To the best of my knowledge, I was saved when I was nine years old. As a young Christian, I told my friends about Jesus, about His dying on the cross and rising from the dead for our sins, and about His imminent return to rapture His Church. I prayed for my friends daily so that they would not reject Christ, die, and go to hell; but I prayed for them with more urgency that they would not be left behind at the rapture, for it was going to happen any day.
In this way, eager expectation consumed me and compelled me to convince my peers that Christ is the Way. I zealously believed I was living in the last days of grace, and that time was almost over. I feared, hoped and expected that one day very, very soon I was going to be taken with the Church from the face of the planet, and all of my non-Christian friends were going to be left behind to experience a time of unparalleled distress and terror under the one-world government of the Antichrist. During his reign, I believed, he was going to torment and kill all who would be converted to Christ. This was why it was imperative for me to convert as many of my friends as I could. I didn't want them to be terrified, tortured, and put to death. I wanted them instead to be converted and raptured before "the Great Tribulation."
At the end of the Beast's 7-year reign, I believed, Christ was to return and set up His 1000-year in-the-flesh reign in Jerusalem with the Jews, during which time Satan was going to be bound in a bottomless pit. Then at the end of the 1,000 year reign of Christ, Satan was going to be allowed back for a short time, and then God was to completely destroy him. Finally, the universe was going to be literally perfect in every way forever.
Though I didn't know at the time what it was called, I believed in dispensational premillennialism. My favorite pieces of literature were a comic book version of Hal Lindsey's There's a New World Coming, by Spire Christian Comics, and a number of eschatological tracts by Chick Publications.
Years later, after graduating from high school during a time of personal spiritual turmoil, I began studying the Bible earnestly to test and prove my beliefs. To my dismay, I soon began to find that what I believed did not easily harmonize with what I read in the Bible.
I gradually began to abandon the eschatological emphasis in my life, and for all practical purposes abandoned my confidence in being able to understand eschatology, because it began to become a complex puzzle far beyond my ability to solve. During that time, I began to center my studies more in the doctrine of personal salvation; and indeed I had to, because I had come to the realization, partly from my study of prophecy, that the more I endeavored to rely on the Bible for my life, the more in it I found that I couldn't understand. And I knew that the more I didn't understand in the Bible, the more likely it was that I could be misunderstanding God's plan of salvation. By this means of reasoning, I began to doubt my salvation. If I didn't understand God's Word, how could I possibly know if I was living in accordance with it? So during that time I studied the Word diligently and fearfully to find what His plan of salvation really is.
After years of this struggle, God fulfilled his promise to me: I sought, and I found, and God began showing me His great and unsearchable things! As I began to understand the Bible more and more, I began to understand my own salvation. To my joy, I discovered that I had been saved by His grace, in the invisible working of His Spirit, through faith. Nothing I had ever said or done or prayed or thought had caused or contributed to my becoming a saved person. I found that Christ was my righteousness, and that any good work that I had done in Him was His work in me to beautify Himself. I discovered that our God is sovereign in every sense of the word. As the seasons change at His command, we do His good will. Our faith is of Him, we are one with Him, and He is our Father.
My view of salvation became more spiritual (fully Christ-centered) the more I read the Bible. Later, this spiritual view of how we're saved helped me to more readily accept preterism, as the two ways of believing go together: An altogether spiritual salvation into an altogether spiritual Kingdom, all by the sovereign working of God through the blood of Christ. Amen!
As I worked out my salvation in those days, I eventually began to re-evaluate prophetic passages anew, realizing that those passages contained the full meaning and end of God's salvation plan for His people. In time, I again became very hungry for the truth of eschatology; but as before, I still could not find it.
I remember the first glimmering of preterism in my life. One night after studying, I was impressed with the urgent spirit of the New Testament. I saw that Paul and the early Christians expected something to happen very soon. However, I had no idea what it was. I knew that it couldn't have been the Second Coming because if that had happened it would have been recorded in the history books, and I had never heard of the idea that the destruction of Jerusalem was an event that had any special significance. (This total ignorance of such a momentous redemptive event was a shame, as I had spent many years in a Christian school.)
Finally, one day I was introduced to a book by postmillennial reconstructionist David Chilton (who later renounced postmillennialism when he became a true preterist). The book was Paradise Restored. At the time, it was the most eye-opening and encouraging book on eschatology I had ever read. To my surprise, something did happen. Christ did return in A. D. 70 upon that wicked generation that crucified Him. Nothing could make more sense! Of this much, Paradise Restored convinced me, and of this, I am still convinced. It was wonderful to learn that the New Testament expectation of nearness was really fulfilled in that generation as the Lord Jesus said it would be.
However, there was a problem with Chilton's book (and so with the postmillennial doctrine): Without biblical support, it said that the Great Tribulation took place before A. D. 70, but that only a type of the Second Coming took place in A. D. 70. The final, true Second Coming, it said, was to take place in our future --perhaps thousands or millions of years from now-- along with the Resurrection of the dead.
The flaw in the eschatological super-structure of Chilton's book was in a section of chapter 15, "The Day of the Lord", entitled "The Final Day of the Lord" (pp. 138-140). In this section, a distinction was made between the two biblical terms, "the day of the Lord" and "the last day." The former, Chilton (and the postmillennialists) said, refers primarily to the A. D. 70 event, but the latter refers to a day strictly in our future when Christ will return, rapture His Church and resurrect the dead.
This belief presents a very evident exegetical problem: In I Thess. 4:14-5:2, Paul teaches that on "the day of the Lord" (not on "the last day") the rapture and the resurrection of the dead would take place. Many other portions of the Holy Writings also indicate that "the day of the Lord" was to be rapture day and resurrection day, and that it was eagerly expected by the first century Christians.
As much as I wanted to believe it, I couldn't understand how one could split the "last days," one "soon" in New Testament times, and the other actually distant even from our times. Paradise Restored was a good stepping stone to eschatological truth, but this exegetical problem is the fatal flaw in the postmillennial hermeneutic.
One day, I discovered The Parousia by J. Stuart Russell, which teaches that all biblical prophecies were fulfilled by A. D. 70, except for the millennium. (He was also silent concerning Romans eleven.) After I first read that book, I was stunned. It literally took me months to get over the initial shock. After reading the book repeatedly, I became thoroughly convinced of the preterist point of view, although I remained unsure about the millennium (a doctrine in which Russell also did not have much confidence (p. 521)). Also, I was not thoroughly convinced of Russell's view of the rapture. He taught that the whole of expecting Christianity was taken from the planet in A. D. 70, citing the absence of historical Christianity for a number of years after that time.
I was now a preterist (except concerning the millennium). I felt a little lonely because I knew of no one who believed it before I, besides Russell. Some of my Christian friends warned me that I was spreading false doctrine, since no Christian groups in history had believed this doctrine, and since I was the only one who was spreading it now. They accused me of starting a new religious cult.
Naturally, I was very concerned about this. I certainly didn't want to be a cult leader, and it was true that I didn't know of a group that believed this. I seriously wondered if I was wrong, but the Bible continually encouraged me otherwise.
Finally I met someone else in my local area who was also a preterist, and he introduced me to a contemporary preterist author whose books delve more deeply into the particulars of the Resurrection doctrine than did Russell's book. Max King's books, The Spirit of Prophecy and The Cross and the Parousia of Christ (and others), teach that all prophecy was fulfilled by A. D. 70, including the millennium. His books also taught a spiritual meaning to the rapture that did not involve the Church being literally caught up into literal clouds.
Shortly afterward, I heard about Ed Stevens, who was publishing the preterist periodical Kingdom Counsel. Through his ministry, I was finally introduced to the growing world of preterists. To my joy, I found that there were actually many, many believers around the world who believe in preterism, and that I was never the only one. Since then, I have enjoyed years of sweet fellowship with preterists not only in my local area, but throughout the world by means of the Internet.
Thanks be to God for His Kingdom and for preserving his word and causing it to flourish anew in the hearts and lives of his children, today and forever!
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