Monday, April 11, 2005

Forty years in the making

The "end-time" prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, and John have intrigued and baffled me for most of my life.

For about 9 minutes, back in the mid-1970s, I took leave of my senses and actually imagined I might be caught up bodily with other Christians and sucked into Heaven while the unfortunate left-behinds suffered a holocaust sparked by that smooth-talking Antichrist. Reason and scripture prevailed, thank God, and I left the rapture to Christian science-fiction writers and their adoring fans.

The publication of Rulers of Evil attracted the attention of the historicists, who assert that most biblical prophecy was fulfilled with the death and resurrection of Jesus and the subsequent rise of the Roman papacy as Antichrist who introduced the Tribulation. According to the historicists, about all that remains until the end of the world is the parousia -- the second coming -- of Christ to establish his perfect, everlasting Kingdom here on earth for a thousand years. That could happen at any time, they say.

But historicism left too many things hanging. Probably its most disturbing flaw is what C.S. Lewis considered "the most embarrassing verse in the Bible." This is Jesus' promise that He would return to judge and world and establish His Kingdom within the lifetime of some of His disciples. "And he was wrong," Lewis wrote. "He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else." (The World's Last Night, 1960).

There is one study of prophecy that credits Jesus with perfect knowledge of the end of the world. They call themselves preterists, from Matthew 24:34 in Latin: "this generation will not pass away (non praeteribit) - till all these things be fulfilled." The preterists say, and can demonstrate with scripture and history, that the second coming occurred in A.D. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman synarchy. The devil and his antichrists and their fans were thrown into the lake of fire and the new Israel, the new Jerusalem, a spiritual kingdom ruled by Jesus, descended to earth. It's still here and will stay everlastingly. Wow. Suddenly prophecy makes sense, and to be a Christian becomes a lot more empowering.

Preterism challenges centuries of what may be deluded thinking among people who call themselves Christian. The Bible is clear on how deluded thinkers respond to such challenges: they scourge, plot against, defame, stone, even crucify. Check out the anti-preterist rhetoric on the web, and see for yourself if it doesn't smack more of persecution than reason, truth, clarity. (I expect to be attacked for saying this.)

I think so highly of the preterist view that I'm going to attend a conference they're holding in Sparta, North Carolina the weekend of May 12, 13, 14. The leading scholars in that discipline will be on the program, and I want to hear everything they have to say, and hopefully become acquainted with them personally. I'm strictly a paying guest, and I would encourage you -- if you're a little undecided on biblical prophecy -- to attend as well. Here's the site:
http://www.lighthouseproductionsllc.com/

And if the book of Revelation has always mystified you, by all means read Kurt Simmons' magnificent new book "The Consummation of the Ages." Kurt will address the Sparta conference as well.
http://www.preteristcentral.com/

Time to climb into the car and head for Miami.

7 Comments:

Blogger Rafe said...

Sounds like a novel ought to be written with this as the plot and historical setting. When one can't conventionally prove it by other means, write it as a fiction. The critics can't debate it, so they'd hate it, pan it with a rant, and he'd sell 750,000 copies in a year. Probably more, when the precahers banned it as heresy. Nothing sells better that a booked banned. And it would become a topic of conversation - which isn't the case today. Win-win for the author. He'd die in comfortable means and in comfort that he'd made Christians ponder Christ.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Catman Dude =^-.-^= said...

Ironically, it was Rulers Of Evil that switched me FROM preterism TO historicism. After I learned that preterism had Jesuitic origins, I began to learn what the Reformers believed about prophecy. I felt that historicism fits the bill. Steve Wohlberg addresses some of the preterist problems at his website: www.endtimeinsights.com (under "Articles" then "Prophetic Perspectives").

In all my reading of preterist books and magazines, they have rarely commented on what Reformers believed regarding prophecy. I never heard of historicism from them. After reading ROE, I felt it was possibly intentional. The preterist leaders do not say much about their views on the Catholic Church and whether the Reformers were right or not in regards to them.

I had thought that Christiam Reconstruction was the logical progression of the Reformation but now I am not so sure. Preterism is largely a signature of CR (or what is left of it). Preterism provides CR a platform for believing that the world is going to get better and better (a progression BACK to Eden-like state) only when all nations are operating in accordance with God's law. That would be nice if it was true.

Catman Dude =^-.-^=

2:43 PM  
Blogger PeopleNotSheeple said...

The end-time prophecies have intrigued and baffled me as well. I never believed the "rapture" scenario, thanks to some early and timely instruction from folks who knew their Bibles.

However, I do tend to believe we are approaching the end of the age. I would like to be capable of believing preterism, as it would make some prophecies seem to fall more neatly into place. At the same time, however, other prophecies become incoherent, and the return of Christ and establishment of the kingdom of God become an airy abstraction, a game of make-believe -- not to mention anticlimactic.

If this is the kingdom of God, I'd hate to see the kingdom of Satan. I have never yet seen lions lying with lambs, the blind given their sight, every tear being wiped away, etc. I do not see Christ ruling the nations with a rod of iron. I don't see the deserts blooming and the earth being relieved of its travail. I see Babylon the Great going as strong as ever. Most notably, I don't see Jesus or any of the resurrected saints, and I have been waiting a long time to meet them. Et cetera.

Perhaps believers are living under the Kingdom of God in the limited sense that an individual who submits to the rule of God is in his kingdom. But we all pray: "Thy kingdom come ... on earth as it is in heaven." That clearly hasn't occurred yet.

Rather than believing the Kingdom has already come to earth, I tend to believe, as Jesus said, that it was planted and is still growing, but hasn't yet borne its fruit. To use another scriptural analogy, it has had a period of gestation, hidden away in the womb of its mother, who is in great travail. The birth of the sons of God, and of the kingdom, will happen in an instant--but it has not happened yet.

I have a different understanding of Jesus' statement that some of his disciples would see the kingdom. Remember the Transfiguration, where Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah? I believe that was their glimpse into the future glory of the Kingdom. In that sense, they got to see it first.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Rafe said...

This subject popped back into mind this morning when I happened to recall Paul's prepositional: "Christ in you," written decades after the ascension:

Colossians 1:26Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:  28Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

Strikes me that Jesus Christ did return as He stated. He returned in you. It's still a mystery to most, but in some it's manifest.

5:16 AM  
Blogger PeopleNotSheeple said...

To Rafe:

Christ does return in the Holy Spirit, in a sense -- but not in the final sense in which he promised to return. He gave us the Holy Spirit as (in his words) a "helper" or "comforter." But the disciples were promised more:

Acts 1:9 After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
10 While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them.
11 They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven."

He ascended, literally and bodily. That means he must return literally and bodily. I am happy to have the Spirit as a "helper" and as an "earnest" (downpayment) toward salvation. However, this isn't all there is to the promise of "thy kingdom come... on earth as it is in heaven," or the promise that the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the LORD as the sea is full of water.

Long after the events of A.D. 70, John wrote:

[Rev. 1:7] Look! He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, including those who pierced Him. And all the families of the earth will mourn over Him. This is certain. Amen.

As my eye hasn't seen it, I figure it has yet to happen.

1:51 PM  
Blogger scio said...

"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." - Matthew 24:36

Clearly this text negates the core supposition of preterism of which catman dude wisely posits as yet another Jesuit artifice. Someone would do well to remember Paul's admonition in not being decieved. While remembering that the secret rapture is yet another psuedo-doctrinal concept with absolutely no Biblical evidence. It is instructive to realise that secret rapture is a bit of an oxymoron. Rapture comes from the Latin rapare, meaning to take away, implied with force; nothing secret about that. The New Testament is replete with references to a literal second coming of Jesus Christ. Finally, the biggest hoax being perpetrated on many Christians is exchange the literal meaning for the symbolic [spiritual context] and vice versa.

8:55 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

It was an interesting conference, of course, but I still have a problem with the second coming having already taken place.

Hope to see you soon, Tupper.

12:18 PM  

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