I have personally been blessed by Rev. Brian Schwertley's ministry and books. I have learned from him and been persuaded by him on many doctrines, ranging from exclusive psalmody to presbyterian church government to no instrumental accompaniment in public worship and more. And I continue to look to him as my mentor and my advisor in theology. But in his treatment of eschatology we have certain differences of opinion, and so I offer up this critique of his books concerning eschatology, showing what I believe are its contradictions and flaws, especially with regards to his analysis of Matthew 24.
I also intend this as a response to what I regard as the fallacy of partial preterism in its rejection of the mainstream historicistic interpretations of Matthew 24, II Thessalonians 2, and the book of Revelation. In my opinion, the best case for preterism can be made starting with Matthew 24. There are today and there have been in Christian history some historicists who follow what may be described as a ‘partial preteristic’ interpretation of Matthew 24 (such as Rev. Schwertley presents in his book) yet with regards to II Thessalonians 2 and the book of Revelation adhere to an historicistic interpretation. So the very reason I have chosen to focus on Matthew 24 in this examination is precisely because I believe ‘partial preterism’ can make its strongest case here. Yet I have concerns with and objections to the partial preterist treatment of Matthew 24, and am persuaded a mainstream historicistic interpretation is more credible, which I will explain in this examination. In this analysis I will also explain some of the general reasons why I believe partial preterism improperly addresses the prophecies of II Thessalonians 2 and the book of Revelation, whereas historicism offers the more reasonable and convincing interpretation.
Finally, I should preface my analysis by noting the fact that I really
do not directly address full preterism in this examination, although I
occasionally refer to it in the course of this examination. Rather,
I start from where most partial preterists are – holding that many passages
scattered throughout the New Testament refer to the literal bodily return
of Christ in the future- and show why historicism better handles the various
over passages in dispute between mainstream historicistic interpretation
and partial preteristic interpretation. One element which mainstream
historicists and full preterists have in common is that we both believe
there is a greater degree of uniformity of reference with regards to Advent
passages than partial preterists admit. But I hope that for full
preterists my treatment on passages like Matthew 24 may at least go some
ways in showing why historicists offer a very reasonable interpretation
of such difficult texts. My hope would then be that full preterists
would feel less compelled to head down a course which necessarily leads
to very radical (and in my opinion far-fetched) interpretations of Advent
passages like I Corinthians 11:26 addressing the Lord’s Supper and
‘end of the age’ passages like Matthew 28:20 addressing the Great Commission.
The Second Coming of Christ According to "The Pre-Millenial Deception"
I think it would be instructive first to consider Rev. Schwertley's treatment of the literal, future second coming of Christ, or Second Advent, in his book "The Pre-Millenial Deception". Here are quotes from his book relating to passages which Rev. Schwertley himself attributes to the literal, future second coming of Christ:
Objection #1 : An Inconsistent Treatment of the Term "End of the Age"
According to the list of passages cited above, Rev. Schwertley attributes the ‘harvest’ described in Matthew 13:30 ("let both grow together until the harvest...") to the literal future second coming of Christ. Now Matthew 13:39-40 reads thus concerning this ‘harvest’: "...the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are the angels. As the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this age." So in Rev. Schwertley's book "Pre-Millenial Deception" he appears by implication to agree with me that in Matthew's book the use of the term "end of the age" refers to the day of Christ's literal, future return. It is only at the time of Christ’s Second Advent that the ultimate harvest of Christ’s elect wheat occurs, it is separated from the non-elect tares, and the tares are burned in the everlasting hell. Indeed, it is the common interpretation of most people throughout Christian history to treat the 'harvest' and 'end of the age' alluded to in Matthew 13 as referring to the Second Advent.
However, in his book "Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation" Rev. Schwertley treats the term "end of the age" in a completely contrary manner. Here is what he writes:
"A proper understanding of the phrase "end of the age" in Matthew 24:3 supports the interpretation that the prophecy to 24:34 refers solely to events that occurred prior to A.D. 70...The first century apostolic understanding of the "end of the age" is reflected in the biblical phrase "the last days." Many modern Christians have been conditioned by Bible prophecy books to think that we alone of all generations are living in the last days or at the end of the age...Since the divinely inspired apostles said that they were living in "the last days" at "the end of the age," their question regarding the end of the age in Matthew 24:3 must apply to something that occurred in their own generation."
So in this book Rev. Schwertley suggests the term "end of the age" must refer to something that happened in the Apostolic era and does not refer to the day of Christ's literal, future return.
But such a contradictory interpretation of the term "end of the age"
the same book of Matthew is unwarranted. (I do not deny that
in other contexts like Hebrews 9:26 the term can refer to the period beginning
with the First Advent [even here it does not refer to 70 A.D.], but in
the context of the book of Matthew in Christ’s discourses with His disciples
it uniformly refers to the time of the Second Advent. It make no
sense in any of the contexts in Matthew to assign it the meaning of “the
period beginning with the First Advent”, and there is no basis for asserting
Christ’s use of the term as recorded in the book of Matthew is non-uniform.)
The term “end of the age” is to be found in the same book of Matthew, both
in the 13th and 24th chapters. And it should
be obvious from Matthew 13 that it refers to the day in which Christ literally
returns, as Rev. Schwertley implicitly concedes in his book “The Pre-Millenial
Deception.” And this interpretation of the ‘end of the age’ is confirmed
by its use in Matthew 28:20, where we read: “Teaching them to observe all
things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even]
unto the end of the age.” Now surely we should not believe Jesus
Christ was saying in Matthew 28 that He would only with be His disciples
until 70 AD, and then they would be on their own. No! The term ‘end of
the age’ in Matthew 28:20 refers to Christ’s Second Advent, and Christ
is promising His presence with His people on earth until His Second Advent.
So there is no good reason to think the term ‘end of the age’ refers to
some event entirely different in Matthew 24 than it does in Matthew 13
and Matthew 28.
Objection #2 : Answering a Question Not Asked
Rev. Schwertley writes in his book on Matthew 24:
In response to this quote by Rev. Schwertley, we should pose to him whether he believes the disciples were asking about the following 2 events:“Unfortunately, most students of prophecy today regard the inquiry as relating to two completely different events that are separated from each other by over 19 centuries. The first question ("when will these things be?") is usually applied to the destruction of the temple by the Romans in A.D. 70. The second and third questions ("what will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?") are applied to the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. This approach to the inquiry, while common, must be rejected for a number of reasons. (1) The disciples' inquiry comes directly as a result of Jesus' prediction that the temple then in existence was about to be completely destroyed. Therefore, we can safely assume that the disciples were not meditating on events in the distant future. Even if in their minds the coming in judgment and end of the age were to be coterminous with the second bodily coming of Christ, there can be no question but that they believed everything relating to their inquiry was simply a different aspect of the same great event. “
destruction of the temple and
second bodily coming of Christ at the end of the age
Now, as I will note in my Objection #3, I would agree with Rev. Schwertley that it appears that the disciples may have believed these 2 events were around the same approximate time (and as I also will note in Objection #3, Christ corrected this error of the disciples in Matthew 24:34-36). But my question here is whether the disciples are asking about the 2 events listed above, not their timing. It seems based on Rev. Schwertley’s quote above that there is real doubt in his mind as to which 2 events the disciples are asking about (hence his wording: “even if in their minds the coming in judgment and end of the age were to be coterminous with the second bodily coming of Christ …”).
Let’s consider the possibility that Rev. Schwertley seems to seriously
entertain. Let's consider whether the 2 events described in Matthew
24:3 are really the following 2 events and not those indicated above:
destruction of the temple and
figurative coming of Christ and end of the Jewish age in 70 AD (and NOT
the second bodily coming of Christ at the end of the age)
This is what Rev. Schwertley seems to seriously entertain as the events to which the disciples are asking about, for he writes: “The disciples regarded the judgment of the contemporaneous generation of Jews, the destruction of the existing temple and the end of the Jewish age as all part of the same complex of events.”
This possibility which Rev. Schwertley seriously entertains should be highly doubted. For if this interpretation of Matthew 24:3 is correct, then it leads us to the far-fetched conclusion that most of Christ’s response to the disciples has nothing to do with the events about which the disciples asked. Rev. Schwertley himself says and cogently argues in his book that at least from Matthew 24:36 onwards into chapter 25, Christ is speaking about His Second (literal) Advent and how Christians should prepare for it. So we would be led to the far-fetched conclusion that Jesus got off onto a tangent regarding His Second Advent which the disciples had not even asked about. But if the disciples’ questions had nothing to do with Christ’s Second (literal) Advent, then why did Christ spend so much time speaking about His Second (literal) Advent in response to their questions?
But there is no need to draw such a far-fetched conclusion. It may very well be the case that the disciples did not understand that the destruction of the Temple and Christ’s Advent would be separated by considerable time when they posed the question to Christ. But one thing they did understand is that the end of the age would be marked by Christ’s Second literal Advent and that they were asking about Christ’s Second (literal) Advent. So when they posed their questions to Christ, they most certainly do contain reference to Christ’s Second Advent. And thus we are not left to the far-fetched conclusion that Jesus simply got off on a tangent by speaking about His Second Advent, or did not understand which events the disciples were asking about.
So now let’s go back to Rev. Schwertley’s quote in his book: “Unfortunately, most students of prophecy today regard the inquiry as relating to two completely different events that are separated from each other by over 19 centuries.” Our response to Rev. Schwertley is simply this: "Yes, they were referring to events separated by over 19 centuries, even if the disciples themselves did not realize these 2 events would be separated by over 19 centuries when they asked the questions. And Jesus understood them to ask about the Second (literal) Advent and the destruction of the Temple, which is why His discourse in Matthew chapters 24 and 25 concerned these 2 events. He did not get off tangent." It is not credible to believe Jesus would answer the way He did if He did not know and believe they were asking about His literal Second Advent and the destruction of the Temple. Matthew 24:36 and following is not just a digression of Christ; it is a continuation in answer to the 2 events mentioned by the disciples in their question.
Now this naturally leads us to another question. In Matthew 24:3
the disciples ask these questions:
shall 'these things' (ie, the destruction of the Temple [Matthew 24:1-2]
shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age?
Now if these questions pertain to these events:
destruction of the Temple and
second bodily coming of Christ at the end of the age
as we concluded above, then what must "these things"
in Matthew 24:34 and "that day" in Matthew 24:36 probably refer to? The
logical answer would be that "these things" in Matthew 24:34 refer to the
destruction of the Temple; and "that day" in Matthew 24:36 refers to the
second bodily coming of Christ at the end of the age, or, in other words,
the Second Advent, for that is what His disciples had asked Him about,
and that is what He is addressing in Matthew 24:34-36 and throughout His
discourse of Matthew 24 and following. Of course, Rev. Schwertley would
object to my conclusion, so I'll address his objections to my conclusion
in the remainder of this critique.
Objection #3 : A Confounding of the Destruction of the Temple (‘these things’) with the ‘End of the Age’ marked by Christ’s Second Advent (‘that day’)
What is really driving much of Rev. Schwertley's interpretation of Matthew 24 is the time indicator of verse 34. Rev. Schwertley rightly interprets the term 'generation' in Matthew 24:34 as referring to the literal Apostolic generation. He provides many cogent reasons for so interpreting it.
However, he does not give sufficient consideration to the interpretation of this text held by Matthew Henry and many others, as well as its warning of not confounding of events, as stated thus in Henry's Commentary:
"He here instructs us as to the time of them, v. 34, 36. As to this, it is well observed by the learned Grotius, that there is a manifest distinction made between the tauta (v. 34), and the ekeine (v. 36), these things, and that day and hour; which will help to clear this prophecy.
(1.) As to these things, the wars, seductions, and persecutions, here foretold, and especially the ruin of the Jewish nation; "This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled (v. 34); there are those now alive, that shall see Jerusalem destroyed, and the Jewish church brought to an end." Because it might seem strange, he backs it with a solemn asseveration; "Verily, I say unto you. You may take my word for it, these things are at the door." Christ often speaks of the nearness of that desolation, the more to affect people, and quicken them to prepare for it. Note, There may be greater trials and troubles yet before us, in our own day, than we are aware of. They that are old, know not what sons of Anak may be reserved for their last encounters.
(2.) But as to that day and hour which will put a period to time, that knoweth no man, v. 36. Therefore take heed of confounding these two, as they did, who, from the words of Christ and the apostles; letters, inferred that the day of Christ was at hand, 2 Thess. ii. 2. No, it was not; this generation, and many another, shall pass, before that day and hour come. Note, [1.] There is a certain day and hour fixed for the judgment to come; it is called the day of the Lord, because so unalterably fixed. None of God's judgments are adjourned sine die--without the appointment of a certain day. [2.] That day and hour are a great secret."
As Matthew Henry here notes, we should not confound the “these things” of verse 34 with the “that day” of verse 36. To understand what each of these terms (ie, “these things” and “that day”) refers to we must start with the questions the disciples ask in Matthew 24:3:
1. When shall 'these things' (ie, the destruction of the Temple [Matthew 24:1-2] ) be?
2. What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age?
Now it is not clear whether the disciples themselves realized that the ‘end of the age’ and the ‘these things’ would be separated by a great expanse of time. Indeed, at the time in which they asked this question they quite possibly (or even probably) believed that the destruction of the Temple and the ‘end of the age’ marked by Christ’s coming would be around the same time. Perhaps they were confused on this point because they knew Jesus had taught them that the ‘temple would come down and in three days He would raise it up again’, but of course we know that the temple Christ was referring to in this statement was not the literal temple but the figurative temple of Jesus’ body. But the disciples had a very difficult time understanding Christ’s use of figurative language, as they manifested on many occasions. So they may well have confounded the “these things’ and the ‘that day’ when framing their question.
But Christ did not confound the two in His Matthew 24 response, and as Matthew Henry advises, neither should we. To interpret Matthew 24 as Rev. Schwertley recommends, would confound the two however, because Rev. Schwertley says that the term ‘these things’ refers to all the events described in Matthew 24:4-33, even including references to ‘the end [of the age]’ (Matthew 24:14) and Christ’s coming (Matthew 24:30).
The outline of Matthew 24 below shows how Matthew 24 can be interpreted without confounding the two, and yet also make sense of Christ’s time indicators in Matthew 24:34 and 24:36 :
Matthew 24 : Christ’s Eschatological Warnings to His Followers
I. Christ’s description of what would happen to ‘these things’ [ie, the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. along with the destruction of the Jewish nation which it implies] (Matthew 24:1-2)
II. The disciples’ questions of Christ regarding when shall 'these things' (ie, the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. along with the Jewish nation) be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age (Matthew 24:3)
III. Christ’s response to the disciples (Matthew 24:4-51) (Note: His response really continues past chapter 24 into chapter 25 with warnings through parables of how we should live in light of the fact that we do not know when the ‘end of the age’ will be.)
A. Christ’s answer to their second question (i.e., what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age?), consisting of a description of the trials, tribulations, and deceptions from the present time (=the First Advent) to the ‘end of the age’ marked by Christ’s Coming (=the Second Advent) (Matthew 24:4-31) [Note: The trials, tribulations, and deceptions are all a sign of Christ's eventual return, for Christ must return to right these wrongs and injustices and to clean up what is rightfully His. In addition, they are a sign because events actually come to pass as Christ prophesied, proving that He should be trusted when He says He will return.
B. Christ’s answer to their first question (i.e., when shall ‘these things be’ (ie, the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.)?) (Matthew 24:32-35)
1. Christ’s description of the trials, tribulations, and deceptions- along with the spread of the gospel- from the present time (=First Advent) to the end of the age [= the Second Advent] , and His warnings to His people in light of the dangers and false christs and prophets (Matthew 24:4-14)
2. Christ’s parenthetical description of the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and the pronounced tribulations which will accompany it (Matthew 24:15-22) [Note: This would suggest that even the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. should be regarded as a sign to Christ's people that He will eventually return and render justice, just as judgment was herein rendered upon the Jewish nation which had rejected Christ.]
3. Christ’s warnings resumed regarding deceivers and false christs and prophets which will arise, from the time of the First Advent up to the time of Christ’s Second Advent (Matthew 24:23-28)
4. Christ’s description of His actual coming and of the end of the age (Matthew 24:29-31) [Note: The end of the age is marked by Christ's literal return. The form of the disciples' question implies they understood the end to be marked by Christ's coming, and Christ confirms by His response that the end of the age will be marked by His coming.]
C. Christ’s clarification that we should not confound ‘that day’ (ie, the end of the age marked by Christ’s coming) with the ‘these things’ referred to in verse 34 [because we can know that these things (ie, the destruction of the Temple) shall be in the Apostle’s generation,] but of ‘that day’ (ie, the end of the age marked by Christ’s coming) no man knows when it shall be, so men must always be ready and live in preparation for it. (Matthew 24:36-51)
Careful attention should be paid to the indications in Matthew 24:32
from Matthew 24:31 that there is a shift in the question which Jesus is
answering. For example, notice the dramatic shift in the subjects
being spoken about. In Matthew 24:31 Christ was speaking about gathering
"together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the
other". In other words, He was speaking about the worldwide phenomenon
of gathering His elect at His Second Coming. Previous to that He had spoken
of the wars and tribulations among the nations, alongside the preaching
of the gospel to them. But in Matthew 24:32, Jesus begins speaking about
the ‘fig tree.’ Now the fig tree had previously been a matter which
Christ had addressed with His disciples in such passages as Matthew
21:19-20. Matthew Henry writes concerning the fig tree in that context:
"It represents the state of the nation and people of the Jews in particular; they were a fig-tree planted in Christ’s way, as a church. Now observe, [1.] The disappointment they gave to our Lord Jesus. He came among them, expecting to find some fruit, something that would be pleasing to him; he hungered after it; not that he desired a gift, he needed it not, but fruit that might abound to a good account. But his expectations were frustrated; he found nothing but leaves; they called Abraham their father, but did not do the works of Abraham; they professed themselves expectants of the promised Messiah, but, when he came, they did not receive and entertain him. [2.] The doom he passed upon them, that never any fruit should grow upon them or be gathered from them, as a church or as a people, from henceforward for ever. Never any good came from them (except the particular persons among them that believe), after they rejected Christ; they became worse and worse; blindness and hardness happened to them, and grew upon them, till they were unchurched, unpeopled, and undone, and their place and nation rooted up; their beauty was defaced, their privileges and ornaments, their temple, and priesthood, and sacrifices, and festivals, and all the glories of their church and state, fell like leaves in autumn. How soon did their fig-tree wither away, after they said, His blood be on us, and our children! And the Lord was righteous in it."
So there is a shift in subjects, moving from a worldwide focus to a focus on the Jewish nation.
There is also a shift from a response to answering a ‘what’ question to answering a ‘when’ question. Matthew 24:4-31 is a catalogue of descriptions of events and circumstances (i.e., an answer to a 'what' question). But notice in Mattew 24:32-33 the occurrences of the word ‘when’. Christ is explaining when something will happen to the fig tree. The concentration is no longer what will happen (i.e., a detailed description of events), but when it will happen.
This shift can only reasonably suggest that Christ is now beginning to answer the first question the disciples had posed to Him, having already answered the second question they had posed to Him. He is now answering ‘when shall these things be.’ The ‘these things’ in the context of the Matthew 24:33-34, hearkens back to the ‘these things’ referenced in the question of the disciples in Matthew 24:3: ‘when shall these things be’. There it referred to the destruction of the Temple buildings (see Matthew 24:1-2), which we now know occurred in 70 A.D., and the destruction of the Jewish nation which the destruction of the Temple implied. Christ says in Matthew 24:34 that this destruction will occur before the generation then living passes away, thus answering the disciples’ first question.
But beginning in Matthew 24:36 Christ begins correcting what He must have detected was a misconception on the part of His disciples. He explains to them that they must not think that the end of the age marked by His coming (i.e., ‘that day’) is necessarily tied with the destruction of the Temple and Jewish nation (i.e., ‘these things’). He explains that no one knows when ‘that day’ will be except the Father. He warns them to always live as if it could happen very soon, not being wicked and acting as if they can later repair the damage they now do. It is clear that God the Father had no intention of letting mankind know precisely when Christ would return, but He does reveal many of the events that will transpire before this event as a sign to His people that He will return.
The outline above then of Matthew 24 suggests how we can interpret it without being forced to confound the ‘end of the age’ with the destruction of the Temple. We can understand Matthew 24:34 as saying that in the Apostolic generation the destruction of the Temple ("these things") would occur. We can understand Matthew 24:36 as saying we cannot know when the Second Advent ("that day") will occur. And we can interpret the rest of Matthew 24 in accordance with the outline presented above. All of this requires no twisting of scriptural passages in order to fit our preconceived notions. Rather, it makes sense internally within Matthew 24, and it is consistent with the rest of Matthew.
But Rev. Schwertley’s interpretation confounds the ‘end of the age’ with the destruction of the Temple, for Rev. Schwertley interprets the 'end of the age' as encompassed within the “these things” of Matthew 24:34. Rev. Schwertley’s interpretation thus does, at least in part, what Christ had warned against: getting the timing of ‘these things’ mixed up with that day (ie, the ‘end of the age’). I recognize, of course, that Rev. Schwertley believes that the ‘end of the age’ is not the Second Advent, and that the destruction of the Temple is different therefore from ‘that day’ referenced in Matthew 24:36 (and so Rev. Schwertley’s error is not nearly so great as that of a full preterist who asserts the Second Advent occurred in the generation of the Apostles). But I have already shown in Objection #1 why we should identify the ‘end of the age’ with Christ’s Second Advent. And we must not confound the destruction of the Temple in the generation of the Apostles with the ‘end of the age’ as that term is used in the book of Matthew, which is marked by Christ’s Second Advent.
It should be pointed out in this outline that I assert Christ in Matthew 24:23 essentially picks up and resumes the warnings regarding false prophets, difficulties, and a resultant falling away that He was issuing in Matthew 24:9-13. In Matthew 24:23-25 Christ further elucidates on this topic of false prophets, difficulties, and falling away. And then, just as He had done following His warning in Matthew 24:9-13, He explains that the end will come, in Matthew 24:27 especially noting that this end will be marked by the Coming of Christ. I can imagine that Rev. Schwertley and other partial preterists might object that this represents a rather drastic shift in the prophecy from a parenthetical discussion of the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D. to a discussion of events occurring over the span of history up to the Second Advent. But Rev. Schwertley provides in his book on Matthew 24 the very answer I would give regarding such a shift. He writes:
"a study of Old Testament prophecy reveals that shifts within prophecies of events that are near (or about to occur) to events that are distant often are difficult or even impossible for the original audience to discern. Note the following examples. In Isaiah chapter 7 the prophet approaches King Ahaz in a time of crisis (Judah is under attack by Syria and Israel, c. 734 B.C.). Jehovah through the prophet tells the king that within 65 years Ephraim will be broken (Ephraim and Israel are the collective names of the ten northern tribes). Israel is defeated in 722 B.C. and the northern kingdom completely ceased to exist within the 65 years. In the midst of prophecies dealing with the immediate future God orders Ahaz to ask for a sign. Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign, then God says, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel....For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings" (Isa. 7:14, 16)."
Matthew 24:24 - "For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets...if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."
So it is quite reasonable to look upon Matthew 24:15-22 as a sort of
parenthetical aside regarding a pronounced tribulation in 70 A.D.,
in the midst of a discussion about the trials, tribulations, and deceptions
throughout the period leading up to the Second Advent.
Objection #4 : An Inconsistent Treatment of the Term 'The Coming of the Lord' in the Singular
Rev. Schwertley had rightly noted in his book "The Pre-Millenial Deception" that we must pay attention to the use of the singular with reference to statements concerning the coming of the Lord. Thus he wrote:
"On “that day” (singular), “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe” (2 Th. 1:7-10)."
But Rev. Schwertley violates this principle in his book "Matthew 24
and the Great Tribulation". Matthew 24:3 uses the singular "thy coming",
yet Rev. Schwertley's treatment ignores this singularity and writes that
Matthew 24 is really speaking of multiple "comings". He believes Matthew
24:30 is speaking of an entirely different coming from Matthew 24:37.
Now I do not deny that in some contexts the term 'coming' with reference
to God or Christ does not refer to the literal, future Second Coming.
But what I do not grant is that there is any sufficient indication in the
context of Matthew 24 that Christ is speaking of multiple comings.
Christ certainly never goes out of His way to explain that there are multiple
comings to which He is referring in the context of His Matthew 24 discourse.
And yet the question posed by His disciples implied a single coming; the
term is in the singular, and is so used throughout the chapter. And Christ
nowhere explicitly corrected their use of the singular ‘thy coming.’
The most reasonable explanation is that in the context of Matthew 24 when
Christ refers to His coming He is referring to one single event.
And this single event will occur at the 'end of the age', as noted in my
Objection #5 : Ignoring the Relation between Matthew 24:14 and Matthew
Matthew 24:14 reads very similar to Matthew 28:19-20:
Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and,
lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the age. Amen.”
Both refer to the preaching of the gospel to the nations which is to occur until the end. Now I will take it for granted that Rev. Schwertley would agree with me that the end referred to in Matthew 28:19-20 is not 70 A.D. but Christ’s Second Advent. And there are many reasons to believe based upon the language employed and the description of their contents that these passages refer to the same event. So there is no good reason to believe the “all nations” referred to in Matthew 24:14 is different from the “all nations” in Matthew 28:19-20.
But Rev. Schwertley in his book “Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation “ goes to great lengths to explain why Matthew 24:14 has nothing to do with the spread of the gospel throughout the world to the Second Advent, but rather to its spread only until 70 A.D. and to the nations reached with the gospel by 70 A.D. only. But to ignore the relation of these two passages in the very same book, not even far removed from one another, and employing such similar language and content, is unwarranted.
John Calvin then correctly identifies the ‘the end [of the age]’ referenced in Matthew 24:14 with Christ’s Second Advent, explaining in his Commentary:
14. And the gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world. Our Lord, having delivered a discourse which gave no small occasion for sorrow, seasonably adds this consolation, to raise up minds that were cast down, or to uphold those which were falling. Whatever may be the contrivances of Satan, and how numerous soever may be the multitudes which he carries away, yet the gospel will maintain its ground till it be spread through the whole world. This might indeed appear to be incredible; but it was the duty of the apostles, relying on this testimony of their Master, to cherish hope against hope, and, in the meantime, to strive vigorously to discharge their office. As to the objection brought by some, that to this day not even the slightest report concerning Christ has reached the Antipodes and other very distant nations, this difficulty may be speedily resolved; for Christ does not absolutely refer to every portion of the world, and does not fix a particular time, but only affirms that the gospel--which, all would have thought, was immediately to be banished from Judea, its native habitation would be spread to the farthest bounds of the world before the day of his last coming…
And then will the end come. This is improperly restricted by some to the destruction of the temple, and the abolition of the service of the Law; for it ought to be understood as referring to the end and renovation of the world. Those two things having been blended by the disciples, as if the temple could not be overthrown without the destruction of the whole world, Christ, in replying to the whole question which had been put to him, reminded them that a long and melancholy succession of calamities was at hand, and that they must not hasten to seize the prize, before they had passed through many contests and dangers. In this manner, therefore, we ought to explain this latter clause: "The end of the world will not come before I have tried nay Church, for a long period, by severe and painful temptations," for it is contrasted with the false imagination which the apostles had formed in their minds. Hence, too, we ought to learn that no particular time is here fixed, as if the last day were to follow in immediate succession those events which were just now foretold; for the believers long ago experienced the fulfillment of those predictions which we have now examined, and[ yet Christ did not immediately appear. But Christ had no other design than to restrain the apostles, who were disposed to fly with excessive eagerness to the possession of the heavenly glory, and to show them the necessity of patience; as if he had said, that redemption was not so close at hand as they had imagined it to be, but that they must pass through long windings.
Objection #6 : A Contradiction of Definition and Timing
In his book “Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation“ Rev. Schwertley identifies the coming spoken of in Matthew 24:30 with the following descriptions:
Objection #7 : Failure to Properly Identify the Primary Reference in Matthew 24:9-11, 24 ; II Thessalonians 2:3 ; and Revelation 13:11-15
The similarity of description in the following three eschatological prophecies is too great not to relate to one another:
Matthew 24:9-11, 24 - “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many… For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”
II Thes. 2:3-11 - “Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition…[Even him], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
Revelation 13:11-15 - “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by [the means of] those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.”
Each of the above passages speak of the deception, trials, and falling away which will come, owing to tyrannical false christs and prophets, who will show great signs and wonders. Of course, in the Revelation 13 passage it speaks of a “beast” in the singular and not in the plural (like false christs and prophets), but we should keep in mind that in Daniel (from which the Apostle John borrowed significantly) a ‘beast’ represents not a mere king, but rather a kingdom of kings. So Daniel 7:23 reads: “…The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth…” And the term “the man of sin” should be understood as an appellation like “the son of perdition” or “the man of God”, speaking of a title and not an actual man. So II Timothy 3:17 reads: “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Here as elsewhere in scripture the term "the man of God" is a title, referring to prophets and preachers. Since the term "the Man of Sin"-like the terms "the man of God" or "the son of perdition"- is a title, we should not think that it refers to just one literal man. A title permits and even suggests a plural number of subjects hold the title. All of these passages combined suggest a kingdom of false christs and prophets who will deceive and persecute Christians, leading many professed Christians to fall away.
Rev. Schwertley rejects that this deception, persecution, and falling away in Matthew 24 has special reference to Romanism. He writes: “Although this passage is usually directly applied to the rise of Romanism or the heresies of our own day, we need to keep in mind that the apostolic church was living in the last days-at the end of the Jewish age.”
Rather, Rev. Schwertley attributes it especially to Nero, for he writes:
“The Roman persecution, which was often sporadic and unorganized, became an official policy under Nero. Bromily writes: "A drastic change came in July of A.D., 64, when Nero accused of setting a disastrous fire in Rome and unable to clear himself by gifts or sacrifices, decided to make the Christians scapegoats, and started a persecution which for its cruelty would evoke censure even from those who regarded Christianity as a debased superstition (Tacitus Ann. xv. 44). References to this persecution may perhaps be found in 1 Peter, and also in 2 Timothy, in which Paul mentions his trial and impending death. 1 Clem. 1:1 also refers to the martyrdom of Peter and Paul at this time, and Eusebius (HE ii.25.5ff.) adds that Peter suffered death by crucifixion and Paul by beheading. If Revelation belongs to the age of Nero, the persecution extended to Asia Minor, for the opening letters mention pressures and martyrdoms (2:2, 10, 13, 19; 3:8), and the author himself suffered exile for the word of God and the witness of Christ (1:9)."
However, Rev. Schwertley’s conclusion here is flawed in various respects, some of which I will touch upon now, and some of which I will explain in more detail when I address partial preterist errors in interpreting II Thessalonians 2 and the book of Revelation. Here are some of the flaws:
1.Nero was not a kingdom, but a mere king. The ‘beasts’ of Daniel are not only a mere king, but kingdoms, and there is no good reason to believe the Apostle John deviated from that pattern of word use in his book of Revelation. Nero was not ‘false christs and prophets’, plural, but only one in number.
2.As bad as Nero was, he was not a lamb-like deceiver who fooled Christians. He used brute force. But the false prophets and christs referenced here were deceivers who also used force to tyrannize believers.
3.Nero was not a Judas Iscariot-like (ie, ‘son of perdition’) betrayer of the Christian faith. As far as we know, he never professed to be Christian, and no one ever mistook him for a Christian.
4.Nero never did any ‘signs and wonders’ that fooled people. But evidently the ‘false christs and prophets’ and ‘man of sin’ referenced here does many.
5.Nero was around but a short time, but the ‘man of sin’, ‘lamb-like beast’, and ‘false christs and prophets’ are going to be around a long time, for as has already been shown, the ‘end of the age’ of Matthew 24 is not merely 70 AD. (There are two possibilities regarding when the Man of Sin will eventually be removed, but both possibilities suggest a long duration from the time of the First Advent. The first possibility is that the Man of Sin will not be permanently and finally removed until the Second Advent. This possibility is correct if the 'coming' referred to in II Thes. 2:8 is the same 'coming' as in II Thes 2:1. The 'coming' of II Thes 2:1 refers to the universalistic 'gathering together' of the elect unto Christ, which is the Second Advent. The second possibility is that the Man of Sin will be removed after he has appeared, deceived many, and then is overthrown on earth through the instrument of the preaching of the gospel by gospel preachers, the human instruments who are the mouth of Christ's Spirit. This possibility is suggested by the phrase 'the Spirit of His mouth', describing the means of the destruction of the Man of Sin. This possibility is also suggested by the fact that the 'coming' described in II Thes 2:8 seems to have the character of a local divine judgment of God on earth on the Man of Sin specifically, rather than a universal coming and judgment of all humanity. But whichever of these possibilities is correct, it suggests a long duration for such a widespread defection through the Man of Sin's prolonged deceit, and then his eventual removal. In addition, under either scenario we should be optimistic postmillenialists, for we know that Christ will build up His kingdom on earth [Matthew 16:18] to grow from a mustard seed to a great ‘tree’ that covers and dominates the earth [Matthew 13:32-33]. )
So what fits the bill, if Nero does not? The Romish Papacy. It is a kingdom. It is a lamb-like deceiver. It is a betrayer of the Christian faith that parades as Christian. (I would highly recommend Rev. Brian Schwertley's book cataloguing the damning errors of official Roman Catholic dogma.) It purports to do miracles like turning wine into Christ’s blood and bread into His body in the Romish Mass. (And it purports to do many miracles besides this. It even purports to forgive sins.) It has been around for centuries. It has been a persecutor of Christians. And it is based in Rome.
Now this is not to suggest that the ‘false christs and prophets’ of
Matthew 24 do not incorporate other false christs and prophets, such as
Mohammed. But the evidence suggests that it has special reference to the
Romish Papacy, who is the quintessential Man of Sin, Anti-Christ, and False
Prophet, using all sorts of deceptive techniques to fool Christians, even
as it parades itself as Christian, like Judas Iscariot (who scripture
refers to as 'the son of perdition') did.
Objection #8 : Wrongly Assigning the Reference of Matthew 26:63-64
; Matthew 16:27-28 ; Daniel 7:13-14 ; and Matthew 24:30 to 70 A.D.
Rev Schwertley asserts that Matthew 26:63-64 and 16:27-28 refer to the
same ‘coming’ of Christ, and that both refer to 70 AD. Thus he writes concerning
"And the high priest answered and said to Him, 'I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!' Jesus said to him, 'It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.'" After identifying Himself as the Christ, the Son of God our Lord applies Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13-14 directly to Himself. The phrase "you will see" is not a reference to the second coming and final judgment, but a reference to Jesus' manifestation of power in the destruction Jerusalem and the Jewish nation.”
Yet we read in the commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown this helpful commentary concerning Matthew 26, comparing it with its parallel passages in the other gospel accounts:
“ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven--In Matthew (Mat 26:64 ) a slightly different but interesting turn is given to it by one word: "Thou hast said [it]: nevertheless"--We prefer this sense of the word to "besides," which some recent critics decide for--"I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sit on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." The word rendered "hereafter" means, not "at some future time" (as to-day "hereafter commonly does), but what the English word originally signified, "after here," "after now," or "from this time." Accordingly, in Luk 22:69 , the words used mean "from now." So that though the reference we have given it to the day of His glorious Second Appearing is too obvious to admit of doubt, He would, by using the expression, "From this time," convey the important thought which He had before expressed, immediately after the traitor left the supper table to do his dark work, "Now is the Son of man glorified" ( Jhn 13:31 ). At this moment, and by this speech, did He "witness the good confession" emphatically and properly, as the apostle says in 1Ti 6:13 . Our translators render the words there, "Who before Pontius Pilate witnessed"; referring it to the admission of His being a King, in the presence of Caesar's own chief representative. But it should be rendered, as LUTHER renders it, and as the best interpreters now understand it, "Who under Pontius Pilate witnessed," &c. In this view of it, the apostle is referring not to what our Lord confessed before Pilate--which, though noble, was not of such primary importance--but to that sublime confession which, under Pilate's administration, He witnessed before the only competent tribunal on such occasions, the Supreme Ecclesiastical Council of God's chosen nation, that He was THE MESSIAH, and THE SON OF THE BLESSED ONE; in the former word owning His Supreme Official, in the latter His Supreme Personal, Dignity.”
Regarding Matthew 16:27-28 Rev. Schwertley writes:
Concerning Matthew 16:27-28, John Calvin correctly notes:
“Another important passage is Matthew 16:27-28. "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." The parallel passage in Mark reads, "Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power" (9:1). The phrase "there are some standing here" can only refer to persons actually present to hear Christ's words. "This restricts the meaning of what follows to a single generation or a single life time." (17) Jesus taught that His coming would take place during the lifetime of some of His contemporaries. What then does the coming refer to? Many commentators see this passage as problematic and offer various opinions as to its meaning. Many believe it refers to the transfiguration (e.g., Richard Baxter, J. C. Ryle, William L. Lane), others to the resurrection of Christ (Luther, Melanthon, Calvin, Lange), still others to the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost (e.g., Henry Barcley Swete, Gleason Archer). ”
“28. Verily, I say to you. As the disciples might still hesitate and inquire when that day would be, our Lord animates them by the immediate assurance, that he will presently give them a proof of his future glory. We know the truth of the common proverb, that to one who is in expectation even speed looks like delay; but never does it hold more true, than when we are told to wait for our salvation till the coming of Christ. To support his disciples in the meantime, our Lord holds out to them, for confirmation, an intermediate period; as much as to say, "If it seem too long to wait for the day of my coming, I will provide against this in good time; for before you come to die, you will see with your eyes that kingdom of God, of which I bid you entertain a confident hope." This is the natural import of the words; for the notion adopted by some, that they were intended to apply to John, is ridiculous. Coming in his kingdom. By the coming of the kingdom of God we are to understand the manifestation of heavenly glory, which Christ began to make at his resurrection, and which he afterwards made more fully by sending the Holy Spirit, and by the performance of miracles; for by those beginnings he gave his people a taste of the newness of the heavenly life, when they perceived, by certain and undoubted proofs, that he was sitting at the right hand of the Father.”
This ‘coming of the kingdom of God’ corresponds with prophecies such as Daniel 7:13-14, which reads: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, [one] like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed.” Thus Calvin writes concerning Daniel 7:13-14:
“He came to the Ancient of days. This, in my judgment, ought to be explained of Christ's ascension; for he then commenced his reign, as we see in numberless passages of Scripture. Nor is this passage contrary to what the Prophet had previously said -- he saw the Son of man in the clouds. For by this expression he simply wishes to teach how Christ, although like a man, yet differed from the whole human race, and was not of the common order of men; but excelled the whole world in dignity. He expresses much more when he says, in the second clause, He came even unto the Ancient of days. For although the Divine Majesty lay hid in Christ, yet he discharged the duty of a slave, and emptied himself, as Paul says, (Philippians 2:7). So also we read in the first chapter of John, (John 1:14,) Glory appeared in him as of the only begotten Son of God; that is, which belongs to the only begotten Son of God. Christ, therefore, thus put off his glory for the time, and yet by His miracles and many other proofs afforded a clear and evident; specimen of his celestial glory. He really appeared to Daniel in the clouds, but when he ascended to heaven, he then put off this mortal body, and put on a new life. Thus Paul also, in the sixth chapter to the Romans, says, he lives the life of God, (Romans 6:10;) and other phrases often used by our Lord himself agree very well with this, especially in the Evangelist John, "I go to the Father." "It is expedient for me to go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I," (John 16:7; John 14:28;) that is, it is expedient for me to ascend to that royal tribunal which the Father has erected for me by his eternal counsel, and thus the whole world will feel the supreme power to have been entrusted to me.”
“this view is supported by the immediate context (Mt. 24:30b) where our Lord refers to Daniel 7:13, "I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days..." Note, that Jesus' reference has nothing to do with a descending in the clouds toward the earth. The passage refers to the Son of Man's ascension to the heavenly throne room of the Father where He was given all power and authority over the nations. The following verse reads: "Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him..." (Dan. 7:14).”
Objection #9 : Treating Passages concerning Christ’s Coming with Similar Descriptive Language as if they were Different Events
Rev. Schwertley did an excellent job in his book “The Pre-Millenial Deception” at showing why pre-millenialists are guilty of disregarding the similar language of Christ’s coming and interpreting it as multiple comings and judgments. He tied together many passages concerning the Second Advent and showed that the Second Coming and Judgment occur simultaneously. .It would be possible I suppose to say that the Advent and Judgment described in Matthew 25 was different from the one described in II Thes. 1. But Rev. Schwertley connected the two, because nothing in either context suggested otherwise. But what did the stringing together of these various passages assume? How were we to know they were not referring to different events even though they employed similar language and content? The reality is that Rev. Schwertley strung them together as referring to the same event on the premise that passages with similar language and content, if the context permits it, should be viewed as referring to the same event
Ironically, however, Rev. Schwertley violates this principle in his
book “Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation“.
Let’s consider the following passages which speak of Christ’s coming:
Matthew 13:41-42 – “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Matthew 24:30-31 – “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Matthew 25:30-32 – “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats:”
I Cor 15:50-54 – “…Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed…”
I Thes 4:16-17 – “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
II Thes 1:7-10 – “On that day when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe”
II Thes 2:1 – “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord
Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him…”
Now all of these passages use very similar language in their description of Christ’s coming, and it can be shown (as I have shown in this critique) that the context does not demand that they refer to separate events. Notice how they speak of Christ’s coming and gathering of the elect, and mention a trumpet and angels. Most of the above passages Rev. Schwertley himself conceded in “Pre-Millenial Deception” refer to the same event. And it can be shown in each case that the context would permit such an interpretation. So following the principle which Rev. Schwertley implicitly follows in his book “The Pre-Millenial Deception”, it would seem reasonable to assign these various descriptions as referring to one event (namely, Christ’s Second Advent).
But Rev. Schwertley denies certain of the passages above refer to the
Second Advent (namely Matthew 24:30-31), and partial preterists in general
deny as well that II Thes. 2:1 refers to the Second Advent. I will address
this II Thes 2:1 passage later, but I would simply assert here that such
disconnection of these passages with regards to reference is unwarranted.
There is nothing in their respective contexts which demands they be regarded
as different events with different references.
Some Remarks Regarding the Partial Preterist Interpretation of II Thessalonians 2
Partial preterists insist that the Man of Sin described in II Thessalonians
must have been present in the first century, even though the scriptural
time indicators suggest otherwise. They also generally suggest that
the 'coming' of Christ referenced in
II Thes. 2:1 is His figurative "coming" in 70 A.D., and not His Second Advent. Let me address each of these incorrect contentions.
We should reject that the Man of Sin must have been present in the first century. First, there is an absence of a good time indicator that the ‘Man of Sin’ would be present in the first century. Second, there is actually time evidence to the contrary. In the context of II Thessalonians 2, the King James Version rightly translates II Thessalonians 2:2 to state: "That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand." (What is here translated "at hand" must mean ‘imminent’ as opposed to ‘past’, because no one in Thessalonika would have worried about Christ’s second advent being past, given that they had been well informed by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians that His second advent was universal and visible.) It is important in this context that Paul indicated Christ’s second advent was not imminent, because the same passage indicates people could know Christ’s second advent was not imminent because the Man of Sin was not present. II Thessalonians 2:3 reads: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." If the Apostle Paul really believed that the Man of Sin’s presence was imminent (as it would be if the Man of Sin were identified as Nero, for example), then he would certainly not have indicated that the Thessalonians could know Christ’s second advent was not imminent because of the Man of Sin’s absence. Apparently Paul believed that both the presence of the Man of Sin and the second advent of Christ were longer term events, when he said in II Thessalonians 2:2 that it was not imminent.
We should also reject that the 'coming' of Christ referenced in II Thes. 2:1 is His figurative "coming" in 70 A.D., and not His Second Advent. Rev. Schwertley rightly points out in his book “The Pre-Millenial Deception” that II Thessalonians 1:10 refers to Christ’s Second Advent. Given its proximity to II Thes. 2:1, and the similarity of language between II Thes. 2:1 and the other instances in which Christ’s Second Advent is referenced (see my Objection #9 ), it is only reasonable to believe II Thes. 2:1 refers to Christ’s Second Advent.
But if the 'coming' of II Thes 2:1 refers to Christ's Second Advent, then this is of significant import when it comes to our interpretation of the Man of Sin referred to in II Thes 2:3. There is no good reason to limit the Man of Sin to some figure or figures in the first century A.D., since we know that the Second Advent which will follow the presence of the Man of Sin will occur long after the first century A.D.
Furthermore, we have already mentioned in this examination why Nero does not fit the descriptions of the Man of Sin offered in II Thessalonians 2. Nero was no 'son of perdition' traitor like Judas, because he never professed to be Christian. Nero was no deceiver of Christians. And Nero did not show any signs and wonders. There is much good reason also to identify the "Man of Sin" of II Thessalonians with the Beasts of Rev 13. And the Beasts of Revelations 13 are not just single individuals, as can be seen both in Daniel and Revelations. Rather, they are kingdoms (Daniel 7:23).
Some preterists have suggested other possible first century Mans of Sin. But those offered all fail the criteria as well. For example, some have suggested the Jewish High Priest was the Man of Sin. But the Jewish High Priest was never a Christian traitor like Judas, nor did he reside in Rome, nor did he show signs and wonders, etc.
The reality, as hard as it seems to be for partial preterists to swallow,
is that the Man of Sin is the Romish Papacy. All roads lead to Rome,
and then straight to the Vatican.
Some Remarks regarding the Partial Preterist Approach to the Book of Revelation
I do not intend here to give a lengthy refutation of the partial preterist interpretation of Revelation, but simply will comment upon the basic approach they follow in interpreting the book. Partial preterists put much weight on time indicators like in Revelation 1:1, in order to conclude that much of Revelation occurred in the first century. Now Revelation 1:1 reads:
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto
his servants things which must shortly come to pass."
I highlight the word much because neither partial preterists nor even full preterists assert that all of the events prophesied in Revelation occurred in the first century. For example, partial preterists typically admit most of Revelation 20-22 occurs after the first century. Full preterists take partial preterists to task for their inconsistency in saying so much of Revelation occurs after the first century. For example, this is why the full preterist Russell can write regarding Revelation 21:
But even full preterists admit that the 'thousand years' referred to in Revelation 20 did not occur in the first century. So even full preterists are not fully consistent with their stated principle that the Revelation must surely come to pass means all the Revelation was fulfilled in the first century."In the first place, it belongs to ‘the things which must shortly come to pass;’ it falls strictly within apocalyptic limits. It is, therefore, no vision of the future; it belongs as much to the period called ‘the end of the age’ as the destruction of Jerusalem does; and we are to conceive of this renovation of all things,---this new heaven and new earth, as contemporaneous with, or in immediate succession to, the judgment of the great harlot, to which it is the counterpart or antithesis."
The problem with both the full and even more so the partial preteristic interpretation is that if they are going to admit that some of Revelation is not in the first century, then the whole force of their argument from passages like Revelation 1:1 disappears. There is no more reason to insist that all the events described in Revelation 13 must have occurred in the first century than Revelation 21, simply on the basis of the Revelation 1:1 time indicator. Whatever is meant by the time indicator "shortly come to pass", one thing is for sure: according to Revelation 1:1 it is descriptive of the “things” recorded in "The Revelation of Jesus Christ", and NOT a portion thereof. The wording in Greek suggests the whole will shortly come to pass. So how should we best deal with this?
A far more reasonable interpretation of passages like Rev 1:1 is that
of historicists. Matthew Henry, for instance, comments:
"Here we have the subject-matter of this revelation, namely, the things that must shortly come to pass. The evangelists give us an account of the things that are past; prophecy gives us an account of things to come. These future events are shown, not in the clearest light in which God could have set them, but in such a light as he saw most proper, and which would best answer his wise and holy purposes. Had they been as clearly foretold in all their circumstances as God could have revealed them, the prediction might have prevented the accomplishment; but they are foretold more darkly, to beget in us a veneration for the scripture, and to engage our attention and excite our enquiry. We have in this revelation a general idea of the methods of divine providence and government in and about the church, and many good lessons may be learned hereby. These events (it is said) were such as should come to pass not only surely, but shortly; that is, they would begin to come to pass very shortly, and the whole would be accomplished in a short time. For now the last ages of the world had come."
The Revelation describes the situation in the Apostolic era up to the time of Christ’s Second Advent, which is described in the final chapters of the book. Even partial preterists agree the final chapters of the book describe Christ’s Second Advent. But if they describe the Second Advent, then this suggests reasons why John would write that the “things” of Revelation would come to pass shortly. First, it is necessary to remember that even John probably did not know the time of Christ’s Second Advent when he recorded this Revelation – how far or how near it would be in time. For remember Christ's words: “But of that day and hour knoweth no [man], no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:36) It was not God’s intention to let men know how quickly the Second Advent would come, neither in the book of Matthew nor here in the book of Revelation. God wants man to be ever watchful that the coming might come soon. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come…Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:42-44) He knows depraved man’s heart if he should know when the Second Advent would occur: “that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming…” What God wants us to know, according to II Peter, is that in God’s time it will come quickly, and we should always be prepared because from the great perspective of time the event will come quickly. For "a thousand years" are "as one day" to the Lord (II Peter 3:8). Such scripture itself provides reasons why this time indicator was used in the book of Revelation, without resorting to some theory that the Advent therein described is something other than the literal Second Advent, or that the time indicator really only pertains to a portion of the events recorded in the book.
One important consideration in our overall interpretive principle with regards to the book of Revelation is its relation to the book of Daniel. In many respects the book of Revelation picks up the story of prophetic history where the book of Daniel left off. A perusal of both books indicates that Revelation took its pattern of addressing prophetic revelation from Daniel. Many of the images and much of the language is the same. The use of ‘beasts’ is but one example. Another example is the employment of numbers with various significations. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee has well pointed out these similarities and the relation of the two books. When we interpret the book of Revelation, therefore, we must always ask ourselves what light the book of Daniel sheds on it. One notable feature of the book of Daniel is that it must be interpreted historistically, and not preteristically or futuristically. The prophecies of Daniel- like his prophecy concerning the four beasts – covered the long period of history from Daniel’s time to the time of Christ’s First Advent. It would have been erroneous to interpret the four beasts as four kings that lived in Daniel’s generation. And it would have been erroneous to interpret the 70 weeks as 70 literal weeks. And it would have been erroneous to interpret the four beasts as being four actual kings living in some distant future time, far separated from Daniel’s writing the book. No, these four beasts represented four kingdoms that stretched from Daniel’s time all the way to the time of Christ’s First Advent. Similarly, since the book of Revelation follows the pattern of the book of Daniel, it would be erroneous to interpret it non-historistically. And it would be erroneous to conceive of its beasts as simply an actual leader that lived during the time of John, or its “time, and times, and half a time” in some literalistic fashion.
Another important consideration in our overall interpretive principle with regards to the book of Revelation is its internal content. In terms of its internal content, does it suggest a record of events that would take place in a space of decades or years- which is what many preterists propose- or a record of events which will in all likelihood take centuries to unfold? It speaks of current circumstances involving the churches at the time, kingdoms and kingdoms which come out of these kingdoms, a millennium of a thousand years, and what most partial preterists acknowledge is a description of Christ’s Second Advent ushering in the New Heavens and New Earth. Such elements alone are suggestive of a greater expanse of human time for these events to unfold. In other words, the elements in the book of Revelation are suggestive of an historicistic interpretation, and not a preteristic or futuristic interpretation. They seem to include events in the bookends of the period between the Apostolic era and the Second Advent, as well as elements in between which could very well take some considerable length of time. It would seem very odd to have both bookends if it were a prophecy that either focused upon one end or the other. And it would seem very odd to include in-between elements of such a character as these. It follows the pattern of Daniel, being a prophecy that contains bookends separated by a great span of time, as well as in-between elements like the kingdoms.
Other criticisms could be made about the typical partial preteristic
interpretations of Revelation. For example, in Rev 11:4-13, the killing
of the witnesses in these passages cannot refer to the slaughter of the
Judaists in the *literal* Jerusalem in 70 AD, because these witnesses of
Revelation 11 were Christians that ascended to heaven (Rev 11:12), and
not unbelieving Judaists. Christians were not in Jerusalem
in the 70 AD siege, because they fled; whereas the Judaists were the ones
killed. There is much reason to believe neither the 'temple' nor
Jerusalem of Revelation 11 is to be interpreted literally. And there
is still real question as to when the book of Revelation was even written,
yet the whole theory of partial preteristic interpretation of Revelation
hinges upon the early date theory.
‘Full preterism' holds that all prophecy is fulfilled in the A. D. 70 destruction of the Temple, including the Second Advent, the resurrection of the dead, and the great Judgment. The impetus behind this preterist position is the effort to explain descriptions of the Second Advent, the resurrection and the great Judgment in contexts where such temporal indicators as "shortly", "near", etc. are employed by the apostolic writers. The fundamental assumption of preterism (both 'full preterism' and scaled back 'partial preterism') is "that passages specifically delimiting the time-frame by temporal indicators (such as "this generation," "shortly," "at hand," "near," and similar wording) are to be applied to A. D. 70", quoting the words of the 'partial preterist' Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Partial preterism rejects the full preteristic interpretation of scripture, but still shares various assumptions. Thus, the partial preterist Gary DeMar writes concerning the full preterist Russell: "Russell's Parousia takes the Bible seriously when it tells us of the nearness of Christ's return…. Reading Russell is a breath of fresh air in a room filled with smoke and mirror hermeneutics." And Kenneth Gentry writes concerning this same book: "I highly recommend this well-organized, carefully argued, and compellingly written defense of preterism to serious and mature students of the Bible. It is one of the most persuasive and challenging books I have read on the subject of eschatology and has had a great impact on my own thinking." In embracing certain preterist assumptions, partial preterists have rejected some important tenets of the reformation confessions like the Westminster Standards, and put many others in jeopardy. Most notably, the partial preterists have rejected that the Papacy is the Man of Sin Anti-Christ, suggesting instead that it is Nero or some other first century figure.
There are at least two reasons we must take the error of partial preterism
seriously. First, it brings into danger our doctrine of the future
literal return of Christ and bodily resurrection. If passages
like II Thessalonians 2:1 were speaking of only the 70 AD event of the
destruction of Jerusalem, then it is not unreasonable to believe passages
like II Thessalonians 1:7-10 have reference to the same event. Both
of these texts describe His Coming in similar language, and they are certainly
close in context and proximity. In my opinion, it is not reasonable
to think these relate to different events. In my own personal discussions
with partial preterists, some have told me that II Thessalonians 1:7-10
refers to 70 A.D., because they were so persuaded
II Thessalonians 2:1 refers to 70 A.D. Now if these references to "the coming of Christ and...our gathering together unto Him" (II Thessalonians 2:1) and judgment (II Thessalonians 1:7-10) are just describing the events of 70 AD, then it is quite reasonable and compelling to believe I Thessalonians 4:17 is also referring to it. Indeed, if the passages in II Thessalonians concerning the Advent relate to 70 A.D., I think it is a very hard case indeed to argue that the Advent passages in I Thessalonians do not also relate to it. But I and II Thessalonians are a gold mine in terms of our understanding of the Second Advent. If this gold mine really belongs to 70 A.D., I think it is hard to imagine our doctrine of the Second Advent can go totally unaffected. Furthermore, it raises significant questions about other allusions to the Advent, especially in the Pauline epistles. Now with regards to Matthew 24, if a convincing argument really could be made that the ‘end of the age’ there is really 70 A.D., then I think there is a compelling argument which could be made that it has similar reference in Matthew 13. But our interpretation of Matthew 13 cannot leave our interpretation of passages like Matthew 25 and other gospel passages unaffected. Finally, I have already noted how the full preterist interpretation of the book of Revelation is more consistent with the preterist assumption than the partial preterist assumption is, at least relatively speaking. Full preterism, with its denial of a future literal return of Christ, is not an unreasonable ultimate conclusion of the partial preterist error in various passages. It is not surprising or illogical that those who have accepted partial preterist assumptions should end up in the full preterist camp. But full preterism is quite radical in its implications. Not surprisingly, many partial preterist theologians have sought a way to retain their preterist assumptions yet avoid the consequence of full preterism. This is all done in an understandable effort to retain the historic doctrine of Christ's future literal coming, trying to avoid those radical implications. But this is no way to preserve orthodoxy. The proper course is to recognize partial preterist errors and understand the consistency and reasonableness of historicism.
Second, it is important that we rightly identify the 'Man of Sin' Anti-Christ from his scriptural descriptions, even as it is important that we identify who the Christ is from his scriptural descriptions. The Apostle Paul expected Christians to be able to identify this "Man of Sin", unlike the non-elect who would be deceived by him (II Thessalonians 2:1). The "Man of Sin" would cause great apostacy in the church (II Thessalonians 2:3), and as such would pose no small threat. As we read in Revelations 13:14 this Anti-Christian Beast would deceive many of them on the earth, appearing like a lamb (Revelations 13:11). Just as the other Beasts of Daniel and Revelations, so this Beast was not to be simply one individual, but a whole kingdom of rulers over time. He would be a traitor like the great 'son of perdition', Judas Iscariot. Just as Judas masqueraded as a Christian, so would this "Man of Sin", and so be deceptive. Just as Christians in the days of the Apostles had to consider the Biblical descriptions of Christ and realize they fit Jesus, so we are called on to consider the Biblical descriptions of the "Man of Sin" Anti-Christ and realize they fit the Papacy. Indeed, Paul indicated Christians could know that Christ's coming was not at hand until this "Man of Sin" had completed his work of deception and destruction and his reign had been overcome (II Thessalonians 2:3). It was by properly identifying the "Man of Sin" Anti-Christian Beast that our Protestant fore-fathers knew they had to break with the Romish Church. There is no negotiation with or reformation of him. And Protestants today cannot afford to lose sight of the Reformer's correct insight.
Historicism can most reasonably explain the various eschatological prophecies in Matthew 24, II Thessalonians 2, and the book of Revelation. There is simply no good reason to leave historicism for either partial or full preterism. Therefore, I must dissent from Rev. Schwertley's conclusions in his book "Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation". There have been numerous occasions when Rev. Schwertley has rightly corrected my wrong notions, and I hope on this occasion he and other partial preterists will suffer me to correct theirs.