Sam Frost: Scholar, Philip Mauro (2012)

Progressive Sanctification, as a doctrine (virtually held by all), is explicitly denied by Full Preterism.  With good reason.


Scholar, Philip Mauro

By Samuel Frost

Works by Philip Mauro:

The words and many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, etc. are commonly taken as referring to the bodily resurrection of the dead, and this is one reason why the entire passage is frequently relegated to the future. But there is nothing said here about either death or resurrection. On the other hand, it can be abundantly shown that the words sleep and awake are common figurative expressions for the condition of those who are at first oblivious to the truth of God, but who are aroused by a message from Him out of that condition. Isaiah describes the people of Israel as being under the influence of the spirit of deep sleep (#Isa 29:10); and again he says, the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined (Isa. 9:2), which words are declared by the evangelist to have been fulfilled by the personal ministry of Christ in Israel (#Mt 4:14-16). Paul paraphrases another word of Isaiah (#Isa 60:1) as having the meaning, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light (#Eph 5:14). And the Lord Himself declared that the era of this spiritual awakening had come, when He said, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live (#John 5:25). In both these last two passages the reference is to those who were spiritually dead, as all would agree.

     The whole nation of Israel was awakened out of a sleep of centuries through the ministry of John the Baptist, followed by that of the Lord Himself, and lastly by that of the apostles and evangelists, who preached the gospel unto them with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. It will be observed that the prophecy does not indicate that those who are awakened shall all be saved. On the contrary, it says that for some the awakening would be to everlasting life, and for others to shame and everlasting contempt. In agreement with this is the fact which the Gospels so clearly set forth that, although multitudes came to Johns baptism, and all men mused in their hearts concerning him, and while multitudes also followed Christ because of the miracles done by Him, and for the sake of the loaves and fishes, yet the outcome was that Israel was divided into two classes, those who received Him, and those who received Him not. Thus there was a division because of Him. His own words distinguish the two classes: He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the Name of the only begotten Son of God (#Joh 3:18). The former class awoke to everlasting life (#Joh 3:16), and the latter to shame and everlasting contempt (#Joh 3:36).

     To the same effect the apostle John writes: Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees, they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the praise of men, more than the praise of God (#Joh 12:42,43). These, though awakened, refused to meet Christs simple conditions of salvation by confessing Him(#Mt 10:32); therefore they awoke unto shame, even as He Himself declared, when He said: For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me, and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Fathers, and of the holy angels (#Lu 9:26).

     The next verse of the prophecy strongly confirms the view we are now presenting; for there we have mention of the reward of those who cause to be wise, and who turn many to righteousness. What class of persons could possibly be meant but those who spread the truth of the gospel? There are none others, and never will be others, who cause their fellows to be wise unto salvation, and who turn many from sin to righteousness. Seeing, therefore, that we have the awakening foretold in verse 2 connected closely with a clear reference to those who preach the gospel of Christ, we have good reason to conclude that the passage had its fulfilment in that great and wonderful era of Jewish national existence, the time of the end thereof, during which Christ was announced and manifested, was rejected and crucified, was raised up and glorified, and finally was preached to the whole nation in the power of the Holy Ghost.

     The nature of the reward promised to those who cause to be wise and who turn many to righteousness helps also to illustrate the meaning of the passage. These are to shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars forever and ever. This reminds us that the people of God are to let their light shine before men, and that they are the light of the world. In holding forth the word of life they shine as lights in the world. Once they were darkness, but now are they light in the Lord; and their reward shall be to shine as the stars for ever and ever; for as one star differeth from another star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead (#1Co 15:41,42) (The Gospel of the Kingdom, 1927).

He also interpreted the near statements much in the fashion as I have:

In the foregoing comments we have referred only to the use of the expressions at hand and come nigh in the Gospels; for it is in them that the announcement of the era which actually was at hand would be found. It is attempted sometimes to force a different meaning on the words at hand (or rather to reverse their meaning completely) because of the fact that in Romans 13:12 Paul says, the day is at hand, and in Philippians 4:5 he says the Lord is at hand. It is assumed, of course, that both these statements refer to the second coming of Christ. But it seems quite clear that the day to which Paul refers is the day that had dawned then, i.e. at the first coming of Christ. For he says it isnow high time to awake out of sleep; and because the day has dawned he exhorts us to cast off the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light. We believe the sense is the same as in 1 John 2:8, the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining (Gr.).

In Philippians 4:5 there is no reference to the Lords coming, but to the fact that He is always near to supply the needs of His people (Ibid.).  Thus, these are not time texts (the way a Dispensationalist would interpret them), but texts that speak to the fact that the Lord has comeand is now in heaven, having poured out his Spirit so that the Kingdom has drawn nigh.  God has come in the Spirit is now more near in comparison to the times past prior to the coming of the Messiah.  The old covenant did not have union with Christ.  They did not have a heart of flesh, but a heart of stone (Ezek 37).  The time of the regeneration has come, and is still continuing.

It is with great interest that we note how similar Dispensationalism is to Full Preterism.  They interpret the time texts in much the same manner, whereas Mauro interpreted them as the fact that God had drawn near.  Dispensationalism, then, must assert a postponement theory based on 1. How it interprets the time texts (which are actually stating that God has come near in terms of the new covenant) and 2. Its literalism regarding setting up the earthly city of Jerusalem.  Both views get into trouble because of how they view the word, near.  Many Full Preterists have come out of Dispensationalism, and so it is no wonder that many of the assumptions that system makes is carried right over into it as well.  For example, Mat 24 and I Thess 4 are assumed to be speaking of the same event, whereas today, many scholars separate them.  Both views share an all or nothing approach.  It was either all fulfilled, or it is wholly future.  I remember asking Thomas Ice the question, when I was a Full Preterist, if our system was more consistent than Gary DeMars.  His answer was a definite, yes.  Of course he would say this.  For him, a Dispensationalist, all prophecy stands or falls together.  But this is an unquestioned assumption (and an unexamined one at that).

Mauro concludes: The main conclusion properly to be drawn from the facts briefly set forth above is that the subject of the Kingdom of God is of the very essence of the gospel of Christ, and is of immediate and vital importance to all mankind, both to them that are within and to them that are without; whereas the subject of the Church (as Gods spiritual house now being builded) is of interest only to those who have been already translated into the Kingdom; and for them it has not the same direct and practical bearing upon their life down here as has the truth pertaining to the Kingdom. For the Church (in this broad sense, for we are not speaking at all of the local churches) belongs rather to eternity than to time (Eph. 5:27; Rev. 21:23); for it is as yet unfinished, being now in process of formation. Whereas the Kingdom belongs to the present; for Christ is reigning now. Hence, if this immensely practical truth were given its rightful place in the preaching and teaching of Christs ministers, it would tend to unify the divided people of God.  This man was ahead of his time, anticipating Ladd who would go on to develop an already/not yet approach so widely adopted today.  But it is precisely here that Full Preterism gets stuck.  They want us to believe that the Church is not in process of formation but is perfected and matured by the time of AD 70!  However, within just a few decades, with the fullness of Rev 21.1-ff in full filling (which they believe continues on in our day, or is ongoing) the Church, messed up eschatology so bad (not to mention other key doctrines) that it has taken 1900 years to get it right.  This will not do.  Rather, Church History proper can be easily held accountable under the idea that God is still in process of maturing her, and that her perfection unto the fullness of the knowledge has not yet arrived.  Hence, yes, we are tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.  We have false teachers and false doctrines in our midst.  It is constant struggle to maintain the Faith as it has been handed down to us purely.  Yet, we must also teach love for one another as we seek to mutually come to understand and learn from one another.  This is far more acceptable in explaining what appears to some as a unsteady stream of Church History.  There is a steady stream.  It didnt start in AD 70.  It started with the arrival of Messiah; with his pouring out the Spirit.

For years, and in my book Misplaced Hope, I labored under the rubric of Louis Berkhofs organic development idea.  That is, that the Church can, and has, missed the ball on occassion.  However, what I failed to mention was that Berkhof worked this idea out in terms of Progressive Sanctification.  Progressive Sanctification, as a doctrine (virtually held by all) is explicitly denied by Full Preterism.  With good reason.  Progressive Sanctification is a doctrine rooted in Eschatology; unfulfilled Eschatology.  Progressive Sanctification leads to Glorification and Resurrection, and the Full Preterist has that fulfilled in AD 70.  Therefore, he or she cannot use Berkhofs idea of organicdevelopment precisely because development in terms of doctrine is rooted in coming to the place of no longer being tossed to and fro by every end of doctrine.  This is why Full Preterism does not resonate with the great majority of those who hear it.  And this also explains why a more quasi-gnostic approach is necessary for it to explain itself.

What Mauro has done is shift the focus to the coming of Christ and what that meant for the new covenant and the nearness of the Kingdom (God dwelling in our hearts, bringing us into conformity into his image through Christ who is in heaven).  He was arguing against Dispensationalism mainly, which shifts its focus wholly on the future.  But, noting the similarities of interpretive style between this and Full Preterism, one can see that the latter has shifted attention to AD 70.  What it is now left with is a fumbling around of trying to answer the so what now? questions; why do we still sin? questions; and what about the afterlife? questions.  In answering these questions, its gnostic-like tendencies begin to show (logically so, since it has no future for the creation or our bodies).  Rather than come across as dogmatic (as many are now doing), Full Preterists should begin to honestly look at the fact that they have given several answers that simply run across several grains of the historic Christian faith; not just in Eschatology, but in Soteriology, Ecclesiology, Christology and Theology in general.  They should not become angry or caustic in their treatment of those who argue against their view, but rather be understanding and approachable.  As I wrote in another article, it is either this, or they come to the conclusion that their view is a break with the Historic Christian Faith and begin to overtly preach and teach that futurists need to come out of the Apostate, Organized, Creedal Christian Church.

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