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Question and Answer

Hyper-preterism and the OPC

Question:

What is the OPC's position on hyperpreterism? Is this something that is acceptable for a minister or elder to believe? What about a member of an OPC church? Thank you.

Answer:

By hyper-preterism, I understand you to be referring to the belief that the totality of eschatological events, in particular the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead, were fulfilled in the events of AD 70. Hyper-preterism is distinguished from what is sometimes called partial or moderate preterism, which says that many biblical prophecies have been fulfilled (e.g. the Great Tribulation of Matthew 24), but the second coming and final resurrection are still future. Hyper-preterists often argue that their view is required by a commitment to biblical authority, appealing to New Testament passages that seem to predict the immInent return of Christ after his resurrection and ascension.

Yes, AD 70 does represent a significant date (more so than is realized by many) and does denote a replacing of the old Jewish ordinances with the New Testament gospel (whereby salvation is no longer "of the Jews" in the sense of for the Jews alone, but for Jew and Gentile alike). And there is a sense in which it can be said that Christ did "come" or "return" (although not physically) in AD 70 for judgment of the Jews. But it should be obvious that the judgment that befell the Jews in AD 70 falls far short of the judgment of the entire world, Jew and Gentile alike, of which the New Testament speaks, and to which we testify in the ecumenical creeds.

When thought through consistently, hyper-preterism also does not do justice to the Reformed creeds or historic Protestantism. Historically, for example, the marks of the church have been seen to be the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, and church discipline, and, similarly, the means of grace are spoken of in the Westminster Shorter Catechism as the Word, the sacraments, and prayer. Building on Christ's teaching about the Word and on Christ's institution of the sacraments, the Apostle Paul underlined the importance of both.

Hyper-preterism takes away from the Word and sacraments. The Apostle Paul spoke of the Lord's Supper in this way: "Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Cor. 11:36). But if Christ has already come (according to the hyper-preterists), why celebrate the Lord's Supper after AD 70? And the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:20 seems to indicate that baptism is to be observed "to the very end of the age," but for the hyper-preterist, is not AD70 "the very end of the age"?

And what are we do with the great number of Biblical passages which speak of a future coming of Christ? Write them off as irrelevant as only applying to the Church before AD 70? The end of the last chapter of the Book of Revelation speaks of a future coming of Christ ("Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus") and most scholars date the writing of the Book of Revelation around AD 95, but it would seem to have to be written before AD 70 to fit in with the views of huyperpreterism (and most scholars would have to be wrong in their understanding of Scripture).

It seems that the New Testament was not unfamiliar with a view that the resurrection had already taken place and clearly condemned it. In 2 Timothy 2:15-19, Paul instructs Timothy:

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.' "

In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he was deeply concerned by their denial of the future bodily resurrection. Such a view had disastrous implications for the faith that Paul preached. He says in 1 Corinthians 15:12-20:

"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."

Not only is hyper-preterism a denial of the clear biblical teaching about the second coming of Christ and the final resurrection, it is outside the boundaries of creedal orthodoxy. In the universal creeds of the church such as the Nicene creed, we confess that Christ "shall come again, with glory, to judge both the living and the dead" and that "we look for the resurrection of the dead."

So far as I know, the OPC does not have a formal statement on hyper-preterism. But every OPC minister and elder subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith, which unreservedly affirms that there remains a future advent of Jesus Christ accompanied by a physical, bodily resurrection.

"At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies, and none other (although with different qualities), which shall be united again to their souls forever. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonor: the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honor; and be made conformable to his own glorious body." (WCF 32:2-3).

"God hath appointed a day, wherein he will judge the world, in righteousness, by Jesus Christ." (WCF 33:1).

"As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all men from sin; and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity: so will he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and may be ever prepared to say, Come Lord Jesus, come quickly, Amen." (WCF 33:3)

Can a person who holds to hyper-preterism be a member in good standing in an Orthodox Presbyterian Church? Since such a view strikes at the heart of the biblical faith and is at odds with even the universal creeds of Christendom, which summarize the most basic elements of the Scripture's teaching and help define the church's faith, I don't think so. Such a person, however sincere they may be, needs to repent of this doctrinal error and "wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

I hope this helps answer your question.


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