Christians find it astounding that anyone would teach that our Lord Jesus
Christ has already returned to this earth and that we are now living in the
kingdom age predicted throughout the Bible. Yet that is what preterists
believe and teach. And surprisingly, their numbers are growing—not because
their arguments for what they are trying to believe are so convincing, but
because many of their new followers have only heard one side of the
argument. That is why we at the Pre-Trib Research Center are writing this
book and seeking to expose some of the errors of this theory. Our purpose is
to show that preterism is unscriptural and inconsistent, and to prove that
the return of our Lord to this earth is yet future. What's more, the
preterist notion that Christ returned spiritually in a.d. 70 would have come
as a surprise to the early church fathers of the first three centuries, for
they never mentioned that Christ's second coming was past. They invariably
referred to it as a future event.
At the onset I would like to point out that most preterists are
Bible-believing Christians who love the Lord and are striving to serve Him.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the prophetic passages of Scripture, they do
not interpret them literally, as they do those passages pertaining to the
gospel and our Lord's deity. This is the cause of our difference. And in
fairness to reformed theologians such as R. C. Sproul and Ken Gentry, who
both assert they are preterists, we must point out that there are several
degrees of preterism. In his book The Last Days According to Jesus, Dr.
Sproul narrows down preterists to two main divisions: "Full Preterism and
Partial Preterism."'Reduced to the most significant distinction between
them, a full preterist is one who believes all prophecy was fulfilled at the
destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, including the second coming of Jesus.
Partial preterists such as Sproul and Gentry believe that even though
Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation have largely been fulfilled, they
still understand some Bible passages to teach a future second coming (Act
1:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). They see the
second coming of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, the Judgment Seat of
Christ, and heaven as yet future. Even Gentry points out that all the church
creeds of history mention a future coming of Jesus Christ in power and
glory,: clear evidence that the preterist view is of recent vintage.
It is safe to say and easy to defend that the vast majority of the church
has not identified the second coming of Jesus with the a.d. 70 destruction
of Jerusalem. Instead, Christians have believed His coming will be physical
and is still future!
We are justified in questioning the academic objectivity of some preterists
when approaching this subject. One reason is that Revelation chapter 20 uses
the phrase "a thousand years" six different times in reference to the
kingdom age. These, of course, are not the only biblical references to the
coming kingdom of the Messiah. The Hebrew prophets referred to His kingdom
many times. Revelation is the only book that mentions the length of that
period as "a thousand years." That the Holy Spirit repeated this phrase six
times presents a strong case for accepting it as a literal 1,000 years.
Preterists, like the reformed theologians from whence they come, try to
allegorize prophecy and refuse to face the Bible s teaching of a millennial
kingdom on earth when Christ shall reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.
In so doing they rob the church of the "blessed hope" (Titus 2:13) we have
in the rapture of the church before the Tribulation period and followed
immediately by Christ's glorious return. And because some of them are
amillennialists (believing there is no specific time when Christ will reign
on the earth, as is described in the Bible), they find it convenient to
instead promote the notion that Christ came spiritually in a.d. 70 and that
we have been living in the kingdom of Christ for these many years.
If such a notion makes you feel cheated because no one is hammering "their
swords into plowshares" (Micah 4:3), the curse has not yet been lifted, and
we are not living in a world of peace (as the Bible promises for the
millennium), do not be surprised. I am confident that if the prophets and
apostles were still alive today, they would find such a notion equally
The Return of Christ
One of the most questionable teachings of preterists is their assertion that
Jesus has already come. Admittedly, some have not accepted full-blown
preterism yet and suggest instead that Christ came back spiritually in a.d.
70 when the temple and city of Jerusalem were destroyed. Both views fly in
the face of the angels' promise in Acts 1:11: "This same Jesus, which is
taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen
him go into heaven" (kjv). It cannot be contested that the disciples and
other believers who witnessed the ascension saw Jesus taken up into heaven
in His resurrected physical body, which could eat, be touched, and talk, and
in short was a "flesh and bone body," as He Himself described. The angels'
promise in Acts 1:11, then, must refer to a physical, literal return of the
Savior to this earth.
When Jesus described His second
coming, which was to be "immediately after the Tribulation of those days,"
He said it would be accompanied by "the sign of the Son of man in heaven:
and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son
of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew
24:27-30 kjv, emphasis added). That this could refer to anything other than
a physical, visible return of Christ to this earth seems irrefutable,
especially in light of Acts 1:11.
In a similar vein, John
the Revelator in Revelation 1:7 says, "Behold, He is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes
of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen." Note again the
reference John cited from Jesus' words: "every eye will see Him, even those
who pierced Him" (emphasis added). All men will see the Lord Jesus Christ at
His coming—those in heaven, those on earth, and evidently, even those under
the earth "who pierced Him." Again, this cannot refer to anything short of a
physical, literal second coming."
For preterists now to
claim that Jesus has already come is incredible. It was a foreign idea
during the first five centuries a.d. and then only possibly mentioned
sporadically after that until about 400 years ago. That would require that
the apostles, early church fathers, and most theologians until the
seventeenth century were wrong! Not until the early seventeenth century—when
preterist thinking was applied by the Jesuit Catholic scholar Alcazar to the
book of Revelation—was it given much real consideration. LeRoy E. Froom,
a painstakingly accurate historian, indicated that Alcazar put forth this
theory as a means of counteracting the identification of the pope as the
Antichrist. This assumption about the pope was becoming popular as the
Bible spread throughout Europe and the common people could read the book of
Revelation for themselves.
Dr. R. C. Sproul, for whom I have great respect as a writer and thinker,
though we disagree on the literal interpretation of prophecy and whether
Christ will return before the millennial kingdom, has not endorsed full
preterism. In fact, he cites favorably his friend Ken Gentry as one who
believes that "full preterism.. .falls outside the scope of orthodox
Christianity."* That is a polite way of saying that those who teach Christ
came physically in a.d. 70 are borderline heretics. Where I differ is that I
would suggest that those who believe Christ came spiritually and somehow is
in control of this messed-up world are also very close to that line, for
Scripture teaches the contrary. Christ's second coming is yet future, as
taught in Matthew 24:29-31 and Revelation 19:11-21. He will indeed rule this
world as "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Revelation 19:16) in a kingdom
in which He will enforce a cultural standard of righteousness. No kingdom of
righteousness will permit crime, pornography in print or on the Internet,
teach godless socialism in our public schools, or denigrate God the Father,
our Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit. You can be sure of this:
Jesus Christ will come to this earth in power and great glory to set up His
kingdom as the Bible predicts, and His coming will be personal and physical!
(a.d. 347-407) is one example of someone who held to a mixed approach to
interpreting Bible prophecy. In his commentary on Matthew 24:21, he said: "Seest
thou that His discourse is addressed to the Jews, and that He is speaking of
the ills that should overtake them?...And let not any man suppose this to
have been spoken hyperbolically; but let him study the writings of Josephus,
and learn the truth of the sayings.""
applies Matthew 24:21 to a.d. 70. However, he applies verses 27-31 to a
future second coming, which means that he cannot be classified as a
Because no small turmoil is then to prevail over the world. But how doth He
come? The very creation being then transfigured, for "the sun shall be
darkened," not destroyed, but overcome by the light of His presence; and the
stars shall fall, for what shall be the need of them thenceforth, there
being no night?...much more seeing all things in course of change, and their
fellow servants giving account, and the whole world standing by that awful
judgment-seat, and those who have lived from Adam unto His coming, having an
account demanded of them of all that they did, how shall they but tremble,
and be shaken?'
There are others in our own day who take a similar mixed
approach to interpreting Matthew 24."
Firmin Abauzit (1679-1767) of Geneva, who was a friend of Rousseau
and Voltaire, published a commentary on Revelation in 1730 titled Historic
Discourse on the Apocalypse, in which he advocated a more complete preterist
view than his predecessors. Abauzit's work also broke new ground in that it
was the first "in this period to attack the canonical authority of the
Moses Stuart says of
Abauzit that his "book is generally regarded as marking the commencement of
a new period in the criticism of the Apocalypse." Stuart describes Abauzit's
views as follows: "His starting point was, that the book itself declares
that all which it predicts would take place speedily. Hence Rome, in chap,
xiii-xix. points figuratively to Jerusalem. Chap. xxi. xxii. relate to the
extension of the church, after the destruction of the Jews."
Johann Gottfried Herder
(1744-1803) is credited with adopting Abauzit's understanding of the
Apocalypse and also saw it as "emphasizing) the Jewish catastrophe." Herder
expressed his views in his book entitled Maranatha, which was published in
1779 "Stuart said this about Herder's form of preterism: "Although he seems
to move in a narrow circle, as to the meaning of the book; limiting it so
generally to the Jews, yet he makes God's dealings with them, and with his
church at that period, symbolical of the circumstances of the church in
In 1791, Johann
Gottfried Eichhorn (1752-1827) produced a commentary on Revelation
that was exalted, emulated, and admired in critical German circles for many
years.137 While Eichhorn did not see all of the Apocalypse being fulfilled
in the first century, as did Abauzit and Herder, he did see a number of
Jewish fulfillments in the second half of Revelation. Eichhorn was a typical
German preterist—he did not believe the Bible was inspired by God, nor did
it contain predictive prophecy. Stuart says, "I do not and cannot regard
Eichhorn as a believer in Christianity, in the sense in which those are who
admit the inspired authority of the Scripture."
European preterism of the post-Reformation period, especially the German
variety, was attractive to those of the liberal persuasion. Froom observes:
"Preterist principles have been adopted and adapted by those of
rationalistic mind as the easiest way to compass the problem of prophecy,
throwing it into the past, where it does not affect life today. It has had a
sizable following among rationalists, of which Modernism is the modern
counterpart." Preterists in our own day may be pleased about the historical
evidence for the spread of preterism in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries in Europe. However, they cannot be happy that the foundational
support for this growth of preterism was based upon German rationalism and
unbelief." (The End Times Controversy, pp. 55-56)