BOOKS: BIBLICAL STUDIES (1500BC-AD70) / EARLY CHRISTIAN PRETERISM (AD50-1000) / FREE ONLINE BOOKS (AD1000-2008)
Did the Lord Return in A.D.70?
By Engbert Vander Werff
No doubt, in our times many have manipulated the prophecies for personal gain - there is big money in this game! Some have gained followers by setting dates, others have become rich through the any-moment rapture movement. In America there is a growing reaction against all this. Like the old saying goes, 'Once burnt twice shy! Those 'burnt,' when coming out of the "any-moment movement," often seem to end up in the camp of 70 AD'ism.
Origin of 70 AD'ism
Modern 70 AD'ism, also called Realized Eschatology or a form of Preterism (1) originated in the 17th century with a Jesuit friar called Luis De Alcazar (1554-1613). He claimed the book of Revelation related only to events of the first century. There is nothing in Revelation about the future. Chapters 1-12 were written against Judaism, chapters 12-19 against paganism. He used this theory to contradict the Reformer's claim that the Pope was the Antichrist.
Cornelius Vander Waal gives support to 70 AD'ism in his book Hal Lindsey and Biblical Prophecy. Of course Vander Waal is correct in opposing Lindsey. Lindsey has taken far too great a liberty with the prophecies. But Vander Waal uses a dangerous argument against Lindsey's abuse of the prophecies. This becomes evident in part two of his book.
According to Vander Waal, Revelation speaks only of the events of the day in which it was written. There is no prophecy about our future in Revelation. Vander Waal's argument goes like this: Revelation was written before 70 A.D., the judgments it speaks about, point to the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem of that time was the synagogue of Satan. The messages to the seven churches points to this judgment, the rest of the book is nothing but a clarification of this message. Vander Waal does not believe that Revelation foretells a special end-time with an Antichrist, he says this belief is based on faulty assumptions. Vander Waal thinks the interpretation of an end-time with Antichrist is on the same track as Hal Lindsey. He makes the statement that yearning for apocalypticism (a special end-time) is a false prophecy.
In America there seems to be a growing 70 AD'ism movement amongst former premils. A recent massive 800 page book by Max R. King "The Cross and the Parousia of Christ" sets forth their views. There is also a monthly paper called 'Kingdom Counsel.' Promoters in the U.S. include: Ed Stevens, Joseph Canfield, Amos Moore, William Kanengiser.
Second Coming in 70 A.D.?
Advocates of the New Theology, like Berkouwer, claimed there are numerous New Testament statements that state Christ would return in the lst century. Berkouwer sees this New Testament expectation, of the nearness of the Second Coming, as an error. To contradict this error advocates of 70 AD'ism, claim our Lord did return in the lst century. They claim our Lord's statement in Matthew 24:34 'This generation shall not pass'- means the period of 40 years from the cross to 70 A.D. According to them Jesus promised to return within 'that generation' and He did-in 7OA.D. His return was not with the 'sound of a trumpet,' nor did 'Every eye ... see Him,' there was no literal, 'In flaming fire,' but He came just the same - invisibly.
End of the World in 70 AD?
A chart prepared by a 70 AD'er shows that the world will not end, and that we are now in an eternal Christian Age. 70 AD'ers have this idea in common with a growing number of modern Christians. Reconstructionists under Rushdoony also have great hopes for the future of this present world. And we could add: the 'Coming Kingdom' visions of the ICS; the dawning golden age prophesied by the progressive theologians of the New Theology; and the views of theistic evolutionists, who claim we are progressing upward. Not to mention that this is a popular idea in the non-Christian world also - a world bent on unity to realize these utopian goals.
Christians have believed through the ages that the Bible speaks of a world that will end with fire. When it says: 'But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire (Gr. puri) against the day of judgment... 2 Pet. 3:7, 10, 12. This agrees with Isaiah's 'The earth shall wax old like a garment"; and his "For,behold I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." Did not our Lord say, "Heaven and earth shall pass away" (Isaiah 51, 65; Rev. 21-22; Mat. 24).
Christians have accepted literally what our lord said: 'So it will be at the end of the world. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace (Mat. 13:19). According to our Lord the Gospel would be preached in all the world then the end would come. Was this fulfilled in 70 A.D.? The Facts are that a 2nd century world map by Ptolemy doesn't even show Africa as being surrounded by an ocean! The Gospel never reached Asia until the 8th Century, Sweden and Norway till the 10th, Iceland the year 1000. North or South America, the Pacific Islands were not reached till after the Reformation, and in our day there are still tribes being reached.
Last Judgment in 70 A.D.?
According to 70 AD'ism the Last Judgment happened with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, ending Judaimn forever in God's prophetic program. If the Last Judgment was in 70 AD then Christians have misread the Bible on this vital doctrine for 2,000 years (2)!
Holy Scripture speaks of a sequence for the Last Judgment: Our Lord appears in the same way He left (Acts 1:11), the dead are raised from the sea and land, the living are changed 'in a twinkling of an eye,' they all stand before their maker. Did this happen in 70 AD?
Revelation written before 70?
Advocates of 70 AD'ism claim that all the New Testament was written before 70 A.D., including the book of Revelation. To most Christians the dates of N.T. books is not so critical, but to 70 AD'ers it becomes very crucial, because all the New Testament prophecies must be fulfilled before 70 A.D.. Now this all fits nicely into their scheme except the book of Revelation. The Early Church has an almost unanimous (3) tradition that St. John wrote Revelation in about 95, A.D..
Accordingly believers in 70 AD'ism have attacked this widely held belief vehemently. To support their view they have dredged up a list of past scholars who believed that Revelation was written before 70 A.D.. From the fifth century Andreas, two in the Middle Ages, Alcasar, Isaac Newton (4), some 65 others to 1900, and some 25 since. They especially like to point to Bishop John A.T. Robinson's 'Redating the New Testament' in support of a Revelation written before 70 A.D..(5).
It fits into the 70 AD'ism scheme to say that Jewish persecution of Christians stopped after 70 A.D. but is this a historical fact? Justin Martyr 100-65 A.D., in his "Dialogue with the Jew Trypho" relates that Jews spread the lies about Christians that they were atheists, cannibalists and practiced incest in his day. Jews also especially persecuted Christians in the Bar Cochba revolt in the 130's. Jews took a leading role in the martyrdom of Polycarp (2nd century - Eusebius). And there are more examples. In the 3rd century Tertullian summarized the general opinion of the Early Church when he said, "The Synagogue of the Jews was the source of all persecution." The Early Church does not agree with the statement that the Synagogue's persecutions ceased after 70 A.D..
Time References by our Lord
70 AD'ers claim our Lord taught that His listeners would live to see see His 2nd Coming. To bolster this view they cite texts like: Mat. 10:23, 16:27 (6), 24:33,26:64. 7OAD'ers insist that the above text be taken literal to the 9th degree, yet when it comes to other texts they don't do this themselves. For example, our Lord says that before His coming it will be "like in the days of Noah... eating and drinking ... and they knew not until the flood came..." i.e. a great sudden catastrophe. And again "the sun darkened and the moon shall give her light." And we could continue: Sending angels to gather the elect, angels blow the trumpets, heaven and earth passing away - 70 AD'ers don't take these texts literally.
70 AD'ers accept the claim by modernists that our Lord and His Apostles expected the world to end in the lst century-here they have entered on a wrong and dangerous track!
Last Time, Last Days
Holy Scripture says Christ came, "at the end of the age"; God "hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son"; Jesus "was manifest in these last times for you." 70 AD'ers claim that these and similar texts mean it was the last days in the lst century and the end was near. But is this the only way to read them? Is not the New Testament era the last times, or the last days (7). After it there will be no other age - in distinction to the Old Testament era which was not the last times, or days.
He is Returning Soon
"Behold, I return quickly" Revelation 22:20. The N.T. ends with this expectation. 70 AD'ers point to the fact that almost 2,000 years have passed since our Lord said, 'He would return quickly.'
Our Lord wants us to live and work under the motto: 'He is returning soon,' this is a check against becoming lazy - like the servant in the parable who thought his lord would delay, and so partied and got drunk. 'He is returning soon,' all through the ages (8), the moment your eyes close in death - yes, He is returning soon! The last day is just around the corner - be prepared! Don't be in the camp of those who say, 'Where is the promise of His return? For since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of all the creation' (2 Peter 3).
In our day they want to rob us of Genesis - where God is the creator and keeper - and now Revelation - where God holds and foretells the future.
1. A brief introduction on the Preterist view is found in Interpreting Revelation, by Merrill C. Tenney.
2. For a history of how the Christian Church has viewed the Last Judgment we essay by this name, E. vanderwerff.
3. The Early Church beginning with Iraenaeus believed St. John wrote Revelation in about 96 A.D.. For a full treatment of this see Henry Alford's "Prolegamena" Bk. 4 Chap. 8, sect. 2.
4. Isaac Newton is claimed as one who held to a Revelation that was written before A.D. 70. This may be true, but he certainly didn't consider the prophecies in it to be fulfilled by AD. 70, see his "observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John."
5. John T. Robinson in his book "Redating the New Testament" is uncertain whether Jesus actually said much of what is recorded in the gospels, or if it was created by the Christian community. He finds it difficult to credit that a work so vigorous as the Apocalypse could really be the product of a nongenerian...."
6. Matthew 16:27-28 'For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall he reward every man according to his work. Verily I may unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.' According to 70 ADers some living would see the Second Coming. What was our Lord's Kingdom? Was it not the one he spoke about from the first, 'Repent for the kingdom is near' Mat. 4.17. This kingdom started at the resurrection, it is the one He taught us to pray for, 'Thy kingdom come.' This kingdom will never end but it will be only completely realized at his future 2nd and the end of theworld. So many listening to Jesus saw the Son of man coming in His kingdom.
7. If you wish, in the scheme of 1 day equals 1000 years, days 5 and 6 in the cosmic week. Like an ancient pre-Christian has said: 2 days under the Law, 2 days, and 2 days under Messiah.
8. "He in coming soon, but over and over again our Lord has postponed His coming - to wait for you and me! He has denied Himself the final glory that is His, because He is longsuffering-waiting for yet another sinner. Holy Scriptures speaks of a final warning - even when all reject Him there is still another chance. But what do they do - they murder God's final 2 prophets, (Revelation 11) - but then "It is finished"!
(Permission to Reprint Graciously Granted by Kingdom Publications)
What do YOU think ?