Gary DeMar and Kim Burgess want you to believe that the church has never reached any consensus on eschatological matters. They also argue that such an agreement has yet to be reached because no ecumenical councils have debated and dealt with eschatology. I spouted these same errors as a hyper-preterist and finally came to see the error of my thinking by God’s grace.
(1) From a logical analysis, the argument is fallacious. It does not necessarily follow that no agreement has been reached over certain doctrines because no ecumenical council has debated the issues.
Look at all the creeds and confessions asserting that Jesus ascended into heaven. Am I to believe that there has been no consensus on that matter simply because there has never been an ecumenical council assembled to address that very issue? Of course not; that would be absurd.
I can just as easily argue that no debate was necessary because there was no disagreement. Further, the fact that Jesus’ ascension is asserted time and time again demonstrates the consensus. This leads to my second point;
(2) It is historically ignorant to claim that there has been no consensus on eschatological matters.
Read the creeds. Read the confessions. Read the catechisms. They assert over and over again the very doctrines Gary DeMar refuses to affirm.
Here’s just a tiny sample:
Ignatius of Antioch. A.D. 107
…[and after having spent forty days with the Apostles, was received up to the Father, and sits on his right hand, waiting till his enemies are put under his feet].
Irenæus. A.D. 180
…IN ONE GOD, THE FATHER ALMIGHTY, who made the heaven and the earth, and the seas, and all that in them is; and IN ONE CHRIST JESUS, THE SON OF GOD, who became flesh for our salvation; and IN THE HOLY GHOST, who through the prophets preached the dispensations and the advents [advent], and the birth from the Virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily assumption into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father, to comprehend all things under one head, and to raise up all flesh of all mankind, that, according to the good pleasure of the Father invisible, every knee of those that are in heaven and on the earth and under the earth should bow before Christ Jesus, our Lord and God and Saviour and King, and that every tongue should confess to him, and that he may execute righteous judgment over all: sending into eternal fire the spiritual powers of wickedness, and the angels who transgressed and apostatized, and the godless and unrighteous and lawless and blasphemous among men, and granting life and immortality and eternal glory to the righteous and holy, who have both kept the commandments and continued in his love, some from the beginning, some after their conversion.
Tertullian. A.D. 200
…was caught up to the heavens; and sat down at the right hand of the Father; sent in his place the power of the HOLY GHOST, to guide the believers; he will come again with glory to take the saints into the enjoyment of eternal life and the celestial promises, and to judge the wicked with eternal fire, after the resuscitation (resurrection) of both, with the restitution (restoration) of the flesh.
Lucian, Of Antioch. A.D. 300
…who suffered for us, and rose for us the third day, and ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of the Father, and again is coming with glory and power to judge the quick and the dead.
Eusebius, Of Cæsarea. A.D. 325
…and ascended to the Father; and will come again in glory, to judge the quick and the dead.
Cyril, Of Jerusalem, About A.D. 350
…and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and will come again in glory, to judge the quick and the dead; of whose kingdom there shall be no end. And in ONE HOLY GHOST, the Advocate, who spake in the Prophets. And in one baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; and in one holy Catholic Church; and in the resurrection of the flesh, and in life everlasting.
Epiphanius. A.D. 374
…and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; of whose kingdom shall be no end; And in THE HOLY GHOST, the Lord, and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the Prophets; in one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; we acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and we look for the resurrection of the dead; and the life of the world to come.
The Apostles’ Creed. A.D. 120-250
…he ascended into heaven; and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the HOLY GHOST; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body [flesh]; and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Nicene Creed. A.D. 325
…ascended into heaven; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
The Nicene Creed, as enlarged. A.D. 381
…and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And [I believe] in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spake by the Prophets. And [I believe] one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Athanasian Creed. A.D. 500
…He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the Father God [God the Father] Almighty. From whence [thence] he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting: and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith: which except a man believe faithfully [truly and firmly], he can not be saved.
The Augsburg Confession. A.D. 1530
ART. XVII.—Of Christ’s Return to Judgment
Also they teach that, in the consummation of the world [at the last day], Christ shall appear to judge, and shall raise up all the dead, and shall give unto the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys; but ungodly men and the devils shall he condemn unto endless torments. They condemn the Anabaptists who think that to condemned men and the devils shall be an end of torments. They condemn others also, who now scatter Jewish opinions, that, before the resurrection of the dead, the godly shall occupy the kingdom of the world, the wicked being every where suppressed [the saints alone, the pious, shall have a worldly kingdom, and shall exterminate all the godless].
Luther’s Small Catechism. A.D. 1529
I believe that I can not, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Ghost has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me by his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith; just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church he daily forgives richly all my sins, and the sins of all believers; and will raise up me and all the dead at the last day, and will grant everlasting life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true.
The Second Helvetic Confession. A.D. 1566
CHRIST IS TRULY ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN. We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, in his same flesh, ascended above all visible heavens into the highest heaven, that is, the dwelling-place of God and the blessed ones, at the right hand of God the Father. Although it signifies an equal participation in glory and majesty, it is also taken to be a certain place about which the Lord, speaking in the Gospel, says: “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). The apostle Peter also says: “Heaven must receive Christ until the time of restoring all things” (Acts 3:21). And from heaven the same Christ will return in judgment, when wickedness will then be at its greatest in the world and when the Antichrist, having corrupted true religion, will fill up all things with superstition and impiety and will cruelly lay waste the Church with bloodshed and flames (Dan., ch. 11). But Christ will come again to claim his own, and by his coming to destroy the Antichrist, and to judge the living and the dead (Acts 17:31). For the dead will rise again (I Thess. 4:14 ff.), and those who on that day (which is unknown to all creatures [Mark 13:32]) will be alive will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye,” and all the faithful will be caught up to meet Christ in the air, so that then they may enter with him into the blessed dwelling-places to live forever (I Cor. 15:51 f.). But the unbelievers and ungodly will descend with the devils into hell to burn forever and never to be redeemed from torments (Matt. 25:46).
THE SECTS. We therefore condemn all who deny a real resurrection of the flesh (II Tim. 2:18), or who with John of Jerusalem, against whom Jerome wrote, do not have a correct view of the glorification of bodies. We also condemn those who thought that the devil and all the ungodly would at some time be saved, and that there would be an end to punishments. For the Lord has plainly declared: “Their fire is not quenched, and their worm does not die” (Mark 9:44). We further condemn Jewish dreams that there will be a golden age on earth before the Day of Judgment, and that the pious, having subdued all their godless enemies, will possess all the kingdoms of the earth. For evangelical truth in Matt., chs. 24 and 25, and Luke, ch. 18, and apostolic teaching in II Thess., ch. 2, and II Tim., chs. 3 and 4, present something quite different.
THE FRUIT OF CHRIST’S DEATH AND RESURRECTION. Further by his passion and death and everything which he did and endured for our sake by his coming in the flesh, our Lord reconciled all the faithful to the heavenly Father, made expiation for sins, disarmed death, overcame damnation and hell, and by his resurrection from the dead brought again and restored life and immortality. For he is our righteousness, life and resurrection, in a word, the fulness and perfection of all the faithful, salvation and all sufficiency. For the apostle says: “In him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell,” and, “You have come to fulness of life in him” (Col., chs. 1 and 2).
THE BURIAL OF BODIES. As the bodies of the faithful are the temples of the Holy Spirit which we truly believe will rise again at the Last Day, Scriptures command that they be honorably and without superstition committed to the earth, and also that honorable mention be made of those saints who have fallen asleep in the Lord, and that all duties of familial piety be shown to those left behind, their widows and orphans. We do not teach that any other care be taken for the dead. Therefore, we greatly disapprove of the Cynics, who neglected the bodies of the dead or most carelessly and disdainfully cast them into the earth, never saying a good word about the deceased, or caring a bit about those whom they left behind them.
THE CARE FOR THE DEAD. On the other hand, we do not approve of those who are overly and absurdly attentive to the deceased; who, like the heathen, bewail their dead (although we do not blame that moderate mourning which the apostle permits in I Thess. 4:13, judging it to be inhuman not to grieve at all); and who sacrifice for the dead, and mumble certain prayers for pay, in order by such ceremonies to deliver their loved ones from the torments in which they are immersed by death, and then think they are able to liberate them by such incantations.
THE STATE OF THE SOUL DEPARTED FROM THE BODY. For we believe that the faithful, after bodily death, go directly to Christ, and, therefore, do not need the eulogies and prayers of the living for the dead and their services. Likewise we believe that unbelievers are immediately cast into hell from which no exit is opened for the wicked by any services of the living.
The Heidelberg Catechism. A.D. 1563
Question 11. Is, then, God not also merciful? God is indeed merciful, but he is likewise just; wherefore his justice requires that sin, which is committed against the most high majesty of God, be also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment both of body and soul.
Question 22. What is it, then, necessary for a Christian to believe?
All that is promised us in the Gospel, which the articles of our catholic, undoubted Christian faith teach us in sum.
Question 23. What are these Articles? I believe….he ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
Question 45. What benefit do we receive from the resurrection of Christ? First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, that he might make us partakers of the righteousness which by his death he has obtained for us. Secondly, we also are now by his power raised up to a new life. Thirdly, the resurrection of Christ is to us a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.
Question 46. How dost thou understand the words, He ascended into Heaven? That Christ, in sight of his disciples, was taken up from the earth into heaven, and in our behalf there continues, until he shall come again to judge the living and the dead.
Question 47. Is not, then, Christ with us even unto the end of the world, as he has promised? Christ is true Man and true God: according to his human nature, he is now not upon earth; but according to his Godhead, majesty, grace, and Spirit, he is at no time absent from us.
Question 52. What comfort is it to thee that Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead That in all my sorrows and persecutions, with uplifted head, I look for the self-same One who has before offered himself for me to the judgment of God, and removed from me all curse, to come again as Judge from heaven; who shall cast all his and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall take me, with all his chosen ones, to himself, into heavenly joy and glory.
Question 57. What comfort does the resurrection of the body afford thee? That not only my soul, after this life, shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head, but also that this my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall again be united with my soul, and made like unto the glorious body of Christ.
The Belgic Confession. A.D. 1561. Revised 1619
Article 37: Of the Last Judgment.
Finally we believe, according to the Word of God, when the time appointed by the Lord (which is unknown to all creatures) is come, and the number of the elect complete, that our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, corporally and visibly, as he ascended, with great glory and majesty to declare himself judge of the quick and the dead; burning this old world with fire and flame, to cleanse it. And then all men will personally appear before this great judge, both men and women and children, that have been from the beginning of the world to the end thereof, being summoned by the voice of the archangel, and by the sound of the trumpet of God. For all the dead shall be raised out of the earth, and their souls joined and united with their proper bodies, in which they formerly lived. As for those who shall then be living, they shall not die as the others, but be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and from corruptible, become incorruptible. Then the books (that is to say the consciences) shall be opened, and the dead judged according to what they shall have done in this world, whether it be good or evil. Nay, all men shall give an account of every idle word they have spoken, which the world only counts amusement and jest: and then the secrets and hypocrisy of men shall be disclosed and laid open before all. And therefore the consideration of this judgment, is justly terrible and dreadful to the wicked and ungodly, but most desirable and comfortable to the righteous and elect: because then their full deliverance shall be perfected, and there they shall receive the fruits of their labor and trouble which they have borne. Their innocence shall be known to all, and they shall see the terrible vengeance which God shall execute on the wicked, who most cruelly persecuted, oppressed and tormented them in this world; and who shall be convicted by the testimony of their own consciences, and being immortal, shall be tormented in that everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels. But on the contrary, the faithful and elect shall be crowned with glory and honor; and the Son of God will confess their names before God his Father, and his elect angels; all tears shall be wiped from their eyes; and their cause which is now condemned by many judges and magistrates, as heretical and impious, will then be known to be the cause of the Son of God. And for a gracious reward, the Lord will cause them to possess such a glory, as never entered into the heart of man to conceive. Therefore we expect that great day with a most ardent desire to the end that we may fully enjoy the promises of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN.
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” – Revelation. 22:20.
The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England, published A.D. 1571
Of the Resurrection of Christ. Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.
The Anglican Catechism. A.D. 1549, 1662
Catechist. Rehearse the Articles of thy Belief. Answer. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Irish Articles of Religion. A.D. 1615
Of the state of the souls of men after they be departed out of this life, together with the general resurrection and the last judgment
101. After this life is ended the souls of God’s children be presently received into heaven, there to enjoy unspeakable comforts; the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, there to endure endless torments.
102. The doctrine of the Church of Rome concerning Limbus Patrum, Limbus Puerorum, Purgatory, Prayer for the Dead, Pardons, Adoration of Images and Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is vainly invented without all warrant of holy Scripture, yea, and is contrary unto the same.
103. At the end of this world the Lord Jesus shall come in the clouds with the glory of his Father; at which time, by the almighty power of God, the living shall be changed and the dead shall be raised; and all shall appear both in body and soul before his judgment-seat, to receive according to that which they have done in their bodies, whether good or evil.
104. When the last judgment is finished, Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to his Father, and God shall be all in all.
The Westminster Confession of Faith. A.D. 1647
CHAPTER XXXII. Of the State of Men after Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead
The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption, but their souls, (which neither die nor sleep,) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies; and the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Besides these two places for souls separated from their bodies, the scripture acknowledgeth none.
II. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies, and none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again to their souls for ever.
III. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonour; the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honour, and be made conformable to his own glorious body.
CHAPTER XXXIII. Of the Last Judgment
God hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds, and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.
II. The end of God’s appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of his mercy in the eternal salvation of the elect, and of his justice in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fulness of joy and refreshing which shall come from the presence of the Lord; but the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
III. As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all men from sin, and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity; so will he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and may be ever prepared to say, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.
The Westminster Larger Catechism. A.D. 1647
Q. 56. How is Christ to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world?
A. Christ is to be exalted in his coming again to judge the world, in that he, who was unjustly judged and condemned by wicked men, shall come again at the last day in great power, and in the full manifestation of his own glory, and of his Father’s, with all his holy angels, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, to judge the world in righteousness.
Q. 85. Death being the wages of sin, why are not the righteous delivered from death, seeing all their sins are forgiven in Christ?
A. The righteous shall be delivered from death itself at the last day, and even in death are delivered from the sting and curse of it; so that, although they die, yet it is out of God’s love, to free them perfectly from sin and misery, and to make them capable of farther communion with Christ in glory, which they then enter upon.
Q. 86. What is the communion in, glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death?
A. The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which even in death continue united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls. Whereas the souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection and judgment of the great day.
Q. 87. What are we to believe concerning the resurrection?
A. We are to believe, that at the last day there shall be a general resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust: when they that are then found alive shall in a moment be changed; and the self-same bodies of the dead which were laid in the grave, being then again united to their souls for ever, shall be raised up by the power of Christ. The bodies of the just, by the Spirit of Christ, and by virtue of his resurrection as their head, shall be raised in power, spiritual, incorruptible, and made like to his glorious body; and the bodies of the wicked shall be raised up in dishonour by him, as an offended judge.
Q. 88. What shall immediately follow after the resurrection?
A. Immediately after the resurrection shall follow the general and final judgment of angels and men; the day and hour whereof no man knoweth, that all may watch and pray, and be ever ready for the coming of the Lord.
Q. 89. What shall be done to the wicked at the day of judgment?
A. At the day of judgment, the wicked shall be set on Christ’s left hand, and, upon clear evidence, and full conviction of their own consciences, shall have the fearful but just sentence of condemnation pronounced against them; and thereupon shall be cast out from the favourable presence of God, and the glorious fellowship with Christ, his saints, and all his holy angels, into hell, to be punished with unspeakable torments, both of body and soul, with the devil and his angels for ever.
Q. 90. What shall be done to the righteous at the day of judgment?
A. At the day of judgment, the righteous, being caught up to Christ in the clouds, shall be set on his right hand, and there openly acknowledged and acquitted, shall join with him in the judging of reprobate angels and men, and shall be received into heaven, where they shall be fully and for ever freed from all sin and misery: filled with inconceivable joys, made perfectly holy and happy both in body and soul, in the company of innumerable saints and holy angels, but especially in the immediate vision and fruition of God the Father, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, to all eternity. And this is the perfect and full communion, which the members of the invisible church shall enjoy with Christ in glory, at the resurrection and day of judgment.