Preterism... The Church's Final Apostacy
By Gene Shaparenko
the time shall come when they will not endure sound doctrine but, after
their own lusts, shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching
ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be
turned unto fables". 2 Tim. 4: 3-4.
In 2 Tim 4: 3-4 Paul is not talking
about the unsaved heathen who are without prior knowledge of Jesus
Christ and salvation.
Instead, he is talking about
individuals who have had prior knowledge of sound doctrine, but because
of their own desires for "a more intimate knowledge", a "deeper
understanding" or other intellectual as opposed to spiritual
interpretations of scripture, have turned away from the truth and have
found others of similar mind (and teachers) who also question the
orthodox faith and through their private interpretations, internet
groups as well as home study and discussion groups have concluded that
man has the power to do what only God is capable: turn the hearts and
minds of the unsaved to Christ.
The bible warns us about these
individuals and their last day's teachers:
"Ever learning, and never able to come to
the knowledge of the truth" : 2 Tim, 3: 7.
Apostasy, according to Webster, means a turning
away from the faith. It also means
"having a form of godliness but denying
the power thereof". 2 Tim 3:5.
In the present case to be discussed, the "form of godliness" is the
presumption of a new biblical interpretation and through the use of
selected biblical scripture and phraseology, create an end result where
the resultant theology is powerless and degenerates to a false doctrine.
The secular world has no faith, so it has nothing to "turn away from",
thus apostasy does not apply to the unsaved. Secondly, the world or does
not have a "form of godliness" so it has no pretense to use biblical
Apostasy thus clearly applies to those who are
"...ever learning, and never
able to come to the knowledge of the truth"
2 Timothy 3:7.
and in the process having a FORM of
godliness but since their theology is false and powerless, they
essentially deny the power of the scriptures.
WHO ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
Preterism, derived from a Latin word meaning "past", holds that the time
of Jesus' second coming ("parousia" in the Greek) was A.D. 70, or at the
time of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.
To the preterist, AD 70 was the "end of
the ages" prophesied by Scripture; Christ returned then; the dead were
raised then; the final judgment took place then; creation was renewed
then. The preterist believes we are now living in the New Heaven and New
In the Preterist's theology, to expect a visible, bodily return of
Jesus, a future resurrection of the dead, a final judgment, and a
cataclysmic destruction of the present creation (heavens and earth) on
the basis of any prophecy of Scripture is incorrect. According to the
preterist, all of this has taken place in the past, at the time of
destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 70AD.
In their intellectual rush to support this thesis, both the Old and New
Testament prophecies regarding Israel, the Church and when all these
prophecies are to come about, has been turned upside down. In short,
preterists have been turned to fables and to the apparent "wisdom of
men" versus the Word of God.
The preterist of course denies this and screams bloody murder that they
have properly interpreted the Scripture. One needs only to look at the
basic elements of orthodox Christian beliefs to find the preterist
theology as completely bogus and without merit.
One writer, in reviewing this AD 70 heresy, commented recently that
dealing with preterism is like cleaning the kitty litter box; one hates
to fool with it, but it has to be done. In this context, one needs to be
thankful that cats aren't larger than they are!
SOME DEFINITIONS REGARDING INTERPRETATION OF PROPHECY
There are four approaches to
interpreting prophecy, and all related to time: past, present, future,
and timeless. These are known as preterism (past), historicism
(present), futurism (future), and idealism (timeless).1 We would add a
fifth approach known as eclectic (mixed).
Preterism: Describes the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 or the fall
of Rome in A.D. 476.
Historicism: Describes major events of Christian history spanning from
John's time to the Second Coming of Christ.
Futurism: Describes a future period prior to the Second Coming of
Idealism: Describes spiritual truths. Good will eventually prevail over
evil. Readers are encouraged in their current trials.
Ecclectic: Typically favors idealism while borrowing some elements from
Futurist - the events prophesied
in the New Testament are in the future (perhaps having some partial
fulfillment in past events) with notable the exception of the siege of
Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple which occurred in 70 AD.
Preterist - the events prophesied in the New Testament were
fulfilled by 70 AD.
Full/Consistent Preterists believe this includes all prophecies even
Jesus second advent, which they
claim happened in 70 AD.
Partial/Moderate Preterists believe that Christ's second advent
was not fulfilled in 70 AD (and may
also exclude other selective prophetic events as well.)
Amillennialism - the doctrine of no "earthly" millennial reign,
or no "earthly" 1000 year reign. It
identifies the belief that Christ established His Kingdom by His Death,
Resurrection, and ascension to the throne of God in heaven, and thus
that the kingdom of God is now being extended throughout the world
through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. this doctrine does not
hold that Christ must come to a worldly throne in earthly Jerusalem.
Rather, it teaches that Christ reigns now and that after this present
kingdom reign is over, Christ will return in judgment of the quick and
Postmillennialism/Reconstructionism - the belief that the
kingdom of God is now being extended throughout the world through the
preaching of the Gospel of Christ. In this respect only is it similar to
historic Amillennialism. But in contrast to Amillennialism, the belief
is that the world will eventually become Christianized, and that the
Millennium (1000 years) is this golden age or period of righteousness,
peace, and prosperity on earth. Post-millennial, meaning that they
believe Christ comes "after" this golden age or millennial period.
Premillennialism - the doctrine that sometime in the future
Christ will return to establish a literal
political and earthly Kingdom in Jerusalem and will reign 1000 years on
earth. Pre-millennial, meaning that Christ comes to establish this
Kingdom pre or "before" the millennium.
There is much room for crossover between Amillennialism and
Postmillennialism. And because of this, Preterists may consider
themselves members of either camp. Because of the intricacies of
Preterist doctrine, it is difficult for Preterists to accept a literal
return of Christ to the earth FOLLOWED BY a literal 1000-year reign here
For Full Preterists, Premillennialism is impossible because they
believe the second advent occurred in 70 AD and we know that no literal
1000-year reign followed. If we imagine one did, then we are now living
almost 1000 years post-millennially into eternity.
For Partial Preterists,
Premillenialism is possible but unlikely. For the same reasons they
reject a future fulfillment of most New Testament prophecy, they are
likely to reject any literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth.
THE ROOTS OF PRETERISM
Preterism had its foundation early in the church age and periodically
rears its head by way of postmillennial thought and more recently by way
of Reconstructionists who have been pressing their theology through the
Presbyterian and Reformed movements as well as vocally through the late
John Roushdouny, Y2K' s Gary North and the late David Chilton.
Preterism's theology is so far off the wall that it finds little pulpit
support even amongst mainline Protestantism. Thus, it relies on the
Internet, study fellowships and the like for expansion.
Early scholars such as
Augustine did great damage to the early beliefs of the Church Fathers,
the immediate successors of the apostles, by taking extensive liberties
in applying Gnostic and Greek philosophy to the interpretation process.
The result was dramatic and had the effect of throwing the world into
the Dark Ages and the bible text into confusion with private
interpretation by way of spiritualizing or allegorizing certain texts
which did not mesh with Origen and Augustine's predetermined beliefs.
Modern day preterism has bought into this misdirection lock, stock and
barrel and has amplified it through extensive publishing and Internet
activities, soundly denouncing any and all who would dare to question
its confused hermeunetics and resultant eschatological views.
IS PRETERISM HERESY OR SIMPLY FALSE DOCTRINE?
Hermeunetics, the process by which
interpretive techniques were applied to scripture, in the preterist's
view, now rested in an individual's personal viewpoint as to whether a
particular scriptural statement were to be taken literally as stated in
the original text or as a spiritual happening or a simple allegory.
In short, the Bible's direct statements as preserved by the original
church fathers, were now at the mercy of any individual who didn't agree
with a particular phrase or concept and which now could be interpreted
in any manner suitable to that individual.
"...no prophecy is of private interpretation".
2 Peter 1:20.
So began the process of what can today be defined as "higher criticism";
a process whereby what the originally penned scripture said is
questioned and in most cases changed to a watered down or private
interpretation. This destructive process has not been lost on preterists
who appear to take great joy in finding fault with literal translations
of the original texts.
As a result, an entirely "new gospel" has evolved, one which essentially
denies the basic tenants of orthodox Christianity.
This type of "its already happened" treatment of bible prophecy is so
off the wall, scripturally speaking, that one wonders how anyone ever
falls for it. But they do. (teachers having itching ears) And,
preterists gleefully point to converts from other eschatological
beliefs, such as premillinialists, who have renounced orthodox beliefs
and have slid into the mire of apostacy with the preterists.
Tough words? Perhaps so. But the proof that you can see without being a
latin or greek scholar will follow below.
Preterists have an uncontrollable penchant for parsing various
scriptural words and phrases, relying on what they believe are relevant
greek or latin translations which support a prior assumption. Former
President Bill Clinton was a master of this parsing process in his
evasive testimony regarding his fornication activities in the White
House and other locations. Preterists don't seem to be able to grasp the
entirety of the Holy Scriptures, rather looking for isolated proof texts
upon which to create an entirely new Gospel and eschatology.
WHAT IS THE BASIS OF THE PRETERIST VIEW?
Much of what motivates preterists boils down to what Christ meant in his
Olivet Discourse in Matthew
"Verily I say unto you, This generation
shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled"
The preterist claims that Christ was
referring to those living at that time(or that generation standing with
him)and they thus claim that all end times activities which were
described in the earlier verses of Matthew 24 occurred and concluded at
the destruction of Jerusalem. Having made that assumption, they proceed
to destroy the literal translations of any contradictory textual
reference in both the New and Old Testaments which is remotely related
to the description of future fulfillment of prophetic events beyond AD
24:33(immediately preceeding) says:
"...when ye shall see ALL these things, ,now that it(My
second coming) is near, even at the doors"
reading of the entirety of Matthew 24 indicates the future occurrence of
cataclysmic events worldwide, which clearly did not happen prior to AD
70. This fact alone completely destroys the preterist position. Many
other, equally devastating arguments can be made which demonstrates the
false gospel of preterism.
Present-day preterism draws heavily from a book by the 19th century
Congregational writer, James Stuart Russell. The book is The
Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our
Lordís Second Coming. In one of the more recent editions,,
according to Russell, on page 362, the entire book of Revelation, with
the embarrassing exception of the millennium of Chapter 20, found its
complete fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem.
Russell states on page 549:
"... we are compelled to conclude that the
Parousia, or second coming of Christ, with its connected and
concomitant events, did take place, according to the Saviour's own
prediction, at the period which Jerusalem was destroyed, and before
the passing away of "that generation"".
Preterists firmly believe this!
Like the Reconstuctionists who have followed in his footsteps, Russell
marginalizes the Jewish people and their prophetic future as well as
denying a future "new heaven and new earth" on pages 222-223 by stating:
"... the (future) renewal of creation is
not a coming deliverance of the irrational and inanimate creation
but the liberation of groaning, suffering and down-trodden humanity
when the whole visible fabric and frame of Judaism were swept away
in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70."
So, the entirety of the preteristís theology rests on a portion of one
verse in Matthew 24 and the words of a Congregational writer!
WHAT DOES THIS FALSE THEOLOGY MEAN TO US TODAY?
Preterism destroys the Christian hope; the soon-coming of Jesus Christ
our Lord in the body to raise our bodies from the dead and to take us
unto Himself in a perfected fellowship.
With the scoffers of 2 Peter 3:4, preterism asks.
"...where is the promise of His coming"
and with Hymenaeus and Philetus, it
says that the resurrection is past already. 2 Timothy 2:18.
Preterism is an outright rejection of the Christian hope with a
vengeance. The preteristís hero, James Stuart Russell, admits as much.
The preterist has to deal with many questions which their theology
simply cannot answer. They either deny that the scripture in question
had any literal meaning or they simply skip over it in their rush to
create a private interpretation.
HISTORY OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF PRETERISM
Premillennialism and literal scriptural
interpretation dominated the first two centuries of the Church Fathers.
As noted above, the existing Gnostic
and Greek philosophic thinking at that time strongly influenced Origin
and his protoges, including Augustine. This led the early church away
from what originally was a strongly pre-millennial eschatology into a
process which ultimately allowed the Roman Catholic church to remove the
bible from the hands of the laity and place it instead in the hands of
the Magisterium where subsequent interpretations were more closely
aligned with church traditions, thus placing tradition on an equal or
higher authoritative level than scripture.
The Reformation succeeded in reorienting scriptural interpretations away
from the personal interpretation activities of the Catholic Church and
reinstituted a resurgence of pre-millennial eschatology.
Alegorical and spiritual interpretation did not die easily, as it was
essentially the bread and butter of the Roman Catholic church which
still refused to allow the Holy Scripture to establish the Church's
About this time, postmillennial(preterist) thinking came into focus as a
result of this long hibernation period of spiritualization and
allegorical interpretation. As noted earlier, present day preterism, and
its many variants, draws heavily from a book by a 19th century
Congregational writer, James Stuart Russell entitled The Parousia: a
Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lordís Second
The book, first published in 1878, has
provided fodder for the Reconstructionist and Kingdom Now(Dominion)
followers and ìMy kingdom is not of this worldî John 18:36.
Preterists do not have a hope for an
eternal reward, since they do not believe in the future judgement of
believerís works and the rewards of the various crowns promised in in
They are led to believe this because
they do not expect that bodily return of Christ and hence, as Paul said
" Henceforth, there is laid up for me a
crown of rightenousness, which the Lord, the righteous juge, shall
give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that
love his appearing".
2 Tim. 4:8.
"... Knowing this first that no prophecy
of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy
came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke
as they were moved by the holy Spirit". 2 Peter 1:20.
Preterism as well as Reconstructionism(and postmillennialism) has
admittedly come from private biblical interpretation as clearly stated
by Coalition on Revival publisher(for the Reconstruction and preterist
movement) Dr. Jay Grimstead(Crosswinds, Fall 1992, pp2-3):
biblical view of the Kingdom of God recent has been REDISCOVERED by
many of us who HAD TO LEARN ABOUT THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON OUR OWN,
with the help or encouragement from our churches or denominations.
We discovered this view BY READING CONTROVERSIAL LITERATURE
"All of us STUMBLED ON THESE BURIED AND FORGOTTEN TRUTHS.
We are attempting, THROUGH ORGANIZED DEBATE, EXCHANGE OF IDEAS
AND PUBLISHING to apply these principles".
Incredible! Here, we have a group of supposedly intelligent individuals
who, on their own, with admittedly private interpretation and group
discussions have succeeded in creating a new prophetic outlook for all
The use of "controversial literature"
is apparently key to this new and apparently "hidden" information. And,
what does "organized debate" provide to the end product other than a
further dilution of scripture,
delivered unto the saints" Jude 3.
Scripture says that when Jesus ascended
into Glory after the resurrection, his disciples and followers watched
him physically be lifted up into the clouds.
THE PRETERIST/RECONSTUCTIONIST LINK
TO NEW EVANGELICALISM
Although these two ideologies had different origins, they are subtly
converging in several areas which should be of concern to bible
New Evangelicalism had its beginning in 1948 when Harold Ockenga
declared its inception in a Fuller Theological Seminary convocation
message delivered in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Sparing the details
here, Ockenga basically declared that Christian separation from the
secular world was unacceptable and that a strong social involvement in
civic and governmental affairs was the goal of New Evangelicalism. In
other words, fundamentalism, dispensationalism and their related
eschatology represented a harsh, strife filled doctrine.
The New Evangelicals thus viewed themselves as "honest scholars,
repentant liberals, compassionate social activists and great preachers"
who were to intellectually seek a middle ground in theological
controversies where things moral and spiritual were previously
considered either right or wrong. This strategy of infiltration of the
social culture rather than one of separation where error is identified
and biblically rebuked was the new marching order.
Preterists and Reconstructionists
simply took a different route to essentially the same theological view
and together with most New Evangalicals contend that the Bible and faith
must be defended intellectually in meaning according to intellectual
arguments and secular standards. This is Gnosticism.
Date: 25 Dec
The various schools of theology have been attacking each other for centuries
but they all suffer from the same great failure of discernment. When Christ
was born the title of king of the world's kings belonged to the reigning
emperor of Rome. Therefore, in order for Christ to become King of the
world's kings (Rev. 19:16) in the day and hour of his parousia (Mt. 24:36)
he and his followers had to triumph over one of the 11 first-century
emperors and his followers, as prophesied in Dan. 2 and 7. That triumph
actually occurred in the first century (not in AD 30 or in AD 70) but
because it was a SPIRITUAL triumph over the satanic, usurping, worldwide,
SPIRITUAL dominion of Rome, rather than a mere natural triumph over the
worldwide, natural dominion of Rome, futurists, preterists, historicists and
other ists have never understood it.