Preterism Refuted

Preterism! I Can’t Believe It

Todd Strandberg

One of my key reasons for believing in the pre-tribulation rapture is the fact all other views are always trying to undermine pre-tribulationism. Up until now, the most vocal group of opponents has been the post-trib and pre-wrath folks. I’m amazed to find preterism now on the attack, gaining ground by mostly converting pre-tribbers.

What is preterism? This theory argues that all Bible prophecy has been fulfilled; it states that nothing remains on the prophetic calendar. According to preterism, events like the rise of the Antichrist, the tribulation, the rapture, and the Day of the Lord all took place around 70 AD, the year the Romans invaded Jerusalem and destroyed the second Temple.

I just cannot understand how anyone can follow a preterist line of thinking in light of current world events. As in many cases, pride is one of the most common reasons people begin following doctrinal error. They believe that they are part of a special group that has discovered a hidden truth. Never mind the fact that millions of people have joined them in supporting their folly.

Up until now, I’ve largely been ignoring preterism because it seemed equivalent to the Flat Earth Society. Well, I can’t stand by and watch error run free, so it looks like I’m going to have to add preterism to the list of erroneous rapture views that I need to actively refute.

The heart of this error is based on Jesus’ statement that “this generation shall not pass, till all things be fulfilled” (Mat 24:34). It seems easy enough to claim Jesus was speaking about a first-century generation; however, logic ends there when one contemplates the fulfillment of all Bible prophecy.

In order to make 70 AD the magic year, we would have to delete dozens of prophecies that were never fulfilled. When was the Gospel preached to all the nations? When was the Mark of the Beast implemented? What about China’s 200-million-man army? When did 100-pound hailstones fall from the sky? And what date was it when the Euphrates River dried up?

The questions are endless. Why did we have the rebirth of Israel? If Jerusalem was forever removed from being the burdensome stone, why has it now returned to that status? When did all the Jews shout, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” as Jesus said they would?

After being so strict in their interpretation of Matthew 24:34, preterists then run roughshod over many clear statements of Scripture. They say that although the “resurrection” happened in 70 AD, the bodies of Christians were left in the grave.

Preterists take the dangerous step of spiritualizing all passages of Scripture that relate to the nation of Israel, and claim that these refer to the church, the “New Israel.” They teach that the “old earth,” which Scripture says will pass away, is the Old Covenant. The new heaven and new earth, they say, is the New Covenant, and the “elements,” which Scripture says will burn with fervent heat when this happens, are the “elements of the law.”

Preterism produces some bizarre explanations for why the world is still experiencing suffering and calamity. One explanation I ran across cited God’s need for population control as the reason for mankind’s suffering. Here is what one preterist author wrote:

“I believe that people are born and people die. Kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall. God is the providential population controller. He brings famine, disease, natural catastrophes, wars and tumults. One-third of the population of Europe was destroyed by the Black Plague in the early part of this millennium. Eight hundred fifty thousand were killed in the 1556 earthquake in the Shanghai province of China. Two million were killed in World War II. Thirteen million were killed under Stalin and 6 million under Hitler. God is very equipped to control population.”

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The Issue of Preterism

Dr. David R. Reagan

Doesn’t the book infer that its prophecies were to be fulfilled in the time it was written?

It would be easy to get this impression because the very first verse speaks of “the things which must shortly take place” (Revelation 1:1). Also, two times the text states that “the time is near” for the fulfillment of the prophecies (Revelation 1:3 and 22:10).

But in view of the fact that the prophecies have not been literally fulfilled in history, it appears that these statements point to imminence rather than nearness in time. Imminence is the concept that an event can occur at any time, and the creation of that sense seems to be the purpose of these statements.

The principle is one that Jesus stressed in His teachings about the end times. Over and over He told His disciples to be ready for His return at any moment. “Be ready,” He warned, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (Matthew 24:44). Jesus used the parable of the ten virgins to illustrate His point. Five were unready when the bridegroom came and were thus left behind. “Be on the alert, then,” Jesus warned, “for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:1-13). On another occasion, He put it this way, “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps alight… for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect” (Luke 12:35, 40).

The apostolic writers make it clear that living in a state of suspense, expecting the Lord to return shortly, at any moment, will have a purifying effect, because it will motivate holiness. Paul urges us to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:12-13). Peter tells each of us to “keep sober in spirit,” and he says the way to do it is to “fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). John says we are to focus on the Lord’s return because “everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself just as He is” (1 John 3:3).

Words must always be interpreted in terms of context, and context is often shaped by historical setting. In the First Century setting, the references to “soon,” “shortly,” and “near” seemed to indicate a quick fulfillment. But as time has passed without any literal fulfillment, history has shaped the context to indicate imminence — that is, the events prophesied can happen any moment.

A similar phenomenon can be found in statements used in other portions of the Scriptures. For example, James wrote that we are to be patient until the coming of the Lord, and then he stated, “the coming of the Lord is at hand… behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:7-9). In like manner, Peter wrote, “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7). The fact of the matter is that we have been living in the end times ever since the Day of Pentecost when the Gospel was first preached, and the end times could be consummated any moment with the fulfillment of Revelation’s prophecies.

The generalized time references in Revelation are not indicators of nearness in time. Instead, they are warnings of imminence — that the events prophesied could start unfolding at any moment.

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