Sunday, April 24, 2005

Preterism amplified

Under "Forty years in the making" (see below) peoplenotsheeple commented to rafe on why he believes the preterist view is flawed.

Christ's literal and bodily ascent will be reversed in the second coming, according to peoplenotsheeple. "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 in Revelation 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."

issues are brought up here that can be instructive to us all. First, there's evidence that John wrote Revelation well before A.D. 70, and that his prophecy points to that date. A late date for Revelation (upon which futurism is founded) is built on the assumption that John was banished to Patmos by the Emperor Domitian in the A.D. nineties. Preterists agree that John was banished by an emperor named Domitian, but in the A.D. sixties. You see, Nero was known as Nero Domitian.

I'm still a schoolboy on the subject of preterism. So I invited the distinguished preterist historian Kurt Simmons to comment on peoplenotsheeple's comment. Kurt writes:

"Peoplenotsheeple is not understanding the spiritual lessons behind the symbols he mentions (desert
blossoming like the rose, etc). He is looking for these things to occur in the natural, rather than in the spiritual realm. The language about the wilderness blossoming spoke to the desolated cities of Israel from the Assyrians and Babylonians; they sat uninhabited for decades while the Jews were in captivity. The return of the captivity would see the desert come under cultivation again and thus 'blossom as the rose,' the waste places would be rebuilt, and so forth. This became a type of the kingdom of the
Messiah: The spiritual waste places of mankind's fallenness would be restored and regenerated by conversion of men's hearts and cleansing from sin by the blood and gospel of Christ.

"The best single passage showing this is Amos 9:11-15, which is cited in Acts by James, showing its true
fulfillment in Christ. The kingdom is the church; in the church the various nations of people are at peace with one another; they turn their swords into plowshares. In the world, nation still wars with nation, but in the church this is not true.

"The seed of the gospel has already grown into a great tree (church) that fills the earth and provides habitation for the birds of every nation. The sons of God were manifested at the destruction of
Jerusalem and the plagues that overtook the Roman empire. 30,000 were killed by a plague in Rome in A.D. 65 during the very first full year of persecution of the church; a whirlwind destroyed crops in Campania, causing famine.

"When Nero committed suicide, the empire was thrown into recurring civil wars as different men sought to obtain the throne; hundreds of thousands were killed in these battles (in several instances 40,000 on each
side in one battle alone! - see Tacitus). This demonstrated to the world that Christians were God's sons and they were inviting wrath by persecuting them.

"The resurrection, of course, was into the spirit realm of Heaven, not physical bodies upon earth. So, looking to meet these people while on earth is to be disappointed."

Thanks, rafe, peoplenotsheeple and Kurt. The preterist is continually mindful that Scripture was written FOR us, not TO us. When John speaks of everyone seeing the return of Christ, including those who pierced Him, he is addressing the churches of first-century Asia, not us. Without an awareness of time and addressee, the terrain of prophecy is strewn with quicksand.


Blogger JABS said...

The terrain of prophecy IS strewn with quicksand, and that is an important awareness to have.

The preterist view is interesting, and I find myself consistently giving it second glances. Why? Because it makes sense, but in the spirit (which, in truth, I cannot say whether it is my own or simply pre-conditioned views) I cannot, for now, accept this. Call me ignorant, but in light of what I have been taught regarding prophecy in general, Preterist viewpoints seem to fail and switch arbitrarily the subject of prophecy. Let's keep in mind that I know what a great deal of anti-Preterist rhetoric says. But, given, isn't the same truthful of anti-anything rhetoric? Excuse the train of thought, there. I'm sometimes a little loopy.

In studies of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, one must always keep in mind that the Deuteronomic
promises given to the nation of Israel, are, in fact, to the nation of Israel and the national
future thereof. While I do not feel I have time or space sufficient to supply with a detailed scriptural exegesis (which, heck, if you want to turn this into an email discussion in which scripture is used, I'm okay with that) I do have to say that many promises are interpreted
by the prophets themselves as speaking of Israel's national future. When it
comes to Preterism, Futurism, Historicism, I'm not going to defend any of them. I see all of
the above as flawed, of course, but each one has pieces necessary to our understanding. The
error that is being made here is a "one or the other" error. Futurist viewpoints do not always
contain a pre-tribulation rapture -- which has always been damaging, and will be damaging here
to the American Church when situations go awry and no rapture comes -- but they do argue that
prophecy as it was written has not currently been fulfilled to the "t". I would agree with
that. Understanding the spiritual lessons behind these situations is crucial, I know this, but
the Scripture, including the Deuteronomic law, is not all meant to be taken symbolically.
Shadows of things to come, ala Hebrews? Yes. Symbolically when it comes to the future national
Israel and the land promise, which I cannot see as fulfilled in Joshua when Ezekiel made such
a big fuss of it? No.

It is true that the AD 70 desolation of Jerusalem may be likened to "And in that day will I
make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be
cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it."

Rome was indeed the "nations of the world" encompassing Jerusalem at that time, but I would
say that a student of Scripture would remember typologies and sensus plenior, and that they
are indeed present within Scripture. Your post and Kurt Simmons show that you recognize this.

Then again, let's remember Romans 3:4. That counts for me as well. I do not mean to sound harsh, and in fact am inviting discussion.

God bless,

11:51 AM  
Blogger jbagg said...

Preterism is pretty appealing for those tired of waiting for ROE to get their just dues, but didn't Noah wait 120 years for the flood? (I've only been alive for 40 years, so that seems like a long time to me!)

If Revelation is all supposed to have been fulfilled in the 70 AD "Coming of Christ" (destruction of Jerusalem) then who is the woman drunk with the blood of the saints depicted in chapter 17. I've always taken this to symbolize false christianity and especially Roman Catholicism. Do Preterists believe ROE will be dealt a final blow by God? What form(s) will that take (or is it taking, now)?

Also Luke 21:35 talks about a snare coming on "all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth". The 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem, it would seem, doesn't quite stretch far enough to fit this verse ... does it?

Prophecy is worth the quicksand if you end up in the ark.

1:53 PM  
Blogger JABS said...

I would also have to reply with a quick bit that I missed, earlier.

As for James' citation of Amos' prophecy, there're several things to look at, including the omission of verses 13, 14, and 15. To me, this indicates that this was a part of the Scripture that was seen as unfulfilled when the words were spoken. To look back on that prophecy, (we won't go into manuscriptural differences here) here goes 9:14-15: "And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God."

You see, we have a precedent, and I believe that it was intentional that all of it wasn't mentioned at once. Partial fulfillment?

Consider the words of Jesus in Luke 4:17-21:
"And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
"To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
"And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
"And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."

Remember Isaiah's prophecy? There was more to it that Christ had not yet come to do at that time. Isaiah 61:1-3:
"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
"To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified."

There is also a distinction made between the Gentiles and Israel, in this chapter. To take "Israel" and the "Gentiles" in an allegorical manner here or anywhere else is to upset the distinctions made by the prophets themselves.

Sorry for the length, it was what was on my mind. Discussion's got me interested.


2:38 PM  
Blogger george said...

This topic was bothersome to me for the longest time. One day, upon reading through the book I mention below, a clarity came over me. I forgot all the prophecy, all the arguments about this or that, all the scriptural passages alleging to be relevant. All that mattered was "My kingdom is not of this world."

What could be simpler? You've got a lot of people arguing about interpretation, but what was said was plain. To get caught up in this business of an earthly kingdom (the 1000 Year Reich of Christ) seems to be missing the point. It is the Spiritual Reality that is pivotal, not this earthly domain, and here is where a teaching lives. We help each other to see beyond to the hidden life most people miss. We help them to see. Many people are caught in the dust of the world and have forgetten their spiritual root.

There's a very interesting book called UNION JACK, which goes into great detail about the depravity of what they call Spiritual Communism. You must take away what you can since some of this book may not jive with your sensibilities.

Another strange notion is buried in this subject: why would Jesus want to come back to oversee a system identical to the one he was preaching against? Why would Jesus want to be a dictator over an Earthly Kingdom when he said His was not earthly? You might as well say that Jesus was a Pharisee. Preposterous. You'll get more clarity talking to a Buddhist about this point than the majority of Christians who can't pull their head out of their dogma. They can't see the forest for the trees. Wasn't that a large part of His point?

The Pharisees, and their descendants, are very skilled at seeing the trees, but are missing the forest. It reminds me of that Oscar Wilde quote, which goes something like this:

A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing.

A person can know all the laws, all the scripture, but have no sense of anything deep.

My two cents.

7:53 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Hello. I feel strange responding to this as someone sent me this link to show some of the contrasting viewpoints on preterism and also as all I wanted (well had) to say is where is it written that this is one or the other? Either His kingdom is not of earth or He's some tyrant with a palace and servants living it up. It's not of this world but it will be one day and in a sense is. He doesn't have to be a tyrant to be in charge. Proof is that He is but He's not! If He were we would probably be a lot better short-run at least but long-run some issues need to be addressed. Scriptures are pretty clear though -- new heaven AND new earth. This doesn't mean Him as the emperor of the world either. His Spirit will reign to be sure but any believer who knows His spirit and how it works doesn't have to strain to fit this into some mold where Jesus is the Alexander or Constantine or Hitler of "good." It's not only not like that but it's not like that at all. Different rules, different system, different desires on the part of the "ruler." That's right now.

Just had to say. Much love, Anne

10:26 AM  
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