Imagine there are no Marxists
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.”
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;
Imagine how odd it is that Reformed people are now picking up this anti-Reformed eschatology.
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;
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.