Editor's Note: I wrote this article in 2004. I've changed a lot since then, but I still believe hyper-preterism is a full blown gnostic heresy. - Brandan
For the last couple of years, I have struggled with the doctrines of hyper preterism. The doctrines also known as “realized eschatology” or “covenant eschatology” or “full preterism” teaches that the eschatological events of Scripture were entirely fulfilled in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem. Conservative preterists or “partial preterists” like me have no doubt that many of the eschatological prophecies of Scripture were fulfilled in 70 AD. However, we still hold to the belief that there remains a future coming of Christ, along with a future physical resurrection of the dead. Hyper preterists claim the resurrection was a spiritual resurrection that took place in 70 AD. They teach a plethora of other doctrines, which if you care to study you can learn about them at http://www.preteristarchive.com or just head on over to the 5solas.org forums and read the numerous discussions that have taken place there.
Of all the heresies I’ve encountered, I don’t think there is anything craftier than the doctrine of hyper preterism in that it is extremely deceptive and has fooled a good many seemingly theologically sound people. Most of the hyper preterists that I know seem to be strongly grounded in the faith; that is they have studied the Scriptures for years, they are seemingly soteriologically sound, and seem to genuinely live out the life of a true believer in Christ. Regarding their outward character I usually cannot speak a single bad word about them. Some of the best theological literature I’ve ever read on non-eschatological topics has been written by hyper preterists! Usually the hyper preterist is very familiar with the Scriptures, and has a good grasp of logic and rhetoric. They are expert debaters, and no doubt most of them are very intelligent and well learned individuals having a solid education in logic, rhetoric and hermeneutics. BUT in spite of all the positive character traits of hyper preterists, I believe their teaching on the resurrection is not only wrong concerning its timing but also concerning its nature. The error of Hymenaeus was great enough that it prompted Paul to write the following things about him:
1 Timothy 1:18-20 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
2 Timothy 2:15-19 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
To summarize Paul’s teaching on the subject, you could say that because of Hymenaeus’ teaching on the resurrection, it prompted Paul to say that he has rejected the faith and a good conscience, that he has been delivered over to Satan, that he is a blasphemer, that he incorrectly divides the word of truth, that he is a profane idler and babbler, that he will increase in more ungodliness, that his message spreads like cancer, that he has strayed from the truth, that he overthrows the faith of others, and he is not one of Christ’s people. These are hard and inflammatory words. These are not my words. These are the words of the appointed and chosen Apostle of Christ and His Supreme Grace!
All of this begs the question, “Are modern day hyper-preterists committing the same error as Hymenaeus and Philetus?”
1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up-if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
In Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth he wrote that a denial of a “resurrection of the dead” is indeed a matter of life and death. He affirms that a belief in the resurrection was absolutely necessary if one was to have any hope in Christ. He also says that if there is no resurrection that we as men are the most pitiable. Simply summarizing, Paul states emphatically that if we were to deny the resurrection, our “faith is futile” and we are still in our sins! And this is exactly what hyper preterists are doing today by denying the resurrection.
To be fair, I will present to you what hyper preterists would say to that charge. Hyper preterists today say they believe in the resurrection of the dead so this charge is not valid. They however would amend their argument stating that it occurred in 70 AD and it was a “spiritual” resurrection; that it was different than what most believers expect to see when we read the Scriptures. Well, friends, if that’s the case, then either those who hold to a future physical resurrection are not Gospel believers, or those who hold to a past spiritual resurrection are not Gospel believers. To me the critical issue is the nature of the resurrection. And this is what makes hyper preterism so deadly. Mark my words, we do not believe in the same “resurrection” and because of that, one group has to be right and the other group has to be wrong. To erroneously deny the nature of the resurrection is to commit the same error that the cultists do when they deny God’s attributes. A denial of the nature of the resurrection is a denial of the resurrection in the same way a denial of God’s attributes is a denial of God Himself!
To further illustrate my point, genuine believers and followers of cults like Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witness claim to believe in God and have faith that Christ’s atonement has been applied to them. But the truth is believers and the followers of these cults are worlds apart because they believe in different gods! The believer looks to The Christ or the Son personhood of the Sovereign Triune God of Scripture while followers of the cults look to a god or christ that deviates greatly from the description given to us by the Bible. In reality, the followers of the cults are worshipping a god of their own mind or imagination. They don’t know the Jesus true believers know. And in the same way those who claim to believe the teaching of hyper preterism believe in a resurrection that is completely contrary to the same resurrection in which I believe. Because of this deviancy in the meaning of the resurrection, one of us has no hope and one of us is lost in their sins as Paul rightly states.
Christ’s resurrection was physical. He was the first to be resurrected and I believe I will be resurrected in exactly the same manner. Those who don’t share this hope with me do not know of the hope I have in Christ and have swallowed the gnostic lie of Hymenaeus thus painting themselves not as genuine believers, but as damnable heretics unless they repent. These are harsh words, but they are not my own, but those of the Apostle Paul’s.
I like to think of 5solas.org as haven for truth on the Internet. For a period of a couple years I have thoroughly and honestly investigated the teachings of hyper preterism. I approached it carefully and closely listened to both sides of the argument. I have met some people that I consider to be good online friends and it pains me more than anything to say this – but I cannot embrace them any longer as brethren in Christ if they continue to embrace the teaching of hyper preterism. This pains me greatly because I truly love these people. But I must stand for truth rather than knowingly turn a blind eye to their serious and deadly error in hopes that God may grant them repentance. To not do so would be unloving, and in fact murderous. Therefore as owner and webmaster of 5solas.org, I hereby renounce the doctrine of hyper preterism and declare it to be neo-hymenaenism. It is a lie of Satan used to ensnare and deceive many, and if it were possible, even the elect.