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It may be admitted that Biblical scholar named Thomas Ice is not one of the lesser critics of preterism. Ice has done some debating with the preterist big names on this subject (DeMar, Gentry); on the other hand, we do find some points of similarity in Ice's language ("exegetical voodoo," etc.) that show he isn't beyond some of the worst tactics of lesser critics. In this article we will examine some of Ice's criticisms, from an essay titled, "Has Bible Prophecy Already Been Fulfilled?", and also offer a review of a book he co-edited with Tim LaHaye, The End Times Controversy.
Taking the Time Texts
Ice addresses three key passages in Matthew (10:23; 16:28; and 24:34) pointed to as support for a first century fulfillment.
Matthew 10:23 But whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you shall not finish going through the cities of Israel, until the Son of Man comes.
Preterists understand this verse to suggest that the disciples would not take forty years to deliver the gospel to all of Israel. Ice quotes Sproul on this point as saying that it surely didn't take more than 40 years to cover all of Palestine; Ice comments in reply that "Dr. Sproul merely asserts it as a supposition, taking J. Stuart Russell's word for it."
It is hard to see why this is being said. That all of Palestine was covered within the timefreame specified is hardly an unreasonable supposition, given the spread of the gospel to points much, much farther away, within 10-20 years. I don't think Ice would wish to argue that the evangelists made their way to Rome and Corinth and skipped areas of Palestine in the process.
Given the designation of the Gospel "first for the Jew, then for the Gentile"; given the pattern in Acts of first visiting synagogues; given the missionary activity and Judean churches described in Acts, and given the mission priority of the region by Jesus himself (Acts 1:8); given Paul's own indications that the Gospel had reached these limits (i.e., Rom. 1:5-6, 16:25-6; Col. 1:5-6, 23), there is no reason to reject such a supposition at all, and it seems unreasonable rather to plant such doubts without solid evidence that the Palestinian mission was neglected. (A little further down Ice does try to argue this; we will get to that in a moment.)
Ice comments briefly to the effect that this passage contextually belongs to the Olivet Discourse, and withholds some comments therefore until discussing Matthew 24. However, after two points devoted to supporting this general argument, he writes:
Third, all agree that there is no indication in Scripture that the disciples experienced the kind of persecution mentioned in this passage before the crucifixion of Christ. J. Stuart Russell admits, "There is no evidence that the disciples met with such treatment on their evangelistic tour." Thus, this sustains the conclusion to which we are building: that our Lord has a future time in mind when He speaks the words of this passage.
In response we would note that lack of direct documentary evidence does not equate with non-evidence. But if anything we have every reason to suspect that such persecution did indeed take place, and supporting documentation to show it:
- Matthew 23:31-36 prophesied that the then living generation of Jews would continue in murderous rampages against Jesus' followers.
- Paul confesses to having persecuted the churches in Judea. Is it to be supposed that he or others like him persecuted churches, while ignoring missionaries?
- In Acts certain Jews even follow Paul to other cities to persecute him and is run out of town by Jews. Is there some reason why this pattern would not have taken place in the heart of Jewry as well? Acts also recorded sporadic persecution.
- In Thessalonians Paul speaks of the church being persecuted.
- Socially, as we have shown here, the message of Christianity was profoundly offensive, and to make matters worse, as strangers to the social group at every mission stop, the disciples would have been "checked out" and treated roughly if they did not pass approval. It is more likely than not that they would indeed encounter such persecution.
- Whatever the case, Jesus' remark offers a condition and specifies a reaction, with no indication as to what percent of cities (20? 30?) would give the disciples such treatment. If 70-80% of the cities didn't persecute, there wouldn't be much to record, and whatever there was to record would have had to compete with other accounts to take a place in the record (in a time when there were serious constraints on writing things down).
We therefore regard Ice's appeal here as groundless and if anything contrary to available evidence.
Ice's fourth point is actually an assertion that he believes that Matt. 10:21-23 will be fulfilled in a future tribulation -- which is not an actual argument against the preterist view, though it does establish Ice's own view as is his right and prerogative. His fifth point argues:
Fifth, the use of the title "Son of Man" "'has a definite doctrinal signification-it always refers to the (Parousia) Second Coming.' The phrase, so expressive of His humanity, indicates a visible, personal Coming, which was not exhibited at the destruction of Jerusalem. Beside this, all expecting John were deceased before the city was overthrown."
We have addressed this matter in our items on Olivet Discourse and Daniel which show how this fits within the preterist paradigm. The irony here is that as we have also shown, "Son of Man" actually is not "expressive" of Jesus' humanity, but of his divinity.
We now get to where Ice argues, "The apostles never completed their kingdom ministry before they turned to the Gentiles." We would like some positive evidence for this, but Ice offers:
This was because Israel did not receive their message. This thought is developed throughout the remainder of chapter 10 and in chapter 11, in which Jesus finally castigates Israel, withdraws the message of national deliverance and turns to individuals with an offer of salvation in Mt. 11:28-30.
With due respect, this makes absolutely no sense at all. First, if (as we are willing to agree) 10:23 is displaced from a proper place in the Olivet Discourse, then there is no way that 11:28-30 can be a further developed thought from it.
Second, it is hard to see anyhting in Matt. 10-11 as commanding a ceasing of missions to all Jews, and it could hardly have been such and yet be compatible with the mission statement of Acts 1:8 and the church's later evangelism.
Finally, Matt. 11:28-30 alludes to a passage in the work of Sirach (6:19-31, 51:26), and refers to divine Wisdom. This was advice from a father to a son and is proverbial and universal. This would hardly suggest a context in which missions to Israel were abandoned, and we may note that immediately after this passage we see Jesus teaching in a synagogue (12:9). If the mission was over, what was he doing? Announcements for the next synagogue picnic day?
Those Standing Here
Ice then re-asserts via a quote from Toussaint his own view, asserts that the Tribulation period did not come (but does not deal with preterist arguments identifying this period with 66-73 AD), and then moves on to Matthew 16:28:
Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
Ice responds to the preterist view by asserting that the fulfillment of this passage was with the Transfiguration several days later. This is a common view, but it has a certain problem which preterist commentators like DeMar have noted: If the fulfillment was only 6-8 days later, then what is the point of the "not taste death" delimiter? Who might have died in the next 6-8 days? Ice is aware of this objection, and in response quotes the words of commentator William Lane:
. . . it is not said that death will exclude some of those present from seeing the announced event. All that is required by Jesus' statement is that "some" will see a further irruption of the power and sovereignty of God before they experience the suffering foreseen in Ch. 8:34-35.
This is all quite sensible, but it still does not address the point that if the Transfiguration is the fulfillment, then that means that in the next 6-8 days people had to be suffering -- to the point of death -- what was foreseen on 8:34-5. Ice is insistent upon the lack of direct documentation for persecution in Judea, so he should certainly insist on some here for persecution unto death in that 6-8 day period!
As it is we would say that the Transfiguaration was a precursor to that glory of 70, which is why it follows the prediction, but the attempt to force it out into a 6-8 day fulfillment only strains the hold further. Ice does not actually answer this argument with the appeal to the preceding context; if anything this highlights just how forced his interpretation is.
Moreover, if this is compared to Luke 21:32 - "So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place" -- the evidence is then very strong that the same event is being referred to and thus the definition of "this generation" is given to us: It is "some standing here."
As corollary support he adds:
- The "some" fits well with the three -- Peter, James, and John -- who saw the transfiguration. Perhaps so, but this is not exclusive evidence since it would also fit the likely number (based on lifespans of the time) who would still be around in 70. This is not a "problem with the preterist view" as Ice says -- it is merely a minor, non-exclusive support for the countering view.
He notes further that: "...Peters notes that 'John only survived' among the 12 disciples till the destruction of Jerusalem." Even if this tradition is fully accurate -- no support is given for it -- Peters is mixing up apostles with disciples, and Jesus had more than 12 of these; more than that, Peters fails to note that Jesus was also speaking to a larger group of people [Mark 8:34], not just his disciples.
- It is argued that the seeing of the Son of Man coming in His kingdom fits the Transfiguration; it might (we would actually argue that it would not), but as we have argued (links above) it fits 70 AD's events (which contrary to Ice, does not require that Jesus be physically present when Jerusalem was destroyed).
- Finally, Ice draws in the support of 2 Peter 1:16-18 and Rev. 1:7 -- to no apparent purpose against a preterist view. He says that Peter described the transfigured Jesus "in relation to His second advent" but what that relation was, is: "Peter follows Jesus' pattern of supporting the future Second Advent by citing the past transfiguration." This fits just fine with the preterist view and Ice offers no reason to think otherwise. (We deal with Rev. 1:7 here.)
Generation of Matthew 24
Finally we get to Matthew 24, and here, after presenting the preterist view of the "generation" texts, Ice doesn't actually refute the preterist understanding -- he merely re-asserts the standard dispensational view:
I believe that the timing of "this generation" in Matthew 24:34 is governed by the related phrase "all these things." In other words, Christ is saying that the generation that sees "all these things" occur will not cease to exist until all the events of the future tribulation are literally fulfilled.
Preterists of course say that "all these things" WERE fulfilled in the first century, and Ice does not deal with this much, though we will see attempts shortly. As it remains this is merely the same dispensational "shell game" that conveniently moves the necessary "generation" around as needed, in spite of the parallel use of the phrase by Jesus elsewhere in which he clearly refers to his contemporaries. This last point Ice answers by creating an artificial dichotomy, saying that:
While it is true that other uses of "this generation" refer to Christ's contemporaries, that is because they are historical texts. The use of "this generation" in the Olivet Discourse in the fig tree passages are prophetic texts.
How this turns Olivet references into a more ambiguous state is not explained. Nor is it explained how one designates texts as "historical" or "prophetic". Prophecy was more than just predicting the future; it was exhortation, and by that account all that Jesus said didactically was "prophetic". Perhaps Ice means, "it is a text that predicts the future," but that would not automatically make "this generation" mean anything different unless we beg the question yet again.
Besides, isn't Matt. 12:41-2 ("The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here...") "prophetic"? What about Matt. 23:36, which is clearly against the present class of Pharisees (and which Ice elsewhere admits applies to the first century)? Ice's division of the texts is artificial and groundless.
Now we get to where Ice claims that some portion of the Discourse was not fulfilled in 70 -- but he only deals with a tiny portion:
When were the Jews, who were under siege, rescued by the Lord in A.D. 70? They were not rescued, they were judged, as noted in Luke 21:20-24. But Matthew 24 speaks of a Divine rescue of those who are under siege (24:29-31). This could not have been fulfilled by the first century. In fact, the Jewish Christian community fled Jerusalem before the final siege. Matthew 24 speaks about the deliverance of Jews who are under siege. This did not happen under the first century Roman siege.
Preterists have addressed these passages (see link above) and shown that this is not a "divine rescue" at all -- Ice does not deal with these interpretations in this commentary, and so his case (in terms of what we address here) is incomplete and we can comment no further.
It does appear that Ice is not quite "straight" on the preterist view, for he describes it thusly: "...preterists teach that 'all these things' refer to the non-bodily, non-personal, coming of Christ through the Roman army in the first century." No preterist (that I have seen!) teaches that the Romans were the vehicle of Christ's coming. They are thought to be Christ's vehicle of judgment.
Ice proceeds with a rather strained effort to argue that Luke 21:20-24, which he admits was fulfilled in the first century, is not actually a parallel to the verses in the same places in Mark and Matthew. "I believe that Matthew and Mark only deal with the future questions," Ice tells us. This we see also as merely an attempt to prop up the sagging dispensational sail.
Ice would have us accept the explanation that in Luke 21:7 ("And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?") the two instances of "these things" refer to two separate times and sets of events, the first "these things" in 70, and the second "these things" to signs before the yet-to-occur Second Advent. It is only by such creative and unwarranted gerrymandering that the dispensational view can be maintained.
Next, Ice tackles the preterist view of Revelation, focusing here as well on "time texts" that speak of the events taking place "shortly" or "quickly". Ice here opts for a view that is not a surprise, and which is not entirely unreasonable, that is, that the words imply a "sudden" or surprising coming, not a "soon" one.
As noted above, we deal with Rev. 1:7 in the link above, and show that the context alludes back to the "tribes of the 'earth'" in the Discourse, meaning Israel only, and this contextually limits the "every eye" to those in Judea. All of this is accompanied of course by the understandings reached in our Olivet item about what it means for Jesus to have "come on the clouds."
Does Ice offer ant reply to these interpretations?
The first key is the geographic limiter, which we see as determined by the reference to the "tribes of the earth." Ice tries to get around this by claiming that the group of "even those who pierced Him" refers to the Jews as a nation, so that the "tribes of the earth" must be a larger group.
Ice does not explain how he decides that the "pierced" group is all of Israel, but this is patently a misinterpretation. At most this would only refer to the political establishment which ordered and carried out the execution of Jesus -- a sub-group of the "tribes of the earth." But since Ice offers no further explanation of how he gets all of Israel out of the "pierced" statement (I have some guesses, but will not presume) we cannot comment further.
Ice also tries to "universalize" the phrase "tribes of the earth" by arguing that in the OT it "always has a universal nuance (Gen. 12:3; 28:14; Ps. 72:17; Zech. 14:17)."
It's not actually that simple. Ps. 72:17 contains no parallel phrase and does not use the word "earth."
The other three passages refer to "families of the earth" but one can only get a "universal" nuance out of them by assuming one. There is no geographic delimiter laid out at all (the word, like most Hebrew words for the earth [like 'erets] is vague and flexible), and thus to call these passages "universal" begs the question. The phrase also uses a different Hebrew word than that used to refer to the "tribes" of Israel, so even if universal, it is not a parallel.
Beyond that Ice does not deal with the exclusive and parallel use of "tribes" in the NT to refer to those of Israel -- nor does he deal with the most important geographical limiter, oikoumene.
Ice next renders a view on the meaning of "coming in a cloud." In this respect Ice fulfills the harsh judgment of Caird upon those who are "pedantic literalists" whose mindset is such that they regard preterist interpretations as "forced" because they continue to read the text as modern literalists rather than as ancients with a penchant for symbolic language. By this token Ice fails and requires little further answer when he simply re-asserts the crass literalistic view of such passages.
Beyond this here are some points about Revelation made by Ice:
- "Preterism nowhere explains the promised deliverance from persecution that is associated with the coming, for example, in 3:10-11." It doesn't? What is to explain? This says, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."
"World" is oikoumene, a word which Ice has yet to deal with; the promise is then to the Philadelphia church, and we only have a problem if the church there wasn't spared troubles during this period. I have not found any evidence -- and Ice of course provides none otherwise -- that this church was not spared trouble, though the record is most likely far from complete. Ice claims, "the church did not escape persecution in A.D. 70, but continued to suffer for Christ's sake long after that," but he is not addressing the church in Philadelphia specifically (seeming to assume that the advice is universal!) and the text says nothing about what may happen once the "hour" is over.
- Following in the footsteps of MacArthur in our Olivet item, Ice explains away symbolic passages in the OT which were obviously not literally fulfilled by shifting them into being future predictions also!
- Responding to a list of OT cites in which a cloud is a vehicle for God riding, Ice admits that these do "describe the Lord as 'riding' upon a cloud in judgment against the Lord's enemies," but objects that "there are too many differences" from these passages.
But the only differences cited are the claim that Rev. 1:7 describes a rescue and not a judgment, which is simply false. There is no hint of a rescue (unless we beg the dispensational view) and the wailing of 1:7 fits a judgment paradigm.
Ice also provides no answer to the points we developed in the Olivet article about the connection to Dan. 7 and the "ride" being in the heavenly realms and symbolizing victory. There is also no evidence for the arbitrary declaration of Hughes, quoted by Ice, that there is a dichotomy between "dark storm-clouds which presage divine judgment" and "the bright clouds of his transcendental glory." Does God lack His glory when He comes in judgment?
- Ice also quotes a rather naive statement by Robert Thomas (he of the unrealistically-panicked hermeneutic we have noted here):
Another hermeneutical shortcoming of preterism relates to the limiting of the promised coming of Christ in 1:7 to Judea. What does a localized judgment hundreds of miles away have to do with the seven churches in Asia? John uses two long chapters in addressing those churches regarding the implications of the coming of Christ for them. For instance, the promise to shield the Philadelphian church from judgment (3:10-11) is meaningless if that judgment occurs far beyond the borders of that city.
Actually, the predictions also included trial on the oikoumene as a whole, and Judea in particular; but to ask "What does a localized judgment hundreds of miles away have to do with the seven churches in Asia?" is naive in the extreme (though it does fit with Thomas' outrageous error in arguing, in The Jesus Crisis, that "slow communications of the time" kept the Gospel authors from sharing their work).
Asia had a large share of Jews in its population in this period; Sardis had the largest synagogue in the area, Paul was from Tarsus in Asia, and so on, and all of these Jews had interests in visiting Jerusalem during festivals (even as they became Christians); "what does this have to do" with them? It is at the very least a travel advisory. But we may as well also ask what the crisis in Corinth has to do with any other church anywhere, or in Galatia, or Thessalonica. Obviously we draw lessons from these letters even if our situation is not the same, so it is hard to see why the same can't be said even of Revelation.
Even so: The Judean crisis affected the body of Christ as a whole; it doesn't take much to suggest that the church in Rome would be just as interested (in spite of the seven Asian churches being primary recipients) in Revelation, and could draw just as much from the messages to them as we could, or as we could from the letters to Corinth and Galatia.
- Ice also cites Acts 1:9-11, which we deal with in our Olivet item.
- Ice quotes Thomas some more, asking questions which have indeed been answered by preterists, but which Thomas seems unaware of. Preterists have shown no inconsistency in interpreting Rev. 1:7 and identifying the persons referenced therein, and Thomas does not cite any such inconsistency.
Here is one note of interest: "They cannot limit 'the tribes of the earth [or land]' to Israel only, because in this case Zechariah 12:10ff. would require the mourning to be one of repentance, not of despair (as their interpretation holds)." Thomas does not cite these interpretations that are supposedly inconsistent, and also does not explain how one shows despair and the other repentance, and how this is a problem even if true.
- Getting at last to the "time texts" -- as noted Ice favors the interpretation of key words to mean "by surprise" or "suddenly." The linguistic position is defensible, though of course even if translated "suddenly" and meaning manner this would not refute a preterist understanding; it would only offer an alternative amenable to futurists.
That said, it remains that it seems somewhat counterintuitive to regard the entire package of events in Revelation as happening "quickly" and Ice does not deal at all with Rev. 1:3 and 22:10 and eggus -- which provides no such outlet (John 2:13, "And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem...") to interpret as "manner".
When Was Revelation Written?
We now move to the matter of Revelation's date. Ice considers pre-70 arguments for Revelation "weak" and deals with the following:
- The Temple in Revelation 11 -- the hint that the Temple was still standing is one of the key evidences that led John A. T. Robinson (Redating the New Testament) to date all of the NT, including Revelation, prior to 70. Ice tries to get around this with a parallel to Ezekiel, arguing that Revelation is a vision of "future things" so that the Temple of Rev. 11 is a future Temple.
In itself this is simply yet another begged question favoring dispensationalism, and the measuring of a not-standing Temple by Ezekiel (which is only "similar" in a very small respect, in that both prophets go measuring, albeit John to a much lesser extent!) does not make the Rev. 11 Temple a future one, especially since the Ezekiel Temple is spoken of in explicitly "future" terms (43:7-18ff) whereas the Revelation Temple is not.
- Ironically, Ice then criticizes Gentry for "begging the question" by noting how well the Rev. 17 kings fit with the Roman emperors -- then proceeds to beg the dispensational question by merely asserting that it is a vision of the future.
He then asserts an interpretation I have not yet seen, which sees the seven horns as a "landscape of biblical history" in which the horns are "Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. The sixth empire that was reigning at the time which John wrote was Rome. The seventh that is to come will be the future kingdom of the antichrist, known in Revelation as the Beast." I will not here evaluate this position as this is the only knowledge of it I posses.
- Ice again uses Thomas, who says:
The future leader and his empire will have a short life according to the words, . . . "when it comes, it is necessary for it to remain for a little [time]". The adjective . . . "little" has the idea of brevity as it does in Rev. 12:12. This is a limitation of God's will (Lenski) and indicates among other things that its time will be shorter than the six previous empires (Seiss). This factor alone would eliminate the possibility of the seven kings being first-century Roman emperors.
We can only ask, why? Gentry matches the seventh leader with Galba, who did last for only a short time; Vespasian, whom we identify as the person in question, lasted as Emperor less than 10 years, and that is on the shorter end of the reigns of the Emperors (by comparison, Augustus lasted 45 years); by Ford's reckoning of excluding the three "hiccups" who never ruled Judea, only Caligula had a shorter reign (4 years). Thomas is merely asserting, not dealing with the data.
In the next section Ice critiques the view of Gentry that "the church has forever replaced national Israel as an instrument through which God works." I do not regard this as necessarily the case and would hardly express it in such black and white terms; nor do I see it as necessary to suppose that the Deuteronomic contract is completely null and void. As I say in response to a Jewish anti-missionary site:
I realize that AMs will have their own ideas about this passage, but I would answer with Deut. 18:15-18:
The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
Using this as a basis, I would reply that:
- The "Prophet" like unto Moses is to be understood as Jesus, a mediator of a new covenant for all men.
- The command given is to hearken unto this prophet.
- It therefore stands to reason that disobedience of this command, to hearken unto this prophet, is a cause for punishment.
Again, one may choose to dispute whether Jesus is indeed that prophet, but it is not arguable that if he was, and Jewish adherents to the Deuteronomic covenant (past or present) fail to hearken unto him, they are disobeying and breaking the covenant just as much as they would had they worshipped an idol, or murdered, or stolen. And thus, if they still today refuse to listen to his voice, they remain in rebellion to the commands of the Deuteronomic covenant and are subject to punishment. They have not been disowned, but they are still being punished.
The AM site takes great pains to show that the covenant with the Jews was eternal. I see no reason to disagree. I take rather the tack that they are in rebellion to that covenant, and are breaking it, through their refusal to recognize Jesus as the foretold Prophet and Messiah.
Beyond this the AM site addresses the question, "Has Israel been Replaced?" Obviously they say no, and in a sense we would, too. We say rather with Paul (Rom. 10-11) that the true Israel is not found in the flesh but in the heart. Israel has not been replaced but expanded, and those in rebellion as above are still subject to punishment. AMs should certainly not disagree with this, unless they are the sort who refuse proselytes!
I would therefore not necessarily defend Gentry against Ice's charges on this one issue. However, I would add that my disagreement is not essential to a preterist view of Revelation.
Ice next takes on the evidence of Irenaeus. Ice waves off Gentry's detailed arguments as a "complicated web of sophistry that fails in his attempt to explain away this testimony," but says nothing to refute Gentry's arguments, which suggests that he has nothing to actually refute them. This is further shown in that he resorts to a fallacious argument of "most scholars say" (by itself) to support a later date, and accusing preterists of bias.
A section follows on "preterist implications for the NT." This does not contain any actual arguments against the datum of preterism; boiled down, Ice's comments here amount to little more than a despairing objection that preterism makes him unable to see meaning to current events.
Ice falsely states, "for the preterist...most of the NT does not refer directly to the Church today. Since so much of the NT is written to tell believers how to live between the two comings of Christ, it makes a huge difference if one interprets Christ's coming as a past or future event."
Ice falsely collapses direct and indirect relevance into one pile of wreckage. We will never repeat the problem of the Judaizers demanding circumcision in Galatia, yet who stops reading Galatians? Under any view the NT is "dated" in terms of certain direct applications and it is up to use to interpret a meaning for today.
At the same time, since orthodox preterists do believe that there is yet another "coming" of Christ -- the final resurrection and judgment -- the advice on how to live doesn't lose any of its relevance. Ice is significantly overstating the implications of preterism. (Ice also appears to understand Gentry as saying that Rev. 21-22's new heavens and earth are now -- I do not know what view Gentry holds, but the orthodox view holds that we are presently experiencing the millennium of Rev. 20:7 and what is thereafter is future.)
Ice next pulls into the mix Titus 2:13:
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Ice retorts, "This would mean that it was a hope only for those Christians living between the time the Epistle was written and the destruction of Jerusalem-A.D. 65-66." That is true, but what of it? Ice points back to 2:12, which contains moral admonitions, and says:
The grammar of the next verse (2:13) relates the activities of 2:12 to the activity of 'looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.' If 2:13 is a reference to A.D. 70, as preterist generally believe, then the 'present age' in 2:12 would have ended when 2:13 was fulfilled. Therefore, the total admonition of 2:12 was temporary and applicable only to Christians up until A.D. 70. This would mean that the instruction 'to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age' would not directly apply to the current age, but to the past age which ended in A.D. 70 when 'the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus' occurred in the destruction of Jerusalem.
To begin, again, orthodox preterism represented by Sproul and DeMar still sees in the future a final judgment and resurrection. We have as much reason to live soberly and uprightly as anyone before 70.
Second, Ice is postulating an absurdity if he wishes to suggest that Paul's words mean our behavior is contingent upon Christ coming. That verges on an idea of salvation by works. I assume Ice agrees with the view that works are the result of our salvation, the product of our faith in Christ. The grammar of the verses may "relate" the activities, but for Ice's argument to work the "relation" must be one of cause and effect, otherwise the argument is pointless.
As we understand the relation between faith and works, our behavior is the result of Christ's work. In turn, the authority of Christ's work has been verified by the events of 70. In any event it borders on absurdity to suggest that under any circumstance Paul's words could be taken as implying permission to go out and get drunk and misbehave after 70. If that's so, then by Ice's understanding we can also misbehave and get drunk after the Tribulation ends.
The next point Ice offers is against the idea that Satan is currently bound as in Rev. 20:2-3. Ice paints the preterist view as saying, "the spiritual road blocks of the world and the devil have been removed and only the enemy of the flesh remains that would obstruct believers from reigning and ruling now in the New Heavens and New Earth."
Ice again paints the matter in excess; there is nothing in the orthodox view (though there may be in the "full" preterist view) that says that only the flesh blocks us from ruling and reigning. In contrast the orthodox view only holds that Satan is bound from deceiving the nations, and the New Heavens and Earth are yet to come. Beyond this Ice cites warnings to watch out for Satan's wiles in the NT, which do make sense before 70 even under a preterist view.
In much of what follows Ice continues to address what is, for the orthodox preterist who does not adhere to the whole package of Reconstructionist thought, the straw man of saying that we are NOW experiencing the New Heavens and Earth and that the world will eventually be fully converted. Obviously I do not defend the former view, and I have no bones at present for the latter (though I think we should certainly do missions as though we believe it will happen!). Thus I have come to the conclusion of my response to "rebuttal" portions of Ice's essay.
Ice closes out with a defense of the futurist view which lays a series of vague and unsubstantiated charges at the preterist door (i.e., "importing foreign concepts from other sources into a given passage" -- "other sources" being the Old Testament! -- and we place Ice's cite of Bullinger to the side and take Caird in favor anytime!) and then engages in a discussion of Deuteronomy 4 and 28-32.
This is rather an interesting oddity as an appeal. We would argue that the scattering of the Jews after 70 fits perfectly as a Deuteronomic punishment, and would hypothesize that perhaps the 1948 regathering constitutes a fulfillment of Deut. 30:3-10, in which Israel is "gathered from the nations and brought back to her divinely given land" (though with the note about Israel's continuing disobedience above). As such, Ice's comments on Deuteronomy are for my point of view mainly irrelevant.
Ice closes by saying, "Those who believe that Christ came in A.D. 70 will certainly not be found looking for our Lord's any-moment return when He does rapture the church without any signs or warning before this blessed event."
Ice is in error, for as an orthodox preterist I do look for an unexpected "return" which will mean final judgment and resurrection, simply without the complex of end-times accoutrements, of rebuilt Temples and people with stamps of 666 on their foreheads that are scenes better suited for TV movies than for serious Bible study. In our view, Ice is "on thin ice" and is on the defensive against a thesis whose details he is unable to counter.
Analysis of "The End Times Controversy"
It seems obvious that the debate over preterism and futurism is heating up. About a year ago, Harvest House released The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack by LaHaye and Ice. One may perhaps forgive the "attack" designation as a tactic to sell books. Yet it is also clear that these writers (the editors; though Ice seems to have written over half the book, and LaHaye, only the intro) view preterism as an ideological threat and aren't hesitant to use the same language.
Ice calls preterism a "toxic and dangerous framework in which to cast God's holy word"  (while also, from the other side of his mouth, complaining of an "arrogant attitude" and belittling of dispensationalists by preterists ). A threat to their pocketbooks as well (given LaHaye's Left Behind series and other prophetic books), as some may say? I don't think so, but take it for what it is worth. Our plan here is to look at this book chapter by chapter and see what's cooking.
Introduction by LaHaye
This offers LaHaye's only written contribution to the book, and it quite honestly had me wanting to deliver several copies of Left Behind novels to LaHaye's doorstep, set them on fire, ring the doorbell, and run away -- a temptation I already have a hard time with given the overabundance of these texts compared to truly informative and scholarly works in Christian bookstores, and their horrible literary quality. (If you are a dispensationalist, you'll be better served by BeauSingeur's Christ Clone series, which I did enjoy.) LaHaye's objection that folks have heard only "one side"  of the argument seems rather ghastly in light of just how much space his books (fiction and non-fiction) do take up, to say nothing of his cohorts like Lindsey and even Hagee and Marrs.
LaHaye also indicates immediately that his understanding of what preterism actually teaches is marginal. No, we do not say "Christ returned spiritually" in 70 AD. This is one of many cases in the book where preterism is vetted through the linguistic of dispensationalism, and the end result, like combining recipes for chocolate cake and corned beef, is an intractable mess.
Better said: "Christ assumed the throne of heaven in 70 AD (or thereabouts), fulfilling the vision of Daniel 7, and events on earth at the time vindicated his identity as that Son of Man."
LaHaye also clearly does not understand that for preterists, the Kingdom of God is an ideological kingdom in the minds and hearts of believers; thus a series of questions he asks [11ff], many of which amount to, "If Jesus came back, why is the world in such lousy shape?", are misdirected. We do not say Jesus is "in charge of the world"  in the sense that he micromanages. He is in charge. But there remain rebels, as under virtually any kingship. Even LaHaye's view admits that after the millienial reign, Satan will be released and there will be a rebellion. Is Jesus not in charge of that world of LaHaye's either? Does Jesus abdicate during that dispensational millenium?
LaHaye seems to cut off our preterist nose to spite his dispensational face, with such questions as, "How can preterists possibly prove Jesus came back in 70 AD?" and, "How do they prove Satan was bound" for 1000 years?  This sounds too much like an atheist who asks us to prove that Christ really stands at the right hand of the Father. More than that, LaHaye has obviously not even read preterist views of texts such as Matthew 24:27-31 and Is. 65:17-20, of which he still has to ask, "What's this about then?"
This chapter by Ice is just a chapter for defining terms, and contains little that needs discussion. I do find it telling that Ice sees a need to make issue about association of preterist ideas with those that "liberals feel at home with."  As one who has read and appreciated the works of some of those "liberals," many of whom have defended the integrity of our faith, I find it unconscionable that Ice sees a need to press this hot button (and that he does so numerous times, even in later chapters). No serious scholar would do this.
This is about the "history of preterism" and Ice, again the author, says much of "lack of support for the preterist viewpoint's presence in the early church." This is a part of this book DeMar has ably responded to, so I see no reason not to simply let him handle this point:
As anyone familiar with dispensationalism knows, there is scant evidence of anything resembling dispensationalism prior to 1830. Certainly there is no evidence of dispensationalism among the early church fathers up until the time of the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325), which produced the Nicene Creed, a document that says absolutely nothing about dispensationalism or even premillennialism. In fact, as dispensationalist Patrick Alan Boyd concludes, even premillennialism is hard to find prior to Nicea. As a result of his study, Boyd admonishes his fellow dispensationalists "to be more familiar with, and competent in patristics, so as to avoid having to rely on second-hand evidence in patristic interpretation." He suggests that "it would seem wise for the modern system [of dispensational premillennialism] to abandon the claim that it is the historic faith of the church."
Ice should have followed Boyd's counsel and the directives of dispensational icon Charles C. Ryrie before he decided to take on the historical argument against preterism. Knowing that dispensationalism has a recent history, and critics have used its novelty against the system, Ryrie responds:
The fact that something was taught in the first century does not make it right (unless taught in the canonical Scriptures), and the fact that something was not taught until the nineteenth century does not make it wrong, unless, of course, it is unscriptural. . . . After all, the ultimate question is not, Is dispensationalism--or any other teaching--historic? but, Is it scriptural?
Agreeing with Ryrie on this point, we can ask, "After all, the ultimate question is not, Is preterism--or any other teaching--historic? but, Is it scriptural?" So even if it could be proved that no form of preterism can be found in first-century Christian documents, this in itself does not mean the Bible does not teach it. Ice knows of this argument, but like so much of The End Times Controversy, he conveniently leaves out evidence damaging to his position...
DeMar has more to say about use of patristic writings, and about indications of preterism in early documents, but we will leave it to the reader to consult his comments themselves. He does well to note (even as Mormons do for their purposes!) that closeness to the time is no automatic guarantee of correct interpretation, as indeed Paul himself dealt with error-prone Christians, and of course we have argued here that the Gentile church fell at understanding key Jewish ideas like Semitic Totality.
One pertinent example of this fallacy does emerge in Ice's chapter, where he claims it is a "fallacy to think that something has to be fulfilled in one's lifetime in order for something to relate to or be important to an individual." 
What Ice would not know -- having no relevant training in the social world of the Bible (his doctorate is in ministry) -- is that the ancients' present orientation makes it the burden of those who claim far-future fulfillments to prove their case. Preterism neatly dovetails into this psychological orientation, as it sees far-future prophecies as rare and very short (as even Ice's cite of Joel 3:18-21 -- a mere three of our verses! -- indicates). Dispensationlism requires a complete reversal of this ancient mindset that would have been taken for granted by Biblical writers.
This is also by Ice, and it badly needed to be informed by Caird's Language and Imagery of the Bible, though no doubt we would be told that all of Caird's erudtion and insight, and evidence of the use of language by Eastern peoples, is erased entirely by his "liberal" orientation (though he was actually a moderate).
I have little to say otherwise about this chapter. The real issue is not, "how literal can we take it," but, "how literal would the authors have taken it"? In dispensationalism I have yet to see any form of contextual or cultural study done; whereas, preterism at least has some indirect appeal to contextual studies like Caird's.
I do find it telling that Ice resorts to fallacious linguistic gerrymandering to make a point. Preterists note, quite rightly, contextual-literary indicators that interpret the "coming on a cloud" language used by Jesus. The OT uses this as a metaphor. But for Ice, ah, the other passages speak of God going across the sky in a cloud; Jesus speaks of coming in a cloud -- big difference!
Yes indeed. Horizontal versus vertical certainly does make a huge difference. Not that it does help anyway, since that "coming" (as Wright observed) is a word that also means "going," and fits with Daniel 7, a scene of the Son of Man in heaven riding clouds to a throne in heaven.
There is also a blatant error worth noting. Ice cites (but does not quote) Matthew 24:31 as saying, "the Lord returns to earth to rescue his people Israel". This verse says nothing about Israel; it speaks of God's "elect": 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. Foisting Israel out of this is another case of the tail wagging the dispensational dog.
Here we actually enter into some hard exegesis, and Ice here simply reproduces his essay addressed above, almost word for word. I was assured by a reader that Ice had some new arguments, but it is all once again the same circle of begged questions, in which Ice questions the first century fulfillment by ignoring or waving off preterist exegesis of the texts, and with irrelevant explanations as this one:
Now if Matthew 24:29 is describing literal signs in the heavens, then these events have not happened yet....Are we to interpret these signs as literal? Yes! One of the reasons the sun, moon and stars were created is "for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years" (Genesis 1:14). What bigger event than the second coming of Christ would demand signs of a global magnitude?
Ice counfoundingly calls the preterist understanding of sun, moon and stars as political entities a "dumb down" (!) interpretation, but before he gets us too "dumb", he should notice that only sun and moon -- not stars -- were so designated in Genesis; the stars were an afterthought with no such designation mentioned (1:16; God "made the stars also").
What this amounts to though is an argument by pious outrage: "It has to be literal! To say otherwise is to reduce the glory God gets from the event!" Ice demands more proof that "this generation" will see it, and he has it -- in the form of the sort of linguistic data someone like Caird provides. (I rather wonder too if Ice is fudging when he says Gentry has "not been able to tell us exactly what" the fulfillment of passages in 24:30-1 was. I know DeMar has, and Wright did, even as a proclaimed non-preterist; and I doubt Gentry has not.)
Now someone new makes an appearance, John MacArthur. But for the respect I have for MacArthur as a teacher, there is nothing new here either. It comes right out of MacArthur's book The Second Coming (the footnote says so clearly), and is all of what we addressed here. MacArthur also plays the card of "why didn't the early church know this" addressed above (and note as well that DeMar and I would both date the Didache prior to 70 anyway).
This also offers a newcomer, a raw recruit this time, a Ph. D. candidate named Mark Hitchcock. His assignment has to do with the date of Revelation, and he wishes to date it to 95 AD so as to deliver, as he says, a "stake in the heart" to preterism.
Right away Hitchcock shows that that Ph. D. will need some sharpening, as he demands to know, if the date of Revelation was so important, "why didn't John clearly state the time of its composition"? I am wondering whether Hitchcock here is any better than atheists who ask why Jesus didn't mention redwoods and space travel so as to impress future generations. John is not responsible for enlightening the peculiar errors of our day; nor (in his high-context environment) would we expect him to relate what his own readers would already know, regardless of the date.
Hitchcock does get back on the right foot with a proper anaylsis of dating techniques using internal and external evidence, and here is where we might compare with our linked article. Hitchcock protests overmuch that scholars who date Revelation pre-70 also date it too late for Gentry, who wants it in 65 where they put it in 68-9. Obviously that later date comes only because of something both sides decry: a presumption against predictive prophecy.
In addition, we must wonder why Hitchcock is using anecdotal support such as the unnamed Greek Orthodox priest on Patmos who "scoffed" at an early date for Revelation. What in kind of rigorous argumentation is this? Has this priest ever been published in a peer-reviewed journal? Have his views of Revelation ever been published or criticized?
Gentry does not mention the writings of Hegesippus in his book on dating Revelation (other than that he mentioned the martyrdom of James), and rightly so: Nothing Hegesippus says has any bearing on the date of Relevation, and Hitchcock offers a completely speculative argument that because Eusebius spoke of John being on Patmos, and because in "the very next section" of his work Eusebius names Hegesippus as a source when relating something else on a different subject, Hegesippus must have been "in the mind of Eusebius" and must have offered the same position.
He also takes Eusebius' statements about Domitian, and a reference to those who "committed the story of those times to writing", and -- although it comes BEFORE Eusebius' statement about John on Patmos -- assumes that those who were "writing" also must have written about John being on Patmos during Domitian's reign.
This is simply forced argumentation. Hitchcock has resorted to mind-reading to create an argument. And this is actually verging on dishonesty anyway, since Eusebius could never use Hegesippus as support for the date John wrote Revelation -- he didn't believe that John wrote it!
Next up is Irenaeus, and here Hitchcock does not even bother to directly confront Gentry's five points we noted in our linked article; rather he makes through some non-explanations, such as Aune's idea that the passive verb used "does not appear to be the most appropriate way to describe the length of a person's life" -- which is not what Gentry says; he says it refers to John's public appearances.
Hitchcock then argues that a "vision" is something better "seen" than a person, but ignores Gentry's point that Irenaeus uses the word "seen" of persons in his work. He objects that to bring the matter close to his time as possible, Irenaeus would have "said that John lived into the time of Trajan," even though Irenaeus does indeed say this elsewhere and hardly needs to repeat it. Finally, Hitchcock merely cites some who disagree with Gentry's view, offering no critical comparison of arguments.
Next up is another non-citation, this one of the Roman poet Statius. He had not a word about Relevation in him, but Hitchcock reaches for Statius' observed and alleged parallels to Revelation, in an adulation to Domitian. So it is said that John somehow writes as a reaction to Statius, who wrote in 92 AD.
The basis for this argument is a dissertation from Dallas Theological Seminary which would be impossible for us to procure. However, we have been able to get a copy of the alleged source material by Statius, the Silvae, and I have to say that anyone who sees any relationship to Revelation in this work has to be using imagination far more than scholarship. From a literary perspective (my area of specialty), it is impossible to see a relationship between the two. The author of the dissertation speaks in terms of "parallel contrastive motifs" -- which seems a vague way of saying, Statius praised Domitian while John dissed him. More than that we cannot say without access to the dissertation, which will not be possible without visiting Dallas Theological Seminary -- the only library listed in OCLC as having it.
Next, Clement of Alexandria, and Hitchcock completely glosses over Gentry's most important evidences (which we relate here -- no mention of Nero being called directly a "tyrant" and that he was commonly called one, as related by Apollonoius or that he was called a "beast"!); no comparison of the respective careers of Nero and Domitian to decide who better deserved the title.
Instead, Hitchcock ignores all of these points and trots out two of his own that have nothing to do with the meaning of "tyrant". He notes a story in Clement of John galavanting after someone on horseback; Gentry noted that this seemed unlikely for someone in his 90s, but would fit someone in his 60s better.
Hitchcock thoroughly misrepresents this point and says that Clement's "forgot his age" comment fits better someone in his 90s, for someone of 60 would not have to "forget his age" -- a rather misinformed comment, in light not only of 60 being indeed for many persons that kind of experience, but also in that the inadequate health and nutrition of the day made even the 50s a time when galavanting around on a horse would be a drag, unless you were a member of royalty or the well-fed aristocracy, which John was not.
Hitchcock also says that "a healthy 60-year-old man is hardly old enough to ask for a favor based on pity."  This shows a remarkable lack of knowledge of the agonistic tenor of John's statement. He is not asking for a favor; he is shaming the young man for fleeing from someone who would be no physical threat to him -- whether he was 60 or 90 or 120. Hitchcock obviously does not recognize the cultural relevance of the young man being described as "ashamed".
Tertullian is next on Hitchcock's list; we have no word from Tertullian himself as to when John wrote. Hicthcock appeals though to two later writers who credited Tertullian with a statement to the effect that John wrote under Domitian's reign, though what they actually say is that he was banished to Patmos at that time, not that he wrote. One of these is Eusebius, who as noted does not believe John wrote Revelation, so this testimony is useless for Hitchcock's arguments. The other is Jerome, but the citation, Against Jovianian 1.26, does not say what Hitchcock claims:
An Apostle, because he wrote to the Churches as a master; an Evangelist, because he composed a Gospel, a thing which no other of the Apostles, excepting Matthew, did; a prophet, for he saw in the island of Patmos, to which he had been banished by the Emperor Domitian as a martyr for the Lord, an Apocalypse containing the boundless mysteries of the future Tertullian, more over, relates that he was sent to Rome, and that having been plunged into a jar of boiling oil he came out fresher and more active than when he went in. But his very Gospel is widely different from the rest.
Tertullian is not cited as saying anything about John on Patmos; he relates a story about John being put in boiling oil, and Jerome only testifies to the banishment himself -- not at all using Tertullian as support.
We skip the point on the Muratorian Canon, for we agree that Gentry's pro-early argument using it is weak. Next up is Origen, and his "king of the Romans" statement, and Hitchcock entirely ignores Gentry's point that Nero was the last Julian emperor to be hailed by this title, instead resorting to the vague refuge of Origen not being specific as to who the king was, and the begged question that the tradition Origen refers to "must have been handed down by Irenaeus, because at this time there was no other tradition in the church"! 
After citing Dio Cassius' irrelevant note that those Domitian banished were freed, and noting Victronius and then later Jerome (both of which Gentry acknowledges provides a Domitianic date), Hitchcock moves to Eusebius, who plainly refused to acknowledge that John authored Revelation. This makes his testimony useless for Hitchcock's case, but Hitchcock insists that he can be used anyway.
Severus' testimony of John writing under Domitian is also noted, though unlike Gentry's report, Severus' contradictory application of Rev. 13:3 to Nero is not reported by Hitchcock.
The testimony of Orosius mentions only John's banishment under Domitian, not the date of Revelation; Hitchcock mentions nothing of Gentry's point of two banishments of John, especially ignoring Gentry's pertinent comments about the Acts of John fitting such a scenario perfectly.
Epiphanius' date of the book under Claudius is ignored. Finally, Hitchcock acknowledges the Neronian date assigned by the Syriac NT, but dismisses it because it is the "first unambiguous testimony" (!) of such, and is 450 years later than the time of writing -- even as he procedes to use later sources than this (Venerable Bede, 700 AD!) as support! As we have noted, Gentry's evidence from Origen and Clement is not in the least "ambiguous" once the terms they use are contextualized.
Hitchcock closes his section on external evidence with a ream of "sound bites" from authorities in favor of a late date, making no effort to show that any of these dealt with any of Gentry's arguments.
In terms of internal evidence, and as we noted in the article linked above, much evaluation of this has to do with presupposition. Some points however cannot be so easily dealt with. Here is how Hitchcock deals with three arguments:
The temple still standing: Rev. 11:2 Robinson, who cared as much about preterism as he did about sock darning, took this as a prime reason to date Revelation before 70, and also applied it to the Gospels.
Hitchcock delivers three counters. The first is that Daniel and Ezekiel referred to Temple sacrifices even though there was no temple standing at the time of their writing. Obviously this explanation is intrerpretive; it begs the dispensational question to achieve an answer.
His second point revolves upon a non-knowledge of preterist interpretation; he wants to know when the 42 months and the two witnesses took place, and the preterist answer, we provide in the linked article.
Third, he notes 1 Clement speaks of the Temple still standing though it was written in the 90s, but not all agree to this late date for 1 Clement, and Hitchcock makes no arguments against this, again settling for appeal to majority view.
666 = Nero
Hitchcock offers two points against this. The first is that Nero has many titles, and one could use any of them to get a gematriac equation.
How this argues for any useful point is hard to say. Hitchcock does not say how many titles Nero held, nor what prominence they had relative to the "Caesar" title (never mind that it was part of his "official" name and appeared on coins!). His claim of convenience and of "adapting facts" is remarkable in light of dispensational conveniences that have tried to apply 666 to everyone from Gorbachev to Reagan to Prince Charles, using whatever language was needed.
Second, he objects to the use of the Greek form rather than the Hebrew, and then asks -- rather oddly! -- why John would use this form for a Greek audience, rather than a Hebrew form!
Hitchcock wonders further over whether or not the vowels ought to be included in the Hebrew starting point; apparently he missed Gentry's note that the Hebrew spelling of "Nero Caesar" as found in rabbinic writings and in one Qumranic document renders a 666, so if "defective" as he claims  it was apparently not too defective for these Jews to make use of it.
Hitchcock then wonders why church fathers didn't make this identification, and why it was not made until the 19th century, a rather odd argument in light of dispensationalism's overall failure to appear in the patristic record and until the same 19th century, as noted above.
Finally Hitchcock objects that Nero did not fulfill the actions in Revelation, failing at all to deal with how preterists interpret Revelation to show that he indeed did do so, resorting to an "if one part is literal, all parts must be" interpretation which is literarily absurd.
King Six = Nero
Here Hitchcock resorts yet again to an ironic refuge (in light of dispensational exegesis applying Revelation to i.e., Middle East oil!) noting that "there are many different schemes for counting these kings." No attempt is made to determine which method is most likely, as was done by Gentry and Ford. Hitchcock throws in the air questions Gentry and Ford clearly answered (i.e., forget the triumverate, as contemporaries did), then resorts to a historical interpretation in which the seven hills represent seven kingdoms from Assyria to Constantine, never mind the more immediate fact that Rome was and still is a city associated with seven hills -- we are asked via Beale to look beyond that to see the cunning of the dispensational logic, which sees the first seven empires as successive and then a huge, nearly two-millenium (so far!) gap until an eighth king.
Finally, Hitchcock fails to understand Gentry's point of the "beast" as the Roman Empire itself, with Nero as merely the current (to John) representative of that beast.
Hitchcock then presents a few "pro-" late date internal arguments; the first few center on the condition of the seven churches:
Ephesus -- It is objected that:
- John's portrayal of Ephesus does not square with Paul's last words to Timothy in 2 Timothy, with no mention of the "loss of first love" or of Nicolaitans.
This is false. Gentry notes [329n] that one suggested derivation of "Nicolaitan" connects it to the Greek words which mean "conqueror of the people," which is related to the Hebrew "Balaam," which means "destruction of the people." The Nicolaitans are thus Judaizers, which fits in with Paul's admonitions against the use of "fables and endless geneaologies" (1 Tim. 1:4) which were undoubtedly related to Jewish and perhaps proto-Gnostic Jewish speculations. The "loss of first love" is confirmed by the need Paul stresses to keep the faith.
- There is no mention of these things in Ephesians, which Hitchcock dates to 62 AD. Even if this is the case, it is just as well to object that Ephesians does not mention 1 Timothy's "endless genealogies" nor of the need to establish elders. On the other hand, Paul's admonitions to "walk worthy" (Eph. 4:1) may as well relate to loss of "first love".
- Against Gentry's point that error can erupt quickly in a church, Hitchcock points to a difference in the maturity level of Ephesus and the Galatian church -- never mind that what is at issue is the maturity of individual members who can just as readily and quickly bring in error, especially in the syncretistic religious environment Rome afforded. If Ephesus was such a mature place, unable to be in error, why is Timothy having issues with Jewish proto-Gnostics?
- Finally, an objection is registered that Revelation does not mention Paul, which I find just as "inexplicable" (read: it isn't) in the 90s as in the 60s.
Smyrna -- It is objected that this church did not exist in the 60s; against Gentry's point of evangelization in this area, Hitchcock gives the incomprehensible retort that "just because the gospel came to Smyrna during Paul's third missionary journey does not necessarily mean that a church was founded during this time."  Hitchcock is apparently unaware that "church" here is used after the mode of "synagogue" in Judaism -- it merely means an assembly of people; in Jewish thought, ten males were all that was needed for a synagogue, and it did not need a building, but could meet in a home. Gentry's other points about Polycarp (which we note) are not mentioned.
Laodecia -- Even though he quotes Tactius' direct statement that Laodecia was so rich that it did not need help to rebuild after an eathquake, Hitchcock insists that Revelation points to a late date, because at Nero's time Laodecia wasn't producing many coins.
How "numismatic poverty" equates with material poverty is something we'd like to have explained. If a quake hits Washington DC and destroys the US Mint, I fail to see how this would make Washington DC or even America any poorer. Beyond this Hitchcock's own point that individual citizens of Laodecia paid to rebuild the city itself refutes his contention that John could not be addressing a city of great wealth. It is precisely because of this wealth that Laodecia was in need of nothing. With as many wealthy patrons as it had, even a destructive earthquake couldn't dampen this city!
Other than this, Hitchcock has two minor arguments. First he wonders why Nero would execute Peter and Paul, but only banish John; apparently he supposes that Nero, a man of wild inconsistencies, paradoxes, and madness, ought to have delivered consistent sentences. What does not occur to him is that exile to Patmos was as good as a death sentence; without any agricultural skills, and without the support of an urban center (any residents there would not aid a dishonored felon, of course!) a slow death was John's most likely fate. He did manage to escape it, but that is beside the point of what would be Nero's or Domitian's intent.
Hitchcock should also not be allowed to get away with noting that banishment was one of Domitian's "favorite modes of punishment."  Nero had his own ways with this method, as he banished his wife Octavia (contrary to some Christian sites that say he never banished anyone).
The second argument is that John mentions a "New Jerusalem" and this supposedly suggests that the old one had been destroyed, ignoring the preterist understanding that John predicted the destruction of the old one and thus his vision (revelation) is better understood as proleptic.
This one goes back to Ice again, and is on the Olivet Discourse. The first part of the chapter is but a dispensational reading of the Discourse with no direct reference to preterism. We have our own take on that here. The second part actually engages some preterist claims, including some that Ice missed in our prior response. Let's look at these that I disagree with (I do not endorse all the points by Gentry and DeMar that Ice addresses) and those that do not involve blatantly begged questions.
- The all-important oikoumene is waved off with Ice admitting that it did mean the Roman Empire at this time, but that because it means "inhabited world," "its meaning has multiple possibilities depending upon the referent." Thus Ice decontexualizes and begs the question, so that Jesus now says, allegedly, "the oikoumene at the time when all this will happen," just as some dispensationalists whack "this generation" into "what generation is alive when this happens." Standing against this is the fact that Rome knew that what was outside the oikoumene was inhabited.
Acts 17:31 ("he will judge the world in righteousness") is then used by Ice for the argument that this must be a global oikoumene, because "not a single individual will escape God's judgment" -- never mind that reference to a temporal judgment on Rome's habitat hardly excludes a later one (as preterists do see happening before the White Throne), or the propriety of Peter appealing to a judgment on his hearers' "home turf" about which, socially, they would be solely concerned.
At any rate Ice is forced to admit that a 70 fulfillment would restrict this word to Rome's empire, and thus he is compelled to admit that his presupposition drives his interpretation, and it is he -- not preterists -- who must decontextualize the word so that it means something that it never would to those who heard Jesus speak or read any of the Gospels. He is allowed to suppose a future oikoumene, but it is his burden to show why it is better (especially under the ancient present-orientation) in context than the one all of Jesus' hearers' knew. (Indeed, given as Ice acknowledges the Roman arrogance of defining the oikoumene via civility, would they not see today's oikoumene restricted to those areas affected by Greco-Roman culture -- to wit, today's Western nations? No Revelation effects on Africa, the Near East, Asia?)
My view does not require the interpretation of Col. 1:6, 23 and Romans 16:26 that DeMar offers and Ice addresses (though I do accept it as viable), so we close this part with a minor point, in which Ice supposes that by preterist logic, Matthew 28:19, to evangelize all the nations, requires a 70 fulfillment. But this is in error, for the geographic delimiter in that passage is "to the ends of the earth" -- not the oikoumene. I do not require that "end of the age" in Matt. 28:20 be the end of the age of the law, but rather the messianic age (which we are now in, and which started at Jesus' resurrection in my view).
- On the "abomination of desolation," aside from begging the dispensational question and making the same incorrect assumption about Israel being the ones saved in Matt. 24:30, Ice merely ignores and/or gives inadeqaute account of preterist interpretations. One particular note of miscalculation is one in which Ice objects that by the time Roman standards were in the Temple, "it would be too late for the followers of the Lord Jesus to escape" because Rome had already taken Jerusalem.
However, if the abomination relates to the actions of the Zealots in the Temple, as we hold, then it is not at all too late. Further, Ice's argumnent that this could not have fulfilled Zechariah's prediction of "nations" surrounding Jerusalem falls on the point that "nations" used by Zechariah simply means Gentiles and thus is adequately fulfilled only by Rome. He also is clearly unaware of preterist views of Daniel.
- Ice clearly shows his lack of awareness of the techinical meaning of parousia as he says, of DeMar's argument that Christ acts providentally through Roman armies, "The logic of such an approach would demand that Christ comes many times every day through the vehicle of his providence."  That is a blatant misunderstanding -- we do not have events comparable to a parousia (the advent of a king) every single day! Ice is again vetting preterism with dispensational terms and understanding ("comes").
His own understanding of parousia  derived from lexicon cites is inadequate. Parousia does indeed require a presence -- but the "presence" of Christ here is in heaven, per Daniel 7, as he takes the throne; the events on earth are a corollary to his enthronement.
- Ice has also obviously missed DeMar's extensive explanation of stellar symbols derived in part from the OT . He falsely claims that Luke 21:24-5 ("And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations...") indicates that the cosmic signs must happen after the "times of the Gentiles" are fulfilled; but this is a presumed dispensational reading. The text itself does not give such an order; rather, v. 24 completes the idea of the time of the Gentiles, and v. 25 returns to the chronology.
- Let it speak for itself that Ice admits [193-4] that the word order of Matthew 24:30 is amenable to a preterist understanding.
- Rather ironic is Ice's comment that preterists "confuse coming with going"  in Acts 1:9-11, in light of N. T. Wright's comment that the word often used for this means both depending on context! (I do not agree with the view of Acts 1 he ascribes to Gentry, and refer it instead to the Daniel 7 fulfillment.)
- Ice's attempt to apply Matthew 24:31 to Israel suffers from a typical dispensational quandry: Physically and spiritually, there is absolutely no continuity between Judaism and Jews of the first century and those in the modern state of Israel. Modern Judaism is rabbinism; a legitimate expression of its own, but not the same as the Judaism practiced in the ancient world.
This chapter is truly a degrading contribution, as Larry Spargimino is permitted to take the helm. To remind the reader, Spargimino is responsible for an irresponsible attempt to dislodge preterism; the trend continues here, with extensive ad hominem against Josephus made in an attempt to detract from his credibility as a source, and with an absurd diversion about Suetonius in which Spargimino notes Suetonius' reports of Nero's perverse sexual habits, and then points out that Revelation 13 said nothing about the beast having sexual perversions.
The bulk of Spargimino's comments, however, consist in begged questions; in claiming that preterists take liberties with interpretation (supposedly equitable to or worse than attempts to turn the locusts of Revelation into helicopters!); waving the word "liberal", and offering explanations rooted in superstition that sound like an atheist begging the questions (i.e., what Josephus described can't be ascribed to demonic enhancement of human activity, because all he describes can be "attributed solely to the natural course of events" that develop in a siege; the "hailstones" of Revelation can't relate to boulders lobbed at Jerusalem, of the same weight specified, because hailstones can only come from the sky! -- this one is also repeated by Franz, next chapter).
There is little appreciable in such responses as the one taken from Robert Thomas, that it is "doubtful that men will blaspheme God because of something symbolic only."  This is not only a poor view of what preterism says (that something literal lies behind the symbol), but also ignores the fact that men have blasphemed God for far less, and continue to do so today!
This one by Gordon Franz questions the equation of "Babylon" in Rev. 17-18 with Jerusalem and claims to use history to do it. It's short, so here are the points with which we take issue (which is not all of them):
He tries to blunt the force of this by noting that these coins were minted on Crete and probably did not circulate widely; thus he thinks most people in Rome would be unaware of them. However, the mere presence of the motif on coins does not testify to knowledge of the motif itself. Franz has slipped in a qualification illicitly.
Franz's alleged "problem" of "how do we know what is literal and what is figurative" exists just as glaringly in dispensational views -- only dispensationalists are more willing to claim, i.e., that Revelation predicts a geologically impossible worldwide earthquake (which it does no good to say of, "God can do anything," since God is not named as the one who does this).
This one is by another student, Andy Woods, and it tries to find incongruities between reality and preterism in terms of Rev. 13. This is also short, so in point form:
- Woods supposes that John's Asian readers would never have suffered Nero's persecutions, and so John cannot be referring to Nero here. Persecution did reach Asia Minor in the time of Domitian (though in fact there is no evidence Domitian had anything specific against Christians), so he uses this for a late date.
His error is in supposing that we think John is even warning his Asian readers of persecution to them by Nero in this passage. That is not supposed at all. John only relates Nero's actions and his fate -- there is no need to hypothesize corresponding local persecution under Nero (though such would inevitably have happened to a socially deviant group lilke Christians); the Asian Christians' concern for their social ingroup and its representatives in Rome is enough.
- Woods forces ge to mean the entire globe in Rev. 13:3 to claim that there is not a local fulfillment; as we noted against an atheist who made the same argument, there is no grounds for making ge global except by begging the question. He admits the word can have a local meaning, but claims that a global nuance is added by the word "whole" and by the delimit in 13:7 of "every tribe, people, language, and nation" -- never mind that contextually, this describes adequately the "whole land" of the Roman Empire and all its tribes, peoples, languages and nations.
- Rather bewilderingly, Woods denies that a myth of Nero Revived can lie behind this passage because John and the Christians wouldn't believe in such a thing. The view does not require that they did -- only that they used a metaphor to create an illustration for what they really believed. The myth would serve for a parody.
- In what strikes me as rather strained, Woods notes that:
1) The phrase "everyone whose name has not been written...in the Book of Life" in Rev. 20:15 is read by preterists as universal, yet it is not so read in 13:8. This is because the ge of 13:8 is understood to limit in this case to those within a specific land, here the Empire. No such delimited is in 20:15.
2) Rev. 13:5, 7, understood in preterism to mean a 42 month period between 64-68 during which Nero persecuted Christians, Woods rejects as viable because the period was not exactly 42 months. I suppose he'll next join those who regard the Bible in error for not getting pi right, or will say that the period had to last exactly 42 months, to the point that if it didn't begin and end at exactly 3:32 AM on the respective beginning and end days, we can't use it; or will say that if John really meant 41 months, 17 days, 6 hours, 4 minutes, and 18 seconds, that is what he would have said.
Woods also can't understand why 666 is taken as literally as it is by preterists, ignoring the explanations clearly given that relate it to the historical practice of that time of interchanging names with numbers.
To put it succinctly, Woods sees inconsistency and "vacillation" in preterist hermeneutic because he ignores the specific rules and contexts that govern each passage, and pretends that the preterist view offers an arbitrary soup. I will say in turn that dispensationalists are blissfully unaware of the cultural aspect that governs books like Revelation: the proclivity to use and apply Scripture in new and creative ways, a point of honor for the first century Jew. This is why it is false to say that, i.e., just because Elijah literally called down fire from heaven, so must the false prophet . The creative use of the OT (and the fact that Revelation stands in the genre of "looking glass" apocalypse!) negates any such ultra-literalistic determination.
- Woods attempts to universalize "every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" in 14:6 by noting that in 5:9 the same phrase is used of "those for whom Christ died." It apparently does not occur to Woods that this praise is sung overwhelmingly by persons who would know of no "kindred, tongue" etc. outside of the Roman Empire, if we wish to be as literal as he demands it. The phrase is just as well indicative of representative humanity within the limits of Rome; the same applies to similar phrases (i.e., "small and great, free and slave, rich and poor" -- the middle especially representative of classes in Rome).
I will bypass Chapter 11 for now, because I have not yet developed a view of Zechariah 12-14 required to comment on what is offered there by Fruchtenbaum. Couch's Chapter 12 I will also bypass, as it offers acceptable defenses that relieve dispensationalism of the burden of words like mello (while not at all dispensing with preterism's take on the matter). I address Chapter 13 on Daniel in my own essay on Daniel.
Chapters 14 and 15 feature archaeologist J. Randall Price, who claims "historical problems" with how preterism sees events fulfilled. His first argument, however, amounts to an extended ad hominem against Josephus as one biased for the Romans and against Jewish nationalism. Perhaps Price should consider that the same sort of "argument" is widely used against NT authors to attempt to discredit them as historians. One is constrained to ask why Josephus' proclivities and biases cannot have compelled him to select from history rather than invent it -- and why his lack of messianic hope simply isn't the realization of a very sensible Jew of his day that happens to accord with what Christians knew was coming because Jesus said so.
Accusing Josephus of "bias" is an argument of no merit. What of it if Josephus was being "political" when he said that Rome was God's instrument of judgment? Would Isaiah have been criticized for being "political" had he made his statements while under the care of kings of Assyria? Did Jeremiah become "political" because he was in Egypt? Was Daniel "political" because he served the king of Babylon? In all of this Price fails to demonstrate a single actual error or false report in Josephus. His work gives us an interesting corollary and confirmation that the Romans were used to judge Israel at this time; but even dispensationalists would hardly disagree that Rome was an instrument of God's judgment in 70 -- Price himself says so  and thus undercuts his own argument!
Price further regards Josephus as unreliable because he reports certain miracles with "questionable details" ; never mind that atheists take the same tack with the Bible itself! Following this come notes about the "collapse" of the Jewish political infrastructure earlier than 70, allegedly in 44 with the death of Agrippa, though how "direct Roman rule" (with the infrastructure of the Sanhedrin still in operation, whether "hated" by the people or not!) amounts to a "collapse" is something only a dispensationalist can explain.
Issues of the motives of Rome are interesting but irrelevant; Price further plays the "but there have been greater tribulations" card that has already been answered here (and he offers no response to preterist answers on this).
Price also talks a bit about the present survival of the Jewish people, which is also irrelevant to the discussion (especially if indeed the modern Jews of Israel are ethnically unlike first-century Judaens). He furthermore wonders how the "end of the age" could possibly be in 70 when Jews persist to this day with their faith; he apparently has not consulted scholarship that recognizes that modern Judaism bears no resemblance to ancient Judaism, and is best called "rabbinism" after the forebears who remade the faith starting in the second century.
Price actually admits to this revolution but sees it as a continuation rather than a new movement, and thus his appeal to the continued existence of Judaism, irrelevant though it was to begin with, fails. (It is irrelevant because no preterist argues that people would not continue to act as though the age of the law had ended; the point rather is that it ended by God's declaration and action, and even rebuilding a Temple won't change that one bit!)
It is also irrelevant that some "Romans felt themselves as conquered rather than conquerors"  and that the Judeans continued to fight. Price has badly overstated what preterism claims -- as if it expects that all Jews left in 70 would just throw up their hands and convert to something else, or would just give up, or would just disappear! Nothing about preterism demands that 70 AD "should have decisively ended any further Jewish messianic hope" (no more so than the coming of Jesus should have caused all Jews to become Christians!) or that all Jews as persons would be destroyed in 70. Nor does it find problematic that some Jews viewed 70 as a judgment against particular persons rather than the nation as a whole -- does Price actually think that they were right, and that Jews of the day were being faithful to YHWH by rejecting Jesus? Were the Essenes right about their eschatology and their beliefs simply because they too recognized the priestly apparatus as corrupt?
Price might consider that the failed starts at rebuilding the Jewish Temple (under Bar Kochba and Julian) themselves speak in favor of something preventing it from being built again! Thus it is that he like all dispensationalists places his hope on modern Israel building a new Temple, at whatever cost.
Further on, Price is manifestly lost. He thinks somehow that the coming of the Son of Man, compared to lightning flashing from "east to west," is refuted in that Roman armies came from the west to the east. How he supposes that any connection is made between Jesus' statement and the arrival direction of Roman armies is not explained; he does not cite any preterist writer who makes this connection (I don't), or the connection that the "clouds of heaven" the SoM comes on refers to dust kicked up by Roman soldiers.
Price is also forced into a futurist concession-contrivance that Luke's version of the Olivet Discourse is all about 70 whereas Matthew and Mark's parallel passages are not . One argument he offers is that Luke makes no connection to Daniel , which is exactly what we would expect: He sees the need to interpret a puzzling Jewish reference to his Gentile audience!
Then, contrarily to his prior point, Price says that there was no need for Jesus to specify that a far-future Temple was in his view, because it "was unnecessary" and what he did provide was "sufficient for comprehension."  I also do not know where he gets the idea that preterists think all missions to the Jews ended with 70 .
In terms of allegations that Jesus' words in Matthew and Mark do not fit 70, Price is left with such objections as that the Temple in 70 burned, which is not referred to by Jesus or by Daniel (! - as if the prediction of warfare, contextually, was not enough to imply that this might happen), and that Jesus did not mention such niggling details as cannibalism within Jerusalem's walls. In other words, Price cannot deny the accuracy of such specific statements as are made, applied to 70, so he resorts to the sort of argument atheists make, e.g., asking why Jesus didn't predict space shots and redwoods, wondering why Jesus did not say more in detail to satisfy his objection.
Price is thus left with such ineffectual arguments as saying that "any one of a number of similar events" could have been the abomination of desolation, not just the Roman standards in the Temple court as Gentry suggested (never mind the futurist method of arguing that anything from UPC codes to credit cards could be the "mark of the beast"); as if Jesus' hearers would indeed be worried about having to choose from any of these scenarios as Price implies, or would go starting like jackrabbits every time someone sneezed in the Temple precincts (as if futurism improves that lot!).
My own choice for the abomination, the crowning of the clown Zealot-priest Phanni, is alleged disposed by a quote from NT scholar Craig Evans, who somehow arrives at the conclusion that "many Jews, including Christians, would not have viewed" this event as an abomination (!! -- never mind them, what about God???) and alludes to Josephus War 4.3.9 (160) referring to the priests upbraiding the people for their apathy concerning the Zealots -- ignoring at the same time the description of the people being unable to "bear the insolence" of the installment of Phanni, and running "zealously" to "overthrow the tyrrany"! (158-9).
The "upbraiding" wasn't for actual sloth by the people, but was a public "shaming" to goad them to even more action! The crowning of Phanni produced precisely the "highest level of ceremonial impurity" Price could imagine. It represented a mockery of God's established orders and procedures, and it implied that military might, not spiritual deliverance, was Judaea's solution. Price neglects to mention as well Josephus' record of the true high priest Annaus' words, of the "many abominations" associated with the Zealots' blood-letting in the Temple and vestment of Phanni with the priestly garments!
I am frankly appalled at Price's comment that Christian apologists  could have used the destruction of Jerusalem as an argument that the Roman army had been sent by God. Not only would Roman readers have simply dismissed such an argument as begging the question, it would have dislocated an important argument used by apologists against the very point Price raises, that Christianity was new and therefore odious. Christian apologists rather saw the wiser course of trying (however unsuccessfully in Roman eyes) to link their faith to their parent religion, the older (and therefore more respectable) Judaism.
Equally appalling is Price's objection that because the siege of Jerusalem occurred in the spring and summer, Jesus' warning about praying that one's flight not take place in winter is "superfluous (or ill-informed)"; Jesus told his hearers to pray that this would not be the time of their flight, not that it would be, and in any event, I would think his directive about also praying for a non-Sabbath flight would have made little difference where spring or summer was concerned. If Price wants to know why Jesus would tell people to pray for something to not happen that he knew would not, we remind him again that Jesus knew not the day and hour.
The remainder of Price's chapters consist of misapprehensions of Preterist interpretations.
Chapter 16 returns to Ice, now offering a futurist overview that we need not address. Chapter 17 features Ice banging away on the panic button with "practical dangers" of preterism; I need say little of this other than a couple of words: "Edgar Whisenant". Before Ice starts saying anything about how preterism had been abused, he'd best look into getting the futurist house in order.
As a whole though, Ice's commentary is on the theme, "this makes the Bible inapplicable to us today," an overstatement of the real truth, which is that the text needs to be contextualized before it can be applied today. If he wants to argue that partial preterism could mean the danger of full preterism , we remind him that futurism led to Millerites, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Branch Davidians.
So the book ends, and it has little to commend itself as a critique of preterism.