Justifying B.B. Warfield’s Exegesis

2 Thessalonians seems to be a specific death nail for Partial Preterists. At least as far as the Futurists see it. The basic premise is this: Partial Preterists hold to the already fulfillment of the Great Apostasy and the Antichrist. But how could these be already fulfilled when 2 Thessalonians 2:1–8 confirms that Christ must kill the Antichrist as the appearance of his Parousia.

Partial Preterists who are consistent acknowledge the fact that the Parousia is still future and contains the physical, bodily return of Jesus Christ to the earth. Thus the argument goes, that how can the Antichrist and the Great Apostasy be already fulfilled when the Antichrist must be in existence at the Parousia of Jesus?

The conflict that the futurist creates is not a conflict for Partial Preterists but a conflict between Paul and Christ. You can’t have one passage saying what it says while another passage outright denying it.

In other words, Christ promised in Matthew 24:33, 34 that the generation to whom he was speaking would see the Antichrist set himself up in the Temple. In fact, Matthew 24:15 indicates,

“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)”

— (Matthew 24:15 ESV)

The specific issue is the fact of the disciples seeing the Antichrist in the temple. The disciples were told that they would see all these things take place and that it would happen in their lifetime. So the problem of 2 Thessalonians is not mine but the futurists.

But B.B. Warfield has a remarkable explanation of a very telling indicator in the context of 2 Thessalonians 2. Warfield indicates:

If, holding fast to these principles, we approach the prophecy itself, we observe first of all, that although the three things — the Apostasy, the Revelation of the Man of Sin, and the Coming of the Lord — are brought together, they are not declared to be closely connected, or immediately consecutive to one another.

Benjamin B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield: Biblical Doctrines, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 609.

The fact of the matter is that Warfield is correct. The events are not listed as consecutive, inextricable chronologies. The only thing that Paul affirms with respect to Christ killing the Antichrist is the fact of Christ killing him, not the timeframe. Revelation 19 concludes with a rather “final judgment” way of describing the Antichrist’s demise. In verse 20 of Revelation 19, it indicates that the Beast and the False Prophet were thrown “alive” into Hell.

Here are the specifics on justifying what Warfield said. Besides the fact that Paul merely indicates that Christ will kill the Antichrist with His breath and does not actually connect that with the appearing of the Antichrist, but merely asserts the hope of the final demise of the Antichrist, there’s an important consideration that I have not specifically heard Futurists be challenged on.

The way I see it there are only two possible outcomes of challenging Futurists on the supposition that the Antichrist has to be yet future because of a future killing of the Antichrist.

That is, no man knows the day or the hour of Christ’s arrival or Parousia. Which means, no one can know the day or the hour. But if Christ’s coming is immediately connected with the Antichrist and a 7 year tribulation period than can we not count passed the starting day of the Great Tribulation Period’s arrival and the arrival of the Antichrist?

Either the Antichrist starts the Great Tribulation, 7 year period, or interrupts the 7 year Tribulation have way through. Either way, can we not count when the 7 years would be over and know the day of the Lord?

Either the Futurist must acknowledge that their understanding on a strict, inextricable chronology is flawed or admit that the Parousia is not inextricably connected with the events of the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation. Meaning Christ wouldn’t come immediately after the appearance of the Antichrist.

Of course, the only other workaround is to assume that the “day” of the Lord is not a literal 24 hour period of time. Which exposes the cherry-picking hermeneutics of the Premillennial who criticizes the Amillennarian for not holding to a straight-forward reading of the text in Revelation 20, when they are perfectly happy to not hold to it when it suits their presuppositions.

But even then, if the “day” of the Lord wasn’t a 24 hour period of time it still really wouldn’t solve the issue. Because we would still know at the end of the 7 year period that Christ’s Parousia would happen. And again, if the response from the Futurist is that the Parousia isn’t required to happen the next day after the 7 year period, then my point is proven and we must recognize that the Parousia could happen several years to thousands of years after the appearance of the Antichrist, and the “killing” of the Antichrist defined by Christ as casting him into the lake of fire at the final judgment must be left where it is, at the final judgment.


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One Comment

  1. Hello, Jeremy

    My understanding is that parousia is not a technical term. It simply means “presence.” There is no “the Parousia.” It can refer to the “parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ” or “the parousia of Stephanas and Fortunatus” or even the “parousia of the man of sin.” As for the “parousia of our Lord Jesus Christ”, I don’t really see how this is any different from his “appearing” or “revealing.” In 1 Timothy 6:14-15, if you look at the Greek, you will see that “appearing” is actually plural: “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which in its own times will…” If appearing and parousia do in fact refer to the same event, this use of the future plural in regard to His appearing is meaningful.

    Okay, so my point is that I don’t see anything wrong with parousia referring to His coming in the clouds in 70AD and His coming to the earth at a later date. In other words, there can be multiple parousia events.

    Of course, 2 Peter 3 is problematic in some ways, but perhaps Peter was writing to his contemporaries, while referring to scoffers who were going to exist both before and after 70AD. The day of the Lord he mentions could refer to a later parousia event. As for the day of the Lord, it is also not a singular event. There were some day of the Lord events in the Old Testament, like in Isaiah 13. One of their characteristics could be that they come like a thief in the night. The scoffers were creating trouble even during the times of Peter, so he could have possibly jumped over the impending day of the Lord in 70AD and looked toward a far-off day of the Lord to encourage his readers.

    As far as 2 Thessalonians 2, it could very well be that the parousia in verse 1 and verse 8 are different events. Verse 8 uses a combination of “appearing” and “parousia,” again hinting at them referring to the same type of event. Notice that Paul also uses the word parousia for the man of sin in verse 9. It is not a technical term. It simply means “presence.”

    These are simply my current ideas. Actually, I am not decided on this matter. I just want to share some ideas. I was a dispensationalist for a very long time, but recently converted to Partial Preterism about six months ago.

    God bless.

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