“Christians today take great joy and comfort in declaring the completed work of Christ for salvation. In fact, such blessedness and assurance is naturally assumed and taken for granted. However, a careful examination of the “already/not yet” construct reveals that the proclamation of a completed salvation and redemption for the saints can only be justified from a preterist perspective.”
I went to a friend’s church about a month ago and listened as he preached about all the blessings and grace that are OURS in the New Covenant. As I sat there I began to think:
Well, in the New Testament they seemed to be waiting on something…something imminent.
The “already/not yet” context explains this. Many erroneously believe that we are still in the transition period that was “at hand”, occurring “soon”, in that “generation” that we read about in the New Testament. A while back I had attended a conference that continued to speak on the implications of “already/not yet”, but when I took a glance at their notes they didn’t use any Scripture references. Why?
I imagine for starters that if those who preach this “already/not yet” message are consistent and allow the Scriptures to explain things- they would end up admitting that something is very, very wrong. Faulty Bible hermeneutics (interpretation) have led to an inconsistent message, one that is especially foreign to the New Testament audience.
“The question for the citizens of the New Testament age, therefore, is as follows: “did Christ’s blood sacrifice at AD30 actually complete the atonement process, delivering a full and complete salvation to the People of God?” The shocking answer is “no.””
A major issue that is clearly seen in “Christian thought” today is the failure to recognize the principles of ‘audience relevance’. Who were the people being saved? To whom were the promises of the New Covenant made? An intellectually honest response would be- Israel. Thus is why the Bible says stuff like:
“He answered, “I was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24)”.
“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6)”.
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25)”.
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed (Luke 2:34)”.
“You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews (John 4:22)”.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile (Romans 1:16)”.
“But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those under the Law, that we might receive the full rights as sons (Galatians 4:4-6)”.
In Ephesians 1:14 and 4:30 we read about those who were seal for the day of redemption. This is talking about Gods’ covenant people, Israel. Israel’s salvation would occur at the second coming. We need not add some off “dispensational” nonsense which has caused so much confusion in contrast to the theme of Scripture (God’s covenant relationship with Israel)! The book of Hebrews gives us a detail by detail description of the Old Covenant contrasted with the coming new one (Hebrews 8:13).
“While some aspect of Messianic blessedness was understood as being “already” in the ascension and person of Jesus Christ, the tangible aspects of Messianic blessedness for the rest of the saints were “not yet.””
I always read Hebrews 9:28 to people to help them understand the transition period. A boat load of intellectual dishonesty and false teaching have risen from misunderstanding the context of this verse. Read Hebrews chapters 8-9, if you have time read the whole book.
“So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people: and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him (Hebrews 9:28)”.
Do you see an issue here? If you are still waiting on Jesus Christ to come out of the “true tabernacle” you are still waiting in fear and trembling for salvation. This is what is going on in the New Testament. The imagery being used here is drawn from Leviticus chapter 16, the Day of Atonement. Clearly, this text is dealing with Gods’ redemption of His covenant people. They would have understood this imagery, ironically the book is the book of Hebrews. Hello!!!
“The realities of the new system would be delivered to the saints at the return of Christ back out of the Holy of Holies — that is, once his priestly Day-of-Atonement duties were accomplished for His people (Heb 9:23-28). While the first fruits saints were anxiously awaiting the completed work of their High Priest in the Holy of Holies, it remained a fact that many soteriological benefits were yet unfulfilled and undelivered to them”.
As I have shown above with the Ephesians and Hebrews references “redemption” & “salvation” had yet to be attained prior to the appearance a “second time”. In Romans 13:11 it talks about the understanding the “present time” (which was the transition period) and how salvation was nearer then when they first believed. How do you not notice the imminence of that statement? 1 Peter 1:3-9 gives an awesome insight of the “coming of salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time”. Also, Hebrews 10:32-39 gives those going through the transition period the admonition to keep the faith until they are saved. As Jesus said, “…he who stands firm to the end shall be saved (Matthew 10:22)”.
Misunderstanding the “present age” and the “age to come” also creates a dilemma. The 1st century generation was living in the “present age”, the “end of the ages”, which explains why Jesus’ disciples asked about the “end of the age (Matthew 24:3)”. In Mark chapter 10, Jesus explains this: “I tell you the truth, Jesus replied, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in THIS PRESENT AGE (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields- and with them persecutions) and in the AGE TO COME, eternal life”. The same sentiment is written in 1 Timothy 6:19 concerning eternal life in the coming age. In the present age was the hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2, Jude 21).
A failure to understand what was coming, what was the reward, and so forth has led to some wild assumptions. A reading of the Old Testament as a whole helps one better understand what is going on through the New Testament. Who reads the NEW without reading the OLD?!?!?
Are you in the kingdom of God? 2 Peter 1:11 explains the welcome into the kingdom which comes after the “coming of the Lord” in Revelation chapters 21-22. This would be the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). A spiritual place (John chapter 3) where His servants would see His face.
In Galatians 5:5 we read of the saints “eagerly waiting” for the spirit of RIGHTEOUSNESS. For all the “grace-preachers”, grace is given when Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:13).
To be honest at this point, I must admit, this blog is hard for me to write since it is so evident- even from a surface reading of the text- that there was something imminent in the New Testament which “hope” was resting upon. Ignoring ‘audience relevance’ and the clear ‘time statements’ is so intellectually dishonest that is becomes complicated to show simple truth.
“By calling this covenant “new”, He has made the first one obsolete, and what is obsolete and aging will SOON disappear (Hebrews 8:13)”.
“This is an illustration for the PRESENT TIME, indicating the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings- external regulations applying UNTIL the time of the new order (Hebrews 9:9-10)”.
READ ALL OF HEBREWS 9! WHO WERE UNDER THE 1ST COVENANT? WHEN DID THEY RECEIVE THE INHERITANCE? LOOK AT THE EPHESIANS PASSAGES MENTIONED ABOVE!
“The Law is only a shadow of the good things THAT ARE COMING- not the realities themselves (Hebrews 10:1)”.
Jesus Christ came to set the captives free, to lead men to the promised land (Hebrews 12 speaks about this). The type and shadow of this is when Moses set the captives free in Egypt and led them through the wilderness. The transition time from the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to 70 AD (the atonement) is similar to the wilderness period. They were free but not in the promised land YET.
“…It was the destruction of the earthly Temple that was the signal to all that the way into the true Holy place was available to the saints forevermore. That old system had to be removed that God could establish the second (Heb 10:9) — yet the first system wasn’t gone yet as of the time the book of Hebrews was written (Heb 8:13)”.
“The writer of Hebrews understood the old covenant has been made obsolete by Christ, but he also knew it had not been completely removed for the Hebrew Christians in his day. Paul circumcised Timothy, the son of a Jewess, to maintain a good testimony to the Jews. Paul also appeared in the temple to undergo purification according to the Law of Moses. The entire Judaic system was “growing old” and was, at the time of the writing of Hebrews, “ready to vanish away” That happened in AD 70”.- Beyond Creation Science
To those who say that the Spiritual realities were given at the cross or Pentecost, yes and no. As I have shown through this blog…there was something being waited upon. That cannot and must not be ignored. If the pop-culture “Christianity” is not being properly taught what Israel was being saved from (the law of sin and death), sure enough, they will not recognize the proper gospel that saves them. So many today are like ungrateful children who do not accept the reward that has been given but rather want more. “Surely, this isn’t the “new heavens and the new earth”!”. Do you think that glorifies God?
Surely, the first century audience and recipients of Gods’ reward- the new heavens and new earth- knew what that was. With proper hermeneutics (interpretation) and firm Bible teaching regardless to creeds and man-made doctrines we can truly “study to show ourselves approved”.
Sure enough, enough the Jewish historian Josephus knew that when the “heavens and earth”- the Temple as the Jews knew it- was destroyed that God had removed Himself from that system.
“And this seems to me to have been the reason why God, out of his hatred of these men’s wickedness, rejected our city; and as for the temple, he no longer esteemed it sufficiently pure for him to inhabit therein, but brought the Romans upon us, and threw a fire upon the city to purge it; and brought upon us, our wives, and children, slavery, as desirous to make us wiser by our calamities”. -Josephus
In the next part of this blog series we will discuss what exactly the “hope of Israel” was and how this relates to the transition period of the first century Church.
Blessings in Christ,
Be sure to read:
Beyond Creation Science by Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn
http://www.preteristcentral.com/The%20Time%20of%20Reformation.html – I don’t necessarily agree with the conclusions of this article but still a good resource
http://www.preteristvision.org/articles/already_not_yet.htmlv – great article