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Acts 1:9-11 and the Hyper-Preterist Debate | Response to the Full Preterist Criticisms of Dr. Kelly Nelson Birks

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HISTORICAL PRETERISM
(Minor Fulfillment of Matt. 24/25 or Revelation in Past)

Joseph Addison
Oswald T. Allis
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Augustine
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Karl Barth
G.K. Beale
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John Bengel
Wilhelm Bousset
John A. Broadus

David Brown
"Haddington Brown"
F.F. Bruce

Augustin Calmut
John Calvin
B.H. Carroll
Johannes Cocceius
Vern Crisler
Thomas Dekker
Wilhelm De Wette
Philip Doddridge
Isaak Dorner
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Alfred Edersheim
Jonathan Edwards

E.B. Elliott
Heinrich Ewald
Patrick Fairbairn
Js. Farquharson
A.R. Fausset
Robert Fleming
Hermann Gebhardt
Geneva Bible
Charles Homer Giblin
John Gill
William Gilpin
W.B. Godbey
Ezra Gould
Hank Hanegraaff
Hengstenberg
Matthew Henry
G.A. Henty
George Holford
Johann von Hug
William Hurte
J, F, and Brown
B.W. Johnson
John Jortin
Benjamin Keach
K.F. Keil
Henry Kett
Richard Knatchbull
Johann Lange

Cornelius Lapide
Nathaniel Lardner
Jean Le Clerc
Peter Leithart
Jack P. Lewis
Abiel Livermore
John Locke
Martin Luther

James MacDonald
James MacKnight
Dave MacPherson
Keith Mathison
Philip Mauro
Thomas Manton
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Thomas Newton
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Dr. John Owen
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William W. Patton
Arthur Pink

Thomas Pyle
Maurus Rabanus
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Anne Rice
Kim Riddlebarger
J.C. Robertson
Edward Robinson
Andrew Sandlin
Johann Schabalie
Philip Schaff
Thomas Scott
C.J. Seraiah
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Dr. John Smith
C.H. Spurgeon

Rudolph E. Stier
A.H. Strong
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Friedrich Tholuck
George Townsend
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Wm. Warburton
Benjamin Warfield

Noah Webster
John Wesley
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William Whiston
Herman Witsius
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John Wycliffe
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C.F.J. Zullig

 

 

A False Gospel is not a "Good Offense"

By Keith A. Mathison

 

An article entitled “The Best Defense is a Good Offense” was recently brought to my attention. The author, aware that I am editing a critique of hyper-preterism, decided that it would be a good idea to launch a pre-emptive strike.

The project is a critique of hyper-preterism (not preterism) and is, in fact, already completed. It should be published some time later this year. However, since he apparently believes he has raised some questions that adherents of biblical Christianity cannot answer, they require a brief response. I will simply list his questions as they are stated in his article and follow each with a few comments.

1. Has the Great Commission been completed?

Being Calvinists, Sproul and others at Ligonier should be well aware of the typical rant of dispensational semi-Pelagians who constantly quote John 3:16 and say “world means world” – every parcel of land on the face of the planet. In this light, I would encourage our brothers at Ligonier to consider their responses carefully. For again I ask, has the gospel been preached to all the world? Paul says it has.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” – Rom 1:8

“…but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—“ Rom 16:26

“…which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit…” – Col 1:6

“…the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.”. – Col 1:23

David Curtis, pastor of Berean Bible Church makes an excellent observation:

"Probably one of the most common beliefs among Christians is that once the gospel is preached to all the world, Christ will return and the world will end. This is a theme verse of the Christian Broadcasting Network. [CBN of Pat Robertson & the 700 Club] They are trying to fulfill this verse [Mat 24:14]. Most believers would say that this verse has not yet been fulfilled, the gospel has not yet been preached to all the world. How do we know if it has? Well, Jesus said the end would come once the gospel was preached to all the world.”

Response:

In the first place, I agree that the Gospel was, in some sense, preached to the entire Roman world before the end of the Jewish age. However, that is not the same thing as saying that the Gospel no longer needs to be preached to the world today (since the world is constantly being populated with more fallen men in need of Christ). Nor is it the same as saying that the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28:19–20 has been completed. To say that Colossians 1:23 proves the fulfillment of the Great Commission is to imply that there is no longer any need to preach the Gospel anywhere today.

In addition, the Great Commission speaks of the discipling of all nations, not merely the proclamation of the Gospel to all nations. Those who hear and believe the Gospel must still be discipled. They must be taught. Finally, his citation of the beliefs of Pat Robertson are irrelevant since Robertson’s eschatological beliefs are not shared by anyone involved in the book that I am editing.

2. Who is in heaven?

Go to any funeral and you will be told that the dearly departed is now with God (if they have proclaimed to be Christian that is). But is that consistent with what we are actually being told? We are being told that the Resurrection has not yet happened. That Jesus isn’t really the King of kings yet. That the kingdom isn’t really established yet (well kind of sort of but not really). This schizophrenic theology leaves the average Christian in confusion. Will they go to be with their Lord on the day of their physical death? It is inconsistent for ministers to tell people that they will have life in heaven if these same ministers imply that Jesus has not yet conquered the last enemy, which is death.

Response:

I will respond to his complete misrepresentation of what I and others are saying about the kingdom in the next response. Here I will simply note that he believes it is inconsistent for preachers at funerals “to tell people that they will have life in heaven if these same ministers imply that Jesus has not yet conquered the last enemy, which is death.” I would submit that it is inconsistent for there to be funerals for Christians if Christ’s conquest and destruction of death is totally complete. The very fact that Christian believers do still die should be a clue to hyper-preterists like his that there is a major flaw in their theology.

He asks, “Who is in heaven?” Since I do not know what he means when he uses the term “heaven,” I will simply say that believers who die are absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23–24). The resurrection of their bodies is still future. He informs us that it is a mistake to affirm that the resurrection has not yet happened. Well, of course, Christ’s bodily resurrection certainly has happened. But the general bodily resurrection of believers has not. In order to affirm that it has already happened, hyper-preterists have been forced to redefine it in an assortment of ways (all of which contradict Scripture and result in a denial of the Gospel). Since an entire chapter of the forthcoming book is devoted to a critique of the unbiblical hyper-preterist doctrine(s) of “resurrection,” I will not dwell on it here.

3. Two Masters?

If Satan is now in control of this world (as we are told) then how is it that Jesus is the King? What is Jesus the king of? If this world is the kingdom of Satan then where is Christ’s kingdom? Are they both existing side by side battling back and forth for domination of the world? If so then on a surface appearance we may think Christ is losing. It is disingenuous for Christians to call Jesus the King of kings if He does not yet have a kingdom to be master over.

Response:

As I mentioned in the previous response, his characterization of what I and others teach about the kingdom is completely misleading. In the previous paragraph, he says that we believe “the kingdom isn’t really established yet (well kind of sort of but not really).” In the paragraph immediately above, he demonstrates a complete lack of comprehension regarding what I and others believe about the “already and not yet” nature of the kingdom.

What I and others are arguing is that Christ’s kingdom was inaugurated “already” at His first advent. At the present time, He is putting all of His enemies under His feet. However, this subjection of all His enemies is a gradual process that has “not yet” been completed or consummated. The decisive victory was won at the cross, but there is, as it were, a “mopping up” operation to be completed. He seems to think that such a concept is inherently absurd. Is this the case? Absolutely not.

We have a dramatic example of a very similar thing occurring with the kingdom of David in the Old Testament. We may rightly ask him: When did David become king? Samuel anointed David king even while Saul was still on the throne (1 Samuel 16:1, 12–13). Later, the men of Judah anointed David king after Saul’s death (2 Samuel 2:4), but there was still a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David (2 Samuel 3:1). Finally, after he had defeated all of these enemies, the elders of Israel anointed David king again (2 Samuel 5:3–4), and he began his forty year reign.

Was David not really the king until that point? Was God incorrect when He declared David the true king of Israel even while Saul wrongly occupied the throne? Was David not the rightful and real king after Samuel’s initial anointing of him at God’s command even though it took a long time to subdue his many enemies? In the period of time between Samuel’s anointing of David and the end of the long war between the house of Saul and the house of David, his kingdom could be described as “already and not yet.” In a very similar way, Jesus Christ was anointed King of kings by God at His first advent. Satan may still attempt to cling to the throne and the “house of Satan” may still fight against the “house of Christ,” but that does not change the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord and is the true King now. Nor does it change the fact that the decisive victory has already been won.

4. Partial Victory?

Will we be told that indeed, Jesus is victorious but not yet completely? What tournament, what super-bowl is considered a victory when it is not completed? There is no doubt that we will hear more disparaging titles pinned upon the preteristic Christian (hyper, Hymenaen heretic). Shall we respond by calling these accusers “PVCs (Partial Victory Christians). There is irony in the fact that PVC is the abbreviation for a type of plastic. So, this idea that Jesus is not really victorious feels plastic and fake. It does an injustice to the Gospel message because it portrays a message of helplessness rather than hope.

Response:

Another problem with his hyper-preterist hermeneutic, illustrated in this paragraph, is the fact that if it is applied to individual soteriology, it necessitates perfectionism. He does not allow for any kind of victory that includes gradual growth and progress. What then of the many biblical declarations that Christ has already won for us the decisive victory over sin? According to Scripture, we have already “died to sin” (Rom. 6:2). Our old self was crucified with Christ in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing (Rom. 6:6). We have been set free from sin (Rom. 6:7). We are a new creation, and the old has already passed away (1 Cor. 5:17). If we interpret these and other similar passages in the manner demanded by him, there is no room left for progressive sanctification and growth in grace. To allow for such would make us “partial victory Christians” – we would be “plastic and fake.”

Yet, in spite of all the biblical declarations regarding the decisive nature of our death to sin, the Bible also includes declarations regarding the need for our progressive victory over sin in our day to day life. The desires of the flesh continue to oppose the desires of the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). How is that so if we have died with Christ and are dead to sin? We are still required to confess our sins (1 John 1:9–10). Why is this necessary if the victory over sin has been won? We are to be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2). God has already delivered us, and He will deliver us (2 Cor. 1:10). He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion (Phil. 1:6). There simply is no inherent contradiction between a decisive victory and ongoing victory. The criticisms of he and other hyper-preterists leave no logical room in their system for any kind of progressive sanctification. Perfectionism is absolutely necessitated if one accepts the validity of his criticisms.

5. Hope dashed?

One of the biggest accusations against preterism is that it takes away the hope of Christians. Again, as Calvinists, the men at Ligonier should see this argument for what it is. The same thing is used against Calvinists: “If God predestinates people before the foundation of the world, then why witness to anyone?”, is the semi-Pelagian question to the Calvinists. I ask the men at Ligonier to utilize the same good scripture exegesis and logic they do when dealing with the semi-Pelagian. Does it really dash the hope we have in Christ if we claim (as I believe the Bible proclaims) that Jesus was victorious? That hope is not a one-time deal but an ongoing, ever abiding hope that carries Christians through life day by day. How hopeless is the condition of the non-Christian that wanders about life to eventually plunge into death? Is it not a more glorious hope to rely on a God that has accomplished what He set out to accomplish?

Lastly, as Calvinists we refute the semi-Pelagian with their own inconsistent logic. The semi-Pelagian says that Jesus died so that people would have the potential for salvation. But Calvinists rightfully adhere to the biblical teaching, saying that Christ’s death on the Cross made salvation not merely possible but effective. That is, Jesus died for a specific people; His sheep (the predestined elect). So, in the same way that Mathison and Sproul (news - website - books) and the others rightfully understand that salvation is not merely potential, so should they consider and understand that Christ’s victory is not merely potential but is realized and effective now.

I praise God for the work He is doing through Sproul and Mathison and the others at Ligonier. I pray these words will not fall on deaf ears, hearts and minds.

Response:

Neither I nor any of the contributors to the book that I am editing deny that Christ’s victory was accomplished at His first advent. In fact, we strongly affirm it. What we deny are the unbiblical assumptions about the nature of this victory that are imported into Scripture by hyper-preterists such as he. Just as dispensationalists have unbiblical assumptions regarding what Christ’s victory must look like, so too do the hyper-preterists. Hyper-preterists have drastically altered the nature of the “good news” that Christians are called to proclaim. In other words, hyper-preterists proclaim a different “gospel” — a false “gospel.” The contributors to the book I am editing go to great lengths to explain in detail this and many other problems with hyper-preterism.

What do YOU think ?

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Date: 26 Apr 2004

Time: 19:33:09

Comments

Very impressive paper.    It is great to every open channel of communication on the "Hyper-Preterist Debate" between Preterists and partial Preterists! The discussion this inspires is sure to help many leave error behind.


Date:
27 Apr 2004
Time:
06:46:10

Comments

"In the first place, no "partial-preterist" believes what Noyes believed; namely, that what is commonly referred to in theology as the "Second Coming of Christ" occurred in A.D. 70. 42 Nor do any "partial-preterists" believe that the resurrection or final judgment occurred in A.D. 70." It seems to me I remember Mr. Seriah conceding a second coming in A.D. 70 and positing an uncreedal third coming.

 J.S. Russell himself believed Rev. 20:7 was a future event. Still, he made significant contributions to the ongoing study. How I wish we could have a respectful exchange without all the name-calling and shouts of "heresy." It is ironic that most who use the "H" word are the ones guilty of it. Biblical heresy is divisiveness, not failure to adhere to a manmade creed. Preterist seek to unite believers.

It is the creedalists who become heretics when they seek to divide believers by refusing fellowship to those who don't share their commitment to the creeds. Apollos


Date:
28 Apr 2004
Time:
06:41:57

Comments

From Keith Mathison's book, Postmillennialism An Eschatology of Hope" (1999) Page 45:

"Daniel Whitby (1638-1725) ...was a Unitarian. ...He was one of the first to clearly and systematically present what might be termed a futuristic post-millennialism. According to his interpretation of Revelation 20, the Millennium is a literal one-thousand-year (or very long) golden age which precedes the second coming of Christ and, more importantly, which commences at some point in the future." :)


Date:
30 Apr 2004
Time:
10:35:49

Comments

I'm still upset about it. I thought about writing a long response but I don't know if that is necessary. It seems pretty simple to me.

Here is Keith's own definition of a 'hyper-preterist':

QUOTE "all biblical prophecy pertaining to the end times was fulfilled in the first century. The second coming of Jesus Christ, the general resurrection, and the Last Judgment are all past, according to them."

J.H.N believed in a partial fulfillment. Two parts. Judgment on Israel in ad70 and a final judgment in the future. Yes, he called ad 70 a second coming, but he did not place ALL of it in ad 70, which would make him a 'partial-preterist.' Keith Mathison agreed in an email that if we stick to his definitions, Mathison is a 'futurist' because he places ALL 3 of those events in the 'future'.

QUOTE "[JASON] If the main three issues are the second coming, general resurrection, and last judgment, and you believe those are to be future events, then wouldn't that make you a 'futurist' in this context?

[KM] Yes." So Mathison brought someone into the picture that has absolutely nothing to do with the works of Max King, Don Preston, Sam Frost, etc., and on top of that, a man who had some serious issues with the women. And NONE of that was necessary. Sam agreed with me that it would be proper to place J.H.N, as well as Milton Terry, J. Stuart Russell, Hampden-Cook, etc. all in the partial-preterist camp - some even in the futurist camp.

It seems like a goofy thing to argue about, but something really bothers me when Mathison won't let it go though the evidence is clear according to his own definitions! If that was the only thing in the book, I might have let it slip. But right after the introduction, you go right into Gentry's chapter in which he calls us all kind of names.

There's something going on here - lack of respect, immaturity, the list goes on.

Jason Bradfield 'king neb'

 

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