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Church-State Relations and the Book of Revelation
An Introduction to The Parousia: A Careful Look at the New Testament Doctrine of the Lord's Second Coming
by James Stuart Russell (1878) // Written by
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Was All Bible Prophecy Fulfilled by A.D.70?

By Dr. Larry Spargimino

Though Jesus Christ was most assuredly not born on December 25, some celebrate His first coming at this time of the year. Irrespective of the time of His birth, the fact that He came the first time according to prophecy is good proof that He is coming again, also according to prophecy.

Unfortunately, there are some in the Christian community who don't want to say much about the return of the Lord. Their spokesmen claim that it discredits the Bible to speak about the imminent coming of Christ. Gary DeMar, one of the leading proponents of preterism - the view that practically all Bible prophecy was fulfilled in the past - warns his readers that if you say "Jesus is coming soon" someone might say, "Preachers like you have been telling us for decades that Jesus is coming soon. Why should we believe you now?" "Of course," writes DeMar, "if you cry 'last days' long enough, you might be the one to get it right, but by then there might not be anyone listening." [1]

Consistent with their viewpoint, preterists write lengthy books and articles seeking to disparage a legitimate interest in the return of Christ. Believing that they are doing this for the good of the Christian community they claim that there are just too many rapture sensationalists and doom and gloom prognosticators around. Though I would have to agree that there are too many sensationalists around, the abuse of a doctrine does not argue against that doctrine. Hebrews 9:27 - 28 has a promise for those who eagerly await the Lord to come a second time. What, therefore, must God think of those who stifle that eager anticipation and teach that He returned centuries ago?

First - century "Newspaper Exegesis"

Believing that prophecy was fulfilled in the past, preterists search the ancient records of the first century for events that they can align with a passage of Scripture. A passage speaking of falling stars is linked with a first - century meteor shower. Moreover, preterists tell us that stars are often symbols of governments and empires, and falling stars are representative of the end of an empire.

To prove their point preterists report on all of the national flags with stars in their insignias. There are single stars, multiple stars, bright stars, and all kinds of star symbolism. We are even reminded that the American flag with its fifty stars shows this symbolism. This is presented as proof that prophetic passages that speak of heavenly disturbances must be understood allegorically, not literally. Even prophetic phrases that speak of the passing away of heaven and earth are, according to preterists, representative of "the passing away of the old covenant world of Judaism." [2]

But what about those prophecies that speak of great wars and military campaigns? For preterists, those too, were fulfilled in the past. DeMar cites the Annals of Tacitus which describes the period from A.D. 14 to the death of Nero in A.D. 68 with phrases such as "disturbances in Germany," "commotions in Africa," "commotions in Thrace," "insurrections in Gaul," "intrigues among the Parthians," "the war in Britain," and "the war in Armenia."

Such phrases indicate a first - century fulfillment of those passages that futurists maintain will only be fulfilled in the future. [3] One can find many other cases of first - century "newspaper exegesis" in preterist writings. Kenneth Gentry, for example, believes that the sealing of the 144,000 of Revelation 7 took place in "the era prior to the devastation of Israel in A.D. 70." [4]

But how does he explain the miraculous protection enjoyed by those who are sealed? Gentry cites a statement from Eusebius (A.D. 260 - 340) who tells of a "supernatural" warning that came by a "revelation" given to "approved men." Gentry refers to this as "an extremely interesting and famous piece of history" which "informs us that the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem escaped the city before it was too late, possibly either at the outset of the War or during one of its providential lulls." [5]

This is a highly dubious way of interpreting Scripture. No doubt, there are events recorded in Scripture that line up with historical events, but should an allegorical approach to the Bible and alleged miracles cited by church historians influence our view of last things? More importantly, however, there is nothing in the account from Eusebius that really matches Revelation 7. This chapter speaks about angels, "the four corners of the earth" and "the four winds of the earth." This is hardly terminology that can be restricted to Jerusalem and the surrounding area.

One of the most beloved of texts speaking about the Lord's return, cherished by Christians everywhere for its hope and encouragement, is given a first - century fulfillment by preterists. The text is Revelation 1:7, which reads: "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."

According to preterist writers, this does not describe a future coming of Christ, but a past coming - one in which He came in judgment on Israel in A.D. 70. Preterists use this verse to show how premillennialists misread Scripture and put too much emphasis on the physical return of Jesus. "It is true that He will come at the end of history," writes Gentry, "bringing about the resurrection and the judgment (Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:13ff; 1 Cor. 15:20 - 26).

But Scripture also teaches that Christ comes to His people in other ways." [6] One of the examples that is cited is Revelation 2:5 where Jesus says: "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly. And will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."

Because Christ comes in a variety of ways, Gentry argues that his interpretation of Revelation 1:7 shouldn't be thought odd. He writes: " The references in Revelation to His coming have to do with His coming in judgment, particularly on Israel. This is evident in the theme verse of Revelation found in Revelation 1:7...This cloud - coming of Christ in judgment is reminiscent of Old Testament cloud - comings of God in judgment upon ancient historical people and nations." [7].

Gentry gives six Scriptures to support his contention that Revelation 1:7 "is reminiscent of Old Testament cloud comings." If these six Scriptures really support Gentry's view of Revelation 1:7 they must be indicative of Divine judgment on Israel. As I will show, this is not at all the case. Not one of them even indicates a "cloud coming" of the Lord in judgment "on Israel."

The following is a list of those Scriptures, with my comments indicating what they really say:

Psalm 18:7-15: Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. (8)There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. (9) He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. (10) And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. (11) He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. (12) At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. (13) The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. (14) Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. (15) Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

These scriptures say nothing about God's judgment on Israel. The superscription states that the Psalm speaks of God's deliverance of David from Saul.

Psalm 104:3: Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:

This scripture says nothing about God's judgment on Israel.

Isaiah 19:1: The burden of Egypt. Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it.

This scripture says nothing about God's judgment on Israel, but describes Divine judgment on Egypt.

Joel 2:1-2: Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.

This is not a reference to the Lord coming in/with the clouds.

Habakkuk 1:2: O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!

There are no references to the Lord coming in/with clouds in the entire chapter.

Zephaniah 1:14-15: The great day of the Lord is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness...

Again, there are no references to the Lord coming in/with clouds.

The reader is encouraged to look up these verses in his or her own Bible. It will become amply clear that they do not provide exegetical support for the contention that Revelation 1:7 is a reference to Jesus Christ coming in judgment on Israel in A.D. 70.

The reader must not forget that when Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives "a cloud received him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). Since He is returning in the same way that He left (Acts 1:11) His coming with "clouds" (Rev. 1:7) is a literal and physical coming.

A Smiling Antichrist With A Song On His Lips?

Predictably, preterists do not believe that there is going to be a future world leader. The Beast of Revelation 13, according to preterism, has already come. "The view to be presented in this work," writes Gentry, "is that the Emperor Nero Caesar is the Beast of Revelation specifically considered and that Rome is the Beast generically considered." [8]

Revelation 13 tells us much about the Beast, and about the false prophet. The Beast has authority over the world (vs. 7) and he receives universal worship (vs. 8). Another beast is seen, this one coming out of the earth (vs. 11). He causes all on the earth to worship the first beast (vs. 12) and establishes a world economy (vss. 16 - 17).

Emperor Nero, however, is a poor candidate for the Antichrist. He was a carnal and selfish man who lacked basic leadership skills to even hold his own army together. When he learned that the Senate disproved of his antics and wanted to put him to death, Nero secured the assistance of one of his men to run a sword through his throat. As he was contemplating a painful death, Nero lamented, "What an artist the world is losing!" Nero considered himself such a talented performer on the stage that he forbade any one in the audience from leaving while he was performing and issued a decree to this effect. Because of the decree pregnant women sometimes had to give birth in the theater, and men who were overwhelmed with a tedious performance had to quietly escape over the back wall. [9]

The Roman Emperor was a poor Antichrist. It is hard to believe that such an individual would inspire personal worship and devotion. The Beast of Revelation 13 is far more successful in his endeavors than Nero ever was.

The Great Tribulation - Already Past?

Preterists insist that the event predicted by all tribulation texts is not some future world - wide tribulation period, but the Roman invasion of Jerusalem. Even the Mark of the Beast is explained as a low - tech brand, used on slaves and animals. No microchip technology here!

The New Testament era saw several Jewish revolts against the Roman overlord. Gamaliel's advice regarding the apostles was that if they were from God there would be no stopping them, but if not they would come to nought. As examples he spoke of rebellion under Theudas and Judas of Galilee, the founder of the Jewish Zealots (Acts 5:36 - 37). The Romans did not take kindly to these repeated insurrections and decided to punish Israel for, and put an end to, the spirit of insurrection. In A.D. 70, the Roman General Titus - son of Vespasian, the man to soon become emperor - led a brutal attack on Jerusalem. Josephus describes the extent of the damage - more than a million Jews were slaughtered and the city and temple were destroyed.

But was this invasion of Jerusalem really "the end" that Jesus prophesied? Preterists are quick to respond with a resounding "yes!" For them, the destruction of the temple along with its system of worship - the Jewish priesthood and the Old Testa - ment sacrificial system - ushered in the new era in which the blood of Christ, and not the blood of animals, cleanses the conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14).

This is what preterism teaches, but you don't find such teaching in Scripture. The new era had been ushered in almost four decades earlier! Hebrews, along with the rest of Scripture, links the full blessings of redemption with the death and resurrection of Christ, not the destruction of an old building and a defunct priesthood. The temple and priesthood could have continued for another thousand years and it would not have delayed the new era one second. Because of their unbiblical system preterists are forced to give the Roman invasion of Jerusalem far more significance than the Bible ever does.

Preterism is tied in with a postmillennial view of last things. Allegedly, we are now living in the Kingdom Age prophesied by the prophets. Since the tribulation is supposedly behind us, things can only get better as the church Christianizes the world. Premillennialism, according to the postmillennialist, is nothing but PESSImillennialism. Rapture escapism has allegedly hindered the work of the church which is to bring about a Christian "takeover" of culture and society.

All of this, quite frankly, has no basis in Scripture. What is pessimistic about a miraculous Divine rescue of God's people and a glorious Kingdom on earth in which all of God's promises are literally fulfilled? Premillennialism is not pessimistic, though it may seem so for those who want to peddle their theocratic ideas under the banner of "Bible truth." Christians need to be aware of those teachings that would turn "the blessed hope" into "the blasted hope."

End Notes 1. Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness, pp. 20 - 21. 2. Ibid., p. 183. 3. Ibid., p. 153. 4. Kenneth Gentry, The Beast of Revelation, p. 99. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid., pp. 25 - 26. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid., p. 19. 9. See Ibid., pp. 18 - 19; Rosalie and Charles Baker, Ancient Rome, p. 171.

What do YOU think ?

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Date:
26 Aug 2001
Time:
20:46:21

Comments

Dr. Spargimino seems to focus a lot on current events. The proliferation of nuclear weapons, the frequency of earthquakes, etc. It's interesting he spends so much time trying to justify his beliefs from the media and other sources. What about the Bible? What does it say? Again, almost no references were made to God's Word.

The author speaks of Jesus agreeing with the points he has made, but again, no relevant texts are cited. Now I'm not denying that Jesus spoke of a sense of urgency or coming conflict. But to whom was he speaking to? Audience relevance is terribly important. Jesus was speaking to those in His generation, and said these things would happen in that generation (Matthew 24:34). So who is Dr. Larry Spargimino to say otherwise? So far, I am not convinced.


Date:
06 Jan 2002
Time:
02:22:42
 

Comments

Preterists are known for seeking "prooftexts" in early Church writings. Yet, why do they conveniently ignore the writings of Ireneaus and Hippolytus? These two alone place the Apocalyptic Vision at the time of Domitian.


Date:
29 Nov 2002
Time:
10:14:14

Comments

visit my Prophecy webpage at psychicprophet.tripod.com


Date:
06 Dec 2002
Time:
11:30:46

Comments

When I read Luke 21:22, I can't help but think that Jesus predicted that all WRITTEN, that is, aLL OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY, would be fulfilled by the end of the war of A.D.70. According to Matthew and Revelation, there still is more to come. Much, however, has already happened, things that we may not have noticed. We are told that the Deliverer SHALL [future] come out of Zion. But Paul said that "it is written," making it clear that from the perspective of the Old Testament writer, it WAS future. Zion was another name for Jereusalem, and the Deliverer did come to Zion. We are told that God will pour out of His Spirit upon all flesh, and He certainly that, and the Jews weree caugh by surprise. Again, this was written in the Old Testament. Preterism pushes cripture to the breaking point in their interpretations, but saomw of the views of Premillennialism are also difficult to grasp. For example, we all know that Jesus came to earth to offer the Kingdom to Israel 2000 years ago. The Jews rejected that Kingdom, and therefore, it was postponed, we are told. But here's the kicker: God's promise to Israel of the Kingdom was a covenant, and we are told in no uncertain terms that this covenant was absolutely unconditional, thus the Kingdom cannot be denied to them. But if the promise was unconditional, and scheduled from the foundation of the world to be delivered at Christ's first advent, pray tell how could God have postponed it? Isn't a Kingdom postponed for 2000 years more more or less equivalent to a Kingdom totally denied? The Preterist view requires supernatural vision to see all the things happen which they lay claim to, but the Premillennial view has its own list of difficulties, requiring, among a host of others, that Rome be revived, Israel be restored, animal sacrifices (those beggarly elements) be resumed, and that people once again place themselves under a curse that no one could bear. Galatians 3:10. Consider a compromise viewpoint: When God had it "up to here" with the rebellion of Israel, He sent His only begotten Son deliver them from sin, and ostensibly to give them their Kingdom, but actually to do away with the Old Order. God knew that they would reject and crucify His Holy Son, but that's a moot point; Israel didn't know that. The Kingdom, and everything good, was their's for the taking. After they did what they did, God converted them all back into Gentiles from which they came (Roman 11:32), requiring ALL to come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ. Those Jews who loved not the truth were damned (2 Thes), and those who were stubborn enough to reject the Gospel right up to the last minute, which was preached to all of them before A.D. 70 were destroyed. If a Jew today tries to live by the Law, he places himself under a curse. If a Christian encourages the resurgence of Judaism because he has not fully checked out prophetic Scripture, he may be excused because of ignorance (that's my optimistic belief). "Jews," who think that they have a Scriptural commandment to live by the Law, to worship God the Father while at the same time rejecting the Son, are indeep trouble if I read the Bible correctly, because 1 John 2:23 has, to my knowledge, never been rescinded. I must stop abruptly. Tell me what you think.


Date:
02 Feb 2003
Time:
20:57:49

Comments

o.k. Sparge, answer this? How can you tell when there is a red hefer in the shower with you? You can smell the Dispensations on his breath. Shouldnt it be a dead give away Spargees' position is with the Parasees of seventy AD as they have lovefest most every week on the radio. Scripture says your breaking the neck of a dog Spargee. Dare I say Spargee has united with the Sodom of Revelation?


Date:
02 Feb 2003
Time:
21:13:17

Comments

o.k. Sparge, answer this? How can you tell when there is a red hefer in the shower with you? You can smell the Dispensations on his breath. Shouldnt it be a dead give away Spargees' position is with the Parasees of seventy AD as they have lovefest most every week on the radio. Scripture says your breaking the neck of a dog Spargee. Dare I say Spargee has united with the Sodom of Revelation?


Date:
08 Nov 2003
Time:
17:21:25

Comments

I think you need to really trust God and pray because Bible prophesy is still being fulfilled


Date:
08 Feb 2004
Time:
12:52:35

Comments

The writer fails to quote the book of Daniel. In chapter 12 he talks about the multitudes who sleep in the dust rising, some to everlasting life others to everlasting shame. Further down in v.7 he says "When the power of the holy people is finally broken all these things will be complete." Who were the holy people? When was their power broken? How can we ignore such a telling scripture?


Date:
09 Apr 2004
Time:
14:30:27

Comments

Are you into studying Bible prophecy? Henry www.defyingdestiny.com Then we can compare notes


Date:
16 Apr 2004
Time:
12:17:50

Comments

All of this debate is starting to make me question anything that I have believed. Preterism is new to me. I have been a Christian for 20 years and have believed what my Teachers have tought me from the pulpit. I only discovered the idea of preterism because my worship leader at my church is a preterist. She and her family are well educated and took upon this belief about 5 years ago. I am tired of "scholarely" people going againts the grain. This has made me question my faith, does God heal? Are spiritual gifts real? If your answere is that it all took place before 70AD, then why should I believe that God loves me and I am going to heaven? The only proof I have of this is what I have been told and some scriptures. But the scriptures also tell me that his return is coming. Why do some people insist on going againts the grain? What is the advantage in believing in Preterism?.............I am sorry, this was not well thougt out........Daniel


Date:
13 Sep 2004
Time:
11:28:04

Comments

I have read commentary after commentary on all sides and can only come to the conclusion that is laid out in the creeds. That we look forward the return of Christ to judge the living and the dead and life everlasting. Jesus said we are not to know when he would return so I would think he would not have provided enough info in his word to lead us to any conclusion on that. I can read just about any escatological framework into scripture. But when scripture speaks for itself, it can support most views except the pretrib view of a secret repture. Prior to 1830 this particular view did not exist and I can not make scripture support it. Great leaps are needed to be taken to make it agree. However, these are areas for debate not split.


Date: 26 Jan 2007
Time: 11:54:41

Comments0:


I recently heard a message by Dr. Sproul regarding the issues surrounding the "generation" question in the Olivet Discourse. While my background is clearly traditional from a prophecy standpoint, I have always recognized the interpretive challenge in this area. If, for sake of discussion, we assume that the "End of The Age" occured on or about 70 AD, I have the following specific questions:

1. When Jesus ascended, the angels told the disciples that this same Jesus would return in like manner. When did that happen?

2. Paul teaches, as a mystery, that at some after the time of his teaching that: "we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed" and that "the dead in Christ shall rise first and those that are alive at his coming will not precede them" When did these things happen?

3. When the book of Revelation refers to a third of the earth's vegetation dying, a third of the oceans turning to blood, etc.. When did these things happen?

3. If God is done with Israel, who are the 144,000 from each of the 12 tribes referred to in Revelation?

4. What, if anything, still has to happen?

 

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