A Leader’s Guide for a New Generation of Christians
by Mark Mountjoy
God does not grant permission to individuals, councils, churches, legislatures, governing bodies, congresses, magisteriums, popes, kings, or priests, to invent doctrines in order to set ideas against what he, in his New Testament Word, has declared to be established, by the person of Jesus, the blood of his Cross, the fact of his resurrection and the seal of his Holy Spirit.
Whatever Christians have believed that is true, the Lord is obliged to honor that faith—for that is what he asked for as a token of reasonable service. But if Christians have erred in doctrine and believed a concept falsely, however sincere, God is not obliged to honor what is not of the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).
There is nothing in the Gospel to suggest that mistaken beliefs automatically equal the damnation of those who believe it; nor are we here suggesting that the vast majority of people in the kingdom of God (which is the worldwide Church) stand outside of the wonderful grace of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:7 cf. 1 John 5:16). We believe that it is a truism that if they believed falsely through no conscious or deliberate act of malice or premeditation, then God’s grace, mercy, and love abides and this is doubtlessly true, and if there is a different situation, even this is beyond our provenance to know, but God’s only (Romans 14:4).
At the very same time, nothing God has enjoined Christians to believe can be legitimately anathematized by authorities or individuals, for where this has happened in Bible history, even prophets, Apostles, and the Son of God himself were condemned by men, but justified by God.1 In this case, too, though the whole world was against some enigmatic aspect of New Testament reality, both the authority and the ability to make it a genuine crime to believe are completely and totally absent and without merit, at the end of the proverbial day.
An almost universal belief in the Church maintains that Bible eschatology and apocalyptic prophecies remain to be fulfilled, even though some will concede that it was believed these should have happened within a fairly short time, certainly in the lifetime of the first Christians. However, time, it is said, has proved not only the Apostles’ assumptions about the end of the world to be mistaken, but the ideations of Jesus himself collapse under the weight of time, chance, and circumstances. Now, after nearly two thousand years of waiting, guessing, and fretting, Christians are not afraid to say that they have no problem with Jesus coming, belated though it may apparently seem.2
In the process of time, short of less than half a millennium, important doctrines coalesced around notions of the physical resurrection of the dead, but these aspirations (or hopes) became fixed on a future and eventualities that the Bible never promises, predicts, or describes.3
When we approach Christians and invite them into our study sessions we want to begin by asking God to open hearts and minds to explore his Word. We pray that all Christians receive the Word of God with meekness, always without murmuring or complaining. Beseech God and plead for mercy that we do not waste time and blow an opportunity to see reality through the lens of his Word.
“Come Holy Spirit and reveal Your truth to Your people. Let us realize, dear Lord, that resisting You is futile and the chance to understand may never come our way again. Let, dear Lord, Your people be men and women of understanding, but let our malice be that of children, while we are branches of a great tree, let us not despise or off-handedly reject essential and precious connections which we all share in common: Our Semitic Christian past.
Help us realize, dear Lord, that in the Son of God, we have life and resurrection, and these are not denied to us because of a calendar date in antiquity. Help us confidently understand that we have not forfeited a place in Glory, nor did we lose the promise You gave of an incorruptible inheritance that will never fade away.
In the name of Jesus, the Lord of Glory, we pray, Amen and amen!”
Second Timothy 2:17 is a prooftext that will be utilized, time and again, to go against any suggestion that the resurrection of the dead, promised by Jesus in the Gospels, the Apostles in the Book of Acts, Paul in his epistles and the other writings of the New Testament, including the Book of Revelation, ever transpired at all, but stand on the brink of happening either now, or will, after the passage of a gargantuan number of years, take place at the twilight of the universe, basically the end of time.
There is a reason that the idea of a future Second Coming and resurrection of the dead seems extremely advantageous—there is a reason: That reason rests in the notion that every eye would see the Lord’s return and that obviously has not happened yet, so we need to wait on God and be on the alert.4
It is a philosophy in the Body of Christ that we need to trust that what God promised, will come to pass, even if (at face value) it seems as if it should have happened a long time ago.
We have to be prepared to take a look at the merits of seeing the resurrection of the dead at face value and understand that 2 Timothy 2:17 does not provide a rationale for Futurism in any way, shape, or form.5
To explain this simply, all of Jesus’s teachings circumscribe the resurrection of the dead to the end of the Jewish State (as does the Book of the Prophet Daniel). This can be seen from a careful examination of Daniel 7:7-27; Daniel 9:24-27 and Daniel 12:1-13. Now, there is nothing (absolutely nothing) in the Book of Daniel that sets the end of Jewish civilization or the termination of the Second Temple to the end of time, but to the end of that same Temple and wars and desolations in the aftermath thereof (Daniel 9:27).
The timetable for the events is crystal clear, starting with the image and explanation of the four kingdoms in Daniel 2:31-45 and the revelation of the four beasts in Daniel 7:3-27, the calendrical countdown is incontrovertibly about the pathway of Jewish salvation history to the time of the inauguration of the kingdom of God (which comes in the midst of tribulation and war and turmoil - Revelation 11:15).
These the New Testament (in the Olivet Discourse) set nearby and ascribe to them (in no uncertain terms) the downfall of the Second Temple and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem and the Roman captivity of Judæa (Luke 21:24 cf. Revelation 16:15-19:1-4). What was the claim of Hymenaeus and Philetus that both made what they said seem troubling and at the same time overthrew the faith of some? Paul states that they said the resurrection was past already! But if that was their claim, that would automatically mean they were troubling Christians by saying that the resurrection had nothing to do with the termination of the contemporary Aaronic or (Levitical priesthood). God raised the dead and the city had not fallen. God raised the dead and all was going on with business “as usual”!
To put their claims in the simplest way possible, they were saying the end had already come and nothing that was declared to be obsolete had in any way ceased to be—and this would be a direct contradiction of Jesus, who claims that not one stone would be left upon another that would not be thrown down. This would also contradict Jesus because when the epistle of 2 Timothy was written the Jews were still about twelve months—or perhaps even a few months away from the time when they had the audacity to transmogrify the Second Temple into a bloody citadel (Revelation 11:1-2).6
Paul’s prophecies of Jewish mendacity in the Second Temple would be false if the claims of Hymenaeus and Philetus were true. In fact, Hymenaeus and Philetus were probably among those who said the day of Christ was already present before anything of significance had happened in Jerusalem (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4). This is all significant for the Futurist usage of this Pauline warning because going the other way and having the end of the world, the resurrection of the dead and the judgment take place long after and apart from the Destruction of Jerusalem is to err EXACTLY (and radically) in the opposite direction as Hymenaeus and Philetus!
Therefore, it proves NOTHING at all to argue that the resurrection will happen tomorrow, or at the end of time, if the Bible plainly circumscribes that such an event would happen at, when, and around the calamity of the ancient capital of the Jews.7
Another strategy that is utilized to harness 2 Timothy 2:17 against the very teachings that Jesus, the Apostles, and the early Christians endorsed is to maintain that the Apostle Paul was arguing only about the nature of the resurrection and not the timing of it. Is this true? Well, let’s have a look: In the entire text under dispute, we see that it is about timing!
If Paul is concerned about the nature of the resurrection of the dead, that discussion has its place in 1 Corinthians 15 (and even there there is no escape from the event happening “at the last trump” which, if we examine where that is, brings us, directly and decidedly to the Destruction of Jerusalem in Revelation 11:15. That is where the seventh angel blows the final trumpet and then it is announced that the kingdom of God has come and the time of the dead that they should be judged has come, and the time for the rewarding of the prophets has arrived (Revelation 11:15-18).
And so, every avenue to escape the nature and the timing of the resurrection of the dead that a man may prefer or that people may want to take is made impossible by the contextual dictates of the Word of God, and Christians who realize this must not be intimidated by sophisticated arguments which seek to present and misrepresent the truth of this matter in the worst possible light.
And so, the claims of Hymenaeus and Philetus serve no purpose toward negating the idea that Revelation describes the end of the world, judgment day, the coming of the kingdom of God, and the resurrection of the dead within the parameters of the Fall of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish State (so this needs to be clear to our Christian brothers and sisters: this was NOT the claim of Hymenaeus and Philetus).
And so, running to 2 Timothy 2:17 to prevent acknowledgment of the Second Coming during a specific period of anarchy extending to the termination of the Second Temple and including the disappearance of the Jewish State countermands and contradicts what Jesus promised and vowed would happen.8
We, therefore, encourage all believers to explore this matter and be willing to speak of these realities and accept them as absolute certainties because our Lord is the way, the truth, and the life and he never spoke vainly or broke any of his promises (Matthew 12:43-45 and 24:34). May God richly bless everyone who reads this essay!
1 To make what the Bible says ‘deceit’ is already a foolish and impossible task that is doomed to failure before it begins. By establishing the truth of these issues upon the record that was vouchsafed to the Church in the revelation of the New Testament, anyone can confidently draw battle lines and capably bring all foes to a place where they can neither contradict nor resist the force of logic which comes, not from man, but the Holy Spirit of God, who makes this weapon quick and powerful and sharper than a double-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).
2 Standard Christian doctrines have evolved to a point where it is believed the Second Coming is belated ‘by design’ and not by mistake. Nothing in the immediate framework of the Second Jewish Commonwealth is actually recognized as imperative to the Second Coming, although a shadow of certainty appears to maintain that early Christians may have believed that the cosmos was coming to an end ‘very soon’ based on a reading of 2 Peter 3:10. But this concept will surely lead to the conclusion that the early Christians both were taught and accepted a belief that the Second Coming AND the end of the physical universe were at their doorstep in the first century. From this, there is no escape, and if this is what they believed the New Testament, at every turn is false.
3 The Nicene Creed is concerned with the bodily resurrection of the dead, but not in a setting ever mirrored in the Bible in Isaiah 66:22-24, Daniel 7:7-28, Revelation 19:1-21 or Revelation 20:7-15 (see Ezekiel 39:11-25).
4 Using Acts 1:11 as if it were a one-off or stand-alone is the foundation for a weak and indefensible doctrine about a Second Coming. If Acts 1:11 is part of a string of prophecies about our Lord's return it cannot be interpreted in a way that contradicts the total sum of verses that build a framework and parameters around it. Just going back to less than three months before the angels uttered the promise of Acts 1:11 we see, very clearly, that Jesus anticipated his Second Coming in the clouds as a future historic event. Seventy-two hours before he was crucified Christ uttered these infallible words:-
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (Matthew 24:29-34).
Opponents of the truth of Jesus writhe and squirm at the implications of the Olivet Discourse because they, like the Zealots, do not want Jesus to come back in connection with the Destruction of Jerusalem, as he so plainly promised.
5 Soldiers of the truth must be cognizant that one of the strategies of the foes of Realized Eschatology is to present the case that Paul argues about the nature, but not the timing as the cheat of Hymenaeus and Philetus. They say it is definitely one, but not the other, and then proceed with their attack, but it is an evident fallacy! Nowhere in 2 Timothy 2 is Paul making an issue about the nature of the event so much as he opposes the charlatan’s timing of it as having happened ‘already.’ So the issue IS about timing and those who insist it wasn’t are either sadly mistaken or else deliberately lying, plain and simple.
6 Even if 2 Timothy was written just before or at the very beginning of the Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire and at the onset of civil war and hostilities against the Jerusalem Aristocracy, the Destruction of the Second Temple and the entire city itself were still, at the very least, forty-two months away (see Revelation 11:2 and Revelation 13:5 cf. Daniel 7:25).
7 It is a mistake to think the Destruction of Jerusalem was accomplished only by destroying the city itself. In reality, the whole nation of Judæans, from near and far, contributed to the war that engulfed the whole country of which Jerusalem was the capital and center. And the Book of Revelation reflects this, not narrowly, but broadly, from Revelation 11:1 all the way to Revelation 19:21, where the seditious initiate the war, prosecute it, cause the city to fall, are put to flight, cornered, and punished.
8 Three parables of our Lord predict the fallout from his coming and the forfeiture of the kingdom of God by the leaders of first-century Jerusalem: The Parable of the Wicked Spirit, Matthew 12:43-45, the Parable of the Vineyard, Matthew 21:33-46, and the Parable of the Son’s Wedding, Matthew 22:1-14. These are not the only ones, but these three give Christians a starting point to wrap their minds around this subject in order to begin the process of familiarity with it, in due time. Enter into these studies prayerfully and ask the Holy Spirit for insight, wisdom, and guidance every step of the way and you will do well (Proverbs 3:5-6).