Dr. Kim Riddlebarger on Eschatology

Posted in the ‘The Ologys’ are links to a (2) part interview with Kim Riddlebarger which I found interesting. Today I came across another interview in (3) parts, at The A-Team Blog: Part one, Part two:

I want to post part (3) because he answers a few questions I’ve had on Preterism, which possibly someone else may have as well. (The term ‘Full Preterism’ means a belief that the Bible teaches that Jesus’ Second Coming occurred somewhere during the first-century surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem & the Jewish Temple, which I totally disagree with)

This is in a question and answer format, part (3) picking up with the 8th question:

8] On page 34 of Man of Sin you note, “As dispensationalists see things, both the rapture of the church and the revelation of the Antichrist are inextricably tied to Israel‘s future. Because of this, dispensationalists are now avid political participants and critical to the evangelical voting block…” This approach by dispensationalists assumes a certain view of religion and politics that often rubs people the wrong way. How do the political implications of amillennialism differ?

Most Reformed amillennarians believe that whatever role the re-establishment of national Israel plays in the providence of God (and yes, it is a remarkable thing) the return of Israel to the land of Canaan is not a fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. We know this to be true because Joshua told us that when Israel possessed the land, that promise was already fulfilled (Joshua 23:14 ff), but under the terms of the Sinaitic covenant, it became an open question as to whether Israel would remain in the land. In fact, when the apostle Paul treats this matter in Romans, it is he–not the amillennarian who supposedly “spiritualizes the Bible”–who universalizes the land promise (which is everlasting) to extend to the whole earth (Romans 4:13)!

In a political sense, this means that there is no sacred nation on earth during the New Covenant era–including Israel. Israel’s existence, however, is clearly an act of divine providence. How we respond to Israel becomes a matter of how we (as Christians) and our nation relate to our democratic allies throughout the world (i.e., the UK, Australia, etc.). To insist that America conduct its foreign policy to serve dispensational expectations regarding Israel is a serious mistake. The degree to which we do this, is the degree we will make serious foreign policy mistakes with grave consequences for the prospects of peace in the Middle East.

9) In the Introduction to Man of Sin, you note that “throughout this study I speak of preterism in the generic sense of those who tie the fulfillment of the prophecies regarding Antichrist directly to the events of AD 70.” In essence, you conflate hyper-preterism (which is heretical) with all forms of partial-preterism (which you acknowledge is held by many Reformed Christians) throughout the book. Then on page 35 you claim that “preterists go to the opposite extreme and push all biblical prophecy back into the past.” (emphasis added) While this is true of hyper-preterism, it’s not true of partial-preterism by definition. Doesn’t this conflation of preterist positions lead to misunderstanding?

This is a question which requires a fair bit of explanation in order to answer. Preterism has become very difficult to define (the same is also true for futurism) because there are so many varieties of preterists these days. In that chapter I used the generic definitions for the sake of clarity. I did not want too spend much time cataloguing the entire range of carefully nuanced positions that fall all along a wide spectrum. The reality is that if you went into all of the various preterist writers and their particular views, you’d lose the reader, and rapidly exceed the publisher’s page limit!

To avoid doing that I used the generic definition of preterism widely used throughout the literature until recently–before rise of a resurgent heretical hyper-preterism. Preterists tend to see the events of A.D. 70 as fulfilling much of the New Testament’s prophetic expectations, futurists don’t. We can say that much in broad terms.

Let me give you an example from personal experience of how complex this can be. Some have called me a preterist because I believe that Jesus is speaking of Israel and Jerusalem in the Olivet Discourse–that is until Jesus switches to a discussion of cosmic signs when he telegraphs ahead to the time of the end. But since I do not believe that Jesus returned in judgment on Israel in A. D. 70, I really don’t fit in the partial preterist camp. Furthermore, because I do believe that the events in the first century associated with the beast and the antichrist will continue to be ever-present enemies facing Christ’s church until the time of the end, when these things intensify greatly, some have called me a futurist! If I am a futurist, I am certainly not the same kind of futurist as is a dispensationalist. All of that is to say, you either have to speak in broad and generic terms (and miss a few exceptional cases), or else you have to catalogue all those who don’t neatly fit with the terms as used historically–such as an amillennial preterist. Jay Adams was one. B. B. Warfield may have been, but Reformed amillennarians tend not to be.

I do see the events of A. D. 70 as marking that time when Israel became desolate which led to Israel’s diaspora into the nations (Matthew 23:37-39). As I understand it, all forms of preterism (whether that be the heretical hyper-preterists who deny the bodily resurrection and Christ’s second advent, or the orthodox partial-preterists who affirm the bodily resurrection and Christ’s second advent) tend to agree in terms of seeing the end of the age as occurring in 70 A.D., as well as believing that Jesus truly returned in the heavens at that time. Many of these writers also reject the distinction between the two ages (as Reformed amillennarians would define it) along with the distinction between the already and the not yet.

Furthermore, some partial preterists–someone like Ken Gentry, for example–sees the beast as tied to Nero and to events contemporary with the writing of the New Testament. For them, all that remains of the beast motif is for the church to face false teachers (antichrists) within the church. This is what I mean when I state that preterists tend to push eschatological events back into the past, while futurists tend to push them off to the time of the end. I’m arguing for a third option of sorts. What begins in the New Testament era (the presence of the Roman beast and a series of antichrists within the church) will continue to be an on-going threat to the people of God until the time of the end, where we see a furious and final climax before the Lord returns to judge the world, raise the dead and make all things new. Where does that fit on the preterist-futurist scale?

10) In both of your books you assume an exclusive division between preterism and amillennialism, yet I know a number of people who claim to be both. What conflict(s) do you see between these two positions?

As I mentioned, there have been a few preterists who are amillennial–and by preterist here, I mean those who see a real Parousia of Jesus associated with the events of A.D. 70 and who tie the beast and Paul’s man of sin exclusively to Nero or some other pre-A.D. 70 Roman emperor. That said, there is a reason why preterists today are almost ways postmillennial. Postmillennarians are looking for a golden-age on the earth. If, as I argue, a series of beasts will be empowered by the dragon and will rise continually throughout the course of this age, and if I am correct that John is warning us about a series of antichrists, who will arise within the church before culminating in a final Antichrist, such would seem to fly in the face of a golden age for the church upon the earth.

It makes perfect sense and strengthens the postmillennial case greatly, if it could be demonstrated that Nero is the beast spoken of by John, and that he has already come and gone! That’s what I was getting at when I stated that the preterist impulse is to push things back into the period before the fall of Jerusalem.

11) Last time we talked you mentioned that you’re working on another book. Can you share with us what we will be looking forward to?

I’ve got several books in the pipeline. I’m working on a more comprehensive eschatology text (wherein I can deal a bit more thoroughly with the nuances of the varieties of preterists, progressive dispensationalism, etc.). I’d like to publish my dissertation on B. B. Warfield. I’ve got an exposition on Romans nearly done, along with a commentary on the Belgic Confession.

3 comments on “Dr. Kim Riddlebarger on Eschatology

  1. People’s ideas change over time. I don’t know where Kim Riddlebarger stands on preterism today in 2015, as he did in 2008. But I don’t think his position on the “stand-or-fall” contention that preterists need to have the book of Revelation to have an early date. Per RC Sproul’s book The Last Days According to Jesus, the idea that the olivet discourse was a fulfillment of all things is one proof for preterism. Another proof would be the writings of Thessalonians. There is enough there-without-Revelation, to construct a preterism or fulfilled eschatology viewpoint.

    • Having read a couple of Riddlebarger’s books, i don’t see him as a Preterist. Perhaps, as many people do, he holds to certain beliefs which would classify him as what people refer to as a ‘partial’ preterist??

  2. […] Kim Riddlebarger’s A Case for Amillennialism, which we mentioned a few weeks ago, touches on the issue of national Israel. Some of what’s been said is divisive and some is […]

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