I concluded that his response was untenable for three reasons. (1) He used texts outside of Matthew 24 and imported their foreign meanings back into Matthew 24. (2) He quoted some commentators on this text that did not further his argumenation (3). The responses he gave to my four reasons I deemed as surface-level. In summary, he breaks the unity between Matthew 24:31 and 37-41. To disconnect these two passage misses Jesus' meaning.
I'd like to address his points one by one.
But before I do that, at the beginning of his article he made this comment: "[I] deny that the thousand years in Revelation 20 is a literal 1,000 year reign."
Even though this assertion has nothing to do with the text in this article, I want to clear up a misconception I hear frequently from my amill brothers.
The real debate has never been about whether the 1,000 years are a literal 1,000 years. Maybe they are literal, maybe they are not. I think they are literal. But they could just represent a long duration of time. I have no problem as a premillennialist saying that they are symbolic of a long period of time. Fine. But the whole debate has been on when the inception of that time begins. Amills place it at Christ's first coming, Premills place it at the second coming. That is the crux interpretum. This is why amillers are notorious for diving right into 20:1 and lifting it out of its context and placing it at Christ's first coming. But if one takes the context as a whole (the context begins in Chapter 19:11) then one can observe that the time period begins at Christ's Return.
Next Hubner writes:
Just so we have the text in our faces, here it is (ESV), beginning with Luke’s Gospel:He goes on to first cite Luke 17:22–35. But this is not the text at hand. And it does not recognize that Luke and Matthew can (and often do) have different purposes in Jesus' eschatological teaching. We should not collapse Luke's teaching into Matthew, or vice versa. We should start with Matt 24:37–41, and once we exhaust exegetical considerations, then we are warranted to move outward, which helps to protect our interpretation from importing unintended meanings into our text. Second he cites the text at hand Matthew 24:37-41.
Then he lists this chart as if to prove something that he does not explain. I don't share his preterist presuppositions, especially for Matthew's account. Nevertheless, my aim is to focus on Matthew's purpose in illustrating the parousia event.
Next he writes:
It seems obvious enough (for me) that the ones “taken” in Matt. 24:40-41 correspond to the ones “swept…all away” in v. 39 (“destroyed them all,” Lk. 17:29), and the ones “left” (v. 40-41) correspond to Noah and his family left on earth (v.37-39). This is especially clear against the backdrop of previous words of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew, when at “close of the age,” “the Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers and throw them into the fiery furnace” (13:4-42). In both cases those “left behind,” as we have often heard in the last century, are actually the righteous. As scholars and pastors have said:Notice here he immediately goes outside of the text to cite two texts: Luke 17:29 which actually argues against his position, since it is Lot who was delivered, and Sodom left to be destroyed.
Then he cites Matthew 13:4-32 and selectively quotes: “the Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers and throw them into the fiery furnace." Then he follows up with this assertion: "In both cases those “left behind,” as we have often heard in the last century, are actually the righteous." But this is not the case as I pointed out above on Lot, in addition, since Jesus just a bit earlier stated:
“Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First collect (syllego) the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, but then gather (synago) the wheat into my barn.”’ (Matt 13:30)
The weeds are collected and tied and placed to the side in order to not waste time burning them; then the task of harvesting the valuable harvest is performed first. And only after the costly harvest is complete would the weeds be disposed of by burning them. In ancient Palestine, weeds were often bundled and used later for fuel, as were other agricultural scraps (Snodgrass, 202).
Then he cites assertions of selective commentators.
“In the context of 24:37-39, “taken” presumably means “taken to judgment” (cf. Jer. 6:11 NASB, NRSV).” – Keener, IVPBBCNT, 115These are not arguments. I could list commentators that support my conclusion as well. But I am more interested in argumentation, instead of creating a catalog of commentators that agree with me. So no reason to comment here.
“Who was taken away in the judgment of the flood? Not Noah and his family. They were left behind to carry on God’s work.” – DeMar, Last Days Madness, 196
“the one shall be taken, and the other left; as before, one shall be taken by the Romans, and either put to death, or carried captive.” – John Gill, Exposition of Matthew
“[Wright] contends that “being ‘taken’ in this context means being taken in judgment. There is no hint, here of a ‘rapture’, a sudden ‘supernatural’ event which would remove individuals from terra firma. Such an idea,” says Wright, “would look as odd, in these synoptic passages, as a Cadillac in a camel-train. It is a matter, rather, of secret police coming in the night, or of enemies sweeping through a village or city and seizing all they can. If the disciples were to escape, if they were to be ‘left’, it would be by the skin of their teeth” (Victory, 366).]” – Sam Storms, quoting NT Wright
Finally Hubner begins his critique.
My first reason I gave was:
First, it breaks the parallelism of the illustrations. Noah’s family being delivered is described first ("the day when Noah entered the ark," v 38) then the judgment on the ungodly is described second ("the flood came and swept them all away," v 39). To preserve the parallel, a man in the field and a woman grinding at the mill is first described as taken (delivered), then the other man in the field and other woman grinding at the mill are left (judgment).He responds:
I disagree. The specific chronology-parallels Alan demands is neither the point of the text nor part of the parallel drawn from Noah’s flood, but is an artificial requirement constructed to “preserve” something that doesn’t really exist.But that is the natural reading. It cannot be ignored since the illustrations illustrate the parousia. And when the text states that God will take his elect with him at the parousia, and his follow up illustrations state that people will be "taken," you can't simply say that it is "artificial."
Clearly, the comparison between Noah’s flood and the Coming of the Son is made to demonstrate unexpectedness and the fact that there is judgment (group A) and non-judgment/deliverance (group B). That’s what Noah’s flood and the Coming of the Son of Man have in common, and that’s why Jesus brings it up.The comparison demonstrates not just unexpectedness, but separation in deliverance and judgment, hence the emphasis in the parousia event and the illustrations.
Judgment and deliverance are simultaneous. Both “taken” and “left” are in the same tense (present passive indicative) and both “entered” and “swept” are the same tense (aorist active indicative – making them contemporaneous).Two comments here, first, actually, the context is that deliverance comes first, then judgment. That is the consistent pattern in Scripture. Lot was delivered first, Noah's family is delivered first. The resurrection will occur then the Day of the Lord's wrath. They will indeed be back-to-back events on the same day, but not "simultaneous."
Second, he commits the "Greek tense=time" fallacy, and invokes the Greek verb tense system in determining the "kind of action." This is a demonstrable error (See Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson, ch. 2 on tense fallacies; Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, with Reference to Tense and Mood, Porter (Studies in Biblical Greek ; Vol/ 1); Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek by Constantine Campbell).
Context and lexeme determine time and kind of action, not mere morphological tense forms.
My second reason I gave was:
Second, some translations render the action of the flood illustration in verse 39 as, “the flood came and took them [the wicked] all away.” The rendering “took” is unfortunate because unsuspecting readers may assume that it is the same term used in verses 40–41 that have “taken.” This is not the case because there are two different Greek terms with very different meanings. The English Standard Version recognizes this and accordingly replaces “took” with “swept away”: “and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt 24:39 ESV). The Greek term here is airō, which in this particular context of the judgment-flood illustration means to “take away, remove.” Therefore, this meaning is roughly opposite of the intimate receiving sense of paralambanō in verses 40–41.His response was by citing France's commentary:
Not surprisingly, just a few days later, Jesus uses this same term of intimate receiving when he taught reassurance to these same disciples about his return: “And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take (paralambanō) you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too” (John 14:3). Same context, same audience, same terminology.
The verb is παραλαμβάνω rather than a simple λαμβάνω, and if the compound is more than just a stylistic variation, it might be understood to mean “take to oneself” (as in 1:20; 17:1:1; 18:16; 20:17). If the passive verbs are understood as “divine passives,” that would mean that God has taken selected people to himself, leaving the rest to conclude their life on earth. Some have therefore suggested that this passage speaks of a “rapture” of the faithful to heaven before judgment falls on the earth. This is not the place to investigate the complex dispensational scheme which underlies this nineteenth-century theory, but it should be noted that insofar as this passage forms a basis for that theology, it rests on an uncertain foundation. We are not told where or why they are “taken,” and the similar sayings in vv. 17-18 about people caught out in the course of daily life by the Roman advance presupposed a situation of threat rather than of rescue; to be “taken” in such circumstances would be a negative experience, and Matthew will use παραλαμβάνω in a similar threatening context in 27:27. The verb in itself does not determine the purpose of the “taking,” and it could as well be for judgment (as in Jer. 6:11) as for refuge. In light of the preceding verses, when the Flood “swept away” the unprepared, that is probably the more likely sense here. (R.T. France, NICNT, 941)I sensed that Hubner was obfuscating on this point by citing from France for the following two reasons:
1. France says, "We are not told where or why they are “taken." This is not the case. The whole point of the illustration is to illustrate the parousia. We are taken so we can be with Jesus! “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matt 24:31).
2. France imports a different meaning of paralambono into this context when he asserts: "and Matthew will use παραλαμβάνω in a similar threatening context in 27:27." And he says, "The verb in itself does not determine the purpose of the “taking,” and it could as well be for judgment (as in Jer. 6:11) as for refuge." This is simply not true to the lexical data. And yet, I addressed this very point in my original article which Hubner ignored:
Another objection to this interpretation claims that paralambanō does not always carry the sense of receiving in a positive sense. This is true, but misleading. Of the 49 times this term is used in the New Testament they will cite 3 times it is used negatively (Matt 27:27, John 19:16, Acts 23:18). But this is not a warranted reason because it is a rare meaning of the word found in a narrow specific context of a prisoner being handed over to the jurisdiction of soldiers, a context that is not related to our parousia illustration. It is a strained lexical argument to apply this unlikely meaning to our target passage (On avoiding this type of error, see D.A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies, “Word-Study Fallacies,” 37–41).Hubner writes:
As France noted above, word studies alone are not sufficient to establish the meaning of παραλαμβάνω in Matt. 24:40-41. And it seems unjustified for Alan to automatically assert that the term in Matt. 24:40-41 means an “intimate receiving sense.”"Automatically assert"? Really? I am the one staying in the text. I am the one showing how this term comports with the parousia event. In fact, Hubner completely ignores what I wrote here:
Not surprisingly, just a few days later, Jesus uses this same term of intimate receiving when he taught reassurance to these same disciples about his return: “And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take (paralambanō) you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too” (John 14:3). Same context, same audience, same terminology.The conceptual and literary parallel with John 14:3 is extremely relevant to our text in Matthew 24. To ignore it is not to deal with the argumentation from the other side head on, thus weakening his position.
Then he writes:
The term is used in Matthew 27:27, which says “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters.” Not “intimate” if you ask me. Nor is “Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself” (Lk 11:26), or “So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus” (John 19:16), or “So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said” (Acts 23:18).At this point he commits a common lexical fallacy, I wrote (again):
Another objection to this interpretation claims that paralambanō does not always carry the sense of receiving in a positive sense. This is true, but misleading. Of the 49 times this term is used in the New Testament they will cite 3 times it is used negatively (Matt 27:27, John 19:16, Acts 23:18). But this is not a warranted reason because it is a rare meaning of the word found in a narrow specific context of a prisoner being handed over to the jurisdiction of soldiers, a context that is not related to our parousia illustration. It is a strained lexical argument to apply this unlikely meaning to our target passage (On avoiding this type of error, see D.A. Carson’s Exegetical Fallacies, “Word-Study Fallacies,” 37–41).Hubner states:
Of course, Alan could easily respond with a dozen or so verses demonstrating that the term can be “an intimate receiving” as he says. And that’s precisely my point: words studies are not enough, as I’m hoping Alan would agree.It is Hubner who is arbitrarily stating meanings of words. While I have been careful to show how this word means such and such in specific contexts. Hubner and France grabbed meanings from unrelated contexts and read them back into Matthew 24. I have shown meanings from very relevant contexts and thus support my position on Matthew 24 (e.g., John 14:3).
He cites John Walvoord as disagreeing with me. And how is that relevant? At this point, I am getting the impression that this is filler. Why is this surprising that Walvoord disagrees with me, as those other commentators above? If I list more guys that agree with me than Hubner, does that mean my interpretation is the correct one? Walvoord is pretrib. It is generally posttribs and prewrathers who take the position that those who are taken are taken in the resurrection/rapture. So Hubner's citation of Walvoord is irrelevant.
My third reason I gave was:
Third, it is important to remember that the agricultural illustrations in verses 40–41 (men in field and women grinding) are not intended to illustrate the illustration of Noah and the flood in verses 37–39, but instead illustrates the climax of the Olivet Discourse, which is the gathering of God’s people at the parousia (Matt 24:30–31). At the separation when the parousia begins in verse 31, who is being taken? It is God's elect. That is the point of invoking the illustration in the first place.He asserts: "I disagree, and I see absolutely no exegetical basis for believing this at all." Really? At the parousia God's people are taken, then Jesus uses illustrations to demonstrate that people are "taken," and Hubner says, "I see absolutely no exegetical basis." Um, OK.
First of all, there is simply no reason to separate v.38-39 from v.40-41 (how is one going to understand v.40-41 apart from 38 and 39, and why would one wish to do so?), let alone declare that verses 30-31 is a “climax of the Olivet Discourse” (what type of climax? Because v.34-35 seems equally or more climactic if you ask me, and perhaps v. 44 as well), or that v. 37-39 is somehow an illustration of this climax. Alan references v. 30-31 which says “they will gather his elect from the four winds.” But, does that really sound like “swept them all away” (v. 39) and “destroyed them all” (Lk 17:29)? There is absolutely no exegetical basis – except raw presupposition – to say that v.40-41 specifically summarizes or illustrates v.30-31.1. There are two illustrations that illustrate the parousia. They are Noah and a two-fold agricultural illustration. The first illustration with Noah even explicitly states that it is illustrating the parousia (twice!): "so the coming of the Son of Man will be. "
2. Hubner denies that the climax of the OD is the parousia. Verses 1-31 are primarily didactic followed by vv.32ff as application-hortatory. And again, the illustration is explicit to what it is referring to: "so the coming of the Son of Man will be. " How could Jesus be more specific?
3. Next he makes a blunderous misunderstanding of my position, he writes: "Alan references v. 30-31 which says "they will gather his elect from the four winds.” But, does that really sound like “swept them all away” (v. 39) and “destroyed them all” (Lk 17:29)?" That is not my position. Hubner grossly misrepresented me. The gathering of the elect is God's people, not for judgment! How Hubner misunderstood this is beyond me. Those who are taken in the illustrations are the righteous, which corresponds with those who are taken at the parousia in verse 31, the elect.
There is absolutely no exegetical basis – except raw presupposition – to say that v.40-41 specifically summarizes or illustrates v.30-31.Yes there is, immediately before vv 40-41 in v 39, it says, "It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man." It is clearly referring back to the parousia event in v 31. How could Jesus be more specific? Do you really want to assert, "There is absolutely no exegetical basis"? Really?
Next he writes:
Second of all, even if Alan is correct, this completely contradicts his first point. Did he not just argue for parallelism between Noah’s flood and the two grinding and being in a field? Then why does he now completely deny this connection and make the radical assertion that the men in field and grinding really have nothing to do with Noah and the flood, but actually parallels verse 31?Hubner is reading me carelessly. It goes back to his blunderous misunderstanding of my position. The elect of God at the parousia that are gathered, which is referred to by the ones who are taken (paralambanō) in the illustrations.
My fourth reason I gave was:
Fourth, Luke records the same illustration that Jesus gives to describe his coming: “(34) I tell you, in that night there will be two people in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. (35) There will be two women grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” (37) Then the disciples said to him, “Where, Lord?” He replied to them, “Where the dead body is, there the vultures will gather” (Luke 17:34–37). This last verse containing the disciples’ question of “where” is insightful because Jesus responds that where the dead body is it will attract vultures—this judgment imagery evokes vultures hovering over dead people, who represent those deemed judged, the ungodly, not the righteous. This comports much better with those who are “left” and not with those who are taken.Hubner does not recognize (as even Dickerson seems to) that this comports with those who are left for judgment. He gives a strained reading that honestly I cannot make heads or tails with. He writes, "Alan wants to say that, somehow, the corpses on the ground represent those who are “left.” That makes no sense." It makes no sense because there seems to be a forcing of an interpretive grid on the illustration, ensuring a desired outcome. The natural reading as I have shown has those who are left as being judged.
In my estimation, Hubner failed to provide substantive responses to my points. Of all of them, my third argument is most problematic for them. It is the natural reading that the illustrations that Jesus uses illustrate the parousia event. To deny it, results in a tortured reading.
What astonishes me is that Hubner denies there is a correspondence between these two passages:
Parousia Event: “(30) Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (31) And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matt 24:29–31)
Illustrating the Parousia: “(37) For just like the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. (38) For in those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. (39) And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matt 24:37–39)
Only imposing an unwarranted theological grid can deny this natural reading of the text.
To sum up my main point:
It is important to remember that the agricultural illustrations in verses 40–41 (men in field and women grinding) are not intended to illustrate the illustration of Noah and the flood in verses 37–39, but instead illustrates the climax of the Olivet Discourse, which is the gathering of God’s people at the parousia (Matt 24:30–31). At the separation when the parousia begins in verse 31, who is being taken? It is God's elect. That is the point of invoking the illustration in the first place!