Another Eschatological view or Heresy?
Compiled by Michael Jesurun from the writings of Douglas Newell and Prof. David Engelsma
True Christians through the ages have held many Eschatological views concerning the last days and the Second Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We ought not to refuse or reject a brother or sister in Christ just because they hold a different view concerning the Second Coming!
Until lately I had come to believe that Preterism was just another Eschatological opinion held by sincere Christian brethren and was a harmless and ‘non-essential matter’. But God is faithful and so is His Spirit which leads us into all truth and exposes the lie.
The Christian’s hope while he still tarries on this devil infested
earth is this – the glorious coming of our great God and saviour Jesus
Christ and the redemption from this body of death! [Titus 2:11-13;
Preterism denies and destroys both of these with a vengeance! Nothing of our hope is left! With the scoffers of II Peter 3:4, it asks, “Where is the promise of his coming?” With Hymenaeus and Philetus, it says that “the resurrection is past already” (II Tim. 2:18).
Hymenaus and Philetus also taught that the future resurrection had already taken place just as modern consistent Preterism teaches today. Unfortunately, it does not stop with the resurrection, but to be consistent they teach that all prophecy is fulfilled. Any prophetical passage in all of Holy scripture you can name, any future event the in God’s Word, it has already taken place; everything to the point they teach we are now living in the new Heaven and new Earth. Beloved, this is not a new doctrine, and is believed and propagated even among those that call themselves Landmark Baptists. Hymenaus and Philetus might have taught church truth. You may have heard a hearty amen from them hearing a message on the doctrines of Grace; but they taught a deadly heresy, and there are some who do the same.
Preterism holds that the time of Jesus’ second coming (Greek: parousia) was A.D. 70. The second coming of Jesus was the destruction of Jerusalem in that year. Preterism holds that the second coming of Christ promised in scripture was exclusively the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. A.D. 70 was the end of the ages prophesied by scripture. Christ came then; the dead were raised then; the final judgment took place then; creation was renewed then.
To expect a visible, bodily coming of Jesus, a resurrection of the
dead, a final judgment, and a cataclysmic destruction of the present
creation in the future on the basis of any prophecy of scripture is a
mistake. All is past. Preterism also makes much of the
fact that scripture teaches that Jesus’ coming is “near,” or “at hand.”
Explaining this “nearness” in terms of a very brief period of time
according to man’s standards, it concludes that the New Testament
predicted the coming of Christ within 40 years at the most. This
prediction was fulfilled in A.D. 70. It was completely and exhaustively
fulfilled in A.D. 70.
They rest their proof of Christ’s so-called AD 70 coming on the historical works of men, and Josephus in particular. You cannot take the scripture and prove such a belief system. You cannot not read your Bible and become a Preterist because they rely extensively on extra-biblical testimony. Let God be true and every man a liar. scripture declares – ‘Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen! [Rev 1:7] Every eye did not see the Lord Jesus Christ. When He comes, every eye shall see him! Only a gross spiritualization of Holy Writ could explain away such passages as “every eye shall see him when He comes in glory”. And again, ‘And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’. [Mat 24;30].
The main cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith that Preterism stands contrary to, is on the resurrection, claiming it is already past and even goes so far as to a complete denial of a bodily resurrection, claiming only a spiritual resurrection. In order to make their AD 70 theory fit, their doctrine now has to do something with the resurrection. Preterism, like most dangerous heresies will use the same words as you and I, but apply their own definition to them. For example, if you ask a Preterist if they believe in the resurrection, they will answer yes. If you ask them if they believe in the resurrection of Christ, they will say yes; but what they mean by resurrection and what the bible means by resurrection are two completely different ideas. Preterist, when speaking of resurrection, mean a spiritual resurrection, or the new birth, it has nothing to do with the body, and if you press a consistent Preterist for an answer they will, if they will be honest with you, deny Christ’s bodily resurrection as well. Very deceptive, is it not? That is why it is dangerous, you must define the terms every step of the way to find out what they truly believe. General questions, unfortunately, will not get you to the bottom of their belief system. Notice, in the frequently asked questions of a prominent website dedicated to Preterism, concerning the resurrection: “Preterism does teach the Resurrection of the dead, however it does not subscribe to a physical resurrection of bodies” (FAQ ). What kind of resurrection is that? What blatant double talk. What does the word resurrection mean? You have to believe in the resurrection to believe the bible; the problem comes when people make up their own definition as to what words mean. Preterism is directly contrary to the Word of God which very clearly and quite often speaks of the bodily resurrection of the saints of God.
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. [Romans 8:11]
Present-day preterism, draws heavily from a book by the 19th century Congregational writer, James Stuart Russell. The book is The Parousia: a Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming. [Kingdom Publications, Bradford, PA, 1996]
According to Russell, the second coming of Christ that is foretold in I Thessalonians 4:13-17 and in II Thessalonians 1 and 2 happened in A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem (pp. 165-190). The resurrection of the dead promised in I Corinthians 15 happened in A.D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem (pp. 199ff.). The public, final judgment of Matthew 25:31-46 is not the future, “final judgment of the whole human race, but that of the guilty nation … of Palestine … whose day of doom was now near at hand” (p. 108). The renewal of creation described in Romans 8:19-22 is not a coming deliverance of the “irrational and inanimate creation,” but the liberation of groaning, “suffering and down-trodden humanity” when “the whole visible fabric and frame of Judaism were swept away” in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (pp. 222-232).
The entire book of Revelation, with the embarrassing exception of the millennium of chapter 20, found its complete fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem (pp. 362ff.).
Russell’s preterism is consistent. Every prophecy of scripture about the coming of Christ and the end of the world was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
We are compelled … to conclude that the Parousia, or second coming of Christ, with its connected and concomitant events, did take place, according to the Saviour’s own prediction, at the period when Jerusalem was destroyed, and before the passing away of “that generation” (p. 549).
As this quotation indicates (“according to the Saviour’s own prediction”; “passing away of ‘that generation’”), Russell’s interpretation of New Testament eschatology is squarely based on his explanation of Matthew 24 as referring exclusively to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Russell affirms that the language of Matthew 24 (and 25) “is not only appropriate as applied to the destruction of Jerusalem, but that this is its true and exclusive application” (p. 82).
This is heresy! Russell admits as much. Having annihilated the expectation of Christ’s coming on the part of the church and the Christian, he imagines his readers asking, “Whither are we tending? What is to be the end and consummation of human history?” Indeed! What are our prospects? What were the prospects of the believers and their children after A.D. 70? Russell’s answer? “scripture prophecy guides us no further” (p. 549). And, “Where nothing has been revealed it would be the height of presumption to prognosticate the future” (p. 550).
God’s Word leaves us completely in the dark as regards the future.
The church and the believer are hopeless. Since we are saved by hope, according to Romans 8:24, preterism strips us of our salvation.
The danger of this teaching is if our resurrection is past and if there is no bodily resurrection for us, then there was also no resurrection of Jesus Christ, and if no resurrection of Christ, our hope is in vain! Our future resurrection is tied to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have hundreds of eye witnesses, credible witnesses of the friends of Christ, also the enemies of Christ, and most of all, the divinely inspired record of the Holy scriptures; and I know by faith, the faith given to me by the risen Lord that He bodily arose from the dead! This makes Preterism a damnable heresy. If you deny our resurrection, you deny the resurrection of Christ, if you deny the resurrection of Christ, you are not saved! No matter what you say about doctrines of Grace, the church, baptism, etc, if you deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are on your way to Hell.
But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. [1Cor 15:13-20]
[The above is condensed from the writings of Douglas Newell and Prof. David Engelsma]