PMW 2018-092 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

I often have people ask me if I am a preterist. In fact, just a few minutes ago I received an email to this effect through this website. This email sparked me to write this article.

This will surprise some of my readers, but I would like to state categorically and unequivocally: I am NOT a preterist. To believe that I am a preterist is sorely mistaken.

But: have I changed my understanding of biblical eschatology? The answer to this question is a resolute “Yes.” And “No!” How can this be? What is going on here? Have I become John Frame? Let me explain.

Until the recent arising of the aberrant theology that calls itself “Full Preterism,” it was fine for someone like me to call himself “a preterist.” In fact, I have done that quite often myself. And probably will still do so — due to long-standing, historical use of this word. But in a technical sense, such a descriptive label for someone like me is mistaken . . . in our current theological context. This is due to the arising of unorthodox preterism, which is causing some believers to be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14).

Have We Missed the Second Coming:have-we-missed-the-second-coming
A Critique of the Hyper-preterist Error
by Ken Gentry

This book offers a brief introduction, summary, and critique of Hyper-preterism. Don’t let your church and Christian friends be blindfolded to this new error. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

For more Christian educational materials: www.KennethGentry.com

So what do I mean?

As is often the case in the history of theology, words take on fresh connotations and even new meanings. And if we are not careful, we might use a familiar, long-held word to describe an issue, but which no longer is accurate . . . in our current setting.

For instance, until the creation of the word “amillennial” in the early 20th Century, non-premillennial theologians who held to a pessimistic view of history called themselves “postmillennial.” They did this to set themselves over against those who were “premillennial.” They held that Christ would not return in his Second Advent until the “millennium” was completed. Hence they were “post-millennial.” But there were two categories of “postmillennials.” Many were optimistic regarding the flow of history, while many others were historically pessimistic. Today we distinguish the two by the terms “postmillennial”  (an optimistic eschatology regarding the outworking of history) and “amillennial” (a pessimistic eschatology regarding the outworking of history). See my article: “Amillennial Pessimism” for further discussion of this matter.

Such is the case with the word “preterist.” Historically, the word “preterist” was used (and is still used) by those who understand certain New Testament prophetic passages as having already been fulfilled. This understanding sets them over against other Christians who believe that those passages remain to be fulfilled in our future ( “futurism” is the virtual opposite of “preterism”). Two key passages that are impacted by preterism are: the Olivet Discourse and the whole Book of Revelation. (These are not the only passages impacted by the debate.)

Today, however, we must distinguish — at least in our minds — the enormous differences existing among “preterist” interpreters. The preterism to which I hold is a hermeneutic tool. The preterism promoted by some unorthodox Christians (they call their view “full preterism”) is not simply a hermeneutic tool, but a wholesale new theology.

Orthodox Christians call “full preterism” by the term “hyper-preterism.” This is much like the situation with “hyper-Calvinism.” Calvinism is a theological system emphasizing the sovereignty of God. But hyper-Calvinism goes beyond Calvinism, hence it is hyper. Hyper-Calvinists believe that we do not need to evangelize or to send out missionaries, because God will sovereignly convert sinners. In fact, they even hold that it is not the obligation of sinners to trust in Christ in order to be saved — because God effects their salvation wholly apart from anything they do.

Similarly, “hyper-preterism” goes beyond historic “preterism,” in that it adds to preterism. That is, hyper-preterism declares the historic, corporate, public, universal, systematic Christian faith held over the many centuries of Christianity’s existence to be mistaken. It does so by declaring that the future bodily Second Coming of Christ, the future physical resurrection of all men, the future Final Judgment of all men, and the conclusion of history that gives rise to the consummate order have already occurred (in AD 70). They therefore go beyond orthodox Christian doctrine.

When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyperpreterism

When Shall These Things Be?
(ed. by Keith Mathison)
A Reformed response to the aberrant HyperPreterist theolgy.
Gentry’s chapter critiques HyperPreterism from an historical and creedal perspective.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com

Thus, we need to be careful how we use — or at least understand — the term “preterism.” It speaks of a hermeneutic that becomes necessary in Scripture due to certain textual statements requiring it. Such as in passages stating that a prophetic event is “near” or “soon.” Some New Testament passages speak of our future, some of prophecies already fulfilled in the past. The context must be decide.

So what does this entail?

So more accurately, I am a hermeneutic preterist rather than a theological preterist. I agree with premillennialists, dispensationalists, and amillennialists on the four issues mentioned above: the Second Advent, the Resurrection of the Dead, the Final Judgment, and the consummate New Heavens and New Earth. Thus, I am not a preterist in the new, alien, heretical sense of the Hyper-preterist movement.

Warfield has observed a sad truth: “the chief dangers to Christianity do not come from the anti-Christian systems. . . . It is corrupt forms of Christianity itself which menace from time to time the life of Christianity.” We are seeing that today in the spread of hyper-preterism. As Paul lamented long ago: there are “men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:18).

I will continue to use the word “preterist” in my writings. Unless it becomes intolerable. Fortunately, the Hyper-preterist movement is small enough so that we can continue to use historic terms and expect its historic meaning.

I am currently researching a commentary on Matthew 21–25, the literary context of the Olivet Discourse from Matthew’s perspective. My research will demonstrate that Matthew’s presentation demands that the Olivet Discourse refer to AD 70 (Matt. 24:3–35) as an event that anticipates the Final Judgment at the Second Advent (Matt. 24:36–25:46). This will explode the myth that Jesus was a Jewish sage focusing only on Israel. The commentary will be about 250 pages in length.

If you would like to support me in my research, I invite you to consider giving a tax-deductible contribution to my research and writing ministry: GoodBirth Ministries. Your help is much appreciated!

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14 thoughts on “I AM NOT A PRETERIST!

  1. Erik Nelson (@ErikNel98388100) November 17, 2018 at 6:35 am

    Offer that the victorious Christian figure of Revelation 19 symbolizes the Church as the “body of Christ”, spiritually victorious over the “Beast of the sea” symbolizing the pagan Roman empire, by preaching the Gospel symbolized as the “sword tongue proceeding from His mouth”, e.g. Saint Lawrence converting Rome in 258 AD

    Jesus Christ will return physically, on God’s Great White Throne (presumably according to God’s Will & Grace), at the end of earth history at the Final Judgement (Rev 20:9+)

  2. Samuel M. Frost, Th.M. November 18, 2018 at 10:38 am

    Dr Gentry,

    Friend, Brother, let me assure you that although it may “appear” that Hyper Preterism is “spreading”, I am also witnessing many turn from it, and come out of it. Today its main source of attraction is Facebook, where I labor daily with several other Ex Hyper Preterists. There one can watch the implosion of the Hyper Preterist “movement(s)” into various, splintering forms – often antagonistic towards each other as to which small group represents the “true” Hyper Preterist. Recently, the very humanity of the son of man in heaven has been denied, body and soul, as Jesus is depicted as “once having been a man”, but now is not (Don K. Preston). Other forms, such as the view called, “Israel Only”, touts that only, ethnic “covenant” Israel was saved – that salvation has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of humanity post 70 AD. Since “we” were never “under [old covenant] Law”, then we, today, do not need “salvation.” They did….back then. I could continue to go down the list of these views operating under the title, Full Preterism, but I think you get the point. Like Gnosticism(s) in the past, they are becoming lost in a sea of their own making, allegorizing and spiritualizing passages and themes of Scripture into allegories upon allegories…until they allegorize themselves right out of the picture. Please pray for my and others efforts to continue to expose this view for what it is, and that the many that are sincerely searching for truth may continue to come out of this destructive heresy.

    Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.

  3. Kenneth Gentry November 19, 2018 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for the helpful note. And for your labor in pulling people out of this heresy. I haven’t kept up with its recent mutations, but it is sounding worse-and-worse! Keep up the good work!

  4. Kenneth Gentry November 19, 2018 at 9:52 am

    I don’t follow your analysis of Rev. 19. I believe that the victorious figure is Christ himself. But there is some truth to what you say. Since Christ is victorious over Israel in AD 70, then the gospel will flow into all the world.

  5. D. Garrison November 19, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Scared me for a minute!. I thought I was going to have to throw out all my Gentry books. Great point. I hope others will see the difference between a hermeneutical tool and a theological system.

  6. John Friedman November 19, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Wow! Important observation. I have dispensational friends that really confuse preterism and hyper-preterism. This will be helpful to show them.

  7. B. Camden November 19, 2018 at 10:37 am

    Interesting. I had never thought of it in this way. Thanks for this article. I know some folks who have been scared off from preterism because of a failure to make this distinction. Keep the articles coming!

  8. Eric Luther November 19, 2018 at 10:40 am

    I had often noticed a big difference in the way regular preterists believe v. hyper-preterists. This explains a lot. Some people think preterism is a slippery slope. But it is only dangerous if you change it from an interpretive tool to a theology. Thanks!

  9. Cal T. November 19, 2018 at 10:49 am

    I know a guy who went headlong into hyperpreterism. He became obnoxious and would not cease talking about it. I guess to him it was like being born again: I’ve got to tell the world! He adopted preterism as a whole theological system with its own approach to salvation. He is really hard to be around. I see what you mean about this important difference. Thanks.

  10. Bob Pegram November 21, 2018 at 7:26 am

    ALL Christians are preterists on the first coming of Christ. A preterist position on any particular prophecy means the person in question believes that particular prophecy has been fulfilled. However, I understand why you don’t want to be identified with full preterism. I agree with objecting to being called a preterist without the opportunity for a short explanation of partial preterism vs. full preterism.

  11. Kenneth Gentry November 21, 2018 at 7:38 am

    You are correct about all Christians being preteristic regarding Christ’s first coming. I used this argument against Dr. Thomas Ice when we debated in the late 1990s. The preterist hermeneutic is not at fault; rather overlooking its contextual setting and other hermeneutic principles is usually the error committed. Similarly, literalism is not always right, or always wrong. You just don’t want to use it in places like Revelation’s seven-headed beast.

  12. Larry Skilton November 21, 2018 at 7:45 am

    Very helpful! Thanks. I often have to explain to friends the difference between orthodox preterism and heretical preterism. This article supplies me an angle I hadn’t thought about. I don’t actually know a full-preterist, but have friends who have heard of it and fear it.

  13. Steven March 19, 2020 at 6:59 pm

    So are we in a figurative millenial awaiting Christ`s return? And His kingdom is ever increasing as in the mountain of Daniel? What do we say of the great wars and temporary triumphs of murderous despots? Satan seems to have a long chain… but pretrib rapture is no where to be found in Scripture. Is a literal millennium impossible along side a 70AD Olivet fulfillment? With or without a reconstructed Temple …

  14. Kenneth Gentry March 20, 2020 at 6:20 am

    Thanks for reading and interacting. We are in Christ’s kingdom, which he established in the first century. One place in Scripture symbolically portrays that kingdom as a millennium. And that one place happens to be in the most symbolic book in all the Bible, which speaks of a seven-headed beast, a winged woman standing on the moon, fire-breathing prophets, and other symbols. There are several articles touching on this biblical concept of the binding of Satan in Scripture. I recommend your using the SEARCH feature and typing in BINDING OF SATAN. Here is one of those: https://postmillennialworldview.com/2015/12/14/satans-binding-your-hope-2/

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