Why do I hold to the eschatological view that I do? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
I normally don’t write about secondary issues, but eschatology is one subject in this category I do enjoy and I also think it has direct apologetic relevance, such as when asked about if Jesus got wrong the time of His coming. Last night at an apologetics meeting, a loyal reader of the blog asked if I would write about this again. This got us into a conversation that our group leader soon joined in on. I’d like to take some comments and questions from that discussion and present them here to explain my position.
“Are you a true Preterist?”
Yes. I am certainly not a false one. I am a true one in the sense that I hold to what Preterism really teaches. I hold to the Olivet Discourse being fulfilled and to the fact that Jesus did have his coming to his throne in 70 A.D. as shown in the destruction of Jerusalem and that one day He will return to meet the living and raise the dead, those who have done good to a life of eternal joy, and those who have done evil to a life of eternal torment. (Note. Some Preterists would hold to a position of annihilationism.)
“Where do you depart from the Preterism that says everything has been fulfilled?”
This has it backwards. It is not the case that my belief is a departure from that viewpoint. It is that their viewpoint is a departure from not only mine, but from the historic Christian faith, that has held to the fact of the bodily return of Jesus just as much as the bodily resurrection and the final judgment. Believing in these events is one of the core doctrines of Christianity and a statement of eschatology upheld in the creeds of the historic Christian church.
“Do you think when Jesus returns He’ll become the King of the Jews?”
Not at all! You might as well ask if I’ll become human on my birthday next month. How could I? I am already human. In the same way, Jesus is already the King of the Jews. He is the King of everyone. He’s the King of this universe entirely and just because someone does not recognize that does not make Him any less Lord. Caesar was not Lord in the Roman Empire because of popular vote or personal choice. Caesar was Lord because he ruled. Christ is Lord because He rules as well.
“When will Christ return?”
Beats me. We don’t make those kinds of predictions. My thinking is that it will happen when the world has been evangelized and more and more people have come to the gospel. That is my guess from Scripture, but that cannot be put in a time frame. I do note that 2 Peter 3 says we can speed His coming and I think this is through the work of evangelism. Do you want Jesus to return soon? Don’t go trying to make a red heifer or set up a temple in Jerusalem! Do evangelism! You know, that thing that he’s already commanded us to do anyway!
“What about all the work to build a temple in Jerusalem?”
What about it? People are doing it, but it’s an exercise in futility. Want to see the real temple of God? Go look in the mirror! Paul told us while the old temple was still standing that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God dwells in us. To return to a temple is to return to a system that has been abandoned.
“What about the land promise to Abraham?”
What about it? The promise was set in place until the one through whom it was meant for. That is Jesus. Jesus has come. Because of that, the covenant is done and we are in the new covenant. Why return to the old? In fact, those who are in Christ, the true children of Abraham, are told that they will not just inherit a piece of land, but will in fact inherit the whole world!
Furthermore, when we look at the NT evidence, even a Levite named Joseph, also called Barnabas, sold his land in Acts 4. Why would a Levite sell the promised inheritance? Probably because he understood that it was not going to be worth anything. Jesus was going to judge the place soon and the old system was done. In fact, if you want to see that this is what the early church was teaching, just look at Acts 6:14.
“So you don’t see any connection with prophecy and what’s going on in the newspaper today?”
Nope. Not a bit. There have been several “prophecy experts” throughout the years. Here’s something they all had in common. They were all wrong! Every one of them! So if I’m approaching a group that has a track record of always being wrong, why should I listen to them? We make a point that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have always been wrong about prophecy, but then we ignore the most popular teachers today that are always wrong about prophecy and want to say “Yes. Well that was that generation, this generation is the one!”
Something that’s been said by most every generation.
“What about the evil in the world? How can you say Christ is King now?”
Again, what about it? Christ on this Earth said that if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God is among you. Thus, Jesus was bringing the Kingdom in their very midst and yet there was the devil right there at work. In fact, we could say the devil was the most active during that time.
Also, look at Psalm 110, one of the most important chapters for studying eschatology in the Bible. “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Please observe that. Jesus is sitting at the right hand, a place of rule, UNTIL His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. It does not say He will sit there when His enemies are made a footstool. Jesus is at the right hand right now. What does that mean? It means He reigns right now!
“Don’t you know that there were worse things that could happen than what the Jews under went in 70 A.D.? A nuclear holocaust would be much worse!”
This is problematic in that it’s saying “If you can think of anything worse than the destruction that happened then, then you haven’t thought about the worst tribulation. Okay. Then should we reject that in Revelation itself if taken as futurist? After all, we have passages that talk about, say, 7,000 being killed. Make it 70,000. That’s worse. What about if 1/3 of the Earth is killed? Okay. Make it 1/2. That’s worse.
I also always ask if Solomon was the wisest king who ever lived. He was promised that in 1 Kings 3. Does this mean Solomon was wiser than Jesus? We are told about how Hezekiah was the most righteous king who had a Passover unlike any before. We are told none after him or before him were like him in 2 Kings 18:5.
We’re also told the same thing about the righteousness of Josiah in 2 Kings 23:25.
So not only was the author foolish enough to contradict himself in such a short time, but apparently, both of these kings were more righteous than Jesus!
The language is clearly hyperbolic. Just look at old destructions. What about the flood? What about Sodom? What about the plagues on Egypt? All that is being said is a superlative, much like Nebuchadnezzar being called King of Kings. That’s how people did superlatives back then.
“I can’t accept everything as hyperbole.”
Nor am I asking you to! The idea is that Preterists allegorize and make the text hyperbolic. The reality is we ALL know there are allegories and hyperbolic statements in Scripture. Despite what is being said by some, Jesus does not really want you to HATE your parents. He instead wants you to realize that compared to Him, your devotion to your family must be secondary.
We also know that there are allegories, yet I don’t know a single Preterist who would say everything in the Bible is allegorical or everything in the Bible is hyperbolic. Instead, we simply try to study the Scripture to find what the original author wanted us to get. In fact, we hold our position because there are some indicators that we indeed think should be taken literally.
These are timing indicators. Before entering the apocalyptic mode of Revelation, we are told that these things will take place soon. In Matthew 24, we are told that this generation will not pass away. If you look through all of Matthew, every reference to “This generation” refers to the generation that Jesus interacted with. Am I supposed to think that the meaning suddenly changes when it reaches its grand finale in the greatest generation claim of all?
“I just don’t see it.”
In reality, I totally understand this one! I think most Preterists would in fact! I used to be a pre-trib, pre-mill dispensationalists. I have no problem with recognizing such as my brothers and sisters in Christ after all. Why would I? I’m married to one. We agree on the essentials. They’re just wrong on eschatology.
Most of us hold this view I suspect because we grew up with it and we’ve heard it all our lives and it usually seems like the simplest view, but I honestly cannot hold to it. I can safely say there is not a single verse of Scripture on this that makes me wonder if such a scheme might possibly be true. That is how sure I am that at least the normally default position is incorrect.
What I advise is to just let people be willing to examine the reasons why people like myself hold the position that we do. An excellent book on this is Gary DeMar’s “Last Days Madness.” Another excellent resource is the Preterist Podcast of DeeDee Warren, which I am largely indebted to for providing much of the substance I have on orthodox Preterism.
I hope this clarifies my position. Do note I am definitely not making a statement about the salvation of someone who holds to a dispensational position. I hope in turn that others will realize that my position is also not a salvation issue. Those of us who are orthodox Preterists hold to essential Christian doctrine.