This is a repost: Originally posted on June 5, 2006 with updates on February 17, 2008
It seems like a great deal that goes on in this orthodox versus heretical eschatological debate hinges upon a war over terminology. That should not be surprising, since positions which do not have historical credibility or have other inherent flaws which would make persons reluctant to consider them off the bat, will often adopt terminology which either paints a better face on the view or cloaks it with the word that has historically “good” meaning so as to, intentionally or unintentionally, obfuscate the issue. First off, let me say, that there are many people who have fallen into this trap unwittingly. They don’t realize that they have bought into the language game, or do not realize its importance. I am not trying to read into anyone’s overt intentions here, but rather examine underlying motivations which are common with views that have problems with general acceptance, whether rightly or wrongly. For example, at this point in our culture, it seems backward and intolerant to be opposed to abortion. Therefore, many times, those of us who are opposed to abortion will refer to ourselves as “pro-life.” While that descriptive serves a purpose to a point, the fact is, in terms of this debate, we are very much against abortion. I don’t think that we should shy away from the label of “anti-abortion.” I don’t shy away from the labels of anti-murder, anti-racist, anti-child abused, or any number of things that I’m opposed to on moral grounds. I don’t need to pretend and or act as being against abortion is something that I need to cover in flowery language. Yes of course I am in favor of life, but in this particular case, I am in favor of life by being specifically against abortion. Abortion is the specific referent in the discussion, and that is what I am against. That is one example, though it doesn’t walk on all fours necessarily. I did use it, however, to demonstrate that I recognize the semantical gamemanship even with positions thatat are ones I myself hold.
Similarly, the homosexual movement has used the power flowery words to disguise deviant sexual practices. It is not “homosexual”, it is “gay.” I for the most part refuse to use the term “gay.” That word had such a wonderful historical meaning it has now been co-opted to mean something which is an abomination in the sight of God. I will not be a party to that.
So bringing us back to the eschatological discussion, sometimes hyperpreterists, and well-meaning non-hyperpreterists, will say that those of my eschatological persuasion (sometimes it even happens with those who are of my own eschatological persuasion) are simply a variant of futurist. This is boldly historically inaccurate and nonsensical. One cannot be considered a futurist simply because they believe that the physical, bodily return of Christ and the physical, bodily resurrection are future. This discussion is framed with an historical Christian context. ALL CHRISTIANS believe those things. They have been part and parcel of the historical foundations of the Faith for millennia. Things which are to be presumed in common are not items for which labels indicating diversity are created. Therefore, it is completely redundant to say within a Christian (historical) context that a person is a futurist with regards to these items. Those things are presumed and subsumed within the title of “Christian.” This would be about as silly as claiming that all Christians are preterists simply because they believe the Messiah has already come. All Christians believe the Messiah has already come, so there is no need to make a distinction between Christians on something that all Christians have always believed (the machinations of a vocal Internet cultic teaching notwithstanding).
Therefore, in historicalcontext, the terms “futurist” and “preterist” have been used to describe a person’s belief on the timing of debatable events, most notably, the Great Tribulation, and sometimes, the “coming,” that is described in Matthew 24. There are various levels of historical preterism, some of which do not take the “coming” in Matthew 24 to be a first century event and separate out the Great Tribulation from that language. I’m not one of those, but I recognize their existence.
This point becomes very patently obvious when one throws in the other players into this eschatological dispute - namely historicism and idealism. When those two terms are examined, it is very obvious that the issue in dispute is NOT the timing (i.e. futuricty) of the Second Coming or General Resurrection. It is regarding the timing and nature of the events leading up to that point. In orthodoxy, historicists are not those who believe that the event known as the Second Coming is manifested throughout history typically through the church age. That is preposterous. Similarly, in orthodoxy, idealists are not those that believe that the Second Coming of Christ is manifested ideally throughout the church age, but rather both of these views hold that this is a discrete and distinct event yet in our future. All these views hold the futuricity in common because that is a basic Christian belief. It does not make any of these views futurist, it makes them Christian.