August 3, 2017 by J.A. Hardgrave
Why I Believe Jesus is Coming Back
Our eschatology, the study of last things, is not a salvation issue. We can believe whatever we want about the end-times and if we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we will end up in Heaven. I wanted to get that out of the way right at the start because this is an important issue, but we should all still be able to honor each other, love each other, and dine at the table of Christian fellowship despite our end-time view because love should always supersede doctrine. I am a son of God, that’s my identity, and most important. Our end-time view is just something we believe doctrinally.
So why does eschatology even matter?
Because our end-time view shapes our world-view.
Our understanding of our mission as believers, the Kingdom, and the future, are all greatly shaped by how we believe things will pan out. It’s worth talking about, and my life has been transformed since I left an end-time view that taught defeat and fear, in exchange for a view that teaches victory and hope.
First off, for those who are thinking “What the heck is Preterism?”
It’s simply a Latin word that means “past”.
So if you believe there were any Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in any way in His 3 1/2 year ministry, you have a “Preterist” view or “Past-Fulfilled” view of these events.
But usually, this word is speaking about how much Bible prophecy we believe has already been fulfilled, either none (Futurist), most (Partial Preterist) or all (Full Preterist).
Partial Preterism, what I do believe, is the belief that MOST Bible prophecy was fulfilled in the past leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70 by the Romans. You can read my blogs on many subjects ranging from the last days, antichrist, being “left behind”, and others by going here.
As a Partial Preterist, I still believe there remains a final bodily return of Christ, a final resurrection, a final judgment, and that the kingdom of God will advance and fill the whole earth prior to these events taking place at the end of time.
Full Preterism, what I don’t believe, is the belief that ALL Bible prophecy (including the gifts of the Holy Spirit with the exception of a few who are full preterist and still believe they are for today which is contradictory as I will show) were fulfilled in the past leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
This view teaches there won’t be any final bodily return of Christ, final resurrection, or a final judgment at the end of time. 100% of prophecy has been fulfilled to them.
I don’t believe that, and I never did, here’s what happened.
For about a 6 month period, to my shame, I embraced what is known as full preterism even though I did not believe in it. But I want you to know the story.
I had reached out to a teacher of Full Preterism and was asking tons of questions. This teacher advised me that I could be a full preterist and still be charismatic. That made me more OPEN to the view, but I was not ready to claim Full Preterism, I still had a lot to study. I also did not know that this view is contradictory to what Full Preterism teaches, that nothing related to prophecy extended past AD 70. I told him I was probably a full preterist based upon my current understanding at the time, but personally I was not ready to go public with it until I studied it out.
This Teacher, with good intentions, announced me as a “Charismatic Full Preterist” to a very popular fulfilled prophecy Facebook group. I was incredibly embarrassed, ashamed, and even upset, but I chose to just not say anything and stick with that label and adopt the “all things fulfilled” view of prophecy. Again, I shouldn’t have made it seem like I agreed with this belief system so much, it’s my fault and I feel this teacher was just announcing what he felt was true based on what I had told him.
I repent, because I did not know enough about this belief system to embrace it, and the more I studied, the more reasons I found that I don’t actually identify with the Full Preterist belief system.
Quickly I found myself being chastised by several for being charismatic. I was even told by some that I was hindering the progression of the full preterist movement because I was embracing the gifts of the Spirit as being for today and was a bad representation of what that camp taught as a whole which was that all things were fulfilled by AD 70, even the gifts of the Spirit.
To be fair, I also met several well-studied people, some of the most well studied I have ever met, who were loving and were just seeking the truth.
But here’s a problem I see happening.
If you look at the growing number of videos on Youtube that challenge Preterism as a whole, you will notice almost every single one (that I can find), mixes full and partial preterism. I believe it’s possible they don’t want to distinguish between partial and full preterism because it’s much more easy to discount all preterism by merging the two beliefs and saying that “all preterist” deny a final bodily return of Christ, final judgment, final resurrection, and believe all prophecy has been fulfilled, which is not the case. This is known as a straw-man argument. They build a straw man, say he believes something, and then they burn him.
This is also due to a lack of research on those making such a claim. It’s not hard to find that Partial Preterism is what most Preterist believe and while Full Preterism is growing, it still remains a small camp within the Preterist view.
I think they hear something that they haven’t heard before, and because it’s so different they are looking for any way to discount it. I also believe the mixing of partial and full preterism could be due to the progression of the full preterist belief system which claims to be the “consistent” and “true” view of prophecy, often being involved in debates and reaching Futurist who don’t hear a fair explanation of the Partial Preterist view of prophecy.
As people believe the two views are one and the same, the more that full preterism grows, the worst things will get for our overall mission of bringing hope and optimism toward people’s end time view, which is something I know both partial and full preterist desire. Here’s why.
If people have a choice between some sort of Futurism that includes a final return of Christ, or believing in full preterism, most Futurist will usually reject Full Preterism because it denies Jesus is coming back. And if people think all preterism is full preterism, they will be that much more resistant to Partial Preterism when they find out that only a small portion of preterist believe full preterism, and most believe Partial Preterism.
Here’s the deal, most Christians I talk to have never even heard of any kind of Preterism. In fact, a recent phone survey was done where 1,000 Pastors were surveyed on their end-time view, and only 1% held some sort of Preterist view. Click HERE to see the article.
That tells me that Christianity at large has been so dominated by Futurist eschatology that it has almost forgotten the view that was dominant prior to the rise of Dispensationalism in the 1800’s.
With the release of books like Victorious Eschatology by Harold Eberle and Martin Trench, Raptureless by Dr. Jonathan Welton, Last Days Madness by Gary Demar, The Last Days According To Jesus by R.C. Sproul, and Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright, I believe the tide is slowly turning and people are seeing the more Biblical and historical view known as Partial Preterism, but we still have much work to do in order to get this view to the church at large.
The Short History of Full Preterism
What I found truly troubling was that when you look at the history of the Full Preterist view, it doesn’t go back past the 1970’s.
“Full Preterism appears nowhere in church history until the 1970s. It is nowhere deduced or even implied from the writings of earlier Fathers.” -Sam Frost 1
“We start in the 1970s with a book called The Spirit of Prophecy by a onetime Church of Christ minister, Max R. King (he would later write the magnum opus of full preterism, The Cross and the Parousia of Christ, in 1987). Up until this time, we have no clear documentation of full preterism, although there is an abundance of other preterist material in church history going back to the early centuries of Christianity.” 1
I am not claiming church history has been perfect, but I have the same question for a Full Preterist as I do a Dispensationalist.
If the beliefs you teach are so clear, how come the church at large couldn’t find them until the 19th century? I can’t make the bold claim that I have discovered something that the most brilliant Bible scholars and exegetes throughout Church History were unable to uncover. I would rather admit there is something I am missing than make such a claim.
I believe Full Preterism is in some ways like Dispensationalism in that it is an interpretive filter that sometimes distorts our contextual interpretation of Scripture.
Dispensationalism goes through the prophetic passages of scripture and only sees a rapture, a 7 year tribulation period, an antichrist, and their other doctrinal beliefs when they are not there and are not reflected in the context.
Full Preterism goes through the prophetic passages of Scripture, which admittedly do often speak about AD 70, but always make them read AD 70. Full Preterism begins with the presupposition that “All things are fulfilled”, which makes anything having a future fulfillment off the table, even if that’s what the context communicates, which I believe at times it does.
I remember asking some of my Full Preterist friends about some of these issues such as with 1st Corinthians 15:24-26 and never being able to see how these things happened before 70 AD without stretching our interpretation severely.
“Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign UNTIL He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.”
Have all the enemies of Christ been put under His feet? I don’t think so, which means Christ is still ruling and reigning and this is a present reality that will have its final fulfillment once that goal has been accomplished in the future. Notice the word “until”. This communicates there will be a time of reigning where Christ is putting all His enemies under His feet, and then it will reach its fulfillment.
Here’s another example.
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; UNTIL we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man...”
Have we all attained to the unity of the the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ, are no longer children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming and are grown up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ?
I don’t think so. Again, I believe the 5-fold gifting is in operation, bringing us closer to that ultimate reality which will be fulfilled in the future.
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial (gifts of the Holy Spirit) will be done away.” 1 Cor. 13:9;10
A Full Preterist would most likely say “The perfect” is about AD 70. Why? Because that’s what the filter does, it makes us have to show how everything related to prophecy had a past fulfillment.
To believe that anything prophetic continued past AD 70 such as the gift of a prophet, or the operation of prophetic gifting in general, is to be a partial preterist, meaning that there are things working towards their ultimate fulfillment in the future. These scriptures don’t communicate these giftings will exist eternally but will cease once their goal has been accomplished.
It’s impossible to be a Charismatic Full Preterist and be consistent with the “All Things Fulfilled” interpretive lens of Full Preterism.
Keep in mind, there are many partial preterists that don’t believe in the gifts of the Spirit for today, but the partial preterist view is much more in alignment with things continuing versus the full preterist view of the all things being fulfilled by AD 70.
The Biggest Reason No One Should Be A Full Preterist
One final thought, but this may be the most important of all.
To those of you who are “On the fence” about Full Preterism, or have joined that belief system. Hear me out for a second.
Let’s say for a moment that Full Preterism was 100% Biblical.
Is there a chance that church history has gotten it wrong on such an important subject for 1,970 years? It’s possible, but I doubt it.
Is there a chance that the gifts have ceased completely and everything we are seeing is just charismatic shenanigans posing as authentic gifts?
It’s possible, but I doubt it. But let’s say this was the case.
Even if it were 100% true I don’t feel it’s wise to believe it, here’s why:
As I stated, the majority of Christians have never heard of ANY kind of Preterism and currently believe some sort of Futurism that sees the Future filled with chaos and tribulation.
Also 99.9% of Christians, like myself, believe Jesus is coming back, and believe in a final resurrection and final judgment. I promise you, if you tell people Jesus is not coming back, they will rarely listen to you about the other important things you have to say such as a present kingdom, hope for the future, etc. Consider Paul’s method of reaching people.
1 Cor 9:19-22
“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law…To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may, by all means, save some.“
I want to put myself in the shoes of a full preterist for a second. You are highly passionate about your belief system and believe you are being consistent and have some good arguments. I don’t deny those things.
But what about the church? What about those millions of people who need more hope for the future and a revelation of a present kingdom but won’t hear you because you reject something they hold to be fundamental? Is it worth it? I say no.
Let me put Paul’s words in another way.
“To the Futurist, I became like a Futurist, that I may win the more”.
Paul never fully embraced the law to win someone to Christ in that he started to observe all 613 commandments, but he was willing to embrace little aspects of the law here or there in order to reach people for the gospel and not be a stumbling block.
“Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.“
Paul had the disciple named Timothy embrace an obsolete aspect of the law, physical circumcision, that had been fulfilled through the spiritual circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:28;29), so he wouldn’t be a stumbling block when going into a city heavily populated by Jews who wouldn’t listen to Paul preach the gospel if they found out Timothy was not circumcised.
You are standing before a church that is 99.9% full of people who believe Jesus is coming back, I am one of them. Not only that, we hold this belief to be fundamental, and rightly so considering it’s in all the church creeds and wasn’t challenged until the 1970’s.
Why would we deny something so fundamental that is at the end of time anyway and is not worth sacrificing an open door into people’s lives who have very poor end-time teaching? If you are a full preterist, or are considering it, and were not convinced by the doctrinal cases I made, I hope you will at least consider what I just stated.
I will end by how I started. If you are a full preterist and continue in that belief system, I don’t believe it’s wise Scripturally or from an evangelistic perspective of being all things to all men, but I still love you, I still want to hear what you have to say, and I want to have fellowship. I am not interested in debating this issue because I have read several books by Full Preterist and listen to several debates and heard their arguments. I simply wanted to point out the reasons that I have chosen to not believe in this system and why I believe others should not as well, but study the Scriptures for yourself and come to your own conclusions, and seek the heart of God and you will find the truth. Take care.
1 Sam Frost, Why I Left Full Preterism