Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book Review: "Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church" by Gary DeMar


In his book, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church, Gary DeMar presents a powerful critique of today’s popular “end-times” authors. While some may be tempted to accuse the author of not dealing with the more conservative futurists, such an accusation is unwarranted given the subtitle: “obsession of the modern church.” This is important to recognize, for the more conservative writers are not to be confused with the “madness” of men like Hal Lindsey who are borderline, if not outright false prophets.

But regardless of the intended audience for DeMar, I feel that he did a very good job of establishing and defending the preterist position against futurism. To sum up the primary thesis of the book; the author concedes that the events of Matthew 24 are not to be fulfilled in the future. Instead, they were all fulfilled in the events surrounding the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Thus, the author seeks to put an end to the “madness” by showing how the futurists misinterpret the “signs” of Matthew 24, as well those in Daniel, Revelation and other books.

The bulk of the book is essentially a preterist commentary on Matthew 24. In fact, more than half of the 442 pages are devoted to Matthew 24, and for good reason; the majority of “signs” that futurists look for are from this chapter. Therefore, the author feels that if Matthew 24 can be shown to reflect the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., then the futurist position falls apart.

Being a reserved and fairly cautious futurist, I approached Last Day Madness with a lot of skepticism. I have always believed that the signs are being fulfilled right before our very eyes, with increased lawlessness, wars, famines, etc. And I could not even begin to imagine the events in Revelation as having a past fulfillment. However, I never took a dogmatic approach to this, since men of old have often failed at interpreting the signs correctly.

And this is one aspect that I felt was unfair for DeMar. He regularly accused futurists of doing “newspaper exegesis” in looking at the modern “signs.” He argues that if you stick to the Bible, you wouldn’t have to be constantly modifying your theories. The problem is, the author is inconsistent. Where DeMar accuses futurists of looking “outside the Bible” for fulfillment of the signs, he does the exact same thing in looking at ancient equivalents of “newspapers” (i.e. Josephus and other “reporters”) to establish a past fulfillment. Either way, this does not establish the truth or falsity of either position. If Matthew 24 is future, then no one can be faulted for looking at the signs. If Matthew 24 is past, then the same applies. This is one place where the author unfairly accused others time and time again.

As far as the author’s exegesis of the text, there was very little I could disagree with. When I said to myself, “There is no way this verse has a past fulfillment,” DeMar would surprise me with an application that I could not deny. The problem was, I had always looked at these verses with a modern eye, thinking that Jesus’ original audience would view things the same way. Instead, I should have looked at these verses with an ancient eye, as one who was familiar with the language and usage of the phrases and motives in the Hebrew Scriptures.

This being the first work of Preterism that I’ve ever encountered, I still remain fairly skeptical of this position, with many questions yet to be answered. However, at this point I find very little I can outright disagree with in DeMar’s interpretation of the texts. Furthermore, I am quite surprised that the futurist books that I once studied did not address the text of Scripture as it should. In other words, I found things in the Bible that I never knew was there!

If you are a futurist who believes that we are living in the end times, you need to read this book, especially if you have never been challenged by the preterist position.

5 comments:

theologicalmusings said...

Mike,

My one major problem with "full" preterism is that we are now living in the eternal state. If everything was fulfilled and accomplished in AD 70, then this is it. Welcome to eternity. BTW, have you seen Jesus? I cannot seem to find him anywhere.

Cliff

Mike Felker said...

Cliff, I agree. Full preterism is pretty depressing when you think about it. Though this book doesn't advocate full preterism (most call it "partial preterism" or just "preterism," to be distinguished from hyper or full preterism), I've heard that DeMar has hyper-preterist leanings, though I have not seen this for myself.

But regardless, after reading this book my futurist postion that I've held to for years was very much put into question. Right now I'm pretty open to either possibility, though hyper-preterism seems to be a pretty absurd option.

Bobby Darnell said...

Great review Mike! As a student of apologetics, I have not looked at this topic for many, many years. I will add this book to my wish list.

Bobby Darnell
Suwanee, GA

Interpretum said...

Mike, I just recently discovered your blog by someone who linked to it from a forum I post on, and so far I'm enjoying it.

I recently wrote a verse-by-verse commentary on Revelation, and I found that much of the events in at least the first half of Revelation (i.e. chapters 6 to 12) find their correspondence with events prior to 70AD.

In fact, some of the correspondencies between John's prophecy and Josephus' description of the Jewish War are uncanny.

However, I'm certainly not a full Preterist. To me, the "seven seals" (ch 6-11) represent events leading up to the fall of Jerusalem, with all the details corresponding extremely well.

The vision of the woman and dragon in chapter 12 is a kind of "The Story So Far", which forms a transition between the Jewish and the Christian ages. The woman with 12 stars is Israel, and her child (Christ) is born (2BC), goes to heaven (33AD)... and then those in Israel who accept Christ later flee into the wilderness, in 66AD. (By this time, these make up the "woman", Israel - because the rest are cast out into the tribulation.)

Chapter 13 then goes into "Daniel" mode, using wild beasts to represent kingdoms (just as Daniel 7 does).

These kingdoms span a period of hundreds of years, and correspond with the legs of iron in the Daniel 2 vision (i.e. the pagan Roman empire), which was ruling in John's day and had the authority to trample the holy city for 42 months from 70AD, until 73AD with the capture of Masada, the last Jewish stronghold.

The second beast comes out of this empire, but takes on a Christian appearance (looks like a lamb), while misleading the earth.

The city that dominated and controlled both the political and the spiritual version is Rome, which was known as "the city of the seven hills".

Finally, chapters 14-19 lead to the downfall of the city that has controlled this world power from John's time down to today. As far as I can see, the battle of Har-Magedon, the complete downfall of Babylon the Great, the unveiling of Christ, and the 1,000 year reign are still future.

If you would like to see my verse-by-verse analysis, it's here:
http://www.paradisecafediscussions.net/showthread.php?tid=2243

I appreciate that many people think Revelation was written around 96AD, based on Irenaeus' comment... but I'd suggest that the circumstances of the seven churches, and the internal correspondence of the seven seals with the fall of Jerusalem, suggests it was written quite a bit earlier... I think in the last year or two of Nero's reign, 67 or 68AD.

Anyway, keep up the great blog! You'll be pleased to know I'm also a Young Earth Creationist :D

Mike Felker said...

Wow, thanks for the compliments! Also, I find myself agreeing more and more with the preterist position as I read the Scriptures. As to your points, I find also that they make the most sense when applied to the original context, which as "soon to take place."

I'll definitely check out your commentary. Thanks for sharing that and I hope you continue reading!