By: Ed Hassertt
Often when we debate theology it never touches on the real world around us. This has especially been true of preterism. This is not a fault of preterism but is a result of the constant need to defend our faith against attack, ignorance and slavish adherence to man-made creeds. We are so focused on the extremely important subject of apologetics that we often neglect the equally important subject of Christian living. In a series of articles I am going to be approaching preterist answers to our problems of daily life. Preterism is a theology that can bring answers for those who are sick, dying, struggling with faith, oppressed, addicted, and even living in sin. In fact preterism provides the only real answer to these problems since it is the only theology that addresses the whole of scripture, believing the word of God for what it actually says instead of for what men have claimed it has said in the past.
So, to start things off, since my main struggle with preterism was with how it could deal with my own chronic illness, I am going to address the idea of healing and the resurrection in preterist theology in contrast with futurist theology. I think you will find that preterism not only fulfills our hopes but provides direction, stability and relief from our anxieties about illness. True healing comes from the gates of the New Jerusalem.
Now those of us who suffer from chronic illness, those who are aging and dealing with age-related physical issues, and those who care for those in illness receive a lot of mixed messages from the futurist church. We are often told that if we have faith God will heal us. Others tell us that we will be healed when we walk in heaven with our Lord. Still others say we will find real healing in the future resurrection when our bodies will be made whole again. But we are only told that in the present we must be patient, and deal with our illnesses stoically, which somehow is supposed to show we have faith. Somehow trying to live as if we have no disability or illness, and talking as if we don’t is supposed to be a demonstration of faith!
The futurist, as they do with all things important, post pones our healing into the future. They provide little help for the here and now except hope. Hope can be a powerful emotion, but when God has given us so much for the present hope can be a means of escape. Hope become a way to refuse to live in the moment God has given us. God calls us to take not thought for tomorrow because it will take care of itself, but the futurist tells us all good things will come tomorrow so their focus is always on tomorrow! True faith is realizing the fulfilled hope we have to live today, in this moment, instead of some escape clause for the future. The Christian faith is not about looking for an escape from our physical existence sometime in the future. It is in realizing that God created us to be who we are here and now, and given us the fulfillment and grace to be in his kingdom right now, on this earth, in this body.
So let’s look at scripture to see how God has provided for those of us with illness here and now. The primary scripture is of course is Revelation 22:
1Then the angel[a] showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life[b] with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants[c] will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
The power of being in the New Jerusalem for those with illness is obvious. Verse 3 is key here. It tells us nothing is accursed any longer. This means that instead of your illness being a curse, a mistake, a problem to be solved, your illness is how God has designed you to be. We have a hard time in the midst of suffering to see it this way, but that is why the preterist paradigm must bring with it a change of thinking. We must begin to think of our illnesses the way God thinks of them: as part of what he has given us in His grace to be the person he wishes us to be. It takes some genuine effort, but when we can see our disabilities as blessings instead of curses, a world of faith and joy opens up before us.
Of course this verse speaks of healing for the nations. But as we can see this healing is for a spirit and our faulty way of thinking. We see our illness as a burden because this is how we have always been taught. The propaganda of futurism has taught us to fear illness and reject it as something we must endure instead of something we must celebrate. Jesus ministry began to inaugurate this new way of thinking. Remember the man born blind, and the disciple’s question? Jesus tells us the man was born blind for God’s glory not as punishment or recompense! Our illness is born in us for God’s glory. That is a joy-producing thought. We are not defective, not less than those with perfect health. We are brining glory to God through our illness. We are not cursed!
Jeremiah 17, in looking forward from the time of that profit tells us why looking at illness as a burden misses the point:
5Thus says the LORD:”Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,[a]
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
6 He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
Notice those who make their flesh their strength cannot see good coming and turn their hearts from God. Often people with chronic illness or pain lose their faith and turn away from God. This is because they see their flesh as being their primary strength and their identity. When we identify ourselves as current members of God’s Kingdom this thinking fades and our faith is renewed. We begin to see that God has provided the resurrection which makes our soul our strength instead of our bodies. We have been renewed already! We do not have to wait for some future event to be made whole, we are whole, illness and all. We are not less than we should be, we are exactly where God wishes us to be! Sickness and pain only bring spiritual suffering if we think incorrectly about them. God has provided a much better healing than physical healing; he has made us whole spiritually.
Staying in Jeremiah, chapter 33 gives us a hint of this type of healing: “6 Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security.” Notice God will reveal the abundance and security to us. That seems odd if the healing is speaking of a physical transformation like the futurist resurrection. If the futurist type of resurrection were true it would be abundantly obvious that we were transformed, healed and living in abundance and security. So why would God have to reveal that to us? The fact is because the resurrection took place in 70 AD, God does reveal to us our abundance and security, and healing. Our healing comes through our spirit. If the futurist resurrection is true this verse in Jeremiah is senseless. But since the preterist view of the resurrection is the truth of scripture, Jeremiah makes perfect since. Those of us with physical ailments need to study God’s word, pray and seek His face and he will reveal that in this we have prosperity and security. We need not fear. Often the fear brought on by illness can be worse than the actual illness. But through the truth of scripture, we find that fear is dispelled by the security of resign in the New Jerusalem, surrounded by the walls of the Kingdom, and being healed and renewed daily by the Tree of Life. We have eternal life now, not in some future state.
Futurists have very weak answers to Romans 8:11: “11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Just as Jesus was raised, we are raised with new life in our mortal bodies. Notice it does not say we are raised in some future state in a glorified body. It says specifically we are raised like Christ, in our mortal bodies, right here, right now. So if we are raised as this verse says, we know that the body we have is the body God has intended for us in His Kingdom. We don’t need to seek escape from how God has raised us to be! Again, I know this is difficult, but that is the point. We have to reshape our thinking. Instead of seeing illness as something evil that plagues us, we must see it as placed in us for a great purpose of brining glory to God. We must see this through the eyes of faith. Preterism teaches us to see spiritual reality through the eyes of faith instead of always removing ourselves from today with escapism for tomorrow. Our thinking can be transformed into seeing ourselves as whole and complete as we are. It is a liberating process that not only transforms our lives but the lives of those around us. My chronic pain teaches me deeper spiritual truths than a healthy body could. I see God more clearly because it makes me focus on what is important. Chronic Illness is a tool that focuses our faith on Christ. They can strengthen our faith if we see them through the lens of fulfilled prophecy. The problem is futurists get all caught up in physical fulfillment of actual lions lying down with lambs that they miss the incredible abundance, prosperity, security and joy we have RGIHT NOW!
We have another curious verse in 3 John: “2Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” Notice that John equates good health with things going well with the soul! This is the main point of this article, good health is found in the healing of our souls. Those of us with chronic illness need to have a paradigm shift to see how our illness is designed to build God’s Kingdom. We are part of the variety of stones God is using to build. Unlike the futurist resurrection which has a uniformity of being in the resurrected body, the true resurrection has a variety and diversity among those elected for the Kingdom. God has uses for all this variety. My illness is exactly the stone God needed for me to build the part of the Kingdom he has made me responsible for. Without my chronic illness I would be incomplete and not fit properly into the wall God has designed. I am as I was made to be, and that for a purpose.
The flesh is not evil; nevertheless, proper thinking requires us to shift our emphasis from the physical to the spiritual: Luke 10:
17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Notice the 72 return with great stories of physical victory. Jesus speaks of this physical power but puts it in perspective. He states that the real thing to rejoice in is their spiritual state as members of the Kingdom. From this we can glean that our physical ailments which we may or may not have power over are secondary to our spiritual healing. Now many futurists may accuse me of Gnosticism at this point. It is a favorite although highly inaccurate charge that futurist tend to level at preterists. But in this case it is way off base. Instead of seeking escape from the physical, as the Gnostics did, I am saying that the physical is fully blessed and designed as it is. We don’t have to escape the evil of the physical world, because it is no longer evil. Christ has redeemed the world and us, reversed the curse, and become the new Adam bringing spiritual healing and life where once there was death. The physical is no longer something to escape, but is instead to be embraced and lived by new life in the Spirit. As our spirits are healed in the New Jerusalem we realize that everything has been restored to the state where God declared, “It is good.” That was the point of the cross and the resurrection in 70 AD, restoration of the physical. As we started this article in Revelation 22: there is no longer a curse! That is powerful once you realize it. We can do all things through Christ because the curse is lifted! New Life is here now. The flesh is not evil it is the designed tool for our spirit to live in this world to the glory of God. Preterist are not escapists like the futurist, we live in this world fully for God’s glory.
So what is the real goal for which God has created us, illness and all? 2 Peter 1:
3His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[c] his own glory and excellence,[d] 4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
We are designed to become partakers of the divine nature. We have escaped from the corruption of the world, as Jesus has reversed the curse. This allows us full communion with God, this is what is meant by God’s dwelling place being with men. The mansions Jesus prepared for us are places of communion within ourselves with the divine nature. We no longer need to go to a temple building to commune with God. We have our own tabernacle designed by Christ within our spirit to follow our calling to the glory and excellence of God our Father. When we read scripture through preterist eyes, verses we once glossed over and read without understand spring to life. We can see our true nature and the paradigm shift in our thinking begins. Participating in the divine nature means we are in God’s heaven now. We participate fully in eternity through Christ our Lord. We do not await a future state of bliss and joy; we have been transformed to enjoy that now. The reason many of us do not enjoy it now is not because it is not a present reality, it is because our thinking, based on futurism, blocks our spirit from understanding. Once we can realize all things have been fulfilled in Christ, a new joy opens up to us that reveals the vastness of the promise. The fullness is here and now. Realizing that is powerful! That power from the Spirit of God to our Spirit is available when we seek Him first.
We must cast of the thinking that the best is yet to come to realize that the best is here and now! We are trapped by our faulty thinking, not by the world. It is like a blind man walking in the sunlight. He may believe it to be night because all is darkness. But just because all he sees is darkens does not mean the world is in darkness. If by a miracle he is able to see, he will see the brightness and glory of the sun shining and will be open to whole new possibilities and joy as he examines and learns new sights. In the very same way we walk in the sunlight of God’s fulfilled word, but think we are still in darkness awaiting the light. But God has offered healing in the New Jerusalem that will grant us our sight. Then we can see the reality of the light of Christ on the throne that shines in all of our life. We find joy in finding new things, new power to live, new spiritual healing, and a new perspective that can only come when the blind man can finally see. It takes some time for us, just as it does for the newly sighted, to adjust to this new world of brightness. We must be patient. The reality is in scripture though, we walk in the light!
Hebrews 12 says it best:
12Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
We are called to act, top lift ourselves up and walk, Strength will come. Our sight will improve. As we walk the path our new found sight will show us that our thinking has been wrong all along. In the darkness we see chronic illness as a burden. In the light we will see it by way of a new perspective as the design of God for his kingdom and glory. The majority of the church still walks in darkens because they are blinded by their futurism and attempts to live in the future instead of the present. Only preterism provides the sounds scriptural interpretation to open our eyes to all God has given us. Preterism removes our blindness to see the brightness of the son and the blessedness of all that surrounds us. The truth in scripture summarized in preterism liberates us from the bondage of the past and postponement of our joy into the future. We are living in God’s Kingdom now with all the blessings he promised, but we must realize that in order to claim them and live as he has called us to live. A blind man cannot walk a straight and narrow path, but once his sight is restored the path is clear.
Hebrews 13: 20Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us[a] that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Edward J. Hassertt