My Response to Sam Frost’s Review of Our Debate:
Sam Frost wrote a four point analysis of our recent (May 2020) formal radio debate on Chris Arnzen’s “Iron Sharpens Iron” program. The debate is archived there, and I urge the reader to listen to the entire debate, including the third night, which was a Q and A session.
I will respond to Sam’s four “points” as time permits. Here is his first point in his analysis of our debate, with my response below:
Frost – It became very apparent that Don’s opening remarks concerning II Thessalonians 1 that he thought he had a grand slam. Basically, the argument runs like this: IF this passage is a “second coming” passage, and it can be shown that this passage was “fulfilled” in the lifetime of the Thessalonians, then the Second Coming must have taken place in the lifetime of the Thessalonians. Preston alludes to the fact that many scholars take this passage as a second coming passage, therefore, since some of them do, and since it can be shown to apply only to those in their lifetime, then the Second Coming took place in their lifetime, i.e., 70 AD.
What Preston fails to understand is that there are commentaries/scholars who do not interpret this passage as a Second Coming passage. Now we have a choice. Which “scholar” am I to pick? Well, simple. Since the Second Coming of Jesus Christ involves the New Heavens and New Earth, the bodily resurrection of the dead, the change of the living, the judgment upon all the Just and the Unjust in the Last Day when Death itself is once and for all removed, and these things did not happen in 70 AD (Don hyper-spiritualizes them away), then I pick the commentaries that agree with me. Simple. I mean, if we are going to appeal to scholars, right? Scholars who, no not one, state that these things happened in 70 AD (Don calls them, “inconsistent”, “confused” and “biased” – all quotes from him in responses to me on Facebook posts).” (EOQ)
My Response: Well, Sam is right about one thing, I believed– and firmly believe– that 2 Thessalonians 1 is a grand slam home run, a slam dunk, against his newly crafted arguments, arguments that, as I pointed out in our debate, are unknown in the annals of church history! (I have challenged Frost to document, from the scholars or church history, anyone who has made the argument that he makes. He has not offered a keystroke of that documentation.
Think of that! Sam Frost’s key argument was that “If Preston is right, the church has been wrong for 2000 years!” And yet, on two critical, foundational eschatological texts, that the historic church has appealed to for the second coming of Christ, Frost has all but invented arguments that categorically and 100% reject 2000 years of church history!
Here is what I argued in the debate:
The Thessalonian church – along with the churches across the Roman empire– was being persecuted.
They were being persecuted by the Jews (Acts 17 / 1 Thes. 2:14-16). Now, incredibly, Frost tried to deny this, because, he argued, Paul calls the persecutors of the Thessalonians “your countrymen.” So, for Frost– as I responded– even though the Jews are identified as the instigators of the persecution in Acts 17– even though they lived in the same country as the Thessalonians, and even though they lived in the same city as the Thessalonians, they could not be called the “countrymen” of the Thessalonians!?!? What kind of logic is that? The brief answer is that it is not logic at all.
Paul said that those troubling the church (the Jews) would be troubled (same word he used of the persecution of the church (thlipsis).
He said that the church would receive “rest”- from the Greek word anesis, meaning relief from the pressure of persecution. The persecutors would become the persecuted!
Frost tried to deflect attention away from this undeniable, lexically proven point, and to argue that the Thessalonians were to receive come sort of mental comfort, amidst their persecution, by the “revelation” that Christ had ascended several years previously and was on the throne in heaven. Per Frost, Paul was not, in any way whatsoever, promising the Thessalonians any kind of relief (when anesis is used with thlipsis, as in 2 Thessalonians, it is invariably relief from what ever pressure is in the context. Thus, the Thessalonians– in utter refutation of Frost– were in fact being offered relief from that then on-going persecution. See my book, In Flaming Fire an in-depth exegesis of 2 Thessalonians 1, with full lexical documentation of the proper use and understanding of thlipsis and anesis. The book is very inexpensive, but, very, very powerful! In short, Frost abused the Greek of the text, and he abused the context of the text.
Now, Frost argues that the text should be translated as “in the revelation of Jesus Christ from heaven,” And not, “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven.” But, I pointed out four fatal objections to that argument:
1. The lexicons give “when” as the meaning in 2 Thessalonians 1:7. Furthermore, 59 out of 60 English translations render the passage as, “When the Lord Jesus is revealed.” The vast– all but unquestioned translation – given by the critical scholars is, “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven.” Thus, Frost stands in opposition to the lexicons, the critical commentaries and the translations. He also stands in total opposition to the early church writers, none of whom took his position!
2. That relief would be given, “when he comes to be glorified.” (v. 10f). It is not “when he came” it is, “when he comes.” Since that coming was future when Paul wrote, and since that coming is the same Day as verse 7, then Frost is simply wrong. Flat, dead wrong.
3. The coming of the Lord in flaming fire is a direct citation from Isaiah 66, which promised the coming of the Lord in flaming fire, in the judgment of Old Covenant Israel (Isaiah 66:3ff)! Thus, Frost’s application of Jesus’ coming in flaming fire to his Ascension is anachronistic and violates Paul’s prophetic source. Paul was NOT looking BACK at Christ’s ascension, he was looking forward to the coming of the Lord to give the Thessalonians relief and vindication from their then on-going persecution at the hands of the Jews.
4. I pointed out that Paul said the persecutors would be cast out of the presence of the Lord at the parousia. I appealed to Galatians 4:21ff, where Paul was anticipating that the Jews, the “sons of the bondwoman” were going to be cast out for persecuting the “children of the promise” i.e. the New Covenant saints. 2 Thessalonians 1 and Galatians 4 are directly parallel. I noted that only one people had ever dwelt in the presence of the Lord only to be cast out for persecuting the saints, and that was Old Covenant Israel after the flesh. Frost did not say so much as one word, not even a “grunt” of response.
So, here is the inspired apostle making a divine promise to and about a very specific historical situation. The promise is not vague. It is not ambiguous. It is clear and undeniable – the persecutors would become the persecuted and the church would receive relief from THAT THEN ON-GOING PERSECUTION AT THE HANDS OF THE JEWS– “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven.” (Caps for emphasis only). But, not in Frost’s aberrant view.
Let’s illustrate what Frost posits for 2 Thessalonians, by placing the situation in a modern context.
A man’s house is on fire.
He calls 911 frantically asking for the fire department to come put out the fire.
The Dispatcher tells the man that they will come put out the fire.
The man’s house burns to the ground. He is devastated and calls the fire station: Why didn’t you come put out my fire?? You said you would come, but you didn’t!
The Dispatcher responds, “Sir, putting out fires is what we do, but that does not mean we were going to put out YOUR fire! But, you can take great comfort in the fact that this fire station was established over 20 years ago, and we are super well equipped to put out fires! When you called, what I actually meant was that, “we may or may not put out your fire – but, rest assured that putting out fires is what we do!”
Ridiculous? Absurd? Utterly and totally so, and yet, this is the very scenario suggested by Frost. Mr. Frost totally distorts and denies that Paul promised the Thessalonian church relief from their then on-going “house fire.” He has Paul instead saying: “Well, now, you Thessalonians being persecuted, you need to take comfort in the fact that Christ has ascended to the right hand several years ago, and that one of these days by and by– who knows when–he will come and judge those rascals who are persecuting you. It may or may not be in your lifetime while you are still under persecution, and I am not saying that you will get any relief from your current persecutions at all. I am just saying that one of these days unknown to man, they will get what is coming to them. Just hang on and keep being persecuted!”
This was supposed to comfort them? Such a suggestion is a perversion of the use of anesis with thlipsis, an abuse of context, abuse of scripture.
Did you notice the subtlety of Frost’s argument, how deflective, diversionary and obfuscatory it is?
Now, note that I pointed out that historically the church -including the creeds – has applied 2 Thessalonians 1 to the Second Coming, but that Frost, contra that 2000 years of commentary, told us that 2 Thessalonians 1 is not a Second Coming text. And it is to be noted that the early writers nor the creeds consider Thessalonians to be a “minor text” or promise! How did / does Frost respond: Read his comments very carefully, noticing the sleight of hand:
“What Preston fails to understand is that there are commentaries/scholars who do not interpret this passage as a Second Coming passage. Now we have a choice. Which “scholar” am I to pick? Well, simple. Since the Second Coming of Jesus Christ involves the New Heavens and New Earth, the bodily resurrection of the dead, the change of the living, the judgment upon all the Just and the Unjust in the Last Day when Death itself is once and for all removed, and these things did not happen in 70 AD (Don hyper-spiritualizes them away), then I pick the commentaries that agree with me.”
Do you catch how presuppositional his comments are? His comment is a classic example of petitio principii– which is “begging the question” – assuming something to be true without offering any proof. Does he offer– did he offer in the debate– any exegetical evidence for a literal:
“New Heavens and New Earth, the bodily resurrection of the dead, the change of the living, the judgment upon all the Just and the Unjust in the Last Day when Death itself is once and for all removed”? No. He asserted it, but gave no exegesis. (His one attempt to appeal to Philippians 3:20f backfired badly).
The sleight of hand comes in when it is realized that Frost’s interpretation of the text as a retrospective look at the Ascension is literally not found in the literature- anywhere. Now, there are indeed some commentators who agree that 2 Thessalonians 1 is not about the Second Coming, (he did not prove that it is not), and he gave no justification for his aberrant and idiosyncratic view.
The fact is that some – if not all – of the commentators who do not apply 2 Thessalonians 1 to the Second Coming, do, in fact, apply it to AD 70!
Now, just for fun, Frost says that not one commentator has ever taught that 2 Thessalonians 1 was fulfilled in AD 70: “Scholars who, no not one, state that these things happened in 70 AD.” (My emphasis). Well, Frost is flat wrong.
N. Nisbett, “Destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power’ appear to me to have a singular propriety in them, when applied to the ruin of the Jewish nation; for God’s presence was the peculiar privilege of that people; which they could only forfeit by their wickedness, and their forsaking of the covenant of their God.” (The Prophecy of the Destruction of Jerusalem, (1787), 25. Reprinted by John Bray Ministries).
I should note that Frost “responded” to my comments just above on Facebook, claiming that I contradicted myself. He said that on the one hand I claim that no commentators have ever denied that 2 Thessalonians 1 speaks of the second coming, but that I then turn around and cite Nisbett, who did not apply the text to the second coming. But, I responded by pointing out that I have NEVER said that no commentator has ever denied that 2 Thessalonians is about the second coming! NEVER said that! What I said was that no commentator has ever- EVER– taken the view that 2 Thessalonians looks back at the Ascension! He dropped out of the conversation when I pointed out his egregious misrepresentation.
So, while Frost may say, “See, there is a commentator that says 2 Thessalonians 1 was not a Second Coming text, (a deflection from the point) that commentator categorically disagrees with Frost’s argument, and most assuredly falsifies his claim that no scholar has ever posited 2 Thessalonians 1 as AD 7. (I could cite others who do, but this is sufficient).
So, in sum, Frost’s “analysis” of our debate is clearly disingenuous. It is misleading, it is false. Frost utterly failed to substantively address my affirmative arguments, or, to address my arguments that I made in response to his claims. In fact, in a future installment, I will give a (long) list of the arguments that I made, including extensive exegesis, that Frost literally ignored, choosing instead to repeat his mantra – “See, everyone knows what death, and what body, and what grave means,” and, “Preston rejects 2000 years of church history!” Such “arguments” (which literally have no substance to them) prove absolutely nothing.