PMT 2014-116 Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D.
Awhile back I was privileged to hear Dr. Wayne A. Briddle of Liberty University deliver a cogent, careful, and cordial critique of evangelical preterism (which he designated “partial preterism”). Dr. Briddle graciously allowed me a few moments at the end of his presentation to respond. He also asked if I would mind providing him some sort of critique of his presentation for his better understanding of the issues from my perspective. Here is my reply.
In his paper, Dr. Bridle provided a helpful summary statement regarding the nature of and evidence for preterism. His summary was apparently designed for an audience not thoroughly familiar with the debate. I commend him for his careful introduction of the topic. His summary should aid any one interested in the basics of preterism and its variant forms (from heterodox Hyper-Preterism or Full or Extreme Preterism to the Evangelical Preterism of R. C. Sproul, Gary DeMar, and Kenneth Gentry).
As a bibliographical and historical aside, I would recommend that Dr. Briddle mention Jay E. Adams and Greg L. Bahnsen as proponents of what he designates “mild preterism.” (See: Jay E. Adams, The Time is at Hand [Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R, 1966] and Bahnsen’s tapes “An Exposition of the Book of Revelation” from Covenant Media Foundation.)
House Divided: Break-up of Dispensational Theology
(by Ken Gentry)
A rebuttal to dispensationalism’s view of eschatology and God’s Law
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
I would also want Dr. Briddle to be aware that the preterist movement is not a function of “Reconstructionist” theology. This is evident in that:
(1) Dr. R. J. Rushdoony, the putative founder of modern Christian Reconstruction, was opposed to preterism (see his: Thy Kingdom Come: Studies in Daniel and Revelation). Consequently, his Chalcedon Foundation operates from a non-preterist perspective on eschatological issues. Also opposed to preterism is Andrew Sandlin, former editor of Rushdoony’s The Chalcedon Report and a continuing and influential voice in Reconstructionist circles. These are but two examples.
(2) Preterism antedates the rise of Christian Reconstructionism in the 1960s. Early modern evangelical preterists include Moses Stuart (Commentary on the Apocalypse, 1844), Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (early 1800s), and Milton S. Terry (Biblical Apocalyptics, 1898). Even as late as 1971 J. Marcellus Kik promoted a non-Reconstructionist preterism in his An Eschatology of Victory (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971). Kik’s book is actually a republication of articles he wrote back in the 1950s.
(3) Preterism is widely current outside of Reconstructionist circles today. For instance, Jay E. Adams is an amillennialist, as was Cornelis Vanderwaal, Search the Scriptures (1979).
In addition, I would urge Dr. Brindle not to assume (as some do) that preterism has arisen as an attempt to shore up postmillennialism by ridding certain “anti-postmillennial” passages from the debate. For instance, on page 64 of Darrell L. Bock, ed., Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond, Robert Strimple responds to me with the following observation: “By means of his preterist reading . . . Gentry tries to assure Christians that the worst days of persecution, apostasy, and the Antichrist are past (except for the brief Satan-led rebellion just before Christ’s second coming, which Rev. 20:7-9 seems to require as an undigested surd in the postmillennial scheme).” Preterism arises as an exegetical issue (dealing with contextually embedded near-time temporal indicators) rather than a theological issue (i.e., as a function of postmillennial theology).
One issue in Briddle’s presentation that I take exception to — and especially since it is a common misperception — is the claim that preterism holds to more than one second coming of Christ (see under his heading “Mild Preterism”; but it appears elsewhere in his paper). We most definitely do not. The Hyper-Preterist obviously believes in only one Second Coming, because he applies it to the singular A.D. 70 episode. But the Evangelical Preterist also denies more than one Second Coming of Christ. Dr. Brindle is probably aware that Reformed and other non-dispensational theologians complain that dispensationalism effectively has two returns of Christ: the Rapture and the later Second Advent. If dispensationalists can divorce the Rapture from the Second Advent in such a way as to not have two Second Comings, we can as well — and we can for clearer reasons (I believe).
In this regard, we must realize the New Testament teaches that Christ “comes” in several ways: (1) Christ comes to us spiritually in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18). (2) Christ comes on the clouds to God in heaven to receive His kingdom (Dan. 7:13). (3) Christ will come on the clouds visibly and bodily in the future, bringing about the resurrection and the judgment at his Second Advent (Acts 1:11, 1 Thess. 4:15-17). (4) He comes on the clouds in judicial judgment upon men in history. This fourth “coming on the clouds” is very much like Jehovah’s “coming on the clouds” against Egypt in Isaiah 19:1. That coming was not a real, historical appearance of Jehovah to the Egyptians; rather it is a metaphorical way of declaring that God will judge Egypt in history:
The oracle concerning Egypt.
Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud, and is about to come to Egypt;
The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence,
And the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
As a preterist, I teach that the “Second Coming” is a distinct, unitary, unrepeatable, visible, bodily appearance of Christ to bring history to a conclusion. It is the only Second Coming, and is mentioned in such texts as Acts 1:8-11 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 (to mention but two). The “coming” of Christ in A.D. 70 is really a metaphorical statement declaring that he will judge Israel and destroy her Temple for rejecting him. I doubt Christ actually came down to earth (in spirit or otherwise) and directed the battles. The A.D. 70 coming is a literary image of divine superintendence of earthly judgment (as per Isa. 19:1). It is the same coming alluded to in Matthew 21:40, which is taken by most evangelicals as referring to A.D. 70: “Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?”
It is true that the A.D. 70 “judgment-coming” is related to the Second Coming. But it functions only as a preview and warning of the wrath of God that will occur as an actual, history-ending eschatological event. As such, it is like the various Old Testament “Day of the Lord” passages that preview the consummate Second Coming (see Dallas Seminary’s Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament for evidence in this regard).
(To be continued. Unless the Rapture occurs. In which case, I take it all back.)