverb to the wrong passage of scripture). Most of his eschatological allies deny the clear meaning of the word, likely because they realize Whitsett’s misapplication makes no sense, but admitting the truth damages their preconceived notions. So they change the meaning of ἐγγύς from “at hand” to “certainty,” a ploy dealt with by Don K. Preston in his book, “Who is this Babylon?”
“It is a rule of interpretation, that if one is going to reject the normal definition of words, they must demonstrate strong evidence to justify that change. Normally, those who deny the actual imminence of the words in Revelation do so because they believe, “The bright promises associated with our Lord’s four-fold declaration – I am coming soon – are blessings that obviously have not yet been realized.” Jesus’ promise to come soon could not be true, because the exegete does not see what he expected to see. The interpreter’s presuppositions and prejudices become the determining factor in defining Biblical words.”
And this is abundantly clear in Whitsett’s unpersuasive work, “The Cold Case Against Full Preterism: AKA Realized Eschatology.”
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One great failing by Whitsett in “Cold Case” is his habit of presenting only one possible definition of various Greek words . . . the definition that, of course, supports his agenda. In discussing Revelation 3:11, he gives this definition:
“5035 [e] ταχύ tachy quickly. Adv”
But if one takes the time to dig a bit deeper, this is what they’ll discover:
“Neuter singular of tachus (as adverb); shortly, i.e. Without delay, soon, or (by surprise) suddenly, or (by implication, of ease) readily — lightly, quickly.”
Whitsett quotes BibleHub.com saying ταχύ “does not mean ‘immediately’ or necessarily ‘in a very short time’ but rather ‘without any delay.’ ” But then he skips the definitions listed by Thayer and instead relies on something called HELPS Word-Studies (which he never identifies in the book). This “tool” adds the word “unnecessary” to the phrase “without delay,” making it “without unnecessary delay.” This explanation claims God can say something is “at hand” but fulfill it thousands of years later because there was no unnecessary delay. To Whitsett, delay is okay, as long as it’s not “unnecessary.” Such twisting of scripture is reprehensible.
Whisett has, in his own mind, established that Jesus did not return in A.D. 70. Therefore – according to his hermeneutic – all verses that say He is returning “soon” or “shortly,” or that His return is “at hand” are mistranslated and must really mean that His return, whenever that may be, will simply happen “quickly.” Unfortunately for Whitsett, his desperate attempt to redefine these Greek words has failed.
Also, it is disingenuous on the part of Whitsett to try to make the reader think that the definition he presents in “Cold Case” is the only definition. In fact, it takes a lot of hubris for him to claim that his preferred definition is correct, and the learned scholars who assisted in the various translations were all wrong when they used the word “soon.” It’s even more incredulous when he writes, “When an uneducated FP declares the Greek translator wrong in which use is to be used, it simply not (sic) to be trusted as the position is rife with bias.” It is certainly a case of Whitsett accusing others of the very thing he does!
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Whitsett makes an interesting statement on page 61, where he says:
“Preterists will use a translation that supports their view while ignoring the other twenty-three translation (sic).”
Yet, as previously noted, Whitsett does the same thing when choosing among a list of possible definitions to find the particular one that fits his agenda. He often passes over several possible definitions, then picks the one that “supports [his] view!
But there’s still more to be said on this topic. Bible translations often have the bias of the translators scattered throughout them. The King James Version is notorious for political and religious bias. And newer translations – undertaken after the evangelical Christian church became wrapped up in rapture-mania – may choose one definition over another because it better fits what they personally believe to be the correct interpretation.
In any event, Whitsett cites Acts 24:15, and contrasts Young’s Literal Translation with the English Standard Version. The former says “about to be a resurrection,” while the latter says “there will be a resurrection.”
This is much ado about nothing, because the original text includes the word “mello.” And here, Whitsett again does the same exact thing he accuses preterists of doing: he cherry picks a definition that fits his eschatological beliefs.
Strong’s lists one definition with two sub-meanings:
1) to be about
1a) to be on the point of doing or suffering something
1b) to intend, have in mind, think to
Whitsett passes over the primary definition and settles on the one that fits his bias. He thus implies that mello – at least in this verse – can only mean “certainty.”
However, on page 56, Whitsett makes this surprising admission:
“The word is essentially used in several different ways and in many passages both versions could make sense.”
Yet, in Acts 24:15, he’s determined that only a translation expressing “certainty” is correct. But he misses the point entirely . . . it’s not necessarily an either/or situation. Both definitions can be symbiotically used, such as: The resurrection that is certain to happen is about to happen.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter if, as Whitsett says, 23 of 25 translations omit “about to” in this verse. The fact is, mello is there, it’s primary meaning is “about to,” and that definition harmonizes best with the whole of scripture.
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Here is another interesting statement by Whitsett (page 60, my emphasis added):
“ ‘Son of man coming in clouds’ or ‘coming into His Kingdom’ found in the gospels speaks of a judgment that comes, because he ascended to the right hand and so judgment comes from him AND CULMINATES IN THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM IN A.D. 70 because he rules and judges from heaven.”
He contrasts this with “the second appearing, [where] Jesus Himself descends from Heaven, his feet stand on the Mount of Olives, and he appears before all men as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
Whitsett continues (emphasis added): “One is going up to rule and judge, the other is to come down after he ascended and judge (sic). EVERY TIME TEXT FOUND IN THE GOSPEL (sic) SPEAKS TO HIS ASCENSION. All the time text (sic) found in the Epistles speak to his coming down.”
Here’s Whitsett’s problem: Matthew 24:33-34 is a gospel time text passage, and it is not referring to Christ’s ascension.
“So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that the time is near, (even) at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”
Remember: Whitsett wrote that all time texts in the gospels – all, every single one without exception – speak of Christ’s ascension. But simply reading Matthew 24 proves that statement false.
For Whitsett to be right, the entire Olivet Discourse would have to have happened in a period of about 50 days, beginning the week of his death! This includes:
· Many coming in Jesus’ name, claiming they are the Christ;
· Wars and rumors of wars;
· Famines, pestilences, and earthquakes;
· His disciples being handed over to the authorities to be beaten and killed;
· People betraying and hating each other;
· False prophets;
· Iniquity abounding and love waxing cold;
· The gospel preached in all the world;
· The abomination of desolation;
· Believers fleeing to the mountains;
· Great tribulation, “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be”;
· No flesh saved unless those days were shortened;
· The sun and moon darkened;
· Stars falling from heaven;
· The sign of the Son of man in heaven;
· The Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory [NOTE: this, according to Whitsett, is the ascension of Christ];
· Angels gathering the elect.
If the second-to-last item on this list was the ascension – which occurred only 40 days after Christ’s resurrection – then every single point before it had to have happened by then.
But we know that “great tribulation” (like nothing ever before seen) did not happen before the ascension. We know the sign of the Son of man did not appear in the heavens before the ascension. We know the moon wasn’t darkened and the stars didn’t fall from heaven before the ascension. We know the believers didn’t flee to the mountains before the ascension. We know the gospel wasn’t preached in all the world before the ascension.
I could go on, but you understand the point. Whitsett’s assertion that “every time text found in the gospels, speaks to his ascension” is demonstrably false. And if he is so clearly wrong in this instance, where else is he wrong?
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Finally, Whisett adds an appendix concerning time texts in which he claims to show the reader “which one are (sic) viable time statements and which ones are fake, and others that are ‘stretched’ to imply being a time statement.” Like much of what Whitsett writes, the list is confusing, and doesn’t appear to follow any real pattern.
To begin, he makes no commentary on 39 of the 101 listed time texts, apparently conceding that they are exactly what Full Preterists say they are. Another 17 are labeled “Judgment” or “Second Coming,” which appears to be more agreement with the preterist view. And then he marks 45 as “Fake” (his explanation: “What I mean by fake is the verse being used as a time statement is simply not one”). Let’s take a look at a few of these so-called “fake” verses.
1. Incredibly, Whitsett simply writes the word FAKE but doesn’t even give a citation for the first verse he attacks! But the passage Whitsett is referring to is Matthew 21:40-41, 43, 45 – “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers? . . . He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons . . . Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it . . . When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.”
It’s mindboggling that Whitsett denies this passage is a time text! Judgment was rapidly approaching for the religious leaders of Jerusalem who rejected Christ. And this passage clearly ties that judgment to them (“they understood that He was speaking about them”), which means the judgment had to fall upon that particular generation. This is, without a doubt, a time text, but because it proves Whitsett’s futurist bias wrong, he is forced to discredit the passage in any way possible, even calling it “fake.”
2. Matthew 24:34 – Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Whitsett finds himself in a conundrum since, as noted above, he believes the preceding verse to be about Christ’s ascension. But that means the long list above had to be fulfilled before that generation then living passed away . . . which is exactly what full preterists teach! In fact, Whitsett has painted himself into a corner with his claim that “every time text in the gospel (sic) speaks to his ascension.” All he can do is now claim that this verse is not a time text even though it ties fulfillment of the entire Olivet Discourse with the existence of that “wicked and adulterous generation” that rejected Christ!
One simple method of proving the discourse was about the men and women living then, in the first century, is the fact that Jesus addressed His listeners as “you”:
· “Do you see all these things?” He replied. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
· Jesus answered, “See to it that no one deceives you.
· You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.
· Then they will deliver you over to be persecuted and killed, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.
· So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination of desolation,’ described by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
· Pray that your flight will not occur in the winter or on the Sabbath.
· At that time, if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe it.
· See, I have told you in advance.
· So if they tell you, ‘There He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.
· So also, when you see all these things, you will know that He is near, right at the door.
· Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened.
· Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day on which your Lord will come.
· For this reason, you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour you do not expect.
· Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
Jesus sat there on the Mount of Olives with His disciples and said, “YOU will see . . . YOU will hear . . . YOU will be . . .” He was telling them that they would be the ones to experience these things. The truth is, if Jesus looked His disciples in the eye and said “you will see,” but He really meant other people living 2,000 years in the future would be the ones to experience those things, He lied. There’s no way around this dilemma. Christ either told the truth (that His disciples to whom He was speaking face to face in A.D. 30 would witness the things in the discourse) or He lied.
3. Acts 24:25 – As Paul expounded on righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “You may go for now. When I find the time, I will call for you.”
While Whitsett calls this verse “fake,” the fact is it is a time text that ties the coming judgment to the near future. Why else would Felix be “frightened” unless he believed he could be condemned by God at that time? If it was 2,000 years off, the judgment would not frighten him, but if he expected it within his lifetime (“this generation”), he was right to be scared.
4. Romans 13:11-12 – And that, knowing the time, now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
Once again, Whitsett simply ignores what he doesn’t want to acknowledge in an attempt to hold his eschatological theory together. This passage is rife with imminence, starting with Paul’s comment about “knowing the time.” He goes on to say that NOW it is HIGH TIME to awake – there’s even more imminence – because our salvation is NEARER. Why? Because he “will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him” (Hebrews 9:28) – the Second Coming! And that day was AT HAND for the readers of Paul’s letter. Yet, Whitsett calls this a “fake” verse!
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I could go on exposing Whitsett’s egregious mistakes in labeling verses and passages that show imminence as “fake,” but there’s no need. This refutation of his chapter and appendix on the Bible’s time texts has shown his failure (and desperation) to explain away the many verses that show, over and over, that Jesus told His disciples He would return in their generation, His disciples expected Him to return in their generation, and He did, in fact, return in that generation!