The Judgment of the Living and the Dead- Resurrection Fulfilled!

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The Judgment of the Living and the Dead – Resurrection Fulfilled!

One of the most common objections to the full preterist view is that the judgment on Jerusalem was strictly a localized judgment. As one debate opponent said to our audience: “Who cared about the destruction of Jerusalem? Why would the folks in Corinth or Athens, or any of those cities hundreds of miles away care about the destruction of that isolated city?” Similar comments are common. (It apparently had not dawned on my opponent that the death of Jesus – as a social misfit– was known by far, far fewer people than those knowing of the destruction of Jerusalem. So, as I responded in that aforementioned debate: If size of an event, and distance from an event determines its importance, then how and why would the death of Jesus, which was 7-8,000 miles from us in America be of interest to US?? He gave no response, and the question had a visible impact on the audience.

The reality is that the fall of Jerusalem, like the death of Jesus, was important, not because of the size or location of the city, but because of what that city represented and symbolized. Jesus said that in that coming War, it would be “such great tribulation as has never been.”

Scoffers and deniers like to argue that World War I and II were far worse, They point to the Communist purges in China and Russia in which hundreds of millions people died, and proclaim that all of these events were much, much worse than the Jewish War of AD 66-70. But Kenneth Gentry took note of what is missing in these arguments. Commenting on the predicted Great Tribulation which occurred in conjunction with the siege of the city Gentry noted: “I would argue: first, the covenantal significance of the loss of the temple stands as the most dramatic redemptive-historical outcome of the Jewish War.” (Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, (Draper, VA: Apologetics Group Media, 2009), 347). No other city in all the world had a long standing, distinctive and exclusive covenant relationship with God as did Jerusalem. Thus, the destruction of that city had profound, almost unimaginable significance.

Joel Green offers thoughts on this:

Within the Lukan narrative, the Jerusalem temple is seen to serve as world ordering function, particularly as its architecture provides a series of segregating zones that extend out from the temple mount to determine social relations and the experience of fictive kinship between Jew and Samaritan, Jew and Gentile, male and female, and so on. If Jerusalem is utterly destroyed (with no stone on another, v. 44) then its socio-religious role is also decimated. If Jerusalem is no longer the center of the world, then the status distinctions it embodied and propagated are no longer definitive. In this light, the citation of Isaiah 56:7 in v. 46, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’ is telling, for it runs counter to the eschatological vision of all peoples coming to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh and paves the way for a mission that is centrifugal rather than centripetal (Cf. Acts 1:8) (Joel Green, New International Commentary on the NT (Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1997), 682).

N. T. Wright also comments on the incredible significance of the temple to the Jewish world. Wright cites E. P. Sanders in regard to the Temple and its place in the mind of Israel: “I think that it is almost impossible to make too much of the Temple in first century Jewish Palestine” (Jesus and the Victory of God, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 406ff). Anderson noted that: “No greater cultic calamity could be imagined than the loss of this sacrifice, (the Temple cultus, DKP), since it symbolized the severing of the divine-human relationship (Daniel 8:11).” (Cited in Wright, Victory, 407, n. 133). Gregory Stevenson says that to the Jew, “the destruction of the temple could be seen as tantamount to the destruction of the nation.” (Gregory Stevenson, Power and Place (Berlin, New York: Walter De Gruyter, 2001), 127, n. 50. See also p. 168).

Gentry is rightly pointing to the spiritual significance of Jerusalem as the determinate factor of Jerusalem’s importance. Although she was a large, metropolitan city, with a massive economy, the real importance of Jerusalem is what she stood for, her spiritual symbolism. For the purposes of this article I want to focus on the fact that the Bible posits the destruction as far more than the physical destruction of the capital, the center of the Jewish world. I want to urge the reader to consider that the destruction of the Old Covenant city was in fact the time of the judgment of the living and the dead. Meaning it was the time of the resurrection.

I am unaware of anyone that teaches that the judgment of the living and the dead is NOT the time of the resurrection in the Bible. That is an unquestioned axiomatic concept. But it seems to have escaped those in the futurist camp that the Bible is very clear in positing the judgment of the living and the dead at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction.

There are three NT texts that use the term of the judgment of the living and the dead:

Acts 10:42
And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.

2 Timothy 4:1

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

1 Peter 4:5
They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

A couple of things jump out to us in these passages when we examine the linguistics and then “connect the dots” with other texts.

In 2 Timothy 4:1 Paul said that the judgment of the living and the dead was “about to be”– i.e. it was on the point of taking place. Paul used the word mello, in the infinitive, and as a host of world class scholars – and lexicons – show, the meaning of mello in the infinitive is indeed “about to be, to be on the point of.” See an earlier work on mello, by A. J. Mattill, Luke and the Last Things (Dillsboro, N. C.; Western Carolina Press, 1979). He presented an exhaustive study of mello, establishing the “about to be” definition. I had the pleasure of communicating with him many times. I asked him on several occasions if he had ever found any evidence to suggest that his thesis could be seriously challenged and he insisted that he never had.

For an easy to access source, see the web page by noted Greek scholar Robert Mounce. See also Wigram’s Analytical Greek Lexicon, and, “A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament” by J. H. Mayer, who say, “the Greek word “mellei” when used as a present participle, present infinitive, present subjective, or a present indicative, is without exception used for an eager expectation of something that is about to take place (not far off, or merely “certain” in expectancy.” These kind of quotes from renowned Greek scholars could be multiplied many times over. A growing number of scholarly translations are now honoring the imminence in mello. For instance, famous scholar David Bentley Hart in his 2023 translation of the New Testament (second edition) renders Acts 17:31 to show that Christ was “to soon judge the world.” Numerous scholars could be cited here.

We then find in 1 Peter 4, a clear declaration of the impending, imminent judgment.

Verse 5– Christ was “ready to judge the living and the dead.” The word translated as “ready” is from hetoimos, and indicates not only moral readiness, but imminence as well.

Verse 7– the imminence of verse 5 is heightened by the fact that in verse 7 the apostle said “the end (the telos) of all things has drawn near.” The telos indicates not only the termination of all things but, it expresses the idea, just like 1 Corinthians 10:11, that the goal of all things had arrived on that generation. See my three part series on 1 Corinthians 10:11.

Verse 17 – In this verse, the apostle looks back to verse 5, by using the anaphoric article.

Let me make a semi-technical point here from the Greek. When Peter used the term “the judgment” (to krina) he uses what is known as an anaphoric article.

The anaphoric article is, according to one of the leading Greek Grammars of the day, the preponderant use of the definite article in the Greek language. One writer, drawing on Daniel Wallace, says, “An anaphoric reference, where the article indicates that the following substantive refers to another previously mentioned substantive. In providing this service, the article contributes to the meaning by helping the reader to associate the two substantives with each other, thus assists the reader in combining all the information about both substantives into one package.” Let me express this as simply as possible.

An anaphoric article is used by a writer or speaker when they are discussing a subject. After introducing the subject, they then add the article later to refer the reader back to their earlier discussion of that topic or subject. Let’s apply that to 1 Peter 4.

In 1 Peter 4:5 the apostle introduced the subject of the judgment. It is the judgment of the living and the dead. In verse 5 he does not use the definite article at all (one reason being that he uses a verbal form).

In verse 17 Peter brings up, again, the subject of the judgment. This time, to take the reader back to his earlier discussion of the topic of the judgment, he uses the definite article “the judgment.” In other words, stated as simply as possible, the judgment of verse 5 is the judgment of verse 17.

Let me state the argument like this: (Based on the use of the anaphoric article in 1 Peter 4:17):

The judgment” of 1 Peter 4:17 is the judgment of verse 5 – the judgment of the living and the dead.

The judgment of the living and the dead is at the resurrection of the dead.

Therefore, the judgment of 1 Peter 4:17 is at the resurrection of the living and the dead.

Following on this, take note:

The judgment of 1 Peter 4:17 is at the resurrection of the living and the dead.

But, Peter said the time had arrived for “the judgment.”

Therefore, the time had come for the resurrection at the judgment of the living and the dead.

 

(See my discussion of the anaphoric article here.

While the three texts adduced above use the specific terminology of “the judgment of the living and the dead” other passages clearly teach that identical concept. And when we submit ourselves to the actual language it is undeniable that the NT posited that time as imminent 2000 years ago.

Let’s look now at three critical texts that foretold the judgment of the living and the dead- and thus, the resurrection.

Matthew 23:31-38:

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. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate.

This text is commonly either overlooked or ignored in eschatological discussions. It is assumed, even claimed, that Jesus was speaking of nothing but a coming localized judgment on the Jewish capital. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus said that all the blood, of all the righteous, all the way back to ABEL was to be avenged – that means to be judged- in his generation. This is patently the judgment of the dead! Furthermore, I think all will agree that there were no Jews, no Jerusalem in the days of Abel! Yet, his blood and all the righteous after him, was to be avenged in the impending judgment of Jerusalem. That is a comprehensive judgment, not some strictly local, “insignificant” judgment.

But it was not just the judgment of the dead. Notice that Jesus said: “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.”

The “you” was undeniably the living to whom Jesus was speaking and it was upon them that the judgment was coming, at the time of the vindication of the martyrs. This is nothing other than, nothing less than, the judgment of the living and the dead. Jesus had earlier discussed that time.

Matthew 12:41-42
The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

Were the citizens of Nineveh dead? Was the queen of the south dead? To ask is to answer. And what did Jesus say? He said that the men of Nineveh and the queen of the south would “rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it.”

We thus have the judgment of the living and the dead and the statement that it would occur in that generation.

It is often argued that Jesus did not say that the judgment of Nineveh or the Queen would be in that first century generation, but rather that they would simply join with that first century of Judaism in the judgment, whenever that might be. But this is a mere cloud of smoke and dust.

When was Israel to be judged? When was all the blood of all the righteous martyrs to be judged and avenged? Well, to get ahead of ourselves slightly, it was to be in the first century generation judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem. Thus, if Nineveh and the Queen were to rise with Israel in the day of judgment, then since the day of judgment was to be in the first century, that demands that the men of Nineveh and the Queen were to arise with that generation in the judgment, the judgment of the living and the dead. The same can be applied to Jesus’ discussion of Tyre, Sidon and Sodom in the same chapter:

Matthew 11:22, 24 –
“But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.”

V. 24 – “But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”

There is no way, contextually, to delineate between this judgment and the judgment of verses 41-42. And since we have just demonstrated that the judgment in view was the first century generation judgment on Jerusalem, this confirms our thesis that the judgment of the living and the dead was in the first century.

Revelation 6:9-17:

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed. I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

This text does not use the term “living and the dead” but in fact that is precisely what it is speaking about.

The martyrs – the dead– cry out for vindication. They want judgment on their persecutors “who dwell on the earth”- meaning they want judgment on the living.

They were given white robes and told that the desired judgment would come in “a little while” (chronon micron). Notice that they only had to wait for a short time for the filling up of the measure of the martyrs who would be slain as they were. The Greek is literally their fellow brethren “who are about to be (another example of mello – mellontes– See David Hart’s translation) killed as they were.” In light of Matthew 23:29f and 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 the continuation of martyrdom for a very short period is clear. See also 1 Peter 1:5ff. The imminence of the filling up of that measure of martyrdom cannot be denied as one reads the rest of the Apocalypse.

To tie Revelation 6 in with the AD 70 judgment is done be realizing that in verses 12-17 John quotes from Isaiah 2-4, a prophecy of the last days (2:2-4) and the Day of the Lord (2:19-21), when men would run to the hills, hide in the caves and cry to the rocks ‘Fall on us!” And this judgment would be when the Lord would vindicate the blood of the martyrs (Isaiah 4:4) in the judgment of Jerusalem.

Thus, just like Matthew 23 we have the judgment of Jerusalem for shedding the blood of the martyrs. We have the filling up of the measure of the martyrs blood and suffering. We have the promise of the judgment of the living – the persecutors – and the vindication / judgment of the dead. To get ahead of ourselves a bit, this posits the time of the resurrection, which all agree is the judgment of the living and the dead, at the time of the judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem in AD 70.

Revelation 11:15-19:

When the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.” Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

In this great passage, that I consider pivotal in the Revelation, we have the “time of the dead that they should be judged”– the time of the judgment of the dead. We also have the judgment of those on the earth. It is the judgment of “those who destroy the earth.” the nations of the earth– the judgment of the living. Furthermore, as the time of the judgment of the dead, it is depicted as the time for their reward, and the time when the long dead prophets as well as the saints were to receive their reward. Needless to say, this is the same judgment as that depicted in Revelation 20, the end of the millennium resurrection and judgment.  The implications of this are profound!

What is clear about this prophecy of the judgment of the living and the dead is that it is posited in direct connection to the judgment of the city “where the Lord was crucified” which can only be one city in the world.

Milton S. Terry astutely commented on this text:

The time of the dead that they should be judged”– “The time has come to avenge by divine judgments of wrath those dead martyrs, for they had been slain for the word of God” (6:9-11). And for avenging the faithful witnesses whose dead bodies were exposed in that great city where their Lord was crucified (11:7-8). The ‘little time’ of 6:11 is now finished; the martyr blood is now avenged (CP Matthew 23:35). It only remains, as the elders say, to give to they servants the prophets and to the saints and to them that fear your name (11:18). (Milton S. Terry, The Apocalypse of John: A Preterist Commentary on the Book of Revelation, edited by Kenneth Gentry and Jay Rogers (Chesnee, SC: Victorious Hope Publishing, 1898- 2021 reprint), 147).

Kenneth Gentry says that the sounding of the seventh trumpet, under which this judgment takes place, was the herald that signified “Israel’s time is up” (He Shall Have Dominion (Draper, VA.: Apologetics Group, 2009), 407-408).

So, what we find in the NT is that there is full agreement in all of the texts examined. There is a constant theme, a consistent thread.

1. The time of the judgment of the living and the dead was to be the time of the resurrection. Again, I am unaware of anyone that denies this.

2. The time of the judgment of the living and the dead is clearly stated to be near– “the time has come for the judgment”- the judgment of “the living and the dead,” per Peter. It was “about to be” per Paul and Peter both.

3. That judgment was not some localized, insignificant event. It encompassed all of the blood, of all the righteous from Abel onward. It was not on “Israel only” therefore, since there were no “Jews” in the days of Abel. And that judgment would also include Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, i.e. pagan nations.

4. That time was to be the avenging of all of the martyrs which Jesus, Paul and John all posited at the time of the judgment on Old Covenant Jerusalem.

These facts make it indisputably true that the judgment of the living and the dead, i.e. the resurrection, occurred in direct association with the AD 70 judgment of Old Covenant Jerusalem.

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