O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Partial Preterist Futurism: Going the Whole Way on Creation

          There is a problem in the partial preterist world.  They are slowly running out of “unfulfilled” passages of Scripture.  It is not necessary to go into great detail, because any honest observer will admit that over the past 30 years "fulfillment" has been the course de jour.  Beginning with passages such as Daniel 12 back in the 1990's and even up into the present day with Joel McDurmon's new book,  Jesus vs. Jerusalem, partial preterist exegetes have slowly and methodically moved previous "non-negotiable" passages from the "future to us" category to the "fulfilled" column. 


          With every consistent step towards full preterism, the remnants of the scattered partial preterist herd eventually coalesce into the next seemingly secure shelter to find safety within the walls of "creeds" and "orthodoxy."  


          The latest such shelter seems to be Romans 8:19-21:

19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (NKJV)


          The argument is simple:  the creation that Paul has in mind in this passage is the material universe. The claim is that salvation for the individual is complete in Christ, but the full benefits of that salvation won't be attained until a long gradual renewing of the material universe takes place. At that point, sin and it's effects will finally be removed from the material universe.  "The creation [read material universe] itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).


          It is crystal clear that Paul is referring back to the Genesis account in this passage. In the conservative reformed world, the effort must be made to protect the young earth creation presupposition (and the futurism it breeds) by matching up the creation of Romans 8 and the creation of Genesis 1.  Old earth scholars such as N.T. Wright, use this passage to protect their futurist "orthodoxy" in a slightly different way.


          By defining the "creation" of Romans 8 as the material universe one can simply fulfill most, if not all, of the rest of the Bible and still hold on to some sort of yet future consummation. This greatly reduces the need to exegete any other yet future unfulfilled passages which allows the partial preterist to slide just inside the gates of creeds.


          There is a strangeness to this view that few seem to notice. Does it seem odd that many who promote it insist that God created the universe in six literal days, yet they declare that the new creation, the new heavens and new earth, has been "under construction" for nearly 2000 years and counting? Or consider another oddity:  They claim that Jesus' complete work of redemption is incomplete and ongoing even while claiming that Adam's first sin completely transformed the world overnight. Something is terribly wrong with this picture. Doesn’t young-earth partial futurism impugn the work of Christ and power of God as weak in comparison to what Satan accomplished in one brief interview? Who is the truly powerful worker in this scene? 


          Apparently the surrounding context, pronouns, and time statements included in this passage are not enough for some partial preterists to consider an alternative definition of the "creation" that Paul had in mind.  What if Paul's "the creation" doesn't reference the physical universe at all?  


          In the rush to find shelter for their futurism, the partial preterist world has run smack dab into a far more sinister villain:  UNIVERSALISM.


          If Paul means that the entire physical universe (the creation) will be freed from the bondage of sin, then it necessitates that every single human being must be forgiven and redeemed in the end because human beings are a part of the material creation.  


          The problem is much worse for the reformed world.  The Westminster Confession states that all the dead will be raised with self same bodies and the self same bodies of the non-believers will spend eternity in the torment of Hell.


          How can Paul claim that the entire creation is freed from the bondage of sin yet some of that material creation will spend eternity paying the penalty for sin, in a Hell created by God?  You see, a universal view of "the creation" leads logically to a universal view of salvation.  And what about the devil?  Wasn't the serpent in the Garden a part of the material universe?  Is he going to be "delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God?"


          Some could say that God creates a completely new material universe, but that contradicts Paul in Romans 8, not to mention the big problem that the original creation God cursed would never be redeemed, handing satan the final victory over God's original work. No, Paul says "the creation" is liberated from its bondage.


          There is simply no logical way to argue against universalism when it is claimed that the entire physical/material universe will be delivered from sin. 


          There is a fork in the road for the partial preterist world.  If they continue to rely on Romans 8:19-21 for their futurist hope, they will be forced to either stick with the YEC definition of "the creation" and accept the logical conclusion of universalism, or they will apply the consistency of Paul and the full-preterist, and interpret "the creation" as a covenant creation rather than the material universe. After all, there is no physical definition that can make sense out of Paul's claim elsewhere that believers in Jesus Christ have become a new creation. Paul's theology of creation in other passages should at least give us a hint at the proper interpretation of Romans 8:19-21.

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Comment by Michael Bull on January 8, 2012 at 8:28pm

Hi Micah
Hardly running out of passages. All the "national" AD70 passages applied "personally" to Christ and will apply "globally" at some future date. Why are full prets so unwilling to observe the repeated process (and not just in the NT)? Time to drop the limiting paradigm, the AD70 tunnel vision. 

Comment by Charles Shank on January 8, 2012 at 8:30pm

Very good post, Micah; another hurdle they must overcome is the fact that God 'cut out' the original heavens and earth!:)

Comment by Tim Martin on January 8, 2012 at 8:34pm


Funny you should bring up this topic. I just recently read some material that raised my eyebrows. Consider how this futurist explained his view of the redemption of creation:

If there was an anticipation and prefigurement of the covenant of grace as fellowship with God in humanity's original relationship with God, the end of the covenant of grace will be God's fellowship with all creation. In it furthest outworking and widest outreach, the covenant will embrace the entire creation, that is, not only the new human race in Christ out of all nations, but also the earth and all living creatures. It pleased the Father to "reconcile all things unto himself" (Col. 1:20). Included will be a renewed heaven and a renewed earth (Isa. 65:17; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). Plants and animals will be represented (Isa. 11:6-9; Rev. 22:2)

The coming, final peace of creation with God will be creation's sharing in the redemption of Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:20 speaks of the Father's pleasure to "reconcile all things to himself"  by Jesus Christ, "through the blood of his cross." According to Romans 8:19-22, this peaceful relation of the creation with God will be creation's participation in "the glorious liberty of the children of God." Creation's relationship with God will be that of child and Father. This will be fitting since creation was given existence by the Father of Jesus Christ. Isaiah 54:10 calls God's covenant with Israel/church the "covenant of my peace," and creation is definitely included in this covenant of peace.

David Engelsma, Trinity and Covenant: God as Holy Family, pp. 127-128

In this light ought the covenant with Noah to be seen. Upon the destruction of the old world, through the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, Noah stepped out into a new world. On that momentous occasion, God revealed that on the basis of sacrifices pointing to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, his covenant of grace in Christ extends to all the peoples and nations that would descend from Noah and his three sons. It reaches out to the earth itself and to every living creature -- foul, cattle, and beast. The covenant with Christ, our true "Rest," is a cosmic covenant

This is the future, absolutely certain, of the groaning creation. This is its everlasting future. The covenant with Noah is an "everlasting covenant" (Gen. 9:16).

On the basis of Christ's cosmic redemption, the Spirit of Christ will renew the heaven and the earth. The dove that did not return to Noah, having descended upon Jesus at his baptism will "brood" upon the creation. All things will then be reconciled to God.

The triune God will embrace his world.

In Christ, glorious head of all, and by the Spirit, hidden fellowship of God, all things will enjoy covenant communion with their God, creator, redeemer, friend.

David Engelsma, Trinity and Covenant: God as Holy Family, pp. 133-133

Maybe it's just me, but it sure doesn't look like he sees the train coming at him! Unbelievable...

Tim Martin

Comment by Michael Bull on January 8, 2012 at 8:44pm

C'mon guys. Type-wise Jesus=Joshua. Jerusalem=Jericho. Was Jericho the end of the process of dominion? Was everything settled once those firstfruits walls came down? God forbid.

Comment by Charles Shank on January 8, 2012 at 8:46pm

Maybe he just has blinded himself to the light at the end of the tunnel, Tim, or maybe he's one of the lib'rals!

Comment by Tim Martin on January 8, 2012 at 8:51pm


Jesus = Land = promised Messiah of Israel

Now, how do you fulfill that again on a global scale?

Do you await another Messiah for the entire planet Earth?

You've got garbage. You can't apply your pattern to Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, fulfilled in the "land" portion of your pattern.

In fact, Jesus just doesn't cut it for you...

Tim Martin

Comment by Tim Martin on January 8, 2012 at 8:53pm


He's no liberal. But his logic gives away the entire farm. And what is most amazing is that he can't even see it!

Tim Martin

Comment by Charles Shank on January 8, 2012 at 8:56pm

To your fist comment to Mike, Tim; OUCHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

'Jesus just doesn't cut it for you'!?:)

Comment by Michael Bull on January 8, 2012 at 9:02pm

Tim - have another look at the strange things that happened around the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ: blood and water, darkness, serpent crushed (personally), Gentile faith, rocks split, holy place surrounded by troops, saints resurrected, Christ meets "the bride." All this "Garden" (i.e. sanctuary) stuff was repeated in the Land (holy place), and will be repeated in the "Gentile courts." Get into some Jordan to get a handle on this. It ain't garbage.

Comment by Charles Shank on January 8, 2012 at 9:06pm

Michael; what does all this ( ? ) have to do with the fact that futurism leads naturally to universalism?


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