THE HERESY OF PRETERISM -Doug Newell
THE HERESY OF PRETERISM
II Timothy 2:16-18
Preterism is a view of the return of Jesus Christ that all prophecy has been fulfilled. Proponents of this system will have you think it is simply a slight difference of eschatological opinions, but I contend that it is a dangerous, cancerous false doctrine, that has dire consequence to the faith of some. It is the same heresy Paul warned Timothy about in II Timothy 2:15-18 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. What is Preterism? It is the belief that all prophesy, that’s right, ALL prophecy has been fulfilled. The resurrection, the rapture, the tribulation, the Anti-Christ, the great white throne judgment, we are living in the new heaven & new earth, New Jerusalem, and any other prophecy you read. That is the ungodly error of Hymenaaus and Philetus, saying the resurrection is past. They taught that the future event of the resurrection of the dead has already taken place, which is Preterism. Through the course of this treaties, I will show, by the words of preterist teachers, their heresy, which I believe to be in many cases, a damnable heresy, and show why it is indeed a dangerous error, not simply another view of a „non-essential” matter. Though you may not be familiar with the name preterist, it is not a new doctrine, and gaining in popularity and notoriety.
First, let’s look at some of the major points of heresy that the proponents of Preterism hold to that makes this doctrine RANK heresy. The first, and most vital point of the Christian faith that Preterism stands contrary to, is on the resurrection, claiming it is already past and even go so far as to a complete denial of a bodily resurrection, claiming only a spiritual resurrection. Preterism, like most dangerous heresy, will use the same words as you and I, but apply their own definition. For example, if you ask a Preterist if they believe in the resurrection, they will answer yes. If you ask them if they believe in the resurrection of Christ, they will say yes. But what they mean by resurrection and what the bible means by resurrection are two completely different ideas. Preterist, when speaking of resurrection, mean a spiritual resurrection, or the new birth, it has nothing to do with the body, and if you press a consistent Preterist for an answer, they will deny Christ’s resurrection as well. Very deceptive, isn’t it? That’s why it’s dangerous, you must define the terms every step of the way to find out what they truly believe. General question, unfortunately, will not get you to the bottom of their beliefs. Notice, in the frequently asked questions of a prominent website dedicated to Preterism, which we will continue to refer to, concerning the resurrection: „Preterism does teach the Resurrection of the dead, however it does not subscribe to a physical resurrection of bodies” (PlanetPreterist.com FAQ ). What kind of resurrection? What blatant double talk. Let me see if I can interpret that answer….”We believe in the resurrection of the dead, we just don’t believe in a resurrection of the dead.”
Preterism is directly contrary to the Word of God which very clearly, and quite often speaks of the resurrection of the saints of God! Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. The danger of this teaching is if our resurrection is past, if there is no bodily resurrection for us, then there was no resurrection of Jesus Christ, and if no resurrection of Christ, our hope is in vain! Please read the 15th chapter of I Corinthians. Our future resurrection is tied to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Look at the basis of the bodily resurrection in the proof of it. Paul put himself on the line, his credibility, the faith once delivered, salvation, the work of Christ. He said if the Christ didn’t rise, then, like a house of cards, it’s all coming down. But it’s not! He is RISEN. It is a fact of history. You have hundreds of eye witnesses, credible witnesses of the friends of Christ, also the enemies of Christ, most of all, the divinely inspired record of the holy scriptures. And I know by faith, the faith given to me by the risen Lord. This makes preterism a damnable heresy. If you deny our resurrection, you deny the resurrection of Christ, if you deny the resurrection of Christ, you are not saved! No matter what you say about doctrine, the church, landmarkism, baptism, if you deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are on your way to Hell! 1Cor. 15:13-20 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
Preterism teaches that Jesus Christ came back in AD 70. What happened in AD 70? Rome destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus told that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and it’s a historical fact that it did happen, but the basis of this teaching is that ALL prophecy was fulfilled at this time. They take the works of Josephus to be their authority on the matter. Indeed, some of the things in the first 14 verses of the Matthew 24 were fulfilled, but not in total. The first 14 verses of Matthew 24 deal with the entire time of the church, up through the first 3 ½ years of the tribulation period. They were not fulfilled in total in AD 70. At first glance, you can understand why they believe what they believe. Jesus mentioned the destruction of the temple Matt. 24:2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. Jesus is speaking of the AD destruction of the temple by Rome. But the next verse is very important to understanding the rest of the chapter. Matt 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? The disciples after having thought of what the Lord had said asked three questions.
1) When shall these things be.
2) 2) What shall be the sign of they coming.
3) 3) What shall be the sign of the end of the world.
Jesus answers these three questions through out the rest of the chapter. The rest of the 24th chapter is not dealing explicitly with verse two, but answering the questions of verse 3. The premise that all things were fulfilled at this time is taken in Preterism, and from the premise, they force all prophecy into that time period by taking scripture out of context, or spiritualizing the scriptures instead of a literal interpretation of scripture. That the blessed hope of the glorious appearing of our Great God and Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ is past. They rest their proof of Christ’s so-called AD 70 coming on the historical works of men, and Josephus in particular. You can not take the scripture and prove such beliefs. Let God be true and every man a liar. Preterism teaches that the 7 year tribulation period was from AD 63 to AD 70. But this belief is contrary to scriptural teachings.
Rev 1:7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Every eye did not see the Lord Jesus Christ. Did you see him in AD 70? I don’t think that you did, and I didn’t either. When He comes, EVERY eye shall see him! Don’t spiritualize the scripture, every eye shall see him when He comes in glory! Mat 24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. It is hard to nail down the whole of Preterism, because like most heresy, there are so many different interpretations. This scripture is referencing the second advent of the second coming of the Lord Jesus. There will be a sign in heaven, and all the tribes, notice, all the tribes, not just Jerusalem, but from America to Australia, all the people of the earth shall mourn, and they, the whole earth, shall SEE the Son of man coming in the clouds, with power and GREAT glory. You would think that if the Lord Jesus Christ came back in great glory, and a event that the whole world saw and mourned over, you would have heard about it before now, wouldn’t you?
Preterism teaches that the time of Jacobs trouble, or the great tribulation period, has already taken place. Mat 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was not the worst tribulation the world has ever seen. For the people who lived through it, it was terrible tribulation, but can it be said that it was worse than the Babylonian destruction, Sodom and Gomorrah, WWI and WWII, the Jewish holocaust, the millions killed by Communist China, the countless massacres that fill the pages of history, and countless tribulation that was before and since and say that AD 70 was the worst tribulation the world will EVER see? The time of Jacobs trouble is the worst tribulation that ever has been, or ever will be again? With out question, there will not be a worse time, not just for the Jews, but a worse time on mankind, upon the face of the earth than that great tribulation period. Please consider the following verses:
Rev. 8: 7- 13 The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed. And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise. And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound! Friends, the preterist will have you to believe this is a historical account! The problem with this teaching is there is always a slick answer for everything, but not a scriptural answer for it and ‘by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the innocent’. With this teaching they must also say that God is finished with Israel, contrary to Romans 11. Consider the words of Duncan McKenzie, a columnist for Planet Preterist. The Coming of Jesus in Revelation 19 is referring to the one and only Second Coming at AD 70. With harlot Israel destroyed, Jesus comes and defeats the beast from the abyss. They teach that Israel destroyed? Israel is MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH according to their heresy.
Preterism teaches the Satan is now in the Lake of Fire, that he is out of the picture. I hesitate to say that he is now in the Lake of Fire, because not all preterist believe that there is such a place. Again from the FAQ’s:
The Lake of Fire, also called Gehenna (The Valley of Hinnom) was literally a large valley outside the city of Jerusalem serving as the city’s garbage dump. In this pit fires were burning continually in order to destroy refuse, dead animals, and even the bodies of the homeless; the ever-rising smoke from this valley was legendary in the first century.
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: This verse has nothing for us, Satan is bound according to the deceptive words of preterism. All the scripture concerning the devil doesn’t apply to us anymore according to this heresy. It’s all historical information. But here is another real problem I have with preterism, it takes away so many promises, challenges and admonitions in the scripture that are directly related to the second coming of Christ and future events. Notice the scripture that we just quoted. For the preterist, since the devil is out of the picture, we have no need to be sober, but let’s look at the context of the passage verses 6-10. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. The challenge for the preterist is to tell us what is historical and what is not. If the verse in the middle is historical about Satan, what about the sentence before telling us that Christ cares for us? Does he care for us, or those who have to resist the Devil? Proper interpretation would say that those who Christ cares for are also the very same that are to be sober and vigilant. The command to be sober is the same thought with the promise of Christ making us perfect, stablishing and strengthening and settling us! Who is scripture written for, and how are we to read scripture if the commands of the New Testament don’t apply to us? Denial of scripture is a fruit of Preterism, which leads to picking and choosing what one wants to obey, and cast aside what you don’t. That, unfortunately is just the beginning. There are far too many scriptures that are directly tied to future things. I will not list them here, but many of our blessings, encouragements, commands and warnings are tied into the teaching of the coming of Jesus Christ, thus making the verses irealvent to us. Not only those particular verses, but the entire context of the verse. But why stop there, if the context of the passage does not apply, what about the entire epistle? Notice a few scriptures that are linked with the future. The bible says to look for the Saviour (Titus 2:12-13), if He has already come back, then that verse doesn’t apply to us anymore. If what they say is true, we have no spiritual battles in high places (Eph. 6:10-13). Preterism destroys our hope, consider Rom 8:24-25 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Please consider the context of this verse, this isn’t simply hope in going to Heaven, Romans 8:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. The preterist believe that the only resurrection is a spiritual resurrection that happens when you are saved. How can the hope of the adoption, the redemption of our body be a spiritual resurrection? If the resurrection takes place at salvation, how could a saved person be looking towards it? That is how Preterism destroys our hope, you can’t hope for something in the past, but you can only hope for FUTURE things. Look in Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Our hope (future) is the glorious APPEARING of Christ, so we have no blessed hope any longer according to this heresy. They remove our hope of reward 1Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. The weapons of war God gave us are both useless and unnecessary if this teaching is true. Eph 6:10-11 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Why have amour if the enemy is already done away with? There is so much done away with, much of the scripture is useless to them, therefore no sense in teaching it. One of the cries of preterist is they hold to ‘scripture only’ and put no value on confessions or creeds, as if to say that they are relying only upon the scriptures. Beware of anyone who will not put into writing what they believe or those who object to written statements of belief. We too believe that scripture is sole authority, but as Baptists, and as the way of historic Baptist, we have never been afraid to have what we believe about the scriptures written down for all to see. It is an cop-out to say ‘I don’t live by confessions or creeds or articles of faith, only the bible’ the person who says that, oft times has a false doctrine or false teaching they are trying to hide. This is indeed dangerous teaching for it does away with too much scripture!
Now I would like you to know of the so called ‘proof texts’ of Preterism. Matt 10:23 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. They claim that Jesus was telling the disciples that once they preached over the cities of Israel, Jesus would return. But Jesus was telling the disciples that he was coming after them, as they preached, he would come to them again before they were finished. We you are persecuted in this city go to another, and you won’t have preached in all the cities before I come behind you. This is His earthly ministry, see Matt. 11:1. They claim that Matt. 16:28 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, refers to his second coming, but he is speaking of what happened in Matt. 17:1-9, the transfiguration. Next, Matt 24:34–Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Preterist claim ‘this generation’ is the generation standing with Christ as he was speaking. But Jesus was speaking to the generation that shall see the signs he spoke of, not the generation standing with him. Matt 24:30-34 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth 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. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 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. The fig tree is Israel, when his branch is tender and putteth forth leaves, I believe the birth of Israel again in 1948. The branch was not tender, and was not putting forth leaves in Israel, but about to be destroyed as a nation for a couple thousand years. When the tree puts forth leaves, you know that it’s almost summer, so when you see the signs of tribulation, when you see all the things Jesus spoke of, this generation, the generation that sees these things shall not pass. Jesus tells us that when you see these things the time draws near. When you see these things, the generation that sees them, they shall not pass, not you who are listening to me shall not pass.
If what they say is true, then friends, we are living in the new heavens and new earth. Here is their slick answer to the new heavens and earth.
„Therefore what makes the Heavens and Earth „new” is not an act of God physically re-creating them, but a renewing and reconcilliation of all things in Christ, through his sacrifice, resurrection and return in A.D. 70. The very presence of Christ (his parousia) is what gives the Heavens and Earth a renewed character.”
Here is what God says:
Revelation 21:1-4 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Did you know that God has wiped away all your tears and that there is no more pain? Did you know that the new Jerusalem has come down and God dwells with us bodily on Earth? Did you know that there is no more death? If we are in the new heaven and new earth now, then these things are so. Do you live in the world of Revelation 21:1-4? I don’t, not yet anyway. I look about and see war, famine, murders, destruction, poverty pollution, crime, and all manner of sin. That is the world I live in, and to say that we live in Revelation 21:1-4 is absurd, and simply preposterous. It is hard to believe that one could say they believed the bible and hold to such heresy. If this is the new heaven and new earth, and this is what no pain, tears sorrow is, I am of all men most miserable.
If Preterism is true, then we do a lot of thing that we shouldn’t. Why preach or baptize? Mat 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. If all has been fulfilled, we are in the end of the world, then our job is done. But, if that is objected by the preterist, that we should still preach the gospel, we should have a 100% success rate when witnessing, because Satan is not here to hinder the gospel (II COR 4:1-6). The bible teaches to do the work of the church and preach the gospel until the end of the world, and were in the end of the world according to preterism. Why take the Lord’s supper? We are to take it till he comes (I Cor. 11:26-27) and if he has come then we should have stopped taking it a long time ago. In fact, why even go to church since the commission was to the end of the world? That is why consistent preterist don’t. Why is there no post AD 70 biblical instruction? If the bible was penned before the end of the fist century, and all things came to an end in AD 70, why not provide us with some instruction? Why didn’t John, or Paul or Peter give us some idea what WE should do once all things were fulfilled? The answer is because when all things are fulfilled, we will be with God, we will dwell with Him through all eternity, our hope will be realized!
There are so many other places, doctrines, teachings that they err in. They believe The 1000 year binding of Satan is symbolic, there is no more demons or devil in the earth, but their negative influence is still felt. They teach that there is not scriptural evidence that Adams sin is passed on through all generations by birth ( I suppose they haven’t read Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:), they teach that this earth we live in will not be burnt up, but it’s figurative language and there will not be a new heaven or new earth despite the contrary teaching in scripture of Romans 8:19-25 teaching the creature or creation shall be delivered from corruption when our hope, the redemption of our bodies is realized. They also have already received the adoption, and all the benefits of being a child of God, this is it, what you have on earth. And so much more, but it is my prayer that just these few errors are enough to show you the downward spiral one travels with this heresy.
The Bible is clear on how Christians must deal with Preterism. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. (II Tim. 2:16-18). Preterism is described as profane, or wicked, heathenish and vain babblings or empty sounded fruitless talk. God has ordered us to shun it, to stay away from it because it eats like a canker. It is cancerous. It brings death, if left unchecked, and it’s evil wicked influence spreads. The result of preterism has eternal ramifications, and scripture says it will overthrow the faith of some. This teaching can not be tolerated, it can not be compromised with, it can’t not be allowed in the Lord’s churches because a teaching that overthrows the faith of some and denies the faith of others, which makes it dangerous, deadly and damnable.