Monday, December 29, 2003

Lesson 7: Bringing in the Kingdom: Postmillennialism from a partial-preterist perspective (part 5)

The End of the Jewish Age

Preterism has distinctive views of two recurring phrases in scripture: The Day of The Lord and The end of the age. As we have seen, preterism does not take The Day of the Lord to mean the Second Coming, which is obviously something to look forward to, but an awful event (from a human perspective), namely the Roman invasion. Preterists point out that The Day of the Lord is virtually always associated with God’s wrath: (Is. 2:12, 13:6, 13:9; Jer 46:10; Ezek 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15, 2:1; 2:11, 2:31; Amos 5:18, 520; Ob 1:15; Zeph 1:7, 1:14; Zech 14:1; Mal. 4:5; Acts 2:20).

Preterism teaches that an age ended with the destruction of Jerusalem, The Jewish Age or dispensation. This is consistent with Jewish Messianic theology which taught that the current age would end with the coming of the Messiah, and a new age, The Kingdom of Heaven, would be inaugurated. Preterists say that this is exactly what happened, exactly what John the Baptist foretold:

1In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' " 4John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? (Matt. 3:1-7)

In the Olivet Discourse we read that the end of the age (Matt. 24:3) is tightly coupled with the destruction of the temple and the return of Christ. In Luke 21 we read:

They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:24)

There are many views as to the "times" (age) of the Gentiles, for example the dispensational view of an intercalation. In general there is agreement that something will end (or be placed in abeyance) and something else will begin. The preterist view is that Jewish age ended and the new age (of the New Covenant) began. 156

Concerning why this had to happen (apart from the fact that it is the fulfillment of prophecy), there are different views, some not so politically correct (which doesn’t make them wrong):

the annihilation of the Jewish nationality therefore removed the most formidable antagonist of the gospel and brought rest and relief to suffering Christians. 157

Indeed, we often think of Roman persecution of early Christians, but before the Jewish nation was destroyed, it was Jewish persecution of Christians that was rampant. In fact, and somewhat ironically, the most common cause for the charge of blasphemy and the concomitant death penalty was teaching of the coming destruction of the Temple and end of the Jewish age. Recall the charges against Stephen:

For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us." (Acts 6:14)

An impetus for the belief that the Jewish age ended comes from, as with most everything in preterism, a sense of imminence of “the end” in scripture. There is quite a lot of scripture, fittingly in the book of Hebrews (written about eight years before the destruction of Jerusalem) that indicates something is about to end:

1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; (Heb 1:1-2)

In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Heb 8:13)

not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb 10:25)

For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. (Heb 10:37)

James also teaches that the end is near:

8You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. 0Don't grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:8-9)

A teaching that one age is ending and another begins is also found in an unexpected place, a passage that is more notable for its description of an unforgivable sin:

Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matt 12:32)

The Greek phrase used is aeoni houtay en toe mellonti, literally translated as age about to come. 158 Similar language is used by Paul:

far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Eph 1:21)

Some of the strongest "end of this age" scripture is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

29But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, 30those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, 31and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away. (1 Cor. 7:29-31)

Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Cor 10:11)

Russell writes of 1 Cor 10:11:

The phrase “the end of the ages” [ta tele ton aionon] is equivalent to “the end of the age” [e sunteleia tou aionos], and “the end” [to telos]. They all refer to the same period, viz. the close of the Jewish age, or dispensation, which was now at hand… It is sometimes said that the whole period between the incarnation and the end of the world is regarded in the New Testament as “the end of the age.” But this bears a manifest incongruity in its very front. How could the end of a period be a long protracted duration? Especially how could it be longer than the period of which it is the end? More time has already elapsed since the incarnation than from the giving of the law to the first coming of Christ: so that, on this hypothesis, the end of the age is a great deal longer than the age itself. 159

Russell argues against futurism which has, in effect, the end of the Jewish age as a period that is of greater duration than the age itself.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. A partial list of passages that teach of the nearness of the end includes: Matt 10:22-23, 26:64; Rom 13:11-12; 1 Cor 7:31, 10:11; Phil 4:5; Heb 1:1-2, 8:13, 10:25, 10:37; James 5:8-9; 1 Pet 4:7; 1 John 2:18; Rev 1:1, 1:3, 3:11, 22:6-7, 22:10, 22:12, 22:20.

156 Some would arguethat the two ages overlapped during the forty intervening years from Christ's ministry to the Roman invasion.
157 John Stewart Russell, The Parousia, p. 163.
158 Roman Catholics cite this verse as support for purgatory (the age to come).
159 John Stuart Russell, The Parousia, pp. 94-95 as quoted by Sproul The Last Days According to Jesus, pp. 89-90.

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