An Introduction to the A.D. 70 Theory

What would you think if someone were to ask you your thoughts on realized eschatology? What about hyper-preterism or Max-Kingism? Most would probably be dumbfounded by such terms, and there is no shame in that, because these are all alternate titles to the little known idea most commonly called the A.D. 70 Theory. It is uncertain just how old this theory is but it did not become widely accepted in theology until the 1800’s when it began to be propagated by a sectarian preacher named James S. Russell in his book, The Parousia, taken from the Greek word for the coming of Christ.

The basic idea of the book was that the second coming of Christ, in fact all biblical prophecy (the judgment of nations, the resurrection of the body, the end of the world etc.) was fulfilled in or by the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. (thus the term Realized Eschatology, meaning that the “last things” are already realized or accomplished and Hyper-Preterism, meaning that everything in Bible prophecy has already occurred in the past) This bizarre notion turned Christian theology on its ear and cause those who accepted the theory to totally reinvent the way they read the Bible. In the 1960’s an Ohio preacher named Max King introduced the theory into the cups/Sunday-school churches of Christ and brought one of the greatest divisions of its kind since the Boll Premillennial Movement. Until recent years the movement has been virtually non-existent among our brethren, but it has begun to rear its head, and for this reason we face it with the word of God.

The A.D. 70 Theory is the antithesis of Premillennialism, which makes the mistake of taking everything in the Bible literally, sometimes to the absurd! In like manner the A.D. 70 advocates make everything figurative or spiritual, also many times to the absurd! To the Realized Eschatologist, the judgment was God’s punishment of the Jewish Nation for rejecting Jesus, the end of the world was the end of the Jewish World (their religious and civil system), and the bodily resurrection was the resurrection of the Church, the Body of Christ, from a supposed 40 years of wilderness wandering (???) and the second coming was when Christ came to reign over his kingdom which, we are told, was not established fully until A.D. 70. This means that there will be no future coming of Christ, no end of the material universe, no judgment of the world and no resurrection of the physical bodies of men and women. Interpretations of what all of this means for us vary greatly, but looking at the history of the A.D. 70 theory will reveal that it has been the cause of much evil in religion. Notice the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:16-18, “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.” It is not clear what the nature of this false doctrine was, but I attest that it must have been similar to the modern A.D. 70 Theory and today the faith of many is “overthrown” by this great heresy. I would like to briefly consider some of the ideas that have resulted from different people’s acceptance of this doctrine.

Universalism

In the 1800’s this doctrine was beginning to gain some popularity in the religious world, as can be seen by the fact the Brother Benjamin Franklin, a notable preacher from the Restoration Movement spent much time addressing and refuting it in his Gospel Sermons vol. 1. When Brother Franklin debated Erasmus Manford on the subject of Universalism, Mr. Manford showed how he had come to accept universalism as a result of his believing the A.D. 70 theory. Since he believed that the judgment had already passed, he concluded that the future held no judgment at all, only purification and salvation. Perhaps Mr. Manford was more honest and consistent than some of his modern heirs are willing to be with the logical conclusions of the theory.

Hyper-Celibacy

Most students of religious history in America are familiar with the now extinct religious sect known as the “Shakers.” So called because of their worship services in which they would “shake and jerk” supposedly under the influence of the Holy Spirit, but they are perhaps most famous for their unique teaching on physical relationships. The Shakers taught what might be called “hyper-celibacy” in that they condemned marriage and forced all couples who were converted to separate and give their children over to be raised by the church. This teaching resulted in the group literally dying out! One might ask why anyone would believe such a bizarre doctrine, and the answer is once again in the A.D. 70 theory. The Shakers believed that they were living in the resurrection time and thus there was no “marrying or giving in marriage.” (Matthew 22:30)

Once Saved Always Saved

Sometime ago I was involved in a study with a preacher who had become a follower of the A.D. 70 school and in the course of our conversation I asked him about the Lord’s statement in Matthew 22:30 that in the resurrection we would, “die no more.” I pointed out to him that if this referred to physical death then you would be faced with the absurd notion of 2000 year old people walking around today! However, if we should take the position that the death Jesus referred to was “spiritual” then the result is the doctrine of eternal salvation, or once-saved-always-saved. I was told by this preacher that “if that was where he was led then that was where he would go.” If he went there, he would not be alone. There have been many religious organizations who have been led by the A.D. 70 theory to believe in the impossibility of “spiritual death” for the believer.

The Spiritual Supper

One of the most glaring doctrinal difficulties of the A.D. 70 theory is the impact it has on the Lord’s Supper. In 1 Corinthians 11:26, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” It is the opinion of this writer that this scripture offers one of the most devastating blows to the A.D. 70 Theory. One of the purposes of communion is to declare the Lord’s Death, “till he comes.” Was the Lord’s supper only an ordinance of the church for 40 years? Many A.D. 70 advocates say yes. Notice this explanation offered by the Pensacola Orthodox Preterist Baptist Assembly in their statement of faith about the Lord’s Supper “We believe that the Lord’s Supper was the commemoration of His death, burial, and resurrection, and the New Testament saints observed it until He came. Our Lord said that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God would come, and it came in AD 70. Then the Lord’s Supper was made new in the New Covenant in the spiritual kingdom of God thereby now, since AD 70 we have endless communion and fellowship with the Lord in observing the Lord’s supper anew without the elements, spiritually and perpetually because He, the Lord, dwells with us and in us by His Spirit in the spiritual kingdom of God.” “We believe every time that the assembly assembles together to worship we observe the Lord’s Supper spiritually.” “We believe the Lord’s table is always set with spiritual food and we are always and at all times invited to come and dine with him not in the flesh but spiritually.” [1] Most A.D. 70 advocates in the churches of Christ word it that the communion is now a “celebration of Christ’s reign.” To some that might sound like a convincing answer, but where is the scriptural proof? All of the scriptures quoted on their website, in fact all of the scriptures in the Bible, according to them, were written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem (the Second Coming) so how do we know how to worship after the second coming? The confusion that this strange idea causes about the Lord’s Supper has led many to the next position we will consider.

No Need For Church

When I discuss the idea of Realized Eschatology with people in the Church, and even in the world, the same question continually arises: “If this is true, then what is the point of it all? What it the point of the Church? What is the Point of Christianity?” There is no doubt that the A.D. 70 Theory seems to rob much of the glory and hope from the Christian religion and has led some to outright infidelity![2] The hope of the Resurrection, the redemption of the body, has been the hope of God’s people through the ages. The hope of the second coming of Christ is a central theme of Christianity and was a doctrine taught to all Christians everywhere. The Day of Judgment and the destruction of the material universe are principle points of Christian theology. Christianity is incomplete without them and taking these great doctrines away will leave an empty space in the religion of Christ. As we have seen, some have tried to fill that empty space with new theories and wild ideas while others have been driven to the point of giving up on the church all together.

How true it is to claim that “the resurrection is already past” will over throw men’s faith! And so we resolve to give Biblical proof for the truth on these great themes that are challenged by the A.D. 70 Theory. Some today have tried to say that this theory is not so dangerous and can coexist with the other ideas about end times, but let this be the proof to the contrary. The A.D. 70 theory is a heresy against the word of God and must not be tolerated in our pulpits and its advocates should not be supported.

In coming weeks we will write on the following subjects:

1. The Second Coming of Christ

2. The Bodily Resurrection

3. The Judgment of the Nations

4. The Destruction of the World

5. The Establishment, Identity and Future of the Kingdom

Please check the website each week to reason with us on these great Bible themes. – CED

[1] http://www.preteristbaptist.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=articlesoffaith.index

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Schweitzer#Theology


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