Keith A. Mathison
Reviewed by: Peter J. Wallace
Date posted: 07/24/2005
When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism, edited by Keith A. Mathison. Published by P&R, 2004. Paperback, 376 pages, list price $17.99. Reviewed by Peter J. Wallace, OP minister.
This book is a very useful collection of essays on the latest heretical fad to afflict conservative Reformed churches. It will be immensely useful in reclaiming those who have been deluded by this heresy. Hyper-preterism (some call it "full" or "consistent" preterism) teaches that the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was the final coming of Christ. Arguing from Jesus' promise that "this generation will not pass away until all has taken place" (Luke 21:32), hyper-preterists insist that everything promised in the New Testament came to pass then.
The implications of this position are wide ranging, and hyper-preterists have not been slow to accept them: (1) The world is now in its final state. (2) There is no future resurrection; any existence after death is purely spiritual. (3) If the Lord's Supper is designed to "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes," then the sacraments were only intended for the first century.
The essays in this book are all clear and focused. Ken Gentry shows that the baptismal creeds of the second century all emphasized that Christ "shall come to judge the living and the dead," along with "the resurrection of the body." If hyper-preterism is correct, then the church has been wrong about the return of Christ from the beginning. Charles Hill then demonstrates that post-apostolic eschatology (70-140) never gives A.D. 70 a significant eschatological role. Is it plausible that people instructed by the apostles regarding the resurrection and the final judgment should have universally missed the point? Did A.D. 70 bring both the "consummation" of the church's hope and the church's loss of eschatological truth?
Richard Pratt addresses the literal hermeneutic used by hyper-preterists. Pointing out that biblical prophecy is rarely fulfilled in "wooden" fashion, he argues that the promise of the imminent return of Christ in the New Testament is consistent with a period of delay. Keith Mathison examines the New Testament texts that have been cited in support of a hyper-preterist interpretation. Simon Kistemaker examines hyper-preterist approaches to Revelation, providing a cogent argument for the late date for the book. Doug Wilson provides a useful discussion of the value and importance of the subordinate authority of creeds and confessions. The volume concludes with Robert Strimple's excellent defense of the resurrection of the body against hyper-preterist attacks.
Several of the authors are themselves "partial preterists," but they all affirm the centrality of our future hope in the resurrection from the dead at the final revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. With its balanced presentation of historical and biblical arguments, this book is a must-read for anyone who desires to understand the danger of the hyper-preterist heresy.