I've just come across a nicely-written article, by Sam Frost, that I'm posting for lack of anything better to say myself.
Brian McLaren recently said that the future of the world depends on the eschatology of US Christians. That
may be stretching the case, but it certainly admits the relevance of the kind of doctrines that can often seem more irrelevant. [The more I think about it, the more I suspect that Brian's is on the ball.]
If you're at all interested in this topic, particularly in how they might be reframed for a better world, you just have to check out my friend Kevin's book: This Book will Change your World.
Anyway, if you want to know about the sort of exegetical work that would provide the foundations to books like Kevin's read on...
Jesus walks out from the temple area to the Mount of Olives. He sits down, and his disciples “marvel” at the buildings that are facing them, particularly pointing out the grandeur of the temple itself (a description of this wonder of the world can be found in Josephus’ Jewish Wars. He gave us an eyewitness account of the very same buildings). Jesus then says, “See all these buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another stone.”
This prompts, naturally, a question. So, the disciples come to him and say, “When, Lord, when will this be? When is your royal-arrival (parousia in Greek) going to be? When will the end of the age happen?”
Stop right here. Notice the flow of conversation. “Not one stone will be left upon another” to “When is the end”? The “end” of what? What had Jesus just said that would prompt a question about the end? If the temple “stones” will topple, is that an “end” of the temple? Would something come to an “end”?
Notice also that the royal-arrival of Messiah is connected to the end directly. The obvious thing for the reader to consider is that the end, the toppling of the buildings, and the royal-arrival of the son of man are all connected together. But, some have not accepted this. For them, the “end of the age” and the “parousia” are separated by thousands of years from the toppling of the stones.
Let us ask if the disciples had any Old Testament precedent lumping all these things together. Zechariah 14 gives us just such a picture. In that chapter, Zechariah sees the destruction of Jerusalem (14:1-2). Then, the Lord would “fight against the nations” and his feet would stand on the Mount of Olives (14:3, 4).
Make no mistake that Jesus purposely chose the Mount of Olives to deliver this discourse. Then, “The Lord would come with all his holy angels” (14:5b). This is echoed previously in Matthew’s story (16:27, 28). In that day the Lord would be “king over the whole earth” (14:9).
And Jerusalem, previously ransacked and destroyed (vv. 1-3) is now “raised up and remains in its place” (14:10), which echoes Isaiah 2.1 ff. Therefore, in this single passage, Jerusalem is destroyed, ransacked, the Lord “comes” with his “angels” and raises up a glorious Jerusalem unlike ever before (14:10, 11). It will “never again be destroyed” (14:11).
This is the anticipated “end of the age.” It is the end of the time of the Gentiles ruling and ransacking Jerusalem. Jerusalem would be ransacked one more time, and after this, the Lord would come in glory with his holy angels and Jerusalem would be “raised up” never to again be destroyed.
When, asked the disciples, would this holy moment occur? When will you, Jesus, visit in royalty and establish Jerusalem, your holy city forever, so that it will not ever again be destroyed? When?
We can see that in this, and in many other passages, that what lies behind the disciples question was rooted in the prophets. They asked these questions for a reason. When will Israel’s deliverance occur? That is the question they were asking. The failure of church eschatology since the time of the apostolic fathers is to miss this question from the standpoint of the subjection to slavery under the old covenant (Romans 8:15).
Let us hear the apostle Peter, a Jew under the old covenant, make my point. “Now, why do you Jews test God by putting on the necks of the Gentile disciples a yoke that neither we Jews, nor our patriarchs have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10).
And Paul, “All those who rely on observing the torah (the Law of Moses) are under a curse” (Galatians 3: 10). Again, “For the Sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the torah*s commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment of the torah of Moses put me to death” (Romans 7.11).
Again, Paul wrote, “Now if the ministry of the death (Paul, as customary, uses the article), which was engraved on letters of stone (clearly the torah of Moses), came with glory . . . how much more will the ministry of the Spirit be in glory?” (2 Corinthians 3:7, 8).
Note that Paul is contrasting the ministry of the death with the ministry of the Spirit. These are the aspects of two covenants. One was oppressive in order to reveal the “exceedingly sinfulness of sin” (Romans 7:13; 5:20), and to “hold Israel prisoners by the torah of Moses, locked up until the faith should be revealed” (Galatians 3 23).
The Law of Moses, and the covenant Moses made with the nation of Israel condemned Israel (2 Corinthians 3:9), and was showing that by their condemnation “the whole world” was held prisoner. If the whole world is condemned, and if God's nation whom he chose out of all the other nations was condemned, then how is man to be delivered from his sins? How is he to be rescued from a body of the death (Romans 7:24) which Paul finds collectively composed in Adam (Romans 5:12-ff)?
Mankind must enter a “spiritual body” in order to bear the image of the spiritual man, Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:45, 46). The singular “body of death” of all mankind in Adam must die in order to be made alive. For Paul, this “death” and “life” are rooted in the two covenants that define the death and the life!
The point that should be loud and clear here is that for the disciples who asked their Lord “when” is rooted in the “hope of Israel” for “deliverance” from bondage to decay into the glorious liberty that comes through the reconcilation with God, wherein He becomes Israel and the world*s peace, and all sins are forgiven, not being imputed (2 Corinthians 5:17 ff.).
This is rooted, in turn, in the complete dissolution of the very “administration” of “the death” so that the “administration of the life” can come into its fullest capacity. If the administration of the death has not yet been fully dissolved, then every Christian is still very much under bondage to the sin, the death, and the law.
Some will say, “Well, spiritually, we are free, but physically we will be set free.” But, this reverses the very order Paul gave “First the physical, then the spiritual” (I Corinthians 15:46). Christian traditional eschatology says this: “First the physical, then the spiritual, then, finally, the physical.” Preterists stop at the spiritual with Paul. We are not awaiting any physical redemption whatsoever.
One covenant means death and condemnation (that is, the natural or physical). The new covenant means life and liberty in the Spirit (that is, the spiritual). The temple, the destruction of Jerusalem in Zechariah 14 can only mean that a spiritual new Jerusalem that can never be destroyed will certainly be inaugurated.
If the old falls, then the new must come according to prophecy, and if the new comes in which God is Lord of all, then Israel has finally been redeemed and forgiven of all her sins once and for all, for the new Jerusalem shall never, ever, ever again be destroyed.
“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” The context of this imperative to store up treasure in heaven is Matthew 5-7. There, Jesus is speaking of “the kingdom of heaven” (5:3, 10).
Why was it destroyed in the past? Why was Shiloh during the reign of Samuel the Judge expelled from God*s presence? Sin Why was the temple crushed under the Babylonians? Sin.
Where did this sin come from? According to Paul it came from “the commandment (the law) that was supposed to bring life, but instead brought death. The law was the “power of the sin” (1 Corinthians 15:56). The “letters engraved in stones” was the “power of the sin” that lead to the “condemnation” of Israel, and indeed, revealed the wrath of God against all mankind.
Therefore, if the temple’s destruction was the result of the sin, which was the result of the law being given, then what can it mean that the temple in Jerusalem shall never, ever be destroyed again? It means only one thin: her sins are NO LONGER IMPUTED because they have been TAKEN AWAY in Christ, and the condemnation that came through the Law has been entirely REMOVED. When, Lord, the disciples asked, when will THIS time come?
Where is the location of this Jerusalem? It cannot be earthly Jerusalem. Paul said the “now Jerusalem” (Jerusalem still standing in his day) is “in bondage with her children.” Also, “throw out the bondwoman with her children, for they shall NEVER inherit the promise* (Galatians 4:30). If the bondwoman refers to “Jerusalem now” in Paul’s day, then clearly Jerusalem “below” cannot be the recipient of the “promised inheritance.” But, Paul mentions another Jerusalem. The “Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4: 26, Hebrews 12:22 ff).
The final destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 told the whole world:
Jesus is my son, hear ye him. Sacrifices and offerings I am not pleased with, but with obedience to my voice. In the past, I spoke through Moses and the prophets. In the last clays I spoke through my son. It is finished. Sin has been atoned for. Sacrifices are no longer needed. My son carried out my plan to redeem the lost and reconcile the world apart from the law which brought death. My son entered into the true tabernacle in heaven, and cleansed the heavens with his own blood, making a new heaven in which all who believe can enter boldly into my very holy of holies, which could not happen before my son came. It*s a new heavens and a new land of promise - a heavenly land.
For anyone who's interested, I wouldn't really call myself a "preterist" (full or otherwise), but I won't get into all that. Not right now.