What do I think of Craig Keener and Michael Brown’s book published by Chosen books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I used to be a futurist pre-trib dispensationalist. I’m not proud of it. I grew up in the Bible Belt and I heard Southern Gospel music and I never heard any other view. Christians believe in the rapture. It wasn’t until I got the internet that I heard a contrary view.
And I went kicking and screaming into that contrary view. Who would want to disbelieve in the rapture? Who would want to go through a great tribulation and face the antichrist?
However, there were still questions I had. Eventually, I found my eschatological home. Today, I am an orthodox preterist. I realize Keener and Brown don’t come from this position, but I wanted to go through their book to see what they had to say about the dispensationalist position which is still extremely prominent in the church.
I describe them as firm and gentle. They start out telling their stories on how they came to believe in the rapture and then in how they came to disbelieve in the rapture. They have nothing but respect for their friends who are still dispensationalist and pre-tribulationists. They are just writing this to answer questions that they have often received.
Let’s also go with a positive. The application aspects of this book are excellent. Keener and Brown write about how Christians all over the world are already going through suffering. It can be comforting if you think you could be excluded from such suffering by a rapture, but no one is guaranteed this. Keener and Brown stress that even if Christians have to face the antichrist, they have nothing to be afraid of because Jesus is greater. With these, all Christians be they pre-tribulationists or orthodox preterists should say amen. I think all of us need to read this section of the book because many of us in the West don’t have any real idea of what persecution is like from experience.
When the pair look at the arguments, they are again firm, but gentle. Michael Brown specializes in Old Testament arguments. No. I’m not going to give his answers here, but he looks at questions like “Doesn’t God regularly deliver his people from suffering in the Old Testament such as in the case of the flood or Sodom and Gomorrah?” Keener deals with New Testament passages like 1 Thess. 4 and others.
They also stress that the Second Coming is a one-stage event. The idea of the rapture breaks the second coming into two different stages. It also has a problem with the idea of the resurrection being on the last day and then a resurrection happening before the last day.
That being said, I do have some criticisms. For one, preterism is nowhere mentioned in the book. Neither is futurism. I would like to know what reasons Keener and Brown have for not accepting this viewpoint.
Next, I think as a Preterist that while Keener and Brown rightly reject pre-tribulationism, they still have many of the ideas in it. For example, what about the antichrist. The term antichrist only shows up in the epistles of John, and yet the Beast in Revelation is thought to be the antichrist as is the Man of Lawlessness in 2 Thessalonians. That could be right, but it needs to be argued for.
I also think 2 Thessalonians presents a problem with this since we are told about this man entering the temple. There is no reason to think Paul has in mind a third temple that will supposedly be built sometime in the future. If that is the case, then that would mean the Man of Lawlessness has already come and if he has, then if he is the antichrist, then antichrist has already come.
Let’s also remember the Olivet Discourse. This begins with the destruction of the temple. It concludes with Jesus saying “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass until some of these things have taken place.” Oh wait. That’s not what it says. He says “All of these things.” That means the generation that sees these things start will see them end and how did the questioning start? The destruction of the temple. The generation that sees that will see the coming of Jesus.
By the way, let’s note in the passage it is about the coming of Jesus, but not to Earth. Jesus refers to Daniel 7. That shows Jesus coming to His throne in Heaven. The disciples asked Him for the sign of His coming, not knowing He would die let alone die, rise again, and then ascend into Heaven and return in the future.
I also think the authors assume a great tribulation. This is still like taking part of the pre-tribulation paradigm and running with it. We have a great tribulation referred to in Rev.7 and in Matthew 24, but why not think that that is the destruction of Jerusalem. Why assume a future event?
The authors also state that satan always has his antichrist ready for each generation since he doesn’t know the hour. I found this a very weak point. For one, satan would always be thinking that he is going to overcome the plans of God, such as in the crucifixion. Here, he is acting like he has to play along. Next, how could you establish this? How can we go and look in each generation in history and find someone who would be the antichrist of that time? Keep in mind I think this is the weakest argument in the book and I even hate having to mention it because the rest is excellent.
Again, the best part of this book is the section on overcoming suffering and being willing to for Christ. Even if pre-tribulationists disagree up and down with the rest of the book, they need to read that part. Every Christian does. I would be thrilled if future editions of the book would include more about this.
Christians who are pre-tribulationists need to read this book to receive a kind criticism. People who are not can read this to realize why they abandoned it. Orthodox preterists like myself should read this to get the criticism and for the blessing at the end. In other words, read this book.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)