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The End of All Things

By C. Jonathan Seraiah

Introduction

The soulless liberalism of the nineteenth century left many people with a firm desire to return to a solid understanding of the Scriptures. But rather than returning to the sound teaching of the previous centuries, many believers sought out new teachings, especially in eschatology. We were told that all the "signs" of the Second Coming were coming to pass and thus that Jesus was definitely going to return within a few years. This teaching spread like wildfire (due mostly to the onset of the Scofield Reference Bible), and eventually these views took on the name "dispensationalism." One of dispensationalism's foremost characteristics was and is to read all prophecies in the New (and usually the Old) Testament as referring to the Final Advent of Christ.

Over the past few decades, dispensationalism itself has faced increasing critical re-evaluation. As many believers have been moved to delve deeper into the scriptural basis for dispensational teachings, they have often come to the conclusion that dispensationalism has missed the mark drastically. In addition, many of those who have done this have been discovering that both the liberals and dispensationalists were misdirected along the same path. Liberalism said, "Jesus was wrong to say His return was soon."   Dispensationalism said, "Jesus never said His return was to be soon in the first century but soon in the twentieth century."

Today, a growing group of evangelicals wants to take the exegetical good of both the liberals and the dispensationalists. They argue that Jesus did say His final return was in the first century (as per liberalism), and that He was right in what He said (as per dispensationalism). In their response, however, they have gone to the opposite extreme.   The dispensationalists moved all the references to Jesus' "coming" to today. This new group wants to move all the references to Jesus' "coming" to the first century and say that it really did happen then. Their error is the same as that of the dispensationalists and the liberals (both of whom they want to oppose). They don't carefully let the distinctions in the references to Jesus' return speak for themselves. Both groups tend to make this debate a simplistic matter of brute, logical consistency—all then or all now. But Scripture is not that simplistic.

A Radical Distinction

Though the dispensationalists were clearly wrong in much of their eschatology, they have maintained a belief in the Final Advent of Christ, a future, physical Resurrection, and the Day of Judgment. Our "new" group has denied the historic understanding of these doctrines. In this case they have rejected the errors of dispensationalism for errors that are far worse.

Throughout history, the primary creeds that have been used by the Spirit to unite the Church (the Apostles' and the Nicene) have affirmed the three essential doctrines of the Final Advent, the physical Resurrection, and the Day of Judgment. This is certainly not to be taken lightly.

This "new" teaching I speak of strongly desires to separate itself from the sort of exegetical fallacies in the writings of Hal Lindsey and the like. Even those within dispensationalism are seeing the need to rethink much of what has been taught for years now. I can attest to this situation in my own life. I started off as a dispensationalist (it was the only thing I had heard at first). As years went by, I began to recognize that the Scriptures did not support what I believed; I began a long and slow journey to find what the Scriptures really did say about the Second Coming. After years of prayer and study, I too have found myself disagreeing with dispensationalism on numerous grounds.

"Pantelism"

The new teaching which has arisen in response to dispensationalism has been referred to by its adherents as "fulfilled eschatology" and sometimes as "consistent preterism" (preter means past). Of course, no one wants to be "inconsistent," so they have made their opponents' position in error by definition. Christian communication can occur much more easily if we accept terms that appropriately define where we stand. In addition, the position presented in this book is that they are only consistent (in most cases) within their own system (which is not difficult—you merely relegate everything in Scripture to the past before you examine it). They are not consistent with Scripture itself. "Preterist" is obviously insufficient as a term for this group because they themselves find the need to add qualifiers like "consistent" to it.

Therefore, desiring to make an easy reference to this group that they themselves might accept, I shall refer to this movement as "pantelism" (from the Greek words meaning "all is completed"), and I will use the term "preterism" exclusively for those who hold that most of the eschatology of the New Testament is past. Since the term "preterist" refers to the "past," and "pantelist" means clearly "all is past," and the term "preterist" has not been used historically to refer to "pantelists," I believe this is a fair distinction. I have done this with a desire to distinguish these two groups and to make their individual stances more clear in their names. We must remember here that in a certain sense every Christian is preterist; what makes us Christians is that we believe the prophecy about the (first) coming of the Messiah is past. Every Christian has at least some preterist beliefs. Thus "preterist" is an insufficient term to describe those who hold that all of the prophecies of the Bible were fulfilled by a.d. 70.

It is true that the "eschatology" of the New Testament is predominantly preterist. For those unfamiliar with the preterist perspective, it is the ancient view that many of the eschatological passages of the New Testament were fulfilled (completely) in the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. This view may sound novel, but in reality there have been orthodox adherents to it throughout church history (e.g., Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, John Lightfoot, John Owen, Milton Terry,
Jay Adams). This interpretation does not deny the Final Coming of Christ; it merely finds that not all "coming" passages refer to that event. The preterist interpretation is actually the most faithful to the biblical text because it recognizes that Old Testament prophetic terminology was used by the New Testament authors. This recognition is helpful in distinguishing the prophecies of Christ's coming that were near, in the first century (Matt. 10:23; 16:28; 24:30; 26:64; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 1:7; James 5:7-9; 1 Pet. 4:7; Rev. 1:3, 7; etc.)  and thus fulfilled in a.d. 70, from those that were far (John 5:28-29; Acts 1:11; 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:23-24; 1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Jn. 3:2; etc.) and thus not yet fulfilled even in our day. It also helps to distinguish between a spiritual "coming" (invisible for temporal judgment, as in a.d. 70) and a physical coming (visible for eternal judgment).

It is not true, however, that the eschatology of the New Testament is exclusively preterist; some prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. But the pantelists have gone so far as to deny the Final Advent of Christ at the end of the world, an end accompanied by the final (physical) Resurrection and Judgment Day. In addition, most have gone on to deny there is a future eternal state. In other words, this is eternity now; we go on like this forever. It is not my desire to ignore the works of those who have gone before me who have put forward an orthodox understanding of the Final Advent of Christ. It is my desire, however, to state that those who are heterodox need to be shown as such and should not be allowed to proclaim heresy as truth within the church of Jesus Christ.

Theological Ramifications

Many within the church today find the act of departing from various doctrines of the historic Christian faith to be of no terrific consequence. I am not saying one needs have all of his eschatological "ducks in a row" in order to be saved. There are many Christians I admire very much whom I believe to be wrong in their understanding of eschatology.

The issue involved here is that all doctrines (no matter how obscure) affect our relationship with God in some way. If a Christian believes the Bible says the world will be completely destroyed tomorrow, he will act in certain ways he would not act if he believed the world was not going to end until long after his death.   Our salvation is not, of course, based on our understanding of the events related to the first or second coming of Christ. Our salvation is based on what Christ did at His first coming and through our faith in Him. Pantelism, however, is a teaching—growing in evangelical circles today—that can be called nothing other than heresy, and the ramifications of this teaching are not only dangerous for individuals but destructive to the Church of Jesus Christ.

What do YOU think ?

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Date:
11 Jun 2002
Time:
21:10:15

Comments

What I think is interesting is this: 1.It is not true, however, that the eschatology of the New Testament is exclusively preterist; some prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. This is my question for you: If there is prophecy yet to be fulfilled , then why are not the gifts of prophecy still relevant for today, if there is still something futuristic to be played out in history. 2.In addition, most have gone on to deny there is a future eternal state. My question is this: where did you get your information? If we are still in "Flesh" which is temporal, how is that anyone can deny the eternal state which has no beginning or end? I think you need to check your resources. - Elton Foster www.theprophetsvoice.com
Date:
29 Dec 2002
Time:
12:13:25

Comments

In the introduction to Seraiah's book, he claims that full preterists don't carefully make the distinction between the NT texts that refer to His coming in judgment on Jeusalem/apostate Judaism and those that speak of His return to resurrect and judge all men at the end of human history. Texts are then cited that purportedly "speak for themselves" and clearly demonstrate this distinction. The problem here is three-fold. (1) The NT itself never explicitly makes such a distinction. Given the tremendous theological ramifications that ride on whether or not this distinction is valid, it seems strange that the NT writers didn't make it clear and unmistakeable, if in fact it is a valid distinction. (2) What exactly are the criteria supposed to be whereby one can reliably determine which NT passages refer to Jesus' 70 A.D. coming and which refer to His future judgment? To my knowledge, no partial preterist has ever provided a set of objective criteria by which this crtical distinction might be determined. In the abscence of such hermeneutical principles, the assertion that some texts refer to the former and others to the latter seem largely contrived. (3) Many partial preterists are convinced that full preterism is "obviously false" because of the absurdity of contending that the resurrection and final judgment occurred in 70 A.D. Taken in a certain way, yes, such a contention is preposterous, since it is obvious that a resurrection and judgment of all men did not take place on this planet in the year 70 A.D. However, this reading of full preterism is a thinly-disguised caricature. The vast majority of full preterists would not make the rather silly claim attributed to them above, but rather something like the following. When Christ came in judgment against the unbelieving Jews in 70 A.D., that historical judgment signaled the ushering in of a parallel judgment "in eternity" that all men will eventually undergo, a judgment befitting Christ's having brought God's redemptive purposes to their consummation (Acts 17:30-31; Heb. 9:26b-28). This claim is neither ludicrous nor devoid of biblical support. If partial preterists want to refute the more sophisticated and plausible versions of full preterism, they need to quit knocking down straw men and tackle the real thing. Otherwise, their arguments actually serve to help full preterism by refining it and showing the implausibility of its less well-thought-out versions. Matthew Power


Date:
10 Jan 2003
Time:
11:51:47

Comments

I have been studying the various flavors of Preterism for some months now. I am fully convinced that the events of 70 A. D. are the real subject of Daniel 9, the Olivet Discourses, and the bulk of Revelation. However, there seems to be a rift in the Preterist community over the subject of the “Millennium” in Revelation 20. (For the record, I see the “1000 years” in Revelation as a figurativec expression for an undefined but substantial period of time that may or may not be a literal 1000 calendar years.) As I understand it, one of the rules of good hermeneutics is to carefully examine all the passages you can find on a particular subject. If the large majority of the passages seem clear in their meaning while a few others seem vague, then the rule of thumb is to form your position based on the clear passages. If only one writer mentions a topic in one place and you can’t find any corroborating passages, then what it means is anyone’s guess. The Millennium seems to be just such a questionable area. To me, it seems to be a thorn in the side of both Full Preterists and Partial Preterists alike. On the one hand, if you use the rule above, then the Pantelist position seems the way to go. In all fairness, John’s Revelation is the only place I know of that suggests that there is a (long) period of time between Christ’s parusia, (that seems to include a “First Resurrection” of martyred saints), and the “Last Day”, (i.e. the final defeat of Satan, the general resurrection of all the remaining dead, and the Judgment Seat of Christ). Actually, when he says “And the rest of the dead did not live until the thousand years was completed”, it almost seems as if that part of his prophecy was parenthetical; an afterthought if you will. On the other hand, while it may seem parenthetical but it is still there nonetheless. To discard it scares me. I don’t want to be guilty of “taking away from the words of the prophecy”. Also, the Preterist camp is real big on time phrases such as “near”, “at hand”, “at the door”, this generation shall not pass away”, etc… To say that “at hand” means literally some time within the current generation, and to spiritualize “1000 years” to mean the same 40 yr. span of time between ascension and parusia is the “Preterist Pot” calling the “Dispensationalist Kettle” black. It is right up there with “this generation” meaning “race”. At the moment, I dwell in the Partial-Preterist camp, not because I think it is exceedingly better grounded theologically, but because it just “feels” right. I realize that is subjective on my part, but I can’t help it. Satan is surely guilty as charged, convicted and bound, (that is “restricted”), but I can’t reconcile myself to the supposition that he is totally destroyed. When it comes to evil being present in the world, there seems to be something bigger at work than merely man’s sin nature. Who knows! After more prayer, research and a revelation of the Holy Spirit, I may someday find myself in the Full Perterist camp as David Chilton did shortly before his death. But in the mean time, I’ll continue to study, pray and meditate on these things. Whichever way I lean in this matter I know the following things are true; when my time is done in this earthly life I will either go immediately into His presense or “sleep in the dust of the earth” until I am raised at the “Last Day”. Either way, I know that His redemptive work is complete, I am “raised with Him in Heavenly places” right now, the Kingdom of Heaven is right now. There is really nothing to wait for but there is always plenty to do for the Kingdom, regardless of whether you serve in Heaven or earth. Thank God for His Holy Spirit which awakens in the hearts of men a burden for the things of God and His Christ. Your Brother, Cliff Miller clffjul@tds.net


Date:
26 Mar 2004
Time:
17:45:25

Comments

We love Dewey Rowe! Sandie Young


Date: 21 Oct 2006
Time: 16:24:15

Comments0:

I have a question for Mr. Seraiah.
Where in the NT does it teach that Jesus will return twice?
You said that He returned in 70AD and will return at a future date! Hebrews 9 tells us that Jesus will appear a SECOND time! You must choose: 70AD or future from us living in 2006! Jesus said that He would return to that generation who saw and heard His works and words my friend.

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