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When is a Heretic Not a Heretic?

by Daniel E. Harden

05/30/1999

I had the privilege earlier this year of going to the eschatology conference in Orlando hosted by R.C. Sproul. It was quite exciting, with the number of attendees swelling to over 4000, I believe. It was an exciting and amazing experience. R.C. Sproul has firmly aligned himself at this point with the Partial Preterist camp. For three days we heard various eschatological presentations by various speakers. I was able to meet quite a variety of people, from firm Dispensationalists to Full Preterists. One speaker that I unfortunately did not get to meet or hear speak was Gary DeMar, who has done much to enlighten us to the understanding of the first-century audience of the eschatological passages in the New Testament.

One speaker that I did listen two twice, however, and with whom Sproul has come to agree, was Dr. Kenneth Gentry. Dr. Gentry gave two presentations that were quite lengthy. While many people were restless and unsure about his conclusions, I felt that overall he did a good job. I have read several of Dr. Gentry’s books on eschatology, and find that normally his reasoning is sound. Before Jerusalem Fell, for example, provides a wealth of information supporting the early dating of the book of Revelation.

In addition, Dr. Gentry has been busy defending his position to theologians that are of the Dispensational camp. He is quite adamant in asserting that what he defends is NOT heretical. This is commendable, to say the least.

So I was quite taken aback by the attacks leveled by Dr. Gentry recently in his article Calling For the End --The Great Tribulation in Progressive Dispensationalism (Part 11). This is part of a continuing series by Dr. Gentry titled Dispensationalism in Transition.

In his article, he not only goes out of his way to distance himself from the Full Preterists and label them as heretics, he also uses the same tactics and smoke screens that he rebukes the Dispensationalists for using.

In reading this article, I found myself thinking back to the age-old riddle, "When is a door not a door?" For Gentry tries to change titles and definitions in an effort to disguise the real issue. But what is really amazing is that the issue really had little bearing on the real intent of the article, so in order to do so he had to take an intentional detour outside the realm of the topic.

The attack begins right off the bat, in the section An Introductory Disclaimer. Dr. Gentry starts off with this statement:

Before I begin my analysis and critique, however, I must make very clear my orthodox convictions regarding biblical eschatology. I pause to do so because a new, unorthodox movement has arisen that confuses many Christians regarding orthodox preterism. This new movement largely arises from within Church of Christ (Campbellite) circles; indeed, the two main publishing sources of the movement are run by present or former Campbellites (though, like any good cult-like movement, it is widening its net and drawing followers from other sources). This movement asserts that A.D. 70 witnesses the fulfilling of ALL eschatological prophecy. This mutant form of preterism goes too far, for it denies a future Second Advent of Christ; a future, bodily resurrection of the dead; and other historic, orthodox doctrines of the Christian faith.

Dr. Gentry immediately distances himself from Full Preterism by referring to Partial Preterism as ‘orthodox Preterism’ and Full Preterism as ‘unorthodox Preterism’. His use of ‘orthodoxy’, however, needs to be clarified, for it is an extremely subjective term. For if we examine Dr. Gentry’s Partial Preterist views within the framework of the ‘common’ belief of his audience, modern America, we find that in fact he is outside of orthodoxy, because the prevailing views are Premillennialist Dispensationalism and Amillennialism. And in both cases, the book of Revelation is seen as being writen around the end of the first century and referring to something far in the future. Indeed, even the Presbyterian faith defined within its orthodoxy the belief that the book of Revelation and the Antichrist were referring to the Pope. Gentry’s Partial Preterist beliefs are out of sync with his denomination, and as such, is unorthodox even in his own camp!

In addition, his multiple-Parousia view is at odds with the very creeds he leans heavily on. For not one creed teaches a multiple Parousia, or that the Parousia of Matt 24:37-39 is anything different than the one in Matt 24:19-35! Here he is not only out of sync within his own camp and within modern America, but with the creeds as well.

This does not deter him, however, nor should it. For where does he turn to ultimately? Scripture. This is to be commended, but it cannot be seen as ‘orthodox’ if he is out of step with the religious community. His contention is that he is preserving a future Parousia and a future physical body resurrection, and as that is in line with modern Christianity and the creeds, then he is orthodox. Orthodoxy, however, even if restricted to eschatology alone, encompasses much more than two points, and as Dr. Gentry falls short of orthodoxy on other points, his views then must be considered as unorthodox.

So his contention that Full Preterism is unorthodox while Partial Preterism is orthodox is fallacious. What would have been more correct would be for him to say that Partial Preterism differs from orthodoxy in different areas than does Full Preterism, and that he considers those areas to be less blatant and less severe. But that’s as far as he can go, for "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" (1 Cor 5:6)

He then proceeds to make the statement that the Full Preterist movement is largely a Campbellite or Church of Christ movement. This is actually a fallacy, but it really is of little consequence. I, for one, while I have read some of the materials by the Church of Christ, have never been affiliated with them, nor have I ever been dependent on them. In fact, I was a Full Preterist before I read any of their material or had any contact with them. And I am far from alone. And while the Church of Christ Preterists (mainly Max King and the Living Presence contingent) are growing, I believe that the Reformed Preterist ‘movement’ is actually stronger and doctrinally sounder.

Dr. Gentry also calls Full Preterism a ‘mutant’ branch of Preterism. I find this adjective to be somewhat distasteful. I also find it surprising coming from Dr. Gentry’s pen. Indeed, any view that is similar to but not the same as any other will be seen as ‘mutant’, but it is usually referred to in softer terms, like a different ‘flavor’ or a different ‘take’. A mutant is an ugly abnormality. But by Dr. Gentry’s interpretation, since the roots of Preterism go back to the first century, the rest of Christianity, including and especially Dispensationalism, is a mutant religion because of their denial of any AD 70 Parousia.

So when Dr. Gentry uses the term ‘mutant’, it should not concern us, for it is no different than the tauntings of people down through the ages that were intolerant of anything the least bit different or out of the ordinary. In other words, it is nothing more than a schoolboy term of intolerance. The real question is, is there Scriptural reason to deny Full Preterism. And it is in this area that Dr. Gentry falls far short. Taunts and accusations of this type should never be leveled without proper support, and Dr. Gentry fails to supply this.

Next, Gentry says:

In the past I have called this viewpoint "hyper-preterism" (based on the debate between true Calvinism v. hyper-Calvinism). I am now beginning to employ the term applied to it by Douglas Wilson and the folks at Credenda/Agenda: "pantelism" (all-things-ism). So, from here on out, if I refer to "pantelism" I am speaking of extreme, unorthodox, hyper-preterism -- a view which I resolutely deny. My concern parallels in many respects J. Gresham Machen's concern with liberalism: he deemed liberal "Christianity" not to be Christianity at all, hence his book, "Christianity and Liberalism" (he sees liberalism as a different religion). I now prefer to apply another label to unorthodox "preterism." And "pantelism" is a convenient label that would clearly distinguish it from orthodox preterism.

Dr. Gentry here applies a smoke screen. In his effort to disassociate himself with Full Preterism, he decided to rename it. Cute trick. Actually, it’s a well-known ploy, a verbal slight of hand, if you will. I have already equated Dr. Gentry’s tricks with schoolboy shenanigans. This is more of the same – if it’s different, call it names! Make fun of it!

But his effort here falls short.

Dr. Gentry asks us to believe that Full Preterists are not Preterists at all. He attempts a new riddle based on the old riddle – "When is a Preterist not a Preterist? When it’s a ‘Pantelist’!" Right. Sure. Why didn’t we think of that? Gentry defines ‘pantelism’ as ‘all-things-ism’. But is that really accurate, even for a Full Preterist?

Full Preterists believe that the Rock-Mountain of Daniel 2 is still growing, and that the Stream of Ezekiel 47 is still expanding. Full Preterists believe that AD 70 brought to fullness the CONDITIONS of the Kingdom but that those conditions are still ongoing. Full Preterists believe that all Christians have a different and better existence after they die. I know I haven’t died yet, so that is certainly still in the future for me. It is a present condition of the Kingdom and a future reality for the living Christian. Therefore, the term ‘pantelism’ in referring to Biblical truths being completed in the past is not quite accurate.

But even if it were so, calling Full Preterists by a new name doesn’t make it so. Dr. Gentry is merely using another schoolboy trick designed solely to soothe his own ego.

His further contention in this paragraph, in an attempt to distance himself from Full Preterism, is even worse. He equates Full Preterists with the state of being ‘not a Christian at all’. This is going way too far. If pressed, I’m sure he must realize this. What is the definition of a Christian? A Christian is a follower of Christ that adheres to the divinity of Christ, and that it is only through Him that we can obtain Salvation! If we as Full Preterists believe Christ was fully God and fully man, and that every word in the Bible is true and accurate, then we are Christians! The flavor of eschatology is not now nor has it ever been a condition of Christianity. Dr. Gentry’s main contention is that Christ said He would come back and Full Preterists deny it. But that’s not an accurate assessment of Full Preterism. We merely contend that every single reference to the Parousia in the New Testament was a reference to His coming back in AD 70, and that He did exactly what He promised to do—He came back and established the New Kingdom as the One and Only True Kingdom! The issue isn’t whether we believe Christ will come back, the issue isn’t in denying eschatological events in Scripture. The issue is only over the time and nature of those fulfillments.

Christianity isn’t based on particular views of eschatological issues. Christianity is based on Christ as our Lord and Savior, having taken away our sins, and through Whom is the only access to the Sovereign Father.

Finally, Dr. Gentry ends this section with this curious paragraph:

Unfortunately, pantelism has provided a convenient, readily accessible foil for discounting orthodox preterism. That is, I am witnessing an increasing number of charges against my views through linkage of pantelism with them. For instance: (1) When I was examined to enter my OPC presbytery in 1997, my preterism was criticized as giving rise to pantelism. (2) In an upcoming "views" book (David Hagopian, "Always Reforming") I have to defend orthodox preterism against charges that it leads to pantelism. (3) I have had several Presbyterian pastors call me about a occasional, combative pantelists entering their congregations, threatening to disrupt the unity and harmony of the church (and causing other Christians to write off preterism altogether). I weary of having to fight these side battles, when I would prefer to present the merits of a fully orthodox preterist analysis of various portions of Scripture.

Curious indeed. If Dr. Gentry is tired of the battles, why does he keep lobbing grenades? But I will say this about the three instances he cites:

  1. Dr. Gentry did not give rise to Preterism in any form, either Full Preterism or Partial Preterism. Both have been around longer than Dr. Gentry.
  2. Partial Preterism does, however, lead invariably to Full Preterism. There are very few Full Preterist that weren’t first Partial Preterists. In fact, if you believe in the major Christian tenet that there are two (and only two) advents of Christ, one at His birth and the other at His "Second Coming" (Heb 9:28), and you study Dr. Gentry’s writings on the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation, you must come to one of only two conclusions without changing your basic belief – either Christ’s "Second Coming" is a past event, happening in AD 70 within "that generation" (Matt 24:34), or Dr. Gentry is off-base and the "generation" in Matt 24:34 doesn’t mean Christ’s generation at all. Dr. Gentry cannot escape the logic and natural progression that Partial Preterism has to Full Preterism.
  3. Of all the Full Preterists that I know, very few are "combative". Most are in absolute awe of the path and conclusions they have been brought to, and often astounded at the clear statements in Scripture that they had previously chosen to ignore, but which now have new meaning. In fact, in my opinion, the people that are more combative are the Partial Preterists who refuses to even entertain the idea that Christ may have already come in fullness! So that road, Dr. Gentry, goes both ways. I have not been exposed to any branch of Christianity that didn’t have combative proponents. I would assume that it is pretty straight across the board. And besides, the bottom line isn’t whether the defendants are combative, its whether they are sound Scripturally.

Now, finally, Dr. Gentry gets to Scriptural support. He mentions, in a reference to Full Preterism and the Olivet Discourse:

But again -- as I argue in an earlier newsletter (Oct., 1998) -- WHERE is the temporal marker serving as the springboard from the first century into the distant future? I have no problem with A.D. 70 texts coming into close association with Second Advent texts: they are theologically related (see Matt. 24:3-35 with Matt. 24:36ff in my September, 1998 issue). I do, however, have a problem with the mere ASSERTION without proper exegetical notation -- and especially since such goes AGAINST positive contrary evidence. I believe Bock (and many evangelicals) stumbles here.

Notice how Dr. Gentry associates and yet divides the parts of the Olivet Discourse. He makes the observation that the AD 70 texts are closely related to the Second Advent (future) texts. Then he clearly splits the Olivet Discourse between Matt 24:35 and 36. But is this warranted? Consider closely and carefully. What is the context of the Olivet Discourse in the first place? Christ blasts the Pharisees and Scribes in Matt 23. He mourns over Jerusalem. He tells the Jews and especially the Pharisees that the blood of all the martyrs was upon them and that they would become desolate. He says it would happen in their generation. When He walks away, His apostles admire the temple, and He reassures them that not one stone would be left standing on another, continuing His concern and diatribe of the predictions He had just made. The apostles respond by asking Him when this would be. The focus throughout all of this has been the imminent downfall of the Jews and the Temple. The focus never once wavered, never was taken away from that point by either the apostles or Christ. Nowhere is any distant future event mentioned. Their concern was for what was near and dear to them, their temple and their religion and their city.

R.C. Sproul, in his message "Last Days Madness" at his Orlando conference on eschatology, made three observations which I believe are pertinent to this discussion, the first of which I will cite here. He noted the Christ spoke often in the last weeks of his ministry of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, in an attempt to prepare his disciples. In fact, he noted that it was of primary importance, and that at the time of the Olivet Discourse, the disciples would have been very concerned about this as they looked at their precious temple. Sproul goes as far as saying that Christ reiterates this warning to the disciples in the last few weeks of his ministry "again and again and again". He uses this as a primary reason as to why the questions asked by the disciples in Matt 24:1-3 dealt SOLELY with the temple and the ending of the Jewish age.

Christ then proceeds to paint the apostles a picture of the trials that would come to the Jews, and this follows with the descriptions of His coming. He reiterates all this by again saying it would all happen in that generation.

Verse 36 begins with the phrase "in that day" and Dr. Gentry uses that as a springboard for Christ to change subjects. But if he is speaking to His apostles about the destruction of the Temple, their beloved national symbol, why would the apostles have any reason to believe that this phrase refers to any "day" other than the one Christ is already talking about? There is absolutely no natural division here, and a strong natural continuance, indicating that the topic had not changed. Christ had just given a discourse about the SIGNS that would appear in "those days", the days of the end, which Dr. Gentry appropriately applies to the events leading up to the Jewish War and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Christ’s explanation of "those days" culminates in an event as described apocalyptically in verses 29-31, and Dr. Gentry applies to the culmination, the destruction of Jerusalem. Having just described the death of their beloved temple, why would the apostles think Christ has shifted topics just because he says "in that day"? What day is "that day"? It quite naturally refers back to the day he was just referring to—the culmination of the destruction of Jerusalem. Grammatically and hermeneutically, it is poor practice to separate the reference "that" (Greek <ekeinos>) which what comes before it, to which it must naturally refer. No other day has been mentioned! The phrase "that day" MUST refer back to the day that was just described in such explosive language. Sproul is correct in his assessment of the importance that Christ assigned the coming destruction of the temple and the end of the Jewish age. He is also correct in his assessment that it was a very huge concern of the disciples, especially in light of Christ’s continual warnings. In light of this, it is not exegetically sound to suggest a change in topic AWAY from their chief concern due to a phrase which is standard and in keeping with OT apocalyptic language.

Furthermore, the apostles clearly associated the Coming or Parousia of Christ with the end of the age, which is clearly the end of the Jewish age at AD 70.

Matt 24: 3. Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming <parousia>, and of the end of the age?''

And Christ affirms this by using the same word in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem:

Matt 24: 27. "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming <parousia> of the Son of Man be.

And starting right after that, Christ brings to focus the end, that "immediately after the tribulation of THOSE days" comes the Parousia, or THAT day. ‘Those days’ culminates with ‘that day’. The ‘last days’ ends with the ‘last day’. There is no mystery there!

So Christ has reaffirmed that the culmination of the last days would be His Parousia. In Dr. Gentry’s transition verse, verse 36, Christ is simply affirming that while the signs can be seen clearly, the exact date cannot. But the link is even stronger.

Matt 24: 36. "But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

37. "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming <parousia> of the Son of Man be.

38. "For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,

39. "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming <parousia> of the Son of Man be.

The apostles had asked about His Parousia in conjunction with the end of the Jewish age (Matt 24:3), and Christ had answered, tying His Parousia in with that time (Matt 24:27), and here we find the what the conditions will be "in that day", the day of the aforementioned Parousia. Why would there be any assumption at all here that the subject has changed? "That day" refers back to the Parousia of verses 27-31, and to verify that, He continues the theme regarding His Parousia. What would lead the disciples to the conclusion that some OTHER Parousia, besides the one they had specifically asked about, and Christ had specifically referred to, was now the topic? (And why would Christ spend MORE time discussing a Parousia they didn’t ask about—62 verses—than the one they did ask about—32 verses?) There is absolutely no shift in subject here that would be discernible to the original audience, the apostles. Their concern here was solely with the loss of their beloved temple and the end of the Jewish age. No other mystical idea or event is even in the context here! The apostles, sitting there listening to Christ’s sermon, are told of the end they had asked about, and when Christ then says "in that day" and further identifies unity with the reference to His Parousia, which He has already established was at the end of the age, they would quite naturally associate it as still referring to the same topic. In fact, Dr. Gentry’s attempt to split the chapter at this point assigns to Christ a duplicitousness that cannot be tolerated.

But it gets worse for Dr. Gentry. In the book of Luke, in the section that surely is a parallel to the Words of Christ in Matt 24, the references to Noah by Christ (Matt 24:37-39) are clearly associated with the first-century destruction:

Luke 17: 24. "For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day.

25. "But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

26. "And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:

27. "They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

The reference to the lightning that flashes is clearly a reference to His Parousia at AD 70, for Dr. Gentry places it squarely in the first section in the account in Matthew:

Matt 24: 27. "For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
28. "For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

And we also find the gathering of birds at the carcass. What do we find this associated with in Luke?

Luke 17: 33. "Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.

34. "I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left.

35. "Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left.

36. "Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.''

37. And they answered and said to Him, "Where, Lord?'' So He said to them, "Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.''

This follows immediately the verses above in Luke and undoubtedly refer to the same thing. Matthew places the carcass in the section of the destruction of Jerusalem, and so does Luke. This is because it is merely two versions of the same discourse! But notice the description of the conditions right before it. This is the "one taken, one left" segment. In Matthew it occurs AFTER Dr. Gentry’s break:

Matt 24: 40. "Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left.

41. "Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.

42. "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

The themes are interwoven in the Luke account with the prediction of the end of the Jewish age and the destruction of the temple. Matthew also records them. Why should we doubt that the reference is anything other than the original topic, especially in light of its clear application as such in the Lukan account?

Now look again what Dr. Gentry said:

But again -- as I argue in an earlier newsletter (Oct., 1998) -- WHERE is the temporal marker serving as the springboard from the first century into the distant future? I have no problem with A.D. 70 texts coming into close association with Second Advent texts: they are theologically related (see Matt. 24:3-35 with Matt. 24:36ff in my September, 1998 issue). I do, however, have a problem with the mere ASSERTION without proper exegetical notation -- and especially since such goes AGAINST positive contrary evidence. I believe Bock (and many evangelicals) stumbles here.

I believe Dr. Gentry also stumbles here, in assigning a break where none is warranted. His own evidence dooms him to the same fate, that is, going against positive contrary evidence!

There is yet another strike against Dr. Gentry’s proposed break between Matt 24:35 and Matt 24:36. He has stated that the shift in subject is due to the phrase "in that day", as we have already noted, supposing this is sufficient to warrant a change in subject matter. We have already shown how this is grammatically incorrect. Now let’s take a look at another statement by Dr. Gentry, keeping this one in mind:

Bock writes: "The imagery [of 21:25ff] is drawn from OT and apocalyptic pictures of the end that entail cosmic signs and changes (Isa. 13:9-10; 24:18-20; 34:4; Ezek. 32:7-8...)" (p.1682). On pages 1683-84 he also mentions some of these passages in interpreting Luke 21:26.

Unfortunately, though, by itself this is no proof. When we look up these passages, we discover they CLEARLY refer to OT events in our distant past (as Dallas Seminary's "Bible Knowledge Commentary" admits!).

Dr. Gentry then goes on to show why the OT often uses this language to denote judgment, and that an end-of-history is not indicated. He specifically reviews Is. 13 and Is. 34. Let’s take a closer look, then, at some OT apocalyptic texts:

Dr. Gentry readily assigns Is. 13 and Is. 34 as speaking against OT Babylon. This is true. But look what we find right in the midst of Is. 13:

Is 13: 6. Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty.

7. Therefore all hands will be limp, every man's heart will melt,

8. and they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them; they will be in pain as a woman in childbirth; they will be amazed at one another; their faces will be like flames.

9. Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it.

10. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine.

Notice that in BOTH verse 6 and verse 8, the actual event is signified as a day of the Lord. The culmination was indicated as a single day! The same is true in Is. 34:

Is. 34: 8. For it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion.

Even more pointed is another OT passage with similar language, which Dr. Gentry assigns an OT fulfillment:

Amos 8: 9. "And it shall come to pass in that day,'' says the Lord God, "That I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight;

Amos uses the same type of apocalyptic language, but notice what he says—"it shall come to pass in THAT DAY"! That’s the exact phrase that Dr. Gentry says triggers a change of subject in Matt. 24. Surely he’s not suggesting a change in subject in Amos as well? And if so, how does he reconcile the fact that the apocalyptic language appears AFTER the key phrase?

The apocalyptic language of Joel agrees that the phrase "that day" refers to the "day" that culminates judgment:

Joel 3: 15. The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness.

16. The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel.

17. "So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. then Jerusalem shall be holy, and no aliens shall ever pass through her again.''

18. And it will come to pass in that day that the mountains shall drip with new wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water; a fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord and water the Valley of Acacias.

Verse 18 is a further description of verses 15-17, and states that "it will come to pass in THAT DAY.

What is clear is that in OT prophecy, when the prophets used apocalyptic language, the approaching signs were referred to as "those days" while the actual culmination of judgment was referred to as "that day" or the "day of the Lord".

R.C. Sproul, in this message "Last Days Madness" at his Orlando conference on eschatology, made a second pertinent observation. He noted that Christ was simply following a pattern of prophecy in the Olivet Discourse that was established with the OT prophets. He noted that it is exegetically sound to follow the same rules of interpretation for the Christ’s discourse as it is for the apocalyptic prophecies of the prophets like Isaiah and Joel. I believe he is correct. And in following this pattern, it is required that we look at "that day" as a description of the "day of judgment", not some other "day" that hasn’t even been mentioned.

Dr. Gentry is quick to point out that Christ was simply using similar language in his Olivet Discourse, because the apostles would be familiar with this type of prophecy. Why does Dr. Gentry assume that Christ abandons this type of language mid-stream, when referring to "that day"? To quote Dr. Gentry himself, his "theological system moves him to this conclusion, not the text itself"!

Further on down, Dr. Gentry again alludes to Full Preterism. This is a curious parenthetical reference indeed:

(Before I engage him, I must once again guard against the confusion pantelism generates for those considering orthodox preterism. On more than one occasion I have been accused of believing in more than one coming of Christ, thereby putting me into conflict with the historic creeds of the church which mention only one future coming of Christ since the Ascension -- the SECOND advent [not the third or fourth]. This charge is based on a woeful and embarrassing misunderstanding of the matter. True, I argue that Jesus "came" in A.D. 70 AND that he is coming at the end of history in the Second Advent. However, A.D. 70 involves only a METAPHORICAL coming. I do not believe that he literally moved out of heaven at all. The language of "coming" used in A.D. 70 passages are literary devices portraying the divine providence; the "coming" of the creeds refers to a literal, bodily coming. It is the foolishness of such absurdities and miscues that so frustrates me with the pantelist movement. Now, back to work: Gary doesn't pay me to rant and rave!)

Dr. Gentry is forced to play mind games here. In fact, this paragraph should be very embarrassing indeed—for him! He relates the charge against him of going against the creeds by believing in more than one future (to the NT) coming of Christ. In his haste to try to keep from falling under the charge of (gasp!) going against the creeds, what does he do? He proceeds to prove the charge true! Note carefully, he says it is a misunderstanding, but in the very next breath says it is true!

Dr. Gentry attempts to distance himself from the charge by assigning the Parousia in AD 70 as a "metaphorical" coming. This brings up again that old question: "When is a Parousia not a Parousia?" He is quick to try to say something is NOT what it clearly IS! When is a Parousia not a Parousia, according to Dr. Gentry? When it is metaphorical. Therefore he assigns the "coming" in Matt 24:3-35 as metaphorical while the "coming" just a few verses later, in Matt 24:37-39, as a literal, physical coming. How very inconsistent of you, Dr. Gentry! Not one time does Christ distinguish about a "metaphorical Parousia" and a "literal, bodily Parousia". And in the case of the Olivet Discourse, if he was shifting Parousias, this type of explanation would be manditory to help the disciples avoid confusion.

One more point on this. Luke, as a gospel writer to the Gentiles, took pains to make sure that the message was explained in such a way as to be clearly understood by his audience. This is clear in the Olivet Discourse, where Hebrew terminology is often replaced by Gentile terminology. And yet not once does Luke stop to explain to his audience that Christ is talking of two different types of "comings". Not once! If ever there were an explanation that needed to be clarified for the Gentiles (not to mention the disciples!), that was it.

The apostles: "what is the sign of your Parousia and the end of the age?" Absolutely no indication that they believed in or understood more than one "Parousia".

Dr. Gentry doesn’t believe that Christ moved out of the heavens at all at AD 70. This may or may not be true—in any event, the judgment was the coming of the Lord. What can’t be denied is that the apostles considered it THE coming, and a real coming, and Christ also considered it as a very real coming, whether literal or metaphorical. This is sufficient to deny the implied charge by Dr. Gentry that it "wasn’t a real coming"—it very much was. For Dr. Gentry to assert otherwise is indeed a case of "foolishness of such absurdities and miscues", as he assigns to the Full Preterist.

Note also that the indication given by Dr. Gentry is that the creeds don’t deal with the coming at AD 70 at all. But they don’t have to! The fact that Dr. Gentry can point to the NT and say that Christ speaks of two different "comings" of Christ, even if they are different in nature, is enough to doom him. For the creeds refer to the "coming" of Christ clearly as if it is the ONLY coming referred to by Christ. For Dr. Gentry to give such double talk and expect to escape the charge he freely admits, just because he doesn’t want to be shown as being in contradiction with the creeds, is in itself ludicrous. The creeds assert that Christ only spoke of ONE coming, and that this coming was still future to us today.

Incidentally, I might be inclined to let Dr. Gentry off this hook if there were any clear distinctions made in Scripture regarding different "comings". And yet nowhere do we find this. Christ doesn’t say "this is NOT my coming in judgment, but my final coming", nor does Paul or any of the NT writers make such a clear distinction. In fact, there is a clear assumption throughout the NT that only ONE coming is understood. Phrases such as "at My coming" by Christ and "at His coming" by the other NT writers indicate very strongly that there is only ONE coming in view.

But Dr. Gentry cannot be totally excused of this charge in any event, especially when the Scriptural support given for the creeds in defense of such phrases like "He will come again" are often the very phrases that Dr. Gentry uses to assign a coming in AD 70! Matt 24:29-31 is a primary source of support used by the creeds for a future, end-of-history coming of Christ. That Dr. Gentry disagrees with this is sufficient to show that he is at some point at odds with the creeds.

Later in his article, Dr. Gentry makes this comment:

Notice that the Son of Man "came UP to the Ancient of Days" and was "presented before Him." At that glorious event Jesus receives his kingdom and sits at the right hand of God awaiting the conquest of his enemies (Acts 2:34-35; Heb. 1:13). As it so happens, the destruction of Israel in A.D. 70 is the FIRST of Christ's mortal enemies put beneath his feet. The Daniel 7 imagery well fits the overthrow of the Jews, who are "of their father the devil" (John 8:44) and are a "synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2:9; 3). Because of Christ's Ascension, Israel will be judged.

Interesting statements. But when Dr. Gentry claims that the event at AD 70 was only the FIRST of the conquests that were the "putting the enemies" under Christ’s feet, how does he account for such a delay between the "FIRST" and the "NEXT"? In addition, Dr. Gentry doesn’t make it clear here exactly what enemies aren’t yet under Christ’s feet. What enemies haven’t been conquered?

Indeed, if Dr. Gentry refers to the passage in 1 Cor 15:

1 Cor 15: 24. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.

25. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.

We can refer him to a passage in the middle of the book of Revelation, which he rightly assigns as fulfilled at AD 70:

Rev 11: 15. Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!''

This is also a reflection back to the Rock-Kingdom of Dan 2, in which the Kingdom overcame all previous—and ALL—physical rule by virtue of becoming a Kingdom that COULD NOT be ruled by a physical kingdom! This was done by the switch in the Kingdom permanently from physical to spiritual—and it was fulfilled during the "ten toes" kingdom of the Romans.

Dan 2: 44. "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.

All rule and authority is now Christ’s, and no physical rule can any longer reign over the Kingdom. This is borne out later in Revelation:

Rev 15: 3. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!

4. Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.''

Christ has put all rule under His feet!

The final enemy?

1 Cor 15: 26. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

The proper rendering here of the word ‘destroyed’ is ‘made powerless’, NOT ‘ceased to exist’. This is a critical difference. The Greek word <katargeo> does not mean destroy or annihilate, it merely means to "make of no effect" or to "strip of power". We as Christians don’t have to fear death, for it no longer has any power over us. Back to the middle of Revelation, which Dr. Gentry applies to AD 70:

Rev 14: 13. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: `Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' '' "Yes,'' says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.''

This verse is often overlooked. But it is quite clear—the power of death was broken with the change from the Jewish age to the "age to come" at AD 70.

Finally, Dr. Gentry says:

As Bock well knows "the association of a figure 'riding on the clouds' or with clouds is normally tied to the authority of God or the gods in the OT (Exod. 14:20; 34:5; Num. 10:34; Ps. 104:3; Isa. 19:1)." Consequently, I would argue: the text does not REQUIRE that this cloud-coming be a LITERAL coming at the end of history (as in Acts 1:8-11). Bock even notes the parallel in Mark 13:26 and Matt. 24:30b "is in almost verbal agreement" (p. 1686). But BOTH of THOSE passages are time constrained, speaking of the A.D. 70 events in the first century (Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:30) -- as is Luke's statement (Luke 21:28-32).

Dr. Gentry goes out of his way in several of his writings to show that the coming referred to in Rev 1:7 was fulfilled in AD 70:

Rev 1: 7. Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

Full Preterists agree with him. And yet why does he not apply the same rule to Acts 1:9-11?

Acts 1: 9. Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

10. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,

11. who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.''

The imagery is exactly the same—Christ would return the way He left, on the clouds. Neither section is in the midst of an apocalyptic section, so both should be treated similarly.

Interestingly, here I will refer to R.C. Sproul’s message "Last Days Madness" one last time. In reference to this very passage (every eye shall see him, coming on the clouds), he notes that Josephus records that there were many eyewitnesses to the strange appearance of chariots and warriors in the clouds surrounding the city during the War of the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem. Dr. Gentry states that Christ only came metaphorically in AD 70. And yet Sproul makes an allusion that this may have indeed been more than merely a metaphorical appearance! Josephus states that there were many witnesses to this. Are we to disregard it merely because we WANT the coming of Christ in AD 70 to be merely metaphorical? As we saw at the beginning of Dr. Gentry’s article, his view demands that this coming was merely metaphorical. Yet maybe in light of Josephus, he should consider that it may indeed have been more. In fact, in light of the strength of the language throughout the NT regarding Christ’s imminent coming, it seems clear that what was preached was of more substance than a mere metaphorical coming. I believe the evidence here is stacked against Dr. Gentry.

Throughout this article, we see Dr. Gentry trying to divert attention though the use of simple word games. He tries to define:

When is a Preterist not a Preterist?

When is a Parousia not a Parousia?

When is a discrepancy with the creeds not a discrepancy with the creeds?

When is a coming in the clouds not a coming in the clouds?

In short, Dr. Gentry has to try to do verbal and mental gymnastics to attempt to show that something that EXISTS in reality isn’t there at all. This reminds us of the conjuring tricks that are so popular today. And the substance is the same as well—it really IS there and HAS been there all along. You merely didn’t SEE it!

When is a heretic not a heretic? Plain and simple: when he follows the Word of God in a consistent and hermeneutically sound manner, and believes in and follows the divine and risen Christ as wholly man and wholly God, and our Rock and Salvation.

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