The Messiah’s Return
Author: Timothy A. James
Book Review by Ken Davies
James, Timothy A. The Messiah’s
Return: Delayed? Fulfilled? or Double Fulfillment? Bradford,
PA: Kingdom Publications, 1991. paper, 71 pp.
Tim James lives with his wife,
Belle, and 12-year-old daughter, Misty, in Flagstaff, Arizona,
where he works for the State’s Child Protective Services.
For the past 6 years, he has conducted in-home family therapy,
as well as operate the Coffeeshop International, a Christian
center for community outreach, along with his partner, Bill
Kernan. Tim is a graduate of Ashland Theological Seminary,
where he received his masters degree in Pastoral Counseling.
He became a preterist in 1975 after studying with Max King’s
father-in-law, C.D. Beagle. Currently, Tim is working on translating
The Messiah’s Return into Chinese, and is writing a
larger work entitled His Intimate Presence, to be published
in English and Chinese.
Although The Messiah’s
Return is only a booklet, the saying, “Dynamite comes
in small packages” applies! This little book is packed full
of information designed to provoke thought and study of God’s
Word as it applies to eschatology.
James begins his work by pointing
out the time limitations of the “Second Coming” prophecies
and goes on to examine and refute the claims of those who
attempt to use the “delayed” parousia as an excuse for denying
or belittling Christianity. A case in point is Joachim Jeremias,
who says that Jesus was mistaken in His “expectation of an
imminent end,” since it “remains unfulfilled.” George Ladd
also takes this view.
Albert Schweitzer said the
Church must “de-eschatologize” the New Testament because of
this alleged delay in Christ’s return. These are men who claim
to support Christianity, in spite of its “mistakes.”
One who used the “unfulfilled” statements of Jesus as a reason
for unbelief was Bertrand Russell (Why I am Not a Christian,
1957). The point Mr. Russell makes is valid: “...He [Jesus]
certainly thought that His second coming would occur in the
clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were
living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove
it.... That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it
was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching.” With
attacks such as this being made upon the integrity of the
Word of God, it is no wonder conservative Christians have
attempted to answer the “problem” of a “delay” in the fulfillment
of Christ’s words. James presents these various “explanations”
and shows how inconsistent and inadequate they are.
His next area of study is
the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, quoting the works
of Josephus and F. W. Farrar (The Early Days of Christianity).
James demonstrates that the prophecies of Daniel 12 and Matthew
24 were literally fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem,
even to the number of days foretold. He goes on to examine
the “double sense” theory, a method of interpretation popular
among many Christians today. The theory says that prophecy
may be fulfilled at first in typical form, only to
be “completely fulfilled at some time in the future.
For example, the coming of
Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 are said
to have been a type of some future destruction that
will coincide with the “final” coming of Christ. Some, such
as David Chilton (Days of Vengeance), “acknowledge
there was ‘a coming’ of Christ in the events surrounding A.D.
70 ... [but] they hold to a ‘second fulfillment’ of prophecies
yet in our future” (p. 23). We can certainly agree with James
when he says, “Such an approach is questionable hermeneutics
at best!” His point is well-taken that if it is possible to
so interpret the Scriptures, there is nothing to prevent one
from using this same theory on the prophecies of Christ. Perhaps,
according to this method, the ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection
of Jesus are only typical fulfillments, and we should
look forward to another Christ to “completely” fulfill them!
The dangers inherent in this method of “interpretation” are
manifold and clear. James shows that it is only due to a denial
of the prophecies being fulfilled in the first century that
such an interpretational scheme has been suggested.
In the second half of this
booklet, James examines the eschatology of Luke, and how its
time-limiting aspects have been variously interpreted by theologians.
Most are content to deny the veracity of God’s Word and opt
for a “non-occurrence” of the parousia, yet still attempt
to find some value in the Bible. The question is, if Jesus
and/or the apostolic N.T. writers were mistaken (as most of
the theologians quoted contend), how can they be trusted in
other matters? Perhaps they were also mistaken about the requirements
for salvation, or what God is like, or any number of other
crucial spiritual matters! These theologians are so busy trying
to explain the “obviously unfulfilled” prophecies of the second
coming that they deny God’s attributes of omniscience and
faithfulness. As James points out, if Jesus was a stumbling-block
at His first coming, is it any wonder that He is such at His
second? He rightly concludes that this type of interpretation
is due to a failure “to understand the apocalyptic language
used in describing the end of the Jewish theocracy, His coming
to bring judgment, and the ushering in of a New Age!” (p.
In Part III, James deals with
the question most common to those who become convinced of
preterist eschatology: “So, what now?” He demonstrates how
the preterist position can have a positive impact on our view
of God and His world. He also discusses the implications for
the history of redemption (pp. 41 ff.).
One of the beneficial and
valuable aspects of this booklet is the inclusion of excerpts
from out-of-print or hard-to-come-by books. In his appendices,
he includes portions of Hampden-Cook’s The Christ Has Come
(1904), James Campbell’s The Presence (1911), The
Indwelling Christ, and The Second Coming of Christ
(1919). Hampden-Cook’s work (Appendix I) gives reasons why
the Second Coming was not recorded in the annals of Christian
history, as some argue it would have been if A.D. 70 was the
actual date of Christ’s return. He believed the “rapture”
was a literal occurrence (vs. spiritual), and explains why
those who witnessed Christ’s coming did not or could not record
For those wishing to introduce
others to the preterist position, this booklet will be invaluable.
The questions James asks will make any thoughtful reader reconsider
his views regarding eschatology. Those wishing to do further
study should find the bibliography very helpful.