Responding to the Critics – Refuting Postmillennialism / Dominionism
Keith Mathison: The Resurrection Is Past! #1
In 2009, Keith Mathison released a massive work entitled From Age To Age, The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology, (P and R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 2009). Mathison is a prolific author and has written other works on eschatology. The readers of his latest work are undoubtedly going to be more than a little confused, to say the very least. While I could document many glaring self contradictions in Mathison’s work, I will focus here on the fact that Mathison has painted himself into a corner on the issue of the resurrection. I will document this by comparing his earlier works with his latest production. Let me state very clearly, that based on Mathison’s own writings, he must affirm that he resurrection of the dead has occurred.
Now, make no mistake: Mathison unequivocally affirms a yet future, end of history, raising of physical bodies out of the ground. So, how can I state that he must believe that he resurrection has in fact occurred? It is because of his own, oft repeated statements in regard to some of the key resurrection passages of scripture. Let me prove my assertions.
MATHISON AND THE OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS
In his Postmillennialism: Eschatology of Hope, (Phillipsburg, NJ, P and R Publishing,1999)135-his emphasis), Mathison comments on Hebrews 12:21f: “Under the New Covenant we have come to Mt. Zion. We have come to the heavenly Jerusalem. We have come to the church of the firstborn. We have come to Jesus, the mediator of this glorious New Covenant…. That which the Old Testament believers looked for in faith has come, and they have now received what was promised.” (I would note that Gary DeMar is on record as saying that all OT prophecies to Israel stand fulfilled. This is a total falsification of any futurist eschatology, since the promise of the New Creation, the coming of the Lord and the resurrection were Old Covenant promises made to Israel! Many Dominionists share this view on Israel’s OT promises, while clearly not seeing the implications.)
Mathison’s comments might not strike one as saying that the resurrection is past, but this is precisely what his comments logically demand. Why is that? It is because the OT worthies longed for the resurrection. Read Hebrews 11:36: “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might receive a better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35). Of course, the better resurrection is inextricably connected to the heavenly city and country (Hebrews 11:11f), which of course Revelation posits as arriving at the time of the resurrection (Revelation 20:11-21:1-4)! So, there is no doubt that the hope of the OT worthies was the resurrection, and there is no doubt that Mathison says “That which the Old Testament believers looked for in faith has come, and they have now received what was promised.”
Mathison probably “saw the train coming” however, so, he slipped in a caveat in the very next paragraph: “the fullness of the blessing is yet future, because we await the consummation.”
So, per Mathison, the OT worthies have received what was promised, but, they have not after all received what was promised! This is double talk. Those saints either have or have not received what they longed for.
Notice that Mathison wants to say that “we await the consummation.” Well, if he affirms, as his words unequivocally do, that the OT saints have received, past tense, what they longed for, then the consummation has come, and we have received those promises – i.e. the resurrection – as well. The Hebrews writer is clear: “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better things for us, that they, without us, should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:39-40).
So, according to the Hebrews writer, if the OT saints have, as Mathison claims “received what was promised” then it is irrefutably true that the resurrection has occurred, for they could not receive what was promised without the first century saints entering into those promises at the same time – and that demands that since that time of consummation all believers can and do enter into those fulfilled promises: “They without us should not be made perfect!” The OT saints could not “receive what was promised” unless the consummation has taken place.
It is significant that Mathison then claims that, “Under the New Covenant we have come to Mt. Zion. We have come to the heavenly Jerusalem. We have come to the church of the firstborn. We have come to Jesus, the mediator of this glorious New Covenant” (his emphasis). But, Mathison then moots the point of Hebrews by claiming a yet future consummation!
You must not miss the point of Hebrews 12:18f. The author says that his first century audience had arrived at Zion! In the OT prophecies, Zion was the locus of the resurrection promises! (See Isaiah 24-27). This is undeniably true.
So, for the Hebrews author to affirm that his first century audience had arrived at Zion is the strongest of affirmations that the time of the promised resurrection – the better resurrection hope of the OT worthies – had arrived. You cannot relativize the words of Hebrews, and turn them into a timeless, elastic, meaningless statement. To arrive at Zion meant to arrive at the time and place of the resurrection. (Note that on the one hand Mathison emphasizes the temporal imminence of Hebrews, but on the other hand he mitigates it. He affirms that the OT worthies received what was promised – because of approaching Zion. But he then affirms that the church timelessly is still awaiting the fulfillment of the promises linked to Zion. This is hardly textual or contextual). This kind of self-contradiction in regard to Zion and resurrection is common among the Dominionists / Postmillennialists.
We will demonstrate that in our next installment. For now, you can easily see that Dominionists are guilty of self-falsification of their own eschatology. Get a copy of my book, The Resurrection of Daniel 12:2: Fulfilled or Future? for a thorough study of the resurrection. It is a true eye opener!