By Hoyt Houchen
Question: Did you ever hear of the doctrine that Christ came “in his glory” to judge men of “all nations” (Matt. 25) when Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70? It is also said that this was “the resurrection. ” Also, that while our spirits will somehow live beyond the grave, Jesus will not come back to raise our bodies and destroy the earth because all of the passages on that subject have “already been fulfilled in A.D. 70. “Does not such teaching destroy the “one hope” of Ephesians 4? Please comment.
Reply: This doctrine is new to me. Paul was familiar with a doctrine in his day that was taught by Hymenaeus and Philetus. They said that “the resurrection is past already” (2 Tim. 2:17, 18) so at least the two doctrines share one thing in common: they both deny a future resurrection. The claim that Christ’s judgment in Matthew 25 took place at the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is false for several reasons.
In the first place, the coming of Christ at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (Matt. 24:30, 31) was figurative. This is clearly seen when we examine the context. The disciples had asked in verse 3 of the chapter, “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world (the consummation of the age)?” Jesus proceeded to give them signs whereby they would know when these things would occur – the destruction of the temple, the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish nation. Parallel passages are Mark 13 and Luke 21. That the coming of Christ and the signs following that tribulation (Matt. 24:17-31) were figurative can be easily understood when we consider the description after Babylon’s fall. “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in its going forth, and the moon shall not cause its light to shine …. Therefore I will make the heavens to tremble, and the earth shall be shaken out of its place, in the wrath of Jehovah of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger” (Isa. 13:10-13). Notice that this is referred to as the coming of Jehovah (vv. 6, 9). Jehovah came and visited His wrath. The language is figurative and is almost an exact parallel to the description given in Matthew 24:29-31. Jehovah came when Babylon was destroyed (B.C. 539), and Christ came when Jerusalem was destroyed (A.D. 70). The language employed in both instances was figurative, the fate of each being described by a coming of Jehovah and a coming of Christ.
The future coming of Christ is literal and is not to be confused with His visitation which took place in A.D. 70. We note some things that will occur when Jesus comes again.
Christ will raise the righteous on the last day (Jn. 6:44), the event described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with a voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” That this will be a bodily resurrection is seen in 1 Corinthians where Paul states that the body is sown in corruption but raised in incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality (vv. 42-54). There is no evidence from the Scriptures or history that the bodies of the saints were raised at the destruction of Jerusalem. This did not occur then, but will occur when Jesus comes again.
The wicked will be raised at the coming of Christ (Jn. 5:28, 29). The resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked will take place at the same time. Premillennialists would do well to observe that there will be no intervening period of even one day between the two classes, much less one thousand years. Both classes will hear His voice and will come forth from the tombs. This will take place at the second coming of Christ. It did not take place when Jerusalem fell. Those who believe that the resurrection took place when Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70 would also do well to observe. Jesus said that the resurrection would take place on the last day. Over nineteen hundred years have passed since Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. That event was not the last day.
The future coming of Christ is when He will come “in his glory” to judge men of “all nations” (Matt. 25:31, 32). This did not take place when Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70. Should it be argued that this would be the judgment of only the people living at that time, we need only to turn to the Scriptures. They teach that others will be present at this judgement. The men of Ninevah (B.C. 850) will be there (Matt. 12:41). Jesus said that the men of Ninevah would stand up with this generation (the one in the time of Jesus) and would condemn it. The queen of the south (B.C. 1000) would rise up with this generation (v. 42). Tyre and Sidon (B.C. 330) will be present at the judgment (Matt. 11:21, 22). Sodom (B.C. 1900) will be at the judgment scene (Matt. 11:24). The nations here mentioned, along with the generation at the time of Christ, will be at the judgment. Those nations listed in the foregoing passages did not make their appearance when Jerusalem was destroyed. Matthew 25:32 says that all the nations will appear at the judgment. Since all nations did not appear at the judgement when Jerusalem was destroyed, Matthew 25:31, 32 cannot refer to that time. It has to be in the future.
The heavens and the earth are to be destroyed when Jesus comes again. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Pet. 3:10). The earth will be “burned up.” The Greek word for “burned up” is katakaestai (second future passive of the compound verb katakaio) which means “to burn up, consume with fire” (The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 215). This cannot be interpreted figuratively because the word “earth” (Gr. ge) simply means “the earth, soil, land” (Souter, Lexicon to the Greek N. T., p. 55). It is in contrast to heaven (see Arndt and Gingrich Greek Lexicon, p. 156). The catastrophe described in 2 Peter 3:12 did not take place when Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70.
When the Scriptures are examined it is obvious that all references to the resurrection and the coming of Christ were nit fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The events described in Matthew 24:27-30, with reference to the coming of the Son of man, etc., were figurative as has been shown; whereas, the events which will transpire at the future coming of Christ will be literal. The Bible clearly teaches that several things will take place when Jesus comes again that did not take place when Jerusalem fell to the Romans. The application of eschatological events to the past is contrary to the word of God and is, therefore, a false doctrine. Even if we grant that all the books of the New Testament were written before A.D. 70 (which is doubtful), the fact remains that the references which are made to a future resurrection and coming of Christ in no way tie in with the historical events of Matthew 24 and its parallel passages. Indeed this doctrine does destroy the Christian’s one hope of a future resurrection and the expectation that Jesus is coming again (Eph. 4:4). It is a serious denial of Bible teaching concerning the future resurrection and the advent of Christ. Those who espouse such teaching should seriously reconsider this position in light of what the word of God teaches on these matters. All of us would do well to heed the admonition: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 Jn. 4:1).
It has just come to my attention that the doctrine dealt with above emerged in the Ohio Valley early in the 1970’s and was chiefly developed by Max R. King of Warren, Ohio. The manual of this movement has been a volume entitled The Spirit of Prophecy by Max R. King. For a detailed and further refutation of this error, our readers are referred to a book, Studies in Biblical Eschatology by Terry Varner. The book is a paperback, contains five chapters and a bibliography and sells for $4.50. It can be obtained from Guardian of Truth Bookstore, Box 88, Fairmount, Indiana 46928.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 2, pp. 36-37
January 20, 1983