"THE SECOND EPISTLE OF JOHN" A Letter To A Lady And Her Children (1-3) INTRODUCTION 1. In the First Century A.D., the early church enjoyed remarkable growth and spread throughout the world at that time - cf. Ac 8:5; Ro 10:14-18; Col 1:5-6,23 2. What accounted for this spread of the gospel? There were likely several factors, but one was certainly the "hospitality" of the early Christians... a. Paul was able to travel and depend upon Christians opening their homes to him - cf. Philemon 22 b. He encouraged Christians to support those who were teachers of good things - Ga 6:6 c. John commended and encouraged those who provided lodging and support for traveling missionaries - 3Jn 5-8 3. But showing such "hospitality" was not without its potential for supporting the spread of false teachers and their doctrines... a. It would be easy for teachers of error to take advantage of the Christians' natural propensity to be hospitable to strangers b. Thus it was necessary to counsel Christians to use proper discernment in sending traveling teachers on their way 4. The Second Epistle of John, consisting of just one chapter, addresses this very problem a. Written to "the elect lady and her children" (see comments on recipients below) b. In which warning is given against showing hospitality to certain teachers - cf. 2Jn 10-11 [In this study, the first of three lessons on Second John, we shall consider some background information of the epistle and then John's salutation as found in verses 1-3...] I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION A. THE AUTHOR - "THE ELDER" 1. Believed by most conservative scholars to be the apostle John 2. The INTERNAL evidence... a. The three epistles of John utilize much the same language and ideas b. All bear similarity to concepts and language to the Gospel of John c. The term "elder" would be a fitting description of John as the author, writing in his old age 3. The EXTERNAL evidence... a. Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp (who in turn was an associate of John), quotes from it and mentions the apostle John by name b. Both Clement of Alexandria and Dionysius, living in the third century A.D., credit John with being the author B. RECIPIENTS - "THE ELECT LADY AND HER CHILDREN" 1. Taken literally, the epistle is written to a particular woman and her children a. Many scholars understand this to be the case; e.g., Plummer, Ross, Ryrie b. Some have even supposed the Greek words for "elect lady" may refer to given names: 1) Electa the Lady 2) The chosen Kyria 3) Electa Kyria 2. Taken figuratively, it could refer to a local church a. Scholars who hold to this view include Brooke, Bruce, Marshall, Stott, Westcott b. They understand that "elect lady and her children" (1) and "children of your elect sister" (13) refer to particular congregations 3. Desiring to allow the most obvious meaning of Scripture to be the most correct meaning, I am willing to accept the literal view C. PLACE AND DATE OF WRITING 1. Ephesus is usually suggested as the location from which John wrote this epistle, as he was known to live there in the later years of his life 2. Estimation of the date of writing varies widely, some placing it before the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.), most however placing it around 90-95 A.D. D. PURPOSE OF THE EPISTLE 1. To encourage brotherly love, and keeping the commandments of God - 2Jn 5-6 2. To warn against supporting or encouraging false teachers - 2Jn 10-11 E. BRIEF OUTLINE 1. Greetings (1-3) 2. Exhortation to walk in truth and love (4-6) 3. Warning not to receive false teachers (7-11) 4. Concluding remarks (12-13) [With this brief background to the epistle, let's take a closer look at...] II. THE SALUTATION (1-3) A. "THE ELDER, TO THE ELECT LADY AND HER CHILDREN..." (1-2) 1. As discussed in the previous section, I understand John to address a particular lady and her children 2. Concerning this lady and her children, John writes of... a. His love for them: "whom I love in truth" (that is, whom he truly loves) b. The love held for them by others who are Christians ("those who have known the truth") 3. The basis for this love? a. Not for any personal charm or unusual attractiveness b. But because of "the truth which abides in us" 1) This "truth" may summarize all that is contained in Jesus Christ and His gospel 2) Sharing in this "truth" naturally engenders love for one another 3) Especially the sort of "true love" or "sincere love" made possible by our obedience to the truth - cf. 1 Pe 1:22-23 B. "GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE WILL BE WITH YOU..." (3) 1. Not so much a prayer (as usually found elsewhere), but a prediction 2. These three words refer to wonderful blessings from God a. "grace" - unmerited favor, which God bestows on the undeserving b. "mercy" - compassion, shown toward the guilty and helpless c. "peace" - tranquility, which is the result of receiving God's grace and mercy 3. The SOURCE of these blessings a. "from God the Father" b. "from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father" -- together with verse 9, John makes it clear the Father and the Son are two distinct personalities in the Godhead 4. The SPHERE in which these blessings are to be found: "in truth and love" a. Grace, mercy, and peace are realized only when truth is honored and held b. They are experienced only when the command to love is kept (e.g., there is no mercy shown to the unloving and unmerciful) CONCLUSION 1. With the words "in truth and love", John sets the tone for what is to follow in his letter... a. An exhortation to keep the commandment to love one another b. A warning against supporting those who would deny the truth 2. With this introduction to "A Letter To A Lady And Her Children", I hope that I have set the tone for what should always be true in our relationship as Christians... a. A true love for one another because of the truth that we all share b. A desire to walk in truth and love, for only then can we truly receive grace, mercy, and peace Have you received the grace, mercy, and peace that comes only from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father?
Check Out the New Advanced Bible Reader Program
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
At Apologetics Press, we are constantly trying to provide tools that can strengthen faith in God, defend the Truth, and spread the good news of Christ. About a year ago, we realized that various school systems use the Accelerated Reading program to encourage their children to read. In this “AR” program, which is nationwide, students read books and take tests that cover the material in those books. Depending on the length of the book, the tests are worth a certain number of points. Tests over longer books are worth more points; tests over shorter books are worth fewer points. Teachers and schools then reward the students based on the number of points they accumulate over a certain amount of time, generally a grading period or a school year. The program has been extremely successful in encouraging kids to read books that they might not otherwise read.
At A.P., we thought, “Why not use a similar system to encourage young people to read the Bible?” Thus, we came up with a program called Advanced Bible Reader, or ABR. This new program from Apologetics Press allows students to create a username and password of their own. They can then log on and take tests based on books of the Bible that they have read. Each test is worth a certain number of points based on how many verses the reading covers. All of the tests are composed of ten multiple-choice questions. When the student accumulates points by taking the tests, those points add up in the student’s accounts. At each 100-point segment, the student can download a beautiful, full-color certificate.
The biblical education potential of this program is unlimited. Bible class teachers at churches can use it to encourage their students to read the Bible. Homeschools can use the program to supplement their Bible education. Private schools can implement it school-wide and encourage the kids to read the Bible—just like they have been encouraged for years to read secular books. And the program is great for parents to promote Bible reading along with other work that their children are bringing home from school. In fact, the Lads to Leaders program recently incorporated it into their Bible reading program.
We hope you will take the time to check out the site at www.abrkids.net (or click on "Advanced Bible Reader" in the far left column on our site). Right now we have about 500 kids involved in the program. We believe that tens of thousands can benefit from it. If you are looking for a way to encourage kids to read and study the Bible, Advanced Bible Reader is a tremendous tool to use. If you have influence with any kids, whether your own children, grandchildren, or just kids you know, why not send them this link and encourage them to get involved?
Canaanite DNA and the Biblical Canon
|by||Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.|
[Editor’s Note: AP auxiliary writer Dr. Bryant holds two Masters degrees as well as a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in Old Testament from Amridge University. He has participated in archaeological excavations at Tell El-Borg in Egypt and holds professional memberships in the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Society of Biblical Literature, the Archaeological Institute of America, and the International Society of Christian Apologetics.]
A paper published on July 27, 2017 sparked a series of headlines questioning the accuracy of the Bible. A study demonstrated that comparing the DNA of modern Lebanese with ancient Canaanites revealed a striking similarity between the two.1 By comparing the genomes of five inhabitants of the city of Sidon (from roughly 3,700 years ago) with 99 persons living in modern Lebanon, researchers estimated that the genetic similarity between the two is about 93 percent. Based on these findings, it is argued by some that the Canaanites were not destroyed as the Bible alleges.
Headlines after the publication of the study ran with the story, with several of them stating flatly that DNA evidence had proven the Bible wrong. David Klinghoffer, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, noted that numerous headlines (many of them originating in the United Kingdom) seemed to take a deliberate swipe at the Bible.2 He listed a dozen headlines from various news outlets that directly challenged the truthfulness of the biblical account of the conquest.3
In an age where attention-grabbing headlines can determine the number of clicks an article gets—as well as the amount of potential revenue from advertisers—this allegation is no surprise. However, it does expose the stunning biblical illiteracy in society today. To be fair, it may have been that the authors of the news articles simply took the following statement from the study at face value:
[T]he Bible reports the destruction of the Canaanite cities and the annihilation of its people; if true, the Canaanites could not have directly contributed genetically to present-day populations. However, no archaeological evidence has so far been found to support widespread destruction of Canaanite cities between the Bronze and Iron Ages: cities on the Levant coast such as Sidon and Tyre show continuity of occupation until the present day.4
Although the removal of the Canaanite population was commanded (Deuteronomy 20:17), numerous passages indicate the incomplete nature of the conquest (e.g., Joshua 17:12-13; Judges 1:27-33). One of the clearest failures recorded in the book of Judges is that the tribe of Dan in particular (or a large segment of it) remained nomadic instead of taking the territory allotted to it (Judges 18:1). The text indicates that this tribe had particular difficulties, later losing some of the land they had taken previously (Joshua 19:47).
The northernmost border of Israel’s territory was found in the allotment given to the tribe of Asher, which included the cities of Tyre and Sidon (Joshua 24:24-31). The text states that the Israelites failed to take this territory, so that the people of the tribe of Asher “lived among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, for they did not drive them out” (Judges 1:31; 3:3). Both Sidon and Tyre seem to have remained as independent city states. King Hiram of Tyre made treaties with both David and Solomon many years after the conquest (2 Samuel 5:11; 1 Kings 5:1; 9:13). Later prophets denounced the Phoenician cities of Tyre5 and Sidon,6 treating them as foreign political entities. The Bible never indicates that the Israelites conquered these cities or killed their populations.
The Homeric epics of the Iliad and Odyssey mention Sidon, known in the Bible as the home of Jezebel and her father Ethbaal (1 Kings 16:31). Jezebel’s royal seal—donated to Israel’s Department of Antiquities in the early 1960s—identifies her as the “daughter of the king.”7 The city of Sidon had a succession of kings and was powerful enough that the term “Sidonian” became virtually synonymous with the term “Phoenician.”8 There is no indication—either historical or biblical—that the Israelites ever conquered the city.
Tyre was a powerful and wealthy city also, enough so that it was able to establish colonies throughout the Mediterranean. It is no coincidence that Tyre experienced a golden age beginning precisely at the time when the Bible indicates that its king made important trade agreements with David and Solomon.9 Tyre had a long succession of kings who often ran afoul of more powerful nations. For instance, the famed Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III (747-727 B.C.) defeated a second Hiram of Tyre ruling in the eighth century.10 Later, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar plundered the city, which was subsequently razed by Alexander the Great in fulfillment of prophecy (Ezekiel 26).11 The biblical portrayal of Tyre—including its wealth, its continual problems with other nations, and eventually its destruction—agrees with the ancient evidence.
The Bible and ancient inscriptions both indicate that Israel never defeated Tyre or Sidon, a fact that seems to have eluded some critics. That the modern inhabitants of Lebanon should share such genetic similarity with their ancient ancestors should not be surprising. Phoenicia always remained independent of Israel despite any political or economic connections the two may have shared. Far from undermining the biblical text, the most recent findings concerning Canaanite DNA support the accuracy of Scripture.
1 See Marc Haber, et al (2017), “Continuity and Admixture in the Last Five Millennia of Levantine History from Ancient Canaanite and Present-Day Lebanese Genome Sequences,” American Journal of Human Genetics, 101, August, http://www.cell.com/ajhg/fulltext/S0002-9297(17)30276-8.
2 David Klinghoffer (2017), “For Culturally Illiterate Science Reporters, Canaanite DNA Yields Occasion to Slap Bible Around,” https://goo.gl/Pv3idN.
3 E.g., Shivali Best (2017), “Bronze Age DNA Disproves the Bible’s Claim that the Canaanites Were Wiped Out: Study Says Their Genes Live On in Modern-day Lebanese People,” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4733046/Canaanites-ancestors-modern-day-people-Lebanon.html; Chris Graham (2017), “Study Disproves the Bible’s Suggestion that the Ancient Canaanites Were Wiped Out,” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/07/28/study-disproves-bibles-claim-ancient-canaanites-wiped/; Ian Johnston (2017), “Bible Says Canaanites Were Wiped Out by Israelites But Scientists Just Found Their Descendants Living in Lebanon,” https://goo.gl/6xXTCs.
4 Haber, et al, p. 275.
5 E.g., Amos 1:9-10; Zechariah 9:3-4; Ezekiel 26:1-28:19.
6 Jeremiah 24:22; Ezekiel 28:20-24.
7 See Marjo C.A. Korpel (2008), “Fit for a Queen: Jezebel’s Royal Seal,” Biblical Archaeology Review, https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/inscriptions/fit-for-a-queen-jezebels-royal-seal.
8 Philip C. Schmitz (1992), “Sidon” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday), 6:17.
9 H.J. Katzenstein (1992), “Tyre” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday), 6:687.
10 Edward Lipinski (2006), On the Skirts of Canaan in the Iron Age: Historical and Topographical Researches, Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 153 (Leuven: Peters), p. 187.
11 See Kyle Butt (2006), “Tyre in Prophecy,” Reason & Revelation, 26:73-79, October, http://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=13&article=1790.
Camels and the Composition of Genesis
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Arguably, the most widely alleged anachronisms used in support of the idea that Moses could not have written the first five books of the Bible (a theory known as the Documentary Hypothesis) are the accounts of the early patriarchs possessing camels. The word “camel(s)” appears 23 times in 21 verses in the book of Genesis. The first book of the Bible declares that camels existed in Egypt during the time of Abraham (12:14-17), in Palestine in the days Isaac (24:63), in Padan Aram while Jacob was working for Laban (30:43), and were owned by the Midianites during the time Joseph was sold into Egyptian slavery (37:25,36). Make no mistake about it, the book of beginnings clearly teaches that camels were domesticated since at least the time of Abraham.
According to skeptics (and a growing number of liberal scholars), however, the idea that camels were domesticated in the time of Abraham directly contradicts archaeological evidence. Over one hundred years ago, T.K. Cheyne wrote: “The assertion that the ancient Egyptians knew of the camel is unfounded” (1899, 1:634). In his oft’-quoted book on the various animals of the Bible, George Cansdale stated:
The Bible first mentions the camel in Gen. 12:16, where the presents are listed which the pharaoh gave to Abram. This is generally reckoned to be a later scribe’s addition, for it seems unlikely that there were any camels in Egypt then (1970, p. 66, emp. added).
More recently, Finkelstein and Silberman confidently asserted:
We now know through archaeological research that camels were not domesticated as beasts of burden earlier than the late second millennium and were not widely used in that capacity in the ancient Near East until well after 1000 BCE (2001, p. 37, emp. added).
By way of summary, what the Bible believer has been told is: “[T]ame camels were simply unknown during Abraham’s time” (Tobin, 2000).
While these claims have been made repeatedly over the last century, the truth of the matter is that skeptics and liberal theologians are unable to cite a single piece of solid archaeological evidence in support of their claims. As Randall Younker of Andrews University stated in March 2000 while delivering a speech in the Dominican Republic: “Clearly, scholars who have denied the presence of domesticated camels in the 2nd millennium B.C. have been committing the fallacy of arguing from silence. This approach should not be allowed to cast doubt upon the veracity of any historical document, let alone Scripture” (2000). The burden of proof actually should be upon skeptics to show that camels were not domesticated until after the time of the patriarchs. Instead, they assure their listeners of the camel’s absence in Abraham’s day—without one shred of archaeological evidence. [Remember, for many years they also argued that writing was unknown during the time of Moses—a conclusion based entirely on “silence.” Now, however, they have recanted that idea, because evidence has been found to the contrary. One might think that such “scholars” would learn not to speak with such assurance when arguing from silence.]
What makes their claims even more disturbing is that several pieces of evidence do exist (and have existed for some time) that prove camels were domesticated during (and even before) the time of Abraham (roughly 2,000 B.C.). In an article that appeared in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies a half-century ago, professor Joseph Free listed several instances of Egyptian archaeological finds supporting the domestication of camels [NOTE: The dates given for the Egyptian dynasties are from Clayton, 2001, pp.14-68]. The earliest evidence comes from a pottery camel’s head and a terra cotta tablet with men riding on and leading camels. According to Free, these are both from predynastic Egypt (1944, pp. 189-190), which according to Clayton is roughly before 3150 B.C. Free also listed three clay camel heads and a limestone vessel in the form of camel lying down—all dated at the First Dynasty of Egypt (3050-2890 B.C.). He then mentioned several models of camels from the Fourth Dynasty (2613-2498 B.C.), and a petroglyph depicting a camel and a man dated at the Sixth Dynasty (2345-2184 B.C.). Such evidence has led one respected Egyptologist to conclude that “the extant evidence clearly indicates that the domestic camel was known [in Egypt—EL] by 3,000 B.C.”—long before Abraham’s time (Kitchen, 1980, 1:228).
Perhaps the most convincing find in support of the early domestication of camels in Egypt is a rope made of camel’s hair found in the Fayum (an oasis area southwest of modern-day Cairo). The two-strand twist of hair, measuring a little over three feet long, was found in the late 1920s, and was sent to the Natural History Museum where it was analyzed and compared to the hair of several different animals. After considerable testing, it was determined to be camel hair, dated (by analyzing the layer in which it was found) to the Third or Fourth Egyptian Dynasty (2686-2498 B.C.). In his article, Free also listed several other discoveries from around 2,000 B.C. and later, which showed camels as domestic animals (pp. 189-190).
While prolific in Egypt, finds relating to the domestication of camels are not isolated to the African continent. In his book, Ancient Orient and the Old Testament, professor Kenneth Kitchen (retired) of the University of Liverpool reported several discoveries made outside of Egypt proving ancient camel domestication around 2,000 B.C. Lexical lists from Mesopotamia have been uncovered that show a knowledge of domesticated camels as far back as this time. Camel bones have been found in household ruins at Mari in present-day Syria that fossilologists believe are also at least 4,000 years old. Furthermore, a Sumerian text from the time of Abraham has been discovered in the ancient city of Nippur (located in what is now southeastern Iraq) that clearly implies the domestication of camels by its allusions to camels’ milk (Kitchen, 1966, p. 79).
All of these documented finds support the domestication of camels in Egypt many years before the time of Abraham. Yet, as Younker rightly observed, skeptics refuse to acknowledge any of this evidence.
It is interesting to note how, once an idea gets into the literature, it can become entrenched in conventional scholarly thinking. I remember doing research on the ancient site of Hama in Syria. As I was reading through the excavation reports (published in French), I came across a reference to a figurine from the 2nd millennium which the excavator thought must be a horse, but the strange hump in the middle of its back made one think of a camel. I looked at the photograph and the figurine was obviously that of a camel! The scholar was so influenced by the idea that camels were not used until the 1st millennium, that when he found a figurine of one in the second millennium, he felt compelled to call it a horse! This is a classic example of circular reasoning (2000, parenthetical comment in orig.).
Finds relating to the domestication of camels are not as prevalent in the second millennium B.C. as they are in the first millennium. This does not make the skeptics’ case any stronger, however. Just because camels were not as widely used during Abraham’s time as they were later, does not mean that they were entirely undomesticated. As Free commented:
Many who have rejected this reference to Abraham’s camels seem to have assumed something which the text does not state. It should be carefully noted that the biblical reference does not necessarily indicate that the camel was common in Egypt at that time, nor does it evidence that the Egyptians had made any great progress in the breeding and domestication of camels. It merely says that Abraham had camels (1944, p. 191, emp. added).
Similarly, Younker noted:
This is not to say that domesticated camels were abundant and widely used everywhere in the ancient Near East in the early second millennium. However, the patriarchal narratives do not necessarily require large numbers of camels…. The smaller amount of evidence for domestic camels in the late third and early second millennium B.C., especially in Palestine, is in accordance with this more restricted use (1997, 42:52).
Even without the above-mentioned archaeological finds (which to the unbiased examiner prove that camels were domesticated in the time of Abraham), it only seems reasonable to conclude that since wild camels have been known since the Creation, “there is no credible reason why such an indispensable animal in desert and semi-arid lands should not have been sporadically domesticated in patriarchal times and even earlier” (“Animal Kingdom,” 1988). The truth is, all of the available evidence points to one conclusion—the limited use of domesticated camels during and before the time of Abraham did occur. The supposed “anachronism” of domesticated camels during the time of the patriarchs is, in fact, an actual historical reference to the use of these animals at that time. Those who reject this conclusion cannot give one piece of solid archaeological evidence on their behalf. They simply argue from the “silence” of archaeology…which is silent no more!
“Animal Kingdom” (1988), The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Cansdale, George (1970), All the Animals of the Bible Lands (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Cheyne, T.K. (1899), Encyclopedia Biblica (London: A. & C. Black).
Clayton, Peter A. (2001), Chronicle of the Pharaohs (London: Thames & Hudson).
Finkelstein, Israel and Neil Asher Silberman (2001), The Bible Unearthed (New York: Free Press).
Free, Joseph P. (1944), “Abraham’s Camels,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 3:187-193, July.
Kitchen, K.A. (1966), Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Chicago, IL: InterVarsity Press).
Kitchen, K.A. (1980), The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. J.D. Douglas (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale).
Tobin, Paul N. (2000), “Mythological Element in the Story of Abraham and the Patriachal Narratives,” The Refection of Pascal’s Wager [On-line], URL: http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/abraham.html.
Younker, Randall W. (1997), “Late Bronze Age Camel Petroglyphs in the Wadi Nasib, Sinai,” Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin, 42:47-54.
Younker, Randall W. (2000), “The Bible and Archaeology,” The Symposium on the Bible and Adventist Scholarship [On-line], URL: http://www.aiias.edu/ict/vol_26B/26Bcc_457-477.htm.
The Menace of Radical Preterism
The word “eschatology” derives from the Greek word,
eschatos, meaning “last.” It has to do with the biblical doctrine of “last” or “end-of-time” things. The term embraces such matters as the return of Christ, the end of the world, the day of judgment, and the resurrection of the dead.
One philosophy of eschatology is known as “preterism.” The term “preter” issues from an original form meaning “past.” Preterism, therefore, is an interpretive ideology which views major portions of Bible prophecy, traditionally associated with the termination of earth’s history, as having been fulfilled already.
But the term “preterism” is flexible. Some scholars, for instance, have dated the book of Revelation in the late sixties
A.D.They contend that virtually the whole of the Apocalypse, therefore, was fulfilled by
A.D.70 - when Judaism was destroyed by the invading Roman armies. A more moderate form of preterism moves the fulfillment of Revelation forward somewhat. These scholars hold that while Revelation was penned near the end of the first century, the major focus of the book is upon the fall of the Roman Empire (
A.D.476); consequently they feel there is little beyond that date that is previewed in the final book of the New Testament.
While we do not agree with either of these concepts of the book of Revelation, we consider them to be relatively harmless.
On the other hand, there is a form of preterism that is quite heretical. This theory argues that all Bible prophecy has been fulfilled; nothing remains on the prophetic calendar.
This radical preterism was championed by James Stuart Russell (1816-95), a Congregational clergyman in England. Russell authored a book titled, The Parousia, (from a Greek word meaning “coming” or “presence”), which first appeared in 1878. Russell set forth the idea that the second coming of Christ, the judgment day, etc., are not future events at the end of the current dispensation. Rather, prophecies relating to these matters were fulfilled with Jerusalem’s fall in
A.D.70. There is, therefore, no future “second coming” of Christ. Moreover, there will be no resurrection of the human body. Also, the final judgment and the end of the world have occurred already - with the destruction of Jerusalem.
Advocates of this bizarre dogma claim that the preterist movement is growing wildly. It probably is expanding some - though likely not as prolificly as its apologists would like everyone to believe. Occasionally the sect will get a thrust when a prominent name becomes identified with it. For example, noted theologian R. C. Sproul has apparently thrown his hat into the preterist ring - at least to some degree. Recently he characterized J. S. Russell’s book as “one of the most important treatments on Biblical eschatology that is available to the church today” (quoted in The Christian News 1999, 17).
Radical preterism (also known as “realized eschatology” or the “
A.D.70 doctrine”) is so “off the wall” - biblically speaking - that one wonders how anyone ever falls for it. But they do. And, as exasperating as it is, the doctrine needs to be addressed from time to time. One writer, in reviewing the
A.D.70 heresy, recently quipped that dealing with preterism is like cleaning the kitty litter box; one hates to fool with it, but it has to be done. He can just be thankful that cats aren’t larger than they are.
The Basis for the Dogma
Preterists strive for consistency in their view of Bible prophecy. The goal is admirable. But when a series of propositions is linked, and they are grounded on the same faulty foundation, when one of them topples - like dominos in a line - they all fall. So it is with the
Here is the problem. In studying the New Testament material relative to the “coming” of Christ, preterists note that:
- there are passages which seem to speak of the nearness of the Lord’s coming - from a first-century vantage point (cf. James 5:8);
- they observe that there are texts which indicate a “coming” in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem in
A.D.70 (cf. Matthew 24:30);
- combining these, they conclude that the Savior’s “second coming” must have transpired in
- furthermore, since the Scriptures are clear as to the fact that the resurrection of the dead, the judgment day, and the end of the world will all occur on the day the Lord returns, the advocates of realized eschatology are forced to “spiritualize” these several happenings, contending that all will take place at the same time. In this “interpretive” process, a whole host of biblical terms must be redefined in order to make them fit the scheme.
And so, while preterists attempt to be consistent, it is nonetheless a sad reality that they are consistently wrong!
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.
Obadiah, for instance, foretold the final day of earth’s history. Concerning that event, he said: “For the day of Jehovah is near upon all the nations” (v. 15). This cannot refer to some local judgment, for “all nations” are to be involved. And yet, the event is depicted as “near.”
There are numerous prophecies of this nature, including passages like James 5:8 - “the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James could not have been predicting the literally imminent return of the Savior, for such knowledge was not made available to the Lord’s penmen. Not even Jesus himself knew of the time of his return to earth (Matthew 24:36).
The Components Explained and Briefly Refuted
Let us give brief consideration to the four eschatological events that are supposed to have occurred in
A.D.70 - the Lord’s second coming, the resurrection of the dead, the day of judgment, and the end of the world.
First, was there a sense in which Christ “came” to folks at various times and places? Yes, and no serious student of the Bible denies this. Jesus “came” on the day of Pentecost via the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see John 14:18). The coming was representative, not literal. The Lord warned the brethren in Ephesus that if they did not repent, he would “come” to them in judgment, and they would forfeit their identity as a faithful congregation (Revelation 2:5). In describing the horrible judgment to be inflicted upon rebellious Jerusalem, Jesus, employing imagery from the Old Testament, spoke of his “coming” in power and glory (Matthew 24:30). Again, this was a representative “coming” by means of the Roman forces (cf. Matthew 22:7). Verse thirty-four of Matthew 24 clearly indicates that this event was to occur before that first-century generation passed away.
The Lord’s “second coming,” however, will be as visibly apparent as his ascension back into heaven was (Acts 1:11). Indeed, he will be “revealed” (2 Thessalonians 1:7), or “appear” to all (2 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 9:28).
It is a mistake of horrible proportions to confuse the symbolic “comings” of Christ with the “second” (cf. Hebrews 9:28) coming. And this is what the preterists do.
Secondly, it is utterly incredible that the preterists should deny the eventual resurrection of the human body - just as the Sadducees did twenty centuries ago (Acts 23:8). The entire fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians was written to counter this error: “How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead [ones – plural]?” (15:12).
But those who subscribe to the notion of realized eschatology spiritualize the concept of the resurrection, alleging that such references are merely to the emergence of the church from an era of anti-Christian persecution. In other words, it is the “resurrection” of a cause, not a resurrection of people.
The theory is flawed in several particulars, but consider these two points:
- The Scriptures speak of the “resurrection” as involving both the good and the evil, the just and the unjust (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). Where, in the preterist scheme of things, is the resurrection of the “evil”? Was the “cause” of evil to emerge at the same time as the “cause” of truth?
- As noted above, the resurrection contemplated in 1 Corinthians 15 has to do with the raising of “dead ones” (masculine, plural) - not an abstract “cause” (neuter, singular). Significantly, the bodily resurrection of Jesus is cited as a precursor to the general resurrection - in this very context (15:20,23). Christ charged that those who deny the resurrection of the body are ignorant of both the Scriptures and the power of God (Matthew 22:29).
Third, the Bible speaks of a coming “day of judgment” (Matthew 11:22). Preterists limit this to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. But the theory simply does not fit the facts. The devastation of
A.D.70 involved only the Jews. The final day of judgment will embrace the entire human family - past, present, and future (Acts 17:31). The citizens of ancient Nineveh will be present on the day of judgment (see Matthew 12:41), as will other pagan peoples. But these folks were not in Jerusalem in
A.D.70. How can clear passages of this nature be ignored?
Here is an interesting thought. When Paul defended his case before the Roman governor, Felix, he spoke of “the judgment to come,” and the ruler was “terrified” (Acts 24:25). Why would a Roman be “terrified” with reference to the impending destruction of Judaism - when he would be on the winning side, not the losing one?
Fourth, according to the preterists, the “end of the world,” as this expression is employed in Bible prophecy, does not allude to the destruction of this planet. Rather, “world” has reference to the Jewish world, thus, the end of the Jewish age. This, they allege, occurred in
But this view simply is not viable. Consider these two brief but potent points.
- The responsibilities of the Great Commission - to teach and immerse lost souls - was commensurate with that era preceding the “end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20). If the “end of the world” occurred in
A.D.70, then the Lord’s Commission is valid no longer. This conclusion, of course, is absurd.
- In the parable of the tares, Jesus taught that at “the end of the world” the “tares” (i.e., evil ones) would be removed from his kingdom and burned (Matthew 13:39-40). Did that transpire with the destruction of Judaism? It did not. The notion that the “end of the world” is past already is false.
The dogma of preterism - or realized eschatology - is erroneous from beginning to end. For a more detailed consideration of this matter, see our book, The
A Common Method of Propagation
The doctrine of preterism is so radically unorthodox that its advocates realize that their efforts to win converts represent a formidable task. Consequently, they have developed a covert strategy that seeks to quietly spread their novel dogma until such a time when congregational take-overs can be effected. The distinctive traits of this discipling methodology are as follows.
- It is alleged that this system represents an attractive, consistent method of interpretation. But there is no virtue in consistency, if one is consistently wrong!
- Preterists criticize what they call “traditional” views of interpreting Bible prophecy. They suggest they have a new, exciting approach to the Scriptures - with a spiritual thrust. Of course the “new” is always intriguing to some.
- The messengers of realized eschatology frequently are secretive in their approach. They select only the most promising candidates with whom to share their ideas. Eventually, then, the
A.D.70 theory will be woven subtly into classes, sermons, etc.
- When ultimately confronted relative to their teachings and methods, they will argue that eschatological issues are merely a matter of opinion, and that divergent views - especially theirs - should be tolerated. This, of course, ignores plain biblical implications on these themes (cf. 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 2 Peter 3:16). If church leaders fall for this ploy, more time is gained for the indoctrination of the entire congregation.
Wise church leaders will inform themselves relative to the theory of preteristic eschatology. If such ideas are discovered to be circulating within a local church, the proponents of such doctrines should be dealt with quickly and firmly. It is a serious matter.
- Jackson, Wayne. 2005. The
A.D.70 Theory. Stockton, CA: Christian Courier Publications.
- Sproul, R. C. 1999. The Christian News, June 7.
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Published in The Old Paths Archive