Refuting Don Preston on the Lord’s Supper

In the FAQ section of his Escatology.org website, minister Don Preston (who is a “Preterist”*) addresses the following question (see it online here):

Question: If the Lord did come in A.D. 70, then should we partake of the Lord’s Supper? Paul said that “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do shew forth the Lord’s death until he come” (1 Corinthians 11:26). So, according to this, we should not take the Supper if the Lord came in A. D. 70.

Answer: I believe that this common argument misunderstands the nature of the Supper and the meaning of “until” in Corinthians. …

*The word Preterist is in quotation marks simply because I generally avoid terms that do not exactly define those who are labeled by them.  As not all “Preterists” agree on all things escatalogical, I find that labeling anyone a “Preterist” deserves such a dislaimer.  (I’m wary of most other labels, too.)

Preston continues his reply with a series of non-proofs, which he appears to assume will rightly combine to constitute a sound proof of his opinion that the practice of the Lord’s Supper should continue today.  He begins by taking issue with the word “until”, showing that it does not always mean “to a certain point, yet not beyond” (my paraphrase).  Preston’s demonstration of the ambiguity of the term, however, does not prove Paul’s intent for the term in this present case.  Preston’s argument, therefore, is inconclusive.  Sadly, however, he continues to build on it anyway.

His argument continues with a second point, which is wholly irrelevant to the proof at hand:

“Second, it needs to be understood that whatever else Paul was saying in Corinthians, he was definitely saying that the Lord was coming in the lifetime of the Corinthians. …”

It is simply irrelevant when Jesus would come.  Preston’s point here is simply an off-task aside in the middle of his proof.  It does serve, however, to highlight the fact that there is no command in the Bible addressed to anyone in any generation after the one to which Paul was writing.  If the Supper were intended for generations in our present age, where is the command or commission for such?  It most certainly is not in this present passage.

Preston continues with his third point, which I have pasted in-whole below.

“Third, the Supper was established to be a memorial. This is critical. It was to be a memorial of the New Covenant (Matthew 26:26f). It was to be a memorial of deliverance from the bondage of sin and death. It was to be a memorial of the unity of the faith. Now, the New Covenant was not completed until the Coming of the Lord. How could the Supper be a memorial of the New Covenant until the New Covenant became a perfected reality? And, more specifically, why would the Supper cease to function at the very moment that it became what it was supposed to be, a memorial? The Supper could only become a true memorial when that which it was to memorialize became a reality, and this was at the parousia.”

Ultimately, Preston’s conclusion in this argument is both dubious and troubling.  I will first, however, address the route he used to get there.    He begins by stating:

“It was to be a memorial of the New Covenant.”

Jesus had said, however, “do this in remembrance of me” (emphasis added).  And here’s the passage in question so that you can read it for yourself:

Luke 22  19And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Not even in the parallel passage used by Preston to discuss the issue do we see Jesus referring to the Supper as a remembrance of the New Covenant (as Preston suggests):

Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new[c] covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Rather, Jesus mentions his body and his blood, calling the blood “My blood of the new covenant”.  Interestingly, Preston will later argue that the new covenant was not “completed” until Jesus returned in 70AD.  The full scope of that conclusion aside for the moment, we see in this present passage that the role of the blood that was to be shed seems to have been “the remission of sins”.  I wonder if Mr. Preston believes that no sins were remitted until Jesus’ return in 70AD.  I wonder further whether he believes that no sins have been remitted since 70AD.

Preston continues to re-frame the definition by promoting two further characteristics of the Lord’s Supper, neither of which assertions he supports with scriptural references:

“It was to be a memorial of deliverance from the bondage of sin and death. It was to be a memorial of the unity of the faith.”

Hopefully, Preston does not believe that his own opinion serves as evidence in his proof, yet he gives us no reason here to believe that these opinions are founded in scripture.  (If anyone knows where he has stated so elsewhere in his writings, please send me a quotation and a link to such.)

Then he continues with this shocking assertion, which he phrases in the form of a question:

“Now, the New Covenant was not completed until the Coming of the Lord. How could the Supper be a memorial of the New Covenant until the New Covenant became a perfected reality?”

Interestingly, Preston unwittingly contradicts his previous assertion that the Supper was a memorial of the New Covenant, for here he asks how that could be!  (Remember, he shows no place where Jesus or a prophet calls it a memorial of the New Covenent; that is Preston’s assertion.  And surprisingly, he’ll tell us later that it was a memorial of none other than the parousia itself!) More importantly, however is the implication that the Lord’s Supper, which thousands and perhaps even millions of followers practiced in those first decades of the Covenant was somehow not a legitimate memorial celebration.

Then, as if the dubious direction of his argument was not clear enough, he continues (emphasis added):

“The Supper could only become a true memorial when that which it was to memorialize became a reality, and this was at the parousia.

Three things are apparent here:

  1. Preston now adds the parousia to his list of things that the Lord’s Supper was supposed to memorialize.
  2. Preston implies that the Supper as commanded by Jesus and his apostles was not a true memorial for the first 40 years!
  3. Preston has completely forgotten Jesus’ body, blood, and death, (all of which Jesus himself associated with the meaning of the Lord’s Supper), and has now summed up the entire memorial as being wholly about the parousia!

This manner of argumentation is quite regrettable and proves nothing about the question at hand.  It does, however, tend to insult the intelligence of Jesus and his apostles, all of whom, I suppose, commanded believers in that generation to take the Supper, which Preston implies was both untrue and incomplete until 70AD.

In his final argument, Preston meanders without making any particular point solidly.   The paragraph hints at proving something, but by the end, we simply have a bare assertion by Preston that the Supper continues today, as good as authorized by Jesus himself.  I have highlighted a few places in boldface for discussion below:

“Fourth, Jesus, in discussing his participation in the Supper, said “I will henceforth not take of this…until I take it new with you in my Father’s kingdom…until it is fulfilled in the kingdom.” (Luke 22). Those who contend that the Supper was to terminate at the parousia seldom pay any attention to the fact that Jesus emphatically said that he would take the Supper when the kingdom came (this was to be in A.D. 70, Luke 21:28-32). In other words, there are two “untils” used in relationship to the Supper. Corinthians does not specifically address whether or not the Supper was to be continued after the parousia. It discusses one aspect of the Supper, the proclamation of the death of Jesus. However, in Luke, the topic is the continuance/participation of the Supper, and Jesus specifically says that it would be at the coming of the kingdom when he would then participate in the Supper! The Supper was not to terminate at the parousia therefore, it was to be perfected at the parousia and become the memorial of the finished work of Jesus Christ.”

Preston’s tone promises to make some point of Jesus’ statement about taking the Supper again at the coming of the kingdom.  No such point is made, however.  Apparently, a point is simply to be assumed by the reader here—presumably, that since Jesus said he’d take the Supper at his coming, that all believers today are still to take it.

Such an assumption, besides being a non sequitur, however, raises a number of compelling questions:

  1. How many times would Jesus need to take the Supper again in order to fulfill this prophecy?
  2. Is there anything in this (or in any other) passage that would rule out “one” being a correct answer to the question above?
  3. If Jesus took the Supper once in 70AD, what necessitates that he is still taking it today?
  4. How does Jesus taking the Supper in 70AD constitute a command or commission for anyone to take it today?
  5. Does Jesus’ prophecy even define the place at which he would take the Supper again?  According to Jesus’ words, must it have been done on the Earth?

Interestingly, Preston takes the second “coming” (PAROUSIA, as in Matthew 24:3) of Jesus to have been an extended presence (in spiritual form) starting at 70AD and running indefinitely, until now at least.  In the passage he cites above while arguing that the taking of the Lord’s Supper would be a continual practice beginning in 70AD, the word “come” is ERCHOMAI in Greek.  That is, Jesus said he would drink wine anew with them when God’s kingdom was to ERCHOMAI.  This word, however, seems to stress the moment of appearance, and has no sense whatsoever as to any continual presence thereafter—as far as I can determine from my study of the references.

My point here plays out thus:

  1. If Jesus meant to convey that at his upcoming PAROUSIA, he would take the Lord’s Supper, and
  2. If PAROUSIA should be taken to mean “continual presence”, as opposed to a point of visitation or appearance or arrival, then
  3. Jesus certainly could have chosen the (ostensibly) exacting word, PAROUSIA, instead of ERCHOMAI, which does not appear to convey any sense of an ongoing presence.

It appears, however, that Preston misses these inconsistencies in his position.  Indeed, as with the word “until” (addressed earlier), he seems to assume that because PAROUSIA can mean something other than “to appear”, it must in this case mean something other.  Though he does not state such explicitly here, it certainly seems to be his assumption, for he devotes not a line of text to exploring any alternative interpretation.

This entire article by Preston is quite a disappointment as it indulges in the same manner of logical fallacies and empty promises of proof and documentation that plague religion, law, education, science, medicine, and every other field of human endeavor.  Yes, I know that in no place does Preston promise to “prove” his position, yet he posted it on the Internet on an FAQ page.  Further, he does not post it with any disclaimer that it is merely his opinion; he posts it as fact.

It appears to me that Preston is scrambling here to make sense of an issue that would be completely cleared up if he understood that the ekklesia was literally  “caught up” to Heaven, just as Jesus had promised through Paul.  Again, Preston’s position is that “kingdom=church” and that the Greek word PAROUSIA does not focus on Jesus’ arrival at the second coming, but that it suggests his continual presence thereafter.  I am not aware if he attempts to explain how Jesus transitioned between an actual, physical return in 70 to a mere spiritual “presence” thereafter. His view of these things is not literal, but figurative.  Therefore, he misses what might possibly be very specific and exacting language in several Bible passages in deference to his assumption that the ekklesia was to be ongoing indefinitely. The assumption might go something like this:

I’m in the church, so the church is still here.  Therefore, the church was to remain on the Earth from 70AD until at least now.

No passage in all of scripture, however, shows with certainty an ekklesia continuing on the Earth after 70.  To assert that it would be so is to indulge a grand assumption as if it were fact.

Jack

 

 

 

 

 

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