What if the teaching of fulfilled eschatology, also called full or hyper preterism is prove to be without biblical support? In this brief article we will examine six theological points that would prove to be true if full preterism is not. Then we will examine what that would mean both theologically and practically for the Christian.
Before we begin to examine these six things it would be to the profit of some to give a brief overview of what exactly fulfilled eschatology encompasses. What fulfilled eschatology believes is that Christ's second coming was at the consummation of the Old Covenant not and the end of the world. Or in other words Christ is not going to come back to bring and end of the age which he died to establish (the New Covenant age) in order to bring about all the promises in the Scripture. This teaching says that all of the biblical prophecies concerning the second coming, resurrection and judgment were either completed at the consummation of the Old Covenant, which happened at the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70, or are ongoing in their fulfillment. By ongoing in their fulfillment that means that such things as one's individual judgment and individual resurrected spiritual body is still to happen when one leaves this world. Or the ongoing growth of Christ's kingdom will have no end as stated in Isaiah 9:7 "of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end " is an ongoing reality. Those holding to fulfilled eschatology take the time factors in the New Testament such as "there are some standing here that will not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom" in Matthew 16:28 to be literal. Or
Matthew 24:34 "this generation will not pass till all these things be fulfilled." They believe that audience relevance is most important in interpreting all Scripture.
Now that we have given this brief overview let us now look at the implications of such teaching.
The first thing that would be true if preterism proves false is that the Old Covenant did not find its fulfillment at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. That would mean that either the amil position that it ceased at the cross or the premil position that it is on hold would prove to be true.
The second thing that would prove to be true is that the resurrection would not be past already and preterism would then fall in the category of the Hymenaeus heresy.
Thirdly, if preterism proves unbiblical then the last days spoken of in Scripture are not the last days of the Old Covenant but it is the Christian age which is the last days of human history.
Fourthly, the "age to come" spoken of in the New Testament would not be the New Covenant age but the eternal state.
The fifth thing that is said if preterism proves false is that there most definitely will be a time that God will destroy the earth and put an end to all of life on earth as we know it.
The final thing that proves true and the most obvious is that the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior has not been realized. Christ has not "appeared a second time without sin unto salvation" and judgment day has not arrived meaning the Church is still waiting for this consummation of their salvation.
Now what does this say both doctrinally and by way of implication to us if these things are true? We will deal with the first two points together since preterists say that both the resurrection and the fulfilling of the Old Covenant are connected.
If the Old Covenant was not completely fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem then it most definitely is still in force. Three texts in the New Testament will bear witness to the fact that the Old Covenant summarized in the tables of stone were still in force. The first is 2Cor 3 where Paul is talking about the tables of stone which was the ministration of death in verse 9. Then in verse 11 he says "for if that which is done away (literally in the Greek it is a present passive participle "being done away") was glorious, much more that which remaineth (present active participle "is remaining") is glorious." We see from this text that the tables of stone were being done away so at the time of this writing they were not completely fulfilled.
The next two text we will just quote with the tenses of the Greek and let the reader see for themselves. Hebrews 8:13 "In that he saith A new covenant he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth ("is decaying") and waxeth old ("is waxing old") is ready to vanish." And Hebrews 10:9 " Then said he, Lo, I come to do they will, O God. He taketh away ("is taking away") the first, that he may establish the second."
Now from these three verses we see that the Old Covenant law was not yet completely done away. So the implication is that the Christian is still under the law. There is no basis to say that the law is completely fulfilled if one does not see that it was fulfilled sometime after these verses were penned but ?past already? which brings us to the resurrection.
In 1Cor 15 Paul speaks of the resurrection and how at the resurrection "mortality has put on immortality" and "death is swallowed up in victory." Now certainly this has not happened has it? If it has not happened then according to Paul death's sting which is sin, and sin's strength which is the law, is still in effect. If this is physical death, which obviously still exists, and not spiritual sin-death, which was defeated for God's elect, then the law is still the strength of sin. Then we must ask the question "since he is talking to Christians which law is the strength of sin the Old Covenant law or the law of Christ which is the Christian's law?" There is no other possibility.
It is important to keep in mind that Paul is addressing Christians in 1Cor 15 for whom Christ is the first fruits of the resurrection. He is not such to the reprobate for whom death will never be swallowed up in victory. Now if physical death is meant we must also ask the question "what has Christ been doing for 2000 years to defeat physical death?" Verse 26 of 1Cor 15 reads "the last enemy being destroyed ( a present passive indicative verb) is death." Those that want to say the law is completely fulfilled and past must deal with this resurrection passage for Paul says at the resurrection death is swallowed up in victory and it was sin death that was the result of the fall not physical death (that was merely a by product of being kept from the tree of life Gen. 3:22).
What else needs to be addressed is this fact: if the law has been fulfilled and death has not been swallowed up in victory then death still reigns. And if it still reigns what is the difference between the Old Covenant's being a "ministration of death" and the New Covenant's being a "ministration of the Spirit?" Why was death not destroyed when its ministration was fulfilled? Why does Christ need to come at the consummation of the "ministration of righteousness" in order to destroy death when its ministration was "taken away" already. Why was not death destroyed when the age of its power was consummated?
In addition, if the Old Covenant was consummated at the cross and national Israel cut off at that point then the hope of Israel, which was the resurrection, Acts 26:6-9, ceases to be grounded in Old Testament promise as fulfilling Israel's hope. Christ's resurrection was post cross so therefore after Israel would be cut off. Therefore the promise of the resurrection of both Christ and those whom he was the first fruits of ceases to be a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. This is something foreign to Paul.
Those interested in really looking into this need only look at Isa 25:6-9 the passage that Paul quotes in 1Cor 15:54 "death is swallowed up in victory," and see that the death spoken of has been swallowed up in victory when the law, the ministration of death, was removed (see Isa 25:7-8a and compare to 2Cor 3:14-15). It was most definitely future to Paul but it is "past already."
It would be worth interjecting a thought here. One of the first things some that disagree with this doctrine do is call this the Hymenaeus heresy because we say the resurrection is already past. This accusation has been used by dispensationalists against amillenialists as well since all amillenialists say the first resurrection of Revelation 20 is "past already." Note that Paul does not say which resurrection they were saying was past so if this is valid to toss at a preterist it is as well valid to toss at an amillenialist. This writer has had that thrown at him for the 20 years he was an amillenialist. Isn't it ironic that in our experience it has been amillenialists that have been quick to throw that at those that believe in fulfilled eschatology when they of all should know better.
The third area is that of the last days not being the last days of the Old Covenant but the whole of the Christian age. What does this tell us? It tells us very simply that there is no biblical basis to say the revelatory gifts like tongues, signs and wonders etc.. have ceased for they were for the "last days." Acts 2:17. This cannot be denied. There is no definitive time when one can say the gifts ceased if we are still in the last days. Some say at the completion of the canon. What does that mean? After John wrote the last word of Revelation "Amen" did they instantly cease in all the churches? Or was it at the Council of Carthage in A.D. 400 when the NT canon was put together? There is no definitive answer.
The fourth area is that of the "age to come." Is that age the eternal state or the New Covenant age? If the age to come is not the gospel age we live in then we have three ages and even possibly four. The then present age (which according to Jesus in Luke 20:34 "the children of this age" - which was still under levitical law according to that passage), the Christian age which would be the present age of the epistles and the age to come. The problem with that scenario is that the gospel age would have to be "this present evil age" of Galatians 1:4 Did Jesus come then to deliver us from the age he died to establish? If the present age the Christian age then Jesus died to deliver us from an age that was not in effect yet till he died?
Is the Christian age the night time of Romans 13:12 "the night is far spent the day is at hand?" Also in 1Cor 2 Paul speaks of the "rulers of this age" who have "crucified the Lord of glory." Are we to believe that these people are rulers in the Christian age? Or when Paul said "the god of this age has blinded the minds of them that believe not?" is Satan the god of the Christian age? We would suspect that neither of these are acceptable descriptions of the New Covenant age what Christ died to establish.
But some might object and say that the age spoken of is the world system that is coexistent with the New Covenant age. By where in the Scripture do we find more than two ages mentioned? We only have "this age" and the "age to come." In addition in 1John 2:15-17 we read there of the evil world system that parallels the two ages. The word in the Greek there is "kosmos" not "aeon." It is never referred in Scripture as a third age concurrent with the other two ages.
The fifth area is that of the destruction of the physical earth. If this proves true it would mean that God meant something else in Genesis 8:
21 after the flood where we read: "And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done." To interpret this as meaning that merely is saying that he will not destroy the earth in the same manner is to accuse God of using the sly tactics of Bill Clinton in the meaning of "is."
The context will not allow for this to be saying God was merely pleased to not destroy all living life in a certain manner. A parent would not tolerate that kind of logic in one of their children when caught doing something they said they would never do again.
The sixth and most obvious conclusion drawn is that of the second coming of Christ being yet future. What does this say to us if indeed this has not been fulfilled?
To most Christians they see that the second coming of Christ is when he finishes salvation only as far as our physical body is concerned. No one denies that Christ's second coming is said to complete salvation but "salvation of what?" is the question. Those not holding to full preterism say it is the physical body that is waiting for redemption. These are problems that one must be willing to deal with.
To start with it is not the salvation of the body that is said to be what is be waited for but the salvation of the soul- 1Peter 1:9- "receiving the end of your faith the salvation of your souls", also look at Hebrews 10:39. Another thing that needs to be considered is that if the physical body is in need of redemption that is implying that sin resides in the physical flesh and blood, which smells of Gnosticism. Are we willing to say that the actual flesh and blood body is evil? We must if we insist that Christ's finished work must include redemption of the physical flesh and blood body. (For those that point to Romans 8:23 "redemption of our body" we point them to our article entitled Manifestations of the Son's of God where this is dealt with in more detail.)
Another thing that needs to be considered is that we are said to be "saved by hope and hope that is seen is not hope" Rom 8:24. So when we are told that we wait "for the hope of righteousness by faith" Gal. 5:5 and that eternal life is a hope, Titus 1:2 , and that salvation is a hope 1Thes 5:8, and that the second coming is the "blessed hope" Titus 2:13, and that there is "one hope" Eph. 4:4, then none of this is realized but is merely a hope. You don't hope for something you have. So if these things are a hope then we do not have justification by faith, eternal life nor salvation but they are merely things we wait for.
In addition to Christ having not returned is that he has not been seated on his throne in judgment. In Matthew 25:31 we read that at that time "THEN he will sit on the throne of his glory"? Are we ready for the implications of such a thing? One of the implications is that the dispensationalism false notion that Christ is not reigning now is true.
So what shall we say to these things? If preterism is proved false by the Scriptures then we are still under the law; sin has its sting; death has not been swallowed up in victory; the gifts of the Spirit are still in force; the Christian age is the present evil age; God plays around with words and has not kept his promise of Gen. 8:21; salvation of our souls is not complete; Christ is not on his throne so he is either not reigning or is an absent king; and most of all he has been proven a false prophet for he said that "some standing here will not taste death till they see the son of man coming in his kingdom." There is no other possiblity.
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- 05 Oct 2003
Another unfortunate article based solely on personal opinions of various proof texts. The truth about the first century requires an understanding of complete and consistent typology. God's progressive revelation to mankind was based on the principle of "first the natural...then the spiritual" (1 Cor. 15:46). The natural things of the OT (including the ENTIRE history of OT, natural Israel) were merely types of the spiritual things of the NT. Preterists want nothing to do with complete and consistent typology because it proves that Christ's parousia occurred at the end of the true first century, and not in AD 70. Some preterists believe in partial typology but refuse to accept the fact that the events at the end of natural Israel's history, in AD 70, like the events at the beginning of that nation's history, were merely types.
- 05 Oct 2003
Great article Mike K !!! - Mchael Bennett.
- 06 Oct 2003
The first thing that would be true if preterism proves false is... The second thing that would prove to be true is that... Thirdly, if preterism proves unbiblical then... Fourthly, the "age to come" spoken of... would not be...but. The fifth thing that is said if preterism proves false is... The final thing that proves true and the most obvious is... To teach against Preterism, one needs to read (study) their archives. It is obvious that this man did not do his home work. This man states what he believes, not what the bible says. He says this is what Preterist "breifly" believe. This man is typical of what is out there in the world lining his pockets to spread His lies. By the way, this article was located in the Preterist Archives for all of its people to read and have a good laugh.
- 30 Dec 2003
If Hyper Preterist are right it seems that there is nothing in the bible for we who live since 70 AD. We have to read the bible as a second party and look to what has already past. Not much incouragement for us if we can;t associate ourselfs with it. Hugh Clark
- 20 Sep 2004
one responder wrote: If Hyper Preterist are right it seems that there is nothing in the bible for we who live since 70 AD. We have to read the bible as a second party and look to what has already past. Not much incouragement for us if we can;t associate ourselfs with it. Hugh Clark. Mr Clark, have you listened to yourself? nothing in the bible for you sir!! you are reacting out of a feeling of being left out! NOT MUCH ENCOURAGEMENT IF WE CAN'T ASSOCIATE OURSELVES WITH IT!!! IS JESUS NOT YOUR SAVIOR SIR!! DIDN'T HE DIE FOR YOUR SINS SIR!! ARE YOU NOT SEATED WITH HIM AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER!! DO YOU NOT HAVE ETERNAL LIFE!! YOU ARE VERY MUCH ASSOCIATED WITH THE BIBLE IF YOU ARE IN CHRIST!! Christ is all that really matters!!
- 20 Sep 2004
what does this mean? Preterists want nothing to do with complete and consistent typology because it proves that Christ's parousia occurred at the END OF THE TRUE FIRST CENTURY, and not in AD 70.