The Attack on Full Preterism:

Death Death was Destroyed in AD 70?



The recent attack upon full Preterism, alleging that it logically leads to Universalism, has made it clear that the question which death was destroyed in A.D. 70 figures prominently in the discussion.  In this article we answer this question and trace some of the ideological antecedents leading to Universalism within the Preterist camp.  We will conclude that it is soteriology, not eschatology that has led some into Universalism, and this, based upon erroneous assumptions concerning imputed Adamic sin and the Mosaic law.   

No Inherent Connection 

We should say at the outset that the argument that full Preterism leads logically to Universalism is completely without merit.  Preterism is merely an interpretative method or school of eschatology, the study of “last things.” Specifically, it is the position of Preterism that the events commonly associated with Christ’s second coming were fulfilled in the events culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  Other interpretative methods or schools include Continuous-Historical, Futurism, and Idealism (allegorical).  None of these interpretative methods express opinions regarding issues of soteriology (sin and salvation); their sole function is to attempt to interpret or explain biblical prophecy regarding Christ’s return.  It may be that different individuals or groups bring to the particular interpretive school they have adopted certain basic assumptions about sin and salvation, but the interpretive method itself should not be identified with those assumptions.  Soteriology and eschatology have no inherent connection, per se.  Rather, it is what people bring to Preterism (or any other interpretative method) that determines where they come out on issues of sin and salvation. Therefore, there is nothing to the charge that Preterism is a logical corollary to Universalism. 

Historical Connection

We should also admit at the outset that there is, indeed, an historical connection between full Preterism and Universalism.  (But then this is true of every other sect as well.)  The historical connection between Preterism and Universalism has now been documented by Todd Dennis of and others.  The oldest full Preterist book so far identified, Robert Townley’s, The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ a Past Event (1845, London), was penned by a man who, within a year of publication, formally became Universalist, and was ordained as a minister of that sect. We say formally became Universalist, because it is clear that Townley held opinions that were Universalistic when he wrote his book, even though he did not recognize that fact, and actually appended an article to his book against Universalism.[1]  Thus, it was not Preterism that caused Townley to become Universalist, or vice versa.  Even so, the historical connection remains a fact.  Dr. David Thom, the Minister who ordained Townley into Universalism, stated "By some, the (Apocalypse) is considered to have received its accomplishment in the fact, and at the period of Jerusalem's destruction.  Among the America Universalists this view is very prevalent."  Universalists have traditionally used Preterism, or, at least, partial Preterism, to prop up their position, by arguing all judgment was exhausted in AD 70.  This was the position of Universalist, Erasmus Manford in an oral debate transcribed and preserved in book form with Benjamin Franklin (churchman, not colonial statesmen).  Manford affirmed Universal salvation, the exhaustion of judgment, and the second coming of Christ in the events of A.D. 70, but held that the resurrection was still future:  “I wish you to bear in mind, that I admit a future coming of Christ to raise the dead, but deny that he will then come in judgment.”[2] Manford’s position that the resurrection has not yet occurred would categorize him as a partial Preterist, and would tend to refute the charge that full Preterism leads to Universalism.  Is partial Preterism also now to become suspect? 

The argument of Universalists that A.D. 70 exhausted divine wrath and judgment cannot be scripturally sustained.  While the eschatological wrath associated with the tribulation of last days may be exhausted, the Bible is abundantly clear that individual judgment is an on-going fact.  The second death still exists, even if Hades does not, and all who fail to obey the gospel have their part in the lake that burns with fire.  (Rev. 20:15; 21:8)  Christ’s judgment seat lasts as long as mankind endures on earth’s face.  His kingdom is forever, and, therefore, so is the throne of his judgment.  What monarch possesses a throne but does not possess the judicial power and office? Indeed, Christ could not be king without also being judge.  A.D. 70 embodied the eschatological judgment upon the world for murdering Christ and persecuting his church, and the execution of sentence against the accumulated souls kept so long in Hades.  But it did not exhaust all personal and individual judgment.  Thus Paul: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”  (II Cor. 5:10; emphasis added.)  Man’s manifestation before Christ’s seat to receive reward for deeds done in the body happens only after man puts off his body.   As the Hebrew writer states, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment.”  (Heb. 9:27)  It is, perhaps, for this reason that Hosea Ballou, the father of American Universalism, argued for Universal salvation, not upon the ground that all judgment was exhausted in A.D. 70, but that sin and its punishment are exhausted at physical death, the soul thus living forever with God in heaven.

Rev. Hosea Ballou commenced his career as a Universalist preacher in 1790. Originally a Calvinistic Baptist, he was a Trinitarian Universalist until 1795, when he avowed his belief in Unitarian views of God and Christ; and in 1805 published his Treatise on Atonement, in which he combated the doctrine of vicarious sacrifice, contending that the life and death of Christ were for the reconciling, not of God, but of man, and avowed his belief that the punishment of the sins of mortality was confined to this life, and that if punishment were experienced in the life beyond the grave, it would be for sins committed there. In 1818 he had satisfied himself that there is no sin beyond the grave, and consequently no punishment after death.[3]

Trying to confine punishment for sins to this life is refuted by Heb. 9:27, which places judgment after this life.  It also proves that Preterism does not provide the escape Universalists have traditionally thought.  Although some Universalists have found Preterism useful in trying to avoid Biblical teaching by placing all judgment at A.D. 70, others have recognized that this reliance is misplaced, and have been forced to address continuing, individual judgment by other means (viz., Ballou).  This, in turn, demonstrates that Preterism itself does not logically lead to Universalism or sustain that view.

Calvinist Connection

The historical connections between Calvinism and Universalism are many and varied.  Other churches and disciplines also have connections to Universalism, but, historically, Calvinism seems to have more.  In England in 1750, James Relly, who had been a preacher in Whitefield's connection, shocked at the doctrine of reprobation, wandered into Universalism.  David Thom, the Universalist minister who ordained Robert Townley into the Universalist church, began as a minister in the Scottish Presbyterian church.  Thom later authored a book entitled Assurance of Faith: Calvinism Identified with Universalism.  Moreover, many Congregationalist churches in England, historically Calvinist, embraced Universalism.

Colonial America was strongly Calvinistic, brought over by the Puritans from England and Holland.  However, in the late 1700’s – early 1800’s Unitarianism and Universalism made strong inroads into New England life and culture, taking over a goodly number of Congregationalist churches (called “hyper-Calvinists” by their more liberal counterparts among Presbyterians of the day), including the famous Federal Street Church in Boston, whose minister was William Ellery Channing (1780–1842).  Unitarianism and Universalism also eventually captured the Puritan institutions of Yale and Harvard.  The “father of American Universalism,” Hosea Ballou, was originally a Baptist Calvinist.  Other Calvinist (Congregationalist) ministers of New England that became Universalists include Dr. Jonathan Mayhew, minister of the West Church in Boston from 1747 to 1766.[4]  Dr. Charles Chauncy, minister of the First Church in Boston from 1727 to 1787, issued a pamphlet on the subject in 1782, which was reviewed by Dr. Samuel Mather. In 1784 his larger work The Salvation-of All Men was published, a second edition following in 1787. Moreover, Dr. Joseph Huntington, minister in Coventry, Conn., from 1762 to 1794, left a work in favor of Universalism, entitled Calvinism Improved, which was published in 1796.  

Some of the cross-over between Calvinism and Universalism can be attributed to historical accident, but not all. We would expect a certain amount of exchange between any two disciplines thrust together in the comparatively limited space of colonial New England, but it is hard to explain the widespread defection and takeover of major churches and universities simply on the basis of the historical accident that they shared a common place and time in history.  Surely, there is something more here at work.  According to the Presbyterian Church USA, the take-over by Unitarianism and Universalism in colonial and post-Revolutionary war New England was a three step process, beginning with the famous Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards, followed by Samuel Hoskins, and culminating with Nathaniel Taylor.  In briefest terms, Edward taught that God was holy and therefore committed to disinterested benevolence.  God was required as a holy being to do all things in order to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number, to maximize happiness in his creation. Hoskins, a close associate, official biographer, and executor of Edwards, published his “System of Doctrines” in 1793. Hoskins taught all holiness and virtue consists of disinterested benevolence. Since God is required to be benevolent there is no such thing as personal penal justice. God's attributes of justice and righteousness are thus swallowed up by the dominant attribute of benevolence.  This was known as the “New Divinity.”  Next was Nathaniel Taylor, a professor of theology at Yale, in New Haven, CT, who developed what is known as the “New Haven” theology.  Taylor stated that Christ died, not as a substitutionary sacrifice, but only as act of divine benevolence towards sinners and as a display of divine displeasure with sin.  The sum of these teachings led logically to Universalism: By equating holiness with benevolence for the greatest number, coupled with the notions that there is no personal penal justice, and salvation is merely an act of divine benevolence, the result is that God must extend benevolence (salvation) to the greatest number possible; viz., all of mankind.[5

Admittedly, there is nothing about the teachings of Edwards, Hoskins, or Taylor that required they originate in Calvinistic quarters; they might just as easily have grown up in any church or denomination.   However, the fact is they did not.  The explanation offered by the Presbyterian church is that Calvinism in early America declined by stages from orthodoxy, where scriptural doctrines are believed and expounded from the word, to traditionalism, where the traditional doctrines of orthodoxy are still believed but are separated from the active exposition of the word and based on tradition, logical systems of doctrine, and defended by reason and philosophy, and, finally, to heresy.  The departure began with Edwards: 

Jonathan Edwards was the person responsible for the transition from orthodoxy to traditionalism. His speculations defended and explained the Calvinist system he inherited by means of logic and philosophy apart from the scriptures. The results were disastrous.[6]

However, we can go further and say that Calvinism’s concept of limited atonement, whose basic premise is a God who imputes condemnation to all, but withholds justification from some - a God who savingly loves some, but not all, and therefore sends his Son to die for only a few – virtually invites the sort of over-correction that leads to Universalism.  And, in fact, this is precisely what has occurred, and brings us to the next section - “Hypothetical Universalism” or, “four point Calvinism.” 

Hypothetical Universalism (Four Point Calvinism)

Another connection between Calvinism and Universalism is Amyraldianism.  Dr. C. Matthew McMahon, in an article entitled Amyraut and Hypothetical Universalism, states that “Hypothetical Universalism is the theological system which most of the 21st century [Reformed] church adheres to as the banner and truth of their view on the atonement of Jesus Christ.  In essence, it teaches that Jesus Christ actually and savingly died for all men, though only the elect receive the benefits through faith.”  Moise Amyraut (1596-1664) is credited with formulating “Hypothetical Universalism,” which, in simplest terms, is the Calvinist T.U.L.I.P. without the “L” of limited atonement (four point Calvinism).[7]  In his Traite de la Predestination (published in 1634), Amyraut claimed that God, moved by his love for mankind, had appointed all human beings to salvation provided they believe and repent.  However, since human beings would not on their own initiative believe and repent, God chose to bestow a special measure of his Spirit to some only, who are the elect.  This is briefly comprehended in the saying “Christ died sufficiently for all, but efficiently for the elect.”[8]   

However, attempting to limit election, while opening atonement, cannot be reconciled.  Removing the concept of limited atonement from Calvinism leads to Universalism in that, if Christ died out of God’s great love for all men, then God, whose responsibility alone it is to save him, is morally required to save them all.  For God cannot savingly love all men, impute guilt to all, but justify only some.[9]  The God, by whose decree all men are vicariously deemed guilty, based upon the transgression of one, is morally required to apply equally the substitutionary death and atoning blood of Christ to all. In the words of one writer, “The bottom line is, if Christ’s atonement is sufficient to save every person, then God in the end sends billions of redeemable people to hell.”[10] 

Of course, these are only quandaries for those that deny man’s ability to obey the gospel by the persuasion of God’s word upon his heart and the exercise of his own free will, apart from the supervening power of God.  Where men are morally responsible to obey the gospel, unlimited atonement leaves the choice up to man whether he will avail himself of the offer of grace or not, relieving God of the moral blame for the sinner’s refusal to believe and be saved.   However, where, by the doctrines of election and reprobation, and total depravity, the responsibility is shifted to God, who directly supervenes to save some and harden others, God bears the moral implications of failing to save mankind.  Thus, the moral implications of four point Calvinism argue strongly in favor of Universalism.

Those who have opposed the Calvinistic scheme have often said that Universalism is its legitimate fruit.  I think for the theoretic denial of free will I have just named, that this is true.  The Calvinists, by a happy inconsistency, have maintained a deep sense of the evil and wickedness of sin.  But when they had, by a method "more honored in the breach than in the observance," made the Author of man's nature and surroundings responsible for all man's doings, it was natural that men should infer that God's fairness required the salvation of one as well as another.   The principle, or rather the lack of principle, by which God elected one man, appeared equally good for the election of all men.  Hence we need not wonder that the Universalism of eighty years ago was offered as a "Calvinism Improved' - a title given by Dr. Joseph Huntington to his Universalist book.  The Old-School doctrine of the nature of the Atonement made it a legal satisfaction for the sins of the saved.  The New-School doctrine of the extent of the Atonement makes it sufficient for all men.  Combine the two, and all are saved at the stroke of logic, and the result of the reasoning abides, though the old and false view of the Atonement is discarded.[11] 

The Preterist Connection 

The same result obtains as well logically, not just morally: those who argue for unlimited atonement quickly find themselves in the Universalist camp.  Here are some quotes by Preterist writers concerning the destruction of death at the eschaton.  The first is by a Reformed minister.  The second is also Reformed but, seeing the Universalist implications of full Preterism as interpreted through the rubric of Calvinism, now argues for Pret-Idealism.  The last is from a Baptist background, but verbalizes Calvinism nonetheless, it being generally acknowledged that the Philadelphia Confession of Faith used by Baptist churches was taken from that source.[12]   As we will see, their statements are unequivocally Universalist: 

“This was a reorganization of the cosmos The whole world was changed.  What once reigned over all the world (the Sin and the Death of Adam) was now replaced with a new reign, a new kingdom: the Grace and Righteousness…Now, this raises a question concerning Man, all men, in the age to come.  Let me assert quite plainly: all men are under the rule of the Grace and Righteousness No man is under the rule of the Death and the Sin.  How can anyone who is a preterist claim that any man is under the reign of "the Death" when clearly "the Death" has been defeated and "swallowed up in victory" as Rev 20.14,15 clearly illustrates?  And, if "the Death" has been defeated entirely for all men, then "the Sin" that reigned "in the Death" has equally been hurled into the "lake of fire."  In other words, the Sin has been removed from the cosmos along with the Death. This is not just true for believers in Christ, but true for all men, everywhere.” Sam Frost, Observations, (2007).

“The premise is incontrovertible.  If death has been nullified, it can only be nullified completely.  This means eternal life is imputed to all men, regardless of faith.”   Brian Simmons, How Preterism Led me Into Universalism (emphasis added).

“In Adam all died, and now that AD 70 has occurred, all men are no longer in Adam. That condemnation has been put away.”  Nathan Dubois, Full Preterism vs. Idealism, Part 2: Full Preterism's Achilles Heel (emphasis added).

Each of these sentiments is thoroughly Universalist.  The authors postpone the universal efficacy of Christ’s atonement until A.D. 70, rather than placing it at the cross, but there is no question that each states that the imputed condemnation of Adam was done away for all men at the eschaton.  In other words, they have taken the “L” out of T.U.L.I.P., making Christ’s sacrifice unlimited in effect.  Having arraigned mankind before the bar of heaven upon the charge of imputed Adamic guilt, the indictment is rendered null when the underlying law is repealed.  You cannot unconditionally repeal a universal law without conferring universal and unconditional amnesty and pardon.  Hence, based upon the interpretation that imputed Adamic guilt was done away in A.D. 70, it becomes an axiom of law that “all are made alive.” 

 Max King Connection 

Lest Calvinism seem to shoulder all the blame (this article is not about blame, but understanding and correcting our errors), it is clear that Armenians are also implicated in the scandal.  Indeed, let us be clear that while there are Preterists from a Reformed background making statements that lead to Universalism, few if any have actually crossed over.  Those going over to Universalism appear to come almost exclusively from an Armenian or quasi-Calvinist back-ground (viz., Baptist and similar churches that hold certain Calvinistic doctrines).  Moreover, while some Reformed Preterists have definitely swelled the tide of those falling into Universalism by the things they say and write; Max King has contributed more than the rest.   

Max King, credited by some with the birth of the modern Preterist movement, has given numerous indications in recent years that he has gone over to Universalism.  In 2002, Tim King, Max’s son and president of the King’s Presence Ministries, published an article entitled “Comprehensive Grace,” which bore many markings of Universalist thought and sentiment. 

We need to see anthropology through the lens of a transformed cosmology. Simply stated, man is changed because his world is changed. Man is reconciled to God because he no longer lives under the rule of sin and death as determined by the Mosaic world. Through the gift of Christ he dwells in a world of righteousness and life. The issue is cosmic and corporate, not individual and limited. Now, as then, evil does not thwart the "much more" of God's grace (Romans 5:9, 10, 15, 17, 20).

As we have already seen, the essential tenant of Universalism is the corporate justification of man irrespective of faith or obedience.  King’s “transformed cosmology” clearly holds the germ of Universalism:  Salvation “is cosmic and corporate, not individual and limited.”    In 2003, King followed up with an article entitled “Beyond Salvation” which stated “you didn’t have to do anything to be accepted.”  One wonders what happened to faith, repentance, confession, and baptism?  The present president of Presence Ministries, Kevin Beck, has made similar statements. 

All that God wants is for you to experience love because in experiencing Love you experience God…But what about unbelievers?  Well, is there anyone who does not believe in love?  As far as I can see, there are no atheists because everyone believes in Love, and to believe in Love is to believe in God. [13]

All God wants is for us to experience love?  There are no atheists? Beck goes on to affirm that even the enemies of the gospel will be saved. 

The issue, then, is not resurrection per se.  The question is: resurrection for whom?  Paul affirms resurrection for all Israel—including the “enemies” of the gospel (Romans 11:28-32)—as well as for the Gentiles… Throughout his letters, Paul argues for ultimate integration of Jews and Gentiles.  None would be excluded.[14]    

More recently (Oct. 2006), Presence Ministries published its first indisputable, full Universalist article, by David Timm.  (The reader should note how the idea of imputed Adamic guilt keeps showing up in these Universalist sentiments.) 

The second Adam (Christ) reversed all the spiritual separation brought by the first Adam, not just part of it…in the new world people are reconciled to God without any say in the matter. God loves all those that He has made in His image equally. 

I believe that the last Adam (Christ) reversed all the spiritual separation (Col 1:20; Acts 3:21; Isa. 25:7) that was brought by the first Adam. This means that God the Father sees humanity through Christ's righteousness…Today we are people within a reconciled humanity.[15] 

The second Adam (Christ) reversed all the spiritual separation brought by the first Adam, not just part of it…in the new world people are reconciled to God without any say in the matter. God loves all those that He has made in His image equally. 

I believe that the last Adam (Christ) reversed all the spiritual separation (Col 1:20; Acts 3:21; Isa. 25:7) that was brought by the first Adam. This means that God the Father sees humanity through Christ's righteousness…Today we are people within a reconciled humanity.[15] 

Corporate Body View Familiar Friend of Universalism

 As we have seen, although King started out affirming merely the corporate resurrection (regeneration) of the church, he has since moved on to affirm the justification of the whole body of mankind.  The sentiments of King correspond to an astonishing degree with the earliest known Universalist-Preterists.  Consider the following: 

Now we are of the opinion that the expression, ‘there is a natural body,’ may be predicated most justly of the Jewish body of worship, which body was then in existence in all its primitive force, when the apostle indited I Cor. XV., as much as when Moses indited the book of Leviticus….We know that the apostle was a Hebrew of Hebrews: and we apprehend, therefore, that when he expresses his soul’s desire, “O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of death,” he is speaking in reference to the Jewish worship, which was the ministration of condemnation and death…we apprehend, moreover, that when he speaks of an earthly house of this tabernacle being dissolved, of a groaning, being burdened, and such like, his mind is still upon the worship under the law; for it may well be asked, how can he speak of human bodies of clay as houses builded with hands?” [27]

Here is King’s “corporate body” view one hundred and twenty five years before he took up a pen, and by a man who, like King, became Universalist!  Hear him again: 

The mystical body of Christ, say we, was a natural body, at that time, as far as its ordinances, its officers, its gifts, prophesying, tongues, healing, helps, and governments were concerned.  All these were, if the expression may be allowed, borrowed from the Jewish body of worshipThat body was to give way to a spiritual body…the old covenant administration of death, which in Paul’s day was shaken and ready to vanish, should entirely disappear – then should be brought to pass the saying that was written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.[28] 

In the before-mentioned debate between Benjamin Franklin and Universalist, Erasmus Manford, the latter also expressed the corporate body view of Universal salvation:

“Even we groan within ourselves waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” 9. That there is to be a redemption of our “body,” this is, the body of humanity – “the whole creation.”  Blessed truth!  The whole family of man shall be redeemed from the thralldom of error and sin, and brought into the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” [29]

Covenant Eschatology: Inherently Universalistic

According to King and adherents of covenant eschatology, the veil of sin and death cast over all nations resided in the Mosaic law.  (Isa. 25:7; cf. II Cor. 3:13-18)[30]   For proponents of the corporate body view, the removal of the law thus becomes the eschatological resurrection.[31]  However, as there is no way to limit annulment of the law merely to the church (for it was done away for all men, for all time), all men end up and are justified, whether they have obeyed the gospel or not.  This result obtains because “where no law is, there is no trangression.”  (Rom. 4:15)  If there is no transgression, there is no condemnation, and where there is no condemnation, then all are justified.  On the other hand, if, in order to avoid universal justification, it is owned that the Mosaic law was not the sole source of man’s condemnation before God and that law, transgression, sin, and death are present realities today, then removal of the Mosaic law would not constitute the spiritual resurrection King’s corporate body view assumes.  According to King, “death is abolished when the state of sin and the law are abolished.”  Therefore, as long as sin and law exist, death exists, and there is no spiritual resurection. Thus, it is either the corporate body view and Universalism, or no corporate body view and particularism.  A couple syllogisms will help make it clear:

Syllogism No. 1

Major Premise: The power of sin and death over mankind resided in the Mosaic law.

Minor Premise: The Mosaic law was done away for all men for all time in A.D. 70.  Therefore,

Conclusion: All men are freed from the power of sin and death.

Syllogism No. 2

Major Premise: The resurrection consisted in the removal of legal condemnation. 

Minor Premise:  Legal condemnation exists today despite annulment of the Mosaic law.  Therefore,

Conclusion: There was no spiritual resurrection based upon annulment of the Mosaic law. 


The first syllogism demonstrates the basic assumptions of covenant eschatology; the second demonstrates how that system fails if a source of law and condemnation beyond the Mosaic law still exists.  Together they represent the premises upon which the corporate body view rests, and without which covenant eschatology cannot endure.  How the system can be extricated from Universalism without overthrowing its basic assumptions, I cannot see.  On the one hand, if proponents affirm that the resurrection (justification) consisted in the removal of the Mosaic law, then all men must be made partakers of the benefit.  On the other hand, if the law of sin and death (condemnation) survived annulment of the Mosaic law, then annulment of the Jewish law would not have affected a spiritual resurrection.  

The law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.  It was merely the outward and visible form temporarily added to God’s moral and spiritual law to show man his sinfulness.  Removal of the Old Testament took away only the outward form, but left the inward substance of the law wholly in tack.  Murder, theft, fornication, and adultery were sinful and reckoned against man before the Mosaic law, and they are sinful today.  All men are bound to obey the law’s commands, including the church.  When saints sin by violating these commands, heaven sees and is wroth, and will punish that sin, just as it punished Adam’s sin, unless forgiveness is sought and obtained through prayer and repentance.  Therefore, annulment of the Mosaic law cannot have brought about man’s regeneration as covenant eschatology supposes, for the simple fact that the moral precepts underlying the Mosaic law remain till this very day, bringing all men into bondage (for all men sin), which bondage is remitted only by the blood of Christ

If there is a spiritual resurrection taught in scripture, it is by participation in the gospel, to which the passing of the law contributed not one wit. King says “The defeat of sin is tied to the annulment of the old aeon of law.”[32] But this is wrong.  King compromises and impugns the efficacy of the cross by making it share man’s redemption with the annulment of the Mosaic law, as if as long as the law endured man could not be freed from sin.  Sin was not defeated by annulment of the “old aeon of the law,” but by the cross of Christ.  Christ’s cross triumphed over the law and is fully sufficient for man’s salvation; his substitutionary death paid the debt man could not pay.  (Col. 2:14)  Sin was not defeated because the old aeon of the law passed; just the opposite: the old aeon of the law passed because sin was defeated!  Hence, it is was not necessary that the law be removed for sin to be defeated or man to receive spiritual resurrection as King asserts.  Indeed, as we have seen, except for the ceremonial and other incidental parts, the law still exists!

The upshot is that, except for the shadow being replaced by its substance, passage of the Mosaic law was soteriologically irrelevant; it was a school master to bring us to Christ, but was invested with no especial power in terms of sin and death that the moral law which exists today does not possess. The only difference between this side of the cross and that is the offer of forgiveness provided in Christ, which the old law foreshadowed, but could not provide.   The removal of the Mosaic law did not work a resurrection of any kind or description whatever; its removal did nothing toward acquitting man, or if it did, then Universalism is the only result, for the law was removed for all men, not just the church.  The conclusion of the matter is that covenant eschatology is inherently Universalistic and must be rejected.  It is an impoverished system, invented by a man who has followed its logical ramifications to Universalism, and is now settled in that camp.  Others, who cling to covenant eschatology, but reject Universalism, suffer logical inconsistency and help sow the seeds of Universalism, even though rejecting it themselves.

Max King: Father of Modern Universalism?

Following King’s lead, modern Preterist-Universalists also plead the corporate redemption, resurrection, and salvation of all mankind, using concepts and language derived directly from King’s works, including vicarious redemption of the world through the “first fruit” Jews.  To help demonstrate the connection between covenant eschatology and Universalism even further, here are some quotes from unabashed Universalists.  The influence of King and his corporate body view come through loud and clear:

There is in this passage NOT two distinct separate "bodies" as such, but rather the ONE BODY in transition. The natural body answers to life as it was being lived under the Old Covenant world that was passing; the spiritual body answers to life as it was burgeoning in the New Covenant – "IT" was the one body ISRAEL in transition – the ministration of "death" as it was, embodied in the old covenant was being swallowed up in the new covenant ministration or spirit of life [Isa. 25:8; 1Cor 15:54-57]. IT was Israel… in the process of coming into her redemption via Christ and the first-fruit saints…which subsequently lead to the preordained reconciliation of the whole world [Rom 1:15]. Israel was the divinely appointed means to this end [Jn 4:22b] – in Christ and His first-fruit saints.. [33]

Israel would be reborn and restored, and this would include life for the world. After destroying the old heavens and earth, God would create them anew…The earth is new because Israel has been raised from the dead. And as the prophets promised, this new earth includes the ingathering of the nations into the covenant. The new covenant in Jesus is the new heavens and new earth. [34]

A resurrection took place. The natural man (in Adam) who tried to make human potential into something that it was not died like a seed in the ground and rose up a spiritual man (in Christ), where God’s possibilities can bless humanity. Humanity was reborn. You bible people will notice that 1 Corinthians chapter 15 does not speak of the resurrection of the “bodies” but rather the resurrection of the “body”. There are only two “men” in this chapter, Adam and Christ. Christ was the last Adam.[35]

What is the common thread running through all Universalist notions surveyed thus far?  They deal with man’s salvation at a corporate, rather than individual, level.  Mankind is saved as a body, not as he individually exercises his moral faculty of faith, repents of sin, and is baptized.  This corporate view of redemption, when coupled with the notion that juridical death (condemnation) was premised exclusively upon Adamic sin (Calvinist view) or the Mosaic law (King view), which were cast into the lake of fire in A.D. 70, leads logically and unavoidably to Universalism.  If the only thing that condemned us was taken away in A.D. 70, then all mankind stands just before the throne.  In the words of Frost:

Let me assert quite plainly: all men are under the rule of the Grace and RighteousnessNo man is under the rule of the Death and the Sinthe Sin has been removed from the cosmos along with the Death. This is not just true for believers in Christ, but true for all men, everywhere.” Sam Frost, Observations, (2007).

Which Death Destroyed? 

The evidence is in: full Preterism is not the culprit linking Preterism to Universalism.  The real culprits are false notions regarding the source and nature of mankind’s condemnation and his corporate justification as articulated by some in the Preterist community.  Reformed Preterists, like Frost, interpret the “death” cast into the lake of fire in Rev. 20:14 as imputed Adamic guilt.  King, on the other hand, equates it with annulment of the Mosaic law. [36]  Because these are universal in terms of their asserted condemnation, their destruction works universal justification, apart from faith and obedience. As they unconditionally condemned, so their annulment unconditionally justifies. It is as if the whole race were arraigned before the court of heaven upon an indictment reciting these two laws.  The annulment of those laws ipso facto destroys the indictment, as there is no longer any law to base an accusation upon.  Hence, all men stand acquitted.  In the words of Sam Frost: “There is no law taking into account our sins.”[37]  Since both the King approach and the Frost/four-point Calvinism approach cannot be right, and since the Universalism inherent in their views is plainly wrong, the question remains which death was destroyed?  The answer is elementary: Hadean death. 

There are five kinds of death that can be identified in the Bible.  These are:  1) Moral/spiritual; 2) legal/juridical; 3) physical; 4) Hadean; 5) eternal/second death.  All of these exist today except Hadean death.  Moral and spiritual death speak to man’s fallen nature, inherited by physical descent from Adam.  Man is not condemned for his carnal nature unless and until he attains to an age moral accountability and obeys his sinful inclinations.  There is no such thing as imputed guilt.  Not even Calvin taught imputed guilt.  “Infants…suffer not for another's, but for their own defect.[38]  Each perishes for his own sin, not the sin of another. The idea of imputed Adamic guilt was added later.[39]  Legal and juridical death are terms used to describe the sentence of death passed upon all who sin.  Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.  The moral faculty of faith tied to man’s conscience requires that he obey its dictates.  Where he acts in violation of his conscience or the command of God, he is guilty of sin and comes under juridical death, just like Adam.  Physical death requires no explanation.  Eternal death is the penalty for sin announced in the garden.  All who are guilty of sin and fail to obtain the salvation that is freely offered in Jesus will suffer the second, eternal death.  Only Hadean death was destroyed in A.D. 70.  “And the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”  (Matt. 16:18)  “I am he that liveth, and was dead, and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of Hades and of death.”  (Rev. 1:18)  “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is thy sting, O Hades, where is thy victory?”  (I Cor. 15:54, 55)  It was Hadean death that was destroyed at the eschaton, and none else.

Some will ask what about juridical death?  Wasn’t that destroyed at the eschaton?  No, it was not.  As long as mankind endures, he will be carnal, sold under sin, and therefore subject to juridical death for the sins of his flesh.  If he has not obeyed the gospel at the time of physical death, there is only one decree announced: eternal death.  Thus, all forms of death but Hadean remain today.  Hadean death alone as passed from existence and is no more. 

What about Revelation 21:4? 

Revelation 21:4 describes the holy city, new Jerusalem (the church) saying: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”  This passage is adapted from Isaiah, where it describes the return of the captivity to Judah, but ultimately looks beyond the captivity’s return unto the kingdom of the Messiah.  (Isa. 35:9, 10; 65:19-25)  When Revelation says there will be no more death, this should not be taken in an absolute sense.  This is clear from the fact that it also says there will be no more sorrow, crying, or pain.  Since these are still a very real and permanent part of human existence this side of eternity, it seems clear that the statement is intended to be understood in a relative sense.  The trials and tribulations of the eschaton were over; death, sorrow, and crying associated with the persecution were past. That this is the intended meaning is also seen from Rev. 7:16, 17 where similar language is used to describe those that came through the great tribulation.  It is often assumed that the image is of the saints in heaven, but the better view is that it speaks to the church triumphant upon earth: 

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

It is true, of course, that inside the city believers have access to the tree of life and, therefore, there is no more juridical death for those that remain in covenant relation with God.  But this does not seem to be the prophet’s meaning.  Again, the fact that sorrow and crying remain part of human existence requires the language be understood in context of the persecutions of Nero that were past.  Foy E. Wallace Jr. puts it this way: 

This passage was the fulfillment of the promise in chapter 7:14-17 which was vouchsafed by Christ himself that the faithful through tribulation would become recipients of the blessings signified in the symbolic phrases of these two texts.  The same figures of speech are employed by Isaiah in the descriptions of the blessings that should come upon Israel when freed from exile and returned to their land…no more death referred to the martyrdom of the saints as chapter 2:10; neither sorrow nor crying referred to the sorrows of persecution; and neither any more pain was just another phrase for no more tribulation.[40]


Preterism is a system of interpreting eschatology, not soteriology, and therefore has no logical connection to Universalism.  Preterism’s problem with Universalism rises out of some individuals’ erroneous assumptions concerning the corporate nature of sin and salvation as these in turn are applied to fulfilled eschatology, but have nothing to do with fulfilled eschatology itself.  It is not Preterism that should be abandoned, but King’s covenant eschatology and the notion of imputed Adamic guilt.



[1] “In this state or constitution all the family of God, who were of the existing generation, were interested, independent of their knowledge.  For instance, the Philipian jailor, as he was judged in the first Adam head, so he was justified in the resurrection of the second Adam head.   Did his ignorance of these facts, prior to Paul’s preaching, absolve him from the judgment any more than it precluded him from the justification?  By no means.  As he had been in the state of condemnation by the first Adam, so was he then in the state of justification by the second.  He was reconciled to Go by the death of the Son, and not by the knowledge of that death.” Robert Townley, The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ a Past Event (1845, London), p. 90.

[2] Erasmus Manford, An Oral Debate on the Coming of the Son of Man, Endless Punishment, and Universal Salvation, (Boston, 1860), p. 36

[3] Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume 10, 1895, pp. 109-33, Rev. John McClintock and James Strong.

[4] Mayhew avowed his belief in Universalism in a published Thanksgiving Sermon, Dec. 9, 1762.

[5] For more, see the Presbyterian Church USA article History of American Presbyterianism at  See also, Calvinism in Nineteenth-Century America, David Calhoun, Covenant Theological Seminary (2006), .

[6] History of American Presbyterianism, ibid.

[7] The acronym T.U.L.I.P stands for Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints.

[8] See generally, Matthew McMahon, Amyraut and Hypothetical Universalism;

[9] Reformed doctrine holds that God imputes the guilt of Adam’s transgression to all men, including infants.  John Murray, The Imputation of Adam's Sin (Philipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1959) 

[10] Bob Higby, The Destructive Teaching of Hypothetical Universalism,

[11] Human Destiny: A Discussion: Do Reason and Scripture Teach the Utter extinction of an Unregenerate part of Human Beings, Instead of the Final Salvation of All?  Affirmative: Charles Fredrick Hudson.  Negative: Sylvanus Cobb.  (Sylvanus Cobb, Publisher, 1860) p. 37. Emphasis added.

[12] Philadelphia Confession of Faith: "Our first parents by this sin fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them, whereby death came upon all, all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of the souls and body. The guilt of sin was imputed (and corrupt nature conveyed) to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, the subjects of death and all other spiritual miseries, temporal and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free. From the original corruption-whereby we are utterly indisposed disabled, and made opposite to all good and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions."

[13] Kevin Beck, Agapetheism, July 2006

[14] Kevin Beck, Eating, Drinking, and Dying: Paul’s Use of Isaiah 22:13, July 2006

[15] David Timm, Grace Upon All, Oct. 2006

[16]  Max King, The Spirit of Prophecy (Warren OH, 1971 ed.), p. 200.

[17]  Ibid, p.207.

[18]  Ibid, p.207.

[19] Ibid, p. 202.

[20] Ibid, p. 204.

[21]   Ibid, p. 191; cf. 210, 212.

[22]   Ibid, p. 210.

[23]   Ibid, p. 212.

[24]  Ibid, 144.

[25] Max R. King, The Cross and the Parousia of Christ, p. 644.

[26] Max R. King, The Spirit of Prophecy, p. 145

[27] Townley, 119.

[28] Townley, 120

[29] Erasmus Manford, An Oral Debate on the Coming of the Son of Man, Endless Punishment, and Universal Salvation, Boston (1860), p. 126

[30] See generally, Max R. King, The Cross and the Parousia of Christ, pp. 233, 410, 529, 643,4: “Paul is conscious that death’s defeat hinges upon sin’s defeat, and that the defeat of sin is tied to the annulment of the old aeon of law.”

[31] Max R. King, The Spirit of Prophecy (1971), p. 204, 220.

[32] Max R. King, The Cross and the Parousia of Christ, p. 644.

[33] David G. Embury, The Body (2004),

[34] Derrick Olliff, The Eschatology of Being “Born Again” (2006),

[35]  Barry Dupont, Freedom to Discover, Infinite

[36] “The dissolution of [the Jewish] body ended the reign of death.” Max R. King, The Spirit of Prophecy (1971), p. 356; cf. The Cross and Parousia of Christ, p. 257.

[37] Samuel M. Frost, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection of the Dead (Truth Voice Pub. 2004), p.157.

[38] Calvin, Institutes II, i, 8.

[39] See generally, Robert L. Danby, Systematic  Theology, chpt. 29; John Murray, The Imputation of Adam's Sin (Philipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1959).

[40] Foy E. Wallace Jr., The Book of Revelation (Ft. Worth, 1966), pp. 429, 430.

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