And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 15, Number
In this issue:
Joe R. Price
(Note: This article first appeared in Guardian of Truth, Oct. 5, 1989 and is available online at http://www.bibleanswer.com/ad70_1.htm)
In November 1987, I participated in a lectureship with brethren Robert W. LaCoste and Harry Osborne at the Sierra Vista church in Enumclaw, Washington.
We were asked by that church to present a series of lessons on the second coming of Christ, because of a doctrine which was affecting brethren in that church and that region. The doctrine which was and is having a destructive effect is formally referred to as “Realized Eschatology,” or informally as the “A.D. 70” doctrine. Several brethren were confused over the Bible’s presentation of the Lord’s promised return as a result of this doctrine’s influence. Since this lectureship, I have continued to hear of the attempted spread of this doctrine. Because of the serious effect this heresy has had upon individuals and entire churches it is necessary that it be exposed for what it is - a perversion of the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:6-9). To engage in such an endeavor is mandated in Scripture (Jude 3-4). It is always right to expose error, protect the innocent, and turn away from divisive doctrines (Rom. 16:17-18). Our motive must be love for truth and for the souls of men. Our objective must be to warn and correct, using God’s word as our standard (2 Tim. 2:24-26; 4:1-5).
During the Enumclaw lectureship mentioned above, Harry Osborne and I had an opportunity to discuss this subject with two men who defended the A.D. 70 doctrine. On that occasion, these men set forth the basic position of the doctrine, namely, that the final coming of Christ and the promised resurrection (1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15) occurred in 70 A.D. Such a doctrine has far-reaching consequences upon the faith of Christians! If it is true, then all who hope in the actual, bodily, personal return of Jesus are deceived (1 Thess. 4:16). If it is true, then we cannot expect our bodies to be raised to immortality when Jesus comes (1 Cor. 15:22-23, 51-54). If this doctrine is false, then those holding it have erred, and are guilty of overthrowing the faith of others, as were Hymenaeus and Philetus, who also said “the resurrection is past already” (2 Tim. 2:16-18). There is no middle ground!
What Is Realized Eschatology?
As James Orr says, “By ‘eschatology,’ or doctrine of last things, is meant the ideas entertained at any period on the future life, the end of the world (resurrection, judgment...) and the eternal destinies of mankind” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, II:972). “Realized” signifies accomplishment, hence, Realized Eschatology is a doctrine of completed last things. According to its interpretation of the Bible, the end times were realized and accomplished in 70 A.D. at the destruction of Jerusalem. In fact, we are told by a major proponent of this doctrine that “the fall of Judaism (and its far reaching consequences) is, therefore, a major subject of the Bible” (The Spirit of Prophecy, Max R. King, p. 239). [For an excellent review and rebuttal of this book, see “The Preterist View Heresy (1-VIII),” Bill Reeves, Truth Magazine, Vol. XVII, No. 9-16 (4 Jan. - 22 Feb., 1973).] We are told that the second coming of Christ occurred at 70 A.D., at which time every spiritual blessing was perfected and made available to the world. Due to fundamental failures in sound, Biblical interpretation, Christians are being taught that all prophecy of end-time events was fulfilled in 70 A.D., and to look beyond that date for the personal coming of Christ and the bodily resurrection of mankind followed by a judgment, is without Biblical authority. Here is a sampling of this basic viewpoint of the doctrine from King’s The Spirit of Prophecy:
“There is no scriptural basis for extending the second coming of Christ beyond the fall of Judaism.” (p. 105)
“...the end of the Jewish world was the second coming of Christ.” (p. 81, emp., King’s)
“Prophecy found its complete fulfillment in the second coming of Christ, and now may be regarded as closed and consummated.” (p. 65)
Thus, the second coming of Christ is made equal with the “fall of Judaism” (the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). To King, and some misguided brethren today, we dare not look to our future in anticipation of the coming of the Lord! All prophecies relating to it were fulfilled in 70 A.D.! Now, when it is shown that the personal, bodily return of our Lord is described in terms which cannot apply to the events of 70 A.D., the error of this doctrine will be fully exposed.
Did Jesus Come In The First
Century Following His Ascension?
There is ample evidence in the word of God that Jesus did indeed come in some sense (or senses) in the first century. For example, He came in His kingdom (Matt. 16:28) with power (Mk. 9:1) on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4, 33). Now, look how Jesus described the sending of the promised Comforter (the Holy Spirit) in John 14:18: “I come unto you.” Surely no one will conclude that this must mean a bodily coming of Jesus! How would He come? Not bodily, but representatively, through the Holy Spirit whom He would send (Jno. 15:26). Again, in Matthew 24:29-30, Jesus taught that during that generation (24:34) “they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” The context of Matthew 24 tells us how they would see Him. The context of the chapter is the destruction of Jerusalem. Unquestionably, Jesus did not appear bodily in 70 A.D. when Jerusalem fell. Instead, Matthew 24:30 speaks of His presence in Jerusalem’s judgment. He authorized it, and brought it to pass (cf. Isa. 19:1). They would see or discern His presence when this destructive judgment occurred. Yes, Jesus Christ came in judgment in 70 A.D., but it was not His bodily return! Similar language is used to describe His coming in judgment against the powers persecuting the saints in Revelation 1:7 (cf. Rev. 19:11-21). None of these “comings” of the Lord prevent a future coming of Christ in bodily form at the end of time!
The A.D. 70 doctrine would make every mention of the “coming of the Lord” or “day of the Lord” mean the same event, regardless of its usage in context. It is a fact of Biblical interpretation that the same phrase can have different meanings. For example, take the expression “laid hands upon.” In Acts 4:3, it means to arrest. In Acts 13:3, it means to commend. In Luke 13:13, it means to heal. In Acts 8:17 and 19:6, it means to impart spiritual gifts. To arbitrarily assign one meaning to this phrase every time it is used would result in absurdity! Yet, this is exactly what the A.D. 70 doctrine does with “coming of the Lord” and “day of the Lord.”
The problem with limiting the coming of the Lord to 70 A.D. is demonstrated by at least three passages in the New Testament:
1) Consider Acts 1:9-11, where angels tell the apostles that Jesus “shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven” (v. 11, ASV). In what manner did Jesus go into heaven? Jesus ascended into heaven actually and personally, in His resurrected body (Lk. 24:39). In Acts 1:9-11, five words are used which emphasize that actual sight was involved on this occasion. His apostles “were looking” as Jesus was taken up (v. 9). A cloud received Jesus “out of their sight” (v. 9). The apostles were “looking stedfastly into heaven” when two men in white apparel appeared to them (v. 10). These messengers asked the apostles, “Why stand ye looking into heaven?” (v. 11). And finally, the apostles were assured that Jesus would return in like manner as they had “beheld him” going into heaven (v. 11). The apostles actually saw Jesus’ bodily ascension. This is the manner in which He will return (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Jesus did not come in bodily form, nor was He personally seen in the events of the coming of the kingdom (Matt. 16:28; Jno. 14:18), the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Matt. 24:30), or in the defeat of the persecuting powers of Revelation 1:7. Christ’s personal, bodily return is yet future!
(Continued next week)
Debate Your Cause
By the time this article goes to print the first of this year’s Presidential Debates will be history. Two more are planned plus one Vice-Presidential debate. Many are very willing and interested in hearing politicians debate issues that impact their temporal existence. The economy and jobs, domestic, foreign and social policies are all subjects worthy of discussion by candidates as well as consideration by the citizenry.
Many of these same people resist and scorn a debate on issues that impact their eternal existence. Why is that? Is American politics more vital than divine truth? Is citizenship in the U.S. to be of greater interest and more worthy of honorable discussion than citizenship in heaven? (Phil. 3:20) Why do even Christians refuse to have anything to do with debating Bible subjects?
Debate is a scriptural way of persuading the lost to repent and obey the gospel of Christ. We need not take time here to rehearse the many occasions in the New Testament when noble discussion exposed error, exalted truth and saved souls. Jesus, Stephen, Paul and Barnabas are among those who used honorable debate to advance the truth of God (Matt. 21:23-27; Acts 6:8-10; 15:1-2; 17:1-3). Those who conclude that debating Bible topics “does no good” or “does more harm than good” should take up their complaint with the Master.
So again I ask, why object to debating Bible subjects? Maybe because it means admitting there is a standard of truth (someone is wrong – maybe both – but all cannot be right, 2 Tim. 2:15). Maybe because it means taking a stand (some don’t want to do that, Josh. 24:15; 1 Kgs. 18:21). Maybe because someone remembers a debater behaving badly in the past (that’s throwing out the baby with the bath water, 2 Tim. 2:24-26).
God urged men to “reason together” with Him in order to promote willing obedience (Isa. 1:18-19). Debating God’s word gives that opportunity. Religious debate should be embraced, not scorned (1 Pet. 3:15).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 10/04/2012
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA