Pastor David B. Curtis

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Does Eschatology Matter?

08/09/2004

On July 11, I spoke on the subject of how to share the preterist view. In that message I asked the question, "Is eschatology important?" Does it really matter what your view on the second coming is? Will it somehow impact your life? In answer to that question I gave four reasons why your view of eschatology matters. They were:

1. Eschatology is a major theological issue in the Scriptures.
2. Salvation is tied to eschatology.
3. Israel!
4. It affects your world view.

When commenting on the third point, "Israel," I said, "Zionism has affected our foreign policy." Basically, our view of Israel has affected our foreign policy. This morning I'd like to attempt to prove that statement.

It is my belief that eschatology affected all Americans on September 11, 2001. I believe that the attack on the twin towers in New York city and all the lives that were lost that day were a result of bad eschatology. I think there is an inseparable link between terrorism and Zionism. You may not agree with my conclusions, but at least hear me out. I believe the war on terrorism will only be won theologically. And therefore I very strongly believe that eschatology matters. When it comes down to it, the war in Iraq is an eschatological issue. If our leaders were to hold to a preterist view of eschatology, it would drastically affect not only the middle east, but the world as well.

You may be wondering how I can make the connection between eschatology and terrorism. It really all revolves around Israel. What do you believe the Bible says about the modern state of Israel?

Let's begin with some quotes from Osama Bin Laden: "Our terrorism is a good accepted terrorism, because it's against America, it's for the purpose of defeating oppression so America would stop supporting Israel, who is killing our children."

So Bin Laden says that terrorism is connected to America's support of Israel. And I say that America's support of Israel is tied to eschatology.

Listen to this quote from Bin Laden on September 23, 2001: "We hope that these brothers (Muslim casualties in Pakistan) are among the first martyrs in Islam's battle in this era against the new Christian-Jewish crusade led by the big crusader Bush under the flag of the Cross; this battle is considered one of Islam's battles."

He see's the war on terrorism to be a Christian -Jewish (American and Israel)crusade. He says Bush is waging this war "under the flag of the Cross"- he sees this war to be religious in nature. I believe this war is religious in nature also; it is driven by bad eschatology.

In May 1997, during an interview with CNN, Bin Laden reaffirms his call for a holy war against Americans: "We have focused our declaration of jihad on the U.S. soldiers inside Arabia. The U.S. government has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous, and criminal through its support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine."

On Sunday November 24, 2002, in answer to the question, Why are you fighting us? Bin Laden's first response: "Palestine, which has sunk under military occupation for more than 80 years. The British handed over Palestine, with your help and your support, to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years; years overflowing with oppression, tyranny, crimes, killing, expulsion, destruction, and devastation. The creation and continuation of Israel is one of the greatest crimes, and you are the leaders of its criminals. And of course there is no need to explain and prove the degree of American support for Israel. The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price, and pay for it heavily."

According to Bin Laden, terrorism is a result of America's support of Israel. And ,as I have said, America's support of Israel is eschatological. Because of Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism most American Christians believe that we have a biblical mandate to stand with and protect Israel.

Are Bible-believing Christians supposed to support a Jewish State for theological reasons? Such is the assertion of Jerry Falwell and many other Christian leaders who could be called "Christian Zionists". While related to the theology of Dispensationalism, Christian Zionism is actually something different theologically.

Let's define our terms. Zionism is a political movement built on the belief that the Jewish people deserve by right to possess the land of Palestine as their own. Christian Zionism is essentially a Christian prophetic support for Zionism; seeing the modern state of Israel, and the equivalent of the biblical Israel, and the forerunner of the return of Jesus. Grace Halsell summarizes the message of the Christian Zionist in this way: "Every act taken by Israel is orchestrated by God, and should be condoned, supported, and even praised by the rest of us."

"Never mind what Israel does," say the Christian Zionists, "God wants us to support them." This includes the invasion of Lebanon, which killed or injured an estimated 100,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, most of them civilians; the bombing of sovereign nations such as Iraq; the deliberate, methodical brutalizing of the Palestinians-breaking bones, shooting children, and demolishing homes; and the expulsion of Palestinian Christians and Muslims from a land they have occupied for over 2,000 years.

Dispensational Christian Zionism, which is the dominant form, is pervasive within mainline evangelical, charismatic, and independent mega-churches. Dale Crowley claims they are led by 80,000 fundamentalist pastors, their views disseminated by 1,000 Christian radio stations as well as 100 Christian TV stations. Over 250 pro-Israeli organizations were founded in the 1980s alone.

Advocates such as Robertson and Falwell claim the support of 100 million Americans. Pat Robertson's, Christian Coalition, for example, with an annual budget of $25 million and over 1.7 million members, is arguably the single most influential political organization in the U.S.

For some history on how Zionism came about, let me give you some quotes from Donald Wagner. Donald Wagner is director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at North Park University in Chicago and director of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding. In his book Evangelicals and Israel: Theological Roots of a Political Alliance, he writes:

Through Darby's influence, premillennial dispensationalism became a dominant method of biblical interpretation and influenced a generation of evangelical leaders, including Dwight L. Moody. Perhaps the most influential instrument of dispensational thinking was the Scofield Bible (1909) which included a commentary that interpreted prophetic texts according to a premillennial hermeneutic. Another early Darby disciple, William E. Blackstone, brought dispensationalism to millions of Americans through his best seller Jesus Is Coming (1882).

By 1927, Blackstone's book had been translated into thirty-six languages. The book took a premillennial dispensational view of the Second Coming, emphasizing that the Jews had a biblical right to Palestine and would soon be restored there. Blackstone became one of the first Christian Zionists in America to actively lobby for the Zionist cause. Blackstone took the Zionist movement to be a "sign" of the imminent return of Christ.

Wagner writes:

Blackstone organized the first Zionist lobbying effort in the U.S. in 1891 when he enlisted J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Charles B. Scribner and other financiers to underwrite a massive newspaper campaign requesting President Benjamin Harrison to support the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.
Similar efforts were under way in England, led by the social reformer Lord Shaftesbury, who, like Blackstone, was so taken with Darby's eschatology that he translated it into a political agenda. These seeds of the Christian Zionist movement preceded Jewish Zionism by several years. Loni Shaftesbury is also credited with coining an early version of the slogan adopted by Jewish Zionist fathers Max Nordau and Theodor Herzl: "A land of no people for a people with no land." Both Lord Arthur Balfour, author of the famous 1917 Balfour Declaration, and Prime Minister David Lloyd George, the two most powerful men in British foreign policy at the close of World War I, were raised in dispensationalist churches and were publicly committed to the Zionist agenda for 'biblical' and colonialist reasons.

The Balfour Declaration was an official statement issued on behalf of the British government in 1917, announcing its support in principle of a proposed home for the Jewish people in Palestine. It was drafted by British Foreign Minister Arthur J. Balfour in concert with prominent Jewish leaders and the British cabinet and was issued by Balfour in the following communication to the 2nd Baron Rothschild on November 2, 1917:

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of his Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations, which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.
His Majesty's Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object. It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

This declaration, which Zionists interpreted as a promise for a Jewish state in Palestine, was formally approved by representatives of the Allied governments at Versailles in 1919 and was the basis of the League of Nations mandate for Palestine.

Please notice Balfour's statement, "It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine..." This was totally ignored, and during the late 1940s Zionist guerrillas succeeded in throwing Palestine into havoc and eventually took over that land. The result was the disenfranchisement of the people who had historically dwelt there.

Elias Chacour, in his book, Blood Brothers, which I highly recommend, talks about what it was like for the Palestinians as the Zionist guerrillas took over their land driving them from their homes and murdering whole villages. This is what Bin Laden was talking about when he said, "The British handed over Palestine, with your (Americas)

help and your support, to the Jews, who have occupied it for more than 50 years; years overflowing with oppression, tyranny, crimes, killing, expulsion, destruction and devastation."

Wagner goes on to say:

By the early 1970s numerous books, films and television specials publicized the premillennial dispensationalist perspective. Hal Lindsay made a virtual industry out of his book The Late Great Planet Earth: it sold more than 25 million copies and led to two films, as well as a consulting business with a clientele that has included several members of Congress, the Pentagon, and Ronald Reagan.
...The fourth factor that stimulated the emerging evangelical Christian Zionist movement's political agenda was the election of Menachem Begin as Israel's prime minister in May 1977. Prior to Begin's election, Israeli politics had been dominated by the secular Labor Party. Begin's Likud (Lie kude) Party was dominated by hard-line military figures such as Raphael Eitan and Ariel Sharon, and supported by the increasingly powerful settler movement and by small Orthodox religious parties. Likud constituencies used the biblical names "Judea and Samaria" for the West Bank and employed a religious argument to justify Israel's confiscation of Arab land for settlements: since God gave the land exclusively to Jews, they have a divine right to settle anywhere in Eretz Israel. Evangelicals welcomed the Likud leaders and endorsed their political and religious agendas.
...The final development that accelerated the alliance between Likud and the Religious Right was Carter's March 1977 statement that he supported Palestinian human rights, including the "right to a homeland." Likud, when it came to power just two months later; immediately reached out to Christian evangelicals. Likud's strategy was simple: split evangelical and fundamentalist Christians from Carter's political base and rally support among conservative Christians for Israel's opposition to the United Nations' proposed Middle East Peace Conference.
Within weeks, full-page advertisements appeared in major U.S. newspapers stating, 'The time has come for evangelical Christians to affirm their belief in biblical prophecy and Israel's divine right to the land.' Targeting Soviet involvement in the UN conference, the ad went on to say: 'We affirm as evangelicals our belief in the promised land to the Jewish people . . . . We would view with grave concern any effort to carve out of the Jewish homeland another nation or political entity.'
The ad was financed and coordinated by Jerusalem's Institute for Holy Land Studies, an evangelical organization with a Christian Zionist orientation. Several leading dispensationalists signed the ad, including Kenneth Kantzer of Christianity Today and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, singer Pat Boone, and dispensationalist theologian and Dallas Theological Seminary president, John Walvoord.
Evangelicals, major Jewish organizations and the pro-Israel lobby supported Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election. Carter's loss of the evangelical vote played a significant role in his defeat. Likud policy was aggressively represented by AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) both on Capitol Hill and within the Reagan administration. For example, when Israel decided to invade Lebanon in the spring of 1982, Begin sent Ariel Sharon, his defense minister, to Washington to enlist the Reagan administration's support. By late May, Sharon was reportedly given the green light by Secretary of State, Alexander Haig. Within days of the June invasion, full-page ads appeared in leading newspapers requesting evangelical support for the invasion.
Begin developed a unique relationship with Reagan and many fundamentalist leaders, especially Jerry Falwell. Falwell and his Moral Majority had long supported Israel. In 1979, Grace Halsell reports, Israel gave Falwell a Lear jet and in 1981 gave him the prestigious Jabotinsky Award during an elaborate dinner ceremony in New York. When Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear plant in 1981, Begin called Falwell before he called Reagan. He requested that Falwell 'explain to the Christian public the reasons for the bombing.'
In March 1985, while speaking to the conservative Rabbinical Assembly in Miami, Falwell pledged to 'mobilize 70 million conservative Christians for Israel and against anti-Semitism.' He also takes credit for converting Senator Jesse Helms (R., N.C.) into one of Israel's staunchest allies. Helms soon became chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Reagan administration regularly conducted briefings and seminars for its Christian Right supporters, briefings in which the pro-Likud lobby (Americans for a Safe Israel and AIPAC) participated. Among the approximately 150 Christian fundamentalist leaders invited to each event were Hal Lindsay, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Bakker; Pat Robertson, and Tim and Bev LeHaye.
Reagan himself was a committed Christian Zionist. His support for Israel derived from both strategic political concerns and a vague dispensationalist perspective.
This bizarre but deliberate alliance of Christian Zionist groups such as the Christian Coalition, with the pro-Israel neo-conservatives who back Sharon and Netanyahu, has become one of the most influential political interest groups in U.S. politics... Christian Zionist financial contributions to specific U.S. Congressmen give them enormous influence over Congress. Christian Zionist 'friends' in Congress include Senator James Inhofe or Republican House whip, Tom DeLay, and Senate Foreign Relations head, Jesse Helms, all closely tied to the support of Christian Zionist Israel policy.

Now let me ask you a question, "Why are all these Christian leaders so supportive of Israel?" Where do they get the idea that Christians are to stand in support of Israel? Well, the whole Old Testament is filled with promises that God made to Israel. The nation was uniquely chosen by God to be blessed and to be a source of blessing to the whole world:

Genesis 12:1-3 (NASB) Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; 2 And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; 3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

God told Israel:

Deuteronomy 7:6-8 (NASB) "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

It was to Israel that God revealed himself, it was Israel that received the Messianic promises. To mess with Israel is to mess with God himself according to:

Zechariah 2:8 (NASB) For thus says the LORD of hosts, "After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye."

They were God's chosen people:

Amos 3:1-2 (NASB) Hear this word which the LORD has spoken against you, sons of Israel, against the entire family which He brought up from the land of Egypt, 2 "You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth; Therefore, I will punish you for all your iniquities."

The word "chosen" indicates an intimate relationship. Out of all the families of the earth, God chose Israel. They had a very privileged position . Now, with privilege comes responsibility. Look at the last part of the verse in Amos 3:2. This seems to be something the Zionist's miss. "Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities."With great privilege comes great responsibility. Israel became proud and missed the true end of all they had; the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to atone for their sins.

The Christian Zionist doesn't seem to realize that because of Israel's disobedience, God is finished with national Israel. Let's look at what Jesus had to say to the nation of Israel:

Matthew 21:18-19 (NASB) Now in the morning, when He returned to the city, He became hungry. 19 And seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it, and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said^ to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." And at once the fig tree withered.

I believe that the fig tree is used here as a figure for the nation Israel. Throughout Israel's history, God constantly hungered for his people to bring forth fruit. The gospel writers spoke of the physical hunger of Jesus Christ as symbolic of God's hunger for fruit from His people. Jesus pronounces a curse on Israel because of their failure to bear fruit and their ultimate rejection of Him. Many of Jesus' parables referred to Israel's rejection and thus their destruction.

John the baptizer came preaching judgement on Israel:

Matthew 3:7 (NASB) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"

Speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees, John said, "Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" The words "to come" are from the Greek word mello. The Greek verb "mello" means: (in the infinitive) "to be about to", and "be on the point of" (see Thayer, Arndt & Gingrich, New Englishman's Greek Concordance and Harper's Analytical Greek Lexicon). So, John is saying to his first century audience, "Who warned you to flee from the wrath about to come?" The wrath that John was talking about was the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

What I want you to see here is that at the heart of John's message was the theme of coming judgment. John announced in verse 2 that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, meaning it was very near. The kingdom of heaven will be ushered in with a time of judgment. John speaks of that judgment in:

Matthew 3:10 (NASB) "And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

In order for the kingdom to be consummated, there must be a time of judgment. The axe is there at the root ready to cut down any tree that is not bearing good fruit. John places an emphasis on fire in verses 11 and 12. In those verses, there is a reference to the coming destruction:

Matthew 3:11 (NASB) "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

The baptism with fire, which John mentions in verse 11, is the judgment that John elaborates in:

Matthew 3:12 (NASB) "And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

The winnowing fork was a wooden instrument used to throw the grain into the air. The wind would then blow away the lighter chaff, and the good grain would fall down to the floor. The winnower threw the grain and chaff up into the air until all the chaff had blown away. That is the picture John is describing here where the Messiah "will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor" (v.12). In other words, He will winnow the grain until all the chaff is gone. The judgment will be thorough and complete, "and He will gather His wheat into the barn." Then the warning again, "but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

The Bible clearly speaks of Israel's total destruction as a judgement of God. Yet most Christians still believe they are God's chosen people.

Here is a list of scriptures that show that the Promised Land and blessings were indeed conditional. Deuteronomy 4:23-27, 7:12, 8:1, 18-20, 29:25-28, 30:15, Exodus 19:5-6. Physical Israel was destroyed because of her disobedience - never to arise again.

A modern Zionist, Merrill Simon, has written a book, Jerry Falwell and the Jews. This book is a series of interviews with Falwell, designed to present him as a friend of Zionism

On page 13, Falwell is asked if he considers the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as a sign of God's rejection of Israel. Falwell answers by saying that he surely does not believe a "vengeful" God brought the Roman army to Jerusalem to destroy the Jews. Falwell ascribes the event rather to anti-Semitism.

Has Falwell never read Deuteronomy 28? Listen to what God says to Israel:

Deuteronomy 28:15 (NASB) "But it shall come about, if you will not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.
Deuteronomy 28:20-21 (NASB) "The LORD will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me. 21 "The LORD will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land, where you are entering to possess it.

Do we see an angry, "vengeful" God here threatening to bring horrors upon Israel if they apostatize? The assertion, therefore, that the modern State of Israel has God's blessing is totally without foundation in Scripture.

Jesus predicted that the Temple would be destroyed and the Jews exiled from the land as God's judgement for their failure to recognize Him as the Messiah:

Luke 19:41-44 (NASB) And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. 43 "For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, 44 and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."

In A.D. 70 the lights went out in Israel for good. When the tribulation was over, physical Israel ceased to exist. The Old Covenant was over and the New fully instituted.

Falwell says that the future of the State of Israel is more important than any other political question. He says that the Jews have a theological, historical, and legal right to Palestine. He affirms his personal commitment to Zionism, and says that he learned Zionism from the Old Testament. Maybe he should spend some more time in the New Testament so he would understand that the old covenant has ended with the destruction of Jerusalem, and the New Covenant is an eternal covenant that will never end. Modern apostate Jews have absolutely no theological, and therefore, no historical and legal right to the land of Palestine.

The promises God made to Old Testament Israel are fulfilled in the church of Jesus Christ:

Galatians 3:16 (NASB) Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ.

We read some of these promises in Genesis 12:3. The promises were to one Seed, who was Christ. Jesus Christ is the seed of Abraham.

Galatians 3:26-29 (NASB) For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

If you by faith belong to Christ, you are Abraham's seed and an heir according to the promise. It doesn't matter whose blood you have in your veins, but whose faith you have in your heart. It is covenant, not race, that makes one a child of God.

We inherit all the promises made to Abraham through Christ. Everything we are and have is by virtue of our union with Christ, which only comes by faith. Listen carefully, the Abrahamic Covenant was a promise made to Abraham and to Jesus Christ, the seed of Abraham, that he would be made great, the father of many nations, and that in him would all the nations of the earth be blessed. This promise was fulfilled physically in Abraham, and spiritually and ultimately in Christ.

The promise was always to the spiritual descendants of Abraham, the Church. The Church is not a temporary interruption in God's prophetic program for Israel as the dispensationalists teach. The Church is the prophetic fulfillment of that program, because the Church is true Israel. Covenant, not race, has always been the defining mark of the true Israel of God.

Millions of 21st century Christians have allowed themselves to be robbed of one of the most precious and vital beliefs of historical Christian teaching, namely, that the church is the true Israel of God and the ONLY Israel through which God's eternal purpose is be consummated.

When Israel responded to the Netanya suicide bombing in March 2002 by reinvading the West Bank and besieging Jenin, the ensuing international outcry led US President George W. Bush to order Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to withdraw his forces from Palestinian areas. Bush sent a strong message to Sharon at an April 2 news conference: "Withdraw! Withdraw your troops immediately!"

At that point longtime Christian Zionist spokesman and pro-Israel advocate, Jerry Falwell, and other Christian Zionist leaders, working closely with pro-Israel groups, used their media and Internet outlets to mobilize their constituencies to deliver tens of thousands of telephone calls, e-mails and letters to the president, telling him to refrain from pressuring Sharon and to allow Israel to finish its job. In the aftermath of that campaign, Bush did not utter another word of opposition to Israeli military actions. Falwell told the CBS news program, "60 Minutes," that after the incident, Israel could count on Bush to "do the right thing for Israel every time." The lesson was that even when the Bush administration criticized Israel, the Israelis, conscious of the extensive support they enjoy in the US Congress, would not take it seriously. As Falwell said: "The Bible Belt is Israel's safety net in the US."

Christian Zionism shows an uncritical tolerance of Rabbinic Judaism and endorsement of the Israeli political right while at the same time demonstrates an inexcusable lack of compassion for the Palestinian tragedy and plight of the indigenous Christian community in Israel and Palestine. The modern State of Israel permits the persecution of Christians and Christian missionaries. To support the enemies of the Gospel is to be anti-Christ. Christian Zionism is blasphemy. It is a heresy.

Does eschatology matter? It sure does, probably more than any of us realize. If we are to ever have peace in the middle-east, if we are ever to see an end of terrorism, we must have an impact on American foreign policy. If we are to have an impact on American foreign policy, we must have an impact on American politicians. If we are to have an impact on American politicians, we must have an impact on Christian Zionists. We must proclaim the truth of fulfilled eschatology. We must lovingly and aggressively seek to teach the truth of preterism, because eschatology matters.

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