Futurism. A term that has become pejorative in preterist circles. While there are many things that preterists disagree on, one thing it seems that all agree on is that futurism is bad. But what is the basis of that assumption? Typically when discussing preterism, the key apologetical points revolve around what was fulfilled in the first century. To arrive at the preterist position it is essential to establish that chronological events of the first century directly correlate to prophecy. In most cases these are the very same events that so-called Futurists say have yet to be fulfilled. Preterism to some degree becomes nearly the mirror image of futurism, and this leads to a tendency to dismiss everything in the New Testament as being fulfilled without qualification. This is however a lazy hermeneutic, and yields down right odd results.
Is the broad-brushed dismissal of ongoing and future implications of the New Covenant warranted? The contributions of those who have taken this approach have produced little to substantiate such a claim. Yet in spite of the weaknesses in their approach, and the mountains of supposition that are used to substantiate claims, we are still given a list of propositions that seem utterly absurd prima facie. Are we to believe that the events of the first century leave no covenant body, no ongoing actions of the Holy Spirit, nothing to instruct or guide our present age? Are we to believe that the entire witness of scripture is to take us in an arbitrary circle back to the days of Judges 21:25 where “every man did that which was right in his own sight”? Was random spirituality really the ultimate purpose of the Christ? The same Jesus that says “this generation shall not pass” also says “upon this rock I will build my Church.” The same Jesus that says “some standing here shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in power” says “my words shall not pass away.” The version of fulfillment presented by some seems more like failure.
Lets consider the situation a moment. What took place in the first century? Did time and space cease to exist? Did the physical laws of this cosmos give way to a new supreme physical order? No. Was there any indication of a mass “rapture” of Christians? No. Did humanity suddenly come to a grand revelation of God by which all men everywhere are now fully enlightened to His majesty and power? No. So what actually happened? A religion was born. I know in our present climate of “religion is bad”, the idea that the results of Christ coming was establishing a religious movement seems distasteful. But from a strictly empirical standpoint, this is what was produced. I could perhaps choose other terminology and put some frustration to rest. Perhaps if I had written “a new spiritual path was born” or “the supreme spiritual path was revealed.” Perhaps this phraseology would seem more in line with our cultural climate. However one might phrase it, what came from the first century was Christianity. Which makes it difficult to understand why so many reject out right the one thing that we can point to as emerging from the events of the first century. Two things beyond question take place in the first century: the Temple in Jerusalem falls and the Church emerges to a level that the Mosaic system never came close to achieving.
Is fulfillment futureless? I suppose we might need to ask what fulfillment is. It cannot mean the end of time, a secret rapture or even an instantaneous, perfect revelation of all God is to all humankind. Because we see no evidence of any of that from the first century. The only thing fulfillment can possibly be is something pertaining to the initiation of a religious/spiritual movement. In fact this concept of restored order and renewed priesthood is woven throughout the New Testament. The believers are a royal priesthood, made kings and priests unto God. The New Covenant is the restored order of Melchizedek; with Christ its high priest. The Christians are the “tabernacle of the Holy Spirit.” They are a house being built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets. The Church is the New Jerusalem and Heavenly City. The New Jerusalem is not going into heaven, but coming down from God out of heaven. What is spoken over it? “The tabernacle of God is with men!” God with us. This is the beginning prophetic announcement of the New Testament, and the vision by which it is concluded.
I would then contend that fulfillment is not only not futureless, but that it in fact demands a future. The Kingdom is a mustard seed, leaven, salt and light. It infiltrates, changes and grows. It is a spiritual institution that has been commissioned to remain in the earth and to enlighten the world. The nature of the Kingdom – the Church – may be a subject for discussion, yet its reality is undeniable. This particularly for those who contend for a first century fulfillment. The emergence of the Church – His Body, is the only tangible evidence of the coming of Christ. Christ came in flesh, and then came to the world in His Body the Church. This is the only tenable position for fulfillment. Fulfillment then secures the future, it does not eliminate it.