An Open Appeal to Leading Men and Chief Women in the Christian World
by Mark Mountjoy
Eschatology (the study of last things) is a subject that is, by and large, considered to be a proverbial "third wheel" a "caboose" or an unexplainable, complicated "appendix" to the truth. For many, it is such a contentious and touchy subject that we would be better off without it. Or, eschatology can be thought of as a thorny issue never to be discussed in polite company. What do we do when we find out this subject—like every other major aspect of the New Testament—is none of the above? What if we find that the Apocalypse is NOT a third wheel, but an impressive, INTEGRAL part of the overall narrative? What if we find and are able to define a finite number of strongly attested clues which, considered together, form a powerful argument to the New Testament's inner structure, unity and intent? What if the history assumed by conventional wisdom turns out to be quite the opposite of what the internal (and historical) evidence directly suggests? What if we have numbers of Christians (perhaps as many as fifty thousand) convinced of the validity of this but, for a variety of reasons, don't know what to do in terms of what is most important to human existence and, for all intents and purposes, are stranded and squandering time, energy and opportunities?
What is the benefit of a doubt and who deserves it? What assumptions do we have that are actually weak and contribute to inconclusive studies or even a lack of effort to pin down definitive facts? What is improper? What is contrary behaviour that, for all practical purposes, is self-defeating? We cannot pretend that the Atavist view is the major view and that it is shaping the discussion the majority of Christians are having around this subject: IT IS NOT.
The majority view, which is Full Preterist, omits huge chunks of data (this missing data is irrelevant to those who are advocating Full Preterism). The majority view, which is Full Preterist, is oblivious to the real Jewish character of the fourth beast, its possession of the kingdom of God, the Jewish false prophet and its assistance with the Sea Beast in the period of our interest, the commencement of Revelation 20 and its necessary backdrop, the fulfillment of the loosing of Satan and the constraints the testimony of Jesus puts on it. All these errors and missteps make what is best known and most popular an aberration (strictly speaking) of what otherwise would be a standard presentation to spectators, the curious and critics.
In other words, a ball is rolling and, behind it, three forms of destruction are being left in its wake:
(1) The Full Preterist story is going forward and is a VERY rough representation of how New Testament prophecy was fulfilled. A NUMBER of glaring holes appear in this conventional study and story. The presentation is, essentially, a private interpretation and it leads those who are unsympathetic to it or who are knowledgeable about early Roman history to see Full Preterism as fundamentally bizarre.
(2) What Full Preterism does to Christians by knocking them free of regular PASTORAL CARE, PRAISE AND WORSHIP and SUSTAINED FELLOWSHIP is detrimental to Christian life and the road God lays out for Christians to walk. Untold thousands of Christians are stranded as vegabonds all because they have had some convincing contact with a Full Preterist, or such a website or their literature!
(3) Because Full Preterism misunderstands the background and scope of prophecy, it misteaches the subject it wishes to emphasize. This leads to a kind of self-deception among its advocates (i.e., "the New Testament proves Full Preterism is true") when nothing could be further from the truth! The omission of the pastoral and congregational aspects of Christianity means that anyone getting involved ends up in a fundamental failure of epic proportions: the proper environment for a nurturing Christian existence would be instantly and essentially undermined.
And this brings me to the entreaty we wish to make to you today . . .
This Study Must Be Done Properly or Let Alone
Leading men and chief women doing proper studies must examine, compare and cast aside what has stumbled the Church for the past 2,000 years: Full Preterist claims fail to do that. Instead, its suggests that it has not failed, following, The Parousia, the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming, by James Stuart Russell. Russell spent his first chapter trying to convince us that the Jewish background and Jewish history is the key, but then he turns around and gets to the hard questions of who are the entities or "persons of interest" in the Book of Revelation and we find him and Full Preterists filling in the blanks by spelling out what they think is the most obvious answer in the world: It was a Roman beast, probably a Roman false prophet and the struggle is probably an epic describing Roman persecution against Christians. Like Russell, Full Preterists return to this Roman obsession with a vengeance! So then, the ideology fails to make good use of what it claimed was the key!
And so, how is that different from what Christians already say about the Book of Revelation? And if the Full Preterist Roman answer is the same as the Futurist answer, what happened in A.D.70 that makes Full Preterists think the Roman Empire fell, or even ended? THERE IS NOTHING IN HISTORY TO SUGGEST THAT THIS PRETERIST INTERPRETATION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE IS ANYWHERE NEAR THE TRUTH! THE ONLY PEOPLE CONVINCED ARE FULL PRETERISTS LIVING IN A CULT-LIKE BUBBLE OF THEIR OWN MAKING!
Pastoral Care, Worship and Sustained Fellowship Have to Be Part of the Picture or
Christians Must Be Let Alone
Leading men and chief woman have a responsibility to the people they woo. If the people you wish to reach are not going to have their best spiritual interests held up, strengthened and protected, and furthered, then any effort to separate them from an established Christian church is going to have far-reaching, negative and unintended consequences. It is to trifle with people's lives to assume all they need is "knowledge" about the historical aspects of New Testament prophecy. Lives involve much more than such narrow questions or interests. God must be worshiped. Christians need likeminded Christians who have the same spiritual goals and destination in mind. Without these arrangements, something very unorthodox will go forth, leading to "feral" Christians—wild, anti-social, mean, stingy with their time, lonely—even suicidal.
To teach with merely the intent to quench a curiosity, or to change an opinion, but not to lead to a personal encounter with Jesus of Nazareth as very God and to baptism into him and induction into the family of God, within a local church context, is very different from any Christian enterprize we know of from the first century till now. To go against the stated mission and purpose of God's Son, the Church and its mission of outreach and discipleship is fundamentally wrong (and we could call this kind of activity unruly, rebrobate activity) because it satisfies no Gospel commandments and meets no true psycho-spiritual needs: To belong and to be loved and to participate in life with others.
Full Preterism Disproves Itself if It Strays from Gospel Expectations
Leading men and chief woman, I want to suggest, are fully prepared to reach out, take Christians under their wings, teach, instruct, rebuke with all long-suffering and doctrine. This looks like local house groups whenever efforts begin to take shape. This looks like people being brought out of darkness and into real, loving relationships in Jesus Christ and walking in the Holy Spirit, and praying and singing praises to God, day by day. This looks like networks of collaborating churches reaching out to one another and communicating about the felt and relevant needs that either allow or hinder us from attaining a strong pulse and functioning according the social norms outlined for us in the New Testament.
When Full Preterists are unwilling to open their hearts, their hands and their homes and involve themselves this much in Gospel expectations that means IT IS NOT THE TRUTH. That means IT IS AN ERROR; that means IT IS WRONG; that means IT LEADS TO HARM (individually a well as collectively). That means we should not follow Full Preterism's example . . .
The things that make us different from other Christian groups will be our willingness to give Jesus and the Apostles the benefit of the doubt on a very wide issue present in the New Testament: the fulfillment of all Bible prophecy within the lifetime of the contemporaries of Jesus. This willingness is a game-changer and is a bit disruptive, in terms of conventional wisdom, for it contradicts what people have heard, expect to hear and what people are expected to believe.
Finally, it is not the responsibility of Christians who do not agree with us to instantly see things as we do. How likely is that to happen? They have no obligation to make sure we have an environment that will generate spiritual maturity in Jesus (while we, at the very same time, openly speak of Jesus having fulfilled his return in Jewish antiquity). How likely would they understand or be able to tolerate this?
We have to have the self-respect, fortitude and wherewithal to stand on our own two feet and make such spaces for ourselves. Is the eschatological aspect of the earliest Christians important enough for us to feel we need to break ranks with conventional Christian churches so we can openly own what we believe? If not, we should be quiet. If not we should treasure these things as a private, personal opinion only and not be the proverbial "bull in a china shop."
Frankly speaking, how the Second Coming really relates to the downfall of the civilization of the Second Jewish Commonwealth is so obscure and anomalous, foreign and bizarre that it is a completely separate concern from the everyday thinking and cares of the majority. Therefore, in the end, everybody loses if the issue is not handled with wisdom and insight along with (and never without) appropiate and necessary steps.
Brighter Than the Sun