In the McDurmon -V- Preston debate, July 19-21, 2012, Joel McDurmon (Dominionist / Postmillennialist) clearly anticipated that I would appeal to Luke 21:22 where Jesus, describing the impending destruction of Jerusalem, said “These be the days of vengeance, in which all things that are written must be fulfilled.”
McDurmon made the following argument: If Preston argues that all things were to be fulfilled in AD 70, then the virgin birth, the establishing of the church, etc. all happened then, and that is patently false. Those things were all fulfilled long before AD 70. (paraphrase)
So, Joel is positing a “everything is fulfilled at one time, and none before that time” hermeneutic of prophetic fulfillment.
I am always somewhat surprised when I hear this argument. I have heard it before, and it is specious to say the least. This argument reveals one of several possibilities:
A.) Pure desperation on the part of McDurmon,
B.) An attempt at obfuscation of the real issues at stake,
C.) A total misunderstanding of the true preterist position.
D.) Undeniably, a misunderstanding of what Jesus said.
E.) A lamentable misunderstanding of the structure of prophetic fulfillment.
Let me say this: Joel is a good man, and a good student of scripture and logic. I do not believe for a moment that he would actually, on calm reflection, espouse this concept of “everything is fulfilled at one time, and none before that time.”
Note: Several months ago Kenneth Gentry wrote an article on Luke 21:22 in which he clearly thought he had struck a major blow against the true preterist theology. I wrote a response to Gentry and that can be found here.
Since I did not have time to deal with Joel’s argument. during the debate let me offer some thoughts on it here.
Jesus was not saying that all prophecies would be fulfilled at the moment of– and not any time prior to– AD 70. I have never read, or heard, of a single preterist ever making that argument.
Prophetic Fulfillment Was a Process
What Jesus was saying is that the process of prophetic fulfillment of the last days events would be finalized and perfected in AD 70. That process began with the birth of Jesus and continued through the ministry of John the Baptizer, (the law and the prophets were until John…) until the consummation “when all things that are written must be fulfilled.”
There was an appointed time (Greek kairos, appointed time) for the fulfillment of the eschatological scheme, and that was “the stewardship of the fullness of time” (Ephesians 1:9-10). That appointed time was “the last days” and the NT writers are affirm that they were living in the prophesied last days. Paul was emphatic that the “fullness of time” was the last days of the Old Covenant Age of Israel (Galatians 4:4).
I took note of Ephesians 1:9-10 and Galatians 4 several times in the debate, as well as Acts 3:23f where Peter affirmed that all of the OT prophets who spoke of the “restoration of all things” “spoke of these days” – i.e. Peter’s first century days. See my in-depth discussion of Acts 3 in my Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory book.
McDurmon never said a word in response to these arguments. (To be fair, perhaps it was an issue of not enough time. That is always a huge problem for each man in a formal debate)!
Prophetic Fulfillment and the NT Writers
Clearly, then, the NT writers believed that the time of prophetic fulfillment had arrived. (See Jesus’ words in Matthew 13:17 also). But, no NT writer ever iterated the principle that Joel presented, that is, that no prophecy would be fulfilled until it was all fulfilled at one time, i.e. the parousia. They all said that the end times drama had begun, was being fulfilled, but would be finally, climactically fulfilled at Christ’s coming.
As Hendrickson succinctly notes, “As Jesus was speaking, (In Matthew 5:17-18, DKP) some parts of the Old Testament had already been fulfilled, for example, the incarnation. Other parts were being fulfilled. Still others were to be fulfilled soon, that is, the crucifixion and the resurrection; or were to be fulfilled later, in the ascension, at and after Pentecost, and finally at Christ’s return in glory” (William Hendrickson, New International Commentary, Matthew, (Grand Rapids, Baker, 2002)291).
Of course, Hendrickson, like McDurmon, clearly overlooks the power of Luke 21:22 refusing to connect Jesus’ prediction of his coming (Luke 21:25f) with the fulfillment of all prophecy and the end of the Old Covenant age. But the point he is making that there was a process of fulfillment that began with the incarnation and that would be perfected, completed, at the end is absolutely true.
McDurmon knows that the process of fulfillment began before AD 70. Furthermore, he believes, we assume, that “all things that are written must be fulfilled” even in his paradigm, at the end of the millennium resurrection. With that in mind, consider this.
Prophetic Fulfillment: Applying the Dominionist Argument to Their Own Theology
The end of the millennium resurrection is when “all things that are written must be fulfilled” – McDurmon.
But, if all things that are written must be fulfilled all at one time, at the end of the millennium resurrection, then the virgin birth and Jesus’ incarnation, his passion and resurrection do not take place until the end of the millennium resurrection!
Now, McDurmon would patently and correctly reject this “logic” and argument as specious and false to the core. He would cry “Foul!” against anyone charging him with believing such a thing! He would argue that there was / is a process of fulfillment consummating in the end of the millennium resurrection.
So, McDurmon realizes that there is (was) a process of fulfillment, consummating and climaxing in the resurrection. It was, therefore, undeniably specious for him to argue that if “all things written must be fulfilled” applied to AD 70, that this demanded the virgin birth was fulfilled then.
Do you catch the power of Joel’s illogical argument? His “all at one time, and none before that time” argument destroys his own theology!
If his argument is applied to AD 70 then it undeniably applies to his futuristic end of the millennium resurrection as well. But, if his “logic” is true, and all things are fulfilled at the same time– with no prior process of fulfillment– then Jesus has not even been born, he never lived on earth in fulfillment of the OT prophecies. He never experienced the Cross and was not raised from the dead, in fulfillment of OT prophecy. The church was never established in fulfillment of OT prophecy. Etc, etc, etc., etc.!
Just as Gentry had clearly not thought through the implications of his article attacking the true preterist view, it should be more than obvious that Joel had not given a lot of careful, analytical thought to his “argument” on Luke 21:22.