An archive of works against hyper preterism aka full preterism from a confessionally Reformed perspective.

No Souls in Heaven under the Old Covenant?

While the theories of general resurrection vary among hyper preterists, they all deny the doctrine of bodily resurrection as historically understood and defined by Christianity according to Scripture. Getting souls to heaven, for them, is the ultimate goal. And if that was the goal of Jesus’ “coming in AD70,” then obviously you can’t have souls in heaven prior to AD70.

One of the things you have to love about church history is that while hyper preterism was not around , say 300 or 400 years ago, there are ideas that they latch on to in order to keep their system afloat that were around back then. For example, Roman Catholics – for different reasons – also deny that the souls of Old Testament saints went to heaven upon death. They believe, as Francis Turretin pointed out in his brilliant Institutes of Elenctic Theology, that the “fathers who lived under it [Old Testament] were not immediately admitted into heaven, but were detained in limbo until the coming of Christ.” While this belief is not identical in every way to what hyper preterists believe, it is close enough. And it’s interesting to see how Reformers like Turretin answered it.

Now, his answer is a little lengthy and you can see the entire thing here. But there is one part of it that i want to highlight, as it relates to hyper preterism.

In order to justify their denial of souls in heaven prior to AD70, hypers have to search through the Bible looking for any and every thing that would appear to support their theory. And they think Jn. 3:13 is such a text:

No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.

It’s important to keep this in mind: hypers did not arrive at this idea by careful, thoughtful exegesis of texts. The idea is an afterthought. It was created out of thin air in order to maintain some sort of consistency. And texts like Jn 3.13 are abused in order to save face.

The Roman Catholics did a similar thing. And here was Francis Turretin’s response:

XIII. It is said that no one ascended into heaven before the Son of man descended from heaven (Jn. 3:13), not as to local ascension to the beatific vision because Enoch and Elijah had already been translated even bodily, but as to a mystical ascension (i.e., a knowledge of heavenly things to be made manifest to men). As “to ascend into heaven” (Rom. 10:6) [1] is to know divine mysteries (cf. Prov. 30:4). [2] In this sense, it is said that no one has ever seen God, but the Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him to us (Jn. 1:18) [3]; and “neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Mt. 11:27).

I believe Turretin is spot on. Consider the context.

Jesus is having a discussion with Nicodemus about being “born again.” Nicodemus doesn’t get it. He asked, “How can these things be?” (v. 9) Jesus answered him:

Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

It is immediately after this that Jesus then goes on to say, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”

Jesus is not having a friendly little debate with Nicodemus over where souls go when they die. This is a discussion about the most fundamental doctrines of the Kingdom of God, and this “ruler of the Jews” doesn’t get it. It is a problem of spiritual blindness and ignorance. John Calvin writes,

He again exhorts Nicodemus not to trust to himself and his own sagacity, because no mortal man can, by his own unaided powers, enter into heaven, but only he who goes thither under the guidance of the Son of God. For to ascend to heaven means here, “to have a pure knowledge of the mysteries of God, and the light of spiritual understanding.” For Christ gives here the same instruction which is given by Paul, when he declares that the sensual man does not comprehend the things which are of God, (1 Corinthians 2:16) and, therefore, he excludes from divine things all the acuteness of the human understanding, for it is far below God. But we must attend to the words, that Christ alone, who is heavenly, ascends to heaven, but that the entrance is closed against all others. For, in the former clause, he humbles us, when he excludes the whole world from heaven. Paul enjoins those who are desirous to be wise with God to be fools with themselves, (1 Corinthians 3:18.) There is nothing which we do with greater reluctance. For this purpose we ought to remember, that all our senses fail and give way when we come to God; but, after having shut us out from heaven, Christ quickly proposes a remedy, when he adds, that what was denied to all others is granted to the Son of God. And this too is the reason why he calls himself the Son of man, that we may not doubt that we have an entrance into heaven in common with him who clothed himself with our flesh, that he might make us partakers of all blessings. Since, therefore, he is the Father’s only Counselor, (Isaiah 9:6,) he admits us into those secrets which otherwise would have remained in concealment.

Wow. In one full swoop, Calvin not only explains to us the proper meaning of the phrase “No one has ascended to heaven”, debunking hypers’ misuse of this text, but then goes on to point out that by calling Himself the “Son of Man“, our Lord indicates to us the means by which we, men of flesh, partake of the blessings – because He “clothed himself with our flesh.”

Beloved, hyper preterism was refuted a longgggg time ago. You just have to know your historical theology and pay attention.


[1] Romans 10.For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.” But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, “ ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 

[2] Proverbs 30.2 Surely I am more stupid than any man, And do not have the understanding of a man. 3 I neither learned wisdom Nor have knowledge of the Holy One. 4 Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, If you know?

[3] John 1.18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

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