Friday, August 5, 2016

Preterist Time References, Part V

Along the lines of misunderstanding some other terms, there are a few phrases that are misunderstood such as John's statement concerning "the last hour" (1 John 2:18), or Paul's statement that "the night is almost gone" (Rom 13:12).

These statements are interpreted by Preterists to refer to the small remaining time that exists until the end of the age in A.D. 70.

However, there is no indication of time at all in these phrases. For instance, in 1 John, we are told what John is talking about just a few verses before.

He makes the statement, "On the other handI am writing a new commandment to you which is true in him and in youbecause the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining" (2:8). 

John is not describing the last hour of an age, but giving us the imagery that the apostles often give, which is the last hour of night. He is referring to the time of night when it is still dark, but light from the sun has shone in it, mixed with it, so that both light and darkness exist at the same time.

He says this because the type of proto-Gnostics he is addressing in the epistle seem to have the idea that the new age has already come. Their view of resurrection and Christ's spiritual return would foster this idea. Hence, many think the dark age is gone, and they themselves have been spiritually resurrected to new life, where they are free from moral constraints and are without any guilt of sin (1:5-10).

John counters this by arguing that actually Christians still sin and are in need of confession and the advocacy of the Righteous One, Jesus Christ to forgive them, as well as having a need to walk according to His commandments (2:1-6). The new age of amoralism has, therefore, not come. Christians are still bound to the commandments of Christ, specifically those concerning loving fellow Christians. 

John then confirms that the Light has come, and the darkness is passing away, but that the two exist now together. It is this mixture of the two that he calls "the last hour," referring to the "last hour of night." John proves that darkness still exists with the light by citing the fact that there are many antichrists that have appeared in the world. Hence, the kingdom of the devil is not gone, but merely going, as darkness is passing and light growing in the last hour of night.

Paul makes this imagery more clear in Romans 13:12, where he actually uses terminology that talks about the far advancement of night (he nux proekopsen) in the hour that the day has come ("is here" "in one's presence," engizo in the perfect aspect). The time of night described is the time that John talks about above. It is the time when night is coming to an end and the light is beginning to come out, even though it is still the time before the dawn.

Paul states that this is "already the hour for you to awaken from sleep," which is a reference to his exhortation to the Roman Christians to see that light has broken into the world and they should live accordingly. They ought to live, not according to the pattern of the world that is passing away, described by night and darkness, but according to the light that has come in, described by day. 

2 Peter 1:19 uses the same concept, evidencing that this is a common metaphor in the early church to describe the existence of two kingdoms and two ages existing simultaneously together, one where Christ is honored and followed in righteousness and one where the world still follows the devil and his pattern of rebellion and sin.

 "Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing. You do well if you pay attention to this as you would to a light shining in a murky placeuntil the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."

Peter expresses the need here for the church to give their ear to the testimony of the apostles to withstand the onslaught of heretics in the church, as a "light shining in a dark place." This is needed until the day actually dawns and the morning comes in terms of spiritual maturity. 

The author of Hebrews has this same concept in mind when he states that Christians need to remain faithful "as they see the day drawing near (engizo in the present aspect, 10:25)."

None of these expressions convey when the sun will rise and the night will be completely over. They all convey the idea that, while there are false prophets, sin, antichrists, heretics, i.e., the things of the night, in the world, the night is still here. The assurance that the apostles give to Christians is that the darkness is on its way out, not on its way in. The light, however, is on its way in, and the day, even though still dark outside, has come.

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