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THE HERESY OF CONSISTENT PRETERISM

By Doug Newell

Pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church

Hortense, Georgia

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II Timothy 2:16-18

Consistent Preterism is a belief that the return of Jesus Christ has already taken place and that all prophecy has been fulfilled.  Proponents of this system will have you to believe that it is merely a slight difference of eschatological opinions; however, I contend that it is a dangerous, cancerous false doctrine that has dire consequence to the faith of some who may fall prey to its malicious teaching.  It is a form of the same ancient heresy Paul warned Timothy about in II Timothy 2:15-18 "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some" (Emphasis DPN).  Hymenaus and Philetus also taught that the future resurrection had already taken place just as modern consistent Preterism teaches today.  Unfortunately, it does not stop with the resurrection, but to be consistent they teach that all prophecy is fulfilled.  Any prophetical passage in all of Holy Scripture you can name, any future event in God's Word, it has already taken place; everything to the point they teach we are now living in the new Heaven and new Earth.  Through the course of this discourse I intend to bring to light this heresy, which I believe to be in many cases, is a damnable heresy, and show why it is indeed a dangerous error, not simply another view of a "non-essential" matter.  This is not a new doctrine, and is believed and propagated even among those that call themselves Landmark Baptists.   Hymenaus and Philetus might have taught church truth.  You may have heard a hearty amen from them hearing a message on the doctrines of Grace; but they taught a deadly heresy, and there are some who do the same.  They say they agree with us on church authority, and closed communion; they say they agree with us on other Baptist distinctives, but spread a dangerous heresy.

            First, let's look at some of the major points of heresy that the advocates of Preterism hold that makes this doctrine RANK heresy.  Preterism teaches that Jesus Christ came back and fulfilled all prophecy contained in Holy Writ in AD 70.  In the year AD 70 Rome destroyed the temple in Jerusalem lead by Emperor Titus, just as Jesus foretold.  

Titus

This destruction is a historical fact and it did happen; but the basis of this teaching is that ALL prophecy was fulfilled at this time.  They take the works of Josephus and other secular histories to be their authority on the matter as it is necessary for them to rest upon secular accounts as their foundation and not God's word.  Indeed, some of the things in the first 14 verses of the Matthew 24 were fulfilled, but not in total.  The first 14 verses of Matthew 24 deal with the entire time period prior to the rapture, and then, up through the first 3 & 1/2 years of the tribulation period.  They were not fulfilled in total in AD 70.  Jesus mentioned the destruction of the temple in Matthew 24:2  "And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."  Jesus is speaking of the AD destruction of the temple by Rome.  But the next verse is very important to understanding the rest of the chapter.  Matthew 24:3  "And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"  The disciples after having thought of what the Lord had said asked three questions. Question 1.When shall these things be?  Question 2. What shall be the sign of thy coming? Question 3. What shall be the sign of the end of the world?  Jesus answers these three questions throughout the rest of the chapter.  The rest of the 24th chapter is not dealing explicitly with verse two, but answering the questions of verse 3. The premise that all things were fulfilled at this time is taken by the Preterists saying that the remainder of the 24th chapter of Matthew deals with verse two and the year AD 70, and this assertion forces all prophecy into that time period by taking scripture out of context, or spiritualizing the scriptures instead of a literal interpretation of scripture. They rest their proof of Christ's so-called AD 70 coming on the historical works of men, and Josephus in particular.  You cannot take the scripture and prove such a belief system.  A person could read their Bible and learn from the Bible alone the truth of the church and desire to be a Baptist, a person could read their Bible and learn the truth of Sovereign Grace from the Bible alone; however, you could not read your Bible and become a Preterist because they rely extensively on extra-biblical testimony.  "Let God be true and every man a liar."  In order for this theory that Matthew 24 was fulfilled in AD 70 to fit, everything else in scripture has to shift to make room and thus the dangerous descent of this profanation.  Preterism must then find someplace to put the time of Jacob's trouble, so they teach the tribulation period was from AD 63 to AD 70. However, dealing with the end of the tribulation God's word says in Revelation 1:7  "Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen." Every eye did not see the Lord Jesus Christ.  When He comes, EVERY eye shall see him!  Only gross spiritualization of Holy Writ could explain away such passages as "every eye shall see him when He comes in glory".  Matthew 24:30  "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." It is hard to nail down the whole of Preterism, because like most heresy, there are so many different interpretations.  One interpretation of this verse is that Christ's glory mentioned here was the glory of Emperor Titus and the Roman army and that Christ was guiding the army as He did Israel in the wilderness. This scripture is referencing the second advent of the second coming of the Lord Jesus.  There will be a sign in heaven, and all the tribes, notice, all the tribes, not just Jerusalem, but from America to Australia, all the people of the earth shall mourn, and they, the whole earth, shall SEE the Son of man coming in the clouds, with power and GREAT glory.  You would think that if the Lord Jesus Christ came back in great glory, and an event that the whole world saw and mourned over that it would be documented by every tribe and people on Earth.  It is not documented because it has not happened yet.

The most vital point of the Christian faith that Preterism stands contrary to, is on the resurrection, claiming it is already past and even goes so far as to a complete denial of a bodily resurrection, claiming only a spiritual resurrection.  In order to make their AD 70 theory fit, their doctrine now has to do something with the resurrection.  Preterism, like most dangerous heresy, will use the same words as you and I, but apply their own definition.  For example, if you ask a Preterist if they believe in the resurrection, they will answer yes.  If you ask them if they believe in the resurrection of Christ, they will say yes; but what they mean by resurrection and what the Bible means by resurrection are two completely different ideas.  Preterist, when speaking of resurrection, mean a spiritual resurrection, or the new birth, it has nothing to do with the body, and if you press a consistent Preterist for an answer they will, if they will be honest with you, deny Christ's bodily resurrection as well.  Very deceptive, isn't it?  That's why it is dangerous, you must define the terms every step of the way to find out what they truly believe.  General questions, unfortunately, will not get you to the bottom of their belief system.  Notice, in the frequently asked questions of a prominent website dedicated to Preterism, which we will continue to refer to, concerning the resurrection: "Preterism does teach the Resurrection of the dead, however it does not subscribe to a physical resurrection of bodies" (PlanetPreterist.com FAQ ).  What kind of resurrection is that?  What blatant double talk.   Preterism is directly contrary to the Word of God which very clearly and quite often speaks of the bodily resurrection of the saints of God.  Romans 8:11  "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." The danger of this teaching is if our resurrection is past and if there is no bodily resurrection for us, then there was also no resurrection of Jesus Christ, and if no resurrection of Christ, our hope is in vain!  Please read the 15th chapter of I Corinthians.  Our future resurrection is tied to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Paul put himself on the line, his credibility; the faith once delivered, salvation and the work of Christ all on the fact and necessity of the resurrection.  If Christ did not rise, then, like a house of cards, it's all coming down.  But, He is RISEN, and risen BODILY.  You have hundreds of eye witnesses, credible witnesses of the friends of Christ, also the enemies of Christ, most of all, the divinely inspired record of the Holy Scriptures; and I know by faith, the faith given to me by the risen Lord that He bodily arose from the dead.  This makes Preterism a damnable heresy.  If you deny our resurrection, you deny the resurrection of Christ, if you deny the resurrection of Christ, you are not saved!  No matter what you say about doctrines of Grace, the church, Landmarkism, baptism, if you deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are on your way to Hell.   1Corinthians 15:13-20   "But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.  Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.  But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."

            Preterism teaches that the time of Jacobs trouble, or the great tribulation period, has already taken place.  Matthew 24:21  "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be."  The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was not the worst tribulation the world has ever seen. For the people who lived during that time, it was indeed terrible tribulation, but can it be said that it was worse than the Sodom and Gomorrah, the Genesis flood, or more recently, WWI and WWII? Can that time be said to be worse than the Jewish holocaust, the millions killed by Communist China, the countless massacres that fill the pages of history? With the innumerable times of tribulation that was before and since that time, it cannot be held that 70 can be considered the worst time of tribulation. Without question, there will not be a worse time on the face of the earth than that great tribulation period  (Revelation 8: 7- 13).  "Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!"  Not woe to Jerusalem or woe to the Middle East, but woe to the inhabiters of the earth.  The problem with this philosophy is there is always a slick answer for everything, but not a scriptural answer for it and "by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple."  With this doctrine they must also say that God is finished with Israel, contrary to Romans 11.  Consider the words of Duncan McKenzie, a columnist for Planet Preterist. "The Coming of Jesus in Revelation 19 is referring to the one and only Second Coming at AD 70. With harlot Israel destroyed, Jesus comes and defeats the beast from the abyss."  They teach that Israel is destroyed.  Israel is MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH according to their heretical doctrine; which also causes God to disannul His everlasting covenant with Abraham and David.  A slippery slope, for now the logical and natural consequence is that God has denied Himself, lied to Abraham and David, and gone back on His word.  The consequences here are dire.  Hebrews 6:11-20  proves God's promises are sure for us because they were sure for Abraham, and God is unchangeable and cannot lie.  For this cause we have full assurance of hope and we have an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.  If the promise to Abraham was no good and could be disannulled, so could the promise to us.  But praise God He cannot deny Himself, and His word is sure.

            Preterism teaches the Satan is now in the Lake of Fire, that he is out of the picture.  If Satan is at the present thrust in the Lake of Fire, what about I Peter 5:8?   "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.According to Preterism, this verse has nothing for us in our day because Satan is bound and merely a historical figure.  All the scripture concerning the Devil doesn't apply to us anymore by the accounts of this heresy.  It's all historical information.   This points us to another great problem with Preterism; it takes away so many promises and warnings in the scripture that are directly related to the second coming of Christ and future events.  Notice the scripture that we just quoted.  For the Preterist, since the Devil is out of the picture, we have no need to be sober, but let's look at the context of the passage in verses 6-10. "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."  The challenge for the Preterist is to tell us what is historical and what is not.  If the verse in the middle is historical about Satan, what about the sentence before telling us that Christ cares for us?  Does he care for us, or only those historical characters that had to resist the Devil?  Proper interpretation and plain sense tells us that those whom Christ cares for are also the very same that are to be sober and vigilant.  The command to be sober goes with the same thought as the promise of Christ making us perfect, stablishing and strengthening and settling us.    Who is scripture written for, and how are we to read scripture if the commands of the New Testament no longer apply to us?  Denial of scripture is a fruit of Preterism, which leads to picking and choosing what one wants to obey, and casting aside what you don't.  I was once told that the New Testament is to be read no differently than genealogies of the Old Testament, it is God's word but you have to pick out what you can use, and view the rest as historical information.  That, unfortunately, is their view of scripture, and only the beginning of the errors.  There are far too many scriptures that are directly tied to future things to list everyone here so we will consider only a few.  Many of our blessings, encouragements, commands and warnings are tied into the teaching of the coming of Jesus Christ, thus making the verses irrelevant to us if what they teach were true.  Not only those particular verses, but the entire context of the verse are lost as well as we have seen in our example of I Peter 5.  But why stop there, if the context of the passage does not apply, what about the entire epistle? Notice a few scriptures that are linked with the future.  The Bible says to look for the Saviour (Titus 2:12-13), if He has already come back, then that verse doesn't apply to us anymore which tells us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly and godly in the present world while we are looking for Christ to return.    Preterism destroys our hope, consider Romans 8:24-25  "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?  But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."   Please consider the context of this verse, this is not merely hope in going to Heaven, Romans 8:23  "And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."   The preterist believe that the only resurrection is a spiritual resurrection that happens when you are saved; but how can one hope of the adoption, the redemption of our body with a spiritual resurrection?  If the resurrection takes place at salvation, how could a saved person be looking towards it?  That is how Preterism destroys our hope, you can't hope for something in the past, but you can only hope for FUTURE things. Look in Titus 2:13 again  "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ."  Our hope (future) is the glorious APPEARING of Christ, so we have no blessed hope any longer according to their tenets.  Also, the weapons of war God gave us are both useless and unnecessary if this teaching is true.  Ephesians 6:10-11  "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Why have amour to protect and war against an enemy that is already gone?   When pointing out their error, I have found that one of the cries of Preterism is they claim to hold to ‘scripture only' and put no value on confessions or creeds, as if to say that they are relying only upon the Scripture.  Having a belief that differs from the faith of the historical Baptists is supposed to be a pious badge of honor and an example of their stand for God's Word rather than men; which is good and right, we should never, ever, ever put the words of men above the words of God, but this is a deceptive tactic to hide their error and validate the fact of being opposed to historic Christianity.  Beware of anyone who will not put into writing what they believe or those who object to written statements of belief.  We too believe that scripture is sole authority, but as Baptists, we have never been afraid to have what we believe about the scriptures written down for all to see.  It is an cop-out to say "I don't live by confessions or creeds or articles of faith, only the Bible"; the person who says that, oft times has a false doctrine or false teaching they are trying to hide or are embarrassed by their belief.  This is indeed dangerous teaching for it does away with much scripture.

            If what they say is true, we are living in the new heavens and new earth."Therefore what makes the Heavens and Earth "new" is not an act of God physically re-creating them, but a renewing and reconciliation of all things in Christ, through his sacrifice, resurrection and return in A.D. 70. The very presence of Christ (his parousia) is what gives the Heavens and Earth a renewed character." (Planet Preterism).  Here is what God says: Revelation 21:1-4 "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. Surely we know that God has not wiped away all tears, and we know that there is pain this very hour.  We can look out our window and know that New Jerusalem is not here and that Christ does not dwell bodily with us now.  Do you live in the world of Revelation 21:1-4?  I don't, not yet anyway.  I look about and see war, famine, murders, destruction, poverty, pollution, crime, and all manner of sin.  I live in a perilous (II Timothy 3:1)  kind of world .  To say that we live in Revelation 21:1-4 is absurd and preposterous.  It is hard to believe that one could say they believed the Bible and hold to such unorthodoxy.  If this is the new heaven and new earth, and this is what a life with no pain, tears sorrow is all about, I am of all men most miserable.

            If Preterism is true, there are a lot of unanswered questions. Why preach or baptize? Matthew 28:18-20 "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.   Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."  If all has been fulfilled and we are in the end of the world that means our job is done.  Also, the Preterist that does preach the gospel should have many saved when witnessing, because Satan is not here to hinder the gospel (II Cor. 4:1-6). The Bible teaches that the work of the church and preaching of the gospel needs to continue until the end of the world, and being in the end of the world according to Preterism, then why serve God in His church?   Why take the Lord's supper?  We are to take it "till he come" (I Cor. 11:26-27) and if He has come then we should have stopped taking it a long time ago and taking the Lord's Supper would be a vicious, deceptive lie according to Preterism.  Why is there no post AD 70 biblical instruction?  Since the Bible was penned before the end of the first century, and all things came to an end in AD 70, why not provide us with some instruction?  Why didn't John, or Paul or Peter give us some idea what WE should do once all things were fulfilled?  The answer is because when all things are fulfilled, we will be with God, we will dwell with Him through all eternity, and our hope will be realized!  In fact, most scholars believe that the book of Revelation was written well after AD 70, some put the date almost 30 years after, thus making John a historian rather than penning a prophecy despite John saying seven times in the book of Revelation that it was a prophecy.

Briefly, let me show you some of their so called 'proof texts' of Preterism.   Matthew 10:23 "But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come."  They claim that Jesus was telling the disciples that once they preached over the cities of Israel, Jesus would return.  But Jesus was telling the disciples that He was coming after them, as they preached, he would come to them again before they were finished.  When you are persecuted in this city go to another, and you won't have preached in all the cities before I come behind you.  This is His earthly ministry Matthew 11:1 "And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities."  They claim that Matthew 16:28 "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom," refers to his second coming, but he is speaking of what happened in Matthew 17:1-9, the transfiguration.  Next, Matthew 24:34 "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."  Preterist claim ‘this generation' is the generation standing with Christ as he was speaking.  But Jesus was speaking to the generation that shall see the signs he spoke of, not the generation standing with him. Matthew 24:30-34 "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.Milburn Cockrell, in his book An Exposition of Matthew 24 well says "I believe that 'this generation' must be taken literally.  This is the natural and normal meaning of the world in the Bible ... Hence the meaning is the generation that lives to see the specific signs of the Great Tribulation and the signs in the heavens will also witness the return of Christ and the setting up of the kingdom."

    The Bible is clear on how Christians must deal with Preterism in II Timothy 2:16-18.  "But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some."  Preterism is expressed as profane, or wicked and heathenish, mixed with vain babbling, or empty sounded fruitless talk.  God has ordered us to shun it, to stay away from it because it eats like a canker. It brings death, if left unchecked and its evil wicked influence spreads.  The result of preterism has eternal ramifications, and scripture says it will "overthrow the faith of some."  This teaching can not be tolerated, it can not be compromised with, and it can never be allowed in the Lord's churches. A teaching that overthrows the faith of some and denies the faith once delivered is dangerous, deadly and damnable.


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