PRETERISM ... PART OF THE CHURCH'S FINAL APOSTACY
by Gene Shaparenko
"For the time shall come when they will not endure sound doctrine but, after their own lusts, shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables". 2 Tim. 4: 3-4.
In 2 Tim 4: 3-4 Paul is not talking about the unsaved heathen who are without prior knowledge of Jesus Christ and salvation.
Instead, he is talking about individuals who have had prior knowledge of sound doctrine, but because of their own desires for "a more intimate knowledge", a "deeper understanding" or other intellectual as opposed to spiritual interpretations of scripture, have turned away from the truth and have found others of similar mind (and teachers) who also question the orthodox faith and through their private interpretations, internet groups as well as home study and discussion groups have concluded that man has the power to do what only God is capable: turn the hearts and minds of the unsaved to Christ.
The bible warns us about these individuals and their last day's teachers:
"Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" : 2 Tim, 3: 7.
Apostasy, according to Webster, means a turning away from the faith. It also means
"having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof". 2 Tim 3:5.
In the present case to be discussed, the "form of godliness" is the presumption of a new biblical interpretation and through the use of selected biblical scripture and phraseology, create an end result where the resultant theology is powerless and degenerates to a false doctrine.
The secular world has no faith, so it has nothing to "turn away from", thus apostasy does not apply to the unsaved. Secondly, the world or does not have a "form of godliness" so it has no pretense to use biblical arguments.
Apostasy thus clearly applies to those who are
"...ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" 2 Timothy 3:7.
and in the process having a FORM of godliness but since their theology is false and powerless, they essentially deny the power of the scriptures.
WHO ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
Preterism, derived from a Latin word meaning "past", holds that the time of Jesus' second coming("parousia" in the Greek) was A.D. 70, or at the time of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.
To the preterist, AD 70 was the "end of the ages" prophesied by Scripture; Christ returned then; the dead were raised then; the final judgment took place then; creation was renewed then. The preterist believes we are now living in the New Heaven and New Earth.
"Since the coming of Christ, as predicted in the New Testament documents, has already taken place, little scriptural basis exists for perpetuating the doctrine that it still lies in the future".
Page 216 - "The Promise of His Coming: interpreting New Testament Statements concerning the Time of Christ's Appearance". Laudemont Press, 1996, R.C. Leonard and J.E. Leonard.
In the Preterist's theology, to expect a visible, bodily return of Jesus, a future resurrection of the dead, a final judgment, and a cataclysmic destruction of the present creation(heavens and earth) on the basis of any prophecy of Scripture is therefore incorrect. According to the preterist, all of this has taken place in the past, at the time of destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.
"We have presented the evidence that the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 represents the fulfillment of what the apostolic church knew as the promise of Jesus' coming and the end of the age. The future hope of today's church, therefore, lies in another direction".
Same reference as above - page 219
In their intellectual rush to support this thesis, both the Old and New Testament prophecies regarding Israel, the Church and when all these prophecies are to come about, has been turned upside down. In short, preterists have been turned to fables and to the apparent "wisdom of men" versus the Word of God.
The preterist of course denies this and screams bloody murder that they have properly interpreted the Scripture. One needs only to look at the basic elements of orthodox Christian beliefs to find the preterist theology as completely bogus and without merit.
One writer, in reviewing this AD 70 heresy, commented recently that dealing with preterism is like cleaning the kitty litter box; one hates to fool with it, but it has to be done. In this context, one needs to be thankful that cats aren't larger than they are!
SOME DEFINITIONS REGARDING INTERPRETATION OF PROPHECY
There are four approaches to interpreting prophecy, and all related to time: past, present, future, and timeless. These are known as preterism (past), historicism (present), futurism (future), and idealism (timeless).1 We would add a fifth approach known as eclectic (mixed).
Preterist - the events prophesied in the New Testament were fulfilled by 70 AD.
Full/Consistent Preterists believe this includes all prophecies, including Jesus second advent, which they claim happened in 70 AD.
Historicism: Describes major events of Christian history spanning from John's time to the Second Coming of Christ.
Futurist - the events prophesied in the New Testament are in the future (perhaps having some partial fulfillment in past events) with notable the exception of the siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple which occurred in 70 AD.
Idealism: Describes spiritual truths. Good will eventually prevail over evil. Readers are encouraged in their current trials.
Ecclectic: Typically favors idealism while borrowing some elements from other systems.
Amillennialism - the doctrine of no "earthly" millennial reign, or no "earthly" 1000 year reign. It
identifies the belief that Christ established His Kingdom by His Death, Resurrection, and ascension to the throne of God in heaven, and thus that the kingdom of God is now being extended throughout the world through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. this doctrine does not hold that Christ must come to a worldly throne in earthly Jerusalem. Rather, it teaches that Christ reigns now and that after this present kingdom reign is over, Christ will return in judgment of the quick and the dead.
Postmillennialism/Reconstructionism (also, see Reconstructionism HERE)- the belief that the kingdom of God is now being extended throughout the world through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. In this respect only is it similar to historic Amillennialism. But in contrast to Amillennialism, the belief is that the world will eventually become Christianized, and that the Millennium (1000 years) is this golden age or period of righteousness, peace, and prosperity on earth. Post-millennial, meaning that they believe Christ comes "after" this golden age or millennial period.
Premillennialism - the doctrine that sometime in the future Christ will return to establish a literal
political and earthly Kingdom in Jerusalem and will reign 1000 years on earth. Pre-millennial, meaning that Christ comes to establish this Kingdom pre or "before" the millennium.
There is much room for crossover between Amillennialism and Postmillennialism. And because of this, Preterists may consider themselves members of either camp. Because of the intricacies of Preterist doctrine, it is difficult for Preterists to accept a literal return of Christ to the earth FOLLOWED BY a literal 1000-year reign here (i.e. Premillennialism.)
VARIATIONS OF PRETERISM
For Full Preterists, Premillennialism is impossible because they believe the second advent occurred in 70 AD and we know that no literal 1000-year reign followed. If we imagine one did, then we are now living almost 1000 years post-millennially into eternity.
For Partial Preterists, Premillenialism is possible but unlikely. For the same reasons they reject a future fulfillment of most New Testament prophecy, they are likely to reject any literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth.
THE ROOTS OF PRETERISM
Preterism had its foundation early in the church age and periodically rears its head by way of postmillennial thought and more recently by way of Reconstructionists who have been pressing their theology through the Presbyterian and Reformed movements as well as vocally through the late John Roushdouny, Y2K' s Gary North and the late David Chilton.
Preterism's theology is so far off the wall that it finds little pulpit support even amongst mainline Protestantism. Thus, it relies on the Internet, study fellowships and the like for expansion. One notable exception is Preterism's subtle incursion into the Reformed and Presbyterian churches. That this occuring is largely due to postmillennial Christian Reconstructionism.
Early scholars such as Origen and Augustine did great damage to the early beliefs of the Church Fathers, the immediate successors of the apostles, by taking extensive liberties in applying Gnostic and Greek philosophy to the interpretation process.
The result was dramatic and had the effect of throwing the world into the Dark Ages and the bible text into confusion with private interpretation by way of spiritualizing or allegorizing certain texts which did not mesh with Origen and Augustine's predetermined beliefs.
Modern day preterism has bought into this misdirection lock, stock and barrel and has amplified it through extensive publishing and Internet activities, soundly denouncing any and all who would dare to question its confused hermeunetics and resultant eschatological views.
IS PRETERISM HERESY OR SIMPLY FALSE DOCTRINE?
Hermeunetics, the process by which interpretive techniques were applied to scripture, in the preterist's view, now rested in an individual's personal viewpoint as to whether a particular scriptural statement were to be taken literally as stated in the original text or as a spiritual happening or a simple allegory.
In short, the Bible's direct statements as preserved by the original church fathers, were now at the mercy of any individual who didn't agree with a particular phrase or concept and which now could be interpreted in any manner suitable to that individual.
"...no prophecy is of private interpretation". 2 Peter 1:20.
So began in the late 1800's the process of what can today be defined as "higher criticism"; a process whereby what the originally penned scripture said is questioned and in most cases changed to a watered down or private interpretation. This destructive process has not been lost on preterists who appear to take great joy in finding fault with literal translations of the original texts.
As a result, an entirely "new gospel" has evolved, one which essentially denies the basic tenants of orthodox Christianity.
This type of "its already happened" treatment of bible prophecy is so off the wall, scripturally speaking, that one wonders how anyone ever falls for it. But they do. (teachers having itching ears) And, preterists gleefully point to converts from other eschatological beliefs, such as premillinialists, who have renounced orthodox beliefs and have slid into the mire of apostacy with the preterists.
Tough words? Perhaps so. But the proof that you can see without being a latin or greek scholar will follow below.
Preterists have an uncontrollable penchant for parsing various scriptural words and phrases, relying on what they believe are relevant greek or latin translations which support a prior assumption. Former President Bill Clinton was a master of this parsing process in his evasive testimony regarding his fornication activities in the White House and other locations. Preterists don't seem to be able to grasp the entirety of the Holy Scriptures, rather looking for isolated proof texts upon which to create an entirely new Gospel and eschatology.
WHAT IS THE BASIS OF THE PRETERIST VIEW?
Much of what motivates preterists boils down to what Christ meant in his Olivet Discourse in Matthew
"Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" Matt. 24:34
The preterist claims that Christ was referring to those living at that time(or that generation standing with him)and they thus claim that all end times activities which were described in the earlier verses of Matthew 24 occurred and concluded at the destruction of Jerusalem. Having made that assumption, they proceed to destroy the literal translations of any contradictory textual reference in both the New and Old Testaments which is remotely related to the description of future fulfillment of prophetic events beyond AD 70.
Matthew 24:33(immediately preceeding) says:
"...when ye shall see ALL these things, know that it(My second coming) is near, even at the doors"
A reading of the entirety of Matthew 24 indicates the future occurrance of worldwide cataclysmic events, which clearly did not happen prior to AD 70. This fact alone completely destroys the preterist position. Many other, equally devastating arguments can be made which demonstrates the false gospel of preterism.
Present-day preterism draws heavily from a book by the 19th century Congregational writer, James Stuart Russell. The book is The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lordís Second Coming. In one of the more recent editions,, according to Russell, on page 362, the entire book of Revelation, with the embarrassing exception of the millennium of Chapter 20, found its complete fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem.
Russell states on page 549:
"... we are compelled to conclude that the Parousia, or second coming of Christ, with its connected and concomitant events, did take place, according to the Saviour's own prediction, at the period which Jerusalem was destroyed, and before the passing away of "that generation"".
Preterists firmly believe this!
Like the Reconstuctionists who have followed in his footsteps, Russell marginalizes the Jewish people and their prophetic future as well as denying a future "new heaven and new earth" on pages 222-223 by stating:
"... the (future) renewal of creation is not a coming deliverance of the irrational and inanimate creation but the liberation of groaning, suffering and down-trodden humanity when the whole visible fabric and frame of Judaism were swept away in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70."
So, the entirety of the preteristís theology rests on a portion of one verse in Matthew 24 and the words of a Congregational writer!
WHAT DOES THIS FALSE THEOLOGY MEAN TO US TODAY?
Preterism destroys the Christian hope; the soon-coming of Jesus Christ our Lord in the body to raise our bodies from the dead and to take us unto Himself in a perfected fellowship.
With the scoffers of 2 Peter 3:4, preterism asks.
"...where is the promise of His coming"
and with Hymenaeus and Philetus, it says that the resurrection is past already. 2 Timothy 2:18.
Preterism is an outright rejection of the Christian hope with a vengeance. The preteristís hero, James Stuart Russell, admits as much. Having annihilated the expectation of Christ's coming on the part of the church and the Christian, he imagines his readers asking.
"Whether are we tending? What is to be the end and consummation of human history? What are our prospects" What wre the prospects of the believers and their children after A.D. 70?"
And, what is Russell's answer to these questions?
"Scripture prophecy guides us no further(page 549) and "Where nothing has been revealed it would be the height of presumption to prognosticate the future(page 550)."
The preterist has to deal with many questions which their theology simply cannot answer. They either deny that the scripture in question had any literal meaning or they simply skip over it in their rush to create a private interpretation.
ADDITIONAL HISTORY OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF PRETERISM
Premillennialism and literal scriptural interpretation dominated the first two centuries of the Church Fathers.
As noted above, the existing Gnostic and Greek philosophic thinking at that time strongly influenced Origin and his protoges, including Augustine and later Calvin and today through the Reconstructionist movement which considers themselves Calvinists for the most part.
This Gnosticism led the early church away from what originally was a strongly pre-millennial eschatology into a process which ultimately allowed the Roman Catholic church to remove the bible from the hands of the laity and place it instead in the hands of the Magisterium where subsequent interpretations were more closely aligned with church traditions, thus placing tradition on an equal or higher authoritative level than scripture.
The Reformation succeeded in reorienting scriptural interpretations away from the personal interpretation activities of the Catholic Church and reinstituted a resurgence of pre-millennial eschatology.
Allegorical and spiritual interpretation did not die easily, as it was essentially the bread and butter of the Roman Catholic church which still refused to allow the Holy Scripture to establish the Church's theology.
About this time, postmillennial(preterist) thinking came into focus as a result of this long hibernation period of spiritualization and allegorical interpretation. As noted earlier, present day preterism, and its many variants, draws heavily from a book by a 19th century Congregational writer, James Stuart Russell entitled "The Parousia: a Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming".
The book, first published in 1878, has provided fodder for the Reconstructionist and Kingdom Now(Dominion) followers and "My kingdom is not of this world" John 18:36.
Preterists do not have a hope for an eternal reward, since they do not believe in the future judgement of believer's works and the rewards of the various crowns promised in Scripture.
They are led to believe this because they do not expect that bodily return of Christ and hence, as Paul said to Timothy:
" Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of rightenousness, which the Lord, the righteous juge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing".
2 Tim. 4:8.
"... Knowing this first that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the holy Spirit". 2 Peter 1:20.
Preterism as well as Reconstructionism(and postmillennialism) has admittedly come from private biblical interpretation as clearly stated by Coalition on Revival publisher(for the Reconstruction and preterist movement) Dr. Jay Grimstead(Crosswinds, Fall 1992, pp2-3):
"The biblical view of the Kingdom of God recent has been REDISCOVERED by many of us who HAD TO LEARN ABOUT THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON OUR OWN, with the help or encouragement from our churches or denominations. We discovered this view BY READING CONTROVERSIAL LITERATURE ALMOST PRIVATELY.
"All of us STUMBLED ON THESE BURIED AND FORGOTTEN TRUTHS. We are attempting, THROUGH ORGANIZED DEBATE, EXCHANGE OF IDEAS AND PUBLISHING to apply these principles".
Incredible! Here, we have a group of supposedly intelligent individuals who, on their own, with admittedly private interpretation and group discussions have succeeded in creating a new prophetic outlook for all mankind.
The use of "controversial literature" is apparently key to this new and apparently "hidden" information. And, what does "organized debate" provide to the end product other than a further dilution of scripture,
"...once delivered unto the saints" Jude 3.
Scripture says that when Jesus ascended into Glory after the resurrection, his disciples and followers watched him physically lifted up into the clouds. An angel stood near them and said
"...This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven". Acts 1:11.
The preterist cannot provide the proof that Jesus physically returned to earth in the same physical manner that the disciples witnessed his ascension into heaven.
How much more proof is needed that the Preterist viewpoint is heresy?
THE PRETERIST/RECONSTUCTIONIST LINK TO NEW EVANGELICALISM
Although these two ideologies had different origins, they are subtly converging in several areas which should be of concern to bible believing Christians.
New Evangelicalism had its beginning in 1948 when Harold Ockenga declared its inception in a Fuller Theological Seminary convocation message delivered in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Sparing the details here, Ockenga basically declared that Christian separation from the secular world was unacceptable and that a strong social involvement in civic and governmental affairs was the goal of New Evangelicalism.
In other words, fundamentalism, dispensationalism and their related eschatology represented a harsh, strife-filled doctrine and was to be discarded and replaced with a new, man-oriented "work" that would result in a worldwide conversion or salvation process.
On the road to Jerusalem one day, one of the disciples asked about this issue and the Lord answered:
"...Lord, are there few that be saved? And He said unto them, strive to enter in at the narrow gate, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." Luke 13:23.
In this process, the New Evangelicals thus viewed themselves as "honest scholars, repentant liberals, compassionate social activists and great preachers" who were to intellectually seek a middle ground in theological controversies where things moral and spiritual were previously considered either right or wrong. This strategy of infiltration of the social culture rather than one of separation where error is identified and biblically rebuked was the new marching order.
Preterists and Reconstructionists simply took a different route to essentially the same theological view and together with most New Evangalicals contend that the Bible and faith must be defended intellectually in meaning according to intellectual arguments and secular standards. This is pure and unadulterated Gnosticism.