SECOND COMING AND PRETERISM
The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth, shunning profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. He, then tells him that their word will eat as doth a canker (or gangrene): of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some, 2 Tim 2:15-18. These two heretics were preterists. They taught that the resurrection of the dead had already taken place. Notice that in doing this they overthrew the faith of some and their babblings will increase unto more ungodliness. Paul warns Timothy that this error, this preterits heresy, would eat “as doth a canker” (v. 17). Gangrene is the decaying of the flesh, and, if left, it will lead to death. The only remedy is the surgeon’s scalpel. So it is with preterism.
Preterism is the heresy which teaches that all eschatological events prophesied in Scripture have been fulfilled in the siege and sacking of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. They maintain that all of Scripture, including the Book of Revelation, was written prior to that date. Now, if John wrote Revelation after 70 A.D. and the fall of Jerusalem, Preterism falls apart, is totally refuted, and absolutely found to be false.
THE DATE OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION
Now we know that Revelation was written while John was a prisoner of Rome, exiled to the prison island of Patmos. Rev 1:9, I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
There were only two Roman emperors who persecuted Christians on a large scale in the first century, Nero and Domitian. The other Emperors did not consider Christianity a serious threat to Rome. The first Roman persecution under Nero took place in the A.D. 60s. Nero was responsible for the deaths of both Peter and Paul in Rome in A.D. 67, Peter by crucifixion, and Paul by being beheaded.
There is no record of Nero’s banishing Christians to Patmos. It was Nero who threw Christians to the lions for the entertainment of the crowds, and who burned many at the stake along the road leading to the Coliseum merely to light the entrance.
After Nero’s death, Christians were not persecuted until the rise of Domitian to power in A. D. 81. Domitian had some Christians killed, the property of others confiscated, Scriptures and other Christian books burned, and many banished to the island of Patmos.
All early sources, both Christian and secular, place the banishment of John to Patmos during the reign of Domitian. Not one single early source places John’s banishment under the reign of Nero, as preterits claim. All modern attempts to date Revelation during Nero’s reign rely exclusively on alleged internal evidence, and ignore or seek to undermine the external evidence and testimony of writers, who lived about that time, some of whom had connections to John.
Eusebius, the Christian historian, who lived only two hundred years after Domitian’s reign, gathered evidence from both Christian and secular sources still extant at the time. All of the sources at Eusebius’ disposal placed the date of John’s Patmos exile during the reign of Domitian. Eusebius’ earliest source was Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John. But he also used other unnamed sources both Christian and secular to place the date of John’s exile during Domitian’s reign (AD 81-96). “It is said that in this persecution, that is under Domitian, the apostle and evangelist John, who was still alive, was condemned to dwell on the island of Patmos in consequence of his testimony to the divine word. Irenaeus, in the fifth book of his work Against Heresies, where he discusses the number of the name of Antichrist which is given in the so-called Apocalypse of John, speaks as follows concerning him: ‘If it were necessary for his name to be proclaimed openly at the present time, it would have been declared by him who saw the Revelation. For it was seen not long ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian.’ To such a degree, indeed, did the teaching of our faith flourish at that time that even those writers who were far from our religion did not hesitate to mention in their histories the persecution and the martyrdoms which took place during it. And they, indeed, accurately indicated the time. For they recorded that in the fifteenth year of Domitian, Flavia Domitilla, daughter of a sister of Flavius Clement, who at that time was one of the consuls of Rome, was exiled with many others to the island of Pontia in consequence of testimony borne to Christ. But when this same Domitian had commanded that the descendants of David should be slain, an ancient tradition says that some of the heretics brought accusation against the descendants of Jude (said to have been a brother of the Saviour according to the flesh), on the ground that they were of the lineage of David and were related to Christ himself,” Eusebius, Church History, 3:18-19.
While Eusebius quoted Irenaeus’ statement, notice that he also indicated that other secular histories at his disposal mentioned the banishment of Christians to Patmos during Domitian’s reign.
Eusebius continues: “Tertullian also has mentioned Domitian in the following words: ‘Domitian also, who possessed a share of Nero’s cruelty, attempted once to do the same thing that the latter did. But because he had, I suppose, some intelligence, he very soon ceased, and even recalled those whom he had banished.’ But after Domitian had reigned fifteen years, and Nerva had succeeded to the empire, the Roman Senate, according to the writers that record the history of those days, voted that Domitian’s horrors should be cancelled, and that those who had been unjustly banished should return to their homes and have their property restored to them. It was at this time that the apostle John returned from his banishment in the island and took up his abode at Ephesus, according to an ancient Christian tradition, “Eusebius, 3:20.
Here again Eusebius mentioned an ancient Christian tradition, but did not quote his sources, that placed John’s return from exile on Patmos after Domitian’s fifteen year reign, and Nerva’s rise to power (A. D. 96).
Victorinus, bishop of Pettaw (Italy), gives the same time frame, but apparently did not rely on Irenaeus for his information, as some details in his account are not mentioned by Irenaeus. “He says this, because when John said these things he was in the island of Patmos, condemned to the labour of the mines by Caesar Domitian. There, therefore, he saw the Apocalypse; and when grown old, he thought that he should at length receive his quittance by suffering, Domitian being killed, all his judgments were discharged. And John being dismissed from the mines, thus subsequently delivered the same Apocalypse which he had received from God,” Victorinus, Commentary On The Apocalypse Of The Blessed John, 10:11. Victorinus again made the same claim. “The time must be understood in which the written Apocalypse was published, since then reigned Caesar Domitian; but before him had been Titus his brother, and Vespasian, Otho, Vitellius, and Galba,” Chapter 17.
It is clear to the unbiased reader that Revelation was written under the reign of Domitian. No evidence exists, from the first three centuries of Christian tradition, which places the writing of Revelation during the reign of Nero. Therefore, from the perspective of the evidence of the early church and early secular writers, the teaching of all forms of preterism is false. If preterism is false, then the interpretations of various verses used to prove the preterist doctrine would most likely be false.
CONDEMNATION OF FULL PRETERISM BY PARTIAL PRETERISTS.
Our friend Brian Schewertly has a sermon on Sermon Audio denouncing the full preterist position. Dr. Kenneth Gentry wrote an article (A Brief Theological Analysis of Hyper-Preterism) in which he calls full or hyper-preterism heresy. Here are some of his arguments:
“First, hyper-preterism is heterodox. It is outside the creedal orthodoxy of Christianity. No creed allows any Second Advent in A. D. 70. No creed allows any other type of resurrection than a bodily one. Historic creeds speak of the universal, personal judgment of all men, not of a representative judgment in A. D. 70. It would be most remarkable if the entire church that came through A. D. 70 missed the proper understanding of the eschaton and did not realize its members had been resurrected! And that the next generations had no inkling of the great transformation that took place! Has the entire Christian church missed the basic contours of Christian eschatology for its first 1900 years?
Second, hyper-preterism has serious implications for the perspicuity of Scripture. This viewpoint not only has implications for the later creeds, but for the instructional abilities of the apostles: no one in church history knew the major issues of which they spoke — until very recently! Are the Scriptures that impenetrable on an issue of that significance? Clement of Rome lived through A. D. 70 and had no idea he was resurrected! He continued to look for a physical resurrection (Clement 50:3).
Third, the hyper-preterist system leaves the New Covenant Christian (in our post-A. D. 70 era) without a canon. If all prophecy was fulfilled prior to A. D. 70 and if the entire New Testament spoke to issues in the pre-A. D. 70 time frame, we do not have any directly relevant passages for us. The entire New Testament must be transposed before we can use it.
Fourth, hyper-preterism suffers from serious errors in its hermeneutical methodology. When a contextually defined passage applies to the A. D. 70 event, the hyper-preterist will take all passages with similar language and apply them to A.D. 70, as well. But similarity does not imply identity; Christ cleansed the temple twice and in virtually identical ways; but the two events are not the same. Furthermore, we must distinguish sense and referent; there are several types of “resurrection” in Scripture: the dry bones of Ez. 37; spiritual redemption in John 5:24; physical redemption at the grave in John 5:28; Israel’s renewal in Christ in Rom. 11:15; and of the Beast in Rev. 13:3. I hold that passages specifically delimiting the time-frame by temporal indicators (such as “this generation,” “shortly,” “at hand,” “near,” and similar wording) are to be applied to A. D. 70, but similar-sounding passages may or may not be so applied.
Ninth, Acts 1 clearly defines Christ’s second Advent in terms of his ascension, which was physical and visible. For example, in Acts 1:8-11 Luke is careful to say the disciples were “beholding” him as he ascended; he was received “from the eyes of them” (v. 9b); they were “gazing” as he was “going” ( v. 10); they were “looking” ( v. 11); they “beheld” ( v. 11). Clearly his ascension was a visible and glorious phenomenon involving his tangible resurrected body. And there was an actual visible cloud associated with it ( v. 10). The angelic messengers resolutely declare “this same Jesus” (i.e., the Jesus they knew for over three years, who is now in a tangible resurrected body) will “so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven” ( v. 11). The Greek on tropon literally means “what manner.” The Greek phrase “never indicates mere certainty or vague resemblance; but wherever it occurs in the New Testament, denotes identity of mode or manner” (A. Alexander, Acts, ad loc.). Consequently, we have express Biblical warrant to expect a visible, bodily, glorious return of Christ paralleling in kind the ascension. The hyper-preterist position goes contrary to this clear teaching of Scripture.
Tenth, if A. D. 70 ends the Messianic reign of Christ (cf. the hyper-preterist view of 1 Cor. 15:24, 28), then the glorious Messianic era prophesied throughout the Old Testament is reduced to a forty-year interregnum, whereas by all accounts it is a lengthy, glorious era. A problem with premillennialism is that it reduces Christ’s reign to 1000 literal years; hyper-preterism reduces it further to forty years! The prophetical expressions of the kingdom tend to speak of an enormous period of time, even employing terms that are frequently used of eternity. Does Christ’s kingdom parallel David’s so that it only lasts for the same time frame?”
Notice again that Paul said in so doing this they (the hyper preterists) overthrew the faith of some and their babblings will increase unto more ungodliness.
PARTIAL – PRETERIST “PROOF TEXTS”
Here we will deal with the partial preterism, from this point on designated just preterism. They teach a so-called Eschatology of Victory, an optimistic eschatology, who see a “Golden Age” in which the world is Christianised. The apostasy of the church, the rise of Antichrist, the regathering of Israel, and the future tribulation period are all relegated to the past. Preterists teach that the New Testament terms “the last days,” “the end of the age” and other Biblical concepts refer to the age of the Jews before A.D. 70. These events were all fulfilled, according to preterists in A.D. 70.
This putrefication comes to light first in their exegesis of Matthew 24. David Chilton writes regarding Matt 24:3, “The end of the age is not the end of the world, but rather the end of the age, the end of the Temple, the sacrificial system, the covenant nation of Israel, and the last remnants of the pre-Christian era, Everything Jesus spoke in this passage, at least up to verse 34, took place before the generation then living passed away. ‘Wait a minute,’ you say. ‘Everything? The witnessing to all nations, the Tribulation, the coming of Christ on the clouds, the stars falling … everything?’ Yes.” Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion, pg 89.
Regarding the Book of Revelation, Chilton writes, “The Book of Revelation is not about the Second Coming. It is about the destruction of Israel and Christ’s victory over Rome. In fact, the word coming as used in the book of Revelation never refers to the Second Coming. Revelation prophesies the judgment of God on the two ancient enemies of the Church; and while it goes on to describe briefly certain end-time events, that description is merely a ‘wrap-up,’ to show that the ungodly will never prevail against Christ’s Kingdom. But the main focus of Revelation is upon events which were soon to take place.” Chilton, Paradise Restored, p. 166.
THIS GENERATION SHALL NOT PASS, TILL ALL THESE THINGS BE FULFILLED
Matt 24:34 is one of the preterist’s proof texts. Most eschatologies, including the preterist one, overlook and misinterpret the times of the Gentiles, the intervening time between the first and second advent, sometimes referred to by the “postponement of the Kingdom of God,” that is, the Kingdom would not immediately appear, Lk 19:11-27. The Lord, because the disciples thought the kingdom of God should immediately appear, taught them that He must go away “to receive for himself a kingdom and return.” The nobleman, in the Parable of the Pounds, is the Lord Jesus going to the right hand of the Father (Ps 110:1, Acts 1: 11; 3:19-21). In the meantime His disciples should tend to His business. The Lord Jesus in Luke 21:12-24 says that in the intervening time the disciples shall be persecuted (12-19), Jerusalem shall be destroyed (20-23), and trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (24). At that time the Lord would return, (Same references).
Paul in Romans 11 reveals that during this time the Gentiles will be grafted into the church. The church at this time is made up mostly of Gentiles. When the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, National Israel, who are now enemies of the Gospel, will be delivered and grafted back into the church! Charles Hodge in his commentary on Romans outlines this chapter, I believe, correctly.
“The rejection of the Jews is not total, as is sufficiently manifest from the example of the apostle himself, to say nothing of others, ver. 1. God had reserved a remnant faithful to himself as was the case in the times of Elijah, vers. 2-4. That this remnant is saved, is a matter entirely of grace, vers. 5,6. The real truth of the case is, that Israel, as a nation, is excluded from the kingdom of Christ, but the chosen ones are admitted to its blessings, ver. 7. This rejection of the greater part of the Jews, their own Scriptures had predicted, vers. 8-10. Charles Hodge, Romans 11, pg 353.
Hodge continues on page 360, “As the rejection of the Jews was not total, so neither is it final. They have not so fallen as to be hopelessly prostrated. First, God did not design to cast away his people entirely, but, by their rejection, in the first place, to facilitate the progress of the gospel among the Gentiles, and ultimately to make the conversion of the Gentiles the means of converting the Jews, ver. 11. The latter event is in itself desirable and probable. 1. Because if the rejection of the Jews has been a source of blessing, much more will their restoration be the means of good, vers. 12, 15. (The verses 13, 14, are a passing remark on the motive which influenced the apostle in preaching to the Gentiles.) 2. Because it was included and contemplated in the original election of the Jewish nation. If the root be holy, so are the branches, ver. 16.
“The breaking off and rejection of some of the original branches, and the introduction of others of a different origin, is not inconsistent with this doctrine; and should lead the Gentiles to exercise humility and fear, and not boasting or exaltation, vers. 17-22. As the rejection of the Jews was a punishment of their unbelief, and not the expression of God’s ultimate purpose respecting them, it is, as intimated in ver. 16, more probable should God restore the Jews, than that he should call the Gentiles, vers. 23, 24.
“This event, thus desirable and probable, God has determined to accomplish, vers. 25, 26. The restoration of the Jews to the privileges of God’s people is included in the ancient predictions and promises made respecting them, vers. 26,27. Though now, therefore, they are treated as enemies, they shall hereafter be treated as friends. For the purposes of God do not alter; as his covenant contemplated the restoration of his ancient people, that event cannot fail to come to pass, ver. 29. The plan of God, therefore, contemplated the calling of the Gentiles, the temporary rejection and final restoration of the Jews, vers. 30-32.
“How adorable the wisdom of God manifested in the plan and conduct of the work of redemption! Of him, through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory forever. Amen. vers. 33-36. Charles Hodge, Romans, pg 360.
Charles Hodge expounds Romans 11 as teaching that the intervening period between the first and second coming as the times of the Gentiles. After this God will graft in the natural branches, national Israel and break off the wild branches, the Gentiles.
The Lord Jesus instituted the New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, Jer 31:31ff, Matt 26:28, Heb 8:6-13. This New Covenant was made with the house of Israel, which is made up of the believing Jewish remnant and the believing gentiles, who are grafted into it. The house of Judah (national Israel) was cut off, when they rejected the Lord Jesus, and are enemies of the Gospel until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled, Luke 21:24, Rom 11. Zechariah 11:10-14 refers to this in the Beauty and Bands staffs. And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD. And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forebear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD. Them I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel, Zech 11:10-14. The Beauty staff, which is broken, is the Old Covenant. The Bands staff, which is cut asunder, is the breaking the brotherhood between Judah and Israel, national unbelieving Israel and the believing remnant. The believing Gentiles are being grafted in by faith in Christ Jesus along with the believing remnant of Israel to form the New Covenant division of the church, the Israel of God, Rom 11, Gal 3:27-29, 6:16.
THEY SHALL LOOK UPOM HIM WHOM THEY HAVE PIERCED, REV 1:7
The O.T. often runs references to the first and second coming together. Zechariah merges the events of the first coming of Christ with those of the second coming. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace to the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even unto the ends of the earth, Zech 9:9,10. Verse 9 obviously refers to the first coming of the Lord Jesus, Matt 21:4-9. Verse 10 looks forward to the second coming of the Lord Jesus. The Lord will only reign from sea to sea when he smites the nations who gather together to make war with him, Rev 19:15,19.
Chilton interprets the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9), which occurs after the destruction of Babylon the Great, the great whore, Rev 17-19:3, as the Eucharist. ”The Eucharist is the centre of Christian worship; the Eucharist is what we are commanded to do when we come together. Everything else is secondary,” Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, pg 476. This non-Reformed statement, demonstrates how preterist gangrene has eaten into his understanding of the Word of God regarding sacraments and public worship. See Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 27, Section 3.
The last 3 verses of Zechariah 11 looks ahead to the idol shepherd, who will ultimately be defeated. The Good Shepherd, referred to in the first part of the chapter, is the Messiah. The idol shepherd in verse 17 upon whom a woe is pronounced is the personal Antichrist. This false shepherd leaves the flock, (the poor of the flock, the remnant believers). This believing flock is contrasted with the flock of slaughter, which is national Israel, vs. 7. Chapters 12-14 look to the siege of Jerusalem, the tribulation, and the reclaiming and restoration of national Israel to the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom. In these chapters the LORD goes to battle in behalf of a repentant Israel against the nations that come up to fight it. Notice the continuity of the last 5 verses of chapter 12 and the first 6 verses of chapter 13. “In that day” – the great day of Israel’s national atonement – is used 17 times in the last three chapters, and refers to the time when the LORD “will remove the iniquity of the land in one day,” Zech 3:9. It is then that there “shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness,” 13:1. It is a day, when the LORD “will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn,” 12:10.
This proclamation by the LORD is quoted in Rev 1:7. Preterist, Dr. Gentry, interprets this verse as referring to the events of 70 A. D., but the quote of Zechariah by John disproves this interpretation. It is a day when the day of the LORD cometh, Zech 14:1, the second time without sin unto salvation, Heb 9:28. It is plain that this is referring to the second coming of Christ, not 70 A. D., as the preterists hold! Notice chapter 14. Behold, the day of the LORD cometh…For I will gather all nations (not just Rome) against Jerusalem to battle…Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem…and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee…and the LORD shall be King over all the earth, 14:1,2-4,5,9. Remember the words of the angels to the Apostles – This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, Acts 1:11,12. Matt 24:30, Revelation 1:7, and Acts 1:10-12 refer to the second coming of the king over all the earth to possess His promised Theocratic Kingdom! 14:9. In this Kingdom He shall reign with His saints from sea unto sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth, Zech 9:10, Ps 72:8. Once the Lord returns and his feet stand on the Mount of Olives, there is no evidence that he ever leaves. His Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, 2 Sam 7:11-16, Dan 11:27.
We cannot interpret these chapters of the taking of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 B. C. or by the Romans in 70 A. D. In these calamitous events God did not in the person of the Messiah visibly appear (Matt 24:30 see the Son of man) on the Mount of Olives with His angelic hosts as the Deliverer of His people and the destroyer of many nations which were gathered against them; nor was the spirit of grace and supplication then or ever yet poured out upon the Jewish nation, so that they might look upon and recognize Him whom they have pierced; nor has the Lord, as the son of David, from any of those past events onward, become King over the whole earth; not to mention many other great and solemn events which are predicted in these chapters. The former had no beginning; the latter has. These events cannot be allegorized or explained away.
It should be noted here that the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus, as the Son of God, and the kingship of Christ, as the Son of Man, are to be distinguished. Although Christ now rules over the universe as the Son of God, He shall execute the office of a king, as the Son of David, the Christ, when He comes to establish His Theocratic Kingdom. At present Christ rules, as Head, over His people, the Church, the elect citizens of the Kingdom, which is the earnest of His inheritance as King of kings and Lord of lords, APC shorter catechism # 26. The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continues to be, God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person, forever, S. C. 21. Christ, in his work of mediation, acts according to both natures; by each nature doing what is proper to itself, WCF CH 8:7. As He was truly man, He thirsted, He did not know when He, the Son of Man, would return to earth, for the Scriptures did not reveal that fact, He died, etc. However, as God, He knew what was in the heart of man, He raised the dead, He knew when He would return to earth, etc. The WCF CH 8:7 continues yet, by reason of the unity of the person, what is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature. Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. Christ had blood and could die, only as a man, yet, as His person had two natures, the human and the divine, in that regard it is said that God had blood and could die, Acts 20:28. As a babe in the manger, needing to be fed at his mother’s breast, He, as God, was controlling the stars above! Christ, as the Son of God, is sovereign over all. Christ, as the Son of Man, the Son of David, waits until all His enemies are made his footstool. Christ is waiting until his second coming. I believe a consideration of these facts helps to clear up much confusion regarding Christ’s second coming.
Notice in Matt 24 that it is after the tribulation that they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds. This does not fit the preterist’s contention that the Son of man comes in the clouds to judgment or tribulation of Israel.
We have seen how far the preterist gangrene has spread. Very little teaching on the second coming remains after preterism has consumed most of the New Testament prophecies. Many preterists such as Gentry, DeMar, and Sproul, are not yet full preterists. Not yet. One full-blown preterist was J. Stuart Russell, who taught that the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ have all been fulfilled in the past. All was fulfilled in A.D. 70, J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming, with an introduction by R. C. Sproul. Russell’s heretical hyperpreterist gangrene is deadly. Like Hymenaeus and Philetus, Russell, who lived in the 19th century, was guilty of profane and vain babblings and has increased unto more ungodliness, (II Tim. 2:16-18). Like Hymenaeus and Philetus, Russell’s word eats like gangrene. In spite of Russell’s heresy even partial preterists praise his writings. Although Gentry refers to Russell as an advocate of “radical preterism,” he still praises The Parousia as “masterfully written,” even though Paul calls his doctrine heresy! Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, a Post-millennial Eschatology, pg 270-271.
As a minister of Christ, I must write what I believe to be true with regard to this subject. I do so, but with no joy in my heart, because I know that I am criticizing many that I love in the Lord. Yet, I feel it is my duty to call attention to what I believe to be error in the teaching of the partial preterism.
Kenneth Gentry admits that “it is true that [Christ] will come at the end of history, bringing about the resurrection and the judgment (Acts 1:11, I Thess. 4:13ff., I Cor. 15:20-26),” Gentry, The Beast of Revelation, pg 25. Chilton condemns a denial of any future bodily resurrection or judgment as “a heretical form of preterism,” Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation, pg 531. The question is, will the preterist gangrene end here or will it develop into full preterism? Let us beware that the preterist gangrene does not overthrow the faith and the hope of the Church.
That hope is the Second Coming of the Jesus Christ. Why is eschatology important? It is important because it influences the interpretation of so many passages of Scripture. About 30 per cent of Scripture is prophecy. It is also important because the church is in danger of neglecting the doctrine of Christ’s coming again. The Lord exhorts us to watch. In the parable of the ten virgins all ten, representing the visible church, slumbered and slept. During the interval between the first and second coming of Christ the whole church will be in danger of ignoring to a great extent Christ’s personal return to earth. His Apostles likewise exhorts awake thou that sleepest, Eph 5:14. The preterists do not look for Christ’s second advent any time soon. Chilton thinks it may be 1000’s of years away. Are not he and his fellow preterist’s slumbering and sleeping? Do they have their lamps trimmed?
Zachariah, John the Baptists father, Lk 1:70-74, was looking for what the Lord would do when He comes the second time, not as the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world, but, as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, to put his enemies under his feet. After the Lord arose from the dead, the Apostles were in error when they thought that the Kingdom would immediately appear, Lk 19:11-13. The Jewish believers were in error in looking past the first coming of Christ to the second. J. C. Ryle writes in the sermon Occupy till I come “If the Jew thought too exclusively of Christ reigning, has not the Gentile thought too exclusively of Christ suffering? If the Jew could see nothing in Old Testament prophecy but Christ’s exaltation and final power, has not the Gentile often seen nothing but Christ’s humiliation and the preaching of the Gospel? If the Jew dwelt too much on Christ’s second advent, has not the Gentile dwelt too exclusively on the first? If the Jew ignored the cross, has not the Gentile ignored the crown? I believe that we have cherished an arbitrary, reckless habit of interpreting first advent texts literally, and the second advent texts spiritually. I believe we have not rightly understood ‘all that the prophets have spoken’ about the second advent of Christ, any more than the Jews did about the first. And because we have done this, I say that we should speak of such mistakes as that referred to in our text (Lk 19:11-13) with much tenderness and compassion.”
Many times the first and second comings run together in the O. T. Justin Martyr writing around 150 A.D. points this out very clearly in his dialogue with Trypho, the Jew. Trypho states, “These and such Scriptures, sir, compel us to wait for Him who, as Son of man, receives from the Ancient of days the everlasting kingdom, Daniel 7:9-28. But this so-called Christ of yours was dishonorable and inglorious, so much so that the last curse contained in the law of God fell on him, for he was crucified.” To this objection Justin remarks, “Of these and such like words written by the prophets, O Trypho, some have reference to the first advent of Christ, in which He is preached as inglorious, obscure, and of mortal appearance; but others had reference to His second advent, when He shall appear in glory and above the clouds; and your nation shall see and know Him whom they have pierced, as Hosea, one of the twelve prophets, and Daniel, foretold.”
Our Confession ends with these solemn, yet hopeful words, As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to defer all men from sin and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity, so will he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security and be always watchful because they know not at what hour the Lord will come and may be ever prepared to say, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen, WCF Chapter 33, Section 3. The Westminster divines did not believe the come quickly and other time references in the book of Revelation referred to 70 A.D., but to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ! The Preterists to be honest should change the W.C.F. to correspond to their eschatology!
Finally, we do not know when the Son of Man will return. He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting til His enemies be made His footstool, Heb 10:12,13. And we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? Rom 8:22-24. Let us be found looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ! Titus 2:13 Amen!