Eschatology In The First Century

Eschatology In The First Century

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MODERN MIS-READINGS OF FIRST CENTURY ESCHATOLOGY

I’ve just finished teaching on a four-part series on the Apostle Paul. I’m now doing a four-part series on his protégé, Timothy. From a research point of view, Paul is a goldmine. He is one of the most written about people in history. But Timothy isn’t. We don’t know nearly as much about Timothy as we do for Paul. Some of the reasons for this are obvious. These include: (i) the nature of Timothy’s ministry (as the messenger and representative of Paul) meant that he was conveying what Paul wrote to the churches he visited and thus there was no cause for him to write anything (because he was physically present); (ii) Timothy succeeded Paul when the Neronic persecution had commenced in which the Apostle Paul was martyred in early 65 AD and tens of thousands of Christians were also martyred as it began; (iii) therefore, many of those who knew Timothy directly were unable to record their memories of him because of this violent period of martyrdom. But in my research I came across one of the most novel explanations I’d ever heard of…

We have a tremendous amount of testimony between the years A.D. 30 and 70 but then it all goes deathly quiet. There is hardly a single testimony either in the Church or secular history  for three or four decades of what was occurring during those lost years. And even after that, we have only a few scraps of tradition from a handful of individuals  which was recalled by writers of the third and fourth centuries. If the Church was indeed thriving as ACTS would seem to indicate, then where did everybody go? Why was there nobody putting the pen to paper so as to depict for us some of the cataclysmic events which were transpiring in their time. Gradually a few traditions begin to take shape giving us some sort of idea what was going on, but nothing compared to what was written and preserved before A.D. 70. How does one account for this if all of these believers were indeed still Missionizing the world?  It was as if they had vanished and were no longer there. It was as if they had all died or disappeared into thin air. And that is indeed what appears to have actually happened. What other explanation can be given to explain what became of all those voices which were suddenly silenced? Christ returned and gathered together His church into heaven just as He had promised, just as He had warned them that He would, as a thief in the night.

The anonymous author of this particular website was aware of the Neronic persecution (64 – 68) but believed the reason that virtually nothing was written about Timothy and Paul’s other companions was that they were all raptured. He claimed that this fulfilled the reference to Christ’s ‘coming’ in Matthew 24 and Paul’s statement about believers being ‘caught up with Christ in the air’ from First Thessalonians 4. If this had indeed happened, it might indeed explain why so little is recorded about the next generation of apostles succeeding the Apostles of the Lamb, since, they were snatched away. The author offered no supporting evidence for this claim except that in his opinion it explained the surprising silence from the historical record, and the most natural fulfilment of the two particular prophetic passages mentioned. But there are at least three insurmountable problems to this view.

 

GROUNDED IN A FAULTY FULL-PRETERISM

This author grounds their view in Full-Preterism. To be fair, not all Full-Preterists share this view. You can read a comparison between Full-Preterism and Partial-Preterism here. Basically, Full-Preterism makes the assumption that all Bible prophecies were fulfilled by 70 AD. This means that they regard all of the Book of Revelation having been fulfilled – including, the resurrection of all the dead (and living) to appear before the judgment throne of God to receive either eternal life or eternal damnation. By inference as well, it also means that the Full Preterist must believe (since they believe the General Resurrection has happened and all evil has been vanquished) that “when the perfect comes” (1Cor. 13:10) has also been fulfilled and therefore there are no charismatic/miraculous gifts exercised since 70AD. But this demonstrably not the case. Prof. Craig Keener’s two volume work, Miracles, documents thousands of verified examples of such Charismatic and miraculous manifestations. Dr. Lee Strobel’s recent book, The Case For Miracles, does a similar thing. 

An excerpt from Dr. Craig Keener’s book, Miracles, where he professes his acceptance of modern miracles

There are of course some Full-Preterists, such as Dr. John Noe, who identify as Charismatic/Pentecostal, but they must be inconsistent in their Full-Preterism to do so. While this is a foundational problem for Full-Preterists, there are also some serious hermeneutical problems for those who claim that a rapture occurred during the Neronic persecution. Firstly, the very concept of the rapture itself. It is normally Dispensationalists who promote the concept of a rapture. I have responded to this in my article, Why The Rapture Has Ruptured. The main text used to promote the idea a rapture is First Thessalonians 4:15-17. But a closer examination of this passage reveals that it is discussing the nature of the general resurrection (note the expression, “the dead in Christ shall rise”) not a ‘rapture’. The rapture is the notion that believers will be physically translated from earth into the eternal presence of Christ. Thus, the Full-Preterist who believes that First Thessalonians 4 refers to this notion is committed to believing that it has already happened (whereas the Dispensationalist believes that it will happen). It’s worth noting that this interpretation of First Thessalonians 4 was only developed in the nineteenth century. There is no record prior to this of anyone believing in such a notion – for good reason: exegeting of this text does not support it

 

THE PROBLEM OF HISTORY

The author of ‘the eye of the needle’ website seems to be arguing from silence:

“It was as if they had vanished and were no longer there. It was as if they had all died or disappeared into thin air. And that is indeed what appears to have actually happened. What other explanation can be given to explain what became of all those voices which were suddenly silenced?”
The Eye of the Needle

But there is a reasonable case from the historical records that Timothy had reached the age of 80 while continuing to minister in Ephesus. While protesting an outrageous idolatrous festival called Catagogia, the mobs clubbed him to death. A less reliable tradition continues that some of his remains were later carried to Constantinople.

Abridged by Photius, relate, that under the emperor Nerva, in the year 97… St. Timothy was slain with stones and clubs, by the heathens, whilst he was endeavouring to oppose their idolatrous ceremonies on one of their festivals called Catagogia, kept on the 22nd of January, on which the idolaters walked in troops, every one carrying in one hand an idol, and in the other a club. St. Paulinus, 18 Theodorus Lector, and Philostorgius, 19 informs us, that his relics were with great pomp translated to Constantinople in the year 356, in the reign of Constantius.
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73),  Volume I: January, The Lives of the Saints,  1866

Thus, in summary, the notion that Timothy and others of Paul’s companions were physically translated or raptured from earth into Christ’s presence has a theological problem, a Biblical hermeneutical problem, and a historical problem – all of which I consider to be insurmountable.

Andrew Corbett
16th January 2019

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Is Preterism Over-Realised Eschatology?

Is Preterism Over-Realised Eschatology?

home  >  articles  > Is Preterism Over-Realised Eschatology?

Even preachers who claim to have no view on “End-Times” actually do – and usually make it known even if only subtlely. Thus, there are many great Gospel preachers who have built huge churches but who have a lousy eschatology! Then there are some preachers who have dangerous eschatology (such as John Hagee). When those who have some proficiency in the field of eschatology dare to disagree with any of these mega-church “big guns” about eschatology (even in a constructive manner), it is not surprising (but still disappointing) to be called “heretical” by them. To these pop-preachers, Preterism is merely “over-realised” eschatology. Here’s why it isn’t.

Perhaps these preachers have this view because they have accepted a caricaturisation of Preterism and not a well informed understanding of it. This is understandable from those preachers who are generally not careful in their in the research and tend to be more inspirational than exegetical. But when this criticism comes from one of the most popular preachers in the world (and a mega-church pastor) many Preterists are left bewildered for good reasons.

There are some preachers who deserve to be regarded as among the best in the world. Yet, many of these preachers have a false idea about what “Preterism”. More and more of them have been decrying Preterism and denouncing it as it has grown in its appeal. For example, one popular preacher alluded to Preterism as “over-realised eschatology”.  Since this preacher has such a huge following, his ill-informed comments about Preterism were even more disappointing. I wish to respond to his claim that Preterism is “over-realised eschatology”.

 

ESCHATOLOGICAL HERETICS?

Marcion the hereticIt’s one thing to be a Futurist who has a romantic, utopian, millennialism (a coming “paradise on earth”) and preach an imminent rapture and promote the idea that Matthew 24 is not yet fulfilled – but it’s another to hold these views and deny other Gospel preachers the label of ‘orthodoxy’ when they have a different millennial position and a different interpretation of Matthew 24! It is especially unreasonable when the theological praxis of these Futurists is not consistent with their publicly stated views. That is, while decrying Preterism they actually shape their theological praxis from it! For example, most Futurists hold to a concept of ‘immanence’ (the return of Christ and the end of the world will happen any moment). This view is less than 200 years old. Through mass-marketing associated with aggressive evangelism where this Utopian-Millennialism (better known as ‘Pre-Millennialism’ which was originally referred to as ‘Chiliasm’ by the Church Fathers who condemned it as heretical along with other teachings of Marcion) has gained such wide unquestioned acceptance by Evangelicals that it is now considered orthodoxy. Thus, when Preterist scholars such as myself or Dr RC Sproul, or Dr Kenneth Gentry, Dr. Paul Copan, or even Hank Hanegraaff advocate a view of eschatology which is much older than this relatively novel eschatology (the view that teaches an immanent rapture, Tribulation, Anti-Christ, Mark of the Beast, Rebuilt Jerusalem Temple, Armageddon, Golden-Age Millennium) we are thought of as neo-heretics!

Isaiah 7 behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a sonTheological Preterism (from the Latin Praeter, “the past”) is the view that Bible Prophecy must be historically examined. This means that before we assume a Bible prophecy has not yet been fulfilled we should investigate history to determine whether it has already been fulfilled. For example, the prophecy in Isaiah of a virgin one day conceiving the birth of the Messiah should be regarded as fulfilled since it can be demonstrated historically as having happened with the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Similarly, Preterism upholds the hermeneutical principle of the “intended meaning” of Scripture. That is, when a divinely inspired prophecy was declared, God had a deliberate, intentional fulfilment in mind. This rules out the possibility of multiple fulfilments of prophecy. Some Bible teachers often cite Isaiah’s declaration that the virgin (or “maiden) shall conceive as having its immediate fulfilment with the birth of his own child and its ultimate fulfilment in the birth of Christ. But this support of ‘Double Reference’ or ‘Dual Fulfilment’ prophecies can not be supported by this reference. If Isaiah was giving the King of Judah a miraculous sign as proof of God’s presence, the birth of his own son is hardly the kind of ‘miraculous’ birth he was referring to. Secondly, the text itself does not claim that the birth of Isaiah’s son was the fulfilment of his prophecy. Thirdly, Matthew 1 clearly claims that the birth of Christ was the intended fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy. This is no small point – as it affects the way we regard the prophecies of Christ (some teachers acknowledge that many of His prophecies have already been fulfilled but will be fulfilled again).

Hank Hanegraaff, author of THE APOCALYPSE CODE, THE LAST DISCIPLE, THE LAST SACRIFICE, which advocate Partial-PreterismAs more Evangelicals are embracing Preterism such as Hank Hanegraaff, the co-author of THE LAST DISCIPLE and THE LAST SACRIFICE (which I strongly recommend), who refers to Preterism as ‘exegetical eschatology’, it seems that those who either don’t understand it or have a vested interest in opposing it are maligning it with several straw-man arguments. Preterism is not Pantelogy (the belief that all Bible prophecies have been fulfilled)! To be a Preterist is not to be Pantelogical. Pantelogy is described by Dr Kenneth Gentry as ‘Hyper-Preterism’. It is also referred to as ‘Fully Realised Eschatology’. Those who hold to classical Preterism are now having to qualify their Preterism with the term- Partial to distinguish themselves from Hyper-Preterists (Pantelogists). (Partial-) Preterism affirms the ancient Creeds of the Church; looks forward to the return of Christ; hopes for the future resurrection of the dead; and, anticipates that Christ will do away with all sorrow, suffering, sickness and death. There is a future aspect to Classical Preterism! Therefore, since these are the eschatological pillars of orthodox Christianity it is hardly fair for anyone to label (Partial) Preterism as heretical!

Mark DriscollWhen Mark Driscoll was pastoring the now defunct Mars Hill Church (Seattle), he seemed to make an impassioned plea against Preterism yet failed to distinguish it from Hyper-Preterism. This is the same mistake that Philosophical Naturalists make when they denounce Intelligent Design and claim support for their belief in Macro-Evolution based on the scientific evidence for Micro-Evolution. Just as there is a world of difference between the science of Micro-Biological-Evolution and the theory of Macro-Biological-Evolution, so there is a world of difference between Hyper-Preterism and Preterism. Just as Micro-Evolution shares language and concepts with Macro-Evolution, so Hyper-Preterism and Preterism also share language and concepts. For example, in Matthew 24 the disciples ask Jesus a series of questions. The (Partial) Preterist interprets the intention of these questions to refer to the timing of Christ’s judgment on Jerusalem and the end of the Temple (Old Covenant) Age. The Hyper-Preterist agrees thus far. Therefore, the “end of the age” referred to in Matthew 24:3 (Greek= “aion”, not “chronos” – time, nor “cosmos” – world) by the disciples is quite legitimately interpreted as the end of the Temple Age. This was the accepted understanding up until the 1800s when a new ‘revelation’ about eschatology was promoted by John Nelson Darby, then Cyrus Scofield, then Finnis J. Dake. This new revelation became known as ‘Dispensationalism’. Since it was generally accepted for around 17 centuries that this was indeed what Christ was referring to, it is quite strange, to say the least,  that this view should now be considered “heretical”.  To be fair to Mark Driscoll though, when he made these comments at a Desiring God Conference (“The Supremacy of Christ In A Post-Modern World”) he did not have Preterists in his cross-hairs. Rather, it was the “Emerging Church” he was gunning for. Apparently, many in the Emerging Church have accepted the classical hermeneutics of Preterism and no longer hold to the fanciful notions of Dispensationalism. Good on them! But to then allege, that because of this group’s adoption of Preterism, that Preterism is heretical because those in the Emerging Church endorse it – is as logical as saying that- 2 out of 3 prisoners chew gum, therefore 2 out of 3 people who chew gum are prisoners!

Perhaps, though, the most inconsistent point of Mark Driscoll’s denouncement of Preterism is that while condemning its exegesis of Matthew 24 (as referring to the destruction of the Temple in 70AD) he then goes on to advocate its praxis: planning and long-term goal setting for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission. Mark Driscoll rightly condemns the failure of Dispensationalism to take the church strategically into the future (since it doesn’t think there is much a future for the Church). Amen Mark! But you don’t have to think that Jesus is talking about the end of time or the end of the world, in Matthew 24 to come to this conclusion- in fact, such an interpretation makes it more difficult to come to the long-term planning strategy that he advocates.

 

ESCHATOLOGICAL VACUUM NOW APPARENT

Book of RevelationThere are a growing number of Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal mega-church pastors who no longer promote Dispensationalism and its logical application of only living for the moment (since Jesus could return today). Perhaps they have observed over the past few years Dispensationalism’s consistent failures to accurately predict our future. (I have documented many of these failures in another article: Prophetic Fortune-Telling.)

Perhaps this new generation of church leaders have seen the failure of their immediate Dispensational forebears who missed some wonderful opportunities to leave a legacy for generations to come and determined that they would not commit the same error? Thus, many of these mega-church pastors are building buildings that will take many years to complete, planting churches which will take generations to succeed, investing in missions where there is little likelihood of any immediate results, engaging in the “cultural-war” of ideas so that generations of the Church to come might have a legacy in which preaching the Gospel is more understandable. They are doing these things while building great churches which are growing and multiplying. Even this runs counter to the Dispensational idea of what the “Last Days Church” should look like since they teach a “great falling away” (which Preterists claim has already happened when many Jewish Christians ‘fell back’ into Judaism and is to be seen as the underlying assumption of the Epistle to the Hebrews).

All of this tends to indicate that there is now an Eschatological vacuum. That is, there are preachers who intuitively know that Dispensationalism is theologically bankrupt and has led to a failure on the part of the Church to prepare and plan for the future, and at the same time intuitively know that they must plan and prepare for the future so that a legacy is left for the next generation of Church leaders. Yet, they don’t have a systematic, consistent, integrated Hermeneutic to undergird their intuition. These preachers need to be introduced to authentic Preterism so that they have a sound exegetical basis for understanding Scripture.

Perhaps you have thought that Preterism was heresy. Perhaps you have heard that Preterists do not believe there are Bible prophecies yet to be fulfilled. Perhaps you have been told that Preterists deny that Christ will physically return. Perhaps you have been told that Preterists deny the physical resurrection of Christ and therefore deny a future Resurrection. Perhaps you have been told that Preterists claim that this era is the ultimate expression of the Kingdom of God. None of these things are accurate. Preterism is therefore not over-realised eschatology Mr Driscoll! It is partially-realised eschatology. It discerns the difference between the end of the Old Covenant Age with, Christ’s judgment on Jerusalem, and the language that the New Testament uses to describe this as about to happen: “soon”, “now”, “at hand”, “this hour” – should be taken in the most literal sense of these terms. Which answers another allegation against Preterism- that it “spiritualises” the Bible rather than takes it literally. When this allegation comes from Dispensationalist preachers it is sadly ironic. But it can not be reasonably made by someone who understands that to take the Bible “literally” is not a matter of interpretting words in a text, but the intended meaning of the text. This demands that we understand the Biblical usage of idioms and metaphors- otherwise we are going to join Dispensationalists in making silly interpretations of Biblical prophetic literature.

Finally, a word to my fellow Preterists. The Body of Christ is blessed with many great preachers, including Mark Driscoll, who range in their opinions of Preterism from despising it to embracing it. Preachers are often forced to share their opinions on theological issues before being fully briefed on what they are commenting on. This is why I was recently impressed by Greg Koukl, of Stand To Reason, who was asked on air about Preterism. Rather than denounce it, he stated that he hadn’t read enough to comment on it. Good on you Greg! But we Preterists need to be gracious toward those who criticise our position. This is made a whole lot easier when these preachers actualise a Preterist praxis! That is, while condemning Preterism they advocate that we should-

  • engage with society,

  • seek to make a positive difference in our communities and cities,

  • cast a vision for their church and community that is bigger than their lifetime,

  • seek to inspire the emerging generation to become salt and light in strategic areas of civic leadership (the arts, media, commerce/business, the academy, government/judiciary, family, and church),

and,

  • demonstrate a faith that regards the Church being an expression of the growing Kingdom of Christ on earth.

 

In my eBook on the Book of Revelation, I have more fully explained what an orthodox Preterist Hermeneutic looks like. Thousands of people have now downloaded this eBook and read it. I am greatly encouraged by the emails, cards and letters I have received from some of these people who have found the teaching within this eBook helpful. Even recently I had someone acquire and read this book, THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE, with a view to disproving it and showing me where I was wrong. This is something I strongly encourage people to do. And several have joined this lady’s motivation for reading it. It is something that I would encourage Preterists who are attending good churches with good pastors to share with their pastor in the hope that he might have the myths of what Preterism is all about dispelled.

Revelation 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, March 26th 2008

Download the eBook: The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible.

 

Eschatology In The Epistles

Eschatology In The Epistles

home  >  articles  >  Eschatology In The Epistles  (The following is an excerpt from a Course on Eschatology written by Dr. Corbett)

Eschatology In The Epistles

New Testament epistles are sprinkled with eschatological references which have led to confusion and the belief that the rules of hermeneutics must be re-written to accommodate particular eschatological systems. We will now survey how these Epistles make eschatological references and how we might best understand them.

A Sense of Imminence 

¶ The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
First Peter 4:7

The eschatology found in the New Testament Epistles conveys an expectation of imminence. Each of the writers had a sense that something was about to happen very soon. It could be argued that they were misguided and that the Scriptures accurately recorded their misinformed views. We see evidence of this sort of thing throughout the Old Testament where misinformed human perspectives were accurately recorded in God’s inspired Word. This includes such statements like, “from the rising of the sun” (Psalm 50:1; Isaiah 45:6; Malachi 1:11). Of course, we know that the sun doesn’t rise but from the perspective of the human authors it appeared to. But this doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing happening in the Epistles. Unlike the genre of the Psalms or Prophets, these eschatological statements found in the Epistles are not poetic. They are presented as statements of fact – often linked to an injunction (1Peter 4:7; Hebrews 10:24-25). If it is the New Testament perspective is actually just the accurate recording of misguided human opinion, it then makes the linked injunctions (moral commands) redundant.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25

A far more appealing explanation is that the imminent time-frame references in the Epistles reflect God’s view of time. That is, when the Divinely inspired Word uses language such as, “now”, “at hand”, “the hour has come”, “the Day drawing near”, “the end of the ages has come”, it needs to be understood that each of these could mean two thousand years or more from God’s perspective. After all, it is claimed, a day with the Lord is as a thousand years and a thousand years as a day (Psalm 90:4; 2Peter 3:8). But this is a problematic explanation of these eschatological time-frame references.

¶ Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
Romans 13:11

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Romans 16:20

While it is true that God’s perception of time is different from ours, a careful examination of Scripture reveals something akin to what John Calvin described about how God must stoop like a nanny talking to an infant when He speaks to us in the Bible – 

For who is so devoid of intellect as not to understand that God, in so speaking, lisps with us as nurses are wont to do with little children? Such modes of expression, therefore, do not so much express what kind of a being God is, as accommodate the knowledge of him to our feebleness. In doing so, he must, of course, stoop far below his proper height.
The Institutes, Book 1, Chapter 13

That is, God generally speaks in the Scriptures in a way that accommodates our understanding. In so doing, He takes care not to deceive us. Thus, when He told the Prophet Daniel to seal up the words of his prophecy for they are a long time into the future – which turned out to be about 400 years, God was using far time references in the common usage of the term.

The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.”
Daniel 8:26

To be consistent then, when God uses time-frame references like, “now”, “at hand”, “the hour has come”, “the Day drawing near”, “the end of the ages has come”, it is reasonable to conclude that whatever He was referring to was about to happen within the immediate and foreseeable future of the original audience. As we have noted from our discussion about Christ’s Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24), the expression, the end of the age cannot mean the end of the world, but must mean the end of the Old Covenant Age as represented by the Temple. This age was brought to an end in AD 70. Thus, the eschatological time-frame references in many of the Epistles makes perfect sense.

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
First Corinthians 10:11

Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
First Corinthians 15:24

¶ But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
Second Timothy 3:1

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Hebrews 1:2

for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Hebrews 9:26

Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.
James 5:3

knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.
Second Peter 3:3

 

The Epistles To The Thessalonians

The Apostle Paul was only in Thessalonica around a month and a half. Yet in that time he was able to plant a thriving church. Perhaps more than any of Paul’s other epistles, his epistles to the Thessalonians are predominantly eschatological. It seems that the Apostle made eschatology integral to the Gospel, and one of the compelling reasons for the conversion of many Thessalonians to Christ.

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
First Thessalonians 1:9-10

Paul makes an appeal to the Thessalonians to continue to strive toward deepening their love for each other, and growing in godliness – because Christ’s coming was imminent.

¶ Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming (Gr. parousia) of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
First Thessalonians 3:11-13

After Timothy returned from his mission to Thessalonica, he reported back to the Apostle Paul that many in the church were confused about some of the details of the Apostle’s eschatological teaching. Because they were led to believe that the parousia and the return of Christ were a single event, which they were also led to believe would be the occasion of the translation of the righteous to be rescued by the returning Christ. But it appears that some of their number had died since Paul had left them. This, they believed, meant that those dead church members would miss out on being rescued. Paul needed to clarify things. 

¶ But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.Therefore encourage one another with these words.
First Thessalonians 4:13-18

Paul is correcting the Thessalonians’ understanding of the resurrection of the righteous dead. Those who have died, he writes, will not miss out on being resurrected, on the contrary, they will be the first to enjoy it. And this will happen when Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. This was the understanding by the early Christians for the next 1800 years or so and it was enshrined in the the Nicene Creed which formulated in the fourth century.

WE BELIEVE in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, 
begotten of the Father before all worlds, 

God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, 
begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, 
by whom all things were made; 

who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, 
and, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, 
and was made man, 
and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. 

He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, 
and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. 
And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, 
who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, 
who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, 
who spoke by the prophets. 

And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. 
We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. 

And we look for the resurrection of the dead, 
and the life of the world to come. 
Amen.

The Nicene Creed, 325AD

While this Creed was largely designed to correct Arianism’s false notions about Jesus being a created being, it is also quite eschatological: we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. (You might notice that there is no hint of anything resembling a secret rapture in this statement.)

In addition to correcting the Thessalonians’ misunderstanding about the resurrection of the dead, Paul also implies that he is reminding them about the timing of the parousia (the coming judgment by Christ) to fulfil His Olivet Discourse prophecies.

¶ Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.
First Thessalonians 5:1-4

Paul once again draws the application from eschatology that believers should strive to live holy (Christ-like) lives. The goal of the Christian life, the Apostle concludes, is to be sanctified (set apart for God in attitude and actions) completely by God.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
First Thessalonians 4:3-5

¶ Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming (Gr. parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ.
First Thessalonians 5:23

Thankfully (because we are the beneficiaries of Paul’s further insights in his second epistle to them), the Thessalonians still didn’t quite understand what the Apostle Paul was telling them. It seems that they received the correction about their misunderstanding about the nature of the resurrection, but despite the Apostle indicating that although they could trust that Christ’s Olivet prophecies of His coming judgment would soon be fulfilled, they had failed to appreciate that Paul was also telling them to not be idle in the meantime. 

and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
First Thessalonians 4:11-12

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
First Thessalonians 5:14

 

Paul’s Eschatology In Second Thessalonians

The occasion for the Apostle’s second epistle to the Thessalonians is two-fold. Firstly, some in the church had misunderstood Paul’s main point about the imminent parousia. They had become idle. What’s the point of toiling at a job when Christ is about to return and usher in His Kingdom? Secondly, persecution against the Thessalonian believers was growing. 

¶ This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, and results in your being considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are indeed suffering.
Second Thessalonians 1:5

Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, now makes a distinction between the parousia (judgment by Christ to fulfil His Olivet Discourse) and the erchomai (coming [back]) of Christ.

For it is a righteous thing for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted, and to us as well, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting punishment on those who do not know God, and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will experience the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power on that day when he comes (from Gr. erchomai) to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at by all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 
Second Thessalonians 1:6-10

In Second Thessalonians chapter 1, Paul is describing Christ’s return. This corresponds to Christ’s description of His coming to judge all nations in Matthew 25.

Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
Matthew 25:32

While, in Second Thessalonians chapter 2, Paul is describing Christ’s coming in judgment on Jerusalem. We can see this by reference to the High Priest, the one charged to uphold the Law of God, with the ironic description of him being the man of lawlessness.

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,
Second Thessalonians 2:3

To further identify who Paul is referring to, he leaves his readers in no doubt with the statement that this man of lawlessness is the one who takes his seat in the temple of God. 

who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
Second Thessalonians 2:4

And to drive home the point that this was about to happen, Paul states this very thing was already at work – not that it would begin two millennia or so later!

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.
Second Thessalonians 2:7

Josephus tells us that when the Romans finally breached the siege of Jerusalem that the soldiers went on a killing rampage. It was then that the High Priest and the other priests came out of the Temple to surrender, he tells us. But the Romans would have none of it. The High Priest and the remaining priests of the Temple were all immediately executed. This fulfilled what the Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians would happen with the metaphoric language, “whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of His mouth”.

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of His coming (parousia).
Second Thessalonians 2:8

Having given this clarification to his eschatological teaching, the Apostle concludes his second epistle to the Thessalonians by admonishing those who were idle. Their wrong understanding of the imminent parousia as being the time of the final consummation of God’s entire redemptive plan needed to be corrected. The application of Paul’s eschatology, with a distinction between the parousia (the Judgment on Jerusalem and the abolishing of the Old Covenant) and the return of Christ, was that each believer must see their work as part of the worship of God and one of the essential means by which the Holy Spirit worked sanctification into a believer. Whatever a believer’s work, regardless of how menial they may have considered it, was an act of servant-hearted good for another. It should be done gladly as unto the Lord Himself.

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

¶ As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.
Second Thessalonians 3:10-13

Dr. Andrew Corbett

The Eschaton

The Eschaton

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The End. That’s what the Greek word “eschaton” means. But a question that some are now asking is, “The end of what?” Up until recently most Christians would have said- the world, but now good Biblical scholarship is shedding greater light upon this highly controversial word and revealing that most of us may have been wrong!

When I went to church as a young boy, ‘End Times’ teaching was all the rage. Afterall, there were wars in the Middle East, famines in Africa, natural disasters in Asia, and economic struggles in Europe and America. There were conspiracy theories, global uncertainty, a worldwide fuel crisis, and the emerging cashless society. All of these things were apparently predicted in the Bible many thousands of years ago as being the last signs before the end of the world. As the last three decades have unfolded however, it has become obvious that none of these things have led to the end of the world, and now most people realise that the Bible doesn’t even make reference to them – let alone pinning the triggers for the end of the world upon them! With so much error in this speculation it’s little wonder that many Christians have put eschatology (the study of ‘final things’) either in the too-hard basket or now regard it as not worth worrying about because nobody knows anyway.

ILLOGICAL HERMENUETICS LEADS TO ILLOGICAL ESCHATOLOGY…

Hermeneutics is the science of Bible interpretation. Hermenuetics involves answering three questions: What does the text say? What DID the text mean (to the original audience)? How does this apply to me? Therefore, when we read passages that state something is about to happen “very soon”, “this hour”, “now”, “at hand”, it is absolutely illogical to attempt to interpret these passages as referring to any other period of time other than the period of the original audience! The same goes for Matthew 24:34-

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this generation shall not pass away until all these things take place.”

Either this verse has been fulfilled or Jesus Christ was a liar! To suggest that “this generation” means anything other than the generation alive during Christ’s ministry (His original audience) is patently illogical. Some people vainly propose a hermeneutical invention to accommodate such passages. They call it ‘Double Reference’ or ‘Near fulfilment, distant fulfilment’, or ‘Dual Reference’. Some Bible teachers, like the highly respected Hank Hanegraaff, ‘The Bible Answer Man’, often describes Christ’s words in Matthew 24 as “predicting near events using final eschaton language”. But this is illogical. Either Jesus meant what He said, or He didn’t! Or to put it another way-

According to Matthew 24:34, either the parousia has happened or Christ is a liar!

To read the New Testament in a way that deliberately inverts the otherwise obvious meaning of a text, has led some, like the late leading atheist Professor Bertrand Russell (pictured left), to consider that the New Testament must be non-sensical. This is a shame that such discredit has been brought to Christ and His Word. Even C.S. Lewis wrote, in one of the last letters he penned, that Christ ‘deceived His disciples’ when He told them in Matthew 24:34 that the parousia would take place within their generation!

This has led increasing numbers of people who believe that the Bible is God’s infallible Word to seek logical answers to these hermeneutical (Bible interpretation) difficulties. Realising that Dispensationalism’s Double Reference device is illogical (since it attempts to make the plain intended meaning of a passage say something other than what it is saying), many believers have been looking at the solutions offered by Preterism (examining the past) and finding answers to textual problems they have baffled over for years. This is all the more amazing when we consider that the modern popular flagship of Dispensationalism, the Left Behind series, has promoted such glaringly bad interpretations of the Bible. It seems that the more Dispensationalists, such as Tim LaHaye, Tommy Ice, Jery Jenkins, John Walvoord, John Bevere, and Chuck Swindoll, promote their implausible speculations, the more people are realising just how illogical this kind of paperback rapture-theology really is.

 

HISTORICISM IS NO BETTER…

A chart from the Historical School of InterpretationHistoricists (those who see the prophecies of Christ as foretold history from the first century to the present day) have long tried to point out that Dispensationalism was hermeneutically bankrupt. But Historicism is just as speculative as Dispensationalism. It also suffers from similar hermeneutical distortions when it takes verses like Matthew 16:28 or 24:34 and offers equally illogical interpretations to that of Dispensationalism by saying that although that’s what Jesus said, it’s not what He meant(?).

 

PARTIAL PRETERISM OR FULL PRETERISM?

Preterism is the only logical method for interpreting such eschatological passages. Hank Hanegraaff, the “Bible Answer Man”, has now embraced Preterism, but prefers to call it “Exegetical Eschatology” (E2). But Hanegraaff’s brand of Preterism still suffers from some of the same deficiencies as Dispensationalism. He refers to the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) and the Book of Revelation as using ‘final eschaton language’ when prophesying events about to take place in the lives of the original audience of Scripture. But this is not what the Scriptures itself says.

Since the ‘eschaton’ is the end many people who realise that Preterism is the only logical approach for interpretting eschaton passages find it difficult, if not impossible, to make any distinction between a first century eschaton and a ‘grand eschaton’ without embracing a similar approach to Hanegraaff.

 

ARE ALL BIBLE PROPHECIES FULFILLED?

In my eBook, THE MOST EMBARRASSING VERSE IN THE BIBLE, where I discuss Matthew 24 in much more detail, I make a fairly strong case from history and Scripture for regarding all of Matthew 24 as being fulfilled. I also explain why I believe that Matthew 25 is not a parallel of Matthew 24, but should be regarded as subsequent to it. To sum up why I regard Scripture speaking of two “eschatons” (one being the end of the Old Covenant era, the other being the end of this age) it might be profitable to overview what Partial (or, “Classic”) and Full (s1metimes called “Hyper”) Preterists acknowledge as being fulfilled.

TERM

COMMENT

REFERENCE

Antichrist (not to be confused with the “Beast from across the sea” of Revelation 13) “Anti”= one who opposes, in this instance- the one who opposes Christ. Best understood as the office of High Priest within the first century Judaistic Temple worship.

Mostly mentioned in John’s epistles but also referred to as “the man of sin” by Paul in 2Thess. 2. John refers to him as the beast from The Land in Revelation 13.

 

Beast from across the sea (not to be confused with the “Beast from The Land“)

Compare with Daniel 8. As Daniel predicts the rise of world empires he equates the rise of the Roman Empire as being like a beast coming from across the sea. We therefore should understand this Beast to be the office of Caesar and in particular- Nero (Daniel’s “Little Horn”)

 

Only mentioned in Revelation 13.
Coming of Christ “Coming of the Lord” is an established OT expression to describe God’s judgment. The coming of Christ refered to in Matthew 24 deals with His judgment of Jerusalem in 70AD. Coming in “His glory” described in Matthew 25 is yet to happen.

Referred to in Matthew 24, Revelation 1, to be distinguished from the Coming “in His glory” referred to Matthew 25 which is sometimes symbolised as fire from heaven (2Thess 1:8; Rev. 20:9) and needs to be understood as a different parousia to that in Matthew 24.

 

Temple

The physical, literal temple, present in Jerusalem at the time of Christ and destroyed in AD 70.

 

Referred to in Matthew 24; 2Thess 2:4; Revelation 11.
Tribulation

The 1260 day Tribulation for the Church (Rev. 12:6) commenced in AD64 when Nero declared war on the Church and began an official campaign of martyrdom of Christians. The 42 months of Tribulation for Jerusalem (Rev. 11:2; 13:5) began in AD66 when Nero ordered it be attacked.

 

Referred to Matthew 24:29; Revelation 11:2; 12:6; 13:5.
Sun, Moon, and Stars

Speaks of Israel. Joseph dreamed a dream of Israel being Sun, Moon, and Stars in Genesis 37. These are each light sources and when they no longer give their light or fall from the sky it is metaphoric language of Israel’s apostacy and failure to walk in the light of God.

 

Genesis 37:9; Isa. 13:10; Ezek. 32:7; Joel 2:10

 

SECOND THESSALONIANS…

While Full Preterists see no distinction between parousia and eschaton passages, Classic Preterists regard the texts describing either the eschaton of the Old Covenant (note Hebrews 8:13) or the eschaton of the final consummation (note Ephesians 1:10; 1Corinthians 15:24). This is why Classical Preterists can endorse the ancient universal creeds of the Church and still partake in Holy Communion (“until He comes“). Just as the Old Testament writers did not have the full revelation of Christ as the triumphant Messiah yet Suffering Servant, the New Testament writers may not have understood Christ as ‘coming’ to end the Old Covenant with the judgment on Jerusalem in 70AD and His ultimate return to dissolve these present elements.

For example, in Second Thessalonians chapter seems to be dealing with the consummation at the end of time, whereas chapter 2 deals with an imminent, localised judgment parousia. Note the references in Second Thessalonians chapter 1 about ‘eternal’ punishment and the reference to fire from heaven (which corresponds to Revelation 20:9). Yet in Second Thessalonians chapter 2 the language makes it clear the period time in question is the one in which the Temple stood.

THE PAROUSIA IN-
Second Thessalonians 1

THE PAROUSIA IN-
Second Thessalonians 2

* Deals with the final eschaton

* Deals with the eschaton pertaining to the end of the Old Covenant

* Deals with the Lord Jesus being seen “revealed” (Gr. apocalypsis) from Heaven (vs 7)

* Deals with Christ’s localised judgment “will kill with the breath of his mouth” at the “appearance” (Gr. epiphaneia) of His coming (vs 8)

* Revealed in “flaming fire” (vs 8) corresponding to the final eschaton of Revelation 20:9 and judges “all those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

* Judgment is localised with the focus on the Old Covenant and its stewards being the objects of wrath (vs 8)

* “eternal destruction” results (vs 9)

* No universal punishment

* To be “marvelled at among His saints” (vs 10)

* Not naturally visible

It does appear though, that just as the Old Testament writers couldn’t harmonise the tension between the suffering and the glorious messiah (note 1Peter 1:11) that the same may have been even the case for the founding apostles who considered only one parousia and an end (eschaton) to the Old Covenant order equating to the end of everything(?).

Classic and Full Preterists are united however in the implications of this understanding of the eschaton texts. Since we can be certain that at least one parousia and at least one eschaton has happened: we should be engaging the world with the Kingdom claims of Christ now, to help build a better future for our grand children and their great grand children! We should be living as salt and light and building the Kingdom of God spiritually through Gospel preaching, the demonstration of the Spirit’s power, practically showing the love of Christ toward all people, and prophetically counseling those in positions of Governmental power. We should encourage pastors and Bible teachers to abandon a doctrine of escapism (as Dr. John R.W. Stott calls it), forsake an ironic glorification of the devil and his supposed scheme to take over the world through a yet-future puppet Antichrist figure, and encourage them to preach about the Glorious Christ who rules and reigns and whose Kingdom shall have no end.

Dr. Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania, June 29th 2006

 

Download Dr Corbett’s eBook The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible.

Why Left Behind Should Be Left Behind

Why Left Behind Should Be Left Behind

Why "Left Behind" Should Be Left Behind!

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For LEFT BEHIND to be true it has to invent it’s own set of rules for Bible interpretation. What most LEFT BEHIND fans may be shocked to discover is that the pivotal sections of Matthew and Revelation upon which LEFT BEHIND is based was fulfilled by 70AD! And it had to be since that’s what Christ said!

“Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”
Matthew 24:34 (NKJV)

The highly aclaimed atheist, Bertrand Russell, said this verse alone was enough to discredit both the Bible and Jesus Christ!

Like many evangelical Christians I was raised on a diet of End Times Prophecy. I was told that those who didn’t repent and accept Christ could find themselves in the most gruesome Great Tribulation where people would be randomly executed daily for not accepting “the silicon chip [mark] of the Beast”. The motivation for such a message was to encourage people to accept Christ before the highly imminent “rapture”.

But an examination of what the Bible says about the end times may surprise those who hold to the Dispensational view that God must remove the Church via a secret rapture, then allow a period of tribulation to commence to introduce an “Anti-Christ” who will set himself up in the Third Temple in Jerusalem and then start annihilating Jews and defy the true Christ. But this is heresy! And it this scenario upon which the LEFT BEHIND series is based. But in order for this fanciful interpretation to be true it requires the acceptance of some patently unacceptable hermeneutics (principles of Bible interpretation).

.

THE LAW OF “DOUBLE REFERENCE”?

With very little effort it can be shown that all of Matthew 24 has been fulfilled. The LEFT BEHIND scholars accept that most of Matthew 24 may have been fulfilled but that the Law of Double Reference demands that it must be fulfilled again. Therefore, although the temple was unquestionably destroyed in AD70, it will be rebuilt and then destroyed again under the rule of the Anti-Christ. This is accepted by dispensationalists even though there is no reference to an Anti-Christ in Matthew 24 or the entire Book of Revelation!

Secondly, there is no reference or indication in Matthew 24 that the events which Jesus foretold would have two fulfilments. In fact, there is no where in Scripture where it teaches a dual fulfilment of any prophecy!

.

THE DELIBERATE CHANGING OF KEY WORDS!

The Dispensational system requires the changing of key words in Matthew 24 in order to make its highly implausible interpretations have any possibility of acceptance. For example, the use of the word “you” in Matthew 24. Who is “you”? The clear meaning of Matthew 24 is the present disciples. To suggest anyone else is absurd.

Secondly, the meaning of Matthew 24:30-31 is taught as the culminating return of Christ when in fact the text makes no mention of Christ’s return down to earth. In fact, it is a direct quote from Daniel 7 which refers to Christ ascending into the presence of His Father (the Ancient of Days) and receiving the decree to judge Jerusalem. The Matthew 24 text clearly describes the event as the appearing of the Son of Man in the heavens. This is not the final, all culminating return of Christ to Judge all the dead (as described in Revelation 20).

Thirdly, the end of the Age is not the end of the World but the end of the Old Covenant. While it is true that the Cross marks the legal end to the Old Covenant, it wasn’t until the integral elements of the Old Covenant (the Temple, the Sacrifices, and the Priesthood) were done away with in AD70 that the Old Covenant was finally abolished (note Hebrews 8:13).

Fourthly, the term this generation is changed by Dispensationalists to read that generation. Perhaps these people have been singing the Pentecostal song “This is that” and they’ve carried over into their Bible reading! This means “this”. When Jesus said in Matthew 24:34 that “this” generation would not pass away before all these things happened, He didn’t mean “that” generation as Tim LaHaye and other Dispensational advocates teach. If we say that this means that then where do we stop with the rest of the Bible?

Fifthly, the word “world” in Matthew 24:14 is the Greek word for the Roman Empire (Gr. = “oikoumene“), not the whole earth (Gr. = “ge“). When we consider Colossians 1:5-6, 23 we see that Matthew 24 was fulfiled within the lifetime of the generation which Christ was addressing.

.

THE RAPTURE IS RUBBISH!

The references in Matthew 24 to one being taken and one left, has nothing to do with rapture but refers to the indiscriminate massacre of the inhabitants of Jerusalem during the Roman catapault attacks. Josephus describes this. The passage in First Thessalonians 4 has nothing to do with rapture – it is entirely about resurrection! Consider the context of that passage and this will be immediately seen. Once these two key passages are correctly understood, the Dispensational concept of a rapture vaporises.

When Christ does finally return to culminate time (Eph. 1:10) and judge the world (Matt. 25) after the Great and General resurrection (Rev. 20) there will be no Anti-Christ figure challenging Him from a rebuilt Jerusalem Temple situated in a reclaimed Judeo-Palestine at the end of Great Tribulation period. All of this fanciful drama might sell books and form the basis for movies and radio plays, but it has nothing to do with Scripture.

You may like to read my unfolding commentary on the Book of Revelation which explains some of these things in more detail. The first 4 chapters are available online now and the entire audio series is also available for free in our audio section.

THE MOST EMBARRASSING VERSE IN THE BIBLE expounds the entire chapter of Matthew 24 and shows why we can know that it is entirely fulfilled!

Red The Most Embarrassing Verse In The Bible eBook


READ DR. CORBETT’S MOST EMBARRASSING VERSE eBOOK

© 2003, Dr. Andrew Corbett

The Rapture Has Ruptured!

Understanding the Book of Revelation (Audio)

The Difference Between Hyper-Preterism and Preterism

Matthew 24 Exposition – MP3

This, and other such issues, is dealt with more fully in my downloadable ebook on the Book of Revelation- The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible.

Download Dr. Andrew Corbett's eBook, THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE, for just $9.95I’m on a mission to counter this discrediting of Scripture. It is my mission to help reverse Biblical illiteracy rates and produce resources to help readers understand what they are reading and how to correctly interpret the Scriptures. I opened this article by saying that the issue of eschatology is secondary to how we read and interpret the Scriptures (Hermeneutics). That’s why I’ve made my eBook- The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible available for an immediate download. Thousands of people around the world have now read this eBook and many have written to me thanking me and others for promoting a more sound method for reading and interpretting the Bible. I encourage you to download this eBook and read for yourself an alternate view to End Times than the one presented by many of these pop-preachers. When I first released this eBook several years ago I was a bit of a lone voice. But now some big ministries are beginning to say the same things. Most notably is Hank Hanegraaff’s latest book, Unlocking The Apocalypse Code, where he now makes the same assertions. I predict that in the days, weeks, months, years to come, Jesus Christ will be Lord and His Word will be found true and reliable.

Download Dr Corbett’s eBook explaining the Book of Revelation. Thousands have!

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Is Preterism Biblical?

Is Preterism Biblical?

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IS PRETERISM BIBLICAL?

Preterism comes the Latin word “praeter” which means “past”. When it comes to understanding Bible prophecy all Christians are Preterists to one degree or another. It is only logical and reasonable to examine the past to see if a prophecy has already been fulfilled. Most Christians would acknowledge that Isaiah 7:14 describing a virgin giving birth has been fulfilled in the past. But not all Christians would agree about the nature of prophecies relating to Christ’s “second coming”. Preterists argue that all of the prophecies relating to Christ’s return (as described in Matthew 24) have already been fulfilled. This contrasts with two other schools of prophecy interpretation.

Essentially there are then three general schools of eschatology:

  • Futurism – the contents of Revelation pertain to the very end of time on earth.

  • Historicism – that the contents of Revelation have unfolded throughout history from the time of its writing to the present day (and beyond).

  • Preterism – before assuming that prophecy is unfulfilled, it is evaluated in the light of the past. That is, how did the original audience understand what was written to them- and what was the original intention of the text.

An exact copy of Beatus of Liébana's 460 page commentary on Revelation originally copied in 970AD.

  An exact copy of Beatus of Liébana’s 460 page commentary on Revelation originally copied in 970AD.

Within Preterism there are two streams. Both streams identify themselves as “Preterist”. To distinguish between them, two perjorative terms are often employed: Hyper-Preterism, and Partial-Preterism. Full Preterists, also referred to as Hyper-Preterists, or Pantelogists, regard all Bible prophecy fulfilled by 70AD. Those who regard that most prophecy was fulfilled by 70AD (including the Parousia of Christ’s Vindication, the commencement of the Kingdom of Christ, the First Resurrection, but not including the Final Judgment, the banishment of Satan to eternal torment, or the General Resurrection) are referred to as Partial-Preterists or more correctly: Classical Preterists. The proceeding table of comparison between Full-Preterism and Partial Preterism will highight the differences.
 
 

Criticism of Preterism can be summarised as-

Futurists – claim that Preterism “spiritualises” Bible prophecy rather than taking it literally.
To which Preterists counter that they are actually more literal in their interpretation of Bible prophecy because they strive for the original intention of a passage rather than impose fanciful modern understandings onto an ancient text.
 
Historicists – claim that Preterism was developed by Jesuits in the seventeenth century to counter the growing the Reformation claims that the Papacy was the Anti-Christ.
This is actually one of the weakest methods of debate: attack with innuendo and name calling and ignore the content of the proposition. The roots of Preterism go back to the First Century AD when people clearly saw the events foretold by Christ as having been fulfilled up until the destruction of Jerusalem and Judea in 70AD. The sticking point between Full-Preterists and Partial Preterists is the nature of the Resurrection. Resolve this issue Biblically and you will conclude that one of these two positions is thoroughly Biblical and (while Creeds are not authoritative) in agreement with the earliest Creeds of the Church.
 

A COMPARISON BETWEEN
FULL-PRETERISM (PANTELISM)
&
PARTIAL-PRETERISM (PRETERISM)

FULL PRETERIST
PARTIAL PRETERIST
  • All Bible prophecy is fulfilled (Dan. 9:24)
  • Matthew 24, Revelation 1-19 is fulfilled
  • Matthew 25, Revelation 20-22 unfulfilled
  • The Millennium is a past event which occurred between 26AD and 66AD (40 years from the date of the crucifixion)
  • We are in the “millennium” (Kingdom) now as Christ’s Kingdom is being extended through the preaching of His Gospel
  • The Devil was cast into the Lake of Fire in AD70
  • The Devil is bound now, will seek to deceive the nations and be condemned to the Lake of Fire at the culmination of time
  • The Resurrection is purely spiritual
  • The resurrection is both spiritual and will be physical at the culmination of time
  • All Gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased (1Cor. 13:10)
  • The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are available until the Final Resurrection at the culmination of time.
  • Disagrees with the accepted Creeds of the Church
  • Agrees with the accepted Creeds of the Church
  • Revelation 20 is a reiteration of Revelation 6 – 19
  • Revelation 20 is a continuation, not a reiteration
  • Leads to Universalism
  • Leads to evangelism
 

Why I am not a Full Preterist…

  • There are reasonable grounds for regarding Matthew 24 as being entirely fulfilled, but Matthew 25 as current-and-yet-to-come.
  • There is enough evidence to make a case for Satanic/Demonic activity still today which torpedoes any possibility of Full Preterism being correct. This demands that the “1000 years” of Revelation 20 commences after 70 AD.
  • All through Revelation up to chapter 19 the Full Preterist rightly argues that the locus foci of God’s judgment was Jerusalem (the seat of wicked Judaism) which is referred to as ”Sodom, Egypt, Bablyon, the Harlot”. But in Rev. 20.9 the locus foci shifts to “the camp of saints” also called “the beloved city”. This contrasts sharply with how the rest of Revelation has described Jerusalem. It is therefore unreasonable to consider Rev. 20:9 as referring to earthly Jerusalem. This demands that Revelation 20 continues on from chapter 19 rather than a reiteration of the vision commenced from chapter 6.
  • Scholars disagree about the exact point in Revelation of Christ’s coming. Some appeal to Revelation 19 which describes the Rider of the White Horse coming in judgment as the coming of Christ to consummate time. Curiously there is no mention of fire in this passage (note 2Thess. 1:8). It is therefore very reasonable to equate the revelation of Christ from Heaven with Rev. 20:9 which describes fire coming down from Heaven.
  • If Full Preterism was obvious to the First Century Christians, most especially the author of the Book of Revelation, John the Apostle, there would reasonably be some written record of this interpretation by them. However, we have no such interpretation promoted by First or Second Century Church Fathers. Yet, we have the record of both Polycarp and Irenaeus who have direct and second degree (indirect connection) with the Apostle John. What we do find is references from the Ante-Nicean Church Fathers to the expectation that Christ would return, and the God would culminate time with a Judgment Day. We also find supporting references from several Ante-Nicean and Post-Nicean Fathers supporting the Partial (Classical) Preterist position whereby they acknowledge that the destruction of Jerusalem was the fulfilment of Matthew 24.
Dr. Andrew Corbett preaching in Budapest Free Christian Church, Sunday 20 September 2018

  Dr. Andrew Corbett preaching in Budapest Free Christian Church, Sunday 20 September 2018

My views are more fully explained in my eBook, The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, where I go through the Book of Revelation and explain it chapter by chapter.

Andrew Corbett

Dating the Authorship of Revelation

The Rapture Examined
About Apostles
A Non-Futurist Vision of The Future
Is Preterism Biblical?
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