Can There Be More Than One Coming?
Text: II Peter 3:1-14
I. There is a movement that has gotten popular in various churches to state that all references to the Lord’s coming refer to the destruction of Jerusalem.
A. It is frequently called preterism, the A.D. 70 movement, or realized eschatology
1. “Eschatology” means the doctrine of last things.
2. Thus realized eschatology means the doctrine of completed last things
3. “Preterism” comes from the Latin word for “past.” It is a reference to the belief that the prophecies in the New Testament were all fulfilled in the past.
B. While it’s history is difficult to trace, most historians point to the 1500's when the Reformation was taking the Roman Catholic church by storm
1. One of the popular thoughts among the Protestants was to tie the discussions of the lawless one and the antichrist to the Roman Catholic church and its popes.
2. In reaction, the Jesuits, a branch of Roman Catholicism dedicated to the defense of this religion, developed two opposing views: preterism and futurism
a. Whether the Jesuits actually developed the ideas or simply borrowed them from earlier writings is hard to tell.
b. Futurism states that none of the prophecies in the Bible have yet to come to past. They are still in the far future. Thus they can argue that the Roman Catholic church can’t be the lawless one or the antichrist because those things are yet to be.
c. Preterism is opposite, but has the same benefit to the Jesuits. If everything has already happened, then the Roman Catholic church can’t be the lawless one and the antichrist.
d. It seems odd that a denomination can embrace opposing views, but this is common in Roman Catholicism its largeness makes it how many diverse concepts.
3. Whether the Jesuits actually developed the ideas or not, we do know they were the first to produce detailed arguments supporting the concepts.
C. The belief system has come and gone in history.
1. In more recent times Max King and C. D. Beagle are credited with resurrecting this belief among the churches of Christ when they published a book called The Spirit of Prophecy in 1971.
2. They claim it to be an original breakthrough, but it is easy to see that it just repackaged older ideas.
D. The real problem is that preterism paints the prophecies in the Bible with an all or nothing brush.
II. What Preterism teaches
A. The preterist argues that all biblical prophecies have been fulfilled. No prophecy in the Bible extends beyond the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
B. Thus they claim, “the fall of Judaism (and its far reaching consequences) is, therefore, a major subject of the Bible” (Max R. King, The Spirit of Prophecy, p. 239).
C. Thus the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, and the new age have already occurred.
D. Since the final judgment has taken place at the destruction of Jerusalem, then when people die now they go immediately to their eternal fate.
III. Are the methods of argumentation sound?
A. A key argument to preterism is to state that every use of the phrase “coming of the Lord” or “day of the Lord” refers to the same event.
1. Is such always the case?
a. Let’s take the phrase “laid hands on them.” Does it always mean the same thing every time it is used?
b. Luke 13:13 - means to heal
c. Acts 4:3 - means they were arrested
d. Acts 8:17 - means to impart spiritual gifts to another
e. Acts 13:3 - means they gave approval or commended
f. Thus we conclude that a phrase does not necessarily carry the same meaning every time it is used. Context is essential in understanding the meaning of a phrase.
2. How about references to the Lord’s coming? Are all references to the same event?
a. The destruction of Babylon - Isaiah 13:1, 6-13
b. The destruction of Egypt and her allies - Ezekiel 30:3-6
c. The destruction of Israel by the Babylonians - Joel 1:15; 2:1-11
(1) Also Zephaniah 1:4-10; 2:2-3
(2) A day not to be desired - Amos 5:13
d. Joel 2:28-32 - The establishment of the church
(1) At a later time, not the same coming discussed earlier
(2) Peter refers to this passage in Acts 2:16-21
e. Malachi 3:1-4 - The coming of Jesus
(1) Notice that Judah and Jerusalem are talked of continuing to exist after this coming.
f. Malachi 4:5-6 - Another reference to the first coming of Jesus
g. Matthew 16:28 - His coming referred to the establishment of the church – something that happened in Acts 2
h. John 14:16-18 - The giving of the Spirit is also Jesus coming, another reference to Acts 2 but for a different reason.
(1) Notice that it is not a physical coming but a coming through a representative.
(2) Jesus would send the Spirit - John 15:26
i. Matthew 24:29-30 - Coming in judgment on Jerusalem
(1) Again it would be in that generation - Matthew 24:34
(2) But it is a different event than the establishment of the church, separated by some 40 years.
(3) But also notice that there is no claim of a physical coming.
(4) It would be the destruction that announced his presence.
j. While symbolic, Revelation 1:7; 19:11-21 speaks of Jesus coming in judgment on the nations persecuting Christians.
(1) Notice that this is beyond just the Jews. They are one of many being punished.
(2) Though nothing requires it to be a physical coming, it is still a coming.
3. Notice that most of the time it refers to a judgment by God, but not to the same event
4. But it also is used to refer to notable or historically critical events
5. Thus we conclude that just because “day of the Lord” or the “coming of the Lord” is used, it doesn’t always refer to the destruction of Jerusalem, though that was a coming of the Lord.
B. Declaring “problem” passages to be figurative
1. “Many seem disposed to regard themselves as at liberty to make anything out of the Bible which their theology may demand or their whims require. And if, at any time, they find a passage that will not harmonize with that view, then the next thing is to find one or more words in the text used elsewhere in a figurative sense, and then demand that such be the biblical dictionary on the meaning of that word, and hence that it must be the meaning in that place.” [D. R. Dungan, Hermeneutics, p. 217]
2. The method is really another version of the one we seen in regards to “the day of Lord.”
3. This is how II Peter 3:10-12 is handled. They declare that this is just figurative language for fiery end of Judaism.
a. Notice though that Peter likens the end to the destruction of the world in the days of Noah - II Peter 3:5-6
b. It is this same world being reserved for fire on the day of judgment - II Peter 3:7
c. The end is no more figurative than the Flood!
4. This is also how I Corinthians 15 is handled. They declare that it discusses the resurrection of Christianity out of Judaism.
a. In regards to I Corinthians 15:35-44, “Next, Paul answers questions concerning how the dead are raised and with what body they come forth. The primary application deals with the development and rise of the Christian system itself, with a secondary application belonging to believers and their state with the system. The natural body that was sown (verse 44) answers to the fleshy or carnal system of Judaism in which existed prophecies, types, and patterns from which came the spiritual body designed of God .. The natural body receiving its death blow at the cross and beginning then to wax old and decay (Heb. 8:13), became a nursery or seed-body for the germination, growth, and development of the spiritual body by means of the gospel. Thus, out of the decay of Judaism arose the spiritual body of Christianity that became fully developed or resurrected by the end-time. Hence, this is the primary meaning of Paul’s statement, ‘It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body’” [Max R. King, The Spirit of Prophecy, p 199-200].
b. Most of us recognize the contradiction immediately. I Corinthians 15:1-11 establishes the fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
c. Given that fact, Paul challenges the claim that there is no resurrection from the dead - I Corinthians 15:12
d. I Corinthians 15:13-34 is a discussion of the consequences to Christianity it were true that the dead are not raised.
e. In I Corinthians 15:35-50 Paul handles possible objections.
f. Finally, in I Corinthians 15:51-58 Paul gives glory to God because there will be a resurrection through Christ.
g. In other words, this is a denial of what Preterism stands for!
IV. Problems with Preterism
A. I Corinthians 11:26
1. If the coming of Christ in this verse is the destruction of Jerusalem, then the Lord’s Supper is no longer to taken
2. If there is no future coming of Christ, then the memorial of Jesus’ death no longer proclaims our confidence of his current life. Because we declare we are continuing the memorial until he comes.
B. Matthew 22:30
1. If the resurrection took place in A.D. 70, then doesn’t this imply there is no marriage now?
2. But there is marriage because we continue to be male and female. Thus, the resurrection Jesus had in mind is still in the future.
C. John 12:48
1. If the last day was the destruction of Jerusalem, and it is past, then by what are we judged?
2. Or, do we claim that we won’t face a judgment?
3. But Paul said we will be judged by the Lord when the Lord comes - I Corinthians 4:4-5
D. Universal Judgment
1. The claim is that the destruction of Jerusalem was the judgment of God. But if that was so, how did that judgment affect people in China, Australia, or in South America?
2. John 5:28-29 - All the dead, good and bad will be judged
3. I Peter 4:5 - The living and the dead will be judged.
a. The dead were not judged by the destruction of Jerusalem
b. They were dead, they would not know nor care - Ecclesiastes 9:5-6
4. II Corinthians 5:10 - We must all appear before the judgement seat, but remember that doesn’t happen until the Lord comes (I Corinthians 4:4-5)
5. Every person will each given an account of himself - Romans 14:10-12
6. Romans 2:3-11 - We cannot escape judgment.
a. It comes to the Jews first and also to the Greek.
b. But wait! The destruction of Jerusalem only was against the Jews!
c. The Gentiles did not receive judgment then.
7. Matthew 25:31-32
a. Judgment when Jesus comes in glory
b. ALL nations will be gathered before him and separated.
8. Acts 17:30-31
a. God has appointed a day on which Christ will judge the world – not just Israel
E. The duration of Jesus’ rule
1. Revelation 20:12-15
a. All the dead are judged
b. Notice that death and Hades are destroyed at this time
2. I Corinthians 15:20-28
a. Death is destroyed at the end
b. If it was destroyed at the destruction of Jerusalem, then the Lord is no longer King
c. But at the end everything will be subject to God, yet Satan still runs loose in our world.
F. How can it be the last day if the days continued?
1. John 6:39-40, 44, 54 - Resurrection on the last day
2. John 11:24 - Resurrection happens on the last day
3. John 12:48 - Judged on the last day
G. Hebrews 4:1
1. If all was fulfilled in A.D. 70, then there is no more promise of rest
2. There no looking forward in hope of Jesus’ appearing - Titus 2:11-14
3. Because what was promised was a new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells - II Peter 3:12-14
a. But it comes after the old is destroyed
b. All things are to be made new - Revelation 21:1-5
c. And this age isn’t it because crying, sorrow, pain and death are still here.
V. Our future comfort - I Thessalonians 4:13-18
A. This passage only focuses on Christians, both those who have died and those who remain a live.
B. Jesus, himself, will descend from heaven – not a representative or seen through an event. He will return as he left - Acts 1:11, II Thessalonians 1:7
C. An archangel will shout and a trumpet will sound - I Corinthians 15:52
1. It is the command to death to release those in the grave
D. The dead rise and then the living join them
1. This definitely did not happen in A.D. 70!
E. Both groups met the Lord and remain with him forever
1. If such were possible in A.D. 70 then the world would have lost all its Christians in A.D. 70!
F. But in these words we find comfort because it is in our future - II Thessalonians 1:10; Colossians 3:4