JESUS AND PRETERISM (1)

PMW2019-082 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

A few years ago 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.

Introduction

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 Orthodox (“partial”) Preterism of R. C. Sproul, Gary DeMar, and Kenneth Gentry).

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.

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


(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.


Why I Left Full-Preterism (by Samuel M. Frost)

Former leader in Full Preterist movement, Samuel M. Frost, gives his testimony and theological reasoning as to why he left the heretical movement. Good warning to others tempted to leave orthodox Christianity.

See more study materials at: KennethGentry.com


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.

 

Tagged:

3 thoughts on “JESUS AND PRETERISM (1)

  1. Jason M Elliott October 11, 2019 at 5:31 am

    I’m looking forward to the rest of this post. While this may or may not be an important point, if we look carefully at Matthew 24:30 we see that only “they” who are still in Judaea shall see the Son of man coing in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, which is also a sign that the “Son of man is IN heaven”. Why? Because the Christians left the city as directed by the Lord Jesus. When Christ comes bodily at the Second Advent “all nations” will be gathered before him (Matthew 25:31-33, 2 Thess 1:7-10). When Christ comes in judgment, he is both sitting AND coming in the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62, Hebrews 10:12-13). He physically returns after all enemies have been defeated (1 Corinthians 15:23-26, Revelation 20:9-15).

  2. Fred V. Squillante October 11, 2019 at 6:57 am

    Good article, Dr. Gentry; very interesting. I have to tell you, though, whether a partial, full, or extreme preterist, or a pre, a, or post millennialist, or even a pre, mid, or post tribulationalist, I get lost in the weeds as others try to exegete every verse of Revelation. The same can be said about the various “comings” of Christ and even of God in the O.T. I see the “Second” Coming of Christ as the judgment of 70. Whether He “comes” again to end history I won’t even pretend to venture a guess. If man succeeds in destroying himself, to me would be all within God’s will – just as it was in the case of the judgments of Israel and Judah as described in Ezekiel 23. Those events were separated by 136 years yet Judah was supposed to have learned something from what happened to her older sister. Can we actually look back 136 years in our history and learn something? I doubt it, just as seeing Revelation 20 as the end of history and using interpolation to describe other eschatological events. I’m looking forward to Part II.

  3. Richard Adams October 11, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Excellent, as always, Dr. Gentry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: