The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Principles and Implications of Fulfilled Eschatology ( according to Charles Haddon Shank )

Within the field of 'Fulfilled Eschatology' ( AKA 'Preterism' ); there are many differing views, regarding both the extent of the fulfillment and it's implications. Among Reformed believers, from Baptist to Presbyterian, some have adopted the position that key passages, such as the  'Olivet Discourse' in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, as with the book of Revelation, have been partially fulfilled ( hence the name 'Partial Preterist' ; although I believe that most of these ( which vary in degree, as well ) would call themselves 'historicists', or in some cases, 'true' preterists ), in particular, because of the way in which the disciples questioned Jesus in Matthew 24:3, some would say that Jesus was answering a different question, beginning in verse 36 ( and the parallel passages in Mark and Luke ). The Revelation might be another story; although here there are several good Reformed authors who have come dangerously close to viewing this book as fulfilled, I believe that most will cut it off at chapter 4, saying that John saw a vision of our future, while some will just say it's 'already, not yet'.

Probably the truest definition of the word 'preterist' is 'one who believes that the Biblical prophecies of the Apocalypse refer to historical events which have already taken place', but it can also refer to 'One whose chief interest is in the past; one who regards the past with most pleasure or favor.' The word comes from the Latin ' praeter', which means 'past, beyond', and is sometimes pronounced as 'preterit', which connotes 'Belonging wholly to the past; passed by'.

Implications of 'Fulfilled Eschatology', as regards salvation/redemption.

When Jesus described ( to His first-century disciples ) what was about to happen to them, in Luke's account of the 'Olivet discourse' ( chapter 21 ); He warned them 'Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near', while Paul wrote ( also to Christ's first-century disciples ), 'And [ do ] this, knowing the time, that now [ it is ] high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we [ first ] believed.' ( Romans 13:11 ). Peter wrote to these same disciples, 'Blessed [ be ] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.' ( I Peter 1:3-5 ) . Later, in this same chapter; he reported that they were already in these 'last times'. The writer to the Hebrews apprised his readers that 'God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by [ His ] Son' ( 1:1& 2 ).James wrote his epistle of warning to his Jewish brethren, reminding them, 'Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days' ( James 5:3 ), and further saying, in the same chapter, 'Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!' If indeed, the 'last days', spoken of throughout the prophets ( Old & New-( Isaiah 13:6-13 ) Isaiah 25, 60:20, Jeremiah 30:8, 31:31-34, 33:14-16, Daniel 8:17-19 ( 11:35 ) 12:1-3 ( Habakkuk 2:3 ) Matthew 24:3, Mark 13:4, Luke 21:7 ), then, as they foretold in these passages ( and there are many more ); this 'day of the Lord' would bring, not only an adverse judgment on the enemies of His people, but salvation for His people. If this 'day' has not fully come, including His parousia/presence, then His salvation can not have fully come either!

Implications of 'Fulfilled Eschatology', as regards His Presence.

Jesus, speaking of His departure, in preparation for the event, told His disciples, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.'  ( John 14:23 ) It is a traditionally well-known and stated fact that God/Jesus now, since Jesus' ascension, dwells with us in the 'form' of the Holy Spirit: Paul said, 'your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [ who is ] in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own' ( I Corinthians 6:19 ), this is a well-accepted fact! Many people, though, have the notion that Jesus still inhabits His human Body, and it is in this Body that He will return in the future, but I'm not really sure why! I know that this theory is based primarily on Acts 1:11, which states that 'This [ same ] Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven'. Most of those 'Partial-Preterists' that I mentioned above, will heartily agree that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD70, by the Roman armies, according to Old Testament ( Hebrew ) imagery ( Deuteronomy 33:26, Jeremiah 4:13, Ezekiel 30:3, Joel 2:2, Nahum 1:3, Zephaniah 1:15 ( Matthew 24:30, 26:64, Mark 13:26, 14:62 ), was 'a' coming of Jesus, but only in judgment. Most seemingly fail to see the connection between these 'cloud' judgments, and Jesus' coming 'in like manner'. For others, this easily explains why Peter, Paul, and other writers expected the return of Christ in the first century.

So; given that Jesus DID come in the first century, what does this mean to us?

Paul again, in his famous 'resurrection chapter' ( I Corinthians 15 ), 'when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.' ( verse 28 ) Granted, there are several different ways that this statement 'all in all' may be interpreted, and there is only one, but I believe that God is saying, through Paul, that the 'separation' ( within the God-head ) which occurred, first, when the Father sent of Himself ( His only begotten Son ) to this earth, in human form, to die for the sins of His people, and again when He sent His Spirit to indwell the hearts of believers at Pentecost, was 'healed' when Jesus came, in the glory of the Father, to carry out His judgment on His Old Covenant 'children' ( the disobedient ones ), and to bring in ( fully ) the eternal and everlasting ( Daniel 2 ) New Covenant ( Jeremiah 31 )!

'We are the Body of Christ'; if you are at all familiar with my 'ramblings' ( or 'rants ), you may have noticed that I often make this statement, which, you will probably agree, is a very Biblical statement! Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that 'Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.' ( I Corinthians 12:27 ), and, in his letter to the church of Ephesus, told the ministers there, that their work was 'for the edifying of the body of Christ'. ( Ephesians 4:12 ). He wrote to the Colossians, 'I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church'. ( Colossians 1:24 ) I made the statement above that , 'many.......have the notion that Jesus still inhabits His human Body'; I agree: He, through His Spirit ( Romans 8:9, I Peter 1:11 ) does inhabit ( most say He indwells ) His human Body, which Body we are!

Implications of Fulfilled Eschatology', as regards 'Heaven'.

I believe that Scripture tells us that 'Heaven' is the Presence of God; where He dwells, there is 'Heaven'! Solomon, when dedicating the first Temple, prayed God that when His servants prayed to Him in that Temple ( or towards, that He would 'Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.' ( I Kings 8:30 ( II Chronicles 6:30 ) In Psalm 113:5 & 6; his father David asked this rhetorical question, ' Who [ is ] like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold [ the things that are ] in the heavens and in the earth?' Psalm 9:11 ( 135:21 ), Isaiah 8:18 and Joel 3:17 & 28 tell us that He dwells in Zion. In the Hebrew Scriptures, use of the word 'Zion' seems most often to refer to a physical place, a city ( 'the City of David'-I Kings 8:1 ), but also often refers to the city of Jerusalem itself ( Psalm 51:18, 76:2, 102:21, 135:21, Isaiah 2:3, etc. ), and by natural extension ( spiritually ) to the people of God ( Psalm 48:11, 74:2, 78:68, 97:8, 99:2, 102:13, 129:5 ( 132:13 ) 147:12, Isaiah 1:27, ( Isaiah 12:6 ) 14:32, 28:16, 46:13, 51:1-16, etc. ). I believe that most Christians ( not all ) will readily acknowledge this fact, and that God dwells, and has always dwelt, in the midst of His people, wherever they are, but some have seemingly failed to make the connection between God's dwelling in 'heaven' and His dwelling in( the midst of ) His people, or Zion. Jesus told the Pharisees, regarding 'the kingdom of heaven'/'kingdom of God' ( Matthew 19:23 & 24 ), 'The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.' ( Luke 17:20 & 21 ), the implication, of course, being that, rather than being a visible 'place' ( or event-Matthew 24:23 ), God's Presence with His people would be a spiritual truth ( John 4:24 ), 'visible' only to the spiritual eyes' ( I Corinthians 2:14 ) of those in whom He dwells. Instead of saying that 'we are in 'Heaven Now', as certain of us have been wont to do ( myself included ); we might more correctly say that 'Heaven' ( as the abode of God ) is in us!'

Implications of 'Fulfilled Eschatology, as regards 'Hell'.

In Revelation 20:14, we read, 'Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death' ( most older translations say 'hell' rather than 'Hades', which is the Greek mythological 'underworld' ).'Hell' as we traditionally know it, a place of eternal torment, sounds suspiciously like the Greek myth of Hades, the 'abode of the dead'. The Wikipedia article that I found on this subject, had this, and many other interesting things to say; 'The term hades in Christian theology (and in New Testament Greek) is parallel to Hebrew sheol (שאול, grave or dirt-pit), and refers to the abode of the dead. The Christian concept of hell is more akin to (and communicated by) the Greek concept of Tartarus, a deep, gloomy part of hades used as a dungeon of torment and suffering.' In most cases, the word 'hell' in the Hebrew scriptures refers to 'gehenna', or the valley of Hinnom, which was traditionally the garbage dump for the city of Jerusalem, where 'fires were kept burning perpetually to consume the filth and cadavers thrown into it'. ( Mark 9:44-48 ); and this most likely, is where the traditional Jewish concept of 'hell' originated ( although some might disagree ). The Hebrew 'sheol', also translated 'hell', in most cases, refers to 'the "grave" ( Psalm 30:3 ), or "pit" ( Psalm 28:1 ) or "abyss" ( Romans 10:7 ( Deuteronomy 30:13 & 14 )' Probably, the most succinct ( although, I believe untrue ) explanation of the verse above, from Revelation 20, would be that 'Hades' was emptied, or, depending on your eschatological ( end-times ) view, 'will be emptied', of it occupants at the 'last day', but an honest reading of this passage requires that 'Hades' itself, and more importantly, 'death', was consumed ( Hebrews 12:29 ) in, and by, this 'Lake of Fire'!

Implications of 'Fulfilled Eschatology', as regards the doctrine of 'eternal conscious punishment'.

Having already covered this subject, in part, in a previous article; I'll not dwell on it much here, except to remind my readers, as above, that, death and Hades', having been thrown into the 'Lake of Fire' ( consumed ( Daniel 3:22 ) are no more, so you can see for yourself what these implications are. As of now; let me just say that, in a sense, I do believe in 'eternal conscious punishment', and this is the sense in which I mean it: I believe that those who continually, from their own choice, reject Christ and His righteousness, are in a sort of 'hell' as they walk this earth. I suppose that some would immediately hiss, or make the sign of the cross at that kind of talk, but when you think about it, being, as one would assume from it's being thrown into the 'Lake of Fire' and consumed, 'hell' would be no more; correct? If there is no more 'hell', in that sense, and 'heaven' is in our hearts; wouldn't it make sense that we create our own 'hell on earth' ( even Christians ) from the choices that we make, and physically speaking, from the ( wrong ) things that we do. Here is a short quote from that previous article, 'ECP, and the Resurrection of Condemnation';

'There is no doubt that when John relayed Jesus' words to us in John 5:25 & 28 that he had in mind His words to Daniel, in Daniel 12:2. There is some question, however, whether the the words of Christ in verse 25 speak of the same resurrection as those in verse 28. In the historical ( and covenantal ) context of Jesus' words; I believe that we can say, with some certainty, that He was speaking specifically to that 'generation', so that when He said, in verse 25, that 'the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live', He was saying simply that all those that heard the Gospel ( both directly and indirectly ) would be awakened, but that not all who heard ( Pharisees, for instance ) would truly understand and believe ( Isaiah 6:10 ). In verses 28 and 29, Jesus is referring more directly to Daniel 12:2, and the 'final judgment' of the first century, but again to the fact that all would be 'awakened', and that some would respond in a positive way, and that some would respond negatively. Those who responded in a positive manner ( obeyed ) were then granted entry into the Kingdom of God, and His presence, while those who responded in a negative way ( disobeyed ) were condemned ( John 3:18 ) to perish in the 'Lake of Fire', of which John wrote in the Revelation, the conflagration and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, signaling the final and definitive end of the Old Covenant economy, or age.'

I believe that more and more truths are being uncovered every day, concerning the implications of 'Fulfilled Eschatology'; let us always keep this in mind as we seek to learn, but most importantly, as we address, in our own lives, the question of 'How should we then live?'

May God bless us all, as we seek His truth ( always ), and strive to apply them in our lives, acting as the 'healing leaves' that we have been made!

In His service, and for His Kingdom,
Charles Haddon Shank


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