OF PRETERISTS AND POSTMILLENNIALISTS (2)

PMW 2020-040 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is the second (and final) presentation of an interview conducted with me on preterism and postmillennialism.

Interviewer: Shifting to a related topic. Do preterist and non-preterist postmillennialists differ significantly in their reading of Matthew 24? Are there different interpretations of the two “days” even among preterists?

Gentry: Matthew 24 has been subjected to a fairly wide variety of interpretive approaches. Perhaps the more widely endorsed one holds that the Lord more or less jumbles together material on A.D. 70 and the Second Advent, in that A.D. 70 is a microcosmic precursor to the Second Advent. This view makes it difficult to sort out the verses in regard to which event the particular verses focus on. Among evangelical preterists two basic positions prevail: that 24:4–34 focus on A.D. 70 and 24:36ff focus on the Second Advent (this is my view, and the view presented by J. Marcellus Kik). The other view holds that all of Matthew 24–25 deals with A.D. 70.

Interviewer: Is that latter view — that all of Matthew 24 refers to A.D. 70 — what you have called “hyper-preterism,” or are there “regular” preterists that hold that interpretation of Matthew 24? How would their interpretation differ from the “hyper-preterist?”

Gentry: Although it is true that hyper-preterism holds that the entire Olivet Discourse speaks of A. D. 70, one’s position on that particular question does not necessarily lock him into the hyper-preterist heresy. The difference in interpretation at this specific point might be altogether negligible between an orthodox interpreter and a hyper-preterist. In fact, there are several verses where we find disagreement among orthodox interpreters and in which similarity to the hyper-preterist position may be noted. Where the fundamental differences would arise would be in other passages and on specific theological questions. If an interpreter is challenged to produce a passage supporting the Second Advent and he cannot produce one, then we have a serious problem. Or if he cannot affirm a physical resurrection at the end of history.


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Interviewer: What considerations in the text lead you to conclude that Jesus is distinguishing the two events in His prediction?

Gentry: Contextual evidence suggests that Christ is distinguishing two different comings. One coming is his coming upon Jerusalem in temporal judgment to end the old covenant era; the other is his coming at the Second Advent in final judgment to end history (24:36ff). These two “comings” are theologically related while historically distinct (and one of them speaks metaphorically of a “coming,” whereas the other speaks literally of a physical “coming”).

For example, by all appearance Matthew 24:34 functions as a concluding statement; it seems to end the preceding prophecy: “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Consequently, the following events must relate to some episode not in “this generation.” That would suggest that all prophecies before verse 34 are to occur in “this generation.”

Interviewer: That seems to be borne out by the sense of urgency in the first section of the chapter.

Gentry: Yes. The character of the first section dramatically differs from that of the second. In the first section all is chaotic, laden with war and persecution. In the second section all appears tranquil, marrying and eating and drinking. What’s more, in the early section of Matthew 24 the time frame is short: “this generation.” In the following section (and through Matt. 25) the time frame is much longer: “But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming'” (Matt. 24:48). “But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept” (Matt. 25:5). “After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them” (Matt. 25:19). It is the very delay of the coming that tempts the church to forsake her watchfulness.

Interviewer: Many interpreters (of differing schools) lay great emphasis on the “signs” of the coming described in this passage. Can you comment on their significance?

Gentry: Before verse 34 Christ mentions signs pointing to the A.D. 70 coming: “wars and rumors of wars” (v. 6), “famines and earthquakes” (v. 7), “false prophets” (v. 11), and so forth. Accordingly, we may know the time of its approach; it is a predictable event. That’s Jesus whole point — be aware so you can act when the season of final danger is upon Jerusalem. Christ urges flight from the area (Matt. 24:16-20), clearly implying there will be time to flee.

On the other hand, after verse 34 signs are replaced by elements of surprise, indicating the coming in that section is unknown and therefore unpredictable: “they did not understand” (v. 39), “you do not know” (v. 42), “if the head of the house had known” (v. 43), “coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (v. 44), “he does not expect him” (v. 50), and “you do not know” (25:13). There is no warning — no opportunity for flight — for there can be no escape from that “day.” All befalls men suddenly (Matt. 24:48-51).


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Another interesting point is that even Christ Himself does not claim to know the time of the Second Advent (v. 36). Yet in the earlier section He clearly knows the time of the A.D. 70 judgment, for he tells his disciples that certain signs may come but “the end is not yet” (v. 6). He also tells them these things will certainly happen in “this generation.”

Interviewer: Thank you so much, Dr. Gentry, for answering our questions. I’m sure our readers have been piqued with an appetite to study these questions in more depth. If they do, they may consult you comprehensive exposition of biblical postmillennialism, He Shall Have Dominion.

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5 thoughts on “OF PRETERISTS AND POSTMILLENNIALISTS (2)

  1. Jason Elliott May 22, 2020 at 7:00 am

    Dr. Gentry, If you could humor me for a moment, I’m still a little confused on the parallel of the signs of Matthew 24 leading up to 70 with the opening of the seals in Revelation 6 being the exact same time period (just before 70 and ending in 70). Everyone has experienced all these same signs SINCE 70 and not ONLY the tranquility of marriage, eating and drinking, etc. to which you referred in the interview as the time we are living in now (post-70).

    So, if Matthew 24:38-51 is describing a tranquil time of the unexpected return of Christ, this must also be the time of Satan’s little season after the 1000 years are finished. Therefore, to me anyway, if we have wars, famine, natural disasters, false prophets and the like in our current world, then that would mean Satan’s little season is what brings in this tranquility just before Christ’s second coming since there are no signs given for that.

    It seems to me that perhaps the opening of the seals is HOW Christ comes throughout history (Revelation 1:7 “cometh with clouds”) and not only to Jerusalem at its destruction. So, Revelation begins with the destruction of Jerusalem but continues as this is how Christ is revealed throughout history. The prophecies of war no more (Isa 2:2-4, Micah 4:1-2) would seem to appear after much gospel advance (Isa 11:1-9), which is why I tend to think that Matt 24:38-51 is Christ as he comes in history (on individual nations; Psalm 110:6-7) filling the earth gradually with his judgment as the Flood did as it gradually destroyed everything in the earth. At that time people were marrying, eating and drinking, etc. and the judgment came unexpectedly, also.

    Matthew 25 may describe the eventual period of peace because the only two groups mentioned (wise/foolish virgins) are all looking for Christ to return, perhaps because Isa 11:9, Ps 22:27-31 are now a reality on the earth, although not everyone is actually a Christian, but at least a professing Christian.

    .

  2. Kenneth Gentry May 22, 2020 at 8:49 am

    All I can say is, I recommend reading my exposition of Rev. 1:7, which occurs in a near-term context (Rev. 1:1, 3). Matt 24:30 which says the same thing about the coming, does the same thing (Matt 24:2, 16, 34).

  3. Fred V. Squillante May 23, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Hello, Dr. Gentry. When I got saved thirty-five years ago, the first Bible I read was King James. As a result, when I got to Matthew 24, it just made sense that Jesus was talking about the end of the world. It wasn’t long before I realized that wasn’t the case. However, another realization I came to is that people want to spend their time in the areas of Scripture that deal with things of the end. It doesn’t matter if one is pre, a, or postmillennial, preterist or not. I call it futurism.
    What I believe to be the advantage of the preterist view is that it answers many of the questions that people have about things of an eschatological nature. In doing so, it frees us from what I consider a form of the bondage of dwelling in those areas that are hazy – in the ‘future. I do not believe we have all the answers, and those areas which raise the questions are not where I choose to spend my time.
    Because futurism is the prevalent view, those of the preterist persuasion have a more solid foundation upon which to argue with those of futurism. However, I continue to see questions primarily about ‘things of the end.’
    You say those who hold to Olivet being a jumble of views of both AD70 and the Second Advent is true. However, dividing it at 24:36, or wherever, is arbitrary. I’m just not convinced that the Bible says much about the end times because I don’t believe that has much to do with the message of the gospel. I do believe that keeping the focus off of us and on Christ is where it is supposed to be.
    Thinking about things of the end keeps us thinking about how we play into those events. That has resulted, in my estimation, in the victorious gospel message being nullified. Most of the gains of the first three centuries after Christ came have been lost. Europe and America sure seem lost. Who will God choose next to be His remnant?
    Another thing, when Christ came to do His ministry, that was the first advent – the first coming. When He came in judgment in AD 70, that, to me, was the second coming. To return, literally? I’m not so sure. For what purpose? The final judgment? We have already been judged. We are either sheep or goats. A physical resurrection? I’m not so sure of that either. To end history? Man is fully capable of destroying himself.
    These things are not the message of the gospel; they are the things upon which I choose not to spend my time and energy. Many of the prevalent futurist views can be addressed with the early date of Revelation, refuting Irenaeus’ views of antichrist, and the futurist view of Olivet because of the KJV’s error of Matthew 24:3. That would solve the doom and gloom attitude of today’s church and get us back to the correct message of the gospel – salvation in Christ, and boldly preaching it.
    Thank you for your time.

  4. Ed T May 25, 2020 at 8:41 am

    I have read much of your commentary regarding the Olivet discourse & its place in preterism, but this transcript of your interview, albeit short & sweet, is the most concise I have read to date. As always, MUCH appreciated.

  5. Kenneth Gentry May 25, 2020 at 10:05 am

    Wow! I am not sure what “arbitrary” means in your vocabulary. I provide over a dozen text-based, exegetical arguments for a transition that unfolds very nicely from the disciples’ question in 24:3 through to the end of Matt 25. It is a very clear case, and is powerfully argued by R. T. France and Jeffery Gibbs in their technical commentaries.

    Two basic reasons for a future, literal Second Coming would include: (1) To end this sin-laden world so that God would not have to endure sin forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever. (2) To provide a proper home for mankind who was created a physical being (unlike the angels) and who will have a physical resurrection (like Christ’s) so that they might dwell in this consummate world.

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