“WAS JESUS A PRETERIST?” (1)

PMT 2014-116 Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D.Introduction

Awhile back I was privileged to hear Dr. Wayne A. Briddle of Liberty University deliver a cogent, careful, and cordial critique of evangelical preterism (which he designated “partial preterism”). Dr. Briddle graciously allowed me a few moments at the end of his presentation to respond. He also asked if I would mind providing him some sort of critique of his presentation for his better understanding of the issues from my perspective. Here is my reply.

Introduction

In his paper, Dr. Bridle provided a helpful summary statement regarding the nature of and evidence for preterism. His summary was apparently designed for an audience not thoroughly familiar with the debate. I commend him for his careful introduction of the topic. His summary should aid any one interested in the basics of preterism and its variant forms (from heterodox Hyper-Preterism or Full or Extreme Preterism to the Evangelical Preterism of R. C. Sproul, Gary DeMar, and Kenneth Gentry).
As a bibliographical and historical aside, I would recommend that Dr. Briddle mention Jay E. Adams and Greg L. Bahnsen as proponents of what he designates “mild preterism.” (See: Jay E. Adams, The Time is at Hand [Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R, 1966] and Bahnsen’s tapes “An Exposition of the Book of Revelation” from Covenant Media Foundation.)


House Divided: Break-up of Dispensational Theology
(by Ken Gentry)
A rebuttal to dispensationalism’s view of eschatology and God’s Law
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


I would also want Dr. Briddle to be aware that the preterist movement is not a function of “Reconstructionist” theology. This is evident in that:

(1) Dr. R. J. Rushdoony, the putative founder of modern Christian Reconstruction, was opposed to preterism (see his: Thy Kingdom Come: Studies in Daniel and Revelation). Consequently, his Chalcedon Foundation operates from a non-preterist perspective on eschatological issues. Also opposed to preterism is Andrew Sandlin, former editor of Rushdoony’s The Chalcedon Report and a continuing and influential voice in Reconstructionist circles. These are but two examples.

(2) Preterism antedates the rise of Christian Reconstructionism in the 1960s. Early modern evangelical preterists include Moses Stuart (Commentary on the Apocalypse, 1844), Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (early 1800s), and Milton S. Terry (Biblical Apocalyptics, 1898). Even as late as 1971 J. Marcellus Kik promoted a non-Reconstructionist preterism in his An Eschatology of Victory (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971). Kik’s book is actually a republication of articles he wrote back in the 1950s.

(3) Preterism is widely current outside of Reconstructionist circles today. For instance, Jay E. Adams is an amillennialist, as was Cornelis Vanderwaal, Search the Scriptures (1979).

In addition, I would urge Dr. Brindle not to assume (as some do) that preterism has arisen as an attempt to shore up postmillennialism by ridding certain “anti-postmillennial” passages from the debate. For instance, on page 64 of Darrell L. Bock, ed., Three Views of the Millennium and Beyond, Robert Strimple responds to me with the following observation: “By means of his preterist reading . . . Gentry tries to assure Christians that the worst days of persecution, apostasy, and the Antichrist are past (except for the brief Satan-led rebellion just before Christ’s second coming, which Rev. 20:7-9 seems to require as an undigested surd in the postmillennial scheme).” Preterism arises as an exegetical issue (dealing with contextually embedded near-time temporal indicators) rather than a theological issue (i.e., as a function of postmillennial theology).

One issue in Briddle’s presentation that I take exception to — and especially since it is a common misperception — is the claim that preterism holds to more than one second coming of Christ (see under his heading “Mild Preterism”; but it appears elsewhere in his paper). We most definitely do not. The Hyper-Preterist obviously believes in only one Second Coming, because he applies it to the singular A.D. 70 episode. But the Evangelical Preterist also denies more than one Second Coming of Christ. Dr. Brindle is probably aware that Reformed and other non-dispensational theologians complain that dispensationalism effectively has two returns of Christ: the Rapture and the later Second Advent. If dispensationalists can divorce the Rapture from the Second Advent in such a way as to not have two Second Comings, we can as well — and we can for clearer reasons (I believe).


Pushing the Antithesis (by Ken Gentry)
Sub-title: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


In this regard, we must realize the New Testament teaches that Christ “comes” in several ways: (1) Christ comes to us spiritually in the person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18). (2) Christ comes on the clouds to God in heaven to receive His kingdom (Dan. 7:13). (3) Christ will come on the clouds visibly and bodily in the future, bringing about the resurrection and the judgment at his Second Advent (Acts 1:11, 1 Thess. 4:15-17). (4) He comes on the clouds in judicial judgment upon men in history. This fourth “coming on the clouds” is very much like Jehovah’s “coming on the clouds” against Egypt in Isaiah 19:1. That coming was not a real, historical appearance of Jehovah to the Egyptians; rather it is a metaphorical way of declaring that God will judge Egypt in history:

The oracle concerning Egypt.
Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud, and is about to come to Egypt;
The idols of Egypt will tremble at His presence,
And the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.

As a preterist, I teach that the “Second Coming” is a distinct, unitary, unrepeatable, visible, bodily appearance of Christ to bring history to a conclusion. It is the only Second Coming, and is mentioned in such texts as Acts 1:8-11 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 (to mention but two). The “coming” of Christ in A.D. 70 is really a metaphorical statement declaring that he will judge Israel and destroy her Temple for rejecting him. I doubt Christ actually came down to earth (in spirit or otherwise) and directed the battles. The A.D. 70 coming is a literary image of divine superintendence of earthly judgment (as per Isa. 19:1). It is the same coming alluded to in Matthew 21:40, which is taken by most evangelicals as referring to A.D. 70: “Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?”

It is true that the A.D. 70 “judgment-coming” is related to the Second Coming. But it functions only as a preview and warning of the wrath of God that will occur as an actual, history-ending eschatological event. As such, it is like the various Old Testament “Day of the Lord” passages that preview the consummate Second Coming (see Dallas Seminary’s Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament for evidence in this regard).

(To be continued. Unless the Rapture occurs. In which case, I take it all back.)

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7 thoughts on ““WAS JESUS A PRETERIST?” (1)

  1. Tom Hill September 24, 2014 at 5:44 am

    Thank you for this article. I got a chuckle from your closing remark (“I take it all back”). I once listened to a sermon on Revelation from a dispensationalist. In it the pastor gave his understanding of end time events in some detail. He concluded his sermon by saying (brashly) “If it doesn’t just this way [sheepishly], I’ll change my view.” Thank you for your articles.

  2. Jeffrey K. Boer September 25, 2014 at 10:44 am

    You stated, “(1) Dr. R. J. Rushdoony, the putative founder of modern Christian Reconstruction, was opposed to preterism (see his: Thy Kingdom Come: Studies in Daniel and Revelation).” Could you cite any page numbers where Rushdoony opposes preterism? In his chapter on Matthew 24, he seems to endorse it. He also wrote the intro to Kik’s “Eschatology of Victory,” and seemed to be on board with it. A friend of mine challenged me when I sent him your statement, and in my searching I was unable to substantiate your claim. What am I missing?

  3. Kenneth Gentry September 25, 2014 at 11:14 am

    I am referring to Rushdoony’s approach to Revelation. He takes an idealist view of Revelation. He accepted some few elements of preterism, but would not be labeled a “preterist,” because his preterism was much more limited in scope.

    Everybody is a “preterist” to some extent. Even dispensationalists, in that they see Luke 21:20-24 fulfilled in AD 70. But we wouldn’t call them “preterists.”

  4. Jeffrey K. Boer September 25, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks! That’s helpful!

  5. Charles September 26, 2014 at 3:12 am

    “Everybody is a “preterist” to some extent. Even dispensationalists, in that they see Luke 21:20-24 fulfilled in AD 70. But we wouldn’t call them “preterists.”

    I very much agree with this, Every one is a “preterist” I for one is a Historic Premilenialist but on my part I see it very clear that The first question of the Olivet Discourse “when shall this things be” was speaking about the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70AD. On the other hand it is also very extremely clear that “What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age” is a change of topic and is certainly to be fulfilled STILL in the Future.
    So proto Gnostic Full Preterism is so “very” wrong in claiming that it is all done away in 70 AD.

    Dispies, Amill, Idealist, Historicist and Postmil folks would agree!

    I am also surprised that Rushdoony is not a “Preterist”. I arrived at the same conclusion as Dr Wayne Briddle and I’m so glad to know this coming from Dr Gentry himself:…… ” I would also want Dr. Briddle to be aware that the preterist movement is not a function of “Reconstructionist” theology.”

    I’m wary of “partial preterism” because I thought it was being used by Reconstructionism for their agenda. I read books and articles about Dominionism/Reconstructionism. Honestly those people have some ideology that although they have the right intentions but extremely unbiblical, that it would even take away the “basic right of free will” of everyone Christian or not to choose by their own will as God intends it to be. They have some very “scary and extremist” vision. It’s like a “holy” Christian ISIS movement to be honest. and I have articles to back it up.

    So I’m Glad to know coming from Gentry that Preterism is not a function of Reconstructionist theology and it predates it. I think I’m now at peace with partial Preterism because of this article, Thanks!, very enlightening……Hope you could post my article Doc! 🙂

  6. Kenneth Gentry September 26, 2014 at 5:34 am

    The doctrine of the Trinity, salvation by grace through faith, the full inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture also are used by Reconstructionists to promote a full-scale biblical worldview. Don’t cast those items out!

  7. Charles September 26, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Offcourse doc!…I won’t cast those doctrines you mentioned. Trinity, Salvation by Grace through faith, Inerrancy of Scriptures, Sola Scriptura are Core Biblical doctrines that I profess and hold on to, I also would like to add the Bodily Resurrection and the Physical return of Christ. I’m one with them on those even though I really disagree with their agenda.
    Like what the Bible answer man always said: “in Essentials Unity, Non Essentials Liberty and in All things Charity!”

    That’s why I would rather fellowship with Dispys than Preterists (i mean Full Preterist ) 🙂 because even though Hal Lindsey and company may be wrong to some extent but they are still Orthodox Christians than heretical Full Preterism which denies the Physical Resurrection and Advent.

    with regards to Dominionism/Reconstructionism, They are sound when it comes to the Central tenets of Christianity. But they have a “vision” which sounds politically correct but not Biblicaly right, anyway that’s when 2 Tim 2:15 comes in, – we should “rightly divide the word of truth” as Paul admonished us. Postmill seems to be more honest and biblical which I would rather support rather than the militant Dominionism/Reconstructionist movement.

    But in case the Rapture happens soon, I will support them when Christ the king himself comes to rule the Nations with the rod of Iron in his Millenial reign. :0 🙂

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