O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?



By: Michael J. Sullivan
copyright 2008

(TLM editorial note: A few years ago I spoke at a Preterist conference and developed the temple imagery in Genesis. The message was never taped and I didn't have time to cover all of my material. Here is some of that material I covered at the conference. I do NOT make Genesis issues a test of fellowship and I try and approach the subject with some humility since I still have a lot to work through. The purpose of this article is to explore some of the Dispensational and Reformed views of Genesis 1-2 and see how they may or may not fit within the Biblical Preterist View. I hope you enjoy this article and it stimulates your thinking and studies.)

Genesis 1 – 3 and the “Restoration of Creation”

Mathison in his book seeking to refute Biblical Preterism does not inform his audience of the different reformed views of the creation account in the early chapters of Genesis; but simply plugs in his personal presuppositions and shallow exegesis of (Gen. 1-3) into such texts as (Isa. 64-66; Rom. 8; 2 Pet. 3; & Rev. 21-22). He simply assumes that at a future second coming the curse of Adam’s physical death and decay which allegedly has been passed down upon all mankind and animal life will one day be “restored” to a state of non-biological death and decay. Mathison believes that any futuristic paradigm (even Dispensationalism) is to be preferred over the “Hyper-Preterist” view when it comes to “the end” in (Mt. 24-25; I Cor. 15; & Revelation). Therefore, according to Mathison’s logic he and his readers should equally be open to considering some developments of the “beginning” in (Gen. 1-3) from those within his reformed tradition and other futurists (including Dispensationalists).

Here is a list of combined admissions from reformed and dispensational theologians that unravel Mathison’s presuppositions in Genesis of which I feel better fit a preterist interpretation and emphasis of what the “restoration of creation” is as seen through the New-Testament. I will focus on the views held by Augustine, Milton Terry, the Day Age view (David Snoke), the Framework view (Meredith Kline), and comments made by dispensationalist John Sailhmaer. These combined admissions build the following paradigm:

1) The 7 days of creation and the Sabbath rest of God in (Gen.1-2) are not literal 24 hour days but symbolic and figurative. Augustine argued this position 14 centuries before Darwin and evolution was ever an issue. In other words his concerns were exegetical and no one was accusing him of being a liberal or evolutionist for making his exegesis![1] He argued that there cannot be three 24 hour days without the creation of the sun and solar system which were created on the fourth day. Building upon Augustines exegesis, reformed theologian Meredith G. Kline has likewise argued that the days are not 24 hour days set forth in perfect chronological and sequential order, but rather are described with Hebrew parallelism using Sabbatical symbolism. Days 1 & 4 - The creation of light on Day 1 is further described in parallel recapitulation with Day 4 in the creation of Luminaries which were to govern the day and night and separate the light from the darkness. Days 2 & 5 - The creation of the sky and seas on Day 2 is further described in parallel recapitulation with Day 5, which describes the creation of the animals that would rule within these kingdoms. Days 3 & 6 - The creation of the land and vegetation on Day 3, corresponds to the creation of animals and man that inhabit and rule in this domain – with man commissioned to rule over them all. Day 7. On this day God using anthropomorphic and metaphorical language “rests.” He is King over all of the dominions and creatures created on the 6 Days. Kline is also in agreement with reformed Day Age advocates that Scripture teaches prior to the fall of Adam, animals were carnivorous, died, and that apart of man’s dominion over them was that he could kill them for warmth and food.[2]

Milton S. Terry who is referenced by Mathison in his work on Postmillennialism in his section on Revelation, and by other reformed theologians for some of his “Hyper-Preterist” exegesis and work on hermeneutics, understood the 7 days of creation figuratively as he did the 7 trumpets in Revelation--which he saw as corresponding to a judgment upon the local land of Palestine.

“The seven days of the cosmogony are no more to be interpreted literally than are the seven trumpets of the Apocalypse. Indeed, the repetitions of “God said” in Genesis suggest some analogies to be found in the sounding of the seven trumpets. At the sounding of the first trumpet the earth was smitten; at the second, the sea; at the third, the rivers and fountains; at the fourth, the sun; at the fifth, the abyse; at the sixth, the armies of Euphrates were set loose, and, at the seventh, “great voices in heaven” announced the advent and reign of the Lord and his Anointed. The days of Genesis are as symbolical as the trumptest of the Apocalypse, and can no more successfully be identified (or shown to correspond) with ascertained aeons of geology and cosmical evolution than can the trumpets with successive historical events.”[3]

2) Reformed theologian and Day Age advocate David Snoke does not believe there is a gap between (Gen.1:1) and the rest of the creation account and states that (Gen.1:1) should probably be translated “heavens and land.”

“It is enough to say that the term “the heavens and the land” refers to “everything as far as the eye can see.” “…The beginning of the Bible is concerned about the physical land of the Hebrews, and it stays focused on that physical history up through the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”[4]

Similarly, Dispensationalist John Sailhamer sees the emphasis of (Gen.1:2-chapter 2) as dealing with the creation of a localized area of land (Heb.eretz - Eden) and not the globe. Like others, he points out the recapitulation and Hebrew parallel structure of the two chapters,

“Often the two creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 have been thought to be only loosely connected: While Genesis 1 is about God’s preparing the earth, Genesis 2 is about the garden. Such a reading, however, misses an important point. In their present placement within the Pentateuch, the two narratives are about the same events and have the same setting. What we see God doing in Genesis 2, the garden of Eden, is the same as that of chapter 1, the land. Since chapter 2 is clearly an account of God’s preparing the garden of Eden as man’s dwelling place, chapter 1 must also be about God’s preparing the garden.”[5]

Many reformed theologians have made the theological connections between the land of Eden and the Garden with that of the promised land of Israel. However, Sailhamer went a step further and indicates that not only are there theological connections but perhaps geographical ones that need to be considered as well,

“The garden of Eden extended from the “river that flows through all the land of Cush” to the “River Euphrates.” Since in Genesis the land of Cush is linked to Egypt (Genesis 10:6), the second river, the Gihon (Genesis 2:13), was apparently understood by the author as “the river of Egypt.”

“…When we move to Genesis 15, we find that the land promised to Abraham – the promised land – is marked off by these same two rivers, the Euphrates and the River of Egypt (Genesis 15:18). Note that the area marked off by these two rivers in Genesis 15 is essentially the same region covered by the garden of Eden in Genesis 2. When the general boundaries are compared, it becomes clear that the writer of the Pentateuch intends us to identify the two locations with each other. God’s promise of the land to the patriarchs is thus textually linked to His original “blessing” of all humanity in the garden of Eden.”[6]

The Hebrew communicates that the state of the land of Eden in (Gen.1:2) would better be translated as “uninhabitable,” “inhospitable,” or “wilderness” as was the wilderness area Israel wandered in for forty years before inheriting the promised land (Sailhamer, ibid., pp.63-66). These are excellent observations and I would add that when Israel broke law in the promised land God was able to turn her land back into a wilderness (Deut.28) using (Gen.1:2) as a creation/de-creation referent, “I beheld the earth (better translated – “land”), and indeed it was without form, and void; And the heavens, they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, And all the hills moved back and forth. I beheld, and indeed there was no man, And all the birds of the heavens had fled. I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, And all its cities were broken down At the presence of the LORD, By His fierce anger. For thus says the LORD: "The whole land shall be desolate; Yet I will not make a full end. For this shall the earth mourn, And the heavens above be black, Because I have spoken. I have purposed and will not relent, Nor will I turn back from it. The whole city shall flee from the noise of the horsemen and bowmen” (Jer.4:23-29).

3) Snoke and other reformed theologians see Adam as being created a physically dieing creature along with all the other plant and animal life. This position also holds that there were carnivorous animals, pain, and physical death in the creation before Adam sinned. Physical pain in the birth of offspring was already present and Eve’s would simply be “increased” after the curse. God’s “good” creation already had elements of judgment built into Adam’s environment such as physical death, darkness, and the threat of the sea and Leviathan, etc. to communicate the goodness of God’s hedge about him in the Garden.[7] Snoke also believes that the same laws of physics and the world that existed before the fall is essentially the same world we live in today.

“We do not have to imagine an entire reshaping of the world, with new laws of physics and new, carnivorous species of animals, for creation to be groaning. It is perhaps not going too far to say that the increase of the woman’s labor pains in the curse of Genesis 3:16 is symbolic of the increase of the labor pains of the whole world.” “…God could, presumably, make a world in which time existed but not decay. But such a world would have to have utterly different laws of physics from our own world—and the world of Genesis 1 sounds very much like it is supposed to be our world, not another.”[8]

I agree with Snoke that the planet before and after the fall is the same, but I would disagree that the physical planet is currently in a state of “decay” to the point of eventually running down until it is re-created at Christ’s return (Snoke allegedly sees this taught in Rev.21-22). Scripture simply does not teach the destruction or re-creation of the planet and if the physical planet is being addressed in Ecclesiastes, it would necessitate that God has given it the ability to rejuvenate itself and last “forever,” “Generations come and generations go, but the earth abides forever” (Ecl.1:4). And I don’t think Snoke is “going too far” in seeing Eve’s labor pains being “increased” as “symbolic” with the world “groaning” in (Rms.8). But as Snoke points out the story of redemption involves Christ dieing for men not giving eternal life to animals and trees (Old Earth, p.64). Therefore, the world or intelligible creation (Gk. kistisis) of men under sin through Adam in (Rms.8) definitely groan and experience “futility” and “vanity” (cf. ecl.) apart from Christ. However, when it come to groaning in labor pains, I see the symbolism more with Israel “groaning” under the yoke of Torah and in labor pain never able to produce Gentile children/converts into the kingdom (Isa.26:17-18) whereas the Church did and continues today in the new covenant age.

4) The Framework view defended by reformed theologians Herman Ridderbos and Meredith Kline see the Genesis account not so concerned with a strict literalism, but rather is a form of literary genre set forth in a covenantal framework to help us understand the introduction of sin in mans heart and conscience. Farrar and Milton Terry agree, “Even the rabbis, stupidly literal as were their frequent methods, were perfectly aware that the story of the fall was a philosopheme—a vivid pictorial representation of the origin and growth of sin in the human heart.” And “We behold in symbolic outline the development of the sense of guilt in the human consciousness.”[9]

Genesis 1-4 Temple Theology and Imagery

copyright 2008 - this image may not be used for any other articles or for any purpose without the permission of Michael J. Sullivan.

The Holy Place and Most Holy Place

Adam was formed from the dust of Eden (the inner courtyard) and “put” in the Garden (Holy Place). The Hebrew word for “put” in (Gen.2:15) elsewhere in the O.T. has to do with God’s “rest” and “safety” for the Israelites in the Promised Land and the “dedication” of something before the Lord (Gen.19:16; Deut.3:20; 12:10; 25:19; Ex.16:33-34; Lev.16:23; Num.17:4; Deut.26:4, 10 “under the altar” – Jewish “firstfruits” Christians and martyrs under the “altar” Rev.6 & 20). The idea is that like Israel, God put Adam in His presence to test him. If He obeyed law in the Garden he would be rewarded with God’s presence and experience His blessings of protection. If he disobeyed, he would covenatally and spiritually die and be driven eastward out of God’s presence.

In ancient times “images” of the god’s were placed within the temples and Kings of these Nations themselves were seen to reflect the “image” of the gods. Adam was given the first torah (law) and made in the “image” of God and was thus God’s first covenant “priestly” or “kingly” representative commissioned to have dominion over the land beginning in the Garden/Holy Place area – to “be fruitful and multiply,” “keep,” and “guard” (manage) the area.

Many are correctly seeing that Adam was much more than a gardener as the Aramaic translation of (Gen.2:15) would indicate, “to toil in the Law and to observe it’s commandments.” Sailhamer translates the Hebrew and grammar of this text as, “to worship and obey” (Sailhmer, ibid., p.76). The idea being that of Adam being commissioned to serve and worship God in the Garden and guard the area from unclean intruders - such as the serpent. When these two words are used together in the O.T. they reflect this meaning and refer to the priests and Israel keeping God’s law and the priests having the authority (equipped with swords) to slay intruders (like the cherubim). When Israel would not “keep” the law and would “serve” other god’s they were banished into exile from the sanctuary/land as Adam and Cain were (1Kings 9:1).

G.K. Beale following the lead of N.T. Wright and others, correctly make the connection of the Great Commission of Adam in (Gen.1:28) being passed down to Noah, Abraham, and his descendants citing (Gen.1:28; Gen. 9:1, 7; Gen.12:2-3; Gen. 17:2, 6, 8; Gen.22:17-18; Gen.26:3-4, 24; Gen.28:3-4; Gen.35:11-12; Gen.47:27). Beale and G. Vos make the accurate connections with the early patriarchs in Genesis of making small scale sanctuaries to be pointing to the establishment of God’s presence in the temple in Jerusalem and then ultimately to God’s presence in the New Creation.[11]

The scattering and covenantal spiritual death of Adam.

Adam as God’s Kingly High Priest was put in the Garden (the Holy Place) and in the midst of the two trees (the Most Holy Place). Within the MHP and located among the Ark of God’s presence were the two tablets of Torah [tree of knowledge of good and evil] and two items representing eternal life [the Tree of Life] – Aarons staff miraculously budding and the heavenly manna. Adam and Eve were told by God and the Serpent that in the day they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that they would: 1) “die” (Gen.2:17) and 2) their “eyes would be open” (Gen.3:5). The account tells us that the very day Adam sinned against God he died a covenantal or spiritual sin/death in which his eyes were opened to his shame and guilt before God. Some reformed theologians have conceded that Adam would have died like all of the other animals in the Garden had he not eaten of the fruit. Therefore, God and Moses point in describing Adam’s biological death in (Gen.3:19) is where he would die – outside of the Garden (Holy Place and MHP) and thus outside of God’s presence – back to the “dust” (the Inner Courtyard) where he was first formed. To be outside of God’s presence is to be dead spiritually and the place of his physical death would bear witness to his spiritual state.

Adam is pictured as the High Priest of Israel going into the MHP “presence of the Lord” to be tested and commissioned to pray, worship, and offer up the sacrifice in the “cool of the day.”[12] When the Priest would go into the Sanctuary to offer up sacrifices to God on behalf of the people, they would tie a rope around his ankle in case his heart was not right and God struck him down dead in His presence. In this way Adam is seen as failing the test and God is now driving (dragging him out) of His presence from the HP and MHP of the Garden sanctuary. In the “dust” of this area Adam would be called to labor verses worship, and it would be “increased” through the sweat of his brow in the same way that Eve’s labor pain would be. This is not a proof text that this was the first time a weed or thorn or pain for Eve was ever present in creation let alone outside the Garden where the “dust” was. The hardness of the ground and the toil and work involved here is communicating the result of the spiritual death, shame, and guilt infused upon the heart and conscience of Adam after he sinned. In the same way God would bring drought and famine hardening the land of Israel (Deut.28) when as God’s son he sinned. This was an outward sign communicating the hardness of their hearts in rebellion against His law. Through the prophets He would thus exhort them to “break-up the fallow ground” of their hearts through repentance and enter back into covenant relationship to Him.

The Outer Courtyard: The scattering of Cain and vindication of Abel.

Cain killed Abel at the entrance of the Garden under the “altar” which was as close to the Garden/Sancturary to offer up sacrifices as they could get. “Under the altar” is where all of the martyrs from Abel to the New-Testament Apostles and Prophets would be until God would vindicate and reward them with entrance into the New Creation in Jesus’ “this generation” and in an A.D. 70 “little while” and “soon” time frame (Mt.23:30-36; Rev.6:9-11; Rev.20; 22:12/Mt.16:27-28). We must challenge the Reformed “preterist” authors of WSTTB? Gentry and Mathison, with a question since both admit that Abel was vindicated and rewarded in an A.D. 70 “this generation” and “in a little while” time period.[13] The question being, “HOW was Abel, Abraham, Daniel, and Peter rewarded with the MHP New Creation of (Rev.21-22) in a “little while” associated with the “soon” coming of Christ, without be resurrected at that time?

Sticking with the temple imagery in (Gen.1-4), Cain is banished even further eastward than Adam to live outside the Land of Eden altogether into the Outter-Court of the Gentiles. He is banished to live among the people of Nod (Gen.4). There of course has been controversy within various theological views over who the people and civilization of Nod were. Were these people the products of incestuous relations between the offspring of Adam and Eve before the gene pool got contaminated? If not, was this a contemporary people and civilization living during the time of Adam and his clan to whom he had a commission to? No matter how one answers these questions, it is irrelevant to the theological point of the text. That being, when one dies spiritually he continues on a journey (pictured eastward) into futility, fear, and bondage outside of God’s land/presence into the death and darkness of being in the outer-court of the gentiles. The ancient city of Babel also resided eastward, in the out-court of Eden as the enslaving power of Babylon lay in the out-court of Israel’s Promised Land.

Concluding the Theology and Imagery of Gen. 1-3

In evaluating some of the most important thinkers within the development of reformed and dispensational theology on the early chapters of Genesis, we get the following results which help develop what the new-testament teaches concerning the new creation and unravel Mathison’s presuppositions of (Gen.1-3).

1) The 7 days of creation are not literal 24 hour chronological days, but written in: a) symbolic, b) sabbatical, c) covenantal, d) with Hebrew parallelism and recapitulation, and contain genre of e) allegory, metaphor, and apocalyptic language. 2) Before Adam sinned there was biological death, pain, and decay of plant and animal life – which included Adam. The laws of physics have not changed pre-fall or after Adam’s sin. 3) The narration and theological emphasis of Adam’s fall communicates “a philosopheme—a vivid pictorial representation of the origin and growth of sin in the human heart.” And “We behold in symbolic outline the development of the sense of guilt in the human conscience.” 4) The theological emphasis of the temple cosmology of (Gen.1-2) is the local Land (Hebrew eretz) of Eden which is theologically connected to the Promised Land of Israel.[14] 5) Moses creation account (given through the direct revelation of God) serves as a theistic apologetic to the surrounding enemies and nations of Israel. Another apologetic of Moses is his use of the genealogies of Israel tracing them them back to Adam – the first covenantal man in their land. This communicates that they not only have a direct commission by Jehovah to inherit the land, but they have a legal right through decent as well. 6) I would agree with Kline in seeing Adam as a real historical figure and not a “myth.” Jesus is described as the New Creation within another 7 day picture in John’s prologue to his gospel (Jn.1-4) which is arranged topically to communicate this New Creation motif.[15] This of course does not mean that Adam was described as a “myth” anymore than Jesus was.

I personally believe elements of the Day Age and Frame Work views better support the exegesis of what the new-testament teaches concerning the “restoration of creation.” As the theological emphasis on (Gen.1-2) is on the local land of Eden which is both theologically and geographically tied to Israel’s Promised Land and the “earth/land” of their surrounding civilizations or nations (Nod, Babel, Babylon Assyria, ect.); so too is the emphasis and development of the new-testament being a great commission preached to the nations of Israel and the Roman Empire with a localized judgment affecting the nations of the those worlds by A.D. 70. Both of these localized and covenantal judgments affected and continue to affect all people everywhere. The introduction of sin described by its spiritual death, guilt, and shame within the human heart and conscience of man through Adam, is overcome by Christ’s death, resurrection, and parousia/presence in A.D.70. All men and nations of the world find themselves relating theologically to being in or out of Adam, Israel, Christ, and the New Jerusalem as the gospel continues to bring healing and judgment to the nations today (Rev.21-22). I would agree with David Snoke that God had sovereignly created evil, death, pain and suffering before Adam’s fall and that these serve his purposes. I would simply add that the evil of sinners outside the City of God continuse to serve His purposes as the everlasting gospel continues to be preached (Rev.21-22).

Mathison’s postmillennial thesis is that the fall of Adam affected more than man’s heart and conscience, in that it brought about physical death, pain, suffering, and decay for the globe. Until a successful global great commission of the planet’s nations has been achieved in putting down all of God’s enemies and physical death and pain have been completely eliminated, Christ’s return and the new creation cannot be said to have come in their fullness – per Mathison. However, as we will see, Mathison’s propositions are not exegetically sound. I will be refuting Mathison using a corporate covenantal view of redemption using temple imagery from Genesis to Revelation. My primary emphasis and motifs through using this structure will be on developing two main themes: 1) Death and life through Adam and Israel, and 2) the Great Commission being preached to the “nations” of the Jewish and Roman “world” by A.D. 70.

We are now prepared to examine some of these themes throughout the O.T. and examine there N.T. fulfillments. We also have a better picture of (Gen.1-3) and therefore to understand Biblically what is meant by the “Restoration of Creation.” This is further illuminated through seeing the old-covenant people of God and their temple as a creation of the “heavens and earth/land.” Therefore, let’s focus our attention on these elements of the creation.

Mathison begins his section of “Old Testament Eschatology” with God redeeming Israel and making a covenant with her at Mount Sinai (WSTTB?, p.157). However, he conveniently does not tell his readers that this redemption from Egypt and gathering at Sinai, was a creation of the “heavens and earth/land.” As one of the greatest thinkers ever produced within reformed theology, Dr. John Owen, states of (Isa.51:15-16),

“...the time when the work here mentioned, of planting the heavens, and laying the foundation of the earth, was performed by God when he ‘divided the sea’ (v. 15), and gave the law (16), and said to Zion, ‘Thou art my people’- that is, when he took the children of Israel out of Egypt, and formed them in the wilderness into a church and state. Then he planted the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth-made a new world; that is brought forth order, and government, and beauty, from the confusion wherein before they were. This is the planting of the heavens, and laying the foundation of the earth in the world.”

And the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge agrees,

“The heavens. ‘Heaven’ and ‘earth’ are here put by symbolic language for a political universe. That is, that I might make those who were but scattered persons and slaves in Egypt before, a kingdom and polity, to be governed by their own laws and magistrates.”


During this creation, God had made Mnt. Sinai a temporary temple structure that would be further realized in the hand made building of the tabernacle and temples of Israel. These would find there spiritual and anti-type fulfillments “In Christ” and through His Body – the Church as the New Temple and Mount Zion:

1. Moses as high priest permitted in MHP (Ex 24:2)

2. 70 Elders and Priests enter HP (Ex 19:22; Ex 24:21)

3. Israelites at base of mountain where Moses offered up burnt offerings and sacrifices and placed the blood on the altar (Ex 19:12,23; Ex 24:5,6)

In the Jewish mind however, God’s creation of the heavens and earth/land in (Gen.1-2) and (Isa.51:15-16) were not completed until God had created the “heavens and earth/land” of the tabernacle and God’s presence rested in the midst of them,

“When, however, the Tabernacle was set up and the Holy One, blessed be He, caused the Shecinah to rest within it, He said, “Let it be written that on this day the world was created”’ (Num. R. x111. 6). The implication seems to be that until the Shechinah took up its abode among men through the erection of the Sanctuary, the world could not really be said to exist in the full sense of the term.”


In the “creation of the world” of the tabernacle, God creatively says in fiat language seven times: “The Lord said,”[19]

Genesis 1 Creation of the

“Heavens and Earth/Land”
“God said…” 7 times

Exodus 25, 30, 31 Creation of Tabernacle

“Heavens and Earth/Land”

“The Lord said…” 7 times
1) Gen.1:3

1) Ex.25:1
2) Gen.1:6

2) Ex.30:11
3) Gen.1:9

3) Ex.30:17
4) Gen.1:14

4) Ex.30:22
5) Gen.1:20

5) Ex.30:34
6) Gen.1:24

6) Ex.31:1
7) Gen.1:26 cf. vv. 11, 28, 29

7) Ex.31:12

Reformed professor at R.T.S. in Atlanta J.V. Fesko, follows Beale’s research and has made even some more parallels:



Day 1

Heavens are stretched out like a curtain (Ps. 104:2)

Tent (Exod.26:7)
Day 2

Firmament (Gen. 1:2)

Temple veil (Exod.26:33)
Day 3

Waters below firmament

Laver or bronze sea (Exod. 30:18)
Day 4

Lights (Gen.1:14)

Light stand (Exod. 25:31)
Day 5

Birds (Gen. 1:20)

Winged cherubim (Exod. 25:20)
Day 6

Man (Gen. 1:27)

Aaron the high priest (Exod. 28:1)
Day 7

Cessation (Gen. 2:1)
Blessing (Gen. 2:3)
Completion (Gen.2:2)

Cessation (Exod. 39:32)
Mosaic blessing (Exod. 39:43
Completion (Exod. 39:43)

Unlike the “Hyper-Creedalists,” Jesus and the new-testament authors did not have two separate eschatons – one for Israel in A.D. 70 and one at the end of the Church age that reverts to a literal re-creation of (Gen.1-2). The Jews such as Josephus whom lived during the times of Jesus & the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, understood the temple as referring to the heavens and earth and the temples destruction was the context of Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet Discourse (Mt.24:1-35 –Mt.25).[21]

Reformed theologians such as Amillennialist G.K. Beale admit the O.T. “heavens and earth” can be referring to the physical Temple and the City, “…heaven and earth” in the Old Testament may sometimes be a way of referring to Jerusalem or its temple, for which ‘Jerusalem’ is a metonymy.”[22] Some evangelical theologians agree,

“The Temple was far more than the point at which heaven and earth met.37 Rather, it was thought to correspond to, represent, or, in some sense, to be ‘heaven and earth’ in its totality (H.T. Fletcher-Louis, ibid. p.157).

So exactly how did the old-covenant tabernacle/temple and her city represent the “heavens and earth/land”?

1) The Inner Courtyard. The bronze basin or laver was described as the “sea” (1Kings 7:23-26). The altar which was on a little hill in the courtyard, in a proper Hebrew translation means and symbolized “from the bosom of the earth” or “the mountain of God” (Ezk.43:14-16). These two items in the inner-courtyard represented the waters and seas and of Mount Sinai or Mount Zion associated with the known land that the Hebrew nation was familiar with throughout her redemptive history. The common Israelite was permitted within the gate of the inner courtyard only on certain occasions. Thus Israel in the Promised Land represented redeemed humanity/a redeemed cosmos or “kingdom of priests” to the surrounding Nations (Ex.19:6).

2) The Holy Place. The golden lamp stand of 7 lights represented the seven visible light sources of ancient man and the Hebrew Nation – sun, moon, and 5 planets. The Hebrew word “lights” meorot, in Gen.1 and throughout the Pentateuch is used of the “lights” of the tabernacle lampstand. These were given to serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years” for Israel (Gen.1:4):

* 7th. Day of the week is the Sabbath.
* 7th. Month of the year – is the month corresponding to the Day of Atonement. (Lev.16:29)
* 7th. Year is for the release of debts and slavery (Deut.15)
* 7th. Of the seven year cycle would be the year of jubilee (Lev.25).[23]

The Second coming or Day of the Lord has arrived and there is no more darkness in this eternal day of the kingdom. There are no more holy days for everyday is a Sabbath and celebration in God’s Kingdom under the new creation.

3) The Most Holy Place. The Ark represents heaven, the unseen realm where God dwells and is where God’s presence dwelt in the earthly Tabernacle with His “footstool” touching their land. The two golden cherubim guarding and looking down into the ark with no visible image of God between them, represents God’s presence among the angels in heaven and His invisible presence among His people on earth. As mentioned earlier, the items of the law, Aaron’s rod, and manna, represent the two trees in the garden and man being in Adam or Christ – under the curse of the law or under grace in Christ.

“Both Josephus and Philo explore at some length the cosmic symbolism of the tabernacle / temple and its paraphernalia (Philo Mos. 2:71-145; Josephus Ant. 3:123, 179-187).54 Both agree that the woven work of the tabernacle and the temple veil are made from four materials symbolizing the four elements – earth, water, air and fire (War 5:212-213; Ant. 3:138-134; Quaestiones in Exodum 2:85, cf. Mos. 2:88).” [24]

I would agree with Preston that these elements are “…the stoicheia, that Peter refers to in 2Peter 3:10!”[25] The precursor to the “elements” of the old covenant law disappearing and the elements of the new covenant creation beginning to take its place, was graphically experienced when the veil was ripped in two at Christ’s crucifixion (Mrk.15:28; Mrk.14:24). This was understood as an omen or sign of things to come for the Jews whom had heard Jesus prophecy of the destruction of the temple and the end Israel’s old covenant age within their generation. Complete access to God for the new covenant community would be achieved when these “elements” (2Pet.3:10) of the old covenant veil/world, would be completely taken out of the way and the new stood complete and mature in an A.D. 70 time frame (Heb.8:13; Heb.9:6-10; Heb.10:25-37).

Israel’s Great Commission and 40 years of War and Peace

God chose Israel (a corporate Adam) to be His elect son and commissioned him to now subdue (Hebrew kabash) the wicked nations of the land (Num.32:29; 2Sam.8:11; 1Chron.22:18-19) and to have dominion (Hebrew radah) (rule, reign, possess, plunder, & make slaves of) the other nations of the land (Lev.25:44-46; 1Kings 4:21-25; Isa.14:2). Under the old-covenant God primarily dealt with His chosen Nation Israel and His purpose among the Nations was to drive them out and exterminate them and their idol’s from His Land (Deut.6-7). The Jewish mindset considered the Promised Land of Israel with its Holy City and temple to be the Garden of God and where the light and life of Torah resided. They considered the heathen Gentile Nations to be dogs and wild beasts of the field in utter darkness and death needing to be re-created and subdued under the teaching of Torah. At times members of some of the surrounding Gentile Nations would hear and witness the power of Israel’s God and would want to be gathered into the Nation and land in order to worship and serve Jehovah. The rabbinical usage and terminology of describing this conversion was to refer to the Gentile convert as a “new creation” or “creature.” Thus the “subduing” and exercising “dominion” over the earth/land finds its fulfillment in the conversion of the hearts and minds of people (Jew and Gentile) to the law of God. God said to not turn away the Gentile “alien” because at one time Israel’s forefathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) were “aliens” and “sojourners” in Canaan and Israel herself were “aliens” in Egypt – therefore they were to love them and treat them as if they were one of their own (Ex.6:1-4; Lev.19:34). The Gentile “aliens” would be circumcised and partake of the Passover (Ex.12:48). They could offer up burnt offerings and sacrifices to God, had to keep torah just as the Israelites, and were likewise susceptible to the covenant cursings if they disobeyed just as the native born Israelites (Lev.17:8-13; Num.15). It is a point of debate, but it appears that even in type form, they could inherit the land as well (Ezk.47:22-23). This lays the foundation for seeing the Jew / Gentile oneness “In Christ” under the new covenant. Even a precursor glimpse of the OC Jew/Gentile type of NC salvation destroys true “hyper-preterism.”[26]

Although it can be correctly stated that Israel was not successful in fulfilling the great commission and being a light to the gentiles due to their propensity to fall into the sin of an exclusive self righteousness, it can also be stated that she temporary (in type form) did fulfill the great commission in a limited way. As God promised, Israel through Jehovah’s power did subdue and rule over all the land driving out the unclean beasts of the gentile nations: (Josh.21:43-45; 1Kings 8:56; Neh.9:7-8). They experienced a typological subduing of God’s enemies and peace through the 40 year reigns of David and Solomon, which typified the warfare and peace of Christ and the early Church in subduing their enemies within a 40 year millennial reign before Christ returned in A.D. 70. The Great Commission was fulfilled in Jesus' and Paul's generation:


“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world (Greek oikumene) for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14)

“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed:

‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Greek oikumene)” (Romans 10:18)

“And the gospel must first be published among all nations (Greek ethnos)” "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, (Greek ethnos)…” “…I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.” (Mark 13:10; Mt.28:19-20)

“...My gospel... has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations (Greek ethnos)...” (Romans 16:25-26)

“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world(Greek kosmos) and preach the gospel to every creature” “…And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues (Greek glossa) (Mark 16:15, 17)

“...of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world(Greek kosmos), as is bringing forth fruit...,” (Colossians 1:5-6).

And he said unto them ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Greek kitisis) “ (Mark 16:15)

“...from the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature (Greek kitisis) under heaven, of which I, Paul became a minister” (Colossians 1:23)

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth/land (Greek ge)” (Acts 1:8).

Prophecy had begun to be fulfilled: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues (Greek glossa), as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation (Greek ethnos) under heaven.

“But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth/land (Greek ge), and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10:18)

Prophecy would be fulfilled “shortly” : “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth/land (Greek ge), and to every nation (Geek ethnos), and kindred (Greek phule) and tongue (Greek glossa), and people, (Greek laos)” (Rev.1:1; Rev.14:6). See also Revelation 10:6-7; 20:3; 22:10-11 in regards to the Great Commission success to the “nations” and imminent fulfillment of the Great Commission motif.

The above chart destroys the futurism of men such as Mathison and G.K. Beale's attempts to put off a literal phase to the new creation at the end of time when the Great Commission is allegedly globally fulfilled. All of these terms Jesus used for the Great Commission were used by Paul in the past tense to communicate the commands fulfillment within his generation. These terms were never meant to be global terms!


The Jewish mind understood his land and temple to be heaven on earth and where God’s light of the Torah resided. The light of torah was to function as a vehicle to conquer and convert the unclean nations outside her land. These nations were in “darkness.” This is the imagery we see in how Revelation ends. The emphasis is not global but local. The New Creation comes down in the form of a City and in the shape of a perfect cube communicating that the New Creation has become the Most Holy Place of God. It then rests in a local area with the nations of the world from the outside coming to it for healing.

[1] Meredith Kline, The Genesis Debate, p.90, Crux Press, 2001.


[3] Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ, p.44, Baker Book House, 1988.
[4] Snoke, ibid., p.133-134.

[5] John Sailhamer, GENESIS UNBOUND, pp. 50-51, , Multnomah Books, 1996.

[6] Sailhamer, ibid., pp. 72. Sailhamer also finds reformed theologian John Lightfoot agreeing with some of his observations here, see p. 216 n.3.

[7] David Snoke, A Biblical Case for an Old Earth, pp. 47-98, Baker Books pub., 2006.

[8] Snoke, ibid., pp.73-74 emphasis added.

[9] Terry, ibid., pp.50-51.

[10] chart taken from: Earnest L. Martin, PhD, 1977, The Temple Symbolism In Genesis

[11] G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Churches Mission, pp.96-98, Apollos Press, I.V.P., 2004. As I pointed out to Mr. Beale on the John Anderson radio show in critiquing and asking questions of his book, that the great commission had been fulfilled by A.D. 70 and the Church is currently in the “new world” (Cols.1:5-6, 23). His response was that the “new world” has been “inaugurated” and that the Greek in these texts communicates that the great commission was and still is in the process of being fulfilled. After getting cut off, and Beale calling me and all preterists “heretics,” I sent a private email letter to Mr. Beale pointing out his error and reminding him that his statements were false, “This is simply a false statement. Paul states that the gospel "had been preached to every creature under heaven." Not only is the past tense obvious in the English translations, but surely you know that it is in the Aorist passive tense here? Something cannot be bearing fruit unless it had been planted first. There is nothing logical or exegetical in your comments of (Cols.1:23). This is the same "argument" Thomas Ice uses with no success.”

[12] The sacrifices in Israel were performed in the “cool of the day” around 9 a.m. or 3p.m. when the cool sea breeze would sweep over the Palistine region (ibid. Martin).

[13] Mathison, Ibid., Postmillennialism An Eschatology of Hope pp.111-112ff., pp.143-144, 148. Interestingly we find Mr. Mathison much bolder in this work on the time texts referring to A.D. 70 than he is in his response to us J

[14] The ancient mind saw their people, their land, and their religion, as the center of the “heavens and earth/land.” In other words, their world poetically speaking, revolved around them as the center of the universe. This does not mean however, that they could not conceptualize nor believe that their God or gods had made the dry land, sky, universe, or the spiritual realm as far as their eye could see and heart could image the unseen realm. The creation of all things presupposes and is necessary to understand the various creation accounts of the “heavens and earth/land” of ancient eastern culture and the areas their God or gods mandated them to conquer.

[15] David Chilton, PARADISE RESTORED A BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF DOMINION, pp.61-63, Dominion Press, 1985.

[16] Owen, John, The Works of John Owen, Banner of Truth pub., Vol.9 pp. 134-135.

[17] Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge Revised and Expanded, Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 802

[18] A. Cohen, Everyman’s TALMUD, p.43, Dutton pub. 1949, emphasis added.

[19] Beale, ibid., p.61. Beale also quotes a Rabbi who says, “the Tabernacle is equal to the creation of the world” and then substantiates the claim by comparing the various things created on each day of creation to the seven similar items created in the tabernacle (Tanhuma Yelammedenu Exodus 11:2

[20] J.V. Fesko, Last Things First Unlocking Genesis 1-3 with the Christ of Eschatology, p.70, Mentor Imprint Christian Focus Publications, 2007. I would agree with the premise of the book, “…one must interpret Genesis 1-3 in the light of Christ and Eschatology.”

[21] Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, The Works of Josephus, p.87, Book 3, Chapter 6, Par. 4, Section 123, Hendrickson pub. 1987. Josephus, ibid, p.90, Book 3, Chapter 7, Par.7, Section 181. “However, this proportion of the measures of the tabernacle proved to be an imitation of the system of the world: for that third part thereof which was within the four pillars, to which the priests were not admitted, is, as it were, a Heaven peculiar to God...” “When Moses distinguished the tabernacle into three parts, and allowed two of them to the priests as a place accessible to the common, he denoted the land and the sea, these being of general access to all; but he set apart the third division for God, because heaven is inaccessible to men”

[22] Beale, ibid., p.25. On the John Anderson radio show I challenged Beale’s thesis in reverse stating that the context and de-creation language of (Mt.24:1-3, 35) was the judgment upon Jerusalem and her temple in A.D. 70. Beale HAD NO ANSWER TO THAT.

[23] Vern Poythress, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, pp. 18-19, P&R pub., 1991.

[24] H.T. Fletcher-Louis, ibid., pp.145, 152, 160-161. Emphasis added

[25] Don Preston, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heath, p. 198, JaDon Productions LLC, 2006. I was reading G.K. Beale’s work on The Temple And The Churches Mission and it further solidified my view that the “heavens and earth” of Mt.24:35 was referring to the Temple. I sent a copy of the book to Don to take a look at. It helped Don develop his chapter on “Israel, The Temple And “Heaven And Earth.”

[26] I have only interacted with one “hyper-preterist” and they are very few in number. They claim that the O.T. and N.T. only taught that God would save Jews and that Gentiles are not included in the resurrection that occurred in A.D. 70. They believe there is no salvation for anyone today post A.D.70. We need to keep our definitions clear. As our opponents would object to Arminians and 4 point “Calvinists” who would say that 5 point Calvinists are “Hyper-Calvinists” because of their “logic,” we too reject to the label of “Hyper-Preterists.” Theologically a “Hyper-Calvinist” is one who does not see the necessity of evangelism. Likewise a “Hyper-Preterist” (which would include the Universalism of Max King) likewise sees no evangelism necessary because all will eventually get saved or there is no salvation post A.D.70.

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Comment by Mike Sullivan on November 25, 2008 at 10:05pm
Appreciate the comments.



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