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:
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?
(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.
JESUS, MATTHEW, AND OLIVET
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!