When trusting Jesus more, leads to questioning traditional lore

Preterism Debate

When I first started looking into the past fulfillment view, it was helpful for me to read debates between futurists and preterists. This way, I could see how the important points stack up next to each other. This was the most helpful thing for deconstructing the futurism that I had been indoctrinated with all my life. When I stepped back and looked at things objectively, I could see that futurism didn’t stack up. The preterist had the stronger position every time. Now it’s puzzling to me why anyone who hears the weaknesses of futurism stick with it (except christian professionals for whom it would cost them their job to move away from futurism).  So, even though I don’t agree with every point that this preterist below mentions (he believes in a first century rapture) I do agree with his overall logic that Jesus’ message of imminency for his listeners was actually for them. And that when Paul clearly teaches and believes that eschatological events were about to happen to him, he was correct. So in the spirit of sharing something helpful, here is an example of a typical preterist-futurist debate where you can see that the futurist is both misinformed about history and has probably never even heard of, much less considered, the preterist view!

This is from Michael Fenemore’s site Preterism.info.

 

—-Michael says—

On Oct. 2, I sent David Pack this message:

Dear Mr. Pack,

I just watched your latest presentation on the abomination of desolation. However, I cannot accept your interpretation.

You quoted Luke: “…when you shall see Jerusalem encompassed with armies…” (ch. 21:20).

I see a major problem here: you seem to think “you” is you, i.e., you seem to think Jesus was talking to you, me and everyone else living today. However, I read in Mark 13:3 that Jesus was speaking to four people who lived almost two thousand years ago, not us. Since Jesus said those four disciples would see the armies surrounding Jerusalem, then the abomination of desolation must have occurred in the first century within their lifetime.

Furthermore, we know by the historical record that armies did surround Jerusalem in the first century under the commands of Roman Generals Cestius Gallus and Titus. Further still, we know Jerusalem was desolated soon thereafter.

So, why do you teach as though Luke 21:20 was spoken to you when it clearly was not, and we know it has already been fulfilled?

Thanks. Looking forward to your answer.

Sincerely,

Michael Fenemore

Evidently, Pack is too busy to answer me, so my question was passed on to Jacob C. Toews, a minister in The Restored Church of God. The following is his answer, followed by my reply:


David C. Pack

Dear Mr. Fenemore,

Thank you for your interest in the World to Come program whcih [sic] is produced by The Restored Church of God (RCG). Your email has been forwarded to me as I am the pastor for your area.

You mentioned that you felt the abomination of desolation in Luke 21:20 must have occurred during the days of Christ’s disciples because in Mark 13:3 He was talking to 4 of them when He said “you.”

While Jerusalem certainly was surrounded by armies and then destroyed in 69-70 A.D., two of the disciples were already dead by that time. James died in 44-45 A.D. and Peter was apparently killed in 64 A.D. John was the only one who lived until 95 A.D. This would leave one to ask the question that if 2 of the 4 disciples died before Jerusalem was surrounded and destroyed, why did Christ say “you” meaning all 4 of them and no one else?

It is interesting to note here that only the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 69-70 A.D.—not the city of Jerusalem. Yet the account in Luke 21 is discussing the destruction of the city.

One of the cardinal rules of thorough Bible study is to recognize that prophecies are often duel [sic]—that pieces must be put together to get a clear picture “here a little, there a little” (Is. 28:10, 13), like a jigsaw puzzle. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was only a type of what is to come at the end of this age.

It is also important to remember another important key to Bible study is to look at scripture in context to what is being discussed. Reading the passages before and after verse 20 of Luke 21, you will realize that Christ is referring to what is to happen just prior to His second coming. For the moment, Jerusalem still stands—Jesus Christ is not here yet—meaning that destruction is yet to come.

The early New Testament Church certainly believed that Christ’s return would be in their life time. Even the apostle Paul believed this when he stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 “…then we which are alive and remain…” However, by the time he wrote 2 Thessalonians, he understood that Christ’s return and the devastating events preceding it was yet for a future time. Please see verses 2-4.

The parallel accounts of the Luke 21 prophecy are found in Mark 13 and Matthew 24. Notice in Matthew 24:21-22 “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”

While the desolation of the Temple in 69-70 A.D. was most definitely a horrible time for the Jews, there has, since that time, been suffering on a much greater scale.

The soon coming future abomination will be the beginning of the Great Tribulation—a time such as has never been before and which could lead to total human annihilation if Christ didn’t intervene. This type of suffering and destruction never happened in 69-70 A.D.

Since you are in the process of becoming familiar with The Restored Church of God (RCG) and the unique doctrines we teach, in addition to what you have already studied, we would like to recommend that you study the following introductory material: Are These the Last Days? …

You may also be interested in our flagship magazine, The Real Truth, available online at www.realtruth.org, as well as the following World to Come broadcasts, presented by David C. Pack: Is the End Near?

We look forward to future correspondence. Please keep us updated on your progress as you are able.

In Christ’s service,

Jacob Toews
Minister, Pacific Northwest – US/Canada, Restored Church of God

 

Dear Mr. Toews,

There is so much misinformation in your response, I hardly know where to begin.

You correctly stated, “Jerusalem certainly was surrounded by armies and then destroyed in 69-70 A.D.” However, after virtually conceding the abomination of desolation was fulfilled, you attempt to prove it was not fulfilled by claiming, “only the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 69-70 A.D.—not the city of Jerusalem.” By your own admission, this is absolutely untrue.

It is common knowledge Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. In Wars of the Jews, Josephus says Titus “entirely demolished the rest of the city” (6.9.1.413). The next chapter heading reads as follows: “HOW THE ENTIRE CITY OF JERUSALEM WAS DEMOLISHED, EXCEPTING THREE TOWERS.” Josephus continues, “Caesar [Titus] gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple” (7.1.1.1). So, since Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, then Luke 21:20 — the abomination of desolation — was fulfilled, and there is no indication of any dual fulfillment. You say, “One of the cardinal rules of thorough Bible study is to recognize that prophecies are often duel—that pieces must be put together to get a clear picture ‘here a little, there a little’ (Is. 28:10, 13), like a jigsaw puzzle. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was only a type of what is to come at the end of this age.” Cardinal rule? Who wrote this rule, Mr. Toews? I don’t see it anywhere in the Bible. If it is a cardinal rule, it would always be true. However, you say prophecies are “often” dual. This means it is not always true, and since that is the case, it is not a cardinal rule, and you can’t know what’s dual and what isn’t. How do you know the destruction of the Temple is to be fulfilled twice? Where is the proof it was supposed to be a type of something in our time? There is no proof; no biblical support at all. It’s simply a convenient way for you to deny the finality of Luke 21 so you can keep promoting a future return of Christ. If dual fulfillment is a cardinal rule, then we should expect two Messiahs, two Second Comings, two Resurrections of the Dead, two Judgments, etc. It gets ridiculous. There is no cardinal rule, Mr. Toews. The dual-fulfillment argument is offered only by people who are unwilling to accept the first and only fulfillments of New Testament eschatological predictions.


The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850)

The destruction of Jerusalem was not a type of something to occur in our day. Types are from the Old Testament; antitypes are found in the New Testament. The American Heritage Dictionary defines antitype as follows: “One that is foreshadowed by or identified with an earlier symbol or type, such as a figure in the New Testament who has a counterpart in the Old Testament.” For instance, Sodom and Egypt were sinful cities playing prominent roles in the history of Israel. In the book of Revelation, sinful Jerusalem is referred to as Sodom and Egypt (Rev. 11:8). Sodom and Egypt are Old Testament types; Jerusalem is the New Testament antitype. Elijah was an Old Testament type; John the Baptist was the New Testament antitype. The New Testament does not create new types for later fulfillments.

Far from being a type, first-century Jerusalem was actually an antitype: the antitype of Babylon, as should be obvious from reading Revelation. Jesus gave the first indication of this in Matt. 24:29 when he compared Jerusalem’s destruction to Babylon’s destruction. His reference to Isa. 13:10 — “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” — was a clear allusion to Babylon’s destruction, a point that would not have been lost on his first-century Jewish audience.

So, Mr. Toews, was Jerusalem destroyed or not? If you claim it was not, you contradict the historical record. If you agree it was destroyed, then the abomination of desolation predicted in Luke 21 has been fulfilled, your belief in a future return of Christ disintegrates, and David Pack may as well shut down his organization which could not survive without such a teaching.

You continue, “It is also important to remember another important key to Bible study is to look at scripture in context to what is being discussed. Reading the passages before and after verse 20 of Luke 21, you will realize that Christ is referring to what is to happen just prior to His second coming.” Exactly, Mr. Toews. The context and the fulfillment of the abomination of desolation prove the Second Coming of Christ occurred in the first century. And the reason Christ “is not here yet,” as you put it, is because he already returned in the first century and took his servants back to heaven to be with the Father as he promised in John 14:3.

Next, you impugn the inspiration of Holy Scripture. You correctly say, “The early New Testament Church certainly believed that Christ’s return would be in their life time. Even the apostle Paul believed this when he stated in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 ‘…then we which are alive and remain…’.” However, then, you imply this prediction was not inspired by claiming Paul changed his mind: “by the time he wrote 2 Thessalonians, he understood that Christ’s return and the devastating events preceding it was yet for a future time. Please see verses 2-4.” What? Don’t you believe in the inspiration of Scripture? If Paul’s previous statement was inspired by the Holy Spirit, any suggestion he changed his mind utterly undermines the authority of Scripture. Paul didn’t change his mind. Of course, he believed “Christ’s return and the devastating events preceding it was yet for a future time.” It was still twenty years away: “Second Thessalonians was probably penned from Corinth in A.D. 49–51, shortly after 1 Thessalonians” (ESV Study Bible).

Then, you provide support for my contention eschatological prophecies were fulfilled in the first century by quoting 1 Cor. 10:11: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” When Paul said, “our admonition,” he was talking about himself and the Church in the first century, not us. It was upon them the end of the Old Covenant age was coming in the destruction of the Temple and the end of Jewish sacrifices. You seem to think Paul was talking to you and David Pack. The 3½-year tribulation was upon the Jews in the first century, from the time Vespasian was commissioned by Nero in February, A.D. 67 to the final destruction of Jerusalem in August, A.D. 70. You seem to be in total ignorance of this.

John said, “we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18, ESV throughout unless otherwise noted). Did John change his mind too? How could this be, Mr. Toews? His letter is inspired Scripture. Furthermore, Jesus told the apostles, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). Therefore, whatever they said was to come in Scripture must be right. There is simply no room for the “holy apostles” (Eph. 3:5) of Jesus Christ to be retracting what had been already laid down as Scripture.

Here’s where I have a problem with your teachings, Mr. Toews: Why is it Christ’s holy apostles were so mixed up, but you understand it so well? If I can’t trust Christ’s apostles, why should I trust you?

Yes, the early New Testament Church certainly did expect Christ to return in their lifetime. Why? Because that’s what Jesus told them to expect. He said the Olivet Prophecy would be fulfilled within his generation (Matt. 24:34). He said some standing listening to him would be alive when the Judgment and Kingdom of God arrived (Matt. 16:27-28). I believe Jesus. He said the gospel would go to the world of their day, i.e., the Roman Empire, and then the end would come (Matt. 24:14). Paul said the gospel had already been preached to the world by the time he wrote to the Romans (A.D. 57):

…I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. (Rom. 1:8)

…I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”
(Rom. 10:18)

He said the same thing to the Colossians:

5…the gospel, 6which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing… (Col. 1:5b-6)

This is proof “the end” came in the first century. So, we should not be surprised to find Peter proclaiming, “The end of all things is near…” (1 Pet. 4:7, NASB). Regarding the signs leading up to his return, Jesus said, “…when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matt. 24:33, NASB). Later in the first century, James wrote, “8…the coming of the Lord is near. 9…the Judge is standing right at the door” (Jas. 5:8b, 9b, NASB). Jesus promised to return to take his first-century servants back to be with him and the Father in heaven (John 14:3), and I believe he did — as a reward for fulfilling their commission to take the gospel to the world of their day.

Your futuristic position, which is so typical of today’s Christian churches, denies documented history and the inspiration of Holy Scripture. I cannot imagine how you could mount a believable response to all this, but if you would like to try, I would be interested in reading it.

Michael A. Fenemore

2011 Oct 02

Is David Pack following my blog?
Not likely. However, only hours after I posted my article on the abomination of desolation on the morning of September 30, Pack released a video presenting his interpretation.

At some point in my life, I came to the realization that no matter how much one has right about a subject, a solitary, tiny miscalculation can have devastating implications. In Pack’s case, the problem that sends him (and his viewers) into figurative outer space is his misunderstanding of one word: the word you. Pack quoted Luke 21:20: “…when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” To find out who was included in “you,” one must do a little investigating. It doesn’t take long to discover Jesus was talking to four people who lived almost two thousand years ago: the disciples, Peter, James, John and Andrew (Mark 13:3). So, it’s easy to see that, at least, one or two of those disciples would, at some point in their lives, see Jerusalem surrounded by armies. Of course, this means the abomination and the resulting desolation must have occurred in the first century.

Is this difficult so far? It is for David Pack. He thinks Jesus was talking to him. Why would he think that? His error moves enormous portions of the plan of salvation like the Second Coming of Christ, Resurrection of the Dead, Rapture and Judgment out of the first century and transports them forward almost two thousand years. All the major final events in God’s plan which were fulfilled centuries ago become completely unraveled and must be fulfilled in our future.

There are at least two major problems with Pack’s interpretation. First of all, as I have said, Jesus wasn’t talking to David Pack, or anyone else living today. Secondly, we know Jerusalem was surrounded by armies in the first century. Does Pack believe in double fulfillment? I’m not sure, but that idea can be quickly eliminated. (See Matthew 24: Is Double Fulfillment Possible?)

So, Pack thinks Jesus was talking to people who didn’t exist at the time and wouldn’t for over nineteen centuries. I asked rhetorically, “Why would he think that?” I know why. Like all futurists, he’s been brainwashed. He had futurism drummed into his head for so long by his former boss, Herbert W. Armstrong, he can’t think straight. When futurists encounter words that don’t comport with their ingrained presuppositions, they either ignore them or redefine them. This is standard procedure as I recently noted in my September 22 newspaper column on the misuse of the word imminent. (See Wishing Proper Use of ‘Imminent’ Was Imminent.)

Some people accuse me of attacking preachers like David Pack when I expose their errors. They think I’m being mean to another Christian. I don’t see it that way at all. I’m helping Christians. I receive messages frequently from people thanking me for helping them climb out of the pit of delusion. They see my work as a positive contribution, not a negative one. And as far as people like Pack are concerned, I pray for them. I’m not mad at them. I wish they would wake up.

Objection: How could such blindness have persisted for almost 2,000 years?

Answer: This sad delusion continues simply because long-held, deep-seated traditions are almost impossible to change. The sheep follow their shepherds, i.e., Christians generally believe whatever their pastors tell them. They assume they’re being told the truth. However, in most cases, a pastor attempting to explain the truth regarding the  fulfillment of eschatological events would be immediately fired. Few have the courage to even consider a view that threatens their incomesOnly those willing to do their own study and believe the promises of Jesus, his apostles, and scripture — proof or no proof — will be able to break free from the mainstream deception.

Nevertheless, most Christians cannot abide such sound logic [of preterism] because they believe Jesus did not return in the first century as he promised. To them, we must still be living in the last days. Regardless of how ludicrous it might sound — considering the passage of almost two millennia — those presupposing a future Second Coming of Christ simply have no option.

Although your author can’t believe a period described as “days” can be 2,000 years, evidently, some think this is perfectly reasonable. However, there is something these people may have failed to consider. John eventually claimed, “we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). So, to be consistent, if we believe we are still in the last days, we would also need to believe the world has been living in the last hour of the last days since the first century. Now, this is completely unbelievable. If it was the last hour in the first century, then surely, that hour must be up by now. But, if we are not living in the last hour of the last days anymore, then clearly, the last days must be over too.

Perhaps, we should ask this question: The last days of what? What was ending in the first century? It should be obvious. The Old Covenant and temple sacrifices were coming to a dramatic close. Although Jesus established the New Covenant on the night before his crucifixion (Luke 22:20), Old Covenant worship customs were still being practiced in the temple at Jerusalem. This would soon be terminated forever. During the a.d. mid-sixties, the author of Hebrews declared, “what is becoming obsolete and growing old is READY to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13). Within the decade, it did vanish when, in a.d. 70, the temple was razed with not one stone left upon another just as Jesus had predicted in Matt. 24:1-2. Old Covenant sacrifices have never been restored. That was it: the end. The Old Covenant era ended, and so did the last days of that era.

We are not living in the last days because that period expired in the first century. Jesus returned to judge the unrighteous in the “Great Tribulation” (Matt. 24:21; Luke 21:22), the temple was destroyed, and the disciples saw their Savior coming to take them to heaven exactly as he had promised:

For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom (Matt. 16:27-28).

Jesus instructed his disciples to hurry because the time for preaching before his return was relatively short:

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matt. 10:23, ESV.)

This emphatic statement leaves no room for an enormous delay. It would certainly not have taken 2,000 years to reach the towns of Israel. Moreover, most of those towns had been destroyed by a.d. 70. So, Christ’s return must have occurred by that time.

“This verse has caused no little discussion. Some have even said the Lord Jesus made a mistake here!”

—Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999), Matt. 10:23.

Michael A. Fenemore