Coming of the Kingdom and Calvin
Frost’s response to our last post focused on my comments on John Calvin’s Kingdom paradigm. Frost presented Calvin as placing the kingdom events of Matthew 16:28 in a Pentecost/Ascension time frame. If that is the case, then, yes, it is quite possible that I misunderstood Calvin words. I simply did not take them to mean what Frost said they meant. Let’s examine them:
“Understand the coming of the kingdom of God’ as the manifestation of the heavenly glory which Christ inaugurated at His resurrection and showed more fully by sending the Holy Spirit and by performing wonderful miracles. For in those beginnings He gave His people a taste of the newness of the heavenly life, when by true and sure experiences they knew that He sat at the right hand of the Father.” CNTC, Matthew Vol. II, p. 196
I understand Calvin to say that the coming of the kingdom of God is the “manifestation of the heavenly glory”. It is the “newness of life” of which the disciples only tasted, but did not fully consume, to follow his figure of speech. A taste may be the beginning of enjoying a meal but it certainly does not have the “power” of consuming a meal. A taste is the wetting of the appetite for the more or full manifestation of that which is tasted. Calvin explains what he means in later chapters when commenting on the kingdom in Luke 21 referring back to his very analogy of tasting.
“Christ comes now to the full disclosure of His Kingdom, which His disciples had originally asked Him about, and He promises that after the vexation of such great troubles will come the time of redemption….The meaning is that the predictions about a prodigious shaking of heaven and earth should not be tied to the beginning of redemption, for the prophets had included its whole course, till it came to its finishing-point...Now we grasp Christ’s purpose, the sense of the words is easy, that the heaven will not be darkened immediately, but only after the Church has gone through its afflictions…Not that the glory and majesty of Christ’s Kingdom will only appear at His final coming, but that the completion (complementum) is delayed till that point—the completion of those things that started at the resurrection, of which God gave His people only a taste, to lead them further along the road of hope and patience. CNTC, Matthew, Vol 3, p. 93 (emp. mine)
Now what are those things that Calvin said started or were a taste, or an inauguration beginning with the resurrection? Were they not the sending of the Holy Spirit and the working of miracles given to lead them further along the road of hope and patience? When does he say those things would be finished? At the shaking of heaven and earth, after the church has gone through the afflictions, i.e. the great tribulation until the glory and majesty of Christ’s Kingdom appears at His final coming. Did the Holy Spirit’s ministry end on Pentecost? Did the working of miracles end on Pentecost? Did the great tribulation occur on Pentecost? Was heaven and earth shaken on Pentecost or was it being shaken as the saints were receiving the kingdom, (Hebrews 12:26-28)?
Calvin has confirmed with his own words that the things he spoke of were the beginning or taste of that which would later be consummated. Not only that but he denies Luke 21 refers to the A.D. 70 coming of Christ and places all the events of that chapter future! However, he affirmed per Matthew 24:34 that the events that parallel chapter were all experienced within 50 years, i.e. within that one generation living in the time of Christ! It appears that Calvin had serious problems with his eschatology. He takes a futurist view of Luke 21 and a Preterist view of Matthew 24!
Calvin Reiterates The First Century Kingdom Parousia Fulfillment
“Although the same evils continued without a break for many centuries to follow, Christ still spoke truly, saying the faithful would actually and openly experience before the end of one generation how true His oracle was, for the Apostles suffered the same things as we see today….He encourages them to hold out by telling them exactly what to look for in that time. The meaning is that the prophecy does not refer to distant evils which a later generation would see after many centuries, but those already imminent, all massed up, so that there is no part of it which the present generation will not experience. So the Lord heaps on one generation calamities of every description although he does not spare later generations.
Calvin teaches not only the Preterist view of Matthew 24, but he teaches the events keep recurring in every future generation, a bazaar interpretation indeed! Yet, he is faithful to the audience relevance hermeneutic.
Calvin Affirms the Coming of the Son of Man and the Kingdom Are One
“In tying together the accounts of Matthew 24 & Mark 13, with Luke, Calvin posits the coming of the Kingdom and the coming of the Son of Man as one event. “What Matthew and Mark had said more obscurely, know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors, Luke expounds more clearly, that the kingdom of God is nigh. And in this passage the Kingdom of God is not thought of (as so often elsewhere) at its beginning, but at its completion, and this was how those who Christ taught used to understand it. They did not understand by it the Kingdom of God in the Gospel, which consists in the peace and joy of faith, and in spiritual righteousness, but they were looking for that blessed rest and glory which hidden under hope awaits the last day.”(emp. his) CNTC, Vol. III, p. 97.
Kingdom Chart on Daniel 7:13f and Matthew 16:24-28.
(Click on Graphic to Enlarge). We pointed out that Daniel 7 focuses on the consummation of the kingdom in judgment as the time the court is seated. This correlates perfectly with the teaching of persecution in Matthew 16:24-26 and the relief from that persecution promised at the judgment. The court is seated for judgment after the time of the affliction and persecution. This cannot be Pentecost as the chart demonstrates.
Kingdom Inauguration and Consummation
After clearly positing verse 27 as the ‘glory of the Father and the angels’ when Christ comes as “Judge of the World”, Calvin says an “example” of Christ’s future glory would soon be given. Calvin makes clear that verse 27 is the “future glory” and that in his explanation of verse 28 speaks of an ‘interim period’ when salvation is delayed until the coming of Christ.
The question here is whether Calvin sees the inaugural period as one day or merely the Ascension or whether he views it as the entire eschaton? I chose to see it as the latter based on his comments on Luke 21 and Matthew 24 above in which he elaborates on it further, whereas Frost sees it as the former.
Not only that, but Calvin also ascribed Christ’s “consummative” return per Matthew 24:30 as a coming kingdom with “heavenly power”. “He declares He will appear openly at His last coming, that , endowed with heavenly power like a sign lifted high aloft, He may turn the gaze of all the world on Himself.”CNTC, Matthew Vol. III, p. 94.
My original comments did in fact acknowledge Calvin’s inaugural period as the Ascension/Pentecost time frame though I did not limit it to that time only. If I have misread him on that point then I gladly concede the point. It does not make the case for Frost or Calvin to separate verse 28 from verse 27 as Mike Sullivan’s comments show below:
“Secondly, Sam (nor Calvin whom he cherry picks on v. 28 and not on v. 27) deals with Jesus’ phrase, “Verily I say unto you” in the beginning of Matt. 16:28a. which He uses to connect and emphasize a subject already being discussed. In other words Christ in verse 28 is bringing home the point and teaching of v. 27 with an additional important and startling point – some of you will be alive to witness this very coming (that He just discussed in v. 27)! So exegetically, this statement connects the two comings as one, so whatever your understanding of Christ’s coming is in verse 27 is the proper understanding one should have in v. 28. Since the phrase connects the two comings as the same event, it is interesting that Sam doesn’t want to deal with this issue in connection with quoting Calvin on the “coming” in Matt. 16:28 while neglecting to address what he says of Christ’s coming in v. 27:
‘…he shall appear as the judge of the world.’
For Calvin, this is the final Second Coming event. Interestingly enough Calvin also interprets Matthew 13:39-43/Dan. 12:2-3 in the same way:”
Revelation 5:13 and the Ascension or Kingdom in Judgment?
Frost argues that Revelation 5 is an ascension scene and seeks to parallel it with Daniel 7:13-14. We’ve pointed out the fallacy of ascribing Daniel 7 to the ascension versus the judgment or consummation of the kingdom. To connect Revelation 5 to Daniel 7 is to acknowledge it is also a judgment or kingdom consummative text. But to offer more evidence consider the following:
- The saints sing a new song of redemptive victory, v. 9
- The correlation with Daniel’s innumerable assembly, v. 11
- The universal confession, v. 13
In both Exodus 15 and 2 Samuel 22, Israel sings a song after deliverance from their enemies. It is a redemptive song of kingdom victory. In Revelation 14, the saints sing before the throne, the living creatures and the elders just as in Revelation 5. Note, only those who were redeemed from the earth could sing that song. They are the redeemed from among men, the 144,000 being the firstfruits who follow the Lamb. What does the angel say to them? “‘Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come.'” (Rev. 14:7) Another angel says it is the time of the fall of Babylon, i.e. Jerusalem (Mystery Babylon). That connects the event with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. (v. 8)
Next, John sees the same group who have the harps of God (14:2; 15:2), singing the song of Moses who say that all the nations shall come and worship (bow down before God) because ‘Your judgments are manifested'”. (15:4).
Thirdly, the number of tens thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, expresses an innumerable company who stand around the kingdom throne. This corresponds with Daniel 7:10, Rev. 7:4-9; 14, 15, and is the scene of a court assembled for judgment.
Finally, we have the universal confession which is taken directly from the judgment text of Isaiah 45:23. Almost every commentary on Revelation 5:13, parallels the confession with Phil. 2:10. This is revealing in that Paul’s immediate context for these verses is the introduction of the warning and admonition of the Exodus against murmuring and complaining which resulted in judgment. In addition, both Deuteronomy 32 and Daniel 12:1-3, the time of Israel’s judgment is contextually in view.
The chart shows that every judgment text that mentions the confession is tied to Isaiah 45:23. (Click Image to Enlarge.) Paul, gives a “this is that”reply. “‘For it is written we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.‘” (emp. mine) He offers inspired testimony that Isaiah 45:23 is the background and source for the statement every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess to God.
For the apostle it is clearly a judgment context. In so describing, he has tied together the obvious texts in Romans 14:11-12, 2 Cor. 5:10 , Philippians 2:9-11, Daniel 7:9f and Revelation 5:13. They are not Pentecost/Ascension passages but judgments texts.
Summary of Kingdom Judgment, Matthew 16:27-28, Revelation 5
We have further examined the statements of Calvin in a wider context. We understand him to mean the entire eschaton as the inaugural period until the “final” coming of Christ, which he says, had to occur within the one generation of those living in the time of Christ, although according to him, the events surrounding it repeat from generation to generation.
We pointed out that Calvin saw the coming of the eschatological kingdom and the coming of the Son of man as one and the same event. Further, he saw not many kingdoms and comings but one inaugural coming that would reach a consummation.
Next we demonstrated that Matthew 16:24-28 is directly parallel to Daniel 7, both of which refer to the persecution of the church, and judgment, not the Ascension.
Finally, we demonstrated that Revelation 5:13 is contextually tied to Isaiah 45:23, and other kingdom judgment passages which mention the universal confession.