During my childhood, the doctrine that was most emphasized was the rapture. Growing up, I feared being left behind. Anytime there was silence for too long, I would wonder to myself: “Did I miss it?” “Were the planes going to start falling from the sky?” “Were the cars on the road going to start piling up?” “Was I going have to survive hell on planet earth for seven years while the antichrist hunts me down?” I was terrified! Then I would go outside just to find that my mom was pulling weeds and that all was well. But to be on the watch, I would stay up to date constantly to see what was happening in the Middle East so I would be “rapture ready.”
In high school, it all changed, and I was going to go from one extreme to another! I was in study hall my junior year in high school, and I was reading Matthew chapters 24–25. I went and read the other synoptic passages of the Olivet discourse (Mark 13 and Luke 21) and had a culture shock when I read that in all chapters it read: “this generation will not pass away until all ‘these’ things take place.” So, I started to do more research and discovered that there are numerous people that largely believed that most of the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in AD 70. I wondered to myself: “why have I never heard of this before?”
About a year later, my senior year in high school, I came across a guy named Don K. Preston. He was doing a series on the Olivet Discourse at the time so I listened to all his videos on YouTube and bought the books he offered. About a month later I started identifying as a full preterist and could not stop talking about AD 70. My newfound theology lifted a weight off of me.
With no imminent rapture to keep me on guard along with making the recorded events more relatable, the Bible seemed more complete … or so I thought. Everything was in the past; what was there to worry about?
DESTRUCTION OF THE INCARNATION
What I did not realize was that I should be worried about the implications of this historic heresy. The first implication that hyper-preterism has, and the primary reason why I left, was that Christ is no longer in the flesh, which in some way is the spirit of Antichrist (1 John 4: 2–3; 2 John 1:7). The second implication, because of the first implication, is that there is no longer a hypostatic union. Without Christ being in the flesh, He cannot be one-hundred percent man, one-hundred percent God. Christ came in the flesh to restore mankind to the image of God (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24). Christ ascended bodily into heaven (Acts 1:9–11) so that He can be our mediator of a new and better covenant. Therefore, by faith, we can unite to Christ, both in his humanity, following him as humans, and in his divinity, being partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). If Christ is not in heaven bodily, why look up to heaven since He is a disembodied spirit? Also, since He will let humanity suffer forever and never destroy sin, this must be the goal of His redemption. But Scripture is clear that this is not the case.
Since Christ is in heaven, our heads can be where our heart is at. As St. Paul says in Colossians 3:1 “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” St. Paul is saying that since Christ is located at the right hand of the Father, set your hope there. Our focus and our hope are where Christ is bodily. This then leads me to the verse that the Holy Spirit used for me to leave hyper-preterism.
Philippians 3:20–21 says: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” What stood out to me were these two phrases: “body of our lowly condition” and “His glorious body.” I pondered, “what do these look like?”
In context Paul was telling them to lift their minds to heaven and then proceeded to tell them that this body is but a frail tabernacle, susceptible to suffering, disease, hunger and misery and will be reduced to nothing. Where is our restoration? Our restoration is from heaven, at the return of Christ when He comes in His glory. The body that Christ had at the transfiguration. The body that Peter bore witness to and described in his second epistle. The body at the Mount of Transfiguration, the body that the disciples could hardly endure, and as a result fell and were afraid (Matt 17:6), Paul said that we will put on. The only way to get around this glorious reality is to deny Christ being bodily in heaven.
This implication brings a new, yet false, gospel to be preached. This undermines Christ’s role as our great high priest. The high priest had to go, in the flesh, before the presence of God and sprinkle blood on the holy of holies. Likewise, Christ entered into the Holy of Holies made without hands by His own blood. If Christ is not bodily in heaven, as the hyper preterist must maintain, then the incarnation is over! If the second coming happened in AD 70, then Christ mediating for the sins of His people is then over. This then means that Christ was concerned about Israel only. Everyone is now saved who will ever be saved. This means that no one is saved at all. This then would conclude that baptism, communion and evangelism and worship are not for today as well. So much for a gospel message!
HELP FOR THOSE CAUGHT UP IN HYPER-PRETERISM
I then realized that hyper preterism was untenable. I did not know what to do, so I prayed and asked for forgiveness. I then went and told people to whom I taught this doctrine that I was sorry and told them about the evil behind it. The older I get, the more repugnant the system is for me, for it robs God of His glory and robs man of any future hope that may be in Christ. One thing I tell people to safeguard them from this error are the words of Doug Wilson. He once said: “preterism explains very nicely and the problem with preterism is that it is like a new hammer and you see everything as a nail and because it has a great explanatory power, and it does, some people have gone into what people call full preterism.”
Here are some of my personal thoughts on how to safeguard yourself as an orthodox preterist. So, what are some “nails” that shouldn’t be hammered besides the obvious ones, such as the future bodily resurrection of believers, the future bodily coming of Christ and the restoration of all things? After reading some articles by Kenneth Gentry, I believe the “this age” and the “age to come” theme of scripture must be properly understood. The resurrection comes at the end (1 Corinthians 15:24). Jesus’ focal point of eschatology is this age and the age to come. Jesus said that “in the age to come” we would be like the angels and shall not die (Luke 20:36). Christ refers to the “age to come” as the time in which the resurrection would take place (Matthew 22:29–32). He says how, in the resurrection, they are like the angels and can no longer die. It is in the Nicene Creed that we say: “and we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come.” If one is to say that the “age to come” was in the year AD 70, he would have to redefine death. Then he would have to redefine resurrection along with the nature of angels in order to be consistent. At this point you are knocking at hyper-preterism’s door!
I am Zachary J. Easton, and this is my testimony on hyper-preterism.