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Meet the Real Last Days Scoffers – Part 2

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The point of departure for Dr. Hindson’s article, found in the May 2005 edition of the National Liberty Journal, is 2 Peter 3:3–4: “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues as it was from the beginning of creation.’” He concludes from these verses that Peter is describing a distant eschatological event and not one that is on the horizon. For a dispensationalist like Hindson, “last days” means events leading up to the “rapture of the church” and not the end of the old covenant that was taking place during the period of apostolic ministry in the first century.

What does the Bible say about the “last days”? In 1 Peter 4:7, we read: “The end of all things is at hand.” Whatever “things” Peter had in mind, notice their end was “at hand,” that is, near for him and his readers (cf. James 5:8). The ticking of the clock of the last days of the old covenant began at Pentecost and ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Preterist author Jay Adams writes the following on 1 Peter 4:7:

In six or seven years from the time of writing, the overthrow of Jerusalem, with all its tragic stories, as foretold in the book of Revelation and in the Olivet Discourse upon which that Part 1s based, would take place. Titus and Vespasian would wipe out the old order once and for all. All those forces that led to the persecution and exile of these Christians in Asia Minor—the temple ceremonies (outdated by Christ’s death), Pharisaism (with its distortion of the O.T. law into a system of works-righteousness) and the political stance of Palestinian Jewry toward Rome—would be erased. The Roman armies would wipe Jewish opposition from the face of the land. Those who survived the holocaust of A.D. 70 would themselves be dispersed around the Mediterranean world. “So,” says Peter, “hold on; the end is near.” The full end of the O.T. order (already made defunct by the cross and the empty tomb) was about to occur.[1]

Peter defines the time parameters of the last days for us after the people witnessed a series of manifestations of the Holy Spirit and its effect on the disciples: “For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; but this”—the events you saw with your own eyes and heard with your ears—“is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all flesh’”[2] (Acts 2:15–17a). The “last days” were a present reality for the NT church. The gifts of the Spirit are the hard evidence that the last days had arrived.

Dispensationalists are so befuddled by the obvious timing of when the last days occur that they must add to Acts 2:16 to get it to mean what they need it to mean for their brand of futurism to hold up. Thomas Ice, who Dr. Hindson quotes approvingly in his article and served with him as an editor to the Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, reworks Acts 2:16 to read, “But this is [like] that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” Ice adds the word “like” to the text. He goes on to offer the following comment on the verse: “The Spirit’s activity in Joel is linked to the events that will transpire during the Tribulation; thus, it could not have been fulfilled in Acts 2. The unique statement of Peter (‘this is that’) is in the language of comparison and similarity, not fulfillment.”[3] Peter explains what the people had just seen by stating unequivocally “this is that.” It’s not like that; it is that. The simile “like” is found in 157 verses in the NT. If Peter meant to imply “comparison and similarity” in Acts 2:16, he would have done so by inserting the word “like” himself. John R. Stott, in his commentary on this passage, states, “Peter introduces his sermon with the words ‘this is that’ (16, AV), i.e, ‘this’ which his hearers have witnessed is ‘that’ which Joel foretold.”[4] F. F. Bruce makes a similar point: “Joel, like other Old Testament prophets, had spoken of what was going to take place in the ‘last days.’ Peter’s quotation of this prophecy means that these days, the days of fulfillment of God’s purpose, have arrived.”[5]

There are other uses of “last days” in the NT that refer to the time of the first generation of Christians and the end of the old covenant era. The writer of Hebrews states: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world” (1:1–2). Paul writes something similar to the Corinthians: “Now these things happened to [the Israelites in the wilderness] as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). The timing of the last days is important. In each of these cases, the “last days” was a present reality for those who first read these NT epistles.

With this understanding of the last days in mind, let’s revisit 2 Peter 3:3–4 and also Jude 18 which reads, “‘In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’” In the next verse we are told, “These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly, minded, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 19). Not “will” but “are.” Peter and Jude are not predicting what will happen in the distant future. These things were happening in their day. Just like “false prophets also arose among the people . . . , there will also be false teachers among you,” Peter tells us (2 Pet. 2:1). “The way of the truth will be maligned” and “they will exploit you with false words” (2 Pet. 2, 3). Notice the use of the second person plural (“you”). Peter is issuing a warning to those who receive his letter. The entire NT issues warnings against these skeptics and moral trouble makers (Jude 10–16; Acts 20:28–30).

We should not find it unusual, therefore, that Peter would mention scoffers who would point out to the faithful that the generation that Jesus said would not pass away before His coming to destroy Jerusalem was about to come to an end and everything remains as it was. You can hear the scoffers argue:

The temple is still standing, the priesthood is intact, and animal sacrifices are going on as usual. The old covenant has not passed away; it’s a permanent fixture, even under Roman oppression. People are marrying and giving in marriage, eating and drinking, buying and selling, and planting and building (Luke 17:22–35).[6] Everything is as it was since creation (2 Pet. 3:4). This Jesus, who claimed He would come in judgment before “this generation” passed away (Matt. 24:34), was a false prophet and you Christians are foolish to follow him. Return to the true faith of your fathers.

Similar warnings were given when the earth was destroyed by a flood and Sodom was destroyed by fire. The people reacted in the same way as the scoffers in Peter’s day. Things looked like they’ve always looked. Unlike how Dr. Hindson interprets 2 Peter 3, the coming judgments were near for those who first read Peter’s letter. The scoffers were alive and well in the first century. People have a right to mock and scoff when they read that Jesus was to come within a generation and nearly 2000 years have passed. Liberals mock Christians who don’t believe what Jesus actually said and then try to make Jesus’ words mean something else.

Preterists don’t doubt God’s Word. We are not end-time scoffers because we understand what the NT means by the end times. We take God at His Word when He tells us when certain prophetic events will be fulfilled. We believe Jesus when He said He would return in judgment before the generation to whom He was speaking passed away (Matt. 24:34). Preterists marvel when we are accused of “allegorizing” and not interpreting the Bible “literally” and then are charged “with such rigid literalism”[7] on the meaning of “this generation.” We believe the Bible when it says that Jesus would come before the last disciple died (16:27–28; John 21:18–23). We believe John when he wrote that “many antichrists” had arisen in his day which served as ample evidence to his readers that it was “the last hour” (1 John 2:18). We agree with the writer to the Hebrews that the day was “drawing near” for first-century Christians (Heb. 10:25). We affirm along with James when he told his readers that “the coming of the Lord is at hand” for them (James 5:8) and that “the Judge is standing right at the door” (5:9; cf. Matt. 24:33).

Preterists don’t agree with Charles L. Feinberg’s interpretation in the Liberty Bible Commentary, edited by Dr. Hindson, that the time text “must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1) “gives no basis for the historical interpretation of the book.”[8] At the same time, we marvel when in the same commentary on Revelation, Dr. Feinberg can claim that while “far off” means “far off” in Daniel 12:4, “near” does not mean “near” in Revelation 1:3 and 22:10 even though he writes that Jesus’ coming “is near.”[9] Preterists don’t understand that when the word “near” is used today by futurists it mean Jesus’ coming is “near,” it means near, but when “near” was used by John nearly two millennia ago it does not indicate “the possible length [of time] involved.”[10] Preterists do not understand that when the NT uses words like “near” and “soon” Dr. Hindson changes their meaning to read “imminent” as if “imminent” means something different from “near” and “soon.”[11] The NT does not say that Jesus will come at “any moment,” it states emphatically that His coming was “near” for those who first read the word.

The real last days scoffers are those who scoff at the clear words of Scripture related to the timing of specific prophetic events. The scoffers are those who attempt to make the Bible mean its opposite.

Endnotes:

[1] Jay E. Adams, Trust and Obey: A Practical Commentary on First Peter (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1978), 130.
[2] “‘All mankind’ seems to be defined by what follows: old and young, women as well as men. This makes it reasonably certain that the whole company of 120, which included women, received the Spirit at Pentecost.” Everett F. Harrison, Acts: The Expanding Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), 58.
[3] Thomas Ice, “Acts,” Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, gen. ed. Tim LaHaye (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), 1167, note on Acts 2:16.
[4] John R. W. Stott, The Spirit, the Church, and the World: The Message of Acts (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990), 73.
[5] F. F. Bruce, The Book of Acts in The New International Commentary on the New Testament, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988), 60–61.
[6] These are not descriptions of immoral behavior but of normal behavior, what people do every day.
[7] John F. MacArthur, The Second Coming: Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 133.
[8] Charles L. Feinberg, “Revelation,” Liberty Bible Commentary: New Testament, eds. Edward E. Hindson and Woodrow Michael Kroll (Lynchburg, VA: The Old-Time Gospel Hour, 1982), 790.
[9] Feinberg, “Revelation,” 853.
[10] Feinberg, “Revelation,” 790.
[11] Ed Hindson, Approaching Armageddon: The World Prepares for War with God (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1997), 36.

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