Sunday, January 24, 2010

Don't be Deluded by the Last Days

I Survived the Christian Right
Ten Lessons I Learned on My Journey Home

Lesson 4: Don't Be Deluded by the Last Days: As a brand-new believer in 1979 I tended to accept the pre-tribulation Rapture view that the Bible predicts Jesus would return a second time before a period of tribulation, to whisk believers up to heaven and leave unbelievers behind to face seven years of apocalyptic trials. After reading several critiques of this view,18 I realized it was farcical and unbiblical, not to mention highly manipulative the way preachers or authors—Hal Lindsey in the 70s and 80s and Tim LaHaye (Left Behind) today—use it to “persuade” people to come to Christ, or else. Despite this, like the majority of evangelicals, I still believed the return of Christ was in the future and possibly eminent, given the state of the world.

Then around 1999, the preterists 19 entered my life; the likes of R.C. Sproul, Gary DeMar, and Kenneth Gentry, ironically conservative evangelicals who introduced the notion that everything that Jesus predicted in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) was fulfilled between 64 and 70 AD.20 They also viewed the speculation around the return of Christ as madness 21 and the book of Revelation as written prior to 70 AD;22 hence its predictions were not speaking about thousands of years in the future.

Their reasoning was refreshing. They cried Bible abuse by dispensationalists and the bulk of evangelicals in the widespread unreasonable belief that Jesus spoke of two events in the Olivet Discourse: a coming calamity on Jerusalem within a generation, and then in the next breath about his return to earth 2000 years in the future. After reading the preterists, I reread all those prophetic verses and suddenly they made perfect sense. 23

What I didn’t expect was to come to believe these preterists weren’t going far enough. Considered “partial preterists,” they still believe in a future return of Christ at the time of the resurrection. But for this position to stand, there must be two second comings of Christ, one in 70 AD in judgment on Jewish Temple worship and one at a future resurrection. But this view is problematic because the New Testament does not speak of two second comings at all, or more accurately, a third coming. I found myself agreeing with the “consistent preterists,”24 who say that all the prophecies about Jesus returning occurred at or before 70 AD based on a rational reading of the New Testament and first century historical evidence. 25

Imagine that for a moment. Jesus has already returned. The drama is over. There is no need to unmask the mystery or fear the Antichrist, let alone shape American foreign policy around the return of Christ and the end of the world.

Get on with the business of saving the planet and promoting social justice in the world without secretly believing it will all be for naught in the end.

18 DeMar, Gary, Last Days Madness: The Obsession of the Modern Church
19 Preterists believe biblical events were fulfilled in the past as opposed to futurists, who believe they will be fulfilled in the future.
20 Sproul, R.C., The Last Days According to Jesus, and Josephus, The Jewish Wars
21 DeMar, Gary, Op. cit.
22 Gentry, Kenneth, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation
23 e.g. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this generation shall certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Matthew 24:34 and “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.” Revelation 1:1
24 J. Stuart Russell, The Parousia, and
25 Josephus, Tacitus, and Eusebius. They cite occurrences of false prophets, famines, earthquakes, wars, and astronomical signs leading up to 70 AD that match what Jesus predicted.


Maryann said...

I just discovered your blog! Thanks! I wrote a response post about your blog on "churchianity". Thanks for your blog - and I would definitely like to read your book when it comes out!

Michael Camp said...

Thanks, Maryann, for your support. I appreciate it. You are a bloggess extraordinaire with all those blogs you follow!

Thomas said...

Hello Mr. Camp
I recently came across your blog site and find it very interesting. Somewhat like you I have experienced quite a diverse journey of faith which has included “church” with many flavors of believers in different cultural settings. For a season the trip also included a large dose of legalism. That experience only helped to make it absolutely clear that following Jesus for reasons motivated by anything other than Love and gratitude is definitely not The Way. Gods grace is Amazing! Although I see some similarities in our faith journeys, I see we have come to some very different conclusions. Preterism for instance, (in light of scripture and history) is to me strange at best. Matt 24:34 “….this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” Although some interpret “this generation” as the generation hearing the parable of the fig tree, many (myself included) believe that Jesus is referring to those who are alive when the parable of the fig tree is actually coming to pass. Matt 24:29 “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken”. I am not familiar with any historical account of those occurrences taking place around 70AD (or at any time) and an eclipse could hardly fulfill the events described. Likewise in Acts 1:9-11 at the ascension of Jesus the two angels (men in white clothing) said the following – “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven”. Are you familiar with any 70 AD historical account of Jesus coming in just the same way he ascended? Kind of a significant event to occur without being noticed. I realize that Preterist thought would spiritualize this scripture in Acts as well as those in Matt 24 that refer to Christ’s return, I just don’t understand why. In Matt23:36 Jesus makes the statement “Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation”. “This generation” is used in context with “Zachariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar” 23:35. The problem is that this murder took place 400yrs earlier as recorded in 2 Chronicles 24: 20-21. Although preterist translation of the writings of Irenaeus would differ , I believe that the majority of scholars (historically and today) would date the writing of Revelation around 96AD (Domation’s reign as opposed to Nero’s reign). As a member of the body of Christ, do you ever experience the gift of celebrating The Lord’s Supper with other believers? In 1Cor 11:26 Paul said “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”. If Jesus already returned in 70 AD “until He comes” would have been fulfilled and there would be no reason to celebrate Communion. Wouldn’t you agree that the celebration of Communion has been a pretty significant part of the Believers experience throughout Church history? After reading “Leave Churchianity Lesson 2” I wonder not only if you ever enjoy the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, but also if you enjoy the communion /fellowship /assembly of other believers. No question about it, things have changed a bit since those first believers were “day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people” Acts 2:46,47. One thing for sure is that they were “together” - they assembled. Seems to me getting together is kind of an essential ingredient to being part of the church or body or assembly. (We gather). It makes for a good opportunity to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” Hebrews 10:24,25. “Leave Churchianity “would lead me to believe that the “gathering” probably isn’t a part of your faith walk at this time. Or is it? Sorry this is a bit long, but your blog has prompted me to do some thinking. I wish you and yours all the best Michael

Michael Camp said...

Thanks for your interest. Great questions! Here's my response:

Preterism - Read Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness and R.C. Sproul's book. The only logical explanation for the "this generation" statement, according to context, original Greek, etc., is Jesus is talking about the generation represented by his hearers, not some future generation. Anything else is prophetic speculation. Other verses/phrases of Jesus match this, e.g. "you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes..."

Matt. 24:29 type passages are just like the OT imagery. They are not to be taken literally. (DeMar gives examples) How do we know? That is the way the Jews took them... "the power of the heavens will be shaken" was the image that represented a nation will fall. Jesus taken up to heaven in Acts is problematic, I admit, but there are far more problematic verses if you believe in the traditional way. Also, that passage in Daniel about the Son of Man coming is actually about him coming to God in heaven, not to earth. (see DeMar).

Maybe majority of conservative scholars date Revelation in 90s AD, but not majority of scholars. AND there are many conservatives like Kenneth Gentry (DeMar and Sproul agree), who say evidence points to it being written before 70 AD (Read Gentry's book I cite).

Finally, on churchianity. Yes, good to gather, but who says it has to be in an institutional church? We've made the modern church into a rule. One can leave churchianity and still gather with other believers... we're programmed not to see that. The NT doesn't define how to gather, how often to gather, and where it does give some input, we make it into a law and make a judgment about people who don't feel obligated to obey that law.

Anonymous said...

I kinda have been expecting this in a way...
But I reali dun think da world is going to end...start a new era maybe but the world is not ending.
That's not gonna happen till a thousand years later! Ok, I'm not sure bout that either but that's not the point! The world's not gonna end! Full stop!
]Apocalypse 2012
[/url] - some truth about 2012

57chevypreterist said...

Great to know you're a fellow preterist! Blessings!