QUESTION 1: God gave the Old-Testament Church detailed worship guidelines (Deuteronomy and Leviticus), but in the preterist view, the Kingdom is now fulfilled spiritually, and the New Testament does not give many specific guidelines as to what "the sons of the Kingdom" are supposed to do in their worship. Doesn't preterism thus put the Church in a kind of "limbo" state?
ANSWER: The fact that there aren't as many specific guidelines prescribed for the Church's worship today as there were under the Law, has to do with the maturity of the Church in the New Covenant. Before the coming of the Redeemer, worshipers had to follow highly detailed, step-by-step instructions that God had given to them through Moses. Like slave-children, they were kept under the strict tutelage of the Law and were burdened by its myriad ordinances, all of which condemned them because of the Sin that indwelled them (Acts 15:10).
In stark contrast, the Church today is "mature" in regard to its service to God. Instead of being under the yoke of hundreds of fleshly ordinances that symbolize a future redeemer, the Body of Christ now worships the Father "in spirit and in truth" (Jn. 4:23). The Church has been purified by the blood of Christ, and is now itself "the Tabernacle of God." The Church worships God face to Face, through no other Mediator than Christ Himself.
The relatively few New-Testament guidelines for worship in comparison to the vast number of ordinances under the old covenant does not suggest a "limbo state" for the Church today. It suggests that we have been freed from the burden and the curse of the Law, and it therefore implies simplicity of worship.
"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:30).
QUESTION 2: If a preterist believes that the Old Testament law is no longer binding, then how is he different than the dispensationalist when dealing with ethics? ?
ANSWER: The difference between the dispensationalists and the preterists on this issue is that the dispensationalists see a radical separation, a total disconnect, between the Old Testament age and the New Testament age. In their system:
Old Testament = plan A
New Testament = plan B ("the parenthesis age")
Millennium = back to plan A
Since they put the New Testament Church in a historical/covenantal "vacuum," they think the Law of Moses (plan A) is irrelevant for us in this allegedly temporal "age of grace" (plan B).
In contrast to the dispensationalists, most preterists see the change of the covenants more in this way:
When the Old Covenant ("heaven and earth") disappeared in 70 (Heb. 8:13), the fleshly ordinances (foods, drinks, baptisms) were abolished (Col. 2:16,17; Heb. 9:10), and the man-made temple-system was destroyed. However, the Law of the old covenant was not destroyed, but was fulfilled (Matt. 5:17). In fact, the Law of God is at the heart of the eternal, New-Covenant world. As Heb. 8:10,16 says:
"For this is the [New] Covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts" (Heb. 8:10).
Also unlike the dispensationalists, preterists do not believe that there are two laws of God, Old Testament and New Testament. Instead they believe there was an earthly administration (Old Testament) of the one Law of God, and there is a heavenly administration (New Testament) of the one Law of God.
We must not attempt to obey the Law of God today by worshiping "according to the [Old Testament] letter" (II Cor. 3:6). Today we obey the Law of God as it stands fulfilled in Christ --in the Spirit (II Cor. 3:6,8). The Christological Fulfillment must be the guiding Principle in all of our interpretations of God's Laws. Here are four basic examples of how this is so:
1. Instead of sacrificing bulls and goats (the letter of the law), we sacrifice our living bodies/our selves (Rom. 12:1; Phil. 2:17), our praise (Heb. 13:15), etc., and Christ is our sacrifice. In this way, we obey the Law "according to the Spirit."
2. Instead of being bound to circumcise our new-born males on the eighth day (the letter of the law), we know in Christ that circumcision is meant to teach God's people about the Christological removal of sin from our lives, and that true circumcision is "of the heart."
3. Instead of being bound to ceremonially abstain from certain animal flesh (the letter of the law), we understand in Christ that the animal food laws were given to teach Israel about separation from gentiles. In Christ, the wall of separation was removed so that "what God has cleansed [gentiles in general], do not call common" (Acts 10:12-15). Also, we learn from the Old Testament prohibitive food laws that we are to separate ourselves from worshiping with those who reject the Gospel (II Cor. 6:17).
4. When we read in the law of Moses that, "You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the corn," we know in Christ that God's great concern in that law was not for oxen, but He gave the law "altogether for our sakes," that we may be rewarded for our work in Him (I Cor. 9:9,10).
Civil and governmental applications of God's Law for present-day nations is needful and good, but again, the Christological Fulfillment must be the guiding Principle in all of our interpretations of God's Laws. For this reason, we cannot simply "cut and paste" the Law of Moses and make it our nation's constitution, but we must wisely apply it in Christ, as in Christ there was a change (Fufillment) in the Law.
QUESTION 3: Calvinists deny that obedience is necessary for salvation. Doesn't the Bible contradict that notion?
ANSWER: I (and other Calvinists) do not believe in a divorce of salvation and obedience. It is hyper-calvinistic and damnable to teach that a life of disobedience pleases God and can result in salvation.
I (and other Calvinists) agree with James that obedience (works) justifies a believer in that it perfects his already justifying faith, (Jms. 2:22) and in that it fulfills and demonstrates God's work in having already justified the believer by faith (Jms. 2:18, 23).
While works are not an effectual contributor in regeneration, they are, according to the Scriptures, absolutely inseparable from the day-to-day working out of the believer's salvation (Phil. 2:12).
In other words, true good works are the God-ordained (predestined) result of having been regenerated (Eph. 2:10). They are the justifying work of God from the believing, to the willing, to the doing (Phil. 2:13; cf. Jn. 6:29), so that boasting is removed and all glory is God's:
Isa. 26:12: "Lord, You . . . have wrought all our works in us."
QUESTION 4: Do you believe that all the graves of saints are already empty?
ANSWER: Yes. Ezekiel 37:1-14:
"The hand of the Lord ...carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, ...and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. ...Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live; and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O My people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land . . . . " (Eze. 37:1,2,5-14).
This passage equates the resurrection of Israel out of their "graves," with God putting His Spirit in them and placing them in their own Land.
Preterists see this as having been completely fulfilled in 70, when the New Jerusalem (which replaced the old, destroyed Jerusalem) came down from God. The New Jerusalem is that "Land of Israel" to which the patriarchs of Israel (and Ezekiel) looked:
Hebrews 11:10: [Abraham] looked for a City which has foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God. (cf. Rev. 21:14)
Hebrews 11:16: [People like Abraham] desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He has prepared for them a city.
When the Heavenly Country/Land/City came down from heaven in 70, then God made His eternal Spirit-dwelling in Israel (the Church --Eph. 2:22), having brought His elect out from their "graves" of spiritual death into their eternal dwellings of spiritual life.
QUESTION 5: If the resurrection and destruction of the ungodly has happened, then who would have been left to preach and repopulate the earth?
ANSWER: The resurrected saints who inherited the new earth, and the "dogs" "outside the city" on the new earth both populate the earth today.
It was the ungodly in God's Kingdom (the Pharisees, etc.; Matt. 13:41) who were destroyed in 70. It was the world of "His Kingdom" that was purged, not the planet. Generations of godly and ungodly men continue.
QUESTION 6: Revelation 21:22-24 says that there is no temple in the New Jerusalem, because God and the Lamb are its Temple. If the New Jerusalem is the Church and if the Church is the temple of God, how can it be that there is no temple in the City?
ANSWER: F. W. Farrar's The Revelation of St. John the Divine:
"Their city of residence is their temple; it contains within it no temple whose walls or doors intervene between them and the God they adore. God is temple to the city, and the city is temple to God."
"To him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out, and I will write upon him the name of . . . the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God . . . " (Rev. 3:12).
QUESTION 7: Was anyone regenerated in the Old Testament?
ANSWER: God's Spirit cleansed and renewed hearts before the Day of Pentecost, (Ps. 24:4; 51:10) and all the saints before Pentecost had been justified by God's choice through faith. (Ps. 65:4; Hab. 2:4; Dan. 4:35; Rom. 9:11; Heb. 11)
However, those saints had not yet received the Promise of the indwelling of God's Spirit. (Ps. 51:11; Eze. 36:26-27; 37:14; Jn. 7:38-39; Acts 2:38-39; Heb. 11:39) They had not yet become the Temple of God. (Acts 15:14-16; I Cor. 3:16) They had not yet become the "fulness" and "Body" of Christ. (Eph. 1:23; Col. 1:19-20) They had not yet been made redemptively "perfect." (Heb. 11:40; 12:23) They were not yet the children of the spiritual / heavenly Kingdom of promise. (Matt 18:3; Jn. 3:3; Heb. 11:16)
None of those New-Covenant blessings were realized for the saints who lived before Pentecost because Christ had not yet died and eternally redeemed them from their transgressions:
"....He is the mediator of a new covenant, in order that since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the Promise of the eternal Inheritance." (Heb. 9:15)
To be "regenerated" (reborn) is to be "born from above" --"born" of the spiritual Jerusalem for which Abraham and all the saints looked. (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 11:10) That heavenly City / Kingdom "gave birth" to her children when the word of Christ was preached, from Pentecost to the fall of the earthly Jerusalem. (Rev. 3:12)
Thus that time-period was called "the Regeneration." (Matt. 19:28) It was then that God caused His people to be "born again," and to be "made new," (Rev. 21:5) through the revelation of the Gospel of Christ. (Rom. 16:25; II Tim. 1:10; I Peter 1:3,23)
John the Baptist was the greatest of all the saints from Adam until Christ. Yet John was inferior to a regenerated (Spirit-indwelt, blood-perfected, Jerusalem-born) believer:
"Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he." (Matt. 11:11)
Another saint who had already been justified by faith (like Abraham before him) and who was already offering acceptable worship to God, but yet stood in need of regeneration / salvation, was Cornelius.
Before Cornelius had heard the Gospel, he was a truly devout, righteous and God-fearing man who gave many alms to God's people, and who prayed to God continually. (Acts 10:2,22) God heard Cornelius' prayers. And his prayers and his alms ascended as a memorial before God. (Acts 10:4,31) Yet, Cornelius was not saved. (Acts 11:14) He needed to hear the Gospel of the Kingdom and to be regenerated through the indwelling Holy Spirit:
"While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message [Cornelius and his household]. And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 'Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?' ....'And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit..'" (Acts 10:44-47; 11:16)
The saints who lived before the Cross / Pentecost were not yet regenerated. This does not imply that before Pentecost God accepted a natural, humanistic (Spirit-less) "faith" that was generated by man's own "freewill." Rather, it implies that there is a dynamic difference between the Spirit-generated faith that looked forward to Christ, and the Spirit-generated faith in the shed blood of Christ. Both faiths (Rom. 1:17) were granted to individuals by God's sovereign choice through the inner working of His Spirit (Rom. 9), but only the latter faith --faith in the shed blood of Christ-- is the faith of God's indwelling Presence, of rebirth, of re-creation, of redemptive perfection, of the Kingdom of Heaven and of eternal life.
QUESTION 8: Doesn't Romans eleven teach that Yahweh still has a definite plan for Israel, whom He loves with an irrevocable love?
ANSWER: "All Israel" (Rom. 11:26) was saved in A. D. 70. Here's how:
When the first-century righteous remnant (Rom. 11:5,14) plus the righteous dead (Rom. 11:28) of ages past were all resurrected together into the spiritual Kingdom of Christ at the end of the "ministration of death" (II Cor. 3:7), then was realized the "fullness of Israel" (Rom. 11:12), Israel's "life from the dead" (Rom. 11:15). With "the fullness of the gentiles" having come into Israel in that Day, Israel was made new. She was transformed into the universal, spiritual nation of God, and God became All in all.
"And these all [old-testament saints], ...received not the Promise, God having provided some better thing [the Promise] for us [the last-days remnant], that they [old testament saints] without us [the last-days remnant] should not be made perfect."
QUESTION 9: If preterists believe that the Great Commission is already fulfilled, then it seems that they have no reason or basis to "make disciples of all nations." Isn't preterism thus anti-evangelical?
ANSWER: From a futurist perspective, when the Gospel has finally gone into all the world, then God will close the doors of grace forever on this present earth. But from the preterist perspective, "the end" which historically followed the worldwide preaching of the gospel opened the doors of the Gospel of Christ to the world. For the preterist, the spread of the gospel into all nations was the establishment and not the termination of God's Gospel-grace to the continuing generations of the world.
While the doors of grace were closed to that last unbelieving generation of the Old Testament age, the grace of the everlasting Gospel was divinely set in place for all mankind forever. The fulfillment of the Great Commission by the Spirit-led church of the Last Days was the true beginning of Gospel-healing for the nations.
Most forms of futurism overtly teach an eventual abolition of the grace which Christ died on the cross to establish, but past fulfillment necessarily means the praise and magnifying of God's Gospel on earth into all generations, world without end. Amen. (Eph. 3:21)
QUESTION 10: What about people who have died who have never heard the name of Christ, the only name by which you can be saved, and people who just don't understand the gospel. How do the preterists see these things?
ANSWER: In my understanding, a preterist world view, scripturally applied, strongly reinforces the necessity of true obedience in all men, as it is in the preterist teaching that the holy "God Himself" (Rev. 21:3) lives among us, and in us, in perfect fulfillment of all things written. He is not in some sense absent from us, or looking down on men's iniquities from a distance. And to the degree that He is among men, all people are that much more accountable to have a saving knowledge of Him.
It is because God is pure and holy that the Scriptures tell us that, "Nothing impure will ever enter [the City and Tabernacle and Kingdom of God, which is the universal Church], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev. 21:27). Only the imputed righteousness of the Lamb received by faith can make any man able to stand in the Presence of God.
QUESTION 11: Can you possibly deny that preterism is anti-semitic?
ANSWER: I cannot deny that there are some modern-day "Jew"-haters who use preterism to teach that all "Jews" since A. D. 70 are under a special curse of God and that therefore people like Hitler aren't such bad guys after all.
However, that teaching is an abominable perversion of preterist doctrine and those who spread it should be avoided by everyone.
Yes, I can deny that preterism is anti-semitic. As surprising as it may seem, it is actually consistent futurism that logically fosters "Jew"-hatred. Here are some verses that show this to be true:
And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the Great City which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. (Rev. 11:8)
This verse designates Jerusalem as "Sodom and Egypt" because it was in Jerusalem that the Lord Jesus was crucified. If we are to say this verse refers to a time in our future and is not yet fulfilled, then we must also say that Jerusalem remains the spiritual "Sodom and Egypt" to this very day because of its Messianic blood-guilt, and that it must remain so indicted until the Judgment of Rev. 11:13-19 is fulfilled sometime in our future. This conclusion is inescapable if the passage has yet to be fulfilled.( Please see Q&A #98.)
And if Rev. 11:13-19 is yet unfulfilled, this logically implies that Paul's indictment against Jews must also remain intact to this very day, specifically, that "the Jews [who "killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets"] ...are ...hostile to all men" and that "they always fill up the measure of their sins." (I Thess. 2:14-16)
Consistent futurism logically produces a very dangerous ambiguity and ambivalence toward modern-day "Jews" in that, on the one hand, they are in some sense "God's chosen people," while on the other hand they remain a blood-guilty race of enemies (Rom. 11:28) who are opposed to all men, and whose metropolis is "Egypt" and "Sodom" until Revelation 11 is fulfilled. This is the hateful fruit of consistent futurism.
In the preterist doctrine, in contrast, Jerusalem was "given to the nations" by God in the late 60's, A.D., and the Great City was then trampled under foot until it was destroyed in A. D. 70. In those terrible "days of vengeance," the wrath of God against the Jews came to the utmost (I Thess. 2:16; Heb. 10:26-31) and they paid the price for their Messianic blood-guilt to the last penny (Lk. 12:54-59).
After that day, the blood-descendants of Abraham became --covenantally speaking-- simply one of the many ethnic classes in the family of man (Eph. 3:15). There is not one ethnic group (or "race") of men today that is in any sense rejected by God or favored by God over others, but all are freely accepted in Christ and are made One through faith in Him.
How many lives would have been saved if this preterist view of Israel in Bible prophecy had been taught instead of consistent futurism?
QUESTION 12: From a preterist perspective how are we to understand Romans 11:28-29? "As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance."
ANSWER: Even though God's old-covenant people in their last generation were being hardened, and excluded from the coming Inheritance, that did not mean that God had rejected historic, old-covenant Israel (Rom. 11:1,2).
Although it may have looked like Israel was being utterly cut off in her last generation, the truth was that old-covenant Israel was being saved in her last days. God was actually saving all of historic Israel --fulfilling His promises to "the fathers"-- partly by means of the hardening of her last generation.
Here is how:
1. Through old-covenant Israel's transgression/failure and rejection in her last days, riches and reconciliation were coming to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 28:18). "They are enemies for your sakes."
2. The salvation of the gentiles was making last-days Israel "jealous," so that a remnant was becoming zealous for righteousness and being saved (Rom. 11:2-10,11,13,14).
3. The hardening, or reprobation, of old-covenant Israel in her last generation was to continue until the fullness of her Messiah was realized in the gentiles (Rom. 11:25).
4. In this manner, or by this process, all of historic, old-covenant Israel was going to be saved (Resurrected) with the last-days remnant and with the believing gentiles at the Presence of Messiah in A. D. 70, according to the promises made to the fathers (Rom. 11:26). "They are beloved for the fathers' sakes."
In the unsearchable wisdom and judgment of God, each member of the universal and elect covenant-Body was dependent upon the other in the working out of their salvation (cf. I Cor. 12:12-26):
The old-covenant dead could not be resurrected without the Christological perfection of the remnant, or firstfruits (Heb. 11:40; Jms. 1:18), and of the believing gentiles. The believing gentiles (the grafted in wild branches) could not be saved without Israel (the olive tree) and her partial hardening. And all of God's chosen remnant in Israel were not to be saved without the believing gentiles to make them zealous for the good things that were being granted the gentiles in Christ Jesus.
"As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes" Meaning: Through the hardening of Israel, the Gospel came to the gentiles.
"But as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes." Meaning: God promised the fathers that He would redeem His chosen nation, which came from their loins; and so God fulfilled His "gifts" and His "calling" to old-covenant Israel in 70, when through the power of the Gospel He raised her children from the dead and united the Jew/Gentile Body of Messiah into the true Tabernacle of God among men (Eph. 2:21,22; Rev. 21:3), in fulfillment of all the promises made to "the fathers."
"It is He Who will build the Temple of the Lord, and He will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on His throne. And He will be a priest on His throne. And there will be peace between the two" (Zech. 6:13).
QUESTION 13: Is God not concerned with the evil in the world like famine, wars, disease, environmental damage, etc.? Preterism teaches that the Kingdom is already here in its fullness. So this is the fulfillment? Why would God create a world that will never be rid of sin and suffering? Optimists say that this is the best of all possible worlds. Some futurists say that this is the best way of becoming the best of all possible worlds --which I find tenable through the eyes of faith. What do preterists say about the world? Will injustice and suffering go on forever?
ANSWER: First, most Christians believe in eternal, or everlasting, punishment. Even if we propose that it is the Devil and "the beast and the false prophet" (Rev. 20:10) who are the only ones who suffer eternally, that would still add up to a cosmos wherein sin and suffering continue forever and ever. To have planet Earth free from sin and suffering while sin and suffering continue elsewhere for eternity ("the lake of fire") does not solve the philosophical problem of the existence of sin and suffering. Therefore the idea of a universe in which sin and suffering continue for eternity is not at all a uniquely preterist problem. Unless you are a Universalist or an annihilationist, it seems that your objection may have more to do with the locale of sin and suffering than with the existence of sin and suffering.
It is true that preterists (or at least most preterist) see no prophecy in the Bible which says or implies that every individual on planet Earth will one day be absolutely and literally and in every sense free from all sin and suffering. In fact, preterists see verses that indirectly say that the existence of sin will continue "forever." Here are some of those verses:
Ps. 110:4: "Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek."
Since Christ is a Priest on behalf of sinners "forever," we can infer that sinners will exist on earth "forever" to enjoy the ministry of forgiveness of sins in Christ.
Rev. 14:6: "...the Everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth..." (Rev. 14:6).
Since the Gospel, which is for sinners that dwell on the earth, is "everlasting," we can infer that sinners will be born on earth everlastingly to enjoy the blessings of the Gospel.
In Rev. 22:2, on "the new earth," we see "the Tree of life" that yields fruit every month, the "leaves" of which are "for the healing of the nations" (Rev. 22:2). This teaches us that in the new earth, "the nations" are in need of continual healing.
We must also infer from the above verses that the continued existence of sin in the "new earth" in no way implies the victory of sin. Nor does the continued existence of sin in the universe at all imply a "stalemate" between righteousness and sin. If it did, then we would be forced to say that God has as of yet won zero decisive victories over sin (except in Christ Himself), since sin still exists. The idea that the existence of sin in the universe implies the non-victory of righteousness in the universe is an existential philosophy that devalues all that has thus far been wrought by the death and resurrection of Christ.
It seems that many cannot be satisfied with anything less than a literal utopia that is characterized by absolute "behavioral errorlessness" throughout the entire universe (except for in the lake of fire). But does the existence of sin on Earth really imply an un-done-ness of God's purposes? God says that He created "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" in order "that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy." Although sin exists, God is victorious over sin every day: "Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the Land, so as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity" (Ps. 101:8).
God's "created order" is certainly not "the best of all possible worlds" for the unbelieving (if we define "best" as what best contributes to their blessedness and success). But it is the best of all possible worlds, "to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).
Now, to narrow in on your question, "What do preterists say about the world?":
In view of the fact that God said His creation is "very good," and remembering that God promised to never again curse the ground or destroy mankind as He promised after the Flood, we cannot possibly expect that God will bring a cataclysmic judgment to end the generations of mankind. It should further come as no surprise to find that the Scriptures tell us that the kingdom, and the generations of man, and the earth itself are all to continue "forever" (Ps. 104:5; 145:13; Eccl. 1:4; Dan. 4:3,34; 7:14,18,27; Lk. 1:33; Eph. 3:21).
Whether or not "forever" is literally infinite aeons or indefinite aeons with a theoretical end, it is still as far into the future as the Bible goes. The Bible says nothing of a termination to the forever-ness of Christ's kingdom on Earth. We can biblically say nothing about a "post-Christian age," because there is no such thing.
Some will say that if this is the case, if history is to continue indefinitely with the existence of sin and with no "Second Coming" to bring it to a termination, then that must mean that mankind is stuck in a "status quo" cycle of endless, "go-no-where" history. But to see that history cannot be so characterized in the preterist view, we need only consider the conquering nature of Christ's kingdom.
The Bible describes the Kingdom of Christ on earth as a kingdom that will increase until it covers "the whole earth" "as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9; Dan 2:35; cf. Matt. 13:33). According to the Scriptures, it will increase on earth until all of God's enemies are "under His feet" (I Cor. 15:25). The Scriptures further say that the Kingdom will bring blessing to "all the families of the earth" (Gen. 12:3; Ps. 22:7); to "all the nations" (Matt. 28:19; Ps. 72:17; Ps. 86:9); to "all men" (Isa. 66:23), even to "the very ends of the earth" (Ps. Ps. 2:8; 22:27; 72:8; Isa. 11:9; Zech. 9:10; Acts 1:8; 13:47).
Though (full) preterists see the above "dominion verses" as being fulfilled in 70 (and so interpret the verses synecdochically and hyperbolically), preterists necessarily infer from those passages what is the divine character/nature of the Church. The above descriptions of the Church's first-century victory in the world invariable betoken the Church's progressive dominion throughout history. The Church did not stop being the Church after it was established in 70. Rather, it was born conquering, it was established conquering and it forever conquers to the glory of Christ! As the Scriptures teach:
"May his name endure forever; May his name increase as long as the sun shines...." (Ps. 72:17).
"There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore...." (Isa. 9:7).
Yet futurists ask incredulously, "Toward what is history progressing if sin continues to exist and history is not going to end?"
The goal is none other than that the elect of every generation hear the gospel and that all who trust in the sin-atoning blood of Christ attain unto that for which mankind was created: To love God with all his heart, soul and mind, and his neighbor as himself (Matt. 22:37-39; Mk. 12:30-31; Lk. 10:27-28). We must not think that the continued existence of sin on earth invalidates the possibility or the perfection of the realization of that goal.
Preterists do not know future events, but we are fully confident in the fact that whatever the conquering Savior pleases to do, He does, on earth as in heaven (Ps. 135:6). And when we consider the divine eternality of the Church on earth and her progressive divine dominion, we know that her future, and hence the future of humanity, will be filled to overflowing with innumerable blessings which are even now utterly impossible for us to grasp. What wonders will God work in and through His more-than-conquering Church after 10,000 years, or after 1,000,000 years of victory? Only God can know (Eccl. 3:11).
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Eph. 3:20-21).
QUESTION 14: The Old Covenant (the law) passed away and the New Covenant (covenant of Grace) was established. Since the Old Covenant was the Law, doesn't that prove that we are not bound to the law in any way, shape or form because the law no longer exists today?
ANSWER: I agree that the old covenant passed away (Heb. 8:13). I also agree that the Church is not "bound" to the Law (Rom. 7:6); that the Law does not "rule over" the Church (Rom. 7:1); that the Church "died to the Law" (Rom. 7:4; Gal. 2:19); that the Church was released and made free from the Law (Rom. 7:6; 8:2); and that the Church is "not under the Law" (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18).
Those Scriptural statements though do not mean that Christ "destroyed the law" (Matt. 5:17; Rom. 3:1; 6:1,15). We are not "bound to the law" insofar as in Christ our Righteousness, sin is not able to condemn and kill us through the Law and make us perpetual slaves to the Law (Rom. 7:11).
Since the universal Church was forgiven of all her transgressions in 70 (Rom. 4:24; Heb. 9:8), she is no longer bound as a slave to the Law, but is bound to Christ Who resurrected her and gave her a heart and mind that freely and willingly obeys the Law of God (Heb. 8:10) as it stands totally fulfilled and realized in the Body of Christ. The passing away of the Law as our covenant does not imply the destruction of the Law.
QUESTION 15: Acts 1:11 says that Jesus is going to come back in the SAME manner He left. My Bible says He left visibly and physically. You, on the other hand, say He will not come back in the flesh. How do you defend yourself against Acts 1:11, a verse that is an obvious contradiction of preterism?
ANSWER: The Lord was going to come in the same manner as He entered heaven. How did He enter heaven? Hidden from the eyes in a Cloud. (vs. 9) He was going to "come in like manner."
The apostles wanted Jesus to come out of the Cloud, to be lowered back down and to be with them again in the flesh. But the two men corrected the apostles by telling them that Jesus was going to come, not in the manner He left, but in the manner He entered Heaven. The Coming of the Son with His Father to indwell the Church was not going to be a coming in His flesh, but in His Divinity, in the Glory-Cloud of Yahweh God. (I Tim. 3:16)
The spiritual nature of Christ's Parousia is confirmed by a comparison of Matt. 16:28 and Lk. 17:21: In Matt. 16:28, Jesus taught that His Coming was going to be "in His Kingdom." In Lk. 17:20-21, He taught that His Kingdom was going to come "not with observation." If the Kingdom was going to come "not with observation," then it follows also that the King in that Kingdom (II Cor. 4:18) was also going to come "not with observation."
QUESTION 16: The Bible says that because Christ is in us, we have "the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). In other words, because Christ is in me today, I can look forward to "the blessed hope" that I will one day be like Jesus. Preterists on the other hand say our hope is already fulfilled. How do preterists explain Col. 1:27?
ANSWER: "Christ in you" in Col. 1:27 is not what gives us hope of one day realizing the Biblical Hope. "Christ in you" is itself the Biblical Hope. When Jesus spoke of His Second Coming to His apostles, He described it as the time when He and the Father would come and make their Abode within the Church (Jn. 14:18-20;23). "Christ in you" is necessarily that Hope Fulfilled.
The last-days Church was actually awaiting the fulfillment of that "blessed hope" ("Christ in you") which we enjoy today, as is indicated in the future dimension of the following verses:
Eph. 2:21,22: "In Whom all the building [the Church] fitted together increases to a holy temple in the Lord; in Whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit."
I Peter 2:5: "...yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up, a spiritual house...."
Gal. 4:19: "My children, for whom I again travail until Christ should be formed in you…."
II Peter 1:19: "…until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts."
"Christ in you" is what the apostolic Church anticipated. Christ in the heart is "the Tabernacle of God among men" (Rev. 21:3). This glorious blessing from Above was realized with finality when the hand-made tabernacle of God was thrown down in 70 (Matt. 24:2; II Cor. 5:1).
QUESTION 17: I agree that the "Parousia" spoken of so often in the New Testament took place in A. D. 70 (I can't get around the time statements.), but why can't the Parousia that took place in the first century be a "type" of a future, greater Parousia?
ANSWER: According to the book of Hebrews, Christ cannot appear a third time. As Heb. 9:27 argues, as men die only once and are then judged only once, so Christ died for sins only once and was then to appear for salvation only once. A "third coming" is not a biblical option.
The book of Hebrews further says that Christ's once-for-all Appearing for salvation was going to take place "in a very little while," "without delay" (Heb. 10:37), and that when He Appeared, the covenant mediated by Moses was going to "disappear" (Heb. 8;13) and "the way of the holy places" was going to be "manifested" (Heb. 9:8).
Today the condemning old covenant is ancient history and we dwell securely in the heavenly places in our Redeemer. These things are realities today because of Jesus' once-for-all Appearing "for salvation" in A. D. 70.
Let us be content with the Manna from Heaven, and yearn not for the "quail" of futurism (Num. 11:4-33).
QUESTION 18: The New Testament tells believers not to be in bondage to "the elements" of the world (Gal. 4:3,9; Col. 2:8,28). Then in II Peter 3:3,10,12, it says that "the elements" were going to be destroyed in the end of the Last Days. As preterists, we know that the Greek word for elements (stoikion) means "principles" or "laws." We also know as preterists that "the elements" were destroyed in A. D. 70. Doesn't this prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that in A. D. 70 the principles of THE LAW of Moses were destroyed? Doesn't this mean that now we are not bound to obey the book we call "the Old Testament?" Aren't we bound now only to obey the certain commandments in "the New Testament" that apply to this age?
ANSWER: While I agree with you that the word "elements" refers to "principles," I strongly disagree that the "elements" in Gal. 4:3,9; Col. 2:8,28; II Peter 3:10,12 were the principles of the Law of God.
Let's take a look at the usage of the word in the context of the book of Galatians:
Some Christians at Galatia were deserting God for a "different gospel" (Gal. 1:6), a distortion of the Gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:7), a "gospel" that brought a "curse" (Gal. 1:8-9). It was the "gospel" that the Apostles rejected in Acts 15. It was the false doctrine that God will justify us through Christ only if we first obey Him (Gal. 2:4-5,16-21).
Using human obedience as a help in producing salvation is futile and brings "the curse of the Law" (Gal. 3:13); whereas faith in the Righteousness of the Messiah alone redeems men from "the curse of the Law."
Foolishly, some at Galatia were adding their works to the work of the Savior in an effort to justify themselves before God. In order to be justified "under Law" (Gal. 4:21), they were getting circumcised and were observing "days and months and seasons and years" (Gal. 4:10). In striving for self-justification, they were going back to the slavery and bondage of the "weak and worthless" " elements (principles) of the world" (Gal. 4:3,8-9).
Paul cogently summed up the error of the "weak and worthless elements," in Gal. 5:4: "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law...."
The "elements" in the book of Galatians were the human principles of justification by law.
The book of Colossians confirms this:
All who depended on Law for justification were perpetually indebted to the Law because they were perpetually condemned by it, but Christ "canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Col. 2:14). Therefore those who trust in Messiah for righteousness are redeemed from the curse and condemnation of the Law (Gal. 3:13). They are justified by God.
For this reason, Paul told the Colossian believers to let no one act as their "judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day," things which were a shadow of the Messianic Body that was about to come (Col. 2:16-17). Paul continued his exhortation:
"If you have died with Christ to the elements (principles) of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' ...in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men?..." (Col. 2:20-23).
The "elements" in Col. 2:20 were in accordance with "the commandments and teachings of men," not in accordance with God or His Law.
Earlier in the book of Colossians, Paul spoke in the same manner of the "elements," warning the Colossians to "see to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of man, according to the elements (principles) of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Col. 2:8).
The "elements" in Col. 2:8, as in Col. 2:20, were "according to the tradition of man," and not in accordance with God or Christ or His Law.
The "commandments," "teachings" and "traditions" of man that Christ and the apostles rejected throughout the Last Days Writings were those false doctrines that were based on the fleshly, Pharisaical principle that salvation is achieved with the help of our obedience.
The "elements" in the book of Colossians (and hence, in the book of Galatians) were: The human principles of justification by law.
The holy Principles (elements) of God will never pass away.
Yes, the Law as outward Condemner was nailed to the Cross, and yes the Law as conditional covenant disappeared, and yes the "shadow" of the Law was done away (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 8:4,5; 9:10; 10:1; but the Law as our inner delight was fulfilled, established and engraved in our hearts and minds by the faith of Messiah --so that all of "the Israel of God" may sing today with the Psalmist:
"O how I love Your Law! It is my meditation all the day. ...Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble" (Ps. 119:97,165).
It was the corrupt "principles" of self-justifiers that were burned up in 70. It was the "works" of unprincipled Gospel-distorters that were going to be "laid bare" when their bankrupt "elements" melted with intense heat before the Presence of Christ (II Peter 3:10,16-17).
"The Law of God is truth" (Ps. 119:142).
"Think not that I am come to destroy the Law..." (Matt. 5:17).
QUESTION 19: The Bible promises curses for disobedience in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Yet you say that our salvation in the New Testament age is totally unconditional. How can our salvation be absolutely unconditional if God promises us throughout His word that liars, murders, etc. cannot inherit the Kingdom? Also, we are told to disfellowship brothers who are in sin. Obviously, life in the Kingdom today is conditional. If we want to enter the Kingdom, then we have to not practice sin. That is a "condition." Repentance is necessary. Can you possibly deny this?
ANSWER: According to Heb. 8:8-12, the old covenant ended because the people were disobedient, and the new covenant in contrast will never end because it is conditioned upon Christ's eternal Righteousness alone. Heb. 8:8-12:
"…Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people, and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (Heb. 8:8-12).
God's unconditional Covenant with us does not mean that we can practice sin. It means that we prove our New Covenant sonship through loving and obeying Christ or disprove our sonship by practicing sin.
According to the Scriptures, we are to discipline members in the church, and we are to treat as an infidel anyone who acts like an infidel. Fellowship in the church community is definitely conditional, but no one ever gains or loses New-Covenant sonship through their obedience or disobedience. Membership in a local church and salvation are not synonymous. Our heavenly sonship is dependent upon Christ alone.
QUESTION 20: Preterists say that "the creation" of Romans 8:21 which will be "set free" was the old covenant people (God's "covenant creation"). Don't preterists thus show a disdain for the physical creation by spiritualizing what scripture says about it?
ANSWER: Let's take a look at Romans 10:18:
"But I say, surely they [the Jews] have never heard [the Gospel], have they? Indeed they have; 'Their voice has gone out into all the world.'"
The quote in Rom. 10:18 is from Ps. 19:4, the context of which was "the heavens ...telling of the glory of God," and the "expanse ...declaring the work of His hands," and "the sun" rising and setting.
The context of Rom. 10:18 speaks of the verbal, Gospel-proclamation, and Paul quoted Ps. 19 in that context. This indicates to me that God means for us to understand from Ps. 19 (and like passages) that the physical creation was made to testify to the truth of the eternal Gospel:
Thus in Psalm 19:1-6, believers are like "stars in the firmament" (Phil. 2:15; Dan. 12:3) telling of the glory of God and declaring the work of His hands day and night throughout all the earth (Col. 1:23). Among them is "the Sun of Righteousness" (Mal. 4:2), "the Bridegroom," (Matt. 25:10) "the strong Man," (Matt. 12:29) from Whom nothing is hidden (Heb. 4:13)
The use of "creation language" in reference to New-Covenant things should not indicate a disdain for the physical creation. Since creation testifies to God's existence and character, and since God uses the creation in His Word to teach us about His special grace, this should prove to us that the physical creation is good and that it was made for a spiritual and eternal purpose: To glorify and reveal God.
We also know that the Church is destined to ever-increasingly use all of God's good creation to His further glory. We know that because of the worlview of the Gospel (Christianity), modern science came into being and there have since been incredible advancements in communication, medicine, agriculture, etc., etc. These are tangible blessings that have come about because Christ changed His people's hearts and minds. Such physical benefits of the Kingdom will literally fill the heavens as the aeons continue. In this way the inanimate, physical creation is progressively sanctified by the Cross of Christ.
I realize there are some fringe preterists who believe that the physical creation has no connection with the spiritual. They see a "creation" text like Ps. 19 as being instructive of spiritual things, but they do not see the physical creation itself (of which the text speaks) as being of spiritual value or as being necessarily given to the man to physically / scientifically use and shape for God's eternal glory. These preterists tend to view our bodies as little more than sensual "containers" that hold us and distract us until we are rid of them. Such a "Gnostic" notion is not a biblical application of preterism.
QUESTION 21: Is hell, according to the full preterist, a place of only spiritual torment for the non-believer, or is there a physical and bodily torment involved as well?
ANSWER: The word "hell" does not always refer strictly to the "afterlife" state. Ofttimes it has application to the judgment of people on Earth. For instance, in Matt. 11:23; Lk. 10:15, Jesus said of the city of Capernaum, "You …who have been exalted to heaven, will be thrown down to hell (Greek: Hades)." (KJV) What "Hades" immediately --but not exclusively or ultimately-- referred to there was Capernaum's physical destruction. She was going to be "brought down to hades" even as she had been "exalted to heaven."
Similarly, Matt. 5:29,30; 18:9; Mk. 9:43,45,47, speaks of "the whole body" being thrown into "hell" (Greek: Gehenna). The "body" in those verses is a church-body, and the proximate reference for "Gehenna" there is a physical judgment on Earth, specifically the biblical Judgment that came upon the world in the first century A. D. according to Rev. 3:10 --the same judgment in which Capernaum was thrown down to Hades.
The fact that the terms hell / Hades / Gehenna (and their Hebrew counterparts) at times have an application to a physical, bodily judgment on Earth, has led some unqualified exegetes in the preterist camp (and others) to conclude that there is actually no such thing as hell (eternal conscious punishment) after physical death, that "hell" means only a judgment that can result in the annihilation of the body and soul.
These preterists irrationally conclude that the presence of "hell-torment" on Earth somehow necessarily precludes "hell-torment" after death. They see a verse like Matt. 10:28, which speaks of "both soul and body" being killed in hell (Gehenna), and conclude that since the "body" is utterly destroyed in death, then the "soul" must also be utterly and absolutely destroyed (annihilated) when it dies. The annihilationists rush to this conclusion even though the Scriptures speak throughout of souls that were "killed" or were "dead" and yet continued to consciously exist. See for example: Rom. 7:9,11; 8:6; II Cor. 3:6; Eph. 2:1,5; 5:14; Col. 2:13; Heb. 9:27; Jms. 1:15; I Jn. 3:14; Jude 12.
Luke 16:23 explicitly speaks of a physically dead man "in torments in hell (Hades)." It has been disturbing to see annihilationists brazenly claim that the story takes place in a make-believe setting, that its portrayal of a physically dead man in torments has absolutely no basis in reality whatsoever and that Jesus was actually using pagan mythology as the backdrop for His teaching. The annihilationists annihilate the facts of the story of Lazarus and the rich man in order to justify their denial of the Scriptural teaching that God eternally punishes the unredeemed.
The terms "Hades" and "Gehenna" do sometimes have an application to God's judgment of certain people on Earth --a physical, bodily torment and death-- but the terms further and ultimately speak of God's judgment of sinners after their physical death. We would be correct to say that Capernaum was metaphorically thrown down to Hades when it was physically destroyed, and that its wicked dead ones forever and consciously remained in Hell / Hades / Gehenna from that point onward, as Matt. 25:46 teaches:
"These shall go away into eternal (eonian) punishment, but the righteous into eternal (eonian) life."
Luke 12:5 likewise teaches that after the death of the unredeemed, God casts them "into Gehenna," the eternally burning fire of God wrath:
"But I will warn you whom to fear: Fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!" (Lk. 12:5)
May we all listen to Jesus in Luke 12:5, and not to the annihilationists' sugarcoating of God's Eternal Judgment!
Now, having established that people physically and bodily taste "the judgment of hell (Gehenna / Hades)" on Earth, and having shown that the annihilationists shut their eyes to the "afterlife" reality of hell, here is a direct answer to your question about what preterists believe about the nature of eternal punishment after death:
Since all preterists deny that the Resurrection of the dead (Acts 24:15) was fleshly / biological, all preterists necessarily believe that the eternal punishment of the dead is a spiritual torment.
I noticed in your question that you asked if preterists believe that Hell is "only" spiritual. I gather from that wording that you may think that a "spiritual" torment is by definition less severe than a "physical" torment. If that is what you were suggesting, remember that Satan, who is a spirit, is said to be in the Lake of Fire, being "tormented day and night forever and ever" (Rev. 20:10). We should not suppose that his "spiritual" torment is less severe than any "physical" torment.
QUESTION 22: How does the Bar Kokhba rebellion of A. D. 132-135 relate to your understanding of the Eschaton.
ANSWER: The Bar Kokhba rebellion was doomed to failure from the beginning, because Christ's reign had already been established for the aeons, 65 years earlier, at the Consummation of the Eschaton (in 70). Bar Kokhba and his men were trapped under the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ from the very day they were conceived.
Their fruitless rebellion belongs in the same category as the incident that took place after Emperor Julian (361 - 363) actually attempted to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem for the express purpose of discrediting Jesus' prophecy that not one stone of the Temple would be left standing on another. When Julian's plan was announced, Jews from all over came to Judea with funds to contribute to the project. To their consternation, the work was abruptly terminated.
The Pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus related what happened:
"[Julian] planned at vast cost to restore the once splendid Temple at Jerusalem. ....He had entrusted the speedy performance of this work to Alypius of Antioch... But though this Alypius pushed the work on with vigor, aided by the governor of the province, terrible balls of fire kept bursting forth near the foundations of the Temple and made the place inaccessible to the workmen, some of whom were burned to death; and since in this way the element persistently repelled them, the enterprise halted" (Ammianus Marcellinus: XXIII; 1; 1-3)
The rebels under Bar Kokhba, like Julian, were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked, and simply did not know it (Rev. 3:17). In their endevours to restore the old things that God Himself had brought to an eternal end, they were sealing their fate as those who were in abject, spiritual destitution, confirming that they had never been clothed with God's true, eternal Temple that had come down from Heaven.
The prophecy of Zech. 14:16-19 specifically applies to such men and their followers:
"Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them. And if the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the Lord smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. This will be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths" (Zech. 14:16-19).
QUESTION 23: Didn't Paul say that making Gentiles conform to the Old Testament law is legalism?
ANSWER: Gentile believers were not to conform to the "shadow" of the Law --foods, drinks, baptisms, festivals, sabbaths, animal sacrifices, circumcision-- because doing so constituted a rejection of the Body that those fleshly ordinances foreshadowed (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 9:10). It constituted justification by works.
The Law of Moses had a shadow (Heb. 10:1) which was not imposed upon gentile believers, and which was to pass away. The entire Law was not the "shadow":
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill" (Matt. 5:17).
Whatever the Lord meant by "fulfill" here, He definitely did not mean "abolish." What was "abolished" in 70 was the "shadow" of the Law --the corrupted worship-system that was centered around the hand-made Temple (Matt. 24:2; II Cor. 5:1).
No doubt for Paul, the Law was an impotent redeemer and a condemner of natural men. But at the same time, Paul was working to "establish" the Law through the Gospel (Rom. 3:31). Christ's imputed righteousness fulfills the requirements of that which is holy, righteous, good, useful, spiritual and living, i.e., the Law (Acts 7:38; Rom. 7:13-14; 8:4; I Tim. 1:8). Therefore, those who have the Spirit of God have been called into the "glorious Liberty" of walking in God's Laws without fear of condemnation (Rom. 8:21):
"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances" (Eze. 36:25-27).
There is only one righteous, spiritual attitude toward the Law: Agreement / Submission (Rom. 7:16; 8:7). Once the Law is rejected, all that remains is corruptible, "human judgment" (I Cor. 9:8).
QUESTION 24: Doesn’t II Tim. 2:17-18 disprove preterism? Aren't preterists obviously teaching the heresy of Hymeneus who taught that, "The resurrection is past already" (I Tim. 1:20; II Tim. 2:17-18)?
But shun the profane, empty babblings; for they will advance to more ungodliness, and their word will have feeding as gangrene; of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus, who concerning the truth missed the mark, saying the Resurrection has already come, and overturn the faith of some (II Tim. 2:16-18).
II Tim. 2:16-18 neither proves nor disproves preterism or futurism. How we interpret that passage depends entirely on which eschatological assumption we take to it.
If we read the passage with the futurist assumption we will reason that Hymeneus and Philetus were not only wrong about the timing of the Resurrection but that they were also wrong about the nature of the Resurrection. We will reason that they must have been denying a biological Resurrection of the dead and were teaching instead a purely spiritual or inward Resurrection, since that is the only way they could have convinced anyone that the biological Resurrection of the Dead was past. We will conclude that the faith of some was overturned because Hymeneus and Philetus had led them to reject the doctrine of the fleshly Resurrection of the Dead. (In the futurist view, the seriousness of Hymeneus and Philetus’ error had to do with the nature of the Resurrection, even though Paul condemned only the timing.)
If we read the passage with the preterist assumption we will reason that the error of Hymeneus and Philetus was that they were teaching that the Resurrection was realized under the Law (I Tim. 1:8; Titus 1:10; 3:9). We will reason that they were teaching that “the Hope of Israel” (Acts 23:6; 24:15, 21; 28:20) was already fulfilled and that there would therefore never be a Parousia of Christ to bring about a termination of the old-covenant age (II Tim. 4:8; II Peter 3:4). We will conclude that their error implied that fleshly Israel had inherited the Kingdom and would remain God’s nation forever.
If the Resurrection was fulfilled and the old-covenant kingdom continued, that meant that the apostate, reprobate, authority-reviling, Gentile-excluding and saints-persecuting enemies of Christ, and their spiritual ancestors, were revealed to be the true sons of God. Thus the doctrine of a pre-A.D.-70 Resurrection was anti-Gospel, anti-grace and anti-Christ. It was without a doubt a faith-overturning blasphemy (I Tim. 1:20; II Tim. 2:18).
We don’t know what date Hymeneus and Philetus assigned to the Resurrection, but they possibly believed that the Jewish Revolt against Rome which began in November of A.D. 66 signified the coming of the Resurrection (II Timothy was written in about A.D. 67.). Whatever pre-70 date they proposed though was a malignant, judaizing falsehood. Contrary to their error, the fact that the earthly house (the old-covenant world) was still standing proved that Death had not yet been finally placed under the feet of Christ (I Cor. 15:24-27; Heb. 2:8) and that the universal body of the saints had therefore not yet been raised up to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (II Cor. 5:1-4; Heb. 9:8).
QUESTION 25: In Acts 6:14, Stephen was accused of saying that Jesus would "destroy this place" (the Temple) and change the customs of Moses. During Stephen's defense (Acts 7:2-53), he didn't appear to directly answer the accusations. Did his silence imply that he had in fact been teaching that Jesus would soon destroy the Temple and change the customs of Moses?
ANSWER: "And they put forward false witnesses who said, 'This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us'" (Acts 6:13-14).
Apparently the false witnesses told a half-truth. Stephen had certainly not spoken against the Temple or against the Law, but he had evidently said that Jesus would destroy the Temple and alter "the customs of Moses."
Stephen implicitly admitted saying those things in his quoting from Isaiah:
"....Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? For My hand made all these things...." (Isa. 66:1-2a)
Not only did that quote imply the inadequacy of the hand-made "holy place," but the very next verse in Isaiah implied the inadequacy of the "customs" of Moses:
"He who kills an ox is one who slays a man; He who sacrifices a lamb is the one who breaks a dog's neck; He who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine's blood; He who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol. As they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations" (Isa. 66:3).
In the next verses in Isaiah's prophecy, God indicted Israel; and in the next verses of Acts 7, Stephen reiterated Isaiah's indictment. According to both prophets, the recompense was coming because Israel:
1. Rejected the Law (Isa. 66:3-4; Acts 7:51,53)
2. Had an unclean, evil heart (Isa. 66:3-4; Acts 7:51)
3. Refused to listen to God (Isa. 66:4; Acts 7:51)
4. Persecuted the godly (Isa. 66:5; Acts 7:52).
And Stephen added, ominously, that they were "betrayers" and "murderers" of "the Righteous One" (Acts 7:52).
The very next verse in Isaiah 66 is the consummation of the prophecy of Recompense that Stephen quoted and was reiterating. In that verse, Isaiah designated the holy "Temple" as the center of God's wrath against His people:
"A sound of roaring from the City! A sound from the Temple! The sound of Yahweh repaying recompense to His enemies!" (Isa. 666)
"Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he [Stephen] gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God'" (Acts 7:54-55).
In quoting and reiterating Isaiah 66:1-6, Stephen had implied that Jesus is Yahweh God; that He would soon come and pay back those men for their lawlessness, wickedness, rebellion and murders; that He was going to destroy them, and their City, and their Temple (cf. Dan. 9:26).
"But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears, and they rushed upon him with one impulse. And when they had driven him out of the City, they began stoning him...." (Acts 7:57-58).
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