Victorious Eschatology: A Partial Preterist View
By Harold R. Eberle and Martin Trench
Book Review by Jason Benedict – Strategist RCE
I have been long troubled by the impact that popular eschatological teaching has had on the body of Christ over the last two generations. Fundamentalist preachers have been zealous to whip the troops into a frenzy for that last hectic push of evangelism before the trumpet sounds. Unfortunately, their focus on the last days has had the unintended result of fostering apathy, making the Church seem irrelevant and causing tens of thousands of people to disengage from and adopt a defensive stance towards society. For the last 60 to 100 years (depending on your accounting of events) large portions of the Church have effectively been circling of the wagons rather than taking their role as world changers.
I came to Christ in the mid 80’s and remember vividly the end-times fervor that seemed to pervade church culture. People seemed to hang on every headline in anticipation of the next prophetic milestone being fulfilled. Youth rallies would include fun and games, rapture themed t-shirts, bumper stickers and even raucous rounds of jumping up and down called “rapture drills.” As a teenage Christian I could never muster up much enthusiasm for these things. The vision in my heart to be a world changer seemed to chafe against these pessimistic and escapist forecasts. If I followed this line of thinking to its logical conclusion there was no need to train, to plan or to engage: there was no future!
We are now seeing the bitter fruit of these seeds, and while end-times fervor has not seemed to abate, some people are beginning to recognize a cause and effect relationship. Our pessimism – “times will grow darker, a great many will fall away, those opposed to Christ will take over, etc” – has become a self fulfilling prophecy. After all “why polish the brass on a sinking ship” [sic]?
A dear friend of mine recently sent me the book Victorious Eschatology: a Partial Preterist View by Harold R. Eberle and Martin Trench. I sincerely hope that this book gains a massive readership. I would like to champion it here because it offers a thorough, thoughtful eschatological view that is more consistent with other portions of scripture that challenge us to be world changers, to extend the Kingdom of God, engage with society, and Transform its institutions. Specifically here at the Regent Center for Entrepreneurship, our desire is to transform people and nations through business. We feel that the Lord has given us a mandate to promote Kingdom entrepreneurship and biblical principles of business and economics.
It is important to point out that the views expressed in this book are not some new teaching. In fact the authors are echoing the prevailing view of the Church throughout the centuries, the preterist or partial Preterist view. This was the view held by theological heavyweights such as Spurgeon and Wesley, and significantly, is a view that is held today by large portions of the body of Christ around the world. In fact the end-times fervor I describe above is symptomatic of an approach to eschatology called dispensational fundamentalism or the futurist view. The futurist view traces its roots to John Darby’s ministry (1830’s – 1882). The writings of this Anglo-Irish evangelist were later popularized through their incorporation into the Scofield Reference Bible. This combination of Bible+commentary was innovative at the time, and gained widespread acceptance among Pentecostal, fundamentalist and mainline evangelical movements.
In their examination of the subject, the authors employ a careful exegetical verse by verse approach, but manage to remain very readable. Those that have been immersed in futurist teaching may be shocked, by the ideas presented. However, should they find themselves agreeing with Eberle and Trench, they can take comfort in knowing that they can do so without leaving the historical theological mainstream. They could even see themselves as abandoning a recent theological fad.
Giants in church history believed in a more victorious eschatology, including church fathers like Eusebius (263-339 AD), considered by many the Father of Church History, and Origen a prolific early theologian and writer (185-254 AD). Similarly, revivalist like Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon all held to views such as:
Most of the prophetic events in Matthew 24, Revelations 1-14, and the book of Daniel were fulfilled on or before 70 AD with the fall of Jerusalem. The Kingdom of God has been growing steadily since the first coming of Christ, and will crush and put to an end all other kingdoms. The Antichrist(s) were Gnostic teachers in the first century. The Beast was a Roman emperor, probably Nero. The great tribulation does not lie in our future and though the apostles and writers of the New Testament lived in the last days (of an era, covenant, etc) we do not. The Kingdom will grow in victory and influence, and darkness will lose ground but nonetheless remain until the 2nd return of Christ. Jesus will return for a victorious Church and separate the wheat from the tares.
If you are interested in gaining a fresh understanding of God’s plan throughout time should read this book. If you find yourself adopting this view it may fuel your passion to advance God’s Kingdom in spheres such as the marketplace, government, arts and entertainment, education, and media.