|A Response to "Dualistic Eschatology: An Extensive Refutation of Partial Preterism" by Tracy VanWyngaarden|
By request we now have a look at an extended item titled "Dualistic Eschatology: An Extensive Refutation of Partial Preterism" by one Tracy D. VanWyngaarden. This item spends several opening paragraphs in persecution mode, objecting that Hymeanaens have been falsely slandered by preterists as promoting heresy; contriving psychological explanations for these activities, and warning that some futurists are now claiming all preterists are heretics, which is certainly news to me.
It takes a while for Wyngaarden to actually start arguing about exegesis, and who is actually right or wrong, and we'll get right to those points.
It is the Hymaenean task to show us that passages referring to the final resurrection and judgment, like indeed other preterist passages, contain time markers that suggest that these events, with the others, took place in 70 AD. The problem of the nature of the resurrection body is a significant hurdle here, but it is one Wyngaarden does not bother with. Rather, we are started off with comments on time markers:
Gentry stated that the appearance of temporal indicators such as "near", "at hand" and "quickly", "opens the question of the meaning of the event expected, not of the temporal significance" of the temporal indicators themselves (Four Views On The Book of Revelation, P.41). Paul's usage of the temporal verb "mello", in Acts 24:15, "There is about to be (Greek, mello) a resurrection of the dead" and Peter's declaration that God was "ready to judge the living and the dead" should not be treated in any other manner that the rest of the scriptures Gentry cites approvingly as having a preterist application.
The irony here is more than a little delectible. We already addressed mello against an atheist, A. J. Mattill:
At issue here, Mattill apparently perceived that mello indicated a "speedy coming to the end of the world" - and thus he complains, well, it's not here yet, so there's obviously a problem! The problem, however, is again with Mattill's own understanding. Let's look at some "non-eschatological" uses of mello:
Mark 10:32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was (soon) going to happen to him.
Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was *about to* go.
John 4:47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was *close to* death.
John 6:6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was *going to* do.
This should be enough to make it obvious that mello has little or nothing to do with speed as it stands - rather, it is a word expressing fixed intent, something decided beforehand that cannot be escaped. In another book published by Western North Carolina Press, Luke and the Last Things, Mattill wastes a great deal of time trying to figure out what exact time-frames are involved with mello, and finds place where it refers to events that take place a few moments later, or up to a year later. This should have alerted him at once that measured time is not the issue: All of the writers of the NT lived a year and more beyond these pronouncements.
Thus VanWynarden is hoist on the same petard as Mattill with this attempt to temporalize mello. In addition, note this usage:
Romans 5:14 - Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was [mello] to come.
The Thessalonian Resurrection Warning
In a section following VanWynarden makes use of Paul's statement, "This we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain untill the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep...." Our resolution to this matter was already written here. VanWynarden quotes E. P. Sanders' attempts to find correlations between 1 Thess. 4 and Matthew:
Sanders continues saying, "the similarities between this passage and the synoptic depiction's of the Son of man coming with angels, accompanied by the sound of a trumpet, while some are still alive (Matt. 24:30f. and parr.; Matt. 16:277 and parr.), are so close that it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that both reflect a tradition which, before Paul, was already attributed to Jesus. The similarities between Paul and Matthew are most striking, for only Matthew has a trumpet (24:31). But even without this phrase the relationships are close". (E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism p.144.
But in fact, the only similarity at all between the two passages IS the trumpet, and trumpets are used throughout the Bible as signifiers of actions of God. Matthew's elect are "gathered"; Paul's brethren are caught up in the clouds. This is clearly two different actions being described. VanWyngaarden also fails to consider the literary methods of the various Gospels, thus:
Strangely, partial preterists do not recognize that either the explicit reference to the "word of the Lord" nor the explicit statement that "we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord" (both of which obviously directs our attention to Matt. 16:27-28 and Matt. 24:30:34) indicates that Paul has the AD 70 event in mind. Gentry would rather qualify our "connecting" 1Thess 4 with Matt. 16 and Matt. 24 as merely "similar wording" which "may or may not be so applied [to AD 70]". I guess whether or not it is applied to AD 70 or not depends on whether or not Gentry SAYS SO. As one preterist writer once said, "Israel has no monopoly on blindness".
Nor in fact is there any monopoly in having one's eyes so wide open that one's eyeballs pop out. That the quote by Paul "obviously directs our attention" to Matthew is not in the least obvious. There is no differentiation between living and dead, as in 1 Thess. 4; there is no mention of resurrection. The connection made simply begs the question, and reads resurrection "into" Matthew 16 and 24 based on the mere mentions of clouds and trumpets -- which may as well make Ex. 19:16 a premonition of the final resurrection.
Further, Jesus says nothing about believers being caught up in the clouds, nor any resurrection, and Paul uses an entirely different word, not the word for "gather" which interestingly enough is related to the word for "synagogue," and earthly comings together of believers for worship and study. For instance: "For where two or three have gathered together in My Name, I am there in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20 but see also Matthew 2:4, 3:12; John 6:13, 11:47, 11:52, 20:19; Acts 4:27, 31, 14:27, 15:30, 20:8; 1 Cor. 5:4… etc.)
VanWyngaarden then uses the same argument about "firstfruits" in 1 Cor. 15 that we addressed here. He follows with some confused commentary that "partial preterists assert that new testament scripture looks forward to two comings, two passings of heaven and earth, two new creations, two judgments, two ends of the age, etc.," which with the exception of the first (after a fashion -- "advents" is a better word) and the latter does not sound like any form of preterism I know.
I also know of a "new creation" each time a person converts (which is piece by piece a consummation of the ideological Kingdom of God). One may also perhaps speak of the end of the Messianic age at the end of the thousand years of Revelation, but this seems to be something even Van Wyngaarden holds to.
Nor do I see any "down play(ing)" of "the consummative significance of redemption/salvation delivered to the saints in AD 70," other than perhaps by the Hymeanean begged question that there is some event to be "downplayed" to begin with.
Then it is said:
Although they will probably deny this, it remains that for [partial preterists], death still has its sting which is sin (1Cor. 15:54) so long as "this mortal" has not yet "put on immortality" (1Cor. 15:54). Separating redemption into two categories (e.g. the soul now vs. the body later) doesn't relieve them of this problem, "do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ" (1Cor. 6:14)?
Of course once the Jewish understanding of resurrection is added in the mix, it is clear that no one has "put on immortality" of any sort to begin with, and I wonder that Hymaeneans think they have resolved the "problem" of 1 Cor. 6:14 in any sense in their own lives.
But what of that connection made with 1 Cor. 15:54? Wyngaarden seems to be saying, that since we still sin, death still has its "sting," and this would not fit with Paul's mockery in 15:54 of death lacking its sting.
The difficulty in this is twofold. First, Paul says in v. 57, "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." In other words, this victory is held now by thise Paul speaks to, even if it is not realized with a possessed immortal body, and those to whom Paul spoke at the time were alive prior to 70 AD by several years.
Second, as Witherington notes [Corinthians commentary, 310] the word "sting" here could mean "goad," but in any event would mean the same thing. This does not mean that there is no longer sin, but that sin no longer has its goading power, for the threat of death has been absolved by Christ. (Note that the resurrection is when death is swallowed up in victory -- not the same thing as when it has lost its goad/sting.)
Fulfilling Matthew 25
Wyngaarden next criticizes preterists who see Matt. 25 as a yet-future event; since this is not our position (see here), we will skip to that with which we next have an issue. Our understanding is that the judgment of Matt. 25 began in 70 and is a process that continues to this day as men die and are judged. The same thing, we see promised in Rev. 22:12; a continual process, begun in 70 AD. Then there is Romans 2:5-7:
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
And again: What of this? Paul is speaking to his contemporaries for whom the specific day in 70 IS ahead, and for which they store up; had he been speaking to a post-70 readership, would this not read rather: But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath, to be rendered to every man according to his deeds? There is no need, as Wyngaarden thinks, for "two days" of judgment in the partial preterist position where these verses are concerned. (There IS a second such reckoning at the end of the millennium when the lake of fire is opened [Rev. 20:12ff], but Wyngaarden has not addressed these passages yet.)
Duplication as a Weakness?
Then there is this:
The glaring problem in the partial preterist system is that scripture never duplicates eschatological events. In scripture, the two focal points are the cross/resurrection and the Second Coming. But these two eschatological events are NEVER duplicated. Just as "now ONCE at the consummation of the ages He has put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" and, "inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die ONCE"…"So Christ also…shall appear a second time" only ONCE "for salvation…to those who eagerly await Him".
Notice how Wyngaarden has to add an "only once" to that last statement, based on nothing at all! But in fact for partial preterists, Christ will not appear a "third time" or a "second time again" -- the last judgment is done by "God" (not Jesus alone) in Rev. 20, and it involves the book of life -- not seen at all in Matthew 25 or anywhere else connected with judgment (cf. Phil. 4:3, not of that sort of passage).
For Partial preterists, the "salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1Pet.1:5) cannot be equated with that which was received "already" prior to A.D. 70 because, for them, "present" salvation stands over against "future" bodily resurrection (redemption of the body). For them, "present" salvation was already complete before AD 7 in as much as it pertains to the "spirit" or "soul" of man. Whereas, the "future" expectation will be equally as complete in as much as it pertains to the "body" of man that goes to the "dust of the earth". In this construct, partial preterists have no place for the redemptive significance of obtaining "redemption" (Lu.21:28), "salvation" (1Pet. 1:5) or "the eternal inheritance" (Heb. 9:15) in AD 70.
That is actually completely false. When Christ assumed the throne in 70, he began a reign as our broker, we as clients of our patron YHWH. In essence, our "boss man" was in charge; Satan was bound; the church was free to grow and spread its message without demonic hindrance; this was the beginning of consummation, an effort that would proceed from the day forward for each member of the human race. If Wyngaarden does not consider that "significant" then we can only say that a longer view is necessary!
Wyngaarden next addresses a matter of original sin, which is not relevant to our own view, so we will pass. Also critiqued is an explanation of Gentry about "preconsummative victory" which we will not endorse, but also not necessarily disagree with. The main issue here is that nWyngaarden does not suppose that partial preterists can claims that "Messianic victory" has occurred, which is erroneous: we affirm that Christ reigns as sovereign of the universe; that Satan is bound and defeated; that redemption has been effected. That some refuse that offer of redemption, or that we do not always perfectly follow the dictates of our Lord in daily life, no more erases this victory than criticisms of our President make him a loser in the last election.
End and Last
A point of interest is that VanWyngaarden cites some authors as saying that the Messianic age will end. I find the need to say this equivocal. While I see Matt. 28:20 as referring to the "end of the age," since it is a promise of Jesus' steadfastness, the reference may be along the lines of, "until pigs fly," as we may say. Since Jesus' reign will never end, Jesus' promise here is a metaphorical way of saying, "I will be with you forever." I have no problem seeing the age of the Messiah as eternal (though it may not be; the specific age in question would end after the millennium of Revelation, which would not of course exclude Jesus being with us beyond that -- cf. 1 Cor. 15:24-28, in which it seems that the Son will at some point return reign to the Father) -- and also see no unique support for this in the Hymenaean stance.
VanWyngaarden wants us to see "eschatological history" as the "history of Israel" -- well, if as Paul says "true Israel" is the community of faith, what is wrong with that, and what argument is this against orthodox preterism?
VanWyngaarden next makes some issue of orthodox preterist disagreement over exactly what constitutes the "last days." Some say from 30-70 AD; others say from 70 until the "end of earth history". Without checking to see whether VanWyngaarden has represented the writers accurately -- positions are described here and afterwards, but few or no quotes are offered in support -- it seems that only Gentry is specifically open to criticism, at worst for terminological vagueness, in calling the current era the "last days." The view we hold here is that we are now in the millennium of Revelation 20 -- a period of a "thousand years" (a long time, in other words) in which Christ reigns in heaven over the creation.
Next up, R. C. Sproul is brought to trial:
[Sproul] has attempted to find evidence of post-AD 70 preconsummative history in the term "times of the gentiles". This phrase is found in Luke's account of the olivet discourse; "And Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke. 21:24). Sproul comments that, "Fundamental to preterism is the contention that the phrase 'the end of the age' refers specifically to the end of the Jewish age and the beginning of the age of the Gentiles, or the Church" (Last Days according to Jesus, p. 71). Furthermore, "Since the New Testament does speak of the age of the Gentiles, it is reasonable to assume that this age is in contrast to some age of the Jews" (p. 84). Sproul is incorrect in pointing out that it is "fundamental to preterism" that the phrase "end of the age" refers to the end of the Jewish age "specifically". This is true for full preterism but not partial preterism. Fundamental to partial preterism is the contention that the end of the age refers only sometimes to the end of the Jewish age (Matt. 24:3). Other times (Matt. 13:46) it is fundamentally referred to as the end of earth/human history.
We wonder here how VanWyngaarden receives license to tell a partial preterist what is or what is not "fundamental" to their own position! I also do not know what VanWyngaarden is doing citing Matt. 13:46: "Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." Perhaps VanWyngaarden has in mind Matt. 13:39 and 49, in which the "end of the age" is said to be associated with a harvest of souls.
But why is this the end of the Messianic age and not the end of the Jewish age? The end of the Jewish age begins the harvest, and this process, like Matt. 25, continues to this day. VanWyngaarden is simply confused, or not doing critical analysis of the orthodox preterist position. (The Greek word in Luke 21 in any event is not the usual word for "age" but means "due measure".)
In any event, VanWyngaarden engages some terminological nitpicking over orthodox preterist designation of the Messianic age as the "age of the Gentiles" referenced in Luke; whether this is the same "age," an overlapping one that is still on to this day, or a different one that ended in 73 AD or 135 AD when Rome stopped stomping all over Jerusalem, makes little difference in the overall orthodox preterist stance. It is not the vital idea that VanWyngaarden supposes it must be.
The Gap Theory
VanWyngaarden spends the next several paragraphs criticizing Gentry for particular exegetical views we do not endorse. Hence we skip to the next section, in which VanWyngaarden criticizes orthodox preterists for allegedly inconsistently criticizing the dispensationalist "gap" in Daniel's seventy weeks (which places the last and 70th week in our future, while the other 69 ended in the first century) while also maintaining, so it is said, a "gap" between Daniel's weeks and the bodily resurrection.
have Biblical warrant for their "gap" in the millennium of Revelation 20. Vangaarden's identification of Daniel 12 with the final resurrection completely ignores Matthew's allusion to the "many" of Daniel with reference to the risen saints of Jerusalem. There is NO mention of "all Israel" being raised in Dan. 12, as VanWyngaarden indicates.
The section following is where VanWyngaarden apporaches the matter of the millennium in orthodox preterism. It is explained to us that this "thousand years" lasted all of a few years(!):
In my view, (which is the common full preterist view) the "thousand" years began when Jesus "bound the strong man" and was completed when Satan was "released from his prison" at the outset of the Jewish war (Rev. 9:1-11). The "short time" of Satan's release from his prison is the "great tribulation" that Jesus said would be "cut short". Satan's deceptive influence on the nations, "to gather them together for the war" is witnessed in the battle for Jerusalem with the saints entering the new Jerusalem. For more information on my views of the millennium see my article titled, "Problems With Premillennial Preterism" at the preterist archive [its somewhere in there].
In other words, was this "thousand" years a mere forty years?? No, says VanWyngaarden, not quite, because Hymaeneans regard Christ's reign as "eternal". But VanWyngaarden's own words show that this is a slippery slide away from the obvious in what is said above: They have reduced the thousand years to forty, and VanWyngaarden tries to get around this by in essence saying, "but we still believe that the reign is eternal"! The exegetical blunderbuss is quietly packed away as our attention is directed to a "yeah, but" that doesn't address the problem.
Yet more space is now spent critiquing Gentry's particulars, based on ideas we again do not agree with re Matt. 25. Unlike those VanWyngaarden critizes, I see no reason to think there are two "passings of heaven and earth"; one, a symbolic passing in 70, is enough, and is what is described in 2 Peter 3:10, albeit in metaphorical language typical of the East. (Whereas, Matt. 24:35, as we have noted elsewhere, is a statement like "when pigs fly," for heaven and earth will not literally pass away). We do not return to anything non-Gentry until:
One last scripture I would like to look at is Matt. 13; 40-42. Gary North wrote that according to the full preterist view of Matthew 13, 'The tares will occupy the field of history eternally, right alongside the wheat. Matthew 13 will never come to pass as the end of history. 'As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world; The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth' (vv.40-42).
Anyone who equates the fulfillment of this prophecy with AD70 has broken with the historic faith of the church. Such a view stands out most clearly in its rejection of the post-resurrection fulfillment of verse 43; 'Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.' Heretical preterists refuse to hear."
Of course, as noted above, our view is that AD 70 was not exactly the fulfillment of this passage, but the start of the fulfillment, and the beginning of a harvesting process that continues to this day. The "inconsistency" VanWyngaarden therefore sees in some preterist positions, that put this "end of the age" into our own future, does not affect us. Note that the harvest imagery, taken to its full extent, supports the idea of this as a process that continues for an indefinite period: for farmers did not merely harvest once and never again, but did so, year after year.
This however leads to another point. VanWyngaarden holds that the resurrection is "clearly implied" in v. 43:
Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
Is this "clearly" implying resurrection? One might think so, based on Dan. 12:2-3:
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
However, once it is realized that Matthew saw the fulfillment of this in his own time with the raising of the saints(thus destroying VanWyngaarden's claim that partial preterists must see "two end times" to accommodate this passage), and that we are in the kingdom now, it becomes clear that those who "shine" are something else:
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
In short, it is the disciples of Christ who "shine" in the Kingdom, then and now, in their daily life -- moreso since Christ assumed the throne and destroyed the principalities and powers that deceived the nations (Rev. 20:3).
With that, our critique of VanWyngaarden ends.
-JPH (with notes from Dee Dee Warren)