An Airtight Argument?

By Don K. Preston

“We are convinced the only construct of Mark 8:38-9:1 and parallels which satisfies the chronological and contextual demands is to understand Jesus predicting his return in full glory to judge all men… This happened in 70 A.D. when he destroyed Jerusalem”  (cf. Matthew 16:27-28 is NOT a “Preterist Time Indicator” pointing to AD70)

Self confidence born of personal study is rewarding. Each generation must discover truth for itself or the danger of traditionalism becomes very real. Arguments and doctrines passed down without critical examination tend to make us “at ease in Zion.” The Restoration Plea demands constant re-evaluation, unrelenting investigation, honest inquiry into even the dearest and most confidently held positions. This article seeks to challenge the reader to rethink long held views of some familiar passages.

     One prominent brother, attempting to refute Preterism, has presented what he calls “an airtight argument” to prove that the kingdom came in full power and glory on Pentecost. Since Preterists hold that the kingdom was born in infancy and immaturity on Pentecost and was not full grown until the completion of the scheme of Redemption and fall of the Old World, our brother believes if he can demonstrate the kingdom was fully established on Pentecost he has disproven realized eschatology.

     Argument Stated

     Our brother argues: The kingdom was to come with power, Mark 9:1. Power was to come when the Holy Spirit came, Acts 1:8ff. The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost, Acts 2:4ff; therefore the kingdom came with power on Pentecost.

     This little logically ordered argument sounds impressive; but is woefully lacking in depth, contextual consideration, and ignores specific statements of other passages.

     Initial Considerations

     We are not here arguing that the kingdom was not established on Pentecost. We do aver it was established in infancy. On Pentecost the church did not have her full constitution, her full organization, her full glory and maturity. This has been correctly maintained in debates with Pentecostals in regard to miracles. See I Corinthians 13, Ephesians 4, etc.. It seems however that some would argue out of both sides of their mouths. When arguing against Charismatics it is insisted miracles were a necessary part of the infancy of the church; being incomplete, the church needed miraculous help to survive. Now however, when arguing against realized eschatology, it is insisted the church was established in full maturity, power, and glory on the day of her birth! Something called “consistency” is sadly missing here!

     Significant Omissions

     When considering the argument cited above, one wonders why Mark 9:1 is isolated and emphasized. Take a closer look.

     Why has Mark 9:l been divided from chapter 8:38? There is no justification for a chapter division. Further, the parallel passage, Matthew 16:27-28 (Luke 9:26-27 also) is enlightening, though challenging to traditional concepts. In that text, Jesus promised to return, with the angels, in glory, and judge every man. He further promised that some standing there would not die till they saw him coming.

     The normal argument is to insist that verse 27 speaks of the end of time, while verse 28 is Pentecost. But where is the CONTEXTUAL justification for such? What words demand a distinction in subject matter between verses 27 and 28? It takes a very sharp pen-knife indeed to separate these verses by over 2000 years (so far!). And we chide the premillenialist for his “gap theory”!

     What we have then, in Mark 9 and parallels, is the promise of Jesus to return in judgment, in the kingdom, in the lifetime of that generation. This can in no way be associated with Pentecost! Did Jesus come with the angels, on the clouds, and judge every man on Pentecost?

     Could it be that Mark 9:1 has been isolated and emphasized in our discussions of the kingdom because of the unfortunate chapter division which (implicitly) indicates a delineation between his coming and the imminent time frame? Have we omitted reference to Luke and Matthew because we feel uncomfortable in dealing with matters we do not understand; or has traditionalism blinded our eyes so that we have refused to consider the comprehensive view?

     Fatal Fallacy

     Not only is the fact that Jesus promised to return in judgment in that generation fatal to the posit of fulfillment on Pentecost but application of Mark 9 and parallels to the coming of the Holy Spirit is fatal to that contention.

     Note that in Matthew 16, Mark 9, and Luke 9 the subject is the coming of the Lord! The Son of Man would come on the clouds with the angels. These verses speak of the COMING of Jesus!

     Now consider the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit. In John 16:7 Jesus said that he had to go away so that the Holy Spirit could come. THE COMING OF THE SPIRIT SIGNIFIED THE ABSENCE OF JESUS!

     In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit was poured out, verses 1ff. In verses 32ff Peter said of Jesus “he poured out this which you now see and hear.” Jesus was on the throne in heaven when the Holy Spirit was sent with power on Pentecost!

     Mark 8:38-9:1 and parallels speak of the coming of Jesus. But the coming of the Holy Spirit, Acts 1:8John 16:7, signified the absence of Jesus. Therefore, Acts 2, which is the coming of the Holy Spirit, cannot be speaking of the coming of Jesus mentioned in Mark 8:38-9:1.

     Those who make the argument cited above are guilty of the “similar is identical” fallacy. They see the word “power” spoken of in Mark 9, in regard to the kingdom. They go to Acts 1 where the Spirit was predicted to come with power and assume that since power is mentioned in both texts that one must be the fulfillment of the other. The same “logic” could be used on Acts 4:29ff. After being beaten for preaching Jesus the apostles went back to a gathering of the disciples. They prayed and “the place where they were assembled was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit;” In verse 33 we are told that “with power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection.” Here we have the Holy Spirit given and we have power. Why is this not as much applicable to the coming of the kingdom with power as when the Holy Spirit was given in Acts 2? Our point is that just because similar terms are used subject matter is not identical.

     Four Great Needs

     To successfully establish his position, our brother has four great needs to fulfill.

     First, he must prove that Matthew 16:27-28 and Mark 8:38 – 9:1 are not parallel. This alone would not establish his case however.

     Second, he must prove that Mark 8:38 (Matthew 16:27) is to be divided in subject matter and time from Mark 9:1 (Matthew 16:28). The difficulty here is that in Revelation 22:12 Jesus, obviously speaking after Pentecost, said “…behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me to reward every man according to his work.” Since this is nothing less than a restatement of his words in Matthew 16:27 it proves two things. First, that Matthew 16:27 is not speaking of the end of time since Jesus said he was coming quickly to judge and reward. Second, that Matthew 16:27, being restated in Revelation 22:12, cannot refer to Pentecost since Revelation speaks of the very thing as Matthew 16:27 but is post Pentecost.

     Third, number two failing, our brother would have to demonstrate that the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was the coming of Jesus, on the clouds, with angels, in judgment of every man. Is anyone ready to aver that Pentecost was the coming of Jesus on the clouds, with angels, in judgment of every man? If so, how can you then explain Revelation 22:12?

     Fourth, our good brother would have to demonstrate that the COMING of the Holy Spirit did not signify the ABSENCE of Jesus. But Jesus emphatically said unless he left and was absent the Holy Spirit could not come; and in Acts 2 the apostles make it a point to say Jesus had sent (He was on the throne in heaven, vs. 34-35) the Holy Spirit. Mark 9 (Matthew 16:27-28) speaks of the coming of the Lord. Acts 1:8 and Acts 2 speak of the coming of the Holy Spirit. But the coming of the Spirit was not the coming of the Lord; therefore Acts 1:8 and Acts 2 cannot be fulfillment of Mark 9 (Matthew 16:27-28). Significantly, even if one were to demonstrate that the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost was a coming of Christ, it would not materially affect our contention as stated under numbers 2 and 3 above. The continuity of the text in Matthew-Mark-Luke and the correlation with the text in Revelation is alone sufficient to support our contention.

     We believe it is impossible to prove any of the above.

     Summary: We have demonstrated that to argue for a distinction of subject matter and time between Mark 8:38 (Matthew 16:27) and Mark 9:1 (Matthew 16:28) is untenable. We have shown that Jesus did not come in judgment of every man on Pentecost; but he was to do so in that generation, Revelation 22:12. We have shown that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was signal of the absence of Jesus; yet Mark 9 and parallels speak of the coming of Jesus.

     We are convinced the only construct of Mark 8:38-9:1 and parallels which satisfies the chronological and contextual demands is to understand Jesus predicting his return in full glory to judge all men. He emphatically said that some then living would not die before it happened. Other passages confirm this posit, Matthew 23, 1 Peter 4:5, Revelation 11, etc.. This happened in 70 A.D. when he destroyed Jerusalem, Matthew 24:29-34.

     What we have demonstrated is that it is not good interpretation to apply Mark 9:1 to the establishment of the kingdom in its infancy on Pentecost. We have shown that our brother’s “air-tight argument” has sprung some very serious leaks. He has attempted to prove the establishment in full power, glory, and maturity of the kingdom on Pentecost by using verses which do not even speak of Pentecost! His argument, then, is not only somewhat less than “air tight”–it will not hold water, either.

What do YOU think ?

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