You are hereKenneth Gentry’s Deep Desperation
Kenneth Gentry’s Deep Desperation
by Don Preston
I have read and appreciated the writings of Kenneth Gentry for many years. His work, Before Jerusalem Fell, helped me immensely in my understanding of the dating of Revelation. That work provided a wealth of information, both historical and Biblical, to substantiate the truth that Revelation is about the consummation of God’s dealings with Old Covenant Israel. Likewise, I have found his interaction with the dispensational paradigm to be insightful, powerful and very often devastating. I might also add that Gentry’s writings have led countless Bible students to become full preterists, notwithstanding his protestations.I have read and appreciated the writings of Kenneth Gentry for many years. His work, Before Jerusalem Fell, helped me immensely in my understanding of the dating of Revelation. That work provided a wealth of information, both historical and Biblical, to substantiate the truth that Revelation is about the consummation of God’s dealings with Old Covenant Israel. Likewise, I have found his interaction with the dispensational paradigm to be insightful, powerful and very often devastating. I might also add that Gentry’s writings have led countless Bible students to become full preterists, notwithstanding his protestations.When it comes to Gentry’s writings in regard to Covenant Eschatology, i.e. preterism, however, it is a totally different story. The normally calm and reflective Gentry gives way to an almost frenetic paranoia that demonstrates a loss of logic and reason. I have literally stood in amazement that someone with Gentry’s normal perspicuity could put on paper some of his “arguments” against preterism, and expect thoughtful, logical, well read people to accept his “arguments” and reject preterism. I could make a long list of such incredibly bad argumentation from Gentry, but I want to focus on a single example from an article he wrote sometime ago.
It is an article I had read, but, frankly, had not noticed one particular issue that Gentry raised. Just recently a friend called me up, and we were discussing several issues. He asked if I had heard of Gentry’s argument that if the parousia was in A.D. 70, that this meant we have no canon of scripture today. I said I had never heard of Gentry making this argument and frankly, could not imagine him making such an illogical argument! I was wrong. My friend gave me the website of Gentry’s 1997 article, and here is Gentry’s quote:
“Third, the hyper-preterist system leaves the New Covenant Christian (in our post-A. D. 70 era) without a canon. If all prophecy was fulfilled prior to A. D. 70 and if the entire New Testament spoke to issues in the pre-A. D. 70 time frame, we do not have any directly relevant passages for us. The entire New Testament must be transposed before we can use it.”1
Frankly, I could not believe what I was reading, and that I had missed this when I read the article initially.
For brevity, I am only going to make a very few observations about Gentry’s comments here.
First, make no mistake, Gentry believes that Christ came in A.D. 70. Anyone even remotely familiar with his writings knows this to be true.2
Second, make no mistake, Gentry believes the canon was completed, i.e. all revealed, by the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.3
So, according to Kenneth Gentry, the canon of scripture was completed by the time of the coming of the Lord at the end of the Old Covenant Age in A. D. 70, and we have that canon as a direct result of the A.D. parousia! How then can he say that if Christ came in A.D. 70 that we have no canon, since he believes because Christ came in A.D. 70 we have the canon? Preterists agree with Gentry on this point! Now if the canon of scripture was completed by A.D. 70, at Christ’s parousia, how in the name of reason can Gentry claim that if that same canon is fulfilled, that we no longer have a canon?4 Would not the fulfillment of the prophecies of the canon confirm the veracity of the canon, instead of nullifying and destroying it? Gentry’s own logic demands that the consummation of the revelatory process would provide for the possession of the canon, not the elimination of the canon!
Just exactly where does Gentry get the idea that the canon would cease to exist when it was fulfilled?5 What is the proof for his claim? Please note, he offers not one scripture, not one exegetical argument, not one logical proposal to support his claim. He simply asserts that if the scriptures are fulfilled, the scriptures cease to function. This is particularly troublesome in regard to Gentry’s view of the Olivet Discourse.
Gentry believes that Matthew 24:36 is the dividing line of the Olivet Discourse, that everything following this verse is referent to a yet future, end of time event. This poses severe problems with what to do with verse 35: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away.” Does this verse refer to the passing of literal terra firma, or, does it refer to the “heaven and earth” of the Old Covenant temple and world?6 Now, if verse 35 refers to the passing of the Old Covenant “heaven and earth” of the temple, then this contrasts the Old Covenant world with the New Covenant world of Jesus.
If the verse contrasts literal terra firma with Christ’s world, however, there is a very great problem for Gentry and virtually all other futurist paradigms. Jesus was emphatically telling his disciples that his word will never pass away. That could not be clearer.. However, what is the word of Christ? Is it not the gospel of Jesus Christ? Would anyone deny that? Follow closely.
The word of Christ will never pass away (Matthew 24.35). The word of Christ is the current gospel, the Covenant of Grace preached by the church among men for salvation. Therefore, the gospel of Jesus Christ–the current Covenant of Grace preached among men for salvation- will never pass away! This one text alone destroys Gentry’s claims. Contra Gentry’s illogical claim that if all scripture is fulfilled, then the canon ceases to exist, this passage affirms that the canon will never pass away!7
Perhaps it would be good to take a look at this term “directly relevant to us,” for a moment. Now, for the Biblical prophecies to be “directly relevant to us today” then, to define these words accurately, of necessity, we today would have to be the original audience to whom the prophecies were addressed and applied. Yet, patently, we today are not the original audience to whom any of the books of the Bible were addressed! Furthermore, when not seeking to negate Covenant Eschatology, Gentry argues logically and compellingly, that in order to properly understand and interpret scriptures, we must consider the “audience relevance” of the Biblical texts.
For instance, commenting on the book of Revelation, and the proper hermeneutic for understanding the Apocalypse, Gentry offers the following: “This is where so many faddish interpretations of Revelation go wrong. They forget the original audience relevance factor, and consequently, overlook the history of the era.”8 He says, “We should, however, be suspicious of interpretations that are blatantly narcissistic; this way of understanding the book maintains that the entire course of human history now culminates in us. Revelation is not, as Thompson warns, ‘a floating spectre’; rather, we must understand him as a figure securely rooted in the first century.” (Beast, 9). He also offers: “The matter of audience relevance in Revelation 17 should be of paramount concern for the serious interpreter.” (Beast, 13).
So, on the one hand, Gentry warns against being “blatantly narcissistic” in our interpretation of scripture, and affirms that we must honor the original audience relevance of the Biblical writers. On the other hand, he claims that if the prophecies of the Bible were fulfilled in the lives and experience of the original audiences, that the Bible has no “direct relevance for us today.” He tells us that unless at least some Bible prophecies are to be fulfilled in our future, the Bible has no direct relevance for us today. Isn’t this being “blatantly narcissistic”?
Was a single prophecy of the Bible specifically, directly given to us today? Where is the epistle, “To the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in America” to be found in the canon? Where is the prophecy of America, of South Carolina, of Oklahoma, of South America to be found in the scriptures?
Gentry well knows there are no Biblical prophecies, none, are “directly relevant to us today” when one takes those words in their correct definitions. The Bible was not written to us today, but, of course, this does not mean we today do not learn and profit from the Bible! It does not mean that the Bible is not relevant for us today. However, the Bible is relevant for us today, because the promises of the Bible were fulfilled at the time, and in the manner, and in the places the Bible predicted. In other words, the Bible is currently relevant because of past fulfillment in the lives and world of the original audiences, not because it is to be fulfilled in the 21st century or beyond.
Consider the words of Jesus: “If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me, but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” (John 10:37-38). Notice, Jesus indicated that his relevance to that audience, and, I suggest, the same is true today, would lie in the reality of fulfilled works! Personal relevance did not lie in unfulfilled promises, but in past reality, i.e. in fulfilled works!
Thus, Gentry’s language is misleading. He does not believe for one moment that a single word of the Bible is “directly relevant to us today” for the simple fact the Bible was not written to us today. However, Gentry, and true preterists, would affirm in the strongest terms possible, that the Bible is very, very relevant today, because of the fulfillment of its words that demonstrates its veracity. Gentry’s argument is simply an emotional smokescreen.
Logically, what Gentry is arguing is this: Scripture is not “directly relevant” unless it is future. There are no prophecies of the future, per the preterists. Therefore, no scriptures are directly relevant. Likewise, logically, what his argument means is that any prophecy that is fulfilled cannot have any direct relevance for us today. If a prophecy has been fulfilled, it is no longer relevant. It takes only a moment of thought to see the totally illogical, and desperate nature of this argument.
The Virgin birth of Christ is a fulfilled prophecy. Does that prophecy have any direct relevance to us today? Well, if by “direct relevance” it is meant that it is to be fulfilled in our day, then clearly, the answer is no, it has no “direct relevance today,” since it is fulfilled. But, does the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 mean the canon of Isaiah is no longer relevant? Does not the fulfilled prophecy have relevance because that divine birth proves Jesus is “Immanuel, God with us.” Is this relevant to us today, or not?
The Old Testament predicted the establishment of the church, the body of Christ, and Gentry affirms this. He even applies Isaiah 65 and the promise of the New Heavens and Earth, to the present church age. So, the prophecy of Isaiah 65 has been fulfilled. The New Creation of Isaiah 65 came into existence with the passing of the Old World of Israel in A.D. 70, and is described in Revelation 21:1f, per Gentry: “The heavenly Jerusalem is the bride of Christ that came down from God to replace the earthly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2-5) in the first century (Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:6, 10). With the shaking and destruction of old Jerusalem in A. D. 70, the heavenly (re-created) Jerusalem replaced her” (Dominion, 363, his emphasis).
Now, according to Gentry, when a prophecy/scripture is fulfilled, it no longer has direct relevance for us today. Does this mean that the fulfillment of the New Creation prophecies in A.D. 70 have no relevance or meaning to us today?
Both the Old Testament and the New predicted the passion of Christ, and his resurrection from the dead. And, praise God, not one word of those prophecies has failed to be fulfilled. Furthermore, Gentry is a “full preterist” when it comes to the prophecies of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection! All has been fulfilled! Perhaps good brother Gentry would now tell us whether Jesus’ passion/resurrection has any “direct relevance for us today”? Or must we transpose the story of Jesus to make it relevant to us? Does Gentry believe that those prophecies can only have relevance for us if they are unfulfilled, or does Jesus’ passion and resurrection have added relevance for us today because they are fulfilled?
Gentry might rejoin that what he meant by “directly relevant to us today,”is that if there is no unfulfilled prophecy then we have nothing to look forward to in our future. However, this also fails, miserably, because it is as the direct result of fulfilled prophecy that the child of God has the promise of being with the Lord in heaven when they pass from this life (cf. Revelation 14:13, a passage Gentry would apply to the A.D. 70 parousia!!). Does Gentry not know the difference between the on-going results of fulfilled prophecy, and the unrealized nature of unfulfilled prophecy? Does he not know that Biblical eschatology would initiate and bring blessings to the state of perfection, instead of remaining simply anticipation?
Other examples of this kind of argumentation could be offered, but this is sufficient to show that Gentry’s “logic” is fundamentally, fatally flawed. His attempts to negate true preterism fail because of this egregiously fallacious argumentation.
As I stated at the outset, I could offer many examples of Gentry’s flawed logic when he attempts to refute Covenant Eschatology. You would think that as much time and thought that Gentry has expended in the refutation of dispensationalism, he would realize that he is, in some cases, now making dispensational arguments. I have called attention to more of Gentry’s flawed arguments and inconsistencies in my books, The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, and Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory.9
Not only have I exposed Gentry’s logical and scriptural fallacies in print, I have offered, repeatedly, to meet him in open, formal debate. I have emailed him with an invitation, but he has not had the courtesy to even respond. Others have emailed him with the same challenge, and again, he does not even have the courtesy to give a response. This article will serve as another invitation to Mr. Gentry to meet me in formal public debate to discuss eschatology. I trust the readers of this article to make sure it lands on Gentry’s computer.
Gentry has labeled those like myself as heretics. You would certainly think then, that someone leveling such a serious charge would have the courtesy, courage, and character to defend their charge in honorable discussions and allow those so charged to defend themselves. So far, Gentry has not shown that kind of character.
In summary then, we have seen that Gentry’s argument is badly flawed.
Not one word of the Bible is “directly relevant to us today” when a person defines those words accurately. Not one word of the Bible was specifically addressed to the 21st century, therefore the Bible is not directly relevant to us today. Such is the conclusion of Gentry’s “argument,” but this is false to the core. Because the Bible is not addressed to 21st century America does not make the Bible irrelevant for America, and Gentry knows and teaches this.
However, the Bible is relevant for us today, not because of unfulfilled prophecy, but because of fulfilled prophecy, because of the manifestation of the faithfulness of God. We have the canon today, the canon that will never pass away, not because it stands unfulfilled, but precisely because it does stand fulfilled, verified and confirmed.
2 See Gentry’s He Shall Have Dominion, (Institute for Christian Economics, Tyler, Texas, Dominion Press, 1992)160f; 273f; 348f
3 Commenting on “that which is perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13, Gentry argued that it referred to “the providential completion of the New Testament canon as that which rendered prophecy (and other revelatory gifts, e.g. tongues and special knowledge) inoperative.” Kenneth Gentry, The Charismatic Gift of Prophecy: A Reformed Response to Wayne Gruden, (Memphis, Footstool Publications, 1989)53+. He even stated in the same work, that the proper understanding of Daniel 9:24 and the promise of the sealing of vision and prophecy, actually involved the revelatory process being completed by the end of the seventy weeks. (p. 54, n.4)
4 See my Seal Up Vision and Prophecy for a demonstration that to seal up vision and prophecy not only involved the revelatory process, but the confirmation through fulfillment. Thus, Daniel foretold that all prophecy would be given, and fulfilled, by the end of the Seventy Weeks. Gentry believes the Seventy Weeks are fulfilled, thus, of necessity, all prophecy was fulfilled by the end of the Seventy Weeks. This is exactly what Jesus taught in Luke 21:22. My book is available from my website, www.eschatology.org
5 Whereas the Torah would pass–as God’s binding covenant-- upon its fulfillment (Matthew 5:17-18), the New Covenant is emphatically said to never pass away (Matthew 24:35). Although the Torah has passed as God’s binding covenant, it still stands today as a witness and guide to Messiah, and an integral part of God’s word.
6 See my The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat, for a demonstration that the Jews viewed the Temple as “heaven and earth.” This historical fact is important for an understanding of Matthew 24:35. The book is available from my website.
7 It is interesting that in scouring Gentry’s books and articles, I have not found a single reference to Matthew 24:35. Not one! I surely may have simply missed it, but, given the embarrassing contradictory nature of the verse with regard to Gentry’s paradigm, his seemingly total silence in regard to the verse may not be accidental.
8 Kenneth Gentry, The Beast of Revelation, (Revised) (Powder Springs, Georgia, American Vision, 2002)91