PRETERISM AND THE ASSOCIATED PROBLEMS OF THE CAMP OF PRETERISM, PARTIAL PRETERISM OR GLORIOUS ESCHATOLOGY

PRETERISM AND THE ASSOCIATED PROBLEMS OF THE CAMP OF PRETERISM OR GLORIOUS ESCHATOLOGY

The curriculum for a class in Seminary asked for an assessment of the Book entitled Glorious Eschatology, by Harold Eberly. The book is based on the Partial-Preterist theorem that asserts among other things, a rapture of the church in 70 ad. The syllabus asked two questions:

1. How does this Victorious Eschatology affects or changes your previous thought on end times?

2. What do you see this view will positively impact the Church and Kingdom in general?

My answer is as follows. I have found Glorious Eschatology to be a shallow presentation that serves as more of an apology for being seduced by the Pretribulation theological novelty than a serious attempt to present a new severe version of Eschatology. Partial Preterism is a pick and chooses the variation of the Preterist view that was advocated in the 1800s by James Stuart Russell. Russell wrote The Parousia in 1878 anonymously and published Parousia under his name in 1887. Parousia is published by IPA, the International Preterist Association. The forwards are particularly helpful in dispelling the partial-Preterist view, as the Preterist camp thoroughly denies the partial Preterist theories.

Novel, or new theology is never created in a vacuum. New ideas are typically formulated through dialogue between people who hold similar views.This has been a historically provable assertion for as long as people have been theologizing. One of the main forms that theology is constructed within is what we call times of revival, or at least the times period that immediately follows a movement of God among men. People typically try to formulate the primary ideas that were formulated and advanced by the primary figures of the movement. This applies to the standard bearers of the era and the fringe players. Prophetic movements are particularly susceptible to the fringe elements of thought, as proponents generally look for unique teachings that can have a greater impact on the corpus.

PREVIOUS PROPHETIC MOVEMENTS The era of the mid-1800’s is no exception to the rule. American Christianity was exiting the Second Great Awakening on American soil, and prophetic voices were postulating new ideas about God’s prophetic timeline. Fringe players included Joseph Smith and the burgeoning Mormon movement, the Seventh Day Adventist movement, the Watchtower Bible Society, the Apostolic movement out of England where the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine originated, and the repackaged amillenarian view that was being advanced as Preterist eschatology, which would later divide into subgroups like Glorious Eschatology, Partial Preterists, and victorious Eschatology.

Each one of the new variants of eschatology had unique ideas, while each had similar ideologies. The blended ideas are profound, as they grew out of the unique views of the founders of the divergent groups, like Charles Russell Taze’ rejection of Hell as a place of punishment based on DL Moody’s thinly veiled rejection of said doctrine. Ellen G. White and other Seventh Day Adventists had advocated a date for the return of Christ that had been revealed prophetically. When the date passed and the visible return of Christ was nowhere to be seen, an explanation was proffered that included a secret second coming, where Jesus returned without being seen. Upon His departure, the Adventists advocated that Jesus went back to Heaven where He is currently calculating everyone’s sins and acts of righteousness. When the scales are weighed based on your works, the weightier scale determines your eternal destiny. The Mormon’s held a view that blended or borrowed ideas from multiple sources.

SIGN IN THE SKY OR SIGN ON THE EARTH?

Eberle and Trench’s argument on p. 53 that the sign in the sky that Jesus was referring to in Matthew 24:30 is the destruction of Jerusalem is confusing and ludicrous in Glorious Eschatology. This assertion implies that the early church was living in suspense, not fully understanding the truthfulness of Jesus claims for 40 years. Many of the early church leaders and members would have died before the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. This would have included James 44AD, Peter and Paul (68AD) during Nero’s purge of Christians and Jews, and John the beloved around 89-98AD. We do not have accurate records for the remaining Apostles, but it would be reasonable to assume that only John would have survived into a later life, as they were zealous evangelists who embraced martyrdom’s possibilities. Furthermore, to call a sign in the sky something that happened on the earth is a bait and switch approach to theology. The Temple’s destruction happened on the temple Mound and it was earth bound, not air-born.

The argument that things have continued to get better, therefore a futurist interpretation of the Apocalyptic passages of Scripture need to be viewed as partially fulfilled is not correct, in my humble opinion. This argument is just as dangerous as the world is spiraling out of control theory. One position relies on a false imperative that is fear based, while the alternative creates a overly optimistic outlook. Both positions are wrong and do a disservice to the truth that is revealed in Prophetic/Apocalyptic passages of Scripture.

Once the Temple was destroyed, now they can have peace? It doesn’t make sense. What about the Angel of Acts 1when Jesus left earth announced that they would see Him return similarly? Or what about the promise for power from on high and its fulfillment in the Acts 2 Upper Room fulfillment? The early believers were not Temple enthusiasts, as it was the Temple hierarchy who were attempting to liquidate them after they had successfully terminated Jesus life, or so they thought. Jewish allegiance to the temple structure and culture was neither simplistic nor was it universal, as Eberle and Trench would lead us to believe when they write that, “they were shocked at the thought of God’s Holy Temple being destroyed. How could life go on without it (p. 17)?”

LOCALIZED EVENTS, NOT UNIVERSAL APPLICATION

Glorious Eschatology’s contention that the persecution of Matthew 24 will be localized and not universal is a salient point where I agree. But this view is not the exclusive domain of the Preterist/partial Preterist camp. Many Futurists as Eberle and Trench identify as theologians who hold to future fulfillment of many of the Prophetic passages hold the same opinion. Christ admonished all the residents of Jerusalem to flee the city to save their lives.  This prophetic proclamation about the destruction of Jerusalem is a prophetic foreshadowing of what is in store for Jerusalem again at the end of the age.  We need to note that this is a double fulfillment picture, starting in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem, and repeating at the end. Titus did demolish the city in A.D. 70, but he did not fulfill the word in its entirety as Christ gave in the Olivet Discourse.  The final culmination will happen when the Antichrist is established (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4; Revelation 13:1-18).  Scripture says that the Antichrist will rule from Jerusalem for 42 months (3 1/2 years), during the last half of the tribulation.

Temple and the End Matthew 24:15

Herod’s Temple The Bible mentions that some events will occur in a temple in Jerusalem at the end of the age (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15).  2 Thessalonians 2:4 speaks of the Antichrist. The Bible says that “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” Ezekiel described a temple that has not existed yet (Ezekiel chapters 40-48).Before the end times can occur, a temple needs to be present for these events to occur. That Temple was Herod’s Temple as the end times began with the birth of the church in Acts. It is possible that the destruction of Herod’s Temple fulfilled the prophetic requirements, as the last days are identified as starting in Acts 2:16-17, and the Temple was still standing when the end times began. As in Solomon’s Temple’s desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes, the Roman Legionnaires entered the Temples and polluted its hallowed ground before they wreaked havoc on the buildings and pilfering the material goods that were stored on the temple grounds.

Rebuilding a Temple The rebuilding of a new Temple is another idea altogether. The problem of the Islamic Dome of the Rock Mosque is of no small consequence, as it sits on the site where the Jewish temple used to be.  Most Muslims believe that this is the place where their prophet Mohammed ascended into heaven.   The theological history of the Dome makes it one of the most sacred Muslim shrines. For the Jews to take over this place and build a temple upon it would be unthinkable in today’s political climate. However, some believe that during the tribulation, the building of the Temple will be rebuilt and that it will be protected by the Antichrist (Daniel 9:24-27).  I don’t personally hold that the Temple has to be rebuilt.  Using the principle of Double Prophetic Fulfillment, the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 is sufficient for the prophetic inclusions surrounding the Temple.

However, it is still quite possible that an end-times Temple could be built and that it could serve in a functional, yet limited capacity.  In Revelation 11:1-6 we read of John’s heavenly gift, a measuring stick.  The passage reads: Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”  These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire

This passage makes allowance for a rebuilt Temple without necessarily damaging or destroying the Dome of the Rock.  If you notice the Angel tells John to leave the Outer Court of the Temple alone, as it has been given to the Gentiles to trample underfoot for 3.5 years.  The configuration, size, and dimension of the Outer Court is roughly the same size of the Dome of the Rock.  The problem with this aspect is the simple fact that the Dome was built on what would have been the Holy of Holies from Herod’s Temple, thus making it all but impossible to rebuild without causing a war of unimaginable consequences between the Arab Nations and Israel.  This problem of the Dome is what has caused the many Arab States to desire to liquidate Israel to protect the Dome.  This is no small problem.

Lambert Dolphin and Temple Foundation Discrepancies There is a possible solution to the dilemma, however, in an unconventional way.  An old friend of mine Lambert Dolphin, a research Physicist for SRI, invented a Sonic Wave Imaging Machine that X-Rays the ground.  He has completed numerous excavations and archeological work for the Israeli government over the years with astounding results, including the find of Herod’s Tower and burial site.

The Jewish government took Lambert beneath the Temple Mound many years ago.  As he traveled through the Labyrinth and maze-like passageways, he was eventually taken to the lowest levels where Herod’s Temple Foundation stood.  Lambert then began to map what was beneath the ground.  To his surprise, he discovered that Solomon’s Temple foundation was different than Herod’s.  Scholars have long assumed that Herod’s had been built directly upon Solomon’s, but this is not the case.  When they are placed over each other, the Outer Court of Solomon’s Temple is where the Dome is built, not on top of the Holy of Holies or the Holy Place for that matter.  This renders a distinct possibility of a partial rebuilding of the Temple without destroying the Dome.  The two structures would exist side by side.

Matthew and Mark’s Divergent Interests Luke turns his attention to the desolation of Jerusalem that precedes the series of signs that earmark both Matthew and Mark’s passages.  Matthew draws our attention to a desolation that follows that same series of signs. Luke’s rendering deals with the fall of Jerusalem that occurred 38 years later in AD 70. Matthew all but ignores it.  Luke’s message emphasis has a double edge prophetically, as it validates Jesus as a prophet, and identifies the persecution the Jewish people will once again undergo at the end of the age.

Luke notes, “this generation shall not pass away until all is fulfilled.”  Jerusalem fell 38 years after Jesus gave His cryptic prophecy. It is the same amount of time that it took for the generation that followed Moses into to the wilderness to expire during their wanderings. A few scholars and expositors have suggested that this event happened during the Roman siege of 70AD under Titus., but that is contrary to the substantial eyewitness recorded statements. There was a war, and no idol was built and left, “standing in the Holy Place.” Titus was frustrated by the fire that the Priests set in the Temple (Missler, Koinonia House).  Titus returned to the site and command his soldiers to dismantle the Temple “stone by stone.” They did this to recover the gold that had melted, etc. The Temple’s utter and complete destruction was a fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy.

Note the details of Romes attack in 66-70. Vespasian and his son, Titus, were sent by Nero to make war with the Jews. The death of Nero changed the nature of the war, as it delayed the siege of Jerusalem. When Vespasian acceded to the throne of the empire,  he left his son Titus to finish the siege. Luke’s account warned his readers:  But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her (Luke 21:20-21).

As noted, some assert that more than 1,100,000 Jews perished in the Jerusalem siege. Those who heeded Jesus’ warning escaped. There are some theologians who imply that few if any, Christians died in the siege. By contrast, Matthew’s account conspicuously terminates with the Second Coming of Christ and the cosmic upheavals incident to it, which are alluded to in both accounts. Matthew’s account, written for the Jew, seems destined to be a survival handbook for those enduring the forthcoming unprecedented time.

Luke’s Lack of Persecution Luke’s Gospel, written for the Gentiles, seems to ignore the Great Tribulation. In fact, it would seem that his readers shouldn’t be concerned. Some have interpreted these differences to mean that the church wouldn’t be around for the Tribulation. I think it because this period of persecution deals with separate parts of the world at the same time. One in trouble, the other oblivious: And when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near (Luke 21:28). The Greek word Luke uses for redemption isapolutrosis. The word apolutrosis appears nine times in the New Testament. Apolutrosis always refers to the redemption of the physical body. The Gentile world will be like Noah’s world. People will live life. People will marry. Life will go on as normal until great destruction disrupts life suddenly, which is the opposite picture that Matthew depicts with his protracted version of persecution. Life may or not be good for you depending on where you live, what you do for a living, what your family life is like.

More Than One View Multiple complex issues emerge from the Gospel accounts of the Olivet Discourse, as it is not clear that they occurred at the same time or place. In fact, it quite possible that Jesus addressed the subject of the Parousia on more than one occasion. Matthew and Mark point out that a private briefing happened on the Mount of Olives. The “insider” group of disciples were Jesus target audience.  Luke’s approach is different. Luke says: Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” 37 And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet. 38 Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him (Luke 21:36-38). The complex issues of interpreting the Olivet Discourse necessitates the in-depth study of the passages to reach plausible conclusions.

Great Tribulation Matthew 24:16-20

When the time of the abomination that causes desolation is happening, it will cause believers who are in the area around Jerusalem to flee to the mountains, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath (Matthew 24:16-20).

Following His warning to flee Judea, Jesus describes a time of persecution and death that will spread to the whole world. The Great Tribulation will be so dreadful that Jesus says there has never been anything like it in the past and never will be anything like it the future. He says if those days were to continue on unchecked no one would survive.

However, because of the elect, the Great Tribulation will be brought to a close before its natural conclusion. The return of the Son of Man is what cuts that time short. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened (Matthew 24:21-22).

The term Great Tribulation is based on two Greek words:

  • Megus means big
  • Thlipsis means pressure, afflicted, anguish, burdened, persecution, tribulation, trouble.

Jesus uses almost the equal verbiage to describe this period as Daniel did. Jesus ensures that we do not miss what He is saying so that we make the connection as we compare the passages: For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be (Matthew 24:21). At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book (Daniel 12:1).

Histories Perspective of Persecution As wretched as the destruction of Jerusalem was, it should never be equated as the worst attrocities the world ahs ever seen. It isn’t even the worst persecution and defeats that the Jewish people encountered throughout their tragic history. Darius’ deportation and assimilation of the Ten Lost Tribes was a horrendous blow to the Judaic people. The Holocast perpetrated by Nazi Germany was nightmare for the People of the Land.

Another important distinction that points out the similarities of these passages is that both passages describe believers as being delivered after the Great Tribulation, not before. Daniel says, “everyone whose name is found written in the book–will be delivered.” Jesus says, “immediately after the distress of those days…of the Son of Man will appear… his angels… will gather his elect” (Matthew 24:29-31).

Matthew 24:22 and Mark 13:20 probably also have a double prophetic fulfillment in their application. These two passages deal with the siege and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  Again, this is when the final outpouring of destruction on Jerusalem by the antichrist happens during the Tribulation. Matthew 24:22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. Mark 13:20 And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, which he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days.

Mythos and Cultic Belief Blends The claim that the Christians in Jerusalem would have suddenly woke up and remembered the words of Jesus and escaped the coming destruction does not square itself with history. The churchmen had left Jerusalem years earlier in the persecutions that the Sanhedrin and the Temple authorities had perpetrated on the church according to the Bible in Acts 8:1-4. The Apostles stayed but eventually left also. By the time of the Jerusalem seize, the Christian presence in Jerusalem would have been rather small.

Mormonized Eschatology One of the most dangerous ideas that emerge from the partial Preterist and Preterist argument is the blending of standard Mormon theology with Christian theology. The notion that there was a great Christian exodus out of Jerusalem isn’t a new position. It is a major segment of Mormon theology. You can see this at the Latter Day Saints website under an article entitled The Amazing Christian Escape From The AD 70 Destruction of Jerusalem.

This chapter sounds a lot like the LDS article I have referred to on the LDS website. The LDS conclusion is the same as Eberle and Trench’s, “after those Christians in Jerusalem were allowed to escape, the Roman soldiers sealed off the city (p. 37),” and “yet, while the Jews suffered starvation, slaughter, and capture, their fellow Christians in Jerusalem escaped (LDS).” The LDS continues, “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan called Pella.”[1]

The incorporation of Mormon partial-Preterism is documented on the Mormon website, Let God Be True: in a post entitled: The Witness of 70 AD. The parallels to Mormon thought, and ideology is profound, as the Mormons make the same appeal that Eberle and Trench do in making sure that they stand separate from a futurist interpretation of virtually the same passages of Scripture. [2]

Mormon Roots of The Great Escape of 70 AD J Julius Scott makes the same assertion in an article at preteristarchive.com.[3] Scott claims that the Christians at Jerusalem in 66AD survived the Jerusalem seize by Rome, making the same arguement as Eberle, Trench, and the LDS. I find this problematic, as the LDS doctrine has been a part of their eschatology from the early days of their origin, as LDS current theologians consider them to be the righteous remnant who created the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls have become a major point for Mormon apologists, as it was a LDS contention that the Scrolls would produce a copy of Joseph Smith’s Plates.

The modern Preterist view dates from the same period. Eberle’s claim that the Partial Preterist view has been around from the early church age is disingenuous. The Early church was Post-Tribulational, not Preterist. Around 350-400AD the eschatological view of the early church began to shift toward an Amillenarian position, that was successfully championed by Augustine. The Augustinian view became the dominant position of the majority of the western church. It is the view of Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, most Lutherans, the Anglicans and Episcopalians and others.

Eberle’s assertion that the disciple’s reluctance to accept Jesus contention that He would die would have meant that their questioning could not have been about the second coming is also a stretch (p. 49). A lot of ground was covered between Jesus revelation that He would die and Peter’s bold assertion that it would not happen. These were men who were receiving a three-year education in Kingdom Theology. Of course, they could have had the second coming in mind, particularly with the given subject matter Jesus was addressing.

Tactius Numbers of Deportees Please keep Trench and Eberle’s claims that the Jerusalem destruction of 70AD was not as horrific as what the Jewish people encountered at the hands of Nazi Germany. Jewish Holocaust survivors and their descendants would find this conclusion offensive and an affront to their people (p. 41). It is true that a disproportionate number of the Jewish population died in the Jerusalem siege, but it was a relatively small percentage. Only one in ten Jews lived in Israel at the time of the Temples destruction. Tacitus disputed Josephus numbers, claiming that a total of 600,000 Jews lived in Jerusalem at the time of the fall of the city. He claimed that the majority of those people were captured and became slaves of the Empire.

On Heretics It is also important to examine the credibility of the sources Glorious Eschatology uses in building their case. One dangerous ancient source they utilize in making their case is Origen of Alexandria (p. 19). Origen is an early Church Father who is most scholars typically refrain from using with any depth or precision, as he was advocated doctrines that would have branded him as a heretic in most time periods of church history. Christianity Today’s article on Origen stipulates that he was more of a Gnostic than a Christian. They say that “the root of these controversies is Origen’s use of the Bible. Neo-Platonism taught that physical objects acted as symbols of spiritual reality, and so contained a double meaning. Likewise, Origen and many other Christians (like Augustine) believed the Scriptures had a double meaning; the spiritual significance, while escaping the notice of most people, could be contemplated by the perfected Christian. But Origen’s interpretations pushed the boundaries of orthodoxy.[4] Origen believed in the preexistence of souls and eventually everyone, including the Devil, would be saved. Origen also described the Trinity as a hierarchy, not as an equality of Father, Son, and Spirit.

Summary of Josephus Chronology of the Jewish Wars

Eberle and Trench’s depiction of Josephus as a “Jewish historian (not Christian) who was employed by the Roman government during that time to watch and record what took place,” is not a correct assessment of Josephus work, The Wars of the Jews (p. 15.” Flavius Josephus writings on the topic of Jewish history and the chronology of the Jewish War fought between 66-70 A.D., illustrate the dilemma of studying history: historians tend to interfere with an accurate analysis of histories occasions.

With his allusions and ambitions being interwoven into the account of the great Jewish revolt in 66A.D, Josephus causes the modern student of history to raise legitimate questions as to the validity of the methods he would employ. Also, is it appropriate to superimpose modern criteria upon ancient texts and practices when examining the past? As with any ancient document, there appears to be a need to understand the cultural milieu and practices from a linguistic standard as well as an evaluation of the current use and accepted formats, with the attempt to correctly harmonize the two.

According to Josephus in the Wars Chronology, which was written during his enslavement period after the war had ended. Josephus was an active, albeit reluctant participant in the war effort, fighting on the side of the Jewish people.  His account identifies him as a Judean commander in Galilee.  It was his assertion he led an army in this revolt even though he objected to it.  This personal inclusion of culpability or innocence leads into the problem of Josephus historical accounts: they are neither objective nor are they dispassionate.

His account of the war blends areas of historical occurrences with personal interactions that at times border on apology and seem to be an attempt to curry personal favor and appeal.  This interaction highlights the need for good hermeneutical practices and procedures as modern values are used to interpret ancient texts.  The trend in modern historical analysis causes the historian to separate away from the occurrences of history, not incorporate personal data or experience the account.  This practice of blending the personal experience into the narrative has made Josephus and Eusebius difficult to utilize at times.  With that said, the account of Josephus allows the separation and harmonization of material to be procured.  When this is accomplished, a fairly enlightening account of the revolt and subsequent war that ended first with the razing of Jerusalem, then the destruction at Masada comes into the light for examination.

Josephus’ account brings with it an understanding of the zealot’s influence combined with a priestly revolt led to a long and protracted war with Rome.  During the initial conflict with Cestius in command of the Roman Legionnaires, the Jewish army was enabled to serve with a measure of victory on October 66.  It was during this period that Josephus, 29 years of age, with no military background, became commander of the Jewish forces in Galilee.[5] It was a time of religious fervor and heightened excitement that would soon end in disaster.  In January 67, the Emperor Nero commissioned a proven warrior of the legion to lead Rome against the insurgents in Judea.  Flavius Vespasian would assault Israel for the next three years.  As with most protracted periods of time, things changed.  Nero lost the Empire, Vespasian succeeded him and others led the campaign.

As it was previously noted, the capital city, Jerusalem, ultimately succumbed to Rome’s might eventually.  Josephus himself was not a witness to the sacking of Jerusalem, as he had long been a prisoner of Rome, having been captured in battle years earlier following interpersonal rivalries and conflicts amongst his countrymen.  Was this animosity against other Jewish leaders that led to his ultimate capitulation and incorporation into Roman society?  After all, Josephus would eventually take a Roman name and become an adopted citizen and member of a Roman family.

Josephus’ personal accounted of various issues of antiquity are fascinating.  His inclusions of an intimate nature are refreshing even in the midst of confusing the modern historian.  Probably his greatest contribution to modern analysis and historical conversation is found in its gentle and subtle reminder:  history is the story of the people, not simply the facts of events. It has inherent within its sacred annals the ability to bring impact to the people on a precise and personal level, thus allowing change to be affected when the reader takes the message to heart. If this message could be accepted, its possible history’s greatest lesson could finally be overcome.  That is:  history shows that its lessons are never learned and its tragedies repeat themselves over and over again.

Eberle, Trench, and Eusebius Let’s take a further examination of another Eberle and Trench source, Eusebius (p. 20). Eusebius grants us insight into the dubious nature of ancient historian’s accuracy, as they were often in the employment of benefactors who influence the outcome of what was being written. Bias and exaggeration are rampant in many of the ancient historical renditions. With that being said, let’s examine aspects of Eusebius.

Eusebius is a perfect example of the overwhelming difficulties that are presented in any analysis of ancient history. The discipline of the historian creates within itself a presentation of problems to the modern practitioner. Eusebius’ contributions to the field of history create what appear to be as many problems as they seem to resolve.

One such question that arises is confined to the realm of acceptable interpretational methods. Are the practices used by Eusebius valid? Is it appropriate to interject personal experiences and theological biases into the account, or is objective analysis the only valid methodology to be employed by the historian? Is it valid to allow extra-Biblical practices to exist within the church, or should the churches practices and structure be confined solely to the content of the Biblical Canon? Such is the dilemma presented to the student of ancient history and those who wrote it. Does the student accept the questionable formats considered as appropriate even though a modern analysis may deem them unacceptable or questionable at best? As such questions present themselves to the modern inquirer, our focus of will confined to the area of extra-Biblical practices employed by the early church that in turn are not found in the Canonical record.

When these practices are examined, a conflict arises as to the validity of certain aspects of the early churches perception of its place in society and how it was to formally interact within the confines of the pagan system of the Roman governmental structure. Its usage of pagan philosophical systems and thought processes are also brought into question as they appear to be at the center of most of the points of conflict in the early churches difficulties in practical matters and incorporation of doctrinal challenges.

This conflict can readily be seen in Eusebius’ first Book of his accounting of the early church’s history, as he seems to grant credence to the fabled correspondence between Jesus and King Agbar of Persia. Another peculiarity is found in Eusebius’ insistence in labeling Simon the Sorcerer of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles as the fountainhead of all heresy. There seems to be an insistence or need to create a fallen antitype to offer an adequate contrast to Jesus as the supreme manifestation of Logos truth incarnate and the biblical doctrines that were being formulated at the time through the Church Councils. Eusebius’ recording of the early churches sense of sacrifice and embracing of martyrdom as a desirable sacrament or grace seems odd and out of place to the modern observer, casting primitive Christianity in the light of a radicalism more akin to Islamic expressions and out of place to the current state of affairs in the church.

The strangest and more bizarre expressions of the early church seem to be found in its more ascetic practices, however. The churches adherence to the code of conduct associated with the monastic lifestyle and its severe rules of life that gave rise to the ascetic way of life and monasticism were unusually harsh and cruel, even becoming somewhat sadistic at times. Within these rules of the order came a treasure trove of legalisms and a rigid form of existence that forced the neophyte or acolyte into a life of submission and wanton depravation and denial. These rules were designed to exemplify and exalt the life of simplicity, glorifying ideals that emphasized the renunciation of property, renunciation of all worldly interests and directing the initiate into the philosophic ways of life that were patterned after the stoic expression and perspective of discipline.

Additionally, there is an allusion to the practice of separation in the confines of the personal dwelling places or abodes. This private space was exclusively devoted to the creation of a personal sanctuary or monastery with the express intent of being utilized as a place of solitude and quiet contemplation as Scripture, or other Holy Writings were examined in seclusion. Those who withdrew into the sanctuary space did without food or drink during the time of celebration, instead of using it to focus on the subject matter at hand. Eusebius also calls attention to the early churches practice of incorporating the Greek method of interpreting religious life and writings: the Allegorical method of understanding. Following Philo and other Greek historians and commentator’s practice of interpreting their heroes and gods of mythology allegorically, Eusebius along with the bulk of the early Church Fathers committed the egregious mistake of employing the allegorical method and applying it to the field of Biblical interpretation. As this practice and method was utilized, the historical, cultural, grammatical method of literalism was discarded, causing centuries of almost irreparable damage.

This incorporation of philosophical methodologies led these practitioners of the contemplative life into areas of excess and acceptance of stylistic practices that were previously confined to the pagan expressions of faith and religion, such as celibacy as a normative practice for the priesthood and nunneries. This was done in defiance of the Scriptural revelation about the priesthood and marriage as it related to those who led the church. Allegorical exegesis was used to justify this practice. Other areas of deprivation included whole nights of prayer on a regular basis, sleeping on the ground and utilizing straw as the only means of protection to subject the body to extreme discomfort with the express intent of suppression, and the practice of eating a diet that consisted only of bread and water seasoned with salt and hyssop.

Another Reformation In all these areas of excess and forced mandatory deprivation, the church seemed determined to outdo the Romans at their own game of philosophical conditioning. Eusebius draws the student of history into the daunting task posed by those who attempted to synthesize Greek cultural practices into the church. Regardless of the supposed good intent and the desire to make Christianity culturally compliant and acceptable, the inculcated practices denigrated the expression of faith as presented in Scripture. Analyzing Eusebius’ observations force’s the question to be raised and applied to the modern church: is harm done to the Church when cultural relevance takes the place of precedence and becomes the greater concern over the mandates contained in Scripture? Answering this issue should be the focus of the modern expression of the church, lest it makes the same mistake of the past and mistakenly alters the configuration of the Body of Christ, thus necessitating yet another reformation.

Quotes and the Rest of the Story Glorious Eschatology attempts to assert that some Jesus followers left the faith with some of them drawing large followings to themselves (p. 20). The Eusebius quote that “after the Lord was taken up into heaven the demons put forth some men who claimed to be gods (History of the Church, 1965, quoted in Glorious Eschatology).”[6] I do not believe that this is what Eusebius was referring to in the quote. Eusebius was speaking about Simon the Sorcerer, although he also spoke about non-Christian insurrectionists who made similar claims like Theudas of Acts 5 and the unnamed Egyptian false Prophet in Acts 21 who temporarily gathered people to themselves.[7]

Eberle and Trench’s use of Tacitus to confirm the rampant destruction of 64AD as a support for their theory that the great persecution that Nero instituted is a twist of historical facts (p. 26), as Tacitus was only nine years old when Nero began his purge of Rome. Although the Claudius led expulsion included some Christians inevitably, the majority of those whose properties and fortunes, the bulk of those who were exiled were Jews. Nero did blame the Christian population for the destructive fires of 64AD primarily. As the Romans viewed the Christians as a subculture of Jewish origin, they were both viewed with equal disdain.

Seize vs Famine; City vs Region  The assumption of cultural subordination may seem incidental, but it should be pointed out that the historical incident that Glorious Eschatology refers to as a fulfillment of the predicted famine by Jesus in Matthew 24:7 wasn’t a famine at all. The gruesome accounts that are presented came from the devastating Roman seize of 66-70AD, and not the Book of Acts famine or any other famine. Bending facts can be dangerous.

Gnosticism and Cults Another issue that I have had over the years is the way teachers and some theologians lump all divergent views under one common banner. The practice of putting all the various heresies under a singular heading is known as Gnosticism. Eberle and Trench fall victim to this common historical mistake (p. 27). The term Gnostic is a generic term that covers multiple schools of thought that have been labeled as fatally erroneous to the faith. Modern scholarship has a similar designation in the way the word cult is used as blanket terminology for teachings that stand outside of accepted Christian thought, yet attempts to exist within the framework of the Christian faith.

Chapter 16 From Escapist Eschatology to Victorious Eschatology, Paradigm Shift #5 (Disputed)[8]

Dispensational Displacement Peter Wagner’s discussion of his personal shift away from a standard Dispensational Theology, which included the theological Novelty of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture is interesting. I almost do not want to comment on his shift, although I do wish he had accepted the biblical position of Post Tribulation/Pre-Wrath as a turning point rather than Victorious Eschatology.

Paradigm Shift Wagner’s deliberations remind me of a class my pastor was teaching in 1977 when I was first saved about the Pretribulation point of view, which he advocated. I was buying his message hook, line and sinker until I attended a Keith Greed concert in early 1978. Keith presented the Post Tribulation view. Upon additional research and study, I went through a major paradigm shift and joined myself to the position Keith Green advocated. I have been camping here since that evening.

Selective Bias in Interpretation I say this as Preterism/Partial Preterism began as a reaction against the Pre-Millenarian/Pre-Tribulation position by an amillenarian author in 19th Century America as The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ: A Past Event, 1845 by Robert Townley for modern purposes.[9] The need to divide the Olivet Discourse into differing time periods makes no sense and could be considered a theological canard, or what I like to call a dispensational displacement. Wagner’s statement on page 198 that “Partial-Preterists agree that much end-time prophecy has indeed, been fulfilled, but that some things… are still in the future,” makes interpreting Apocalyptic and Prophetic passages of the Bible more like a selective process of what makes you feel good rather than correct exegesis. Victorious Eschatology does have a place in the unfolding saga of God’s intervention in human history, as I will point out later, but it needs to be said that it local, not worldwide in impact at the end of this present evil age.

Biblical Dispensationalism: 2 Ages Ithas become necessary to understand that there is another kingdom that is in effect.  It has to do with Jesus description of the dispensation that humans are currently confined.  Jesus called the age in which we live in this present evil age.  This age or epic, extends from the fall of humanity to the consummation of all hope, which we understand to be the blessing hope the return of Christ, or as we also know it, the Second Coming.  According to Jesus, there are only two dispensations that the church is subjected concerning rules of engagement and supernatural activities, this present evil age, and the age to come.

Divergent World’s At the End Matthew 24:15/Luke 21:12 Luke’s focus on the siege of Jerusalem is substantially divergent from the Matthean account. Most expositors on the end time events presume that the Evangelist’s are dealing with the same event. In my opinion, that is the source of the misunderstandings surrounding Jesus’ discourses. Everyone seems to overlook what Luke says after mentioning the famed series of signs: However, before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.(Luke 21:12)

2 Contrary Views Luke continues to focus on the desolation of Jerusalem that precedes the series of events that earmark both passages. Matthew focuses on a desolation that follows the series of signs. Luke’s rendering deals with the fall of Jerusalem that occurred 38 years later in AD 70. Matthew all but ignores it.  Luke’s message emphasis has a double edge prophetically, as it validates Jesus as a prophet, and identifies the persecution the Jewish people will once again undergo at the end of the age.

Temple Treasures Transported Luke notes, this generation shall not pass away until all is fulfilled. Interesting Jerusalem fell 38 years later. The amount of time that is recorded is an equivalent amount of time for the generation that served alongside Moses to expire during the wanderings in the wilderness. Some scholars have suggested that this event happened during the siege of 70 AD. To suggest that proposition is contrary to the substantial eyewitness accounts that have been recorded. In fact, Titus was frustrated by the fire that broke out in the Temple that the Priests started to frustrate the Roman pilfering of the Temple’s coffers. Titus later had to command his soldiers to dismantle the Temple stone by stone to recover the gold and other precious metals that had melted in the inferno. This was a fulfillment of Jesus prophecy concerning the Temple’s destruction.

In the attacks of the Romans in 66-70, Vespasian and his son, Titus, were sent by Nero to war with the Jews and quelled the rebellion. Nero’s death delayed the siege., Vespasian acceded to the throne of the Roman Empire. Vespasian then left his son Titus to finish the siege. Luke’s account warned his listeners:  But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her (Luke 21:20-21).

The Jewish Position By some estimates, over 1,100,000 perished in the siege. Those who heeded Jesus’ warning escaped. The bulk of scholasticism infers that few if any, Christians perished in the siege due to the dangerous position that believers held in Jerusalem. In contrast, Matthew’s account conspicuously terminates with the Second Coming of Christ and the cosmic upheavals incident to it, which are alluded to in both accounts. Matthew’s account, written for Jews seems destined to be a survival handbook for those enduring forthcoming unprecedented times of persecution. As with most prophecies, there is a double fulfillment. One within the designated period and then the later application for the future.

The Gentile Position and the Pre-Tribulation Rapture Luke’s Gospel which was written for a gentile audience. Luke seems to ignore the Great Tribulation altogether. It seems that his readers didn’t need to be concerned about the time of trouble. Some have interpreted these differences to mean that the church wouldn’t be around for the Tribulation. I think it’s because this period of persecution deals with separate parts of the world at the same time. One in significant trouble, the other oblivious due to their position in the world order: And when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near (Luke 21:28).

Fulfilled and Unfulfilled Acceptance of fulfilled prophecy as being fulfilled is a good reason for assuming that unfulfilled prophecy will also be fulfilled literally. The prophecies concerning Christ’s first coming were all fulfilled literally. Conversely, prophecies about Jesus’ second coming should also be expected to be fulfilled literally. These reasons are why an allegorical interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy should be rejected. It is also why a literal or normal interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy should be adopted. Amillennialism, Preterism, and partial Preterism all fail in that they use inconsistent hermeneutics, by interpreting unfulfilled prophecy differently from fulfilled prophecy.

Kingdom Now or Victorious Theology is a fairly recent re-articulation of the Partial Preterist theological belief that has surfaced in the Charismatic movement of Protestant Christianity, that is spreading from the United States. Kingdom Now proponents advocate a position that says God lost control over the world to Satan when Adam and Eve sinned. According to Victorious Eschatology proponents, God has been trying to reestablish control over the world by seeking a special group of believers known variously as Covenant People, Overcomers, or Joel’s Army.

To work properly, Kingdom Now advocates a theist based government and oppose the separation of church and state. Other beliefs that have attached to this system of eschatology have included the notion that believers who are the Body of Christ, are the full manifestation of Christ on earth. This is based on the biblical idea that we have Jesus divine nature. This is true. We do have Jesus divine nature. The problem is that we do not fully express this in this present evil age. This doctrinal truth exists in the already/not yet continuum. The Greek word for seed is spermadzo, which is where we get the word sperm. It is used in 1 Peter, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23).

Rapture, Many proponents of Glorious Eschatology, also deny the Parousia or the rapture. The parousia is explained as being a feeling of rapture or excitement when the Lord returns to receive the kingdom from our hands, although this is not Eberle’s or Trench’s position.[10] Also among the unbiblical beliefs is the idea that all prophecies regarding future Israel, both in the Old and New Testaments, actually apply to the church.

The Preterist denial of the rapture of the church is unbiblical. It is appropriate to dispute when the Parousia may happen, but it is not appropriate to deny that it will never happen. Explaining that the rapture is just Christian’s being caught up in rapturous feelings ignores that the phrase caught up, is strictly an idiomatic expression peculiar to English, not Greek. The word harpazo is used in Acts 8:39, where Phillip is bodily caught away or translated by the Spirit to another location.

2 Staged Return Glorious Eschatology teaches that the second coming of Jesus happening in two stages. The first stage is through the flesh of the believers, particularly in the flesh of today’s apostles and prophets, and in the body of believers in general. The second stage is seen when the church expresses its authority to take over the kingdom handed to Jesus by those who have been victorious, the overcomers. Before the second coming, the church must purge the earth of all evil activities through the enforcement of the Kingdom as a mandated governmental entity. This theological position claims that Jesus will not return until all His enemies have been put under the feet of the church. This is just a variation of the traditional amillenarian eschatological view.

Pesharim and Replacement The church replacing Israel and the church being the fulfillment of the prophecies that were given to Israel is known as Replacement theology. Replacement Theology is unbiblical. The prophetic words that God gave to Israel through the prophets will be fulfilled by Israel. God’s prophetic words to Israel are perpetual, and God will not recall His word. Partial Preterism has simply re-invented the matrix of Dispensational thinking from a different vantage point. The Partial Preterist mistakenly attributes the biblical literary form that is known as Apocalyptic Literature as Prophetic Scripture. By claiming that the prophetic portions of Scripture that they deem filled in the Apocalyptic Book of John’s Revelation, the Olivet Discourse and Pauline examples in 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, the advocates of this Novel approach to biblical interpretation ignore the power of the Pesharim methodology of Jewish interpretation of the Apocalyptic passages.

Millennial Madness As interesting as the varied views of the Millennium can be, arguing for a definitive point of view is tenuous at best, as there is simply not enough biblical data to present a solid position forward. It takes a minimum of three clear biblical references to anything to consider the creation of a doctrinal position. There are four usages of the word xilia in Scripture, which translates as the number 1,000. However, all of these references are contained in one passage that is found in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Chapter 20:1-10. This scant evidence makes the creation of doctrinal positions very difficult, yet churchmen seemingly have enjoyed the havoc their theories have created.

Last Things The second coming of Christ will not be determined by the actions of the church, particularly when Jesus defeats His enemies and puts all things under His feet. Mankind will play a determinative role in the return of the King of glory. The role that humanity plays in the return of Christ is seen in a negative light. It can be seen in mankind’s bringing the earth to the point of destruction, not subjection, according to Matthew 24:22, And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. Glorious Eschatology as a standalone theology has some inherent problems that need to be worked through in order to be considered a viable alternative to the more established eschatology’s that exist.  Without serious recalibration, Victorious Eschatology may wind up becoming another example of a theological novelty in a long line of misinformed, unbiblical, and erroneous philosophies of men. In my opinion, it is to be avoided as a stand-alone eschatology.

THE RAPTURE – BEFORE OR AFTER THE GREAT TRIBULATION?

After examining 1 Thessalonians 4 and the other thief passages, it is hard to find scriptural support for the teaching that the rapture will be secret, invisible, or a quiet event. The evidence in Scripture points to a contrary conclusion. Where do the Scriptures place the rapture? Is the parousia before the Tribulation of Daniel’s Seventieth Week, which is seven years, or will it be at the end of Daniel’s Seventieth week?

THE WORLD and the TRIBULATION: GOD’S MEANS FOR DELIVERANCE

Before the death of Jesus, He spoke these words to His disciples: In the world you will have tribulation… (John 16:33). Following Jesus High Priestly prayer for His disciples, Jesus prayed to the Heavenly Father. He said: I do not pray that You would take them out of the world, but that You would keep them from evil (John 17:15).

Even though it would be no easy task to stand for Jesus, as they would be persecuted, and in the world they would have tribulation, Jesus never prayed for the church to be removed from the world. In Jesus view of the church, the church was to always remain in the world, but it would not be of the world.

Some interpreters have objected, however, contending that Jesus was praying only for His immediate disciples of that time, but this cannot be the case. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word (verse 20). Jesus prayer includes us today. We have all believed what we believe about Jesus as a result of the message that was handed down to us from the original disciples. Jesus was praying for us also. Jesus said that this was the case. Jesus prayer was that we would be kept from the evil of the world, but Jesus never prayed that the church would be removed from the world. This includes the fact that Jesus affirmed that in the world we would have tribulation.

Suppose that Jesus had told His disciples: “In the world, there will be tribulation… But I am praying that you will escape the world’s tribulation.” If Jesus had prayed this prayer, those who teach the Pre-Tribulation Rapture would be justified in their position – and this prayer would be used as the proof text. But since this is NOT what Jesus prayed – and that what Jesus prayed was the opposite, this would be regarded as evidence against the idea of the special, secret pre-Tribulation Rapture. Under those conditions, the Rapture would be designed by God to take the Church out of the world to escape the tribulation where the Antichrist is unleashed on humanity.

THE CHURCH: CALLED TO REMAIN UNTIL THE “END”

Jesus taught that the church would remain in the world to accomplish a definite purpose.The church is supposed to preach the Gospel until Jesus returns, not find an escape clause. Jesus has commissioned His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel…  and teach all nations (ethnos).” Along with the Great Commission, Jesus promised: Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (aion/age) (Matthew 28:19-20).

The Church be in the world fulfilling the divine commission and will remain in the world until the end of this present evil age. Jesus’ promise to be with the Church until the end of the age would be strange if he plans to remove the Church seven years before that time. If, when the end of the age comes, the Church will no longer be on the earth, this promise would be rendered meaningless.

THE WHEAT AND THE TARES PARABLE

In the Book of Matthew in the Parable of the wheat and the tares, Jesus makes it clear that the righteous WILL not be separated from the wicked until the end of the present evil age.

Jesus presented a parable to His disciples about “a man which sowed good seed in his field.” While the men slept, “his enemy came and sowed tares (weeds) among the wheat.” When the crop had grown a little, the servants discovered what had happened. Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn (Matthew 13:24-30).

Scripture answers the question, when does the end happen in Matthew’s Gospel. This is where we read, He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels (Matthew 13:37-39). As in many of the parables that are recorded in the Gospels, Matthew doesn’t leave room for speculation about the proper interpretation of this parable, as Jesus gives us the interpretation. The good seed, the wheat, is sown by Jesus Christ Himself. The tares are sewn by the children of the wicked one under the wicked one’s direction. Both the seed and the weed are sown in the same field, which is identified as the world. The weeds and the wheat will grow together until harvest time. The harvest happens at the end of the world.

Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Verses 40-43)!  The time of separation between those who perform acts of unrighteousness and the righteous is at the end of this present evil age.

Jesus said that both the seed and the weed would grow together until the end of the age. Then the harvest happens, which produces the great separation as an action item. This is the biblical teaching. For the pre-Tribulation rapture position to be consistent, it would have to say that both the seed and the weed will not grow together in the field until the end of the world. This is because they teach that the wheat will be harvested before the time of separation seven years before the end of the present evil age.

Instead of teaching that the separation of the wheat and the tares happen simultaneously at the end of the age, those that hold the Secret Rapture position say that the wheat will be gathered first. Then after a seven-year gap, the tares will be gathered. This is Scofield’s point in the footnote that is found in the footnote of Matthew 13:40: “At the end of this age, the tares are set apart for burning, but first the wheat is gathered into the barn.”[11] If anything is implied in this passage as coming first, it would be the judgment of the wicked. In the parable, Jesus said: “first gather together first the tares (for destruction) then gather the wheat into the barn” (Matthew 13:30).

Scripture says: First the weeds. Scofield says the opposite. According to Scofield, Jesus said: First gather the wheat. This is a direct contradiction to what the Bible says. It should be enough to create suspicion in any Christian’s thinking. When you have to resort to the twisting of terms to uphold the doctrine,  it should make us see how questionable the teaching of a rapture seven years before the end of the age is.

According to Jesus, both the righteous and the wicked remain together in the world until harvest time happens, which happens at the end of the world. If the great separation is not until the end of the world, the idea of the Church is removed from the earth seven years before that time is an impossibility.

THE GOOD FISH-AND THE BAD FISH PARABLE

Later in Matthew 13, he records another parable of Jesus and its interpretation. This parable stresses the end of the world as the time of the great separation. In the parable of the good fish and the bad fish, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a net. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:47-50).

Both the parables of the wheat and the weeds and the parable of the good and bad fish pinpoint the time of separation as the end of this present evil age. It should be clear that the timing of the parousia is based on the explanation Jesus gave in these parables. This is an important hermeneutical principle. Doctrine must always be based upon the plain and the clear statements contained in Scripture. We do not create a doctrine that is based on symbolic or parabolic expressions typically, as Symbolism and metaphorical expressions can be capable of several meanings. According to Jesus, at the end of the world, those who belong to Jesus will be spared, while destruction will be the reward for the wicked.

THE DAYS OF LOT

Jesus also compared the time of the end to the days of this present evil age to the days of Lot. In Lot’s day people ate, and drank, they bought things, and they sold things. People planted,  and people built. In other words, people continued to perform, common, routine things that people have been doing as long as people have existed. The people of Lot’s day were not expecting any catastrophe according to Scripture. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:28-30).

When Christ returns, even as Lot was spared and all the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, Christians will be spared the judgment of the LORD in the parousia. That same day will see fiery destruction happen to unbelievers. Luke 17 does not say that Lot went out of Sodom and then seven years later, fiery destruction fell the residents of Sodom. Scripture says that these things happen on the same day.

Remains of The Day

 Remaining Until the Day

Scripture gives us a hint as to the message of the Apostle Peter concerning the Lord’s return.  Apparently, Peter used the parousia as a topic of interest in his preaching.  We can deduce this from the scoffers who berated him with their challenge, where is the promise of His coming?  It is logical to assume that Peter would use the return of Jesus as a point of hope in his messages, as he had been a recipient of the Lord’s promise that, I will come again and receive you to myself (John 14:3).  Scripture gives us evidence of dissension among the ranks of believers concerning the imminent return of Jesus.  We understand this growing sense of skepticism in the church and the community at large through Peter’s acknowledgment of the scoffing challenges to the apostolic kerygma (message) that identified their belief that Jesus would return for the church. 

2 Peter 3:3-4 says, First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” Peter’s statement tells us that the end times will be marked by scoffing attitudes, indulgence in lustful behavior, and disbelief in the return of Christ, as people question the promise of Jesus return by asking, Where is the promise of his coming?  Peter responds to his rhetorical question with a firm comment of belief in the return of Christ, as he encourages the church with these words, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare (2 Peter 3:8-10).

 Peter gives this assurance through a connection to a historical event that many ancient documents and cultures speak of, the destruction of the world by flood.  Peter makes this connection between the ancient world’s demise through the noetic flood, and its future destruction, when he comments on the scoffers lack understanding and ignorance.  We see Peter’s assertion of the impending doom of the planet a second time as he states that, But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:5-7). 

Peter’s dissertation concerning the end of the world as we know it includes some disturbing and telling items that are worthy to discuss.  When Peter possesses the contrasting views of the end, he assures his readers that even though we may see delays in the judgments of the Lord due to His patience and His lack of time restrictions, the Lord will fulfill what He has promised.  What he does assert that is different is the method of destruction. In Genesis 9:12-14 God promised never to destroy the world by flood.  The Lord made a covenant with the people of the planet, and He gave the sign of the rainbow as an ongoing reminder of His promise to never destroy the world using the element of water.  And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth

The Petrine doctrine of destruction changes the element to fire, as he tells us that the creational constraints of the heavens (atmosphere) and the earth are being held in reserve for the day when they will be set on fire.   Peter believed the coming of the Lord would be at the end of the age, when Peter says that the heavens and earth shall pass away, at the end of the present evil age,  Since everything will be in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat (2 Peter 3:11-12)? When that day finally arrives, it will see the unleashing of forces of destruction that will be crippling to the residents of the nations who are alive at that time.  The scoffing and unbelieving communities will meet a swift and certain end. However, the believing community will find their ultimate deliverance in Christ. 

Peter echoes the words of Jesus and Paul when he refers to this, ‘day of the Lord, as he tells his readers that it will arrive like ‘a thief in the night.’  His imagery is striking from the standpoint of the current timeline that we live in and our ability to rain down the fires of destruction on the planet through the stockpiles of Nuclear armaments that currently exist.   It is interesting to contrast the way God destroyed the earth once, and how He obviously grieved over the loss of life, and to then observe the ability of humanity to be the initiating point of origin for the world to be destroyed by fire in the end.  Our technological advancements are problematic and troubling, particularly in light of the generational connection to the budding of the olive tree prophecy of the Olivet Discourse (see chapter___ for a discussion on this). 

Jesus statement as to the general time frame of His return segues easily with Paul’s warning about the antichrist and his ability to manipulate people’s belief systems through the use of the (lying) miracles, signs and wonders stipulation of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:9.  Paul’s statement says that the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. Paul indicates that this is the time when the heavens shall pass away, and the earth shall melt with extreme heat.  Modern anti-supernaturalists have taken this passage and used it out of context in building a doctrinal position that diminishes the believer’s ability to walk in the supernatural displays of the giftings of the Spirit. 

This is an egregious attack on the integrity of the supernatural interaction between believers and Holy Spirit, and it is a wrong interpretation concerning the miracles, signs and wonders reference that Paul makes.  From a theological point, it is important to contextualize his statement and to refer it to the same elemental destructive forces that Peter refers to in the passage we are currently looking at in our study.  The signs and wonders that Paul was warning the church about had nothing to do with the spiritually miraculous manifestations of power.  The deception Paul warned against had to do with the manipulation of beliefs through mechanical marvels that were used in the cultic temples to keep the people awestruck.  Paul’s warning against the antichrist’s miraculous signs had nothing to do with the charismata, as some suggest.  It had everything to do with the current examples of technology, such as weighs and pulleys, steam pressure, and other means of demonstrating sleight of hand trickery using technology in exchange for spiritual reality. 

When this aversion to deceptive practices that are technologically induced is connected to the antichrists epoch being tied to the elements melting under a fierce fire, the connection to nuclear abilities cannot be easily dismissed.  I think it is appropriate to consider if Paul and John and Peter all had a glimpse into the future and saw the destruction humanity would eventually be capable of wielding at the end of the age.   Apocalyptic pronouncements usually had dual applications as they were given to the seer. All apocalypses’ would have a first blush fulfillment as most of the pronouncements had a historical connection.  When God was inspiring the writers of Holy Writ, He did not use fiction or fables as one of the genres that they were allowed to use in the recording of their communication between them and God.  This basic rule of understanding is what gives us the ability to disqualify some of the ancient writings that have existed alongside Scripture, such as the Jewish apocalyptic, Bel and the Dragon, or the Gnostic apocalyptic that had been associated with Christianity that is known as The Gospel of Thomas.  The fanciful exaggerations and the use of fictional accounts that undergird points of doctrine are what make them unacceptable as referents for biblical understanding. 

Bel and the Dragon are included as chapter 14 of the extended Book of Daniel.  This story, which was written in Aramaic somewhere in the range of the late second century BC, was also included in the Septuagint.  Both the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the extended version of Daniel are disputed as to their canonicity.  These two chapters referred to as deuterocanonical, which means that they are not universally accepted among the Christian Church as worthy of inclusion into the canonical works that are accepted as belonging in the Bible. The text of the two disputed chapters is also generally seen as belonging to the apocryphal writings by most Protestants and are usually not found in most modern Protestant Bibles.  Both chapters were contained in the original 1611 version of the authorized King James Version. The church of England also includes these chapters in Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England.

Narratives

Chapter 14 of Daniel contains three independent narratives, which place Daniel in the court of Cyrus, who was the king of the Persians, as the opening passage states that, “When King Matyas was laid to rest with his ancestors, Cyrus the Persian succeeded to his kingdom.” There Daniel “was a companion of the king, and was the most honored of all his Friends (Daniel 14:1).”  Bel (Daniel 14:1-22) is a Jewish folktale that ridicules the worship of idols.  It is the first of the three vignettes that are contained in the disputed chapter.  “Do you not think that Bel is a living god? Do you not see how much he eats and drinks every day?” the King asks Daniel.  Daniel replies by telling the King that the statue of Bel is made of clay covered with bronze.  These substances render the statue incapable of eating or drinking.  The implication is made that the statue is not eating the offerings that have been rendered to the false deity.[12]

This inflames the King, who then turns to the priests of Bel, asking them who in fact was eating the offerings.  The dialogue continues with the priests asking the King to allow them to lay out the offerings before the statue one more time, sealing the doors to the Temple with his signet, therefore keeping people out of the Temple, rendering the Temple secure from tampering.  The challenge continues by asking that whoever is shown to be in error needs to die, whether it is the priests of Bel or Daniel the Satrap.

The priest’s ruse is then exposed as Daniel scatters ashes around the perimeter of the Temple in the sight of the King, yet unknown to the priests.  He contended that the priests would secretly enter the Temple through a hidden doorway in the night and eat the meal.  He contended that the priests would attempt to deceive the King in the evening by entering to the Temple in the cover of night and remove the offering.  Just as Daniel had anticipated, the following morning bore witness to footprints on the Temples floor. Daniel called attention to the footprints on the temple’s floor. The priests of Bel were arrested, and after confessing their deception, the priests showed their secret passage that they used to make their way into the temple. They and their wives and children are put to death, and Daniel is permitted to destroy the idol of Bel and the temple. [13]

The second vignette is an independent narrative that embodies the dragon as an actual living entity, as opposed to an idol, that the Babylonians worshipped (Daniel 14:23-30).  The passage reads that “there was a great dragon, which the Babylonians revered.”  Daniel becomes a dragon slayer by taking tar, fat, and hair (trichas) to make cakes (mazas, barley-cakes), which is translated as “lumps.”  This odd rendition is based on the resulting lumps that develop inside of the dragon, which in turn causes the dragon to burst open after he eats the mazas.  The Midrash includes additional ingredients including hay with nails lacked in the straw, while other versions make the substance out to be burning coals hidden in tarps or poison-laced tar cakes.  The death of their beloved dragon leaves the Babylonians outraged, with the populace accusing the King of converting to Judaism and killing the priests.  They demand that Daniel is handed over to them to face a certain execution.  The last of the vignettes is the resultant consequences of their demand for Daniel’s head.

This next story (Daniel 14:31-42), finds Daniel back in the Lion’s Den.  Scholars disagree as to whether this is Daniel’s first or second trip to the Den of Lions, although the Septuagint adds an addendum that connects the story to Habakkuk the son of Jesus from the tribe of Levi.  Just as in the first encounter between Daniel and the Den of Lions, Daniel is miraculously kept from harm.  However, instead of attributing the deliverance to an angel keeping the jaws shut, here we find Habakkuk being miraculously brought into the den, where he then feeds the lions, keeping them from devouring Daniel. “On the seventh day the king came to mourn for Daniel. When he came to the den he looked in, and there sat Daniel! The king shouted with a loud voice, ‘You are great, O Lord, the God of Daniel, and there is no other besides you!’ Then he pulled Daniel out, and threw into the den those who had attempted his destruction, and they were instantly eaten before his eyes.” [14]

The two different accounts of the dragon, one depicting the dragon as a false god in the image of an idol, and the other which shows the god as an animated animal that was worshipped highlights the problem of relying on deception as a basis of belief.  This is seen in either in the field of outright trickery as in the manipulation of secret doors and passageways, or in the exaggerations of fables. 

Jesus addressed the problem of drawing wrong assumptions based on manipulative motivations from a spiritual perspective when He taught about the good fruit and the bad fruit of teachings and the miraculous in Matthew 7:16-24, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.  21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

In this abbreviated parable, Jesus informs about two categories of presenters of the gospel that need to be rejected in the Sermon on the Mount.  He starts His warning by addressing preachers who are speaking words as if they were from God, yet only serve the purpose of the speaker.  This is a form of veiled false teaching that appears in the form of self-aggrandizement, which seems to become more pronounced as the days of this evil age come to a close.  The message of men must be weighed in the crucible of Scripture, particularly if the message becomes a word of deception.  The modern message that turns people away from any belief in the supernatural abilities of God and His desire to intervene in the lives of His people is wrong.  It is the highest form of false teaching that is available, and it is a doctrinal position that is to be avoided.  Jesus equated it to a tree that produces bad fruit.  We know that this is point by the reference to false prophets (preachers) who come in sheep clothing, although they are wolves who seek to devour the believer in their web of deception. 

Although many commentators connect the false prophet clause to the lack of authority and propriety of behavior on the part of the enthusiasts or charismatically inclined group that makeup in Matthew 7:21-23, I think it is best to separate the two groups.  The first group can be seen as those who preach with no expectation of the supernatural and who manipulate with words.  The second group could be seen as those who believe in the supernatural, but who may manipulate with false signs and wonders.  Both types of deception are dangerous and should be avoided, as the penalty is severe according to Matthew 7:19 and 23.  One type of leadership is cut off and burned up in the fire, with the other group of leaders being turned away with a rejection that is severe, as Jesus “tells them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers.” 

Jesus pronouncement is leveled against the Pharisaic style of preaching that created division and strife among the sincere followers of God, and the manipulative deceivers who claim to be miracle workers, yet who resort to the parlor tricks of the prophets of Bel to gain their followings.  This was one of the main reasons I loved John Wimber in his heyday, as he attempted to get us to teach without using manipulation in our message that would create a sectarian rift.  He also taught us to seek authentication for the miraculous manifestations we embraced.  It is wise to seek authentication and verification of the miraculous claims of ministers and ministries. 

Without the ability to produce the certificate of healing (Matthew 8:4, Mark 1:44, Luke 5:14).  The three verses read, then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them…” “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them…” Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Let me be clear about my belief in the supernatural; I am an ardent supernaturalist.  However, I think that it is wise for those of us who live in this camp to expect authentication concerning the miraculous.  Healings should be able to be validated medically in most cases.  Claims of miraculous weight loss, although a little more difficult to prove, should also be authenticated, whenever possible. 

In our culture of indulgence, many of us are part of programs that force us to be weighed weekly, keeping logs for the groups we are part of, or the doctors whose care we are under for medication to control our appetites.  It seems to be reasonable to assume that a percentage of those people who are claiming to have lost significant amounts of weight would be able to produce a chart from Weight Watchers or a Diet Doctor in at least a few instances.  This same standard should apply to the claims of gold teeth, gold dust, and gems, as the compilation of the physical material should produce sufficient amounts of accumulation to sell the ‘stuff’ for profit.  This would be particularly relevant in the cases where large unknown gems are claimed as proof.  Unknown substances that are rare and without a category are normally very, very valuable, with any number of gemologists desiring to acquire the stones for jewelry or display.  Understand, I am not a unbeliever when it comes to God supernaturally provisioning His people.  Jesus demonstrated this ability of our Father very capably when He told His disciples to get a coin from a fish to pay their tax bill in Matthew 17:24-27.  Matthew says that, After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”  25“Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?” 26“From others,” Peter answered. “Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27“But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

God is more than able to do extreme things to bring provision for His people’s needs.  Scripture is resplendent with accounts that demonstrate this truth as being viable.  The story of the Hebrews in the wilderness and the Manna and water miracle, Elijah and the raven, the widow and her cruse of oil all demonstrate this capacity of God is moving on behalf of His people to provide for their needs supernaturally.  The point that I am trying to articulate is that the signs and wonders in these instances were provable in their addressing specific needs.  A friend of mine who was a career missionary told me a compelling story that happened to him in Argentina.  He was visiting an Indian Tribe on the Rio de la Plata when he was asked to pray for a man who had a severe toothache.  He had seen that the tribal members had bad teeth, with most of them never receiving professional dental care.  As he prayed for the man with the bad tooth, he noticed that the man had gaps in his mouth and an assortment of dental problems.  This man was not the only one, as this indigenous tribe was the equivalent of backwoodsmen in Americana history.  They were people who had been brutalized and alienated by the junta’s and were fearful of many of the complexities that interacting with civilization brought.  When the prayer had finished, he was amazed at the resulting miracle.  Not only had the tooth been repaired, but it was also replaced with a golden tooth. 

This proved to be the case with all of his dental problems.  That is not where this outbreak ended.  As person after person was examined, mouth after mouth was filled with gold.  It was a miracle indeed.  When my friend left the village, he went his way astonished at the goodness of God but mystified by what he had encountered.  To establish the credibility of the man who shared the story of the teeth with me, it is probably important to establish his credentials.  He had gone to Argentina following an outpouring of the Spirit in the 1950’s.  Claudio Friezen, Pablo Botieros, Carlos Annacondia, all these men are the fruit of his direct ministry.  At one point in his life, Ralph took a young intern from America under his wing.  That man eventually returned to America as an evangelist.  His name is Steve Hill, the preaching evangelist of the Brownsville Revival. 

Approximately one year later, the missionary returned to the outpost on the river.  As he approached the stilt homes, he was amazed at what he saw.  The homes had undergone significant renovations, and their boats, which were the tribe’s livelihood had been upgraded.  As he began to interact with the natives, he realized that there was a distinct change that had occurred with the Indians he was speaking with, as they now had normal teeth.  The gold fillings and teeth replacements were nowhere to be seen.  Amazed, he asked what had happened.  The answer was quite simple.  The people of the community had gone to the city and had their gold teeth removed.  They took the gold and sold it.  The improvements to the community and their fleet of boats had come through the selling of the gold.  As a side note, they did get their teeth fixed with the proceeds.  I present this story, as I do want you to understand that I do believe in the supernatural, as I believe this account.  It is extraordinary, but it is consistent with the dealings of the Lord in the Scriptural record as God provided for His people.

I share this testimony at this juncture, as I think it is important to contrast this occurrence with some of the more questionable claims that have surfaced in recent years concerning healings and manifestations that purport to be supernatural in origin but may be more hoax than truth.  I am not saying that all of the claims are exaggerations.  I am saying that claims of extraordinary happenings of gold, gems or healings should be placed into the light of scrutiny to ratify what is authentic.  The warning of Jesus should make us pause and ask ourselves if our reliance on doctrines that divide or manifestations that the claimants identify as being supernatural in origin but may be natural in their source should always be taken to heart.  Some of the more esoteric claims are reminiscent of apparitions in tree bark and pancakes of historical figures.  They may make for good theater, but they detract from the faith, particularly when they are examined in light of verification.  We need only listen to the claims of some of the recently discredited evangelists who testified to healings, raising people from the dead and other extravagant occasions in their services.  Although many people may have had genuine encounters with God, when the evangelists and the Association that served as the covering for a revival in Florida to look at the evidence to verify the claims asked the media, the news media drew a blank with every claim of supernatural occurrences in the revival.  This is important to note, as the lack of authentication can easily lead to a discrediting of the authentic when we lend our credibility to that which may fall short of being true.  This is why it is important to listen to the warnings of Jesus in this area.

CONCLUSION I have found Glorious Eschatology to be a shallow presentation that serves as more of an apology for being seduced by the Pretribulation theological novelty than a serious attempt to present a serious new version of Eschatology. Partial Preterism is a pick and choose variation of the Preterist view that was first advocated by James Stuart Russell. Russell wrote The Parousia 1878 anonymously and published Parousia under his name in 1887. Parousia is published by IPA, the International Preterist Association. The forwards are particularly helpful in dispelling the partial-Preterist view, as the Preterist camp thoroughly denies the partial Preterist theories.


[1] https://www.lds.org/ensign/1989/06/be-ye-also-ready-the-amazing-christian-escape-from-the-ad-70-destruction-of-jerusalem?lang=eng&_r=1

[2] http://www.letgodbetrue.com/sermons/prophecy/70ad/sermon.php

[3] https://www.preteristarchive.com/1998_scott_flee-pella/

[4] http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-51/origen-model-or-heretic.html

[5] https://www.avemariapress.com/dynamicmedia/files/82f50ff935698d349bd0528c450e76c2/Jesus_Christ_1-Handouts-Chapter_2.pdf

[6] http://www.bible.ca/pre-mt24-earthquakes.htm

[7] http://www.bible.ca/H-NT-false-prophets.htm

[8] https://www.arsenalbooks.com/This-Changes-Everything-C-Peter-Wagner-p/9780800797447.htm

[9] http://www.booksamillion.com/p/Second-Advent-Lord-Jesus-Christ/Robert-Townley/9781165145522

[10] http://www.iamforsure.com/Articles/FalseTeaching/Christianity/Word%20of%20Faith/KNT4.html

[11] Scofield Reference Bible, Oxford niversity Press, 1917 edition, p. 1016

[12] http://www.pseudepigrapha.com/apocrypha_ot/beldrag.htm

[13] http://dictionary.sensagent.com/Bel%20and%20the%20Dragon/en-en/

[14] http://www.pseudepigrapha.com/apocrypha_ot/beldrag.htm

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