Answers To Balyeats Questions
By Ed Stevens
I want to thank brother Joseph Balyeat for writing such a useful and helpful book. It is the best preterist full-length treatment of Revelations Babylon that I am aware of. We were very happy to do a review of it here, and we are delighted to offer it for distribution to our readers. And, we are anxious to clear up any misunderstanding that our review may have caused. If we misrepresented him in any way, it was totally unintentional. We pray and trust that his letter and Ken Davies response to it has completely cleared this matter up.
Balyeat raised several important questions in his letter which Ken Davies has permitted me to address. Kens intentions were to clear up the misrepresentation matter only. This article will deal with the other objections to the full preterist position that were expressed by Balyeat. We hope to do exactly what he requested in the conclusion of his letter:
discuss vital issues and important doctrinal differences with great grace
represent each others views honestly and carefully
address [our] arguments to [his] real concerns
tackle some of the hard questions [he has] posited
Let no one question his or our motives here. All involved have only one desire, and that is to better understand Gods truth so we can serve Him better. The discussion here will be intense, but only for the purpose of challenging the ideas he has posited and hopefully make us all think a little deeper. Let the reader examine the evidence and make up his own mind as to WHAT is right (not WHO is right). Only ONE is right (God). The rest of us are mistaken about a great many things. May this discussion help us understand a few of HIS things better, and lift Him up and bring much praise and glory to His name.
The sections in his letter and this article have been numbered correspondingly to make it easier to refer to his points as we discuss them here. We will go section by section through his letter. If a topic was mentioned in two or more sections, they will be combined into one discussion. The topics and the order in which we will deal with them are:
1. Only 34,000 More Years Ahead of Us?
2. The Coming of Christ
3. The Resurrection
4. The Last Days versus The Last Day
5. How Long is a 1,000 Years?
6. Consistent to be a Partial Charismatic Preterist?
7. Is It Possible for the Creeds to be Wrong?
8. Conclusion: Partial Preterist & Partial Charismatic?
1. Only 34,000 More Years Ahead of Us?
In his first paragraph, he states that he does not hold the full preterist position. He still holds out for a final physical resurrection and a Final Coming of Christ to a redeemed world perhaps as much as 34,000 years in the future. He gets this figure from some OT verses (Ex. 20:5-6; Deut. 5:9-10; 1 Chron. 16:15 and Psa. 105:8) which mention Gods covenant and His Word being remembered and commanded to a thousand generations. If a generation is about 40 years, and we take these passages expressly literal, it would mean there would be about 40,000 years of earth history, 6,000 of which have already passed, leaving about 34,000 yet to come. He deals with this idea in both his book (p. 29) and an audio cassette tape entitled, Are We The Terminal Generation? The tape is available from Kingdom Counsel for a suggested donation of $6.00 (incl. postage). He notes in the tape that he is not sure the phrase thousand generations should be taken literally. But it is an interesting idea to suggest to the premillennial dispensationalist who insists that such statements be taken literally. This would definitely put their end-time speculations on hold for a few more years (34,000 to be literally exact)! If it took God 4,000 years of OT history to prepare for the coming of Christ, and Christs Kingdom is the ultimate thing all that preparation was for, why would He bring it all to an end after only 2,000 years? I personally believe there is a lot more time ahead for us than just 34,000 more years. But, when earth history has progressed even that far, they will look back on our time here in the second millennium as the early church. This is still the formative period in terms of understanding Christs kingdom. Many areas of theology have not been adequately investigated. All the archaeological and historical data is not in yet. The Dead Sea Scrolls are just now beginning to be thoroughly examined. Most of the Greek and Latin patristic writings have still not been translated into English. Textual variations within eschatological passages have not been substantially considered. There is so much more to understand than we have achieved to this point. We have really only just begun.
2. The Coming of Christ
This section of his letter deals mainly with his concept of the coming of Christ and its relation to the time indicators. He agrees that Christ came in judgment on apostate, Christ-rejecting Jerusalem in 70 AD, but he believes there is a final coming of Christ still in the future. And he asserts that the way to determine whether a coming passage is 70 AD or still future in fulfillment is by whether it contains a near-at-hand time indicator. Before anyone can assign verses to past or future, they must first prove that Jesus and the NT writers clearly distinguished between two different comings of Christ. Where does Jesus ever distinguish between a coming in judgment versus a second and final coming? This kind of language is not used by Christ. There is no such distinction in Scripture. Is this just accommodative language partial preterists have invented to avoid dealing with the full implications of the imminency passages? Does apostle Paul ever distinguish between two different comings of Christ separated by thousands of years? Would the NT brethren reading these books in the midst of the Jewish and Neronian persecutions of the late 50s and early 60s have gotten the impression that there was going to be two different comings, with only a partial victory soon and the final fuller victory still many centuries (or millenniums) off in the future? How would those martyrs whose souls were under the altar crying How long? feel to know that God would finally avenge their blood in two (or 34) millenniums, after having been told they would only have to wait a little while longer for full and final vindication? How would the first century brethren living before 70 AD have been able to distinguish between two different comings? By near-at-hand time indicators? All they tell us is that the coming is definitely imminent. The absence of time indicators in a coming passage tells us nothing. If that is the only difference between the past and future coming passages, the first century brethren (and any today who try to force a distinction) were in trouble, since the coming passages use the same language to describe Christs parousia.
Jewish rabbis have taunted Christians throughout church history saying Jesus cant be their Messiah, since the Messiah would accomplish redemption in one generation with no gaps, delays, parentheses or postponements. The full establishment of the Kingdom could not be delayed. The Messiah could not fail to set it up and have to come back a second time to make good on His promises. There would only be one advent of the Messiah, with temporary suffering and ultimate victory phases. Jews would agree with Christian futurists that the OT prophecies about the kingdom were meant to be fulfilled literally and materialistically. In fact, it is this very point they insist Christians are most inconsistent on. They say that since the Messiah was to fulfill these things in a physical/materialistic way, and since they obviously havent been fulfilled that way yet, the Messiah hasnt come. Nowhere does the OT teach a second coming to fulfill the rest of the things he was unable to fulfill the first time. If Jesus failed to fulfill them the first time, he could not be the Messiah. Notice how various Jewish writers express this (emphasis mine, EES):
The Jew refuses to accept the excuse that the major prophecies concerning the Messiah will only be fulfilled in a second coming. He expects the Messiah to complete his mission in his first attempt. The Jew therefore believes that the Messiah is yet to come. [Pinchas Stolper, ed. The Real Messiah. Reprinted from Jewish Youth, June 1973. Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations. New York: 1973. p. 15]
Since Jesus did not fulfill the most important Messianic prophecies, they expected him to return to complete this task in a second coming. At first, Christians expected that this second coming would come very shortly... in their lifetime. When their prayer was not answered, they began to hope that it would come a thousand years after Jesus death. This was the millennium or thousand year kingdom. Finally, after a thousand years passed and Jesus still had not returned, they postponed his second coming to an indefinite time. We therefore see that the early Christians were forced to radically alter the Jewish concept of the Messiah in order to explain Jesus failure. This, compounded with the pagan influence in the early church, gave birth to a Messianic concept totally alien to Judaism. [Pinchas Stolper, ed. pp. 32, 33]
...You will discover that whenever any really strong question [such as why Jesus hasnt fulfilled all Messianic prophecies]... is asked [of the Christians], the standard answer is that it refers to the second coming. It therefore becomes extremely important to ascertain the validity of this claim. The success of the Christian claim or its failure rests to a very large extent on the theory of the second coming. ...It is clearly an answer born of desperation. [Samuel Levine. You Take Jesus, Ill Take God. Los Angeles: 1980. p. 15]
...most of the early Christians thought ...that Jesus would return within their own lifetime. ...However, after many years went by, and the generation that lived in Jesus generation had all died, it became rather apparent that Jesus would not reappear in the near future. The doctrine was therefore changed so that his reappearance was not necessarily going to be in the near future. [Samuel Levine. p. 16]
The Jews never had the concept of a second coming, and since it was the Jews who first taught the notion of a Messiah, via the Jewish prophets, it seems quite reasonable to respect their opinion more than anyone elses. [Samuel Levine. p. 23]
To spend almost two millennia trying to justify a pagan mythology, a mistaken messiah belief, and a mistaken eschatology stupefies the rational mind. [Rachel Zurer. A Jew Examines Christianity. New York: 1985. p. 162]
A good book of the Bible that both Jews and Christians accept as highly messianic is the book of Isaiah. All one needs to do is read straight through the book noticing the time indicators (i.e. then, when and in that day) and the messianic events that are attached to them. It should become apparent very quickly that Isaiah did not know of any second coming separated by thousands of years from the first coming. Events futurists claim are still future are interspersed indiscriminately throughout the whole context of Isaiah with events which Jesus fulfilled in His first coming. Yet all these events would happen in that day. And the only reason futurists believe SOME of them are still future is the same reason Jews believe ALL of them are still future (they think the events have to be fulfilled physically-literally). But the time indicators are in the context of all these events, both the events which futurists label as still future and the events which the NT shows as fulfilled in Jesus earthly ministry.
What was the original understanding of the primitive church about Christs parousia? When and how was it changed? Who was responsible for it? In the middle of the second century church fathers (like Shepherd of Hermas, Justin Martyr, 2 Clement, and others) postulated the postponed second advent (parousia) idea. It didnt come from the OT prophets, nor the NT prophets. The only thing in the NT which even comes close to teaching a second advent is Heb. 9:28, where it says Christ will appear a second time. This was using the symbolism of the High Priest at Yom Kippur when he took the blood into the holy place and then reappeared back outside the Temple to announce that atonement had been accomplished. The early church understood this to be simply a reappearance during His one-and-only advent into human affairs, not an entirely different advent after a long indefinite period. And, as the following quotes show, the original expectation of these early Christians was one of imminency. They expected all this to occur in their lifetime. They were right on the TIME of fulfillment, but wrong on the NATURE of fulfillment, because they had carried over too much of the Jewish physical/literal concepts. About the only parts of the Jewish concepts they left behind were the racial and nationalistic aspirations. Those things were spiritualized, but the rest were still literalized. This forced them to put the fulfillment of much OT prophecy off into the future at a second coming just like the Jewish quotes above have alleged.
Was the second advent idea the original understanding of the apostolic church, or was it an invention of the mid-second century fathers? Note what J. N. D. Kelly, Thomas F. Torrance, and Jaroslav Pelikan say about this (boldfaced emphasis is mine, EES).
...in the apostolic age, as the New Testament documents reveal, the Church was pervaded with an intense conviction that the hope to which Israel had looked forward yearningly had at last been fulfilled. ...history had reached its climax and the reign of God, as so many of our Lords parables imply, had been effectively inaugurated. (John N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines. Revised Edition, 1978. pp. 459-461)
... [but by the middle of the second century] the Christians confident and joyous assurance that the age to come has already broken into the present age has faded into the background. He looks upon God, not as the divine Father to Whom he has free access, but as the sternly just distributor of rewards and penalties, while grace has lost the primarily eschatological character it had in the New Testament and has become something to be acquired. ...the temptation to degenerate into a pedestrian moralism in which the realized element in its authentic eschatology finds no place was one to which Christianity was as much exposed in the patristic as in every other age. (J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines. pp. 459-461)
When Did Concepts Change?
Note Kellys statement here that the original authentic eschatology was characterized by a realized (preterist) concept that the hope of Israel had been fulfilled and that the kingdom of God had been inaugurated. This was widely accepted in apostolic times, but not deeply understood, so it didnt take much for physical-literal concepts to overshadow it. But the original preterist (or realized) eschatology never completely disappeared. We see glimpses of it reappearing throughout the second, third and fourth centuries in Athanasius, Origen, Melito, Eusebius, the Odes of Solomon and many others. They all provide pieces of the puzzle, but no one seems to have put them together into a complete and consistent picture again after 70 AD. Hear Kelly further:
About the middle of the second century Christian eschatology enters upon a new, rather more mature phase. ...Justin teaches on the basis of Old Testament prophecy that, in addition to His coming in lowliness at His incarnation, Christ will come again in glory ... new emphases and fresh lines of thought begin to appear, partly for apologetic motives and partly as the result of growing speculation. The clash with Judaism and paganism made it imperative to set out the bases of the revealed dogmas more thoroughly. ...millenarianism, or the theory that the returned Christ would reign on earth for a thousand years, came to find increasing support among Christian teachers. We can observe these tendencies at work in the Apologists. Justin, as we have suggested, ransacks the Old Testament for proof, as against Jewish critics, that the Messiah must have a twofold coming. His argument is that, while numerous contexts no doubt predict His coming in humiliation, there are others (e.g. Is. 53:8-12; Ezek. 7f; Dan. 7:9-28; Zech. 12:10-12; Ps. 72:1-20; 110:1-7) which clearly presuppose His coming in majesty and power. The former coming was enacted at the incarnation, but the latter still lies in the future. It will take place, he suggests, at Jerusalem, where Christ will be recognized by the Jews who dishonored Him as the sacrifice which avails for all penitent sinners, and where He will eat and drink with His disciples; and He will reign there a thousand years. This millenarian, or chiliastic, doctrine was widely popular at this time. ...[But] he confesses that he knows pious, pure-minded Christians who do not share this belief... (John N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines. Revised Edition, 1978. pp. 464-466)
It is important to recall that the apostolic witness to Christ did not speak of his advent (parousia), any more than of his kingdom (basileia), in the plural, for strictly speaking there is only one saving parousia of the incarnate Son which reaches from his coming in great humility to his coming again with great glory whose kingdom shall have no end. [Epiphanius, Anc., 110f; fidei, 17 and MPG, 42.885] The term parousia was used in the New Testament to speak of all three: the coming, arrival, and presence of Christ... His presence is an advent and his advent is a presence. The hour comes and now is, as Jesus once said. [John 4:23] It is instructive to find that the plural word, advents or parousiai, was not found in Christian literature for more than a century after the ascension of Christ, when it was used to distinguish between his first coming and his second coming. In one revealing statement, however, Justin Martyr spoke of what takes place in the midst of Christs parousia (en tw metaxu thV parousiaV autou). In other words, here and now in the on-going life of the Church we live in the midst of the advent-presence of Christ, already partake of the great regeneration (paliggenesia) of the future, and share in its blessings with one another. [Thomas F. Torrance, The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church. Edinboro: 1988. pp. 299, 300. See also Justin Martyr, Apol, I.52; Dial., 14, 32, 40, 49, 51, etc.; Hippolytus, De Chr. et ant., 44; In Dan., 4:18, 23, 39, etc.]
The coming of the Lord in later Jewish prophecy and apocalyptic also referred to Jesus as the Christ; but now it had to be divided into two comings, the first already accomplished in the days of his flesh and the second still in the future. Beyond the difference between humiliation and glory it was not always clear what the basis was for this division, which neither Judaism nor the anti-Judaistic Marcionites would accept. [Jaroslav Pelikan. The Christian Tradition A History of the Development of Doctrine (5 vols.). (Volume 1) The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100-600). Univ. of Chicago: 1971. p. 19. He makes reference to Just. Dial. 49.2 (Goodspeed 147); Tert. Apol. 21.15 (CCSL I:125); Orig. Cels. I.56 (GCS 2:107); Clem. Recogn. I.49.2-5 (GCS 51:36); Lact. Inst. 4:12.14-15 (CSEL 19:313) and Tert. Marc. 3.7.1-4 (CCSL I:516-517)]
How Did This Happen?
Why did this idea of two different parousias (or advents) develop? According to Kurt Aland, it came about because of a shift in eschatological expectations. Justin Martyr, Shepherd of Hermas and 2 Clement seem to be credited with changing things because doubts about imminency were beginning to ooze into their minds. The thought never seems to occur to them that their concept of the NATURE of fulfillment was the problem instead of the TIME of fulfillment. Rather than shift to a spiritual nature of fulfillment, they instead tampered with the time statements. Listen to these suggestions by Kurt Aland (emphasis mine, EES):
...we discover a decisive turning point in the second half of the second century. ... a watershed... decisive for the development of the Christian church. ...It was the definite conviction not only of Paul, but of all Christians of that time, that they themselves would experience the return of the Lord. ...The Apocalypse expresses the fervent waiting for the end within the circles in which the writer lived not an expectation that will happen at some unknown point X in time, but one in the immediate present. ...If we browse through the writings of that period, we observe that this expectation of the end continued. ...In fact, we also find in the writings of the first half of the second century sufficient evidence to indicate that the expectation of the Parousia was by no means at an end then. ...At the end of the Didache (The teaching of the twelve apostles), from the time shortly after 100, there is, for example, an apocalyptic chapter which corresponds completely in its outline to the Synoptic apocalypse in Mark 13 (and the parallel chapters in the other Synoptic Gospels); here we can only very cautiously say that it uses the same words, but that its content is imperceptibly in the process of change. ...It is quite similar to the Epistle of Barnabas, which was written a little later than the Didache, where we read: The day is near in which everything will perish together with the evil. The Lord and his recompense are near.
...Again and again the old expressions echo. They echo apparently almost unchanged, but doubt about the imminence of the Lords return is increasingly mixed with them until around the middle of the second century when the Shepherd of Hermas thinks he has found a solution and expresses it with great thoroughness and emphasis: the Parousia the Lords return has been postponed for the sake of Christians themselves. ...The building of the tower has not been stopped; it is only temporarily suspended. Therefore and this is the warning of the Shepherd of Hermas, on account of which the entire work was really written do good works for your purification, for if you delay too long, the construction of the tower may be finished and you will not be included as stones built into it. The thought of a postponement of the Parousia appears all through 2 Clement... but here it is expressly mentioned for the first time. Thus, about the middle of the second century, a decisive turning point occurs one which can be compared in significance to all other great turning points, including the Reformation.
Obviously, we cannot fix this turning point precisely at the year 150, for it took a while until the thought caught hold everywhere. But a development does begin with the Shepherd of Hermas which could not be stopped a development at the end of which we stand today. As soon as the thought of a postponement of the Parousia was uttered once and indeed not only incidentally, but thoroughly presented in an entire writing it developed its own life and power. At first, people looked at it as only a brief postponement, as the Shepherd of Hermas clearly expresses. But soon, as the end of the world did not occur, it was conceived of as a longer and longer period, until finally this is todays situation nothing but the thought of a postponement exists in peoples consciousness. [Kurt Aland. A History of Christianity. (2 vols.) Fortress Press: 1985. Vol. 1, pp. 87-102]
To anyone sensitive to the issue of inspiration of Scripture these words must drop like bombshells. How can we justify the second century brethren tampering with the clear words of Scripture like this? It would have been better for them to change their physical-literal interpretative method than to put the NT writers in the position of false prediction. Above we have heard four different well-known students of Church history pin-point the middle of the second century as the time when a paradigm shift in eschatological concepts occurred. Aland says this time was as decisive and significant for the development of the church as all other great turning points, including the Reformation. These are pretty powerful statements, and theyre coming from someone who knows a decisive turning point when he sees one.
What Have We Seen So Far?
To summarize, we noticed that Kelly, Torrance, Pelikan and Aland say the authentic eschatology of the apostolic church was characterized by the concept that all prophecy had been or was being realized in Christs once-for-all advent into the affairs of men. They did not conceive of two different advents separated by a long indefinite time period. They saw one short fulfillment period with two phases to it: a suffering humiliation phase and a victorious consummation phase. They expected the consummation of all these things during their lifetime and generation. This is the same way the Jews have always viewed it, and they (like the Jews) hung onto their physical-literal concepts of the NATURE of fulfillment. When the remaining fulfillments associated with Christs parousia did not occur in the physical-literal way they had expected, they assumed they had not been fulfilled at all. So they began adjusting their concepts of the TIME of fulfillment, instead of considering the possibility that their concepts of the NATURE of fulfillment were the only things needing adjustment. This is where the mistake was made, and it has affected Christianity ever since (as Aland ably points out). Unfortunately it occurred before the creeds were developed, so this misunderstanding was incorporated into them. This is one area where need some adjustments. But they will be good adjustments, putting the emphasis back on the realized spiritual nature of Christ and His now-consummated kingdom. Lets not continue making the same mistake many of the Jews did by failing to recognize the spiritual fulfillment.
Perhaps one reason the original realized eschatology of the apostolic church dwindled rapidly after the apostolic era is because the church thrust all connections with Judaism aside after the 70 AD conflict. It was not popular in the Roman empire to be associated with the Jews after 70 AD (for some strange reason). The church went to great lengths to divorce itself from any Jewish connections. Unfortunately this included its good connections as well as its bad. The church quit listening to Jewish influences and listened too much to Gentile and pagan influences or to no one at all. It is no wonder that Montanism and Gnosticism sprang up so quickly. Abandonment of the good Jewish connections resulted almost immediately in their inability to understand eschatology (which was Jewish to the core). It is not surprising therefore to hear Eusebius claim that chiliasts (such as Papias and Irenaeus) erroneously interpreted the prophecies in a physically-literal way because they failed to realize they were propounded mystically. [Eusebius. Ecclesiastical History. Baker reprint: 1971. Book 3, Chapter 39. p. 126] They just couldnt completely let go of the incorrect Jewish concepts:
...the Jewish expectations had, through Jewish converts, found a foothold in the Christian Church ... such an influence passing through Jewish Christians from the Jews to the Church would have been the most natural result of the situation and the connections. [D. H. Kromminga. The Millennium in the Church. Studies in the History of Christian Chiliasm Eerdmans, Grand Rapids: 1945. p. 39]
The Jews had conceived of the Messiah and his kingdom as a materialistic/nationalistic supremacy over all other nations. Early Christians knew Jesus taught a kingdom that was not of this world, NOT nationalistic, but didnt fully grasp the fact that it was also NOT materialistic. The same problem persists today, and can be solved by following correct Biblical interpretation methods. We need to get back to the study of Biblical Judaism. We must immerse ourselves in the culture, history, language and religion of the Jews of Jesus day if we hope to go any further and deeper in our understanding of the Bible. Salvation is of the Jews. Christianity is not some totally new religion. It is the fulfillment of the promises made to the Jews (on behalf of the Gentiles as well). It was directed to the Jews first. It is no longer dangerous to claim affinity with OT Israel, so we could surgically remove the pagan influences and replace them with a much more Jewish (OT typological) understanding which recognizes the fulfillments in Christ. What a difference it would make!
Balyeats Two Parousias
He gives at least one example of the passages he has assigned to his past and future parousias: Matt. 24 (past coming at 70 AD) and 1 Thess. 4:13-18 (yet future final coming of Christ). If we took his full list of 70 AD coming in judgment passages and compared their description of the coming with the description of the alleged future coming found in 1 Thess. 4:13-18, what would we find? 1 Thess. 5 cannot be isolated from the context of 1 Thess. 4. Nor can 2 Thessalonians be ignored. In this context (1 Thess 4:13 - 5:11) Paul calls this coming, the coming of the Lord (1 Thess. 4:15) and the day of the Lord (1 Thess. 5:2) and says it will be like a thief in the night with birth pangs (1 Thess. 5:2, 3). Even if we ignore the numerous indicators of time in this context and in 2 Thessalonians, we would still have a problem applying 1 Thess. 4 to the future when its description of the coming is exactly the same as coming passages Balyeat applies to 70 AD. Take just one example: James 5:7,8. This verse, which I know he applies to 70 AD (because it has a near-at-hand time indicator) has EXACTLY the same phrase (both in the English and the Greek) as 1 Thess. 4:15 the coming of the Lord. If these are two totally different comings separated by thousands of years, the first century brethren before 70 AD (and most brethren today) would have difficulty distinguishing between them. The language is exactly the same. Both passages use the Greek word parousia, which Matthew 24 also uses in verses 27, 37 and 39. Matthew (ch. 24), Paul (1 Corinthians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians) and other NT writers (James, Peter and John) all use the same Greek word parousia in regard to the return of Christ. See the Greek in these passages: Matt. 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1; Jas. 5:7,8; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4,12; 1 Jn. 2:28. Most of these passages have time indicators, and Balyeat has already stated that he takes such passages as 70 AD in fulfillment. The question is, why doesnt he take the other verses with parousia in them (1 Cor. 15 and 1 Thess. 4) as 70 AD also??? Watch closely for his theological gymnastics here, then ask yourself if the first century brethren would have understood two different comings being spoken of using exactly the same Greek word and terminology. If the writers understood two different comings separated by a long period we would expect them to somewhere stop and explain it to us. Since they never did that, we have to assume the same coming is under consideration. If I were a first century person reading the books of Matthew, 1 Thessalonians and James before the events of 70 AD, I would never get the impression that two different parousias separated by thousands of years were being discussed there. We earlier noted that the idea of two parousias did not occur to the saints until the middle of the second century, so Balyeat is reading a later tradition back into the NT text. Now thats flimsy and flawed exegesis.
And, what about the time indicators in both Thessalonian books (1 Thess. 1:6, 10; 2:14-19; 3:3-13; 4:15, 17; 5:1-10; 23; 2 Thess. 1:4-10; 2:1-12). These verses are discussing the pre-70 period and what was happening to them. When the statements in both books are examined together, the whole basis for his future application of 1 Thess. 4:13ff vaporizes. If there were no indications of time like these in either First or Second Thessalonians, then he could not convincingly apply 2 Thess. 2:1ff to 70 AD, as it seems he must surely do if he is in agreement with Ken Gentrys view that the Beast is Nero. (See p. 38 of Balyeats Babylon where he commends Gentrys view and p. 80 of Gentrys Before Jerusalem Fell where he quotes Hendersons book on Nero in defense of the idea that Nero was the man of sin mentioned in 2 Thess. 2). Because these time indicators are there, it becomes legitimate not only to apply 2 Thess. 2 to the 70 AD time frame, but all the other eschatological events associated with this coming of Christ that is mentioned in both books. So, the question remains, what does Balyeat do with both the Thessalonian letters? Does he apply both to the pre-70 AD period, or just the book of Second Thessalonians? Or does he take them both as still future in spite of the 70 AD time indicators in them?
And what about the similarities between Matthew 24 and 1 & 2 Thessalonians? There was a great article by Joseph Canfield in the Nov. 89 issue of Kingdom Counsel which compared Matthew 24 and 1 Thess. 4, 5 in this way. Without repeating that evidence here, it suffices to say that the similarities are astounding. And when those numerous similarities are examined side-by-side with the near-at-hand time indicators in both Matthew 24 and 1 & 2 Thessalonians, the conclusion is inescapable that 1 & 2 Thessalonians are dealing with exactly the same coming, judgment and resurrection that Matthew 24 is. In view of all this, his exegesis of 1 Thessalonians (to borrow one of his own phrases) is strained and extremely tenuous, and seems to have been contrived to dodge the perfectly consistent full preterist conclusion of a single (and now consummated) parousia of Christ. We hope brother Balyeat will reconsider his understanding of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 in view of these things.
3. The Resurrection.
He does not present any proofs for his assertions about a future physical resurrection. He merely states what his position is and says it is based on a comparison of two texts (Rev. 20 and John 5). He makes assumptions that need to be challenged.
Many (but not all) throughout church history have assumed that a physical body is the subject of all NT resurrection texts, just like the Jews assumed their physical nation and land were the subjects of all OT restoration prophecies. As we now know, that was a devastating assumption. It is not enough to just look for TIME indicators. We must also test our assumptions regarding the NATURE of fulfillment. Are there any other possible ways of understanding the nature of the resurrection besides a physical body concept? Is there any Scriptural evidence that the people of the first century could have had any different concept than a physical one? Yes to both questions! Max King, W. R. Shirk, and several other writers of the Full Preterist persuasion have demonstrated this very effectively. Brother Balyeat assumes that there is only one way to conceive of the final ... resurrection (a physical body resurrection). He states that the first resurrection is a spiritual one with another yet future [physical] bodily resurrection. This contradicts the order taught by the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:46, where he states, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. But there are more concepts than this that need to be changed.
Another related and vital issue is the resurrections connection with the Scheme of Redemption. In the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve disobeyed they were warned, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die. (Gen. 2:17). They ate, and died. But they didnt die physically on that day. What kind of death did they die? Is physical death or spiritual death (separation from God) the most serious thing that can happen to man? What was the ultimate, final or Last Enemy of mankind physical death or spiritual death? (1 Cor. 15:26)
The whole Scheme of Redemption from Genesis to Revelation deals with the reversal of DEATH (spiritual separation from God) and the restoration of LIFE (spiritual fellowship with God). It is not talking about physical death and physical life. What is Paul saying in Rom. 5:15-17 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. Is Paul talking about physical life and death here, or spiritual condemnation versus justification?
And what does the NT call this reversal of death and restoration of life other than resurrection? Many futurists do not realize their inconsistency in believing that the life promised by the OT prophets has been fully provided by Christ. When did Christ give the life He promised in John 5:24-29? At the cross? What about the last enemy (death)? When was that enemy finally conquered? Life could not be totally ours if death is yet to be conquered. A problem that futurists (and partial preterists) have is their physical concept of death and resurrection. They dont see its connection with the Scheme of Redemption, and they dont realize that both the death and the resurrection under consideration are spiritual. If one can ever understand this and apply it to resurrection passages like 1 Cor. 15, John 5:24-29 and Revelation 20-22, it will turn on some light bulbs. The articles W. R. Shirk has written in Kingdom Counsel on the resurrection, as well as the audio/video tapes and handout of the lesson on the resurrection at the recent Fulfilled Prophecy Seminar in Cape May, NJ should be very helpful in this regard. Shirk has done a masterful job of taking a difficult subject and making it easy to understand. Max Kings small book, OT Israel and NT Salvation, is also excellent on this.
Another aspect of the resurrection that often gets lost in the shuffle when discussing its spiritual nature is the effect it had on both the physically alive and the physically dead at 70 AD. The physically dead were in Hades. When DEATH was finally conquered at 70 AD and LIFE restored, Hades had to be done away with. In order to prove that Christ had the power over spiritual DEATH and that He would conquer it along with all the other enemies (1 Cor. 15:25), He was raised after his crucifixion and physical death. Many of the OT worthies were raised at the same time as Christ, and appeared (Matt. 27:52) to provide even more evidence that Christ was conqueror. When Christ ascended, it is possible those saints ascended (Eph. 4:8ff) with Him, and would return with Him at 70 AD. Hades was about to be emptied of its contents. Indeed, by the time 70 AD was finished, all the real enemies of Christs spiritual kingdom were licking dust (like the serpent from whom they descended Jn. 8:44; Matt. 3:7; 1 Cor. 2:6-8), and the souls of the righteous who had physically died were released out of Hades to finally enjoy the presence of God again like Adam and Eve had in the Garden. And this time they would have access to the tree of life (Christ) so they could eat and live forever (cf. Gen. 3:22; Rev. 22:2). This release out of Hades into the heavenly kingdom happened in the spiritual realm. But, there were physical/historical ramifications of it, and signs that this indeed took place at 70 AD. So, both DEATH and HADES were done away with at 70 AD. The age-old enemies who had been a constant threat to the establishment of Christs spiritual kingdom were finally swept away. DEATH no longer reigns. HADES no longer imprisons Gods people. Christ has conquered the Last Enemy and has given us LIFE. And we now live together with God and the OT worthies in His spiritual Kingdom (Gods presence, the heavenly places in Christ). ...And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:17 and 5:10). Balyeat says he could more easily swallow a camel than believe this? Reader, you judge for yourself which is more difficult.
4. The Last Days versus The Last Day
He says he agrees that the term Last Days (plural) as used in the NT deals with the last days of first-century old-covenant Israel and not the last days of the physical planet. But, then he says there is still a great and final Last Day (singular) yet to occur in the future. He says we can know this Last Day (singular) is still future because in the context of the verses which mention it are references to the resurrection. I always thought the Last Day (singular) was merely the last day of the Last Days (plural). At least that is the way the OT uses it. It would seem strained and extremely tenuous to create a distinction between the terms, when other similar terms (like last times-plural, last time-singular, and last hour-singular) seem to be used interchangeably in reference to the 30-70 AD time frame. Lets look at an eschatological passage where day (singular) and days (plural) are used interchangeably in the same context about the same period of time. Notice this flip-flop back and forth in Luke 17:20-37
Luke 17:22 days (plural)
Luke 17:24 day (singular)
Luke 17:26 days (plural)
Luke 17:27 day (singular)
Luke 17:28 days (plural)
Luke 17:29 day (singular)
Luke 17:30 day (singular)
Luke 17:31 day (singular)
It is pretty obvious here that the singular usage refers to a specific day within the plural days period, not some completely different and distant period. Another good example of this closely related usage is found in Mark 2:20, where Jesus said, But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. On the basis of the above, I feel totally justified in saying that his distinction between day (singular) and days (plural) is artificial (if not altogether erroneous). The only reason I can imagine for someone inventing this distinction is to circumvent the clear implication that the resurrection was a Last Days (70 AD) event.
There are many assumptions built into Balyeats concept of the Last Day (singular). First of all, he assumes that the resurrection is a resuscitation of everyones physical bodies, and that this physical concept is the only possible way to interpret the NATURE of the resurrection. Secondly, he assumes that since a physical resurrection has not occurred yet, anything connected with it in Scripture (i.e. the Last Day) is also still future. He is letting his physical/literal concept of the NATURE of the resurrection determine its TIME of fulfillment. Futurists are good at assuming a physical NATURE of fulfillment and using that assumption to dictate a future TIME of fulfillment. But since we have shown above (in section 7) that the NATURE of the resurrection can be understood in other ways besides a strictly physical/literal one, his first assumption falters. And his second assumption which is based on the first must also be set aside. Since the nature of the resurrection can be interpreted spiritually, then it is possible for the resurrection to have already occurred. And so, using this resurrection-connection to prove that the Last Day (singular) is still future is (in his own words) flawed Biblical exegesis.
But there are more problems for Balyeats view when he says the Last Day (singular) is still future. He lists Jude 1:6 with his other Last Day (singular) passages. It talks about the angels who did not keep their own domain ...[being] kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day. This verse doesnt have last day but rather great day; nor does it mention the resurrection. Instead, it deals with a great day of judgment. Now if we use his hermeneutical approach here, we should look for some time indicators in the context before we decide whether this great day of judgment is Christs 70 AD coming in judgment or something still future. Are there any indications in the book of Jude that he is talking about a judgment near at hand? The word judgment is used three times in Jude (vss. 4, 6, 15) and implied one other time (vs. 13). Jude says it was out of necessity that he made haste to write to them (vs. 3) urging them to contend earnestly for the faith. Why? What was so urgent? What was threatening those saints? Jude explains in verses 4-19 that the threat was ungodly persons who had crept in unnoticed, who were corrupting and destroying the saints. Jude says these very people were the ones predicted by Enoch and the apostles to be headed for a judgment (vss. 4, 13-19). Notice especially Jude 1:17-19. These are the ones predicted by the apostles who would come in the last time. There are two things we can learn from this. The mockers of the last time were there when Jude wrote, so it must have been the last time. And, the judgment of these people would happen when the Lord came (vss. 14, 15). Is this the same coming of the Lord we discussed in section 2 above? If it is, Balyeat is wrong in assigning Jude 1:6 to the future. If it isnt, he needs to explain why this passage uses the same language about a future coming of Christ that was used about Christs coming in judgment at 70 AD. The saints there were to snatch as many of their doubting brethren out of the fire of this judgment as they could (vss. 22, 23), while they anxiously awaited the relief that would come at the Lords coming in judgment (connecting vss. 14,15 with 21, 24). If these arent 70 AD time indicators, then we cant know anything about NT eschatology. I submit that the the great day mentioned in Jude 1:6 (which he says is the same as the Last Day in John 6:39-54) is none other than the great day of wrath Jesus poured out on the Jewish nation when He came in judgment upon them at 70 AD.
Theres another problem I see with his arbitrary distinction between the terms Last Days (plural) and Last Day (singular). We noted above that whatever the great day (Jude 1:6) was, it was directly associated with the Last Time (Jude 1:18) and a coming of the Lord (Jude 1:14), all of which were imminent upon the recipients of Judes letter. Where is this Last Time mentioned in the apostles writings (since Jude says the apostles predicted it Jude 1:17, 18)? Peters two books (with which Judes book shows much similarity) have two references to the last time(s) (1 Pet. 1:5, 20), and one reference to the last days (2 Pet. 3:3). Peters books have 70 AD time indicators written all over them, especially in these passages which mention the last time(s) and last days. I would assume he agrees with this, since chapter three of his book is designed to prove that the Babylon Peter was writing from was Jerusalem, and that Jerusalem was about to see major devastation. He seems to imply that Peters books were warning the saints of his day what was about to occur and what to do about it. It is indeed hard to miss the imminency language in First and Second Peter. What is interesting is that Peter uses Last Time (singular) and Last Times (plural) (1 Pet. 1:5, 20) interchangeably in reference to the times in which he lived. And in his second book, he uses the phrase the last days (2 Pet. 3:3) about this same period of time in which he lived (the mockers were already there doing their mocking). So, he asserts that the great day of Jude 1:6 is the same day as John 6s last day? But Judes great day is in the last time, which Peter associates interchangeably with the last times and the last days. So, we have effectively established a connection between Last Day (singular) and Last Days (plural) using Peters closely related statements which Jude seems to be quoting or alluding to. My case rests. Balyeat is incorrect in making a distinction between last days and last day. They both refer to the same time period (30-70 AD), with the singular usage pointing to the end of that period. And all of the eschatological events in the context of both singular and plural usage must have happened in that same first century period.
5. How Long is a 1,000 Years?
Long enough to accomplish whatever God wanted accomplished. It has always been interesting to me that those who are quick to critique other peoples millennial theories seldom offer a better solution. After reading and re-reading his statements in his paragraph #9, I still dont know for sure how he views the millennium. There are some things he does seem to believe about it:
The events at the end of the millennium were not to happen soon like the rest of the books events. These far off events include: the release of Satan, the final judgment, and second death of the wicked.
The term 1,000 years was not meant to be taken literally, but does represent a very long period of time.
And he objects to the idea that the millennium could be fulfilled so shortly after 70 AD as 135 AD (the Bar Kochba rebellion). In net effect he says, we would be doing the opposite of the futurists. Futurists are good at saying shortly means longly in the rest of the book of Revelation, while full preterists make longly mean shortly in regard to the millennium.
Then he asks the question, Are time indicators relevant or arent they?
In answer to his last question, yes, time indicators ARE extremely relevant and important. Thats why no serious Bible student can just lightly brush aside the millennium text. I certainly have spent considerable time and effort studying it. And I definitely feel there are ways of interpreting Rev. 20 from a full preterist position without making longly mean shortly. But, this is one area of Bible study where I have to back away from dogmatism and simply suggest possibilities. I have looked at a lot of different theories, none of which have been totally satisfying. But, I believe there is an answer, and it will be found by the one who is willing to dig deeply enough into the OT and NT typological/prophetic/apocalyptic/historical background.
The idea of a period of time like the millennium is not totally unknown in the OT (i.e. Daniel 7 and 12), nor in the books outside the canon (Enoch, War Scrolls, etc.). The book of 2nd Esdras mentions a period of time in the last days that is very similar in construction to the millennium. But it is stated to be only 400 years. So, the millennium idea is not totally foreign to the OT and NT writers.
Max King (a full preterist) does not subscribe to the Bar Kochba theory which Balyeat mentions here. Instead, he has suggested that the millennium is the period from 30-70 AD (in his book, The Cross And The Parousia). While this may seem to solve some of the enigmas of the millennium, it creates other interpretative problems in the context of Rev. 20:1-10 that are difficult (if not impossible) to resolve. Kings millennial position was somewhat dealt with in the January, 1991 issue of Kingdom Counsel. We shall show below why Balyeats objection (longly means shortly) carries very little (if any) weight against the Bar Kochba theory, and how he doesnt offer any better solution.
Key Question: How would the first-century Jewish reader of the book of Revelation have understood the term one-thousand-years? Would it have immediately raised red flags in his mind and told him that here was something which lies outside the scope of the other things in the book which were imminent (as J. S. Russell has suggested in his book, The Parousia)? This means it identified the millennial events as things which were NOT near at hand. It would not tell the first century reader when the events associated with the millennium would occur, but only that it would not be in his lifetime or generation. How much longer than that would merely be conjecture and speculation for him. Balyeat wants to stretch it out 34,000 years into the future. Would that be encouraging to those saints who were suffering in the middle of the tribulation to know that Satan would finally be obliterated 34,000 years ahead? Now that is asking those first century saints to swallow a camel! That is too far out into the future. Perhaps something a little closer is intended, maybe within a generation or two?
Before we go any further, we probably need to explain the Bar Kochba revolt for any who have never heard of it, since Balyeat mentions it. The Jews were deceived (cf. Rev. 20:8) by a rabbi named Akiba into following a false messiah named Bar Kochba who attempted another revolt from Rome in 132 AD. They gathered patriots (Gog and Magog, Rev. 20:8?) from all over the Greek-Roman world (including Egypt, Parthia and Babylonia) back into Judea to cleanse the temple, restore the priesthood and government, renew the sacrifices, mint their own coins and persecute the Christians again (surrounded the beloved city Rev. 20:9?). It lasted about three and a half years (the short time of Rev. 20:3?) before the Romans under Hadrian came and ruthlessly crushed it. It was no serious threat to the long-term survival and success of the church, but it certainly was a serious attempt on the part of the Jews to wreak as much havoc against the church as they could. Some Christians died. Over half a million Jews were either killed or taken into slavery (about half the number involved in 70 AD). Eusebius (the Christian historian) describes the persecution of Christians during this time, and Dio Cassius (the Roman historian) records the conflict with Rome in some detail, as do the Talmudic sources. It was no insignificant uprising. It was not as bad as 70 AD, but it was bad enough to force the Romans to establish a long-term quietus for the Temple system that has lasted until this day. It dearly cost the Romans to crush this final revolt.
I believe reluctance to seriously consider the Bar Kochba theory may very well be a mistake. Sure, the Bar Kochba revolt wasnt a tremendously long time after 70 AD, but it certainly wasnt shortly afterwards either. It was too long after 70 AD to be included in the things that were to shortly take place. It is interesting that Justin Martyr (who wrote about the same time as the Bar Kochba revolt) felt that enough time had elapsed that some adjustments needed to be made in their expectations of an imminent return of Christ. The Bar Kochba times were too far from the apostolic generation to be considered as occurring shortly afterwards! It was almost two full generations later. This is very significant in view of the way J. S. Russell deals with the millennium (in his book, The Parousia). He believed that the millennium was a parenthesis period (p. 523) lying outside the apocalyptic limits (p. 522) of the things that were shortly to come to pass (p. 522). This parenthesis of the millennium (Rev. 20:5-10) briefly interrupts the narrative about imminent things, but lets that narrative resume again in Rev. 20:11 (see Russell, p.523). So far, so good. But, I believe Russell was too hasty in pushing the idea that the millennium is a long but indefinite period ... covering doubtless more than that space of time and still in progress with the loosing of Satan still future and unfulfilled (p. 518, 519, 523). He brushed aside the Bar Kochba theory with no effort to show why he considered it too extravagant to be entertained (p. 522). He quickly dismissed what has the potential of being THE solution to the millennial question. But, his concept of the thousand years being a parenthesis lying outside the scope of the other things which were near at hand, is something that needs careful attention. And, his idea that Rev. 20:11 is a flashback again to the discussion of imminent things is important. So, two out of three of his ideas can apply to Bar Kochba quite well.
I am not dogmatically committed nor emotionally attached to the Bar Kochba idea, but I do believe it deserves a closer examination than it has received to date. I didnt invent it. Two earlier writers proposed it: Joannis Jacobi Wetstein (1751) and Edward Robinson (1794-1863). They suggested the millennium was the period from 70 AD down to the second revolt of the Jews (132 AD) under Rabbi Akiba and Bar Kochba. Even though Russell dismisses the Bar Kochba idea, at least he mentions it as one hypothesis, more than he does for any other theory. Wetstein lived and worked over a century before Russell. Evidently Russell wasnt aware, while writing The Parousia (1878), that one of his contemporaries, Edward Robinson (1794-1863), had also suggested the Bar Kochba idea. This theory needs to be reconsidered, especially now that some new text-critical evidence for Revelation 20 has surfaced.
There is a textual variation in Rev. 20:5 that has potential for affecting our understanding of both the millennium and the resurrection as taught in Rev. 20. Strangely, neither the textual apparatus of the 3rd edition of UBSs The Greek New Testament, nor its Textual Commentary mention this variation. But it is given considerable weight in Hodges & Farstads The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text (second edition). H. C. Hoskier also deals with this variation in his (2 vol.) work, Concerning the Text of the Apocalypse. And others have told me that this variant is mentioned in R. H. Charles International Critical Commentary on Revelation. The net effect is that the vast majority of Greek manuscripts (including the Sinaiticus) leave out the first sentence of Rev. 20:5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.), leaving in verse 5 only the statement, This is the first resurrection, (which would then refer back to and be connected with what was said in verse four). If this variant was not in the original text of Rev. 20:5, leaving it out forces a reappraisal of the traditional concept of the second resurrection (or the concept of a resurrection after the millennium) in Rev. 20. I mention this only to point out that there is a lot more work to be done on the Biblical basis for a post-millennial resurrection than theologians have done so far. And this textual variation, if defensible, could effectively neutralize the difficulties Russell struggled with in both his rejection of the Bar Kochba theory and his attempt to understand the millennium.
So, how long is the thousand years of Revelation 20? Balyeat suggests possibly 34,000 years yet in our future. All I feel comfortable in saying right now is that it must have been a considerable length of time beyond the generation of those to whom the book of Revelation was first addressed. Thats all they would have been able to know. So, it doesnt rule out the possibility of a Bar Kochba application to the end of the millennium. And Russells idea of a parenthesis leaves the door wide open for it, especially in view of the new textual variation evidence that has surfaced. I hope someone will soon do the digging necessary to settle the millennium question once for all. Until then, we have to look at all the possibilities, and Bar Kochba deserves to be one of those seriously considered. Balyeat certainly hasnt suggested a more optimistic solution. How consistent is all this talk about having an optimistic eschatology and an optimistic worldview if one still believes the major fearful eschatological events are still future and are to be physically/literally fulfilled? I dont think that would relieve anybody of their pessimistic anxiety. It is still pessimistic for the long-term (if not for the short-term as well). You can call it partial preterist if you wish, but it still sounds futurist to me.
In the next issues, we will continue our response to Balyeats objections by dealing with his questions on the charismatic issue and the creeds. These are some very crucial and ground-breaking studies. We are examining the implications of the preterist view in ways that perhaps no one else has done before. I pray they will shed some light on why the full preterist position is the only consistent way to solve the difficulties facing students of eschatology today.