Eschatology The Last Frontier?
For many churches the study of Christ's return is not open to discussion. Common eschatological views are dictated by their traditions. We are not saying traditions are wrong within themselves, but only they can and should be open to discussion and where necessary, debate.
Such discussions are being carried on with radical versus moderate Islam, political Zionism versus religions Judaism and Christian Zionism versus the church as the true Israel. When we examine the history of the church, most religious doctrines were challenged and debated, beginning with Martin Luther and continuing through the reformation and restoration movements.
Subjects such as faith and works, the sovereignty of God, separation of church and state, infant baptism, mode of baptism, soteriology, missionary societies and more all were open to discussion. We have finally arrived at time where eschatology is being discussed more and more in both higher academic institutions and within the pulpits and pews.
In many discussions, Premillennialism, Ammillennialism and Postmillennialism, in their various forms were in fact and are yet assumed to be three categories of eschatology that must be true? In other words, as long as you hold to one of these, you're safe from excommunication, even though these views are all contrary the one to the other.
However, they do have one common bond. They all hold to a yet future return of Christ. Thus, they view as heresy, any doctrine which denies that as a fundamental truth. Like the Herodians, the Sadduccees and the Pharisees united against Christ, proponents of these opposing views will unite against Preterism.
What has begun to change the eschatological landscape over the past 30 years is a resurgence of Preterism. This is the view that all Bible prophecy has been fulfilled. Particularly, we mean the doctrine of the return of Christ, (the parousia), often called the second coming, was fulfilled in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Some consider themselves partial preterists. They hold that most coming again passages found in the new testament were fulfilled in A.D. 70, but, they yet believe a few texts such as John 14:1-3, 1 Cor. 15, 1 Thess. 4, 2 Pet. 3 and some parts of the Book of Revelation are yet future.
While even some in each of the three main eschatological paradigms have a selective number more or less of preterist texts in their paradigms, they reject a consistent view of Preterism even when those texts they hold as preterit contradict their own futurist views.
For example, Wayne Jackson, an Amillennialist and preacher in the church of Christ, published a tract on Premillennialism where he opposed its teaching of a postponed or delayed kingdom based on the term "at hand" which he views as imminent relating to the time of its arrival. He would cite such texts as Matt. 3:2, 4:17 and Mk. 1:14 to establish his premise.
In short, at hand means near, imminent, as in something about to happen very soon. Since the kingdom was announced as at hand, Jackson reasoned it was soon to appear.
On the other hand, Jackson has written against the Preterist view by recapitulating on the very logic and premise he used to refute the Dispensationalism he opposes. When he confronts passages which speak of the coming of the Lord that use the very same phrase "at hand", such as the following he balks.
- The day [salvation/of the Lord] is at hand, Rom. 13:11-12
- The Lord is at hand, Phil. 4:5
- The coming of the Lord is at hand, Jas. 5:7-8
- The end of all things is at hand, 1 Pet. 4:7
- These things must shortly come to pass, Rev. 1:1, 22:6
- The time is at hand, Rev. 1:3, 22:10
Jackson reneges on his logic and premise as used above which are both valid and sound on the kingdom argument. When applied to Christ's return, he has to look upon the "man in the mirror" and face his own logic. His opposition to Preterism is not a debate against the doctrine, but a debate against his own logic and the inconsistent application of it.
If the term "at hand" means near and proves the kingdom arrived in the first century shortly after its announcement by Jesus and his Apostles is true then the following must be true.
Jesus and his apostles announced that the coming of the Lord was "at hand". Therefore, the coming of the Lord also arrived shortly thereafter within the first century generation. Jackson must agree to this logic or he must abandon his premise and argument against Premillennialism. Since, to this date, he has been unwilling to do so, he remains inconsistent, defending his view with a "broken sword" to use his own words.
How does he seek to justify this dichotomy, this dividing of hands of sorts as pitting his right hand against his left, meaning he holds the meaning of at hand to be imminent and past in one hand and future and elastic his other hand? We can see this fallacy even if he cannot.
An Attempt At Putting His Hands Together
Jackson has attempted several times to reconcile his right and left hand dichotomization on the term "at hand" by arguing that the term "at hand" is now elastic. The Dispensationalists would gladly welcome him to their camp. They would cite "elasticity of time prophecy". Jackson writes the following:
A major fallacy of the preterist mentality is a failure to recognize the elasticity of chronological jargon within the context of biblical prophecy. It is a rather common trait in prophetic language that an event, while literally in the remote future, may be described as near. The purpose in this sort of language is to emphasize the certainty of the prophecy's fulfillment. http://www.mightyisthelord.com/articles/2011/07/17/the-menace-of-radical...
Jackson originally argued the above by using the text in Deut. 32:35. In response, we pointed out that Moses was not describing events that were at hand in his day, but events which would be at hand in the last days of Israel which would not occur for another 1400 years after Moses' generation. Thus, he incorrectly attempted to assign a remote time to "at hand" when the true application was that of imminence.
For example, Moses said Israel would be in the land after many generations, (Deut. 31:29; 32:7). He also spoke of their time of judgment in their latter days. It would the time when the Gentiles had come into the faith, (Deut. 32:43; Rom. 15:10). None of these occurred in the days of Moses. However, Jesus and the Apostles apply these texts to the first century generation, (Rev. 6:10; 19:2)
Since that time, Jackson has argued by using the term "at hand" in Obadiah 15, claiming it refers to a yet future judgment, meaning it is yet to be fulfilled even now. However, Jeremiah 25:15-38 shows this prophecy was fulfilled shortly after it was uttered in the time of Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century (583) B.C.. Observe that Edom the subject of Obadiah's prophetic utterance is mentioned as one of the destroyed peoples.
History shows they were subjugated and pushed south. They are later called the Idumeans and from whom Herod the Great came as noted in the new testament. For a most thorough documentation and refutation of Jackson's argument on Obadiah, see the article by Don K Preston, D. Div., http://planetpreterist.com/content/response-wayne-jacksons-menace-radica...
The Common Thread
We noted above that the three major paradigms of eschatology, Premillennialism, Amillennialism and Post Millennialism all are futurist eschatologies. They all argue in similar fashion regarding time as does Jackson. The value of this study therefore applies to each of them. Thus, they are all inconsistent in applying passages related to time. Preterism, not only seeks but is in actuality, argument and defense, consistent in applying time texts. It therefore stands as a viable option and open to dialogue along site commonly accepted views.