What is Preterism?
Preterism is a school of thought within Christian eschatology that holds that most, or all, of the Biblical prophecies concerning the end of the world were fulfilled in the first century AD.
Definition of Preterism
Preterism is an interpretive system that applies the majority of Biblical prophecy to events that took place in the 1st century AD. So, all of the prophesied events in Scripture – including the return of Christ – have already happened. We live in the “already but not yet” age where we experience the partial fulfilment of certain prophetic passages (such as worldwide evangelism and the emergence of the Antichrist) while we await the full realisation of others (such as the bodily return of Christ and the final judgement).
History of Preterism
Preterism is a religious belief that interprets some or all of the Bible as events that have already happened. This is in contrast to futurism, which believes Bible prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.
There are three main types of preterism: full, partial, and hyper-preterism. Full preterism believes all end times prophecies were fulfilled by 70 AD when the Roman army destroyed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Partial preterism believes some prophecies were fulfilled by 70 AD, but others are still to come. Hyper-preterism takes preterism a step further by believe the Second Coming happened spiritually in 70 AD, and that all end times prophecies have already been fulfilled.
The roots of preterism go back to early Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian. It started gaining traction as a belief system during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Today, it is a minority viewpoint within Christianity with most Protestants rejecting it outright.
What are the different types of Preterism?
Preterism is a Christian eschatological view that interprets some (partial preterism) or all (full preterism) prophecies of the Bible as events which have already happened. This school of thought arose in the late 17th century among some Reformed theologians, and in the 18th century became prevalent among Presbyterian and Baptist theologians in Scotland and England.
Full preterism is the idea that biblical prophecy concerning the End Times and Christ’s return has already been fulfilled. That is, all the events predicted in Scripture—including the Second Coming of Christ, the Last Judgment, and the Resurrection—happened in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Roman armies.
There are different types of full preterism, but all agree that everything prophesied in Scripture was fulfilled in AD 70. Some full preterists also believe that Christ’s physical return happened then as well, while others believe that His return was spiritual only—that is, He returned “invisibly,” or “spiritually.” And some full preterists believe in a “partial” resurrection of believers at Christ’s return in AD 70—that is, their bodies were not raised from the dead, but their souls were united with Christ in heaven.
Partial preterism is the view that most, but not all, Bible prophecy has been fulfilled. This view holds that the prophecies concerning Christ’s first coming have been fulfilled, but that those concerning His second coming are yet to be fulfilled. Proponents of partial preterism believe that the “last days” began with Christ’s first coming and will culminate at His second coming. They believe that the “fullness of time” refers to Christ’s second coming, at which time He will complete His redemptive work.
Full preterism is the view that all Bible prophecy has been fulfilled. Proponents of full preterism believe that the “last days” began with Christ’s first coming and ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. They believe that the “fullness of time” refers to Christ’s first coming, at which time He completed His redemptive work.
Both partial and full preterists agree that the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24–25), Paul’s Olivet Discourse (2 Thessalonians 2), and Revelation 20–22 predict events that took place during or after Christ’s first coming. However, they differ on whether these passages predict future events. Partial preterists believe that some prophecies are yet to be fulfilled, while full preterists believe that all prophecies were fulfilled in the past.
Hyper-Preterism is a minority position among Preterists and holds that ALL Bible prophecy was fulfilled by 70 A.D. This view downplays or denies the future return of Jesus Christ.
What are the key scriptures that Preterists use?
The Preterist revelation can be found in numerous scriptures throughout the Bible. However, there are four key scriptures that Preterists use: Matthew 24, Luke 21, 1 Corinthians 15, and Revelation. Each of these scripture passages provide insight into the Preterist revelation.
Preterists believe that the key to understanding Revelation is found in Matthew 24—25, where Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem. They argue that since Jesus said these things would happen in that generation, then they must have happened within forty years of His death. Preterist interpreters generally fall into one of two camps: those who believe that Revelation was written before 70 A.D., and those who believe it was written after 70 A.D.
There are several scriptures preterists use to support their case. In Matthew 24:1–2, as Jesus is leaving the temple, His disciples point out to Him the beauty of the structure. Jesus’ response is shocking: “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (verse 2). The disciples then ask Jesus when these things will happen and what will be the sign of His coming and the end of the age (verse 3).
In Matthew 24:15–22, Jesus warns His followers about the coming false Messiahs who will perform signs and wonders in an attempt to deceive even the elect—a clear reference to the events leading up to 70 A.D. He also tells them to flee when they see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, which is exactly what happened in 66 A.D., when Roman troops came to keep tabs on a brewing rebellion. The Jews revolted in 68 A.D., and Roman legionnaires laid siege to Jerusalem in 70 A.D.—exactly as Jesus predicted.
Similarly, in Luke 21:20–24, Jesus says that when people see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies they should know that its destruction is near. This too happened in 70 A.D., when Roman troops came to keep tabs on a brewing rebellion. The Jews revolted in 68 A.D., and Roman legionnaires laid siege to Jerusalem in 70 A.D.—exactly as Jesus predicted
Preterists interpret the Olivet Discourse as indicating that all end-time events happened in 70 A.D. with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and Roman siege of Jerusalem.
Preterists use several key scriptures to support their view that the events in the book of Revelation have already taken place. One of these is Luke 21:20-24, which says:
“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Preterists believe that this scripture refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D., which they see as fulfillment of all that has been written about in Revelation.
What are the key arguments that Preterists use?
Preterists typically argue that most, if not all, prophecies in the Bible were fulfilled by 70 A.D. This view is also sometimes called partial preterism or fulfilled eschatology. Proponents of preterism generally argue from a Biblical basis, saying that the language and context of Biblical prophecy demand a first-century fulfillment.
The Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Preterists believe that all, or almost all, of Bible prophecy was fulfilled by 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army. In other words, they believe that theDispensationalist view that most prophecy is yet to be fulfilled is wrong. Instead, they see most prophecy as being fulfilled in the past, primarily in connection with events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
The “this generation” in Matthew 24 refers to the generation that was alive when Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse.
Preterists use a number of key arguments to support their view that the “this generation” in Matthew 24 refers to the generation that was alive when Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse. First, they point to the fact that Jesus himself used the term “this generation” to refer to his contemporaries (e.g. Matthew 12:39; Mark 8:12; Luke 11:29). Second, they argue that the Olivet Discourse was given in response to the disciples’ question about “when will these things be?” (Matthew 24:3), which implies that they expected all of the predictions in the discourse to be fulfilled within their lifetimes. Third, Preterists point to the fact that Jesus said that “all these things will happen” (Matthew 24:34) – i.e. all of the predictions in the Olivet Discourse – before “this generation passes away.” This supports their view that Jesus is referring to a specific generation, rather than generations in general. Finally, Preterists argue that if all of the predictions in Matthew 24 were not fulfilled within the lifetime of Jesus’ contemporaries, then we would expect there to be some historical record of this fact. However, there is no such record – all of the evidence suggests that everything predicted in Matthew 24 did indeed happen within that generation.
The book of Revelation was written to encourage the Christians who were living in the first century.
Preterists believe that the book of Revelation was written to encourage the Christians who were living in the first century. They were undergoing severe persecution from the Roman Empire, and they needed to be reassured that God would ultimately triumph over evil. The book is full of symbols that would have been meaningful to them, but which we might not necessarily understand today.
Preterists argue that many of the events predicted in Revelation have already happened. For example, they believe that the “seven churches” mentioned in the book represent seven actual churches that existed in Asia Minor at the time. They also believe that the “dragon” represents the Roman Empire, and that the “beast” represents Nero, a particularly cruel emperor who persecuted Christians.
Revelation does contain some passages that are difficult to interpret, and there is considerable debate among scholars about what they mean. However, Preterists believe that overall, the book is a positive message about God’s eventual victory over evil.
What are the key objections to Preterism?
Preterism is the belief that most, or all, of the biblical prophecies were fulfilled in the first century AD. There are many objections to this view, but let’s focus on four key objections.
The Olivet Discourse was not fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Preterists believe that all, or almost all, Bible prophecy was fulfilled by the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This event marks the end of history as we know it and the beginning of the eternal state.However, there are a number of objections to this view.
One objection is that the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25) was not fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This passage contains some of Jesus’ most specific predictions about the future, and many believe that it could not have been fulfilled in such a short period of time.
Another objection is that Paul’s description of the Second Coming in 1 Thessalonians 4 does not fit with a Preterist interpretation. In this passage, Paul says that Jesus will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. This does not seem to fit with what actually happened in 70 A.D., when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem without any warning.
Preterists also face objections from those who hold to a literal interpretation of Revelation. Many believe that Revelation predicts a future, literal return of Christ and a final battle between good and evil (the Battle of Armageddon). If Preterism is true, then these events must already have happened, which many believe is impossible.
The “this generation” in Matthew 24 does not refer to the generation that was alive when Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse.
First, the Olivet Discourse was not directed to the people of that time; it was a prophetic discourse concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age. Second, when Jesus spoke of “this generation,” He was not referring to His contemporaries; He was referring to the evil and adulterous generation that would witness all these things come to pass. Third, the Old Testament prophets often used “this generation” in a similar way, referring not to their own contemporaries but to future generations (e.g., Psalm 22:30-31; Isaiah 53:8; Daniel 12:1). Fourth, if Jesus had intended His words to apply only to the first century generation, then He would have been mistaken about many details of His prophecy. For example, He predicted that some of His hearers would still be alive when all these things took place (Matthew 24:34). But all of those who heard Jesus’ words have long since died.
The book of Revelation was not written to encourage the Christians who were living in the first century.
The Book of Revelation was written to encourage the Christians who were living in the first century. They were being persecuted and were about to experience the greatest tribulation that had ever occurred. The book was not written to encourage Christians who are living today.
There are three different views of when the book was written:
The preterist view is that the book was written before 70 AD and that all of the events in the book have already happened.
The historicist view is that the book was written around 96 AD and that all of the events in the book will happen over the course of history.
The futurist view is that the book was written around 96 AD and that all of the events in the book will happen in the future, just before Christ returns.