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The Christmas Conspiracy:
Denying the Gospel?

I received the following email from a reader of one of Vine & Fig Tree's web pages (still not sure which one!):

Subj: Just one more claptrap heresy
Date: 98-11-18 15:54:59 EST
From: a-garymc@microsoft.com (Gary McGinnis (Wasser))
To: kevin4vft@aol.com ('kevin4vft@aol.com')

You say "it's better to be attacked than ignored." Consider yourself
ignored. Repent and believe the Gospel. You are outside the Faith.

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From: "Gary McGinnis (Wasser)" <a-garymc@microsoft.com
To: "'kevin4vft@aol.com'" <kevin4vft@aol.com
Subject: Just one more claptrap heresy
Date: Wed, 18 Nov 1998 12:54:51 -0800
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2232.9)

I had no idea what this fellow was talking about. So I wrote:

Subj: Re: Just one more claptrap heresy
Date: 11/18/98
To: a-garymc@microsoft.com

In a message dated 98-11-18 15:54:59 EST, you write:

 >  You say "it's better to be attacked than ignored." Consider yourself
>   ignored. Repent and believe the Gospel. You are outside the Faith.

Should I consider myself ignored, or exhorted to "repent and believe?"

I haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about.
I don't know which of my pages you have been reading.
How about an argument that's a little more Berean (Acts 17:11)?
Your letter falls way short of Biblical requirements: Jude 22,
James 5:19-20, Heb 12:13, Gal 6:1, Matt 18:12,15,  Matt 9:13,
Isa 35:3, Job 4:3-4.

Eager to read the full version of your letter,

Kevin Craig

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares
and sit under their Vine & Fig Tree.
Micah 4:1-7

(I try not to be a judgmental, finger-pointing meanie when I respond to "flames." [Matt.5:44; Rom. 12:21])

I received (some of) the desired clarification:

Subj: RE: Just one more claptrap heresy 
Date: 98-11-18 17:37:35 EST 
From: a-garymc@microsoft.com (Gary McGinnis (Wasser)) 
To: KEVIN4VFT@aol.com ('KEVIN4VFT@aol.com') 
In denying the Second Coming, you deny the Faith. Your assertion that
extreme preterism is a "truth" missed by the Church until now is ridiculous.
It deserves nothing but contempt, which you will receive upon the very event
you so heinously deny. That is the "full version" of my letter. 
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Message-ID: <BBE1B65AF746D111868B00805FFEEF64061B230C@RED-MSG-53>
From: "Gary McGinnis (Wasser)" <a-garymc@microsoft.com>
To: "'KEVIN4VFT@aol.com'" <KEVIN4VFT@aol.com>
Subject: RE: Just one more claptrap heresy
Date: Wed, 18 Nov 1998 14:37:28 -0800
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.5.2232.9)

Since reasonable and charitable people might be asking the same question this reader is asking (albeit in a reasonable and charitable way), I thought it might be wise to add this page, clarifying the position of The Christmas Conspiracy! with regard to the doctrine of "The Second Coming."

The Christmas Conspiracy does not deny a future "Second Coming."

Now let's qualify that.

Beginners Intermediate Experts

For decades liberal, Bible-denying theologians have said the New Testament writers were not inspired and infallible because they believed that Christ was coming in their generation. Indeed, even Christ Himself seemed to have gotten it wrong:

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. {28} Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
Matthew 16:27-28

"See?!" The liberals all said; "Jesus didn't come as He predicted! The Bible is untrustworthy."

But many Christians have now come to believe that these parts of the New Testament, which were once thought of as describing a future Second Coming, were actually describing Christ's coming in judgment against the Jews, in which Israel and the temple were destroyed by the Roman armies in A.D.70.   The view that considers these prophecies fulfilled in the past is called "preterism."

Learn about "Preterism."

Before he became a consistent preterist (or, as our correspondent puts it, an "extreme preterist"), David Chilton, author of Days of Vengeance, a commentary on the Book of Revelation, The Great Tribulation, and Paradise Restored, an introduction to preterist eschatology, concluded that there were no verses in the Bible which taught a future (to us) coming of Christ, in which Christ would bodily return to this planet. Nevertheless, he continued to believe the doctrine because it had been taught for nearly 2000 years by "Holy Mother the Church" (Chilton's words).

We agree with Chilton that there are no verses which teach that Jesus is going to return again at some time in the future. If you know of any such verses, please email them. Like Chilton, we do not condemn those who believe in some abstract way that Christ is going to "come again." However, we do so with this caveat: if this belief in a Second Coming has any effect on the believer's life, then that belief in a future Second Coming has negated the Gospel. Here's why:

Premillennialism, we contend, is a denial of the Gospel. Premillennialists believe that Christ must come again before He can exercise the office of King. But the Bible teaches that Christ is now King, as we have attempted to show. The Name "Christ" means "King" or "Messiah." Premillennialists deny that Christ was made King at His First Coming. The exercise of global Christian theocracy awaits a future Second Coming, they tell us, when Jesus will be enthroned in Jerusalem and reign as Christ (Messiah). Notice the harsh verdict of Scripture against this belief:

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?
He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.

1 John 2:22

Premillennialists deny that Jesus is the Christ. They say He must wait until His Second Coming before He is crowned King, and He will then rule from Jerusalem. This is truly anti-Christ.

In the same way, those who believe that certain promises of the Gospel remain unfulfilled until a yet-future Second Coming deny the Gospel. If they choose to believe that some event will take place in the future (perhaps millions of years from now, in the case of some), that's no problem for those of us involved in The Christmas Conspiracy!. But if they choose not to obey certain commands which are given by the Christ, or choose not to believe certain promises which are gifts of the King to His people now, then the doctrine of the Second Coming has denied the Gospel and is anti-Christ.

Here are a few examples from the Westminster Standards.

Q. 42. Why was our Mediator called Christ?
A. Our Mediator was called Christ, because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure,[r] and so set apart, and fully furnished with all authority and ability,[s] to execute the offices of prophet,[t] priest,[v] and king of his church,[w] in the estate both of his humiliation and exaltation.
[r]. John 3:34; Ps. 45:7
[s]. John 6:27; Matt. 28:18-20
[t]. Acts 3:21-22; Luke 4:18, 21
[v]. Heb. 5:5-7; Heb. 4:14-15
[w]. Ps. 2:6; Matt. 21:5; Isa. 9:6-7; Phil. 2:8-11

Matthew 28:18-20 is appropriately adduced in proof of the doctrine that Jesus was made Christ with "all authority," a proposition which is denied by premillennialists, and potentially denied by postmillennialists who believe Jesus will not be given full authority until His Second Coming.

Jesus is called "Christ" because He is King of the Church, according to the Catechism. Psalm 2, one of the most frequently cited Psalms in the New Testament, was fulfilled at the First Christmas: "Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion." Jesus is now King, at the Right Hand of the Father. If you want to believe that Jesus is coming back to earth in the future (even if there are no verses in Scripture which assert this doctrine), we have no problem with you. But if you deny that Jesus is now Christ with full authority, then the Scripture says you are a liar and an anti-Christ.

Note the other texts cited by the Westminster Divines as applicable to Christ at the First Christmas:

Isaiah 9:6-7 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. {7} Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

According to the premillennialists, "the Child" was not given the government, and will not be given world government until after His Second Coming. Many postmillennialists actually believe the same thing: Christ will not be fully Christ until after His Second Coming. The Bible does not teach this.

Matthew 21:5 "Tell the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'"

Philippians 2:8-11 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. {9} Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, {10} that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, {11} and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Too many Christians are "statists": they worship political power. Jesus was made King because He was the Perfect Servant. This is the unique feature of The Christmas Conspiracy!: a Servant view of the King and a non-political view of the Kingdom. The premillennialist doctrine of the Kingdom is socialist, and postmillennialists are socialists as well if their doctrine of Christ's Kingship postpones Christ's assumption of "full authority" until after His Second Coming.

The Christmas Conspiracy! is about the coming of Christ at the First Christmas, full Kingdom Authority granted to Christ now, exercised by His saints now. If you wish to believe in a future Christmas, that's OK with us. But if you deny that Jesus is now the Christ, and if you are sitting on your duff waiting for a second Christmas before you discharge your duties and believe the wonderful promises of the Prophets, then the Bible says you are in danger of being a liar and an anti-Christ!! (Our response to you in such a case is not email flames, however, but a sincere invitation to join with us with open Bibles for a vigorous theological discussion over pizza and beer!)

Q. 45. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself,[f] and giving them officers,[g] laws,[h] and censures, by which he visibly governs them;[i] in bestowing saving grace upon his elect,[k] rewarding their obedience,[l] and correcting them for their sins,[m] preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings,[n] restraining and overcoming all their enemies,[o] and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory,[p] and their good;[q] and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.[r]
[f]. Acts 15:14-16; Isa. 55:4-5; Gen. 49:10; Ps. 110:3
[g]. Eph. 4:11-12; I Cor. 12:28
[h]. Isa. 33:22
[i]. Matt. 18:17-18; I Cor. 5:4-5
[k]. Acts 5:31
[l]. Rev. 22:12; Rev. 2:10
[m]. Rev. 3:19
[n]. Isa. 63:9
[o]. 1 Cor. 15:25; Ps. 110:1-2
[p]. Rom. 14:10-11
[q]. Rom. 8:28
[r]. 2 Thess. 1:8-9; Ps. 2:8-9

The purpose of The Christmas Conspiracy! is to advance Christ's Kingdom now. We do not make any effort to deny a future second Christmas, nor do we deny that one is a Christian who does not find the doctrine in Scripture. We only deny that the doctrine of a future Second Coming can have any legitimate significance or implications for the Christian faith. If you can think of any legitimate (that is, Biblically required) implications of a Second Coming which "extreme preterists" deny, please email them. But please be careful that these implications are not denials of gifts, powers, promises and/or commands which Christ secured at His First Christmas, according to the teaching of the Westminster Larger Catechism.

As we show in our discussion of the "Second Archetype" of The Christmas Conspiracy!, the world-wide ingathering of the People is something the Christ accomplishes before any Second Coming. This is His function as the Great Shepherd. The Catechism teaches that it occurs before the Second Coming, by applying these passages to the First Christmas:

Genesis 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.

Psalm 110:3 Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth.

Isaiah 55:4-5 Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people, A leader and commander for the people. {5} Surely you shall call a nation you do not know, And nations who do not know you shall run to you, Because of the LORD your God, And the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you."

Acts 15:14-16 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. {15} And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: {16} "After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up;

These verses apply to Christ at His First Coming. The old temple was destroyed (Mark 13:2) and construction on the New Temple was begun by the "apostles and prophets" as part of the First Christmas.

Matthew 24:1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings [Gk.: oikodome] of the temple. Ephesians 4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying [Gk.: oikodome] of the body of Christ:

Christ is now enthroned at the Right Hand of God. What does Christ lack that will not be given Him until a future Second Coming?

Q. 54. How is Christ exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God?
A. Christ is exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God, in that as God-man he is advanced to the highest favour with God the Father,[228] with all fulness of joy,[229] glory,[230] and power over all things in heaven and earth;[231] and does gather and defend his church, and subdue their enemies; furnisheth his ministers and people with gifts and graces,[232] and maketh intercession for them.[233]
[228]. Phil. 2:9
[229]. Acts 2:28; Ps. 16:11
[230]. John 17:5
[231]. Eph. 1:22; 1 Pet. 3:22
[232]. Eph. 4:10-12; Ps. 110-1
[233]. Rom. 8:34

Note what is said about Christ now:

Ephesians 1:22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,

1 Peter 3:22 through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?

While it is theoretically possible to believe in a future Second Coming in some abstract way such that none of Christ's present authority is denied, and none of the Promises to the Church are denied, and none of our Covenant obligations as vice-gerents under Christ are sluffed, we do not think this happens in practice. It certainly hasn't happened thus far in Church History. The Church has been waiting, not working. Instead of harping against Humanism, the Church is merely hoping for a harp. The effect of the doctrine of "the Second Coming" has been pernicious and evil. We emphatically denounce those destructive tendencies, without denying the event itself. Out of respect for the significant minority of Christians who have believed in a future Second Coming, we do not seek to deny the doctrine, only to warn that (1) it is easily abused (2) there is no Biblical evidence to support it.

Has anything been withheld from Christ and His Church which will only be obtained in a future Second Coming? We believe a "yes" answer is a denial of the Gospel, and is anti-Christ. Notice how the Catechism attempts to answer "yes":

Q. 56. How is Christ to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world?
A. Christ is to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world, in that he, who was unjustly judged and condemned by wicked men,[b] shall come again at the last day in great power,[c] and in the full manifestation of his own glory, and of his Father's, with all his holy angels,[d] with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God,[e] to judge the world in righteousness.[f]
[b]. Acts 3:14-15

[c]. Matt. 24:30

[d]. Luke 9:26; Matt. 25:31

[e]. 1 Thess. 4:16

[f]. Acts 17:31

Let's examine each of the assertions and the prooftexts.

Christ is to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world, in that He, who was unjustly judged and condemned by wicked men,[b] [b] Acts 3:14-15 "But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, {15} and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses."

This is not about the Second Coming. "Extreme preterists" agree with this.

shall come again at the last day in great power,[c] [c]. Matthew 24:30 "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

This is plain error. The Westminster Divines ascribe to a yet-future Second Coming prophecies of the judgment of Israel in A.D.70

Many Reconstructionists can remember the first time they read Rushdoony, who relied on the work of J. Marcellus Kik, who showed with clear and convincing passages of Scripture that Matthew 24:30 was talking about events in A.D.70, not a future Second Coming. The Westminster Divines erred on this point. Their basic hermeneutical approach is erroneous. They lack even the most basic understanding of preterism. Whatever you believe about Matthew 24:36ff., you should know by now that Matthew 24:30 is talking about Jesus' Coming in judgment against covenant-breaking Israel. This is now (in the 21st century) Eschatology 101.

This basic hermeneutical failure has led Reformed commentators into other errors. Our purpose is to purge our world view of these premillennial errors, not to deny any truth about the "Second Coming" which may remain. This exegetical purging is strenuously resisted by those who oppose "extreme preterism," to the point where they say that those who favor this purging are "outside the Faith." This is sinful.

and in the full manifestation of his own glory, and of his Father's, with all his holy angels,[d] [d]. Luke 9:26 "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.

Matthew 25:31 "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.

Luke 9:26 is erroneously applied by the Westminster Divines to a yet-future Second Coming, as can be seen from the very next verse:

Luke 9:27 But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.

An argument (worthy of respect and thoughtful consideration) can be made that Matthew 25:31 also applied to events in A.D.70. It is shockingly uncharitable to say that a Christian who holds this interpretation of Matthew 25 is "outside the Faith." One who makes such an egregious and divisive slander would do well to "examine himself" (1 Cor. 11:28; 2 Cor. 13:5).

with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God,[e] [e]. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

This text is admittedly difficult to place in an A.D.70 framework. But given that nearly all other New Testament prophecies concerning Christ's "coming" have been misapplied by premillennialists (and too many postmillennialists), are we really "outside the Faith" for enquiring as to whether this passage has also been historically misapplied?

Ed Stevens writes:

J.S. Russell, Milton S. Terry, Ernest Hampden-Cook, Richard Weymouth and other preterists have suggested that there was in fact a literal "catching up" of a limited group of saints (not everyone) in AD 70. Most other preterists, however, see this as just another way of describing the "gathering together" of both Jew and Gentile into the Kingdom of Christ. This latter view is probably the majority opinion. But there are some strong and ancient advocates of a literal "rapture" in AD 70. I am writing a chapter on the rapture in my resurrection book. I plan to present the evidence for both positions, point out what the issues are, what sources for information must be used, and let the reader do his own further research and make up his mind. On internal evidences, contextual and linguistic considerations, the rapture view is stronger. But it has some historical and external problems. It is not as easy to exegete as it looks. The place to start is in the whole 1 Thes. and 2 Thes. context. Then study the Greek word usage in the immediate (1 Thess. 4:13 -- 1 Thess. 5:10) context. Do an especially careful study on the Greek word for "caught up." Study the other verses in the NT which use this Greek word (harpazo). Ask yourself what the Thessalonians were really upset over, and what Paul was actually promising them, which would keep them from "grieving as do the rest who have no hope." What would they get that would solve their grief problem? Was Paul promising them an actual reunion with their departed brethren, or just a "positional" or "spiritual" union with them? Think about it. :-)

And would Paul have been of any help to the Thessalonian believers by promising them a rapture some 2,000 years (or more!) in the future?

Finally, the Catechism cites Acts 17:

Christ is to be exalted in his coming again to . . . judge the world in righteousness.[f] [f]. Acts 17:31 "because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."

One must treat the Westminster Divines with respect. One must also note that Paul is here addressing the Greeks, not the Jews. One would therefore not be "outside the Faith" if he concluded, based on the teaching of the Catechism, that Paul is speaking of a yet-future universal judgment.

But given the fact that all the other passages concerning predicted judgment seem to have been misapplied by the Westminster Divines, and given the fact that Paul elsewhere speaks of judgment as imminent, affecting "this generation," is one "denying the Gospel" for simply asking whether the judgment spoken of here by Paul is not also speaking of judgment in A.D.70? And if one concludes, based on exegetical grounds, that Paul is in fact referring to the judgment in A.D.70, is he for that reason truly "outside the Faith?" Such a claim is outrageous.

Russell writes:

The words 'he will judge' do not express a simple future, but a speedy future, mellei krinein, He is about to judge, or will soon judge. This shade of meaning is not preserved in our English version, but it is not unimportant.

Please don't tell us that we are "extreme preterists" who are "outside the Faith." That kind of talk is sinfully disruptive of the Body of Christ. We who are part of The Christmas Conspiracy! do not deny a future Second Coming. If you can find a passage of Scripture which irrefutably describes a future Second Coming, then we most certainly believe it. We also believe, however, that there are no promises, and no commands of the Gospel which have been delayed or postponed until after a future Second Coming. This is the real issue: are we to be waiting or working? All these other issues strike us as abstract theological distractions. Ethics has priority over eschatology.

Update! I just figured out which page got Mr.McGinnis so upset:

My Analysis of Kenneth Gentry's Analysis of "Hyper-Preterism"

Along these lines, see also:

Do Individual Believers have a Right to Question the Creeds?

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