Consistent Full Preterist conclusions lend themselves to Universalism

By Todd Dennis, a relevant excerpt from his' website:



I hope this page helps explain why I'm personally making the move as far away from full preterism as possible. It is recognized that dogmatic full preterist "true believers" will always take issue with the points on this page; however, my intent is really only to show the open-hearted that there is a need to question the legitimacy of full pret assumptions and seriously evaluate all its claims to the point of registering the consequences. This applies to all doctrinal shifts during our lives, which process will hopefully never end. Having promoted the view for over a decade, though, I feel a real sense of responsibility to point out the errors discovered.
We can often find ourselves in trouble when we build unproved assumptions upon assumptions. It is easy enough to get so far ahead of facts, that what was left unproven quickly turns into a fundamental point upon which layers of further assumptions are built. Please take, for instance, the following line of reasoning from the earliest known full preterist author. Notice that between his 'if' and 'then' logical argument lies piles and piles of assumptions -- all of which are taken as a whole, and treated as settled and obvious :
Now, if at the destruction of Jerusalem there was a taking away of the first covenant; a removing of .the old heaven and earth, and a burning up of the same ; and if sin, Satan, death, and hell have their true and scriptural meaning in reference only to the two covenants of Sinai and Sion, as consequent upon the Adamic transgression - and proof to the contrary is defied - if these things be so, then are we warranted in concluding….
By attempting to make the fulness of the consummation of the ages fit into the historical year of AD70, full preterist systems build upon a fundamental truth which is very much still a matter of debate. Accordingly, those systems seek to find natural imagery in that period which answers to the prophecies of the Bible according to that fundamental, unassailable presumption.
When those settled issues are challenged, the systems are so committed to what lies far ahead -- generally unwilling to investigate the critical principles which lay far behind -- that the objections are typically dismissed with a wave of the hand and treated with scorn. This is a problem.
This anti-Berean approach yields many negative consequences, doctrinally and interpersonally.
Doctrinally, the trend of using natural people and events to explain spiritual and eternal realities in Christ results in the declaration that the shadows are actually the substance (It is upon this basis that full preterism is being investigated as actually being "Hyper Preterism" after all). As noted, the substance is regarding "things not seen" -- AD70 best being seen as the confirmation perhaps.. but not as the actual substance of the promises and inheritances to God's people -- which are spiritual in nature, and much more glorious (II Cor. 1:20). (It is helpful to consider the "Land Promises to Israel" in this regard. More details regarding this hermeneutical method are listed here)
The consequences to interpersonal communication and intrapersonal behavior are apparent enough, and are displayed on message boards from every Christian system around the Internet. It seems axiomatic that the sowing of absolute self-certainty in one's own position yields a sense of superiority and pride. If it gets frustrated and frantic, this "magical thinking" quickly turns into narcissism and can even be deadly to people and marriages.

In regards to the "hyper preterist" charge, it appears that upon both of these grounds - doctrinal and personal - those who claim that the resurrection is "in AD70" actually do fulfill the charges against the heretic Hymenaeus: 2 Timothy 2:18: "Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. ." (by the way, this doesn't mean that the resurrection is to be expected at some historical point in the future either, so the charge of my view being partial preterism is mistaken).
Without any regard for the argument that Paul was merely stating that he was a little ahead of his time (the resurrection coming within 10 years), this is not germane to the point in question. Whether stating that the resurrection was in AD60 (Hymenaeus), 70 (Full Preterism), or 2006, if one is teaching that the resurrection of all the dead is past already, then they are placing themselves underneath the consideration of this statement by Paul.
There are also other aspects of Paul's problem with the teaching of Hymenaeus besides simply his timing of the resurrection, as well. By seeking to "overthrow the faith" of sincere people, the heretic was treating the body of Christ destructively and with disrespect -- placing his love for his beliefs above his love for his brother. This same 'scalping' tendency can be seen among many full pret "true believers," who openly relish overthrowing the faith of Futurists in order to establish their own. No longer is the focus on leading the lost to Christ; instead, evangelistic zeal is given over to 'teaching the truth of Covenant Eschatology' and overthrowing the beliefs of brothers and sisters in Christ. This is no small issue, particularly considering the violence and venom that is associated with a lot of that work which pits itself against the Body in a wholly divisive way. This methodology is explicitly condemned in the Word.
In addition to the previously mentioned "hymenaean hallmarks" of teaching that the resurrection is over, and in seeking to overthrow the faith of believers, there is a third significant reason why this view is being investigated as "hyper-preterism" -- the common teaching that there is no longer need for faith at all. The reasoning is that, since AD70 brought the fullness, and, no longer seeing through a glass darkly we now see face to face, our faith has been turned to sight. This is akin to the common teaching that since believers were given all of Christ in AD70, there is no more need for the Holy Spirit. By believing that the fullness came in history, it is often taught that there is no longer place for those things in part. Therefore, by teaching that there is no more need for faith, that view would indeed "overthrow the faith of some" -- and I have seen it happen many times.
The claim from a former full preterist that the hymenaean charge rings true (in both the error and the overthrow of faith) would hopefully raise serious flags of warning. And yet, those who are "true believers" in the view reflexively dismiss the hymenaean charge with a wave of the hand, and will say something like "this charge is nothing new, and has been dealt with before." Regarding this infamous "oh-so-certain" self-assurance of certain Christians, ignorance is bliss. As a result of the hobbyist approach to theology, which is in large part a child of the World Wide Web, systems are typically sculpted in a very shoddy manner. That which doesn't support the predetermined result is typically put aside pending further study -- or ignored altogether. Perhaps there is a legitimate reason why certain arguments against the view are used time and again.
Despite the appearance of broad consensus, there are really precious few areas of general agreement among (or even within) the various full preterist hybrids. It has been joked that there are as many full preterist leaders as there are full preterists, but it is not far from the truth to say that each has their own unique spin on doctrine.
Regardless of the differences from one system to another, however, what may be most important to observe is the level of consistency presented within themselves. It seems that all full preterist approaches can be seen as falling within varying degrees of consistency in application of their fundamental hermeneutic of AD70 consummation.
Those who are relatively new to the view tend to think that they know what is all about based upon a cursory reading of Matthew 24:34, but it really does take a few years to get past the initial burst of re-discovery in order to recognize the logical and scriptural conclusions of the hermeneutic itself. Without waiting on the Lord and patiently learning as the Spirit provides, we may learn the errors of our ways through negative experience. This is one reason why it is important to resist the impulse to "know everything overnight."
Consistency within the system is really what sets the newbies apart from the more experienced, generally speaking. Just like with Dispensationalism, one can believe that Jesus is King now, but if the system will not allow it, then they are just inconsistent, and inexperienced within their own hermeneutic, not really representing it for what it teaches. The same is true, in my opinion, with that form of full preterism which teaches that everything was fulfilled historically by AD70, and yet that not everyone in the world enjoys its benefits.
By assuming a fundamental hermeneutic which applies the blessings of prophecy to all people in history post AD70 -- not making the important clarification IN CHRIST -- the errors start to compound, and a particular trend of doctrine starts to emerge. This particular stream has been recognized by a large number of people who are now embracing doctrines of Universalism, or comprehensive grace and redemption.
It is often said in full preterist circles that one's eschatology directly effects their doctrine of salvation.. and this is certainly the case. Forms of Universalism, as a result of a more consistent application of the completely fulfilled eschatology, are being increasingly recognized, from with and without, as the true face of full preterism. Though a trend within a system cannot disprove a system, the fundamental hermeneutic can.
There are a number of uniquely full preterist conclusions which, though they may not naturally lead to doctrines of Universalism, certainly do lend themselves to this view. And though I do not embrace Universalism myself, I absolutely recognize that to them belongs the progressive banner of full preterism, and that they are correct to declare themselves the most consistent preterists.
With the basic assumption (which I do not share) that the passing of the Mosaic Law was the focus of eschatology, a number of Universalist-friendly conclusions emerge. Though not all systems embrace every one of these conclusions, they are all certainly representative of general full preterist views :
· Satan was utterly destroyed in AD70
· "The Sin" was utterly destroyed in AD70
· "The Law" totally passed away in AD70 (Covenant Eschatology in particular)
· Everyone is in the "New Heavens and Earth" post AD70
· Everyone is in the "Age to Come" post AD70
It must be clearly stated again that the charge is not that full preterism or covenant eschatology leads to Universalism, but that this trend of thought lends itself to those conclusions. For instance, there are views of "Comprehensive Redemption" and "Comprehensive Grace" exploding throughout the movement, and finding wide exposure at the leading websites. Although some disclaim any direct connection to Universalism, there seems little point in denying that they are just a pace or two away... perhaps even walking up to the edge of the cliff, if not taking the fatal step. From the founder of Covenant Eschatology himself, to vocal contributors on many websites (pro and con), to numerous private individuals with whom I correspond, the direction of inquiry relates to how the destruction of sin and the law relates to the broad application of redemption in the post ad70 world. The numbers do not lie, and point directly to the intimate relationship between all forms of full preterist eschatology and Universalism. In the coming months, the two hundred year history of Preterist Universalism will be presented here. For now, notice that the earliest known Full Preterist book was written by a man who shortly thereafter adopted Universalism:


The Second Advent of Jesus Christ: A Past Event

I recognize that full preterist Calvinists absolutely reject the broadening of redemption to every last person in the world, but I believe this fact is based more on their commitment to Reformed soteriology than to their determination for absolute full preterist consistency. Clearly, a Calvinist would never embrace Universal redemption, regardless of how consistent it may or may not be with their chosen eschatology. This is akin to Pentecostal Preterism maintaining the continued applicability of the Apostolic administration, despite have passed beyond their consummation in AD70, as their full preterist eschatology teaches. Not being willing to leave the greater aspect of their theology, yet wishing to hold to full preterism, a happy (though inconsistent) median is found, and the rest is "winked at" in regards to consistency.
In light of the question of consistency, it should be considered how a consistent full preterist view, which acknowledges that the law, the devil, sin, and such were utterly destroyed in AD70, could not be considered lending itself to Comprehensive Redemption?
Considering the sweeping nature of the fundamental assumption of world-wide New Covenant / New Heavens and Earth application in the post-AD70 environment, the answers given to that question demand intense scrutiny. Though particular answers to that dilemma have been offered, they usually require the creation of a previously unknown damning "law of Christ" or some other "doctrinal patch" to cover this hole -- such as a redefinition of "second death," or the creation of a brand new laws which secure for them the balance between particular atonement with universal eschatology. Obviously, the Reformed answer will be that Adam's death still applies to those not in Christ -- which is precisely the point of this article.. that the consummation is to be found IN CHRIST, and not in history. To say that the "consummation of the ages is in ad70" in a universal fashion, and then to make the reception of atonement individually in Christ regardless of that consummation is the inconsistency with which the "historical corporate consummationism" of the Reformed (all limited atonement full preterist systems) are forced to live.
To frame the consistency issue in terms of the Consummation of atonement itself the question must be asked : how many "consummations" are there? Is AD70 the only consummation.. or are there multiple consummations - with a second one which takes place when the person in Adam is "dead and raised in the likeness of Christ", as per certain full preterist systems? Those FP systems which teach "Immortal Body at Death" seem to suggest three different consummation: first in AD70, then in being "born again", and then after physical death. Universalism, on the other hand, typically teaches that there is but one consummation - that in AD70, which settled the issues of Adam and Christ. Preterist-Idealism, on the other hand, though likewise teaching that there is but one true consummation, focuses it as being in Christ, which settles the matter of death, atonement and consummation - AD70 being the outward show of that work of Christ as likewise revealed in AD30.
For now, suffice it to point out just two other dilemmas regarding the consistency of the Reformed approach. Consider the destruction of death and the devil. It is taught among Reformed full prets that death was defeated for all, yet that one must be in Christ to receive its benefits. This is unlike the teaching regarding Satan, though, who is said to be destroyed regardless of one's status in Christ. The issue of consistency with the Reformed also plays itself out in recognition of the limitation of the term 'world.' On one hand, a rightful limitation to being 'in Christ' is seen in terms of "first things," but when it comes to "last things" these limitations are discarded in favor of an end that effects absolutely all. These points will be given a fuller presentation in the months to come.
At the very least, it should be considered that Max King, the founder of Covenant Eschatology, and the man most experienced in the view -- therefore the most likely to have developed a consistent approach -- has developed a Universalist-friendly message of "Comprehensive Grace" to maintain consistency between his eschatology and his soteriology. It appears that countless other full preterists have walked down the path created by the Reformed preterists into the Universalist camp. Certainly, the most vocal and visible -- if not fastest growing -- group of full preterists are the Universalists... whereas the Calvinist influence and numbers appear to be diminishing.
So just as Apostolic / Pentecostal Full Preterism accepts the message of complete fulfillment in that generation up to a point (stopping short of the apostolical gifts), Limited Atonement Full Preterism accepts the message of absolute consummation of all things in AD70 up to a point (stopping short of the effects of Adam's fall). I don't begrudge them their right to do it.. I completely understand and would expect nothing else ; however, so far as consistency goes, they are challenged in my opinion. My point being that in order to truly judge Full Preterism, it must be done using the most consistent approach.
In spite of this critical look at the trends within Full Preterism and Covenant Eschatology to Universalism, theology is not the motivational factor in this article's call for a much closer re-evaluation of the consequences of looking to history for ultimate prophetic consummation. Having been a church pastor, the consequences of theology upon the hearts and spiritual lives of listeners is known to be of primary and most urgent concern.
For those who have left churches, or found themselves experiencing intense isolation, the personal costs of separating based upon "last things" are clear enough. What is ironic is that, after having left previous fellowships due to disagreements with "last things" find themselves experiencing even more intense isolation due to disagreements with "first things" among those whom they generally agree in the "last things." Having attempted for a decade to forge a unified fellowship of Preterist using the Internet, I realize that the sense of isolation can become even more intense even with the new technology. I've often seen this lack of unity (and oftentimes intense divisionism) lead to grievous disillusionment -- with many walking away from Christianity altogether, as there seemed to be nowhere else to go.
By making "last things" the primary basis of fellowship, there is an inherent consequence of isolation. This trend of compounding isolation and subsequent disillusionment is no fluke. This trend is probably very similar in other sects, but it is certainly true in full preterism. This isolationism seems to gradually increase hopelessness and dissatisfaction. And even if it doesn't effect the "believer" the house, it can very much have an effect on spouses and children. This might be the reason for the massive turnover in full pret. Certainly, there are natural consequences in uniting around something besides the cross of Christ.
For those who wonder why more people do not embrace full preterism, one answer lies in its coldness. Not only doesn't that theology reach within the hearts of people, it doesn't even try. Though those in positions of leadership may tend to think that convincing the minds of people is the critical part of their work, no amount of head knowledge can cover for heart suffering. The dramatic turnover in full preterism has been particularly noticeable over the last 10 years, and the inability of the logical "mind" to satisfy the spiritually hungry "heart" is what I think leads most people to seek better answers -- or, rather, to embrace any eschatology, so long as the more important aspects of that theology are able to minister deep within to the very real tensions and tears that are experienced today.
This appeal is meant to be a recommendation to the authors and teachers within the movement , to search within and see if the "head" certainty that full preterism provides sufficiently provides the peace and rest that are promised for God's people.
The most common complaint against the full preterist view is its inability to answer the "what now?" questions... but there is a concern that runs much deeper. By identifying the corporate "consummation of the ages" as having been settled for all time in AD70, the individual believers' "transition period" is removed from today, being made a first century reality alone. This error neglects the importance of the "glory to glory" process at work in the life of the believer, (as they pass from old to new within themselves) and chooses rather to accept that there is no sin, death, or devil to be contended with today. In short, full preterist doctrine chooses the corporate over the individual, and this betrayal results in much suffering for those left grappling with the very real transition process within their lives.
By insisting that the devil, law, sin and death have been utterly destroyed for all in AD70, it leaves a sense of failure within those who find themselves still very much under the chains of law and sin in their own lives. Though many teachers may think that a proper doctrinal explanation of the victory we have in Christ should be sufficient to overcome this internal crisis, it is not nearly so effective; in fact, when your heart is suffering, the last thing that is needed is a pep talk or a mind game. No amount of head knowledge can heal heart suffering... rather, it makes the pain even more acute, and the situation seem even more hopeless.
This plight has been the reality for countless simple students, who don't have the luxury of the self-certainty displayed by many of the more convinced leaders and teachers. And what is striking is that even as many of those in leadership positions in the past have dropped out as a result of their own inability to find rest and peace within the full preterist framework, the fundamental problem is left unaddressed. Dismissing the applicability of the tensions displayed in the New Testament, I believe, has a lot to do with this. By assuming perfection and total completion, we lose the results that come from the tension between old and new, and are only left with confusion as to why things aren't better than they are. Consequently, some have left the faith altogether, believing that full preterism -- representing gospel truth -- exposes the failure of the gospel. Clearly, this line of thought does not reflect a large percentage of those who have fallen away from the movement. Nor is the dropout trend intended to be portrayed as inevitable. There are those in every movement, such as the true believers in the last days of Jerusalem, that will never turn from their certainty in the cause, no matter how much struggle is happening within them, or how many people are suffering around them.
It is my sincere message to any "true believer" full preterists who are in crisis personally, to consider that there is an explanation within the context of fulfilled eschatology that will comfort the heart, while providing understanding for the tensions of your circumstance.
Part of this answer is recognizing that what is accomplished corporately in the spiritual realm plays itself out in the process of time. Like the work of the cross of Christ, what is a corporate reality in the eternal state must be applied to each individually in time. We would not say that we received the benefit of the shed blood in AD30, not having yet been born (or born again), even though Christ died in that historical day. Rather, we would tend to see that corporate fulfillment dispensed to each sinner saved this day and beyond. The redemption purchased for the entire Body of Christ is given when you "confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead -- then thou shalt be saved." Likewise, focusing solely on a corporate consummation in AD70, placing it as settled for all time in the natural realm, without individual application today, denies the "transition period" within the individual, and the importance of the "glory to glory" process at work in the life of the convert today.
If we can contemplate what the personal imagery of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ means, besides just one man coming back to life (as had been done before), then we begin to see what spiritual reality that event signified, and how it all points straight into the deepest part of our hearts. Approaching the cross of Christ from a purely natural mindset, however, cannot help but yield a lower view of just what was accomplished then.

Likewise, the fall of natural Israel in AD70, which has been given as an banner to bespeak the same reality -- only this time using national imagery -- should be approached with the same view towards internal realities. For a closer examination of this concept, read aboutJerusalem as a picture of the Heart.

Another consequence of embracing the view of a consummation of the ages as a past event in history is that felt within the heart of the individual. By removing that prophetic imagery which speaks of our walk in Christ into the very distant past, we are left looking outward for revelation, as opposed to inward. The lessons of the Word which are meant for today, are limited to time and place, and restricted to the past.
The Word of God is indeed written TO us.. and not just FOR us. It is meant to be deeply internalized, and taken to refer to our day.. not that now-extinct world leading up to the fall of the temple in Jerusalem in the historical year 70.

Another consequence of the assumption that AD70 was the "consummation of the ages" is that all the writings of the Bible are understood as having a context of the old age, seeing as how all scriptures are believed to have been written prior to the coming of the new administration. At the very least, all scriptures are made suspect, pending further review. In most cases, the purpose of the Bible is limited to the "Old Covenant age" and are considered to represent an entirely different administration of God. With this "AD70 terminus" view, many passages of Scripture as not seen as being for today. In fact, there is a great debate as to which passages actually do apply to the New Covenant age. A few, such as Revelation 21 and 22, with the leaves of the tree of life being used for the healing of the nations, are generally accepted as referring to the "historical New Covenant age". However, numerous key passages, such as Christ's prayer "thy kingdom come," are seen as referring to the era "before AD70".
This trend of thinking slices and dices the Word, eliminating, in some cases, the need for prayer, the need for faith, and the existence of the Holy Spirit -- as well as the applicability of the Gospel of Christ itself !
At the very least, all scriptures are made to pass through the "AD70 Filter" to see how the historical consummation might effect the outcome of the passage in question. It is this wary eye which crosses over key verses such as "it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment," seeing as how the judgment is taken as a past event in AD70.
To state that we are in a completely different administration than they were is a fundamental presupposition which yields much of the conclusions under review here. The first generation of Christians cannot be cut off from all subsequent generations, as though they lived in a different dispensation than we do today. We mustn't let the external particulars of history turn us away from the fact that the gospel was being preached, and that the tensions they faced in their day are precisely those we feel in ours. As noted above, Paul wrote that if any was in Christ, they were already a new creation -- well before AD70. Instead of seeing the New Testament as revealing the way things were, I believe it reveals the way things are.

It is my hope with the latest direction of the website that partial preterism can be employed as the primary means of reaching the truth of shadow and substance. Though full preterism is a bit more precise with the external fulfillments of prophecy (by not looking the future history for end-times fulfillment) whatever advantage this may provide is more than nullified by the vast amounts of damaging doctrines reached as a result of embracing its fundamental conclusions.
Though many might get upset with me characterizing full preterism as dangerous, it is an issue that must be addressed squarely and honestly. Is it dangerous to one's faith to say that the Holy Spirit is no longer for today, having been marginalized by the parousia of Christ? Absolutely. It is an overthrow of people's faith to claim that faith itself is not for today, having been superseded by sight? Certainly. Is it destructive to teach that the gospel is not for today as many do, having been a specific message to the Jews of the approach of the kingdom? Without question. (I am in the process of archiving the many different Full Preterist definitions of "hyper-preterism")
Obviously, those who embrace the full preterist view have no desire to believe or propagate dangerous doctrine. However, it is not enough to say this, while icily dismissing critical commentaries which come out against the view as being "nothing that we haven't heard before." Considering the seriousness of the charges (and I hope also considering the credibility of the source), dogmatism and self-certainty should be set aside in favor of a sober and humble approach.
Those who find themselves agitated at the content of this letter have missed my sincere call for healing and growth. I am not demanding that anyone else see things the way I do -- and I am certainly not expecting others to repent of full preterism, as I have been led. I would hope that a serious re-evaluation be considered, at least. And this reflection need not be based solely upon the points that I have presented, but should also include whatever nagging heart feelings may have always been around, yet which have been dominated and overthrown by an unhealthy certainty of mind.
This study is the result of more than a decade of intense study on the doctrines of all forms of Preterism. I pray that it has been helpful to you in some way.
mercy and truth,