In the wake of the Gary Demar dust-up, kerfuffle, debacle, Demar-Gate, whatever you want to call it… let’s settle some things. A lot of terms are being bandied about and too often without precision. When dealing with matters of heresy, precision is important.
This is the belief that ALL biblical prophecy has been fulfilled, with all biblical “future” prophetic passages having their reference to events leading up to the events 70 AD. Believing all of Matthew 24 was fulfilled by 70 AD does not make one a “full preterist”. Believing 2nd Peter 3 was fulfilled by 70 AD does not make one a “full-preterist”. One might interpret these passages (for example) as having their fulfillment by 70 AD but also hold that other passages (such as 1st Corinthians 15 for example) are yet to be fulfilled.
It’s possible to be a heretic and NOT be a full-preterist. Gary Demar is NOT a full-preterist. He still holds some biblical events are yet to be fulfilled. That also doesn’t mean he ISN’T a heretic. If I am understanding him correctly, he does not affirm the future, physical resurrection of the saints. This would constitute a denial of the faith (1st Cor 15:12-19) and is heresy.
Gary deserves his day in court in terms of a formal excommunication, but in terms of public teachers there are plenty of them who have never been formally excommunicated (see Joel Osteen) but whom we rightly warn about. In this case, Gary has been a theological hero of mine and so this gives me no joy to say.
Hyper-preterism can be distinguished from full-preterism in that hyper-preterists actively DENY that there are ANY prophetic events left to be fulfilled. Full-preterists may not see any passages with explicit references to a future physical resurrection or final coming in judgment, but may nonetheless affirm these doctrines either out of deference to the historic teachings of the church or perceived hunches about what scripture suggests.
This was (apparently) David Chilton’s perspective near the end of his life following a severe health crises where he had to basically re-learn everything from scratch. He then claimed to be a full-preterist but still affirmed the creedal tenets of the faith to the day of his passing. Needless to say, Gary Demar is also not a “hyper-preterist”, though again, that doesn’t mean he isn’t a heretic.
It is somewhat sad to be re-iterating this section since this comprises the Hebrews 6 “ABC’s” of the Christian faith. Two-thousand years ago it was considered immature to still be hashing this out, especially to certain Bible teachers who have been studying this stuff for decades. In any case…
In scripture “resurrection”, as a future event for believers, is a physical clothing in immortality (1st Cor 15:53) where those who have died receive physical glorified bodies like Christ’s body (Phil 3:21, Rom 6:5) which was not merely a non-bodily spirit but was constituted of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). These resurrected physical bodies can never die again (Rev 20:6).
A future “non-physical resurrection” after we die is an oxymoron. Those who hold to “a non-physical resurrection” after we die do not affirm the resurrection. They deny it through redefinition so as to make the term meaningless. It would have been meaningless to any first century hearing of the term. In a similar way, you will never see the term “heterosexual marriage” in scripture. Neither will you find the term “physical resurrection” as it relates to the future resurrection. It’s redundant. It’s what the thing is in terms of our future resurrection.
For instance, the context of Luke 20:38 demands that the future resurrection be physical since Abraham’s soul was in the Paradise compartment of Hades at the time it was pronounced by Jesus that Yahweh is “God of the Living” as proof of the resurrection. Do we think the Sadducees who denied the future resurrection of the dead were silenced because Jesus was trying to convince them that Abraham still existed in a disembodied state in Sheol (the place of the dead)? Laughable. The Sadducees ALREADY KNEW and agreed that Abraham was disembodied in Sheol. They would have responded to Jesus like “Ya um we already know that, so what?”.
The Sadducees were silenced because they knew that for it to be true that Yahweh is God of the Living, Abraham would have to one day set foot in the promised land again or else they would have to admit that Yahweh is a covenant breaker. Abraham would never receive his promised inheritance and would never enter Yahweh’s rest. Blasphemy.
Moreover, Scripture says it is possible for “the dead” to observe things (Rev 20:12). Though they are “born again” in the Spirit, they are still considered “the dead”, even in heaven, because they are disembodied and have not yet been clothed in immortality while their physical body “sleeps” in the ground and is not united to their spirit. It is impossible to claim that people are “resurrected” as soon as they die since we see “the dead” in Christ literally standing before the throne of God in heaven, even awaiting resurrection for a “thousand years” (Rev 20:4-6).
4. Spiritual Resurrection
In various places in scripture we see living saints being described as having been “raised” with Christ already (Col 3:1, John 5:24, Eph 2:4-5) as a referent to our spiritual regeneration or being born again of the Holy Spirit (John 3). This kind of spiritual resurrection is not referring to the future physical resurrection which the born-again saints still awaited, even in heaven.
These living, regenerated saints who have not physically died obviously have not received their resurrection bodies yet. So depending on the context, we are talking either of being spiritually “raised” in regeneration (Titus 3:5) or as in baptism (Col 2:12) as we are “raised” with Christ in symbolically identifying with his death and resurrection (though we have neither died nor been resurrected in the physical sense).
That this analogy of resurrection has reference to something that really and substantively occurs in the life of all believers prior to their death (regeneration) does nothing to diminish the the truth of their future bodily resurrection and the future expectation of believers in heaven eagerly awaiting their glorified bodies.
5. The Future Resurrection and Word Games
Some full preterists may affirm that a “physical resurrection” occurred either in terms of Christ’s resurrection or a physical resurrection of some prior to 70 AD or both. But full preterists do NOT affirm a future, physical resurrection for saints after 70 AD, at least not from scripture. This is the real point of division. If someone no longer affirms the future physical resurrection of the dead (even if he affirms that saints get some kind of spiritual, non-physical new body at the moment they die) he is a heretic according to 1st Corinthians 15:12-19. Their redefinitions will not help them.
As we have seen, this “immediate resurrection upon death for all saints” is also impossible since in Revelation we see “the dead” witnesses in heaven awaiting their resurrection, and only a select group of martyrs “came to life” (were resurrected). The rest of the death had to wait in heaven for their resurrected bodies until the end of “a thousand years” (Rev 20:4-6). So even this secondary claim is biblically untenable.
There are two eschatological physical resurrections in history. They are likened to a harvest. Christ the “first-fruits” and those raised with him (Matt 27:53) and the resurrection at the end of history after “a thousand years” (1st Cor 15:23, Rev 20:5) where both the just and the unjust will be raised either to a resurrection of condemnation or a resurrection of glory (John 5:29, Acts 24:15).
Again, the term “resurrection” in scripture as a future event refers to the event of “the dead” who are mortal, receiving immortal, glorified bodies (Rev 20:5) like Christ’s glorified body. “The dead” are those who have fallen asleep (1 Thess 4:13), who are not yet “clothed in immortality” (1st Cor 15:53).