By Kurt M. Simmons
In this article, we review Israel P. Warren’s, A.D. 1879, Parousia.
Among the earliest full Preterist books, Warren’s Parousia was digitalized and made available online by Google, and brought to light by Scott Thompson (Dallas, TX).
Although it shares the same title as J. Stuart Russell’s Parousia, it was independently written and published by the author; it shows no sign that Warren was aware of Russell’s work by the same title. In fact, use of the same title by the author is good evidence that he knew nothing of Russell’s book, for this would have been the most blatant form of plagiarism and would have discredited Warren’s work. Russell published his work anonymously in England in 1878 – and later republished with his name appended in 1887. Warren’s work was thus published almost simultaneously on this side of the Atlantic when Russell published his work in England.
Although and written according
to a different plan and not as exhaustive in its treatment as Russell’s
nearly six hundred page work, which addressed every passage in the New
Testament touching on the second coming, Warren deals competently with the
subject matter, and makes an able case for Christ’s first century
eschatological return. Warren, however, has some unique aspects to his
approach, which we will examine here.
Protracted Eschatological Parousia
Central to Warren’s interpretation and case is his view of the Greek term “parousia” as “presence,” rather than “coming.” Although Warren agrees that coming is implied in the term as sometimes required by the context, he argues that presence conveys a more accurate understanding of the eschatological events associated with the term.
For Warren, the nature of the Parousia is comprehended in Christ’s office as King and Judge, and giver of life to the dead. Warren does not see this as a single eschatological event, but a continuing series of acts stretching over all time. The Parousia is
Warren urges that while there are potentially many comings (manifestations) of Christ, there was only the one Parousia:
Any one familiar with the work of John Noe will recognize an affinity in thought here, both in John’s work arguing for many comings of Christ and his work, which argues that there is a sense in which Christ “never left.” However, Noe’s view may be distinguished in several important particulars: John is clear that there was only one eschatological coming of Christ and that it culminated historically in the events marking the destruction of Jerusalem. Warren, on the other hand, does not confine the Parousia to the first century. On the contrary, Warren’s view that the Parousia is of prolonged and indefinite duration, reaching even to our day, is probably the most unique aspect of his approach. “This protracted duration of the Parousia is a fact of so much importance, that it deserves particular consideration.” (Parousia, p. 73)
Warren does not view the second coming as an event in history, but an epoch stretching over vast ages. “The grand programme of the world’s history under the administration of our Lord, with its mighty procession of centuries and ages, refuses to be thus narrowed down to a single point.” (Parousia, p. 78) “The Parousia is not something pertaining to a point, but to a vast space of time. It is not an event, but a dispensation.” (Parousia, p. 79) According to Warren, the Parousia encompasses the whole of the resurrection and judgment, not just the general resurrection of souls from Hades at the last day, but endures as long as there are men to be judged and dead to be raised.
Binding of Satan
Warren views the binding of Satan in reference to the cessation of persecution.
Although Warren correctly identifies the significance of the binding of Satan, his view of the Parousia as a dispensation reaching into modern times, causes him to apply Revelation’s imagery to events beyond the first century. For Warren, the binding of the dragon began at the triumph of Christianity by the conversion of Constantine and the cessation of persecution by the Roman Empire.
Gog and Magog
But if the thousand-year binding of Satan is the cessation of persecution by the conversion of Constantine, what is the losing of Satan in the battle of God and Magog? Warren answers: the persecution of the Mohammedanism.
At this point, Warren’s idea
that the Parousia was a permanent presence reaching until our own day loses
its ability to persuade us, and he becomes just one more in the long line of
those that stumble over the imagery of the millennia, propelling them
headlong into a form of “continuous-historical” method that removes
Revelation from its first century context. If Gog and Magog is Islam,
biblical prophecy has not been fulfilled, and we are not dealing with a true
contemporary-historical (Preterist) analysis of scripture.
The First Resurrection
According to Warren, the first resurrection is one of quality in rank and order, not in time, and speaks to a unique honor bestowed upon those who suffered martyrdom for Christ, by their reigning with him in heaven. This belongs only to martyrs; other saints are excluded from this reign; it is their special heritage as martyrs of Jesus. Warren believes that this special heritage is reflected in the Greek, which for other saints is merely a resurrection of the dead, but for the martyrs a resurrection out of the dead, signifying their special elevation above their brethren on account of being martyred. “It implies that out of the whole number of the departed there shall be those that attain a peculiar honor, one which they do not share with the rest.” (Parousia, p. 151) The thousand years is not symbolic, but actual, measured by the period commencing with the accession of Constantine until the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire by Islam. However, although the binding of the persecutor terminates after a thousand years when Islam is allowed to persecute Christians (actually, 1,002 years by Warren’s calculation), the martyrs continue to reign. Thus, the one ends, but the other does not.
Warren’s interpretation is
unfortunate. The saints reign, not in heaven, but in Hades paradise; the
resurrection of the dead does not occur until the last enemy is destroyed at
the “last day” (Jno. 11:24; I Cor. 15:26), depicted toward the latter part
of the chapter. (Rev. 20:11-15)1
The idea that there was a special resurrection of martyrs prior to
the general resurrection is taught nowhere else in scripture, nor is it
taught here. Indeed, Warren’s whole scheme is internally inconsistent; the
saints most certainly do not reign while the dragon is bound, for the simple
fact that that they cannot suffer martyrdom until he is loosed. It is only
when the dragon is loosed that the saints suffer martyrdom and thus attain
to the first resurrection of the soul in paradise. Further, the battle of
Gog and Magog is the same battle depicted elsewhere in Revelation. This is
nowhere more apparent than in chapter nineteen, which makes specific
allusion to Gog and Magog by quoting the prophet Ezekiel’s description of
that event. (Rev. 19:17, 18; cf. Ezek. 39:17) The battle of Gog and
Magog, also known as the battle of Armageddon, is nothing but a symbolic
depiction of the persecution under Nero; the battle begins in chapter
thirteen, where it is given to the beast (the persecuting power of Rome) to
make war against the saints, and concludes in chapters nineteen and twenty,
where the dragon, beast, and false prophet (the latter representing
persecuting power of the Jews) are slain. (Rev. 19:20, 21) Chapter twenty is
a recapitulation; it retraces ground previously covered, bringing us again
to the time when the dragon that had persecuted the church under Caiaphas,
Pilate, and Paul in chapter twelve, was loosed to persecute the church again
under Nero. (Rev. 11:7; 17:10)
According to Warren, the continuing Parousia of Christ will result in a grand consummation, similar to the golden age of Pre- and Post – millennialists. Warren says “it is expressly declared that neither the senses nor imagination of man are adequate to conceive of the glorious reality” of the consummation yet to come. (Parousia, p. 159) Warren rejects the Premillennial model of a millennium suddenly accruing upon the coming of Christ, and opts instead for the gradualism of Postmillennialism in which the kingdom advances slowly until it overtakes and consumes all, ridding mankind forever of the works of the devil and very sin itself. (“I will not presume to imagine what this world will become when sin is destroyed, and when all its inhabitants and forces become holy to the Lord.” Parousia, p. 174) According to Warren, Christianity will become universal; it will become the sole religion; it will be greatly intensified in power; and thus pervade all the forces that mold human character and affect the condition of the world:
Where Warren gets these ideas is a mystery. He is very clear later in his work that the imagery of the new heavens and earth (Rev. 21, 22) describe the present reality of the world in which the saved are in the new Jerusalem (church), outside of which is the world of unregenerate men. (Parousia, pp. 207-214) Moreover, Warren believes that the ultimate home of the saved is in heaven. (“But while the immediate design of the description of the new Jerusalem is to show forth the glory and felicity of the church of God on earth, when viewed as a whole, there seems also to be a tacit reference to the further glory of its eternal reward in heaven.” Parousia, p. 213) That Warren should thus believe in a future, earthly paradise free from sin is an anomaly for which we cannot account. The connection between an improper understanding of Rev. 21 and 22 and Universalism is now well established. A significant number of Preterists have fallen into the false gospel of Universalism by the mistaken belief that the new heavens and earth speak to a world in which all men are justified and have fellowship with God apart from obedience to the gospel. It is therefore with interest that we note this error in Warren’s analysis.
The Resurrection and Judgment
Warren’s view of the resurrection is very sound; he holds the germ of man’s resurrection being and body is present his body of flesh, like a seed within a piece of fruit, and that the saints receive their immortal body at the time of physical death.
Having received their immortal bodies at death, the souls of the departed waited in Hades for soteriological perfection at the coming of Christ, when they were taken to heaven. The living put off the body at death and, one-by-one, are instantaneously changed, caught up together with those that slept to join the saints in heaven.
It may be objected here that Paul expressly affirms that those alive when Christ came would, in fact, experience simultaneous change. “Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trump shall sound, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (I Cor. 15:51, 52) Thus, while it is true that believers this side of the eschaton receive eternal life one-by-one as they put off the body in death, that does not appear to be Paul’s teaching in this place. The better view is that Paul here is speaking of the believers’ soteriological perfection - the justification that was held in abeyance from the cross and accrued to the saints’ benefit at Jesus’ coming, also referred to as the adoption, redemption, and manifestation of the sons of God (Rom. 8:23), and “redemption of the purchased possession” of which the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were the earnest. (Eph. 1:14; I Cor. 1:4-7) This “change” was essentially legal and juridical, and conditionally imparted immortality to the whole body of believers alive at the eschton, as adopted sons and putative heirs of eternal life. It was because the change was legal and covenantal that Paul styled it a “mystery,” for it would entail no mystery if believers were actually translated, as was mistakenly believed of John. (Jno. 21:21-23)
Irrevocable Judgment and Everlasting Punishment
As with present day Preterists, Warren is conscious that re-evaluation of the figurative nature of prophetic language throws into question issues about the perpetuity of punishment. Here, Warren plainly states his view that the language seems calculated to suggest perpetual duration of the punishment of the lost, which we interpret to mean “eternal, conscious torment.” “On one point, I cannot deem the teachings of scripture to be doubtful, and that is to the perpetuity of future punishment. Whatever meanings the phrases may sometimes have, which describe it, I cannot resist the conclusion that they are designed to teach us that in this connection they mean endless duration.” (Parousia, p. 296.) Finally, as if anticipating the false gospel of Universalism and King’s “comprehensive grace”, Warren says that there is no second probation for man after death:
Despite erroneous views that the Parousia is a dispensation, rather than an event, notions of a future earthly paradise, and that the binding of the dragon speaks to the edict of Constantine and the battle of Gog and Magog to medieval Islamic hoards, Warren’s Parousia can be read with profit. Published in 1879, Warren’s work was an important step in the direction of recovering the church’s original, full Preterism, and therefore is worthy to be read.
1 Warren denies that the latter half of Rev. 20 refers to the general resurrection and judgment, but argues that it refers symbolically to the defeat and destruction of persecutors alone. Parousia, pp. 153-158.
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