Scott Hedge’s Critique of Preterism
Scott Hedge, pastor of Willomore Baptist Church at Greensboro, NC, posted a Critique of Preterist View of Olivet Discourse.
Hedge identified Matthew 24:34 as the foundation of the preterist interpretation of the prophecy, but suggested that the preterist view involves a faulty understanding of the word “generation” (genea). He wrote:
Jesus said in Matthew 24:34 “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled”. Preterists assert that Christ was warning people who were living then. Sproul quotes J. Stuart Russell who states that “99 persons in every 100 would immediately understand Jesus to mean that the events he was predicting would fall within the limits of the lifetime of the existing generation”. This speaks to why this verse is foundational in the Olivet Discourse. The preterist view needs this verse to mean that Jesus was speaking to the very people who would see all the events He previously mentioned come to pass.
Hedge wrote, “Much of the refutation of this foundational argument of the preterist view of the Olivet Discourse will come later.” The refutation of the preterist argument is easy; Jesus was part of that generation; he remains alive, so it has not passed away!
Hedge says “the purpose of the Olivet Discourse as it is viewed by the preterist, it is a condemnation on Israel and the temple by Christ,” and he said that “most would agree with this to a certain extent.” Hedge continued:
This also takes the discussion back to the foundational verse concerning “this generation.” Again Price says the purpose according to the preterist “is exclusively as a judgment text in which Jesus’ denunciations of the temple finds their final fulfillment in the destruction of the temple by the Roman’s in A.D. 70”. Although most would agree with this to a certain extent it is important to note what prompted the discourse. Was Jesus driven by thoughts of God’s vengeance (did He just snap)? The discourse was prompted by the questions asked Him by the disciples. Jesus Christ is simply answering three specific questions. Jesus had already unveiled His death and a new program that will come in the time period between His death and return.
Hedge explained the “new program” in a note. It refers to the church Jesus said he will build, which the gates of hell will not prevail against. Hedge wrote: “Matthew 16:18 is where the new program is introduced. With the benefit of the ‘mystery’ being revealed, Ephesians 3, one can see today that He was beginning to unveil what would be the church. However in the Matthew 16 the disciples would only understand this as an assembly of sorts; some kind of new program.”
Hedge evidently overlooked the significance of Isaiah 2:2. The mountain of the Lord’s house, which Jesus represents, was raised up, and established in the top of the mountains, when Jesus ascended to heaven. And so the Jerusalem, to which prophecy applies after Jesus ascended to heaven, is the heavenly one. This was not a “new program,” but the one foretold long before by the prophets. Hedge continued:
This program is still ongoing. It is also important to note that the Olivet Discourse continues with the promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12 and following. It predicts an outcome of victory for Israel along with its restoration and not annihilation or replacement as the preterist would lead to believe.
Hedge explained the “victory for Israel” in another note, saying that “The covenant promises of God made to Israel have not been fulfilled as of yet but most assuredly they will. Israel will be regenerated, given a new heart, given the abundance of the Spirit, and inherit the land promised many millennia ago (Jeremiah 31:31-34).”
In fact, the covenant is the one Jesus confirmed during his ministry, and which he continues to confirm with those who believe in him during the present age.
Hedge explained that while the preterists find the church in Matthew 24 and 25, dispensationalists do not. He wrote:
One of the major questions that needs to be answered in the Olivet Discourse is, who do the disciples represent – Israel or the church? Sproul says that the biblical teaching concerning the end of the age refers to the end of the Jewish age and the present age. He goes on to say, “fundamental to preterism is the contention that the phrase ‘end of the age’ refers specifically to the end of the Jewish age and the beginning of the church (gentile) age”.
Preterists, of course, are confused, as like dispensationalists, they too fail to recognize that the mountain of the Lord’s house, which Jesus represents, was raised up, and established in the top of the mountains, when Jesus ascended to heaven, which fulfilled Isaiah 2:2. Hodge wrote:
Neither the context of Matthew’s entire Gospel nor the context in chapter 24 and 25 can sustain a view that the church is present. It can be noted at this point that since the church is not in the Olivet Discourse the rapture is not in the teaching. … the church is not in the Olivet Discourse.
Hedge explained his views on the kingdom of Christ:
It has been said by many that context must be the interpreter’s guide in the Bible. Within the context of any theological discussion the Bible must be sought for the proper answers. In the present response of preterism and their view of the Olivet Discourse the broad context helps significantly in critique. In the broad context of Matthew there are three phases of the kingdom. The kingdom is offered first. In Matthew 1 the reader is given a genealogical record that shows that Christ has the legitimate right and authority to be the King of the Kingdom. Further in Matthew 2 the reader is confronted, just in case the geneology and virgin birth is missed, with foreign Babylonian dignitaries that march into Jerusalem with their entourage asking “where is He that has been born who is the King of the Jews?”
Events described in the gospels connected with Jesus’ birth are written so as to depict the birth of a great king. Jesus was born a king. Hedge even says the message of John the Baptist, “‘the voice of God crying in the wilderness – ‘repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ shouts from the pages as the reader hears the words echo through the street and country side of Judea. Then the King appears at John’s baptism.”
Jesus, then, was the promised king, whose throne was to remain forever. But according to Hedge, his kingdom was “set aside,” this being the second of three phases of the kingdom, in his scheme. He stated that it was “prophetically postponed.” Jesus began to upbraid, and withdraw from the people, Hedge said. He wrote:
A significant aspect of Matthew is (11:20) after the announcement, the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom, and the miracles Christ the King offered is rejected. “Then began He to upbraid”, He began to withdraw from the people. It is on the heels of this that the kingdom is set aside (Matthew 13). Then the third phase of the kingdom in Matthew is the kingdom prophesied. The Olivet Discourse is the third major discourse recorded in Matthew and in it the reader sees the Messiah’s official prediction of His return and acceptance.
The gospel accounts show that when the Jews sought to make Jesus king, he escaped from them, as their idea of the kingdom was one in which ethnic Jews were exulted over the Gentiles, which was not the nature of the kingdom Jesus came to establish. In his temptation, he had rejected an offer of such a kingdom. [Luke 4:8] His kingdom is “not of this world.” [John 18:36]
According to Hedge, Christ’s kingdom was (1) announced at his birth, and preached to the Jews during his ministry, and by John; (2) rejected by Jews; and (3) predicted as coming in the future, in the Olivet Discourse. Hedge appealed to references to the “mystery” in Paul’s writings as allusions to the church in the present age.
On item (1), the announcement of the kingdom, it is true Christ’s kingdom was announced at Jesus’ birth, and said to be “at hand” during his ministry. On (2), the rejection of Jesus by Jews, and the idea that his kingdom was “prophetically postponed,” Hedge is confused; Christ’s kingdom endures forever, and was not postponed as dispensationalists imagine. Their doctrine contradicts the following description of Christ’s kingdom by the prophet Isaiah:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Jews who do not believe, do not cause the kingdom to be postponed; instead, they are cut off, and they are no longer part of the true Israel, as the law of Moses said. Peter warned the Jews:
For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.
According to the New Testament, Jews who are unbelievers are not really “Israel;” Paul said, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” [Romans 9:6] Paul described those who did not believe the gospel as olive branches broken off from their tree, while Gentiles who believe are branches from a wild olive that are grafted in. [Romans 11:17-19]
On item (3) in Hedge’s interpretation, Peter explained to the Jews, on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus had been “made Christ,” which must mean that he fulfills all the prophecies pertaining to the promised Messiah, and now reigns upon a throne that is established, and remains for ever.
This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.
For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
Until I make thy foes thy footstool.
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
The gospel declares that Jesus is the Christ, and Lord of all; he reigns on David’s throne, and he has obtained all the promised of God. Paul said God has “set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” [Ephesians 1:20-23] If anyone denies that Jesus is the Christ, John wrote, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” [1 John 2:22]