The Purpose and Origins of Preterism

Introduction

Preterists are committed to the view that the majority of the prophecies of the book of Daniel have already been fulfilled and therefore have no significance for the present day. The origins of the preterist view of prophetic interpretation was from the Spanish Jesuit Luis De Alcazar (1554-1613) and the part he played in the Counter Reformation. The Papal Roman Catholic Church commissioned De Alcazar and another Spanish Jesuit Priest to develop false interpretations of prophecy to take the heat off the Pope who was feeling some discomfort from the Protestant Reformers talk that the Papacy was the Antichrist. The whole idea of the preterism view was that if the Antichrist had been fulfilled in the past then it could not be the Papacy. Preterism claims that the apocalyptic prophecies, especially those dealing with the Antichrist, were fulfilled before the Papacy ever ruled Rome. Since they were already fulfilled, the prophecies could not apply to the Papacy. The preterist view ignores the fact that within the Old Testament are the foundation of prophetic interpretation and this foundation produces a broader view revealing the fatal flaws of the false preterist interpretation.

So basically, the intent of both preterism and futurism was to be diversionary, that is, to counter the Protestant Historical interpretation and present alternatives, no matter how implausible they might be.

Preterism, Futurism and HistoricismThe result is evident from this chart, which illustrates the three schools of prophetic interpretation regarding Antichrist. Francisco Ribera (1537-1591), another brilliant Jesuit Priest and doctor of theology from Spain puts the Antichrist into a future three and a half literal years. De Alcazar's preterism identifies the Antichrist as Nero. Both of them put Antichrist outside of the Middle Ages and the Protestant reformation period, identified by Protestant historicists as Antichrist's reign of 1260 prophetic years.

Luis De Alcazar (1554-1613) wrote a commentary called Investigation of the Hidden Sense of the Apocalypse, which ran to some 900 pages. In it he proposed that it all of Revelation applied to the era of pagan Rome and the first six centuries of Christianity. According to Alcazar (or Alcasar):

Our humble apologies to all Catholics but genuine love demands the identification of the Antichrist power so that no honest person will be deceived, for eternity is at stake. While identifying the Roman Catholic Church as the Antichrist power, we hasten to remind all sincere Christians that many of Christ’s true followers are still members of this Church. They are unaware of the great deception under which they worship. The Saviour died for them as well as people of all other faiths. The present is surely the time for love to be expressed in sincere action as these precious saints are called out of apostasy into the light of God’s saving truth.

Today there are varying degrees of the preterist view. Professor R.C. Sproul defines preterism as, “An eschatological viewpoint that places many or all eschatological events in the past, especially during the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70” (1). A recent convert to partial preterism, Sproul’s scholarly influence within Christianity has contributed greatly to the cause.

One of preterism’s strongest promoters today is Gary DeMar. His book, Last Days Madness, published in 1999 by American Vision, declares:

  1. No signs today point forward to Christ's return (p. 158)
  2. Jesus “came” in 70 AD (p. 71, 123-125)
  3. All of Matthew 24 is behind us
  4. Nero was the “beast” (p. 258)
  5. “The man of sin” (2 Thessalonians 2:4) has come and gone (p. 280)
  6. Revelation's primary focus is events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem (p. 217)
  7. The “end” of the world refers to the end of the Jewish world in 70 AD (p. 189)

Although preterists rely on different arguments, their main contention is that when the New Testament says the Day of Christ is “at hand” (Revelation 1:3) or “near” (James 5:8), and that Jesus Christ is coming “quickly” (Revelation 22:10) or in “a little while” (Hebrews 10:37), these words must have meant exactly that to their original readers in the first century. In other words, “near,” “at hand,” “quickly,” and “a little while,” must mean a short time after they were written.

Among other things, I believe preterists are wrong for the following reasons:

At hand,” “quickly,” “near,” “a little while”:
These words reflect God’s eternal perspective, not man’s. In the context of the timing of the return of our Lord, Peter said, “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Thus, to God, time is relative. To Him, a one thousand year period is like one short day. Peter said we should “not forget this one thing.” As we shall see, “this one thing” is the key to preterism's failure. Two verses later Peter continued, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night, in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). preterists contend for literalism. Honestly, did this literally happen in 70 A.D.?

A “little while” that lasted over 500 years:
The book of Haggai was written around 500 B.C., “in the second year of King Darius,” (Haggai 1:1). Notice carefully: “For thus says the Lord of hosts: Once more [it is a little while] I will shake heaven and the earth, the sea, and dry land: and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory, says the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:6-7). The phrase, the Desire of All Nations, refers to Jesus Christ. Not only was Christ's coming to be “in a little while,” but so was the shaking of the heavens and the earth. First of all, Christ didn't come until 500 years after this prophecy was given; and secondly, the New Testament book of Hebrews quotes Haggai 2:6 as still future! (Hebrews 10:27; 12:26-27). Thus Haggai 2:6-7 is biblical proof that “a little while” does not literally only a few days or years. Even if one were to take this literally, how long is a “little while”? Ten minutes? Two days? Five years? Again, the only way “a little while” makes sense is to interpret the phrase from God’s perspective, not man’s.

Scriptures Predicting a Delay in the Advent:
Not only are there verses in the New Testament teaching that Christ’s second coming would come “soon,” “quickly,” and was “at hand,” but there are also other verses implying a long delay before the Advent. In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, Jesus said, “But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept” (Matthew 25:5). In His very next parable Jesus described “a man traveling to a far country … [and] after a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them” (Matthew 25:14, 19). Thus in Jesus Christ’s parables describing the time frame of His return, He said there would be a delay and “a long time” in between in first and second comings.

Christ’s return will be global, not localized in Judea:
Preterists believe the “coming” of Jesus took place in 70 A.D. when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, yet this doesn't square with the facts. In Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus compared His return to Noah's flood which was global, not local (Genesis 7:21-22). Matthew 24:30 says that Jesus Christ’s return will be witnessed by “all the tribes of the earth,” not just people in Judea. Revelation 6 describes the real “end of the world” as reaching out far beyond the Jewish world. “And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every island and mountain were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mightily men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains: And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of their wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand” (Revelation 6:14-17). Did this really happen in 70 A.D. as preterists contend? No. These verses describe people all around the world hiding in caves “from the face of him that sits on the throne!” Again, preterists contend for literalism. This great day of wrath did not literally happen in 70 A.D.

The significance of Revelation 22:11:
This passage says that when Jesus Christ does finally come “quickly,” He will reward “every man” (not just Jews) according to their works. In addition, prior to His return, a solemn announcement will be made in heaven, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And behold, I come quickly ...” (Revelation 22:11-12). Notice carefully that right before Jesus Christ really comes the destiny of every living human being will be decided. The lost, having rejected Jesus Christ's cleansing blood, will remain filthy still; while those who are blood washed and prepared will be ready for this holy event. It should be obvious that this final pronouncement concerning the destiny of all living human beings (those alive on earth at the second coming) did not take occur in 70 A.D. It is yet to come.

Paul wrote that the true Christians should be “looking” forward to “the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ…” (Titus 2:11). Surely the Lord knew this verse would be read by Christians in this generation. Does “looking” still apply to us? Of course. That’s why we should keep “looking” forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ and abandon preterism. And we should do it “quickly.

Jesus said to His first century followers, “Truly I say to you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24:34)

This verse is preterism's primary proof text for its theory that Jesus Christ actually came (His second coming) in 70 A.D. when Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman armies. According to preterists, because Matthew 24 refers to both the destruction of Jerusalem and the second coming, all of this must have happened at the same time. For didn’t Jesus literally say, “This generation [meaning that first century generation] shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled”?

Full preterists use Matthew 24:34 as Exhibit A that even Jesus Christ’s second coming is behind us. But does it really say this? Let's take a closer look.

Matthew 24:1 - The disciples came to show Jesus the buildings of the temple.
Matthew 24:2 - Jesus said the temple would be destroyed.
Matthew 24:3 - The disciples asked when “these things” and His “coming” would occur.
Matthew 24:4-31 - Jesus listed many signs of the destruction of the temple and then also described His return.
Matthew 24:33 - If reference to the signs, Jesus said, “when you see all these things (the signs), know that it (His return) is near, even at the doors.”

Notice carefully that the signs (“all these things”) are clearly different from His return. Look again: “When you see all these things [the signs], know that it [His return] is near, even at the doors.” Therefore, apart from the issue of “near” (the timing issue), a close look at the text reveals that “all these things” must be different from “it” which means the second coming itself. And these signs must precede His coming.

Matthew 24:34 “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Preterists contend that “all these things” include the second coming and that everything must have occurred “before that generation” passed away, that is, in 70 A.D. But this is not exactly what Jesus said. He said that before that generation passed, “all these things” (referring to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD) must occur. We have clearly shown that “all these things” are separate from His return. Thus when preterists argue that “all these things” include the second coming and must have occurred in 70 A.D., they are not sticking to the exact words of Christ.

The truth is, “all these things” (relating to the destruction of the Jewish Temple) did occur in 70 A.D. before that generation passed, just like Jesus Christ said. In the same way, what our Lord said about His second coming will also be literally fulfilled. Jesus said He will “appear” “in the clouds” “with power and great glory” and “all the tribes of the earth” (not just those in Judea) will “see” His return. There will be a “great sound of a trumpet” as He descends with multitudes of shiny “angels” to gather His elect from all over the world. Matthew 24:30-31.

What about Jesus declaring that after all “these things” occurred before the eyes of that generation, His second coming would then be “near”? How near is near? 5 minutes? 2 days? 10 years? As discussed previously, we saw that when it comes to the timing of Jesus Christ’s return, time itself must be understood from God’s perspective (see 2 Peter 3:8-10).

In conclusion, preterists say we should take Matthew 24, verses 33 and 34 literally. I agree. Literally, “all these things” are not the same as His second coming and must precede His return. In the same way, we should also take verses 30 and 31 literally. Jesus literally said He would come on the clouds, with power and glory, with a great sound of a trumpet, for the whole world to see, accompanied by shiny angels, to gather His elect from all over the globe.

This is literally what Jesus said in Matthew 24, verses 30 and 31.

Preterism's “Proof Texts” Analysed
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Matthew 24:34.

This verse is preterism's “proof text” for their theory that Jesus actually came (His Second Coming) in 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. According to preterists, because Matthew 24 refers to both the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the Second Coming, ALL of this must have happened at the same time because Jesus literally said, “This generation [meaning the people who lived in the first century] shall not pass, till ALL these things be fulfilled.

Preterists use Matthew 24:34 as Exhibit A that the Second Coming of Christ occurred in 70 AD. But does it really say this? Let's take a closer look.

Matthew 24:1 - The disciples came to show Jesus the buildings of the temple.
Matthew 24:2 - Jesus said the temple would be destroyed.
Matthew 24:3 - The disciples asked when “these things” and the Second Coming would occur.
Matthew 24:4-31 - Jesus then listed many signs of the destruction of the temple and also described His Second Coming.
Matthew 24:33 - If reference to the signs, Jesus said, “when you see all these things (the signs), know that it (the Second Coming) is near, even at the doors.” Thus the signs (“all these things”) are clearly different from the Second Coming. Look again: “When you see all these things (the signs), know that it (the Second Coming) is near, even at the doors.” Thus “all these things” must be different from the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and must precede His coming.

Matthew 24:34 “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Preterists contend that “all these things” include the Second Coming and that all must have occurred “before that generation” passed away, that is, in 70 AD.

But this is not EXACTLY what Jesus said. He said that before that generation passed, “all these things” (referring to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD) must occur. We have clearly shown that “all these things” DO NOT INCLUDE THE SECOND COMING.

Thus when preterists argue that “all these things” INCLUDE the Second Coming and must have occurred in 70 AD, they are not sticking closely enough to the actual words of Jesus Christ.

The truth is, “all these things” (relating to the destruction of the temple) did occur in 70 AD before that generation passed just like Jesus Christ said.

In the same way, what Jesus said about His Second Coming will also be literally fulfilled. Jesus Himself will “appear” “in the clouds” “with power and great glory” and “all the tribes of the earth” (not just in Jerusalem) will “see” His return. There will be a “great sound of a trumpet” as Jesus descends with billions of shiny “angels” to gather His elect from all over the world. Matthew 24:30-31.

Preterists say we should take verses 33 and 34 literally. I agree. Literally, “all these things” PRECEDE the Second Coming. In the same way, we should also take verses 30 and 31 literally. Jesus said He would come on the clouds, with power and glory, for the whole world to see, accompanied by billions of shiny angels to gather His elect from all over the globe.

We should take verses 30 and 31 literally by believing in a real, visible, future, all glorious second Coming of Jesus.

That's what Jesus Christ literally taught in Matthew 24:30-31.

Note from the webmaster: For more information that also covers other related topics, End Time Delusions is a book you should not be without and is available from whitehorsemedia. See also the related topics, futurist and futurism Bible prophecy and historicist and historicism Bible prophecy.

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