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Dealing with Straw Man Eschatology

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"ArtIm:

In the Preterist view, God has canceled every covenant with Israel. There is no future or significance for the Jewish people or Israel as a nation. There is no fulfillment of the Davidic covenant. There is no reign of Messiah from a throne in Jerusalem. All of God’s promises to Israel have been nullified. Israel has been replaced by the church. 

—Dr. Robert Heidler

The above assessment of preterism is inaccurate, mistaken, erroneous, wrong, incorrect, false, bogus, and misinformed. Have I missed anything? How about flawed and untrue? One would call Heidler’s understanding of preterism as it relates to Israel a straw man, “a false caricature of another position.”[1] Like any straw man, it’s easily set aflame. Let’s begin by pointing out some obvious errors. Quoting Old Testament prophecy, Peter describes how the Davidic covenant was fulfilled in exacting detail in Jesus:

Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified (Acts 2:29–36).

Can this be any clearer? David occupied a throne that was being held for its true heir, Jesus Christ. Similar to the way the earthly tabernacle and temple were shadows of better things to come, the Davidic throne was a shadow of the true King who takes His seat in heaven.

Dr. Heidler argues correctly that a preterist would agree “that there is no reign of Messiah from a throne in Jerusalem” for the simple reason that there is no verse in the New Testament that states that Jesus will set up His throne in Jerusalem. Revelation 20 does not mention a throne. It does not even mention Jerusalem. Jesus’ throne is set in the “heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22), the “Jerusalem above” (Gal. 4:21–31).

What about Dr. Heidler’s claim that “in the Preterist view, God has canceled every covenant with Israel. . . . All of God’s promises to Israel have been nullified.” On the day of Pentecost, thousands of Jews were saved. This assembly of Jewish believers is called “the whole church” (Acts 5:11). The church at this time was made up exclusively of Jews. There is no replacement, postponement, cancelation, or nullification of any covenant promises. There is nullification only if Dr. Heidler believes that Jews who embraced Jesus as their promised Messiah is not a fulfillment of the promises made to Israel. The Church does not replace Israel, since the believing remnant of Israel made up the church. All Jews were familiar with the word “church” and its meaning. The Greek noun ekklēsia “is used throughout the LXX version of the Old Testament to translate the Hebrew [qahal], which signified the assembly or congregation of the people of Israel (cf. for example, Dt. 31:30).”[2] There is no replacement of Israel by a new entity called “the church.” The first body of believers was called “the whole church.” No one asked, “What’s a church? Is this something new? What about the covenants made to Israel?” The covenants were being fulfilled before their eyes.

  1. The fulfillment begins with Jesus: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,” Zacharias says, “For [God] has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant” (Luke 1:67–80).
  2. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit sealed the covenant promises with fire: “Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5).
  3. When those from “the house of Israel heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.’ And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’” (Acts 2:37–40).
  4. “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls (Acts 2:41).
  5. “Moses said, ‘The Lord God shall raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed in everything He says to you. And it shall be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant, and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:24–26).
  6. “But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4).
  7. “And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets, and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. And also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits; and they were all being healed”  (Acts 5:14–16).
  8. “And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
  9. “And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘Thou art My Son; today I have begotten Thee’” (Acts 13:32–33).

What could be a greater fulfillment of the Abrahamic promises than that God raised Jesus from the dead so that Jews and Gentiles are made “into one new man, thus establishing peace, reconciling them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity” (Eph. 2:15–16). Jews and Gentiles constitute the church. Gentiles were grafted into an already existing body of Jewish believers called “the church.” The “church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38) has come out into the open to embrace the world, Jews and Gentiles alike.

Endnotes:

[1] Joel McDurmon, Biblical Logic in Theory and Practice (Powder Springs, GA American Vision, 2009), 203.
[2] Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977), 547, note 156.

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