I must say from the outset that having Dr. Don K. Preston as a teaching within the “Full Preterist Movement” with all of his debates, articles, and books are an invaluable resource at our disposal. In the last 2 days, I have finished reading through “We Shall Meet Him in the Air” which provided a commentary on 1 Thessalonians and I listened to his debate with Dr. Michael Brown over Romans chapter 11. You can listen to that debate by visiting the following link:
First, let us deal with 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. Don Preston makes a great statement which I believe is necessary for us to understand at the outset:
“If a given interpretation of 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 cannot be found in the OT prophetic hopes of Israel that interpretation is false. Paul said his eschatological doctrine was nothing other than what was promised in Moses and the Prophets”.
In Romans chapter 9, we read that the promises were given to Israel of the flesh, and then in chapter 15 we read the the Messiah came to fulfill the promises given to Israel of the flesh and it doing so would cause the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy. The Apostle Paul accounts again and again that he preaches nothing other than those promises that were given by the Law and the Prophets (Acts chapter 24; chapter 26; and in chapter 28 he refers to this as ‘the hope of Israel’).
That sets the precedent for what we read of the apostle Paul writing to the church at Thessalonica. Christ had ascended into the Spiritual temple in the heavens and would come “out of the Temple” and restore God’s presence to the people whom He promised. This “soteriological Temple” would restore God’s presence, fulfill the “resurrection promises” given to Israel in passages such as Isaiah chapters 2-4; Ezekiel 37, and Daniel chapter 9.
We must interpret 1 Thessalonians in light of the fact that it is a reiteration of God’s Old Covenant promises to Israel. To tabernacle among men (Revelation 21:3)
Let’s take a moment to look at the context being given throughout the letter to the Thessalonians. In 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, speaks about the ‘coming of the Lord’ that they were awaiting which would rescue them from “the wrath to come”. This is the wrath/ rescue that was spoken of by John the Baptist in Matthew chapter 3, and is referenced from Isaiah 40:10-11 and Jeremiah chapter 15.
In reading through 1 Thessalonians chapters 2-3, one must ask – “Where did Paul get the idea that persecution was appointed to them, and what is the connection to “the day of the Lord”? I would offer a cross referencing Matthew 24:9.
1 Thessalonians 3:13 is a cross reference from Zechariah chapter 14. I must be honest at this point. I personally have not had enough time to come to a firm and foundational understanding of Zechariah chapter 14 that I am comfortable with. I know Don Preston has various articles and videos that have dealt with the context of Zechariah chapter 14. Various other commentators have placed Zechariah 14 as fulfilled in AD 70. Here is a link that will take you to some of that information.
Former full preterist Bible teacher, Frank Speer had written a great article about the context of 2 Thessalonians chapter 1 titled “To Me or Not To Me?” (which I can get you an emailed copy of upon request). Don makes a great point in explaining that Galatians chapter 4 is a direct commentary on 2 Thessalonians 1.
Sure enough, the fact that some had believed that Christ had already returned. As Don Preston rightly puts it, “If the Day of the Lord is an earth burning, time ending, cosmos destroying event, when every human who has ever lived comes out of the grave, how could anyone convince anyone that it had already occurred?”. We also see the same issue with those who believed the resurrection of the dead had already occurred.
When we get to the “man of sin’ metioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, we must look to the first century, during the time of the “Abomination of Desolation. This is still a topic I am willing to re investigate since I have heard a couple plausible options.
You may have noticed that I skipped right past 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 as I was going through various passages. I did this on purpose to establish the context in which we find the famous “rapture” passage in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. A grammatical error that takes place in 1 Thessalonians 4:14 and is muchly ignored is that the text should read “through Christ” not “in Christ” (dia Christos not en Christos). Reading this along with Ephesians 4:8 establishes who those who died through Christ were. We are reading about the ‘vindication of the martyrs” in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. This is a promise referenced in Judges chapter 5 and Psalms chapter 68.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, the Apostle Paul mentions that which He knows from the “word of Lord”, which scholars agree is Jesus speaking in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew chapter 25 and Luke 21). I have a chart that I have kept in the back of my Bible which shows the ‘verse-by-verse’ comparison of 1 Thessalonians chapter 4; Matthew chapter 24, and 1 Corinthians 15. If you are interested in obtaining this- please let me know.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:15, the Apostle Paul uses the term “apatesis” in Greek to say that the saints will “meet” Christ in the air (a point we will get to in a moment). Don Preston notes that, “The terms parousia and apantesis as technical terms as used and understood in the first century world, negates the idea of a removal of Christians from the earth….The terms parousia and apantesis…were used in the ancient world to speak of a king or royal dignitary that was to make a visit to a given city. As he approached the city for his visit (his parousia), the citizens of that city, being watchful for him, would, when his entourage was sighted, leave their city and go out and meet (apantesis) him. They would then escort him back to their city. The city was the destination of the dignitary”.
This is speaking about the coming of the Lord and the New Jerusalem as referenced in John chapter 14 and Revelation chapters 21-22.
Also, the term used for air, aer in Greek”, is a symbol of the heavenly or Spiritual realm (see, Ephesians 2:2, 6:12; 2 Corinthians 10;11). Ultimately what we are reading about is the Spiritual death of the martyrs and they life they awaited when Christ would be victorious in defeating Satan. This was detailed and expressed through the historical events of AD 70. Obviously, the context of the passage, and the proper understanding of Greek terms used shows that the common view taught about some metaphysical transformation occurring in the near future is completely false and is a false doctrine being perpetuated in many churches.
Another passages used by many who believe that the Full Preterist view is wrong is found in Romans chapter 11. As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, Don Preston debated Dr. Michael Brown on this passage earlier this week. Herein I will share some of my notes from that debate.
Dr. Michael Brown started out with the premise that the modern church has become arrogant by saying that God is finished with ‘national Israel’ and has fostered the rise of supersecessioism and ‘replacement theology”. Now, I agree with Dr. Brown this was an issue that was being dealt with through the time of the first century when the promises that had been given to Israel of the flesh (see, Romans chapter 9) were being fulfilled. Many within the church thought that God had given up on Old Covenant Israel, but as Christ promised “heaven and earth would not pass away UNTIL all is fulfilled”.
Understanding the phrase “heaven and earth” and how that related to Israel could help very much in this discussion. However that did not come up. Clearly, Dr. Michael Brown does not understand the hermeneutic continually used throughout Scripture using metaphors and idioms. Throughout the debate with Dr. Preston, Dr. Michael Brown continually made the following statement, “Well if the words have any meaning…”- when he was trying to imply that the plain/natural reading must be read. Instead, I would reply that context and genre of the prophetic writing determines how the word should be defined. For example, Dr. Brown brought up the fact that Scripture promises that there will be no more war, and when did “swords get turned into plow shares”. In reading through passages such as Isaiah chapter 2, we understand the prophetic significance of what would be accomplished through the Messiah. Yes, Israel was used to defending their kingdom by constantly turning “plowshares” into “swords”, however when the Messiah brings forth the kingdom of God- Jesus will be the peace. The war will no longer occur- because all the enemies of God will be defeated through the glory of the Messiah. This is essentially the Biblical gospel of what occurred through the Messiah. It seems that Dr. Brown also fails to understand the context and usage of the term “death” as used throughout Scripture. Instead of the terms having no meaning within the Preterist understanding, it is the direct opposite- the words are FULL OF MEANING!
In response to this Don made a great point that the hermeneutic principle (interpretation took) that he uses is the fact that those in the Old Testament saw through “a veil” and did not grasp the full meaning of what God was saying through the prophecies, as the Apostle Paul says many times “the mystery was kept hidden”. However, we believe the Apostles did have that full understanding of what was being revealed in that time that had not been revealed before (Ephesians 3:4-5).
Another topic that Dr. Brown had brought up was the he believes the “restoration of all things” has not occurred. This runs in direct contradiction to what is spoken of occurring in those “last days” by the Apostle Peter in Acts chapter 3, what the Apostle Paul said about his generation being those who “upon whom the end of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11), and what the writer of Hebrews understood as the “time of reformation”. This was happening in the time of transition occurring in the first century and was all summed up in the events of AD 70. God’s presence was restored! The end of the age in correlation to the destruction of the Temple as spoke of by Jesus Christ in Matthew chapter 24, occurred in AD 70! And that “time of reformation” surely occurred when the Old Covenant completely passed away and the New Covenant was fully consummated at the destruction of physical Jerusalem (see, Galatians 4:24-30).
Dr. Preston did a great job of bringing force the Biblical context of Romans 11;25-27. A proper reading and context surely brings an agreement that Romans 11 is speaking about promises and prophecies that were given to ‘ethnic Israel’, the Apostle Paul makes this quite clear both before in Romans chapter 9 and after in Romans chapter 15.
In Romans chapter 11:25-28, we read:
“For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery- so that you will not be wise in your own estimation- that a partial hardening has happened in Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has com in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob”. “This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins”. From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers”.
Follow my logic here for a moment….. God made promises to the fathers, one of them being that He will save them from their sins (“their sins”which under covenant eschatology we understand comes from The Law and produces “the death”.). During the time awaiting the parousia, there was a “partial hardening” in Israel, allowing the Gentiles to come into covenant relationship with God, this partial hardening is to occur in an effort that “all Israel will be saved”. Keep in mind that the apostle Paul also taught that “All Israel is not Israel”, therefore it would be a remnant that would receive the benefits of the fathers. Some of those who had yet to repent were under the “hardening” and would eventually come into the truth of Jesus Christ- when the fullness of the Gentiles came in. That simply what Romans 11 is establishing.
Don Preston urges that we know the “prophetic background” that is being utilized in Romans chapter 11. Isaiah 59:20. Read Isaiah 59 and see the direct context about Israel’s separation from God and that which He will save them from. When He takes away “transgression”-sin. When does the prophet Daniel say sin will be taken away in Daniel chapter 9. At the end of the 70 weeks, that is another whole discussion we can have about the ministry of Christ and the events of AD 70.
I have just shown you a direct reference to AD 70 being made in Romans chapter 11. So where would we logically place the fulfillment?
As is common in Full Preterist discussions with “futurists”, Dr. Brown continually kept returning to the point that he was trying to make that those in “Israel” today are still hardened to the gospel, the gospel is still being brought to the ends of the earth, and we will have no more enemies. I would clearly show that “national Israel” found there end in AD 70, and what has become known as “Israel” today is not that which the Bible speaks. It can clearly be shown that according to Biblical testimony the gospel HAD been brought to “all nations” by the late AD 60’s. And as far as enemies, one must wonder if Dr. Brown has read and is familiar with Christ being the “peace” that turns enemies into “one new man” that is written about in Ephesians chapters 2-3.
In conclusion to all that was debated, Don explained that God never intended to save the entirety of Israel. God has always saved a remnant. In Amos chapter 5, God clearly says that a part of Israel will NEVER rise. Romans chapter 10 gives us the precursor to the “all Israel” being saved in Romans chapter 11 fulfilled.
If someone asked my overall review, I would say that Dr. Don Preston did a great job of showing the “prophet background” contained within Romans chapter 11. Dr. Brown fails for one reason or anyone to see the context of the Biblical gospel, especially in regards to Israel and her last days. It seemed that Dr. Preston out of respect and humility held back from forcefully saying that the majority of those in “Israel” today are not the Israel of the Bible. What we know as Israel today is a mixed multitude that has by and large converted to secular Judaism. Plain and simple, this is not the Israel of “the fathers”.
Well that about sums up this evenings thoughts. I hope that my messages have not been overbearing, but have served to encourage you to read through and study these details.
Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Michael Miano