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 11:11pm

Jericho was the "Atonement" of the initial Abrahamic Covenant (over Canaan - bread and wine). Israel is at rest at the end of Joshua. Yet Jericho was only the firstfruits of the Land (grain and grapes). In the greater Israel picture, their "ascension" into the Land is only Day 3.

The first resurrection put the world under human government. The angels retire in Revelation, and these servants hand the government over to the "firstfruits" sons who now sit on thrones.

People are heading to hell anyway. The miracle is that the saints are not.

Comment by Micah Martin on January 8, 2012 at 11:17pm


You still haven't addressed the specific problem I pointed out.  Your making it worse. 

People are heading to hell anyway. The miracle is that the saints are not.

Are these "people" literal, material people that are a part of "the creation" of Romans 8:19-21? If they are then they get redeemed in the end with the rest of creation?

Comment by Michael Bull on January 8, 2012 at 11:23pm

Yes. I believe the Old Covenant saints were literally and physically taken to heaven in the first resurrection. But that ended the Old Covenant, not the New. This era will end with the second resurrection - another literal physical event under the two-edged redemptive sword. The New Covenant was vindicated before the Land, but is yet to be vindicated before the World. That vindication includes the vindication of our present witness.

Comment by John on January 9, 2012 at 5:40pm

Two non canonical sources on what Dr. Beale calls  "the oddest part of this chapter" I would say the entire Bible.

The only way you can have these "dead ones" resurrected after Christ is to rearrange the words.Otherwise he is not the first resurrected from the dead.

No other NT writer mentions the event.Seems to me Paul would have surely mentioned it when he wrote about the timing and the order of the resurrection.The verses are too ambiguous to be so dogmatic IMO.

Respected scholar Mike Licona has recently written on Matt 27:52-53 and suggest  interpreting them in a symbolic/non-historical sense and many scholars agree with him.

"So, for now, I remain undecided pertaining to how Matthew intended for his readers to understand the raised saints. And I’m not alone. In his 2003 volume The Resurrection of the Son of God, N. T. Wright comments, “[I]t is better to remain puzzled than to settle for either a difficult argument for probable historicity or a cheap and cheerful rationalistic dismissal of the possibility. Some stories are so odd that they may just have happened. This may be one of them, but in historical terms there is no way of finding out.”14

"Pertaining to the temple curtain splitting and the raised saints, Craig Blomberg writes, “All kinds of historical questions remain unanswered about both events.”15 In the book Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? edited by Paul Copan, William Lane Craig responded to Jesus Seminar fellow Robert Miller who claimed that Matthew freely added to Mark’s Gospel the story of the resurrection of the saints, a story which Matthew did not take literally, but included it as a figurative expression of the apocalyptic significance of Jesus’ death. Dr. Craig commented, “Dr. Miller’s interpretation of this passage strikes me as quite persuasive, and probably only a few conservative scholars would treat the story as historical.”

Why did John write 1Jn 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Too many holes to " infer that they were taken to heaven in 33 AD" The Left Behind view is more believable IMHO.

Comment by Michael Bull on January 9, 2012 at 5:57pm

@Ken - Very interesting. Haven't read Nicodemus - will look into that. Thanks! Not sure they could have gone to heaven at the Ascension. It's always (Covenant) head first and the Body on the second approach. This is exactly what we see in Daniel 7, which also follows the "Atonement" process.

@John - I did read about Licona. Sounds more like an attempt to discredit a text that doesn't fit his theology. As I wrote above, the weird events were types of what was to come nationally. We see exactly the same process in the OT, so these faithless academics should be ashamed.

Comment by John on January 9, 2012 at 6:00pm

Hi Michael Bull,

Speaking of James Jordan you'll find this interesting.He debated Don Preston a few years back.This quote is from one of Preston's article.

"Remember that Gentry admits that the OT prophets anticipated the full arrival of the age to come at the end of the Old Covenant age– which he affirms came in AD 70! So, once again, since Revelation 21-22 describes the arrival of the New Creation in AD 70 this logically demands that from AD 70 there has been no curse! The Adamic Curse was removed in AD 70. (Significantly, in my debate with James Jordan he admitted that the Adamic Curse was destroyed in AD 70, but then insisted that we are still waiting on the consummation. I noted that the destruction of the Adamic Curse is what Paul was anticipating in 1 Corinthians 15. Thus, to admit the AD 70 removal of the Adamic Curse is to admit the eschatological consummation. There is no “consummation” beyond 1 Corinthians 15 or Revelation 21-22. MP3s of that debate is available from me.).

So, according to the admissions of the postmillennialists, it must be true that the “creation” was redeemed in AD 70– which of course completely nullifies all claims that the Adamic Curse was a curse on material creation, for natural creation has manifestly not been “redeemed” since AD 70."

And There Shall Be No More Curse
Revelation 22:3
Don K. Preston D. Div. 

Comment by Charles Shank on January 9, 2012 at 6:12pm

Mike; per your comment to Ken about, 'first the Head, then the Body', what Scripture can you provide to support '2,000 years apart'?

Comment by Michael Bull on January 9, 2012 at 6:18pm

John - thanks for that. I've listened to a lot of Jordan but not read too much Preston. Sounds like the tunnel vision mentioned above - Jordan is big on the process of maturation. Yes, AD70 was the end of the Old Covenant, but the end of the Herods was also the next shockwave from the resurrection (the first being the death of Herod on his throne). Jordan, and I, would simply argue that that process has continued and will continue until the entire globe, not just the Land/oikoumene, is ripe for judgment. I believe this is what we see in Revelation 20. This "Garden/Land/World" dominion is simply Word, Sacrament, Government played out in the nations, beginning with Christ Himself.
Yes, the Adamic curse was wiped out in AD70 because that is when all the Adamic Covenants came to an end (see my Covenant Key book - happy to send you one). The blood of all the OT martyrs was avenged. It was Adam/Abraham/Moses/David/Ezra that came to an end, God cutting into Adamic flesh to find the foundation for the Bride. That's why Revelation uses symbols from all these Covenants. It's why John wept that no one was worthy to open the New Covenant scroll.
But as I also argue in my book, the process of history is a re-robing and a re-robing, as is the Day of Atonement (or Christ's washing the disciples' feet, for that matter):

Creational - robe/authority - Cosmos as Temple
Social - flesh (Israel) - House as Temple
Personal - Christ - Man as Temple
Social - Spirit (Church) - Living Temple
Creational - re-robed - Restored Cosmos as Temple

So aligning AD70 with the flood gets the correspondences wrong. They are related typlogically, but so was the destruction of Solomon's Temple (Isaiah uses flood language also). And the world was also judged in Christ. So there is a restoration of the Creation to come.

The process moves forward, but it is also chiastic. More correctly, AD70 corresponds chiastically to the call of Abraham.

We must get a handle on the Covenant process!

Comment by Michael Bull on January 9, 2012 at 6:20pm

Sorry - DE-robing and re-robing, with nakedness at the centre. The Day of Atonement was literally the Day of "Coverings."

Comment by Michael Bull on January 9, 2012 at 6:25pm

Charles - the first resurrection was only 40 years later. Christ came "in like manner" as the second approach of the High Priest to the throne: 1) bull's blood for priesthood, 2) goat's blood for people. And Herodian worship was the Azal goat.

Interestingly, the Last Supper follows the Feasts, with Judas (Judah) expelled as the second goat.

We have the same process working "fractally" at different levels. It is the process of maturity and harvest. Israel's own history (from Abraham) follows the Feasts/Tabernacle pattern, and the bookends of the Atonement/Laver period are Joshua the High Priest and Jeshua the Messiah - High Priest (Heads). But the entire Bible also follows the pattern, with the first resurrection as the beginning of the Laver/Crystal Sea era (AD70) and the second resurrection as its end.

That's why I reckon this "Bible Matrix" stuff is so important. The key is not proof texts. Isolated texts can't put things together. But structure can, and the structures are all rooted in the Torah.


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