How the End Times Ended (hereafter HTETE) is a short, but scripture-packed case for preterism. Stephens shows that the New Testament’s numerous time statements demand a first century fulfillment of the end times. As a preterist myself, I have believed that the beast in Revelation is Rome. Stephens on the other hand argues that there are actualy two beasts: the first is the ten northern tribes (Israel), the second is the two southern tribes (kingdom of Judah). He bolsters his argument by examining Old Testament prophecies of the war.
Stephens makes a fairly compelling case that Gehenna/the lake of fire refer exclusively to the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem carried out by the Romans. I was delighted that Stephens addressed the elephant in the room for his theory, Romans 2:5-10. Here Paul writes that wrath would come upon every evil Jew and Greek. Stephens explains the judgment on the latter like this: the “Greeks” in view here were Israelites scattered across the known world. The “Greeks” who would be punished then were Israelites living in gentile territory who heard about and decided to join false messiahs attempting to overthrow Rome. I wish Stephens addressed the other elephant in the room for his theory, Revelation 21:8. What is the postmortem status of murderers, liars, fornicators, etc who weren’t killed in AD 70?
The impression I got through the majority of HTETE was that Stephens is a universalist. I was disappointed to read Stephens write on p 140 that some of the people who were in Sheol/Hades passed into oblivion during the judgment (along with Sheol/Hades itself). To challenge such a notion, I would simply point out that in Revelation 22, after all the sinners have been cast into the lake of fire, the Spirit and Bride say, “Come.” Since the Bride is the church, it can’t be inviting Christians; the only logical conclusion is that it’s inviting those who didn’t already have eternal life.
I would highly recommend HTETE. The style is not academic, but Stephens is a great writer and bright exegete. I hope to read a book in the future by him where he argues from a preterist universalist position, rather than as preterist annihilationist.