1999 by Pastor Robert L. Garringer
I Side-step, But My Motives Are Pure.
John Noe claims that I have "side-stepped" by reducing his seven points to two. He is right in a way. I tried to get to the essence of a complicated issue by focusing on the imminent time-frame references of predictive prophecy and the content of the predictions. Noe states that time-frame references must always be taken literally, but the content of prophecy includes elaborate symbolism that is not literal.
If these two concepts can
be demonstrated to be false, the details of his
seven points are also either false or superfluous.
How About a Little Objectivity?
He states that I am inconsistent when I say that preterists have a strong point in their understanding of the imminent language of time-frame references in New Testament prophecy, but I also believe that they strain words and meanings on another point: their belief that predictions are consistently encoded in figurative language. However, there is no logical conflict in this simple analysis.
I go on to note that futurists have a strength and a weakness in dealing with these same great issues. If Noe does not agree with this broad observation, he should point out why. To me it is obvious, and in an attempt to be as objective as possible I tried to clarify both the shaky and solid ground each of us stand on.
So Imminent Time-frames Are Not Always Literal After All.
In granting that there was as much as two hundred years from the time Isaiah stated that Babylon's destruction was imminent to the actual time of Babylon's fall, Noe has conceded the only point I was making by quoting Isaiah 13:22; imminent language in prophecy does not always correspond to imminent fulfillment.
In light of the urgent, imminent tone of Isaiah 13:22, Noe should give up saying that God always states precisely if an event is going to happen soon or if it is going to take a long time.
He later cites Hebrews 10:37
in his response to me. Very well, lay Isaiah
13:22 alongside Hebrews 10:37--"her[Babylon's] time is at hand,
and her days will not be prolonged" with "He who is coming will come and will not delay."
By the time the first of these prophecies was fulfilled, Isaiah and all his adult contemporaries in Israel and Babylon were long dead. We have the liberty to believe that at least the same length of actual delay may hold for the fulfillment of the second of these prophecies.
Noe cites Habbakuk 2:3, emphasizing the fact that the fulfillment of the prophecy "will not delay," and stating that my belief in delayed fulfillment is incompatible with the prophet.
But look more closely at Habbakuk's words. He is talking about the same matter dealt with in the verses from Isaiah, the coming fall of Babylon. He lived over 100 years closer to the event, but it will still not begin to unfold for nearly ninety more years.
The prophet has asked if God is going to allow Babylon to keep destroying nations without mercy. Then the prophet has stated his determination to stand and wait for the Lord's answer. (1:17-2:1) The words Noe quotes are part of a preface to a lengthy divine pronouncement of judgment against Babylon given to Habbakuk, and the section begins with "Though it linger..."
The Lord is preparing Habbakuk and his hearers for a long delay, and Habbukuk accepts the fact that Babylon's deserved fall will take time. He later states, "I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us." (3:16, NIV)
Nearly ninety years later, all Israel was still waiting, and the complete fulfillment of the prophesied destruction of Babylon would take several more centuries as indicated in my initial article written in response to Noe. (See the immediate context of the time-reference at the end of Isaiah 13:22. The utter destruction of Babylon described there was not fulfilled until the invasion of the Parthians in 130 B. C.)
The lingering lack of fulfillment that Habbakuk speaks of has to do with a God who deals in larger units of time than we are used to and with the "appointed time" spoken of earlier in the verse. From these perspectives, there is no delay, but on the human level, it lingers and demands that Habbakuk--and the generations that followed him, as it turned out--learn patience.
In reply to my comments concerning Isaiah 21:9, Noe grants that the prophets use "done-deal language" for events that have not yet occurred. He does not seem to realize that such prophetic statements are time-frame references and that they are not to be understood literally. He limits such "already happened" speech by the prophets to only "soon-coming events," but this is not the case in Isaiah 21:9. Touse a term from his original article, this was a "multi-centuries" delay.
In short, what Noe concedes concerning my citation of Isaiah 13:22 and 21:9 is all I was asking for except for his unjustified "soon-coming" qualification, and Habbakuk 2:3 itself falls into the category of an imminent time-frame for the prophetic fulfillment of events that were well beyond the life-span of the prophet.
Noe must realize the logic of my evidence at this point. I am not saying that the verses from Isaiah demonstrate a two thousand year delay in Jesus' return. The evidence is not sufficient in itself to make that case, but the implications of Isaiah 13:22 and 21:9 are sufficient to prove that imminent predictive language does not always imply imminent fulfillment.
Noe Does Some Side-Stepping of His Own.
Rather than taking time to
seriously consider objections to his ideas, Noe
refers us to what he has previously written to validate:
(a) As to his over-all preterism, his concession concerning the closing words of Isaiah 13:22 and the relevant language of 21:9 are enough todemonstrate that imminent language in prophecy does not always have the literal implication that preterists insist on.
(b) Concerning II Peter 3:8, the context of Peter's words is clear. The apostle is not talking about the timelessness of God. He isexplaining the delayed coming of Christ.
(c) I Thessalonians 5:23 has failed if it is a promise that Christians would not die before Christ returned. This promise, taken as Noe
understands it, has failed if even one believer died anywhere--let alone in Thessalonica.
Nothing Noe or any other preterist has written elsewhere of which I am aware answers or undermines the logic of these statements.
I have recently purchased a copy of his book, Beyond the End Times, and have scanned it. If there are portions of the book that sufficientlyanswer my objections and correct my understanding, he may point them outto me. I have not found them on my own. Gary DeMarr and R. C. Sproul,to cite two others, have written nothing that sufficiently deals with myobjections, and I have carefully read their books.
Noe Must Face the Music
What "Day and Hour" Might Mean.
What Noe says concerning not knowing the day and hour of Christ's return is nothing more than question-begging. He simply resorts to reciting his preteristic account of the contents of the Olivet Discourse with the assertion that an idiomatic understanding of "day and hour" is an extrapolation. I have given what I called a "legitimate understanding" that Jesus is qualifying His strong emphasis on imminence by stating that the actual time of fulfillment is unknowable by a human mind, including an incarnate one. Noe must demonstrate that this is not a legitimate understanding of what Jesus meant. He has not even tried to do so.
I hope he sees the extent
of both his task and mine on this critical issue.
I need only demonstrate that, in light of the idiomatic use of day
and hour, it is legitimate to take Christ's words as a broad qualification
concerning His own conviction that the time of fulfillment is
imminent. I do not need to prove anything more than that, but he must
demonstrate that this understanding is logically and linguistically impossible.
The Silence is Deafening.
Noe gives no response at all to:
(b) the conviction that Matthew 10:23, used as preterists use it, proves far too much because it would place the "coming" of Christ long before A. D. 70, and
(c) the observation that
"from now on" in Matthew 26:64, is another example
of the non-literal, though meaningful, use of an imminent
time-frame reference in prophecy.
I am preparing a second part
of my response to Noe that focuses on the "radical
symbolism" theory of the content of prophecy. I hesitate in
completing the article, fearing that Noe will treat it with the same contempt and lack of objectivity that I detect in his first response.
I ask Noe and other readers to forgive me if I have written in a way that shows a lack of respect. That is not at all what I wish to do. Noe's words and tone seem so hostile that I wonder if I have written in a way that would justify such a reaction.
I ask that he join me as we each try to relax and detach ourselves from the discussion long enough to consider the validity of our conclusions.