Contending For The Faith

April 10, 2009

Regarding the Preterist Error

Filed under: doctrine,eschatology,Preterism — Lynda O @ 7:25 am
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Concerning the Preterist Error

Note, added 5-15-09:  The AntiPreterist Blog advocates Bullinger’s UltraDispensationalism, and associated heretical ideas.  I do not endorse this blog due to these issues.  The following is my observations from actual anti-Preterist articles that do not espouse UltraDispensationalism.

I just read through the last several months of blogs from the “Anti-Preterist Blog,”  a lot of good information and observations, and it continues to help me sort out an issue I have, with professing Christians that have overall bad and wrong theology on apparently everything except the basic soteriology (the doctrine of justification by faith and the “doctrines of grace” generally). I have a specific individual in mind, a local church pastor, though I’m sure there are many like-minded individuals, even other such pastors — and yet this makes the issue personal. It is one thing to argue and debate the issue in the abstract blogosphere, and an entirely different matter to see the error weekly in your own community.  The personal difficulty comes in finding the proper balance between being nice and civil to the person individually, while rejecting his teaching and affirming that he clearly shows complete incompetence in handling God’s word, that he does not know how to interpret or teach the Bible and ought not presume to teach others. The individual in question is a “partial preterist,” who believes that all Bible prophecy has been fulfilled except the return of Christ with immediate judgement and bodily resurrection. That does separates him from the “hyper-preterist” position often described in the anti-preterist’s blog, and makes a world of difference between Christian and heretic.

Yet I must agree that the same hermeneutical error, of spiritualizing the Bible to mean whatever one wants it to mean, is behind both forms of preterism. When we leave the path of solid biblical interpretation, we might as well just throw out the Bible since it has no objective meaning. Thus this one who has left the path of proper hermeneutics (assuming he ever started on the proper path to begin with, which I don’t know) also came up with the following biblically unsound ideas:

  • Genesis 1-2 is poetry, substitutes progressive creation, twists Hebrews to come up with an unending seventh day
  • no distinction between the “angel of the Lord” and standard created angels; since Hosea said Jacob wrestled with an angel, that must mean an actual created angel
  • Daniel’s 70th week occurred in the first century (the first half being Christ’s ministry, the second half the war against Jerusalem in A.D. 70)
    the tribulation happened then as well
  • denial of the rapture itself as some far-out “Left Behind” heresy
  • Revelation fits into some obtuse amillennial/preterist scheme of past and/or present events such that the woman on the beast in Revelation 17 is apostate Israel
  • Millennial passages throughout Isaiah and elsewhere represent the triumphant Church Age and the gospel going forth

The really troubling part is that the unsound pastor really believes all of this, and yet also apparently believes he is Reformed and honoring God’s word as “sola scriptura” along with all the other “solas.” Now, I realize that the Reformers did not reform all areas of doctrine, but only soteriology, and kept the Catholic ideas concerning eschatology and ecclesiology. Yet even they affirmed the truth of Genesis 1, and believed some form of non-preterist eschatology, at least to the extent that they saw the Pope as anti-Christ, not a preterist-version 1st century Nero. As this recent blog  “Sola Scriptura and The Hyper-Preterist Dilemma” points out, though, when someone rejects the historical, contextual method of interpretation, “they render the Scriptures of none effect–thus disabling the effectiveness of Sola Scriptura. The Bible alone is useless if the student cannot understand what is being taught.”

Another interesting observation, which I can also see, is the preterist anti-supernatural attitude. In “The Unbelief of Preterism,” Brian Simmons observes:

As I wrote in my last article, much of Preterist theorizing arises from the a priori notion that there must be a “perfectly logical explanation” for what is commonly viewed as supernatural. That’s just the problem, though. Preterism stands in the the wisdom of men, and not the power of God. In their effort to be “logical,” they overthrow anything that seems out of line with the established laws of the natural world.

and, from “The Infidelity of Preterism“:

What is Preterism, really, but the outworking of a latent skepticism, which seeks to find a “perfectly logical explanation” for everything? Because they do not believe it possible for the Son of Man to literally return in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, literally attended by all His holy angels, they seek a more reasonable explanation: one which leaves revelation stripped of its supernatural elements, and offers an interpretation which satisfies the incredulity of the scholastics.

How well this fits in with the pastor who has such a problem with God’s supernaturally creating the world in six ordinary days, and generally thinks of himself as well-educated in the sciences. Considering that this pastor never actually went to seminary but has only a secular science-type degree and “self-taught” Christianity, it shouldn’t be all that surprising after all. The naturalistic tendencies of man, giving great “power” to so-called science, bring about a real disconnect between the Bible and reality. This preterist mindset treats the Bible as allegorical and “spiritual” and at some “higher level reality” than ordinary people, and limits God to some other realm unrelated to this world’s real origins a few thousand years ago and real history since then, including the Scriptural understanding of “the times of the Gentiles” and the status of the nations and Israel as they really are. He fails to notice the very literally fulfilled scriptures regarding Christ’s first coming, focusing on this present “realized millennium” of a glorious church as seriously making an impact in this world system, when the actual course of history should make the truth plain enough. But our world’s actual history is really bound up in the actual, literal revelation from God to us in the Bible regarding the past, present and future.

Speaking of Israel and the nations, this brings up another major point concerning this preterist attitude — anti-Judaism, as described in Simmons’ “Preterism’s Anti-Semitic Agenda“:

But what would happen if Preterist teachings were proven false? If the timing is off by even a hair, and if Israel awaits a restoration, then she cannot have been divorced in A.D. 70, nor can the Lord have returned at the destruction of the temple. Well, this would discredit Preterism’s teachings. Therefore, Preterists find themselves battling against any Gospel which holds forth a future Jewish hope. The business of Preterism is to keep the Jews down-trodden, that Christianity may continue to exist in its present form.

It all comes down to proper handling of God’s word. Do you believe it as it is, or can you only believe it by twisting the meaning to agree with your own pre-conceived ideas? That reflects on your overall attitude toward God and His word, and those who impose their own meaning on biblical texts do so at their own peril, taking glory from God and calling God a liar.

John MacArthur made a great point in his opening session at the 2009 Shepherd’s Conference: the person who recognizes that Genesis 1 is not poetry — even if they then reject it — is a better interpreter of Scripture than someone who claims that Genesis 1 is just poetry (thus claiming to believe it, while twisting the meaning). This is foundational truth, and since the individual I reference stumbles here, it should not be surprising to find numerous other errors as well. Another great truth, from an early MacArthur sermonIf you don’t understand God’s promises to Israel, one you don’t understand how to interpret the Bible. Two, you won’t understand God.


April 9, 2009

More From Daily Bible Readings

Filed under: Bible Study — Lynda O @ 7:04 am

Continuing from the previous blog, some more gems from my daily Bible readings:

Prophecy, Near and Far-term

The prophecy books have many “telescoping” events that unfold God’s plan in the near and far term.

  • Isaiah 11 has many references to Christ’s second coming, such as verses about the millennial kingdom (verses 6 through 9) and verse 11. Yet in the New Testament Paul also applies verse 10 to Christ’s first coming.
  • Isaiah 13 includes the frequent “Day of the Lord” language of future judgment, words similar to Revelation (and Matthew 24), yet then returns to the historic situation of the Medes in verse 17.
  • Isaiah 14:2 also has a future reference: “Nations will take them and bring them to their own place. And the house of Israel will possess the nations as menservants and maidservants in the Lord’s land. They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors. ” This too looks forward to a future restoration; “rule over their oppressors” clearly hasn’t happened yet (they never ruled over anybody after return from Babylon, or anytime from then till 70 A.D.), and it can only mean the nation of Israel, just as it says “the house of Israel.” Again, the church is a group called out of every nation, and the church clearly doesn’t “rule over their oppressors” in any sense of meaning.
  • Hosea 13:14 has the great verse that Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 15, a wonderful reference to the future resurrection: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?”

Joel 1 describes terrible famine conditions, and verse 11 specifically refers to the wheat and barley:

Despair, you farmers, wail, you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed.
This reminds me of the similar famine description in Revelation 6:6, the third seal:

Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

Joel 2 describes a locust army, a parallel to Revelation 9. Joel 2:19 further includes a statement of future reference: “The Lord will reply to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. ” The “never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations” hasn’t happened yet, and is in keeping with the overall context of a future event. The contrast between “you” and “the nations” makes it clear that this is in reference to Israel, a specific nation, and not “the church;” in the Bible, the church is God’s elect called from every nation, tribe, and tongue, a group that comes from many nations.

My reading through Acts included this passage in Acts 15: 15-18, a quotation of Amos 9:

The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: ” ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ that have been known for ages.

Amillennialists love to quote this passage as a fulfillment of the Amos 9 text. But as I simply read the text, James doesn’t say that anything is fulfilled — he simply says that what he and others observe is in agreement with the Amos passage, that Gentiles are coming to the Lord and being saved. What James quotes is slightly different from the Amos text, so he must have been quoting the Septuagint.

The original text says “in that day I will restore” whereas James says “After this I will return and rebuild.” The Septuagint version’s “return” clearly implies a second coming, since Christ cannot “return” until after His first coming. In the original text, “in that day” is in the context talking about a future time. James simply shows agreement about the Gentiles being included and saved, and nothing more should be read into the actual words.

Isaiah 18:7 — chapter talking about Cush. What is this verse saying? It may be talking about the end times, even the millennial kingdom:

At that time gifts will be brought to the Lord Almighty from a people tall and smooth-skinned, from a people feared far and wide, an aggressive nation of strange speech, whose land is divided by rivers– the gifts will be brought to Mount Zion, the place of the Name of the Lord Almighty.

 Distinction between Israel and Others

Several places in Genesis describe the covenant made between God and Abraham, and specifically promise the land to Abraham and not just to his descendants:

Genesis 13:15, All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. Genesis 17:8, The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.Later Bible passages tell us that Abraham himself never possessed the land, so, as MacArthur and others have pointed out, such promises make no sense unless there is some future fulfillment, a future earthly kingdom in which Abraham himself will also enjoy and possess the land.

The book of Acts consistently shows distinctions between the two groups of believers, and always keeps the same language, the same terminology, as for instance:
Acts 13:26 — Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.
Acts 14:1 — At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed.

Acts 14 has some other interesting points. In verse 14 it refers to Barnabas as an apostle, in the statement “apostles Barnabas and Paul.” Does this mean that Barnabas was considered an apostle? I had forgotten this verse. Acts 14 also has many references to the church, with the use of “elders” (verse 23) and “the church” (verse 27).

April 8, 2009

More From My Daily Bible Readings

Filed under: Bible Study — Lynda O @ 11:51 am

After the last several months of Bible study — specifically from listening to various John MacArthur radio shows, plus his Revelation series (up to chapter 11 now), and all of Jim McClarty’s 112-part Eschatology series — I now am really enjoying my daily Bible readings of 12 lists (see my recent blog), as I notice and understand so much from simply reading so much of the Bible. After all the years of following “read the Bible in a year” plans, I see how limiting that was, to read the Bible “only” once in a year. As a fairly quick and good reader, there simply is no reason to restrict Bible reading to just that, and the frequency really helps to understand and remember more. I’ve heard that Charles Feinberg (seminary professor, great influence on John MacArthur) regularly read the Bible four times a year, for many years. I’m not sure if I want to do just beginning-to-end reading every three months, but certainly on my modified Horner Bible reading plan I’ll get through all parts of scripture at least twice, and most sections three or four times or more.

Now for a few observations from the last several days of reading:

God’s Sovereignty
The history books really show God’s sovereignty in action. Consider Joshua 11:20, about the conquest of Canaan: “For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses.” In 1 Kings 11:14-17 we learn how God raised up an adversary for Solomon, in an event that required planning for many years before it happened; the young Edomite boy is spared from a battle fought in the time of David and Joab, to cause problems for Solomon, yet the planning began even before Solomon was made king and before he fell into sin.

History – Place Names and Tribal References
Through multiple readings of the history books I’m recognizing more place-names, as well as many references to the tribes of Israel and their importance. Genesis 14:14 mentions “Dan” as a place, long before the later tribes or sons of Jacob were born. Amos 1:2 says the “top of Carmel withers,” and in the same day I also read 1 Kings 18, today, which features Mt. Carmel in the story of Elijah and the false prophets. Joshua 17 mentions Gilead, a place received by the descendants of Manasseh, and the people thus named Gileadites. Then 1 Kings 17:1 tells us that Elijah the Tishbite was “from Tishbe in Gilead.” Genesis 14:1 mentions the name “Elassar;” the reference may be completely unrelated, yet I recall the name from Tolkien’s names in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

1 Kings 12:28-30 describes the sin of Jeroboam, the calf idolatry. This time I especially note the reference to Dan. I’ve learned from other reading and studying that the tribe of Dan was especially associated with idolatry (and a likely reason why Dan is omitted from the list of the 144,000 in Revelation 7), so here is one clear reference to their early idolatry.

Various Book and Chapter Themes
Matthew 12: here I recall what I heard from an Arnold Fruchtenbaum MP3, in which he explains how in Judaism the teachers had decided that there were three types of miracles that Messiah would be able to do: cast out a demon from a mute person; heal a leper, and heal a man born blind. In Matthew 12 Jesus does one of these very things: he casts a demon out of a mute person. As Fruchtenbaum explains, in the following verses where the Pharisees claim that Jesus casts out demons by Beelzebub, and Jesus mentions that blasphemy of the holy spirit will not be forgiven, Jesus is mentioning a particular sin committed by those Jewish leaders, a national sin of rejection. The people did wonder after Jesus did this great miracle (casting the demon from the mute), yet they followed their leaders. Then, as Fruchtenbaum well pointed out, starting in Matthew 13 Jesus started speaking in parables.

1 Kings 14 tells of two different men named Abijah: the first, the son of Jeroboam, who became sick and died and was the only good one found in Jeroboam’s house; and second, Abijah the son of Rehoboam, who later ruled and was wicked. Both kings apparently had named their firstborn son the same name.

Romans 15 has focus on Paul’s special ministry to the Gentiles

2 Timothy 2 has warnings against arguing, and arguing over useless words. Job 16 includes Job’s rebuke to Eliphaz for this very thing. Job 16:3: 3 “Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing?”

Angels are a big reference in the readings, including several chapters in Genesis; Hosea 12 with a reference to the Angel of the Lord (the Lord God, the angel, that Jacob wrestled with); and Acts 12. Acts 12 shows by example the use of angels for believers as well as unbelievers. In the same chapter, an angel rescues Peter from the clutches of Herod, and later another angel strikes Herod down and kills him.

Acts 18 describes meetings with many Jews of the diaspora, just as a matter of fact in their daily lives. Priscilla and Aquila are Jews from Italy; Apollo is from Alexandria. These are learned Jews, who know their scriptures and customs, even though they’ve always lived in these other parts of the world.

Special verses
Finally, several verses that “stand out” and grab my attention in the readings:

Job 12:11 — Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food?

Psalm 12:8 — The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.

Proverbs 13:5 — The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked bring shame and disgrace.

Proverbs 13:24 — He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.

Acts 14:14 — refers to “apostles Barnabas and Paul” — an interesting verse. Does this mean Barnabas was considered an apostle?

Romans 15:4 — For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

 a great verse, “encouragement of the Scriptures”

2 Timothy 1:12 — great verse, and here I think of the song that has the KJV version of it.

For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

Proverbs 16:6 — “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil.”

Joel 2:13 — a verse I recognize from a song by the group Lamb, in its chorus:

 “Rend your hearts and not your garments, turn again unto the Lord, Though your sins may be as scarlet, they’ll be as white as snow. Rend your hearts and cry aloud, let your voice be heard, those who call on His name will be saved.”

Joel 2:13 includes the first part of this chorus:

Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Acts 16:4 — shows the early church and accountability

As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey.

1 Cor. 1:30 — It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

2 Timothy 3:15 — and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. — the scriptures can make you wise for salvation

2 Timothy 4:5 — “work of an evangelist” —

But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Here I think of the “biographical sketch” recently done of John MacArthur, in which Iain Murray ascribes the quality of evangelist to him. True Christian leaders do more than just stand up every Sunday and preach a message.

April 1, 2009

Horner Bible Reading Plan, Day 10

Filed under: Bible Study — Lynda O @ 8:47 am

Now for some thoughts from the last few days of readings. By the way, I’m now reading the lists in the order that Horner specifies: Gospels, Pentateuch, the two lists of epistles, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, then history (here I read both Joshua and 1 Kings), then Prophets (here I read Isaiah and Hosea), then Acts. I’m not convinced that the order matters that much, and it does require more page-flipping back and forth, but it does break the reading into different sections more, alternating between books of the New Testament and Old Testament.

I continue to notice the similarities between Job and the Psalms, especially Job 6 and Psalm 6. Psalm 10 is very similar to the theme of Job, the sayings about how the wicked man will perish, as described by Job’s friends.

In Proverbs 10, the first chapter of individual proverb verses (after the first 9 chapters of a more narrative flow), I especially noticed the many references to a fool and his mouth. The fool is associated with chattering, slandering, and many verses describe “the mouth of the fool” or “the mouth of the wicked.”

History Parallels
In my history readings I see similarity and continuity in Joshua and 1 Kings. For instance, in both Joshua 8 and 1 Kings 8 the people review and remember God’s promises to His people, and in both cases they offer sacrifices. I also noticed, in these two chapters, the similarity between Joshua and Solomon; both were the successor to an important leader (Moses, and King David). Continuing into chapter 9 for both books, I notice the continuity concerning the Canaanite slaves. Joshua 9 begins the story, with the Gibeonite deception after which the Gibeonites become the wood cutters and water carriers. Then, 1 Kings 9 mentions the descendants of those Canaanites who had not been annihilated by the Israelites, who continued as slaves — now not only doing the wood and water, but building Solomon’s temple.

Both 1 Kings 9 and Isaiah 9 mention Galilee. 1 Kings 9 records the incident by which we know what the ancient people thought of that land– King Hiram receives 20 towns in Galilee for his work on Solomon’s temple; but when he visits the towns he is displeased and calls them “worthless.” Isaiah 9 is a more well-known passage, where God promises to honor that region of Zebulun and Naphtali, Galilee of the Gentiles (Isaiah 9:1).

Tucked away in Hosea 10:8 is an interesting prophecy mentioned a few more times in the New Testament. I had forgotten its origin here. “Then they will say to the mountains, “Cover us!” and to the hills, “Fall on us!” Jesus quotes this verse (Luke 23:28-30) in his words to the women of Jerusalem, as He is being led to Golgotha:

28Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. 29For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30Then “‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”‘

Here Jesus applies Hosea’s words to the destruction of Jerusalem a generation later. Yet Revelation 6:15-16 has a similar reference, if not the exact wording from Hosea, to a future event during the great tribulation:

15Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

This rather obscure passage in Hosea, repeated in two later texts, is yet another example of what I’ve heard and read from Bible teachers (here I’m thinking especially of John MacArthur, and Jim McClarty), that the Old Testament prophecies often have “leaps” and describe events that have more than one future fulfillment. It is fascinating to see how scripture interprets scripture, and through these 12 daily readings I can see many more cross-references, and hopefully retain more of the Bible, than with the more common practice of sequentially reading through the Bible each year, only one passage at a time.

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