Saturday, April 19, 2014

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Doctrinal Implications of Preterist Eschatology

By Edward E. Stevens

 

Introduction to the Series

It is not enough to know when the Last Things were fulfilled, we also must understand how they were fulfilled and the implications of that fulfillment for us today. The “when” and “how” are continually being discussed in the pages of this and other preterist publications, but the doctrinal implications have not been sufficiently addressed. It is the purpose of this on-going series to focus on the doctrinal implications of the preterist view. In this introduction to the series, we will define some of the basic principles of preterist eschatology, suggest some possible implications and discuss ways to implement them.

We realize a discussion of doctrinal issues can get complicated extremely fast, so we will attempt to provide explanations of any terms used that are not commonly understood. Eschatology comes from a Greek word which means “the last”, so eschatology is the study of Last Things (i.e. events such as the return of Christ, the Resurrection, the Judgment, and our eternal destinies). The word preterist has general and specific meanings. The general definition refers to someone who believes most or all of Bible prophecy has been fulfilled sometime in the PAST, as opposed to a FUTURIST who affirms a yet future fulfillment of Bible prophecy. We use the term “preterist” in a more specific and limited sense, referring to those who believe all Bible prophecy was completely revealed and fulfilled about the time Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. Sometimes the preterist approach to Bible prophecy is labelled as “Realized Eschatology” (in the case of C. H. Dodd), “Fulfilled Eschatology” (by various preterist writers) or “Covenant Eschatology” (by Max King). Several among the Church of Christ group have also referred to the preterist view as “The A.D. 70 Theory.”

We plan to present only highlights and overviews in this series. Many books would not be enough to fully explain the Scheme of Redemption and its full implications. More details on each of the doctrinal implications are planned for forthcoming books.

 

Why Study Implications?

It is beneficial to re-examine our beliefs, even if we arrive at the same conclusions as before, because the exercise will help us better understand both what we believe and why we believe it. Far too many people barely know what they believe, much less why. Traditions should be re-studied by every generation, especially when deeper insights into the Scheme of Redemption are uncovered, like what has happened now with spread of the preterist view.

Is it consistent to want futurists to re-examine their eschatology, when we hesitate looking at how the preterist view might affect our other doctrines besides eschatology. Do we examine only those traditions we consider “non-essential” to fellowship? Or do we “examine everything” (1 Thess. 5:21) like the Bereans did (Acts 17:11), including our Sacred Cows?

Sometimes non-preterists perceive the implications more quickly and easily than preterists. Some, in fact, have already suggested that the preterist view affects much more than just our timing of the Last Things. For example, notice Almon Williams’ comments at the 1986 Florida College Lectures (“A.D. 70: The End?” The Doctrine of Last Things, Melvin D. Curry, ed. 1986. p. 237):

The AD 70 view has been somewhat of an unstabilizing force in regard to what practices are to be continued after AD 70, for doubt has arisen in the minds of many regarding what firmly established pre-AD 70 practices were to continue to be practiced ... Some of the questioned practices have been the Lord’s supper, elders, and even baptism. The problem is that a new point of emphasis is always unsettling at least for a time; in fact, one never knows how far others may apply his new issue, or how far, for that matter, he himself may finally be forced to go.

It is unsettling for some to hear it suggested that some of our cherished traditions may not be essential after 70 AD. But to others it is liberating! When evidence begins to surface that the preterist view affects other doctrines besides eschatology, we have an obligation to give it an objective look, even if it calls into question doctrines we consider essential.

Few could express the attitudes needed for such investigations any better than Max King did when he said to a group of preachers (April 22, 1971, quoted by Flavil Nichols in his lecture, “Max Kingism”, Premillennialism, True or False? Wendell Winkler, ed. 1978. p. 98):

I’m just giving you my theory of it, my view on it. This is for you to think about; this is for you to study. I know it changes your views on a lot of things. It turns you around! It turned me upside down and every which way, even at night! (Laughter) You know, you get into something like this, and it bothers you! Really! But I’ve come to the con-clusion that just simply because I’m a member of the Church of Christ has not guaranteed me that I possess and have all the truth. I’ve lost that concept, a long time ago. And I think this is one of our problems in the church: we fear (maybe) to look at a thing in a different view sometimes, lest it will show us that we have need of a change in a point of doctrine here or there along the way.

Indeed, the preterist view does “change our views on a lot of things”. It has implications for many doctrines. Have we really gone so far in our study of the preterist view that we think we have seen all the implications, ramifications and logical extensions of it? Do we completely grasp the full impact of the preterist worldview upon all other Biblical doctrines besides eschatology (i.e. ecclesiology, soteriology, sacramentology, et al)? What if fulfilled eschatology does affect more than just our timing of the last things? Do the Reformation and Restoration movements stop with us? Are we really ready to lock out further study and crystallize into just another denomination? Or is there more yet to be explained? The search for an even better understanding needs to go on indefinitely. Further study should not be locked out, nor should the current state of understanding ever be made a test of fellowship. We need to find out how far these implications reach, and implement them into our lives and doctrinal systems. Not to do so is to blindly follow traditions which may or may not be Biblically correct.

Several of our readers have specifically asked us to deal with these doctrinal implications. Those who tend to have a strong, authoritarian institutional (church) framework may see this as an attack, while those outside the institutional (church) framework may believe we haven’t gone far enough. We hope this series will provoke some fresh thinking and precipitate a better understanding of the Scriptures.

 

Intent of the Writers

We have no intentions of pushing these ideas dogmatically. These are merely suggestions of possible implications of the preterist view which you are certainly FREE to promote, accept, ignore, reject or challenge. We share them only after much prayerful and careful study, and we invite others to interact with them.

The writers in this series are not from the same denomination, nor is Kingdom Counsel sponsored by or associated with any denomination in particular. Some of us were in the Church of Christ group at one time, but we are simply independent Christians now. We do not speak for any other preterists. There are considerable differences of opinions among preterists concerning the doctrinal implications of the view. We represent ourselves only.

We do not intend this series to be an authoritative creedal statement, but some will probably take it that way. We hope younger and brighter minds will take a serious, honest, and objective look and give it a thorough shakedown.

We are not trying to single out specific denominations and put them down, or position ourselves as the great knowledgeable leaders of a new movement. Nor are we trying to start new denominations. Our aim is simply to be thorough and honest in dealing with every Biblical doctrine we perceive to be affected by the preterist approach, and continue spreading the Biblical Kingdom in our lives today in all its fullness and implications.

 

How Will This Be Presented

This is to be a continuing series of studies. We hope to provide enough details to be meaningful. The plan is to present even more detail in book form later. Doctrines we see significant implications for, and which we plan to address in the following series are:

Hermeneutics (Impact of Preterist View on Biblical Interpretation Methods)

Creeds (statements of faith, their value and authority in light of the preterist view)

Ecclesiology (the church, its organizational structure, work, worship, and leadership)

Basilology (study of the Reign or Kingdom of God, time of arrival and its nature)

Sacramentology (study of the “sacraments,” i.e. water baptism, communion, etc.)

Soteriology (Basis for salvation/atonement, the Scheme of Redemption and covenants)

Pneumatology (The Holy Spirit, Inspiration, Miraculous Gifts, and the Indwelling)

Eschatology (Individual Esch. – i.e. Resurrection, Judg-ment, Heaven, Hell and Hades)

Angelology (what about angels and demons today)

Liturgy / Hymnology / Psalm-ody (the worship, singing and music of the kingdom)

Worldview (Moral, Ethical, Spiritual, Political and Economic implications)

This is the order in which we plan to deal with the implications. This may be adjusted along the way if a more logical or helpful order suggests itself. We plan to make each new article in the series build on the ideas of the previous ones. And it is highly likely that some topics will have more than one article and more than one writer deal with them. There may not be an article from this series in every upcoming issue of KC. The articles will appear when the writers are ready to launch them.

 

Attitudes Needed

It should go without saying that studies such as these should be approached with an open Bible and all the Christian maturity and virtues (2 Pet. 1:5-7) God can form in our hearts. Prayer and humility (teachableness and objectivity) are certainly well-advised, and caution to avoid extremes.

We simply need to be balanced. It is possible to be too open-minded as well as too narrow-minded. We can be so open-minded that our brains fall out, or so objective that we believe anything, or so open-headed that a breeze blows between our ears. I don’t think that kind of openness is useful for Biblical study, nor is extreme narrow-mindedness. Some are so narrow-minded they can see through a keyhole with both eyes at the same time! We need to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) who studied even the most controversial issues in an honorable and noble way. They left no doctrine un-examined (like Paul recommends in 1 Thess. 5:21), un-accepted or un-practiced if it was found to be in accord with Scripture. May we be like-spirited and like-minded. We may not get to spend eternity together if we don’t treat each other fairly and brotherly. Our differences of opinion on these issues should not prevent our fellowship.

 

What Do We Mean?

What exactly do we mean when we say we will be talking about the implications of the preterist view? Perhaps that is best answered by asking a few illustrative questions: Which of the teachings and examples found in the NT still apply to us after the consummation of all things about A.D. 70? If the Preterist view is correct, where does it leave us? What Biblical material is still applicable to us today? How does it affect the creeds, the organizational structure of the church, the sacraments, the continuation or cessation of charismatic gifts and a whole host of other doctrinal issues often taken completely for granted by Futurists (and some preterists as well)? What is the future of the world and the modern state of Israel? What rights, responsibilities and benefits do we have now since the Kingdom has arrived in its fullness? Is any part of the Mosaic Law still binding? Is it proper to bind upon believers today the things practiced in the period covered by the book of Acts (including the miraculous gifts)? Was there anything temporary and transitional about the church and its rituals that made them either get replaced by their spiritual counterparts, become no longer essential, or get done away with altogether about 70 AD? Do we already have the dominion that was promised? Is this dominion physically/materialistically-oriented, or spiritual in nature (a spiritual inheritance - the kingdom)? What role does hope play in the kingdom if prophecy has all been fulfilled? These are some of the implications we wish to address in this on-going series of articles.

 

Preterist Principles & Their Implications

We first list some basic Biblical principles (boldfaced) involved in preterist eschatology, and then suggest some possible implications. And we discuss how far these principles go, and how we implement them today. The implications will be more fully dealt with in the upcoming doctrinal series. Just because some implications and applications seem logically possible does not mean they are logically necessary, nor essential to put into practice. That is for you and I as individuals to discover for ourselves from our own study of God’s Word. We simply suggest these ideas for your consideration.

1. The Kingdom Has Arrived. Daniel predicted the Kingdom would arrive in the days of the fourth beast (when the Hasmoneans and Romans controlled Judea). John and Jesus both said the Kingdom was “at hand” in their day. If the Kingdom is not here yet, then Daniel is a false prophet, along with John the Baptist and Jesus. After Pentecost the church did have a taste of those good things that were about to come, a pledge (earnest or down-payment) of the Kingdom blessings. But they did not inherit the fullness of the Kingdom until it was taken away from the apostate Jews about AD 70 and given to the true Israel composed of both the faithful Jewish remnant and the Gentiles (Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6; Gal. 3:7, 28-29; 6:16; Phil. 3:3). The fact that the Kingdom is here now speaks volumes against the bankrupt eschatology of the dispensational view with all their gaps, postponements, parentheses and failures of Christ to set up His “earthly” reign (a physical-literal paradise conjured up by the imagination of materialistic futurists). We are not just pessimistically occupying until it comes. It’s here. We can live optimistically and victoriously in it right now and indefinitely into the future.

2. The Kingdom Is Spiritual. But how spiritual is it? How far do we go with this spiritual idea? Does this totally eliminate our involvement with physical things, or restrict us to just some physical things? Does it mean physical things have absolutely no meaning today, or a totally new spiritual meaning with no trace of the physical left behind? What did Jesus and Paul say the Kingdom really is? What is its nature? What is the kernel, the essence, the core, the real substance the Kingdom is made of? Obviously we still have physical bodies and live in a physical world, so the Kingdom must have some application to our physical life now IN the world (but not OF the world). Mk. 12:33, 34 Love for God and fellow man “is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” This reveals much about the nature of the Kingdom.

3. The Kingdom must be entered and dwelt in through spiritual means. Can the Kingdom be entered by physical rituals, agreement to complex systems of man-made theology or only after the approval of powerful ecclesiastical institutions? It is obvious that it is entered spiritually. But is it only by spiritual means, or are there some physical rituals still mixed in? We will examine these questions in the upcoming article on “Sacramentology”. A fleshly-oriented physical/literal interpretive method will miss the spiritual meaning of the kingdom. We need to change the way we approach the Bible. Our hermeneutical approach must be adjusted to the approach suggested by Paul in 1 Cor. 2:13-16 – the spiritual (not fleshly) approach to interpreting these things. The reason why most people miss the preterist view is because they are looking at things from a physical/literal “fleshly” point of view, rather than the spiritual perspective (see also 2 Cor. 4:18). This is the same mistake the Jews made when they crucified the Master. Paul frequently reminded the saints of his generation to set their minds on the heavenly things they already had a taste of and which were about to be (and now have been) fully consummated. If our focus is on the physical, fleshly things of the world, we have missed the Kingdom.

4. All things written about Christ in the OT have been fulfilled (Lk. 21:22) - As Jewish rabbis are prone to remind us, partial fulfillment just won’t do. If Jesus didn’t fulfill it all in His generation, then Jesus is not the Messiah. Not only does this mean the predictions about Christ have all come to pass, but it means that all the types that hinted of something fuller and better and more meaningful have blossomed as well. Roses in the bud may be beautiful to some, but they are nothing to compare with a rose in full bloom. The promise was a bud, and the fulfillment is like a rose in full bloom. Jesus came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill (unveil its full meaning). The Law found its ultimate spiritual expression in Christ Jesus. And even though that old code of law is no longer binding in a national sense, it’s principles are still applicable to us.

5. Great Commission has been fulfilled (Matt. 28:18-20) - John the Baptist and Jesus were announcing the Good News about the soon arrival of the Kingdom. Jesus told them (Matt. 24:14) that this gospel would be “preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations” before THE END (AD 70 destruction) came. And as far as we know all the apostles (except John) had died before the END of Judea and Jerusalem at A.D. 70. The good news about the near arrival of the Kingdom was fulfilled, just as Jesus predicted (Lk. 21:31). The kingdom has come. The gospel was spread to all the nations in that first generation, as Jesus had commanded. The terms of His great commission were fulfilled. So what are we preaching today? Are we still under obligation to announce the good news that the Kingdom is soon to arrive? No, we teach that the Kingdom is here now and lead others into it. Paul told Timothy (2 Tim. 2:2) to teach faithful men who would teach others (and so on). Faithful men will keep on teaching others, but not because we have been directly commissioned by Christ, but simply because we are being faithful to Christ in spreading the good news about the presence of our Redeemer and His victorious conquest over Satan, Sin and Death. A lot of sermon outlines about the Great Commission need to be adjusted in this regard.

6. All things have been made new (Rev. 21:5) - Does this just mean that some things were made somewhat new? Does this mean “new” in the sense of having never existed before, or does it mean that the “newness” that it once had has been restored (renewed, or made new again)? New in kind, or new in reference to time? Does Jesus’ illustration of the new wine and old wineskins (Matt. 9:16, 17) have any application here? How much of the OT things were swept away to bring in the “new creation” of Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). The question is, how do we tell what is old or transitional versus what is new and permanent? We will address these issues in several of the articles of the upcoming series.

7. The Scheme of Redemption Has Been Consummated. What does it mean when we say the scheme of redemption has been consummated? What did Adam and Eve lose? Was not the purpose of Christ to restore what was lost? Did He do it? Have we got that restored paradise, or are we still waiting for Him to redeem us from the curse? The Tree of Life (Rev. 2:7) has been restored. The serpent has been crushed (Rom. 16:20) and God’s enemies defeated (1 Cor. 15:25; Lk. 19:27). The last enemy (death - 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 20:14) has been conquered. Final atonement for sin (Dan. 9:24) has been administered by the High Priest and He has returned out of the holiest place to announce that “salvation” has been consummated (Heb. 9:28). If we are living in the paradise of God again, does this mean that rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices (such as baptism, Lord’s Supper, etc.), physical temples (“church” buildings), priesthood (clergy) and other such physical trappings are no longer “imposed” on us (see Heb. 9:10)? Adam and Eve didn’t have those things in the Garden, nor did they need them until after the Fall and the Curse. Do we need those things now that the conditions of the Garden have been restored? But, do we go to the extreme of throwing them out with the proverbial “bath water”, or could they still have some value if observed as teaching, confessional and edificational tools (even though no longer obligatory and binding)? See 2 Tim. 3:16-17.

8. Old Heavens and Earth Have Passed Away and the New Heavens and Earth Are Here ( Matt. 5:17-20) – Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Have “heaven and earth” passed away? If not, are we still observing every jot and tittle of the Law? If the “heaven and earth” Jesus spoke of in this text still exists, then we are under obligation to both keep and teach it. But if the old heavens and earth have passed away, then the Law is no longer binding. The key word here is “binding” in distinction from “applicable.” This does not mean the Law is no longer “applicable” or that it has nothing of value for kingdom dwellers today. The Law is still very useful, and we would do well to understand it as thoroughly as possible and APPLY its teachings to our life now in the Kingdom. But, the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 swept away the binding aspects of the old covenant (the old heavens and earth). A new heavens and earth (the kingdom) replaced those things (see Heb. 12:27,28). The priesthood, temple, sacrifices and law were changed into their spiritual counterparts (Heb. 7:12). We don’t live under the Law now, because the better spiritual things of the new heavens and earth are here.

9. Time of Reformation Has Occurred (Heb. 9:10) - After talking about the temple, the priesthood, the sacrificial system, and the baptismal “washings” that were associated with the Law, the Hebrews writer says that all these things were “fleshly ordinances imposed until a time of reformation.” Has that time of reformation occurred yet? It hadn’t when the book of Hebrews was written, and that’s one of the reasons why preterists say those “fleshly ordinances” were still “imposed” after Pentecost. Obviously they are no longer imposed on us today, so sometime between the writing of the book of Hebrews (about AD 60-65) and our day, the “time of reformation” must have occurred. What was this “time of reformation?” For those essential parts of the Law code to no longer be “imposed” would mean a radical change of some kind to the nation and governmental system that the Jews were familiar with. The most radical change in their whole national-religious history that would ever occur (according to Jesus in Mt. 24:21) was to be at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Is that the change the Hebrews writer had in mind? And what does that imply for all those fleshly ordinances (such as the baptismal “washings”) that were “imposed” until that time of reformation? Are they still imposed? But, are they still “applicable” and useful as teaching and edificational models?

10. Christ Has Returned – He is here now to stay – He will never leave again. We will live in His presence forever. Jesus the High Priest has returned out of the Holy of Holies (heaven) to manifest the fact that Final Atonement has been made. How many times does Christ need to make atonement and come back out of heaven to proclaim it? The idea of multiple comings just doesn’t fit the picture here (Hebrews 9). Now we have a better indwelling than what the transition period saints had. They had the miraculous indwelling and empowering of the Holy Spirit. We have Christ Himself dwelling with us and in us. And we no longer observe the Lord’s supper as just a memorial of Him until He returns, but rather as a victory feast with Him at His table in His presence in His Kingdom now and forevermore. This certainly has implications for Pneumatology, Sacramentology and our worldview.

11. The “Perfect” Has Come (1 Cor. 13:10; Eph. 4:13) – We will not provide proof in this introductory article for our firm conviction that the miraculous gifts have passed away because we plan to do so in the article(s) dealing with Pneumatology. We simply assert that the “perfect” (or state of maturity and completeness) arrived by the time Jerusalem fell at AD 70, and so the miraculous gifts ceased at that time. This includes the gifts of leadership (cf. Eph. 4:11-13) as well as the gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues and writing by inspiration. All inspired books were finished being written by that time. What are the implications of this cessation of miraculous gifts at AD 70? What does it mean when we say “the perfect has come”? What is included in the list of things that came to perfection or maturity or completion at AD 70? What if the leadership of the transition period church was miraculously endowed (cf. Eph. 4:7, 11)? And what if their authority as “overseers and shepherds” was based on this miraculous endowment (cf. Acts 20:28 “...the Holy Spirit has made you...”)? If the miraculous gifts of leadership have ceased, how does this reflect on the supposed “authority” of church leaders today, especially if this “pattern” of leadership and organizational structure of the church was only temporary and merely designed to get them through the transition and tribulation period (AD 30-70) into the completely established state of maturity? Doesn’t Eph. 4:11-13 teach that these gifts were for this purpose? And, doesn’t this follow the same “pattern” in which other concerns were dealt with during that traumatic period; for instance the way Paul handled the issue of marriage and celibacy “in view of the present distress” (1 Cor. 7:26)? Jesus said that unless the tribulation of those days had been cut short no “flesh” (not even the “elect” remnant) would have been saved (Mt. 24:22). It was a very difficult time and required special gifts from the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt. 10:19, 20). So if the NT patterns of leadership and organizational structure of the church were temporary miraculously-given aids to get the church through that dangerous period of establishment, what does that imply for those who want to restore (and bind) those patterns of leadership today? How can it be valid to bind them today if the conditions that made them necessary during the transition period are not now here? And if the authority of that leadership was derived from the miraculous gifts which have ceased, how can leaders assume that kind of authority today? Wouldn’t it be fair to say, at the very least, that those patterns of leadership and organizational structure are no longer binding upon us? This does not mean, however, that they are not applicable or useful or an edifying way to organize and expedite the work of teaching and caring for others. We are certainly free to do things that way. But the work of spreading the Kingdom does not depend on doing it that way today. If it did, the Kingdom could not spread in places like China where such leadership and organizational structure is illegal and impossible. Let’s not bind where the Scriptures don’t bind, nor loose where the Scriptures don’t loose. Let’s leave it in the area of expediency where the Scriptures do.

12. The Bridegroom has returned – The marriage has been consummated. What about those becoming Christians today, are they still being incorporated into the chaste bride who is yet to be married to Christ at His coming? If the bride has already married Christ, then who are we? Does this have any implications for the “church”, the bride of Christ? Ecclesiology needs to take this concept into consideration.

13. The first covenant grew obsolete and disappeared (Heb. 8:13) – By the time Paul wrote his epistles, many of the OT things had already become obsolete and were no longer bound upon the brethren (see Rom. 14; Col. 2), and the rest were “ready to disappear” at 70 AD (Heb. 8:13). There are some very important spiritual principles for the Kingdom contained in Romans 14. Does it teach that we cannot bind holy days, dietary restrictions, rituals and other physical ordinances today? Each person has freedom to observe or not to observe those things. So then, observance becomes a matter of one’s own expediency and edification. See Col. 2:16 also. It says not to let anyone act as our judge (either to force us to practice such things, or to forbid us from observing them). Is it possible that our requirements of observing the First Day of the week as a “Christian Sabbath”, and the Lord’s Supper, the tithe, and many other things like this are unnecessary? Re-read Rom. 14:5, 6 and think about the implications of those words for the church/kingdom today. Does he lay these things down as canon law, or leave them in the realm of expediency and edification (Rom. 14:17-19)?

14. The Mystery Is Finished (Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Cor. 2:6-8; Eph. 3:4-10; Rev. 10:7) One of the major stumbling-blocks of Christianity for the Jews has always been the notion that Gentiles could inherit God’s kingdom blessings without becoming Jewish. Jesus alluded to the universal nature of the Kingdom numerous times in His parables and teachings. Apostle Paul especially brought this to sharp focus in the books of Romans and Ephesians where he plainly stated that the universal aspect of the Kingdom (both Jew and Gentile) was then being revealed and established. It is something which we take for granted today, but which in Bible times was not clearly understood almost until the End. The Kingdom is composed of both Jew and Gentile today, and access to the Kingdom is no longer restricted by racial or nationalistic barriers. So, obviously the mystery which Paul referred to has been consummated. We are all (both Jew and Gentile) one in Christ. Teaching that the mystery (i.e. Rev. 10:7) is still yet to be consummated (as dispensationalists do) undermines the integrity of both Christ and Scripture. God saved both Jews and Gentiles and restored His fellowship with all mankind through Christ. This was not easy for the Jews to accept, but this was the mystery that was planned before the ages, revealed throughout their redemptive history and consummated in Christ. Since it has been consummated, we know the rest of the Last Things have occurred as well, because they were all intimately connected with the administration of the mystery which would see “the summing up of all things” (Eph. 1:10). So if the mystery has been totally revealed and consummated in Christ, how can we give ear to the Zionist contention that their racial and national identity must be preserved and perpetuated in order to fulfill Bible prophecy?

15. Death and Hades have been thrown into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:13-14). Christ is victorious. His plan to redeem man from sin and death has triumphed. Satan and his sons (Mt. 12:34; John 8:44) made one last attempt to wipe out God’s people in the persecution throughout the period of the book of Acts, but they were no match for the sinless sacrifice of the God-man Jesus. Death (the last enemy) has been conquered through the spiritual and eternal life that we now have in Christ. The gates of Hades did not prevail. The old waiting place where the dead awaited the final drama of the scheme of redemption has been emptied of its contents and done away with forever. Now when we die physically we continue living spiritually in the presence of God (except without our physical bodies). We do not have to go to some waiting place, be resurrected, reunited with our physical bodies, judged and then changed back into some non-material state in which to spend eternity. When we became Christians we passed out of judgment and death into eternal spiritual life.

16. All things have been “restored” (Acts 3:21) - What did Peter have in mind when he mentioned this “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21) in connection with the return of Christ (Acts 3:20)? It is also referred to in this context as “times of refreshing” (3:19) and being “blessed” with the Abrahamic blessings (3:25, 26). Peter also stated to those Jews that they must “repent” (3:19) and “give heed to everything” Jesus had taught (3:22). Those who did not heed Christ would be “utterly destroyed” (3:23). It recalls the “blessing and cursing” covenant language of OT passages like Lev. 26 and Deut. 28. And one other note: Peter wasn’t talking about some far away time for all of these events to happen, since he says these events, spoken of by all the prophets, referred to “these days” in which Peter lived (3:24). So, what has been restored? The blessings that God promised Abraham would come upon all the families of the earth. Was this to be a restoration of Mideast property and national government system? According to Apostle Paul (Rom. 9:6-8; Gal. 3:7-14; 3:29; 4:5-7) they were heirs of “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3-14) and were to inherit throughout the “ages to come” all the “surpassing riches of His grace” (Eph. 2:7). These were the blessings of Abraham, the “better country” (Heb. 11:16), the “heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22) and the “kingdom which cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28), where “the water of life” and “the tree of life” are freely available (Rev. 22:1, 2). That unshakable kingdom and heavenly city is ours today. Paradise has been restored. We have all the spiritual blessings that were promised to Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, David and all the other patriarchs (Heb. 11-13). So why do so many Christians just continue to pessimistically eke out an existence thinking the “better things” will only be theirs after they die? We’ve got them in our possession now while in our physical bodies as well as after we die physically and continue on in His presence in the heavenly kingdom. This principle has heavy implications for an optimistic worldview that is right for the Christian both in his relationship with the world and with his fellow Christian. And, it is the right view for the information age and the global village now and into the future.

17. Armageddon is past. The Anti-Christ has already come and gone. The Tribulation is over. The Rapture has occurred. All of the final events of the Last Days have been fulfilled. The Last of the Last Days (the end) of the Dominion of Sin and Death (the Domain of Satan and his sons, Mt. 12:34; John 8:44) has already come and gone. So what is left in our future? Are there any pessimistic events to dread, which Jesus hasn’t given us victory over. Preterists are the only ones who can have a consistently optimistic worldview both now and for the indefinitely long future ahead.

 

Conclusion

As we have seen, the possible implications of the preterist approach touch some very important doctrinal areas. Since we have only just begun to explore the implications, it is impossible to say how many doctrines are either directly or indirectly affected by the preterist view. But, what we have seen so far suggests that it has implications for every important area of theological study, and for every segment of “Christendom” including the Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Reformed, Restoration, Reconstruction, Charismatic and Messianic Hebrew Christian movements, as well as the cults and fringe groups who still traffic in Sabbath observance, festivals, and other physically-oriented rituals, ceremonies and traditions. We are not attacking any particular denomination or movement, but simply encouraging all of us to take a second look at our traditional doctrinal positions in light of the preterist view.

How far do these implications go? It depends on how far it is necessary to take them, and how far we are willing to take them, in order to apply them to the culture we are a part of. Cultural factors quite often determine how expedient the spread of the Kingdom will be. The Scriptures are more flexible than most Christians realize (because of these cultural differences). They have been taken to some radically different extremes. That does not become a serious problem unless the extreme position becomes exclusive toward all other views. It is this exclusivism, not the extremism, that is the real threat to Christian unity and the spread of the Kingdom. There is room in the Kingdom for a lot of cultural diversity and freedom of opinion.

So, where do we go from here? Hopefully we will follow through on the upcoming series of articles and begin to re-examine our beliefs to see where the preterist approach might affect them. Maybe these suggestions will help guide us in such an undertaking:

1. Recognize we are fallible human beings and often mistaken about a lot of things. Is there a chance we have misunderstood some implications of the preterist view? Are we so sure we are right on all doctrinal issues that we will not re-study our position, nor give anyone else freedom to do so? I do not believe it is sinful to “examine everything carefully” like the Bereans did (1 Thess. 5:21; Acts 17:11). But blindly following tradition could very well be sinful, especially if it binds those traditions on others (Matt. 15:6-14).

2. Never crystallize and lock out further study. It is to our benefit that we continue learning and growing. There is a long way to go and this generation will not solve all the problems. Each generation needs to go as far as it can. If we stop studying, we may be stopping short of some major implications. We must keep study open-ended, and not make the mistake some of the reformers and restorationists did by prematurely canonizing their opinions and excluding all who did not agree. We have only just begun to see some of the possible implications. There is so much more to investigate. Theologians are not even close to understanding all the information contained in the Bible. May those in the preterist movement never crystallize around a narrow set of preterist principles and exclude other Christians over it.

3. Give freedom in areas where there are doubts about essentiality. We take liberty to study issues that are questionable to us, so why not give that same freedom to others? We must be true to our consciences and pursue our own convictions before God (Rom 14:5, 22). Matters of eschatology can (and should) be left in the area of opinion. The time of fulfillment of the last things is not inherently a matter of essentials for either justification or fellowship. Nor is saving faith so narrow that only legalistic people have it. It is a spiritual thing, not a code of do’s and don’ts.

4. Pursue Unity. But, what is “unity”? Is it agreement to a list of doctrines (a creed), or is it an attitude of charity (agreeableness) and tolerance which gives freedom to differ without making a test of fellowship (becoming divisive) over it? Unity is not so much determined by what doctrinal position we hold as it is by how we hold it. Both opinions may be equally valid, edifying and expedient as long as they are not pushed upon others. Too many Christians just have not matured to the point of allowing and tolerating differences of opinions – nor of studying things out for themselves without their favorite brotherhood preacher telling them exactly what to believe. It is no wonder there is so much divisiveness. Christians of different opinions need to learn how to work together and help each other without compromising their individual beliefs. This kind of unity is needed so much in this fragmented and fractured world.

5. Continue studying and working together in the mean time. We may never come to agreement on some things, but we have a much better chance if we continue studying than if we don’t. Why not give each other freedom to differ while we study. That will be a much better atmosphere for all to learn in. How can we ask others to be objective and re-examine their traditions, when we are unwilling to re-examine our own beliefs? We need to be able to discuss it objectively and seriously (without condemning each other for any temporary conclusions we may have reached).

6. Have Tolerance (Romans 14, 15). Make room for other opinions and allow others the dignity of tolerance. Before we treat someone unkind for teaching something different, perhaps we need to remember how we felt when we first accepted the preterist view and started telling our friends. Remember how skeptical, critical and judgmental they were? Remember how we felt about their hostile attitude? Let’s make room for others in our hearts (2 Cor. 7:2).

7. Avoid over-emphasis on physical things. Physical things may be useful in teaching us about spiritual things, but they are not the “weightier matters” which Christ wants us to focus on. Nor are they the source of our justification. We must keep our minds set on the things above.

Look for more discussion of these things in following issues. The next article in the series will probably deal with how the preterist view should affect our hermeneutics and creedal formulations. Please give us your feedback. What implications of the preterist view do you see? Write to the attention of: The Editor, International Preterist Association, 122 Seaward Ave., Bradford, PA 16701.


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