Friday, May 26, 2017

Restoring Unity to Paul’s Epistles: A Refutation of Tom Ballinger’s Defense of the “Acts 28” Theory, Part 5 ("Then Shall Come to Pass the Word"; "Saying None Other Things"; "Shall Never Die"; "At the Last Trump")

“Then shall come to pass the word which is written”

Ballinger: Also, in I Corinthians 15, when writing about the same hope of resurrection (which some call the “rapture”), he says, So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be BROUGHT TO PASS the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O grave, where is thy victory?” (:54-55). If Paul means what he says, and says what he means, the hope of I Corinthians 15 was prophesied in “the Word of the Lord.” Paul is quoting from two different books in “the Word of the Lord,” Hosea 13:14 and Isaiah 25:8, to show the Corinthians their hope.

We’ve shown in part four that, by the phrase “the word of the Lord” in 1 Thess. 4:15, Paul did not have in mind anything found in the Hebrew Scriptures - and this includes Hosea 13:14 and Isaiah 25:8. Nowhere in these verses do we find the information made known by Paul in 1 Thess. 4:15-17. Rather, the information found in these verses had been revealed to Paul by the Lord Jesus Christ at some point during Paul’s apostolic career (prior to the writing of 1 Thessalonians). In light of this, let’s now consider Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 15:54-55: Now, whenever this corruptible should be putting on incorruption and this mortal should be putting on immortality, then shall come to pass the word which is written, Swallowed up was Death by Victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?

Notice the words “whenever” and “then” in v. 54. The word “whenever” has a much wider scope than the word “when.” It means that every time a corruptible, mortal body is changed into an incorruptible, immortal body, the “word that is written” comes to pass (ginomai, to come to be, or to occur). Paul is not talking about the fulfillment of Isaiah 25:8 or Hosea 13:14; he doesn’t even use the word translated “fulfilled” or “filled up” (pleroo) in reference to these verses of Scripture (for some examples where a verse or passage from the Hebrew scriptures is said to have been “fulfilled,” or “filled up,” see Matthew 2:23; 4:12-16; 13:14-15; 27:6-10; Luke 24:44; John 13:18; 17:12; 19:36; Acts 1:16; 3:18; 13:27; James 2:23).

The “word which is written” will “come to pass” any time (“whenever”) a deceased or mortal person (or a group of such persons) is vivified. Thus, when the deceased saints in the body of Christ are roused incorruptible, and the still-living saints are changed into immortal beings (which is the event that Paul has in view in the immediate context) death will, for them, be “swallowed up by victory” and will have lost its “sting.” And when all the deceased saints of Israel are vivified (which will be 75 days after the day of Christ’s return to earth), the “word” that Paul quotes will again “come to pass.” But even then, it cannot be said that this “word” will have been fulfilled, since there will remain a third and final class of human beings who are to be vivified (and for whom death is to be “swallowed up by victory”).

Ballinger: The mystery of I Corinthians 15:51 is not the resurrection, but that there will be some caught up without dying. This is a mystery hidden in the Scriptures, for in :55 Paul quotes Isaiah 25:8 which says, “O Death where is thy sting?” In other words, in the Old Testament Scriptures it was written down that somebody was going to get out of this life without experiencing the sting of death.

The rhetorical question, “Where, O Death, is your sting?” in no way presupposes or implies that anyone would be vivified without dying. These words are just as applicable for all who are to be roused from the state of death and introduced into a vivified, incorruptible state as they are for those members of the body of Christ who will never die. For all who are vivified, it can be said that death has lost its “sting” (i.e., its power to harm/injure), since those who have been vivified can no longer die. The words of 1 Cor. 15:55 (“Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?”) can, therefore, be the triumphant proclamation of everyone over whom death no longer has any power.

“Saying none other things”

Ballinger: This agrees with what Paul said in Acts 26:22 where, when summing up his Acts ministry, said, Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day witnessing both to small and great, saying NONE OTHER THINGS than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come. Paul’s Acts ministry and what he wrote in his Acts epistles can be found in the Old Testament Scriptures, and that includes the hope he wrote about in I Thessalonians 4 and I Corinthians 15.

According to Ballinger and other Acts 28 proponents, Paul never said anything during the entirety of his “Acts ministry” that can’t be found in the Law and the Prophets. That anyone who is actually familiar with the content of Paul’s epistles could take this idea seriously is, to me, astonishing.

Before Paul travelled to Rome as a prisoner, he wrote the following to the saints in Rome: Now to Him Who is able to establish you in accord with my evangel, and the heralding of Christ Jesus in accord with the revelation of a secret hushed in times eonian, yet manifested now and through prophetic scriptures, according to the injunction of the eonian God being made known to all nations for faith-obedience...” (Rom. 16:25-26). The “prophetic scriptures” through which the secret was “being made known to all nations” are Paul’s own letters. Paul clearly understood what he wrote to be inspired scripture (1 Cor. 14:37; cf. 2 Pet. 3:14-16), and all of his letters can be characterized as “prophetic” - both in the sense of their being part of the “oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2) and in the sense of their containing prophecies concerning future events (events which involve not only the saints in the body of Christ but also the nation of Israel, unbelievers, all mankind and the universe as a whole).

Unlike what Peter declared in Acts 3:21-24 (concerning “all the things which God speaks through the mouth of His holy prophets who are from the eon”), the “secret” that Paul had in view in Romans 16:25-26 had been kept “hushed in times eonian.” It was not manifested until after Paul was called by Christ (Gal 1:1, 11-16). This fact brings us to our second point. All that one needs to do to demonstrate the error of the Acts 28 proponent’s use of Acts 26:22 is to find one thing found in Paul’s “Acts epistles” that wasn’t previously revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures. Here are some examples:

1. Salvation has come to the nations through the “tripping,” “offense” and “casting away” of Israel (Rom. 11:11-15, 19), and this state of affairs is to continue “until the complement of the nations may be entering” (vv. 25-26).

2. All who believe Paul’s evangel - whether “Jew or Greek” - are spiritually baptized into one body (1 Cor. 12:12-13), which is the body of Christ (v. 27), and have become a “new creation” in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

3. The last generation of those in the body of Christ will “not be put to repose” (die), but will “put on immortality” at the same time that the deceased saints in the body of Christ will be “roused in incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:50-53).

4. Both categories of saints in the body of Christ will be “snatched away together” by the “Lord himself” to meet Christ in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18).

5. All who are in the body of Christ will, at this time, become “celestials” and will “wear the image of Christ, the “Celestial One” (1 Cor. 15:47-49).

6. Related to the last point, the realm in which we will enjoy eonian life after we’ve “put on incorruption” is not on the earth but rather “in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1), and our “home” is, therefore, where the Lord is, presently (vv. 6-9).

7. After death has been abolished by Christ and every being in the universe has been subjected to him, Christ will be “giving up the kingdom to His God and Father” and “shall be subjected to Him Who subjects all to Him, that God may be All in all” (1 Cor. 15:24-28). Referring to the subjection of all to Christ and to God’s becoming “All in all” is simply another way of conveying the same truth found in Col. 1:20 and elsewhere.

Having noted some truths revealed by Paul (and concerning which “the prophets and Moses” were completely silent), let’s now consider what Paul meant in Acts 26:22. Although Ballinger seems to prefer the King James Version, I consider it a relatively inferior translation on which to build (or with which to support) one’s doctrinal positions. But even the KJV translation of Acts 26:22 does not lend support to Ballinger’s position.

Notice that Ballinger leaves out the very next verse, which specifies what “things” Paul had in view when he declared that he was “saying none other things that those which the prophets and Moses did say should come.” In v. 23 we read: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” More recent translations confirm this understanding of Acts 26:22-23. Consider the following:

New English Translation (NET)
“I have experienced help from God to this day, and so I stand testifying to both small and great, saying nothing except what the prophets and Moses said was going to happen: that the Christ was to suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, to proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
“To this very day, I have obtained help that comes from God, and I stand and testify to both small and great, saying nothing else than what the prophets and Moses said would take place— that the Messiah must suffer, and that as the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light to our people and to the Gentiles.”

English Standard Version (ESV)
“To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Concordant Literal New Testament (CLNT)
“Happening, then, on assistance from God, until this day I stand attesting both to small and to great, saying nothing outside of what both the prophets and Moses speak of impending occurrences -- if it be the suffering Christ -- if He, the first out of a resurrection of the dead, is about to be announcing light both to the people and to the nations.”

Why would Ballinger quote verse 22 but not verse 23 (especially when, grammatically, v. 23 can’t even be separated from what is said in v. 22)? I strongly suspect that it’s because Ballinger realized that doing so would weaken his position that Paul was referring to everything he had ever said during his apostolic ministry, without any exception or qualification. Since Paul’s words in verse 23 put a significant restriction on the “things” that Paul had in view in verse 22, it would seem that Ballinger felt it necessary to simply omit them altogether. This type of selective “proof-texting” seems to be rather common among proponents of the Acts 28 position, unfortunately.

“He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die”?

Ballinger: When the resurrection of Matthew 24 takes place, believers who are alive will be caught up without dying.

The problem with what Ballinger says above is that, unlike what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4, there is no resurrection referred to by the Lord in Matthew 24. In order to see the coming of Christ referred to in Matthew 24:30-31 as the same event referred to by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:50-54 and 1 Thess. 4:15-17, Ballinger and other Acts 28 proponents have to read into the Lord’s words what isn’t there. They have no choice but to do this, since the words “dead,” “sleeping,” “put to repose,” “roused,” “resurrected,” “rising,” “corruptible” and “put on incorruption” appear nowhere in Matthew 24:30-31 or the surrounding context.

Ballinger goes on to say: This fact is brought out by the Lord in John 11. In John 11, Lazarus, Martha’s brother, died, and she wanted Christ to raise him from the dead. Jesus said to her, “Thy brother shall rise again.” Martha saith unto Him, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said unto her: “I am the resurrection; and the life: he that believeth in Me; though He were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (:23).

When Jesus said, “He that believeth in Me though he were dead, yet shall he live,” He is referring to those who are dead when the resurrection of the last day takes place. When He said “whosoever liveth and believeth in Me,” He is referring to those who are alive when the resurrection of the last day takes place, and He says that they “shall never die.”

As we’ve seen, the “fact” to which Ballinger is referring at the beginning of the above paragraph is no “fact” at all. There is no resurrection referred to in Matthew 24. As far as John 11 goes, nowhere in the Lord’s conversation with Martha does he say that the “dying” believers he has in view in v. 25 will be resurrected when, before or immediately after the event referred to in Matthew 24:30 (when “all the tribes of the land shall see the Son of Mankind coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”).

Not only this, but there is nothing said by the Lord in this chapter (or elsewhere in the Gospel Accounts) about living saints not “preceding” or “outstripping” saints who are dead, of the dead in Christ “rising first,” or of both living and dead saints being changed, at the same moment, into incorruptible, immortal beings before being snatched away to meet him in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-17; 1 Cor. 15:51-53).

Ballinger: This is what Jesus is referring to in John 11 when He said, “He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” That was the only time that Christ mentioned that fact to anyone. Prior to Paul it was the general consensus that, by the time that resurrection took place, all believers would be dead. Yet God opened up the Scriptures to Paul and he was the first man to understand that fact fully and write about it. Nevertheless, it was in the Old Testament Scriptures, even though concealed.

If our Lord actually declared that “He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die,” then he uttered a falsehood, because everyone who was living and believing in him during his earthly ministry is now dead, and countless believers in Christ have died since then. Ballinger should have availed himself of a better, more accurate translation of Scripture while he was writing his article; had he done so, he would’ve discovered that Christ was not saying something so manifestly erroneous and stupid as is found in the KJV translation of John 11:26.

The CLNT corrects the error of the KJV by translating Christ’s words as follows: “And everyone who is living and believing in Me, should by no means be dying for the eon.” To say that those who believe in Christ “should by no means be dying for the eon” is simply another (more emphatic) way of saying that they will have eonian life – something that will be true for a believer regardless of whether they die before the Lord’s return or not.

“At the last trump”

In part six I’ll be arguing against Ballinger’s understanding of what Paul meant by the “last trump” in 1 Cor. 15:52 (which, as we’ll see, is the standard “post-tribulational” view – i.e., the view that what Paul referred to in 1 Thess. 4:13-18 and 1 Cor. 15:50-52 will take place after the time of “great affliction” referred to by Christ in Matt. 24:21-22, and will occur at some point during the eon-terminating coming of Christ described in Matt. 24:30, Rev. 1:7 and Rev. 19:11-16). The objections I’ll be raising against Ballinger’s view should, I believe, lead any clear-thinking student of scripture to reject it and consider other possible understandings of what Paul may have meant here. Before I examine and respond to Ballinger’s view, however, I want to go ahead and articulate what I believe is a better interpretation of what Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 15:52.

Among the views that have been suggested by students of scripture (of which there are several), I think the simplest is that Paul was using the figure of speech known as “association” (or “metonymy”) when he used the expression translated “at the last trumpet” (en tēi eschatēi salpiggi). According to this figure of speech, something associated with a thing is put for it; in the case of 1 Cor. 15:52, the word “trumpet” can be understood as referring to the sound made by a trumpet - i.e., a trump or trumpet-call.

The close association between a trumpet and the sound that it makes is clear from the English word “trump,” which can refer to either the instrument itself or the sound produced by it (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trump). It is worth pointing out that, although the Greek noun salpigx has the primary meaning of “trumpet” (or ”war-trumpet”), both Strong’s and the Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon have provided secondary definitions for salpigx: “the sound of a trumpet” (Strong’s) and “a trumpet-call” (Liddell-Scott). The only reason I haven’t appealed to these “secondary definitions” of salpigx is because I see them as implying (and being derived from) the use of the figure of speech association/metonymy.

That Paul was employing the figure of speech metonymy is the view affirmed by Frederick William Danker in his Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). Danker notes that the word translated “trumpet” in 1 Cor. 15:52 (salpigx) means, “by metonymy, the sound made by a trumpet.” Thus, when Paul is understood as having used the figure of speech “association” or “metonymy” in 1 Cor. 15:52, we can understand the expression “at the last trumpet” as simply meaning “at the last trumpet-call,” or “at the last trump.” And this would mean that Paul didn’t have in mind more than one trumpet in 1 Cor. 15:52; rather, he simply had in mind more than one trumpet-call, or trumpet blast.

This interpretation is, I believe, to be preferred to any view which involves multiple trumpets being sounded (either in unison or in sequence), since in 1 Thess. 4:13-18 - a passage which all would agree undoubtedly refers to the event in view in 1 Cor. 15:52 - there is no sequence of trumpets referred to or implied. Rather, Paul refers to only a single trumpet (the “trumpet of God”) as being sounded at the time Paul had in view. In light of this fact, 1 Cor. 15:52 can be understood as conveying the idea that, just before the dead and living saints in the body of Christ undergo their vivifying change, the “trumpet of God” will be sounded by Christ at least twice, and it is at the last blast or trumpet-call of this single trumpet that the miraculous (and nearly instantaneous) event which Paul had in view will occur.[1]

Part 6: http://thathappyexpectation.blogspot.com/2017/05/restoring-unity-to-pauls-epistles_33.html



[1] It should be further noted that the question of whether the word “trumpet” can even refer to the literal instrument (rather than the sound it makes) depends on the meaning of the Greek word translated “at” in the expression “at the last trumpet.” The preposition en (which appears three times in v. 52, and is translated “in” twice and “at” once) denotes “(fixed) position (in place, time or state), and (by implication) instrumentality (medially or constructively)” (http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/en.html).

Although the interpretation I’ve advanced is consistent with either meaning of the word en in 1 Cor. 15:52, only the “instrumental” meaning of en (“by means of”) is consistent with the view that Paul was referring to the actual instrument itself in the expression “last trumpet” (rather than the sound made by the instrument). For although it would make sense to say something will occur either (1) at the time of a trumpet-call or (2) by means of a trumpet-call, it wouldn’t make sense to say that something is to occur “at the time of a trumpet” (or at the time of any musical instrument). 

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