We hear often from the hyperpreterists* that the futurists** are arbitrary and inconsistent when it comes to teaching that there will be a future, bodily return of Christ. I used to say the same thing. In fact, that was my main point of contention against the “futurists” in an “Acts 1.11″ lecture i gave at a hyperpreterist conference in Bristol, CT back in August of 2006.
I shake my head when listening to that lecture now. Standard hyperpreterist fare.
Step 1: Immediately leave the verse in question and bring up all the “time texts”. “But Jesus said over here that his coming was soon” and “Jesus said over here ‘this generation.’”
Step 2: Argue that there is only one “coming” spoken of in the New Testament. And, when this “coming” happens, the totality of what that coming was to accomplish would happen all at once.
Step 3: Go back to the verse in question and squeeze it into the box created from steps 1 & 2.
That is how 99% of hyperpreterism is argued. And what helped bring me out of hyperpreterism was realizing that not everything can fit in the ad70 box. Are ‘futurists’ really arbitrary and inconsistent or does ‘futurism’ exist because there is an attention to finer details, of which hyperpreterists ignore?
Let’s do a simple lesson.
We seem to have a contradiction on our hands at first glance regarding the presence of Christ.
First, in Matthew 28, Christ issues forth what is commonly called the Great Commission:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
He ends it with this promise:
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Put this first point on the shelf for a second. We will come back to it.
Secondly, Christ spoke many times of a departure as well; a separation.
And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink.” And Jesus said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” (Luke 5:33-35 ESV)
The Pharisees heard the crowd muttering these things about him, and the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to arrest him. Jesus then said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me. You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.” The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we will not find him? Does he intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks? What does he mean by saying, ‘You will seek me and you will not find me,’ and, ‘Where I am you cannot come’?” (John 7:32-36 ESV)
But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:4-8 ESV)
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ (John 13:31-33 ESV)
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12 ESV)
But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:4-11 ESV)
When did Christ “go away”?
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:6-11 ESV)
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV)
Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. (Hebrews 9:23-24 ESV)
Now, bring that first point down off of the shelf.
Is it not abundantly and obviously clear that Christ LEFT them? He went away. Yet, during this same time he promised to be “with” them always.
Do we have a contradiction?
Now there are some ‘Christians’ out there that would quickly respond with, “Yes!” Well, we’ll just leave them be on this article. They can continue living in la la land if they want. I’m appealing to those of you who still have a high regard for God’s Word. Is this a contradiction? No. To review, a contradiction exists when something is and is notin the same respect and at the same time. Christ said that he would be with them and not with them during the same time; so how do we avoid the contradiction? Simple. The with them and not with them is in two different senses.
Christ would not be with them in the sense of being BODILY present, as he had been for 30+ years. Yet with respect to his deity, he would be with them. The Heidelberg Catechism says it this way:
Christ is very man and very God; with respect to his human nature, he is no more on earth; but with respect to his Godhead, majesty, grace and spirit, he is at no time absent from us.
There is no contradiction because when Christ said he would be absent, he was not saying that he would be absent in the same sense that he would be present…bodily. There are two different senses to the presence of Christ.
Hyperpreterist, let that sink in. There are TWO DIFFERENT ways to understand the presence of Christ. To say otherwise – as hyperpreterists do by ditching the body of Christ at the ascension – is to make the going away talk of Christ completely meaningless and nonsense. If Christ ditched his body and lives with no “respect to his human nature” in BODILY FORM, then why in the world would Christ speak of being absent? Absent in what sense? Hyperpreterists can not answer this question.
Back to my question above: Are ‘futurists’ really arbitrary and inconsistent or does ‘futurism’ exist because there is an attention to finer details, of which hyperpreterists ignore? My answer five years later: It is the latter.
It is NOT arbitrary for Christians to understand the return spoken of in Acts 1.11 as being something different from the “coming” spoken of in other passages. The two different ways of speaking of Christ’s presence cannot be ignored.
Remember that quote above from Hebrews? It goes on:
Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:23-28 ESV)
Christ left BODILY. Christ entered and appeared in heaven, in the presence of God BODILY (did he ever leave the presence of God? See the different senses in which the presence of God can be understood?) He will appear a second time. How? BODILY.
What…will the hyperpreterist now fall guilty to his own charge of “inconsistency” by saying that Christ “appeared once for all” in bodily form, yet appeared a second time in non-bodily form? Gee, that’s arbitrary. ( :
No friends, ‘futurists’ are not being arbitrary and inconsistent. ‘Futurists’ are being systematic. ‘Futurism’ is freeing. It is a framework that takes seriously ALL of which Scripture has to say and allows expansion beyond the very tiny, small, limiting ad70 box created by hyperpreterism.
* a hyperpreterist is someone who believes that all prophecy has been fulfilled by the end of the first century; sometimes referred to as full-preterism
** a futurist is the label given to non-hyperpreterists by hyperpreterists.