MASTER'S SEMINARY JOURNAL

BOOK REVIEW

Beyond the End Times: The Rest of the Greatest Story Ever Told


By Noe, John
Bradford, PA : Preterist Resources (1999). xii + 301 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
12.1 (Spring 2001) : 119-121

For several years a small group, known mainly on the Internet and in e-mail theological discussions and called the International Preterist Association, has been advocating what has been called “consistent preterism,” “full-preterism,” or “hyperpreterism.” In brief, this position builds on the traditional Preterist understanding of prophecy, postulating that all biblical prophecy was fulfilled in A.D. 70 and that no aspect of biblical prophecy awaits fulfillment. Edward E . Stevens, president of this association, says on the cover that this book is “A compelling introduction to past-fulfillment of Bible prophecy.”

The author, John Noe, who is a motivational speaker and an entrepreneur, has become a chief spokesman for the “full-preterism” position. The introduction says of Noe that he “is not a professional theologian. He has had no formal seminary training, but that may be an advantage—it might have handicapped his communication style” (x). This is a startling admission and the first of a seemingly endless set of logical fallacies strewn throughout this book.

 In terms of argumentation and documentation, to detail all of the problems with the book would be impossible in the amount of space available. A few examples will suffice. In the documentation and endnotes, the formatting style changes from note to note. Citations are often incomplete (e.g., 282 n. 11, 283 n. 1); when referencing a periodical, the author never mentions the article title (e.g., 282 n. 2-4), gives either incomplete or no bibliographic information (e.g., 282 n. 5), is inconsistent in his use of underlining, italicizing, and quotation marks (cp. 283 n. 8 with 287 n. 5), and misspells publisher names (e.g., 283 n. 1). Beyond this, the book has numerous typographical errors in both the notes and the body of text and lacks a bibliography and indexes.

The author constantly refers to secondary rather than primary sources (e.g., 291 n. 1; 292 n. 3). He does not cite which editions of Josephus’ History of the Jews, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, and essays by Athanasius and Augustine he uses. Sometimes the information he presents is untrue. In chapter 3 (283) he states, “From Columbus’ Book of Prophecies, which is only available in Spanish and has never been published in this country” (238 n. 5). The fact is that a parallel Spanish- English edition, with commentary, appeared two years before Noe’s work, in 1997 (The Book of Prophecies edited by Christopher Columbus, Berkley, Calif.: University of California), and is currently found in 179 libraries in this country. In dealing with the Second Law of Thermodynamics (63, 283 n. 2), he lifts a selected quotation from the high-school-level World Book Encyclopedia to prove his point, and then gives the wrong page number for the article.

Throughout the notes the author overuses vague ad populum pronouncements such as “some Bible scholars maintain,” “some liberal scholars have insisted,” “some Jewish scholars,” “some interpreters,” “many interpreters,” and so on. Despite the author’s admitted lack of training, he makes numerous pronouncements on the proper translation of the Greek and Hebrew text and lexical meanings, although the only language source ever cited is one reference to the dictionary in Strong’s Concordance (291 n. 28).

The content of the book itself is thoroughly disappointing as well. The structure is confusing with no attempt at a coherent outline. Noe clutters the text with “bullet points” and collections of “Top 12 List,” “Eight Confirmatory Insights,” “Five Side-Stepping Devices,” in which he continually interrupts his own flow of thought. The author strings together a list of anecdotal proofs to demonstrate the dangers of an end of the world scenario. He states,

Prior to the 20th century, the church was culturally relevant, involved, and positive. Not so anymore. After the turn of the century, Hal Lindsey’s brand of premillennialism and its doomsday mentality spread like a wildfire through Christianity’s evangelical ranks and devastated postmillennial gains (38-39).

The anachronistic fallacy is evident, since Hal Lindsey’s foray into prophetic writing did not begin until the late 1960’s. That the author would be concerned that postmillennial gains were “devastated” is also interesting since he later places postmillennialists into the futurist camp that he opposes (271). Since all eschatological positions except his are posited as “futurists,” the author apparently sees all premillennial, postmillennial, and amillennial Christians as culturally irrelevant, uninvolved, and negative.

The foundational thesis of this work is that all events related to the return of Christ have already occurred. That is, the return of Christ, the resurrection of the just and unjust, the casting of Satan into the Lake of Fire, and the establishment of the new heavens and new earth along with any other related biblical prophecy occurred at or about A.D. 70. One chapter of the book entitled “Why the World Will Never End” advocates that eternality is an attribute of this creation (50). The author makes unsupported claims about scientific theory, such as the earth not being subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics (63). To the question of how the world’s resources can continue without end, he naïvely responds,

If a little more sun or cosmic substance of any kind is someday needed, He will simply speak it into existence. Likewise, if the speed of light slows down too much —as some scientists worry about—He could give it a boost. These divine acts would only be minor tweaks compared to creating it all in the first place (63).

To make his system work, the author tragically reduces the new heaven and new earth and the new Jerusalem to a spiritual abstraction that he equates to the present Christian life or “New Covenant life” (262-63), thereby erasing all hope associated with that future existence.

For what is billed as a “compelling introduction to past-fulfillment of Bible prophecy” the book fails to deal with some basic issues or objections. First of all, the author nowhere mentions why his view is not comparable with the error of Hymenaeus and Philetus, who also claimed that the resurrection was already past (2 Tim 2:17-18). In fact, “full-preterism” has been called a return to the heresy of Hymenaeus (John MacArthur, The Second Coming [Crossway, 2000] 13). He also nowhere deals meaningfully with Acts 1:9-11, which speaks of exactly the manner in which Christ will return. Amazingly, the entire issue of the dating of NT writings is dismissed with a sentence in an endnote (298 n. 3). He states there that his opinion is that the early date of Revelation is “far superior” but also that the “dating debate will not be addressed in this book.” The traditional dating of Revelation (A.D. 95) eliminates “full-preterism” in one stroke. Other issues left untouched relate to the problem of evil, current Satanic and demonic activity, the resurrection of today’s believers, and the judgment of unbelivers.

The author calls for a reformation in the church based on the “full-preterist” position. He states that, “This reformation could become as significant as the 16thcentury Protestant Reformation” (271). That kind of bluster, combined with a complete disregard for hermeneutics, playing fast and loose with factual information, and an abandonment of the rules of logic, disqualifies the author as a reliable guide in learning the meaning of Scripture. Unfortunately, publications such as this (which appear to contain thorough biblical and scholarly research), and the ubiquitous nature of the Internet mean that this current revival of the heresy of Hymenaeus will probably continue to be a bane for churches and pastors, whether they are premillennial, postmillennial or amillennial.