Editor’s Note: The October, 2016 issue of the Carolina Messenger featured an article written by Dr. Hester in which he shared his thoughts and perspectives about a debate he had participated in with Don Preston in Ardmore, Oklahoma concerning the doctrine of realized eschatology. Since then, Dr. Hester and Mr. Preston have conducted a second debate over this erroneous doctrine and Dr. Hester has agreed to share his thoughts on this debate with us again. This misguided doctrine, also known as the “AD 70 Doctrine” or “AD 70 Theory” among other designations, has slowly gained a degree of prevalence in the brotherhood in recent years and needs to be scripturally refuted. We appreciate the efforts of Dr. Hester and others to show from the entirety of God’s Word the numerous errors and contradictions found within this theory.
The second debate between myself and Don K. Preston took place June 15-16, 2017 at the Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL. This was the fulfillment of a pledge I made in the original agreement I signed with Preston in 2016. The propositions for this debate were the same as the first: “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, is yet future, and will occur at the end of time.” Affirm: David Hester; Deny: Don K. Preston. “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.” Affirm: Don K. Preston; Deny: David Hester. Kyle Massengale, of Madison, AL served as my moderator, with Mike Kiser of Sylacauga, AL assisting; Preston brought with him William Bell of Memphis, TN as his moderator. Steve Wages, Director of the Cloverdale Center for Family Strengths at Faulkner University, served as the independent moderator and timekeeper.
Since I was to be in the affirmative the first night, it was my intent to “set the table,” so to speak, and to control the agenda. At the beginning—and before I defined the proposition—I brought up one of the assertions I made in the Ardmore debate. For Preston’s doctrine to be true, one has to redefine words, phrases, and passages of Scripture. The approach he and his cohorts take is very much like that described in the book Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. In it, Alice meets with Humpty Dumpty, who is sitting on the wall. They engage in conversation, which quickly goes nowhere; Humpty Dumpty is using words very differently from Alice. After she challenges him, he gruffly says, “When I choose a word, it means what I choose it to mean; nothing more or less.” That is the approach taken by AD 70 advocates—the “Humpty Dumpty Hermeneutic.”
I then made 10 affirmative arguments—a mix of formal logical syllogisms and arguments from specific biblical passages. They are as follows:
- A nine point argument, in proper logical form, concerning the resurrection of the dead and the second coming of Christ—which proves my proposition to be true. It had as its foundation the fact that when Christ comes again, he will do so “literally, visibly, and personally” as he went into heaven in Acts 1:9-11.
- An argument which focuses on the fact that Jesus will come upon the wicked unawares—in contrast to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, which was certainly not unaware to the wicked Jews!
- Christ will convict the wicked at his second coming (Jude 14-15). Who was convicted by the Roman general Titus at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70?
- The Lord’s Supper stands as a rebuke to Don and his disciples; if the Lord has already come, then why take the Supper now (1 Cor. 11:26)?
- The Greek structure of Revelation 1:7 indicates that “every eye will see him,” indicating actual sight, “all the tribes of the earth” will wail because of him, indicating the nations of the earth (compare the LXX text in Gen. 12:3 and 28:14), and “those who pierced him” utilizes the word translated “pierced” that is only used one other time in the NT—John 19:37. This involves the very people who crucified Christ! Where were they in AD 70?
- The “Day” in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 is certainly not the destruction of Jerusalem, and the “fire” contemplated in the text is not the fires of Jerusalem burning. Whose works were revealed by the conflagration Titus imposed?
- The “end” described in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 is at the end of time, when Jesus will deliver the kingdom back up to God.
- In Luke 20:34-36, Don and his disciples stand rebuked—for Christ declares that “in that world” (heaven) they neither marry nor are given in marriage, and cannot die any more.
- In Matthew 13:47-50, when Jesus describes that his holy angels will separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into a fiery furnace, did anything akin to that happen at the destruction of Jerusalem? Could the godless armies of Titus be likened unto the angels of heaven? And, where was the fiery furnace located in Judea where such could have taken place?
- A seven point argument from Hebrews 9:26 was employed, focusing on the phrase “the end of the ages,” and the fact that Jesus only made one sacrifice of himself for sin. I followed that with a quotation from a debate Don had in 2006, where he said that “the process (and ground) of taking away of sin undoubtedly began at the Cross, as Hebrews 9:26 affirms. It was not perfected and completed there, however.”
I reserved time at the end of my speech to address some of the responses to written questions I asked Don prior to the debate. His replies were stunning, to say the least.
For example, Question 2: “Is it your conviction that the literal global flood of Genesis is the type of the localized destruction of Jerusalem, seeing that it was used by Peter in a universal call to baptism (1 Peter 3:21)?” Don’s response: “Yes, the flood was definitely a type of AD 70.”
Also, Question 4: “Was Jesus, the Son of God, spiritually separated from God when he died?” Don’s response: “Yes.”
Question 5: “Were the dietary laws of the Law of Moses still binding upon the Jews after Acts 10?” Don’s response: “Yes.”
To say that I was champing at the bit to address these responses is the understatement of the year. Preston asserts three outrageous things: first, the flood was not global, but local; second, Jesus was spiritually out of fellowship with God at the time that he died on the cross; and finally, the Law of Moses was not completely done away with after the cross—even after Cornelius and his household had obeyed the Gospel.
In preparing to answer Don’s assertions, I came across a book he endorsed: Beyond Creation Science, by Timothy P. Martin and Jeffrey L. Vaughn. In his endorsement, Don called belief in a global flood a “sacred cow.” He further called the book “scriptural.” Yet, the authors claim that Genesis 1-2 actually picture the establishment of the Jewish economy, with Adam and Eve being poetic symbols in a “temple motif.” In other words, Genesis is a myth; an allegory. During our debate, Don took particular umbrage to that particular suggestion; yet, what other conclusion can be drawn?
After the first night, I received a private message from a preterist. In part, it read: “Thank you for reading the message and replying. I confess I hold to a fulfilled eschatology view. However, I disagree with the Beyond Creation Science view strongly. I thank you for pressing Don on this subject because he has in the past refused to talk about it to any extent. Don replied to my post of what I sent you as ‘I have not taken a firm stand in the local flood issue, versus universal. Still open to studying that concept.’” This same individual said the following about the authors of the book: “Covenant Creation holders, while nice guys on other topics and in real life, seem to be the Climate Change holders of the fulfilled eschatology world. They tend to act like, ‘How dare you question this view. It is established fact and indisputable.’ Sounds like Climate Change holders.”
During my first speech, I used the phrase “Don and his disciples” over and over again. “Don and his disciples teach;” “Don and his disciples affirm;” etc. That was calculated to get under Don’s skin. However, I wasn’t counting on it raising the ire of William Bell. During the first break after my speech, Bell came over to our table on my side, leaned over with both of his hands on the table, glared at me with fire in his eyes, and said that I was violating the rules of the debate by attributing beliefs to the men at Don’s table that they did not hold. I immediately stood up from my seat (which put my eyes at Bell’s chest when he stood up), and said, “If Don has a problem with it, let him address it when he gets up there. Otherwise, what I said stands.” He subsequently left and went to sit down at his table. This exchange was revealing. Apparently, Bell thinks of himself as a disciple of Don! Also, Don never mentioned it during his speeches as an issue. Interesting.
I also thought it was revealing that during the second night Don said that I misrepresented his position when I pointed out his redefinition of “the end of the age” by inserting “the Jewish age” in every NT passage where it occurs, thus pointing out the absurdity of it. He had a big issue with that…but, wait! If he does not believe that the phrase refers to the Jewish age, then down goes his belief system. If it does not refer to the end of the world, though, then what DOES it refer to? Something else that Don and his disciples are working on?
Of all the ten affirmative arguments I made the first night, Don responded to none of them. He apparently thought he was in the affirmative. At least he defined the proposition, though, on the second night. Don kept wanting to rehash the first debate throughout his speeches. This was indicative of the fact that he had nothing new to offer, and no replies to anything I said. We, on the other hand, responded to every one of his arguments the second night. Don cast disparaging comments about my teaching ability (thus sounding more like a disgruntled student who receives a failing grade than a mature, dignified speaker), and said that my first negative speech was the “worst he’d ever heard” in all his years in debate. Well, of course he would say that, because I answered his assertions! He himself called his doctrine “strange” in his first negative speech—and strange it is, indeed. It is “strange” because it is false doctrine.
It is my hunch that the debates we have had will go a long way towards diminishing the influence of Preston among our brethren. I know for a fact that some preterists who have been privately grumbling about Preston are now becoming emboldened to step forward and challenge him. It will be interesting, indeed, to see this play out over the next few months.
The debate will be made available very soon on DVD via Eastern Meadows Church of Christ. The Gospel Broadcasting Network, which recorded the debate, provided us with high quality video and audio (Parts 1 and 2 can be accessed on their YouTube channel) and are making us master copies to use for the DVDs we will distribute. Debates are very helpful, when conducted properly. It is my hope and prayer that more of them will take place concerning a wide variety of subjects. It is in this format that the Truth of God shines.
David is on the faculty of the F. Furman Kearley School of Theology at Faulkner University, where he also is Director of the annual Bible Lectures. David is also Education Director at Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL.