There are several degrees of time tenses in the Greek language, but they are all nuances of the three we are all familiar with: past, present, and future. If something is in the past, it is history; in the present, it is now; in the future, not yet. It is really rather simple. However, Biblical scholars have a knack for complicating things as they “hammer out doctrine,” and sure enough, they have given us the doctrine of “now and not yet.”
When it comes to eschatology, there are two main hermeneutical approaches, preterism, and futurism. Preterism is the Scripturally soundest method, for it eliminates most futuristic interpretation, which, by its definition, leads to speculation. Unfortunately, some scholars, in their insistence on “solving” the most challenging aspects of eschatology, the second resurrection, have, you guessed it, muddied it up. There will be a physical resurrection of the living and the dead at the final judgment, and, for my money, as a believer in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I will go to heaven when I die. But that is where life on earth ends.
Now, some have fixated on what the Bible speaks of as “this age and the age to come.” Keep in mind most preterists believe the Scriptures (including Revelation) were written before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70. From that perspective, “this age” would refer to the time pre-70 and “the age to come” post-70. Correctly fixing the end of the then present age, i. e., “this age,” at the end of the Old Covenant Age, answers most theological and eschatological questions that futurists cannot. That is why preterism is superior to futurism.
However, one can argue that Christ, the Messiah, inaugurated the Messianic Age, “the age to come,” if not at the beginning of His ministry, certainly at His resurrection. The Jews were in such opposition to Jesus and His disciples that they had Him crucified and persecuted them from city to city, just as Jesus said they would (Matthew 23:34). Then, when they killed Stephen, that started a great persecution (Acts 8:1), which turned into the Great Tribulation, culminating in Jerusalem being surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20) and its utter destruction in 70. So, since the new had come, until the Temple was taken out, the old still existed, which means an overlapping of the two ages.
For some preterists, that overlap period is “the last days,” which, to them, began at Christ’s first coming and will end at the second. To them, the age to come is “realized now only in principle but not yet fully realized.” That occurs at the Second Coming and bodily resurrection at the end of history. In that schema, the overlap of the two ages lasts until then. Therefore, we live and breathe today in “now and not yet.”
Saying the overlap extends from the First to the Second Coming has given them license to utilize what are known as types, partial and double (double sense), even multiple fulfillments, just as dispensationalists. They have deconstructed most of preterism’s views about eschatology. Preterism, which historically has drawn a distinct line of demarcation from futurism, now sounds no different from dispensationalists and other premillennialists; they are all futurists.
Dr. Ken Gentry, in his Feb. 19, 2021, WordPress post, titled, ‘Do Postmillennialism and Preterism Differ?’ defines preterism: “The word ‘preterist’ is the transliteration of a Latin word that means “passed by.” The orthodox preterist sees certain passages as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70, though many evangelicals understand these to be speaking of the second coming of Christ at the end of history.”
Therein lies the rub, as they say. There is a big difference between “the end of the age,” which was the end of the Old Covenant Age at the destruction of 70, and the end of their version of “the last days” at the Second Coming. Dr. Gentry, whose writings I have long admired in the past but have now given me cause for concern, admits to having “discovered new evidence” of the now/not yet principle. Accordingly, this has brought about his reconsideration of some things in his forthcoming book on the Olivet Discourse. Mr. Gentry has gone so far as to claim in an article he has written on the subject titled “The New Creation” that humans will populate the New Earth after the final judgment and bodily resurrection. Yikes! Shades of a zombie apocalypse.
Yes, the Scriptures talk of New Heavens and a New Earth. That phrase by the prophet Isaiah very likely suggests the prophecy of the Messianic Age, after the judgment on Judah, since he prophesied before even the invasion of the northern kingdom Israel by Assyria. But even more likely, he foretold the coming of Christ and the Apostolic Age and Christianity (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). The apostle Peter used the term once in his most highly apocalyptic discourse (2 Peter 3). The apostle John once in Revelation, just as the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven (Revelation 21). Forming a doctrine from that is highly subjective.
So, from that, we have the now/not yet principle. Actually, that wouldn’t be so bad in and of itself, but the dispensationalists also use it to their end, which tells you something. I have to wonder who coined it first, they or dissatisfied preterists. I cannot imagine why scholars insist on going out on a tangent to provide answers to things that, for now, are unanswerable. Heaven is fine with me.