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Church-State Relations and the Book of Revelation
An Introduction to The Parousia: A Careful Look at the New Testament Doctrine of the Lord's Second Coming
by James Stuart Russell (1878) // Written by
Todd Dennis, Curator
 



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A short introduction to Preterism.
What the bible teaches
Apocalypsis.org 2000

Contents:

Introduction:
Crucial Failure of Full Preterism:
Note on Amillennialism.
Creeds and Confessions of the Church.
The case for Partial Preterism.
Jesus Prophecies about Jerusalem
The Great Distress of Mat 24:21 refers to the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70

Introduction:

Some of you will have come across the word 'preterist' either through reading or on the web, probably from the Preterist Archive. This is a short introduction to explain what it is. I have used Todd Dennis's article "An Introduction to Preterism" for some of what follows.

R C Sproul defines preterism as:

Preterism: An eschatological viewpoint that places many or all eschatological events in the past, especially during the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. (R C Sproul, The Last Days according to Jesus, p 228)

Todd Dennis says "Preterism is from the Hebrew language's Preterit [Past Perfect] tense."

Preterism is the idea that some or all prophecy has been fulfilled in the generation alive when Jesus preached, i.e. it has been fulfilled in the past. It takes the divine inspiration of the bible seriously and literally. Some people have alleged that some of Jesus prophecies were wrong, in order to counter these arguments preterists believe that Jesus prophecies were indeed fulfilled in this (ie. His) generation, most notably by the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Preterism takes the following key verses literally:

(Mat 10:23 NIV) When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

(Mat 16:28 NIVI tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."

Mat 23:35-36 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

(Mat 24:34 NIV) I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

(Mat 26:63-64 NIV) But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." {64} "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."

It is very important to distinguish between partial preterism and full preterism. Partial preterism says that some prophecy was fulfilled in the generation of Jesus day, while full preterism says that all prophecy was fulfilled then. Full preterism says that the Coming (Parousia), resurrection, rapture, day of the Lord and day of judgement all occurred in AD 70. While partial preterism says that Christ came in judgement on Jerusalem in AD 70 and that it was a day of the Lord not the day of the Lord.

  Full Preterists Partial Preterists
  AD 70 At the end of history AD 70 At the end of history
Coming (parousia) of Christ Yes No Yes (judgement) Yes (bodily)
Resurrection and rapture Yes No No Yes
Day of the Lord Yes No Yes Yes
Judgement yes no yes yes

Partial preterism has been a part of Christian belief for many years and many people from all denominations including myself hold to the view that the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 was an important fulfilment of some prophecy. However we still believe in a future coming of Jesus Christ and resurrection from the dead. The distinction is between a coming of the Lord in judgement against Jerusalem and the future bodily Second Coming of our Lord at the end of history.

Crucial failure of full preterism:

Todd Dennis says:

"Preterism (sometimes called "Full Preterism") is almost identical to the Reformed partial Preterist position, with only one great exception - the nature of the resurrection. Whereas the Reformed position teaches a bodily resurrection, Preterism agrees with Paul, that "it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body" (I Cor. 15:44). The spiritual nature of the general resurrection (though Preterists strongly defend Christ's bodily resurrection) is, probably, the main factor that precludes Preterism from being absorbed into any other denominational positions, unlike partial Preterism, which is conformable to nearly all. Simply put, (Full) Preterist theology is a radical departure from other contemporary positions. How many other systems teach that the Second Coming of Christ already took place, and that all prophecy has been fulfilled? None."

Again Todd Dennis says:

"The Second Coming of Christ is directly stated as occurring in the space of the men then living (Matt. 10:23; Matt. 16:27,28; Matt. 24:34), and is also often implied as being very near (James 5:8,9; 1 Pet. 4:7; I Thess 5:23, etc.). The Judgment is also declared and implied as being within a short space (Matthew 3:7; 16:27-28; 23:36-38; Acts 2:16,17,20; James 5:9; I Peter 4:5,17; Revelation 22:12), as was the Resurrection, which is nothing more than the redemption of believers from the same death passed upon then by the curse spoken in Genesis 2:17. To prove the nature of the resurrection, Paul states the following: "It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body" (I Cor. 15:44). This most significant passage is almost entirely overlooked when considering the actual substance or nature of the resurrection body!"

The crucial failure of full preterism is that it fails to understand that Christ's Second Coming will be bodily. Full preterism also fails to understand the resurrection to be a bodily resurrection. Instead they propose a spiritual Second Coming and resurrection of the body."

Full preterism re-introduces the Hymenaeus error (see 2 Tim 2:17-18) that the resurrection has already taken place. This is being taught now in the form of full or hyper-preterism, that teaches that the Second Coming and the resurrection occurred in AD 70. The partial preterist view says that Christ came in judgement against Jerusalem in the Jewish war of AD 67-70, but he did not come bodily which is what the Second Coming is about (Acts 1:11).

(2 Tim 2:18 NIV) who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.

Acts 1:11 clearly says that when Jesus returns he will return bodily.

(Acts 1:11 NIV) "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

While he quotes 1 Cor 15:44 to show that after the resurrection we shall have a spiritual body. 1 Cor 15:23 says "Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him".1 Cor 15:49 says "so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven". Now when we look at the kind of resurrection body that Jesus had we find it described thus:

(Luke 24:37-43 NIV) They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. {38} He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? {39} Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." {40} When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. {41} And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" {42} They gave him a piece of broiled fish, {43} and he took it and ate it in their presence.

Clearly, Jesus had a physical body. Our body will like His body.

(Phil 3:21 NIV) who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Partial preterism understands that Christ's coming in AD 70 was a coming in judgement against Jerusalem, not a bodily Second Coming. Indeed we can find in scripture several times when Jesus comes:

  1. He came at Pentecost as the Spirit of Jesus. (John 14:16-18)
  2. He came in judgement and wrath against Jerusalem in AD 66-70. Luke 21:23, Rev 6:16 (cf. Luke 23:30)
  3. He will return bodily at some point in the future at which time the dead in Christ will be raised (Acts 1:11, 1 Th 4:16).

In John 14:16-18 Jesus speaks of his coming to the disciples as the Spirit.

(John 14:16-18 NIV) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- {17} the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. {18} I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

Note on Amillennialism.

While it is true that the amillennial view of the book of Revelation teaches that there is a first spiritual resurrection, which occurs at the new birth. It also teaches that there will be a second resurrection of the body when Christ returns. In the amillennial interpretation of Revelation the first resurrection refers to the new birth in which we are raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:6, Col 3:1).

(Rev 20:4-6 NIV) I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. {5} (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. {6} Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

(Eph 2:4-6 NIV) But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, {5} made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. {6} And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

(Col 2:13 NIV) When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,

(Col 3:1 NIV) Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Creeds and confessions of the Church.

The full preterist view of the Second Coming and the resurrection, which spiritualises them, also goes against the major creeds of the church. Now the full preterists would say that the creeds do not have the same weight as scripture, which is true, but the creeds were formed by godly men to protect the church against heresy and we would go against these with some trepidation.

The Westminster Confession Of Faith (1646)

CHAPTER VIII. Of Christ the Mediator.

IV. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake; which that He might discharge, He was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it; endured most grievous torments immediately in His soul, and most painful sufferings in His body; was crucified, and died, was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day He arose from the dead, with the same body in which He suffered, with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of His Father, making intercession, and shall return, to judge men and angels, at the end of the world.

Chapter Xxxii. Of The State Of Man After Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead.

II. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies, and none other (although with different qualities), which shall be united again to their souls forever.

THE NICENE CREED Constantinople, 381 A.D.

and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

THE APOSTLE'S CREED From the Book of Common Prayer

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into Heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

The case for Partial Preterism.

Partial preterists see the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 fulfilling Jesus prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem.

In Mat 23:35-36 just before the Olivet discourse in Mat 24 Jesus says that revenge for the righteous blood of the prophets shed in Jerusalem would "come upon this generation" (verse 36), meaning the generation that Jesus is speaking to.

Mat 23:35-36 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

In Luke 23:28 Jesus said "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children" indicating that destruction would come upon them and their children.

Jesus prophecies about Jerusalem

Mat 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 record a prophecy that Jesus made about the destruction of the temple which was fulfilled in AD 70.

(Mat 24:1-2 NIV) Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. {2} "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."

Jesus gave other prophecies regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, which are given below.

As Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time (for no prophet can die outside Jerusalem).

(Luke 19:41-44 NIV) As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it {42} and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. {43} The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. {44} They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

As Jesus was on the way towards the cross, Simon from Cyrene carried the cross behind Jesus and many people followed him including women who mourned and wailed for him.

(Luke 23:28-31 NIV) Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. {29} For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' {30} Then "'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' {31} For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

Jesus says that this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world (Mat 23:34-36, Luke 11:49-51). Note, it is only this generation, and not all subsequent generations.

(Mat 23:34-36 NIV) Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. {35} And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. {36} I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

(Luke 11:49-51 NIV) Because of this, God in his wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' {50} Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, {51} from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

In the parable of the landowner who planted a vineyard, Jesus is talking about how the Jews beat and killed God's prophets and finally they killed God's Son.

(Mat 21:33-45 NIV) "Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. {34} When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. {35} "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. {36} Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. {37} Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said. {38} "But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance.' {39} So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. {40} "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" {41} "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." {42} Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone ; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? {43} "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. {44} He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." {45} When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them.

The Great Distress of Mat 24:21 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70

Although the period of great distress in Mat 24:21 is usually thought to be world-wide and to occur at the end of the age a closer look demonstrates otherwise.

  • Luke's parallel account (21:20-24) clearly shows that Mat 24:21 refers to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70
  • It is localised to the Judea region - it is not worldwide, because those in Judea are told to flee to the mountains in all three parallel accounts (Mat 24:16, Mark 13:14, Luke 21:21).
  • The fact that Jesus says that it is "never to be equalled again" should indicate to us that it does not occur at the end of the world.
  • The references to "this generation" in Mat 23:36, and Mat 24:34 indicate that he was talking about something within the lifetime of some of the disciples (also Luke 23:28).
Comparison of the great distress in Luke and Matthew

Luke 21:20-24

Mat 24:15-22

{20]"When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. {15} "So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader understand--
{21} 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. {22} For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. {16} then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. {17} Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. {18} Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak.
{23} How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!{19} How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! {20} Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.
There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. {24} 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.{21} For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again. {22} If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

Links:

Todd Dennis's article "An Introduction to Preterism"

Books: linked to

R C Sproul. The Last Days according to Jesus. Baker books. 1998. This discusses the preterist view of prophecy, especially with regard to Mat 24.
 
C. Jonathin Seraiah, The End Of All Things. Paperback - 208 pages 1 edition (October 1, 1999) Canon Press; In the present work, C. Jonathin Seraiah ferrets out the leading flaws of pantelism (the so-called 'consistent preterism') and reinforces the accuracy of the orthodox understanding of eschatology-the future physical Second Advent of Christ, physical resurrection of just and unjust, and final judgment. The author shows that the leading Biblical texts that pantelists employ to buttress their position do not in fact support it, and that other texts flatly refute it. He observes, moreover, that pantelism is not a marginally flawed interpretation; rather, it subverts and restructures the Faith itself. It is essential reading for those interested in a Biblically grounded and historically informed eschatology.

Thomas Ice and Kenneth Gentry Jr
., The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? Kregel, 1999. 224 pp. Compares the partial preterist verses futurist view of Matthew 24. If you are new to the view that Mat 24 refers to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 then this book is a good start.
 
Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness: Obsession of the Modern Church, 1999, This is a welcome corrective to the current last days madness. Partial preterist view. More books like this available from their American Vision prophecy books website.
Keith A Mathison. Postmillennialism: an eschatology of hope, 1999, 287 pp. This book gives a detailed description of postmillennialism. It deals with the history, OT and NT, and theological considerations including objections to postmillennialism. It includes a brief 14 page critique of full preterism.

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