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The Messiah’s Return

Author:  Timothy A. James

Book Review by Ken Davies

James, Timothy A. The Messiah’s Return: Delayed? Fulfilled? or Double Fulfillment? Bradford, PA: Kingdom Publications, 1991. paper, 71 pp.

Tim James lives with his wife, Belle, and 12-year-old daughter, Misty, in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he works for the State’s Child Protective Services. For the past 6 years, he has conducted in-home family therapy, as well as operate the Coffeeshop International, a Christian center for community outreach, along with his partner, Bill Kernan. Tim is a graduate of Ashland Theological Seminary, where he received his masters degree in Pastoral Counseling. He became a preterist in 1975 after studying with Max King’s father-in-law, C.D. Beagle. Currently, Tim is working on translating The Messiah’s Return into Chinese, and is writing a larger work entitled His Intimate Presence, to be published in English and Chinese.

Although The Messiah’s Return is only a booklet, the saying, “Dynamite comes in small packages” applies! This little book is packed full of information designed to provoke thought and study of God’s Word as it applies to eschatology.

James begins his work by pointing out the time limitations of the “Second Coming” prophecies and goes on to examine and refute the claims of those who attempt to use the “delayed” parousia as an excuse for denying or belittling Christianity. A case in point is Joachim Jeremias, who says that Jesus was mistaken in His “expectation of an imminent end,” since it “remains unfulfilled.” George Ladd also takes this view.

Albert Schweitzer said the Church must “de-eschatologize” the New Testament because of this alleged delay in Christ’s return. These are men who claim to support Christianity, in spite of its “mistakes.” One who used the “unfulfilled” statements of Jesus as a reason for unbelief was Bertrand Russell (Why I am Not a Christian, 1957). The point Mr. Russell makes is valid: “...He [Jesus] certainly thought that His second coming would occur in the clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove it.... That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching.” With attacks such as this being made upon the integrity of the Word of God, it is no wonder conservative Christians have attempted to answer the “problem” of a “delay” in the fulfillment of Christ’s words. James presents these various “explanations” and shows how inconsistent and inadequate they are.

His next area of study is the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, quoting the works of Josephus and F. W. Farrar (The Early Days of Christianity). James demonstrates that the prophecies of Daniel 12 and Matthew 24 were literally fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, even to the number of days foretold. He goes on to examine the “double sense” theory, a method of interpretation popular among many Christians today. The theory says that prophecy may be fulfilled at first in typical form, only to be “completely fulfilled at some time in the future.

For example, the coming of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 are said to have been a type of some future destruction that will coincide with the “final” coming of Christ. Some, such as David Chilton (Days of Vengeance), “acknowledge there was ‘a coming’ of Christ in the events surrounding A.D. 70 ... [but] they hold to a ‘second fulfillment’ of prophecies yet in our future” (p. 23). We can certainly agree with James when he says, “Such an approach is questionable hermeneutics at best!” His point is well-taken that if it is possible to so interpret the Scriptures, there is nothing to prevent one from using this same theory on the prophecies of Christ. Perhaps, according to this method, the ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus are only typical fulfillments, and we should look forward to another Christ to “completely” fulfill them! The dangers inherent in this method of “interpretation” are manifold and clear. James shows that it is only due to a denial of the prophecies being fulfilled in the first century that such an interpretational scheme has been suggested.

In the second half of this booklet, James examines the eschatology of Luke, and how its time-limiting aspects have been variously interpreted by theologians. Most are content to deny the veracity of God’s Word and opt for a “non-occurrence” of the parousia, yet still attempt to find some value in the Bible. The question is, if Jesus and/or the apostolic N.T. writers were mistaken (as most of the theologians quoted contend), how can they be trusted in other matters? Perhaps they were also mistaken about the requirements for salvation, or what God is like, or any number of other crucial spiritual matters! These theologians are so busy trying to explain the “obviously unfulfilled” prophecies of the second coming that they deny God’s attributes of omniscience and faithfulness. As James points out, if Jesus was a stumbling-block at His first coming, is it any wonder that He is such at His second? He rightly concludes that this type of interpretation is due to a failure “to understand the apocalyptic language used in describing the end of the Jewish theocracy, His coming to bring judgment, and the ushering in of a New Age!” (p. 30).

In Part III, James deals with the question most common to those who become convinced of preterist eschatology: “So, what now?” He demonstrates how the preterist position can have a positive impact on our view of God and His world. He also discusses the implications for the history of redemption (pp. 41 ff.).

One of the beneficial and valuable aspects of this booklet is the inclusion of excerpts from out-of-print or hard-to-come-by books. In his appendices, he includes portions of Hampden-Cook’s The Christ Has Come (1904), James Campbell’s The Presence (1911), The Indwelling Christ, and The Second Coming of Christ (1919). Hampden-Cook’s work (Appendix I) gives reasons why the Second Coming was not recorded in the annals of Christian history, as some argue it would have been if A.D. 70 was the actual date of Christ’s return. He believed the “rapture” was a literal occurrence (vs. spiritual), and explains why those who witnessed Christ’s coming did not or could not record it.

For those wishing to introduce others to the preterist position, this booklet will be invaluable. The questions James asks will make any thoughtful reader reconsider his views regarding eschatology. Those wishing to do further study should find the bibliography very helpful.

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