Contend Earnestly: Why I am Not a Preterist

Friday, June 23, 2006

Why I am Not a Preterist

Some might be asking, “What is Preterism?” Preterist means “gone by” or “past.” Preterists believe that that Jesus’ prophecies in Matthew 24 were all fulfilled before AD 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem. They would also take that Revelation was written in AD 68 to AD 70 instead of the traditional AD 95 that even early church fathers point to. My post will not exhaustively take on this widely debated subject but I just want to give you some of my problems with this way of interpretation.

The very first thing that I notice with Preterism is the way of commingled hermeneutics that make the reader decide when he wants to take a passage, or even different words, as literal or figurative instead of letting the passage really speak for itself.

In Donald Green’s article “A Critique of Preterism” he states the following:

One of the standard authors on biblical interpretation, Bernard Ramm, says, “The interpreter should take the literal meaning of a prophetic passage as his limiting or controlling guide.” Without denying the presence of figures of speech or symbols, Ramm emphasizes that the literal meaning of words cannot be abandoned simply because the interpreter is handling prophetic literature.

So what am I, Donald Green and Bernard Ramm pointing out? In Matthew 24:34, the Olivet Discourse, Jesus Christ says that, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” The Preterist would say that means that according to Jewish generations, which is 40 years, that all these things will come to pass before 40 years has ended. Here is where I have problem with this interpretation. If they take this part literally then they must take all of the prophecies that were spoken of before being literally fulfilled as well. So they should take that there would have been a great falling away from Christianity (24:10); there will be many false prophets (24:11); there will be a great tribulation, like never seen before (24:21); the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky (24:29); the Son of Man will appear in the sky, then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory (24:30). All happening on or before AD 70!

So does the Preterist believe that all these things have literally been fulfilled? No. They believe they have been fulfilled but all of them figurative instead of literal. The main point, the very point they rest everything on, is because Christ says, “this generation will not pass away.” They force all other things to fit into this one statement. Full Preterists are forced to even say that Christ’s parousia, His second coming, has already happened as well. This is plain and utter horrific hermeneutics.

If you look in the very next verse, Matthew 24:35, Christ says that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Christ uses the very same phrase, pass away, for the end of the age that He just used with “this generation.” Could it be that He meant that the generation He is speaking of is a more loose term speaking of those followers that are living at the time all these things take place? It seems more likely that this would be the case. When you take “generation” to mean just that, you can now let Scripture speak for itself instead of having to take all these things figuratively.

Think of it: Has the sun been darkened? Was there a great falling away? Was the destruction of Jerusalem a great tribulation like never seen before? Has Christ returned on the clouds with His angels? The answer to all these is, no. Many Preterists claim that Christ is on His throne now and it is, of course, a figurative throne and not a literal physical throne. Quickly take a look at this verse:

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.
Matthew 25:31

Did you notice it? When Christ comes again, THEN He will sit on His throne. Christ doesn’t reign on the promised throne at this time. But at His second coming then He will reign forever like the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-16) promised.

Many early Christians were told to look for the second coming, to have hope in Christ’s return. Where is our hope if Christ has already come again and the Devil is bound? And how can you say that the devil is bound when it is obvious that he is still so rampant in this world and Peter actually says that he is still prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

There are so many points of Preterism that I don’t agree with but just wanted to give a short summary of them here to start a discussion or start us all on thinking of these things. Let Scripture speak for itself and know that it is best to start on the literal and then let Scripture tell us when it is supposed to be taken as figurative.

I look forward to the parousia and can’t wait to see my Saviour come on the literal clouds with His literal angels to call all the literal elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.


stl said...


Just checking out the blog, and while I agree that full preterism is wrong (for many reasons), it appears as though you've thrown the baby out with the bath water. Preterism is not undone by saying that Christ is not yet reigning -- because he is in fact seated on his kingly throne, at the right hand of the majesty on high (cf. Heb 1:1-3). The Lord Jesus has led captivity captive, and is seated at the right hand of the Father (cf. Eph 4:7ff.). The everlasting throne of the Messiah promised to David in 2 Sam 7 -- which David knew belonged not to him, but to Christ (cf. Ps 2; Ps 110) -- is the throne of the Lord Jesus now, as he has been made the head of all things to the church (cf. Eph 1:20-23). Jesus' statement in Matt 25:31 is not an absolute denial of his present reign -- in fact, it is precisely his present reign that is so foundational for the Great Commission (cf. Matt 28:18a).

And, yes, that means the strong man has been bound by the virtue of Christ's vicarious death and triumphant resurrection (cf. Col 2:15f.). In principle, our Lord has accomplished redemption, including that definitive act of defeating him who has the power of death, and at that by his own death (Heb 2). The head of the serpent has been crushed (cf. Gen 3:15) -- and it is this glorious gospel that we preach.

My point is simply this: our eschatology must take into account what has already happened by virtue of Christ's first advent (fulfillment, inauguration -- what Geerhardus Vos called inchoate eschatology), while looking forward to what will yet take place at his second advent (consummation). This "already-not yet" perspective is prevalent in our Lord's understanding of the kingdom, as well as Paul's understanding of the two ages, and so it must be in our understanding of all things theological (and so obviously all things eschatological).

Our vantage point is semi-eschatological. We are already members of the age to come, but we yet live in this present evil age (awaiting the consummation).

So, like you, I long for the glorious appearing of our Savior; at the same time, however, I rejoice that my Savior is seated on his throne, ruling and reigning over all things for the sake of his body, the church.

For more on this, read Strimple's contribution to the three views on the Millennium book, or, better, Geerhardus Vos's Pauline Eschatology.


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Anonymous said...

I agree with the original poster.

It has always seemed to me that not only partial, but also full preterists pick and choose which verses to take literally, and which to take figuratively to fit their skewed eschatology.

Paul warns against such complications of scripture in Romans 16.

Instead of taking particular verses [out of context] and trying to apply a meaning to them based on a bias we already hold... we should just be reading the chapters as a whole, and comparing them to the chapters surrounding them... allowing the context of the individual verses to present ITSELF as written, and as intended. If you read the verses in context, it will be implied which verses to take literally, and which to take figuratively.

Preterists dispose of proper interperetation, instead, re-interpereting any random verse they pull to fit a predisposed idea. Very wrong.

Anonymous said...

Your thinking has several flaws in it.

First of all Josephus shows that all of Jesus' words DID come to pass in seventy including the Sun being Darkened and the moon not giving off light. So the issue is one of you not checking out the history at the time.

Secondly there is no getting around that fact that Jesus stated that ONLY JUDEA would be affected by the Tribulation. He does not state anything about any other nation being effected by it.

So explain to me how preterists "dispose of proper interperetation, instead, re-interpereting any random verse they pull to fit a predisposed idea" when Jesus himself says that Judea is the only one affected by the tribulation and there was to be only one the one in Judea? How is that fitting the verse in the way that they want? It seems that you are the one ignoring the context of scripture. I mean I get very bothered by someone who accueses people of slapping scriptures together and then utters pure specualtion such as "you look in the very next verse, Matthew 24:35, Christ says that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Christ uses the very same phrase, pass away, for the end of the age that He just used with “this generation.” Could it be that He meant that the generation He is speaking of is a more loose term speaking of those followers that are living at the time all these things take place?" but has no scripture to back this view up.

Pretty sad really.

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