Where are We Now? Preterism offers Greater Faith and Confidence in the Accuracy of the Bible and a Much More Assured Hope of Heaven.
The fulfillment of Biblical prophecy is strong evidence that the Bible is true and trustworthy. If the Bible is shown to be accurate in areas that can be tested, like the fulfillment of end time prophecy, then this fact suggests that it is equally credible in areas that cannot like the promise of a blessed existence with Jesus in heaven immediately after death. Futurists cannot have this hope. If the end had not come then the Christian dead should still be awaiting the resurrection in Sheol or Hades according to Daniel 12:13: “You [Daniel] will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” With the advent of more and more effective medical resuscitation techniques, near-death experiences appear to be becoming more and more common. But if the end of the age had not come, how could so many Christians report experiences of heaven after death when the resurrection of the dead to heaven was to transpire during the second coming at the last trumpet. (1 Corinthians 15:35-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18) If the resurrection of the dead has not yet transpired because all end time prophecy has not been fulfilled, then why do so many Christians report seeing heaven during near-death experiences? Christians should not be having these experiences. For this reason, I believe preterism offers unsurpassed hope to Christians who can look forward with great confidence that they shall see heaven immediately after death without having to await their redemption in the darkness of Sheol after death.
Where are We Now? The Bible is written for Us, Not To Us.
The Bible is MUCH more than not just to prophecy! 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reads, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”[i] Here one can see that the Bible is written for the benefit of all people. Though especially in regards to end time predictions the Bible is not written or addressed to all people. One non-eschatological example of the fact that the Bible is written for us but not to us is the fact that 1 Corinthians was a letter written to the first-century church in Corinth. Though this letter contains some timeless truths that can benefit people today, it also contains certain elements that are directed specifically to the church of that time:
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me. (1 Corinthians 16:1-4)
From these verses modern churches will see that it is good to set aside money for those in need. However, because this letter was written to a specific church in the first century, modern churches, of course, should not wait for someone sent by Paul to pick-up the money they have saved in order to bring it to Jerusalem. Similarly, Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in the sixth century B.C. are also not addressed to people today. Likewise, many prophecies concerning events that were to transpire during the end of the age are not addressed to people today who have outlived the fulfillment of these events. Though eschatological predictions are not directly relevant to people today, there are still timeless truths that may be gleaned from these verses. For example, the afterlife fate of the wicked and righteous is still the same at or after the end of the age as it is today.
Where are We Now? The Bible Predicts that the Throne of David is in the Jerusalem that is in Heaven.
The Messiah was to reign in Jerusalem. (Psalms 2, Isaiah 24:23) And after the end of the age, Zion or Jerusalem was to become the capital of the Messiah’s kingdom. (Isaiah 2:2) But which Jerusalem? According to Hebrews 12:22 and Galatians 4:26 there is also a Jerusalem in heaven. Hebrews 12:22 reads, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly,” Galatians 4:26 also mentions a Jerusalem that is in heaven: “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” Isaiah 25:6-8 suggests the answer to this question. In these verses, the Messiah is said to hold a banquet in Zion or Jerusalem for those raised from the dead.
In John 18:36 Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” In this simple statement, Jesus clarifies why he advocates paying taxes to Caesar in Matthew 22:21. Jesus never intended to be the earthly king over a sovereign Israel. When Jesus declares that his kingdom is not of this world, he is saying that his kingdom is in heaven. In Acts 7:56 Stephen looks up to heaven and sees Jesus at the right hand of the Father. Acts 7:48-49 states, “[T]he Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.’” The fact that Jesus rules at the right hand of the Father places the throne of the Messianic kingdom in heaven. The Messiah rules the earth from a heavenly, not an earthly throne. Peter makes this fact clear in Acts 2:22-36. This is why Jesus calls his kingdom the kingdom of heaven throughout the Gospels. The kingdom of heaven is the Messianic kingdom.
What is the Messianic Kingdom? Who are the People of the Messianic Kingdom?
Who then are the people of the Messianic kingdom? According to Hebrews 11:8-19, Abraham while he lived in the Promised Land desired “a better country, a heavenly one.” (Hebrews 11:16) According to Galatians 3:6-14, 26-29, the true Israel, the descendants of Abraham, are those Jews or Gentiles who have placed their faith in Christ. Confirming Abraham’s hope for “a better country, a heavenly one[,]” Philippians 3:20 indicates that the true citizenship of Abraham’s descendants, the people of God, is in heaven. It in heaven that the Messiah sits on David’s throne according to Acts 15. In Acts 15:14-17 James indicates that the conversion of the Gentiles fulfills Biblical prophecy concerning the rebuilding of the house of David:
Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,
‘After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,’
In the verses above, one can see that the Messianic Kingdom is in heaven where the Messiah, Jesus Christ, rules over the true Israel, those Jews and Gentiles who are the spiritual descendants of Abraham.
Where are We Now? If the Resurrection was a Past Event, Then Did We Miss It?
The saints of the Old Covenant Age had to await their redemption in Sheol, the underworld realm of the dead, after death. No longer having to await the resurrection in the darkness of Sheol, those of us who have outlived the resurrection of the first century are now privileged to be given our resurrection bodies immediately after death. This fact is implied in Revelation 14:13: “’Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.’” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 echoes this idea:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
The fact that life on earth continues after the end of the Old Covenant Age and people are raised to life immediately after death at this time also makes sense of Revelation 21:24-26. According to these verses, the gates of the New Jerusalem are always open in order to forever allow the nations and kings of the earth to “bring their splendor into it.” If the resurrection was just a onetime event, how is it that according to Revelation 14:13 and Revelation 21:24-26 people are continuously entering the New Jerusalem long after the resurrection? See 1 Corinthians 15:50-54: Preterism, the Rapture and the Resurrection, How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Mirror Jesus’ Resurrection Body with Supporting Evidence from the Bible, Near-Death Experiences and Outside Expert Testimony, and The Notion that the Resurrection is an Earthly Phenomenon whereby the Dead are raised as Perfected, Eternal Earthly Bodies is dispelled by 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 and Isaiah 65:20.
Where are We Now? Why don’t I see the New Jerusalem as it is Described in Revelation?
If all end time prophecies have been fulfilled that means that we are now in the New Jerusalem. How could this be if we do not see a glorious new creation on earth like that described at the end of Isaiah and Revelation? Does this mean that such a place does not actually exist? No. Hebrews 12:22 and Galatians 4:26 explicitly mention a Jerusalem that is in heaven. Hebrews 12:22 reads, “But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly[.]” Galatians 4:26 also mentions a Jerusalem that is in heaven: “But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” The fact that there is a Jerusalem that is in heaven suggests that the Jerusalem on earth is a dark shadow of the Jerusalem that is above in the same way that the Temple is a dark shadow of heaven according to Hebrews 8:5: “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”’
The New Jerusalem is the Christian church. And like the New Jerusalem, the Christian church is, of course, also present in heaven and earth. There are Christians in heaven because the resurrection of the saints in the Old Covenant Age occurred in the first century and people after the end of the age are now resurrected to heaven quickly after death without a lengthy stay in Sheol first. Because the Christian church is present both on earth and in heaven and because the Christian church on earth is destined for heaven, the New Jerusalem is the church described in the likeness of the Jerusalem that is in heaven, a Jerusalem that Christians may eventually see surprisingly literally after death. See Revelation 21, Revelation 22, Isaiah 60, Isaiah 65, Isaiah 66.
Where are We Now? Why is there still Sin in the World?
If all Bible prophecies have been fulfilled and Satan has been bound, why is there still sin in the world? James 1:13-15 states, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” When people sin it is not Satan who is the ultimate cause. When people sin it is because they have given in to their own evil desires. See If Satan is bound, why is there still Sin and Evil in the World? Though there is still sin in the world, I believe that sin will ultimately be eradicated in heaven while the saints are in the presence of God. Because sin is ultimately done away with in heaven and because the saints now have access to heaven and there are saints who are now presently in heaven enjoying this sinless state, sin can be said to be ultimately conquered now.
Where are We Now? How are Things different Now than They were Then?
The fulfillment of all end time predictions means that Christians today are now blessed to enjoy unfettered access to God spiritually while on earth and literally and physically after death in heaven. This privileged access to the creator in heaven was not granted to the saints of the Old Covenant Age. Therefore, Christians today should rejoice in the fulfillment all end time prophecy because this means that we now have access to the presence of God in heaven after death. “You will show me the path to life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalms 16:11)
[i] www.ecclesia.org/truth/irrelevant.html (3/17/2015).