You are hereThe Second Coming: Why We Should Still Be Waiting - A Response to Dr. Russ Jurek
The Second Coming: Why We Should Still Be Waiting - A Response to Dr. Russ Jurek
by Don Preston
Dr. Russ Jurek is an elder and the minister of the EdgeHill Church of Christ in Petersburg, Virginia. Dr. Jurek recently wrote a paper entitled “The 2nd Coming of Christ: Why We Should Still Be Waiting! An Expose of the A.D. 70 Theory.” (We will refer to brother Jurek’s paper as Waiting). His paper purports to be a refutation of my book Can God Tell Time? as well as a larger denunciation of the preterist view as a whole. When I received a copy of Jurek’s work,1 I immediately sent word inviting him to meet me in a two hour debate on the world wide radio program The Voice of Reason, hosted by John Anderson of Lighthouse World Ministries. Dr. Jurek emphatically rejected my offer insisting that the only value of debating was to show who the better debater might be. Dr. Russ Jurek is an elder and the minister of the EdgeHill Church of Christ in Petersburg, Virginia. Dr. Jurek recently wrote a paper entitled “The 2nd Coming of Christ: Why We Should Still Be Waiting! An Expose of the A.D. 70 Theory.” (We will refer to brother Jurek’s paper as Waiting). His paper purports to be a refutation of my book Can God Tell Time? as well as a larger denunciation of the preterist view as a whole. When I received a copy of Jurek’s work,1 I immediately sent word inviting him to meet me in a two hour debate on the world wide radio program The Voice of Reason, hosted by John Anderson of Lighthouse World Ministries. Dr. Jurek emphatically rejected my offer insisting that the only value of debating was to show who the better debater might be. One can only wonder if this was the only value of Jesus’ debates, Paul’s debating with the Jews, and Peter’s polemics. Did these debates not help to establish that Jesus is the Messiah, or did those debates only show us that these personages were great logicians and polemicists? History has shown beyond doubt that the cause of Truth has advanced when honest men openly discuss the truth. As a part of the Campbell/Stone Movement, often known as the American Restoration Movement, Jurek2 surely knows that public debates greatly spurred and enhanced the growth of his own movement. To impugn the value of public debate as simply a demonstration of the personal charisma or oratorical skills of the given disputants calls Jurek’s own movement into question if his argument is true.
It is surely a dishonorable thing to write a book condemning another brother as a false teacher but refuse to allow that brother a hearing and opportunity to defend himself. Even the pope allowed Martin Luther the opportunity to defend himself against the charge of heresy. Jurek has written a book accusing me of false teaching yet, emphatically denies me, and the audience who has read his book against me, to hear my response. Of course, as I read his book, I knew for certain that Jurek would not debate, for his book is based on traditionalism, presuppositionalism, and ad hominem argumentation, not good exegesis. When this is all you can offer, then it is best not to debate!
We will not examine every argument that Jurek makes, for there is no need. The first installment of our response will refute Jurek’s attempt to respond to my Can God Tell Time?. His paper shows that he, like his brethren as a whole in the churches of Christ, have virtually no grasp of Biblical eschatology. Now, for the record, let it be noted that I am a fifth generation member of the churches of Christ, and love my heritage. I have publicly debated against dispensationalism from the amillennial perspective of Jurek. However, my preparation for those debates convinced me that my own paradigm was fundamentally flawed. I know brother Jurek’s position as well, or perhaps better, than he does. And I know why it is wrong. So, my comments come from the perspective of an “insider” that is privy to all the nuances of Jurek’s tradition.
JUREK AND CAN GOD TELL TIME?
Jurek quotes from my book, Can God Tell Time (hereafter Teltime):
“It seems to have escaped the notice of many that the Bible was written in the common languages of their respective authors. The Old Covenant was not written in some mystical form of Hebrew. It was written in the language spoken in the homes, in the markets, and work places of the Jewish people.
The New Covenant is the same. The New Testament Greek is known as the koine, meaning “common,” Greek of the day. The New Testament Greek, just as the Old Covenant Hebrew, was the language of fisherman, carpenters, tent-makers, husbands and wives.”
In response to this, Jurek says: “With this statement, I wholeheartedly agree. The problem is that he applies it only to certain passages to support his doctrine” (Waiting, 4). Now, Jurek says that he agrees that the language of the Bible is normal every day language and to be understood as we would normally understand that language. However, he then proceeds to deny that the language of the Bible means what it says, and says what it means!
Jurek, lists several examples of time statements that I offer in Teltime that demonstrate that when God said something was near, it was to occur in the lifetime of the audience to whom it was addressed. Over and over this can be, and is, demonstrated in Teltime. And does Jurek show that any of those examples did not mean at hand? No!
What does Jurek do with all of these statements of time that to the normal person reading the text understand these statements to convey a time message? He proceeds to argue that when God said something is near, that it did not mean it was near at all. In fact, “at hand” quickly,” “shortly,” etc. do not mean time at all! What do these terms really mean? According to Jurek (p.8), when God said something was near, he actually meant “when God was giving a warning that something was at hand his intention was to call to the mind the inevitability of that event, not necessarily the time frame.” Reader, did you know that the normal, every day meaning of “at hand” is “inevitable?” I dare say you didn’t!
So there you have it. God who used the normal language easily understood by man. He used words that most assuredly normally convey a time message to man, but Jurek says that He did not mean to convey the message of time in those normal time words!. Although Jurek insists that God says what He means and means what He says, this is not true of time statements! At hand actually means “it is inevitable to occur.” The desperation and self contradiction here is glaring. But, let’s take a closer look.
If “at hand” means inevitable, or certain to occur, and not when something would occur, then what did God mean when He said something was “not near”? I pose this question in Teltime, and Jurek ignores it. Here is why. In Numbers 24:17-18, Balaam the prophet made a prediction of Christ's coming: “I see him but not now, I behold him but not near.” Notice he said Christ’s coming was not near, it was not at hand. Why did he say this? Because Christ's coming was 1400 years away, and 1400 years really is a long time! Here is a concrete example where God referred to a long time as just that.
Do you see the problem? Do you see why Jurek ignored this? It is easy to see. If “at hand” means inevitable or certain to occur, then by logical consistency, “not at hand” means “not inevitable or not certain to occur! That means the Balaam prophecy actually means “I see him, but it is not certain that he is coming!” You cannot, logically, demand that “at hand” means inevitable, and then turn around and say that “not at hand” means “a long time” and not mean “uncertain.”
Jurek examines several examples from Teltime in which I note the imminence of the “Day of the Lord” in the O. T.. He seeks to simply muddy the waters however, by saying that “there seems to be an attempt by A.D. theorists to make it (the at hand statements, DKP), a definite time without making it specific” (Wait, 6). He then complains that because some of the “at hand” statements involved a matter of years before fulfillment, that this negates the imminence of these predictions. Not so at all.
Jurek is correct in one thing though. Preterists do insist, based solely on scriptural testimony, that “at hand” predictions were fulfilled within the lifetime of the audience to whom they were spoken. In Teltime, I produced several examples of exactly this principle. See especially Ezekiel 12:21f. But did Jurek acknowledge this? No, he only did some mathematical calculations and noted that fulfillment of some “at hand” predictions was sometimes a matter of years away, and therefore concluded that since preterists “can’t say specifically how short a time” that “at hand” means, that this somehow means that the event was not truly near.
What preterists argue is this: God said the Day of the Lord against Jerusalem was near (Ezekiel 7). The people said it was not near–perhaps even making Jurek’s argument that since they could not know, “specifically how short a time was involved” that it was not actually near. Or, perhaps they reasoned, that “at hand” does not indicate when an event was to occur, but rather that the event was inevitably to occur! No matter what their actual reasoning process, they, like Jurek, denied the true time imminence. And, this is what is significant: God condemned them for this (Ezekiel 12:21f)!
Did Jurek even mention my argument on this? No. Did he tell his readers of the other examples I gave of when God said something was near, but man denied the nearness of the predictions, and God condemned them for that? No. Did he even acknowledge how God reacted to people who rejected the imminence of the “at hand” statements” No. Why? There is one reason.
If Jurek acknowledges for one moment that “at hand” quickly and shortly, with correlatives actually means the event was near, to occur in the generation of the audience addressed, then his futurism falls to the ground! He well knows that if he allows his audience to take “at hand” and “Behold, I come quickly” at face value, that he is shown to be guilty of denying the word of God. Ironically, this denial, obfuscation, and redefining of words comes from the keyboard of the one who demands that we take words at their face value! He notes the question that I ask: “Can God Tell Time?” and answers: “Yes!” But then he tells us that God does not use time words in the way that man uses them. Man knows that “at hand” does not mean centuries, but Jurek says it does. Man does not write saying that there will be “no delay” in the occurrence of events, when they mean that it will actually be two millennia before fulfillment (see Hebrews 10:37; Revelation 10:7f), but according to Jurek, God does this! Jurek claims that God does indeed use the language of the common man in scripture, but then claims that the words that the common man would use to mean something was near, in reality do not convey any idea of when the event was to occur at all! Those words that normally convey time, in truth convey inevitability!
This is nothing less than double-speak. Jurek tells his audience that he insists on the normal use of language. However, he then invents a totally new definition for the words in dispute. (Since when is “inevitable” the normal meaning of “at hand?”)Yet, he tells his audience that it is Preston that is distorting the meaning of language! Take note of this. In the churches of Christ, in countless debates against dispensationalism, ministers have argued, based on Matthew 3:2 and parallels, that John the Immerser, Jesus, and Jesus’ disciples said “the kingdom of heaven has drawn near,” and that this cannot mean that it was 2000 years away, as the dispensationalists claim. “At hand” means at hand! But not according to brother Jurek! What Jesus and his disciples actually were saying is that the coming of the kingdom was “inevitable.” Perhaps the dispensationalists are right after all! Perhaps the kingdom that Jesus said was near was only certain to be established, but that it was not truly near.
I must say at this juncture that although I have attended and read numerous debates between members of the churches of Christ and dispensationalists, that I have never, ever heard or read any church of Christ preacher claim that “at hand” did not mean near.3 Without fail, in every debate concerning the kingdom, the claim was made, substantiated by lexicographical evidence–which, you will notice, Jurek did not offer for his “inevitable” definition– that “at hand” cannot entail a long period of time. It was not until preterists began to note the implications of this argument in regard to the parousia, that all of a sudden, the “inevitable, not near” argument appeared! This smacks of “making it up as you go along” and is deeply disturbing.
You see, to change the meaning of “at hand” to “inevitable” has several problems:
1.) It is an argument that simply seeks to avoid the problem of a failed eschatology. After all, if one holds, as I once did, to a literal, out of the sky on cumulus clouds, coming of Christ to destroy the physical cosmos, then since Jesus said his coming was to be in the lifetime of his first century audience, then he clearly failed to do that! But to pervert and deny Jesus’ predictions in order to avoid this embarrassment, while nobly motivated, is wrong headed and unjustified.
2.) It fails to acknowledge that the Greek language had many words that conveyed the idea of certainty and inevitability, but “at hand” and “soon” are not those words! Jurek has created totally new definitions for these words!
3.) It fails to acknowledge what I show repeatedly in Teltime, that when God said an event was near or at hand, that it occurred in the lifetime of the audience to whom it was spoken or addressed. Jurek seeks to deny this, so, we will take a look at his “proof” momentarily.
4.) It fails to explain how, if “at hand” means inevitable, that the reverse statement “not at hand” does not mean “uncertain to occur.” You cannot logically argue that “at hand” simply means “inevitable” without demanding that “not near” means “not inevitable” and this means that the very incarnation of Christ, and the establishment of the church itself was not inevitable to occur!
5.) Jurek seeks to give some examples where an “at hand” event was supposedly fulfilled centuries later. He fails in this as we are about to see, but we want to raise this point. If “at hand” can mean centuries, why do we not find “not at hand” predictions being fulfilled immediately? According to Jurek’s logic (?), this would be perfectly logical! According to his thinking, “at hand” can involve centuries. So, why can’t “not at hand” predictions not mean that the event was to come immediately?
6.) It opens the door for the millennialists. If at hand does not mean near, then the millennialists can simply affirm that John and Jesus were simply saying that the coming of the kingdom was inevitable! This eliminates the thorny “postponement” issue, and allows the millennialists to merrily go on his way insisting that the kingdom is yet future! Would Jurek apply his “inevitable but not near” definition to, “The kingdom of heaven has drawn near”? We dare say not!
The reason is obvious, is it not? If God played such games with language, it would be a hopeless task to understand Him. And, if God played the “reverse game” i.e. “at hand means a long time, and a long time means at hand,” then how do we know that, “I love you,” does not actually mean “I hate you”? Jurek would certainly cry “Foul!” at this suggestion, falling back on his insistence that he believes that God says what He means, and means what He says. Yet, his definition of “at hand” and “quickly” belies his claims in this regard. Jurek does not believe that God says what He means when it comes to time words! That is undeniable.
So, how does Jurek seek to mitigate the true imminence of the at hand statements? He tries what others have tried. He seeks to find examples where Jehovah said something was near and yet, fulfillment was (supposedly) a long time away. So, let’s take a look at his examples.
Jurek’s appeal to Deuteronomy 35 speaks loudly of his desperation to mitigate the time statements of scripture. To appeal to this chapter shows that he has not actually read the scriptures for what they say, but, casting desperately around to disprove preterism, and thinking, irrationally, he thought he had found “proof.” So he throws it to his audience either unaware himself of the actual context, or perhaps hoping that his audience would not read the context themselves.
Deuteronomy 32 is called the Song of Moses, and it deals with Israel’s last days! Twice the chapter says this (Deuteronomy 32:20, 29). It is not about the then current situation, and Jurek even admits this: “The context of this passage is God speaking to Moses about unfaithful Israel and their future. It is clear from this passage and the chapter that God intends to punish Israel for their apostasy. The question is, when did this punishment take place?” (Waiting, 7) Jurek has made some fatal admissions here.
Note that the chapter is indeed about God’s intention to punish Israel for her apostasy. And, the question most assuredly is, when would that punishment take place? Jurek postulates the time of the judges, some 31 years away to show that at hand is not immediate. But this will not work as we will see. And, he argues that if A.D. 70 is in view that this was some 820 years away, thus proving that “at hand” of verse 35 cannot mean “at hand.”
The trouble is that Jurek did not honor what he wrote! Deuteronomy is not about events to occur in the generation then living and specifically says so! Therefore it could not be at hand. As a matter of fact, Moses even says emphatically that he knew that after his death that in the time to come, Israel would become “utterly corrupt” (Deuteronomy 31:29). This speaks of Jesus’ generation when Israel filled up the measure of their sin (Matthew 23:29f). Furthermore, and this is definitive, Moses undeniably tells Israel in the Song that they were to sing it in the generations to come. They were to look back and “Remember the days of old, consider the days of many generations” (32:7).
So, Moses, in Deuteronomy 32, is projecting Israel into her last days, to see her fate at that time. This even includes the calling of the Gentiles (32:21f)! That was not near when Moses sang his song, was it? No. So, the point is that the Song is not describing the events of Moses’ day. It was not speaking of events that were about to happen when Moses wrote. It was describing events that would happen when Israel’s last days arrived. And, when Israel’s last days arrived, it would be then, and not until then, that their judgment of verses 35 would be near! The judgment would be near in the last days, but the last days were not near!
Notice how Jurek has conveniently ignored this critical part of the prophecy. Did he tell his reading audience that Moses was speaking of what would happen to Israel when her last days arrived, many generations after Moses? No. Actually, what Jurek does is quite subtle. On the one hand, he acknowledges that Deuteronomy 32 speaks of “Israel and their future” but then claims that since the events were not fulfilled soon, that the language of imminence is invalidated. But, does not the fact that Moses was speaking of Israel’s future, and God’s intent to judge them for apostasy not demand the passing of a period of time? And speaking of their apostasy, did God not judge Israel “soon” when they put up the golden calf? Yes. Did He not judge them quickly, in the time of the judges when they apostatized? Yet. In fact, God did judge Israel, even considering His longsuffering and patience, when they did apostatize. So, the principle of Deuteronomy is sufficiently demonstrated throughout Israel’s history. When their foot slipped, God judged them “quickly.”
Did Jurek tell his reading audience that verse 35 was telling Israel that many generations down the line, when they sinned, “Their foot shall slip in due time” (v. 35), and when they sinned that “the day of their calamity is at hand.” No. Why did Jurek ignore these contextual qualifiers that tell us when the predicted judgment would be near? Why did he not point out that Deuteronomy was not predicting events for Moses day, but spoke of a time “many generations” away? He did not tell his audience because he either did not take note of these critical factors himself, or, he did not want his audience to know of these facts that totally destroy his entire argument. The same is true of his next example.
The point is indisputable that Deuteronomy 32 did not say that the judgment was near when Moses wrote. The Song foretold a time “many generations” away and foretold a time then, when Israel would apostatize. When that apostasy came, in due time, then, and then only, would her judgment truly be at hand. This is precisely what happened. Jesus came in the last days (Hebrews 1:1). When he arrived, Israel was fully involved in sin, and would fill up the measure of their sin in his generation (Matthew 23:29f). Jesus said that their judgment would fall on them in his generation (Matthew 23:36). The Song of Moses was fulfilled right on time, and that time, the time when their judgment was at hand, was in Jesus’ generation. Jurek’s appeal to Deuteronomy 32 is misguided and wrong, because it fails to honor what the text actually says.
The next passage that Jurek appeals to in his attempt to mitigate the time statements is the prediction of the fall of Babylon. There are several factors we want to note here.
One, take note of the language of Isaiah 13:9-10. Now, Jurek insists, remember, that God says what He means, and means what He says. Yet, these verses predict the dissolution of the universe!–that is, if you take the language literally. But, does Jurek believe that the heavenly bodies were darkened and destroyed in the fall of ancient Babylon? No, for he believes that this prophecy was fulfilled in the destruction of Babylon in 539 B. C. (Waiting, 7). So, brother Jurek must take this language of the Day of the Lord as metaphoric, spiritual, symbolic language! Yet, if this language is not to be understood literally, then Jurek’s contention against preterists is negated for he joins with the preterists in recognizing the apocalyptic nature of “de-creation” language. We will have more to say about Jurek’s inconsistency in regard to language in another installment. But for now, please take note, again, that Jurek believes that Isaiah 13 was fulfilled in the past. Yet, the language of Isaiah 13 was not fulfilled literally. The constellations of the sky were not dissolved, and the universe was not destroyed. Jurek understands that this language is to be understood as metaphoric, and not interpreted literally. This is important for when we examine his comments on N. T. texts.
Furthermore, brother Jurek is wrong when he says that it was 142 years before the prophecy was fulfilled. Even non preterists, who would love to negate the language of imminence found in verse 6, agree that within 15 years of the prophecy Babylon was devastated and destroyed by an Assyrian invasion. The Bible Knowledge Commentary shows that Babylon was destroyed very soon after the prophecy.4 This is a dispensational commentary, but recognizes the imminence of the text and shows historical fulfillment. Likewise Jim McGuiggan in his commentary on Isaiah also shows fulfillment within 15 years. The point is that it is irresponsible to claim that the prophecy entailed a period of 142 years. While that argument “sounds good” to those unfamiliar with the issues, it shows a lack of scholarship and study to make the arguments offered by Jurek.
Jurek makes a disturbing accusation on page 7. He says “According to A.D. 70 Theorists, seventy years is a long time so apparently ‘at hand’ or ‘near’ can mean at least 142 years.” (Perhaps he meant to say “can’t mean at least 142 years,” but that is uncertain. I find this sentence confusing).
Here is the problem. It is not the preterists who claim that 70 years is a long time, it is God Himself! On page 10 of Teltime, I document how God told Judah that they were about to go into captivity for 70 years, and that according to verse 28 of Jeremiah 29, that this was called a long time. The people themselves, based on God’s word that the captivity would last 70 years, said that it would be a long time! For Jurek to say that preterists are the ones calling 70 years a long time is misleading. It gives the impression that preterists have falsely reasoned about something, when in fact, it was God Himself that made the decree and the people understood it perfectly well!
Had the people understood God’s time statements in the way proposed by Jurek however, when God said that the people were about to go into captivity soon (Ezekiel 7), the people would have reasoned, “God is not trying to communicate how soon we are going to be judged, He is just telling us that judgment is inevitable!” Oh, wait, that is how the people responded! They denied that soon meant soon! They denied that “at hand” meant judgment was coming soon, and said it was in fact far off! Perhaps they calculated that “at hand” might mean 142 years, and figured they had plenty of time!
Jurek even agrees with the people in rejecting the imminence of Ezekiel 7! Please catch the power of this! God said the judgment was near. The people denied it, and now brother Russ Jurek sides with rebellious Judah to reject the nearness of that judgment by saying: “Though over and over, the clear language that God used to speak to these people spoke of events getting ready to take place ‘now’ it was still at least 6 years (from B.C. 592 to B. C. 586) before they occurred” (Waiting, 7). So, according to Jurek, the events were not truly near, even though the language said it was near, because it took 7 years to occur. According to Jurek’s logic therefore, if an event took anything over a few moments to occur from the moment of prediction to fulfillment, then the language of “at hand” and “soon” was inappropriate! Do we not have the right to ask: What right does brother Jurek have to challenge God in this situation? God said that judgment was at hand, and coming soon. And because it took 7 years, Jurek sides with the rebellious house of Israel insisting that the language meant nothing, and the prophecy did not mean the judgment was near!
How did God respond to the peoples’ refusal to see imminence in His warnings? He condemned them! Jehovah condemned Israel for saying that the language of nearness meant the judgment was not near! Significantly, I took pains to show this in Teltime, but of course, Jurek ignored my comments and God’s word. And please do not fail to note that Jurek is claiming that the language of nearness does not mean that the Day of the Lord was near in the first century!
Furthermore, God gave the measuring stick to determine what He meant by “at hand” “near” and “soon.” God said, “for in your days, you rebellious house, I will fulfill whatever I say.” (Ezekiel 12:22f). So, while brother Jurek castigates the preterist view for a failure to put a definite time limitation on the terms of imminence, God gave His divine definition. When God said something was near, coming soon, etc., it was to occur in the lifetime of those to whom it was promised. Furthermore, to protract it beyond that time was emphatically condemned by Jehovah as a denial of His word and His power.
So, are we not on safe ground in accepting that standard and definition? God said that when He said something was near, it was not far off. And, He said it would occur in the lifetime of the relevant audience. What right does Jurek, or anyone else, have to deny that definition, and claim that soon might mean hundreds, or perhaps thousands of years?
Had God wanted to convey and communicate the genuine nearness of the parousia of Christ and the end of the age, what words, terms and phrases could He have used that would convey that imminence better than “the end of all things has drawn near”; “in a very, very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not tarry”; “these things must shortly come to pass...the time is at hand”? Brother Jurek did not offer any answer to this question, even though I ask it in Teltime. If the words that God used do communicate time, and not mere certainty, then Jurek’s entire objection to Teltime, and to Covenant Eschatology as a whole is destroyed.
One final thought: Jurek’s objection to the time statements destroys the testing of the prophets. How is the church to test the prophets? Paul charged the Thessalonians to, “prove all things, hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5.21). When some in Corinth claimed to be apostles, Paul challenged them to prove their claims, “I will know, not the words only, but the power” (1 Corinthians 4.19f). John, the apostle of love, said, “Test the prophets whether they be of God” (1 John 4.1f). Yet, Jurek’s view of time statements all but eliminates any possibility of testing the prophets. Here is what we mean.
Jurek tells us that time statements like “the end of all things has drawn near”(1 Peter 4:7), do not indicate temporal imminence at all. They just mean that it is inevitable that the event will occur. He claims that, “The message is overwhelmingly, ‘no one knows when, so you must be ready at all times.’” (Waiting, 8). Please read carefully what I am about to say: if “at hand” simply affirms the certainty of an event, then there could be no false predictions about the coming of the Lord, as long as they just said: “The coming of the Lord has drawn near!”
The problem of course is that Jesus said it was possible to give premature statements about the nearness of “the end.” In Luke 21:8 Jesus warned his disciples that false prophets would come saying “the end has drawn near. Do not go after them.” Now, Jurek might say that this was in reference to the fall of Jerusalem, not the “end of time.” It makes no difference however. If time statements don’t mean anything, then they don’t mean anything, whether in regard to A. D. 70 or any other event!
Now, if Jurek’s contention is correct, and time statements simply mean “the end is inevitable,” then there would not be any way possible for those prophets to be premature in their declarations! If all they were saying was, “Hey, the end of Jerusalem is absolutely sure to happen!” they could not be faulted since Daniel and other O. T. prophets foretold that event centuries beforehand! The fact is that the prophets would say: “The end has drawn near.” Inevitability does not “draw near!” Inevitable events draw near, but inevitability itself does not draw near!
A final thought on Luke 21. Jurek might say, Well the problem is that false prophets were claiming that the end truly had drawn near. They were speaking of the nearness of the time, but God’s prophecies simply convey certainty!” Of course this would be nonsensical, because it would mean that the false teachers would use the term “has drawn near” in its normally understood sense, while God was using the words in a way that no one would understand!
Does Jurek, in his preaching proclaim: “In a very, very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not tarry! (Hebrews 10:37)? Does Jurek urge his audiences: “Little children it is the last hour! And as you have heard that anti-christ should come, even now there are many anti-christs, thereby you know it is the last hour!” (1 John 2:18)? Does brother Jurek claim, “These things (i.e. the fulfillment of Revelation) must shortly come to pass”...The time is at hand” (Revelation 1:1-3)? Does Jurek inform his audiences that: “The appointed time for the judgment has come”?5
We have it on extremely good authority that Jurek does not use the language of imminence when he preaches about the coming of the Lord.6 We have been told that his references to the parousia are “open ended” without references to its nearness, and that in fact, Jurek would avoid making any kind of statement that “the coming of the Lord has drawn near.” If he does not use the language of nearness, why not? Why does he not say, “the night is far spent, the Day is at hand” (Romans 13:11f)? Is he afraid that his audience will get the idea that the parousia is actually near if he uses that language? Would he respond that he does not say the coming of Christ is near, because he does not know if it is near or not? Were he to so argue, this would be an open admission that the Biblical writers intended, by the inspiration of the Spirit, to convey the true nearness of the parousia of Christ in the N. T.! If he is concerned that his audience might get the mistaken idea that the end is near if he uses the Biblical time statements, then I wonder what the original audiences thought when those statements were read in their assemblies, not as mere expressions of hope, but as divine, inspired affirmations of truth? The fact is that if the Biblical time statements mean what Jurek and others claim, he could, indeed should, use the language exactly as they did! He should have no problem saying: “You will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven”, or, “it is the last hour”, or “Behold, I come quickly!” His reluctance and refusal to do so is a powerful demonstration that he knows that those are in fact time words, not expressions of certainty!
Interestingly, the Bible gives examples of “prophets” making false time statements, and God condemning them for it. He actually killed one prophet for making a false time prediction (Jeremiah 27-29)! Jehovah said when some things were to occur. He gave a time statement, man rejected it and gave a different time-frame. As a result, God killed the man! Doesn’t that indicate that God can tell time pretty well, and that He expects man to honor His time statements?
So, minimizing or mitigating the objective imminence of the N. T. time statements is a dangerous thing. It destroys any possibility of testing the prophets. Yet, the church is supposed to test the prophets. Jurek’s position destroys any possibility of knowing whether declarations of the end are premature. Yet, Jesus said to reject premature declarations of the nearness of the end.
Only by acknowledging that the time statements in the N. T. are objective indicators of the nearness of the end is there any way to understand the commands to test the prophets. Only if God can tell time was there a way to reject those who said the end had drawn near, before it had drawn near.
In this first installment of our response to Jurek’s work, we have exposed the logical fallacies, the scriptural contradictions in his view. Jurek cannot, for one moment, admit that “at hand” actually means nearness of time for if he does, his entire eschatological paradigm crumbles to the ground. I fully understand the frustration of resisting the scriptures in this regard! I was where brother Jurek is, and tried my best to find a way to explain, counter, mitigate, or ignore the imminence of the parousia in the N. T.. But I could not resist the consistency, the power, and the absolute clarity of those emphatic, repeated, and numerous time statements.
On the one hand Jurek claims that God can indeed tell time, but then turns around and says that God does not tell time when communicating to man! This is inconsistency epitomized!
Jurek insists that the Bible says what it means, and means what it says, but then denies that “at hand” means what it says!
Jurek claims to have found exceptions to the language of imminence, and claims that these exceptions falsify preterism. But, even if we were to grant, for argument sake, that Jurek has found a few examples where “at hand” entailed a period of a 100 years (and we do not grant that!), what would that prove? Does a person build a doctrine based on the exceptional use of language? No, you build your case on the consistent use of language! Jurek wants to reverse this axiomatic hermeneutic, and this is a dangerous thing to do.
Jurek’s “inevitable versus imminent” argument, nullifies and invalidates the ability and command to test the prophets. If a person says “the coming of the Lord has drawn near” then per Jurek all that they can be saying is that the coming of the Lord is certain to occur! From Jurek’s perspective, that cannot be a false prediction!
Jurek claims that since Can God Tell Time? cannot tell exactly how much or how little time is involved in “at hand” that this nullifies any idea of imminence. This is illogical. Does he believe that since he cannot tell us how little or how much time might be involved in the “not near” statements that therefore, the events were not far off?
Jurek owes it to his readers to explain, if “at hand” means certain to occur, then does “not near” mean uncertain to occur? And if not, why not? This is a huge issue Jurek needs to explain.
Jurek claims that the time words of scripture do not mean time at all, but certainty. However, in his own preaching, we are told that he does not use the words “at hand” “quickly” and “shortly” to speak of Christ’s coming. Indeed, he avoids using this language! This inconsistency reveals that he does not believe his own argument! If at hand simply means “certain” then according to Jurek’s logic, he should be proclaiming, loudly, “The coming of the Lord has drawn near!”
Jurek needs to explain why it is that he feels justified in calling a fellow believer a false teacher, but he will not give that brother the opportunity to defend himself in honorable Christian controversy. It is one thing to cast stones and lob missiles from a distance; it is another thing to put your charges under the light of cross examination: “Debate the cause with thy neighbor!”
In the next installment, we will examine Jurek’s claims regarding the kingdom. His reasoning and logic are as bad in regard to that topic as in regard to the time issue.
1. Doug Radcliffe, a preterist, is a member of Jurek’s congregation, and is currently being threatened with dis-fellowshipment (i.e. excommunication), if he does not cease and desist teaching Covenant Eschatology. Radcliffe informs me that his repeated attempts to get the elders, including Jurek, to sit down with him and reason together, have resulted in refusal and stonewalling. Instead, Jurek condemns preterism from the pulpit and now in the publication of his book. This is an all too familiar story, and one being repeated all across the world.
2. We will refer to brother Jurek simply as Jurek in this work, for brevity sake. We mean no disrespect to him. This is standard journalistic practice.
3. This inconsistency is, as a matter of fact, one of the things that initially presented itself to me. I was involved in studies with dispensationalists, and incorporated Matthew 3:2 as one of my chief arguments. However, I discovered that the identical Greek words, in the identical tenses, are used to speak of the coming of the Lord, that are used to speak of the coming of the kingdom! I did not see how I could argue that the kingdom was objectively near, and then argue that the parousia was not truly near! This logical inconsistency drove me to the consistent view of preterism.
4. John Martin in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Walvoord and Zuck editors, ,(Ontarios, Victor, 1985)1060
5. Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 4:17 is often overlooked. Yet, he uses the word kairos, (the appointed time), to indicate that a specific, foretold time of “the judgment” had arrived. The force of the Greek is that the appointed time of the judgment had never been present before, but had now arrived. The idea of “inevitability” is not at stake, for if it were, Peter could not have said that the appointed time had arrived. Inevitability does not draw near, and does not arrive. But in Peter, the appointed time had arrived! This destroys Jurek’s argument about inevitability as opposed to when.
6. Growing up in the churches of Christ, I never at any time, heard a minister affirm: “The coming of the Lord has drawn near!” or anything closely resembling that. There was, and continues to be, a fear of preaching what cannot be known. Jesus’ statement that “no man knows the day or the hour” has so permeated the mind-set of most church of Christ ministers that they affirm that if Jesus did not know the time of his own coming, then even the inspired disciples could not know if it was near! So, were Jurek to use the language of the Bible to speak of the Day of the Lord, affirming that the Lord is coming in “a very, very little while” he would be violating the church of Christ, indeed, the amillennial tradition.