Part 4 of 5: Full Preterism – Shades of Covenant Eschatology? On The Parousia: An Unbiased Approach

Posted By Thomas Perez. February 22, 2011 at 7:50pm. Copyright 2011.

Topic 3: The Parousia

A. Question:
Acts 1:11 says that Jesus is going to come back in the SAME manner He left. My Bible says He left visibly and physically. You, on the other hand, say He will not come back in the flesh. How do you defend yourself against Acts 1:11, a verse that is an obvious contradiction of preterism?

Preterist Answer:
The Lord was going to come in the same manner as He entered heaven. How did He enter heaven? Hidden from the eyes in a Cloud. (vs. 9) He was going to “come in like manner.”

The apostles wanted Jesus to come out of the Cloud, to be lowered back down and to be with them again in the flesh. But the two men corrected the apostles by telling them that Jesus was going to come, not in the manner He left, but in the manner He entered Heaven. The Coming of the Son with His Father to indwell the Church was not going to be a coming in His flesh, but in His Divinity, in the Glory-Cloud of Yahweh God. (I Tim. 3:16)

The spiritual nature of Christ’s Parousia is confirmed by a comparison of Matt. 16:28 and Lk. 17:21: In Matt. 16:28, Jesus taught that His Coming was going to be “in His Kingdom.” In Lk. 17:20-21, He taught that His Kingdom was going to come “not with observation.” If the Kingdom was going to come “not with observation,” then it follows also that the King in that Kingdom (II Cor. 4:18) was also going to come “not with observation.”

B. Qeustion:
Preterists admit that Christ ascended in a literal “cloud.” They use that “cloud” as the reference point for His return “in like manner,” “with the clouds.” But preterists take the “clouds” of Christ’s return to be metaphorical and apocalyptic “clouds.” In other words, preterists say Jesus entered heaven in a literal cloud, and then say His return was “in like manner” because He returned in figurative clouds! Isn’t this blatantly dishonest? Isn’t it a form of exegetical equivocation / sleight of hand?

Preterist Answer:Then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Lk. 21:27)

Jesus entered heaven in “a cloud” in Acts 1:9.

In like manner,” (Acts 1:11) He returned “in a cloud” in Luke 21:27.

It is interesting that Luke, who penned both Lk. 21:27 and Acts 1:9-11, is the only New Testament writer who used the singular “cloud” instead of the plural “clouds” in reference to the “Coming” of Christ.

When Matthew, Mark and John all used the plural “clouds” in Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mk. 13:26; 14:62 and Rev. 1:7, they were no doubt employing imagery from the Old Testament. (cf. II Sam. 22:12; Ps. 18:11-12; Ps. 36:5; 57:10; 68:34; 97:2; 104:3; 108:4; Dan. 7:13; Joel 2:2; Nahum 1:3; Zeph. 1:15) But perhaps when Luke used the singular “cloud,” he was referring to another aspect of Christ’s Parousia: The Glory-Cloud of God. The same Glory-Cloud that overshadowed Peter, James and John on the “Mount of Transfiguration.” (Matt. 17:5; Mk. 9:7; Lk. 9:34-35) The same Glory-Cloud in which Jesus went into heaven in Acts 1:9-11.

There is no historical or exegetical reason to doubt that Jesus returned in the Divine Glory-Cloud when the Temple fell in A.D. 70. It would not have been the only such sign that appeared in heaven in those days: April/May A.D. 66: “…before sunset, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities.” (Josephus, Wars, VI, V, 3)”…and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.” (Lk. 21:11)

C. Question: I agree that the “Parousia” spoken of so often in the New Testament took place in A. D. 70 (I can’t get around the time statements.), but why can’t the Parousia that took place in the first century be a “type” of a future, greater Parousia?
According to the book of Hebrews, Christ cannot appear a third time. As Heb. 9:27 argues, as men die only once and are then judged only once, so Christ died for sins only once and was then to appear for salvation only once. A “third coming” is not a biblical option.

The book of Hebrews further says that Christ’s once-for-all Appearing for salvation was going to take place “in a very little while,” “without delay” (Heb. 10:37), and that when He Appeared, the covenant mediated by Moses was going to “disappear” (Heb. 8;13) and “the way of the holy places” was going to be “manifested” (Heb. 9:8).

Today the condemning old covenant is ancient history and we dwell securely in the heavenly places in our Redeemer. These things are realities today because of Jesus’ once-for-all Appearing “for salvation” in AD 70.

Let us be content with the Manna from Heaven, and yearn not for the “quail” of futurism (Num. 11:4-33).

D. Question:
The Parable of the Pounds / Minas in Lk. 19:12-27 says that at the Second Coming of Christ, the saints will be given authority over “cities.” Some will rule over ten. Others will rule over five, etc. In preterism, the saints must be currently ruling cities. Then which ones?? Can you give me one city today that is ruled by a saint?

Preterist Answer: After the Lord ascended into Heaven to receive the Kingdom (Lk. 19:12; cf. Dan. 7:13-14) He poured out His Spirit upon all flesh (Lk. 19:13). Some men bore fruit in the Spirit as they grew in the Lord and led others to righteousness (Lk. 19:16-19). Other men believed in vain and produced no fruit (Lk. 19:20-21), and other men rejected the ministry of the Spirit altogether (Lk. 19:14).

Those who were fruitful in the Spirit received the Kingdom of God when Christ returned in 70 and destroyed the enemies in His Kingdom (Lk. 19:27; cf. Matt. 13:41). The Church then, with finality, was given its kingly and priestly authority over the nations of the earth (Lk. 19:17,19; cf. Rev. 2:26-27; 5:10). The Church was no longer a revolutionary movement within the Kingdom of God under the old covenant. In 70, it became the very Possessor of the Kingdom. It absolutely replaced the Pharisees and earthly priesthood as God’s Nation of Kings and Priests (Rev. 1:6). Since that great Day, the Israel of God forever produces the fruit that God desires (Matt. 21:43).

God has given the Church the Divine “power / authority” to break the nations with “the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). The Church “reigns” over the earth in that she perpetually and eternally brings the honor and the glory of the nations unto God and the Lamb (Rev. 21:24-26). Without God’s Tabernacle (the Church) among men (Rev. 21:2-3), there would be only alienation, condemnation and death. Without the Body of Christ, there is absolutely zero hope for the nations of the earth. Thus, the Church’s great “authority / power” over the world is wielded primarily in evangelism and teaching.

The “cities” in the Parable of the Minas (Lk. 19:17,19) are no more literal than the other elements of the parable, e.g., the nobleman, the distant country, the money, the handkerchief, the bank.

Why was one servant given authority over ten cities and another servant given authority over only five cities? For the same reason that some believers bring forth “a hundredfold” and “some sixty, and some thirty” (Matt. 13:8,23; cf. I Cor. 3:7; 12:11).

E. Question:
Didn’t Jesus say, “I am with you always, until the end of the age?” But since the age has ended, then He is no longer with us. God is our only Lord. Wouldn’t this follow?

Preterist Answer:Until I come, give attention to the reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.” (I Tim. 4:13)

“Until” did not mean that Timothy was to stop reading, stop exhorting and stop teaching after Paul came. In the same way, the word “until” in Matt. 28:20 did not mean that Jesus was to be no longer “with us” (Matt. 1:23) after the end of the age.

God “and the Lamb” reign on Earth, “among men,” “forever and ever“:
And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.'” (Rev. 5:13) “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them. …And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple. …And the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him.” (Rev. 21:3,22; 22:3)”Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our dwelling with him.'” (Jn. 14:23)

F. Question:
If Christ gave up the Kingdom to God the Father in A.D. 70, then why is Christ still reigning? Shouldn’t He no longer be reigning if He gave up the Kingdom? What in your view does giving up the Kingdom entail? And if this happened in A.D. 70, then what was different in A.D. 30-70?

Preterist Answer: The Son submissively delivered all things to the Father, because the Father had authoritatively delivered all things to the Son (Matt. 11:27; Lk. 10:22; Jn. 3:35; 13:3; 16:15; I Cor. 15:27-28). The submission of the Son to the Father means the Son co-reigns under the Headship / authority of the Father (Jn. 5:22,26,30; 14:28; 15:8; I Cor. 11:3).

When the Son delivered up the Kingdom to the Father, God became “All things in all [the saints].” (I Cor. 15:28) The universal Church became the Tabernacle of “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.” (Jn. 14:23; 17:21,24; II Cor. 6:16; Eph. 1:22-23; 2:22; 3:19; Heb. 11:10, 39-40; Rev. 21:22) The Holy Spirit’s eschatological work in constructing this New-Covenant Temple was consummated when the ministry of Death and condemnation vanished in 70. (Lk. 21:28; I Cor. 15:26; II Cor. 3:7,9; 5:1; Heb. 8:13; 9:8)

And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it….” (Rev. 22:3)

G. Question:
Did the angels gather the elect already? (Matt. 24:31) And was this referring to believers that had died?

Preterist Answer: I believe the angels gathered the elect in A.D. 70, and that the elect consisted of the dead and the living.

The elect were gathered at “the great sound of a trumpet.” This was “the trump of God” in I Thess. 4:16, at which the dead and the living were “caught up together,” (I Thess. 4:17) and gathered (II Thess. 2:1) to a “meeting with the Lord in the air.” (I Thess. 4:17)

Rev. 10:7 reveals the exact meaning of the “trumpet.” When the seventh and last trumpet sounded, (I Cor. 15:52) “the mystery of God” was perfected. “The mystery” was none other than that the Gentiles would be “fellow heirs and fellow members of the Body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” (Eph. 3:4-6) The trumpet was the Gospel-Voice of Christ. (Compare Jn. 5:25-28; I Thess. 4:16-17) It was the uniting (gathering) of the saints in His “one Body” at the annulment of “the ministry of condemnation” in 70. (II Cor. 3:9; Col. 2:16-17)

H. Question:
Assuming that the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats was fulfilled in A.D. 70, my question is how was it fulfilled? Was it fulfilled symbolically on Earth, or was it fulfilled in Heaven?

Preterist Answer: The prophecy of Matt. 25:31-46 was fulfilled in Heaven. It was a prophecy (not a “parable”) of the Judgment of the dead of Christ’s generation.

Sequence of events:

1. First the Coming of the Son of Man in A.D. 70 (Matt. 25:31)

2. Then the gathering of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:32)

3. Then the separation of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:32)

4. Then the casting out of the wicked into the eternal fire (Matt. 25:41,46)

The same order of events is given in the parable of the Wedding Banquet”…But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire. THEN he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.’ And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw there a man not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'” (Matt. 22:7-13)

1. First the destruction of the City in A.D. 70 (the Coming of the Son of Man) (Matt. 22:7)

2. THEN the gathering together of the righteous and the wicked (the sheep and the goats) (Matt. 22:8-10)

3. Then the separation of the righteous and the wicked (the sheep and the goats) (Matt. 22:11-13)

4. Then the casting out of the wicked (the goats) into outer darkness, the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 22:13)

The prophecy of the Sheep and the Goats is a reiteration of the prophetic teaching of the parable of the Wedding Banquet. In both passages, the gathering and judgment of the righteous and the wicked (the sheep and the goats) take place after the destruction of Jerusalem. Both passages were fulfilled after God’s eschatological judgment on Earth was finished in A.D. 70, (Lk. 12:59) which means that both passages were fulfilled in Heaven, which means that the post-Parousia Judgment was the Judgment of the dead. As Rev. 11:18 says: “And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged.

In the parable of the Wedding Banquet, the gathering of the good and the evil (the sheep and the goats) after the destruction of the city represented the gathering of the dead of Christ’s generation to His heavenly Tribunal after the destruction of Jerusalem.

The man in the parable who was cast out of the banquet (Matt. 22:13) represented the murderers (“the goats” / the Pharisees, etc.) who were destroyed when Jerusalem was burned, (Matt. 22:7) and who were then raised to “a resurrection of condemnation.” (Jn. 5:29)

Rev. 20:11-15 is another parallel Scripture to the prophecy of “the Sheep and Goats,” and it confirms again not only the post-Parousia time of the Judgment of the sheep and the goats, but also, more strikingly, the heavenly location of that Judgment: “And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:11-15) In Rev. 20:11-15; Matt. 22:7-13; 25:31-46, we see the following:

1. The passing away of Heaven and Earth (the end of the old-covenant world / the Coming of the Son of Man / the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70)

2. THEN the gathering together of all men (the righteous and the wicked / the sheep and the goats) for Judgment

3. Then the judgment of all men (the righteous and the wicked / the sheep and the goats) according to their deeds

4. Then the casting of the wicked (the goats) into the fire; outer darkness, the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Rev. 20:11-15 reveals not only that the Judgment took place after the consummation of God’s eschatological purging of His Kingdom on Earth, but also that those who were judged were “the dead” –those who had been gathered from out of “the sea” and from out of “death and Hades.” Lastly, Matt. 8:11-12; 10:15; 11:22,24; 12:42; Lk. 10:12,14; 11:31; 13:25-28 also lead us to interpret the prophecy of the Sheep and the Goats as having been fulfilled in Heaven, as those verses tell us that at the Judgment, “the goats” saw the peoples of past generations: “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you [the Jews to whom Jesus was preaching as He made His way to Jerusalem] shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves cast out.” (Lk. 13:28) Summary interpretation of the prophecy:

Though the post-Parousia Judgment was a judgment of all generations from Adam to Christ, the prophecy of the Sheep and the Goats is concerned only with the judgment of the dead of Christ’s generation. God’s “scapegoat” was that reprobate generation that despised and rejected the Body of the coming King. (Matt. 23:45)

The “goats” were those of that generation who had no compassion for the King’s suffering brothers (as the Rich Man had no compassion for Lazarus). The “goats” were chiefly the Jews of Judea, in union with their brothers who were scattered among “all the nations” of the Roman world. (Matt. 25:32; Jn. 11:48-52)

They had excluded believers from the synagogues and from the commonwealth of Israel. They had not only persecuted them, but they stood idly by, justifying themselves, while their brothers suffered deprivation and imprisonment through the hatred that the whole world had held against Christians. (Matt. 7:22; Jms. 2:14-17; I Jn. 3:17; Rev. 11:10)

The “sheep” were those who had loved and cared for the King’s suffering brothers (as the Good Samaritan had compassion and cared for the man on the road from Jerusalem). They were believers; those whom the Father predestined to eternal life from the foundation of the world; those who love their brothers. (Matt. 10:40-42; I Jn. 4:16-17)

By about September of A.D. 70 (the fall of Jerusalem), immense multitudes of Christians had been murdered, and even greater legions of Jews and Pagans had been slaughtered in wars. When Christ’s eschatological judgment on the earth was finally finished in A.D. 70, He gathered the vast myriads of the dead of that generation to His Judgment-Seat.

He gave His brothers (who had been “last” in the world) the Kingdom in which we dwell today through faith; the Inheritance of eternal life that fills Heaven and Earth. But He sent the “goats” (who had been “first” in the world) into the punishment of the eternal fire. (Matt. 22:13; 25:41; Rev. 20:10)

Since that Day, the Judgment-Throne of our King remains, and His rule will never end: “But of the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.'” (Heb. 1:8) Therefore, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Ps. 2:11-12)

I. Question: Doesn’t Zechariah 14:4-5 plainly teach that Jesus will come back and stand on the Mount of Olives and cause it to be split in two? How can preterists possibly spiritualize that away and claim that it was fulfilled in the first century?

Preterist Answer:
And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. And you will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!” (Zech. 14:4-5)

If one begins with the presupposition that the Parousia is yet future and that it is going to be a literal descent and landing of Jesus in the flesh, then one would be tempted to interpret this prophecy as referring to a literal splitting of the literal Mount of Olives. (After all, Jesus already literally stood on the Mount of Olives, so why should He not do it again at His Second Coming?)

While this approach to Zech. 14:4-5 seems credible at first, there are problems with it even in a futuristic framework –problems that have caused most futurist interpreters throughout the ages to interpret the prophecy symbolically.

First, the immediate context mentions events that took place in the first century. Most notable is the prophecy of the “living water” (Zech. 14:8). A comparison of Jn. 7:38-39 and Acts 2:17-21 confirms that the coming of the “living water” which would flow out from Jerusalem was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. Since verse 8 was fulfilled at Pentecost, a futuristic interpretation of verses 3-7 would force us to impose a 2,000-year “leap” or “gap” upon Zechariah 14 –from the yet future Second Coming in verses 3-7, back to the day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago in verse 8, forward to a yet future “millennial reign” in verse 9. (Such exegetical “ping ponging” through the aeons may be acceptable to one who clings to a dispensationalist framework, but it is offensive to any who would reverently let God’s Word say what it says.)

Second, there is no other prophecy in Scripture that speaks of the “landing” of Jesus, or the resulting split of the Mount of Olives. If we interpret this prophecy literally, we turn it into a “stand alone” prophecy with no parallel in Scripture. We make it a weak proof text.

A literalistic approach to Zech. 14:4-5 is contextually awkward and exegetically wanting, but a symbolic approach finds that Scripture illumines the prophecy:”…so will the Lord of hosts come down to wage war on Mount Zion and on its hill’” (Isa. 31:4). “For behold, the Lord is coming forth from His place. He will come down and tread on the high places of the earth. The mountains will melt under Him, and the valleys will be split, like wax before the fire, like water poured down a steep place.” (Micah 1:3-4) “He stood and surveyed the earth; He looked and startled the nations. Yes, the perpetual mountains were shattered, the ancient hills collapsed. His ways are everlasting.” (Hab. 3:6)

These Scriptures, and their contexts, reveal that the prophetic image of God standing on a mountain, or on mountains, and causing it to split or shatter or melt under Him is a symbol of God waging war against His enemies and delivering His saints. Note that in Zech. 14:4-5, a mountain became a valley of salvation; and what were once valleys became mountains. This is virtually the same metaphor that was used by Isaiah, Matthew and Luke:”…Make ready the way of the Lord. Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Isa. 40:3-4; Matt. 3:3; Lk. 3:4-5)

According to this prophecy, whatever stood in the Church’s way was going to be removed. Instead of a rough and winding highway over a mountain range (the wearying burden of the corrupted Jewish leadership), the Church would be given a straight and smooth road (the easy yoke of Christ). The Way of escape and salvation would overcome all that opposed It.

So in Zech. 14:4-5, the obstacle that opposed the Church would be shattered and overcome by a great valley that would extend to the other side of the obstacle. This is why Zechariah mentioned “the Mount of Olives” by name. That mountain stood in front of the City of Jerusalem, in the path of any who would flee directly to the East away from the City. The Mount of Olives thus served as a physical symbol of a spiritual obstacle or barrier, because of its location in front of Jerusalem.

As Zechariah’s obstacle was split and made into a way of salvation, so through Christ Jesus was the “veil” of condemnation torn in two and replaced with the Way of salvation for all men. (Matt. 27:51; Heb. 9:8; 10:19-20) So too was the barrier of “the dividing wall” torn down and replaced with the peace of Christ in all nations. (Eph. 2:14-15) And so too was the destroying “mountain” of Babylon (the Jerusalem of slavery) burned up, cast into the sea, and replaced with the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Jer. 51:25; Matt. 21:21; Mk. 11:23; Rev. 8:8).

Zech. 14:4-5 is a prophecy of Gospel salvation. Before God destroyed His enemies in A.D. 70, He removed the barrier between His elect and their salvation. He provided a Way of escape and of salvation for His Church. That “Way” was Christ, His Word, His Gospel. At the sound of His Gospel-Voice, His disciples fled from the corruption of the world and from the wrath of God (Matt. 3:7; Lk. 3:7; 21:36; Rom. 2:3; Heb. 2:3; 6:18; 12:25; II Peter 1:4; 2:20; Rev. 12:6; 18:4). Abiding in His Word, they were hid under the refuge of the shadow of His Wings, in the valley of His Mountains. (Zech. 14:5)
Plausible Answer

In reference to this 3rd topic – I’ am in total agreement with its findings, interpretations, and prepositions. For studies confirming such an interpretation please see my other studies.