The Purpose of Life
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"Now at this point I wish to make it clear that there is a big difference between
Full-preterism (also known as Consistent or Hyper preterism) and
Partial-preterism. Full-preterists believe that ALL prophecy has been fulfilled in
the 1st century AD - and that includes the Second Advent of Christ, and the
general resurrection and judgement day. I am NOT a full preterist! I can
understand why some have gone down that route, but I still believe this
position is grossly in error. Yes, I would say that a large portion of NT prophecy
has already had its fulfillment in the early centuries of the Church, and I believe
that much of what Jesus had to say about 'the coming of the Son of Man'
actually referred primarily to 1st century events, yet it is evident that the
Second Advent of Christ and the final Resurrection and Judgement Day haven't
occurred as yet - and the NT clearly teaches these things. There is definitely a
tension between what has already occurred and what is yet to come.
Here's something I wrote in my original Introduction To Prophetic Studies:
As I've already intimated, this process of change for me has taken a number of years and has not
happened overnight (though there have been times of sudden illumination & revelation), and there have
been some texts that have taken longer to adjust to in the new perspective due to the fact that I was
so conditioned to think of these texts previously in a more literalistic manner in accord with
dispensational presuppositions (2 Peter 3 being a case in point). I have also re-examined the biblical
doctrines of death, hades, the intermediate state, and the nature of the resurrection body. There have
been some adjustments here also in light of how I previously viewed these things, particularly in regard
to the 'sleep' of death, and the subject of 'paradise.' I no longer accept the view of unconscious 'soul
sleep,' as previously presented in my 'archived' writings.
During the first half of 2012, further revelation came to me concerning how I understood the Second
Advent and the resurrection. This further adjustment has been aided by reading two books. Firstly, I
read the classic work The Parousia by James Stuart Russell, and this really challenged my ‘preterist’
thinking to its limit, forcing me to become much more consistent in my approach to these matters by
acknowledging the 1st century context in which these things were written, more so than I was already
doing. (I think the term 'consistent preterist' is therefore a more accurate, and fairer, description of this
It's strange, but during the time these major shifts in my thinking were going on, my illness (M.E.) was
pretty bad, and I was laid out with intense exhaustion for hours and days on end. It reminded me of the
prophet Daniel who lay ill and exhausted for days after he received some of his heavenly visions (cf.
Daniel 8:27). The flesh is weak, and the power of heavenly things and the work of God's Spirit will often
reveal this in ways we don't expect. As the apostle Paul understood well, the grace of God is sufficient,
for His power is perfected in weakness (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
Anyhow, a little about J. Stuart Russell. He was a British Congregational minister in the 19th century,
and he is best known for his renowned book The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament
Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming, first published anonymously in 1878, and then with his name
added in 1887. It has been re-published by Baker Books in 1983 & 1999. In the 1999 edition, the
respected Bible teacher, R. C. Sproul, added a Foreword. Sproul had published a book in 1998 entitled
The Last Days According To Jesus in which he assessed the conclusions of Russell’s position. Here is an
extract from Sproul’s Foreword to The Parousia.
“I am persuaded that, in the main, Russell is essentially correct. I do
not endorse his work entirely because I think he goes too far, as does
“full preterism.” As Russell himself acknowledges, there remains a
blessed hope for the people of God... My views on these matters
remain in transition, as I have spelled out in The Last Days According
To Jesus. But for me one thing is certain: I can never read the New
Testament again the same way I read it before reading The Parousia. I
hope better scholars than I will continue to analyze and evaluate the
content of J. Stuart Russell’s important work.”
When I first read Russell’s book, like Sproul, I too thought that Russell’s position went too far, into what
appeared to be a full preterist position (though in actuality it is still technically a partial preterist
position). But now, after a lot of thought, meditation, and study, and some re-reading of the book, I too
have ‘gone too far’ for I am now convinced that Russell’s overall position is essentially correct.
There is one particular interpretation of a text where I presently disagree with Russell, and that is his
view of 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 where he understood ‘the end’ as referring to the end of the old
covenant age in 70 AD. In this particular instance, I think he was in error. I see the End or
Consummation that Paul is talking about here as being the end of Christ’s reign and the ‘order’s’ of the
resurrection. This is still future.
“Although I do not agree with all the conclusions of The Parousia, I
highly recommend this well-organized, carefully argued, and compelling
written volume. It is one of the most persuasive and challenging books
I have read on the subject, and has had great impact on my thinking.”
We must be very cautious about those who say that 'the Day of the Lord is
present' or has already taken place (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3) implying also that
the resurrection has occurred (2 Timothy 2:17-18), because the ultimate
resurrection for Overcomers is intimately linked to the Day of the Lord, that is,
Christ's Second Advent (John 6:39-40; Hebrews 9:28; Revelation 20:4-6). It is
true to say that these things are present now IN SPIRIT, by faith, but the
actual fullness or manifestation of it all hasn't occurred as yet."
During the past five years, some of my doctrinal positions have continued to change somewhat,
particularly in the area of eschatology (the study of last things). This has inevitably led to a number of
revisions and updates to reflect my on-going journey in these things. This is, of course, a very humbling
experience. It is not easy to admit that what you once believed and taught has now changed.
Nevertheless, this is all a natural part of growing and learning in this life. Contrary to how it may appear,
though, these changes have not been random, as though I were changing things on a whim. It has all
been going in one particular direction.
I have now (in 2012) found myself in a position where I have to eat some of my own words, as they say.
And I would certainly have to make some corrections to the paragraphs I quoted above. For instance,
when I said 'it is evident that the Second Advent...Resurrection and Judgment Day haven't occurred as
yet' this is only true if one views these events as visible events that are seen by the whole world in one
moment of time within our space-time universe. Yet surprisingly, Jesus himself had clearly indicated that
the arrival of the kingdom of God within history would not be seen with close human observation, with
people saying, "Here it is." In fact, because the king was already present, the kingdom of God was even
then beginning to be in their midst (Luke 17:20-21). Jesus had also declared openly before the Roman
governor Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world, but was from another place (John 18:36-37).
In closing, I'd also like to draw attention to another biblical writer with whom I have much in common,
doctrinally speaking. In recent months, I’ve also been reading the two-volume series The Antichrist and
the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination by Duncan W. MacKenzie, who holds a very similar view to
J. S. Russell (although Mackenzie shows no signs of 'universalistic' tendencies in relation to salvation). I
may not agree with him on every point, but it sure comes close, and I have to say that I'm really
impressed with his work in these two volumes.
The main point where Mackenzie differs from Russell is as follows; Mackenzie views the Man of
Lawlessness of 2 Thessalonians 2, and the first Beast of Revelation 13, as being fulfilled in Titus (son of
Vespasian), who was also the Little Horn of Daniel 7 and the Antichrist, whereas Russell (and also
Gentry) saw this as being fulfilled in Nero Caesar. There are also some variations on who fulfilled the
second Beast of Revelation 13.
Although Russell didn't reveal much about his view of the prophecy about Gog and Magog from
Revelation 20, he did see the connection with Ezekiel 38-39 in relation to Israel. Mackenzie views this
Gog and Magog prophecy as having a future, somewhat literal, fulfillment not unlike the views of many
dispensationalists. This is one point where I disagree with Mackenzie. I do lean towards his view, though,
that Titus was the Little Horn/first Beast/Antichrist/Man of Lawlessness. I've previously written about my
belief that Vespasian was the Little Horn/first Beast in Another Look At The Ten Horns and the Little
Horn of Daniel 7, so making the adjustment to Titus is not difficult. Some of my views on this are
presently in transition.
To get straight to the point, I am now convinced that it is possible to view certain events, such as the
second appearing of Christ in the Day of the Lord, the beginning of the resurrection and judgment, and
the full establishment of the messianic kingdom, as having taken place already. This would now make me
a Premillennialist/Amillennialist 'Consistent' Preterist (oh, how I love theological name tags!) because I
believe the Second Appearing of Christ has already occurred, and his '1000' year kingdom reign has
already begun; and that the '1000 years' is symbolic and not literal.
I have heard some bible teachers and scholars say that Preterists hold to what they believe (particularly
in relation to the early date for the writing of Revelation) because they've already decided that that is
what they want to believe! Well, you could say that about many doctrinal positions. I have found that
this is just not usually the case at all, but the complete opposite. I have arrived at my present doctrinal
position because scripture has forced me to do so, and it certainly didn't happen overnight. Whenever I
used to hear about those who believed that the Second Advent had already occurred, I would virtually
laugh and say "How preposterous is that! How in the world could these things have already taken
place?" Now I'm laughing at my own short-sightedness!
On a final note, as someone who believes (used to believe; Ed. 2013) in the doctrine of Universal
Reconciliation or Restoration (often termed Universalism, though I personally don't like that label), I was
greatly encouraged to read J. S. Russell's thoughts in the closing pages of his Summary and Conclusion,
because it became very evident to me that he believed in the wider hope of God's salvation reaching
everyone eventually. He was certainly open to the bigger picture! Here's what he had to say.
So when it comes to the event of the Second Advent, etc, what if the true nature of these things are
heavenly and spiritual, having to do with another 'dimension' that is outside the normal space-time
universe that we presently inhabit? Is the resurrection really about billions of physical bodies coming out
of the ground all at once? And what about those who've been cremated? And how would Jesus be seen
by the whole world if he were to visibly remain in the sky over Jerusalem (from where he ascended)
surrounded by clouds (as some believe the Second Advent event will be), unless you start talking about
good media coverage? What if the New Creation & the New Jerusalem already exist, and are already
'inhabited' with resurrected humans and spirit beings? (I plan to explore these things in future articles).
I've come to see that Christians can have many assumptions and presuppositions about how one is to
understand scripture, and yet these assumptions can be totally incorrect. For instance, was Christ's
ascension witnessed by all those in Jerusalem and the surrounding area or just the apostles? How you
answer that one will most probably determine how you view the Second Advent.
Secondly, it can't be stressed enough how extremely important it is, when seeking an accurate
interpretation, to consider the original ancient context in which these things were written (or spoken).
For example, when Paul cautioned believers of his generation (which I alluded to in my second quoted
paragraph above) about those who were falsely declaring that the Day of the Lord was present, and that
the resurrection had already occurred, we need to bear in mind that he was writing before the events
that climaxed in 70 AD; and I believe that there is good reason to accept that the events of 70 AD did in
fact fulfill the prophecies of the Day of the Lord. Hence, I would say that it is not heresy for someone to
say (since 70 AD) that it is possible (even highly probable) that the Day of the Lord and the resurrection
have already occurred. In fact, the teaching of Christ and the apostles unashamedly points in that
direction by saying the events were near and soon to occur! One of the strongest reasons for believing
that these things were related to the 1st century was the blatant expectation of the apostles that these
things were near and on the verge of occurring within their generation.
"That favoured apostle who more than any other seems to have
comprehended 'the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the
love of Christ,' suggests to us ideas of the extent and efficiency of the
great redemption which our latent incredulity can scarcely receive. He
does not hesitate to affirm that the restorative work of Christ will
ultimately more than repair the ruin wrought by sin. 'As by one man's
disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One
shall the many be made righteous.' There would be no point in this
comparison if 'the many' on the one side of the equation bore no
proportion to 'the many' on the other side. But this is not all: the
redemptive work of Christ does more than redress the balance: it
outweighs, and that immeasurably, the counterpoise of evil. 'Where sin
abounded, grace did beyond measure abound: that as sin reigned in
death, even so might grace reign in righteousness unto eternal life
through Jesus Christ our Lord' (Romans 5:19-21)."
"...we are happy to be assured of the consummation on higher and
safer grounds, even the promises of Him who has taught us to pray,
'Thy will be done in earth, as it is done in heaven.' For every
God-taught prayer contains a prophecy, and conveys a promise. This
world belongs no more to the devil, but to God. Christ has redeemed it,
and will recover it, and draw all men unto Him."
The Parousia, J. Stuart Russell, (Baker Books, 1999) pp. 553-554
Be that as it may, returning to the theme of Russell's book and Sproul's Foreword, I find it very
interesting, though, that Sproul stated openly that his views remain in transition. Therefore, he must still
be open to go further! He also said that The Parousia was "one of the most important treatments of
biblical eschatology available today" (back cover).
Kenneth L. Gentry Jr., for whom I have a lot of respect, has also been greatly influenced by Russell’s
book. The 1999 edition of The Parousia contains the following entry by Gentry on the back cover.
Be that as it may, it is evident from his Summary and Conclusion(s) that Russell believed in a future
consummation (p. 553). I too believe in a future Consummation event that could rightly be called a final
Day of the Lord for the whole world, which will ultimately wrap up Christ's present 'millennial' rule, but
technically, I am not convinced that this is the true biblical Second Advent. There may be similarities
between these two events (those events being the beginning and the end of the 'millennial' reign), but I
also think there are enough distinctions to take the issue beyond mere semantics. For many, though, my
view of the Consummation event may sound like the Second Advent!
J. S. Russell is often viewed as being the father of the modern full preterist movement, but he was not in
fact a full preterist in the modern sense of the word. For instance, he believed that the ‘millennium’ was
presently on-going, and that there would be a future Consummation (pp. 514, 518, 522-523). In one
passage of his book he even seems to expect a future resurrection of believers, although what he said
here could be understood as just a summary of the traditional Christian belief about death and
resurrection, and not necessarily his own view. It's hard to tell (p. 384). And he viewed Rev. 20:7-10 as
still future (pp. 522-523).
Russell saw ‘the end’ in 1 Corinthians 15:22-28 as applying to 70 AD. Ironically, I am convinced that ‘the
consummation’ of 1 Corinthians 15 is in fact the very consummation that Russell viewed as being in the
future. Briefly put, here are my reasons for viewing it this way.
In the context of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is focusing on the new creation/new humanity, and the
resurrection order, and he is therefore talking about new covenant things in relation to Christ’s messianic
kingdom. Paul reveals that at the end, Christ hands over the kingdom to God the Father after subduing all
his enemies (v 24). Christ must reign until he has completed this (v 25). None of this could have occurred
in 70 AD because that was the beginning of the resurrection and Christ's kingdom reign according to
Revelation 20:1-6 (and some of the visions of Daniel, particularly chapter 7 & 12:1-7).
Russell understood the kingdom of verse 24 to be the old covenant kingdom of the theocracy of Israel,
which (he claims) Christ handed over to the Father in 70 AD (pp. 203-207). I believe he was totally
wrong on this point. The whole context of this passage is about Christ's ‘millennial’ reign which began in
70 AD. Russell himself believed that the millennial reign began in 70 AD and that it has a future
consummation. At the very least, the consummation in 1 Corinthians 15 is ‘the end’ of Christ's 'millennial'
kingdom portrayed in Revelation 20:7-10.
I also firmly believe that a case can be made for believing that Paul is talking of a greater consummation
that abolishes the second death. But that has to do with how we understand ‘death’ in this passage –
i.e. physical death or spiritual death. But that’s another subject that I will be dealing with in days to
come! Again, at the very least, ‘the end’ here matches ‘the end’ of the millennium in Rev. 20. I think this
is the best way of understanding this text.
The foundational issue here is about the true nature of Christ's coming and kingdom, and the true nature
of the resurrection. Does scripture really teach that these things are to be visible to the space-time
world we live in or not? That is the big question. I'm beginning to see in a much deeper sense that there
really is a whole other world out there (or should that be another dimension parallel to us). The other
foundational issue at stake here is the integrity and trustworthiness of the words and promises of Jesus
himself, and the writings of the apostles contained in the NT. If the coming of Christ didn't occur in their
generation, then something went horribly wrong, and the expectations of the early church were dashed
to the ground. Instead of this scenario, I choose to believe that Christ's words were fulfilled just as he
had promised; even if that brings up some interesting challenges!
To get straight to the point, even though I am still technically a partial-preterist, my present position
sounds more like a full-preterist viewpoint. Like I said in my quote, I still do not believe that ALL biblical
prophecy has been fulfilled as yet (though I do believe that the vast majority has been fulfilled), and I
also do not accept all of the teaching of popular full-preterist teachers such as Max King either. Yet for
me, the issue is not about theological labels, nor even creedal 'orthodoxy,' but whether the Bible can be
viewed as teaching a particular truth by interpreting scripture with scripture. That is, the teaching of
the biblical apostles and prophets (in particular, the NT apostles & prophets) is the final God-ordained
Copyright © Gerry Watts 2012
I am indebted to both of these men for challenging my understanding of scripture, and helping me gain
further enlightenment on the subject of the arrival of Christ’s kingdom and the resurrection process. I
have begun to reveal my own thoughts and conclusions in these matters in the study series The Day of
The Lord, The Royal Appearing, available in this 'prophecy' section, and I hope to deal with these things
in a more piece-meal (i.e. shorter) fashion in future articles.
I do not plan to revise any articles as such (except maybe The Prophecies of the Olivet Discourse), as I
aim to write new ones instead. The series on the visions of Daniel in the Prophecy section will be written
from a Preterist perspective in new articles, without removing or revising the older versions. Other
articles will appear in the sections Tell It Like It Is and The Big Questions. There may be an eventual
revision of The Secrets of the Parables book or the addition of some further chapters instead. After all,
I'm still on my journey of exploration! My ultimate aim is to present articles/e-books as up-to-date as
possible, but it is impracticable to keep revising older articles! A realistic record of the journey is better.