Yet another book has been written in a (vain) attempt to stem the swelling tide of belief in the faithfulness of God in fulfilling all prophecy in A.D. 70. Some time ago, I received an email from the editor, G. Jorge Medina,1 that read: “I know you’ve refuted them all, but there’s a new book on Preterism on http://www.ebay.com (search word: preterism). This one from the Pentecostal movement: Upholding Our Future Hope: A Response to Preterism.2 May be a good addition to your research library.”
Since receiving that message, Mr. Medina and I have corresponded, and I have found to him to be very cordial. Also, he has asked if I would be willing to engage in a formal public debate on the issue of preterism. The book itself says, “Pantelism must be answered” (Hope, 271). Naturally, I am more than willing to discuss the issue with Mr. Medina, and have so stated, so, it is my hope that in the not too distant future, plans for those discussions can be announced.
Our review naturally cannot examine everything said in the book, (hereafter, Hope), but we want to take note of several things.
Hope is not truly an examination of preterism, or Covenant Eschatology, as it is an examination of partial preterism.3 In particular, the book seems more concerned with the rise of partial preterism, as espoused by Larry Smith4 and others, within the United Pentecostal Church, although they do refer to partial preterists Gentry, DeMar, and then those within the preterist camp. The various contributors to the book use terms such as “consistent preterism,” or even pantelism, to distinguish full preterists from partial preterists.5 Perhaps I missed it, but I did not find the term Covenant Eschatology in the book at all, and yet, this term is far more of a correct and proper term to describe what is commonly called preterism.
The book acknowledges that “there is a steady increase in consistent preterism” (Hope, 37), and, “its (preterism’s, DKP) influence is rapidly increasing as an outgrowth of historic preterism, or partial preterism” (Hope, 237). One observation with which I can fully concur is that concerning the partial preterism of Gentry and others, “preterism often paves the road that leads to pantelism” (Hope, 239). As a matter of fact, Hope makes a good case for arguing that you cannot logically remain a partial preterist, for if you are consistent with the hermeneutic, you will be come a full preterist. This charge is often denied by men such as Gentry, but the objection is futile.
Hope is guilty, several times, of creating false dichotomies. Medina says, “Preterism makes Jesus out to be a spiteful individual, threatening His captors (and all of Israel), with total destruction and everlasting rejection, but this does not square with Scripture.” He then cites Isaiah 53 and the prediction of the Messiah “he threatened not,” and Medina reasons from that, that if Jesus’ prediction to come on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64f), was a prediction (i.e. threat), of judgment on Jerusalem that it would violate the prediction of what he was to be like! So, Medina tells us that Matthew 26:64 is actually a prediction of the ultimate conversion of all Israel!
Question: Did Jesus ever threatened Jerusalem and the Jews with destruction? Did he ever say that the temple would be utterly destroyed? Medina will surely admit that he did. However, Medina has established a false dichotomy, claiming that Jesus was either spiteful and threatening, or he was merciful and gracious! The truth is that it is not an either /or situation. Jesus was gracious and merciful, yet, in spite of his patience, that patience finally ran out, and he said “your house is left to you desolate.” Was Jesus being spiteful and mean spirited? Did his threat mean that he was not the fulfillment of Isaiah 53? The logical fallacies of this kind of argumentation are evident. Let’s take Medina’s argument and apply it.
The Messiah would not threaten (Isaiah 53).
But Jesus threatened (Matthew 23:29-36; 24:2; Luke 19:41-44).
Therefore, Jesus is not the Messiah.
Likewise, using Medina’s logic one could argue:
It would be mean and spiteful for Jesus to threaten Jerusalem and Israel with destruction.
Jesus threatened Jerusalem and Jerusalem with destruction.
Therefore, Jesus was mean and spiteful.
This is the kind of logical fallacy found throughout Hope.
With the exception of three chapters devoted to Daniel 9:24f, little attention is given to actual Biblical argumentation. The book is guilty to an extreme of petitio principii, i.e. begging the question, taking for granted that the author’s view is correct, without proving it, and then declaring the falsity of the preterist paradigm! This is hardly convincing. One such argument is presented repeatedly. We give it here, although it is never presented propositionally in the book:
Preterism affirms that the parousia has occurred.
But, the charismata (miracles) would continue until the parousia.
The charismata have not ceased.
Therefore, preterism is false.
Several times in the book, this form of argument is made. However, the book takes for granted, without ever seeking to prove the case, that the charismata have not ceased. Now, it might be argued that the target audience of Hope is largely the UPC, which insists that the charismata are still operable, and therefore, it is not necessary to prove that point. However, since the book is being recommended to non-charismatics as a refutation of preterism, then those, like myself, who are cessationists, find this kind of argumentation very weak indeed.
On an interesting and related note, David Bernard says, “Some preterists rely on the exercise of spiritual gifts and upon personal spiritual experiences to establish the credibility of their doctrine. However, this is a misunderstanding of the role of such gifts and experiences.6 The Bible is our sole authority for doctrine and instruction.” (Hope, 21).
So, on the one hand we are told, repeatedly, that preterism is false because of the continuance of the charismata, but, on the other hand, those who claim confirmation of preterism through the operation of the charismata are improperly appealing to human experience instead of the Scriptures. If it is wrong to appeal to the charismata for confirmation of preterism, then, it is most assuredly wrong to appeal to the charismata to disprove preterism. You cannot have it both ways! Bernard is right however, it is not personal experience, but the Scripture alone that determines the Truth or falsity of preterism. Therefore, the numerous appeals in Hope to the continuance of the charismata as a ground for rejecting preterism are falsified.
The need for Sola Scriptura is exemplified in the book’s self contradictory use of the patristics. We are strongly reminded that all of the early church writers were futurists (p. 60f). This appeal serves as the ground for several pages of argumentation. Interestingly, however, another author,
on page 190f, writes of the origin of Replacement Theology, and lays the blame for its origins at the feet of the very same patristic authors earlier offered as support for a futurist coming! So, on the one hand, we are to honor the testimony of men like Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian and even Chrysostom, because they all held to a future return of Christ. On the other hand, we must recognize that the reason that these men believed as they did (i.e. Replacement Theology), is because they were “influenced by neo-platonic and gnostic thought” (Hope, p. 191). Do we not have the right to ask, which testimony of which patristics do we choose? For instance, Chrysostom believed that the charismatic gifts had ended!7
Did the “neo-platonic, neo-gnostic philosophy” adversely influence the early Christians toward “Replacement Theology,” but not have an impact on their concept of the parousia? I have stated before, and say again, that an appeal to the apostolic fathers, and the patristics, while interesting historically, is, in my personal opinion, an exercise in futility! It has been my experience that many of those who appeal to the patristics often do not even know what those writers actually said.8 Further, the use of the patristics is invariably extremely selective as demonstrated above. The writers in Hope certainly will not accept the testimony of the patristics in regard to the church being the fulfillment of Israel’s promises, and they most assuredly do not accept the idea that the charismata had ceased. So, what is the point, or use, in an appeal to the patristics? My appeal, and that of all preterists is, and should be, Sola Scriptura! Let us determine the veracity of preterism, not on any claimed charismatic experience or history, but, on the solid rock of the inspired Word of God!
The Binding of Satan
One argument set forth to refute preterism is offered by David Norris, in Chapter 3 and picked up by other writers, and that is that Christ could not have come because Satan is not bound. And how does Norris know that Satan is not bound? Because of what he sees, or does not see in the world. Norris makes the rather remarkable claim “The Bible does not indicate that Satan was bound when Jesus died and rose again” (Hope, 64). This echoes the sentiment of J. N. Darby, long ago: “It is Satan and not Christ who is now the prince and god of this world. It is strange how many people fancy that the cross put a stop to that. It was exactly the opposite. The cross was the one grand demonstration—and there never was such a demonstration— that Satan is the prince and god of this world.”9 This kind of argumentation is ad hominem, and calculated to appeal to emotions, and not scripture. It also contradicts the emphatic statements of scripture!
There can be little doubt that Jesus believed that the time had come for the binding of Satan (Matthew 12:26f; 43f). He even said that in the “limited commission” of the disciples, that he saw Satan cast down from heaven (Luke 10:18f). Just before his crucifixion, Jesus said that the judgment and casting out of Satan was near (John 12:31). Furthermore, Paul emphatically tells us that it was in the Cross that Jesus triumphed over the principalities and wicked forces, putting them to open shame (Colossians 2:15f)!
Paul says that the Cross was the triumph of Jesus over the spiritual wickedness in high places, and that in that event, Christ put the forces of evil to open shame. Yet, lamentably, Darby and his followers ask us to believe that the Cross actually demonstrates that Satan, not Christ, triumphed!
The problem with the issue of the binding of Satan is that preconceived ideas distort our understanding of the parousia. Norris and the other writers see evil in the world, and deduce that Satan must not have been bound. This is a failure to see that even in Revelation, after the destruction of Satan, evil still exists (Revelation 21-22).
Furthermore, the argument that if evil still exists then Satan is not bound backfires. Millennialism says that at the beginning of the millennium Satan is bound. And yet, even during the millennium, when Satan is “powerless” evil springs up during the millennium! Why? Is it because Satan is not bound? No. It is because of the wickedness of man’s heart!
Now, since man, in the millennium, even as perceived by dispensationalists, will still sin and rebel against God, without the aid or presence of Satan, then why could it not be argued that the same is actually true since the parousia of A. D. 70? We would do well to consider Matthew 15:10f; James 1:12 in this context. The point is that the argument that Satan cannot be bound because we still see evil fails to seriously consider the nature of what Christ would do at the parousia, and, it fails to be consistent with its own argument since it posits evil in the millennium.
Preterism, the Allegorical Method and the O.T.
Norris continues his attempt to refute Covenant Eschatology in chapters 4-5, with the standard claim that preterists allegorize the Bible. He says: “Allegorical interpretation ignores the specific context of Scripture and asserts a meaning for the text that is not based on any solid criterion” (Hope, 69). Let me say here that I am convinced that few people understand the claim of allegorization when they make it.
Preterists do not allegorize the scriptures! If you want to see allegorization, study Origen–the father of allegorization–and you will see that what he did has no relationship to preterist hermeneutics! What preterists do is to honor the consistent use of language in scripture, allowing the context to define and determine the definition and use of language. Let me illustrate Norris’ misuse of the charge of allegorization.
Preterists see that in the O.T. Jehovah rode on the clouds as He came in judgment of Egypt (Isaiah 19); In Nahum 1, the clouds are called the dust of Jehovah’s feet, as He predicted the downfall of Nineveh. In other words, in prophetic texts, dealing with the Day of the Lord, clouds are used to denote God’s sovereign use of one nation to judge another nation, as a symbol for the majesty of God, or even to denote the Messianic glory (Daniel 7:13f). The fact that clouds are used prosaically in historical texts has virtually no bearing on these prophetic texts!
Medina suggests, “Although it is incredible to think that anyone would ‘see’ Jesus in the face of the Roman soldiers coming against Jerusalem, this is, in fact, a cardinal belief of preterism.” (Hope, 100). The reason preterists affirm that Christ was seen in the Roman invasion of Judah is because Jesus was going to come “in the glory of the Father” (Matthew 16:27), and in the O. T., when Jehovah came, He came through the instrumentality of invading armies, and His “face” was present!
Medina acknowledges that Jehovah came many times in the O.T. in non literal, non-visible parousias (Hope, 113). Scripture affirms that Jehovah “came” out of heaven, on the clouds, with a shout, with flaming fire, when He came in judgment of the Assyrians (Isaiah 30-37). Is it incredible to see the “face of Jehovah” in those actions? If they failed to see Jehovah’s face, it was because they were unbelievers (Isaiah 26:9f), and refused to see! When Jehovah destroyed “heaven and earth” in the destruction of Jerusalem in B. C. 586, His &ldqu
o;presence (LXX, prosopon, literally, His face), was there (Jeremiah 4:13, 23-26; 5:20-22). If it is incredible for us moderns to see the face of Jehovah in the face of the invading armies, it is because we tend to think in far too literal a manner, instead of thinking as the Hebrew writers.
Norris even notes the use of these “cloud” texts, but argues that since the word clouds is used 162 times in the O. T. and that it generally means a literal cloud, that it must mean that when it is referring to the Day of the Lord! Well, did Jehovah literally come out of heaven, riding on a cloud, when Sargon invaded Egypt in fulfillment of Isaiah 19 (see Isaiah 20)? Assyria was Jehovah’s instrument of judgment. In His sovereignty, He came, through the instrumentality of the Assyrians. They were His tool (Isaiah 10:5f). When David described God’s past deliverance of him from his enemies, He said that the creation was destroyed, the foundation of the earth was exposed, God came out of heaven on the cloud (Psalms 18; 2 Samuel 22). Now, if we adopt Norris’ literalistic hermeneutic we must believe that the Day of the Lord came in David’s lifetime!
The point is that it is not allegorizing to say that God came on the cloud in a spiritual coming! Medina would, ostensibly at least, agree with this since he agrees that Jehovah came many times in the O.T.! Well, if Jehovah came, on the clouds, many times in the O. T., is it allegorizing to take that view, or is it simply honoring the Biblical usage of language? One can speak of the historical / grammatical method of interpretation, and that is well and good. However, any hermeneutic that fails or refuses to see that sometimes clouds do not mean cumulus clouds is monolithic and is not doing justice to the scriptures.
Norris insists that preterists interpret Matthew 24 allegorically because of Jesus’ statement in v. 34, “this generation shall in no wise pass until all these things are fulfilled.” Thus, Norris says, preterists reason that “this generation must be the generation that Jesus lived in, and therefore the text cannot mean that Jesus will really come again.” (Hope, 70). This is actually a misrepresentation of what preterists believe.
Preterists believe that Jesus is using language that can be demonstrated to be consistently metaphoric, non-literal language, that describes God’s actions in history. No allegorization here! Further, preterists take Jesus’ promise that his generation would not pass until all of that prophetic language was fulfilled in and through his coming in judgment of the Old Covenant city of Jerusalem, literally!
What I am suggesting is that preterists believe that it can be proven conclusively that the language of the Day of the Lord, His coming on the clouds, with a shout, on the clouds, etc. is consistently metaphoric (not allegorical). On the other hand, predictions of when the Lord was to come are to be understood literally.10 It is improper for Norris and others to label the preterist hermeneutic as allegorical.
Interestingly, Norris does not tell us what he believes “this generation” in Matthew 24:34 means. Will he argue that it means that the generation that would see the signs would be the generation of the parousia, as Ice and LaHaye do? Will he argue that 1948 was the “Super Sign of the End,” as LaHaye and Ice argue,11 and if so, will Norris accept the consequences of that view, which is that our generation, without fail, must be the generation of the end?
Jesus was speaking to living humans, telling them that they would see the signs. He said “this generation shall not pass until all these things are fulfilled.”There is no contextual justification for ripping the promise away from them, and extrapolating it 2000 years into the future, and claim that it only has audience relevance today, but not to Jesus’ first century audience.
The Issue of Imminence
The authors of Hope give differing responses to the problem of N. T. imminence. Some of them take the “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years” approach. Others try to say that “shortly” means rapidly instead of soon. Still others tell us that “must shortly come to pass” means that the events are “certain to occur.” Norris affirms that since there are references where the O. T. writers spoke of the work of Christ in the past tense (e.g. Isaiah 53), and Revelation says that Christ was the lamb “slain before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), that this somehow proves that “at hand” does not indicate temporal imminence. This is a genuine non-sequitor, and is full of logical fallacies.
The fact is that Jesus and the N. T. writers inform us, in a variety of ways, using a wide range of words, terms and phrases, that what was once far off in the O. T. times, had now drawn near, and was truly coming soon. The temporal contrast posited by the N. T. writers is a prima facie demonstration that they interpreted time statements literally, and did not seek to mitigate them, elasticize them, or simply ignore them. See my Can God Tell Time for a full discussion of these contrasts in time between the O. T. prophetic passages and the N. T. statements.
The writers of Hope try to tell us that the “quickly” and the “shortly” texts simply mean how rapidly the predicted events would take place, once they get around to taking place. Norris also argues (p. 88) that the Greek term en tachei as used in Revelation 1:1 actually means “the certainty that the event will happen, not how soon it will happen.” He acknowledges that it does not bear this meaning in other texts, but because his concept of the parousia and the fulfillment of Revelation did not take place soon, that therefore, these time indicators cannot be taken literally.
I urge the reader to see my extensive study of en tachei in Who Is This Babylon for a full refutation of this argument. It will not bear up under scrutiny, and quoting other dispensationalists as a supportive source for this aberrant definition of en tachei does not prove the case.
The argument that “these things must shortly come to pass” actually means these things will certainly come to pass, is a specious argument without any translational support, or any lexical support. The Greek language had words to express certainty, and en tachei is not one of those words or terms! Furthermore, if “shortly” and “soon” means certainty, what does not near, not soon mean?
In Numbers 24:17f Balaam foretold the coming of Christ, and said “I see him but not near, I see him but he is not nigh.” Now, if Norris is going to be consistent with his argument that shortly means certain, then he should take the logically necessary position that not near means uncertain. And that would have Balaam predicting: “I see him, but I am not certain he is coming, I see him, but he is not certain to come!” Is that what Norris wants to argue? We doubt it very seriously.
The fact is that the authors of Hope realize that if the time statements of Scriptures are taken at face value then patently preterism is true. So, instead of meeting the issue head on, they essentially wave a hand the issue, and, strangely enough, ridicule the preterist for interpreting the time statements “in a woodenly literal manner” (Pixler, p. 240). This is strange indeed s
ince from front to back, Hope condemns preterists for being allegorists! So, Hope condemns preterists because we are too allegorical, but, they then condemn us for being too literal!
There is little doubt that Daniel 9 serves as the lynch-pin for the theology of the authors of Hope. Simply stated, if there is no 2000 year gap between the 69th and the 70th week of Daniel 9, then the eschatology of the authors of Hope is completely falsified. It is that simple, and this is widely admitted by leading dispensationalists. Thomas Ice, oft quoted by Hope, is emphatic that if there is no gap between the 69th and 70th week, then dispensationalism is destroyed.12
I have treated this topic extensively in my book Seal Up Vision and Prophecy,13 so I will not go into great detail here. However, it is interesting that the entire argument in Hope hangs on one single word, and that is the word “after” in verse 26. Larabell argues, “To say that ‘after’ automatically necessitates that the cutting off of Messiah would take place during the seventieth week is a grammatical fallacy. The word translated ‘after’ is ahery. As used in this verse, this word does not necessarily imply that the ‘cutting off’ will take place a certain time period after the close of the sixty-nine weeks. It could just as well mean something like ‘when the sixty-nine weeks are completed.’ As Wood points out, ‘Nothing is said as to how long after’” (Hope, 152). Let me say just as kindly, but as firmly as possible, that this argument smacks of desperation.
Daniel was told that 70 weeks were determined on his people and his holy city, and within that pivotal 70 week period, six things would be accomplished (v. 24). There is not the slightest hint, of a clue, of a suggestion that a single thing in the list or the text that lies outside that ordained 70 week countdown.
So, verse 26 is critical because it says that after the sixty and two weeks (technically after the 69th week), Messiah will be cut off. Now please catch the power of this. Since only 70 Weeks were determined, and since the text says that “after the sixty ninth” week, Messiah would be cut off, then that demands that the death of Messiah is within the 70th Week! Wood’s objection, “Nothing is said as to how long after” is specious. It does not matter if it is one hour, one week, or on month after the end of the 69th Week! The point is that the death of Messiah would be after the 69th Week and that demands that it is within the 70th Week! Likewise, Larabell’s statement that the word can signify “when the 69th Week is completed, Messiah will be cut off, is no help either, for if the 69th Week has been completed, that necessitates the initiation of the 70th Week.
Larabell tries to mitigate the power of the word “after” by obfuscation. He argues that the world “ahery” does not, in this text, demand that the Messiah’s death is in the 70th Week. Yes, as a matter of fact is does. The death of Messiah belongs to the 70 Weeks, because the death of the Messiah would contribute to the filling up of the measure of the sin of Israel, and the death of Messiah would initiate the process of making the atonement, and the death of Messiah would initiate the process of putting away of sin.
Now, unless the death of Messiah is unrelated to these eschatological and soteriological tenets–and no one believes that— then since these things are confined to the 70 Weeks, to occur within that critical period, then the death of Messiah, to effect these things, belongs to the Countdown. Further, since the text is emphatic that the death of Messiah would be after the 69th Week, not within the 69th Week, then this is prima facie proof that there is no 2000 year gap between the 69th and the 70th Week. And, if there is no gap, then the eschatology of Hope is falsified.
If there is no gap, then the entire chapter in Hope, devoted to proving that the Great Tribulation is yet future is mitigated. If there is no gap then all the language of the New Testament that the end was near is objective and true, the end was truly near. If there is no gap, then Israel was not temporarily set aside, to be restored at some point in the future. If there is no gap, there is no yet future man of Sin, mark of the beast, Rapture and removal of the church so that God can once again resume His dealings with Israel. if there is no gap, then the dispensational “Reverse Replacement Theology” doctrine is false.14
There is much more we could say on this issue, but perhaps it will be discussed in the formal debate that Mr. Medina has proposed.
Israel and the Land Promise
In chapter 10 Ken Gurley labels preterism as Replacement Theology. As already noted, this is a false charge, and in fact, dispensationalism is guilty of the worst sort of Replacement Theology, i.e. of holding that the blood bought body of Christ will be replaced by the nation of Israel.
One of Gurley’s key points is that of the land promises that God made to Israel: “At no time in Jewish history has Israel ever occupied all this land (See Deuteronomy 1:7; 11:24), and so the nation of Israel will receive this promise in the future.” (Hope, 198)
I am currently working on a book on the issue of the land promises to Israel and the promises of the restoration of the land. Lord willing, that work will be finished in the not too distant future. Suffice it to say for the moment that Gurley’s claims are simply false. It is interesting that Gurley cites Deuteronomy 1:7 and 11:24 to prove his case, and yet, those verses say not one thing about Israel not ever possessing the land! Instead, the passages record the time before the entrance into the land. They record God’s promises of the land, and they tell Israel to go possess the land as promised. Not one of the texts looks back on Israel’s failure to ever possess the land!
The fact is that at three critical times in Israel’s history, the inspired writers/speakers tell us that Israel did in fact conquer and possess the land, all of it, as promised.
1.) Joshua 21:43-45 says emphatically that Israel was given all the land, they entered it and possessed it. Not one thing failed of God’s promises concerning the land.
2.) 1 Kings 4:20f during the united kingdom, Israel possessed not only all the territory listed in Genesis 15, but, in the words of DeVries: “The borders listed (in 1 Kings 4, DKP), comprised an empire far vaster than ‘the land’ that God had promised Abraham”15
3.) After the Babylonian captivity, when the Jews were back in the land, and the city rebuilt, Nehemiah stood up and recounted Israel’s history and her promises. He recalled God’s promise to Abraham to give the land to him and his descendants, even listing the lands promised, and he says: “You have performed your words, for you are righteous” (Nehemiah 9:8, see also 9:22f).
So, we hav
e the testimony of three different inspired spokesman, at three different periods of time, and they all testify with unanimous voice that Israel did possess all the land, yea, even more land than was promised!
One thing amazes me. Gurley claims that, “Israel seems to be the sticking point in the preterist scheme of things. One Pentecostal preterist enumerates “nine key issues” that must be discussed by the church, six of which involve Jerusalem, Jews, or Israel. The desire to eradicate Israel from the prophetic picture is easily subdued by Israel’s continued existence.” (Hope, 201)
If Gurley understands preterists to be saying, or if some of the Pentecostal preterists are saying, that Israel was not the focus of Biblical eschatology, then either Gurley does not understand what preterists are saying, or, some of the Pentecostal preterists do not understand preterism! Biblically, all eschatology is concerned with the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, and I do not know, personally, of any preterists that deny that! It is foundational to preterism!
The problem with Gurley and the other authors of Hope is that they rip eschatology from its first century moorings and locus, and divorce the N. T. eschatological references from their focus on the consummation of the hope of Israel, and claim that the N. T. church was eagerly hoping to be taken out of the way so that God could start dealing with Israel again! Nothing could farther from the truth, and nothing could be a worse misrepresentation of Covenant Eschatology. Preterism honors the Biblical fact that eschatology, i.e. the parousia, judgment and resurrection all belong to the end of Israel’s age, not to the end of the (endless) Christian age. Paul’s resurrection doctrine was nothing but the hope of Israel (Acts 24:14f; 26:6f), and that is precisely what preterists affirm!
So, to accuse preterists of making Israel a sticking point, is in reality, misguided. To be sure, preterists do not believe that modern day Israel is the chosen people of God, and they do not believe that 1948 was the “miraculous rebirth” of God’s chosen people, as suggested by Chalfant.16 On the other hand, I do not know of a single preterist that believes that “Israel’s promises, covenants, and blessings now belong to the church, while the curses remain on the Jews due to their rejection of the Christ.” (Hope, 189). While I do believe that the church was and is the fulfillment –not an emergency interim substitute– of God’s promises to Israel, I do not know of a single preterist that believes “the curses remain on the Jews due to their rejection of the Christ.”17 This is a serious misrepresentation of what preterists believe, and should be retracted and corrected.18
The Dating of Revelation
J. R. Ensey says, (Hope, 209), “For preterism to stand up under historical or theological scrutiny, adherents must prove that the Book of Revelation was written before A.D. 70—actually before A.D. 67.” This is unquestionably true, and openly admitted by all preterists.
Ensey’s chapter is a rehash of old, bad arguments, for a late date. He cites Iranaeus of course, and virtually all of the other sources that he cites were dependent on the highly dubious and debatable testimony of Iranaeus. What strikes one as a bit strange is that Ensey would lay so much stress on Iranaeus when Gurley cites Iranaeus as one guilty of anti-Jewish sentiment, and possibly tainted with neo-platonic and neo-gnostic thought (Hope 191). Further, one need only be aware of the fact that Iranaeus firmly believed that Jesus’ ministry spanned over 50 years and claimed that he had that on firm authority, to realize that it is tenuous at best to rely on his testimony for dating the Apocalypse.
There are several issues we could examine, but for brevity we can only note a few issues with Ensey’s chapter.
1.) He virtually ignores the significance of the language of imminence, and the fact that at the beginning of the vision, in the middle, and at the end, we are told that the fulfillment of the book was near. He does say however, “Admittedly, certain phrases of the Book of Revelation give support to the preterists.” (Hope, 223). His response to this language is that since the coming of the Lord, judgment and resurrection, all posited to be near in the Revelation, did not happen soon, that therefore we must view the language of imminence “in the light of God’s prerogative to reckon time in His own way (2 Peter 3:8).” (P. 223). This is presuppositional and circular reasoning to be sure.
Ensey says (assumes), that the coming of the Lord is literal descent of Christ out of heaven on a literal cloud. Revelation says that the coming of the Lord was near. Since Jesus did not literally come out of heaven on a literal cloud, then “near” cannot mean soon! This is petitio principii exemplified!
2.) Ensey says there is no clear internal evidence for the early dating. This is so patently false as to need a volume to explicate.
Revelation is about the vindication of the apostles and prophets (Revelation 16:6f; 18:20f), and Jesus undeniably posited the time of the vindication of the martyrs, i.e. the apostles and prophets at the judgment of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (Matthew 23:29f).
3.) On pages 230f, Ensey asks a serious of questions intended to be a daunting, unanswerable challenge to preterism. The problem is that his presuppositional assumptions are the sole ground for the questions! He assumes, without offering any evidence whatsoever, that his interpretation of each of the questions is true, and since the preterist cannot say that the predictions were fulfilled as Ensey perceives them, then Ensey concludes “then these events are still future and preterism is wrong.” (P. 231). This sounds impressive to the unlearned and unread, and is perhaps a good debater’s trick, but is hardly convincing to those who are willing to look at the issues logically and textually.
4.) Ensey claims: “In desperation to affirm an early date, some preterists have even resorted to questioning the authorship of Revelation; however, conservative scholars continue to identify the apostle John as the author.” (Hope, 210).
Now, it may be true that Ensey knows of some preterists who question the apostolic authorship of Revelation, but, I have yet to encounter a single preterist who did so! Furthermore, Ensey did not offer a single reference or name the preterists who question the Johannine authorship of the Apocalypse. While this may not seem like a major issue, if you are going to make accusations like this, you need to give the citations and identify the sources. This kind of accusation tends to “poison the well” of conservative Bible students, and make them afraid of the “far out” views under consideration. While I certainly do not know all preterists, by any means, and cannot speak for them all for sure, I can safely say that I have never met a preterist that questioned whether the apostle John was the author of Revelation.
There are some fantastic sources that have responded to virtually every point raised by Ensey and effectively refuted them. Gentry’s book Before Jerusalem Fell, is one of the finest apologies for the early
date to be found, and my Who Is This Babylon, while written with a slightly different focus, also effectively demonstrates the fallacy of Ensey’s claims. The bottom line is that Ensey simply repeats evidence that has been and can be easily refuted by anyone conversant with history and more importantly the Biblical text. To suggest that there is no internal evidence for an early date is surely one of the most biased and erroneous statements one could make.
The Impending Peril of Preterism
Steve Pixler closes the book with the chapter about the peril of preterism. He is certainly right when he says that preterism is growing, and he is right to suggest that preterism is a threat to his tradition and other denominational traditions! He is right to say that preterism demands that we rethink and restructure our entire paradigms. He is right to say that preterism is a threat to traditional Christianity!
Pixler objects to what he calls the three extremes of preterism:
1.) Radical imminence, the idea that “time texts” must be taken in a strictly literal fashion. Pixler does not offer a single argument as to why we should not honor the meaning of the time texts! He simply warns his readers of the peril of preterism, and its insistence on taking the Bible at what it says. Let me say again that if God can tell time, and if God communicates time objectively, and Scripture is clear that He did, then the entire theological fabric of Hope is torn, top to bottom! It is incumbent on the authors to prove categorically and irrefutably that at hand did not mean soon, and shortly did not mean quickly, and quickly did not mean near. And what is interesting is that the authors of Hope have given disparate definitions of these terms, with one author saying that shortly means “certainly”, while another argues that shortly means “rapidly” while still another has argued that it is all about God’s time and not man’s time after all! These disparate answers do not lend themselves to confidence in the interpretations that follow.
2.) Radical Consistency, that all N. T. references to Christ’s coming must refer to one and the same event. Personally there are a couple of things that make me wonder about this supposed peril.
First, does Pixler believe that there are many different eschatological comings of Christ spoken of in the N. T.? Yes or No? And if there are, how does he tell the difference between them?
Second, if there are more than one eschatological comings mentioned in the N. T., does that not demand that at least one of them is a non-literal coming?
Third, what is wrong with seeking consistency? I venture to say that Pixler sees only one eschatological coming of Christ in the N. T.. Perhaps I am wrong on this, but in my experience with Pentecostal ministers I have never encountered one who believed that there is more than one “cloud coming” in the New Testament. So, if Pixler sees only one parousia of Christ in the N. T., is that not “radical consistency?” And, if it is perilous for the preterist to see only one parousia in the N. T., and if Pixler sees only one parousia in the N. T. then he can hardly condemn the preterists for radical consistency!
3.) Radical Spiritualization, the view that all the events surrounding the Second Coming are primarily spiritual and invisible in nature. (Hope, 240).
This accusation is the same as the charge of allegorization, and it is false. Preterist do not spiritualize language that is intended to be literal, or at least that is not our intent or aim. The preterist that I know are seeking, with all diligence, humility and sincerity, to be good students of the Word, and to allow the rules of hermeneutic to guide them in their interpretation of language. There is no agenda, no hidden ulterior motives.
It needs to be kept in mind that the huge majority of preterists were once amillennialists (as in my case), postmillennialists, and dispensationalists. We already had a paradigm instilled in us that was anything but preterist! However, we encountered insurmountable obstacles from the inspired text that prevented us from remaining in the traditions received from our fathers. We discovered that we had to deny the explicit statements of Scripture, we had to manipulate the texts, we had to apologize for what the texts said, in order to remain orthodox. In other words, we did not approach the Scriptures with a presuppositional preterist paradigm! It was the Scriptures that forced us to reject our respective traditions.
So, preterism is a threat to the established paradigms, yet, I suggest that it is high time that the traditional paradigms are rejected. No futurist eschatology can properly respond to the atheist who knows that Jesus said he was coming again in his generation, but, according to the atheist, he failed. The preterist can respond and refute that charge, and yet, preterists are condemned as heretics. (Not, thankfully, in Hope, but in other works).
No futurist eschatology, including that of the UPC, can refute and answer the Jewish or the Islam rejection of Jesus, based on their knowledge that he and the N. T. writers assert, as doctrinal truth, that the end of the age was coming in the lifetime of the first century saints. The skeptics, both religious and non-religious, literally laugh at the stilted, forced, illogical, and un-biblical attempts to explain away the multitudinous predictions of the soon coming end. This is not to impugn the integrity, dedication, or sincerity of any futurist! It is simply to point out that the futurist systems, all of them, are fundamentally flawed, fatally flawed.
The church needs to march boldly into the future with a message of a Redeemer who kept His Word. He did not fail. He did not postpone the plan. We must proclaim “Our God reigns!” and stop having to admit that Christ’s promised parousia “may be a hope deferred” (Hope, 49).19 To admit that the promise of Christ’s parousia is a “hope deferred” is an admission that the Christian has the right to have a sick heart of discouragement (Proverbs 13:12).
Summary and Conclusion
Obviously, we have not been able to touch on everything in Hope that we differ with. Our purpose has been simply to show a few of the problems of the book.
The book is guilty at every turn of presuppositional theology. While it seeks to call preterism into question, it gives no solid exegetical reason for rejecting Covenant Eschatology. While attempting to utilize Daniel 9 to its cause, Hope actually shows how Daniel 9 destroys dispensationalism.
Hope seems in great part to be appealing to an audience that shares it charismatic presuppositions, and if that is it audience, then surely some of their arguments will be convincing. However, to those who do not share that commonality with the authors, this approach actually serves to disprove the book rather than validate it.
Lamentably, Hope seriously misrepresents the preterist viewpoint by claiming that preterists believe that Israel remains under God’s curse today. This serious charge is false, and needs to be corrected, in print.
While I do not want to be unkind in any manner, I consider Upholding Our Future Hope, to be one of the weaker attempts to refute Covenant Eschatology that has been published. Those most familiar with Covenant Eschatology will find the logic of Hope flawed, the arguments faulty, and the conclusions far from convincing. Those just beginning to examine the issues, I dare say, will also quickly realize that Hope offers no s
olid response, and certainly no refutation of preterism. Perhaps in the proposed formal public debate between myself and Mr. Jorge Medina, editor of Hope, some better evidence can be adduced. I look forward to those discussions.
1. According to the back cover of Hope, Mr. Medina is founder and director of the Defenders of the Faith Conference on Apostolic Doctrine and Apologetics. He is the author of five books on the cults and world religions, and teaches apologetics at Centro Teologico Ministerial, a Spanish Bible school in Houston, Tx.
3. In the view of the current writer, partial preterists are not preterists. If you define a preterist as someone who believes that some prophecy has been fulfilled, then virtually every evangelical is a preterist, even those who wrote Hope, condemning preterism! That is not the point. If one is going to use language correctly, then surely, those who are not preterists need to consistently label themselves as partial preterists.
4. Smith is editor in chief of “Rightly Dividing the Word,” a UPC journal from El Campo, Texas (P. O. Box 1226 El Campo, Tx. 77437-1226). Smith’s writings have taken on increasing preterist tendencies over the last few years.
5. One refreshing thing to note is the absence of caustic language and rancor from the respective authors. While they clearly differ with the preterist paradigm, they never engage in ugly rhetoric, and for that they are to be commended. I did not find the word “heretic” so often used by some other writers, used by any of the authors.
6. It is Bernard that does not understand the role of the charismata. In the N. T. the gifts did in fact confirm the veracity of the message preached. It was the personal life of the possessors of the gifts that the miracles did not certify! Mark 16:15-20 is very clear that it was the message that was confirmed by the miracles “they went everywhere preaching the word, the Lord working with them, and confirmed the Word by the signs that followed.” See also Acts 14:1-3, and other texts. There can be no doubt that the charismata did in fact confirm the doctrinal message of the preachers.
7. John Chrysostom, Homily, from the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Phillip Schaff, Series 1, vol. 13. Chrysostom, arguing against the view that the restrainer in 2 Thessalonians 2 was the Holy Spirit, argued: “If he (Paul, DKP) meant to say the Spirit, he would not have spoken obscurely, but plainly, that even now the grace of the Spirit , that is the gifts, withhold him. And otherwise he ought now to have come when the gifts ceased; for they have long since ceased.” Based on Chrysostom’s belief in the cessation of the charismata, one could argue: The charismata would cease at the parousia (UPC). But, the charismata had ceased (at least) by the time of Chrysostom. Therefore, Chrysostom believed that the parousia had occurred! Naturally, this argument would be invalid as evidence by Chrysostom’s views of a future parousia, but, it shows that Chrysostom and other patristic writers did not always understand what they realized to be true! Why did Chrysostom not understand that the parousia had taken place, since he staunchly affirmed the cessation of the gifts? We will probably never know, yet, the testimony is there to ponder.
8. For instance, Norris tries to argue that none of the early writers believed in an A.D. 70 parousia. He even claims that in the patristics “Absent is any mention at all of the destruction of Jerusalem as any kind of coming of Christ.” (Hope, 79, n. 2). This claim is patently wrong. Eusebius, (fourth century), commenting on the prediction of Zechariah 14 and the coming of the Lord, and responding to those who applied that prophecy to the Maccabean period, says: “When in the times of the Macedonians or the Persians did the king who was foretold come, sitting on an ass and a young colt? When did He come and utterly destroy the royal array of the Jewish nation, here called Ephraim, and of Jerusalem itself, called chariots and horses, and conquer the army of the Jews?” Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel, Bk. VIII, Chapter 4, (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1981)144f. Eusebius also applied Zechariah 12:10 to the fall of Jerusalem (ibid, p. 146). It is irrefutably true that Eusebius saw the destruction of Jerusalem as “a coming of the Lord.”
10. See my Can God Tell Time? for a full discussion, and my Who Is This Babylon? for one of the most comprehensive studies concerning God’s use of time statements to be found anywhere. God can tell time, and has always communicated literally in regard to His actions in man’s world. At hand means near, and not at hand means just the opposite. And this simple, yet, irrefutable fact falsifies the entire dispensational paradigm!
11. Later in Hope, (p. 181), William Chalfant argues that in 1948 Israel was “miraculously reborn,” and that was the end of the world-wide dispersion. Logically, this would seem to demand that the writers of Hope do see 1948 as the Super Sign of the End. However, none of the writers of Hope clearly enunciate their views on this.
13. Don K. Preston, Seal Up Vision and Prophecy, (JaDon Productionsllc, 720 N. Commerce #109, Ardmore, Ok. 73401, 2003). The book is available at www.eschatology.org
14. Reverse Replacement Theology is my term for the dispensational doctrine that the church will one day be replaced by Israel. Dispensationalists complain about the Replacement Theology of non-dispensationalists, chapter 10 of Hope is devoted to this, claiming that Israel remains God’s determinative purpose. One day, we are told, the equality of all men in Christ will give way to the re-establishment of Jew/Gentile distinctions, and the restoration of the Temple, Jerusalem, and sacrificial cultus. It is supposedly anti-Semitic, per Thoma
s Ice, to deny this doctrine. Yet, dispensationalism teaches that God will one day remove the blood bought body of Christ, and his gospel, and replace it with an animal sacrifice system focused in a physical temple, in a physical city, when the Gentiles will be the servants of Israel! In the upcoming revision of my commentary on 2 Peter 3, I discuss the idea of Replacement Theology in depth. It is my personal opinion that dispensationalism is in fact the very worst sort of Replacement Theology.
16. See Don K. Preston, Israel 1948: Countdown to No Where, (Ardmore, Ok. JaDon Productionsllc, 2003), for a thorough refutation of the claim that 1948 was the fulfillment of prophecy. The book is available at www.eschatology.org.
17. Gurley cites Chilton, Gary DeMar and Peter Leithart. Because these men all say that the promises to Israel are fulfilled in the church, Gurley has made the inexcusable assumption that these men also believe that the covenant curses now reside on Israel. Nothing could be further from the truth! The belief is, as far as I understand the men cited, and I knew Chilton personally, and know DeMar personally, that the Old Covenant of Curses was completely exhausted, fulfilled, and removed with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. There is no curse on the Jews today! Gurley is guilty of a very serious misrepresentation here, and should correct it.
18. Lamentably, Hope is not the only one to make this false accusation. Recently, Thomas Ice made the same accusation saying that preterists believe that Israel remains under the covenantal curse today. Thomas Ice, “What Is Replacement Theology?,” Midnight Call magazine, (P.O. Box 280008, Columbia, SC 29228) December (2005) 20
19. Gurley argues that while the hope of the parousia may be deferred “it is not a hope destroyed.” Yet this is not the Biblical testimony. If God failed to keep His word, He is not God! Scripture is clear that God would not alter His plan, or fail in the plan to establish the kingdom, which of course entails the parousia and the time for the parousia. So, for Gurley and other dispensationalists to affirm, however reluctantly and sadly, that the promised parousia is a “hope deferred,” this in reality, a tacit admission that the hope was defeated!