With Apologies to John Lennon — IMAGINE

Imagine there’s no ISIS
It’s easy if you try
No Infidel among us
Around us, no PC lies
Imagine all the Nations
Living for God’s Praise

Imagine there are no Marxists

It isn’t hard to do
No equality BS
And no dialectic too
Imagine all God’s people
Living as postmills

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the World will then be won

Imagine no CRT
I wonder if you can
No envy or malice
The fulfillment of God’s plan
Imagine all God’s people
Conquering all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be then won

Does Gaffin Have A Point In His Critique of Postmill? Not So Much

“Nothing has been more characteristic of current post-millennialism than its emphasis on the kingship of the ascended Christ; nothing fires the Postmil vision more than that reality. Yet it is just this reality that post-millennialism affectively compromises and, in part, even denies. Postmils especially will no doubt find this last statement startling, maybe even outrageous, so let me explain.

Nothing is more distinctive to the postmil vision than its expectation of promised “victory” for the church, a future “golden age,” before Christ’s return. That golden era is variously conceived; in its reconstructionist versions, for example, it is to be a period of global supremacy and control by Christians in every area of life. But all postmil constructions—past and present, and all of them marked (as postmil) in distinction from other eschatological viewpoints—have in common that the millennial “gold”/”victory” (1) is expected before Christ’s return and (2) up to the present time in the church’s history, apart from occasional anticipations, has remained entirely in the future.

Here, then, is where a problem—from the vantage point of New Testament teaching, a fundamental structural difficulty—begins to emerge. Emphasis on the golden era as being entirely future leaves the unmistakable impression that the church’s present (and past) is something other than golden and that, so far in its history, the church has been less than victorious. This impression is only reinforced when, typically in my experience, the anticipated glorious future is pictured just by contrasting it with what is alleged to be the churches presently dismal state (the angle of vision seldom seems to include much beyond the church scene in the United States!), usually with the added suggestion that those who do not embrace the postmil vision are “defeatists” and contribute at least to perpetuating the sad and unpromising status quo.

The New Testament, however, will not tolerate such a construction. If anything is basic (and I’m inclined to say, clear) in its eschatology, it is that the eschatological kingship of Christ begins already at his first coming culminating at his resurrection and ascension. “God has placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (Eph 1:22; cf. v. 20).

…In other terms, for the New Testament, the entire interadventual period, not just a closing episode, is the “golden age” of the church; that period and what transpires in it, as a whole, embodies the churches millennial “success” and ” victory.”

RICHARD B. GAFFIN, JR.| “Theonomy and Eschatology: Reflections On Postmillennialism” in William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey, ed. Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 202–03.

1.) It is true that Post-mills find Gaffin’s statement startling and outrageous, as well as humorous, but then we find most statements by Amillennialists to be startling, outrageous and strange. We find that to be the case because none of what Gaffin says represents our position. The above is a case of building a straw man and then proceeding to demolish what nobody believes.

2.) Gaffin affirms that Postmillennialism champions the Kingship of Christ but only does so while denying that Kingship at the same time. The problem with Gaffin’s observation here (and a problem, that Gaffin of all people should not make) is that Postmillennialism understands the hermeneutical dynamic in Scripture of the “already/now/not yet.” Postmills emphasize, as Gaffin rightly acknowledges the “kingship of the ascended Christ. Further, Gaffin is correct that “nothing fires the Postmil vision more than that reality.” This truth represents the reality that Christ has indeed already taken up His office of King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Postmill understands that Christ has been inaugurated as the King of the Cosmos. This is the “already” and “now” of our eschatology. Unlike the Amillennialist Gaffin, the Postmil believes that this Kingship is not merely a spiritual Kingship but the Postmil believes that this Kingship is a reign that rules over every area of life.

However, the Postmil also understands that with the passage of time the already and now inaugurated Kingship of Jesus Christ is going from increasing consummation unto  increasing consummation which each passing day. We understand, unlike the Amills, that the Kingship of Jesus Christ while already present has a “not yet” quality that takes time to demonstrate. Has Gaffin forgot the Kingdom parables?

  “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

And that,

 “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds[b] of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

Matthew 13

Gaffin desires to indict the Postmillennialists because we understand this principle and he apparently does not?

3.) So, Gaffin is just in error when he says that for the Postmil the Kingship of Christ is entirely future. It is because we believe in the Present Kingship of Jesus Christ that we expect the future of that already present Kingship to be more and more glorious. However, for the Amillennialists, like Gaffin, the Kingship of Christ is a pretend/fantasy Kingship. The Kingship of Christ is exercised only in the Church realm. We can only see and can only expect to ever see the Kingship of Christ with spiritual eyes that see spiritual realities. In just such a manner the Amillennialist can retire from contending for the crown rights of Jesus Christ in every area of life, satisfying himself with the ability of his “spiritual” eyes to see “spiritual” realities that more often than not are not really there, except so as to satisfy the militant A-millennialists retreatist, defeatest, pietistic, and quietistic cowardice.

3.) So, the Postmil, contra Gaffin’s assertion is quite content in seeing the Kingdom present and growing now, while retaining the expectation that the full flowering of the already present Kingdom will go from fuller flowering unto fuller flowering. We Postmils, of course rejoice in the truth that even now;

“God has placed all things under his (Christ’s) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church” (Eph 1:22; cf. v. 20).

And because we believe that is true the Postmils operate from that truth. Because Eph. 1:22 is true we work from the confidence of that truth unto seeing that truth progressively demonstrate its already current truthfulness. Because we believe the King currently reigns we lean into life living as if the King reigns. It is why we keep praying, apparently unlike the Amills, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Or has Gaffin dispensationalized that prayer since, in his world, the King and the Kingdom has already come and therefore we need not pray that any longer. Is Gaffin suggesting that that prayer was for them and not for us?

4.) As a Postmil, I have no problem affirming with Richard that;

the New Testament, the entire interadventual period, not just a closing episode, is the “golden age” of the church; that period and what transpires in it, as a whole, embodies the churches millennial “success” and ” victory.”

Postmils affirm that we are going from victory unto victory and success unto success. It’s just that Postmils don’t spiritualize the Kingdom so that it is always invisible and non-corporeal all of the time everywhere. Postmils, understand, unlike Amils that since the King now reigns there is work to be done in seeing that every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.

Postmils see that happening in time and space (consider B. B. Warfield’s Eschatological Universalism) as the Holy Spirit makes it so the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea whereas Amils like Gaffin, treasuring defeat and surrender, see this only happening with the cataclysmic event that is the return of Jesus Christ.

As a codicil here I will offer that there are many Amillennialists who call themselves “Optimistic Amillennialists.” I call these chaps my friends even if I can’t figure out how they get there. It is the militant Amillennialists who never met a Postmil they didn’t want to pulverize and mock that find my hackles getting raised.


Continuing with the Problems of Full Preterism

As we continue to probe the matter of Full Preterism we have to keep in mind that it is a fairly new interpretation schematic. Indeed, some would contend that we only find Consistent Preterism showing up in 1970 or so. However, even if you date it back to J. Stuart Russell one is at that point only going back as far as the mid 1800s. (Though, J. Stuart Russell was not a Full Preterist in the way that is typically understood today as Russell was not comfortable with the idea that Revelation 20:10-14 was a past occurrence.)

Because Full Preterism is so new on the scene (like its polar opposite Dispensationalism) we should be extremely cautious about jumping into the Hymenaeus pool. Remember, with the embrace of Full Preterism is the embrace that everyone for almost 2000 years of Church history were wrong about eschatology. If we are to conclude that all the saints for almost 2000 years were wrong we better be very careful about the evidence we are going to accept in order to make that leap.

Keep in mind before you make that leap that Preterism, like all systems that can be characterized as being taken up by ideologues, is a system that is based on deductive reasoning that then requires all the particulars to be forced into the deductive system despite how the particulars may testify against the deductive system. Preterism, will not allow any contrary evidence from particular texts of Scripture because Preterism has as straight-jacket template that requires all to fit the system. Preterism, is a procrustean bed that will take texts and force them to fit their system. To the Preterist hammer all the eschatolgical texts are nails.

What the above paragraph means then is that having a conversation with a Preterist on this subject can be excruciatingly difficult because for them this is not just about eschatology. Indeed, for them Preterism is their whole weltanschauung. For a Partial-Preterist to argue on this point with a full Preterist is no different than a Calvinist arguing with an Arminian. The worldviews are so vastly different that there really shouldn’t be much expectation of success since each discussant have a different world and life view. This difference in worldviews is also seen in chaps like Don Preston and Max King as the ripple effect of their Full Preterism has rearranged all kinds of other Christian doctrinal systems.

Now let’s talk about the coming of Jesus for just a bit. First, we should observe how interesting it is to compare Dispensationalism and Full Preterism here. On one hand Dispensationalism is the eschatology that makes much of Christianity about the Israel of the future, while on the other hand full Preterism is the eschatology which makes much of Christianity about the Israel of the past. Both Full Preterism and Dispensationalism are preoccupied with Israel and the Jews. For Dispies the eschaton is about the Jews of the future. For Full Preterist the eschatological texts are about the Jews of the past.

I prefer the Christianity that says the Jews are eschatologically irrelevant since God divorced them as His people in AD 70. (And this doesn’t even take into consideration the whole Khazar issue.)

Let’s round off this post look a wee bit at the “coming” of Jesus. We would note that given the range of meaning of the Greek word “παρουσία” all because the Lord Christ or Scripture speaks of  Christ’s coming several places we need not conclude that every mention of  παρουσία  (coming) is in reference to what is commonly referred to today as His one and only “second coming.” It is true that many of the references of “coming” could well point to yet to be realized future second coming judgment. It is equally true that many references of Christ’s “coming” in the NT could also point to Christ’s AD 70 coming.

If it can be demonstrated from Scripture that just one “coming” of Jesus was NOT related to AD 70 or to Jesus “second coming” return then the insistence that the coming of Jesus has to be either what happened in AD 70 (Full Preterism) or what happens at the end of time (Christ’s bodily return) is kaput.

And we have just one of many “coming” (έρχομαι/παρουσία) examples found in Daniel 7 where the text speaks of the coming of Jesus that is neither a coming that is to end the world nor a coming that relates to AD 70;

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Here the coming of Jesus is neither AD 70 nor the final return at the end of time. Here the coming of Jesus is to the Father. We could produce many more examples where coming  (έρχομαι/παρουσία) is used to express a range of meaning that cannot be limited either to Christ’s AD 70 coming or Christ’s bodily return at the end of the age.

The point here is that the Dispensationalist are wrong when they insist that  παρουσία every single time means yet some coming future event and the Hyper-Preterists are wrong when they insist that παρουσία every single time must refer to the AD 70 judgment coming. The same word, depending upon the context can be used for both the “Second coming” of Christ or for Christ’s coming in judgment in AD 70 or some other time.

Both groups make a basic exegetical error and so both Dispensationalism and Full Preterism should be eschewed.

More Difficulties for the Preterists

“If the Great Commission has been fulfilled, and the General Resurrection of Christians has been fulfilled, and the Judgment of the wicked and the righteous has been fulfilled; then what is left to propagate? Is Preterism really about telling everyone it’s all over and everyone missed it?

This question of what is ongoing or ‘What now?’ question has dogged many preterist teachers….[T]here is not much of an outline in the Bible for what Christians should be doing if they are not supposed to be replicating the practices of the pre-AD 70 Christians.

Roderick Edwards
About Preterism — p. 36f

Full Preterism if it is to be “consistent Preterism” must concede that Satan and the work of his minions has ceased. After all Scripture teaches;

Rev. 20:10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where[b] the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Per Inconsistent Preterism, all is past so that this passage must mean that the Devil has already been cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. Preterism then, if consistent must teach that our ancient enemy, the devil is no longer an enemy since he no longer prowls like a hungry lion seeking whom he may devour. Preterism says this is past.

Further, Hyper-Preterism runs into the problem of Jesus promise to the Church to remain until the end of the age. If the end of the age has already come per Consistent Preterism than Jesus has fulfilled His promise and is now no longer with us.

Next we have to ask what happens in regards to the current practice of the Eucharist by Christians? After all, we are instructed by the Holy Spirit in I Cor. 11:26 to attend the table “until He comes.” If Christ has come, per Eschatological Past-ism then Christians are disobeying by attending the Lord’s Supper. After all, per the Full Preterist Christ has come and so attending the table now is akin to taking up and implementing again the OT Sacrificial system.

Next there is the Preterist denial of bodily resurrection of the saints and yet we find this being expressly taught in Mathew 27:52-53 where we read:

“And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

In light of his how can the Preterist dismiss bodily resurrection with a straight face and expect us to take them seriously? Even the resurrection of Lazarus, though he later died a second time, suggests that the Scripture sees bodily resurrection as a big deal that confirms the power and authority of Christ. What happens to that claim of God’s power and authority if bodily resurrection is, after all, not really true?

Look, even one of the Preterist gurus, J. Stuart Russell who was one of the most influential 19th century Preterists, balked at interpreting Rev. 20:10-15 (the judgment after the millennium) as having already been fulfilled. At this point Russell left behind the addlepated atmosphere of the current Preterism.

Having begun with Roderick Edwards we shall end with him;

“In brief, almost all theological expressions of Preterism were merely what is labeled now as “Partial-Preterism” BEFORE Max King (a [Church of Christ] preacher) started advocating his views in the 1970s… Full Preterism, as we presently know it has its roots within the anticreedal, anticonfessional, and antihistorical denomination (the Churches of Christ).”

Roderick Edwards
Origin of Full Preterism

Imagine how odd it is that Reformed people are now picking up this anti-Reformed eschatology.

Considering the Renewed Push Towards Consistent Preterism

With the advent of Gary DeMar of American Vision platforming Kim Burgess there are now quarters of the Church that are being are going all verklempt over DeMar and Burgess’ pushing of Consistent Preterism (also known as Full Preterism, Hyper-Preterism, Eschatological Gnosticism, Hymenaenism, etc.).

By way of introduction it should be noted that while the Church creeds and confessions have seldom spoke on matters eschatological the Apostles Creed (AC) as put Consistent Preterism outside the boundaries of the Christian faith. The AC does so when it puts in the mouths of God’s warrior faithful  that they believe that “Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead,” and further when  we confess in the AC that “I believe in the the resurrection of the body.” If a Consistent Preterist is honest he cannot confess the Apostle’s creed without doing all kinds of mental gymnastics.

Now, as of late some Preterists have taken to calling those who cite the AC as proof of the future 2nd advent of Christ and as proof of the resurrection of the body as “creedalists.” They accuse us of this as if we might think they are accusing us of something that we would recoil at. Indeed, they are spitting this out at us much like a WOKE Karen might wail about us being “racists.” Another example of the Zeus like hurling of a lightning bolt compliment in our direction. We are glad to be labeled as a “creedalist” — especially when coming from a anti-creedalist. We understand perfectly that the Reformed creeds and confessions are perfumed with the odor of Scripture since those who assembled the creeds and confessions only desired to confess that which was consistent with Scripture.

It is also interesting, that the push for Full-Preterism came especially from the Cambellite (Restorationist) movement and to this day many of its advocates remain “Church of Christ” chaps. Now, I’m sure the Church of Christ has many nice people who belong to it, but it has never been acccused of being particularly orthodox by the Reformed faith.

Now, before going into a cursory overview regarding full Preterism we should note that while we can in no way countenance Hymeneanism we do indeed embrace partial Preterism. Further, I personally have profited greatly by reading some of the full Preterists. For example, James Stuart Russell’s, “The Parousia: The New Testament Doctrine of Christ’s Second Coming,” and David Chilton’s “Days of Vengeance,” are both books that have aided me quite a bit. Also, my long relationship and many conversations with Kim Burgess have, on the whole been edifying. However, one has to learn where to get off the train with these Consistent Preterists so one does not fall into their error. The reason that these chaps were so beneficial is that they excelled at exposing how many of the prophecies in the Scripture are past to us, and the reason that aspect is so refreshing is that for the last 165 years or so Church has been awash in the silly futurism of Dispensationalism. The reason that these same chaps are so dangerous is that they absolutized their Preterist eschatology allowing it to drive the train of all their theology. In a fit of irony, in destroying the Hal Lindsey futurism of the Church where all prophecies are yet future they have destroyed themselves by embracing the idea that all the prophies of the Scripture are past and were fulfilled in AD 70.

With the arise of DeMar and Burgess pushing Full Preterism I’ve had to go back and do some quick review as it has been 15 years or so since Tony Pomales came knocking on my study door piling up books for me to read advancing full Preterism while seeking to convert me to Hyper-Preterism. At that time I read probably a dozen to 15 books on the subject on all sides of the subject. I walked away a convinced Partial Preterist while at the same time being decidedly anti-full Preterist. Tony Pomales was disappointed as I was the fish that slipped his net. Sorry Tony.

Having offered all that by way of introduction, let us consider an overview of full Preterism and its attendant problems. Remember, this in no way offers to be exhaustive.

All expressions of Full Preterism impacts the following doctrines;

1.) Denial of a yet future 2nd advent of Christ. The return of Christ spoken of in the NT occurred with Christ’s judgment coming in AD 70.

2.) The great last judgment likewise was fulfilled in AD 70. It is a mistake, per Consistent Preterism, to look for a future great last judgment since that referred to God’s judgment on covenantal Israel which was fulfilled in AD 70 and so did not refer to a yet future to us judgment event where the lambs and the goats will be separated.

3.) The NT language about a future resurrection does NOT refer to a bodily resurrection of the saints who have lived throughout time, but rather the resurrection of the saints refers to a spiritual resurrection. As Consistent Preterist, Kim Burgess, once told me; “The person will be resurrected but not the body.”

As a consequence of this hyper-realized eschatology Consistent Preterists either believe that the world/cosmos will never end or they are agnostic as to the question of the final teleology of all things.

Full Preterists love to camp on Luke 21:22 where Jesus is predicting the destruction of the Temple;

“For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”

The Consistent Preterist will point to this verse and say; “See, the text here explicitly says that “all things which are written may be fulfilled,” and so this text explicitly tells us there is no more to be fulfilled.

The problem with that is that the Full Preterists are forgetting that when Jesus says here “the things are written may be fulfilled,” He is referring what was referring to the things that were written in the Old Testament since the New Testament had not even been inked yet. Therefore, any prophecy that occurred after Jesus spoke this is not part of the things that were written that were fulfilled in AD 70. That in turn means, that anything written prophetically after Jesus spoke these words could yet refer to future matters, like the His second advent, the final judgment, and future resurrection of the saints, that are still yet to happen.

In addition to the paragraph above there is the issue of the word “all” in Luke 22:21. We have to realize that there are times in the NT when the word all does not mean all without exception. For example in Matthew 3:5 the text reads,

“Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him”

Clearly, Matthew is not intending to teach that every single person in Judea went out to Jesus. The word “all” could be working in that same way in Luke 22:21.

Now consider potential implications of this Hyper Preterism. One implication is the possibility that there is no further need for the sacraments. We can deduce that as a possible implication because of the language of I Corinthians 11;

26For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Now, if Jesus has come in the way that the Consistent Preterists insists that He has come in AD 70 then I Cor. 11:26 would imply that there is no longer any need to “eat this bread and drink this cup,” because Jesus came in AD 70. Pushed even further, to a logical implication, there would therefore also be no need to gather for Church since the Church’s existence without the sacraments would become very tenuous.

The error of Consistent Preterism in its claim that the saints will not bodily resurrect is perhaps most clearly pointed out in I Cor. 15:20

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The inspired Apostle speaks of Christ’s resurrection which was/is clearly physical as seen in Jesus urging doubting Thomas to put his finger in his hands and side. Also as seen in Jesus claim that in three days He would raise himself up again should his enemies destroy him (John 2:19). Christ bodily resurrected and Paul in I Cor. 15 says that Christ was the firstfruits of those who are dead (fallen asleep). Now, if a bodily resurrected Christ is the firstfruits of those dead then by necessity the latter fruit following the firstfruit is going to resurrect bodily just as the Lord Christ did. The idea that Christians will have their persons resurrected and not their bodies or that our resurrection is only spiritual is not supported by the weight of Scripture. Indeed even the OT saints figured out what the Hyper Preterists are missing. Hebrews 11 teaches us the way that our Father Abraham reasoned about the sacrifice of Isaac;

17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[a] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.

Now, to argue that Abraham reasoned that God was going to spiritually raise Isaac and not physically is to reason as only an ideologue can reason.

Upon taking a step back in assessment one might label Hyper Preterism as Eschatological Gnosticism. For the Consistent Preterist there is little to no continuity between our corporeal life now and our life to come. It is all discontinuity. The spiritual is all. The corporeal is nothing.

How serious of an error is Consistent Preterism? Well, I suppose that depends on how much it bleeds into and so alters other theological disciplines. Some of the full Preterists can get pretty whack-a-doodle. At the very least I think we would have to say the best expressions of it are heterodox. Having said that I would be more comfortable with a genuinely Reformed Preterist as a non-voting member than I would be comfortable with a Arminian being a non-voting member. In the end I think we have to take these full Preterists one by one to see exactly where they are not only on eschatology but also on soteriology, ecclesiology, theonomy, hamartiology, epistemology, etc. etc. etc.

Having said all that if you are a laymen you would be wise to drink from the well of Full Preterism with a very very long spoon.