Raising Up Children of God from the Stones #3
Don K. Preston D. Div.
In the previous articles (begin here) based on Matthew 3:9 we noted that John the Immerser warned his audience, comprised of, at least, the Pharisees and Sadducees, that if they did not repent, but instead relied on their ethnic lineage, that God would raise up children of Abraham from the dead stones.
I suggested that to the Jewish mind, the idea of bringing forth children of God from the stones would have immediately taken the mind to Isaiah 51:
“Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, And to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, And blessed him and increased him. For the LORD will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the LORD”
In this great text, God called on Israel to remember that God had called Abraham– who was an Amorite, and Sarai was a Hittite, to be His child. And in doing so, God had created children from the stones!
I noted that the production of sons of God, throughout the story of Abraham and his sons, is a story that emphasized, not biological reproduction or emphasis on blood line, but, the power of God to bring life from the dead, i.e. the barrenness (deadness) of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel.
I took note that there are other texts that, like Matthew 3, speak of the production of the sons of God. These texts, like Matthew 3, challenge prevailing concepts of resurrection. They also falsify all emphasis on ethnicity.
Notice Luke 20:35-36: “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”
It goes without saying that the futurist view of Luke (and parallel in Matthew 22), posits a physical resurrection at the end of human history. This was the view espoused by Joel McDurmon in our recent debate (DVDs of that debate are available here) and in other formal debates in which I have engaged. But, there is an insurmountable problem with this view.
Sons (children) of God are currently produced by faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26-29). This is in stark contrast to the Old Covenant system in which as Davies and Allison note: “To be born a Jew of a Jewish mother was to be born into the covenant community” (W. D. Davies and Allison– Matthew, International Critical Commentary, Vol. 1, (Grand Rapids, MI., Eerdman, 1996)307). In other words, under the Old Covenant, sons of God were produced by marrying, giving in marriage, and the natural conjugal relations. Under the New Covenant, sons of God are produced by faith, totally distinct from and unrelated to these things.
Note a famous, but sometimes overlooked text that has a direct bearing on this issue, John 1:10f. Speaking of Jesus, it says, “he came into his own, but his own received him not. But to as many as received him, he gave the right (Greek exousia, meaning authority) to become children of God, to those who believe in his name. Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
There could hardly be a clearer commentary on Luke 20. Here is a direct, glaring contrast between the two covenant worlds. One in which children of God were produced by marrying and giving in marriage– i.e. by the will of man– and the other, the New Covenant of Christ, in which children of God (the sons of God of Luke 20) were and are born by faith– just like Abraham.
It must be remembered at this juncture that all futurists claim that the resurrection is the end of history. It is the end of evangelism and conversion. It is, in other words, the end of the time in which sons of God are produced by any means, whether through faith, as currently, or by any other means– or so it would seem. But, take a closer look at what Jesus said in Luke 20. He said that in the age to come, sons of God are produced through the resurrection: “they are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”
Do you catch the power of this? In the age of the resurrection, the age introduced by the resurrection, i.e. “the age to come” from Jesus’ perspective, sons of God would continually be produced through resurrection.
Interestingly, in my debate with McDurmon, he attempted to delineate between “the age to come” and the resurrection. This is simply stunning. It may well be the first and only time in the history of Biblical interpretation that such an interpretation has been suggested! This becomes increasingly ironic when one considers how much emphasis the “Reformed” community puts on orthodoxy and church history. McDurmon cannot produce any church creed, council or historian that argued as he did. It is simply incredible to witness the “make it up as you go along” theology of the Dominionist camp. (You really should get a copy of that debate!)
I should also point out that in that debate, I pointed out how Joel, in his writings, said that “the age to come” that would follow Jesus’ “this age” is the current Christian age. This reality is prima facie self destructive to Joel, who maintained that in the “age to come” (again, what he identifies as the Christian age) there is no marrying or giving in marriage!
I pointed out repeatedly that Joel’s own words demand, given his literalistic view of Luke 20, that he dissolve his marriage! After all, he persistently claimed that if the fulfilled view of resurrection is true, that there is no marriage or giving in marriage. And yet, his own firmly stated view demands that very thing, for according to Joel himself, we are in the age to come that Jesus spoke of! Joel was so desperate to avoid the force and power of this argument that he finally claimed (unbelievably) that the contrast in the ages was not the focus of Jesus’ teaching. This in spite of the fact that the contrast of the ages is patently the focus.
But, back to the point. If time and history ends at the resurrection, meaning that evangelism and conversion ends, this means that at that juncture, there are no more “sons of God” being produced, period. If the resurrection is a one time, punctiliar physical event, with no continuing (linear) action, then if the resurrection occurs at the end of human history, there are clearly no more sons of God that can be produced after the end of time. Yet, this is directly contrary to what Jesus said.
Jesus’ words are a direct rejection of the “no more sons of God produced” doctrine of the “end of the world” theology. He said that in the age to come, i.e. in the resurrection age, sons of God are produced through the resurrection. This demands that although the resurrection assuredly did occur at the end of the age as a punctiliar, distinctive event, it is also true that resurrection life would become an objective reality and was to flow from that event and be an ongoing reality for those entering into the power of that resurrection. Thus, sons of God would be (are) continually produced through resurrection. Those of faith enter the power of the resurrection becoming sons of God.
The traditional futurist view of resurrection says that the sons of God die (now) but at the end of time are raised from the dead. They are not raised to become sons of God, they are the sons of God being raised. But, Jesus said that those worthy to enter “the age to come” (the age that followed his “this age”) would be sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. In other words, the resurrection would produce sons of God in the age to come. This is prima facie falsification of the futurist view of the resurrection as an “end of time, no more sons of God produced” paradigm.
However the resurrection and the age to come are identified, that identification must allow for the continuation of producing sons of God, and doing so through resurrection. But, if resurrection is defined as the raising of decomposed corpses out of the ground, then sons of God are produced separate and apart from faith in God. They are produced by the raising, re-composition, and restoration of decayed flesh. Notice the irony here.
Sons of God are currently produced by faith (Galatians 3:26-29). This likewise involves resurrection from the dead (Romans 6:3-10; Colossians 2:11-13); i.e. sons of God through resurrection. This is in the age that followed Jesus’ “this age.” This is in stark contrast- just as Jesus taught– to producing sons of God under the Old Covenant age (the age in which Jesus was living) where sons of God were produced by marrying and giving in marriage.
Yet, we are told that the production of sons of God by faith, via resurrection, in the age that followed Jesus’ “this age” cannot be what Jesus was talking about in Luke 20. He had to be talking about the production of sons of God, in another “age to come.” (Something unknown in scripture, which posits only one “age to come.”) And, not only was Jesus ostensibly speaking of another, “age to come,” but, he was speaking of the production of sons of God in a purely materialistic, purely physical, strictly “mechanical,” purely arbitrary manner involving no faith, no gospel, no conversion. All that is involved in the production of the sons of God in this scenario is the raising, re-composition and restoration of decayed flesh. But, it gets worse for the traditional view.
Paul said that in the resurrection “the last enemy” i.e. death, would be destroyed (from katargeo). If Paul was speaking of biological death, then physical death ceases to exist at the resurrection per the traditional paradigm. But wait!
Jesus said sons of God are produced through resurrection in the age to come! Resurrection– on-going resurrection to produce sons of God– would characterize the age to come. So, there is, of necessity, the continuing reality of death, some kind of death, in the age to come. Do you see the problem here?
This is a huge problem for the traditional posit, but, space forbids further development. The fact is, however, that there is no way to harmonize the traditional view of resurrection in Luke 20, the age to come, production of the sons of God, and 1 Corinthians 15 or Revelation 20.
All of this brings us back to ask: When John spoke of God producing children of God from the stones, did he have biological resurrection, per the futurist view of Luke 20, in mind? And the answer is: Patently not!
The example of Abraham demanded faith. Abraham was a dead, pagan “stone” (Joshua 24). Yet, God raised him to son-ship by faith. Likewise, in Luke 20, Jesus anticipated the production of sons of God via resurrection and by faith– not by flesh- in the age to come. And of course, that is precisely what is done today. Children of God are indeed produced from dead stones. They are produced by faith, regardless of ethnicity– just like Abraham. And in this regard, notice finally Revelation 21:7.
Revelation 21 depicts life after the millennium, and after the resurrection event of 20:10f. It describes life in the New Creation. And what is the situation in that New Creation? “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be my son” (21:7). So, after the “end”, after the consummative resurrection, those who continue to overcome through faith become sons of God!
When Isaiah called on Israel to look to the rock from which they sprang, and the pit from which they were taken, this was an incredible rejection of ethnicity. Yet, it spoke eloquently of grace, of God’s power and son-ship. This prophetic matrix is what lies behind John’s threatening words in Matthew 3: “God is able of these very stones to raise up children to Abraham.”
The Lord had once called a pagan, dead stone to him because of faith. He could, He did, and He does do the same today. Anyone that like Abraham responds to Christ– the Seed of Abraham– in faith, becomes a child of God.