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"Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Jesus, Matthew 24:34
It was Matthew 24:34 that finally caught up with me...
And what a day it was, when Jesus Christ's most astonishing prophetic declaration took hold of my heart. Although I was not previously able to receive it, by limiting to that generation the promise of His second coming and the shaking of heaven and earth (24:29,30), Jesus answered every Bible prophecy question of mine in one statement. Despite possessing a Bible degree and having spent time in pastoral ministry, I was not much of a scholar. Still, it was obvious that this time statement by our Lord was very significant. Jesus' specific time-restriction for prophetic fulfillment meant that nothing less than His infallibility was at stake if the events did not come to pass. That day I was compelled to choose between Christ's Words and my fear of the unknown.
During the preceding months, I had contemplated other alternatives to complete prophetic fulfillment of the Olivet Discourse. Any satisfactory answer would have been sufficient to continue down the Futuristic course of non-fulfillment. Some of the theories I explored in order to find "wiggle-room" around the force of Christ's time-specific references included various transition texts; another saw double-fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus, while another sought to reinterpret the word genea ("generation" in English). All were discarded, leaving only one seemingly-impossible conclusion Ė that the Day of the Lord occurred in the first century desolation of Judea.
Once the decision was made to trust the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:34, recognition of the connection between the "Last Days" and the end of the Old Covenant became plain. (Cf. Hebrews 8:13) One by one, Christ's statements recorded in the Olivet Discourse placed fulfillment of every other "end time" event in connection with the end of that age. Included in these events were the Resurrection (Matthew 24:31; cf. I Corinthians 15:44), the Great White Throne Judgment (Matthew 24:31; cf. 16:27-28; 25:31-34), and the establishment of the promised redemption (Matthew 25:21,23; cf. Luke 21:19,28,32), for which the New Testament writers were in "earnest expectation." (Acts 3:19; I Peter 1:4-9) Ultimately, Scripture bore witness to the fulfillment of the entire Plan of Redemption in the first-century work of Christ. (Luke 21:22; Acts 3:18-21; cf. Revelation 10:7)
Trusting the validity of Jesus' prophetic words in Matthew 24:34 allowed me to see Him in a whole new light. A postponed King no longer in my sight, Jesus appeared to me as the victorious Eternal King, presently reigning over all creation upon his heavenly throne. Recognition of Christ's victorious heavenly reign as Monarch of the World flowed naturally from yielding to the assumption that His words in Matthew 24:34 were to be completely trusted. The ultimate victory of the Lord, for which I had been eagerly awaiting, was fulfilled in that generation to which He spoke, and became to me a present reality. Internally, in what felt akin to an initial salvation experience, the Lord was joyously crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords in practice as well as in principle.
Many other blessings flowed from submission to the words of Jesus. For one, the Bible ceased being a manual for how to live in perpetual longing, becoming instead a training manual for how to live victoriously in Christ's eternal kingdom by habitually overcoming evil with good. Instead of casting a Laodicean shadow over the work of God's people today, the Word of God reflected the brilliant glory of God's purposes in the victory of Jesus Christ over sin, death, and the devil. Perhaps the finest benefit of the whole process has been the ability to stand upon the absolute Word of Jesus Christ in an uncompromising way. As presented in the book of Revelation, "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."
The more humbled my theological pride became, the more light I received from above. What developed during this period was a completely new horizon of scriptural understanding and a manifold increase in spiritual desire.
Christ's end-times focus in Matthew Twenty-Four was the termination of all Old Covenant elements, for the purpose of fully revealing to all ages the New Covenant that had been established in His perfect blood sacrifice. A major part of His vindication included judgment upon the pride of "those who pierced Him" (Revelation 1:7), in the fall of their idolatrous city and temple. All of the tribulations and desolations boldly predicted by Christ were to occur within the generation of His ministry on earth. As He is recorded as saying elsewhere in the Olivet Discourse, shortly to come upon the nations were "the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." (Luke 21:22) Later on, study of first century history even confirmed that the days of vengeance had, in fact, come upon them in the Roman removal of their place and nation. (Cf. John 11:48-50)
In the final chapter of the history of the Mosaic Covenant, Christ was raised from the dead to sit upon the Davidic throne (Acts 2:29-31; cf. Eph. 1:19,20; I Cor. 15:25), to clear the sinners out of the kingdom. (Matthew 13:41) During His subsequent forty-year reign as the last King of temporal Israel, Christ ruled over them with a rod of iron. Upon removal of the temporal, fleshly kingdom in A.D.70, at the hands of the Roman Empire, Christ's eternal. spiritual kingdom was revealed -- a kingdom that increases every day with each sinner saved. (Isaiah 9:6,7) The power of the Holy People was scattered after the fall of their temple (Daniel 9:26, 12:7), and even the Julian dynasty of Rome's Caesars became extinct at the death of Nero. Jesus Christ stood alone, having been revealed as "Ruler of the World." Moreover, as King David wrote, ďThe Lord shall reign forever, unto all generations.Ē
The prophetic river of Godís plan of salvation for man flows throughout the entire Bible. From the spiritual death of man in Eden (Genesis 2:17; cf. 3:15), until the abolition of sinís curse at the end of the Apocalypse (Revelation 21:3; 22:3), Godís answer for sin is found in Jesus Christ. Allowing the full weight of Matthew 24:34 to sink in, the earnest expectation of the New Testament writers made better sense as the capstone to the apocalyptic imagery of the Old Testament expectation. New Testament fulfillment of Old Testament patterns revealed God's Plan of Redemption from beginning to end -- in history as well as in prophecy.
Salvation's promise, expressed in
phrases such as "I will take you to me for a people" (Exodus 6:7-8) and "the
tabernacle of God is with men" (Revelation 21:3), was fulfilled entirely
during the first generation of Christians. (I Peter 1:7-10; Hebrews 11:39,
40) That the hope of eternal life was still awaiting fulfillment after the
cross is seen in virtually every book of the New Testament. (Acts 3:19; I
Thessalonians 5:8-10; Hebrews 9:28; Titus 1:2)
Learning to look for prophetic fulfillment in the eternal/spiritual realm, instead of the temporal/fleshly realm (which is the heart of the "literal method"), revealed that "problem texts" were based upon problems entirely mine! Other confounding Scriptures, most notably those of the Apocalypse of John, rolled open like a scroll. Johnís visions became the spiritual/eternal view of what was portrayed by Christ from an earthly perspective in the Olivet Discourse, making Matthew 24:34 critical to a proper understanding of Revelation. Eventually, I learned that some refer to this method of interpreting the book of Revelation as Preterism.
In The Consummation of the Ages, Kurt Simmons handles Revelation's imagery with a Preterist method of interpretation. He describes the grand climax of John's visions not as physical destruction and regeneration of the earth, but rather as spiritual rescue from sin and death in the work of Christ. Focusing on the first generation of Christians as the "chosen generation," he presents them as the main players in John's apocalyptic visions. Kurt portrays the victory of Christ at the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70 as the sign of the "end of the age" -- noting the significant connection between the close of the Old Covenant age with the dreaded Day of the Lord.
"the proofs that the times had come, would lie in the ceasing of the Mosaic worship, the desolation of Jerusalem and its Temple, and the subjection of the whole Jewish race to its enemies." Eusebius of Caesarea, Fourth Century
By finding "end times" and redemptive fulfillment linked to the first century Advent of Christ, Kurt is not attacking Christianity or its historical understanding of the Bible - only the recent growth of doctrines that place total prophetic fulfillment in the future. That the Church was not destroyed by Rome or "Israel after the flesh" has been seen throughout Christianity's literary history as the paramount sign of God's acceptance of Jesus' blood sacrifice, His disavowal of the Mosaic system, and the resurrection of His true people, the "Israel of God." Bishop Melito of Sardis, writing in the second century, presented a remarkably fulfilled eschatology along these lines. In the Homily of the Pascha, he wrote, "It is I, says Christ, who destroyed death. It is I who triumphed over the enemy, and have trod down Hades, and bound the Strong Man, and have snatched mankind up to the heights of heaven," and "Who will contend against me? Let him stand before me. It is I who delivered the condemned. It is I who gave life to the dead. It is I who raised up the buried."
Consistent with the above statements of Melito, the body of Christian literature presents the fall of Jerusalem in A.D.70 as the clearest proof of the Lord's supremacy and the faith's veracity. Answering charges against the divinity of Jesus Christ rather forcefully, Origen wrote, "I challenge anyone to prove my statement untrue if I say that the entire Jewish nation was destroyed less than one whole generation later on account of these sufferings which they inflicted on Jesus. For it was, I believe, forty-two years from the time when they crucified Jesus to the destruction of Jerusalem." (A.D.250: Contra Celsum, 198-199)
By the fourth century, it became commonplace to present the Preterist view of the Bible. In fact, we are told that the majority of writers found prophetic fulfillment in the Fall of Jerusalem. In A.D. 375, John Chrysostom of Antioch wrote, "Was their house left desolate? Did all the vengeance come upon that generation? It is quite plain that it was so, and no man gainsays it." (A.D.375: Homily LXXIV) Though an early form of Preterism was exhibited in his day, it is still quite significant that Chrysostom regarded this view as the unanimous opinion among his peers.
Meandering through the centuries, the Preterist view of first century fulfillment was generally assumed, and therefore not explicitly defended. For hundreds of years, the Church had generally been engaged in defending more critical aspects of Christian doctrine. Even into the twenty-first century, no grand conference or council has been held to "hammer out" the doctrines of eschatology, as has been done in all other areas of Christian theology. However, the path of Biblical exegesis has returned many times to further develop this area of theology.
By the nineteenth century, a very developed form of the Preterist view emerged, which was embraced by the most eminent authors of the era. F.W. Farrar, Dean of Canterbury and Canon of Westminster, wrote regarding the Fall of Jerusalem, "It was to this event, the most awful in history, ..that we must apply those prophecies of Christ's coming in which every one of the Apostles and Evangelists fixed these three most definite limitations - the one, that before that generation passed away all these things would be fulfilled; another, that some standing there should not taste death till they saw the Son of Man coming in His kingdom; and third, that the Apostles should not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come. It is strange that these distinct limitations should not be regarded as a decisive proof that the Fall of Jerusalem was, in the fullest sense, the Second Advent of the Son of Man which was primarily contemplated by the earliest voices of prophecy." (1882: The Early Days of Christianity, Vol. 2, p. 489)
David Brown, of the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary on the Whole Bible, penned a similar comment. "What is the direct and primary sense of the prophecy? Those who have not directed their attention to prophetic language will be startled if I answer, The coming of the Lord is his coming in judgment against Jerusalem - to destroy itself and its temple, and set up the gospel kingdom in a manner more palpable and free than could be done while Jerusalem was yet standing. I say this application of the words, as their direct and primary sense, will probably startle those unacquainted with the prophetic style. But all hesitation on the subject will cease if we will but allow the Scripture to be its own interpreter. The statement of our Lord, 'Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till these things be fulfilled' puts it, I think, beyond question that the whole range of the prediction was to have an accomplishment before the then race of human beings should all have died from the face of the earth." (1858: Christ's Second Coming, p. 441)
From the earliest Preterist assumptions of the Christian era, until the formulation of a systematic view in America during the twentieth century, the viewpoint of first century fulfillment has consistently grown in development and scriptural consistency. With the current trend of Revelation authorship standing at the threshold of acknowledging past fulfillment, Kurt Simmons presents a commentary that is very timely. His exegesis is both faithful to the historical development of Preterist scholarship, as well as being progressive in the development of this view of the Apocalypse.
The Consummation of the Ages is a Revelation commentary for the ages. As if it were not rare enough to find such a book written from a fully Preterist perspective, the introduction of Kurt's "Bimillennial Preterist" principle sets it apart from every other Revelation commentary, Futurist or Preterist, written during the Christian era. Simmons unveils a fresh way of approaching the enigmatic "thousand year" references in Revelation 20, giving careful attention to the Greek text. Through a close examination of the presence or lack of definite articles (In English, "the" and "a"), two separate "thousand-year" visions arise out of the chapter's obscurity.
Though some may immediately resist the novelty of this view, it is not an irresponsible treatment of the text. Rather, it is a very beneficial tool for sorting out the numerous flashbacks and flash-forwards in Revelation's imagery. Like the lens of a camera, which upon slight adjustment provides crisper clarity to the subject-matter, Kurt's seemingly inconsequential tweaking of Revelation Twenty reveals profound possibilities. One blessing would be the removal of proof-texts for fleshly Chiliasm, which uses the so-called "literal method" to find a future period of earthly bliss contained therein. Another happy result of this perspective would be separation from the bickering of the "millennial debate" among those holding pre, post, and a-millennial viewpoints. Due to the importance of "Bimillennial Preterism" in this book, numerous charted appendices have been added for reference.
In the pages of this book you will be presented with an excellent defense of the pre-AD70 writing of the Apocalypse, and you will be shown the identification of all major and minor players in John's visions. Nevertheless, the true strength of this commentary is the focus given to the span of redemptive history. Therefore, whether or not you are in agreement with every conclusion, your understanding of the Father's Grand Design will doubtless be increased. You do not have to digest all of the fruit to benefit from Kurt's root method of interpretation.
For the Preterist-minded Christian, the Bimillennial Principle will seek to establish a more cohesive view of Revelation, unveiling countless insights regarding the chronology and locale of apocalyptic imagery. Like a movie with a surprise twist at the end, Simmonsí treatment of Revelation 20 influences the book in a way that will leave the reader wanting to read it repeatedly.
In my own experience, when Matthew 24:34 was released from Futuristic presuppositions, it became impossible for me to box it in again. Looking back, my resistance to the impact of Christ's Word had become a matter of pride. The battle was an internal struggle for my absolute allegiance to His Revealed Truth, as opposed to trusting in my ability to comprehend. Upon surrendering to the Lord, He who had been besieging my heart graciously became its Liberator.
In what may be analogous to the History of Exegesis, forsaking the design to force Matthew 24:34 into a Futurist mold brought great revival. On an individual level, it may be the final valley believers must cross in order to more intimately comprehend the Son of God's presence in their lives. Once growing in the comprehension of fulfilled redemption, which was so dearly bought and has been so joyously delivered, servants develop the ability to see their Master's hand at work in all their daily circumstances. Blessedness surely awaits the generations of those who submit to His Word. And what a day it will be for this world when King Jesus is recognized, in practice and in principle, as the Conquering Historical Force.
Todd Dennis, Curator of PreteristArchive.com
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