An Eschatology of Victory
By W.A. Young, Jr. Th.D.
A examination of the coming of Christ as it relates to the judgment of Israel and the destruction of the Temple
“An Eschatology of Victory”
Nothing is more interesting than the study of what is referred to as the end-times. Nothing sells books, tapes, or videos like future prophecy. We all face the fears and hopes of what the future may bring. People want to know what will happen in the end. Preoccupation with the future is what sells horoscopes, palm readings, and the like.
The purpose of this paper is to review the nature of eschatology. There has been a major shift in eschatological perspective that has swept through much of evangelicalism today. This has occurred in the last one hundred to one hundred and fifty years. It has both violated and permeated much of the churches teachings concerning the end of this age.
My own journey has been one of vacillation. In the early days, I subscribed to the majority report among evangelicals, the dispensational view. It is the Hall Lindsey and others like him view of end-times. This view arose in the 1830’s and is built on the futurist system. It dominates evangelical preaching, education, publishing, and broadcasting today. A more a-millennial view was taken by me because I could not see the overly optimistic view of post millennial understanding. As I have grown in my understanding of scriptures I have come to see that the moderate preterist perspective is the biblical perspective. This view is what is under consideration in this paper.
What is preterism? (Let me make a very important statement. I am not looking for a system to get into but neither am I so arrogant to think that I can form my opinions outside of historical Christianity context.) Preterism is the view that the book of Revelation is written primarily to the first century Christians who were about to experience the judgment of God upon His covenant breaking people. While Revelation has benefit for us today, it is written primarily to comfort the true believers of that time as they witnessed God bringing judgment to a nation that had crucified His Son and rejected His covenant. When the disciples were commissioned to deliver Christ’s message in the form of the New Testament, God sent the Edomites and the Roman armies to destroy utterly the last remaining symbols of the Old Covenant: the Temple and the Holy city Revelation is the finale to the drama of redemption. Revelation contains time indicators that point repeatedly to a first century fulfillment (Rev. 1:1,3; 3:10-11;22:6-7, 10, 12, 20).
One of the best known preterists is Eusebius (A.D. 260-340), the “father of church history.” He details in his classic work Ecclesiastical History, the woes that waits Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The focal point of Revelation he says is the destruction of Jerusalem. Others who hold to this view are: Josephus, Clement of Alexandria, Andreas of Cappadocia, and John Lightfoot (1601-1675). In more modern times we consider the writings of Milton Terry (1840-1914) as well. Philip Schaff‘s (1819-1893) has taken a strong preterist view in his classic work History of the Christian Church. The first five chapters of Revelation is a remainder of the impending judgment. The bulk of the prophecy (chapters 6-19) is a revelation of the judgment that is about to befall Israel, including symbolic descriptions of the Beast (Nero), the great harlot (Israel), and Babylon the Great (Jerusalem). In chapter 19, we see the victorious Christ going to war against His enemies (Ps. 110). In chapter 20, John describes the millennial reign of Christ, which began in the first century and will end with the final judgment. Chapters 21 and 22 describe visions of the new heaven and earth and the New Jerusalem, realities that have already been inaugurated but not yet fully consummated.
The Olivet discourse, which is treated in detail by all three synoptic gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke speaks of three distinct future events. These events include (1) The destruction of the temple (2) the destruction of Jerusalem, and (3) His own “coming” in glory. Here Jesus clearly and accurate predicts two future events. These events were unthinkable to those who hear Him say this. There is no doubt that the temple and Jerusalem were destroyed in one of the most well documented events of history in the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman general Titus. However, the prophetic passage is seen by critics as only two thirds fulfilled. If that be the case, two out of three predictions would qualify Jesus as a false prophet. The problem is found in His words, “This generation shall not pass away until all these things come to pass.” Some have said that this time frame did not begin until Israel regained it’s homeland in 1946, but this is wrong. It means the generation of Jews to whom Jesus was then speaking would see these things come to pass. Jesus was talking to a people that would see all three aspects of this prophecy come to pass in their lifetime. We have engaged ourselves with all kinds of exegetical gymnastics to escape this problem. He did come to that generation, in the righteous glory of His judgment. And that generation did see all the signs that He forewarned them that would happen. This “coming” is not to be confused with His second coming. His coming in glory or in the clouds is an Old Testament reference to judgment. He brought the New Covenant and the New Creation. As in Genesis 1, when God brought order out of disorder and creation out of chaos so Christ brings in a new creation.
One of the problems is the term “great tribulation”. Jesus speaks of the “coming of the Son of Man”. He declares that “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken”. Surely these things have not been fulfilled. But they have! The language that He is using is commonly found in the Old Testament. Such passages as Exodus 11:6; Ezekiel 5:9; Daniel 9:12; 12: 1; and Joel 2: 2 are but a few. The cosmic problem introduced in Matthew 23 is answered in the Old Testament imagery in passages like Isaiah 13:10; 34: 4-5; Ezekiel 32:7; and Amos 8:9. In Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 7: 13-14) he speaks of the Son of Man coming up in clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days. In Daniel’s vision, the ascension of the Son of Man is connected with a judgment upon the nations during the time of the Roman Empire (Daniel 7: 9-12, 18, 22, 26-27). When we take into consideration the language, there is no doubt that Jesus was talking to a generation that by 70 A.D. would see in Jerusalem’s destruction, the fulfillment to His words.
Who was or is the man of sin? We find him alluded to in 2 Thessalonians 2 as the man who would precede the Day of the Lord. A great deal of difficulty is around the common assumption that it is referring to events that take place just before the second coming of Christ. But this too is wrong. In verse 6, Paul tells us that the man of sin is restrained at the time he is writing his letter. In verse 7, he tells us that “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” and that the restrainer “now restrains” the man of sin. If the man of sin was being restrained at the time Paul wrote this letter (51 to 52 A.D.), then Paul was not speaking of some person who would arise thousands of years later. The man of sin, who was alive at the time Paul wrote, was probably none other than Nero. The language Paul uses to describe him, is one “who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worship, so that he sit as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”, is identical language to several Old Testament prophets use to condemn certain political rulers (Isaiah 14: 4-21; Ezekiel 28: 2-19; Danial 11:36). Only one man fits Paul’s description of the first century’s man of sin; Nero, who died in 68 A.D. during the Jewish War.
Eschatological expectation intensified as the war between Jerusalem and Rome came to a head. Many believed that the Messiah would return to deliver them. False prophets took advantage of this expectation and deceived many as foretold by Matthew. Signs and wonder appeared as Halley’s comet appeared in 66 A.D. Not long after that Nero committed suicide. Historians have linked the appearance of Halley’s comet not only with the death of Nero, but with the destruction of Jerusalem four years later. Josephus recounts that “there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year.”
Josephus supports the biblical record when he reports, “And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them int the wilderness, and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and sign, that should be performed by the providence of God.” The temple was gone. The Messiah came in the person of Jesus Christ. He is “the temple” (John 2:21); “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29); and He is the High Priest (Hebrews. 6:20). Jerusalem which is the city of the Old Covenant has now been replaced with the Jerusalem from above, the city of the living God (Hebrews. 12:22).
In conclusion, a large amount of prophetic speculation could be avoided if we would begin to take the time-texts of Scripture seriously. There are texts that indicate first century fulfillment, and there are texts that indicate fulfillment at the end of the present age. The task of responsible interpretation is to discern the difference.
What do YOU think ?
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Date: 21 Jun 2009
What do you do with the Seals, the Bowls of Wrath, the destruction of a third of the earth; the object similar to a “mountain thrown into the sea;” the horses of the apocalypse and all they represent, etc.?
How do you explain the current existence of the Jews when nearly all their ancient contemporaries have disappeared one way or another? How about the gathering together of the Jews into Israel as prophecied? Do you perceive any meaning in any of these things?