A common question that is often asked by those who are beginning to consider the eschatological view of Preterism, is: “why is there sin in the world, if the Lord has already returned?”
The answer is that Jesus did not come to destroy the “existence” of sin on earth. Instead, He came to destroy the “power of sin” to condemn the sinner under the wages of their sin to an eternity separated from God in the Lake of Fire. To assist us in understanding this it is vital to remember the present condition of that 1st century spiritual world at the time of Christ’s ministry:
- Satan was the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4)
- Satan was the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11)
- The kingdoms of this world belonged to Satan (Matt. 4:8-10; Luke 4:5-7; Rev. 11:15)
- The whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19)
- Satan was the “Prince of the Power of the Air” (Eph. 2:2)
- Satan had the “power of death” (Heb. 2:14)
So, a question we need to ask is, what was the “power of death?” To answer that question, we need to see from the Bible what happened to someone when they physically died prior to the resurrection?
Christ’s physical death and shed blood on the cross destroying the “power of death” from sin:
As discussed under the CHARACTER OF GOD heading above (and more in depth in the eschatology Study Series 1 “Character of God”), the Bible reveals how God’s character is Holy and Pure and Righteous, and that He could not be in fellowship with sin (see eschatology Study Series 3 “What Happened in the Garden?” for a more in-depth study into this), how man had freely sinned in the Garden and in “that day” came under the condemnation to eternal death. God performed an animal sacrifice to pay for the immediate penal death Adam and Eve should have suffered that very day, which provisionally forgave them. While they were put out of the Garden forgiven, able to live out the allotted days God would provide them, their true forgiveness and propitiation of their sin would only come through faith in the true substitutionary sacrificial Lamb of God who would come in the future and crush the head of the serpent and satisfy the wrath of God paying for the wages of their sin and bringing full forgiveness and salvation from the condemnation to eternal death.
Adam was the federal head of mankind, as Jesus Christ is the federal head of the redeemed. Adam possessed all that was necessary to continue without falling, yet he fell. He disobeyed God. Thus spiritual and physical death and condemnation under sin to eternal death in the Lake of Fire passed on to all humans since Adam was the Federal head and all of his offspring are born spiritually separated from God with a sinful nature in slavery to sin, and all sin (Rom. 5:12).
“12Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus DEATH SPREAD TO ALL MEN, BECAUSE ALL SINNED.” (Romans 5:12).
Fallen history of mankind starts after the sin of Adam and Eve and now all of their prodigy are born with a fallen nature under the “Law of Sin and Death,” where one who sins is: captive and slaves of sin and Satan (Rom. 6:6; 16-18; John 8:34, “…slaves of sin;” Luke 4:18, “…proclaim freedom to the captives…;” Col. 1:13, “He has delivered us from the power (dominion) of darkness…;” Eph. 4:8-10).
The effect/meaning of the “law of sin and death” imposed on all mankind: because all sin à the “law of sin and death” is condemnation under sin to eternal death in the Lake of Fire. If you sin à the wages of sin is eternal death.
With this clearer understanding of the “law of sin and death” let’s look at these following two passages and see if it does not help make them clearer:
- Rom. 5:14-21, “vs. 14a: …condemnation to eternal death reigned from Adam to Moses…vs. 17: …by the one man’s offense condemnation to eternal death reigned…gift of righteousness will reign in both life and fellowship now, and the eternal afterlife to come (life)…vs. 20a: …the law entered that the condemnation to eternal death (offense) might be shown to us as if looking in a mirror to see how as our sin increases so does our condemnation to eternal death (abound)…vs. 21 so that as sin reigned in condemnation to eternal death (death)…grace reigned…to both life and fellowship with God now, and the eternal afterlife to come (eternal life).”
- We have both righteousness now and eternal life to follow in the afterlife.
- Sin and death reigned over man: Christ took away sin and death reigning over us (Took them out of power reigning over us. He now sits on the throne reigning). We are no longer condemned to eternal death in the Lake of Fire (Legal requirements fulfilled, spiritual fellowship restored and eternal afterlife secured).
- Rom. 6:23, “For the wages of sin is condemnation to eternal death (death), but the gift of God is both life and fellowship with God now, and the eternal afterlife to come (eternal life) in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
A sinful human could never be able to go into the full presence of Holy God again, and live. Due to each person’s sin, prior to AD 70 Satan then had the power and claim, both in this life as a slave to sin, and upon physical death to then hold the disembodied soul “captive” and separated from its God in Hades/Sheol.
After the fall, all mankind now sins and thus earn the “wages of sin,” and prior to AD 70 Satan (and the Death Angel) held the keys to Hades/Sheol to hold all disembodied souls captive after their physical death because of their sin in the “power of death.”
1) For those who had rejected the Messiah to come: upon physical death their soul was held captive under the wages of their sin in the compartment of torments in Hades/Sheol (Luke 16:23, 26) waiting for the final resurrection for judgment of their sin and condemnation in eternal death in the Lake of Fire (second death).
2) For those who had in faith believed in and were waiting for their Messiah to come: upon physical death their soul was held captive because their sin had not yet been propitiated (paid for and removed) by Christ. They went to the compartment of Paradise/Abraham’s Bosom in Hades/Sheol (Luke 16:22, 26) waiting for the Messiah who would come and die as their substitutionary atonement on the cross and pay for in full their “wages of sin.” Upon which, He would descend to them in Hades/Sheol for three days. Their faith is then able to be actualized in the Person of their Messiah. After three days Christ would then be the firstfruit raised/resurrected out from among the dead ones in Hades/Sheol –> to never die again, or to ever have to return to Hades/Sheol (Rom.6:9) –> thus destroying the “power of death” (Heb. 2:17), and becoming the forerunner/firstfruit for all those believers to be resurrected from out of Hades/Sheol (Col. 1:18). At the final resurrection they would now be raised out of Paradise/Abraham’s Bosom to receive eternal life in their new immortal bodies to enter heaven forevermore.
Thus, we see the absolute necessity that the Messiah to come had to be without sin (therefore, not able to be held captive in Hades/Sheol), so that He would be able to be the substitutionary sacrifice to propitiate the sin of man (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10). His shed blood on the cross would propitiate sin: satisfying the wrath, justice, and righteousness of God, thereby paying for the penalty/wages of sin, making peace, and thus removing sin, and the penalty of sin = condemnation to eternal death –> thus stripping the power of physical death from being the gateway into the afterlife sealing the soul in condemnation and eternal death. Christ has destroyed death’s hold on all Christians through His own death and resurrection. He has defeated all of His enemies, including the last one, which was death (condemnation under sin to eternal death in the Lake of Fire) (1 Cor. 15:20, 26).
The Messiah was the One whose sinless physical death would “destroy him who had the power of death.” Thus, setting the “captives” free (Eph. 4:8-9).
Look at this powerful verse:
- 2 Tim. 1:10, “…who has abolished death (sin-death separation from God, and sin’s condemnation to eternal death in the Lake of Fire) and brought life (fellowship with God now, and the guarantee of immortality in the heavenly afterlife. The already but not yet)…”
- The Greek word for “abolished” in the above verse is Katargeo, and means to: make inactive, of no effect, render inert – inoperative. We all still have to die biologically, but Paul was writing to Timothy speaking to him in the “past tense” that there was “now” no power or condemnation under sin to eternal death anymore. Christ had conquered the full power of the comprehensive death which came upon Adam in judgment in the Garden. He paid the wages of sin and removed the judgment of eternal condemnation in the Lake of Fire for all who in faith believed. In conjunction with this, physical death had been forever stripped of its power to ever again send a believer to eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire.
By the substitutionary death of Christ as the innocent Lamb of God, He physically died and suffered the penalty of eternal death in the place of the sinner, the actual guilty party (The fact that Christ had no sin of His own meant that He had no condemnation to eternal death (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:22)), and He defeated the power of death to condemn to The Lake of Fire (Heb. 2:14-15; Acts 2:24). Thus, the significance of His sacrifice being substitutionary for all who believe – they too, “being forgiven of all sin due to Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice,” are now “declared sinless” and after physical death have no condemnation to the Lake of Fire (Rom. 5:1, 6:23, 8:1-2). This means He took our place and bore the penalty of God’s judgment which we rightly deserve.
The New Covenant fully which was consummated at the Parousia in AD 66-70 is an eternal covenant, with victory over spiritual slavery and sin-death, bringing eternal deliverance from the condemnation under sin to eternal death through the physical death and shed blood on the cross by Christ, resulting in a new spiritual birth to all those who believe in faith. This produces life and fellowship with God now, and the guarantee of eternal life with Him in the heavenly afterlife upon physical death.
**So, the purpose of Christ’s AD 30 substitutionary death and then AD 66-70 Parousia at the end of that generation was never about “removing sin from the earth,” but rather, it was about removing the “power of sin” to condemn the sinner under the wages of their sin to an eternity separated from God in the Lake of Fire. Christians are to view themselves no longer as “sinners,” but “saints who sin.” As Christians, we are “in Christ” and have put on His righteousness (Gal. 3:27), and are viewed as “justified, forgiven and reconciled with God.” Upon taking our last breath in this earthly life, the Christian, now immediately receives their individual, perfect, immortal, spiritual body and enters the visible presence of Christ in heaven forevermore. They enter the heavenly realm of the eternal Kingdom, where there is “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.” (Rev. 21:4).
The earth will always be (Eccl. 1:4; Eph. 3:21; Gen. 8:21; Isa. 9:7, 45:17; Dan. 2:44, 7:13-14; Psa. 78:69, 104:5, 119:90; Psa. 148:4, 6; Ezek. 37; Luke 1:32-33; Eph. 2:20-22), and there will always have sin, sorrow, pain and death in this “earthly realm” (Ezek. 47:11), but upon physical death the Christian leaves all of that behind and we enter eternal life in the “heavenly realm” of the Kingdom. God’s desire was never about ending the planet, rather, it was about ending the “power of sin” in its barring man (because all sin) from being able to have fellowship with a Holy God in this life, and then eternal life with Him in heaven in the afterlife. His desire is to forever save souls and to “INCREASE of His government and peace THERE WILL BE NO END,” (Isa. 9:7) with His “glory in the church by Christ Jesus to ALL generations, FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN.” (Eph. 3:21).
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 7 Lesson 3b”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 7 Lesson 3b”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 16 Lesson 9 Rev. Chapter 21”]
[For a more in-depth study see eschatology “Study Series 16 Lesson 10 Rev. Chapter 22”]