Back to the Future has attempted to exegete the Book of Revelation, relying on Biblical material and allowing the Bible to speak for itself on these mysterious subjects. In so doing the author has had to oppose, on Scriptural terms, the current ‘futurist’ and ‘continuing historical’ schools of interpretation. Instead, he has shown that Christ indeed returned as He promised within a generation of his ascension, and that return was visible in the siege and overthrow of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Jewish polity and Temple. He thus fulfilled the Older Testament typology and brought in its succession, the Newer Testament spiritual Israel, the Church of Christ worldwide. Further, these events of A.D. 70 were the visible tip of spiritual events of cataclysmic proportion and immense importance, well meriting their prophecy in John’s Book of Revelation, and the associated revelation recorded by the other three Evangelists in the ‘Olivet Discourse’ (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21.)
The New Hymenaens
by Dr. Stephen P. Westcott
But in recovering these truths for the Church there is, as always, a danger on the other extreme, in the teaching that has been called ‘hyper-preterism’. In recognizing Christ’s judgmental return in 70 A.D. shall we no longer look to His future and final ‘return’ as Judge of all things at the last day? God forbid!
If many saints were resurrected and others taken bodily to glory in the first century (as Enoch and Elijah had been centuries before them) as seals and proofs of the Lord’s powerful intercession, shall we mistake the ‘first fruits’ for the harvest, the first drops of rain for the deluge, and like the Hymenaens of old teach that all of the resurrection is past and there will be no more in the future? Again, God forbid!
With the ancient Church, with the great Reformation and Puritan Confessions, we point to the great coming Day of Judgment, to the resurrection of the bodies of all men (some to everlasting glory and bliss, and some to eternal shame and pain). We rejoice in the prospect of the visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ to be the great Judge of that day. However, we protest that this looking for Christ’s return and the Day of Judgment, so central to Reformation and Puritan thinking and teaching, has been sadly obscured in recent centuries. The emphasis has shifted to elaborate schemes of ‘signs of the times,’ of the ‘secret rapture,’ ‘tribulation saints,’ and all varieties of millennialism. While many torture the Scriptures on the rack of history, stretching of squeezing it to fit the passing events of time, others equally fatally write everything in Scripture off as past and finished, and leave us no hope, no warning, no example for the present and the future.
Let's Look Inside
A real return of Christ occurred in A.D.70, with tremendous consequences in the physical, but far more in the spiritual realm. These events were the ‘types’ of the final and future Day of Judgment. This is how these passages were generally explained in orthodox and Bible believing teaching at least up to the early years of the nineteenth-century. Therefore, we must be alert both to the drift from this older orthodoxy in more modern days, and that renewed eschatological study, along these older and sounder lines is vital today-study exactly as is attempted in this work.
The theory of the ‘hyper preterists’, the new Hymenaens who teach that the resurrection is already past for all mankind, is a distortion of more recent origin. As a result, a few words on this theory will not be out of place here:
The words, preterist and preterism, are mentioned often in Back to The Future, a commentary on Revelation. A preterist has been defined as one who believes that much of the Book of Revelation and many other Biblical prophecies were fulfilled in 70 A.D. at the destruction of Jerusalem. Notice the use of much and many in the last sentence, this is of critical importance. This is so because the word preterist is also used by another group that believes that absolutely all the prophecies of the Bible was fulfilled at this time. This teaching is often called hyper-preterism. “It is a form of Preterism that denies that there are any prophecies yet to be fulfilled, including the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, the resurrection of the body, and the final judgment.” Simply stated, this is an utter error, one that is in opposition to the history of orthodox Christian theology from the Apostles till today. This error is doubly dangerous because its extreme teachings have been used as arguments against all Preterism. As a typical example of this we note the Protestant Reformed Churches who ran a 1998 Conference with the theme ‘The Doctrine of the Last Things.’ The Conference speakers and subsequent publications summarized ‘From Pentecost to Parousia: A Survey of the Development of Eschatology in the History of Christian Thought’ as passing through six historical stages: 1) Early A-Millennialism, 2) Early Post-Millennialism, 3) Later Post-Millennialism, 4) Old Pre-Millennialism, 5) Jesuit Dispensational Futurist Pre-Millennialism, and 6) Jesuit Extended Preteristic Post-Millennialism. The first, ‘early A-Millennialism,’ is lauded as being “present amongst the ancient churches. Reformers ubiquitously took this position, as did many later Puritans and the bulk of the Continental Reformed Churches.” The final stage ‘Jesuit Extended Preteristic Post-Millennialism’ is described as having been “developed by the 16th Century Jesuit Alcazar, puts ‘Antichrist’ etc. pre 70 A.D. to obviate application to the Pope. The Church Age extends for an enormous range of time, 40,000 to several million years, some say forever. The Return of Christ and Judgment are put away into the remote future. Historicist interpretations of Daniel and Revelation are eclipsed by the ‘Preterist’ view that all New Testament prophecies have been fulfilled except the Parousia. Antichrist is inapplicable to the Pope, and ‘whore Church’ inapplicable to Roman Catholicism. The Reformation does not figure in the Revelation prophecies. This view is held by the Papacy, Christian Reconstrucionists, Theonomists, etc.”
A glance at this outline shows that in order to promote historicist A-Millennialism the writers have both ‘tarred with the same brush’ all Preterism (applying a liberal dose of ‘guilt by association’ with the Jesuits!). They have simply ignored the Biblical preterist position (that takes the ‘time indicators’ in the gospels and Revelation literally and seriously, and understands the type-antitype relations within prophecy). Their Conference attendees and subsequent readers are simply kept in the dark about an option with a long and very sound history. Needless to say many orthodox Churches would protest a Conference and published papers that teach that the most extreme hyper deviations of Calvinism are the only true expressions of the Reformed faith, rather than its sick perversions. No attempt is made to engage or discuss Biblical preterism as advocated and explicated in these pages. Needless to say it is simply because of the existence of the ‘hyper’ deviation from Scriptural Calvinism that such things are possible. Thus it is because of the pernicious and persistent agenda of the ‘hyper-preterists position’ that it is incumbent on the reader to be aware of such efforts to undermine Scripture. Actually, it is an ancient heresy, mentioned by Paul in his letters to Timothy. For this reason I name this article The New Hymenaens.
…keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:19-20, NASB95)
But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:16-18, NASB95)
In the last two hundred years there has been a revival of the empty chatter of Hymenaeus, which Paul calls blasphemy, although these new blasphemers prefer the term Consistent Preterist. As in Paul’s day, so in ours, their teaching is an instrument of shipwreck in regard to their faith and in the faith of others. As is the case in so many cults, it is most missionary minded in its effort to spread its error like gangrene. This error teaches that the resurrection has already taken place and as a result has upset the faith of some. Now, of course, these New Hymenaens do not regard themselves as enemies of Paul and Christ. They make a distinction between themselves and Hymenaeus by stating that although this early heresy taught that the resurrection was past some years before 70 A.D., they do not make that mistake but state that the resurrection is past only as of 70 A.D, a technicality of little significance. There is a plethora of errors associated with this theology, and several new books have been written that ably addresses these errors, and these books should be carefully researched for a truly complete understand and refutation of this error. Let us look at a few.
First, we must consider the bodily return of Christ at the end of time.
The hyper-preterists tell us that the end of time has come and gone. The famed destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was it; all prophecy has been fulfilled. As such, Christ Second Coming has also occurred at this time. They do not refer to this as a judgment coming of Christ, but as the Second Coming. All is fulfilled; He will not come again. But wait-what of Acts chapter one?
And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven." (Acts 1:9-11, NASB95)
Notice these words, “looking on” and “gazing intently.” Why are these words important? They are important because we are told that this Second Coming will be “in just the same way.” This was a visible accession. Therefore He must return visibly, not secretly. “The Greek phrase [in just the same way] never indicates mere certainty or vague resemblance; but wherever it occurs in the New Testament, denotes identity of mode or manner.” In other words, He will be seen by people “looking on” and “gazing intently” at Him as He descends to this earth in the same identical way that He ascended to heaven. This has not happened, yet, but it will.
And no account of the Second Coming of Christ would be complete without reference to I Thessalonians chapter 4.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, NASB95)
You would think a simple reading of the text would in itself adequately address the question. But consider these points.
First, we note that this is a very public event; no secrete rapture here. In fact, it no doubt will be the nosiest, most visible event in the history of the world. But the hyper-preterists tell us this was a secrete rapture. A very well kept secret indeed. So secret in fact that the Church has yet to hear about it!
Second, the hyper-preterists insists that the resurrection of the dead here is a spiritual one, the bodies remain in the grave. But if we are only talking of a spiritual resurrection then how are those that are alive who are caught up? If it is not their bodies that are caught up then it is their spirits, which would, of course, separate their spirits from their bodies and kill them instantly. Was there such a mass slaughter of believers across the Roman World in 70 AD? Certainly much would be made of such an event in secular and church history! Nothing was said, because nothing happened.
Third, it is important to note that the hyper-preterist make much of Paul’s use of the word “we” in this passage, claiming that he meant that he would be alive when the Lord returned. But who is not familiar with the universal editorial “we?” It is used commonly by most writers. “When speaking or writing for a group, it is perfectly acceptable to use "we" rather than "I." It is sometimes called the editorial "we." The use of “we” in this passage has no more significance that that.
Fourth, it is important to ask what significance would the destruction of Jerusalem have for the Thessalonians? Is this what Paul is addressing? No, of course not. They questioned Paul regarding the death of their loved ones. Here Paul addresses this issue, not the destruction of Jerusalem. His answer is that living Christians would not precede those who had died previously. All would meet the Lord in the air at the same time. This did not happen in 70 AD.
Have there been believers from early times that embraced this concept of the Second Coming? No, there have not. Consider what Tertullian an early 3rd century church father says of Christ Second Coming; it is typical of the Church’s faith in every age.
Happily, however, He who suffered “will come again from heaven,” and by all shall He be seen, who rose again from the dead. They too who crucified Him shall see and acknowledge Him; that is to say, His very flesh, against which they spent their fury, and without which it would be impossible for Himself either to exist or to be seen; so that they must blush with shame who affirm that His flesh sits in heaven void of sensation, like a sheath only, Christ being withdrawn from it; as well as those who (maintain) that His flesh and soul are just the same thing, or else that His soul is all that exists, but that His flesh no longer lives.
Tertullian is representative of the early Church. They that lived so close to the 70 A.D. date that the Preterist insists was the Second Coming of Christ knew nothing of it.
Second, we need to note the nature of the resurrection of believers.
The hyper-preterists insists that it is a spiritual nature that is resurrected and that the bodies of those that died never leave their grave. Jesus disagrees.
Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29, NASB95)
As Jay Adams says, “Why open the graves (tombs) if bodies are not to issue from them? It is the physically deteriorated bodies that were “raised.” What else would be raised from a burial place? What was in the grave is what came out of it; not something else.” Clearly Jesus taught a bodily resurrection of both the just and the unjust, one a resurrection of life, the other a resurrection of judgment.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:20-21, NASB95)
Notice that it is the body of the humble state that is to be transformed at the Coming of Christ. Bodies, fallen in sin and decaying in the grave, need transforming, spirits do not. The word “transform” is defined as “to change the form of something, transform, change.” Bodies that are fallen in Adam and decayed in death need a change in form, that is, be transformed. Paul promises us this very thing in the resurrection. One must ask, however, what transformation does a regenerate soul need at death? Of course, Paul does not use the word soul here, so there is no basis of considering that as an option at all. It is the body that is transformed.
Let’s look at Paul’s comments in Romans 8.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:18-23, NASB95)
Notice Paul’s concern for the redemption of our body, not simply the soul.
And no discussion on the resurrection would be complete without reference to I Corinthians chapter 15. Here Paul asked the question “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come” (I Corinthians 15:35, NASB95). This, indeed, is our very topic. His answer uses the metaphor of a seed being sown in the ground which in time springs forth from the ground resurrected as it were in material form although in some way different. "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body" (1 Corinthians 15:42, NASB95). “What was sown? A body that was subject to corruption. What was raised? Not a substitute, but the same body that was sown.”
Now the hyper-preterist like to the graves (tombs) if bodies are not to issue from them? It is the physically deteriorated bodies that were “raised.” What else would be raised from a burial place? What was in the grave is what came out of it; not something else.” Clearly Jesus taught a bodily resurrection of both the just and the unjust, one a resurrection of life, the other a resurrection of judgment.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state latch on to verse 44, "it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:44, NASB95). It is this phrase “spiritual body” that they delight in, insisting that there is no real body at all, simply a spirit. “Paul’s claim that our resurrection bodies are “spiritual” (I Cor. 15:44) must be compared with his usage of the term “spiritual” in other places (especially those in I Corinthians). By doing so we can see that Paul uses the term “spiritual” not to speak of something that is nonphysical (either solely or predominantly) but rather of something that is intimately related to the Holy Spirit-that is, it is “Holy Spiritual.”” So, a “spiritual body” is simply a body controlled by the Holy Spirit. As is so often the case in hyper-preterist exegesis, the facts deny the point they are trying to make.
Third, we need to address the coming judgment
According to hyper-preterism, all judgment occurred in 70 A.D.; there is none in our future. Let us strike quickly at the Achilles heal of the hyper-preterist judgment theology. Jesus sent His apostles to preach; explaining to them that anyone not receiving them would receive greater judgment than even the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah would.
Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. “Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city." (Matthew 10:14-15, NASB95)
“The question we must ask is, What do the inhabitants of a city that had been dead for two thousand years have to do with the judgment on apostate Israel?” What indeed? The judgment in 70 A.D. was a judgment on Israel for their sins. How is it related to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah 2000 years earlier? It is not related at all. “…it is a stretch to try to make any connection between Israel who killed Christ and two towns of Gentile sexual perverts that were destroyed five hundred years before the nation of Israel came into existence.” There was a temporal judgment on Israel in 70 A.D., it had nothing to do with Sodom and Gomorrah. “…but Jesus portrays here a single event (“the day of judgment”) that will bring not only apostate Israel to judgment but also Sodom and Gomorrah.” So, there will be a final judgment at the last day when very civilization and all that ever lived will be judged. That has not occurred yet; but it will.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:11-15, NASB95)
Lastly, let us address some additional and concluding observations
First, it is imperative to note is that this unorthodox or hyper-preterism is utterly outside the historic theology of the Church from Paul till today. In other words, they do not subscribe to any orthodox Christian creed or confession. They know this but, apparently, it bothers them little, if at all. Their response is to attack the creeds, noting that fallible men wrote them and therefore they cannot be trusted. Apparently, however, the fallible men writing hyper Preterist books can be trusted to set the record straight.
Hyper-preterism is an eschatology, or to be more accurate, an anti-eschatology. As indicated, it purports to deal with the major topics of the end times such as Christ’ return, the resurrection, and the Great White Throne judgment, to name a few. Interestingly, although the Church during the last 2,000 years has agreed little on many prophetic issues, they have agreed on these three points. All orthodox Christians in all denominations believe in the bodily return of Christ at the end of time, the bodily resurrection of the saved and lost and the reward of the regenerate in heaven and the damnation of the lost in hell. “In short, the only eschatological position that the universal church has been able to agree on thus far is that hyper-preterism is wrong.” That’s got to sting! Clearly, it is incumbent upon the hyper-preterists to make their case for dismissing the collective wisdom of the Church for the last 2000 years in a most unambiguous form. They have failed to do so.
Second, logically following the last point we note that “hyper-preterism has serious implications for the perspicuity of Scripture.” The Church teaches that the Bible in its major doctrines and broad outline can be and is understandable by all regardless of their formal education. Yet here are three major doctrines that the Church for 2000 years has failed to understand. But, if the Church could be guilty of such egregious error in eschatology for millennia, who could entertain any confidence in its ability to understand Jesus Christ and His mission and message? And if we did not grasp that, what would be the state of our souls? Error of this magnitude utterly undermines the confidence of the reader of Scripture. Indeed, what is the sense of reading it at all? Clearly, if the brightest minds and most fervent hearts the Church has produced cannot read it with general agreement in its broad outlines and major messages, what hope is there for the rest of us?
Third, we must ask is there validity in the hyper-preterist hermeneutic? To begin with they are not primarily exegetes but systematic in their approach to Scripture. In other words, they approach the Scripture backwards. Instead of delving into the text and finding the meaning, and then asking how this fits into the broad picture of Biblical teaching, they instead first bring to the table their instance that all Scripture is fulfilled by 70 A.D. That being the case, they in essence say, “now let’s figure out how to make it so.” A preconceived notion has produced a hermeneutic that must distort the Scripture at every point the Bible fails to measure up to this “given.”
Also, consider their method of taking a passage that, through its timing words, clearly applies to the near future and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and then applying it to all near or similar passages that do not have such timing indicators. The result: proximity and similarity of passages demand identity of meaning. This is a very poor interpretive method indeed.
In conclusion: “A prime hyper-preterist goal is to be accepted by Christians as offering an orthodox Christian theology that offers a distinctive eschatological option.” Actually, this is not unlike how the Mormons try to present themselves to the world. Yet, in both cases, the theology of these groups is utterly unorthodox. As such, hyper-preterist cannot qualify for membership in the Church of Jesus Christ. What creed or confession could they subscribe to? None. They simply are heretical in doctrine and as with their counterpart 2000 years ago, so today they upset the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:16-18, NASB95).
A Caveat - The Early Fathers
In these thoughts, let’s begin with the early Church. In our day, there is a worrying tendency to place great reliance on Patristics; e.g. some having their church sing the Nicean and Apostles Creeds in worship. Giving due honor to the ‘Fathers’ and early Church Councils does not mean we cannot be critical of them or that we must regard them as infallible at all. In fact it has often been remarked that the ‘Fathers’ were really the ‘children’ of the Church, for many wonderful and strange ideas occur in their writings, along with much that is orthodox and sound. Their confessional statements are merely the foundation on which later formulations, like Westminster confession, were built. It is commonplace to say that although the Fathers were great men to stand up for the faith and, if need be, be burned for Christ, yet not one of them would stand well a theological examination by John Owen. It is a strange truism-noted even by secular writers that the ‘early Church’ (sub Apostolic) was doctrinally way behind the level of the Apostles themselves, and the ground had to be gradually recovered later. With the completed Bible and an undisturbed transition from the Apostles to men like Clement of Rome and Polycarp this just should not be so-but it is. In itself this fact points to a radical change soon after the completion of the canon, that is, around 70 A.D.
We should note the minimizing of the 70 A.D. fall of Jerusalem, and the comparison of that event with the earlier destruction of the Temple and the events of the later Jewish rebellion. We are asked: what was so special about 70.A.D.?
Think of this: When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44, NASB95)
Could Christ, the Omnipotent and all-knowing God actually be moved to tears over ‘just another conquest and destruction?’ This event had to be absolutely unique.
Second Coming Terminology and ‘Tunnel Vision’
Editor Keith Mathison of the very fine book When Shall These Things Be? hardly starts his Introduction before he defines the subject being written against, (that is ‘hyper preterism’) as teaching, (erroneously) that ‘the SECOND COMING of Jesus Christ (is) past.’ p. xiii. On page xvii, he comments that ‘The church in the decades following A.D.70 showed no awareness that the SECOND COMING OF CHRIST…had taken place.’
Gentry, a preterist, in the lead article talks of ‘the SECOND advent of Christ’, and Ward Fenlow, hyper-preterist, is quoted as teaching that ‘The SECOND COMING of Jesus Christ already happened’, whilst fellow hyper-preterist David A. Green comments that partial preterists teach that the SECOND COMING is not fulfilled.
This tone continues throughout the book, with the term ‘SECOND COMING’ employed repeatedly, possibly about one in every three pages throughout the work. When we come finally to the Editor’s Conclusion the whole issue is summarized for us thus: ‘Believers have always agreed that the SECOND COMING of Jesus Christ, the general resurrection, and the Last Judgment are all future events according to Scripture.’ ‘Most people’, we are told ‘could not help but ask ‘How could anyone believe that the SECOND COMING of Christ occurred in A.D.70?’ (p.353).
In conclusion we are admonished that; ‘The future SECOND COMING of Jesus Christ, the future general resurrection, and the future Last Judgment are not peripheral doctrines. They are the nonnegotiable foundation stones of biblical eschatology. To deny THEM or to place THEM in the first century results in a caricature of Christianity’ (p.354) (EMPHASIS mine).
So here we have the Second Coming placed as a fundamental of the faith, so much so that they are raised as touchstones of orthodoxy, are non-negotiable, and to deny any one of them is to caricature Christianity. Amazing! Throughout the volume the various authors have striven to claim absolute reliance on the Bible, to be advocating Scriptural principles against man-made systems and philosophies. And yet, one of their non-negotiable fundamentals, the concept that has featured over and again throughout the book and on which much of the argument is based, is almost entirely EXTRA BIBLICAL. In fact the measure of orthodoxy or heresy applied here is almost totally without Scriptural support, lacks an on-going history, would have puzzled and astounded the Reformers and Puritans and others in the greatest ages of the evangelical faith, and came to the fore as late in history as the nineteenth-century! What is more it originated and gained currency through the pre-millenarian and dispensational camps, and only became a modern ‘by-word’ due to the prevalence of those doctrines in modern America. To find Reformed scholars so unthinkingly adopting pre-millenarian terminology, and them arguing at such length within the straitjacket of that terminology (as if it were Biblical and non-negotiable and to be a test of orthodoxy) is surprising and worrying indeed.
Let us note carefully that the above oft-repeated term, ‘The SECOND COMING of Christ’ occurs NOWHERE in the Bible. Nor would any Reformer or Puritan be found using any such term for events past or future. The only, and rather slender, Bible support comes from Hebrews.
"…so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him" (Hebrews 9:28, NASB95).
From this passage, the great edifice of ‘second coming’ theology, primarily premillennial and dispensational, is now taken on as a fundamental necessity by those claiming to be Biblically Reformed! This has all occurred within the last 150-200 years of Church history.
Ironically as it may seem, it is a correct understanding of the Book of Revelation which is the plain and simple antidote to errors on both extremes, the road-map to avoid the ditches on the right hand and left hand sides of the way. What occurred in A.D. 70, both in the visible realm of historically recorded events, and in the invisible realm, the Spiritual reasons for those events are our guides to the future. They are the types on which we can predict and understand the coming day of resurrection, Judgment, and the eternal consummation of history. By detaching the type (fall of Jerusalem and the Old Testament polity) from the antitype (the Day of Judgment) and spreading it out over 2,000 years of history the lessons are missed and lost. Wild speculations and unbiblical theories are invented by pushing everything into the past. Type and antitype are fused and confounded, and a blank and sterile ‘open ended’ future results.
As the ‘continuous history’ theory has been the norm in much of modern teaching, this work has interacted with that viewpoint throughout. We must emphasize again, however, that we are teaching no new theory of Revelation. It is both the ‘continuous history’ and ‘hyper-preterist’ theories, which are indeed new, and eccentric in terms of the historical consensus of Reformed and Biblical Christians. It may surprise many readers today to know that the minimizing or the denying of a real ‘coming’ of Christ in judgment on Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is a comparatively modern phenomena in the Church; something that springs from, and in turn helped fuel Dispensationalism. For an example (taken almost at random) an author of 1815 writing, not on eschatology, but on ‘Bible Characters’ could comment on the command to watch for Christ’s coming in this way:
“…this has generally been explained of that remarkable display of his power which took place in the destruction of Jerusalem, to the overthrow of his enemies and the establishment of his church. That event he frequently described as his coming; and it was an awful emblem of his future and final advent for the judgment of the world,” and commenting on Christ’s statement concerning John “If I will that he tarry till I come” (John 21: 22) the comment is “he was designed to be spared in the church till the coming of Christ for the destruction of Jerusalem. The event, at least, was such; he was one of those who did not taste of death till the kingdom of God, in that awful dispensation, was accomplished”(emphasis mine).