Scholars have attacked the credibility of Christ and the inspiration of Scripture by claiming that Jesus was wrong when He promised to return within the lifetime of the first century apostles. The only solution to this problem of non-occurrence is occurrence – everything Jesus promised happened exactly as and when He said it would. Preterism is the only biblically consistent view that offers this solution and stops the attack dead in its tracks.
Critics have hit Christianity at its weakest point. Atheist Bertrand Russell, in his book, 'Why I Am Not A Christian', discredits the inspiration of the New Testament: "I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospel narrative…He certainly thought that his second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at the time. There are a great many texts that prove…He believed that his coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of his earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of his moral teaching." Russell later reasons that it would be fallacious to follow a religious leader (such as Jesus) who was mistaken on so basic a prediction as his parousia.
Albert Schweitzer in his 19-century book, 'The Quest of the Historical Jesus', summarized the problem of "Parousia delay" as follows: "The whole history of Christianity down to the present day... is based on the delay of the Parousia, the nonoccurrence of the Parousia, the abandonment of eschatology, the process and completion of the 'de-eschatologizing' of religion which has been connected therewith."
Jewish skeptics contend that Jesus didn't complete the whole mission of the Messiah within the time frame their prophets had predicted. They allege that Christians invented the idea of a "second coming" off in the future to cover up Jesus' failure to return as He promised. This is the Jews' primary excuse for rejecting Jesus and belittling Christianity.
Muslim skeptics paint Christianity as a failed and false religion. They acknowledge that Jesus was a prophet, but discredit his divinity and destroy the credibility of the faith He presented by pointing out alleged errors and inconsistencies concerning his perceived non-return. They rightly recognize the logical implications of the Bible's time statements as having a direct bearing on the messianic and divine claims of Christ. They believe that Jesus and the Apostles either lied about his imminent return and other eschatological matters, or Jesus prophesied things that were not fulfilled when He said they would. Either way, He was a false prophet.
These arguments naturally seek to undermine the inspiration and inerrancy of the scripture and open the door for the acceptance of the Koran and Islam.
Even C.S. Lewis, the respected Christian apologist and author, wrote in a 1960 essay, "'Say what you like,' we shall be told, 'the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, 'this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.' And He was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.' It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible." Essay "The World's Last Night" (1960), found in The Essential C.S. Lewis, p-385.
Do you hear what these critics and even C.S. Lewis are saying? They are saying Jesus was literally wrong when he made numerous time-restrictive predictions and statements regarding his coming, his return. This was, and still is, the crack that lets them in the door to begin their systematic criticism and dismantling of Scripture with its inevitable bankrupting of the faith.
Most evangelicals are forced to agree that Jesus didn't return as and when He promised, in that generation or in that century. Standard Christian explanations for this claim that Jesus' coming has been delayed or postponed (but the Bible says his coming would not be delayed: Matthew 24:48, Luke 12:45, Hebrews 10:37, Revelation 10:6, 2 Peter 3:9) or the timing was misunderstood (John 14:26; 16:13), and that He will come again (return) someday "soon" and finish the job. These attempts to evade the plain meaning of clear statements are at a real disadvantage against the skeptics' attack. The informed followers of Christ have no trouble seeing though the biblical inconsistencies of this poor scholarship. Not only do these cover-up attempts prove the point, but add more ammunition to the skeptics' claim that Jesus was incorrect about his time-restricted predictions and thus cannot be the Messiah.
The bottom line is that postponement theories directly contradict the teachings of Jesus, and nonoccurrence leaves Christianity vulnerable to all manner of critical scorn and harmful assaults. It gives the skeptics all the license they need to blaspheme Jesus as not only a false prophet, but a deceiver as well. It opens wide the door to the dismissal of all Christian claims. Let's face it, the skeptics have a legitimate complaint if Jesus did not do something that He said He would. They are more than aware of the dilemma that nonoccurrence presents for the Christian Church and the impossibility of escaping it without being disloyal to Christ. The fact is, Jesus made clear, concrete, future predictions about his coming in glory that seemingly did not come to pass. Or so we've been told. Criticism concentrates on that point.
R.C. Sproul, a respected Reformed theologian, calls this dilemma: "One of the most critical issues that the church faces today and has been facing for some time, and that is, a serious crisis…in the area of eschatology… a wholesale attack on the trustworthiness of the Bible and of the truth of the Scripture concerning the Person and work of Jesus Himself…I have never been satisfied that the evangelical community has dealt with the problems of the time-frame references that are set forth in the New Testament about the near-term expectations and things that were to happen within the first century." -- "Last Days Madness," Ligonier Ministries' 1999 National Conference.
"…skeptical criticism of the Bible has become almost universal in the world. And people have attacked the credibility of Jesus. Maybe some church fathers made a mistake. Maybe our favorite theologians have made mistakes. I can abide with that. I can't abide with Jesus being a false prophet, because if I am to understand that Jesus is a false prophet, my faith is in vain." -- "The Problem of Immanency," 1993 Covenant Eschatology Symposium, Mt. Dora, FL.
"The evangelical world cannot afford to turn a deaf ear to the railing voices of skepticism that gut Scripture of its divine authority, that assault the credibility of the apostolic witness and even of Christ himself. We must take seriously the skeptic's critique of the time-frame references of New Testament prophecy, and we must answer them convincingly." -- The Last Days According to Jesus, p-203.
How can conservative evangelicals answer them "convincingly"? Certainly, it's not with the postponement theories of the past, or by changing the meaning of commonly understood and normally used words, or by any of the other side-stepping techniques futurists are forced to employ. Nor can we continue to ignore these attacks hoping they will go away. They won't.
The only solution to the dilemma of "nonoccurrence" is occurrence! It's the only biblically consistent solution that can stop the skeptic assault dead in its tracks. It's also the simplest solution. It has been right in front of us all along. And that is that Jesus was correct. He said what He meant and meant what He said. Furthermore, 1st-century immanency expectations also prove true. Is it really so unbearable to believe that everything happened exactly as and when Jesus predicted it would and every New Testament writer expected? After all, they were guided into all truth and shown the things that were to come (John 14:26; 16:13). We are the ones who must honor the clearly used, consistently employed, and biblically defined time parameters that Scripture imposes upon itself, and, consequently, adjust our understanding of prophecy's precise past fulfillment.
This is the preterist view. It documents how all eschatological events came to pass within the lifetime of Jesus' contemporaries, i.e. within that same and uninterrupted "last days" time frame (Heb 1:1-2). This includes our Lord's time-restricted return. Nothing was delayed, nothing proved false, everything certainly came to pass (Hab 2:3; Heb 10:37), right on time, in conjunction with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
For this reason, the preterist position is the most Christ-honoring, Scripture-authenticating, and faith-validating of all six major end-time views in the historic church. I encourage you to honestly and sincerely consider the great advantage the preterist view has against the skeptic attack on the Bible, that it is "the only solution" to their objections. It is time for conservative evangelicals to rise up and counterattack. But we must do this "convincingly" as R.C. Sproul has well stated. Therefore, I recommend the preterist view to your serious attention. The preterist movement is the only serious and significant attempt by believers to preserve the inspiration of Scripture and safeguard the integrity of Christ and the New Testament writers against the skeptical attack. It is also the only hope for reviving the church of Jesus Christ.
Consider these Six Points
1) After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came, all the apostles expected Jesus to return in their own lifetime. Why?
2) The Holy Spirit made the apostles understand everything that Jesus taught them (John 14:26; 16:13).
3) Did Jesus teach them about His coming? Yes, many times.
4) Jesus told the apostles his coming would take place within their own lifetime (Matthew 10:23; 16:27-28; 24:34).
5) "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16). The apostles wrote "as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21). The prophesies of the scripture do not contain opinions, speculations, or private interpretations (2 Peter 1:20). The apostles wrote what God told them to write. Jesus spoke what the Father told him to speak (John 8:28; 12:50; 14:10).
6) If the scripture is wrong, and Jesus did not return when he said he would, then the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and all the apostles were either wrong, or they lied (Numbers 23:19). So, we have a choice. Either we must believe that the Word of God is Truth, and Jesus returned when he said he would. Or we must believe that the teachings of man is Truth, and Jesus will return sometime in the future. Both cannot be true. And if God was wrong about that, what other doctrines from God are wrong and untrue?
Do you believe that Jesus Christ was a false prophet? Does this question shock you? The futurist position denies the fulfillment of the prophesies of Jesus. Because of the time-statements connected with these prophesies, if the prophesies had not come true, Jesus would be a false prophet according to the scripture definition found in Deuteronomy 18:22. These prophesies are not specific as to the day or the hour, but they do give a definite generational guideline. He said they would occur in his generation, which means within forty years. And all these prophesies were, in fact, fulfilled within 40 years of Jesus' death and resurrection! Which was in 70 A.D.
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