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The Last Judgment

A Review of Chapter Four of the Book,

The End of All Things: A Defense of the Future1

The first to plead his case seems right,
Until another comes and examines him.
Proverbs 18:17

    Mr. Seraiah demonstrates a lack of understanding when it comes to the Preterist view of the Last Judgment. Chapter 4, entitled “Judgment Day,” opens with this statement: “The concept of judgment has been reworked by [Preterists] to the point of a full denial of the orthodox teaching of a future Day of Judgment at the end of this world” (p. 67).

    This is quite a claim! Certainly, it implies that Preterists are in conflict with “orthodoxy,” and therefore are teaching things contrary to Scripture. But is this true? What if the “Day of Judgment” is a past event? Would it still be “orthodox” to teach that it is a future event? It is if you define “orthodoxy” as necessarily believing this event to be future!2

    Let us say that two men find a letter. The first man reads it and becomes very agitated. He says to the other, “It says here that there is going to be an assassination attempt made on the president within the year! I have to warn him!” He then runs off to find a telephone. The second man is shocked! He picks up the letter and begins reading. He notices that the paper is old and the words have been written with a quill pen. Then he sees that it is signed “John W. Booth.”

    Should he still believe the assassination attempt will take place some time in the future? “Of course not!” you say. “Why get people all worked up over something that has already taken place?” Whereas it would be wrong for the man to ignore the letter if it was dealing with the future, it would be just as wrong for him to attribute it to the future if it refers to the past. In fact, if he were to simply ignore the time indicators, author, and audience of the letter and claim it still refers to a future event, he should probably be considered deceptive, perhaps even insane.

    While reading Seraiah’s theories regarding the Day of Judgment, it struck me that he is handling the sacred text of Scripture like the first man described above. Despite the time of writing, the author, the audience to whom it was written, and the clear time limitations stated in the context of the Scripture verses he quotes, Seraiah continues to assert that the only “orthodox” way of interpreting these verses is to see them as yet future. Let’s look at the verses he quotes.

    In Matthew 10:14-15, Jesus was giving His disciples instructions: “If anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”

    Seraiah asks, “What do the inhabitants of a city that had been dead for two thousand years have to do with the judgment on apostate Israel? ….The ‘judgment’ of A.D. 70 was obviously a temporal judgment on the Jews who crucified Christ” (p. 68). The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was “not an open rejection of God incarnate, as it was for Jesus’ contemporaries.” It should be obvious that it was for this reason that the judgment the Jews were to incur would be greater than that to which the Sodomites were looking forward. Seraiah alleges that because Jesus spoke of the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah as being yet future, it must still be future to us two centuries later. “The paradigm is obvious,” says Seraiah. “Sodom and Gomorrah underwent a temporal judgment that did not exclude them from an eternal judgment at the end of all things” (p. 69).

    This is quite an interesting choice of words considering what Peter wrote to the Christian Jews of his time: “The end of all things is at hand” (I Pet. 4:7)! Seraiah apparently doesn’t see the connection between the temporal and spiritual judgments that took place in AD 70. He looks with the eyes of the flesh only and sees only physical things. What would happen if we viewed the crucifixion of Christ in this manner? We would see the condemnation and death of an itinerant preacher who was crucified by the Romans for treason. Quite unremarkable from a purely earthly standpoint. Yet, we know from Scripture that the death of Jesus on the cross was much more than this! If we see with spiritual eyes, we understand that this was the very Son of God, shedding His blood for the sins of the world! Simply because we cannot perceive something with our physical eyes, or verify it with a secular historical account, does not make it any less of a reality!

    Jesus is called “a priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb.6:20). Was this true in an earthly sense? He told His disciples that they had to “eat” His “flesh” and “drink” His “blood” in order to have life (Jn. 6:53). Were the disciples of Jesus physically dead? Did Jesus want them to cannibalize Him in order to survive? When He told Nicodemus that he must be “born again,” did He mean it in an earthly, physical sense? The answers to these questions should be obvious. The natural man “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (I Cor. 2:14, NASB).

    “Now we know the temporal judgment that was meted out on Israel in A.D. 70 was future, but Jesus portrays here a single event (‘the day of judgment’) that will bring not only apostate Israel to judgment but also Sodom and Gomorrah” (ibid.). Perhaps this is another case of stating the obvious, but at the time Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, AD 70 was still 40 years away. Seraiah offers other examples of what he considers to be “problem texts” for Preterists. In Matt. 11:22, Jesus compares the cities of Tyre and Sidon to the Jews of His generation. “There is no doubt that once again our Lord is using these cities as a paradigm of evil, and thus he [sic] is showing that those who rejected Him are to become a new paradigm to replace the old ones” (ibid.). Seraiah makes it plain that he misses what is to happen “behind the scenes” (in the spiritual realm) at the time of the temporal judgment awaiting the Jews. “It is most evident…that Jesus is not talking about the contemporary generation of those in Tyre and Sidon (and thus it cannot somehow be included within the experience of the Jewish war)” (ibid.). “Jesus has no theological or practical reason to include Sodom and Gomorrah in His reference to the temporal judgment that was experienced by Jerusalem in 70. He does, however, have reason to include them in a reference to the Last Judgment at the end of the world” (p. 70). To this, we say, “Amen.” Jesus was not including the aforementioned cities in the temporal judgment of Israel (AD 70), but in the coming spiritual judgment that would take place at the same time as that temporal one. One must wonder why Mr. Seraiah chose to use the King James language of “end of the world” rather than the more correct translation, “end of the age” (see Matt. 13:49 in the NASB, for example).

    Seraiah claims that in the Preterist “scheme of things,” the temporal judgment mentioned in Matt. 10:14-15; 11:22, and 12:39-42 has “nothing” to do with the “Final Judgment Day” (pp. 67-71). He makes the lofty claim, “In an orthodox understanding of Judgment Day at the end of all things, Ninevah has much to do with Israel’s judgment” (p. 71). Since we agree with this statement, does this then mean we, too, are “orthodox”? Notice, once again, Seraiah’s use of the phrase “the end of all things.” In I Pet. 4:7, the inspired apostle says, “the end of all things is at hand”! Perhaps Mr. Seraiah is siding with others in the futurist camp who say that “at hand” doesn’t really mean “at hand.” One must wonder if he would also agree with the dispensationalists that the kingdom of God is yet future, despite the fact that Jesus said it was “at hand” when He began His preaching (Matt. 4:17; Mk. 1:15).

    Seraiah goes on to point out that Jesus said the queen of Sheba would “condemn Israel on the last day” (Matt. 12:42; p. 71). If, when John wrote I John, he said it was at that time “the last hour,” the end of the “last day” must have been close indeed! But, like a certain pink bunny that keeps pounding his drum, Seraiah keeps going….

But that is not all that Jesus says. He says they [the queen of Sheba and the Ninevites] will arise “with this generation” ([Matt.] 12:41, 42). Jesus is saying that “this generation” will “arise” (be physically resurrected) at the judgment just as much as the centuries-dead queen of the South and the men of Ninevah [ibid.].

    Did you notice how Mr. Seraiah slipped his futuristic, physically-oriented assumptions into the mouth of Jesus? Note well that our Lord did not say they would be “physically resurrected,” but only that they would “arise.” Is it also an “orthodox” practice to play so fast and loose with God’s Word?

    “The assumption by our Lord that ‘this generation’ would need to be resurrected physically in order to stand at the judgment is in complete contrast with the passages that speak of the judgment the Jews of the first century would experience in their lifetime” (ibid.) Mr. Seraiah apparently knows the mind of the Lord so well, he can assume what Jesus must have assumed when He spoke! Seraiah goes on: “Jesus told His apostles (who were the faithful part of ‘this generation’) that some of them would live to see His ‘coming’ (Matt. 16:28, notice the ‘judgment’ aspect of the previous verse)” (ibid.). Perhaps Mr. Seraiah didn’t actually read the verses he refers us to here!

For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom (Matt. 16:27-28, NASB, emphasis added).

    Notice carefully what was to take place before the death of all of those first century disciples of Jesus: Christ would return, not only “in His kingdom,” but would also act as Judge, handing out rewards or punishments according to men’s deeds! This coming (that Seraiah sees fit to surround with quotation marks, as if it is somehow not the real coming of Christ) is attended by angels, adding to its glorious nature. So, let’s see what we have here. Jesus returning in glory, establishing His kingdom, and judging the deeds of mankind. Perhaps this is a secret judgment day, like the alleged secret Rapture!

    Seraiah demonstrates his ability to present a “straw man” argument in his next series of statements:

He [Jesus] said Israel would be judged before “this generation” was to “pass away” (i.e., before they were to die) (Matt. 24:34). He said the high priest would see (i.e., in his lifetime) Christ seated “at the right hand of Power” (Matt. 26:64). This leads us to the conclusion that the entire contemporary generation was not in need of resurrection because there were enough alive when Jesus came against Jerusalem to fulfill this prophecy (this is one of the basic points that makes one believe Jesus came in judgment in the first century.

    If Jesus were speaking of a Day of Judgment which would require “this generation” (not merely a few, but all of them in “this generation”) to be resurrected, then He must have been speaking about something that was far enough away in time for all of “this generation” to have died, and thus after A.D. 70. In addition, Christ was speaking of something that included people from other eras who have no connection at all with the rejection of Christ in the first century A.D. For it was that generation, and that one alone, that was to be punished for killing Christ (Matt. 23:32-36), not people who lived in Sodom two thousand years before [p. 72].

    Let’s examine Seraiah’s logic here and place it under Biblical scrutiny:

  1. Jesus said that the queen of Sheba, the Ninevites, and the Sodomites would “arise” with the generation of Jews He was addressing.

  2. Jesus said that Israel would be judged for their rejection of Him before the generation He was addressing would completely pass away.

Therefore, since not every person of that generation had died by AD 70, not every person included in it could “arise” at that time and could not, therefore, fulfill the prophecy of being judged and condemned for their rejection of Christ, and therefore, according to Seraiah, AD 70 could not have been the Judgment Day.

    Does this sequence pass Biblical muster? Let’s look at what Seraiah is saying here. He assumes that all those persons alive at the time Jesus spoke these words would be have to be dead, since, in his estimation, every man, woman, and child of that generation was to be included in the judgment to come.

    Seraiah completely ignores the fact that there are two classes of people referred to in “this generation”—the redeemed and the unredeemed. On the one hand, at least some of the people alive at the time would live long enough to witness the temporal judgment of Christ’s return upon unfaithful Israel. Some of Jesus’ disciples are included in this promise (Matt. 16:27). On the other hand, there were those within that generation who would not live through those events and would suffer the condemnation they deserved in the judgment of the afterlife. It was at this time that those of previous generations would rise up 3 to add their condemnations to those of the Lord. Should we assume the disciples of Jesus were to be among those receiving such condemnation? After all, if “this generation” is all-inclusive in the one case, Mr. Seraiah, why not in both? Obviously, this type of logic is flawed from a Biblical standpoint (as well as just plain common sense)!

    Seraiah continues his misunderstanding:

In connection with these passages, [Preterists] have proposed that the “judgment” of A.D. 70 included not only apostate Jews but also (in some way) every person alive at the time (even Gentiles living thousands of miles away). Some…have even said the “judgment” included all those who were within the nation of Israel from previous generations as well (p. 72).

    At least Seraiah, unlike Kenneth Gentry, Andrew Sandlin, Keith Mathison, and R. C. Sproul, Jr., admits: “They do this because they are sincerely trying to interpret the Scriptures faithfully” (ibid.).

    It is quite interesting that Seraiah then quotes Acts 17:31 as a “universal” statement. He believes, of course, that this verse is referring to an event that is yet future, and will include all people of all times. Let’s look at what it says: “He has fixed the day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead” (pp. 72-73). At first glance, this may seem to support what Seraiah’s viewpoint. However, if one looks at the wording in the Greek text, there is a notable omission in this English version. The word mellw (mello) is found here, although it has not been included in the translation. Why not? Perhaps because of what it would mean to a committed futurist such as Seraiah. If we include mellw in the verse, as it should be, it would read: “He has fixed the day on which He is about to [mellw] judge the world in righteousness….” This should give one cause to pause, as they say! Not only is there a futurist bias present among the popular theologians of our day, but also among translators of Scripture. Wherever possible, it seems, they have “toned down” the language of imminence in the New Testament writings.

    Seraiah also quotes Rom. 14:10-11, and II Cor. 5:10: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (p. 73). Of these verses, Seraiah alleges, “The threat of judgment upon numbers of people who don’t live in Jerusalem, as well as people who did not specifically reject Christ, forces [Preterists] to say the temporal judgment on apostate Israel in the first century included everyone alive at the time” (ibid.).

    Rom. 14:10-11; II Cor. 5:10 say nothing about the temporal (earthly) judgment, which took place in AD 70, but speak only of that taking place in the heavenly (spiritual) realm. How do these verses imply a judgment of “everyone alive at the time”? (p. 73). “How do these warnings of [universal] judgment fit with the coming of Christ in 70 against Jerusalem?” (p. 75). “We must all…” (Rom. 14:10), and “For we must all…” (II Cor. 5:10) is certainly “universal language,” but indicates only that every person shall, after death, stand before the Lord to be judged.

    Seraiah continues: “Look at a few references which describe the nature, cause, and purpose of the judgment Christ brought upon Jerusalem in 70:” (p.73). Here, he quotes Matt. 3:7-10; 16:4; 17:17; Mk. 8:38; Lk. 21:22-23, 35; Acts 2:22-23, and 2:40 (pp. 73-74). He says,

From these verses we can see that the focus of the condemnation in the first century was upon the Jews who rejected Christ. So often does this condemnation occur that the idea of “this generation” becomes a technical term to describe the apostate Jews who refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah (see also Acts 7:51-53; 13:32-47; 1 Thess. 2:14-16) [p. 74].

    Seraiah’s confusion becomes evident when he says, “The references to universal judgment make no sense in the context of a punishment on the apostate Jews of the first century” (p. 74). These verses are only confusing when they are removed from their first century context and placed somewhere in the distant future! Jesus was very clear in His teaching that a “universal judgment” would take place at His coming in AD 70. In Matt. 16:27-28, Jesus states that, before all His disciples died, He would return “in His kingdom” and “reward every man according to his works” (cp. Rev. 22:12). The evidence of this taking place in the spiritual realm would be the judgment taking place in the physical realm—the destruction of Jerusalem. If the latter has taken place, we must assume (based on the words of Christ Himself) that the former likewise came to pass at that time! As James Stuart Russell said,

It is strange that so great incredulity should exist in this day respecting the plain sense of our Lord’s express declarations on this subject [His return]. Fulfilled or unfulfilled, right or wrong, there is no ambiguity or uncertainty in His language. It may be said that we have no evidence of such facts having occurred as are here described, —the Lord descending with a shout, the sounding of the trumpet, the raising of the sleeping dead, the rapture of the living saints. True; but is it certain that these are facts cognisable by the senses? Is their place in the region of the material and the visible? As we have already said, we know and are sure that a very large portion of the events predicted by our Lord, and expected by His apostles, did actually come to pass at that very crisis called “the end of the age.” There is no difference of opinion concerning the destruction of the temple, the overthrow of the city, the unparalleled slaughter of the people, the extinction of the nationality, the end of the legal dispensation. But the Parousia is inseparably linked with the destruction of Jerusalem; and, in like manner, the resurrection of the dead, and the judgment of the “wicked generation,” with the Parousia. They are different parts of one great catastrophe; different scenes in one great drama. We accept the facts verified by the historian on the word of man; is it for Christians to hesitate to accept the facts which are vouched by the word of the Lord? [The Parousia, p. 168, emphasis his].

In an attempt to minimize the importance and impact of Christ’s return in AD 70, Seraiah says:

The only note of effect this event has upon anyone else [outside Israel] is, first, in the Neronic persecution resulting from mandatory emperor worship (and the clearest descriptions of this occur in the book of Revelation), and second, in the blessings that will come for the Church once she is delivered from her persecutions. The only judgment and condemnation given are against the apostate Jews (for their rejection of Christ and their persecution of the Church) and perhaps Rome (for demanding emperor worship). Furthermore, the notes of punishment on Rome, which are confined to the book of Revelation (14:9-11; 16:10; 17:8, 11, 14; 19:19-20), are few and focused on Nero [p. 75].

    The assumption that “Babylon” of Revelation is Rome is demonstrated to be false in my book Babylon, the Harlot City.4 These verses refer to Jerusalem, not Rome. Seraiah misses completely the results of the judgment upon Israel. This was the end of their “world,” and of the age! It signaled the “last day” of the Old Covenant and full establishment of the New. The everlasting kingdom of God had now come in its fullness! To say its affect was minimal simply because it was an event localized in Israel is akin to saying the crucifixion didn’t matter much because it was simply a local event and only a limited number of people witnessed it!

    According to Seraiah, “To try to force the descriptions of Judgment Day, which have a universal note to them, into the events of the Jewish war and the Roman persecution of he Church is like putting a square peg in a round hole” (pp. 76-77). It is impossible, however, to separate one from the other in regard to the timing of these events! To so completely ignore the rules of Biblical hermeneutics in this manner is to demonstrate not only one’s ignorance, but to disregard the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture!

    Seraiah claims that Preterists are “heterodox” (p. 77), and that we “have to ignore the contemporary nature” of certain verses “in order to fit the universal Judgment within the frame of the temporal judgment on Israel.” He says:

These two ideas don’t fit, and they need to compromise the truth of [P]reterism in order to remain [Preterists]. Many prophecies in the New Testament have already been fulfilled…. Some, however, have not been fulfilled; they clearly display a coming of Christ, a Judgment, and a Resurrection that include everyone who ever lived and bring an end to this physical world [p. 77].

    It is interesting that Mr. Seraiah cites no Scripture references to support this contention. Of course, this is because there are none which refer to the coming of Christ, the Judgment and Resurrection as being future to us, and none that refer to “an end of this physical world”! In this sense, he is like a dispensationalist—alleging a delay of the promises of God based on a system that requires it. He should at least be honest enough to tell his readers that his assumptions are based on tradition, not the Scriptures! His standard of “orthodoxy” (by which he calls Preterists “heterodox”) is the word of man, not the Word of God.

    Regarding Rom. 14:8-12, Seraiah, continuing to misrepresent the Preterist view, and demonstrating the convoluted logic of the pseudo-Preterist, says:

The [Preterist], who denies any kind of Final Judgment, has only two options for interpreting this passage. First, he can say all who were alive or dead at the coming of Christ in A.D. 70 were eternally judged (which would leave millions of Christians and non-Christians that had not yet been born free from eternal judgment). Second, he can say that after each person dies he faces Christ in judgment (which would leave the reference to the “living” being judged pointless) [pp. 78-79].

Let’s first look at the passage Seraiah cites:

For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. [Rom. 14:8-12].

    Note that Paul says, “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” He continues, “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ…. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” Paul does not say that at Christ’s return, the “living and the dead” would be judged, as Seraiah alleges, but simply “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God”! The “Final Judgment” (which Preterists do indeed believe in) took place in AD 70, just as Scripture says it would. The “books were opened…and the dead were judged” (Rev. 20:12). The “Final Judgment” of the living, however, is an ongoing process, taking place at the physical death of the individual. Paul never said every living person throughout all time would be judged at the return of Christ in AD 70 (or some time yet future to us)! This is a clear misreading and misrepresentation of Scripture!

    In an attempt to shore up his faulty exegesis (eisegesis), Seraiah quotes Acts 10:42, “He [God] commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that He [Jesus] is the One ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead” (p. 79). Seraiah answers his own objection when he says, “this passage tends more towards Christ’s sovereignty and authority over all things than specifically to any act of judgment…” (ibid.). “[T]he reference to ‘judge of the living and dead’ is Peter’s way of saying that Christ has been exalted to the highest place possible, the judge of everyone who ever lived” (p. 80). Seraiah makes our point for us here!

    His next citation is II Tim 4:1, Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who [is about to] judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom….”It will be noted that Paul uses the Greek word mellw (mello) here, which means “about to.” This verse is obviously a problem for the premillennialist due to its explicitly imminent character. But, it is a problem, too, for futurists of every type. Paul is telling Timothy that these things (Christ’s appearing, the Judgment, and the kingdom of God) are “about to” come! If, as most non-premillennialist Christians agree, the kingdom of God is a present reality, the “second coming” (appearing/parousia) of Christ and the Judgment have also taken place, since they are all inextricably linked together in this verse! Therefore, we must ask, in what sense were “the living” judged at that time (AD 70)? Seraiah admits, “Paul is here using terminology that has also been used to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem” (p. 80). However, he says, “Jerusalem’s destruction does not fit in this context” (ibid.). According to Seraiah, “Although the [Preterist] assumes 4:1 is referring to events in the first century, this is not necessitated by anything in the text. This becomes apparent when one realizes that Paul viewed the Final Advent of Christ as an event which all believers will be present for (as in 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 4:15-17; etc.)” (ibid.). The term “Final Advent,” of course, is nowhere found in Scripture. He continues, “The event Paul is speaking of in 2 Tim. 4:1-8 somehow involves all Christians. …[I]t cannot be said that all Christians were involved in what happened in A.D. 70” (p. 81). To say Paul was referring here to “all Christians” is to read more into this text than is there. (This is known as eisegesis). Seraiah says this event included “all Christians who ever lived” (ibid.). “Paul knew the event of reward he was speaking of was so far in the future that he would be dead, as well as all the Christians of his day” (ibid.). This is the height of presumption, to say the least! It also demonstrates the lengths to which some will go in order to avoid the clear teaching of Scripture. While Seraiah admits that II Tim. 4:1 contains the word mellw (mello, Strong’s #3195), he says in an endnote that “this word does not always mean ‘about to’” (p. 103). His reference to Bauer, Ardnt and Gingrich (BAGD) 5 does nothing to support his contention that this is not the meaning of mellw in II Tim. 4:1, since it is not listed in the examples given. Those verses listed in which the meaning definitely is “be on the point of, be about to be” are: Jn. 4:47; Acts 12:6; 16:27; Rom. 8:18; I Pet. 5:1 (cf. Lk. 19:4; Jn. 6:6; Acts 3:3; 5:35; 18:14; 21:27; 22:26; 23:27); Rev. 3:2, 16; 10:4; 12:4 (also I Clem. 42:3; 55:6; Jos. Antiq. 4:83; 12:357; II Macc. 7:18; IV Macc. 10:9) (BAGD, p. 501). Let’s look at a couple of these verses:

    Rom. 8:18 - “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which [is about to be] revealed in us”

    I Pet. 5:1  - “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that [is about to be] revealed.”

    It is clear from Paul’s use of the word mellw in II Tim. 4:1 that the things to which he was referring were “about to” take place. The “living” who were “about to” be judged were those living in Israel at that time. For Seraiah to say, “Although the [Preterist] assumes 4:1 is referring to events in the first century, this is not necessitated by anything in the text” (p. 80) is simply bearing false witness! Everything about this text necessitates a first century fulfillment! Unless Seraiah is prepared to say the kingdom is not to come until the “end of time” (for which there is likewise no Scriptural support), he must admit that the “appearing” 6 of Christ and the judgment of “the living and the dead,” took place in the first century, coinciding with the manifestation of the “kingdom.” Notice how Paul inextricably links these three things together: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who [is about to] judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom….”It is simply presumption for Seraiah to say, “Jerusalem’s destruction does not fit in this context” (p. 80), and is necessitated only by the preconceptions of his futurist paradigm. As my friend, Pastor Julio Velasquez says, “People just don’t want to believe what the Bible says!” Although the destruction of Jerusalem is not referred to specifically, it was to take place in conjunction with the things mentioned by Paul in this context. This is the same message Paul preached to the Athenians in Acts 17:31:

    “For He [God] has set a day in which He is about to [mellw] judge the world7 in righteousness by that Man He has appointed.”

    Note that the word translated “world” here is the same one Jesus used in Matt. 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world [oikoumene] for a witness to all nations; and then the end shall come.” The apostle Paul says this was fulfilled in the first century (Rom. 10:18; Col. 1:6, 26).

    Paul also preached the same when he stood before Felix and the Jews: “I believe everything that agrees with the Law and…the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there [is about to be] a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked” (Acts 24:14-15). Those who persist in calling Preterists “heretics” should note that Paul was on trial here for being a “follower of the Way, which [the Jews] call heresy” (Acts 24:14). The modern-day Pharisees and Saducees accuse us of “heresy” on the same basis as they did Paul, claiming our view of the resurrection is unscriptural. What Preterists proclaim, however, is the same message Paul preached—that there was, in the first century, a resurrection that was about to take place!8

    Seraiah seems to constantly contradict himself. On p. 80, he says, “Paul is exhorting Timothy…because he knows that he [Paul] is going to die soon: ‘the time of my departure has come’ ([I Tim.] 4:6).” Yet, on the very next page, he says, “If he were speaking [in I Tim. 4:1] about A.D. 70, it was possible he could have lived to see it. Paul knew the event of [his] reward he was speaking of was so far in the future that he would be dead, as well as all the Christians of his day” (p. 81). Here we see Mr. Seraiah not only adding to Scripture, but also contradicting the clear statements of our Lord! Jesus said, “All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matt. 23:36; 24:34), and He told John in the Revelation that the prophecies shown to him were “at hand,” and would come to pass “shortly” (Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:6, 10, 12, 20). That Revelation included the appearing of Christ, the Resurrection, and the “Last Judgment” (so-called). Perhaps Mr. Seraiah assumed the penalty threatened in Revelation (22:18-19) was also only applicable to some far-off generation!

    Seraiah then tries to tackle I Peter: “We read there, ‘[T]hey will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead’ (4:5)” (p. 82, brackets his). Building on his false assumption that “Paul said all Christians would receive rewards at the judging of the ‘living and the dead’” (ibid.), he says, “In what sense can we imagine Gentiles in Asia Minor of the first century giving account for their deeds before Christ when He destroyed Jerusalem?” (ibid.). This is like asking what possible effect the death of a Jewish criminal in Palestine could have had on people in Asia Minor. Neither Paul nor Peter makes the assertion that “all” the living would be judged at that time. We know from the records of Josephus, however, that people throughout the Roman Empire suffered judgment during the last days of the Old Covenant era. Seraiah seems oblivious to the obvious immanence contained in Peter’s statement, “they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead”! Whatever this judgment was to entail, and whoever constituted “the living and the dead,” the event was ready to take place when Peter wrote! To ignore this clear time reference is shoddy exegesis to say the least. Once again, Seraiah is found to contradict himself (and God’s Word) when he states:

It becomes obvious that Peter here is speaking of the Final Judgment of all men at the end of all things in the future. …. Jesus will, at some unknown day in the future, end the course of this earth and at that time judge everyone who is alive (the “living”) and everyone who has died prior to that day (the “dead”) [pp. 82-83].

    Further down p. 83, he then quotes I Pet. 4:7, “The end of all things is near”! He even admits, “Clearly his [Peter’s] reference to the ‘end’ being near shows that he is referring in this context to the end of all things in the Jewish age” (ibid.). In a vain attempt to “clarify” this, he says, “This, however, does not negate the judgment that will occur for all men (at the ultimate end of all things)” (p. 84, emphasis his).

    Christ is indeed Lord and Judge of all men, and those who seem to escape judgment in this world will certainly receive it in the next! As Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good and evil, according to what he has done in the body” (II Cor. 5:10). Preterists do not deny a future judgment of mankind! We do, however, disagree with Seraiah’s assumption that the “Final Judgment” (which took place in AD 70) was “final” in the sense of being the last. The judgment that takes place now does so on an individual basis and happens at a person’s physical demise. The event Seraiah calls the “Final Judgment” took place at the closing of the Old Covenant, and took place en masse. All that had died up to that point were raised from the confines of Sheol/Hades and judged. Sheol/Hades was a temporary “holding tank” that was emptied of its inhabitants and destroyed when the Old Covenant ended (Rev. 20:13-14). Now, when a person dies, he goes immediately to judgment and receives his reward or punishment at that time.

    In his analysis of I John 4:17-18, Seraiah says: “Love, both for God and for our Christian brothers, is essential to the Christian life. John says not only that ‘God is love’ (4:16), but also that if someone says he is a believer but does not love, he is not a true Christian (4:20-21)” (p. 86).

    It must be asked, is it “loving” to call your brothers and sisters in Christ “damnable heretics”? On the back cover of his little book, Seraiah quotes Andrew Sandlin, of the Chalcedon Foundation. Mr. Sandlin says the Preterist view “subverts and reconstructs the Faith itself.” Sandlin is well-known for his vicious and vitriolic attacks on Preterists, calling us “damnable heretics” and worse in his publication. Seraiah also uses a quote from Kenneth Gentry on the back of his book, in which he says Preterist teachings consist of “doctrinal aberrations,” and “pseudo-intellectual theological heresy.” Mr. Gentry has likewise been a hostile and outspoken opponent of the Preterist understanding of Scripture.

    In the Forward of Seraiah’s book, R. C. Sproul, Jr. is even more “loving” in his remarks. He refers to the Preterist view as “fatal” (p. 9), and a “damnable heresy” (p. 10). Is this because we have somehow contradicted God’s Word? No! According to Sproul (Jr.), it is because we “have strayed from the confessions of the Church” (ibid.). He accuses Preterists of “Scripture-twisting,” since “while they [the creeds] can err, they nevertheless define historic orthodoxy” (ibid.). The ludicrous nature of this statement is almost beyond belief! The creeds may be wrong, but they’re still the standard of orthodoxy for interpreting God’s Word! Sproul, Jr. piously prays that we “are merely temporarily theologically lost and not forever outside the faith” (ibid.). Can’t you just feel the “love”? These men, whom Seraiah quotes with obvious approval, consider Preterists to be “outside the Faith”! I suppose this justifies them ignoring the command of Christ to “love one another.” Does this also preclude them from Christ’s other command, to “love your enemies”?

    Seraiah next looks at I John 2:28-3:3:

Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure [NASB].

    Note the language of immanence: “we” is used repeatedly, communicating to John’s audience that they are the ones who would experience these things. Seraiah admits, “John is, in this passage, connecting the ‘coming’ of Christ with our being made ‘like him’ (resurrection)” (p. 88). Seraiah is assuming, of course, that to be “like Him” means to be resurrected, something not stated in the text! Jumping back and forth between chapters 2 and 4 of I John, Seraiah says:

In 4:17 John says that “as he is so are we in this world.” Thus in some sense John viewed the believer as already like Christ. …. The context says that the way we are “as he is,” is found in the love of God. …. Therefore, we are like Christ in holiness, only by virtue of what He has done (4:19) [p. 88].

So far, so good. No disagreement here! But, then he says, “If John and the believers of the first century were like Christ in this manner, what likeness was John looking forward to that he did not know the manner of (3:2)? If spiritual likeness already exists, then only a physical likeness is left” (ibid.). Didn’t Paul say, “the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual” (I Cor. 15:46)? Why would something that is likewise spiritual in nature be precluded from John’s statement? Why, too, does John say, “it does not yet appear what we shall be”? Was not John an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ? If John were merely stating that he and his listeners would be just like Christ physically, why did he not say, “we know exactly what we shall be like”? Whatever we may conclude regarding these verses, we must at least admit the following:

  1. The events referred to were going to take place within the lifetime of John’s audience, and,

  2. Neither John nor his audience knew what they were going to be like once they happened.

    Could this not have been referring to immortality? Once Christ appeared, all believers in Him would receive immortality. No one would be required to go to Sheol/Hades after that day when they died.

    Next, Mr. Seraiah takes on the judgment of angels. He notes that the demons Jesus cast out were aware of a time of judgment to come, and that it had not yet arrived. “If this was, however, merely a spiritual judgment,” says Seraiah (“merely”?), “that would allow them to continue their influence in the world (as it exists today), then how would they know that the time they were in was ‘before the time’?” (pp. 89-90). Seraiah assumes demons are still active today. “…[W]hy are they still able to do so much in this world?” (p. 90). He bases this statement on “experience,” not on Scripture. Seraiah assumes that the power of demons today is “greatly limited,” referring to Rev. 20:2 (as if this is not yet past) and Col. 2:15. He insists, “Unless the [Preterists] desire to prove that there is no demonic influence on the world around us, they are forced to admit that demons have not yet been cast into eternal hell” (p. 92). Why must the evil present in the world today be explained as the activity of demons? Are we not told that the heart of man is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9)? The judgment of the Flood took place in Noah’s day because “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). No demonic intervention was needed to explain the wickedness that covered the earth at that time. Why so today? If, as Scripture says, the things contained in the book of Revelation were to come to pass “soon” after John wrote, why do some allege that they have not yet taken place? For too long now, the Church has allowed herself to be influenced by tradition (the creeds) and “experience,” and “made the Word of God of none effect” (Mk. 7:13). The time has come for Christians to believe what God’s Word clearly says! Revelation says the things contained in it were to come to pass shortly (soon). Therefore, we must affirm that they did indeed! “Let God be true, and every man a liar”(Rom. 3:4)!

    Seraiah tries desperately to present what he calls “one of the most severe problems with the [Preterist] position” (p. 93). The casting out of Satan from heaven in Rev. 12:4-9 and his “binding” in Rev. 20:2 are examined and said to be totally unrelated.

This casting down cannot be equated with his being cast into the abyss, for two reasons. In 12:12 there is a warning given that Satan is coming to earth “in great wrath,” thus relating that he is going to bring persecution to the saints (12:17). Second, in 20:3, where he is cast into the abyss, his power is limited. The limiting of his power is told as an encouragement. The casting down to earth is told as a warning: these do not fit together as being the same event [p.94].

    One must wonder why Seraiah fails to bother mentioning how Satan’s power was being limited. Rev. 20:3 says this binding process was “to keep him from deceiving the nations any more until the thousand years were ended.” This states clearly not only the purpose of Satan’s binding, but also that he was to be released after the appointed time had been completed. Note what he does when released:

When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth [or: land], Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore [Rev. 20:7-8].

    The use of “Gog and Magog,” another ancient enemy of Israel is, like the names “Babylon,” “Sodom,” and “Egypt,” a reference to apostate Israel itself, “whose number is like the sand of the seashore” (cf. Gen. 22:7). The word translated “earth” is gh (ge ­ Strong’s #1093) and means “land” as well. Since the prophecies of Revelation are limited in their time of fulfillment (“at hand” in John’s time) and subject matter, this should be read as “the nations which are in the four corners of the land [of Israel].”9 Satan’s binding did not prevent him from stirring up persecution against the Church, but merely prevented his hindering the spread of the gospel to “the nations.” Paul says that “every creature under heaven” had heard the gospel by the time he wrote Romans and Colossians (Rom. 10:18; Col. 1:6, 23). Around AD 66, the Romans started to gather their troops to fight against the apostate Jewish nation and “the war” began.

    Seraiah claims that interpreting the “thousand years” as the time between Christ’s crucifixion and AD 70 (or shortly before) makes a “mockery” of that symbol. “If a thousand years does not denote a long duration of time, then it has lost all its symbolism” (p. 94). Au contraire, Messieur Seraiah! This subject has been dealt with in my paper refuting the errors of Keith Mathison:10

In order to understand the meaning behind a symbolic number, we must observe how it is used in Scripture (the Reformers called this the “analogy of faith”). When used in a non-literal (symbolic) manner in Scripture, the number 1,000 represents a perfect whole, or “all.” One example is to be found in Ps. 50:10—“For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” The emphasis is not on the number of hills being great, but as can be seen in this example of Hebrew parallelism, on the totality of God’s rule over and ownership of His creation. He owns the whole number of the beasts of the forest and field. If the book of Revelation had meant to communicate simply a large number, the phraseology of Rev. 5:11 could easily have been employed: “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne…and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands….” It should be noted that Scripture elsewhere refers to 40 years as “a long time” (Josh. 24:7; Mt. 25:19).

    The use of 1,000 is also demonstrated elsewhere in Revelation, for example, the number of the redeemed in Israel is given as “144,000.” This is 12 x 12 x 1,000, representing the full number of the redeemed. The number of persons saved in Israel in the first century was small enough to be called a “remnant” elsewhere in Scripture, yet the number 1,000 is still used to represent them (see: Rom. 11:5; Rev. 12:17; cp. Zech. 8:6, 12). If “1,000” truly represents a “huge number,” then 144 x 1,000 must be incredibly large! And if a 40-year time span could not possibly be represented by the number 1,000, then neither could 144 times that same number represent a “remnant.” Again, we must abide by the temporal delimiters given quite clearly in the opening and closing verses of the book! If the things contained in it were not really going to be fulfilled shortly, then we may ignore or reinterpret all the other parts of the book freely also. If, however, we honor and uphold the integrity and inspiration of the Bible, we will be able to interpret it properly.

    If the symbol of one thousand years is meant to convey a “whole” or “totality,” then to view it as “a long period of time” is to misinterpret it! As usual, things are not so “cut and dried” as Seraiah would like us to think! What is truly unfortunate is that all the arguments presented by Mr. Seraiah are moot, since the book of Revelation clearly states that its prophecies were all to come to pass shortly after they were written. To lift a particular passage out of this context simply because it does not “fit in” with one’s system of interpretation is exegetical dishonesty, to say the least. Another example of this sort of misapplication of Scripture can be found on p. 96, where it is stated:

In [Rev.] 20:10, John says that “the devil…was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and false prophet were.” John says the beast and false prophet had already received their punishment before Satan did (at least a thousand years before). [p. 96, emphasis his].

    Seraiah admits in an endnote, however, that he supplied the verb in the past tense: “estin [were] must be assumed in the text; John does not give it. He thus assumes they ‘were’ or ‘are’ already in the lake of fire. In order to equate the times of their punishment he would have had to supply some form of verb” (endnote 15, p. 103). This begs the question, “Why couldn’t the assumed verb be future tense?” It would then read, “where the beast and false prophet shall be.” Note the subtlety of this attack. Seraiah supplies (assumes) a verb in the past tense, then says this “proves” his point!

    On p. 97, Seraiah attempts another argument: “Finally, we see that Judgment Day is described in the book of Revelation as something that is in the distant future (at least a thousand years after A.D. 70). It does not carry the idea in any way that it is something which is ‘at hand.’” Seraiah would have us simply ignore what the opening and closing verses of Revelation state emphatically—that the things contained in it were “at hand”! This is certainly a novel approach to the science of sacred hermeneutics! Seraiah could just as well be describing his method of interpretation when he states, “Nonpreterist systems either ignore or reinterpret the passages that necessitate a ‘near’ or ‘soon’ fulfillment of the particular prophecy” (p. 98). Being a futurist, Seraiah is forced to do this very thing! He continues:

This can be seen in the numerous twists that have been done to the exegesis of Matthew 24:34. Most either try (poorly) to reinterpret “this generation” as “this race,” or they will say “all these things” only refers to some of the verses previous to the statement but not “all” of them (like the verse says). A similar instance is the slippery means by which people try to avoid the “soon” statements in the book of Revelation. The predetermined grid they are trying to fit everything into says these passages must be referring to the Final Advent of Christ; therefore they do all they can to ensure that they are viewed that way [p. 98, emphasis his].

    Seraiah might as well be describing his own methodology here. Because of his “grid” that assumes a future “Final Advent” of Christ, he cannot allow certain verses in God’s Word to find their proper fulfillment in AD 70. In a vain attempt to show that “near” doesn’t always mean “near,” Seraiah goes to the Old Testament prophecies. Beginning with Adam and Eve, he says they assumed God’s prophecy of the “seed of the woman” was to be fulfilled in their time. He neglects to mention that the Lord, who gave the prophecy, did not say its fulfillment was “near.” In fact, God gave no time indicators at all in His prophecy!

    Next, Seraiah goes to Isa. 10:25; 13:6; and 13:22, which speak of Jerusalem’s destruction as being “near.” He admits, “the first destruction was only around forty years later” (p. 99)! Referring to Isa. 9:6-7 does not help his case either, since no indication of nearness is found in this context. Seraiah next cites Dan. 8:16-26, but here again, no indication is given of this prophecy being “near.” In fact, Daniel was told to “seal up” his book because the things contained in it were not to take place “for many days”! (Dan. 8:26; 12:4).

    Seraiah basically states the Preterist view when he says:

There are many other “near” passages in the Old Testament (e.g. Joel 1:15; 2:1; 3:14; Zeph. 1:7; 1:14) that clearly are referring to events that took place “soon” after the prophecy was given (exactly as the verses said they would); to say otherwise would go against the clear testimony of the Scriptures. Yet this does not force us to say that all prophecies in the Old Testament were fulfilled soon, but only those that say so [p. 101].

    His final exhortation in this chapter is a good one: “If a text says something is ‘near,’ then we must accept it as true” (p. 102). Now, if only Mr. Seraiah would take his own advice!

1 Chori Jonathin Seraiah (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1999), pp. 67-104.

2 Speaking of the historic Creeds of the Church, R. C. Sproul, Jr. says in the Forward of this book, “...[W]hile they can err, they nevertheless define historic orthodoxy” (p. 10).

3 meta thV geneaV tauthV”—“with, among, in company with” (BAGD, p. 508) “this generation.”

4 Bradford, PA: International Preterist Association, 2000.

5 A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed., by Walter Bauer. Translated by William F. Ardnt and F. Wilbur Gingrich. Revised by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979).

6 The word here is epifaneia (epiphanea - Strong’s #2015), a synonym for apokaluyiV (apokalupsis).

7 oikoumene (oikoumene ­ Strong’s #3625), used of the Roman Empire.

8 See the excellent paper dealing with this subject by Joseph Gautier, Jr., All Nations Stood Before the Throne (http://www.preterist.org/resources/articles/allnations.htm).

9 Compare David Chilton’s statements in this regard in his Days of Vengeance.

10 A Response to the False Witness of Keith Mathison: as Found in His Presentation Named Playing With Fire (http://www.kendavies.addr.com/articles/kjd_response.htm).

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