UPC Resolution and Position Paper on Preterism

During the September 2005 General Conference of the United Pentecostal Church, the group took a stand against preterist teachings. They reaffirmed their beliefs in several areas as well as passed a resolution forbidding the licensing of any minister that believes these prophecy teachings. How that will affect those ministers already licensed seems uncertain. It may depend on whether they speak out about their beliefs.

Since this happened not all that long after the UPC took a similar stand against divine flesh teaching, it has caused concern over what might be next. Will this trend continue? Where does a group draw the line on individual beliefs? Should individual beliefs which are not salvational matters become issues over which people are disfellowshipped?

I would like to bring attention to the fact that preterist beliefs conflict with areas of the UPC Articles of Faith (which is brought out in the resolution). When a minister applies for license in the organization, besides answering some questions on "end time" beliefs, they must read the Articles and state that they agree with them. Once licensed, if a minister finds that they no longer agree with them, they are supposed to step down voluntarily. In addition, any minister who speaks or writes contrary to anything in the Articles of Faith can be called before their District Board for disciplinary action. One minister, who left voluntarily, wrote a booklet on his preterist beliefs and sent it unsolicited to UPC licensed ministers.

Because of these points, I understand why the organization took the stand it did. When teachings are contrary to their Articles of Faith, even though they may not be salvational matters, the minister finds himself no longer in agreement. Since some will not voluntarily resign their license, it appears they wanted to make their stand on this issue quite clear and make way for District officials to step in if they feel actions warrant their intervention.

How will this affect membership in the United Pentecostal Church? How many ministers will either leave on their own or have their license revoked? Will any UPC churches disaffiliate or leave over the issue? It appears a few ministers already left before the General Conference as they saw the group heading in this direction. Time will tell whether this has a minor or major impact on the United Pentecostal Church.

Below is the resolution that was adopted at the 2005 General Conference:

WHEREAS the close of the New Testament canon contains Christ's threefold assurance, "I come quickly" (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20); and

WHEREAS the hope of His soon return served to fuel the expansion and evangelical urgency of both the early Church and succeeding generations of true believers; and

WHEREAS the anticipation of His second coming was partly responsible for the resurgence of the apostles' doctrine in modern times and was integrated into the Articles of Faith of most Pentecostal organizations including that of the United Pentecostal Church International; and

WHEREAS the teaching of preterism seeks to shift attention from the soon coming of the Lord and of His establishment of a future Kingdom on the earth; and

WHEREAS the General Board of the United Pentecostal Church International along with the Unity of the Faith Commission have examined this doctrine and found that it conflicts with several of the Articles of Faith including, but not limited to, the Translation of Saints, the Second Coming, The Millennium, and Eternal Judgment;

Therefore be it RESOLVED that Article VII, Section 2, Paragraph 7 be modified to read as follows: "License or Certificate of Ordination shall not be issued to anyone who teaches the doctrine of unconditional eternal security, and/or annihilation of the wicked dead, and/or the divine or heavenly flesh of Christ, (defined as that the flesh of Jesus Christ had no biological or genetic relationship to other human beings), and/or all forms of preterism. (Please see the pertinent position paper for a more detailed definition).

The position paper presented by the General Board reads as follows:

THE COMING OF THE LORD

In this increasingly post-denominational world there is decreasing emphasis on doctrinal teaching. In such a climate, mention of the second coming of the Lord is often absent from songs, teaching, and preaching. Even in the Oneness Pentecostal church, there has sometimes been a de-emphasis on this important doctrine, leading to apathy and in some cases acceptance of erroneous teaching. One false teaching, generally termed preterism, alleges that the coming of the Lord was fulfilled in the first century. Preterists teach that most, if not all, of the scriptural prophecies of the coming of the Lord addressed judgment upon the Jews, which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

While the UPCI allows diversity in views regarding the timing of the second coming of the Lord, particularly with reference to the Tribulation, the expectation of the soon return of the Lord is integral to our identity as a movement. In fact, the modern Pentecostal movement was reborn at the beginning of the twentieth century out of the anticipation that the Lord wanted to prepare His bride for His soon return. We believe that when the New Testament speaks of the "soon" return of the Lord, it gives this promise to assure the church of its future hope. Paul expressed this anticipation, for although he expected martyrdom, he promised that a crown was not merely waiting for him alone, but for all those who love His appearing. (See II Timothy 4:8)

We reject preterist notions that the prophecies of Revelation 4-19 were fulfilled prior to A.D. 70, that Satan is bound, and that we are now living during the thousand years described in Revelation 20. As Oneness Pentecostals, we believe that Revelation 4-19 refers to events that are yet future and that New Testament prophecies of the return of Christ are literal, still to be fulfilled. Further, while Israel has been blinded in part, there will come a time when they will be grafted in again (Romans 11: 17-26). We look forward to a time when the church will reign with Christ in the Millennium, a time when Christ will reign supreme and will restore peace on the earth.

The early church universally believed the prophecies of Revelation and the promise of the return of Christ to be future and not past. It was the medieval church that formally did away with a futurist reading of the Book of Revelation and taught that the church was living in the Millennium. As Oneness Pentecostals, we reject any new "revelation" which suggests that the consistent teaching of the ancient and modern Oneness Pentecostal church is in error and that the medieval teaching is in fact correct. We are looking for the catching away of the saints, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth, the establishing of Christ's millennial kingdom, and ultimately the institution of the new heaven, the new earth, and the New Jerusalem.

There is now a "wall of shame" that one apostolic ministry has displayed in their effort to warn people about ministers who teach some form of preterism. It can be found by clicking here.


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