O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
NOTE: Please keep this posting on topic and do not let it get hijacked with emotion and side issues. It is important enough to devote careful study and polite discussion to. As preterists, we do not ascribe to a time in the future when Christ will return and "reset" the earth by force. Instead, we believe Christ came already and is progressively transforming the world through His people, who now, are in His kingdom doing great things in an invisible realm. But we need to do more than just tell futurists that they are wrong. We need to develop a complete theological framework, backed by scripture, that gives futurists a clear hope for how the world will be redeemed. This posting is just a shot across the bow to help us develop such a framework. As a community, we can reason together and help futurists understand that we are not trying to inject heresy in the church, but instead we are helping our futurist brethren understand that we all have to labor in the Kingdom of God as a present reality and not look for some golden age where God will fix all our troubles in one fell swoop.
Scripture is replete with stories of individuals and groups. And, often (if not always) individuals and their personalities are stand-ins, or metaphors, for the human condition. For example, Adam "represented" mankind, and human nature. Nevertheless, Adam was a real human (although there is dispute about that, that is not the point of this post)
Additionally, there are entire groups of people who represent attitudes and ideas, and the lifetimes they lived serve as instruction for those of us on the earth now who read about them.
I have often wondered about the INDIVIDUAL dynamic of how God looks at these people who happened to be born at a time and into a people group where God was not present and who, essentially were never exposed to the true God.
I know that we are told that everyone "knows" that God exists, or should know, based on what they see in nature. While this is true, the hardscrabble realities of a life lived in a tribe or culture where just surviving is all one can do many times means that there isn't time to ponder the afterlife, or God, or the question "why am I here?" Whole civilizations have been subjected to the whims of powerful and cruel rulers with no chance to break out from that bondage.
Paul said that the whole creation groans for the revelation of the sons of God. c.f. Rom. 8:
"…21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.…
Cross reference the OT
How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, "He will not see what happens to us."
It's clear this is God's design for all creation to groan and wait till they are delivered.
That brings me to the core of my question, and I would like to know what you think...
How is it "fair" for God to do this? Is it "fair" for God to subject some to no hope, while others are given great favor and essentially given salvation?
In orthodox Christianity, this question arises often, being answered in the reformed tradition by stating that God is sovereign and does what He pleases. But implicit in all common explanations of this is the assumption that this is the only day of salvation, and that individuals are "lost" if they are not exposed to Christ now, in this life.
But does scripture really teach that?
I have not personally seen anything in scripture that says that if someone does not encounter the true God and salvation in this life that they are doomed to extinction or eternal punishing.
Which is why I titled my post "individual versus groups"
If God is willing to "sacrifice" whole groups of people so that only a few can be saved by learning from those groups, or individuals, then is God's kingdom really like a mustard seed, growing and growing until it encompasses all things? In other words, has God consigned all those people who essentially sat in darkness with no hope to the dustbin of history, only to be punished for not accepting what they never could comprehend, much less apprehend?
I can accept that God would use them as examples for our admonishment. But I can also see that THEY, THROUGH US might have salvation later, just like US, THROUGH THEM, have our salvation now!
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
1 Corinthians 10:11
These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.
Again, I see nothing in scripture that precludes those who have lived in ignorance being given their FIRST opportunity to accept and believe that which we, the firstfruits, have learned from their sacrifices. In fact, I see many indications of a time when whole hosts of people will be given their first opportunity.
Please do not think I am preaching "second chance" theology, since I do not believe there is such a thing. I am talking about "first chance" for those who have not had Christ ever presented to them.
But, since I am speaking to a preterist audience, consider that such an idea must of necessity require some flexibility on our part for a future scenario where things will not continue in the status quo as we see it now. In other words, the world will not just keep going on and on as we see it now, but instead there will have to come a time when God will make it plain who He is and who His Son is, with no doubt about what is required of mankind. Those who dwell in darkness have seen a great light, and that light is being lived in us now.
There is scriptural precedent for God delaying light until the time comes. Consider the delay of Christ until the time was right in these scriptures:
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan--
Mat. 4:16"THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED." 17From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Although 2,000+ years have passed since Christ came, the natural process of the mustard plant is such that there will come a time when the whole world will see light and know beyond a doubt that Christ rules.
I do not see scriptural evidence that a physical resurrection will occur in which all who have ever lived will come up and see this time of God's glory on the physical earth. But I am open to hearing from others what they think, and how (or if) such a time will come. If it will not come, then please tell how you believe those who did not hear are going to receive justice. Please do not simply say that they were "disposable" people who were sacrificed and consigned to hell for their unbelief. That is not justice, and is not the picture of God I see in scripture. Remember, I am not saying there is a "second chance". I am saying that these people who lived and helped usher us into Christ deserve their FIRST CHANCE. I am just wondering how they fit into the future, scripturally speaking.
So if one cannot prove that this life is the only life we get, why is it so odd to think that there might be another "chance" at salvation?
There are too many assumptions and controversial issues associated with this question, we probably just have to go by what we feel.
E.g. you assume some afterlife, and my current understanding of Scriptures make saying much about the afterlife very tricky and I think the issue is even more complicated for full preterists.
The issue of hell is also a tricky issue no matter your eschatology, as long as you desire to study issues in depth.
The very definition of salvation and its goal is yet another issue that has complications of its own.
I hope you get the picture, too many issues and some or many beyond the revelation of Scripture (at least IMO).
Being a futurist myself, its simply a matter of the warning for man to repent and believe the gospel being indications that if you dont believe the gospel your future is dim. What that dim future is... who knows, only that is so dim Jesus had to die to rescue us from it.
That said surely, God who loved man to rather die for him than start a new race is fair and just, God who winked at the times of ignorance, this God is surely NOT in the damning business. Like Davo said, He is in the seeking and saving business.
So, I don't know, but trust God for a just end for everyone but take seriously the warnings of dieing in the wrong and in the dark (i.e. without having heard).
"So, I don't know, but trust God for a just end for everyone but take seriously the warnings of dieing in the wrong and in the dark (i.e. without having heard)."
Well said, and I agree.
If you are interested in the issue of hell, there is a classic book called "The 4 views of hell". It is point and counterpoint on the issue of hell, all from well known theologians. I am mostly in agreement with the one advocated by Edward Fudge. Look it up. It's pretty interesting.
Preterists, as far as I can tell, tend to look down their nose at the patristics. I think it's because there was no full formed concept of preterism there. But, there was no fully formed concept of any theology in the patristics. I can point to Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria as excellent early examples of those who stipulated to preterist ideas that would blow modern futurism out of the water (the Olivet Discourse and Daniel's prophecies were fulfilled in the sacking of Jerusalem). Then we get to Eusebius who was never rejected, though he postulated a clear Full Preterist thought based on the events surrounding of Constantine. Much of the reaction against patrisitc preterism is simply anachronism.
How much of that bleeds over into this topic?
I'm not entirely endorsing this book. But, I think if you give it some time it will challenge you (especially observations such as catacomb inscriptions that declare 1st Thess. 4 had already been fulfilled):
Doug (the "other"Doug) :)
Thank you for this very much. I am on vacation, and will use my time to read the attachment you referenced.
TIMELY AND EXCELLENT!!