Response To Joel McDurmon's Article "The Passing Away of Heaven and Earth in Revelation 20:11 AND 20:1” Part 1 – 2 Peter 3

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By: Michael J. Sullivan
We once again turn our attention to the arbitrary hermeneutics of Partial Preterism (PP) in examining an article produced by American Vision’s Joel McDurmon as to why he feels the de-creation of Revelation 20:11 is referring to a future fulfillment of planet earth, whereas 21:1ff. is a spiritual fulfillment referring to a covenantal transition taking place in AD 70.[1] Since in this article McDurmon cites and bids us to read two of his articles on 2 Peter 3, this is where we too will begin – making this a 2 or 3 part series in response. Perhaps the PP confusion over 2 Peter 3 is a good starting point in examining their arbitrary hermeneutics:
· If 2 Peter 3 should be interpreted within the AD 70 contextual flow that 1 Peter and 2 Peter 1-2 give it, shouldn’t this approach be used in Revelation 20:10-15? What of the AD 70 contextual flow of fulfillment in chapters 1-19 leading into chapter 20 or the ones PP give of 21-22 following it? What of the internal parallels between Revelation 16 and 20? Apparently “exegesis” stops with Revelation 20:10-15 for the PP.
· If 2 Peter 3 should be paralleled to Matthew 24-25, why can’t Revelation 20:10-15?
· If 2 Peter 3, Matthew 24:35 and Revelation 21-22 can use Genesis 1 and Isaiah 65 material to be referring to an AD 70 fulfillment or transition between OC and NC worlds/creations, why can’t Revelation 20:11ff.?
· If the “X” of the “elements” of the “world” or “heaven and earth” of (2 Peter 3) is “ONLY” referring to the Old Covenant world and not the planet earth, how does Peter’s prediction also get changed to be referring to the LITERAL elements of the planet earth at the end of history?
· And closely associated with the previous point — how can PP claim Dispensationalists and Amillennialists can’t come to Matthew 24 or the majority of the book of Revelation and state AD 70 was only a “typological” “partial” “mixed” “already not yet” kind of fulfillment, when PP turn around and have to resort to using the same lingo in debating FP? And do many know what many Postmillennialist see as progressively being fulfilled in a literal way in Isaiah 65? Curious indeed.
2 Peter 3:1-15
In McDurmon’s first article The Promise of His Appearing[2] we immediately see two hermeneutical approaches to developing an AD 70 fulfillment for 2 Peter 3. The first, is to parallel eschatological material from 1 and 2 Peter with Matthew 24’s AD 70 “this generation” time frame. The second, is to show how the contextual AD 70 flow of an imminent persecution, appearing of Christ, salvation and judgment from 1 Peter and 2 Peter 1-2 naturally flows into 2 Peter 3. This of course begs the question as to why this hermeneutical approach is not valid when we approach Revelation 20:10-15?
McDurmon points out that 1 and 2 Peter is written to a first century audience who were currently undergoing persecution and tribulation for a “little while” but were comforted by the hope and assurance of an imminent appearing of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:6-7). Joel immediately goes to Matthew 24 to establish that this persecution, tribulation and coming of the Lord is what was predicted by Jesus to take place in their “this generation” (Matt. 24:34).
1 Peter and Matthew 24 Parallels:
· Matthew 24:9-30 = 1 Peter 1:6-7 – First century persecutions, tribulations and sufferings.
Likewise, the book of Revelation was written to 7 first century churches in Asia (Rev. 1-3) who were going through persecution and tribulation but comforted with the promise of an imminent coming of the Lord. These promises are connected to the rewards of an imminent New Creation in Revelation 20-22. These persecutions and trials were predicted in Matthew 24 as well.
Revelation 20:11-15 and Matthew 24 Parallels:
· Matthew 24:9-30, 34 = Revelation 1-3ff. — Fist century persecutions, tribulations and sufferings.
McDurmon also points out that 2 Peter in general, but Peter 3:1 specifically, is written in “remembrance” of what was written about the imminent salvation and judgment which was previously addressed in his first letter,
“…the entire letter of 2 Peter is an exhortation to the same group addressed in the first letter during this same interim time period to continue trusting what they have been previously taught from the prophets, apostles, and especially the promises of Jesus. Peter “reminded” the group of the first message: “remembrance” is his goal in 2 Peter 1:12, 13, and 15, and 3:1. They were to hold to what had been promised and not to be deceived by false prophets and “scoffers” who had in the meantime (between letters) come among them. In both letters, therefore, patience is the key message—and patience toward the same goal and for the same reason.”
McDurmon is correct that Peter’s goal is to “remind” his audience of what he to them in his first letter and that the judgment of the false prophets and teachers of 2 Peter 2 flows well into the judgment of the scoffers in chapter 3. There is a contextual flow leading us into 2 Peter 3 — God was “ready to judge the living and dead” and therefore “the end of all things was at hand” (1 Pet. 4:5-7). It was “THE time” for “THE judgment” (1 Pet. 4:17). God was holding fallen angels and the souls of men for this first century imminent “judgment” or “day of judgment” (2 Pet. 2:4, 9). American Vision’s Gary DeMar along with McDurmon do not believe Matthew 24-25 can be divided into two comings of Jesus and thus two judgments, therefore at the coming of the Son of Man in the judgment of AD 70, the souls of men along with Satan and his angels went away into “eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:31-46).
· Matthew 25:31-46 = 1 Peter 4:4-7, 17/2 Peter 2:4, 9/2 Peter 3
Revelation 20:10-15 The genre of recapitulation found in the book of Revelation served as a memory tool for the first century readers and listeners of the book of Revelation. We will revisit the recapitulation theme throughout the book of Revelation which helps us interpret the imminent time frame of Revelation 20:11-15 later on in part 2 of this series. But I did want to emphasize something very important in that just as McDurmon points out 2 Peter 3 cannot exegetically be isolated from the imminent AD 70 time frame concerning the salvation and judgment throughout the contextual flow of 1 Peter—2 Peter 1-2 leading into 2 Peter 3; Revelation 20:10-15 cannot exegetically be isolated from the imminent AD 70 time frame concerning the salvation and judgment throughout the contextual flow of chapters 1-19 leading into chapter 20 or the imminent AD 70 fulfillments of chapters 21-22! We will be addressing this more in part 2 when we go through the proper hermeneutical and exegetical steps of Revelation 20:10-15 that McDurmon set on the shelf when he wrote that article.
Revelation 20:10-15 Is no different than the teaching of 1 and 2 Peter or that of Jesus in Matthew 24-25 concerning a first century imminent judgment of Satan and his angles along with “the dead.” As usual PP and American Vision specifically, contradict their own hermeneutics and choose to ignore the creeds and the analogy of Scripture that the vast majority of reformed commentators have made here:
Matthew 25:31-46 = Revelation 20:10-15
1) Matthew 25:31=Revelation 20:11 — Christ/God on the Throne to Judge.
2) Matthew 24:29, 35=Revelation 20:11 — Heaven and Earth pass/flee.
3) Matthew 25:31/Matthew 16:27=Revelation 20:12 — “all men” “each person” “all Nations” “the rest of the dead” “small and great “according to what they have done.”
4) Matthew 25:41-46=Revelation 20:10, 14-15 — Wicked along with the Devil thrown into Lake of Fire for eternal punishment.
And we must not forget that the reception of the glorious New Creation at the imminent appearing of Jesus in 2 Peter 3 is a “reminder” of what Peter taught previously — in that they were going to partake in the “glory about to be revealed” and thus be rewarded with the “crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:1, 4YLT). In Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24-25 this is equivalent to the faithful servant being rewarded with having charge over his Master’s “possessions” and sharing in His Master’s “happiness” or being rewarded with “eternal life” (Matt. 24:47; 25:19-23, 46). For PP such as Kenneth Gentry and others, the “long time” of (Matt. 24:48; 25:5, 19) and coming of the Son of Man in (Matt. 25:31) is a description of the millennium period and the final Second Coming of Jesus. And yet DeMar and McDurmon posit this “long time” to be within the lifetime and generation of the person in the parable and thus the lifetimes and “this generation” of Jesus’ audience.[3] Once again, both the PPism of Gentry and that of DeMar “lead us to FPism.”
· Matthew 24:47; 25:19-23, 46 = 1 Peter 5:1, 4/2 Pet. 3
Revelation 20:10-15 The first century church at Smyrna was promised that if they endured persecution, that they too would receive “the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). This reward (along with all of the others described for us in chapters 1-3) would also be received at the imminent Second Coming of Jesus – described as Him coming as “a Thief” (Rev. 3:3, 16:15). In the book of Revelation, the millennium, resurrection and judgment of Revelation 20 is FOLLOWED by the rewarding of the New Creation at Christ’s imminent Second Coming (cf. Rev. 20-22:6-7, 10-12, 20). The first century church received the “crown of life” because their names were written in “the book of life” (Rev. 20:12)! The same first century audience being rewarded with crowns in connection with a first century judgment and Christ coming/appearing as a “Thief,” are the same event.
· Matthew 24:47; 25:19-23, 46 = Revelation 2:10/3:3/16:15/20:12—22:10-12.
Another parallel which McDurmon makes is between Jesus’ teaching concerning His appearing in the judgment of AD 70 using the illustration of what took place in Noah’s day in Luke 17 = 2 Peter 3. Perhaps another observation may be that the realm of fulfillment of the “salvation” which was coming in the New Creation would be “within” or the “salvation of the soul”:
· Luke 17:20-21/21:27-31 = 1 Peter 1:6-9/2 Peter 1:11/2 Peter 3:10-13
McDurmon seems to recognize that the salvation that came from Jesus’ parousia at the end of the OC age in Matthew 24 was more than a physical flight from Jerusalem, but a salvation that affected the soul,
“Not only were they saved in soul, but they mostly fled Jerusalem before the Roman siege.”[4] And Gentry believes that at the Lord’s return in AD 70 the absence of the sea in Revelation 21:1 has to do with “peace within.”[5] This is consistent with when the earth and sky flee, the curse and condemning force of “the [spiritual] death” that came through Adam was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 22:14). This is what produces true peace and reconciliation with God and His presence in the New Creation. The book of Revelation never describes a judgment or resurrection of fleshly bodies at the end of history. Rather, it is about the salvation and vindication/judgment for the souls of men and their peace with God in the New Creation.
Let’s now continue in examining McDurmon’s hermeneutical approach in 2 Peter 3 in his article:
New Creation, Adorned[6] Once again Joel appeals to Matthew 24 to interpret and give 2 Peter a Preterist interpretation:
We have established a close connection between Peter’s letters and Jesus’ eschatological predictions. This is particularly true of Matthew 24:34—“this generation”—as we saw. In this context, too, we should emphasize Jesus’ very next words in Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” These are obviously connected to the same predictions of Jesus. They also correlate directly to Peter’s “new heavens and a new earth.”
But what did Jesus mean “heaven and earth will pass away”? On the surface, this appears to be merely some kind of figure of speech to emphasize the invincibility of God’s Word compared to even the entire universe; but we should rethink this. Is it not the case, rather, that it is directly connected to the idea of a new heaven and earth about to come in the same time frame as the destruction Jesus just predicted. Indeed, seen from this viewpoint, Jesus was promising the passing of the present heaven and earth and the creation of a new heaven and earth in the lifetime of those listening to Him. And this is exactly the issue which Peter takes up in 2 Peter 3.
This connection is not only thematic, but literary also. Jesus’ word for “pass away” [pareleusetai] is repeated by Peter: “the heavens will pass away [pareleusontai] with a roar.” Peter is again applying the teaching of Jesus for his audience.
And again,
Now the ultimate symbol of the Old Covenant administration—the “present heavens and earth” of 2 Peter 3—was the Jerusalem Temple. Jesus had clearly predicted it would be destroyed, not one block left upon another (Matt. 24:2). James Jordan and Peter Leithart argue that the Temple was a symbolic “creation” of God, an image of “the heavens and the earth,” and I tend to agree.[1] This is why the tabernacle/temple was adorned with beasts, lights, trees, fruit, a sea, etc., and separated from the other heavens by a ceiling (firmament), while a veil (again, a firmament) separated God’s presence in the Holy of Holies from everything else. While I do not have the time to develop this completely, let it suffice to say that God was about to destroy this particular heavens and earth literally, and by extension, the entire covenant world-order associated with it.
Therefore, according to McDurmon:
· Matthew 24:35 = 2 Peter 3:10-13
Like FP and following in the reformed PP tradition of men such as John Owen and John Lightfoot, McDurmon also appeals to the use of the Greek word stoicheia “elements”:
…the translation “heavenly bodies” is not very supportable here anyway. Both times this phrase appears the Greek word is stoicheia, “basics” or “principles.” The KJV actually went with “elements,” but even this is not quite right if understood as physical elements, earthly elements. In the New Testament, the word is used to refer to principles of the covenant order, often of the Old Testament, to which the people should not want to return (Gal. 4:3, 9; Col. 2:8, 20; cf. Heb. 5:12). In one place, a group of Jews uses the verb form specifically to direct Paul to follow Old Covenant rituals (Acts 21:24). In other places, the verb form refers to a basic discipline of living righteously, by the faith, or by the Spirit (Phil. 3:16; Gal. 5:25; 6:16; Rom. 4:12). This is about all the biblical direction we get, and none of it refers to the heavenly bodies or to the physical elements of the world, earth, heavens, or universe. It seems the consistent theme throughout the biblical usage is that of basic principles of religion. Thus it seems that the “heavenly bodies” mentioned in 2 Peter 3 should probably be translated something like the KJV, but understood as a reference to the elements of the Old Covenant order. God was not about to nuke the stars, but He was about to destroy the Old Covenant Temple with all of its special rules, rituals, rites, vessels, and paraphernalia. These basic elements—which Paul calls stoicheia tou kosmou (“elements of the kosmos”)—would be no more.
And let’s again quote and reference that tradition here:
John Owen writes of 2 Peter 3:
“…this is a prophecy of gospel times ONLY; and that the planting of these new heavens is NOTHING BUT the creation of gospel ordinances, to endure forever. The same thing is so expressed, Heb. Xii. 26-28. Let others mock at the threats of Christ’s coming. – he will come, he will not tarry; and then the heavens and earth that God himself planted, – the sun, moon, stars OF THE JUDAICAL POLITY AND CHURCH, – the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinacy against the Lord Christ, – shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed. This, we know, shall be the end of these things, and that shortly.’”[7] And John Lightfoot agrees:
“‘The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,’ &c. Compare this with Deut. 32:22, Heb. 12:26: and observe that by elements are understood the Mosaic elements, Gal. 4:9, Col. 2:20: and you will not doubt see that Peter speaks ONLY OF THE CONFLAGRATION OF JERUSALEM, the destruction of the nation, and the abolishing the dispensation of Moses.”[8] But PP such as Gentry getting nervous and realizing he needs to somehow get in line with the reformed confessions contradicts Owen and Lightfoot stating:
The destruction of the heavens and the earth that he envisions involves the current material creation. Hence, it refers to the distant consummation and not the approaching AD 70 conflagration, despite certain similarities between the two events (since one is the type of the other). Peter expressly refers to the material creation order: “from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4; cf. Ge 1:1); “by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water” (3:5; cf. Ge 1:2, 9 [n. 112- Ps 33:6-7, Ps 32:6-7].” “He is not contemplating the destruction of the old Jewish order in AD 70, but the material heavens and earth at the second advent.”
“Here Peter is obviously borrowing terminology from Isaiah 65:17 (which speaks of a spiritual reality, see ch. 14). Yet as an inspired apostle he expands on that truth, looking to the ultimate outcome of the spiritual new heavens and earth in an eternal new heavens and earth.”[9] This is “fuzzy eschatology” and reasoning indeed since everyone and their grandmother knows John in Revelation 21:1ff is drawing From Genesis 1-3 and Isaiah 65 and yet there Gentry believes the imminent time texts demands that the first heavens and earth passing away is Israel’s world or the OC world passing in AD 70 giving way to the NC heaven and earth.
McDurmon admits that Peter is using Genesis 1 material but states,
The long story short, here, is that God’s covenantal judgments—however extensive and severe—at different times can delineate different “worlds” before and after, as well as different “heavens and earths” before and after, while not necessarily being understood as literally as possible.” “…Thus there are multiple applications of “world” and of “heavens and earth” which we ignore at our peril.
So according to McDurmon, Gentry has “ignored” the context of 1 Peter and 2 Peter 1-2 (along with Matthew 24) and that although Peter is referring to Genesis 1 material in 2 Peter 3, it is “not necessarily being understood as literally as possible.” Gentry ignores these exegetical arguments to his “peril” in 2 Peter 3. I will argue later on that Mr. McDurmon ignores his own arguments/hermeneutics in Revelation 20:11 and Romans 8:18-23 at his own “peril” as well.
And if you weren’t confused already between reading McDurmon and Gentry on why or why not 2 Peter 3 was fulfilled in AD 70 in light of references being made to Genesis 1 and Isaiah 65, McDurmon goes on:
Most commentators make the connection between this passage and Isaiah 65:17: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” (Isa. 65:17). Isaiah’s description which follows of this new heavens and new earth includes the well-kown references to extra-long age (someone dying at 100 years is just a child and considered accursed for living so briefly) and changes in the nature of deadly beasts: “’The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,’ says the LORD” (Isa. 65:25).
The exact phrase appears again in Isaiah 66:22, and later in the New Testament in Revelation 21:1. Again, I must shorten this study more than I would like:
While 2 Peter 3:13 is definitely related thematically to Isaiah 65, it is a mistake to think that there is an exclusive relationship between the Isaiah passage and any New Testament usage, as if Isaiah were giving a unique prophecy of a unique event in the future, and then Peter and John were announcing the fulfillment of that one predicted event on their horizon (or at any time in the future). It is not that Isaiah announced “X,” and that Peter and John were saying “the time has come for X,” after which time “X” is done and gone. Rather, both texts are partaking of a much larger theological genre which is replayed many times throughout Scripture, and which reappears particularly prominently in these passages. This is to say that while Isaiah 65 is certainly a backdrop to the New Testament references to a new heavens and new earth, it is not the ultimate basis of it.
That ultimate basis is found in Genesis 1.
All this talk of Peter allegedly not saying what he is — that Isaiah 65 “X” is going to be completely fulfilled in an “the end of all things is at hand” time frame, reminds me of Dispensationalists claiming that Peter in Acts 2:16 really wasn’t saying Joel 2 was being fulfilled in his lifetime. According to Dispensationalists such as Merrill F. Unger, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel…” should be understood,
“Peter’s phraseology “this is that” means nothing more than “this is [an illustration of that] which was spoken by the prophet Joel. …The reference is solely in an illustrative sense to Jewish listeners at Pentecost. Fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy is still future and awaits Christ’s second coming in glory and a copious spiritual outpouring ushering in kingdom blessing (cf. Zech. 12:10-13:1; Acts 1:6, 7).[10] Since McDurmon understands that 1 Peter 1:4-12, 4:7 is to flow into 2 Peter 3, the “salvation” and “inheritance” contained in the OT “Prophets” which were “ready to be reveled” in the “last time” was that of which Isaiah 65 predicted. There is no mention that the salvation and inheritance of the New Creation of Isaiah 65 was about to be fulfilled in AD 70 only in a “typological,” “thematic,” “illustrative,” “already not yet” way awaiting another “ultimate” “expanded” physical manifestation fulfillment thousands or millions of years away.
This is interesting because PP can’t stand it when Dispensationalists or Amillennialists approach Matthew 24 or the book of Revelation and dismiss their PP AD 70 “fulfillments” by insinuating AD 70 was merely “typological” and “illustrative” of a much greater eschaton for national Israel to be realized in the near future etc…
Let me demonstrate and cite Gary DeMar on double or multiple fulfillments of Matthew 24 (this is taken from Gary’s article, “The Olivet Discourse: The Test of Time” [bold & underline emphasis mine):
“There are still others who take a “double fulfillment” approach. While Jesus is describing events related to the generation alive in His day, the argument is made that He also has in mind a future generation where the same events will happen again. While this approach is appealing, it has innumerable interpretive problems, the most serious being how does anyone know what is being doubly fulfilled if a passage does not say there will be another fulfillment, how to distinguish what prophecies do not fall into the category of double fulfillment, and that there is no evidence from Scripture itself that there have been double fulfillments. The following is taken from “Christ’s Prophecy (Matt. xxiv.) of the Destruction of Jerusalem, and of His Second Coming” and appeared in the Theological and Literary Journal (July 1857-April 1858)::
There are no prophecies in which the event directly and expressly foreshown, is set forth as being also a representative of still another event of a different nature. Of the numerous prophecies that are interpreted in the sacred writings, and that are represented as fulfilled in occurrences that have taken place, there are none that are exhibited by the explanation of their meaning as filling such a double office. The allegorization of the sacred word in that manner, is altogether unauthorized and arbitrary, and occupies itself wholly in the invention of imaginary and false senses.
Either the Olivet Discourse applies to a generation located in the distant future from the time the gospel writers composed the Olivet Discourse or to the generation to whom Jesus was speaking; it can’t be a little bit of both. As we will see, the interpretation of the Olivet Discourse in any of the synoptic gospels does not allow for a mixed approach, a double fulfillment, or even a future completion. Matthew 24:34 won’t allow for it: “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (also see Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32).”
For Gary DeMar and Joel McDurmon, the “heaven and earth” of (Matt. 5:17-18/Matt. 24:29, 35/Rev. 21:1) is Israel’s Old Covenant World which passed away in AD 70 – because the context or imminent time texts demand this. But Gary clearly believes from his citation, that Matthew 24 will not allow for a “mixed approach” or even “future completion” — which includes Matt. 24:29, 35. It is difficult to watch PP proclaim out of both sides of their mouths that Isaiah 65 is the OT source for Matthew 24:35=2 Peter 3:10-13=Rev.21:1ff. and that these passages in essence do and do not have “typological” and “mixed approaches” to fulfillment or do or do not demand a “future completion” beyond AD 70. And is it or is it not right to come to Matthew 24:29, 35 and claim it’s fulfillment happened in AD 70 but it is “…representative of still another event of a different nature [the end/transformation of planet earth]?”
And Gentry in his debate over the book of Revelation, FOUR VIEWS ON THE BOOK OF REVELATION, (Grand Rapids: MI, Zondervan, 1998), 44 and in an article from his web site does not like it when individuals claim his Revelation 1-19, 21-22 fulfillments have “double fulfillments.” Or he objects to the notion that his AD 70 fulfillments were merely a “good starting place” that did not actually “fill the complete expectation” of the prophetic material in question.
“Some Christians see the strength of the preterist analysis of Revelation. They recognize that it is difficult to get around Revelation’s opening and closely comments regarding the temporal nearness of its prophecies. After all, Revelation 1:1 states rather clearly:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place.
And Revelation 22:6 closes the book on the same note:
These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.
Since these statements are so clear and compelling, some believers attempt an end-run around them. They agree that Revelation does in fact point to events that were to occur in John’s lifetime. But then they argue that these events can have double-fulfillment, so that they occur originally in the first century, but will occur again toward the end. For instance, Marvin Pate holds that Revelation “does not imply that Nero filled the complete expectation of the coming antichrist, but, as a precursor to such, he is certainly a good starting place.”1
Three difficulties plague this type of response:
Lack of Exegetical Warrant
First, there is no exegetical warrant for double-fulfillment in Revelation. The statement is pure theological assertion. What is more, this approach not only empties John’s express declarations of meaning (“these things must shortly come to pass“), but it contravenes a specific angelic directive contrasting John’s responsibility to Daniel’s. An angel commands Daniel to “seal up” his prophecy for later times (Dan. 12:4), but commands John (who lives in “the last hour,” 1 John 2:18) to “not seal the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is at hand” (Rev. 22:10).
Stretching of Intellectual
Second, the double-fulfillment argument requires us to believe that the many specific events, things, and personages of Revelation will appear repeatedly on the scene of earth history. In the same order? In the same geographic regions? With continual groupings of 144,000 being sealed? With constant beasts designated by the same number 666? On and on I could go. For example, Pate suggests that “the signs of the times began with Jesus and his generation,” and history witnesses “the coming intensification and culmination of those signs of the times” which begin in the first century.2 Such a position seems to stretch credulity to the breaking point.
The already/not yet theological principle, though valid and widely accepted by evangelicals, cannot govern whole, vast, complex works such as Revelation. The already/not yet principle applies to unitary, simple constructs: the kingdom, salvation, new creation, and so forth. The principle snaps apart when we stretch it over so vast a work as Revelation. Furthermore, how can this principle explain the simultaneous operation in one book of such allegedly global themes operating as judgment (Rev. 6-19) and blessing (Rev. 20-22)? Pate’s use of this principle to explain Revelation seems more hopeful than helpful.3″
So per Gentry, Revelation 21:1ff. was fulfilled kind of sort of in AD 70, but it’s fulfillment was only a “good starting place” that did not actually “fill the complete expectation” of Genesis 1-3/Isaiah 65? And where is the “exegetical warrant” in Matthew 24, 2 Peter 3 or Revelation 21 to give these passages “typological” or “expanded” meanings? Are these not “theological assertions” they are reading into the texts – no more than other futurist systems do? The problem for Gentry is that the NT teaches that the “not yet” to “kingdom,” “salvation” and “new creation” promises would be fulfilled in the first century (Luke 21:27-31; 1 Romans 13:11-12; Peter 1:4-12/2 Peter 3). Therefore, Gentry has to go to passages the Church has traditionally seen as teaching “the not yet” of eschatology – referring to the final Second Coming of Jesus, and then interpose or place ANOTHER “already not yet” period upon the existing “not yet” promises. McDurmon is more consistent than Gentry in that he takes the end of “this age” (as the OC age) and “age to come” (as the NC age) in (Matthew 13:39-43) as having transitioned in AD 70 along with the passing and arrival of the heaven and earth in Matthew 24, 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21. The reformed creeds place this “not yet” transition between “this age” and the “age to come” (or of 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21) at the end of history.
And who is Gentry to try and limit the “already and not yet” concept to HIS futuristic camp’s concept of salvation, the kingdom and new creation promises? We’re not these promises given to national Israel through a literal temple, land, Jerusalem, etc…? And Gentry in his “expanded” interpretation of 2 Peter 3 has claimed that AD 70 was “typological.” If it was, then why can’t the Dispensational and Amillennial systems approach and give Matthew 24 (the signs, Jerusalem, the Temple, etc…) and other NT PP prophetic texts their versions of “typological” “mixed” and “already and not yet” future fulfillment’s?!? If Gentry and McDurmon can, why can’t they? After all PPism has their own version of TWO comings of the Lord, TWO judgments and resurrections for the living and dead, etc… Kind of hard for Gentry and other PP to try and take the speck out of the eye of Dispensationalists who see double in these areas, when Gentry won’t take the plank out his own eye which is causing a far worse case of seeing and reading double vision into NT eschatology.
Before concluding I would like to add two brief meditations in the area of hermeneutics and fulfillments when reading PP. The first, is to note that McDurmon in the comments section of his article on Revelation 20:11 and 21:1 states that he does not believe Revelation 21:1 and Isaiah 65 have been “fulfilled.” Why? Well, since Joel McDurmon is a Postmillennialist he believes the long ages and the wolf lying with the lamb and the lion eating straw with the ox in Isaiah 65 is literally and progressively being fulfilled. This is a part of the earth allegedly being progressively glorified or Paradise being restored before their third coming of Jesus takes place thousands or millions of years from now. Apparently if you see anyone living beyond 80 years old, this is evidence of this passage being progressively fulfilled. If you go to a circus and see lions being trained – this too is alleged evidence of this passage being fulfilled right before your very eyes. Wow. So we should begin seeing the biological change and evolution or de-evolution of carnivorous animals changing as the physical curse is gradually being lifted before Christ’s third appearing at the end of history. According to this bizarre hermeneutic, if we throw in a 90 year old naked lion tamer, we should all see the PP Postmillennial progressive fulfillment doctrine at work. This is right up there with the fictional hermeneutics of Dispensationalism and their perverting OT passages according to their “literal” fulfillments. The truth of course is that the long ages and the wolf lying down with the lamb type passages are poetically describing eternal life and the peace that the gospel brings to man in the Kingdom.
The second, is that when PP use parallels to Matthew 24 with NT texts they are trying to demonstrate have been fulfilled in AD 70 (ex. 1 Thess. 5=Matt. 24-25, 2 Thess. 2=Matt. 24, 2 Peter 3=Matt. 24), they expect their readers to consider it as exegesis, but when FP do it they are accused of using an over-simplified “code.” When these parallels destroy their creedal views of the new creation and resurrection (ex. 1 Thess. 4:15-17=Matt. 24:30-31; Rev. 20:10-15=Matt. 24-25:31-46) this is supposed to just be “similar language” or “patterns” but not the same event! But of course the classical reformed Amillennial view make the same parallels and identifications as we do in these passages — hardly something unique to a FP hermeneutic. The truth of course is that PPism and especially McDurmon and DeMar of American Vision have painted themselves into a corner and are trying to be as honest with the time texts and not get the rod from “Mother Church” at the same time. In doing so, they have to abandon their own hermeneutics and the analogy of Scripture.
My purpose in this article was to briefly examine and cite the confused and inconsistent hermeneutical standards and approaches within Partial Preterism in interpreting 2 Peter 3. But more specifically to address the more than inconsistent (hypocritical “seems” to me) hermeneutics that Joel McDurmon and Gary DeMar of American Vision employ in establishing AD 70 fulfillments of Matthew 24, 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21:1ff. and yet ignore “at their peril” in Revelation 20:10-15 and Romans 8:18-23 — with these two later texts being our focus in parts 2 and 3 of this series. In those articles we will allow the PP AD 70 fulfillment contextual flow of Revelation 1-19 and 21-22 to interpret Revelation 20:10-15. We will also use the PP and orthodox hermeneutic and parallel Revelation 20:10-15 with Matthew 24-25. We will also make parallels between Daniel 7 and 12 with Revelation 20:10-15 to establish an AD 70 fulfillment. In looking at the “creation” in Romans 8, we will take a look at DeMar’s admission that the Greek word mello in (Romans 8:18YLT) should be translated as “about to be revealed” and connect this imminent time frame with the “redemption” of Luke 21 and what DeMar has to say of a Preterist fulfillment of Romans 11 and 13:11-12.
As we will see, neither the OT nor the NT teaches an end/transformation of the planet earth. And since new creation and resurrection promises go hand in hand, the Bible does not teach a transformation of every human corpse that has ever lived at the “end of history” either. The NT teaches these OT promises of resurrection and new creation would be fulfilled at the end of the Old Covenant age and thus they were “about to be” or would “shortly” be fulfilled by AD 70. Partial Preterists such as McDurmon have gone “beyond what is written” and have sought (willingly or not) to make null and void the teachings of Christ and the NT in order to uphold his/their creedal traditions. Selah.
[1] Joel McDurmon, The ‘Passing’ Away of Heaven and Earth in Revelation 20:11 and 21:1
[2] Joel McDurmon, The Promise of His Appearing (2 Peter 3),
[3] Gary DeMar, Last Days MADNES Obsession of the Modern Church, (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1999), read the entire chapter pp. 189-201.
[4] Joel McDurmon, Jesus v. Jerusalem A COMMENTARY ON LUKE 9:51- 20;26, JESUS’ LAWSUIT AGAINST ISRAEL, (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, Inc., 2011), 49.
[5] Kenneth L. Gentry, FOUR VIEWS ON THE BOOK OF REVELATION, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 89.
[6] Joel McDurmon, New Creation, Adorned
[7] John Owen, The Works of John Owen (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Publications, 1972), Vol. 9, pp. 134-135. Emphasis MJS
[8] John Lightfoot, Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), Vol. 3, p. 452. Emphasis MJS.
[9] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, (Draper, VA: Apologetics Group, 2009), 305. Bold emphasis MJS.
[10] Merrill F. Unger, New Testament Teaching on Tongues (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1971), 26.