Is Preterism Biblical?

IS PRETERISM BIBLICAL?
Written by Dr Andrew Corbett, President of ICI Theological College Australia, and author of the popular commentary on the Book of Revelation- The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible

IS PRETERISM BIBLICAL?

Preterism comes the Latin word “praeter” which means “past”. When it comes to understanding Bible prophecy all Christians are Preterists to one degree or another. It is only logical and reasonable to examine the past to see if a prophecy has already been fulfilled. Most Christians would acknowledge that Isaiah 7:14 describing a virgin giving birth has been fulfilled in the past. But not all Christians would agree about the nature of prophecies relating to Christ’s “second coming”. Preterists argue that all of the prophecies relating to Christ’s return (as described in Matthew 24) have already been fulfilled. This contrasts with two other schools of prophecy interpretation.

Essentially there are then three general schools of eschatology:

  • Futurism – the contents of Revelation pertain to the very end of time on earth.

  • Historicism – that the contents of Revelation have unfolded throughout history from the time of its writing to the present day (and beyond).

  • Preterism – before assuming that prophecy is unfulfilled, it is evaluated in the light of the past. That is, how did the original audience understand what was written to them- and what was the original intention of the text.

Within Preterism there are two streams. Both streams identify themselves as “Preterist”. To distinguish between them, two perjorative terms are often employed: Hyper-Preterism, and Partial-Preterism. Full Preterists, also referred to as Hyper-Preterists, or Pantelogists, regard all Bible prophecy fulfilled by 70AD. Those who regard that most prophecy was fulfilled by 70AD (including the Parousia of Christ’s Vindication, the commencement of the Kingdom of Christ, the First Resurrection, but not including the Final Judgment, the banishment of Satan to eternal torment, or the General Resurrection) are referred to as Partial-Preterists or more correctly: Classical Preterists. The proceeding table of comparison between Full-Preterism and Partial Preterism will highight the differences.
 

Criticism of Preterism can be summarised as-

Futurists – claim that Preterism “spiritualises” Bible prophecy rather than taking it literally.
To which Preterists counter that they are actually more literal in their interpretation of Bible prophecy because they strive for the original intention of a passage rather than impose fanciful modern understandings onto an ancient text.
 
Historicists – claim that Preterism was developed by Jesuits in the seventeenth century to counter the growing the Reformation claims that the Papacy was the Anti-Christ.
This is actually one of the weakest methods of debate: attack with innuendo and name calling and ignore the content of the proposition. The roots of Preterism go back to the First Century AD when people clearly saw the events foretold by Christ as having been fulfilled up until the destruction of Jerusalem and Judea in 70AD. The sticking point between Full-Preterists and Partial Preterists is the nature of the Resurrection. Resolve this issue Biblically and you will conclude that one of these two positions is thoroughly Biblical and (while Creeds are not authoritative) in agreement with the earliest Creeds of the Church.
 

A COMPARISON BETWEEN
FULL-PRETERISM (PANTELISM)
&
PARTIAL-PRETERISM (PRETERISM)

FULL PRETERIST
PARTIAL PRETERIST
  • All Bible prophecy is fulfilled (Dan. 9:24)
  • Matthew 24, Revelation 1-19 is fulfilled
  • Matthew 25, Revelation 20-22 unfulfilled
  • The Millennium is a past event which occurred between 26AD and 66AD (40 years from the date of the crucifixion)
  • We are in the “millennium” (Kingdom) now as Christ’s Kingdom is being extended through the preaching of His Gospel
  • The Devil was cast into the Lake of Fire in AD70
  • The Devil is bound now, will seek to deceive the nations and be condemned to the Lake of Fire at the culmination of time
  • The Resurrection is purely spiritual
  • The resurrection is both spiritual and will be physical at the culmination of time
  • All Gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased (1Cor. 13:10)
  • The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are available until the Final Resurrection at the culmination of time.
  • Disagrees with the accepted Creeds of the Church
  • Agrees with the accepted Creeds of the Church
  • Revelation 20 is a reiteration of Revelation 6 – 19
  • Revelation 20 is a continuation, not a reiteration
  • Leads to Universalism
  • Leads to evangelism
 
Why I am not a Full Preterist…
  • There are reasonable grounds for regarding Matthew 24 as being entirely fulfilled, but Matthew 25 as current-and-yet-to-come.
  • There is enough evidence to make a case for Satanic/Demonic activity still today which torpedoes any possibility of Full Preterism being correct. This demands that the “1000 years” of Revelation 20 commences after AD70.
  • All through Revelation up to chapter 19 the Full Preterist rightly argues that the locus foci of God’s judgment was Jerusalem (the seat of wicked Judaism) which is referred to as ”Sodom, Egypt, Bablyon, the Harlot”. But in Rev. 20.9 the locus foci shifts to “the camp of saints” also called “the beloved city”. This contrasts sharply with how the rest of Revelation has described Jerusalem. It is therefore unreasonable to consider Rev. 20:9 as referring to earthly Jerusalem. This demands that Revelation 20 continues on from chapter 19 rather than a reiteration of the vision commenced from chapter 6.
  • Scholars disagree about the exact point in Revelation of Christ’s coming. Some appeal to Revelation 19 which describes the Rider of the White Horse coming in judgment as the coming of Christ to consummate time. Curiously there is no mention of fire in this passage (note 2Thess. 1:8). It is therefore very reasonable to equate the revelation of Christ from Heaven with Rev. 20:9 which describes fire coming down from Heaven.
  • If Full Preterism was obvious to the First Century Christians, most especially the author of the Book of Revelation, John the Apostle, there would reasonably be some written record of this interpretation by them. However, we have no such interpretation promoted by First or Second Century Church Fathers. Yet, we have the record of both Polycarp and Irenaeus who have direct and second degree indirect connection with the Apostle John. What we do find is references from the Ante-Nicean Church Fathers to the expectation that Christ would return, and the God would culminate time with a Judgment Day. We also find supporting references from several Ante-Nicean and Post-Nicean Fathers supporting the Partial (Classical) Preterist position whereby they acknowledge that the destruction of Jerusalem was the fulfilment of Matthew 24.

My views are more fully explained in my eBook, The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible, where I go through the Book of Revelation and explain it chapter by chapter.

Andrew Corbett

Dating the Authorship of Revelation

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