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MATTHEW 23:39 AND PRETERISTIC POSTMILLENNIALISM

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  Leave a comment

Matthew 23:39 often confuses evangelicals who are considering the preteristic approach of postmillennialism. It states that Israel will one day be converted, and only then will the great tribulation begin (according to the order of verses following Matt 23:39). That verse reads:

“For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'”

This passage often appears as an objection to a preterist reading of Matthew 24, in that it seems to suppose Israel will one day be converted and then the great tribulation will transpire. But this statement does not suppose a future conversion (though I believe Rom 11 does suppose such).

Note the following observations:

First, the word “for” connects this statement with the preceding context. The preceding context is one of unrelenting denunciation, ending with judgment. The “for” must introduce something other than a spiritual praise of Christ by the Jews.

Second, the phrase “from now on” is indefinite, holding out only an indefinite possibility. Thus, it does not declare as a matter of fact: “you will see me.” Jesus is denouncing the Jews, not offering them hope.

Third, if this pointed to a blessing, it would be out of character in the flow of the narrative all the way from 23:1 through chapter 24. Any sudden idea of Israel’s praising Jesus is totally contrary to the text, see especially 23:31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 37.

Fourth, the praise here (“blessed is he who comes”) is not necessarily a voluntary, loving praise. It could well be a constrained praise, as in Phil 2:10-11 and Rom 14:11. Given the context, it appears to be constrained and with reluctance.

Philippians 2:9-11: “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Romans 14:11: “For it is written, “AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

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