Critique of Kingdom Counsels Review of My Book:
Babylon The Great City of Revelation
By Joseph R. Balyeat
1. Thank you for publishing Ken Davies thoughtful review of my book Babylon: The Great City of Revelation. Of course, while Davies was in agreement with most of what I have written, he did take issue with the fact that I do not hold to a full preterist position. Certainly I make no bones about the fact that I do believe someday (perhaps as much as 34,000 years in the future) there will be a final physical resurrection and a Final Coming of Christ to a redeemed world.
Response to Objection #1 by Ed Stevens in
"Answers to Balyeat's Question: 1. Only 34,000 More Years Ahead of Us?"
2. However, I have also stated publicly that all biblical references which include imminent time references were fulfilled in A.D. 70. In fact, the highlight of my most recent editorial column read, Every single New Testament reference to a soon coming Day of the Lord was fully and remarkably fulfilled when our Lord came in judgment on apostate, Christ-rejecting Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Where I am at variance with the full preterist position is that I believe there are certain passages about a future final coming of Christ which do not include near at hand time indicators, and which are most naturally interpreted as a literal rather than symbolic return of Christ.
While I do not disagree with Brother Davies analysis of my position, I do take issue with the straw man argument he builds for me, in direct contradiction to what I have said in the very sentence he quotes from my book. Davies states that I apply Matthew 24:27 to a future second coming. He writes: Balyeat insists that this [Second Coming] is yet to come at the end of history, a coming that will be visible across the whole sky - from East to West. If he had quoted my entire sentence, it wouldnt take a rocket scientist to see that I actually said exactly the opposite of what Davies claims:
Despite the fact that Jesus said this sign would be one of those fulfilled within that generation futurists have erroneously concluded that the coming of the Son spoken of in verse 27 is His Second Coming at the end of history a coming that will be visible across the whole sky - from east to west. (p. 117, 217).
I then proceed to point out that, contrary to this futurist interpretation, a more reasonable understanding of this passage is the preterist one. I paraphrased: When you see lightning in the east, you know a storm will soon be here in the west. Even so, when I come in judgment on Jerusalem you will see armies approaching from the east. Then know that soon these foreign vultures will pick the carcass of Jerusalem clean. In fact, I clearly state in numerous places throughout my book that all of Matthew 24 is talking about first century events (e.g., p. 215). Thus, it is unfortunate that Davies muddied the preterist waters by misquoting me and giving the impression that my rejection of full preterism was based on such flimsy and flawed Biblical exegesis.
To the contrary, my rejection of full preterism is based upon four arguments. First, as I have stated previously, certain passages alluding to a Final Coming of Christ do not include time indicators. While all those passages which do include near at hand time indicators are easily and most naturally applied to A.D. 70; it is interesting that the passages which do not include such time indicators can only be applied to A.D. 70 under the most strained, super-symbolic interpretations. For example, I simply cannot yet buy the extremely tenuous full preterist interpretation of 1 Thess. 4:13-18.
Response to Objection #2 by Ed Stevens in
"Answers to Balyeat's Question: 2. The Coming of Christ"
3. Nor can I yet accept the full preterist interpretation of the two resurrections depicted in Revelation 20; especially when this passage is compared with Jesus comments in John 5:24-29. Here Jesus seems to indicate clearly that the first resurrection is a spiritual one (i.e., when we are born again at conversion); and this is contrasted with a yet future bodily resurrection.
Response to Objection #3 by Ed Stevens in
"Answers to Balyeat's Question: 3. The Resurrection"
4. Likewise, I am in complete agreement with you that the last days (plural) spoken of in scripture are certainly the last days of first-century old covenant Israel and not the wicked last days of the world as so many doomsday prophets have misled us to believe. However, there are several other passages which speak of a great and final Last Day (singular) and which include statements about a bodily resurrection that can only be interpreted under the full preterist system if one is willing to swallow a camel. (e.g., see John 6:39-54, Jude 1:6).
Response to Objection #4 by Ed Stevens in
"Answers to Balyeat's Question: 4. The Last "Days" versus the Last "Day""
5. Secondly, it seems to me that full preterism at times suffers from the same chronological blindness which preterists are so quick to criticize futurists for. I agree with you that it is quite ridiculous for futurists to claim that soon means 2,000 years and the time is at hand means 2 millennia. Yet, elsewhere in the book of Revelation (chapter 20), we read about events which were not to happen soon, but rather at the end of 1,000 years. These events include: the release of Satan for a short time to gather the remaining ungodly from the dark corners of the earth; the final judgment and second death of the wicked, etc. While I agree that the 1,000 years was not meant to be literal, it certainly does indicate a very long period of time. Yet the full preterist position argues that even these events were fulfilled in A.D. 70 or shortly thereafter (i.e., the Bar Kochba rebellion in A.D. 135). Consistent preterists become very in-consistent when they rail on futurists for saying soon could mean 2,000 years, while they themselves say 1,000 years could mean soon. Are the time indicators relevant or arent they?
Response to Objection #5 by Ed Stevens in
"Answers to Balyeat's Question: 5. How Long is 1,000 Years?"
6. Thirdly, I cannot accept the full preterist interpretation of 1 Cor. 13:8-12. It is a camel-swallowing feat of great proportions to argue that the church saw and continues to see Christ face-to-face in A.D. 70 and the centuries that followed until today. In fact, I suspect that many of your readers do not realize the full anti-miraculous implications of full preterism when applied to this passage. If the coming of perfection spoken of here is applied to an A.D. 70 parousia instead of a future final Great Day, it would preclude any and all miraculous giftings in the church: whether healing, prophecy, or any other miracles; both today and throughout church history.
Yet we have many well-attested statements to the contrary that miraculous giftings were evident in the Church well beyond A.D. 70. Church historian Eusebius quotes Justin Martyr (circa A.D. 150) stating that right up to his own time prophetic gifts were a conspicuous feature of the Church.
I first came to Christ through the charismatic movement, yet I sadly agree that much of what pass-es for the miraculous today (particularly prophecy) is nothing other than pure emotionalism and personal eschatological bias passed off on duped audiences as Thus saith the Lord. I am presently researching for a book on that subject, entitled, Pentecostal Prophecy and Predictions of Doomsday.
However, on the other hand I have personally witnessed and participated in many medically-attested miraculous healings and have also witnessed other miraculous gifts (including prophetic utterances). While full preterists might argue that I am letting my experience get in the way of sound scripture exegesis, I argue that your prior anti-charismatic bias is forcing you to adopt an extremely strained (and in my view faulty) interpretation of 1 Corinthians. To cover all the different facets of the miraculous gifts debate (e.g., Acts 2) would require another book (or two), so let us drop that subject and go on to my final argument.
Response to Objection #6 by Ed Stevens in
"Is It Consistent to be a 'Partial Charismatic' Preterist?"
7. Fourthly, I have not accepted full preterism because it appears to be inconsistent with the overwhelming majority of opinion in the early church. More specifically, I am alluding to the fact that the creeds of the early church all referred to a future second coming of Christ, even though they were written after A.D. 70.
However, at the same time, I do not agree with those who argue that full preterism should be rejected categorically as heresy simply because it doesnt agree with the creeds. I am in general agreement with most of the arguments on this subject made by Edward Stevens in his excellent article recently in Kingdom Counsel, Creeds and Preterist Orthodoxy. I underlined his comments extensively.
Unfortunately, from my perspective there is a very wide gulf between not heresy and correct. Thus, while I do not go to the extreme of rejecting full preterism as heresy simply because of the creeds, I do believe that certainly some weight must be attached to the creeds, and when this is coupled with the exegetical problems I outlined above, I believe the partial preterist/postmillennial perspective is a more correct interpretation than full preterism.
Response to Objections #7&8 by Ed Stevens in
"What If The Creeds Are Wrong?"
8. As Christ continues to mold and shape His church, it is imperative that we within the church be able to discuss vital issues and important doctrinal differences with great grace; not quick to pin the cult and heresy labels on one another. Likewise, as we debate these issues, it is only proper that we represent each others views honestly and carefully. If you are interested in seeking truth (and I firmly believe you are), please consider publishing this letter and then address your arguments to my real concerns, not mis-representative straw man positions which I clearly do not hold to. Hopefully, in the interest of your readers, future issues will attempt to tackle some of the hard questions I have posited above, as you have already done so effectively in your article on the Creeds and Preterist Orthodoxy. Until then, despite re-reading and re-reading J. Stuart Russell and all the other prominent full and consistent preterists; I remain your faithful, partial preterist/postmillennial, partial charismatic, and (most importantly) full and consistent Christian friend.
Response to Objections #7&8 by Ed Stevens in
"What If The Creeds Are Wrong?"
Response to Balyeat's Critique
Kenneth J. Davies