Who Needs A Physical Parousia?
One of the key tenets of futurism, although with different elements, is the idea that Christ must one day descend from heaven as a 5’5″ Jewish man in a physical body. When he comes he will establish his rule, his kingdom, on the earth and rule over a physical kingdom. This element of futurism is so well known that I do not think that I have to document it from the literature. I will however, give two examples.
In 2012, I had a two day formal public debate with (postmillennialist) Joel McDurmon, the now former president of American Vision. (Gary DeMar is now once again the president). During the Q and A session of that debate, McDurmon was asked if he believes that Jesus will come back physically to rule over a physical kingdom on earth. He responded “yes.” The following year, in Oregon, I debated popular speaker (Amillennialist) Harold Eberle. In the Q and A session, Dr. Eberle was asked the same question posed to McDurmon. He answered that Christ will indeed come back physically one day to rule over a physical, earthly kingdom.
Of course, the millennialists agree with the Reformed Amillennialists and the Postmillennialists that Christ will one day come back physically to the physical land of Israel. He will rule from the restored literal city of Jerusalem, and sit on a literal throne, presiding over the restored temple cultus- that will include animal sacrifices. Of course, this is where things get interesting.
So, the millennialists say that Christ must return physically and rule over a physical earthly kingdom. And again, they add that Jesus’ reign will be in a restored Jerusalem, with the restored temple cultus. While the amillennialists and postmillenialists agree that Christ must return physically to a restored earth and rule over a physical earthly kingdom, they actually condemn the dispensationalists for their “carnal” and materialistic view of the kingdom! Amillennialists and postmillennialists reject the idea of a restored temple cultus, with animal sacrifices. That condemnation is often strident.
Philip Mauro wrote this years ago:
It cannot be too strongly insisted or too firmly maintained that the doctrine of a coming millennial age of Jewish supremacy on earth, an age in which nations of men are saved with a salvation different in kind from, and distinctly inferior to, gospel salvation, is a thoroughly unscriptural and anti-scriptural doctrine. It cannot be too strongly insisted or too firmly maintained that there is no going backward in the works of God; that He does not build again the things He has destroyed; that there is no salvation for the Jew or Gentile other than Gospel salvation; that there is no day of salvation for any part of the human race except this present day of gospel mercy for all; that there is no ‘Israel’ in God’s purpose but ‘the Israel of God,’ and no ‘Zion’ bu that heavenly mount to which we ‘are come’; and finally, that the temporary shadows of the old covenant – the temple, altar, priesthood, sacrifices and ordinances – have now been abolished completely and forever. (Philip Mauro, The Hope of Israel, (Sterling, VA; Grace Abounding Ministries), 1988), 146.).
Of course, we have a perfect right to ask, how can the amillennialists and the postmillennialists condemn the dispensationalists for their view of a literal restored Jerusalem, a restored and rebuilt Jerusalem temple, a restored bloody sacrificial system and a restored Levitical priesthood- in light of the fact that they themselves say Christ will indeed come back physically, to rule over an earthly kingdom? If Christ is coming back to rule on a literal earth, in a material, earthly kingdom, why won’t that literalistic, earthly kingdom not include the literal, physical city of Jerusalem, temple, priesthood and sacrifices? After all, the prophecies of the kingdom of Messiah include predictions of the restored Jerusalem, temple, cultus, and those prophecies serve as the millennial “court of appeal” for their views.
The amillennialists and postmillennialists like to counter this by saying that while Christ must return physically, to literal earth, to rule over an earthly kingdom, that “Zion” has, in the words of McDurmon:
Zion has been “spiritualized,” if you will, and revealed to be fulfilled in the person of the ascended Christ: ‘But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the innumerable angels in festal gathering…” (Jesus V Jerusalem, Powder Springs., GA, American Vision Press, 2011),178).
McDurmon even engaged in an on-going controversy with a dispensationalist named Horton, who argued that Zion, the city promised to Abraham, remains in our future, at the proposed coming of Christ to earth as a physical man, to rule over the earthly kingdom. McDurmon rejected this, taking note of Hebrews 12 where the inspired writer affirmed that the first century believers, “have come to Mt. Zion.” McDurmon pointed out that this was 2000 years ago, and emphasized that Zion is the church of the living God, not a restored earthly Jerusalem. The irony here is massive.
On the one hand, McDurmon, Kenneth Gentry, Keith Mathison, Gary DeMar et. al. posit a yet future physical coming of Christ, for him to rule over a physical, earthly kingdom. Yet, on the other hand, they deny that Christ will rule over a physical city Zion and they deny that he will preside over a literal temple, with a literal bloody cultus. They tell us this because Zion has been “spiritualized.” Likewise, the temple has been spiritualized. The priesthood has been spiritualized and universalized. The sacrifices have been spiritualized. But if all of these things have been spiritualized, why hasn’t the coming of Christ been spiritualized? Why hasn’t the “earth” been spiritualized? Furthermore, to the point of the title of this short article: “Who Needs a Physical Parousia?”
It is interesting – and revealing – that occasionally, the amillennial and postmillennial writers, in their zeal to refute the dispensationalists, make arguments that they have very clearly not thought through. They even put those arguments in print, evidently thinking they have made a powerful point, when in reality, they have falsified their own eschatology. Let me illustrate.
In his book, He Shall Have Dominion, Kenneth Gentry assails the dispensational view of an earthly, physical kingdom, ruled over by Jesus as a physical man who has descended from heaven. (You may be asking how and why he would object to that view, since he espouses a yet future physical coming of Christ to rule in a physical, earthly kingdom. Nonetheless, that is what he believes). Gentry wrote this:
Why should it be necessary that Christ’s kingdom requires His physical presence on earth? Does not Satan have a kingdom on earth, although he is only spiritually present (Matthew 12:26; Luke 4:6)? Do not Satan’s covenantally faithful servants on earth manifest his power in history? Is Satan’s kingdom any less a kingdom just because he is not reigning from a throne on earth?” What kind of necessary glory is it that requires that Christ personally and corporeally rule on earth over a political kingdom that revolts against Him at the end (Revelation 20:7-9)? This view insists on a second humiliation of Christ.” (All emphasis his; (Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 1992, 456).
To say that Gentry’s quote presents a daunting challenge to his own postmillennial views of the nature of the kingdom and the coming of Christ is a huge understatement. In effect, Gentry, in this singular quote, has destroyed any need for a future physical, corporeal, coming of Christ to planet earth, where he will rule over an earthly kingdom.
Take note of the following:
Dispensationalists posit a personal, corporeal coming of Christ at the end of the current Christian age. Gentry ponders: “What kind of necessary glory is it that requires that Christ personally and corporeally rule on earth over a political kingdom that revolts against Him at the end?”
And yet, keep in mind that Gentry, and other futurists say that Christ’s “glory” will not be fully manifested until he comes back personally and corporeally to rule on earth.
Dispensationalists say that Christ must come physically, bodily, and rule in the kingdom on earth. Gentry asks: “Why should it be necessary that Christ’s kingdom require His physical presence on earth? Why should it be necessary that Christ’s kingdom require His physical presence on earth?”
And yet, keep in mind that Gentry himself believes that Christ must indeed come back to earth, physically, bodily, to rule over the kingdom- just like the dispensationalists that he condemns.
Gentry says that for Christ to come back personally and corporeally to rule on earth over a political kingdom that revolts against Him at the end” would mean: “This view insists on a second humiliation of Christ.”
And yet, Gentry and other futurists who believe in a yet future earthly, physical kingdom rule by Christ demand that he rule in his Incarnate body, which was “the body of humiliation.”
Gentry queries: “Is Satan’s kingdom any less a kingdom just because he is not reigning from a throne on earth?” And we would ask: Is Christ’s kingdom any less a kingdom just because he is not reigning from a throne on earth?” And we would further ask: “Would Christ’s kingdom be any less a kingdom if he never comes to earth in a physical body to rule on a throne on earth?”
It seems very clear that Gentry did not give a lot of thought to what he published in his critique of the dispensational view. Virtually everything that he offered by way of objection to the dispensational view can just as effectively and powerfully be turned against his own eschatology.
His opening comment is absolutely relevant: “Why should it be necessary that Christ’s kingdom require His physical presence on earth??”
Why indeed? What need is there for a personal, physical, bodily parousia (coming) of Christ?
A physical parousia is not necessary for him to rule over his kingdom.
A physical parousia / presence is not necessary for him to have greater glory.
And so we ask, based on Kenneth Gentry’s own comments, Who Needs a Physical Parousia?
For an in-depth analysis and examination of the very nature of Christ’s coming, get a copy of my book, Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory. It powerfully demonstrates that Christ never promised to come back to earth as a 5’5″ Jewish man.