A Review of We Shall Meet Him in the Air: The Wedding of the King of Kings by Don Preston
by Samuel Frost
I must say that I was not expecting a 450 page book from Don Preston to arrive in the mail. I thought he was writing another one of his shorter books on I Thess 4. This book, which is his best to date in my opinion (not to say the others are not great), is a systematic approach to almost every facet of Full Preterist thought.
Helpful is the Scripture Index in the back (compiled by Samuel Dawson), and the Topic Index. Preston uses the continuous method in his End Notes, which number 426. If you are a footnote reader, you will have to keep your thumb in the back while reading the chapters. I personally like notes on the bottom of the page, but that’s me.
The Table of Contents features an Introduction, and 18 chapter divisions, with several subdivisions within those chapters. Preston outlines the book by taking single sentences from I Thess 4:13-18, commenting on them as he goes along. Naturally, this touches upon other subjects which Preston implicitly acknowledges the general rule in theology: one subject overlaps into another subject. It’s hard to talk about one thing without talking about another thing, first. And this Preston does.
To illustrate, I Thess 4 contains, “the restoration of the life lost in Adam”; “the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel”; “the dedication of the Messianic temple”; and “the wedding (re-marriage) of Israel”. This is the first 46 pages!
The first subject, Adam and paradise lost, tackles the typical objections raised against Preterism: Adam was cursed with physical death as the result of his sin. Several arguments against this are dealt with which makes the reader aware that Preston has heard them and has thought about them in great detail. Each one of them are dealt with, and are largely shown to have an often missing premise: death is physical. This missing premise is smuggled or assumed into the text of Gn 3 before one even considers the text itself. This is understandable since this has been what the church has been largely taught. It’s ingrained. However, there are a few clear clues in the text that mitigate against this view. Preston brings them out with force. There is such a force that the opponent is now given the ball to prove that physical death is anywhere mentioned in the text. That is, there is enough there that can shift the onus probandi. Preston, if nothing else, has demonstrated that an acceptable alternative reading of Gn 3 can be done according to acceptable hermeneutics that are not creedally bias.
It is agreed by all that within Paul (and rabbinical Judaism) that the Messiah/Adam typology played a key role in his overall theology. Preston, following this Pauline line of reasoning, understands that if one is going to speak of the death of Adam, one must speak of the death of Messiah, and this he immediately does. The nature, purpose and necessity of the Atonement is covered, including the Natures of Christ, as traditionally defined (Human and Divine). It is a common argument raised against Preterism that somehow, if their eschatology is correct, the Natures of Christ, or the necessity of the Atonement, or something else related to the Cross of Christ is denied. Preston, ever taking this, perhaps, the most serious in his book, shatters these objections. This was, for me, one of the best parts of the book.
What is, however, surprising, just to use one argument from this section, is that some Christians, in denying Preterism, have been forced to deny traditional understandings of Jesus’ sufferings. Calvin was clear that the Father forsook the Son. That the fullness of darkness and sin came over Christ as all the sins of mankind and the sin of Adam were imputed to Him. Jesus truly suffered the most agonizing pain and torment any man has ever suffered before or after Him.
In a debate with Mac Deaver, Preston noted that Deaver denied this, that he “actually did not suffer alienation from the Father” (9). What Preston finds, when dealing with arguments against Preterism – and these are scattered throughout the book – is that they end up denying a core tenet within the Christian faith. This sets up a devastating blow to Deaver. If Christ came to redeem man from the physical-death curse from Adam, then, His physical death is the curse. If this is the case, then you cannot deny that Christ suffered the curse! He died! If the curse was spiritual alienation from the Father, then Christ must have suffered the same in order to redeem man from it. Most commentators see both in Adam, physical and spiritual alienation. But, this sets up another problem. Preston is just dangling the carrot. A carrot the tradionalists must run after, because, after all, it’s their carrot! Preston is bringing them to the finishing line.
The carrot is the substitutionary death of Christ, which Preston affirms dogmatically. However, if the death of Adam was separation from eternal life with the Father, then the nature of the physical death of Messiah must be the same. Preston uses the illustration of two brothers. One is sentenced to die, and the other brother, who is not guilty, steps into his place and is executed for the brother. However, the judge decides that the guilty brother will be executed to! Where’s the fair play in that? There is none. Yet, if physical death is the punishment for sins, and the curse that Jesus removed, “no one has ever entered into the benefit of [Christ’s] death” (12,13). Why? Because every Christian has died physically! They still have to pay the debt: the wages.
If, however, through the death of Christ, separation from God and reconciling man to God the Father is the goal, thereby granting to man justification and eternal life, the problem is removed. We do not have to physically die in order to gain the full benefits of justification and eternal life with the Father because He is our full substitute, dying on our behalf. This equally moves into His resurrection on our behalf, so that physical resurrection is not needed for us as individuals precisely because He is The Resurrection and the Life. Our Resurrection and Our Life.
Let me bring in a theological giant here that Preston does not quote. Louis Berkhof, in Summary of Christian Doctrine (Eerdmans, 1938) wrote, “But since death is a punishment for sin, and believers are redeemed from the guilt of sin, the question naturally arises, why must they still die? It is clear that it cannot be a punishment for them, but must be regarded as an important element in the process of sanctification. It is the consummation of their dying unto sin” (181). Preston, then, is quite correct to raise the question. If physical death is the curse of Adam, and Christ redeemed us from the curse, then why do Christians die? Berkhof’s strange answer: sanctification. The true Preterist answer is that “the death” Christ redeemed believers from is estrangement from God; estrangement from eternal life in righteousness with God. In this answer, the believer can answer a full “yes” to “have you been redeemed”?
I believe that this book, which contains so much more, will be placed alongside other important works in the infant 21st century. The Preterist arsenal has increased. It cannot be said any longer that a full preterist worldview cannot be sustained. The Preterist framework is under the obligation to meet the demands of every successful systematic approach of the Bible: a total worldview that relates the entire word of God to every area of faith and practice. Preston’s book is foundational to this endeavor. I have strongly recommended over the past 15 years Max King’sbook, The Cross and the Parousia. I am pleased to say that I have found another book that, without which, one truly cannot claim to have a grasp of Preterism
Preston’s book, We Shall Meet Him In The Air: The Wedding of the King of kings, is available from this website.