Larry T. Smith

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Most modern day minds are clouded with major misconceptions and errors when trying to interpret the coming of the Lord, the last days, and the end of the world. This confusion occurs when men assume that these events always refer to a "future time" at the end of the Church age, the end of time, or the end of the physical world in which we live today. This could easily be corrected if people would stop long enough to study their Bibles to see what Jesus and His Apostles meant when they referred to these events. Through the Scripture they would quickly discover that these first century speakers always spoke as though they were expecting a prophetic fulfillment of these events to take place within their first century generation. This fulfillment was seen as the end of the Jewish age of Law-keeping, and the full establishment of God's New Covenant Kingdom in the earth.


The confusion of these terms has resulted in creating two different viewpoints of Bible prophecy today. Each of these two main viewpoints has within it three different positions. The following is a brief description of each:


First Viewpoint -- FUTURIST


Futurists believe that when the Scripture speaks of the coming of the Lord, the last days, and the end of the world that it is referring to events that will take place sometime in the future. They also believe the Great Tribulation is a future seven-year period that follows a gap of 2000 -- and still counting -- years which takes place between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel's prophecy. Most teach that Jesus Christ and His Spiritual Kingdom [The Church] have never yet fulfilled the six points Daniel prophesied would take place during this 70-week time frame, but instead believe these prophecies must have a literal physical fulfillment in the earth. Futurists also believe that the Book of Revelation is an account of this future Great Tribulation period that will culminate with the Coming of the Lord and the end of the world. They hold three different positions in regard to when they believe these occurrences and the rapture of the Church will take place. These three positions are known as PRE [before], MID [middle], and POST [end] TRIBULATION.


Second Viewpoint -- HISTORICAL


This group believes that most -- or all -- of these prophecies were fulfilled in the generation in which Jesus and the Apostles lived and were concluded in AD70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and its old covenant worship system of animal sacrifices. They teach that this fulfillment was the sign to all men that God's New Covenant was now fully established in the earth, and is His final method of obtaining salvation.


Nearly all Historical adherents believe the Church [Jew and Gentile in one body] is Spiritual Israel, and that Daniel's 70th Week was fulfilled by Jesus Christ without any gap of time between the 69th and 70th weeks. They believe this because the Bible says nothing about a gap between the weeks of Daniel's prophecy. [Some have said the teaching that the Church is "Spiritual Israel" is a doctrine that allegedly promotes anti-Semitism. That is simply not true!] To believe that the Church is Spiritual Israel is to simply believe that the New Covenant message of salvation, which the Apostles preached in the book of Acts, is the everlasting gospel, and will remain the only gospel message by which all men, both Jew or Gentile, can ever obtain salvation. Some men deny that they believe the Church is the Israel of God; yet when they are questioned, they state that they believe that the New Covenant message is the only message that will ever save anyone even during their supposed future tribulation. That is an impossible position to carry, for to believe that the New Covenant message is the only remaining plan of salvation is to agree with the very basis on which the teaching that the Church is the Israel of God is founded.


You must either follow the Dispensational beliefs that there will be a change of covenants and a return to Law-keeping, or you must believe that the Church is the Israel of God. They also believe that Jesus Christ literally and spiritually fulfilled Daniel's six-point prophecy when Jesus was cut off in the midst of the 70th week by His crucifixion. That agrees with Daniel 9:24, which shows this prophecy was to be fulfilled during the 70 weeks. They say that His cutting off [Jesus' death] caused the sacrifice and the oblation, [the animal sacrifices that were offered in the Jewish Temple for the sins of Israel], to no longer be accepted. [That is exactly what happened when Jesus died on the cross; these old methods were no longer accepted by God as His method for man to obtain salvation. God now sees Jesus as mankind's final and all conclusive sacrifice.] I will deal with this subject in detail later in this series of teachings in a lesson entitled Daniel's 70th Week.


Historical believers, like futurist believers, have basically three different positions. The following is a brief description of each of these differences:




They believe that most prophecy is now history that has progressively been fulfilling itself through time, even up to our day. Most see Rome or the Catholic Church as Revelation's "Babylon the Great."


(or, Kingdom Eschatology)


Do not let the word Preterist throw you off. It simply means past. This group believes in a partial past interpretation of prophecy. Most believe the Church -- Jew and Gentile in one body -- is the True Israel of God, Daniel's 70 weeks are fulfilled, the Great Tribulation and the time of Jacob's trouble was the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, Jerusalem was Revelation's Babylon the Great, Matthew 24 was fulfilled during the generation in which it was written, the first 19 chapters of the book of Revelation are fulfilled, and the remaining chapters of Revelation are being fulfilled in the Church. They believe there still is a final judgment, and a final coming of the Lord that will end the Church Age and will resurrect the dead in Christ, even though the destruction of Jerusalem was referred to in scripture as a "coming of the Lord." [This viewpoint is probably closest to the position that I currently endorse on Bible prophecy. However, I strive to remain open so that I can always walk in the light as God reveals more understanding about the Scriptures.]




The Total Preterist believes the same as the Partial Preterist, except they believe all prophecy was fulfilled when the Lord came in judgment against Jerusalem in AD70.


They believe that He resurrected the dead at that time, and that we who are alive and remain will be caught up to meet the Lord as we die. They also believe the world and the Kingdom of God [Church Age] will never end because the Scriptures teach that His Kingdom is an "everlasting Kingdom that will never be destroyed."


The main difference between the Partial Preterist and the total Preterist is found in their differing viewpoints of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. The Partial Preterists believe its fulfillment will take place in the future. The Total Preterists believe its fulfillment took place in AD70 when Jesus came back to bring judgment against Jerusalem.


They say that those who were dead and in the graves then were resurrected and those who are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet the Lord as they die.


Please note that all viewpoints -- both Futurist and Historicist -- believe in the resurrection of the dead and spending eternity with Jesus as the eternal reward of the Christian. They only differ as to the timing of the resurrection and the events surrounding it.


Some men have used the statements that Paul made to Timothy about Hymenaeus and Philetus to say that Preterists teach the same doctrine concerning the resurrection. Paul said that these men "blasphemed" because they "erred, saying that the resurrection is past already." [See 1 Timothy 1:19-20 and 2 Timothy 2:16-18]. The problem with this comparison is that Paul wrote these letters to Timothy before the AD70 fall of Jerusalem. This fact causes this argument to lose its strength as a scriptural proof against the beliefs of Total Preterism. As for proponents of Kingdom Eschatologist, which is my current stance, this argument does not even apply. We do not teach that the resurrection took place in AD70, but that the AD70 coming was a coming in judgment. And to distance us even further from this argument, Partial Preterists believe that there is yet to be a final resurrection. After carefully examining the spirit of what Paul said, you can see these men were taking the position that there no longer remained a future hope or resurrection for those living then, because they believed the resurrection was past. Hymenaeus and Philetus taught a doctrine not far removed from Sadducean teachings of that century, who Jesus rebuked for their unbelief in a future resurrection. One reason why Hymenaeus and Philetus may have taught this doctrine was because they may have thought the resurrection of the saints that took place when Jesus arose from the grave [see Matthew 27:53] was the final resurrection. Scripture does not adequately reveal why these men taught this heretical doctrine, but Paul's pre-AD70 writing of these letters dismisses their teachings from being an argument against Preterist doctrine.


The reason I am saying this is to address those preachers who have said, "If you are a Preterist, then you don't believe in a future resurrection." I can tell you now that what they are saying is just not true. Both views of Preterism believe in a future resurrection. Total Preterists teach, "to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." [2 Corinthians 5:8] This is what most Christian ministers evidently believe when they proclaim at funerals the deceased person is "now in Heaven with the Lord." This is exactly what the Preterists say happens to a person when they die; they go [are resurrected] instantly to be with the Lord.


These explanations only begin to define the different opinions that men have in reference to this subject. I am purposely leaving them brief so that we can move on to what really matters, and that is what the Bible says Jesus and His Apostles believed when they spoke of these subjects.


Man may have 10,000 different viewpoints on this subject, but the only one that really matters is what Jesus and His Apostles taught and believed. This study is designed to address the questions that will unlock the true meaning of this subject.


These questions are whether or not Jesus and His Apostles taught that these occurrences would happen in their generation -- which would end the Jewish Age or world of that day -- or if they were speaking of some yet to be fulfilled unknown time which is to take place thousands of years later in the future.    




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