“And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus, who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.”
2 Tim. 2:17-18
“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
“…all his [Paul’s] epistles… which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.”
2 Pet. 3:16-17
Order of Contents
Praeter in Latin means past. Partial-Preterism is the eschatological view (which is able to be consistent with orthodox Christianity) that many or most of the prophecies in Revelation have been fulfilled in the past. For most modern partial-preterists, those prophecies were spiritually fulfilled in the destruction of the Jewish Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70. Sometimes this view simply goes by ‘Preterism’.
Hyper-Preterism, sometimes called ‘Consistent Preterism’, ‘Full Preterism’ or simply ‘Preterism’, holds that all the prophecies of Christianity, including the 2nd Coming of Christ, have already been fulfilled. Modern hyper-preterists, in holding that the Final Judgment and 2nd Coming of Christ occured spiritually in providence and the spiritual realm in the Roman war against Judea in A.D. 67-70, thus deny the historic, fundamental doctrine of the bodily, 2nd Coming of Christ (Acts 1:9-11; Mt. 25; 1 Thess. 4:14-18; 2 Thess. 2:5-10; etc.).
If that tenet of hyper-preterism is true, needless to say it has many ramifications; in fact nearly every doctrine of Christianity is altered. If the Final Judgment and Resurrection have already happened, then we apparently live in the New Heavens and New Earth? Are we spiritually glorified now? If there are no prophecies yet to be acconpmlisher, will this the world, riddled with sin, never end, or ever be redeemed? If the Resurrection in A.D. 70 was purely spiritual, and our resurrection flows out of Christ’s, was Christ’s resurrection only spiritual as well? If Christ’s redemption is exclusively spiritual, one might wonder if Christ really came in the flesh. Does his redemption not go as far as Adam’s sin? If death is already destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26), Christ’s 2nd Coming having already come, it is a wonder that people still die, that is, unless physical death is not the punishment of sin and never came in with Adam’s Fall. Welcome to Christian gnosticism.
Needless to say the hyper-preterist hermeneutic, or method of interpreting the Bible, is off:
(1) It erroneously infers that because certain promises (or, all the New Testament promises) were originally given to the first century hearers, that therefore they only apply to the first century hearers. Thus, as the apostle Paul said of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Cor. 11:26, ‘ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come’, so the Lord’s Supper, and the promises it sealed, are necessarily done away with. This principle extending to other doctrines of Christianity would mean that the war between the flesh and the Spirit in believers (Rom. 7) only described first century Christians, predestination in Eph. 1 and the whole chain of Salvation and promise of assurance in Rom. 8 only necessarily applied to the first century.
(2) The hermeneutic is also overly systematic, not just ignoring the specific contexts of many passages, but positively running rough-shod over them. If Jesus in a passage in Luke 21 used certain language to describe his 2nd Coming, and similar language was used in a different instance and context in Matthew 24, which may have refered to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in A.D. 70, then clearly the 2nd Coming happened in A.D. 70 and every other doctrine taught in Christianity in simple, clear and didactic portions of Scripture ought to be revised according to these more unclear apocalyptic passages.
(3) If all of those prophesies refer simply, directly and exclusively to the spiritual reality they speak of in A.D. 70, then the very notion of prophetic typology, which has been nearly universally standard in reformed orthodoxy, is categorically rejected, being referred to often as the ‘theory’ of ‘double-fulfillment’, linked with Dispensationalism.
(4) The partial-preterist notion that the Lord is more materially interested in the book of Revelation with the passing away of the Mosaic economy than in the long history of his believing people (contra Heb. 12:27-28; Mt. 9:16-17; etc.), the Christian Church, for whom the very Scriptures were written (1 Cor. 10:11; Rom. 15:4), here comes to its own in Full Preterism.
While much more could and should be said, not much more needs to be said. As might be expected, this incredibly false teaching, which has gained some small traction in the last several decades, is simply old heresy. While there were some few early Church precedents that held to this heresy, and some individuals in other eras advocating it can likewise be found, it has not been widely known that this heresy was present, and refuted, in the Post-Reformation era. While the sects that held to such things in that era were not characterized with precisely the same characteristics as our modern hyper-preterists, yet the resemblance and doctrinal trajectory is unmistakable.
When hyper-preterists are confronted with 2 Tim. 2:17-18, about Hymenaeus and Philetus overthrowing the faith of some by teaching that ‘the resurrection is past already’, the hyper-preterist will likely respond that that was before A.D. 70, and hence doesn’t apply to hyper-preterism. That response, however, is superficial. If those early heretics believed that the resurrection was past, then they believed in a resurrection. That resurrection did not likely refer simply to Christ’s physical resurrection or those who came out of the tomb with him in Jerusalem, Mt. 27:52-52, as the promises of the Resurrection are much more broad than that, referring to at least the people of God generally (Ps. 17:15; Hos. 6:2; Mt. 5:28-29; 25:31-46, etc.). Hence the past-resurrection those early false teachers taught, if it had any coherency whatsoever, must have been a spritual one, just as hyper-preterists teach.
And that is what was taught by numerous of the sects in Calvin and Rutherford’s day, namely the Libertines, Familists and Antinomians, with others. Those sects believed that the resurrection was past, being essentially spiritual. The eschatological age of the Holy Spirit had come, removing the necessity, and usefulness, of Church government and the ordinances of the Word.
Note well how Paul spoke of the denial of the bodily resurrection: He called it ‘profane and vain babblings’ which cause persons to ‘increase unto more ungodliness’. Its a teaching that eats away like gangrene, an overthrowing error; it is iniquity, blasphemy, makes shipwreck of one’s conscience and the faith and is worthy of excommunication (1 Tim. 19-20); yet the foundation of God stands sure. To keep ourselves pure from this error we need to study and rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15-19):
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
Paul also told Timothy, and those coming after him, to ‘hold fast the form of sound words’ (2 Tim. 1:13) until the 2nd Coming of Christ (2 Tim. 1:12). To start working on this, study these two chapters of the Westminster Confession.
Ch. 33, ‘Of the Last Judgment’
Look up every proof-text, compare them, and see if you are able to prove from the teaching of Scripture every statement and detail of these chapters from the Word of God. Then your faith will rest on Scripture, and you will see that these confessional chapters are truly subordinate and binding standards, being accurate and precious summaries of the teaching of God. You will also come to realize that hyper-preterists (not to mention premillennials and dispensationalists) do not, in fact, hold to a general (universal) resurrection or judgment.
How sweet you will find the truth to be! A steadfast rock, and gold refined seven times; the rock of Christ’s Word that we may build our lives, and eternity, upon, and never be moved (Mt. 7:24-27).
Rutherford, Samuel – A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist... (London, 1648), pt. 2
A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist... (London, 1648)
ch. 4, ‘Of David George’ (a founder of Familism)
“9. Heaven and Hell and the Last Judgement are nowhere, but within a man, in a spiritual manner; Heaven is in this life. Antinomians, as Town and Saltmarsh hold that in this life we have as much of Heaven in full and complete possession as the glorified in Heaven.
11. Under David George is the time of perfection, when all ordinances shall be useless, so Antinomians, ut supra.
14. The Resurrection of the Dead, the blowing of the last trumpet, the shout of the archangel, the coming of Christ to judge all are to be taken in a spiritual sense of the doctrine and discipline of David George, as Hymenaeus and Phyletus said; see hereafter the parallel between Antinomians and Libertines; so said Libertines (Calvin Against the Libertines, ch. 22, p. 458).
18. The body or flesh sinneth, but not the soul.”
ch. 16, ‘Of the First Sowers of the Tares of Antinomianism & Familism in New England’
“2. The united to Christ have new bodies, and two bodies, 1 Cor. 6:19. She knew not how Jesus could be united to our fleshly bodies.
3. Those who have union with Christ shall not rise with these fleshly bodies. 1 Cor. 15:44.
4. The Resurrection, 1 Cor. 15 and John 5:28, is not of the body but of our union with Christ in this life; so said Hymeneus, Phyletus, the Libertines, the Georgians, Henry Nicholas and his.
8. No Scripture warrants Christ’s manhood to be now in Heaven, but the body of Christ is his Church; so Saltmarsh, Sparkles of Glory, as before observed.”
ch. 19, ‘Saltmarsh with Familists Phancyeth Diverse New Administrations of the Law, of John Baptist, of the Gospel, of All Spirits’
“We must then learn from Familists:
4. Then the delivering up of the Kingdom spoken of, 1 Cor. 15, and the Day of Judgment is already begun, and is in doing these many centuries of years. So we heard before H. Nicholas say, even now in this present day does the Lord sit in his throne and judge the world. I rather believe Paul than Saltmarsh or H. Nicholas; for Paul says, 1 Cor. 15, speaking of the resurrection of our bodies, which I am sure the Familists have not yet seen, 1 Cor. 15:24, then comes the end, [Greek] etc. Then, when the resurrection of the body shall be, then shall be the end, when He shall render up the Kingdom to the Father. So the rendering up of the Kingdom to the Father (which Saltmarsh says, p. 72, is even now, when the day dawns and the day-star ariseth) shall not be till the end, and till the general Resurrection of all be:
And therefore Saltmarsh misses a step in his new devised order, except he say with Libertines and Hen. Nicholas that the Resurrection is to be exponed spiritually, as Hymaeneus and Philetus said, and there shall be no more Resurrection, nor Day of Judgement, nor rendering of the Kingdom, nor Heaven nor Hell, but such as we see in this life (as it is most like[ly] Saltmarsh believes with all the nation of the Familists), for the administration of the Spirit is in this life, as well as the ministration of Law and Gospel were in this life.
The Scripture speaks of the Day of Judgment as of a thing not yet come, 2 Thess. 2:2, ‘Let no man trouble you, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.’ Then some by the spirit of Scriptureless revelation, as now Anabaptists and Familists have said, the Day of Judgment was near, or begun in this life; yea, the Scripture says, it is a day appointed of God, Acts 17.31, and shows us the foregoing tokens of that day, beyond which there is no more time nor Gospel, as 1 Thess. 5:1-2; Mt. 24:22, 23, 36-47; Mt. 25:31 & 46; 2 Pet. 3:1-3 & 10-13 & 1 Cor. 15:24-26.
And what needed the Holy Ghost bid us watch and be sober, and beware that that Day come not on us unawares, and tell us, if we have not oil in our lamps at that nick of time when the shout shall be given that the Bridegroom is entered in his chamber, Mt. 25, there is no more place for repentance or buying oil, or any possibility of salvation when that day is once come; because if the day of judgment be now, and the rendering up the Kingdom to the Father, be in this life, how is it that so many daily repent and escape out of the snare of the Devil? And the market of buying oil in this life is not passed: For Peter, Acts 8, wills Simon Magus, while he lives, to repent and sue for pardon. And so the time of the offered Gospel and the Day of Judgment cannot be both together, Paul could never say, 1 Cor. 3, I could not write to you as to spirituall, but as to carnal, except he meant that he wrote to some spiritual man, nor could he say, the spiritual man discerns all things except the last ministration, which is the spiritual ministration, were begun in the time that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, and then began the ministration of the Spirit, and our seeing of the Lord with open face, 2 Cor. 3, and so then was the rising of the dead, and the rendering of the Kingdom to the Father.
And where are we now, if the dead have been a rising now these fifteen hundred years, and a dying all this [time?]; For Saltmarsh assured us that the [???] of the Kingdome is not in the end of world, when the fulness of time or ages is come, but it is a [???] in parts, till the fulness of the stature of [???], Eph. 4:11-13, that we meet all in Heaven, and the Lord Jesus his mystical body be filled up and perfected, and so long as pastors, teachers and a ministry shall be on earth, and when this shall be, the Scripture tells when the end shall come, 1 Cor. 15:24, and when all rule, power and authority shall be put down, and Christ’s enemies subdued, and when all things shall be subdued. Now this is not in this life.”
“Now Libertines turn all our faith in a topic and conjectural opinion, so most of them are turned sceptics and affirm that we know nothing with any certainty; yea the more supernatural and sublime that fundamentals of salvation are, the more indulgence and latitude of liberty is to be yielded to the consciences of all men, because the higher the subject is, the ranker is our propension to err, God having given a thinner and more scarce measure of knowledge in supernaturall things, that do so far transcend the sphere and orb of natural reason, than of knowledge in natural things, our minds being in their own element, and in a capacity to reach their connatural and proper object when they are among natural things knowable by the light of nature;
Hence that opinion now so prevailing that all and every religion is to be tolerated, and an indulgence yielding to all in superstructures in fundamentals, though a man should deny that Christ is the Saviour of the world; therefore Saltmarsh takes on him (Sparkles of Glory as pp. 185-188) to reckon out the articles of our faith, especially concerning the first Adam’s sin, sin-original, of Christ born of the virgin Mary, made under the Law, bearing our sins, dead, buried, ascended into Heaven, siting at the right hand etc. and speaks of the highest attaintments of the protestants generally in the mystery of salvation. but speaks not one word of the general resurrection of our bodies, of Christ coming to judge all men, of a Heaven and Hell after this life, as if these were none of the highest attaintments of the protestants generally in the mystery of salvation.
And Saltmarsh, as I conceive with Hymeneus and Philetus and other Libertines in the [English] army, doubt of or deny these…”
ch. 34, ‘A taste of the wild allegoric interpretations of Scripture that are in this piece of Saltmarsh, which he fathers upon the pure immediate actings of the Spirit beyond Law and Gospel’, pp. 287-88
“There is no more ground for such a ministration in this life [of the Spirit without Church ordinances] than there is for no death, no crying, no sorrow, no pain in this life, Rev. 21:4, no sun, nor moon, v. 23, no unclean thing, no sin, v. 27 and no more warrant for delivering up the Kingdom, in this life, 1 Cor. 15, than for the Resurrection of the Dead, 23:37, and the blowing of the Last Trumpet, [v.] 52, and the swallowing up of death in victory, 55-57, as if all these should come to pass in this life agreeable to this, says H. Nicholas, Evangel. ch. 35. sec. 9. In which Resurrection of the Dead, God shows unto us that the time is now fulfilled, that his dead, or the dead which are fallen asleep in the Lord, rise up in this day of his judgement and appear unto us in godly glory, which shall also henceforth live in us everlastingly with Christ, and reign upon the earth, wherein the Scripture comes to be fulfilled in this present day. And Saltmarsh wills these that are as spiritual as himself and his Familists, to believe this and receive it, that is, except, we make shipwreck of faith and say the Resurrection is past in this life, as did Hymeneus and Philetus, we are all legal, literal men and void of the Spirit.
2. Saltmarsh is unwilling to contradict the truth of God, 1 Cor. 15:24, too openly, to wit, that in the end the Kingdom shall be delivered up: Now whether this be meant of Christ’s reigning no more in his Church in this life by ordidinances, or as Chrysostom does expound the place, it be the rendering up to the Father his conquished and purchased people, as it is most agreeable to Eph. 5:27, I dispute not now, but Saltmarsh says faintly, This is not only done on the whole body of Christ at the last, but also here. He dares not say this rendering up is not only at the Last Day, but also in this life; yet the apostle is clear, he thought of no rendering up of the Kingdome in this life, as Saltmarsh by this new spirit supposes, for the text is clear, v. 22-23, every man shall rise again from the dead, Christ first and then his members [Greek], ‘Then is the end when He shall deliver up the Kingdom to the Father.’ Then:
[1.] there is no rendering up till the dead in Christ be raised, vv. 23-24, but the dead in Christ in their bodies (of which undoubtedly the apostle speaks, 1 Cor. 15:1-4, etc. do not rise in this life. 2. This rendering up is not till the end, then shall the end be. 3. It is when all rule and authority shall be put down, v. 27; this is not in this life. 4. It is when the last enemy shall be subdued, v. 26. 5. When God shall be all in all, v. 28.
These are not in this life, therefore Saltmarsh dreams.”
“4. ‘By this the justified man lives and abides’ (as Towne says) ‘forever, by faith, in the sight of God.’ But what haste? The Resurrection is not past yet, except Antinomians with Familists follow Hymeneus and Phyletus:
[1.] Nor are the justified yet glorified; they abide not ever under God’s eye sinless and as clean as Christ (as Eaton blasphemes to his everlasting shame), for the Jebusite (says Towne) remains in the land, the law of the members and sinful corruption of the flesh dwells in them.
2. They must say daily, ‘Forgive us our sins,’ if God be their Father, else they need not pray daily, ‘hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come,’ etc.
3. The flesh of sin dwells with the Spirit, Rom. 7, while they live.
4. Death is not an imaginary lie and fancy, so as faith must believe the contradicent [contrary], that is, that believers’ breath goes not out, they return not to their dust, [rather] they are to believe, sure, believers see corruption, Acts 13:36; 2:27-29; 1 Cor. 15:42-44. Then Antinomians cannot say true[ly] that there is no more sin in believers, nor anything having the nature and being of sin, than is in Christ.
5. They are not yet enjoying God in a vision of glory, as Christ did, even in the days of his flesh, for He was both ‘viator’ [wayfarer] and ‘comprehensor’ [attainer], a traveller to the crown and an enjoyer of the crown, and therefore though justified, they must walk here below, and cannot choose but sin, though they be ‘not forced’ to sin (as Towne says).”
“3. The Spirit dwells not in our flesh, that is, in our sinful and unrenewed part, for so is flesh taken, Rom. 7; who dreamed that grace dwells in original sin? or if by ‘flesh’ he mean the natural man, or the carnal man, or the outward man that is in our person; he then thinks this outward and natural man, or our body is turned in a spirit, or spiritual nature, so as we are made by justification spiritual as angels; and need no more ordinances, Word, seals, reading the written Scripture, than if we were glorified saints, as Saltmarsh speaks of the believers…
If so, then believers, being more spiritual than angels, and so less literal and less carnal, because by imputed righteousness they are Christed and Godded, and so the body of sin destroyed by the the imputed righteousness of Christ, fully and completely, then…
nor need they give attendance to reading, nor need they marry, nor can they die, nor sin, as our Saviour says, and that because they are spiritual; if then believers be more spiritual, as Del says, they need far less than angels the written Word, or the preaching of the Law, or any ordinan∣ces, nor should they marry, or die, nor can they sin, nor lie, nor whore, nor steal, nor kill, but be as the angels of Heaven.
I cannot but profess my jealousy of all Familists, I much fear, when Del says believers are more spiritual than angels; and that the natural man must be made spiritual, which is done (says he) by the imputed righteousnesse of God, pp. 6-7, that he minds, with Mistress Hutchison [of New England], that these who are united to Christ have in this life new bodies, and two bodies, 1 Cor. 6:19. And that the souls of men are mortal, in regard of generation, like the beasts, Eccl. 3:8, but made immortal by the purchase of redemption. And that the Resurrection, Jn. 5:28, is not meant of the Resurrection of the body, but of our union here, and after this life with Christ. And so taught that abominable priest Antony Pocquius, and the Quintists with him (Calvin, An Instruction Against the Libertines, ch. 22, p. 458 [also ch. 23]), with Phyletus and Hymeneus, that the Resurrection of the dead was in this life, and that we are not saved in hope only in this life, but really and completely before we die; and the same perfection of life-eternal in this life is taught by Antinomians, to wit, by Towne and Saltmarsh, the colleague of Del. These must lie upon Antinomians, while they condemn their fathers, the Familists, upon whose principles they walk, which they have never yet done, nor have they denied the foul heresies that are in the story of the Rise, Reign, Ruin of Antinomians.”
Calvin, John – An Instruction Against the Fanatical & Furious Sect of the Libertines, which Call Themselves ‘The Spiritual Ones’ in The Smaller Works of John Calvin… (1563)
ch. 23, pp. 265-306