By Ed Stevens – March 29, 2016
One of the most ignored factors (the elephant in the room) in all of our discussions about what was fulfilled at AD 70, is this matter of EXPECTATIONS – i.e., What did Jesus and the apostles tell their followers that they could expect to see, hear, and experience at the Parousia?
This was the question which haunted me back in the late 1990’s, and which forced me to read back through the whole New Testament in order to answer it:
What did those pre-70 saints EXPECT to see, hear, and experience at the Parousia? Did they have any expectations whatosever? Or were they totally oblivious to, and unaware of, the occurrence of the BIG THREE eschatological events (Parousia, Resurrection, Judgment) when they occurred?
Here is the results of my trek back through the whole New Testament to answer that question:
Some of the Jewish saints in Palestine sold their possessions, while others abstained from marriage and the pursuit of some of their otherwise normal economic activities. They fled the country when the armies approached. They preached the gospel in the midst of overwhelming persecution and tribulation, frantically trying to save their families and friends before the End, with the hope and the promise of being RELIEVED from the tribulation, RESCUED from the coming wrath, and REWARDED in the presence of Christ at His Parousia.
Those first century Christians EXPECTED a real, historical, visible, and EXPERIENTIAL relief and reward that they would actually see and experience at the Parousia. The following scriptures reveal what their expectations were. Please study every one of them in their context:
- Some of them would definitely live to see and experience the big three events – Mat 16:28; 24:21-31 (the “elect” would remain); 24:34; 1Cor 15:51; 1Thess 4:15-17; 5:23; 2Tim 1:18; Jude 21; Rev 2:25 (cf. Jn 21:22f – some would not die). They didn’t all die in the persecution, nor fall away in the apostasy. Some of the elect remained alive until the Parousia, at which time they were gathered up by the angels (Mat 24:31).
2. They were “eagerly waiting” and longing for His return – 1Cor 16:22; Phil 3:20-21; Heb 9:28; Jude 1:21; 1Thes 1:10; Rom 8:18-25; 2Cor 5:2; Lk 12:35-40; 1Cor 1:7; 4:5; 2Tim 4:8; 1Pet 1:13; Rev 6:10; cf. Mat 9:15 (fasted while waiting for His return). Was that longing fulfilled? Could they keep silent about it after being pumped up so much beforehand?
3. They were promised “rescue,” “relief” and “reward” – Lk 21:36; 2Thes 1:6-10; 3:13-14; 1Thes 1:10; 2Tim 4:8; 1Pet 1:4-9, 13; 5:4-6; Rev 11:18; 2Jn 1:8; Heb 10:35; Lk 21:34-36; Rom 8:17-25; Jas 1:12 (crown of life); and Rev. 3:10. Did they get the relief, rescue, and reward that they were promised? Did they know they got it? Did they see it and experience it? Why didn’t they talk about it afterwards?
4. They would actually know about it, and “see” Him “revealed,” meet with him at his coming, and “marvel at Him” and “glorify Him” and have “great joy” in His presence at His return – 2Thess 1:6-10; 1Pet 1:7,13; 2:12; 4:13; 5:1; 2Pet 3:12ff; Jude 1:24; Mat 25:1, 6, 21, 23; Phil 2:16; 1Jn 2:28 and 3:2; 1Jn 4:17; 1Thes 2:19; Col 3:4; 1Cor 13:12; Rom 8:18-25 (“about to be revealed”). Did they see and experience it? Did they know this relief came as a result of Christ’s return?
5. The following verses promise a “catching up,” “gathering,” “reception,” “upward call,” “change,” “transformation,” “rescue, relief, reward, escape” “redemption,” “obtain salvation,” “obtain eternal glory,” “live with Him,” “reign with Him,” “meet Him in the air,” or “stand in His presence.” All of these are expectation statements:
Mat 24:31 – “gather together His elect” Mat 25:6-10 – “…meet him…went in with him…door was shut” Lk 21:28 – “lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” Lk 21:36 – “escape all these things…and to stand before the Son of Man” Jn 14:3 – “receive you to Myself…where I am, you may be also 1Cor 15:51-52 – “we will all be changed” 2Cor 4:14 – “raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you” Col 1:22 – “present you before Him” (at the Judgment) Eph 5:27 – “present to Himself the church in all her glory … holy and blameless” Jude 1:24 – “stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” Phil 3:14 – “the prize of the upward call” Phil 3:21 – “transform our lowly body…to be like His glorious body” (NIV) 1Thess 1:10 – “rescues us from the wrath to come” 1Thess 2:19 – “our joy…in the presence…at His parousia” 1Thess 4:17 – “caught up together with them … to meet Him in the air” 2Thess 1:7-10 -“relief to you…and to us…when He comes…to be marveled at” 2Thess 2:1 – “our gathering together to Him” 2Tim 2:10-11 – “obtain salvation and eternal glory,” “died with Him, live with Him” or “endure (remain alive) to reign with Him”
6. Strong moral and ethical exhortations connected with their intense expectations of “seeing” and experiencing the big three events – 1Pet 1:13, 2:12, 4:13, 5:1, 5:4; and Rev 2:25. What happens to their strong motivation BEFORE AD 70 if they didn’t really expect to experience it – as well as AFTER AD 70 if they never saw it or experienced it?
7. The sleepers and foolish (unfaithful ones) would either fail to recognize the time of His visitation, or be killed before they could say anything about what they saw and experienced – Rev 3:3; Mat 24:43 (and parallels); Mat 25:10-13; Lk 21:34-36; cf. 1Thess 5:2-4; 2Pet 3:10; Rev 16:15; Mat 13:19.
These expectations were given to those first century saints by Jesus and the apostles. Therefore, they had to experience those things, or else the credibility of the whole Christian faith goes down the drain. And their whole moral and ethical motivation vaporizes if their expectation of experiencing these things was not fulfilled at the Parousia.
But if these big three events WERE seen and experienced, how could they remain silent about it and walk away never to mention it again? In the case of Apostle John who wrote the book of Revelation, if he was still around afterwards, why didn’t he speak up and claim that his book of Revelation had been fulfilled, especially when Papias, Polycarp, and Ignatius started teaching that the Parousia was still future? These are extremely important questions that demand serious and substantial answers.
Strangely enough, we don’t have a single record of either the COMPLAINT against the non-fulfillment, nor their CELEBRATION of the fulfillment. We simply have a “deafening” silence. This is a “documentation problem” for the whole Preterist movement, regardless of what we believe about the rapture.
The silence we are talking about here is in regard to the BIG THREE eschatological events (Parousia, Resurrection, and Judgment), not just the rapture. Did they get the RELIEF, RESCUE, and REWARD that they were expecting? If so, why didn’t they talk about it afterwards? Our look at the expectation statements above show that they were silent because they were absent. They were taken to heaven. They were not still on earth afterwards to talk about it.