"In some ways, the doctrine of the Second Coming is the most important doctrine in the Christian faith because it features the culmination of all redemptive history. It looks at the judgment of the wicked, the blessing of the righteous, and most of all, the final and permanent and everlasting exaltation and glory of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Savior Jesus Christ. All other doctrines lead up to that one. That's the finale, that's the culmination, that is the purpose for which all other elements of redemptive history were designed. History has a clear and unambiguous end, and the purpose of God before history began will be fulfilled with its over. Every detail as predicted in Scripture will be fulfilled with absolute precision. The story of this world and God's redemptive saga has an ending and that ending is already written, already planned, already designed by God. It will be as precise and purposeful and exact as every other aspect of God's work. And anyone who minimizes or anyone who depreciates or twists or obscures or abandons the truth concerning Christ's glorious return has not only departed from Christian doctrine, biblical truth, but has come perilously close to having breached a severe warning at the end of the book of Revelation which says, "If anybody adds to anything written in this book, it shall be added to him the plagues that are written in it. And if anybody takes away from what is written in this book, God shall take away his part from the tree of life in the holy city." It's a perilous thing to tamper with the doctrine of the Second Coming.
And yet, there are many well-intended Christian people who do just that. They tamper with this doctrine, believing that Genesis 1 and 2 is a very precise account of how it all started, they somehow are convinced that the ending is unclear, wanting to hold to an exacting interpretation say of the creation account, and an exactly interpretation of the Flood account, and an exacting interpretation of the history of Israel in the Old Testament, and an exacting interpretation of the birth and the life and the death of Jesus Christ, and an exacting interpretation of Pauline theology and Petrine theology and Johannine theology and everything else that's written in the New Testament, they somehow feel that when you get to eschatology and the story of the end, we're permitted to just pick from all kinds of options. And in fact, this tampering with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, this corruption of biblical prophecy has in some ways reached a very tragic point. There is among evangelicals today a popular new approach to the Second Coming called hyper-preterism(?), or full preterism(?).
Now the word preterist(?) is not a word we use, maybe we should. It's a really good word, it's an old, old English word, you'll find it way back in...in Webster's Dictionary from fifty years ago, you'll even find it way back in the Dictionary of Oxford University in England, it's been around a while, and the word preterist, an Old English noun, is defined this way, "A person whose chief interest is in the past...a person whose chief interest is in the past." Now if you are a person whose chief interest is in the past, you come to a rather difficult dilemma in dealing with prophecy and that's why we call certain people in theology preterists because they want to push all that is future in Scripture back into the past. That's what preterism does. Preterism is a view of prophecy that says it's already been fulfilled. In fact, both Webster and the Oxford Dictionary under the word preterist say this, "In theology a preterist is someone who believes the prophecies in Revelation have already been fulfilled." This is not new. But it is on the rise today. It is on the ascent. Hyper-preterism takes everything that is prophetic and pushes it into the past. It is all called realized eschatology, that is everything that's connected to the eschaton which is the Greek word for the last things, all eschatology has already been realized.
You say, "Well what do they mean by that?' Well they mean this, Christ is not coming, He already came. There will be no Rapture. There will be no Tribulation. There will be no abomination of desolations. There will be no trumpet judgments. There will be no seal judgments. There will be no bowl judgments. There will be no earthly millennium. There will be no Armageddon. There will be no resurrection and there will be no Great White Throne. That is to say, that's all already past. This amazing view means that we are now living somewhere in the Concordance, or the Maps. Or just maybe in the blank pages behind the maps.
You say, "How could anyone come to such a conclusion reading the Bible?" Well you can't. You have to be taught this by somebody who doesn't want to take the Bible at what it says. But what they are saying is, all of this was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the Roman General Titus came in and destroyed Jerusalem and the following destruction of the land of Israel. They say that was the return of Jesus Christ, that was the Second Coming. And, of course, anybody who is thinking at all would immediately ask the question, "I fail to see how Christ received glory in that occasion." And they also say, "We are now living in the new heavens and the new earth." Frankly, that's a hard sell since clearly things seem to be getting worse.
You say, "Well this is bizarre. Is this new?" No. Paul wrote Timothy in 2 Timothy 2, he said there are some men named Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying the resurrection has already taken place. Wow...they were preterists. They said the resurrection already was in the past. And that was contrary to the truth.
Now, these people are very studious about this, they write tomes about this. And it's amazing how they take the book of Revelation, the book of Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, the Olivet Discourse of Jesus and try to find something that happened in the history around the destruction of Jerusalem that connects with all those biblical texts. And, of course, no two preterists agrees because if the Bible doesn't mean what it says, then what it means is completely open to personal opinion, and so no two agree...which is usually a dead giveaway that they're wrong. And it's actually in some ways most humorous to read the various writings of preterists who are trying to connect biblical prophecy about the coming of Jesus Christ with the history around 70 A.D. and how they endeavor to do that.
Now there are others, unlike the preterists, who work at it so scholastically and historically and studiously. There are others who are not at all theological about their indifference toward the future coming of Jesus Christ. They...in fact, they probably wouldn't deny that Jesus is coming. They probably wouldn't say He already came. But they view the Second Coming as sort of an optional doctrine, it's kind of a second-class thing. It's really not very practical. They are much more interested in the here and now, they're much more interested in their own well-being, their own self-esteem, their own success. They're...they're really after what might help them right here and they don't really see whether speculating about the return of Jesus in some nebulous tomorrow has really any value to them. It is, however, a good read if you need some Christian fiction. Man-centered theology, earthbound Christianity, psychology, pragmatism, sanctified materialism, health, prosperity, teaching really doesn't...doesn't draw the Second Coming into play.
This was illustrated to me, I was in London, as you know, a few weeks ago, or a week ago, and did a talk radio program. And I hadn't done live talk in London which was kind of fun because I was hearing from people in a completely different culture and environment and it was enjoyable to answer the questions and the first question I was asked, and this was going to be replayed again and again, they told me, because it's of interest, was "What do you think of the church, the Anglican Church, the church ordaining a homosexual bishop?" And I said, "Well," I said, "the right answer to that is that the church didn't ordain a homosexual bishop, not the true church, not the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, not the body of Christ whose head is the Lord and Savior. Maybe the church of Satan would do that, but not the church of Jesus Christ."
Well that provoked no small amount of interest. But...(applause)...the truth of the matter is, that that, of course, is a false church. And I said, "It's sad." I said, "What's...what's sad is they do it in the name of Jesus Christ and it brings such reproach on Him." So we had a bit of a discussion on that, which was interesting. And then somebody called up and said this, I'm just kind of getting to this point, this lady called up and said, "I've been listening to you and I don't think you believe in the health, wealth gospel." Well we've been broadcasting in...in London covering now all of England by the digital extension for a number of years. And I said, "Well, you...you...you've got that right...you've got that right." And I said, "I just want to tell you some good news, I just want you to know that what Jesus Christ has provided for you is not so temporary and so superficial as to be concerned about your health and your wealth in this life. He's got something infinitely beyond that, that you're going to enjoy in the life to come in the glory after He returns." "I knew it...I knew you didn't believe in the health, wealth..." and she lit off into me.
She couldn't have been less interested in the doctrine of the Second Coming. And frankly, less interested in the glory of Christ. This is not uncommon. Do people really think this life is the most important one? This vapor that appears for a little time then vanishes? Do people really think that God has planned something for the future that is less interesting and less blessed than life here? Do people think that God whose infinite mind wrote the Bible with supernatural precision to tell the story of redemption from the beginning to the end and that it all culminates in a sort of optional ending? You can pick whatever one you want and write your own ending to God's book? Do these people really think that diminishing the glory of Christ as our coming King doesn't matter to Him? I am disturbed by the evolutionists because they steal the glory of Christ as the Creator. And I'm equally concerned about these people who diminish the Second Coming because they steal the glory of Christ as the Consummator? Do people think that living for some earthly benefit comes anywhere close to the joy of anticipating the glories that Christ will deliver when He comes?"