You are hereThe Second Coming: Why We Should Still Be Waiting - A Response to Dr. Russ Jurek (Part 2)
The Second Coming: Why We Should Still Be Waiting - A Response to Dr. Russ Jurek (Part 2)
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.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, 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.
In my first installment, I examined Jurek’s attempt to mitigate the imminence time statements in the Bible. For those familiar with the church of Christ, i.e. amillennialism, they would find it remarkable, perhaps incredible that an amillennialist would try to avoid the imminence in “at hand.” Amillennialists, when not debating preterists, insist that “at hand” cannot be distorted into meaning 2000 years (e.g. Matthew 3:2)! It is only when they have realized that their own arguments can be, and are, being turned on them that the amillennialists like Jurek have suddenly started making premillennial arguments about the time statements. This has got to be a troubling situation for men like Jurek.
Furthermore, for those not familiar with the church of Christ and amillennial perspective, you need to know that historically, ministers in the churches of Christ never preach: “The coming of the Lord has drawn near,” or, cite Jesus’ words, “Behold, I come quickly,” without explaining that we do not know if the time is near or not. They never affirm the imminence of the parousia with the same certainty and urgency found in the language of scripture. Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:36 are a common mantra to “explain” how we do not know if his coming is near or not. Most of the time, those who do dare to claim that the Lord’s coming is near are looked at with disdain and disfavor. I feel safe in saying that brother Jurek has never stood in the pulpit and affirmed that, “in a very, very little while, the one who is coming will come, and will not tarry.” And as we noted in the first installment, this fact reveals that he knows that the time statements do not mean mere certainty of occurrence, but truly do convey the nearness of the event. His failure to use the language of scripture is an irrefutable refutation of his own argument! If he has so proclaimed the imminence of the parousia in those words and terms, he stands outside the historical tradition of the churches of Christ.
Jurek has not responded to my first installment, even though he, and many in his congregation, have definitely read it. I am told that he is none too happy with my response. While he has not responded to me personally, he did send an email to Doug Radcliffe, tersely telling him that he (Radcliffe) is blind. That is, of course, not exactly an exegetical demonstration of Radcliffe’s “error,” but it is the best brother Jurek can do. I suspect, knowing my brethren as I do, that brother Jurek may find the “courage” to blast my article (s) from his local pulpit, where, naturally, his audience will have no opportunity to hear a cross examination and rebuttal. It is lamentable that some men find comfort in a “bully pulpit” confident that they can hide behind it while condemning those with whom they differ. Let me say that my offer of a radio debate still stands good, by the way.
Our purpose in these articles is not to “win an argument.” As we noted in our first installment, it is the responsibility of the body of Christ to examine would be spokesmen of God, i.e. to the test the prophets. Yet, Jurek’s position on the time statements completely destroys any ability to test the prophets, for his view of the time statements simply means that “at hand” means certain to occur. Given Jurek’s view of the parousia no man could therefore, be wrong to affirm: “In a very, very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not tarry!” As we noted, we are told that Jurek himself avoids making such statements of imminence and disdains those who make them. Why?
Let me reiterate that Jurek’s argument on time is not the traditional view in the churches of Christ. This is a relatively new position invented by men confronted with the power of the preterist paradigm, but determined to hang onto long held positions. My library contains many debate books wherein the amillennial minister affirmed that the at hand statements concerning the kingdom demanded a first century establishment of the kingdom And, I suspect that until he was confronted with the preterist arguments, that Jurek made those identical arguments himself. Quite frankly, the dispensationalists will love what Jurek and his brethren now say about the time statements!
But to reiterate, our purpose is not just to win an argument. Jesus himself challenged his audiences to put him to the test (John 10:36f) and to not believe him if he did not perform those things he predicted. Part and parcel of what Jesus said he was going to do was the judgment and his parousia, as well as the resurrection (John 5:19f). If Jesus did not do what he said he was going to do, when he said he would do it, then we cannot believe him, he said not to believe him! Thus, our discussions involve the integrity of God, the inspiration of scriptures, and the very Deity of Jesus himself! These are critical issues.
Why is it that the greater part of Christianity stands with the Moslems, the Jews and the unbelieving world in affirming that Christ failed to keep his word? The unbelievers point, with relish, to the many predictions of Jesus’ imminent first century return, and say, “See, he did not come back! That means he is not the Son of God!” The greater part of Christianity, including Jurek, reads those same scriptures, and says, “Well, no, he didn’t return, but that does not mean anything, because “at hand” does not mean soon, it means certain, or, God does not tell time like man, or something like that!” And the skeptical world laughs in disdain at such illogical arguments.
The preterist paradigm is the only view of eschatology that affirms that Jesus kept his word on time. Every other eschatology acknowledges that the language of scripture seems to affirm the nearness of the parousia in the first century, yet, also affirms that it did not occur. Even Jurek affirms that God can tell time! Yet, he attempts to show that God’s clock does not really tell time, it tells certainty.
The futurists, while affirming that Jesus did not keep his word, then turn around and label as heretics and false teachers the only group of believers who affirm the complete faithfulness of God, the total reliability of scriptures and the Deity of Jesus, based on the total fulfillment of Jesus’ prophetic Word! Why is it that the futurists who say Jesus did not keep his word, are the orthodox, while the preterists, who affirm that he kept his word, are the heretics? There is something dramatically wrong here!
This installment will refute Jurek’s claims in regard to the kingdom.
Jurek continues his attempt to refute Covenant Eschatology in regard to the kingdom issue in the following quote from Waiting:
Just before Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection, his disciples asked him, “Are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). The very question showed a lack of understanding among the closest of his disciples concerning the nature of the kingdom. God had allowed for a temporary, earthly kingdom for his people Israel, because they rejected him as their king, wanting to be like all the other nations around them with a king of their own. (1 Sam. 8:1-7)... The Jews took literally, the prophecies concerning the Messiah who would sit on David’s throne forever. (Isaiah 9:1-7). Though the prophesies pointed to Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah they were waiting for, they rejected and crucified him. He was not the earthly king they wanted. The Jews were looking for a physical, earthly kingdom to be reestablished on David’s throne, where the Messiah would free them from Roman oppression and rule the physical land of promise. Jesus made it clear that his task was not to reestablish such a physical kingdom but a spiritual kingdom. “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36)”
We could take this one quote and demonstrate the fallacy of Jurek’s paradigm! Jurek fails to see that these comments strip him of any possibility of a future, visible parousia of Christ! Frankly, I understand how he could fail to make the association, for the presuppositional prejudice of the amillennial view, just like presuppositional prejudice of any view, can and does blind good people to the implications of what they believe. This is not dishonesty. It is a characteristic of all of us as human beings! However, this is the purpose of honorable Christian controversy. To examine our views in the light of Scripture, to see where the flaws lie. After all: “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).
Unfortunately, as we have already noted, Jurek has emphatically refused our invitation to put his views and mine in the cross hairs of the public polemics.
The first thing we want to note is Jurek’s claim, common for virtually all futurist paradigms,
that when the disciples asked: “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” that: “The very question showed a lack of understanding among the closest of his disciples concerning the nature of the kingdom.” (Waiting, 8-9). I suggest that it was not the disciples who showed (show) a lack of understanding in regard to Acts 1.
Just exactly where, in the text, does Jesus chide his disciples for their supposed “misunderstanding?” Where do we find anything like his words to them in John 14, demonstrating disappointment that they did not yet understand his teaching? Where, in the text, do we find a statement that the disciples did not understand what Jesus was saying, like we find in Matthew 14:5f? It is not there. There is not one single word in Acts 1 to indicate that Jesus was disappointed in the disciples’ understanding of the nature of the kingdom! There is not a single word that indicates that they believed in a physical kingdom. There is not one word to indicate that Jesus corrected their understanding. All they asked about was when the kingdom was to be established! Consider the following.
In Luke 24 we are told, twice (v. 24f; 45f), that Jesus opened the eyes of his disciples to understand the scriptures concerning his suffering and entrance into kingdom glory. Did that inspired opening of the eyes not take? Furthermore, in Acts 1, after opening their eyes to understand the scriptures, he instructed them for forty days concerning the kingdom (Acts 1:4). Are we supposed to believe, per Jurek’s view, that after having their eyes opened directly by the Lord himself, to understand the scriptures concerning the kingdom, that they still did not understand the nature of the kingdom?? If so, perhaps Jesus should have gotten rid of that bunch and gotten some other guys who were not quite so thick! The bottom line is that Jurek has to claim, without any evidence whatsoever, and contrary to the emphatic evidence of the text, that the disciples, in spite of Jesus personally and miraculously opening their eyes, still did not get it in Acts 1, and still believed in a physical kingdom! This is stretching credulity to the limits, and I personally prefer to stay with the text. The disciples were not confused. It is Jurek that is confused.
Jurek claims that the disciples misunderstood the nature of the kingdom. They thought physical and visible, but Jesus’ kingdom is “not of this world,” it is the kingdom within: “His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom.” (Waiting, 9). We could not agree more!
However, just how different is Jurek’s expectations from the Jews. The Jews wanted to see a visible, literal kingdom established. Jurek wants to see a visible, literal coming of Christ! And make no mistake, in scripture, the coming of Christ is the coming of the kingdom! Please catch the power of this statement. Let me make it again: the coming of Christ is the coming of the kingdom!
So, if the kingdom is a spiritual, unseen reality, then why is the coming of Christ, to fully establish that kingdom, literal and visible? Is the parousia to fully establish the kingdom of a totally different nature than the kingdom he was coming to establish? Jurek does not think so, because he believes that Christ came spiritually, non-literally, on the day of Pentecost. So, Jurek believes that the coming of the Lord in the kingdom comports with the nature of the kingdom, unseen, non-literal. If the initiation of the kingdom was via an unseen, non-literal coming of Christ, why is not the perfection and full establishment of the kingdom not of the same nature? If the nature of Christ’s coming changes from a non-literal coming to a literal, visible coming, does the nature of the kingdom change as well?
The very passage that Jurek utilizes to attempt to refute preterism affirms what Jurek ignored: the coming of Christ is the coming of the kingdom. Notice in Mark 9:1: “There are some standing here that shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom with power and glory.” (My emphasis). Do you see it? (Slight pun intended). The coming of the kingdom is the coming of Christ! If therefore, the coming of the kingdom is not the coming of a visible, literal kingdom, why is the coming of the Lord, to establish that kingdom, a literal visible coming? Jurek has to change hermeneutical horses in mid-stream in order to maintain a future, visible coming of Christ. As we are about to see, Mark 9:1 has nothing to do with Pentecost, where Jurek posits it. Mark 9:1 is a prediction of Christ’s judgment coming in A.D. 70. But, since Jurek correctly sees that Mark 9:1 is not a visible, literal coming of Christ, then, by his own logic, Christ’s judgment coming, to fully establish the kingdom, would not be a literal, visible coming!
Note that in Matthew 25:31 it speaks of Christ’s coming in glory to sit on his throne! Now, at this juncture, you have to understand that the traditional view of the amillennial school of Jurek is that at his parousia, Christ surrenders his throne to the Father. Jurek does not believe that the kingdom comes at the parousia, he believes that it leaves! This is based on a distorted view of 1 Corinthians 15:24f: “Then comes the end, when he shall deliver the kingdom to the Father.” The word “deliver” in 1 Corinthians 15:24 (from paradidoi) does not mean surrender, however. Paul “delivered” (paradidoi), the gospel to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:2-3). Did Paul surrender the gospel when he delivered it to them? No. So, contra Jurek, Paul was not saying that at his coming Christ would quit his throne. On the contrary, he would sit on his throne!
Now, Jesus said “the kingdom does not come with observation” (Luke 17:20f). But, the kingdom would come at the parousia of Christ (Matthew 25:31; Luke 21:28f; Revelation 11:15f). Therefore, the coming of Christ, in the kingdom, would not be with observation!
Make no mistake, Jurek believes that at the “end of time” the kingdom comes with observation! It comes with Jesus on the literal cumulus clouds, a literal blast of the trumpet, the literal shout of an arch-angel, the literal burning of the earth! Everything about Jurek’s view of the kingdom at the “end of time” is visible and palpable!
Jurek seems to argue that the kingdom was fully established on the day of Pentecost with the sending of the Spirit, and Pentecost was pivotal for sure, as we affirm. However, the church was not fully grown, not fully matured, not fully manifested, and not yet vindicated! If not attempting to refute preterism, Jurek would probably agree with this, noting that the New Covenant revelation was not completed on Pentecost. The church was not fully organized on Pentecost. The church was not inclusive of Gentiles on Pentecost. He would probably, since this is the historical view of the churches of Christ, affirm that the church was in an infancy state on Pentecost, provided with the charismata to equip it for the ministry, until it arrived at perfection when the revelatory process was completed (1 Corinthians 13; Ephesians 4:8f). He would not see the church on Pentecost as a different manifestation of the kingdom than that at the completion of the revelatory process. It is the same kingdom, immature versus mature. In principle, this is what preterists are saying, yet Jurek says we are false teachers guilty of egregious error!
Jurek wants to speak of different manifestations of the kingdom, while the N. T. speaks of the kingdom as being initiated, but awaiting consummation and perfection at the parousia. It is not two different manifestations of the kingdom, one on earth, but not of the earth, (i.e. the church), versus what Jurek and my church of Christ brethren historically call “the everlasting kingdom of heaven,” (i.e. heaven itself). This is a false dichotomy without merit. There is one family in heaven and earth (Ephesians 3:14). These are not two different kingdoms. It is one kingdom united!
Jurek’s main argument to prove that the kingdom was established on Pentecost, and thus not A.D. 70 is this:
Major Premise: In Mark 9:1 Jesus said that some standing there would not die until they saw the kingdom come with power.
Minor Premise: The Spirit came with power on Pentecost.
Conclusion: Therefore, the kingdom was established on Pentecost.
I once believed that this was a valid, powerful argument, and have made it many times. However, I discovered that it is invalid and inappropriate. Here is why.
First, it ignores the fact that Mark 9:1 cannot be separated from Mark 8:38 and Jesus’ promise to come in judgment! It is revealing that Jurek uses Mark 9:1 and not Matthew 16:27-28 or Luke 9:26-27. In neither one of those passages do we find a chapter division, and it is assumed here that the readers will know that the Greek text contains no verse dividers or chapter divisions. So, it is interesting that Jurek guides his readers to a text that in the English indicates a chapter break, when in fact there is no division of the text. However, by appealing to a text that can be read in isolation from the foregoing verse, the contextual unity is ignored–even implicitly denied-- without the casual reader being aware of the problem. And, if Jurek can ignore the link between Mark 8:38 and Mark 9:1 then he feels, like his church of Christ brethren, that their case is stronger. This is not true, however.
In my book Can You Believe Jesus Said This? , I show conclusively that these verses (and the parallels) cannot be divided. Jesus’ use of the term “Verily I say to you” (Greek, amen lego humin), is determinative and definitive on this. This term is used 95 times in scripture, and never, I repeat, never, serves to begin a new discussion, or break a subject. It invariably is used to emphasize something that has just been said! This means, without doubt, that Mark 9:1 is emphasizing what was said in Mark 8:38. And that was: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels.” So, Mark 8:38 tells us what Jesus was going to do: come in judgment of those who rejected him in that generation. And, 9:1 emphasizes that by saying when he was coming in that judgment!
In other words, the coming of Christ in Mark 9:1 is the coming of Christ in judgment of 8:38! There is no way around this. There is no chapter division. There is no contextual break. Mark 9:1 predicted the when of Mark 8:38, and since Mark 8:38 is the judgment of the Jews who rejected Jesus, then unless Jurek wants to affirm the judgment of Israel on Pentecost, he cannot apply Mark 9:1 to Pentecost! There is much more.
Second, Jurek wants to affirm that Acts 2 is the fulfillment of Mark 9:1. However, Acts 2 is the coming of the Spirit, and Mark 9:1 predicted the coming of Jesus. The trouble is that Jurek applies the coming of the Spirit to Mark 9:1 but, Jesus emphatically said that the presence and sending of the Spirit was a sign, not of his presence, but of his absence: “It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come; but if I go away, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). So, while Jurek claims that Acts 2 represents the fulfillment of Mark 9:1, this blatantly contradicts Jesus’ own statement that the coming of the Spirit was the sign of his absence!
By the way, what has happened to Jurek’s insistence that we take the Bible’s language at face value? Does not the Bible say what it means, and mean what it says? Jurek chides me for insisting that time statements are literal while saying that the language of Christ’s coming on the clouds, with a shout, the sounding of the trumpet etc. is to be taken metaphorically. Here is what he says: “Bro. Preston claims the return of Christ was a spiritual, not a physical event. (#7 above). Others holding to the A.D. 70 theory claim the clouds rolling back are not physical clouds but symbolical clouds and the elements don’t really mean physical elements but rather the old law. Is God not capable of clearly communicating to his people when he tells us what will happen when Christ returns? Is he deceiving us when he makes these statements concerning the destruction of the world when he really doesn’t mean the world will be destroyed? What is the difference between these clear statements and those concerning ‘time?’” (Waiting, 10) His last question is a fair and important one, and we will answer it in a later installment.
Brother Jurek would do well to ask himself, and explain to his readers, why it is that he does not apply his own hermeneutic to Mark 9:1. Does the passage not speak of the coming of Christ? Surely. Does it not speak of Christ’s coming with power and glory? Undoubtedly? Does it not say that those people would “see” the coming of Christ? Undeniably.
So, the question is pertinent and important, and we ask brother Jurek again: Since you insist that the language of the coming of the Lord is to be taken literally, why is the language of Mark 9:1 not to be understood literally? Did those people see the Lord coming? Jesus said they would! You place so much emphasis on the literal application of language, please explain why the disciples did not see a literal coming of Jesus as predicted in Mark 9:1. And, explain how it is that the coming of Mark 8:38 is a totally different coming, of a totally different nature, than the coming of Mark 9:1. Is it not a bit disconcerting, to say the least, that Jurek can find two totally different comings, disparate in time and nature, in verses that are joined together grammatically? What kind of a hermeneutic is that? I challenge brother Jurek to be consistent with his hermeneutic of “the Bible says what it means and means what it says” in regard to Mark 9:1! After all, it says Christ was going to come, and it says that his contemporary audience was going to see him coming. Not only that, they would see him coming in power and great glory! Now, brother Jurek, did some in that audience literally see Jesus coming or not? Remember that you must take the language literally, because after all, “Is God not capable of clearly communicating to his people when he tells us what will happen when Christ returns?” The language is clear, is it not? They were to see him coming, right?
What does Jurek do with the language of Mark 9? Even though it says that some standing there would not taste death until they saw the Son of Man coming in the kingdom with power and great glory, Jurek says this is not truly the coming of Christ, it is the coming of the Spirit representing Christ! It is a spiritual coming of Christ! This is a contradiction of his hermeneutic that says we must take the Biblical language in its normal, everyday sense. Jurek denies that Christ came literally visibly on the day of Pentecost. But Mark 9:1 says Christ was coming in power and great glory! So, Jurek has now adopted the preterist understanding of the language of Christ’s coming, that it can indeed be used metaphorically. We will show that Jurek does not take the Biblical language literally as he claims when we examine his section on the Second Coming.
Please read what I am about to say carefully: The only reason that Jurek and his brethren divide Mark 8:38 and 9:1 is because of their preconceived ideas about the nature of the parousia. There is no exegetical, no contextual, no grammatical support for dividing Mark 8:38 from Mark 9:1. I once took brother Jurek’s position. However, as I began to look for actual textual support for that view, I could not find it. I heard and read commentators say, “Well, the judgment of 8:38 has not happened so it must be future, but the kingdom came on Pentecost, therefore that was fulfilled then.” This is not exegesis! It is presuppositional petitio principii, eisegesis (reading into the text), and it is wrong.
Jurek, like many of my church of Christ brethren, seems to be unaware of what preterists actually believe. He builds a straw man on his false assumptions, false understanding or false claims. He then blasts that straw man, and then proceeds to declare victory! It seems to me that before a person declares another person’s position to be heretical or false, that they should at least take the time to know what the other man actually teaches, and represent his views accurately.
Jurek says: “Consider Acts 7:54-60 which records for us the stoning of Stephen during which Stephen said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (vs. 56). The writer of Hebrews clearly identifies the place where Jesus was as the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2). Since Stephen was killed before Paul’s conversion around 35 A.D. we must conclude the Kingdom of Heaven/God was already in existence long before A.D. 70.” He also appeals to Colossians 1:13 and other passages that affirm the existence of the kingdom prior to A.D. 70. He that since these passages indicate the existence of the kingdom prior to A.D. 70, that he has invalidated preterism.
But, do preterists teach what Jurek claims? Do preterists deny that Jesus was at the right hand of the Father? No! Do advocates of Covenant Eschatology deny that the kingdom was “born” on Pentecost? Not that I am aware of. What I affirm, and naturally I cannot speak for all preterists, but since Jurek was critiquing my book, that is really what is at stake, is that Christ sat down at the right hand of the Father, as co-regent, to rule in the midst of his enemies, and to put down the rest of his enemies. Then, when all enemies were put under him, he entered fully into his everlasting, unending reign!
As I have noted above, Jurek appeals to 1 Corinthians15:24 to try to prove that Jesus would abdicate his rule and reign at his parousia. This is wrong. Every single passage that speaks of what Christ would do at his coming indicates that he would enter fully into that reign, not abdicate! At his coming he would sit, not quit, his throne (Matthew 25:31f). At his coming he would present the church to himself (Ephesians 5:23f). Jurek’s view demands that at his coming Christ divorces the church! At his coming Christ would come to rule in the kingdom he had received “in the far country” (Luke 19:11f). At his coming, in judgment of “the city where the Lord was slain,” Christ would enter into the everlasting kingdom and rule the nations (Revelation 11:15f). And, at his coming, Christ would sit on the throne with the Father (Revelation 22:3).
So, what I believe is that when Christ ascended, he sat down at the right hand of the Father, “henceforth waiting until his enemies are made his footstool” (Hebrews 10:13). The period between his ascension and A.D. 70 was the time of the consolidation of his rule and authority, so that when his enemies were put under him he would fully reign! What I believe is that during that period of time they were “receiving (a present tense participle in the Greek), a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28). Now, brother Jurek needs to answer: What unshakable kingdom were they in the process of receiving at the time of Hebrews, long after Pentecost? Was it not the perfected New Covenant Kingdom of Christ that would fully arrive when the Old Covenant Kingdom that was even then “ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13), was swept away in the destruction of its capital city? They had not yet fully received it in its fullness. They were still looking for the arrival of the city from heaven that was about to be revealed (Hebrews 13:14). Jurek turns the scripture upside down by suggesting that at the very moment Christ’s last enemy is put down–at his coming-- that he abdicates his throne, and stops reigning! What king ever abdicated at the very moment of victory?
Jurek is wrong to say that preterists do not believe the kingdom existed prior to A.D. 70. This is a misrepresentation! The preterists with whom I am familiar believe that the foundation of the kingdom/temple was laid in Christ, with the apostles and prophets being the foundation (Ephesians 2:19f). It is held that the early Christians were the “living stones” being used to construct the new temple of God (1 Peter 2:5), and that the Temple was completed in A.D. 70. The issue therefore, is not whether the church/kingdom existed before A.D. 70 as Jurek falsely represents the case. It is a case of initiation versus consummation. It is immaturity versus maturity. It is a case of espousal versus wedding. And, as I noted above, Jurek himself, as an amillennialist (probably), holds to at least some form of this immaturity versus maturity theme. So, if the idea of initiation versus consummation is a false doctrine, it would serve brother Jurek well to look in the mirror!
Jurek closes his section on the kingdom by saying: “So concerning the establishment of the kingdom in A.D. 70, this part of the theory is false. If anything at all occurred concerning a kingdom in A.D. 70, it was not the beginning of a kingdom but the final nail in the coffin of any remnant of the kingdom of Israel.”
Now, first of all, it is amazing and sad that brother Jurek would question or deny that “anything at all occurred concerning a kingdom in A.D. 70.” Has my brother never read Luke 21:31? Jesus said that in the events leading up to the fall of Jerusalem, and Jurek would affirm that statement I believe, “when you see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom is near” There was undeniably something that happened in regard to the kingdom in A.D. 70, and it was something to do with the fulfillment of “all things that are written” (Luke 21:22), and the coming of redemption (Luke 21:28). It also had something to do with the coming of the Lord on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Luke 21:25f– By the way, does Jurek believe that Jesus came literally, visibly, bodily in that event? No! He does believe Christ came in A.D. 70, but it was not literal, or visible. But wait! “Is God not capable of clearly communicating to his people when he tells us what will happen when Christ returns? Is he deceiving us when he makes these statements concerning the destruction of the world when he really doesn’t mean the world will be destroyed?” [Waiting, 11], If Jurek does not believe that Jesus literally, visibly came in A.D. 70, did God not communicate properly? Did Jesus deceive his audience when he told them he was coming, and the heavenly bodies would be destroyed? Was he not communicating candidly when he said they would see him coming on the clouds? Where is Jurek’s literalizing hermeneutic in Luke 21:25f?? So, once again, we have the right to challenge his hermeneutic). To depreciate the significance of that event is unscholarly, misguided and violates scripture.
Jurek does touch the hem of the garment of truth in his statement, however. He says, “it was not the beginning of a kingdom but the final nail in the coffin of any remnant of the kingdom of Israel.” Now, he is right that the kingdom of Christ did not “begin,” as we have just noticed. However, that was the time and the point at which the kingdom began in the full manifestation of its identity as the body of Christ.
But here is where Jurek hints at a bit of the truth. He says that A.D. 70 was the “final nail in the coffin of any remnant of the kingdom of Israel.” It is my contention, and all preterists that I know, that this is greatly true! So, take a look at some of the things Jurek believes:
1.) Jurek (probably), believes that the church was born in infancy on Pentecost, but grew to maturity in the first century. Preterists agree in principle.
2.) Jurek believes that A.D. 70 was the final nail in the coffin of the Old Covenant Kingdom of Israel. Preterists agree wholeheartedly! Of course, this means that the kingdom of Israel did not end at the Cross, or at Pentecost. And, it means that the kingdom of Israel existed along side the kingdom of Christ from Pentecost until A.D. 70! Yet, these are positions that most amillennialists claim are wrong! Jurek has unwittingly stepped a foot inside the preterist camp.
We have focused on the single issue of the kingdom in this installment for brevity and in order to demonstrate clearly the error of brother Jurek. He says that the kingdom came, on Pentecost, and cites Mark 9:1. Yet Mark 9 was the coming of the Spirit which was emphatically stated to be the absence of Christ.
He attempts to divide Mark 9:1 from Mark 8:38. Yet, this is unjustified. There are no chapter divisions in the Greek text, and brother Jurek, we can only assume, knows this. Furthermore, the grammar of the text, in the use of the term “amen lego humin” (“Verily I say to you”), that begins Mark 9:1 never, ever begins a new topic, and never breaks a discussion. It invariably is used to emphasize something that has just been said. And this means in Mark 9:1 that Jesus was saying that some standing there would not die until they saw the Son of Man coming in the kingdom in judgment! Pentecost was not the coming of Christ in judgment. But Mark 8:38-9:1 is the coming of Christ in judgment. Therefore, Jurek is wrong to apply Mark 9:1 to Pentecost.
Jurek falsely claims that the disciples maintained a false view of the kingdom when they asked Jesus about the establishment of the kingdom in Acts 1. This false assumption underlies much of Jurek’s other positions. We have shown that the disciples did not misunderstand. Jesus did not correct them, nor chide them. He had opened their eyes, miraculously, to understand the scriptures, and had then instructed them for forty days concerning the kingdom. To claim that they did not understand after all that is simply wrong.
Jurek misrepresents advocates of Covenant Eschatology by claiming that we do not believe the kingdom existed, in any form, prior to A.D. 70. This is a serious misrepresentation of the preterist view, and brother Jurek needs to publicly correct this false claim. Preterists and Jurek are quite similar, in the final analysis, in believing that the kingdom was initiated at Pentecost, but not perfected and not mature. Jurek needs to candidly admit that this is his position! The difference between Jurek and the preterists is the point at which the kingdom was mature, and perfected. In this area, if Jurek holds to the traditional church of Christ views, he will affirm that the church became mature, attained unto “that which is perfect” at the completion of the revelatory process. As a late date advocate of Revelation, then, “that which is perfect” arrived in the 90s of the first century, and this means that the kingdom was not perfected and mature until then. (On a contradictory and confusing note, many amillennialists do not believe that the church will achieve that maturity until the parousia, and the “everlasting kingdom.” They seem not to see the devastating implications for this view).
Jurek disturbingly questions whether anything at all in regard to the kingdom occurred at the fall of Jerusalem in A. D. 70. This lamentable ignorance of the significance of that event is the cause of much of his eschatological confusion. How could the passing of the very center of the Old Covenant World not be of kingdom significance? Did not Jesus say that the fall of that Old Kingdom would be the greatest event that had ever occurred (Matthew 24:21)? Why did our Lord himself say that the fall of Jerusalem would be an event unparalleled in history or in the future, if Jurek is right to question whether it had any kingdom significance at all?
Finally, Jurek slips by admitting, perhaps grudgingly, that A.D. 70 was the full end of the Old Covenant Kingdom of Israel. With this, preterist are in full agreement! We suggest that brother Jurek take a closer look at the significance of this admission, for according to scripture, the end of the Old Covenant Age was to be the time of the parousia, the resurrection and the judgment! We will fully prove this as we proceed. For now, let us simply say that all Biblical eschatology is about the end of the Old Covenant World of Israel. It is not about the end of time. It is not about the end of the Christian Age (which has no end). The Bible emphatically and undeniably posits eschatology at the end of Israel’s age, not the end of Christ’s age! This is significant beyond estimate, but Jurek and his brethren in the churches of Christ, as I once did, fails to grasp and acknowledge this incredible truth.
In our next installment, we will examine Jurek’s claims in regard to Christ’s Second Coming. You will be amazed at his inconsistencies.
i. 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.
ii. Every year, I am privileged to participate in a display booth at a major Christian university of the churches of Christ. As the visitors come by, we interact with them. One of the things we often do is to ask them what, “The kingdom of heaven has drawn near” in Matthew 3:2 means. Without fail, the response is, “It means that it was near, it had to be established soon.” We concur and then ask, “What does ‘The coming of the Lord has drawn near’ mean then?” It is sometimes amusing, but most of all revealing, to see the stunned looks on their faces, and hear their frantic and panicked responses. They simply have never been confronted with the issue, for in the churches of Christ, there is no positive systematic eschatology. Historically, the church of Christ is more “reactionary” against dispensationalism, than it has been positive in its presentation or understanding of the Biblical story. This is perhaps best illustrated in a famous anecdote about Foy Wallace, prominent debater in the churches of Christ. In one debate he repeatedly attacked his dispensational opponent’s position on Revelation. In frustration his opponent responded something like, “Well, all you do is say that I am wrong, but you never tell us what is right! So stand up here and tell us what you believe!” Wallace is reported to have responded, “I don’t have any idea what Revelation teaches, but it does not teach what you say!” Wallace later, after much research, came to the conclusion that Revelation is primarily about the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
iii. Another example of this kind of “make it up as you go along” kind of argument is Wayne Jackson, editor of the “Christian Courier,” Stockton, California. Jackson has in the past written articles and tracts condemning the dispensationalist’s denial of the establishment of the kingdom in the first century. Jackson appeals to Matthew 3:2 and other statements of the nearness of the kingdom and says that there is no way to reconcile “at hand” with the passing of 2000 years. However, when writing against the preterist view, Jackson now takes two, contradictory positions in regard to time. On the one hand, the time statements of the Bible are “extremely relative” and “subjective.” (March, 1991, Christian Courier). However, Jackson also lays claim to Jurek’s idea of the imminence language insisting that it simply conveys the idea of certainty (The A.D. 70 Theory: A Review of the Max King Doctrine, (Stockton, Ca. 1990)41+. Just how “extremely relative,” “subjective” and “elastic” terminology can convey “certainty” and “inevitability” we are never told, and cannot imagine! Such self contradictory, confused and confusing argumentation does no honor to Biblical studies and the search for the Truth.
iv. It is important to know that obviously, most evangelical conservative Christians do affirm the integrity of God, the inspiration of scripture and the Deity of Jesus. What we are saying is that these claims, honorable as they are, cannot be defended by denying that Jesus did not keep his word on time! To affirm these things, while denying the fulfillment of Christ’s predictions is a logical fallacy and contradiction that Christianity needs to confront in the face of the rising tide of Islamism and militant Judaism.
v. Acts 1 is actually a powerful “time text” in regard to the establishment of the kingdom. The disciples ask about the timing for the establisment of the kingdom. They are told they do not know “the times and seasons” for that, but, they are to go into Jerusalem to await the impartation of the Spirit. The impartation of the Spirit was the promise of Joel 2:28f, and is nothing less than the promise of the establishment of the kingdom! So, by telling them to go into Jerusalem and wait for the Spirit, Jesus was implicitly, but powerfully, telling them that the establishment of the kingdom–the laying of the foundation if you will-- was truly near! After all, if the Spirit promised by Joel has not yet been poured out, as dispensationalists claim, then the disciples must still be waiting in Jerusalem!! Jesus specifically told them “Go into Jerusalem and wait until you be endued with power from on high.” That power from on high was the promise of the Spirit from Joel! It is fascinating to me that the implications of Jesus’ promise of the Spirit as it relates to the kingdom is virtually ignored by many commentators. The promise of the Spirit meant that Israel’s last days were present, and that could mean nothing but the establishment of the kingdom and realization of Israel’s hope (See Isaiah 32)!
vi. One reason Pentecost cannot be the fulfillment of Mark 9:1 is the proximity to Jesus’ statement. He said that only some of that multitude would live to see his coming in the kingdom glory. It was only a matter of months, however, 18 at the very most, perhaps as few as 6 months, until Pentecost. Are we to believe that the majority of that audience died in that period? Did only a few survive that 18 months? The coming in view had to be sufficiently removed in time to allow for the natural attrition of most of that crowd. The A.D. 70 parousia fits that perfectly.
vii. I would challenge brother Jurek to find the term “end of time” in scripture. It is not there. Furthermore, while Jurek believes in the end of the current Christian Age, the Bible affirms that the Christian Age has no end (Ephesians 3:20-21; Hebrews 12:28; Revelation 11:15f). Jurek affirms the end of the endless!
viii. I do not believe that “that which is perfect” is the completed New Covenant revelation. That falls far short of what Paul had in mind, although it is foundational to the larger New Creation, and completion of the mystery of Christ, that Paul had in mind.
ix. Don K. Preston, Can you Believe Jesus Said This?, (Ardmore, Ok. JaDon Productionsllc) Available from our website: www.eschatology.org
x. Petitio principii is a term from the world of logic that means begging the question. It means a person assumes their position to be true without actually proving it. This is precisely what Jurek does when he divides Mark 8:38 from 9:1. He allows, as I once did, his presuppositional assumptions about the nature of judgment, the parousia and the kingdom to drive his understanding, not the text itself.
xi. For those who doubt that this is the view of the churches of Christ, I can produce quote after quote from prominent amillennial authors attesting their conviction that Christ no longer rules after his parousia. Now, if Jurek does not believe this, I will happily take note of it in future installments of my response and review.
xii. It would be interesting to know Jurek’s position on the espousal and wedding of Christ. In the churches of Christ, and even in the wider Christian world, there is widespread confusion on this issue. In my files, I have articles written by prominent members of the churches of Christ on this issue. One takes the position that Christ espoused the church on Pentecost and that the wedding will not occur until the parousia. (The correct view, Revelation 19). The other affirms that the church was fully married to Christ, not just engaged, on Pentecost, and that it is heretical to say that the wedding is not until the parousia! If, and we do not know if he does, but if Jurek takes the view that the church was espoused to Christ on Pentecost, but that the wedding is not until the parousia at the so-called end of time, then this presents major problems for his objections to the preterist view! This definitely means that the church has not yet been perfected, not yet matured, not yet glorified, not yet presented! So, if this is Jurek’s view, he condemns preterists for saying that Christ married his bride at his parousia and is now bearing children. But, again if, he takes the view that the wedding has not yet taken place, then the unmarried, engaged only, church is producing children! Does Jurek prefer and proclaim an unmarried church or the married church?
xiii. One wonders how Jurek applies Matthew 24:21. If he takes it to apply simply to the physical magnitude of the events and trauma of the suffering of A.D. 70, then the dispensationalists are right to say that WWI and WWII were far more devastating . But in the mind of the Son of God, that event was far more than the destruction of a city. It was indeed, as Jurek indicates, the end of the Old Covenant Kingdom that had stood for 1500 years. If it was the end of the Old Covenant Kingdom of Israel, did that not have profound implications for the New Covenant Kingdom?