What is the Preterist View
I. What is the Preterist View of Scripture?
The Preterist view of scripture, eschatology and theology begins with understanding the basic biblical view of hermeneutics. The science of hermeneutics is the science of interpreting scripture. It should be the intent of every Christian student of the Bible to let scripture interpret scripture. This is the Reformed Analogy of Faith at its best. The biblical means of interpreting scripture is to view the scripture within its historical, contextual, linguistic and comparative sense. First, we interpret scripture by its historicity. At what time in history is the passage dealing with? Does the historical situation contribute to the outcome of what the author is attempting to communicate? Next is the context by which we mean that the passage under consideration must be viewed in its immediate and overall context. We cannot separate out verses in order to arrive at our own presuppositional conclusions as to the meaning of a passage. This author has seen that a good 90% of the time, when individuals wrongly interpret scripture it is largely due to the fact that they are ignoring the immediate or overall (wider) context of a passage. When we speak of the necessity of linguistics as a part of the hermeneutical science, we of course are to be observing the meaning of the language in which the passage was originally written. The Bible was written in Hebrew in the Old Testament, with sections of Aramaic (a close congnate language to Hebrew), in portions of the book of Daniel and Ezra. The New Testament was written entirely in Greek. We have made the observation before that the original languages do not always translate well into other receptor languages. Particularly, the English language is dependent upon the use of several of its words in an attempt to translate a single Greek or Hebrew word that is in accordance with the original intention of the biblical authors. Some English translations have been successful at this, some have not. Sometimes a combination of different translations and versions on a single passage make up the best most comprehensive analysis of the given passage. The best way in seeking out the inspired original meaning is of course to be able to work with the passage in its original Hebrew or Greek. Finally, we must interpret scripture by comparing it with other clearer passages of scripture that give light to the authors original meaning. This hermeneutic contains within it the understanding of the perspecuity of the scriptures. That is that the Bible is basically clear on its face and can be understood by most who will take a view that involves first of all, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, so that one may understand the words of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14) and then the attempt through upright God honoring study to arrive at the originally intended conclusions. Some passages of scripture are more difficult than others to understand. They certainly require all four of the above hermeneutical steps in order to rightly interpret them. For the most part, the Bible is not difficult to understand in its overall theme of its history of mans sin and Gods redemption through Christ.
An individual who considers themself to be Preterist uses all of the above hermeneutics and holds out for the scriptures themselves to be the proto-teacher of Gods will and the sustainer of the truth of all subjects contained therein. The Preterist sees the creeds of the historic church of Christ (Nicene, Apostles, Athanasian, and Confessions of Dort, Belgic, Heidelberg, and Westminster) as being relevant assistants to the attaining to the truths that the scriptures do communicate. The Preterist believes that the scriptures are the final arbiters of all biblical discussions. While the creeds and canons of the church historically, do reflect the history of the church as she has dogmatized the revelation of the subjects of scripture, the creeds and canons in themselves do not constitute the final revelation of what God means by what he has stated in the scriptures. In other words, while the Preterist recognizes that the creeds, council and confessions do play an important role within the church, neither the aforementioned nor their authors are to be considered equal to the scriptures in revelation and authority. They do represent what we call orthodoxy (straight or right thinking) relative to what the synodical participants have established through diligent study and reflection. However, the subject of eschatology (the study of the things of the end) is not a subject for which any kind of a historical church synod or council has ever convened over. Again, let us repeat for the record, that while the creeds and their confessions do contain conclusionary statements about eschatology, it is to be understood that those conclusions were never arrived at in the same way that the other doctrinal items had been arrived at. In other words, while synods and councils have convened over subjects like the deity of Christ, the nature of the Trinity, the government of the church, the truths of justification by faith, and others, there has yet to be a Church wide council convened over the issue of eschatology.
The Reformed Theologian Louis Berkhof has stated it this way:
The doctrine of last things never stood in the center of attention, is one of the least developed doctrines, and therefore calls for no elaborate discussion. (So why do Reformed non-Preterist theologians argue with Reformed Preterists theologians about it - author) Its main elements have been rather constant, and these constitute practically the whole dogma of the church respecting future things. Occasionally deviating views occupied a rather important place in theological discussion, but these were never incorporated in the confessions of the Church. It may be that, as Dr. Orr surmises, we have now reached that point in the history of dogma in which the doctrine of the last things will receive greater attention and be brought to further development. (Berkhof, 1937, Pg. 259)
This eye opening statement was not made by a Preterist, but one standing firmly within the Reformed Amillennial camp, who was and is accepted by all within said camp (no matter which eschatological persuasion they represent) as a well quoted theologian of authority. Not only does he point out that historically, we have yet to see a church wide study made of the doctrine of eschatology, but that to do so is of necessity as we are yet to come to an authoritative conclusion to the argument.
Finally, what it is that the creeds and confessions do contain regarding what may be able to be called a yet-future-to-us Second Coming, is arrived at by simply carrying over the futuristic statements of the New Testament authors, without taking into consideration the limitations relative to the historical time in which they are contextually attributed. In other words each Parousia/Second Coming passage is limited in its scope of fulfillment to the first century by its inherent eschatology regarding the time and nature statements that each contain. To ignore these facts is to virtually ignore the very rules of biblical interpretation that were pointed to earlier and to go on allowing generation after generation of believers to have to re-interpret the meaning of texts of scripture that were originally meant to be understood as having their conclusion within the first century of our present era.
II. What is a Preterist?
Websters Dictionary in its 1913 Unabridged Edition, says that a Preterist is either a believer or a theologian that believes that the contents of the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) are fulfilled. This is a good, simple definition. A definition, by the way, that one who still believes in a yet- future- to- us fulfillment cannot claim for themselves. The above definition does not leave room for believing that most of the prophetic items in Revelation are fulfilled. No, in order to be a Dictionary defined Preterist, one must believe that the Apocalypse IS already fulfilled in its entirety. There is no room within the Dictionary definition of Preterist, for one to be a partial preterist, for instance. Any kind of a preterism that contains events within it that are still future is just another kind of futurism.
The preceding information here given was designed to alert the reader to the historical and thereby contemporary problem within the field of eschatology so that we might now be able to present the scriptural reasons for why we believe the Preterist view to be the correct understanding of the teaching of the scriptures. For our current purposes in this book, we will limit our short study to the teaching of Christ in particular and ask that the reader examine the rest of the New Testament in the light of what they discover here about Christs eschatology.
Let us remark briefly that one of the most destructive mistakes one can make when approaching the text of scripture, is to do so with ones mind made up as to its meaning by embracing a presuppositional paradigm in advance. When we say presupposition, we are not referring to approaching the scriptures believing as a presupposition that they are the word of God, or that they speak of a divine Christ or other doctrines that have already been established as to there inherent orthodoxy. What we are referring to has to do with the eschatological plane that assumes a still-yet-future-coming of the Lord Jesus back to the earth to us, post A.D. 70. We will demonstrate why this is not only erroneous, but that it can be fatally erroneous as to ones outcome in eschatological study. When we use the word fatal we do not mean to imply that if one believes in a yet future Second Coming, that they in some way will have their salvation (justification) placed in jeopardy. In the same way, it is equally untrue that if one does not believe in a future Parousia, that they are to be considered in some way outside of the pale of salvation. (justification) There is simply no scripture that teaches or any way implies that faith in the Second Coming of Christ is necessary in order for one to be justified from their sins and thereby possess eternal life. This is an unfortunate and flagrant abuse that is made by some outside of the Preterist camp who, because they are unable to demonstrate their accusations of heresy from the scripture relative to the Preteristist position, end up having to use threats and intimidation in order to keep themselves and those whom they lead under the banner of futurism. This is not only unnecessary, it is exegetically dishonest. There is and must be room for discussion and even disagreement (1 Corinthians 11:19) in order that we might come to the biblical conclusions surrounding Preterism and all others areas of doctrinal disagreement. Futurism is a demonstrable presupposition that blinds the otherwise good student of Gods word from coming to a historical, contextual and linguistic conclusion that honors God. We are all called to be Bereans who search the scriptures daily to see if these things are so. (Acts 17:11) The creeds and confessions of the Church have a useful place for enabling learning of the dogmatized truths of scripture. But the creeds and confessions are not static. They are living and active and thereby moveable instruments of instruction that must be allowed to be changed when solid study and reflection warrants it. This has been done before. The criteria for change within the creeds and confessions have precedent.
What was Christs Understanding of the Timing of His Second Coming?
As we begin our study in the timing of the Second Coming of Christ, we need to begin with the words of Christ Himself. Here is where critics of Preterist thought seriously drop the ball. Those who disagree with Preterist eschatology must begin with the understanding that Christ had regarding His own Second Coming as it is enunciated in the New Testament. The rest of New Testament eschatology falls into place once it is understood where the apostles and writers of the New Testament got their doctrine of imminency. All of the teachings of the epistles that deal with the subject of the Parousia are simply inspired extrapolations on the teachings that Christ gave during His earthly ministry. In the case of Matthew 10:23 we read the following:
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: For verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come.
Or, as The Century New Testament gives it:
You will not have come to the end of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
What does this mean? Recall our rules of hermeneutic and in particular the rule of interpreting a passage according to its immediate and wider overall context. For the correct understanding we must go back to the beginning of the chapter and review its context.
At the beginning of Matthew chapter ten, we have the Lord Jesus calling forth as well as the naming of his apostles. (V.s 1-4) As verse five begins, the Lord instructs the apostles in regards to how and where He wants them to begin to preach the gospel and that how over time, they will face and suffer persecution for the preaching of the gospel. Notice that from the beginning of the chapter he is speaking directly to the apostles themselves. He calls and sends forth The Twelve in verses 1-5. He instructs them to preach to the house of Israel in verse five. He tells them to cast out demons (V. 8), depend on the Lords provision through Godly people (V.s 9-14), He instructs them in the day of judgment and that there would be greater toleration for those who lived in Sodom and Gomorrah than for those who reject their message of the Christ. (V. 15) As we review this chapter in its wider context we can easily conclude that Christ is addressing his immediate disciples and instructing them in the things that would happen to them as they preached to their generation. In verses 17-22, Christ gives them information regarding their own persecution as the result of their gospel message. Clearly the overall and immediate context that has direct relationship to our understanding of verse twenty three is directly dependent upon the preceding information. With this in mind, let us return to the 23rd verse and see what it can tell us of the timing of Christs coming.
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye unto another
Clearly those who will be persecuted is a reference to the apostles. There has been no shift in the context of the chapter anywhere that would indicate that this was to happen to anyone else but them. Two times in the previously quoted passage, the pronouns you and ye are used. Clearly the rule of immediate context is telling us that what is described in the verse is to occur to the apostles themselves.
for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come.
As the apostles are instructed concerning their fleeing from their persecutors in the first century, they are told that they will not make it to all of the cities that were in Israel at that time before the Son of Man - the Lord Jesus, was to come! This persecution did not happen in the manner the Lord Jesus described until after His ascension forty days after His resurrection. The Book of Acts certainly verifies the nature of the persecution of believers that is here described by Christ as in fact happening in the environs and cities that compose Palestine in the days of the apostles of the first century. Lets put ourselves in the position of the apostles as Christ instructs them in this. Christ has just told you how to preach, how to handle yourself out on the mission field, how to expect and to deal with the persecution that will come upon you. And then, without a change in context, Christ informs you that while you are going from town to town fleeing your persecutors, He would return before you get to the last of the towns in Israel. That means as one to whom Christ was addressing, I could expect to be persecuted, to go from town to town in first century Palestine fleeing my persecutors, and that before I got to the last Israelite town in first century Palestine, Christ would come back. Now, without violating the immediate and overall context of the passage, how is it possible to understand this verse in any other way? Is there any way within this context that I as one of Christs apostles would have understood His coming in another way other than simply that? There really isnt any other way and the plethora of commentaries that speak on this subject give off a series of rather embarrassing opinions as to the meaning of this text. The reason being is that this text enunciates a challenge to our presuppositions. The presupposition most Christians have when approaching the text that involves the Second Coming of Christ is that it would signal the end of the world. Life on earth would be transformed into some kind of utopian dreamlike state and so forth. Lets just stick to the text at hand. Listen to what it says and what it does not say:
-It says that at least some of the first century apostles are the ones in view to experience the events of these verses.
-It does not allow anyone outside of the first century to experience the events of these verses.
-It says that the first century apostles would not make it to all of the cities of Israel as they fled from their persecutors before the Son of Man was to come.
This tells me that the first century apostles could expect the return of Christ to occur during their lifetimes and while they were undergoing persecution. What does it mean, till the Son of Man be come? As we proceed please note the similarities of the verses that speak to Christs use of the phrase Son of Man and the other events that transpire at the Son of Mans coming. The verse of Matthew 10:23 is not a stand alone verse. It is not isolated. It represents just the beginning of several verses where Christ speaks to the timing of His coming.
(2) Matthew 16:27-28.
For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his works. Verily, I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see that Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
The immediate context in which the passage is found tells us whom Christ is addressing these events to, which in turn point us toward the timing of these events. Verse twenty four says, Then said Jesus unto His disciples His audience does not change throughout the remainder of the chapter. Again, place yourself in the scene as one of the disciples to whom Christ is speaking. How would you understand his words? Would you understand Him to be speaking to you about events that would transpire in your lifetime or would you be expected to understand that these events that He was talking to you about would not be occurring until possibly thousands of years into the future?
For the Son of Man shall come
Context has already established whom Christ is speaking to. Now notice that in this event Christ refers to Himself as the Son of Man. He did so previously in Matthew 10:23 didnt he? You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come. He spoke of himself as the Son of Man when speaking of His coming in 10:23. He uses the same phrase again here. One of the immediate differences that occurs between the Matthew 16:27 text and the 10:23 text is that in the 10:23 text, Christ places His return within the lifetime and generation of the apostles. In 16:27, He does the same but now He begins to be more specific. Here in 16:27, Christ says that He shall come. If one is simply reading a standard English translation, one will miss the specific nature of what Christ really said to the apostles. The Greek of the Matthew 16:27 passage reads this way: For the Son of Man MELLO ERCHISTHAI The occurrence of the Greek word MELLO is not unique to this passage. It is a word that when used, describes the imminency of something. Not just imminency, but a definite and certain imminency that the thing described will in fact occur very soon. What is amazing about Christs using this word in Matthew 16:27, is that by doing so, He is describing His coming as about to happen. He had yet to go through the rest of His earthly ministry, the cross, resurrection and ascension, and yet, He describes His coming as something that is about to be. Is it any wonder why the first century Christians had such a definite expectation of their Lords return in their lifetimes? No wonder the inspired writers of the epistles wrote with such expectation of the event as transpiring in their generation. The use of this word MELLO, as it is associated with the Second Coming and its attending events, is not a word that is used occasionally here and there. The writers of the New Testament texts used it several times to verify the expected return of Christ in their generation. See, Matt. 3:7, 12:32, 16:27, 17:12, 24: 6, Mk. 13:4, Jhn. 14:22, Acts 17:31, 24:15. 25, Rom. 5:14, 8:18.38, 1Cor. 3:22, Eph. 1:21, Col. 2:17, 1Tim. 4:8, 2Tim. 4:1, Heb. 2:5, 6:5, 9:11, 13:14, Jm. 2:12, 1Pet. 5:1, Rev. 1:19, 3:10, 12:5, 17:8. Could it be that the church from the middle of the second century when she had shifted from her immanency view, to a far-off-in-the-future view, needs a fresh reappraisal of her eschatology like the esteemed Dr. Berkhof has suggested? (See Appendix A)
Notice in the balance of our Matthew 16:27 verse we encounter three specific events that Christ said would happen at His about to be coming. He said that He was about to come in, 1. The Glory of His Father. 2. With His angels. 3. Rewards would be given out to every man.
For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of His Father, with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his works.
What kind of a coming is Christ describing here? Is there any information contained within this text that would separate it from the coming that He describes as occurring in Matthew 10:23? Since the Bible teaches only one Second Coming (and not a third coming which Reformed partial preterists hold to in opposition to their creedalistic standards), then from what we have seen in Matthew 10:23 there really is no exegetical reason why the 10:23 passage should not be understood as a Second Coming passage. Is there any reason why we should not understand the 16:27 passage as being anything other than Christs Parousia (Greek: His arrival with a consequential presence)? We think not and here is why: We know of no Christian exegete who does not affirm that the coming of Christ to separate the Sheep from the Goats is an event that takes place at Christs Second Coming. At this point, please note the three elements that Christ said in Matthew 16:27 that would occur at His coming: glory, angels and rewards. Notice now Christs teaching about His coming to bring judgment during what He describes as His separating of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31
When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.
Notice the similarities between the events of Matthew 16:27 and Matthew 25:31.
Matthew 16:27 Matthew 25:31
the Son of Man shall come the Son of Man shall come
in the glory of His Father in His glory
with His angels and all the holy angels with Him
then He shall reward every man shall sit upon the throne of His glory.
(sit in judgment upon sheep and goats)
The two events are one and the same event of judgment that occurs at the Parousia. As was pointed out, most all scholars (and this author knows of none who do not) see the Sheep and Goats Judgment that is described in 25:31 as happening at the Second Coming. If they are the same and we believe we have demonstrated this to be the case by comparing the passages with one another, then the issue of when or the timing of these events is what is now to be considered.
Now read Matthew 16:27 & 28 together as Christ spoke it to the apostles.
For the Son of Man is about to come in the glory of His Father with His angels and then He shall reward every man according to His works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
You cannot consider Matthew 16:27, which describes the nature of Christs Second Coming, without also including V. 28 which tells us of the timing of the Second Coming. They cannot be separated from one another without doing great violence to the inspired text.
Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here
Who was standing there with Christ at that moment? As we pointed out earlier, V. 24 says that Christ was speaking to His disciples: Then said Jesus unto His disciples
These then must of necessity be the some who are standing here in V. 28a. (Mark 8:34-38, which includes members of the crowd who were listening as well as the twelve.)
Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death
So, some of the twelve apostles as well as those in the crowd listening who were with Christ at that moment, would in fact not die until something occurred that they would be witnesses to.
shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
Earlier in Matthew 10:23, Christ informs the apostles that during their time of persecution, that they would not have fled to all the cities of Israel until He came back. Now, by correlating the events of Matthew 16:27 with the events of the Christ coming in judgment in Matthew 25:31, we have shown the Matthew 16:27 event to be the same as the Matthew 25:31 Sheep and Goats event. By adding the Matthew 16:28 verse into the mix, we see that with the apostles fleeing their persecutors in 10:23, so it is that at the Sheep and Goats judgment, the same event would in fact occur within the same generation. The conclusion is, we believe, an inescapable one.
Those who would state that the Matthew 16:27-28 and Matthew 25:31 event are not the same, often do so by taking a rather nebulous view of the events that occurr in Matthew 17:1ff. The objection they would suggest is that the events of Matthew 16:27-28 is what was fulfilled in Matthew 17:1-5.
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up unto a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. And behold there appeared Moses and Elijah talking with Him. Then answered Peter and said unto Jesus, Lord it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, one for Moses and one for Elijah. While he yet spake, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud which said, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased hear ye Him. (Matthew 17:1-5)
This objection that Matthew 16:27-28 is supposedly fulfilled in Matthew 17:1-5 is easily dispatched with. First of all, Matthew 16:27 says He will come in the glory of His Father. Well, there certainly was the glory of the Father on the Mount of Transfiguration. We will certainly agree to that. But all of the events of Matthew 16:27-28 must occur in order for 17:1-5 to be the fulfillment of 16:27-28. In 16:27, Christ goes on to say that the angels would be present. On the mount of Transfiguration there are no angels described as being present. That stops the objection to our view right there. But it gets worse for the one holding to the view that 17:1-5 is the fulfillment of 16:27-28. The third thing that Christ said would occur in His coming in 16:27 was that He would reward each man according to his works. No evidence of any judging resulting in rewards is going on in 17:1-5. But the final nail in the coffin of the objectors argument is seen in the fact that in 16:28, Christ states that some standing there would not taste of death till they see His coming. If Christ says that some would not have tasted of death, then that means that some would have tasted of death by the time of His Parousia. But at the event of the Transfiguration, none of the apostles had yet tasted of death! All of them were alive during the time of the Transfiguration. The objection to the clairity of Christs words concerning the timing of His Second Coming as supposedly being fulfilled at the Transfiguration event cannot be sustained.
The Olivet Discourse is certainly at the center of the discussion concerning the timing and the nature of the Parousia. We will not at this juncture take the time to go through the entire discourse and demonstrate its first century fulfillments. Other exegetes with satisfactory results have ably done this. (See bibliography) What we will point out to the reader is that in the context of the narrative, Christ expresses the actual event of His return as taking place at the close of the Great Tribulation (V.s 27-31). He then summarizes both the nature and the timing of this historical event.
Verily, I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Matthew 24:34
Several things are of great importance here. As was pointed out a moment ago, the things that were to happen just before V. 34 do in fact include Christs Second Coming or Parousia. (Note V.s 29-31)
Immediately after the Tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the land (Greek: GEE) mourn and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:29-31)
As much as we would like to give exegetical detail to the previously mentioned verses, it is our only intention to direct the reader to the fact of the timing of these events. When did Christ say these things would occur? In particular, when was to be the occasion of His coming as it is described in the preceding quote? The answer is found in V. 34, where we read,
Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.
Many have undertaken to interpret this verse by ignoring the overall context in which it found. How? By changing the plain meaning of the words of Christ and to whom He was addressing those words to. We note all of the personal pronouns that are used through the 24th and 25th chapters of Matthew. After condemning the nation of Israel along with its fallen constituency of priests and Pharisees in chapter 23, the 24th chapter opens with Christ departing the temple to go to the Mount of Olives. At which point, some of His disciples follow him and ask two things of Him according to Matthew 24:3. (1) When would these things be? That is, the things concerning the destruction of Israel, its temple and the Jewish people in chapter 23:32-39. And, (2) What would be the sign of His coming and the end of the age? Who was to experience this? Verse four, Let no man deceive YOUV. 6, And YE shall hear of wars V. 9, Then they shall deliver YOU up to be afflicted, and shall kill YOU, and YE shall be hated of all nations V. 15, When YE therefore shall see the abomination of desolation V. 20, But pray YE that YOUR flight be not in winter V. 23, Then if any man shall say unto YOU V. 25, Behold I have told YOU before V. 33, So likewise YE, when YE shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. V. 34 Verily I say unto YOU, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. V.42, Watch therefore, for YE know not what hour your Lord doth come. V.44, Therefore be YE also ready, for in such an hour as YE think not the Son of Man cometh. V. 47, Verily I say unto YOU 25:13, Watch therefore for YE know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh (But they would know which generation! -author)
In light of these facts we can conclude: (1) He directed these words to his first century disciples, and (2) He thereby applied those events that He spoke of as those that would happen to them, and (3) He included the event of His coming as a part of all these things being fulfilled. We then are able to reach some definite conclusions as to who it was that the events of the Olivet Discourse would happen to. Now let us concentrate on V. 34.
First, the ever-present personal pronoun tells us exactly who it is Christ is saying would experience all the events thus far prophesied including His Second Coming. Verily (truly) I say unto YOU Next, if Christs Second Coming was to occur in the first century during the lifetime of those disciples, then this radically affects our understanding of the nature of Christs Second Coming. Its not that Christ did not come back and we have to then reinterpret the plain sense meaning of what He has been saying in Matthew 10:23, 16:27-28, 25:31, and now 24:34. What is at issue here is nothing less than the full inspiration and integrity of the scriptures themselves. Since it has become quite obvious that Christ has so far plainly taught that His return would be to those in the first century, then what we need to question is not whether Christ did in fact come back, but in what way did He come back. Again, for our present purposes, the topic of the nature of His coming will not be analyzed here as the intention of the author is to do nothing more than demonstrate the fact that Christ prophesied His return to be in the first century. If a first century return is what He taught, then we would suggest to you that it did in fact happen as He said it would and it is we who must reconsider our futuristic concepts of the Parousia instead of changing the Word of God to fit our paradigms.
Here is the straw that breaks the futuristic back: This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. (Matthew 24:34b.)
There are two Greek words that can be translated as the English word, generation. The first is GENOS, which is a kind, kindred, stock, or offspring. This is NOT the Greek word that Christ uses here in Matthew 24:34. The word that He uses and the only word that Christ uses for generation in the scriptures, is the word GENEA. Genea means ones contemporaries. It refers to all those alive at the time of its being used. Arndt and Gingrich define it thusly: Basically, the sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time. Generation-contemporariesthe time of a generation a period of time. (Bauer, Gingrich, Danker. 1979, Pg. 154) What does the Lexicon say of GENOS, the word Christ does not use? Descendents of a common ancestorfamily, relativesnation, peopleclass, kind. (Ibid, Pg. 156) The use of genea completely shatters the interpretation that those of the futuristic dispensational school give to interpreting Christs words here. They want the text to mean that the stock or offspring of the nation of Israel is who Christ has in view. But this is patently impossible for the lexical reasons we have just given and from the fact that Christ says that the events of the Olivet Discourse were to occur to the generation of people He was then speaking to. This is why we demonstrated Christs use of all the plural pronouns. Not to mention the fact that the genea-contemporaries is the only word Christ uses for generation in the gospel accounts. Observe how generation (genea) is always used by Christ in the following verses in order to speak of the contemporaries of His day. Genea is used in the Greek New Testament 41 times. We will only give a representative sampling here. The reader is encouraged to refer to the Englishmens Greek Concordance for further study of its occurrences.
whereunto shall I liken THIS GENERATION? (Matthew 11:16)
An evil and adulterous GENERATION (Matthew 12:39)
in judgment with THIS GENERATION. (Matthew 12:41. See also Vs 42 & 45)
shall come upon THIS GENERATION. (Matthew 23:36)
THIS GENERATION shall not pass (Matthew 24:34)
Why doth THIS GENERATION seekno sign shall be given unto THIS GENERATION (Mark 8:12)
THIS adulterous and sinful GENERATION. (Mark 8:38)
that THIS GENERATION shall not pass (Mark 13:30)
liken the men of THIS GENERATION? (Luke 7:31)
to say THIS is an evil GENERATION (Luke 11:29. See also V.s 30, 31, 32, 50, 51)
be rejected of THIS GENERATION. (Luke 17:25)
THIS GENERATION shall not pass (Luke 21:32)
Note the consistency with which the Lord Jesus is quoted by the gospel writers as using GENEA to refer to events and things having to do with the contemporaries amongst whom they lived in the first century. Note also, the same phrase of the Olivet Discourse repeated by all three Synoptic Gospel writers as This generation shall not pass Clearly, it cannot be mistaken that Christ taught and the authors of the gospels believed that the events of the Olivet Discourse would occur to the first century generation of Christs contemporaries.
What of the various parables of Christ that present Him as an individual receiving a kingdom, then going away for a time, but then returning to the same generation of people he had left?
Watch therefore for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh. For (the day or the hour in which the Son of Man cometh- not KJV italicized, the kingdom of heaven ) is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one He gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journeyAfter a long time, the Lord of those servants COMETH and reckoneth with THEM. (Matthew 25:13-15. 19)
At which time when the Lord comes again to the servants, He then proceeds to judge them (25:20-30) and reward each man according to his work. And behold I come quickly and my reward is with me, to give every man as his work shall be. (Revelation 22:12) Does the Bible teach multiple Parousias with attending multiple judgments and multiple resurrections?
Observe yet another parable that places Christ returning to the same generation he had left.
And as they heard these things, He added and spake a parable, because He was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom, AND TO RETURN. (Emphasis-author) And he called his ten servants and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying we will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass that when HE WAS RETURNED, having received the kingdom, then he commanded those servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money (Luke 19:11-15)
The Nobleman (Christ) returns to the same people He had originally placed the pounds into the hands of. Same generation, same disciples. This generation really would not pass till all these things would be fulfilled.
Our next stop in continuing with Matthews evidences of Christs imminent Parousia, brings us to Christs subjecting Himself to the mock trial that He was put through in front of the Jewish Sanhedrin and the High Priest Caiaphas. At the end of the illegal procedings, Caiaphas places Christ under what was known in Jewish circles as the oath of the testimony. Essentially, this was taken from a passage in the Mishnah, which basically said that if an official shall use one of the Divine titles (names of God), as the means by which you are then made bound to answer, then you are to do so truthfully. In verse sixty three, Caiaphas places this precise oath upon Christ to get him to incriminate Himself to the court. And the High Priest answered and said unto Him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus of course answers him, and His answer speaks directly to the timing of His Second Coming.
Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: (Jewish courtesy speech forbade a direct answer to a question like the preceding-author) Nevertheless I say unto you, (that is Caiaphas-author) hereafter shall YE (the plural form, referring to the Sanhedrin as well) see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven (Matthew 26:64)
Again, we are faced with one of those passages that demands that we face what Christ is plainly saying. No, there is no Greek here that one must check in order to elucidate some hidden meaning that will enable one to maintain their futuristic view of the Parousia. The statement is plain on its face. Christ told Caiaphas that he himself would see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven. That absolutely mandates that we understand Christ to be informing Caiaphas that he and at least some members of the Sanhedrin would still be alive when Christ returned coming in the clouds of heaven. It is simply an illegitimate transfer of meaning to try to ascertain from this passage something else other than what is plainly declared. Some scholars have attempted to put into the mouth of Christ that what He was really referring to was that one of Caiaphas relatives would see Christ coming. That leaves it nice and open-ended. Others propose the idea that what Christ was referring to was that at the end of time, the dead would somehow be enabled to view the Lord Jesus coming in the clouds. But there is no exegetical reason to consider such bankrupt excuses. Let us deal with precisely what Christ means by what He says. After reviewing all the passages we have dealt with thus far, it is not only logical, but also easy to receive the truth of Christs view of His own Second Coming. Christ taught that He Himself would return to the same generation that He had departed from, in clouds of glory, with His angels, to bring judgment upon those whom He would. To say anything less in light of the accumulative facts presented, borders upon a level of disingenuousness that dishonors the validity, integrity and ultimately, the inspiration of the scriptures themselves. Lets consider one final gospel passage that points toward the first century timing of the Second Coming of Christ.
The scene is one of the final recorded events of a post resurrection appearance of Christ to the disciples. Specifically, we will deal with Christs rather cryptic discussion with Peter and John and in the process, unearth a time statement relative to the Parousia of Christ.
Christ has just concluded a meal with some of the apostles on the banks of the Sea of Tiberias. He has just given future instructions to the apostle Peter relative to his ministry of feeding and caring for Christs sheep. (John 21:15-19)
Now Christ begins to step away from the rest of the group and Peter begins to follow Him as Jesus requested of him. Peter notices that the Apostle John is also following Christ, which prompts Peter to ask the Lord a question:
Then Peter turning about seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on His breast at supper, and said Lord which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him said to Jesus, Lord and what shall this man do? (John 21:20-21)
At this point we should explain what Peter means by what he has just asked the Lord. Christ had just told Peter how that one day Peter would glorify God by dying the death of a martyr at the hands of others for his faith. Peter, within this context is asking the Lord Jesus, and whats going to happen to John? In other words, Peter wants to know how John is possibly going to die. We dont really know Peters motivation for asking such a question of the Lord, but Jesus answer speaks directly to the timing issue of His Second Coming. Jesus Says:
if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. (John 21:22)
Just to make sure that there is no misunderstanding the Lords words here, John includes in the next verse a correction as to what Christ did not mean by his remark to Peter.
Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. Yet Jesus did not say unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? (V. 23)
Essentially, Christ is telling Peter to pay attention to the plan that Christ has for Peter. Good advice for all of us. The rest of the statement Christ makes concerning the balance of Johns life and what John would possibly be a witness to, is almost interrogative in nature. If I will that he tarry till I come (Tarry- Greek: MENO: To abide. The idea of setting up house and living until something occurs is the idea Christ here presents.) In other words, John might be alive on the earth when I come back, He might not. The point being is that this verse was not confusing to John or Peter because they had heard the Second Coming teachings that Christ had given as recorded throughout the gospel accounts. They were quite aware of the Lords intentions to return within that generation they were all living in. His return to that generation did not necessarily guarantee that they would all be alive when He returned, but they knew that some of them would be (Matt. 16:28). Christ wants Peter to know in somewhat of an off handed manner, that John might live to see His coming, and he might not. But whether Christ did or did not have John stay alive until His coming was essentially none of Peters business. Some might criticize this plain understanding of the scriptures with the statement: Christ wants every generation that lives on this earth, especially over the last two thousand years, to have an attitude that is always ready for the Second Coming of Christ. I agree that Christ definitely instructed the first century believers to be looking for Him. But where do we get the idea that Christs intentions were for every succeeding generation to be looking for His Parousia? To be quite frank, an idea like this cannot be found in nor demonstrated from the scriptures without severely compromising the integrity and veracity of the text of the New Testament.
Conclusion: The preceding appendices were designed not to answer every question or objection that comes up regarding the first century coming of Christ. The reader will notice that we have intentionally steered away from dealing with the many other New Testament passages that deal directly with a first century return of Christ. Our intention was simply to get the first time reader of the view of biblical Preterism to start considering the teachings of the Lord Jesus regarding His understanding of when He Himself would return. The teachings of the apostles and writers of the epistles in the New Testament are following right on the heels of Christs teachings regarding His Parousia.
There is probably nothing more powerful than a presupposition. If we presuppose that because we think Christ would return in a certain form and in a way that agrees with our prejudices, then our study in the biblical text will be sufficiently colored so as to produce the results that are in accordance with our assumptions. We have not dealt in this volume with the nature of the Second Coming. The Hebrew apocalyptic language of the Old Testament prophets and how that Christ mirrored that same language when speaking on eschatological themes, is the next logical place of study for the serious student of prophecy. The reason the majority in Christendom (at this time in Church History) sees things as being woodenly literal in the interpretation of the prophetic theme is that we in the West have been schooled in a Greco- Roman pedagogical philosophy of education. The Bible is a Jewish book and must be read with a Jewish understanding of its contents. We are reading a Jewish book with western eyes that does not take into consideration the apocalyptic understanding as the Hebrews gave it in the Old Testament. Christ used the same language and the same forms of speech as the Old Testament prophets did and he expects us to study to understand it in the way He has given it. This short postscript is leaving the reader with much to consider and that is the intention of this author. The bulk of this volume was written to illuminate the seeker of Gods truth to the best and hopefully, the most accurate understanding that this author could give on the subject of the 70th Week of Daniel.
Messiah Reformed Church
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Messiah Reformed Church
8526 L Street
Omaha, NE 68127
From Center and 84th St: Head South down 84th St. towards L. St.
Just before you get to L St, make a right (W) on K St.
Make an immediate left (N) on 85th St.
Road veers to the right and is a service road that runs parallel to L. St.
The Church has a sign on the building and will be on the left side.
10913 Ellison Ave.
Omaha, NE 68164
Sunday Adult Sunday School Class 9:30 a.m.
Sunday Worship Service 10:45 a.m.
Wednesday Prayer and Bible Study: 7:00 p.m
Dr. Kelly Nelson Birks,Pastor/Elder
Phone: (303) 549-7338
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