1) Jesus promises to return within his generation in Matthew 16:27-28, Matthew 24, Mark 8:38-9:1, Mark 14:61-62, Luke 9:26-27, and John 21:22. Did Jesus visibly return on the clouds of heaven in the first century, and is there any impartial and credible extra-Biblical historical evidence to support this fact?
As unbelievable as this may seem, two first century non-Christian historians record a supernatural specter witnessed in the clouds over Israel in A.D. 66 at the start of the Jewish revolt against Rome. See Jesus, the Son of Man, was seen in the Clouds in A.D. 66 for a detailed discussion of how this event literally fulfills all Biblical predictions concerning the second coming.
2) If Jesus already returned, why is he not currently reigning on earth?
Jeremiah 33:20-21states, “If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant . . . can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.” Night came in the middle of the day during the crucifixion. Day came in the middle of the night just prior to the second coming in A.D. 66. Christ reigns at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Like the Father, the Messiah rules the earth from a heavenly, not an earthly throne.
3) What about the New Jerusalem?
4) What about the resurrection?
A vast host of spiritual bodies was seen rising out of the earth at the sound of a trumpet in what appears to be a literal resurrection during the year of the second coming. Portions of this event are recorded by no less than five Roman historians. See 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: Preterism, the Rapture and the Resurrection.
5) What about the rapture?
6) Who was the Beast or Antichrist?
7) What was the mark of the beast?
See the commentary on Revelation 13:16-18.
8) Who was represented by the 666 cryptogram?
See the commentary on Revelation 13:18.
9) Who are the two witnesses?
The answer will surprise you. See Revelation 11: A Preterist Commentary–Who are the Two Witnesses?
10) What were the seven bowls and trumpets, and did each of these plagues actually begin with the audible sound of a trumpet?
11) What was the abomination that causes desolation?
12) Who were the 144,000?
13) What was the whore of Babylon? And was this city embodied by its queen?
See the commentary on Revelation 17.
14) Was the thousand year reign literally one thousand years long?
15) What about the destruction of heaven and earth by fire?
See the commentary on 2 Peter 3:5-13 and The Destruction of Heaven and the New Heaven and Earth Explained.
16) What was the battle of Gog and Magog?
The First Crusade. See Revelation 20: A Preterist Commentary.
17) Who was the willful king of Daniel 11?
18) Israel has recently become a sovereign nation. Does this imply that the end is near?
As is abundantly shown throughout this commentary, all end time prophecy has already been fulfilled. In fact, Israel was not even a sovereign nation during the fulfillment of all these predictions. It was a province of Rome. Many Biblical scholars mistakenly assume that the Messiah will reign corporally on earth. If the Messiah is to rule over a worldwide empire with Jerusalem as its capital, then of course Israel must be a sovereign nation in order to make this possible. However, as is stated over and over in the Bible, Christ reigns at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Therefore, the Messiah rules the earth from a heavenly, not an earthly throne. Thus Israel’s current status as a sovereign nation is eschatologically insignificant.
19) Many Jews today have returned to Israel after World War 2. Does this event fulfill any end time prophecies?
The fact that many Jews have returned to Israel in recent times does not fulfill any Biblical predictions that have not already come to pass with the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon in the sixth century B.C.
This literal return from exile in the sixth century B.C. is also typological of the end.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse . . . . In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples . . . . In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean.He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth (Isaiah 11:1-12).
In James 1:1, James refers to the Church as “the twelve tribes disperses abroad[.]” Thus the grafting of the Gentiles into the Church upon their conversion to Christianity, not the return of the Jews to Israel after WW2, is seen by the disciples as the ultimate, earthly fulfillment of the return of the twelve tribes from exile.[i]
20) How can preterism be true if it violates the church creeds?
Within the Christian religion there are many, many subdivisions or denominations. There are Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican and the list goes on and on. And within each of these denominations there is even further subdivision: Armenian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc. Thus the list is almost endless. Furthermore, just within the area of eschatology, end time prophecy, there are almost as many views as there are Christians. The four major views of end time prophecy are futurism, preterism, historism, and spiritualism. And within each of these the diversity of opinion is nearly infinite. If God allowed there to be such a diverse array of contradictory views of Scripture among His people, it seems clear that there must be some doctrines that are not essential for salvation. And if there are some doctrines that do not condemn the believer, then certainly one’s personal view of end time prophecy which is perhaps the most complex area of study within the Christian faith must certainly be one of these.
Because of the vast array of differing interpretations of various doctrines between different denominations and between believers within each of these denominations, how can one confidently assert the inerrancy of the church creeds especially when these creeds differ from church to church? Thus it is generally believed–even within futurist circles–that the church creeds are men’s attempt to understand the Bible and therefore are not divinely inspired. And because the creeds are the non-inspired traditions of men, these traditions should never supersede explicit statements in the Bible.
In Matthew 16:27-28; Matthew 24; Mark 8:38-9:1; 14:61-62; Luke 9:26-27; John 21:22 and dozens and dozens of other verses Jesus and the authors of the New Testament taught that Christ would return soon and in that generation. Jesus says the following to the Pharisees who honored the traditions of men over and above the inspired word of God: “Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition (Matthew 15:6).” Those who knowingly and willfully disregard the clear teachings of the Bible in favor of church tradition are wittingly or unwittingly doing the same.
Critics of preterism often argue that preterism cannot be true because that would mean that the whole of Christendom has been in error for two thousand years. Interestingly, this is almost exactly what Emperor Charles V told Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation: “For it is certain that a single brother is in error if he stands against the opinion of the whole of Christendom, as otherwise Christendom would have erred for a thousand years or more.”[ii] Interestingly, it is primarily Protestants and their Evangelical cousins who are the most vociferous critics of preterism. And it is these people who most often make this argument completely unaware that this point undermines their own relatively new faith as well. John Noe says the following regarding the fallibility of the church creeds:
The creeds, confessions, and other “traditions of men” are secondary to the supremacy of inspired Scripture. They can be mistaken and must be tested by sola scriptura (1 Th. 5:21). After all, if the creeds had it all right, what was the Reformation about? And hasn’t our understanding of Scripture been improving over the centuries as we’ve developed and refined out interpretive skills [as exponentially more and more people have collectively studied the Bible over the centuries]? John Calvin said, “The Church is reformed and always reforming.” In the process of continuing reform, only Scripture can be trusted and used to determine true orthodoxy, not the creeds.[iii]
Partially because of the relative newness of their beliefs, Protestants and Evangelicals passionately hold to belief in sola scriptura (belief in the Bible over and above or to the exclusion of church tradition). It is therefore doubly ironic that these same people who vocally assent to sola scriptura will hypocritically cite church tradition as their major argument against preterism.
Many Protestants today ironically appeal to past church tradition, something they deny, to galvanize their futurist beliefs in eschatology assuming that two thousand years of Christian tradition could not possibly be wrong. However, all Christians intuitively know that the modern church does not have its eschatology completely figured out. G.K. Beale, Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, who bases his interpretations of Revelation on related passages in the Old and New Testament in his popular commentary on Revelation writes the following: “Until the early 1980’s the use of the OT [Old Testament] in the Apocalypse of John received less attention than the use of the OT elsewhere in the NT [New Testament] – merely two books and six significant articles.”1 Interestingly, G. K. Beale is a Modified Idealist, not a Preterist. If Beale is correct and prior to the early 1980’s Christian theologians were NOT by-and-large using the Old Testament as a tool to help interpret Revelation, what does this imply about the reliability of church tradition prior to 1980 on Revelation and the rest of eschatology? And should Christians—Protestants especially—appeal to this tradition in their rebuke of Preterism?
21) How can preterism be true if the eschatological beliefs of the early church appear to have remained unchanged after A.D. 70?
The fact that the majority of the early church did not understand or recognize the significance of A.D. 70 shouldn’t surprise us today. In the early years following A.D. 70 the canon had not been established yet and Christians as a whole being primarily poor and uneducated could not read. And even if a few of them could read, these literate Christians may have had access to just one or two Gospels or letters at that time if they were fortunate since that is probably what their church may have had a copy of. Because copying was all done by hand and few people could read or write, copies were extremely expensive prior to the printing press. Thus these early Christians were doctrinally very, very unsophisticated as was to be expected in light of these circumstances. The early church’s beliefs in the first century were so diverse because of these issues that some Christians believed in one God, some believed in three gods, some in two, some in four, and some in seven or more. The first century church was a theological and eschatological mess. If they couldn’t get the trinity right or much of anything else as is illustrated by a brief perusal of the Apostolic Letters, how on earth were they to grasp the complexities of the eschaton? Over the millennia, God has allowed people to believe in thousands of different gods and religions. If God would allow such an expansive array of different religions, why would He micromanage the proper understanding of eschatology in the early church if this aspect of the Christian faith has no bearing at all on salvation? Furthermore, if it was important to God that his first century church get its eschatology right, why did Jesus ONLY speak publicly in parables? If he wanted his message to be properly understood, why did he always preach so cryptically? Mark 4:10-12 says, “When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding.”’ The fact that the early church did not get its eschatology correct is not surprising in light of all these hurdles. Future generations of Christians inherited these errors as the notion of a future second coming was just passed down lazily and uncritically through succeeding generations. In other words, succeeding generations of Christians just parroted the statements of Jesus and his disciples as they are recorded in the New Testament because when Jesus’ disciples wrote and taught the end of the age was still in their future. Thus I agree with R.C. Sproul in that I can believe that the church was wrong about the timing of the second coming and the end of the age, but I can’t believe that the bible itself was wrong (especially when it so clearly points to A.D. 70).
22) How can preterism be true if Revelation was written around A.D. 95?
One of many problems with a late date of composition of the Book of Revelation is the unsettling fact that if Revelation was written when the Apostle John was in his 90’s, then the prophecies which he records in this book would not have been relevant to his generation which was dying or dead at that time.[iv] And if the prophecies of Revelation were not relevant to John’s generation, then this fact would violate Matthew 24 and many other verses. For a detailed, well-argued case for the abundant internal and external evidence in favor of an early date of composition of the Book of Revelation see Before Jerusalem Fell by Dr. Kenneth Gentry, Jr.
[i] George E. Kouri and Richard Hogue, The Sign of the Kingdom: The Present Reign of Christ in Light of the Olivet Discourse, (Apostolic Ministries International, 1998), 97.
[ii] Cited by Don Preston, “What About the Creeds and Church History?,” www.eschatology.org, http://www.donkpreston.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=705:what-about-the-creeds-and-church-history&catid=116:topical-studies&Itemid=61 cited in Alan Bondar, Reading the Bible Through New Covenant Eyes, (Baltimore: Publish America, 2010), 68.
[iii] John Noe, Beyond the End Times: The Rest of the Greatest Story Ever Told, (Bradford, PA: Preterist Resources, 1999), 215-216.
[iv] George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 672, cited in Alan Bondar, Reading the Bible Through New Covenant Eyes, (Baltimore: Publish America, 2010), 10.
- Schlatter, Das Alte Testament in der johanneischen Apokalypse; Jenkins, Old Testament in the Book of Revelation; Vanhoye, “Livre d’Ezechiel dans l’ Apocalypse”; Lancellotti, “L’Antico Testamento nell’ Apocalisse”; Trudinger, “Some Observations concerning the Text of the Old Testament in Revelation”; Gangemi, “L’utilizzazione del deutero-Isaia nell’ Apocalisse di Giovanni”; Marconcini, “L’utilizzazione del T.M. nelle citazione isaiane dell’ Apocalisse”; Goulder, “Apocalypse as an Annual Cycle of Prophecies”; cf. also Cambier, “Les images de l’Ancien Testament dans l’Apocalypse de saint Jean,” and Lohse, “Die alttestamentliche Sprache des Sehers Johannes,” cited in G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 76.