Susan D. Harris
August 20, 2015
Preterists in sheep's clothing: the growing plague of end times deception
By Susan D. Harris

"If you want to find out if someone understands Scripture correctly, ask them if they think Israel has a right to the land."

In the 1980's, when Hal Lindsey's book, "The Late Great Planet Earth" was still popular, I was busy with high school and college. Frankly I wasn't giving much thought to Bible prophecy. It was always in the back of my mind however – in a file marked "for future reference."

And I believed I had all the time in the world. Most Bible prophecy was yet to be fulfilled: The coming of the Antichrist (who I believed would be a real person), the mark of the beast, the Gog and Magog war, and the armies that would surround Jerusalem – the burdensome stone.

As editor of the college newspaper, I covered Gorbachev's reforms in the Soviet Union – Perestroika and Glasnost. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was paving the way for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty; "mutually assured destruction" would march into the history books.

I watched as the Berlin wall came down. I remember thinking, "Certainly Bible prophecy is a long way from being fulfilled. The Soviets are our friends; Communism is collapsing!" The world was destined for peace.

I had read the Bible as Holy book. I believed that my interpretation of its teaching and prophecy was revealed to me with divine guidance. Now there is a doctrine gaining steam in the churches, however, which wants to convince me that the divine guidance I'd experienced was all a lie.

Not too many years ago, I hadn't ever heard of the terms "dispensationalist" or "futurist." If anyone had mentioned "eschatology," I would have thought it was a French word for the study of snails. And I most definitely had never heard of "Replacement Theology" or "Preterism" – the idea that all Bible prophecies that I expected to be fulfilled in the future had already been fulfilled with the Siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of its temple in 70 A.D.

Not until I was faced with a Preterist that held these beliefs did I even know they existed. Worse yet, this Preterist was starting a Christian organization in my area and revealed to me that his secret goal was to convince Christians that their Futurist, Dispensationalist, end-times ideas were a manufactured lie. (He is currently working to spread his organization to 300 U.S. cities).

This man revealed to me that he was bitter that his late father had been "brainwashed" by "false teachers" like Hal Lindsey and Pat Robertson. His poor father had died, he said, waiting for a Savior that never came. It sounded more like it wasn't the father who had become disillusioned with his own beliefs, but his son – a son who turned to Preterism.

To hide the truth of his own bitterness, this Preterist blamed Futurist interpretations of Bible prophecy for every ill that befell America. He wrote:

"Modern American teachings on "the end times" are, in my perspective, half of the reason we have the apathy and complacency we do in the Church, and it will definitely be one of my objectives to challenge and confront what I consider to be false teachings through this ministry (in time)."

He said "in time" because he lures his followers by making them think he believes as they do, and intends to deceive them with the false doctrine of Preterism after he gains their trust.

The "apathy and complacency" he refers to apparently stem from Christians "sitting back and waiting for Jesus." Only later would I learn that this is one of the main Preterist denunciations of Futurists (or Dispensationalists): Christians don't become engaged in bettering the culture because Jesus is coming back soon – so they choose to sit on their hands.

Eventually I also learned that Preterists don't support Israel because they do not see the Jews as God's chosen people. In fact, they say God has been done with the Jewish people since the First Century A.D. because they rejected Christ. Consequently, Israel has no place in God's future plan. It might sound inconsequential until you realize there is a strong undercurrent of anti-Semitism at the core of this belief; and its modern manifestation has some serious implications for our present day foreign policy...a foreign policy that increasingly contradicts the very basis of America's historical support for Israel.

One pastor put it succinctly when he said, "If you want to find out if someone understands Scripture correctly, ask them if they think Israel has a right to the land."

Recently I had a lengthy phone call from someone who I thought shared my "Futurist" beliefs. A friend as well as an editor, he wanted me to remove references to "end times scripture" in an article I'd written. Why? Because it had already been fulfilled in 70 A.D. I nearly fell over.

"If you read it in context..." he kept saying. I kept thinking, "There is so much more to my faith than reading something in context." My faith, my relationship with God and the communication that passes between us is so much bigger than "in context."

I don't care to debate a Preterist on specific Bible verses. How can you debate a self-professed Christian who is willfully blind to the awesomeness of God's predictions being fulfilled in news headlines daily?

(Those debates are perhaps better left to people like New York Times bestselling author Joel Richardson, who tackles Preterism head-on in his latest book, "When a Jew Rules the World.")

Instead, my intention is to alert Christians that Preterism is spreading like wildfire, and it's threatening an already dwindling amount of people who identify as Christians in America. It's threatening because it destroys the exhortation to Christians to be "watchmen on the wall." When you eliminate the watchmen, it becomes a salvation issue. The book of Ezekiel tells us:

"But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take [any] person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand."

Preterism, by its very nature, stifles Christians' ability to warn people of what is coming upon the earth.

If, as the Preterist believes, the Antichrist was the Roman emperor Titus, there's no sense in warning people about the beast (who will derive his power and authority from Satan) who is yet to come.

It follows that if there is no beast yet to come, there is no reason to dissuade people from receiving the "mark of the beast" – an act the Bible tells us will incur the wrath of God.

This brings us back to Preterism being a salvation issue and the fact that meddling with humans' salvation is the primary skill listed on Satan's resume. Surely this doctrine is part of the great deception, a time when 2 Timothy tells us that people will "not endure sound doctrine," and will "turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."

It's hard to believe that people can be convinced that all prophecies were fulfilled by 70 A.D., especially when you consider that miraculous day in May 1948 when Israel became a nation in one day.

As I look back at events that have shaped the world since the 1980's, I am shocked at how drastically the world has changed; how many things have fallen into place to fulfill Bible prophecies that were unthinkable a few short years ago.

As a Christian, I believe these things have been revealed to me by the Holy Spirit...just as they have been to millions of Christians – Christians who don't need to be lectured to read the Bible "in context"; Christians who have a higher authority than man assisting them in Bible interpretation. God is revealing his plan not only through his Word, but also through a higher frequency – discernment on the spiritual plane...the Comforter who was sent to teach us all things.

Be vigilant. Preterists are often secretive, hiding their beliefs, seeming to graze among congregations like wolves in sheep's clothing. When in doubt, don't be afraid to ask someone if they are a Preterist. The easiest thing might be to ask, "Do you think Israel has a right to the land?" The answer to that one crucial question reveals all you need to know about a person's theology.

Susan D. Harris can be reached at www.susandharris.com

© Susan D. Harris

 

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