An open letter to All Preterists
By Buel Hallpike
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(Note: Preterists believe that all or most of the end-time prophecies including the Second Coming of the Messiah were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70)
It is a very serious and dangerous doctrine you are propagating. If the Messiah came in A.D. 70, then He will not be coming again, and there is no need to be watchful. This is contrary to all relevant Scriptures.
The Messiah Himself admitted that only the Father knew when the Son would return "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father" Mark 13:32. So it is no discredit to the Messiah as you suggest, if both He and His disciples talked as though His return was imminent, but two thousand years later we are still awaiting it. He made it clear to His disciples that because they did not know when He would return they should be in a constant state of watchful readiness. Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming Matt 25:13. He gave many examples of the fate of persons who would not be ready at His return, e.g. the five foolish virgins (Matt 25:1-13). In Matthew 24:43 He said "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into". Yahshua’s constant message was that we should be watchful. You can easily find for yourself many Biblical evidences of this.
He told us of the signs that would precede His second coming. Several of these have been taking place for a considerable time, but the pace, scale and intensity are constantly on the increase. Every succeeding generation has thought that theirs was worse than any before and that it could hardly deteriorate further, but the rate of deterioration continues to accelerate. The Roman brutality in A.D. 70 is child’s play compared to the massacre by Hitler of an indeterminate number of people believed by some to be as many as seventeen million, including about six million Jews. Natural disasters, false teachings and lawlessness are some of the end-time predictions that are increasing in prominence and regularity also on a colossal scale. The world has not been the idyllic place since A.D. 70 that it should have been if the Second Advent had taken place then, as you aver. Instead the worsening trend continues at an alarming rate, indicating that the end has not yet come.
You have attached much significance to the sentence in Matthew 24:34 this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled KJV. You insist that it specifically refers to the people living at the time when Yahshua spoke. You use this meaning to support your case that the Messiah returned in A.D. 70, which is within the generation of Yahshua's day. The meaning of the word 'generation' is not as precise as you would like to think. The Nelson Study Bible for example states ’generation’ may mean “race”, indicating that Israel as a people will not cease to exist before [Yahweh] fulfills His promise to them. Another possibility is that the word describes a particular era in which people will see the end times. That is, the events will occur so rapidly that all will happen within one generation. Perhaps both are true.
The indisputable fact is that Yahshua plainly acknowledged He did not know when the event would take place. Therefore He could not have said that His return would have definitely occurred within the lifetime of any of the disciples. This would have been an obvious contradiction.
Strong’s Concordance tells us that the Greek word for generation, ‘genea’, means "an age (the period or the persons), … nation, time". Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament explains that the word in this verse means "the whole multitude of men living at the same time". This gives credence to the comment in The Nelson Study Bible. It means that whenever the events detailed in Matt 24, in particular from verse 15 begin to take place, the generation at that time will not pass until He comes back. In other words it is a non-specific time. This fits perfectly with the Messiah’s admission of not knowing when He would return. There is insufficient justification for using your selected meaning to bolster your argument.
Since you are taking the literal meaning of 'this generation', would it not be consistent to believe also that the Messiah will return exactly as He has said? Or do you prefer the freedom to sway between literal and figurative meanings according to which best suits your argument?
Yahshua’s unmistakable and constant theme was not to specify exactly when He would return but to stress the uncertainty of the precise timing of that event and the consequent need to be always prepared.
Yahshua gave some very clear examples of happenings that would precede His coming. In Matt 24:15, He said there would be the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place. He added that there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be verse 21. He continued in verse 29, immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Finally He said, "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory". Please see our article 'Worthy to Escape the Tribulation?'
Do you have any reliable documented evidence that all these things happened in A.D. 70 on the scale that Yahshua stated?
If according to you, the Second Coming of the Messiah took place in A.D. 70, then did He at that time send His angels to gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven Mark 13:27? What proof do you have of this occurrence? Where are His elect now? Have they been already rewarded? Have you already gained your immortality? Or is the resurrection doctrine also another myth? Is this one that you will take literally or figuratively? Either way, what is your hope?
Paul wrote, but if there is no resurrection of the dead, then [the Messiah] is not risen. And if [the Messiah] is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of [Yahweh], because we have testified of [Yahweh] that He raised up [the Messiah], whom He did not raise up--if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then [the Messiah] is not risen. And if [the Messiah] is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in [the Messiah] have perished. If in this life only we have hope in [the Messiah], we are of all men the most pitiable. But now [the Messiah] is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep 1 Cor 15:13-20.
If on the other hand you accept the Biblical resurrection doctrine, then you are also bound to acknowledge the timescale within which it will happen. 1 Cor 15:52 says it will take place in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
The Bible tells us the events that will precede the last trumpet. Make no mistake about it; there WILL be a resurrection. It did not happen in A.D. 70. It is yet to come, and so also will all the other related events.
Yahshua said in John 5:28-29 "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which ALL who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation". It follows from your theory, that ALL who had died would have been resurrected since A.D. 70, and have had their reward or punishment. Death and Satan should now be in the burning lake of fire. This means Satan would have lost his power to deceive and there would be no more death. Otherwise there would of necessity have to be several other resurrections from time to time to reward and punish others who died after A.D. 70. But the Bible does not teach this.
Were the deaths that occurred with the falling of the Twin Towers a mere figment of the imagination? Surely it could not have happened since according to you, death would have ceased since A.D. 70. You dare not say this to persons who are still hurting from their awful loss. Likewise the evil things we hear of daily cannot be true, for according to you we have already entered the heavenly phase. Somebody is in an unreal world!
Your doctrine has been around for a long time before the birth of Preterism. Since Paul’s day, some were teaching the fallacious doctrine that the resurrection had already taken place. His advice to Timothy was: "Shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more [unrighteousness]. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some" 2 Tim 2:16-18.
Your erroneous teachings have been spreading like a cancer throughout the world, causing spiritual death to all those whose minds have been corrupted by your demonic teaching.
The book of Revelation ends with our Heavenly Father coming to a new earth to reside with His chosen ones. Behold, the tabernacle of [Yahweh], is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. [Yahweh] Himself will be with them and be their [Elohim]. And [Yahweh] will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away Rev 21:3-4.
It is now nearing two thousand years since A.D. 70. Yahshua's millennial reign would have ended if He had really come at that time. Are we now therefore living in that Biblical ‘Utopia’? Is this it, although death, sorrow, crying and pain are widespread? Is this as good as it will ever get while lawlessness, selfishness, immorality and greed are rampant and multiplying? Is this the New Jerusalem even though the world is collapsing all around us and evil has not been removed, but is raging? Is this the Promised Land to which the heroes of the Bible (Hebrews 11) looked, after enduring so much in their lifetime? Is this it? Did our Saviour die in order that we may all continue to suffer in this imaginary ‘New Jerusalem’ of yours ad infinitum? Why did He bother, if this is it and life for the believer has not been made any better after His return that you assert had taken place in A.D. 70?
I pray that that day will not come to you as a thief in the night, while you are asleep in your ‘New Jerusalem’, having thought and taught that it had already happened. How like a nightmare that would be to awake to hear "Depart from Me"? When in doubt, believe the Bible, for Every way of a man is right in his own eyes Prov 21:2. Eternal life is too important a subject to be reduced to mere conjecture.
Your doctrine is not entirely astonishing, since we have been already warned, Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many Matt 24:11. Paul tells us in 2 Thess 2:3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first. Your work is assisting in this falling away and is further proof that the end is near. But you are too late! Yahshua has already prayed that His flock will be sanctified (set apart) by the truth of His word. So however hard you may try, you cannot pluck out of His hands those who are really His. His sheep will not hear your voice.
"Our beliefs must fit in with the Scriptures especially when the Scriptures do not support our beliefs". Buel Hallpike
©Buel Hallpike February 2012