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Historicism versus Preterism Debate
By J. Parnell McCarter
I have offered many preterists the opportunity to a public debate, both by sending emails as well as by public announcements on many internet lists. In response, I have received nothing but excuses as to why such a debate would be unnecessary or counter-productive or separating friends or they just do not like historicists or… It strikes me that if preterism has such a strong case to make, and historicism is so inept and antiquated (to be buried along with Wyckliffe, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, etc.), that a preterist would be willing to demonstrate as much in a formal public debate. And the Reformed Theological Resource Center has graciously offered to sponsor just such a debate. But, alas, the offer is declined by preterists.
Nevertheless, this historicist is keeping the offer and challenge open, if any preterist is willing to take it. In the meantime, I would encourage those interested in reading the historicist side to refer to my critiques at:
In addition, consider the on-line books and articles at:
And finally, consider again these sample questions which I would present in a cross-examination of a preterist:
1. What do you believe the term 'the end of the age' refers to in Matthew 28? Matthew 13? Matthew 24?
2. Should we interpret the temporal indicator 'hastening unto' (which means ‘moving towards quickly) in II Peter 3:12 in accordance with II Peter 3:8 (ie, understood in terms of divine time) or not? Why or why not?
3. Do you believe Revelation 22:12 and Revelation 20:12 refer to the same event? which event?
Rev. 22:12- " And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward [is] with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. "
Rev. 20:12- "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works."
4. Revelation 20:12 is part of Revelation 20:3-12 that reads as follows:
Revelation 20:3-12 – "And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season…And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison…And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them…And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet [are], and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works."
Is the term "thousand years" a temporal indicator? Is the event described in Revelation 20:12 said to follow this temporal indicator of a "thousand years"?
5. In II Peter 3:9, it reads that "the Lord is not slow concerning his promise". Is "not slow" a temporal indicator? Should we infer from this that the Lord is fast, but as measured by the divine time described in II Peter 3:8: "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
6. Preterists like Ken Gentry assert this as their hermeneutic: ""I hold that passages specifically delimiting the time-frame by temporal indicators (such as "this generation," "shortly," "at hand," "near," and similar wording) are to be applied to A. D. 70." Preterists allow for **no** exception to this hermeneutic with regards to temporal indicators. Are you willing to stand by this hermeneutic with regards to temporal indicators in II Peter 3:12 and II Peter 3:9?
7.Were the ‘beasts’ of Daniel merely particular kings, or were they kingdoms?
8. Since you and other preterists (incorrectly) render from the Greek construction in Revelation 13:18 that the beast is a [particular] man, are you willing to render from the same Greek construction in Revelation 21:17 that the wall is a [particular] man? Why do you deny the more reasonable rendering that the number is a human number like the measurement of the wall is a human measurement?
9. Why do preterists refuse to relate Revelation 17:10-11 and Daniel 7:17? Are the ‘kings’ referenced in Daniel 7:17 kingdoms or merely particular kings, as preterists seem to insist?
Revelation 17:10-11 reads: "… And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, [and] the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition."
Daniel 7:17 reads: "These great beasts, which are four, [are] four kings, [which] shall arise out of the earth."
11. Most preterists like Gentry say Nero was the sixth "king" of Revelation 17:10, which would imply Caesar Augustus was the second. Did Caesar Augustus really **fall**, or did he die after a long and prosperous reign? Did the Babylonian, Persian, and Greek kingdoms fall?
12. In the Bible is the term ‘the man of God’ a reference to one particular man or is it a title describing a group of men with certain common characteristics? In the Bible is the term ‘the son of perdition’ a reference to one particular man or is it a title describing a group of men with certain common characteristics? In the Bible is the term ‘the man of sin’ a reference to one particular man or is it a title describing a group of men with certain common characteristics?
13. Is one common characteristic of a ‘son of perdition’ that he deceitfully feigns to be a Christian while he is really not? Was that true of Judas Iscariot? Was that true of Nero? Is that true of the Romish papacy?
AND "MATTHEW 24 AND THE GREAT TRIBULATION" AND A RESPONSE TO PARTIAL PRETERISM
by J. Parnell McCarter
I have personally been blessed by Rev. Brian Schwertley's ministry and books. I have learned from him and been persuaded by him on many doctrines, ranging from exclusive psalmody to presbyterian church government to no instrumental accompaniment in public worship and more. And I continue to look to him as my mentor and my advisor in theology. But in his treatment of eschatology we have certain differences of opinion, and so I offer up this critique of his books concerning eschatology, showing what I believe are its contradictions and flaws, especially with regards to his analysis of Matthew 24.
I also intend this as a response to what I regard as the fallacy of partial preterism in its rejection of the mainstream historicistic interpretations of Matthew 24, II Thessalonians 2, and the book of Revelation. In my opinion, the best case for preterism can be made starting with Matthew 24. There are today and there have been in Christian history some historicists who follow what may be described as a ‘partial preteristic’ interpretation of Matthew 24 (such as Rev. Schwertley presents in his book) yet with regards to II Thessalonians 2 and the book of Revelation adhere to an historicistic interpretation. So the very reason I have chosen to focus on Matthew 24 in this examination is precisely because I believe ‘partial preterism’ can make its strongest case here. Yet I have concerns with and objections to the partial preterist treatment of Matthew 24, and am persuaded a mainstream historicistic interpretation is more credible, which I will explain in this examination. In this analysis I will also explain some of the general reasons why I believe partial preterism improperly addresses the prophecies of II Thessalonians 2 and the book of Revelation, whereas historicism offers the more reasonable and convincing interpretation.
Finally, I should preface my analysis by noting the fact that I
really do not directly address full preterism in this examination,
although I occasionally refer to it in the course of this examination.
Rather, I start from where most partial preterists are – holding that
many passages scattered throughout the New Testament refer to the
literal bodily return of Christ in the future- and show why historicism
better handles the various over passages in dispute between mainstream
historicistic interpretation and partial preteristic interpretation.
One element which mainstream historicists and full preterists have in
common is that we both believe there is a greater degree of uniformity
of reference with regards to Advent passages than partial preterists
admit. But I hope that for full preterists my treatment on passages
like Matthew 24 may at least go some ways in showing why historicists
offer a very reasonable interpretation of such difficult texts. My hope
would then be that full preterists would feel less compelled to head
down a course which necessarily leads to very radical (and in my opinion
far-fetched) interpretations of Advent passages like I Corinthians 11:26
addressing the Lord’s Supper and ‘end of the age’ passages like Matthew
28:20 addressing the Great Commission.
The Second Coming of Christ According to "The Pre-Millenial Deception"
I think it would be instructive first to consider Rev. Schwertley's treatment of the literal, future second coming of Christ, or Second Advent, in his book "The Pre-Millenial Deception". Here are quotes from his book relating to passages which Rev. Schwertley himself attributes to the literal, future second coming of Christ:
Let me say at this point, that I agree with Rev. Schwertley that all of the above passages he cites do indeed refer to the literal, future Second Coming of Christ, or Second Advent. It will be important to keep in mind which passages Rev. Schwertley attributes to this event when we now consider what I regard as the objections to Rev. Schwertley's treatment of Matthew 24 in his book "Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation".
Objection #1 : An Inconsistent Treatment of the Term "End of the Age"
According to the list of passages cited above, Rev. Schwertley attributes the ‘harvest’ described in Matthew 13:30 ("let both grow together until the harvest...") to the literal future second coming of Christ. Now Matthew 13:39-40 reads thus concerning this ‘harvest’: "...the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are the angels. As the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this age." So in Rev. Schwertley's book "Pre-Millenial Deception" he appears by implication to agree with me that in Matthew's book the use of the term "end of the age" refers to the day of Christ's literal, future return. It is only at the time of Christ’s Second Advent that the ultimate harvest of Christ’s elect wheat occurs, it is separated from the non-elect tares, and the tares are burned in the everlasting hell. Indeed, it is the common interpretation of most people throughout Christian history to treat the 'harvest' and 'end of the age' alluded to in Matthew 13 as referring to the Second Advent.
However, in his book "Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation" Rev. Schwertley treats the term "end of the age" in a completely contrary manner. Here is what he writes:
"A proper understanding of the phrase "end of the age" in Matthew 24:3 supports the interpretation that the prophecy to 24:34 refers solely to events that occurred prior to A.D. 70...The first century apostolic understanding of the "end of the age" is reflected in the biblical phrase "the last days." Many modern Christians have been conditioned by Bible prophecy books to think that we alone of all generations are living in the last days or at the end of the age...Since the divinely inspired apostles said that they were living in "the last days" at "the end of the age," their question regarding the end of the age in Matthew 24:3 must apply to something that occurred in their own generation."
So in this book Rev. Schwertley suggests the term "end of the age" must refer to something that happened in the Apostolic era and does not refer to the day of Christ's literal, future return.
But such a contradictory interpretation of the term "end of the age"
within the same book of Matthew is unwarranted. (I do not deny
that in other contexts like Hebrews 9:26 the term can refer to the
period beginning with the First Advent [even here it does not refer to
70 A.D.], but in the context of the book of Matthew in Christ’s
discourses with His disciples it uniformly refers to the time of the
Second Advent. It make no sense in any of the contexts in Matthew to
assign it the meaning of “the period beginning with the First Advent”,
and there is no basis for asserting Christ’s use of the term as recorded
in the book of Matthew is non-uniform.) The term “end of the age” is to
be found in the same book of Matthew, both in the 13th and 24th
chapters. And it should be obvious from Matthew 13 that it refers to
the day in which Christ literally returns, as Rev. Schwertley implicitly
concedes in his book “The Pre-Millenial Deception.” And this
interpretation of the ‘end of the age’ is confirmed by its use in
Matthew 28:20, where we read: “Teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even]
unto the end of the age.” Now surely we should not believe Jesus Christ
was saying in Matthew 28 that He would only with be His disciples until
70 AD, and then they would be on their own. No! The term ‘end of the
age’ in Matthew 28:20 refers to Christ’s Second Advent, and Christ is
promising His presence with His people on earth until His Second Advent.
So there is no good reason to think the term ‘end of the age’ refers to
some event entirely different in Matthew 24 than it does in Matthew 13
and Matthew 28.
Objection #2 : Answering a Question Not Asked
Rev. Schwertley writes in his book on Matthew 24:
In response to this quote by Rev. Schwertley, we should pose to him whether he believes the disciples were asking about the following 2 events:
·The destruction of the temple
·The second bodily coming of
Christ at the end of the age
Now, as I will note in my Objection #3, I would agree with Rev. Schwertley that it appears that the disciples may have believed these 2 events were around the same approximate time (and as I also will note in Objection #3, Christ corrected this error of the disciples in Matthew 24:34-36). But my question here is whether the disciples are asking about the 2 events listed above, not their timing. It seems based on Rev. Schwertley’s quote above that there is real doubt in his mind as to which 2 events the disciples are asking about (hence his wording: “even if in their minds the coming in judgment and end of the age were to be coterminous with the second bodily coming of Christ …”).
Let’s consider the possibility that Rev. Schwertley seems to
seriously entertain. Let's consider whether the 2 events described in
Matthew 24:3 are really the following 2 events and not those indicated
·The destruction of the temple
·The figurative coming of
Christ and end of the Jewish age in 70 AD (and NOT the second bodily
coming of Christ at the end of the age)
This is what Rev. Schwertley seems to seriously entertain as the events to which the disciples are asking about, for he writes: “The disciples regarded the judgment of the contemporaneous generation of Jews, the destruction of the existing temple and the end of the Jewish age as all part of the same complex of events.”
This possibility which Rev. Schwertley seriously entertains should be highly doubted. For if this interpretation of Matthew 24:3 is correct, then it leads us to the far-fetched conclusion that most of Christ’s response to the disciples has nothing to do with the events about which the disciples asked. Rev. Schwertley himself says and cogently argues in his book that at least from Matthew 24:36 onwards into chapter 25, Christ is speaking about His Second (literal) Advent and how Christians should prepare for it. So we would be led to the far-fetched conclusion that Jesus got off onto a tangent regarding His Second Advent which the disciples had not even asked about. But if the disciples’ questions had nothing to do with Christ’s Second (literal) Advent, then why did Christ spend so much time speaking about His Second (literal) Advent in response to their questions?
But there is no need to draw such a far-fetched conclusion. It may very well be the case that the disciples did not understand that the destruction of the Temple and Christ’s Advent would be separated by considerable time when they posed the question to Christ. But one thing they did understand is that the end of the age would be marked by Christ’s Second literal Advent and that they were asking about Christ’s Second (literal) Advent. So when they posed their questions to Christ, they most certainly do contain reference to Christ’s Second Advent. And thus we are not left to the far-fetched conclusion that Jesus simply got off on a tangent by speaking about His Second Advent, or did not understand which events the disciples were asking about.
So now let’s go back to Rev. Schwertley’s quote in his book: “Unfortunately, most students of prophecy today regard the inquiry as relating to two completely different events that are separated from each other by over 19 centuries.” Our response to Rev. Schwertley is simply this: "Yes, they were referring to events separated by over 19 centuries, even if the disciples themselves did not realize these 2 events would be separated by over 19 centuries when they asked the questions. And Jesus understood them to ask about the Second (literal) Advent and the destruction of the Temple, which is why His discourse in Matthew chapters 24 and 25 concerned these 2 events. He did not get off tangent." It is not credible to believe Jesus would answer the way He did if He did not know and believe they were asking about His literal Second Advent and the destruction of the Temple. Matthew 24:36 and following is not just a digression of Christ; it is a continuation in answer to the 2 events mentioned by the disciples in their question.
Now this naturally leads us to another question. In Matthew 24:3 the
disciples ask these questions:
1.When shall 'these
things' (ie, the destruction of the Temple [Matthew 24:1-2] ) be?
2.What shall be the
sign of thy coming and of the end of the age?
Now if these questions pertain to these events:
·The destruction of the Temple
·The second bodily coming of
Christ at the end of the age
as we concluded above, then what must "these
things" in Matthew 24:34 and "that day" in Matthew 24:36 probably refer
to? The logical answer would be that "these things" in Matthew 24:34
refer to the destruction of the Temple; and "that day" in Matthew 24:36
refers to the second bodily coming of Christ at the end of the age, or,
in other words, the Second Advent, for that is what His disciples had
asked Him about, and that is what He is addressing in Matthew 24:34-36
and throughout His discourse of Matthew 24 and following. Of course,
Rev. Schwertley would object to my conclusion, so I'll address his
objections to my conclusion in the remainder of this critique.
Objection #3 : A Confounding of the Destruction of the Temple (‘these things’) with the ‘End of the Age’ marked by Christ’s Second Advent (‘that day’)
What is really driving much of Rev. Schwertley's interpretation of Matthew 24 is the time indicator of verse 34. Rev. Schwertley rightly interprets the term 'generation' in Matthew 24:34 as referring to the literal Apostolic generation. He provides many cogent reasons for so interpreting it.
However, he does not give sufficient consideration to the interpretation of this text held by Matthew Henry and many others, as well as its warning of not confounding of events, as stated thus in Henry's Commentary:
"He here instructs us as to the time of them, v. 34, 36. As to this, it is well observed by the learned Grotius, that there is a manifest distinction made between the tauta (v. 34), and the ekeine (v. 36), these things, and that day and hour; which will help to clear this prophecy.
(1.) As to these things, the wars, seductions, and persecutions, here foretold, and especially the ruin of the Jewish nation; "This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be fulfilled (v. 34); there are those now alive, that shall see Jerusalem destroyed, and the Jewish church brought to an end." Because it might seem strange, he backs it with a solemn asseveration; "Verily, I say unto you. You may take my word for it, these things are at the door." Christ often speaks of the nearness of that desolation, the more to affect people, and quicken them to prepare for it. Note, There may be greater trials and troubles yet before us, in our own day, than we are aware of. They that are old, know not what sons of Anak may be reserved for their last encounters.
(2.) But as to that day and hour which will put a period to time, that knoweth no man, v. 36. Therefore take heed of confounding these two, as they did, who, from the words of Christ and the apostles; letters, inferred that the day of Christ was at hand, 2 Thess. ii. 2. No, it was not; this generation, and many another, shall pass, before that day and hour come. Note, [1.] There is a certain day and hour fixed for the judgment to come; it is called the day of the Lord, because so unalterably fixed. None of God's judgments are adjourned sine die--without the appointment of a certain day. [2.] That day and hour are a great secret."
As Matthew Henry here notes, we should not confound the “these things” of verse 34 with the “that day” of verse 36. To understand what each of these terms (ie, “these things” and “that day”) refers to we must start with the questions the disciples ask in Matthew 24:3:
1. When shall 'these things' (ie, the destruction of the Temple [Matthew 24:1-2] ) be?
2. What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age?
Now it is not clear whether the disciples themselves realized that the ‘end of the age’ and the ‘these things’ would be separated by a great expanse of time. Indeed, at the time in which they asked this question they quite possibly (or even probably) believed that the destruction of the Temple and the ‘end of the age’ marked by Christ’s coming would be around the same time. Perhaps they were confused on this point because they knew Jesus had taught them that the ‘temple would come down and in three days He would raise it up again’, but of course we know that the temple Christ was referring to in this statement was not the literal temple but the figurative temple of Jesus’ body. But the disciples had a very difficult time understanding Christ’s use of figurative language, as they manifested on many occasions. So they may well have confounded the “these things’ and the ‘that day’ when framing their question.
But Christ did not confound the two in His Matthew 24 response, and as Matthew Henry advises, neither should we. To interpret Matthew 24 as Rev. Schwertley recommends, would confound the two however, because Rev. Schwertley says that the term ‘these things’ refers to all the events described in Matthew 24:4-33, even including references to ‘the end [of the age]’ (Matthew 24:14) and Christ’s coming (Matthew 24:30).
The outline of Matthew 24 below shows how Matthew 24 can be interpreted without confounding the two, and yet also make sense of Christ’s time indicators in Matthew 24:34 and 24:36 :
I. Christ’s description of what would happen to ‘these things’ [ie, the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. along with the destruction of the Jewish nation which it implies] (Matthew 24:1-2)
II. The disciples’ questions of Christ regarding when shall 'these things' (ie, the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. along with the Jewish nation) be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age (Matthew 24:3)
III. Christ’s response to the disciples (Matthew 24:4-51) (Note: His response really continues past chapter 24 into chapter 25 with warnings through parables of how we should live in light of the fact that we do not know when the ‘end of the age’ will be.)
A. Christ’s answer to their second question (i.e., what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age?), consisting of a description of the trials, tribulations, and deceptions from the present time (=the First Advent) to the ‘end of the age’ marked by Christ’s Coming (=the Second Advent) (Matthew 24:4-31) [Note: The trials, tribulations, and deceptions are all a sign of Christ's eventual return, for Christ must return to right these wrongs and injustices and to clean up what is rightfully His. In addition, they are a sign because events actually come to pass as Christ prophesied, proving that He should be trusted when He says He will return.
B. Christ’s answer to their first question (i.e., when shall ‘these things be’ (ie, the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.)?) (Matthew 24:32-35)
C. Christ’s clarification that we should not confound ‘that day’ (ie, the end of the age marked by Christ’s coming) with the ‘these things’ referred to in verse 34 [because we can know that these things (ie, the destruction of the Temple) shall be in the Apostle’s generation,] but of ‘that day’ (ie, the end of the age marked by Christ’s coming) no man knows when it shall be, so men must always be ready and live in preparation for it. (Matthew 24:36-51)
Careful attention should be paid to the indications in Matthew 24:32
from Matthew 24:31 that there is a shift in the question which Jesus is
answering. For example, notice the dramatic shift in the subjects being
spoken about. In Matthew 24:31 Christ was speaking about gathering
"together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the
other". In other words, He was speaking about the worldwide phenomenon
of gathering His elect at His Second Coming. Previous to that He had
spoken of the wars and tribulations among the nations, alongside the
preaching of the gospel to them. But in Matthew 24:32, Jesus begins
speaking about the ‘fig tree.’ Now the fig tree had previously been a
matter which Christ had addressed with His disciples in such passages
as Matthew 21:19-20. Matthew Henry writes concerning the fig tree in
"It represents the state of the nation and people of the Jews in particular; they were a fig-tree planted in Christ’s way, as a church. Now observe, [1.] The disappointment they gave to our Lord Jesus. He came among them, expecting to find some fruit, something that would be pleasing to him; he hungered after it; not that he desired a gift, he needed it not, but fruit that might abound to a good account. But his expectations were frustrated; he found nothing but leaves; they called Abraham their father, but did not do the works of Abraham; they professed themselves expectants of the promised Messiah, but, when he came, they did not receive and entertain him. [2.] The doom he passed upon them, that never any fruit should grow upon them or be gathered from them, as a church or as a people, from henceforward for ever. Never any good came from them (except the particular persons among them that believe), after they rejected Christ; they became worse and worse; blindness and hardness happened to them, and grew upon them, till they were unchurched, unpeopled, and undone, and their place and nation rooted up; their beauty was defaced, their privileges and ornaments, their temple, and priesthood, and sacrifices, and festivals, and all the glories of their church and state, fell like leaves in autumn. How soon did their fig-tree wither away, after they said, His blood be on us, and our children! And the Lord was righteous in it."
There is also a shift from a response to answering a ‘what’ question to answering a ‘when’ question. Matthew 24:4-31 is a catalogue of descriptions of events and circumstances (i.e., an answer to a 'what' question). But notice in Mattew 24:32-33 the occurrences of the word ‘when’. Christ is explaining when something will happen to the fig tree. The concentration is no longer what will happen (i.e., a detailed description of events), but when it will happen.
This shift can only reasonably suggest that Christ is now beginning to answer the first question the disciples had posed to Him, having already answered the second question they had posed to Him. He is now answering ‘when shall these things be.’ The ‘these things’ in the context of the Matthew 24:33-34, hearkens back to the ‘these things’ referenced in the question of the disciples in Matthew 24:3: ‘when shall these things be’. There it referred to the destruction of the Temple buildings (see Matthew 24:1-2), which we now know occurred in 70 A.D., and the destruction of the Jewish nation which the destruction of the Temple implied. Christ says in Matthew 24:34 that this destruction will occur before the generation then living passes away, thus answering the disciples’ first question.
But beginning in Matthew 24:36 Christ begins correcting what He must have detected was a misconception on the part of His disciples. He explains to them that they must not think that the end of the age marked by His coming (i.e., ‘that day’) is necessarily tied with the destruction of the Temple and Jewish nation (i.e., ‘these things’). He explains that no one knows when ‘that day’ will be except the Father. He warns them to always live as if it could happen very soon, not being wicked and acting as if they can later repair the damage they now do. It is clear that God the Father had no intention of letting mankind know precisely when Christ would return, but He does reveal many of the events that will transpire before this event as a sign to His people that He will return.
The outline above then of Matthew 24 suggests how we can interpret it without being forced to confound the ‘end of the age’ with the destruction of the Temple. We can understand Matthew 24:34 as saying that in the Apostolic generation the destruction of the Temple ("these things") would occur. We can understand Matthew 24:36 as saying we cannot know when the Second Advent ("that day") will occur. And we can interpret the rest of Matthew 24 in accordance with the outline presented above. All of this requires no twisting of scriptural passages in order to fit our preconceived notions. Rather, it makes sense internally within Matthew 24, and it is consistent with the rest of Matthew.
But Rev. Schwertley’s interpretation confounds the ‘end of the age’ with the destruction of the Temple, for Rev. Schwertley interprets the 'end of the age' as encompassed within the “these things” of Matthew 24:34. Rev. Schwertley’s interpretation thus does, at least in part, what Christ had warned against: getting the timing of ‘these things’ mixed up with that day (ie, the ‘end of the age’). I recognize, of course, that Rev. Schwertley believes that the ‘end of the age’ is not the Second Advent, and that the destruction of the Temple is different therefore from ‘that day’ referenced in Matthew 24:36 (and so Rev. Schwertley’s error is not nearly so great as that of a full preterist who asserts the Second Advent occurred in the generation of the Apostles). But I have already shown in Objection #1 why we should identify the ‘end of the age’ with Christ’s Second Advent. And we must not confound the destruction of the Temple in the generation of the Apostles with the ‘end of the age’ as that term is used in the book of Matthew, which is marked by Christ’s Second Advent.
It should be pointed out in this outline that I assert Christ in Matthew 24:23 essentially picks up and resumes the warnings regarding false prophets, difficulties, and a resultant falling away that He was issuing in Matthew 24:9-13. In Matthew 24:23-25 Christ further elucidates on this topic of false prophets, difficulties, and falling away. And then, just as He had done following His warning in Matthew 24:9-13, He explains that the end will come, in Matthew 24:27 especially noting that this end will be marked by the Coming of Christ. I can imagine that Rev. Schwertley and other partial preterists might object that this represents a rather drastic shift in the prophecy from a parenthetical discussion of the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 A.D. to a discussion of events occurring over the span of history up to the Second Advent. But Rev. Schwertley provides in his book on Matthew 24 the very answer I would give regarding such a shift. He writes:
I would only add to this that Christ gives a clue He is making such a shift back to what He was discussing in Matthew 24:11 and its section by the similar language and subject matter:Matthew 24:11 - "And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many."
Matthew 24:24 - "For there shall arise false christs, and false prophets...if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."
So it is quite reasonable to look upon Matthew 24:15-22 as a sort of
parenthetical aside regarding a pronounced tribulation in 70 A.D., in
the midst of a discussion about the trials, tribulations, and deceptions
throughout the period leading up to the Second Advent.
Objection #4 : An Inconsistent Treatment of the Term 'The Coming of the Lord' in the Singular
Rev. Schwertley had rightly noted in his book "The Pre-Millenial Deception" that we must pay attention to the use of the singular with reference to statements concerning the coming of the Lord. Thus he wrote:
"On “that day” (singular), “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe” (2 Th. 1:7-10)."
But Rev. Schwertley violates this principle in his book "Matthew 24
and the Great Tribulation". Matthew 24:3 uses the singular "thy
coming", yet Rev. Schwertley's treatment ignores this singularity and
writes that Matthew 24 is really speaking of multiple "comings". He
believes Matthew 24:30 is speaking of an entirely different coming from
Matthew 24:37. Now I do not deny that in some contexts the term
'coming' with reference to God or Christ does not refer to the literal,
future Second Coming. But what I do not grant is that there is any
sufficient indication in the context of Matthew 24 that Christ is
speaking of multiple comings. Christ certainly never goes out of His
way to explain that there are multiple comings to which He is referring
in the context of His Matthew 24 discourse. And yet the question posed
by His disciples implied a single coming; the term is in the singular,
and is so used throughout the chapter. And Christ nowhere explicitly
corrected their use of the singular ‘thy coming.’ The most reasonable
explanation is that in the context of Matthew 24 when Christ refers to
His coming He is referring to one single event. And this single event
will occur at the 'end of the age', as noted in my Objection #1.
Objection #5 : Ignoring the Relation between Matthew 24:14 and
Matthew 24:14 reads very similar to Matthew 28:19-20:
Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:
and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the age. Amen.”
Both refer to the preaching of the gospel to the nations which is to occur until the end. Now I will take it for granted that Rev. Schwertley would agree with me that the end referred to in Matthew 28:19-20 is not 70 A.D. but Christ’s Second Advent. And there are many reasons to believe based upon the language employed and the description of their contents that these passages refer to the same event. So there is no good reason to believe the “all nations” referred to in Matthew 24:14 is different from the “all nations” in Matthew 28:19-20.
But Rev. Schwertley in his book “Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation “ goes to great lengths to explain why Matthew 24:14 has nothing to do with the spread of the gospel throughout the world to the Second Advent, but rather to its spread only until 70 A.D. and to the nations reached with the gospel by 70 A.D. only. But to ignore the relation of these two passages in the very same book, not even far removed from one another, and employing such similar language and content, is unwarranted.
John Calvin then correctly identifies the ‘the end [of the age]’ referenced in Matthew 24:14 with Christ’s Second Advent, explaining in his Commentary:
Objection #6 : A Contradiction of Definition and Timing
In his book “Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation“ Rev. Schwertley identifies the coming spoken of in Matthew 24:30 with the following descriptions:
Now if Rev. Schwertley is correct that 'comings' of the Lord refer to divine visitations of terror, judgment, and destruction on earth - when they do not refer to the literal comings of Jesus Christ either to earth or back to God - then this question must be asked: why does Christ say His Coming (Matthew 24:30) is after the tribulation of those days (Matthew 24:29)? It would seem if the coming of Matthew 24:30 were such a terror and judgment, that He would not say that His Coming came after the tribulation of those days, but rather was the tribulation of those days.The answer to this quandary is that the Coming of Matthew 24:30 is not a divine visitation of terror, judgment, and destruction on the earth- as Rev. Schwertley conjectures - but it is rather the literal Second Advent in which Christ will gather up His elect from around the world and send the non-elect to Hell. Christ's Second Advent is indeed after the tribulation of those days on the earth, but divine visitations of judgment on earth (like the events of 70 A.D.) would most certainly not be described as after the tribulation of those days.
Objection #7 : Failure to Properly Identify the Primary Reference in Matthew 24:9-11, 24 ; II Thessalonians 2:3 ; and Revelation 13:11-15
The similarity of description in the following three eschatological prophecies is too great not to relate to one another:
Matthew 24:9-11, 24 - “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many… For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”
II Thes. 2:3-11 - “Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition…[Even him], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”
Revelation 13:11-15 - “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by [the means of] those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.”
Each of the above passages speak of the deception, trials, and falling away which will come, owing to tyrannical false christs and prophets, who will show great signs and wonders. Of course, in the Revelation 13 passage it speaks of a “beast” in the singular and not in the plural (like false christs and prophets), but we should keep in mind that in Daniel (from which the Apostle John borrowed significantly) a ‘beast’ represents not a mere king, but rather a kingdom of kings. So Daniel 7:23 reads: “…The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth…” And the term “the man of sin” should be understood as an appellation like “the son of perdition” or “the man of God”, speaking of a title and not an actual man. So II Timothy 3:17 reads: “That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Here as elsewhere in scripture the term "the man of God" is a title, referring to prophets and preachers. Since the term "the Man of Sin"-like the terms "the man of God" or "the son of perdition"- is a title, we should not think that it refers to just one literal man. A title permits and even suggests a plural number of subjects hold the title. All of these passages combined suggest a kingdom of false christs and prophets who will deceive and persecute Christians, leading many professed Christians to fall away.
Rev. Schwertley rejects that this deception, persecution, and falling away in Matthew 24 has special reference to Romanism. He writes: “Although this passage is usually directly applied to the rise of Romanism or the heresies of our own day, we need to keep in mind that the apostolic church was living in the last days-at the end of the Jewish age.”
Rather, Rev. Schwertley attributes it especially to Nero, for he writes:
1.Nero was not a kingdom, but a mere king. The ‘beasts’ of Daniel are not only a mere king, but kingdoms, and there is no good reason to believe the Apostle John deviated from that pattern of word use in his book of Revelation. Nero was not ‘false christs and prophets’, plural, but only one in number.
2.As bad as Nero was, he was not a lamb-like deceiver who fooled Christians. He used brute force. But the false prophets and christs referenced here were deceivers who also used force to tyrannize believers.
3.Nero was not a Judas Iscariot-like (ie, ‘son of perdition’) betrayer of the Christian faith. As far as we know, he never professed to be Christian, and no one ever mistook him for a Christian.
4.Nero never did any ‘signs and wonders’ that fooled people. But evidently the ‘false christs and prophets’ and ‘man of sin’ referenced here does many.
5.Nero was around but a short time, but the ‘man of sin’, ‘lamb-like beast’, and ‘false christs and prophets’ are going to be around a long time, for as has already been shown, the ‘end of the age’ of Matthew 24 is not merely 70 AD. (There are two possibilities regarding when the Man of Sin will eventually be removed, but both possibilities suggest a long duration from the time of the First Advent. The first possibility is that the Man of Sin will not be permanently and finally removed until the Second Advent. This possibility is correct if the 'coming' referred to in II Thes. 2:8 is the same 'coming' as in II Thes 2:1. The 'coming' of II Thes 2:1 refers to the universalistic 'gathering together' of the elect unto Christ, which is the Second Advent. The second possibility is that the Man of Sin will be removed after he has appeared, deceived many, and then is overthrown on earth through the instrument of the preaching of the gospel by gospel preachers, the human instruments who are the mouth of Christ's Spirit. This possibility is suggested by the phrase 'the Spirit of His mouth', describing the means of the destruction of the Man of Sin. This possibility is also suggested by the fact that the 'coming' described in II Thes 2:8 seems to have the character of a local divine judgment of God on earth on the Man of Sin specifically, rather than a universal coming and judgment of all humanity. But whichever of these possibilities is correct, it suggests a long duration for such a widespread defection through the Man of Sin's prolonged deceit, and then his eventual removal. In addition, under either scenario we should be optimistic postmillenialists, for we know that Christ will build up His kingdom on earth [Matthew 16:18] to grow from a mustard seed to a great ‘tree’ that covers and dominates the earth [Matthew 13:32-33]. )
So what fits the bill, if Nero does not? The Romish Papacy. It is a kingdom. It is a lamb-like deceiver. It is a betrayer of the Christian faith that parades as Christian. (I would highly recommend Rev. Brian Schwertley's book cataloguing the damning errors of official Roman Catholic dogma.) It purports to do miracles like turning wine into Christ’s blood and bread into His body in the Romish Mass. (And it purports to do many miracles besides this. It even purports to forgive sins.) It has been around for centuries. It has been a persecutor of Christians. And it is based in Rome.
Now this is not to suggest that the ‘false christs and prophets’ of
Matthew 24 do not incorporate other false christs and prophets, such as
Mohammed. But the evidence suggests that it has special reference to the
Romish Papacy, who is the quintessential Man of Sin, Anti-Christ, and
False Prophet, using all sorts of deceptive techniques to fool
Christians, even as it parades itself as Christian, like Judas Iscariot
(who scripture refers to as 'the son of perdition') did.
Objection #8 : Wrongly Assigning the Reference of Matthew 26:63-64
; Matthew 16:27-28 ; Daniel 7:13-14 ; and Matthew 24:30 to 70 A.D.
Rev Schwertley asserts that Matthew 26:63-64 and 16:27-28 refer to
the same ‘coming’ of Christ, and that both refer to 70 AD. Thus he
writes concerning Matthew 26:63-64:
“ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven--In Matthew (Mat 26:64 ) a slightly different but interesting turn is given to it by one word: "Thou hast said [it]: nevertheless"--We prefer this sense of the word to "besides," which some recent critics decide for--"I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sit on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." The word rendered "hereafter" means, not "at some future time" (as to-day "hereafter commonly does), but what the English word originally signified, "after here," "after now," or "from this time." Accordingly, in Luk 22:69 , the words used mean "from now." So that though the reference we have given it to the day of His glorious Second Appearing is too obvious to admit of doubt, He would, by using the expression, "From this time," convey the important thought which He had before expressed, immediately after the traitor left the supper table to do his dark work, "Now is the Son of man glorified" ( Jhn 13:31 ). At this moment, and by this speech, did He "witness the good confession" emphatically and properly, as the apostle says in 1Ti 6:13 . Our translators render the words there, "Who before Pontius Pilate witnessed"; referring it to the admission of His being a King, in the presence of Caesar's own chief representative. But it should be rendered, as LUTHER renders it, and as the best interpreters now understand it, "Who under Pontius Pilate witnessed," &c. In this view of it, the apostle is referring not to what our Lord confessed before Pilate--which, though noble, was not of such primary importance--but to that sublime confession which, under Pilate's administration, He witnessed before the only competent tribunal on such occasions, the Supreme Ecclesiastical Council of God's chosen nation, that He was THE MESSIAH, and THE SON OF THE BLESSED ONE; in the former word owning His Supreme Official, in the latter His Supreme Personal, Dignity.”
Regarding Matthew 16:27-28 Rev. Schwertley writes:
Concerning Matthew 16:27-28, John Calvin correctly notes:
The point is simply this: there are comings of Christ other than the coming at the Second Advent. But the wording of Matthew 16:28 suggests that in this case it is referring to Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven, as prophesied in Daniel 7:13-14. But Rev. Schwertley believes there is a problem with assigning this reference. He writes: "The problem with all these interpretations is that they all point to events that are only days or weeks in the future. The whole point of our Lord's statements "some standing here will not taste death" is irrelevant if His coming is only a few days or weeks away." But this problem Rev. Schwertley suggests is readily answered: the reason Christ mentioned “some [of the disciples] will not taste death” is because one of Christ’s disciples – Judas Iscariot – would taste death by the time of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, so Christ wanted to make clear that all of His disciples then listening to Him would not be alive to enjoy the blessings of Christ’s resurrection and glorification.Now Rev. Schwertley incorrectly assigns Daniel 7:13-14 and Matthew 24:30 to 70 A.D. Here is what he writes:
But Daniel 7:13-14 has nothing to do with 70 A.D. It was not 70 A.D. when Christ rose and ascended in a cloud to heaven, going to God the Father, the Ancient of Days and assuming authority at God’s right hand, as Daniel 7:13-14 reads. Read Acts 1:9. Daniel 7:13-14 refers to the time of Christ’s resurrection and ascension before Pentecost. But this poses a tremendous problem for Rev. Schwertley’s interpretation of Matthew 24:30b, if he really is persuaded that the ‘coming’ there has reference to Daniel 7:13-14. That would mean Matthew 24:30b would have reference to Christ’s resurrection and ascension. But this is, of course, preposterous, because no one believes the “tribulation of those days” described in Matthew 24:29 really occurred before Christ’s resurrection and ascension.The solution is that Matthew 24:30b-31 does not refer to Daniel 7:13-14, unlike Rev. Schwertley’s conjecture. In the ‘coming’ described in Matthew 24:30-31 Christ comes to pick up His elect on earth. This corresponds to the language of I Thessalonians 4:17 (“Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. “), which Rev. Schwertley would agree relates to the Second Advent. Matthew 24:30b-31 does not match the context of Daniel 7:13-14, where Christ is said to come to God to reign in Heaven.
Objection #9 : Treating Passages concerning Christ’s Coming with Similar Descriptive Language as if they were Different Events
Rev. Schwertley did an excellent job in his book “The Pre-Millenial Deception” at showing why pre-millenialists are guilty of disregarding the similar language of Christ’s coming and interpreting it as multiple comings and judgments. He tied together many passages concerning the Second Advent and showed that the Second Coming and Judgment occur simultaneously. .It would be possible I suppose to say that the Advent and Judgment described in Matthew 25 was different from the one described in II Thes. 1. But Rev. Schwertley connected the two, because nothing in either context suggested otherwise. But what did the stringing together of these various passages assume? How were we to know they were not referring to different events even though they employed similar language and content? The reality is that Rev. Schwertley strung them together as referring to the same event on the premise that passages with similar language and content, if the context permits it, should be viewed as referring to the same event
Ironically, however, Rev. Schwertley violates this principle in his
book “Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation“.
Let’s consider the following passages which speak of Christ’s coming:
Matthew 13:41-42 – “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Matthew 24:30-31 – “And then shall appear 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. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Matthew 25:30-32 – “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats:”
I Cor 15:50-54 – “…Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed…”
I Thes 4:16-17 – “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
II Thes 1:7-10 – “On that day when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe”
II Thes 2:1 – “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our
Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him…”
Now all of these passages use very similar language in their description of Christ’s coming, and it can be shown (as I have shown in this critique) that the context does not demand that they refer to separate events. Notice how they speak of Christ’s coming and gathering of the elect, and mention a trumpet and angels. Most of the above passages Rev. Schwertley himself conceded in “Pre-Millenial Deception” refer to the same event. And it can be shown in each case that the context would permit such an interpretation. So following the principle which Rev. Schwertley implicitly follows in his book “The Pre-Millenial Deception”, it would seem reasonable to assign these various descriptions as referring to one event (namely, Christ’s Second Advent).
But Rev. Schwertley denies certain of the passages above refer to the
Second Advent (namely Matthew 24:30-31), and partial preterists in
general deny as well that II Thes. 2:1 refers to the Second Advent. I
will address this II Thes 2:1 passage later, but I would simply assert
here that such disconnection of these passages with regards to reference
is unwarranted. There is nothing in their respective contexts which
demands they be regarded as different events with different references.
Some Remarks Regarding the Partial Preterist Interpretation of II Thessalonians 2
Partial preterists insist that the Man of Sin described in II
Thessalonians must have been present in the first century, even though
the scriptural time indicators suggest otherwise. They also generally
suggest that the 'coming' of Christ referenced in
We should reject that the Man of Sin must have been present in the first century. First, there is an absence of a good time indicator that the ‘Man of Sin’ would be present in the first century. Second, there is actually time evidence to the contrary. In the context of II Thessalonians 2, the King James Version rightly translates II Thessalonians 2:2 to state: "That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand." (What is here translated "at hand" must mean ‘imminent’ as opposed to ‘past’, because no one in Thessalonika would have worried about Christ’s second advent being past, given that they had been well informed by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians that His second advent was universal and visible.) It is important in this context that Paul indicated Christ’s second advent was not imminent, because the same passage indicates people could know Christ’s second advent was not imminent because the Man of Sin was not present. II Thessalonians 2:3 reads: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." If the Apostle Paul really believed that the Man of Sin’s presence was imminent (as it would be if the Man of Sin were identified as Nero, for example), then he would certainly not have indicated that the Thessalonians could know Christ’s second advent was not imminent because of the Man of Sin’s absence. Apparently Paul believed that both the presence of the Man of Sin and the second advent of Christ were longer term events, when he said in II Thessalonians 2:2 that it was not imminent.
We should also reject that the 'coming' of Christ referenced in II Thes. 2:1 is His figurative "coming" in 70 A.D., and not His Second Advent. Rev. Schwertley rightly points out in his book “The Pre-Millenial Deception” that II Thessalonians 1:10 refers to Christ’s Second Advent. Given its proximity to II Thes. 2:1, and the similarity of language between II Thes. 2:1 and the other instances in which Christ’s Second Advent is referenced (see my Objection #9 ), it is only reasonable to believe II Thes. 2:1 refers to Christ’s Second Advent.
But if the 'coming' of II Thes 2:1 refers to Christ's Second Advent, then this is of significant import when it comes to our interpretation of the Man of Sin referred to in II Thes 2:3. There is no good reason to limit the Man of Sin to some figure or figures in the first century A.D., since we know that the Second Advent which will follow the presence of the Man of Sin will occur long after the first century A.D.
Furthermore, we have already mentioned in this examination why Nero does not fit the descriptions of the Man of Sin offered in II Thessalonians 2. Nero was no 'son of perdition' traitor like Judas, because he never professed to be Christian. Nero was no deceiver of Christians. And Nero did not show any signs and wonders. There is much good reason also to identify the "Man of Sin" of II Thessalonians with the Beasts of Rev 13. And the Beasts of Revelations 13 are not just single individuals, as can be seen both in Daniel and Revelations. Rather, they are kingdoms (Daniel 7:23).
Some preterists have suggested other possible first century Mans of Sin. But those offered all fail the criteria as well. For example, some have suggested the Jewish High Priest was the Man of Sin. But the Jewish High Priest was never a Christian traitor like Judas, nor did he reside in Rome, nor did he show signs and wonders, etc.
The reality, as hard as it seems to be for partial preterists to
swallow, is that the Man of Sin is the Romish Papacy. All roads lead to
Rome, and then straight to the Vatican.
Some Remarks regarding the Partial Preterist Approach to the Book of Revelation
I do not intend here to give a lengthy refutation of the partial preterist interpretation of Revelation, but simply will comment upon the basic approach they follow in interpreting the book. Partial preterists put much weight on time indicators like in Revelation 1:1, in order to conclude that much of Revelation occurred in the first century. Now Revelation 1:1 reads:
"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show
unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass."
I highlight the word much because neither partial preterists nor even full preterists assert that all of the events prophesied in Revelation occurred in the first century. For example, partial preterists typically admit most of Revelation 20-22 occurs after the first century. Full preterists take partial preterists to task for their inconsistency in saying so much of Revelation occurs after the first century. For example, this is why the full preterist Russell can write regarding Revelation 21:
But even full preterists admit that the 'thousand years' referred to in Revelation 20 did not occur in the first century. So even full preterists are not fully consistent with their stated principle that the Revelation must surely come to pass means all the Revelation was fulfilled in the first century.
The problem with both the full and even more so the partial preteristic interpretation is that if they are going to admit that some of Revelation is not in the first century, then the whole force of their argument from passages like Revelation 1:1 disappears. There is no more reason to insist that all the events described in Revelation 13 must have occurred in the first century than Revelation 21, simply on the basis of the Revelation 1:1 time indicator. Whatever is meant by the time indicator "shortly come to pass", one thing is for sure: according to Revelation 1:1 it is descriptive of the “things” recorded in "The Revelation of Jesus Christ", and NOT a portion thereof. The wording in Greek suggests the whole will shortly come to pass. So how should we best deal with this?
A far more reasonable interpretation of passages like Rev 1:1 is that
of historicists. Matthew Henry, for instance, comments:
One important consideration in our overall interpretive principle with regards to the book of Revelation is its relation to the book of Daniel. In many respects the book of Revelation picks up the story of prophetic history where the book of Daniel left off. A perusal of both books indicates that Revelation took its pattern of addressing prophetic revelation from Daniel. Many of the images and much of the language is the same. The use of ‘beasts’ is but one example. Another example is the employment of numbers with various significations. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee has well pointed out these similarities and the relation of the two books. When we interpret the book of Revelation, therefore, we must always ask ourselves what light the book of Daniel sheds on it. One notable feature of the book of Daniel is that it must be interpreted historistically, and not preteristically or futuristically. The prophecies of Daniel- like his prophecy concerning the four beasts – covered the long period of history from Daniel’s time to the time of Christ’s First Advent. It would have been erroneous to interpret the four beasts as four kings that lived in Daniel’s generation. And it would have been erroneous to interpret the 70 weeks as 70 literal weeks. And it would have been erroneous to interpret the four beasts as being four actual kings living in some distant future time, far separated from Daniel’s writing the book. No, these four beasts represented four kingdoms that stretched from Daniel’s time all the way to the time of Christ’s First Advent. Similarly, since the book of Revelation follows the pattern of the book of Daniel, it would be erroneous to interpret it non-historistically. And it would be erroneous to conceive of its beasts as simply an actual leader that lived during the time of John, or its “time, and times, and half a time” in some literalistic fashion.
Another important consideration in our overall interpretive principle with regards to the book of Revelation is its internal content. In terms of its internal content, does it suggest a record of events that would take place in a space of decades or years- which is what many preterists propose- or a record of events which will in all likelihood take centuries to unfold? It speaks of current circumstances involving the churches at the time, kingdoms and kingdoms which come out of these kingdoms, a millennium of a thousand years, and what most partial preterists acknowledge is a description of Christ’s Second Advent ushering in the New Heavens and New Earth. Such elements alone are suggestive of a greater expanse of human time for these events to unfold. In other words, the elements in the book of Revelation are suggestive of an historicistic interpretation, and not a preteristic or futuristic interpretation. They seem to include events in the bookends of the period between the Apostolic era and the Second Advent, as well as elements in between which could very well take some considerable length of time. It would seem very odd to have both bookends if it were a prophecy that either focused upon one end or the other. And it would seem very odd to include in-between elements of such a character as these. It follows the pattern of Daniel, being a prophecy that contains bookends separated by a great span of time, as well as in-between elements like the kingdoms.
Other criticisms could be made about the typical partial preteristic
interpretations of Revelation. For example, in Rev 11:4-13, the killing
of the witnesses in these passages cannot refer to the slaughter of the
Judaists in the *literal* Jerusalem in 70 AD, because these witnesses of
Revelation 11 were Christians that ascended to heaven (Rev 11:12), and
not unbelieving Judaists. Christians were not in Jerusalem in the 70
AD siege, because they fled; whereas the Judaists were the ones
killed. There is much reason to believe neither the 'temple' nor
Jerusalem of Revelation 11 is to be interpreted literally. And there is
still real question as to when the book of Revelation was even written,
yet the whole theory of partial preteristic interpretation of Revelation
hinges upon the early date theory.
‘Full preterism' holds that all prophecy is fulfilled in the A. D. 70 destruction of the Temple, including the Second Advent, the resurrection of the dead, and the great Judgment. The impetus behind this preterist position is the effort to explain descriptions of the Second Advent, the resurrection and the great Judgment in contexts where such temporal indicators as "shortly", "near", etc. are employed by the apostolic writers. The fundamental assumption of preterism (both 'full preterism' and scaled back 'partial preterism') is "that passages specifically delimiting the time-frame by temporal indicators (such as "this generation," "shortly," "at hand," "near," and similar wording) are to be applied to A. D. 70", quoting the words of the 'partial preterist' Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Partial preterism rejects the full preteristic interpretation of scripture, but still shares various assumptions. Thus, the partial preterist Gary DeMar writes concerning the full preterist Russell: "Russell's Parousia takes the Bible seriously when it tells us of the nearness of Christ's return…. Reading Russell is a breath of fresh air in a room filled with smoke and mirror hermeneutics." And Kenneth Gentry writes concerning this same book: "I highly recommend this well-organized, carefully argued, and compellingly written defense of preterism to serious and mature students of the Bible. It is one of the most persuasive and challenging books I have read on the subject of eschatology and has had a great impact on my own thinking." In embracing certain preterist assumptions, partial preterists have rejected some important tenets of the reformation confessions like the Westminster Standards, and put many others in jeopardy. Most notably, the partial preterists have rejected that the Papacy is the Man of Sin Anti-Christ, suggesting instead that it is Nero or some other first century figure.
There are at least two reasons we must take the error of partial
preterism seriously. First, it brings into danger our doctrine of the
future literal return of Christ and bodily resurrection. If
passages like II Thessalonians 2:1 were speaking of only the 70 AD event
of the destruction of Jerusalem, then it is not unreasonable to believe
passages like II Thessalonians 1:7-10 have reference to the same event.
Both of these texts describe His Coming in similar language, and they
are certainly close in context and proximity. In my opinion, it is not
reasonable to think these relate to different events. In my own
personal discussions with partial preterists, some have told me that II
Thessalonians 1:7-10 refers to 70 A.D., because they were so persuaded
Second, it is important that we rightly identify the 'Man of Sin' Anti-Christ from his scriptural descriptions, even as it is important that we identify who the Christ is from his scriptural descriptions. The Apostle Paul expected Christians to be able to identify this "Man of Sin", unlike the non-elect who would be deceived by him (II Thessalonians 2:1). The "Man of Sin" would cause great apostacy in the church (II Thessalonians 2:3), and as such would pose no small threat. As we read in Revelations 13:14 this Anti-Christian Beast would deceive many of them on the earth, appearing like a lamb (Revelations 13:11). Just as the other Beasts of Daniel and Revelations, so this Beast was not to be simply one individual, but a whole kingdom of rulers over time. He would be a traitor like the great 'son of perdition', Judas Iscariot. Just as Judas masqueraded as a Christian, so would this "Man of Sin", and so be deceptive. Just as Christians in the days of the Apostles had to consider the Biblical descriptions of Christ and realize they fit Jesus, so we are called on to consider the Biblical descriptions of the "Man of Sin" Anti-Christ and realize they fit the Papacy. Indeed, Paul indicated Christians could know that Christ's coming was not at hand until this "Man of Sin" had completed his work of deception and destruction and his reign had been overcome (II Thessalonians 2:3). It was by properly identifying the "Man of Sin" Anti-Christian Beast that our Protestant fore-fathers knew they had to break with the Romish Church. There is no negotiation with or reformation of him. And Protestants today cannot afford to lose sight of the Reformer's correct insight.
Historicism can most reasonably explain the various eschatological prophecies in Matthew 24, II Thessalonians 2, and the book of Revelation. There is simply no good reason to leave historicism for either partial or full preterism. Therefore, I must dissent from Rev. Schwertley's conclusions in his book "Matthew 24 and the Great Tribulation". There have been numerous occasions when Rev. Schwertley has rightly corrected my wrong notions, and I hope on this occasion he and other partial preterists will suffer me to correct theirs.
What do YOU think ?
Date: 12 Sep 2005
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