Like Father Like Son, Don K Preston

Responding to the Critics: Responding to Keith Mathison On Acts 1:9-11- #2

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Responding to the Critics: Responding to Keith Mathison On Acts 1:9-11- #2

Be sure to read the previous installment of this subject

As promised, I want to look closer at some of Mathison’s that are manifested in his article.

Let me pose what I think is a severe problem for the traditional view of “in like manner.” Jesus’ post-resurrection, pre-Ascension body was not his immortal, incorruptible, transformed and glorified body (i.e. it was patently not identical to his Transfiguration vision or that in Revelation 1 & 19). This is, of course, controversial, but I think demonstrably true. Jesus ate and drank, (he was hungry!), He still possessed His cross wounds, He challenged Thomas to touch Him to prove that He was not a spirit, etc., all of which support my claim. With this in mind, then, do the proponents of the “in like manner” term, meaning in the same body as you see him going, accept the idea that Jesus must come back in a mortal, untransformed physical body? No, they do not. Yet they insist that “in like manner” demands in the same body that you have seen taken from you. Thus, for the traditional view to be sustained it must be proven beyond any doubt that Jesus’ post-resurrection, pre-Ascension body was in fact His transformed, immortal, incorruptible body, but for that, there is no evidence.

To buttress what I have presented, let me focus now on an aspect of Acts 1 that some preterists have noticed (e.g. Ed Stevens) that Mathison mentions but rejects, and that is, Luke tell us, “a cloud received him out of their sight.” This a theologically charged observation that no Jew of the time would have missed.

To those immersed in a literalistic paradigm and hermeneutic, a the term “cloud” demands, well, a literal cumulus cloud. (I am not denying that there were literal clouds in Acts 1). But such an approach overlooks how incredibly significant the concept of coming on the clouds was to the ancient Jewish mind set. There were several concepts linked with riding on the clouds:

Psalm 18:9-12
He bowed the heavens also, and came down With darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters And thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him, His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire.

Psalm 68:1-4
Let God arise, Let His enemies be scattered; Let those also who hate Him flee before Him. As smoke is driven away, So drive them away; As wax melts before the fire, So let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad; Let them rejoice before God; Yes, let them rejoice exceedingly. Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name YAH, And rejoice before Him.

Psalm 104:1-4
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty, Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, Who stretch out the heavens like a curtain. He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters, Who makes the clouds His chariot, Who walks on the wings of the wind, Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire.

Daniel 7:13-14
I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him.

So, God rode on the clouds. In these passages, the Lord’s riding on the clouds not only conveyed the idea of His majesty and Deity, but His coming in judgment. That is, of course, one of the constituent elements of his coming “in like manner,” is it not? Does anyone deny that the “in like manner” coming promise of Acts 1 is linked with his judgement of the “living and the dead”?

As Kenneth Gentry notes:

In the Old Testament, clouds are frequently employed as symbols of divine wrath and judgment. Often God is seen as surrounded with foreboding clouds which express His unapproachable holiness and righteousness. Thus, God is poetically portrayed in certain judgment scenes as coming in the clouds to wreak historical vengeance upon His enemies.

One has the right to ask, since the standard, normal use of “coming on the clouds” was never a reference to a literal, visible, descent of God out of heaven on literal clouds, but rather an “exhibition” of His Deity, how is it justified to claim that when we come to the New Testament, and even specifically in Acts 1, we must think of literal clouds, a visible coming of the Lord for Him to be manifested as a man? Take a look at some key New Testament prophecies of Christ coming on the clouds:

Matthew 24:30 / Luke 21:27 –
They shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory

Mathison and the majority of partial preterists agree that these texts do not speak of a literal coming of Christ on cumulus clouds. Rather, it is admitted that the visible events of the fall of Jerusalem would prove that Christ was enthroned in the heavens, acting with the judgment prerogative vested in Him by the Father—to prove that He is worthy praise just as the Father is worthy.

Matthew 26:64
Jesus said to him, ‘It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.’

Generally speaking, partial preterists, including Mathison, (2009, 382) do not see here a prediction of a future end of time, physical coming of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 4:17
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

Notice the emphatic, three-fold use of the term Lord in Paul’s prediction as he discussed the Lord’s coming in the clouds. In the Tanakh, “Lord” (Kurios) was the most common word to describe YHVH. Thus, once again, the cloud coming is associated with the Deity of Christ, not His physical body. Needless to say, this is has profound implications since the vast majority of commentators believe that Acts 1 and 1 Thessalonians 4 speak of the same parousia of Christ.

(Mathison posits Matthew 24:29-31 as referent to AD 70. He fails to note that every constituent element of the discourse is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, which Mathison claims is an “end of time” event! Thus, we have two texts, using the same language, the same constituent elements, containing the same temporal context, yet Mathison applies them to two radically different times and events).

Revelation 1:7-8
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

As he does with Matthew 24 / Matthew 26, Mathison posits Revelation 1:7-8 as a prediction of Christ’s coming in AD 70.

Revelation 14:14-16
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So, He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.

Strangely, after positing the coming of Christ on the clouds in Revelation 1:7 as AD 70, Mathison then claims that the coming of the Lord on the clouds in chapter 19—in the judgment of Babylon—is referent to His coming in the judgment of Rome (2009, 680). This is a radical change from his earlier position when he said: “Chapter 14 [of Revelation, DKP] is a vision of the fall of Jerusalem, referred to as “Babylon the great’ (14:8). As we will see in chapter 17-18, the evidence that ‘Babylon’ is a symbolic description of Jerusalem is compelling.”

I have shown that when we consider the prophetic background and source of Acts 1, along with the Christological significance of the cloud coming of Christ there is strong reason for rejecting the traditional understanding of “in like manner.” No ancient Jew would read of Christ ascending in the clouds and simply think, “Were those cumulus or cirrus clouds?” And they assuredly would not think of a physical man coming back on those clouds.

The theological significance of the ascension on the clouds, coupled with the promise that He would come “in like manner,” demands that we see that promise in the context of what the cloud ascension was communicating. While Mathison and others focus on “this same Jesus” as referent to the Incarnate body of Jesus, the true focus should be on the meaning of that cloud ascension, that saiddeclared: “Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords.” He will come again “in the glory of the Father,” judging as the Father had judged many times. That means that the woodenly literalistic approach to “in like manner” as posited by Mathison and all futurists, is completely misplaced. Thus, Mathison’s objection is Overruled!

In the near future, I will be following up with an examination of the correlation between Acts 1 and Jesus’ parabolic teaching about The Absent Master. Be watching for that!