The coming of the Lord is one of the pivotal doctrines of Scripture. As with everything related to the Lord Jesus Christ, it pertains to the whole body of Christ. Nothing about Jesus in His redemptive capacity is regional, or confined to a particular fleshly generation. No critical aspect of His essential Person and ministry is confined to a specific geographic area or a certain generation. In every sense, the Lord Jesus as the Savior of the world – the Word enfleshed – is global. Further, there is nothing He has accomplished, is accomplishing, or will accomplish, that is unrelated to salvation. This is fundamental to any consideration of the Son of God.
There are three fundamental appearances of Christ delineated in Scripture. Each one of them is polar, with considerable teaching surrounding them. Each one must, to a significant degree, be comprehended, for they are associated with the salvation of men. These appearances are declared in the ninth chapter of Hebrews, which is a Divine commentary on the indispensable role of Jesus in the extrication of men from the dilemma of sin and their preparation for glory. He is presently a High Priest of "good things to come" (v 11). He has entered into the true holy place, having "obtained eternal redemption for us" (v 12). His blood is presently purging the conscience of believers in order that they might serve the living God (v 14). He is now the "Mediator of the New Testament," that the called may receive "the promise of eternal inheritance" (v 15). In mediating the New Covenant, He is carrying out its essential provisions. (1) Putting God's laws into the minds of the people. (2) Writing those laws upon their hearts. (3) Enabling God to be their God. (4) Qualifying them to be God's people. (5) Rendering all who are in the covenant capable of knowing God. (6) Assuring God is merciful toward their unrighteousnesses. (7) Guaranteeing God will remember their sins and iniquities no more (Heb 8:10-12).
In further opening the present ministry of Christ, three great appearings are declared and expounded, each one having profound relevance to the people of God. There is no latitude for error or doctrinal corruption in any of these appearings, for they are within the perimeter of the Gospel of Christ, which is God's appointed "power unto salvation" (Rom 1:16).
1. He is now APPEARING in the presence of God for us (v 24).
2. One time, "in the end of the world, He APPEARED to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (v 26).
3. To those looking for Him, He will "APPEAR the second time without sin unto salvation"(v 28).
None of these appearings is inconsequential. All of them are essential to the salvation of all the people of God. No one can be saved without His appearance to put away sin. No one can be saved without His present appearance in heaven where He is fulfilling His intercessory ministry. It is not possible for the salvation of any person to be accomplished in exclusion of His second appearance, which is "for salvation without reference to sin," NASB or "not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." NRSV
No person of sound mind will affirm that differing views of these appearings are encouraged or allowed by God. Anything having to do with "the record God has given of His Son" is not open for opinionated views. The individual who believes this record "has the witness in himself." NASB The person who does not has "made God a liar" (1 John 5:10). Any record of that consequence is not open to the manipulation of men. Further, that "record" is summarized in these words, "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:11-12). Our salvation is related to that record, and it is the message held out for faith. Further, that "record" is comprised of all proclamations of Christ as Savior – and the affirmations of Hebrews 9:24,26, and 28 are such proclamations.
To affirm that such Divine affirmations allow for doctrinal diversity is to confess to an abysmal ignorance of the Living God. If Jesus is, in fact, "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," no man can be allowed to tamper with affirmations He has made about Himself, that God has affirmed of Him, or that the Spirit has revealed to His appointed expositors. That, it seems to me, is fundamental to sound theology and requires no further substantiation.
THE COMING OF THE LORD
The coming of the Lord in His glory is a doctrine of great gravity. Notwithstanding that situation, the professing church has, from the broken cistern of human understanding, spawned at least four views that coming. These views are the cause of much division and contention in the church, even though none of them is clearly affirmed in the Scriptures. Each one of them is actually a human conclusion – a determination that has been made by men. Briefly stated, they are identified as Premillenniamism, Post-Millennialism, Amillennialism, and Preterism. The first affirms that Jesus will come before the millennium, or thousand year reign of Christ. The second declares He will come after that period. The third holds He will come at the conclusion of all things, and that we are presently in the millennium. The fourth maintains Jesus has already come, and that we are presently in the new heavens and the new earth. There are varying persuasions held within each of these positions.
There is one thing that all of these positions hold in common. The coming of the Lord is not the emphasis of any of them. The first and second views place the greatest stress upon the millennium, with a considerable amount of attention being given to "the great tribulation." The third and fourth put the stress on the here and the now. However, in the Word of God, the stress is placed on the coming of Christ itself. He is the One for whom men are said to wait, and for whom they are looking. There is not the slightest hint in all of Scripture – not so much as a syllable, jot, or tittle – that suggests there will ever be a generation in this world that is not to look for Christ's coming. Those who suggest such nonsense have superimposed their own opinion upon the Word of God, and will be judged by God for doing so (Rev 22:18-19; Deut 4:2; Prov 30:6).
DOCTRINE VERSUS A VIEW OF DOCTRINE
In an age in which human reason and purported scholarship has been unduly exalted, man's view of Scriptural doctrine is upstaging the doctrine itself. In particular, what Jesus and the Apostles, His appointed expositors, have actually declared about His coming, are now assigned a lower priority than what men think they meant. Human reason has therefore become more prominent than Divine revelation, which is a most serious circumstance. It is exactly what Jesus confronted in the religious "traditions" of His time (Matt 15:1-9). Those traditions were nothing more than men's effort to explain what God had said. Those explanations also provided a means of establishing territories of power and rank among the people of God.
The chief difference between doctrine and a view of doctrine is that one is an affirmation, while the other is an explanation. When it comes to things God has revealed, affirmation, or simple assertion, takes the precedence over explanation. That is not to say there is no place for explanation. However, it is never to take the place of, or compete with, the clear and unmitigated declaration of what Christ and the Apostles have said. That affirmation is to be couched "not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words" NASB (1 Cor 2:13). Faith does not come by hearing explanations, by hearing affirmation – "the Word of God," or "the word of Christ," the Gospel (Rom 10:17).
When considering the coming of the Lord, it is imperative that men be guided by what the Holy Spirit inspired to be said and written, not by what purported scholars and theologians think are intended by those words. The sword of the Spirit is not human reason, but "the Word of God" (Eph 6:17).
What I Am Doing
With those few introductory remarks, I want to particularly address the fourth view, or fourth human opinion of the coming of the Lord: Preterism. This view is gaining popularity, and thus merits some special consideration. Its growing popularity is largely owing to the silence of the contemporary pulpit concerning the coming of the Lord. In particular, I am answering an article that recently appeared in the Christian Standard "Mailbox." The article does not present the view of the Standard or its editor. Here is the article. I have underlined the particular statements with which I will deal.
THE EXPRESSION I AM CHALLENGING
"Jesus Has Come!
"I would like to challenge the futurist view of Jesus' coming that was evident throughout the issue. Gaertner's claim that "whatever side of the millennial fence you happen to be on, the coming of Christ will be a welcome sight" and for futurists (amil, premil, post, pan or pro), no doubt, this IS true. The problem is interpreting Christ's coming to still be a future event.
"Jesus clearly predicted, unless He lied, that His return would be in the time of His generation (Matthew 24:34; 26:64; John 21 :21-23). The apostles clearly understood this prophetic proclamation to mean in their lifetimes and clearly communicated it to their readers. Paul warned about getting married due to the present crisis and the world that was "passing away" (1 Corinthians 7:26-31). The Hebrew writer spoke of a "new covenant" that was replacing an "old covenant" which was, at the time of writing, "becoming obsolete and growing old. . . ready to disappear"! (Hebrews 8:8-13). See also 1 Peter 4:7; James 5:7-9; 1 John 2: 18).
"Consequently, there is clear scriptural evidence that Christ's return was imminent for His generation (Luke 21:29-31). What eschatological event could be so near ,to a first-century audience to warrant a return of judgment by Christ? There is no longer any doubt in my mind that the fall of Jerusalem and her temple's final destruction is what's in view by both Jesus and the apostles. Historically, the writings of Josephus, Tacitus and others confirm all the "signs of the end" Jesus predicted actually occurred in the "great tribulation" and "distress" of the Roman-Jewish War of A.D. 66-70. . . .
"While futurists will bristle at any thought that Jesus has already returned, It's Important to remember the preterist perspective (past fulfillment) is the oldest, most historical view. It existed before Irenaeus' historic premillennialism and Augustine's amillennialism. There is widespread evidence for early church father support of preterism. Jesus has come . . . .
"Personally, I think it's time we stopped looking for the end, and start a new beginning. The church is God's kingdom on earth – eternal, almighty, purposed, powerful, and passionate. Jesus doesn't make promises He doesn't keep. He's returned. Unfortunately, the church has "left behind" this truth for too long."
Mailbox, Christian Standard
October 6, 2002
The bold confidence exuded is not the "full assurance of faith"(Heb 10:22), but is an intellectual persuasion – and a grossly inferior one at that. Also, his call to stop "looking for the end" reveals a certain at-homeness in this world for which the Word of God makes absolutely no provision. His teaching pulls the power out of being "strangers and pilgrims" in the earth, making exhortations to that end meaningless. It also takes hope, by which we are saved (Rom 8:24-25), and violently dashes it to the ground. Lastly, it totally ignores Apostolic doctrine concerning Christ's return – and they were the appointed expositors of the Lord Jesus. Their doctrine and exhortations reflect the intended meaning of Christ's references to His return, as well as His other sayings and teachings. That, of course, is according to Christ's own word (John 16:14-15).
WAITING FOR THE SON
Understanding that Scripture, particularly Apostolic doctrine, is never provincial, but that man lives by "EVERY Word of God" (Lk 4:4), the following assessment is made of the Thessalonians' conversion. "For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess 1:9-10). There is not so much as a syllable in that inspired assessment that suggests it pertained to the Thessalonians alone, or the generation in which they lived. Turning to God is common among all who come into Christ. Serving the living and true God is common for all believers. Waiting for God's Son from heaven is also something common for all who are in Christ Jesus. The reference to Christ is related to His resurrection from the dead, and delivering us from the wrath to come. There is not the slightest hint that "the wrath to come" was the destruction of Jerusalem, which had no immediate bearing on the Thessalonians at all.
If Preterism is true, which it emphatically is not, the saints of God would have ceased waiting for God's Son from heaven after A.D. 70. Such a postulate, whether expressly stated or implied, is nothing more than a confused set of tattdemalions – that is, it is an attempt to dress a feeble and ugly theology in the refined garments of intellectualism.
The event for which the Thessalonians were waiting is described majestically in these words, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord"(1 Thess 4:16-17). The Corinthians were also said to be waiting for this coming (1 Cor 1:7). The Philippians were looking for it as well (Phil 3:20). To say that these saints were awaiting the destruction of Jerusalem taxes our intelligence – particularly since these people were far removed from that city. I suppose one might postulate that a firestorm of blessing moved as a mighty wake into these cities from the destruction of the holy city. But it would certainly be a stretch of the imagination to affirm such a thing.
CHRIST WILL COME IN HIS OWN GLORY
Jesus affirmed that when He came again, it would be in His own glory. "For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels" (Luke 9:26). This is the glory to which He referred in His prayer on the even of His betrayal. "And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was"(John 17:5). It was the glory He desired for His disciples to behold. "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold MY GLORY, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world"(John 17:24). The "My glory" of John seventeen is "His own glory" of Luke nine.
The magnitude of the glory in which Jesus will come is staggering. First, it will be the effulgence of His own glory, elsewhere referred to as "in power and great glory" (Matt 24:30). Secondly, the glory of the Father Himself will accompany the returning Savior: "and the glory of the Father." NRSV Thirdly, the glory of all the holy angels will also accompany Him: "the glory of . . . the Holy angels." NASB Elsewhere Jesus affirmed "ALL the holy angels" would be "with Him" (Matt 25:31). Again, Jesus said He would come "in the glory of His Father with His angels"(Matt 16:27).
That is a lot of glory! The glory that attended God's revelation at Sinai (which glory could not be hidden), was nothing compared to the glory attending the return of Jesus. I suppose one might postulate that such glory was revealed at the destruction of Jerusalem, but we will not for a moment believe such a thing. Further, many of us consider it an insult to be asked to even consider such a "vain imagination." Methinks Satan is glad, if, indeed, he is capable of such an emotion, that such gobbledegook is being proliferated among those who believe on Jesus.
THE FATHER WILL SHOW HIM
Jesus has been glorified. That is a joyous part of the Gospel. "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus" (Acts 3:15). He has been "crowned with glory and honor"(Heb 2:9), being "given a name that is above every name" (Phil 2:9). This is a transcendent glory. One of the objectives to be accomplished in salvation is the saved being presented "faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24).
Although this magnificent glory is not presently seen by us, God has determined His glorified Son will be seen by "every man." The exaltation of the Son of God is not intended to remain hidden. In fact, the only reason it is hidden now is because His glory consumes everything contrary to it. Thus, Jesus is said to destroy consume "the Wicked one" with "the brightness of His coming" (2 Thess 2:8).
In a remarkable declaration of Christ's future appearing, the Spirit reveals that to be the time when the Father will unveil His glorified Son: "our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen" NKJV (1 Tim 6:14-16). That is, it will become OBVIOUS that the Lord Jesus Christ is the "only Potentate," "Sovereign One," or one with "all power in heaven and earth" (Matt 28:18). Then it will be clear that He is the "Lord"of all under-lords, whether they be men, angels, or Satan himself. He who cannot presently be seen will then be seen "as He is" (1 John 3:1-2). He who dwells in "unapproachable light," will shine forth, being seen in all of that glorious light. He whom "no man has seen or can see" will be seen by "every eye" (Rev 1:7). All of that is involved in the Father showing, revealing, or manifesting the Son.
I suppose it is possible to affirm this unveiling, or full disclosure, took place in A.D. 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed. But we will not believe such an assertion, and are offended by the carnal boldness of those who take it upon themselves to suggest such a thing.
HE WILL NOT COME TO DEAL WITH SIN
The first time Jesus entered the domain of flesh and blood, He came to deal with sin. He came "to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb 9:26), "destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8), and take "away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). His life in this world culminated with His death, through which he "washed us from our sins" (Rev 1:5). He came to deal with sin.
Even now, at the right hand of God, He is addressing the consequences and presence of sin. There, at the right hand of the "majesty on high" (Heb 1:3), He is assuring that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all iniquity" (1 John 1:9). He "ever liveth to make intercession for us," assuring the that Tempter does not overwhelm us (1 Cor 10:13), and that we are "more than conquerors through Him that loved us" (Rom 8:37).
However, when the matter of Christ appearing "the second time" is affirmed, it is categorically stated it will be "without reference to sin." NASB Other versions read, "apart from sin," NKJV "not to deal with sin." NRSV That is, sin will not be the issue when He comes the second time. Sin is not the constraining factor in the second appearing of Christ.
In the case of the destruction of Jerusalem, however, sin was the issue. The holy city was thus judged because they "did not know" they had been visited from on High" (Lk 19:42-44). He then came in judgment against Jerusalem, dealing with sin. That is not how He will come "the second time."
A STATE OF SOCIAL NORMALCY
Jesus declared that society would be in a state of normalcy when He returned. That is, there would be no sense of imminent danger or catastrophe. "For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be"(Matt 24:38-39). Luke adds "the day when the Son of man is revealed" would be like the days of Lot, when the cities of the plain suffered the vengeance of eternal fire."Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all" (Lk 17:28-29).
However, as the days of the destruction of Jerusalem approached, things were anything but in a state of normalcy. Prior to its actual overthrow, Titus built a wall around the whole circumference of Jerusalem, seeking to compel the city to surrender because of famine. This fulfilled the word of Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, ""For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side" NKJV (Lk 19:43).
War broke out among the inhabitants of Jerusalem around A.D. 65. The Zealots took forcible control of the city and temple, and introduced a reign of terror. In A.D. 67, Vespasian overran Galilee with an army of 80,000 men. Around A.D. 69, his son Titus resumed the prosecution of the Jewish war, finally destroying the city and the temple according to Christ's words. The final siege of the city lasted no less than five months.
There were no less than six years between the Neronian persecution and the destruction of Jerusalem. It is said of that time, "There is scarcely another period in history so full of vice, corruption, and disaster as the six years between the Neronian persecution and the destruction of Jerusalem." HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, by Philip Schaff It can hardly be said that this was a time of normalcy, when people were eating, drinking, marrying, giving in marriage, buying, selling, building and planting. However, such conditions WILL be prevalent "when the Son of man is revealed."
REDEMPTION DRAWING NIGH
Speaking of the events preceding the time when "the Son of man" comes "in a cloud with power and great glory," Jesus said, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (Lk 21:28). This was said to follow Jerusalem being "trodden down of the Gentiles" (Lk 21:24).
I do not know that the destruction of Jerusalem was ever clearly associated with "redemption" drawing "near." What is there about the word "redemption" that could possibly be associated with the destruction of Jerusalem? Every place this word is used, it is associated with salvation, not cursing, with deliverance, not judgment. The Spirit relates it to God's grace, the resurrection body, what Christ is made to us, forgiveness and the riches of God's grace, the day for which we are sealed, the promise of eternal inheritance, and deliverance (Rom 3:24; 8:23; 1 Cor 1:30; Eph 1:7,14; 4:30; Col 1:14; Heb 9:15; Heb 11:35).
However, if the Preterists are right, Jesus associated "your redemption" with the destruction of the holy city, Divine judgment, desolation, and the visiting of sin upon the people. It requires an unusually corrupt understanding to assume such a posture, and a gross distortion of the truth as well.
THE DILEMMA OF CHAPTER 25
Those who puff at us with the Preterist imagination must deal with the dilemma of Matthew Twenty-five. Immediately following Christ's exposition of "His coming" (24:42-51), He spoke of things occurring at that time. Conditions would ensue that are likened to ten virgins, five of them being wise, and five foolish. All of them are depicted as going out to meet the bridegroom. All of them took their lamps. All of them took some oil. However, while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept, until they were suddenly awakened by the cry, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him." Because of their lack of preparation, the five foolish virgins were shut out of the marriage. Jesus concluded by saying, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matt 25:1-13).
If that coming occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem, precisely who was taken into the "marriage." Who were "the wise"of that time? In what sense did Jesus "delay" His coming, if it had reference to Jerusalem's destruction, which He clearly foretold less than forty years earlier?
And that is not the end of the matter. The coming to which Jesus referred is also said to be like a time of accountability, when stewards were required to give an account of their stewardship – a time when rewards as well as judgments, were dispensed (25:14-30). As if that was not enough, the Lord said that coming would also be a time when all the nations would be gathered before Him – not just Jerusalem. It would be a time of separation and the assignment of eternal destinies (25:31-46). It is at that time that the Preterists themselves will stand before the Son of man. They will give an account of their stewardship, just as all men will do. It will be interesting to hear their explanation of this particular doctrine at that time. Some of us are willing to wait until then to hear it, having no interest whatsoever in hearing their explanations now.
CHANGING OUR VILE BODIES
The appearance of the Lord is also related to the changing of our preset bodies – our "vile bodies," or, as some versions put it, "the body of our humble state." NASB Contradicting the bold call to stop "looking for the end," the Holy Spirit moved Paul to speak of those who are, in fact, anticipating it. He relates it to eagerly waiting for Jesus to come from heaven. "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Phil 3:20-21).
If Jesus did, in the sense of this text, return at the destruction of Jerusalem, we need some critical input from our Preterists friends. A few comments on the transformation of their bodies will suffice, as well as some more compelling evidence of that change than we have seen thus far. Where is the person willing to affirm their body has been "changed?" Who will declare they are walking about in this world in a body that is "fashioned like unto His glorious body?"
If such a person exists, we really do not care to hear what they have to say, for it will not be the truth. If anyone in the body cares to affirm they have already "received the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body" (Rom 8:23), they have only confirmed the corruption of their own heart, and the blindness of their minds.
Again, the Spirit declares, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col 3:4). If Jesus "appeared" at the destruction of Jerusalem, who appeared "with Him in glory?" And if that time has already come and gone, for what are we waiting?
A NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH
Peter said the "day of the Lord" would come "as a thief in the night." At that time, "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." As though casting a panoramic glance at the whole temporal realm, he spoke of "all these things" being "dissolved." This day was "the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat." However, our attention does not stop there, but "we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Pet 3:8-13).
The Preterist would have us believe the "new heavens and a new earth" are already with us. They have some fanciful explanations about them, but still have some work to do. The words that speak strongly to us are,"wherein dwelleth righteousness." Now, the Spirit does not say this righteousness dwells in the heavenly realms, into which God has raised us in Christ Jesus (Eph2:6). We would certainly have no difficulty with that. Rather, He relates it to "a new earth." If this really refers to our present abode in Christ, we need something in God's Word that refers to that state as "earth." Where is this word ever used to denote the status of the sons of God now?
The present "earth" is certainly not associated with righteousness. Even the present "heavenly places" are said to contain spiritual forces with which the saints grapple (Eph 6:12). Nowhere is something temporal said to be inherently righteous – nowhere. Yet, the "new heavens and a new earth" are said to be environs in which righteousness "dwells," or finds a permanent habitation. Those domains are said to be connected to the "day of the Lord."
THIS GENERATION SHALL NOT PASS
Jesus spoke of climactic events taking place. These are a few of them. (1) The sun will be "darkened." (2) "The moon shall not give her light." (3) "The stars shall fall from heaven." (4) "The powers of heaven shall be shaken." (5) The "sign of the Son of man" will appear in heaven. (6) "Then will shall the tribes of the earth mourn." (7) "They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (8) "He will send His angels with the great sound of a trumpet." (9) His angels will "gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." He concluded by saying, "So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." Confirming that His words had a wider scope than the destruction Jerusalem He added, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away" (Matt 24:39-35).
The Preterist's teach this establishes that Jesus intended to say He would come again in power and glory before the people of that generation passed away. Therefore, they reason, His coming is unquestionably linked, and confined, to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
There is a certain thorn in this view that troubles me. If, by these words, Jesus intends to say that the generation of standing before Him would not pass until they saw the "sign of the Son of man" appear in the heaven, the angels coming from heaven with the great sound of a trumpet, and the gathering of all of the elect from the all of the furthest extremities of earth and heaven, ponder the situation that we have. According to their own theology, no Scripture was written after A.D. 70 (to which view I emphatically do not subscribe). That being the case, there is no inspired record of the events that took place, even though time has continued, Satan has remained active, death continues to ravage our race, and men are still being delivered from sin. Thus we have inspired records of the creation, the flood, the events at Babel, the calling of Abraham, the establishing of Israel, the giving of the Law, the birth of Christ, the ministry of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, and the ascension of Christ. None of these events were ever developed by worldly historians. Yet, in the case of the coming of Christ with power and great glory, there are not witnesses recorded in Scripture, and no record of the events occurring at that time. That would offer no difficulty if we were in glory, grappled no longer with time, and had reached the culmination of conformity to the image of God's Son. But we are not in such a case.
Therefore, for the first time, we have a pivotal work of God accomplished, a declared Divine promise fulfilled, with not a clear inspired Word of testimony on the matter. I must admit, that is a most unique situation, and one that offers all manner of opportunity for deceivers to rise. I affirm that such a circumstance contradicts the manner in which God has revealed Himself, and that Scripture gives no indication that the Lord will work in such a manner as long as the world stands.
Thus, instead of "every eye" seeing the returning Christ, an extremely small percentage of a single generation. If you included all of the army of Titus (around 80,000), and all of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, you would still have an infinitely small number as compared to the population of the world – "every eye" (Rev 1:7), and "all the tribes of the earth" (Matt 24:30), and "every man" (Matt 24:27).
If, on the other hand, "this generation" refers to those who "see these things" commence, Jesus meant that once the "shaking of all things" began (Heb 12:26), "all these things" would be fulfilled – even to the passing of the heavens and the earth. Luke provides a larger perspective of Christ's words. "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Those words are followed by the reference to the fig tree shooting forth its leaves, also mentioned by Matthew (Lk 21:28-30; Matt 32-35). The idea is that the destruction of Jerusalem was a prelude to all of these things, but not the end itself. This is precisely what Jesus said earlier in Matthew: "And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end IS NOT YET" (24:6).
In the sense of the consummation of all things, "the end" refers to the public subjugation of all of Christ's enemies, not the chastening of Israel. As it is written, "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor 15:24-16). Until death, the final enemy, has been "destroyed," "the end" has not come. As long as Jesus remains at the helm of the Kingdom, "the end" has not come. When "the end"comes, or "when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all" (1 Cor 5:28). Anyone who affirms that took place at the destruction of Jerusalem is simply wrong.
Another view of "this generation" views the people to whom Jesus spoke as His own generation – the one coming from Him. The fleshly lineage of Jesus is traced from Christ back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38), and from Abraham to Christ (Matt 1:1-17). That fleshly lineage abruptly terminated at Jesus, for He had no fleshly offspring as did all of the predecessors in His lineage. As the prophet said, "He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living"(Isa 53:8; Acts 8:33). Yet, His offspring are more numerous than all the others. This is why He is called "Everlasting Father" (Isa 9:6). His "children" were given to Him by His Father (Heb 2:13-14), and are "a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues" (Rev 7:9). Until Jesus comes again, members of this generation will remain on the earth as salt and light. Satan will not be able to removed this generation.
The precision of this view is confirmed in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus. He cites forty-two generations, grouping them in three clusters of fourteen. He affirms fourteen generations to have passed "from Abraham to David" (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judas, Phares, Esrom, Aram, Aminadab, Naasson, Salmon, Booz, Obed, Jesse, David). Fourteen generations "from David to the carrying away into Babylon" (Solomon, Roboam, Abia, Asa, Josaphat, Joram, Ozias, Joatham, Achaz, Ezekias, Manasses, Amon, Josias, Jechonias). Fourteen remaining generations were "from the carrying away into Babylon until Christ" (Salathiel, Zorobabel, Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Sadoc, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, Joseph the husband of Mary, Jesus).
In counting these generation, it will become apparent that only forty-one are listed, not forty-two. Fourteen are listed from Abraham to David, and fourteen from David to the carrying away into Babylon. But only thirteen are listed from the carrying away unto Babylon to Christ Jesus. Some have attempted to explain this by saying David and Josiah are counted twice. That mode of reckoning, however, leaves Christ out, terminating with Joseph. Still others are of the opinion the third list includes Mary as well as Joseph. Some believe Matthew made a mistake. Still others account for the difference by saying David is listed twice.
These explanations are wholly unacceptable. The word "begat" is mentioned thirty-nine times in this passage. Add to that number Joseph, who is not said to have begotten anyone, and Jesus who is not declared to have begotten any fleshly lineage, and you have forty-one generations, not forty-two.
The forty-second generation is accounted for in Christ's generation, which was a spiritual one, not a fleshly one. That generation is His by virtue of redemption. It is written of them, "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal 3:29). The word "Christ's" denoted, then, His peculiar generation. This is the generation that will not pass until everything Jesus declared to His disciples is fulfilled. His words were only spoken to those who were given to Him (John 6:39; 17:7,9,11,24).
PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED AND GLORIFICATION IN THE SAINTS
When Jesus comes, the wicked will be punished and He will be glorified in His saints. As it is written, "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels,in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; WHEN HE SHALL COME TO BE GLORIFIED IN HIS SAINTS, and to be admired in ALL THEM that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) IN THAT DAY" (1 Thess 1:7-10).
Jerusalem was punished when it was destroyed – but it was not "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power." Its destruction was not final, like that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Neither, indeed, was Jesus "glorified in His saints, and admired in all them that believe" in A.D. 70. The vengeance that will accompany Christ's return is toward "ALL them that know not God and obey not the Gospel," not just the unbelieving Jews. If that happened at the destruction of Jerusalem, how do we account for the continuance of the Romans – or are they excluded from that category of not knowing God and obeying not the Gospel?
Much more can be said on this matter, but this will suffice to confirm why the writing of reference is to be rejected as false to the core and damaging to the understanding. Preterism is a doctrinal contortion of monumental proportions. Those espousing it ought not to be given a platform for speaking among the people of God. Their teaching is an attack upon the hope by which we are being saved (Rom 8:24-25), and is deserving only of rebuke, disdain, and rejection. There simply are no kind words that can be said about it. It is too close to, if not identical with, the teaching of "Hymenaeus and Philetus; who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some" (2 Tim 2:17-18). It is contrary to the abiding realities of both faith and hope, by which the believer is sustained.
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