Howard Denham’s Abuse of Scripture and Logic – #10 – The Judgment of the Living and the Dead
This is article #10 in a series of responses to Howard Denham, church of Christ minister, who considers himself to be the “final answer” to the truth of Covenant Eschatology. Denham prides himself– pride in the worst definition of the word – on being a master of logic and scripture. Yet, as we have shown in this series, he abuses logic and perverts scripture. And to make matters worse, his caustic, hateful and arrogant attitude is the very epitome of what a Christian minister should not be. It is truly sad.
In this installment, I want to look closer at Denham’s argument as it relates to the judgment of the living and the dead. He made the point in his syllogism concerning the apostasy. Be sure to read the previous articles in which I dealt with the NT doctrine of the Great Apostasy. Here is Denham’s syllogism again, and notice his focus on the judgment of the living and the dead.
Major Premise: If it is the case that the judgment of the quick and the dead at the appearing of Christ and His kingdom occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, then it is the case that the prophecy of the apostasy of 2 Timothy 4:1-4 and the preaching of the Word to counter it were limited to a two year period from A.D. 68 to A.D. 70 and the dstruction (sic) of Jerusalem.
Minor Premise: It is not the case that the prophecy of the apostasy of 2 Timothy 4:1-4 and the preaching of the Word to counter it were limited to a two year period from A.D. 68 to A.D. 70 and the dstruction (sic) of Jerusalem.
Conclusion: Therefore, it is not the case that the judgment of the quick and the dead at the appearing of Christ and His kingdom occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Like his previous syllogisms, Denham’s argument here is fundamentally flawed, and a direct contradiction of Scriptural truth concerning the judgment of the living and the dead. Obviously, this is a vast topic, so, I will limit my comments to a couple of texts.
Jesus and the Judgment of the Living and the Dead
Note Matthew 16:27-28:
“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. “Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
Now, in Denham’s fellowship, verse 27 is taken to be a reference to the “end of time” judgment, i.e. the judgment of the living and the dead.” Verse 28 is said to have been fulfilled on Pentecost. Needless to say, this is nothing but a “gap theory” and literally has no textual or contextual justification. It is purely presuppositional.
Now, if it can be shown that v. 27 is synchronous with v. 28, then Denham’s entire eschatology is destroyed. It is that simple. He cannot admit for one moment that the judgment of every man took place in the lifetime of that audience. And yet, that is precisely what the text demands.
Notice that v. 28 begins with “Verily I say unto you.” Let me give here a few comments from my book, Can You Believe Jesus Said This?
<<Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance reveals that the phrase, “verily I say unto you” (Greek, amen Lego humin), is used 95 times in the New Testament. In every occurrence, this little phrase “verily I say to you,” emphasizes a topic already under consideration, and to emphasize additional information that is about to be offered. Unless amen Lego humin is being used in a totally unprecedented way in Matthew 16:28/Mark 9:1, there is not one place in the New Testament where the phrase introduces a new discussion. The phrase is always used to emphasize a statement about a subject that is already under consideration! Think of what that means here.
Jesus, in verse 27 said he would come with his angels, in glory and judge every man. Then, to emphasize that statement, he emphatically stated when it would happen! Grammatically, therefore, there is no justification for dividing verse 27 from verse 28. So, unless you can prove absolutely that, “Verily I say unto you” does not have its normal usage of emphasizing something that has just been said, then its usage in Matthew 16:28 is conclusive evidence that Jesus was indeed predicting his return in that generation! These verses cannot be divided.>>
If verse 27 cannot be divided from verse 28 then simply stated, the judgment of the living and the dead was in the first century, in the lifetime of that audience. The burden of proof is squarely on Denham and his crowd to show that amen lego humin is being used in a totally unprecedented way in Matthew 16:28– and he cannot do that. By the way, take note that in Revelation 22:12 we have Jesus reiterating Matthew 16:27, and stating, “Behold, I come quickly!” His coming, to reward every man, was at hand and coming soon. The language is inescapable.
Notice now, Matthew 23:31-36:
“Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.”
There could hardly be a more emphatic declaration that the judgment of the living and the dead was going to be in the first century, at the time of the judgment of Jerusalem!
All the blood of all the righteous martyrs – all the way back to Creation! – would be avenged and judged in that generation– that is the judgment of the dead.
That judgment would come on the living Jews of the day – “that upon you may come all the blood…”
Normally, Denham’s fellowship concurs that in Matthew 23 Jesus was speaking of the impending judgment of Jerusalem, but, that is a fatal admission, for it is undeniably true that Jesus was speaking here of the judgment of the living and the dead.
Peter and the Judgment of the Living and the Dead
Finally, for space considerations, consider 1 Peter 4:5-17:
“They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers…. Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, (literally, that is in your midst, DKP) as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
Peter said Christ was “ready” to judge the living and the dead. The word “ready” is hetoimos, and as the Expositors Greek Testament says, “Greek readers would understand the imminent judge.” (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1970)71.
Notice that Peter is writing to martyrs. His audience was in the midst of the fiery trial foretold by Jesus in Revelation 3:9f. They were suffering for merely being Christians (v. 11f)! They were participating in, “the sufferings of Christ” and thus, just as Jesus said in Matthew 23, their suffering was filling up the measure of suffering and, of course, the measure of sin on the part of their persecutors.
Peter assured them: “The end of all things has drawn near” (literal rendering). Is the judgment of the living and the dead at the time of the end of all things? Denham would affirm that. But, that demands that the judgment of the living and the dead of v. 5 had drawn near, falsifying Denham’s eschatology! But, this is not all.
In v. 17 the apostles said (literal rendering)– the appointed time has come for the judgment.” When he spoke of “the time” he used the definite article, and then, he used the word “kairos” which is defined as “appointed, designated time.” Some scholars call it the “divine time” since it is referent to God’s eschatological plan and schema. It is “the appointed day” of Acts 17:30-31– and Peter said “the time has come!”
But then, Peter said the time has come for “the judgment.” Not just some judgment, but, “the judgment” and it was, remember, the appointed time for the judgment! And there is a critical point to be noted here.
When Peter said that the time had come for “the judgment” he uses what is known as the anaphoric article. Simply stated, an anaphoric article is used when a speaker or writer has spoken of a subject and then, later, to draw the reader / listener’s attention back to the subject already introduced, he uses the definite article.
The anaphoric article is by far the most common use of the definite article according to the Greek Grammars. (See e.g. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond Basics: An Exegetical Syntax Of The N.T., 218). To put this as simply as possible, the use of the anaphoric article in 1 Peter 4:17 points directly back to the “judgment” of v. 5 – the judgment of the living and the dead. And, that means that Peter was affirming, “the appointed time has come for the judgment of the living and the dead.” That is the only judgment mentioned in the entire context. (Amazingly, I have heard ministers from Denham’s fellowship say that v. 5 is the end of time, verse 7 is AD 70, and v. 17 is, who knows what?? Maybe AD 70, maybe the end of time, but, who knows? But, there is simply no justification for such radical and arbitrary dichotomization of the text). There is no textual, grammatical or contextual justification for denying the unity of the texts, and thus, connection of verse 5, 7 and 17.
There could hardly be a more powerful refutation and falsification of Howard Denham’s denial that the judgment of the living and the dead occurred in the first century, in the judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem, the one guilty of the blood of the martyrs of God. Peter’s language is clear, it is emphatic, and it is undeniable. When we honor the use of the anaphoric article and couple v. 17 with hetoimos (ready) in v. 5, and then Peter’s explicit affirmation of the nearness of the end of all things in v. 7, it is a perversion of the text to deny the imminence of the judgment of the living and the dead.
Thus, in our on-going series Responding to the Critics, we have exposed, once again, the total abuse of logic and the Biblical text by Howard Denham. The judgment of the living and the dead was in AD 70!