The following is a transcript of a conversation (debate) on preterism that my brother, Danny Green, had with Hank Hanegraaff and Elliot Miller on The Bible Answer Man broadcast in 1995:
[BEGINNING OF CONVERSATION]
Hank: …From central Florida listening on WTLN, Danny, welcome.
Danny: Hey Hank!
Hank: How ya doin'?
Danny: Ah, fair to Midland, I guess. [laughter] First time I've, uh, talked on a talk show here, so kind of bear with me.
Hank: Ok. I, you know, I have often thought of what it would be like to call in on a talk show and I always get, I always chicken out.
Danny: Oh yeah? [laughter]
Hank: Yeah. So I'll appear on my own, but I always chicken out. You know, this morning I was listening to a secular talk show and it was a show dealing with Genesis, and the talk show host was absolutely shredding the Genesis account of creation, and I so wanted to call up, and, uh, I didn't have much time, and I said, “Ah, I'll leave that to somebody else," and now I kind of wish I had.
Danny: Well, you probably would have gotten a bunch of busy signals anyway, so…
Hank: [laughter] Probably would've.
Hank: Anyway, so I go through the same thing you do.
Danny: Yeah. …At any rate though… Oh yeah. I called about, uh, certain teachings in prophecy, one teaching in particular called “preterism,” the teaching that all prophecy was fulfilled in the first century, and, um, I was just going to ask you if you ever had any more information concerning that viewpoint.
Hank: Well we do, uh, and uh, of course, uh, we have talked about it on The Bible Answer Man broadcast before. There is a good book that, uh, deals with this particular issue.
Danny: Mm Hm.
Hank: And, uh…
Danny: On this viewpoint?
Hank: Yes. Well, not only on that viewpoint but on the basic eschatological viewpoints. It's called The Last Days Handbook. There's also a brand new book out right now. I'm not going to recommend it yet. I'm only about, uh, oh maybe a third of the way through, but I am so excited about this new book. I can hardly wait to talk about it on The Bible Answer Man broadcast. It is one of those books that I've been looking for for a long time on eschatology that can really lay out the positions clearly and, uh, concisely, and in an understandable, simple yet not simplistic manner and, uh, again, every night before I go to bed I usually knock off another couple of chapters. Uh, and, um, pretty soon I want to talk about it because it's one of the, uh, best resources I've seen recently which deals with the different eschatological positions including the preterist position.
Danny: Yeah. Yeah, that's exactly what I am myself, is a preterist, and that's why I was calling up, and uh, I wanted to hear all sides, and everything. I'm going to be going to a seminar, or a prophecy conference up there in New Jersey. It's September 30th.
Elliot: You're going to a, you're a preterist, but you're going to a prophecy conference.
Danny: Yeah. You know, for preterists mainly.
Elliot: Oh, okay. Now…
Danny: And I just don't…
Elliot: …does this go along with your… Are you, uh, a postmillennialist? And are you into reconstructionism?
Danny: I'm neither.
Danny: I believe that all prophecy was all fulfilled in the first century, A.D. 70, when the Temple was destroyed. And I believe it was…
Elliot: Okay, but you're not a postmillennialist.
Danny: No. Definitely not. I don't…
Elliot: Do you believe that Jesus will come back in the future?
Danny: Not this preterist, no. [laughter]
Elliot: Okay, well then we're having a problem here.
Elliot: Because now we're not talking about acceptable differences, uh, among Christians, you know, with regard to the timing of the end, but we're now discussing something that has to do with the Gospel itself…
Danny: Mm hm.
Elliot: …which is that Jesus came and died the first time with reference to sin so that He might come again in glory the second time without reference to sin, to set up His Kingdom. That is the hope of the believer throughout the New Testament.
Hank: And certainly we need to point out quickly that all preterists would not hold the view that was just given.
Elliot: Yes, that's why I asked the questions I did.
Danny: Well they're not true preterists then, because a preterist, like a futurist like you are, believes that prophecy, or almost all prophecy, is yet to be fulfilled. Whereas a preterist will on the other hand say that all prophecy was fulfilled. And…
Elliot: Now that is not how preterism is normally defined. Preterism would be saying that…
Danny: Well, postmillennials call themselves preterists and they will say, “Oh yeah, Jesus came in A.D. 70, BUT….”
Hank: But, hey, just. Danny. Hang on just a second.
Hank: Elliot wanted to alleviate you're ignorance in this area. Hang on. Let him finish his sentence.
Elliot: Well, I just wanted to state that a preterist is someone who believes that the events described for example in Matthew 24 and many of the events described in the book of Revelation did take place, uh, in the first century, mainly before A.D. 70. However, uh, in the classic position of preterism, they still believe that the great hope of the Christian is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Now if you don't, are not looking for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, then, uh, you're basically, uh, taking a position that goes contrary to the, to the core of the Gospel, which is the believer's blessed hope, the appearing of Christ to conquer Satan and to establish righteousness on the Earth and to set up the Kingdom of God. It, it's His coming and His establishing of the Kingdom that we look forward to. What are you looking forward to?
Danny: Well, I believe the hope of glory which is talked about in the Bible, the hope of glory which --I know you futurists will say that the hope of glory is Christ's coming-- but I…
Hank: Let's not use any labels. Let's just deal with the issue, because this is a very important issue.
Danny: I know.
Hank: It runs right to the core of our existence. It's not some tangential issue here.
Danny: What's the hope of glory? That's, that's the bottom line I'm also trying to bring up.
Elliot: That's what I want to know. What is your hope?
Danny: My hope of glory is Christ in me, and I believe He's already in me. And He already came, and I received Him, you know, years ago, you know…
Hank: What do you do with Revelation chapter 22, “Behold I come quickly. My reward is with Me. And I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” Jesus Christ did, did come once, and He is coming again. And not because I say so, but because He says so.
Danny: Well, if you take it in context, see, in the book of Daniel, God told Daniel to seal...
Hank: No. I'm, I'm not in Daniel right now. I'm in Revelation.
Danny: I know. I am.
Hank: Let's deal with Revelation. Then we'll go to Daniel.
Danny: I know, but you see that's it. I'm trying to make a point about Revelation.
Danny: Just be patient with me please.
Danny: Okay, in Daniel, God told, you know, Daniel the prophet to seal up the prophecies because the time was not at hand. He was going to sleep yet. Whereas you look in Revelation, God told John, “Do not seal up the prophecies,” you know, because the time is at hand. This is 500 years between Daniel and Christ. Now that's a long ways off, according to God, but here it is 2,000 years later after John, He says this is close at hand? To me this is a little bit inconsistent. I think God was talking to those when He said He was coming quickly, to those in that first century. Because I think we're reading someone else's mail primarily, when we're reading Revelation.
Hank: So, you think …that Jesus Christ is not going to return …the second time.
Danny: Well, He's in us. Why would we need Him in a physical, you know, manifestation of God?
Elliot: Okay so, we agree with you that He is in people who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Danny: That's our hope of glory.
Elliot: Christ is in us. That is the first fruit, Scripture tells us, or it is the earnest, it is the down payment of the future glory, okay, but the reality is that within ourselves individually, as well as within the world collectively, sin is still very much present. God is not finished yet. Jesus came into the world ultimately to do away with sin, and if you think that you're present condition is the hope of glory, in other words that that hope is now fully realized, then you're sadly mistaken, because God is not going to be finished until sin is completely eliminated, and that will not happen until the resurrection of the body. Do you have any hope beyond death?
Danny: Well, let me bring up my proof text on this. Okay, in the book of Colossians, I think it's 1:23 [1:27], it says, “the hope of glory, that is Christ in you.” Now I think they were looking forward to that hope of glory, that is, the day that, that God, Christ would be fully established within them. Now once that physical temple was destroyed, once it was destroyed, the spiritual Temple was fully established. Therefore, God was manifested in them in His fullness.
Hank: Okay. Do you have a Bible with you.
Danny: Yes, I do.
Hank: Okay. Look at Revelation chapter 21.
Hank: John sees a new heaven and a new earth.
Danny: Uh huh.
Hank: The first heaven and first earth pass away. There is no longer any sea. He sees the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. He hears a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men. And He....
Hank: …will live with them.”
Danny: Christ is living with us. Jesus told them, “Behold, something better than the temple is here.”
Hank: No, no. He will live with them. They will be His people. God Himself will be with them, and be their God.
Danny: He is our God.
Hank: And then, and, and then He says, He's going to wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain, “for the old order of things has passed away.”
Danny: The old order. The old Jewish covenant.
Hank: No, no, no. The old order of things is…
Danny: The old covenant.
Hank: …the cursed creation in which we live today, which is riddled by death, sickness and sin. That old order will pass away…
Danny: Spiritual death.
Hank: …and everything will become new.
Danny: Spiritual death.
Hank: No, no. [laughter] No. Even physically death, physical death, and, and, and, and as a matter of fact, the hope of the believer is the physical resurrection, that as He…
Elliot: The blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, uh, in Phillipians chapter 3, verses 20 and 21, Paul says, “Our citizenship is in Heaven from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” You see, it's the resurrection of Christ from the dead, it is the culmination of His purpose for coming, and the purpose of His resurrecting from the dead is so that we too might resurrect from the dead, or if we're still alive at His coming, be transformed so that we all might be conformed to the glory of His immortal body and be freed from the very presence of sin. That is the blessed hope of the believer. Christ in you is the first fruits. It is the beginning. Uh, it is the down payment. It gives us a hope of a future glory, but it isn't the fulfillment of those very things.
Danny: Yeah, well I know that the last chapter of Revelation, it does talk about the City of God after it was established. It says outside the City are the dogs, the immoral people, the idolaters, and homosexuals and all them, and I think it is making it clear that sin was not going to be wiped out. It's going to be still around, but here the City of God is on Earth, sin does not dwell in the City of God because the Holy Spirit within us sanctifies us.
Hank: Well actually there's going to be a separation…
Danny: That is a separation.
Hank: …and in the holy City New Jerusalem, it says nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does...
Hank: …what is shameful or deceitful.
Danny: And outside are the dogs, the immoral people, and so forth. That's talking about Jersualem being on Earth.
Elliot: "Outside" is speaking with reference to the Lake of Fire, because we're clearly told in Revelation chapter twenty that everyone whose name was not written in the book of life is cast into the Lake of Fire where the Beast and the False Prophet and Satan are. So we're told elsewhere in Revelation where “outside” is, and it's not just on the Earth with people going on with business as usual.
Danny: Well isn't the New Jerusalem here on Earth already?
Elliot: No it's not. It's something…
Danny: The Kingdom of God isn't here already?
Elliot: No. It's clearly in the future.
Danny: Well, in the book of Galatians, Paul made it very clear that the New Jerusalem was on its way down. Very clear. The mother above. I think it's a spiritual Jerusalem, not a physical, literal streets of gold, you know.
Hank: You, you, you seem to have sort of an esoteric explanation for every verse, but what do you do with First Thessalonians chapter four, where, uh, you read, “Brother, we don't want you to be ignorant.”
Danny: Mm hm.
Hank: “According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive…”
Danny: Will be caught up.
Hank: “…who are left to the coming of the Lord will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven with a loud command and with the voice of the Arch Angel.”
Danny: Well, I know the Greek there, uh, the Greek word is not saying, “caught up.” It's actually being “translated.”
Hank: Are you a Greek scholar?
Danny: I have studied Greek here, and I'm not a scholar. No sir.
Hank: Okay, well maybe we ought to just leave the Greek alone then.
Danny: Okay, but I have studied that portion of the chapter with friends of mine who were very helpful, and the word actually should not be the word “caught up.” Actually it should be “translated”…
Hank: Well that's not even the issue…
Danny: Or “taken.”
Hank: …at hand.
Hank: It says that the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven with a loud trump.
Danny: You… Yeah…
Hank: And, and what do you do with this text in Acts that says that the Lord Jesus Who had been taken from you into Heaven will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into Heaven? What do you do with that?
Danny: Well, an angel told them that, well if you read back, it said that when He, as He was going up a cloud received Him out of His sight, out of their sight I mean. And I believe that it said Jesus, like Jesus told Pilate [Caiaphas], you know, it says, you know, you know, you will see the Son of Man come in the clouds of glory. He told Pilate [Caiaphas] that Himself, and I think Jesus did come in the cloud, the same cloud of glory that shrouded Him…
Hank: Well wait a minute. You're not answering the question.
Danny: I am. You know, Jesus did come in the clouds of glory.
Hank: But, but, but wait a minute. Here you have Jesus Christ…
Danny: Mm hm.
Hank: …In Acts chapter one…
Danny: Mm hm.
Hank: …Okay? And He tells His disciples, it's not for you to know the times or the dates the Father has set by His own authority, but you will receive power. When the Holy Spirit comes on you. You will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, all Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” Speaking to the apostles. After this, He was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid them, hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, and suddenly two men dressed in white, two angels stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “Why do you stand here looking up at the sky? This same Jesus Who has been taken from you into Heaven will come back.” So He's taken up into Heaven. Right?
Danny: Mm hm.
Hank: And He's going to come back in the same way you have seen Him go into Heaven. And if you read Scripture in context, you know that there is a time-period between His first ascension into Heaven and when He returns again.
Danny: Mm hm. That forty year period between His ascension and the Parousia or His Coming.
Hank: The forty year period between His ascension and His coming?
Danny: But I believe that that is significant though, in like in, uh, Revelation chapter twenty, because, you know, I think it's talking about between the Cross and…
Hank: Hey Danny, have you made up your mind and you're not going to be confused by the facts?
Danny: Ah, I've never been on this program before, so [laughter] …my mind does wander a little…
Elliot: Danny, we're concerned about this because, like I said earlier, this is not just a peripheral area of difference where good Christians can disagree. This is really striking right at the core of the Gospel hope. In fact the Apostle John warns in Second John, or, yeah, in his second epistle, in verse seven, “Many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.”
Danny: Mm Hm.
Elliot: Okay. This is not just speaking of in the past tense…
Danny: I believe He came in the flesh.
Elliot: …but it's speaking both of His first and second coming. Christ is coming physically even as He departed. It is God's intention to do away with sin, and that is our hope. It is God's intention to do away with death, and that is our hope. Things are not going to continue in the present state forever with the Church or, or Heaven only being a spiritual reality in the midst of a sinful world that denies God.
Elliot: You see, the purpose of the Cross was to make it possible for the Second Coming, for Christ to come without reference to sin because He dealt with it on the Cross, and He can eliminate sin and the devil from the world, and if you're hoping for something less than that, your hope is hollow. You're in the same position that Paul, the Apostle Paul warns about in Romans chapter fifteen that, uh, we among all, are, are, are the most, uh, hopeless of all men if Christ has not risen from the dead, because why? Because then we won't be resurrected from the dead.
Hank: And we're still dead in our sins.
Elliot: Yeah. If, if Christ…
Danny: We're still dead in our sins?
Hank: That's what he says. He says that you're among all men most miserable because you're still dead in your sins. If Christ does not, if Christ has not been raised from the dead then you might as well…
Danny: Well of course He's raised from the dead.
Hank: …eat, drink and be merry.
Elliot: Okay but here's the point, Danny. You're not getting the logical relationship, and the biblical relationship between the fact that A: He was risen from the dead. B: He's coming back physically. Why would He be resurrected from the dead physically if He was not going to continue on in a physical existence? And if He's continuing on in a physical existence, it's for our sake. It's not for His own sake. It's, it's for the sake of the earth and the world that He would redeem it and that He would rule over it. You see…
Danny: Well, the Bible does say flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God. It would stand to reason Christ rose from the dead for the purpose, as a sign to those, that He conquered death, for our salvation. But I know the Bible does make reference to Jesus after His ascension as Him being in the spirit, you know, like, I think in the book of Hebrews it refers to Him as, “in the days of His flesh.” And also “the Spirit of Jesus” was mentioned in the book of Acts, in Acts sixteen I believe it is. Jesus is now back in His original form. God is a spirit, like Jesus said.
Hank: No, no, no, no, no. He is forever Theo-Anthropos, the God-Man. He has taken on an additional nature. He's not, uh…
Elliot: Even as Paul says in First Timothy chapter two verse five, “There is one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.” He is still a Man even now as He mediates, uh, on our behalf in Heaven. And He will come back in that same form, you see. And I want to get back to the point in, in, it's actually First Corinthians fifteen. I said Romans earlier. In First Corinthians fifteen, Paul makes the point that, uh, if Christ hasn't risen from the dead, then our hope is in vain because that means we will not be raised from the dead, and you may acknowledge the resurrection of Christ, but if you don't see the logical connection between that and our resurrection from the dead, then your hope is in vain as well because we are the most miserable of men if indeed we are not looking for the glorious resurrection in which the sin-nature will be rooted out and we'll be conformed into the glorious image of His resurrected body.
Danny: Well, the thing is, if I was to die and go to Heaven right now and then say next year, God –you know, assuming futurism is true—but God said, “Okay, you're going to go back into your physical body and live on Earth again,” well obviously, Heaven must not be that great of a place to go up to after all, say, “Yeah! I'm going back to Earth!”
Hank: Hey, hey, hey Danny, I'm going to have to cut you off. You know why? Because you don't want to be confused by the facts. We've given you too many facts to consider. You're not considering them. Rather that you are so, uh, you, you, you're just continuing with the rhetoric. Here's what you need to do: If you're ever interested in looking at this with an open mind, we're happy to help you out, happy to give you all the details that are necessary to help you in this regard. If not, God bless you, uh, and, uh, hope some day someone will get through to you because as we've said several times, this is not a peripheral issue. It is an essential issue. ...What we need to realize as Christians, you can't talk anyone like Danny into the Kingdom. You can't talk them into believing in the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The best you can do is be equipped so as God opens someone's heart so that they will listen, you're ready, prepared to given an answer, a reason for the hope that lies within, and with gentleness and with respect. Wanna go to Steve in Illinois listening on WYLL. Steve, welcome.
[END OF CONVERSATION]
UPDATE: In the November 5th, 2004 edition of The Dallas Morning News, Hank Hanegraaff was quoted as saying:
"John ...was writing about the times he was living in, using symbolism from the Old Testament prophets to describe conditions in the first century. All the major elements of the Book of Revelation – Tribulation, Armageddon, Rapture – took place at that time."(Emphasis added.)
Then on November 18th, on The Bible Answer Man broadcast, Hank Hanegraaff responded to the article:
"The editor [of The Dallas Morning News] ...confabulated some of my statements. ...I did not make this statement [concerning the rapture]."
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