One of the many “timing texts” which Preterists employ is Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 7: 29 that “the time is short.” Preterists apparently believe that this points to the destruction of Jerusalem. But as with other timing texts, this is one is wrenched completely from its chronological and historical bearings, and placed in a false context. As we’ll see, this text has nothing to do with A.D. 70, but supports the Apotelesmatic Interpretation of Christ’s second coming.
I am pushing this issue for all it’s worth, because for the very first time in the history of the Preterist movement, orthodox Christians have a real answer regarding all of the timing-texts. In my studies of Preterist material, I have seen several lists of such texts put forth, but never once have I seen them chronologically and systematically arranged according to the historical events of the Acts period. Had this been done, the discrepancies and inconsistencies of the Preterist view would immediately become apparent.
To understand what Paul meant, let us give a brief overview of the conditions then current. The first epistle to the Corinthians was written in Spring of A.D. 57, during Paul’s two-year stay in Ephesus (see Acts 19: 10). This was his second visit to the city, his first taking place after his departure from Achaia, where he established the Corinthian church and taught there for eighteen months (Acts 18: 11). Between Paul’s first and second visit to Ephesus, while he was away in Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples (Acts 18: 23), Apollos came to Ephesus. After first being instructed by Aquila and Priscilla, he passed into Corinth where he ministered to the church, and “mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ” (Acts 18: 28).
When Paul came to Ephesus the second time, he stayed there for two years, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. It was during his stay here that he received a letter from the Corinthian church asking advice on some pressing issues, one of them being marriage. But the church did not make known to him the divisions and disruptions that were already occurring among them. The spiritual state of affairs of the Corinthian church was made to known to Paul by visitors from Achaia (1 Cor. 1: 11; 5: 1; 11: 18). Hence, when Paul penned his first epistle to the Corinthians, he not only reproved them concerning their various departures from sound orthodoxy, but also addressed their concerns regarding marriage. Should they marry, or shouldn’t they?
Paul responded by saying it was better to abide even as himself, and remain unmarried. For there was tribulation in the offing, and the “time was short” (1 Cor. 7: 28-29). But what kind of tribulation was Paul talking about? We agree with Preterists that it must have been the Great Tribulation. However, a bit of reflection will tell us that it could have nothing to with events that were (according to Preterists) ten years away. It was an IMMINENT CRISIS Paul was speaking of. It was something that could occur any month, any week, any day. And we know exactly how that crisis would have been brought about. For the Gospel was still being offered to the “Jew first,” and receiving much opposition (See Acts 18: 6-7; 19: 8). It was yet uncertain whether the nation would receive it.
In order for the Lord of the Harvest to send His Son, 144,000 saved Israelites were needed as a first-fruits offering to God (see Rev. 14: 1-4). Had this number been met, the events denoted by Christ as the “beginnings of sorrows” (Matt. 24: 7-8; Revelation 6: 1-8) would have taken place, and all things have rushed to a glorious consummation. Michael would have stood up for the children of Israel, and Satan been ejected from the heavenlies (Dan. 12: 1; Rev. 12: 7-9). This would have triggered the period known as the “Great Tribulation,” after which Israel would have been saved, at Jesus Christ’s return from heaven. Of course, we now know that the required first-fruits number was never filled up. However, until Israel formally rejected the kingdom in A.D. 63, the coming of Christ was still imminent. In other words, it was still possible.
The above facts provide the perfect backdrop for Paul’s statement that “the time was short.” The Corinthian Christians, like their brethren in Thessalonica, were waiting for the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor. 1: 7; 1 Thess. 1: 10). This was not something that would take place thirteen years later, but which might happen very soon! However, it was all dependent upon Israel’s acceptance of the Gospel. There was Christ’s emphatic statement that the nation would not see Him again until they repented (Matt. 23: 39). The original purpose of the preaching of the Gospel was to bring this national repentance about.
As proof that our position is correct, we remind the reader that during this period the baptism of John was still being administered (Acts 18: 25; 19: 3). Why? Because in order for the Day of the Lord to come, Elijah had to first appear as a herald to “turn heart of the fathers to the children, and and the heart of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4: 5).
But, you say, Elijah already did come in the person of John the Baptist. Therefore, the Day of the Lord had to happen in the first century. No it didn’t! Because the one condition necessary for John’s the Baptist’s fulfillment of that role was never met. The condition was that Israel receive him. “And IF YE WILL RECEIVE it, this is Elias, who was for to come” (Matt. 11: 14). Because Israel had not yet received John the Baptist as Elijah (cf. Matt. 17: 12), his baptism was still being administered! This lends strong support to our view that the required first-fruits number was still lacking when Paul wrote to the Corinthians. These saved Israelites were being added every day (cf. James 1: 18). But they were just as quickly falling away!
Nevertheless, in A.D. 57 things were not entirely hopeless. The contention between Paul and the Jews had not yet reached a crisis; though during this period Paul must have felt some anxiety concerning his impending visit to Jerusalem (Acts 18: 21; 19: 21). For this was to be the decisive factor that would settle whether or not Israel was ready to accept or reject Peter’s admonition to repent (Acts 3: 19-21).
If they had repented, the events of the Apocalypse would have begun, and Jesus Christ have returned at the close of the 70 weeks. But since they rejected the Gospel, Paul pronounced upon them the sentence of judicial blindness (Acts 28: 26-27), and further progression toward the sunteleia was halted. It was then that the present Dispensation began, and God’s eternal purpose revealed for the very first time in the prison epistles (Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians). These things could not be made known until the Gospel had been rejected by Israel.
After A.D. 63 there is a conspicuous absence of so-called “timing texts” in the epistles of Paul. Since Israel rejected the Gospel in Acts 28, the offer an an imminent parousia was necessarily withdrawn. It was then that Paul unfolded the doctrines of grace, later giving instructions for orderly church government. No longer were Christians waiting for an “any-moment” tribulation and Apocalypse, but they had a new and better hope held out to them, consisting of an “ex-anastasis” and “calling on high” (Phil. 3: 11, 14). This is our hope today.
Interestingly, in the later prison epistles, written in A.D. 67-68, there is a total absence of any indication that the “Great Tribulation” was impending over the church. And yet when Paul wrote to Timothy, Jerusalem was under siege! If Paul had thought that Christ’s coming and the investment of Jerusalem were inseparably connected, then why would he pass this over? Rather, he wishes Christians to live a “peaceable and quiet life” (1 Tim. 2: 2), and advises that the younger women “marry and bear children” (1 Tim. 5: 14). Surely these are not the statements of one who thought that an eschatological crisis was at hand!
As the reader will see, we are soundly thrashing the doctrines of Preterism. Even the most hardened proponents of the system will have to grudgingly admit that we are bringing some powerful arguments to bear against the concept of an A.D. 70 parousia. Only date the various time-texts and place them in their true historical and chronological settings, and Preterism will quickly crumble. As a theology that depends upon sweeping generalities, any attention to details must prove fatal. Paul’s admonition that “the time is short” is but one example of a hundred which can be adduced to show that Hyper-Preterism is a fraudulent system, and one that will not bear a critical examination of the evidence.