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Why Partial Preterism is Wrong
By Christian Debater
Three Views of the Future
Almost all Christians agree that five key prophetic Bible passages refer to the same events: Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Zechariah 14, and much of the Book of Revelation.
Futurism is the view of most (but not all) genuine Christians, that these end-time passages have their ultimate fulfillment in the future. Some variations:
Pre-trib, Mid-trib, Post-trib, Pre-wrath, unknown time of rapture
Premillennialists vs. many amillennialists
Babylon refers to Rome, Babylon, or another city
However, all futurists agree these are all events which will be ultimately fulfilled in the future
Full preterism is an extremely strange view that everything in the entire Book of Revelation was fulfilled prior to 70 A.D., including a symbolic rapture of the saints, the Antichrist, Babylon in Revelation etc. This is so far from the truth that very few believe it.
Partial preterists are genuine Christian amillennialists who agree that full preterism is not viable. However, they still believe that all the prophecies in Matthew 24:1-34, Mark 13:1-30, Luke 21:17-32 and some of the prophecies in Revelation were fulfilled by 70 A.D., Amazingly, they also believe Jesus returned in 70 A.D.! R.C. Sproul, Kenneth L. Gentry Jr. teach this.
The rest of this paper summarizes why they believe this, and why they are incorrect. But first, letís summarize what the relevant scriptures say.
What Godís Word Says On the Future
Futurists, full preterists, and partial preterists agree that these scriptures refer to the same set of events.
Rationale for Preterism
Partial preterists believe all these events happened before 70 A.D., because of three Bible verses. In Mt 24:34; Mk 13:30; and Lk 21:32 Jesus said that this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened.
In not accepting futurist interpretations of these verses, yet holding to the truthfulness of scripture, partial preterists have to believe all these things were fulfilled in "this generation", that is approximately forty years from the time they were spoken. Supporting their view is that Roman armies came starting in 67 A.D., and Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. Telling believers to leave the well-fortified city of Jerusalem and flee to the mountains when they saw armies approaching turned out to be life-saving advice.
Ramifications of Partial Preterism
Book of Revelation had to be written before 70 A.D. according to R.C. Sproul. Otherwise there there is no point in prophesying events that occurred in the past.
The Great Tribulation is already over. Christians should not be concerned about this past event in Israel and the Roman Empire.
There is no millennium on earth. All partial preterists are amillenialists, but all amillenialists are not necessarily partial preterists. This means that the millennium is going on now in heaven, the serpent is bound and cast into the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:2-4) and we can rejoice that the nations are not being deceived anymore until the serpent is released.
There is at most a small gap, less than a generation, between the 69th and 70th week of Dan 9:24-27.
Metaphors include clouds for historical divine judgments on nations. "All the nations of the earth" means "all the nations of the land [of Israel]" On Luke 21:25-28 preterists use "massive doses of symbolic interpretation" according to Thomas Ice (p.97).
The sun and heavenly bodies being darkened did not physically occur. This is just a metaphor for great and catastrophic events that would occur.
All the tribes/people all saw the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30b; Mark 13:26). Christ returned to or near the earth in 70 A.D. to use the Roman armies to execute judgment on Jerusalem. Christís return was invisible, yet all the peoples saw Him. Honestly, I am not too clear on how this works for them though.
What Does "This" Mean Here?
The Greek word here means "this" or secondarily "that", but is this the generation of 30 A.D. or the generation that sees the start of the fulfillment of the prophecy? A minority view among futurists is that these passages say it is approximately forty years from the start of the fulfillment of the first parts of the prophecy. The NIV Study Bible on Mark 13:30 p.1521 mentions this view among others.
What Does "Generation" Mean Here?
Generation (people living at the same time or in a 40-year period) is often the best translation of genea. It can mean nothing but "generation" in 19 places in the New Testament.
However, all should agree that genea cannot mean generation in two places: Acts 8:33 (descendants / offspring / race) and Luke 16:8 (kind of people). R.C. Sproul in his tape agrees that this meaning is a possibility in the end-time passages, though he says the primary meaning of generation is to be preferred.
In 24 places genea can mean generation, descendants, or kind of people, or all the above. For example, in Mark 8:12 Jesus said no sign shall be given to this generation. Was Jesus really referring to all his disciples, the 70, all early Christians, the crowds who were fed, who lived at this time? Or, was he referring to the unbelieving kind of people who lived at this time?
Outside of the Bible, the two Greek lexicons at the end show that it has the same range of meaning, and also means a "birth" (Herodotus 3:33; Zenophon, "men of the same stock", and a "family" (as early as Homer).
Rather than thinking genea has three meanings, to a Greek it had only one meaning: the same kind. It had three aspects; primarily "latitudinal" (generation), "longitudinal" (family/descendants), and "type" (metaphorically as spiritual siblings/descendants).
Some futurists can see parts of these end-time passages having dual fulfillment, with the fulfillment of all the prophecies including Christís return awaiting the future. Perhaps genea was the perfect choice of word to use here because it conveyed both immediate attention and allowed longer term aspects.
As a "red-herring", a one-letter manuscript change from genea to gonea gives the primary meaning of race. The earliest manuscripts that contain these three verses are Vaticanus (325-250 A.D.), Sinaiticus (340-350 A.D.). No early extra-biblical writings referred to these verses except Tatianís Diatessaron harmony (written c.170 A.D.). However no manuscripts have the word gonea, and it is difficult to envision genea as the same manuscript error in all three synoptic gospels plus the Diatessaron.
Conclusion: The sole reason for preterists believing that Jesus already returned with great power and glory in 70 A.D.., is a rejection that genea can have a broader meaning in these three verses than just the generation of Jesusí time.
Thomas Ice and Kenneth L. Gentry Jr. The Great Tribulation : Past or Future? : Two Evangelicals Debate the Question. Kregel Publications 1999.
Moulton, J.H. and G. Milligan. Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament. Hendrickson Publishers 1930. p.122.
Thayer, J.H. (translator and reviser) A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament. (20th printing) Zondervan 1979. (p.112).
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What do YOU think ?
The author writes, "The sole reason for preterists believing that Jesus already returned with great power and glory in 70 A.D.., is a rejection that genea can have a broader meaning in these three verses than just the generation of Jesusí time." No, actually the reason(s) that preterists beleive Jesus has already returned in the first century is because He and the apostles said He would on numerous occasions. Suggesting that the entire preteristic apologetic is based solely on an interpretation of Matthew 24:34 displays a very limited understanding of the subject at hand.
67,68,69,70. As an accountant I just shutter when I hear this nonsense about the 70th week being postponed for 2,000 years and counting. It is not 70 weeks of years if the 70th week was going to be delayed. Where in the scriptures or anywhere else for that matter do we find any basis for claiming a gap? I even disagree with the Preterists who insist on a 40 year gap. There need be no gap at all. Below is an excerpt from "The Parousia" that I think illustrates the nonsense coming from these futurists regarding the "broadness" of the meaning of 'Genea'. http://www.preteristarchive.com/Books/russell_parousia_01d.html#e It is contended by many that in this place the word genea. should be rendered 'race, or nation; ' and that our Lord's words mean no more than that the Jewish race or nation Should Hot pass away, or perish, until the predictions which He had just uttered had come to pass. This is the meaning which Lange, Stier, Alford, and many other expositors attach to the word, and it is maintained with conspicuous ability and copious learning by Dorner in his tractate, ' Do Oratione Christi Eschatologica.' It is true, no doubt, that the word genea, like most others, has different shades of meaning, and that sometimes, in the Septuagint and in classic authors it may refer to a nation or a race. But we think that it is demonstrable without any shadow of doubt that the expression ' this generation,' so often employed by our Lord, always refers solely and exclusively to His contemporaries, the Jewish people of His own period. It might safely be left to the candid judgment of every reader, whether a Greek Scholar or not, whether this is Hot so: but as the point is one of great importance, it may be desirable to adduce the proofs of this assertion. 1. In our Lord's final address to the people, delivered on the same day as this discourse on the Mount of Olives, He declared, ' All these things shall come upon this generation ' (Matt xxiii. 36). No commentator has ever proposed to understand this as referring to any other than the existing generation. 2. 'Whereunto shall I liken this generation?' (Matt. xi. 16.) Here it is admitted by Lange and Stier that the word refers to ' the then existing last generation of Israel ' (Lange, in loc. Stier, vol ii. 98). 3. 'An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.' 'The men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with this generation.' ' The Queen of the South shall rise up in the judgment with this generation.' ' Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation ' (Matt. xii. 39, 41, 42, 45). In these four passages Dorner endeavours to make out That our Lord is not speaking of His contemporaries, the men of His own period, ' For,' be says, 'the Gentiles ' (the Ninevites and the Queen of the South) 'are opposed to the Jews; therefore "this generation "' [h, genea. a[uth] 'must signify the nation or race of the Jews' (Dorner, Orat. Chr. Esch., p. 81). His argument, however, is not convincing. Surely the generation which sought after a sign was the then existing generation ; and can it be supposed that it was against any other generation than that which had resisted such preaching as that of John the Baptist and of Christ that the Gentiles were to rise up in the judgment? There is only one interpretation of our Lord's language possible, and it is that which refers His words to His own perverse and unbelieving contemporaries. 4. 'That the blood of all the prophets . . . may be required of this generation.' ' It shall be required of this generation ' (Luke xi. 50, 51). Here Dorner himself admits that it is of the existing generation (hoc ipsum hominum avum) that these words are spoken (p. 41). 5. 'Whosoever shall be ashamed of me in this adulterous and sinful generation' (Mark viii. 38). 6. ' The Son of man must be rejected of this generation (Luke xvii. 25). It is only necessary to quote these passages in order to determine their sole reference to the particular generation that rejected the Messiah. These are all the examples in which the expression 'this generation' occurs in the sayings of our Lord, and they establish beyond all reasonable question the reference of the words in the important declaration now before us. But suppose that we were to adopt the rendering proposed, and take genea as meaning a race, what point or significance would there be in the prediction then ? Can any one believe that the assertion so solemnly made by our Lord, 'Verily I say unto you,' etc., amounts to no more than this, 'The Hebrew race shall not become extinct till all these things be fulfilled '? Imagine a prophet in our own times predicting a great catastrophe in which London would be destroyed, St. Paul's and the Houses of Parliament levelled with the ground, and a fearful slaughter of the inhabitants be perpetrated; and that when asked, 'When shall these things come to pass ? ' he should reply, 'The Anglo-Saxon race shall not become extinct till all these things be fulfilled' ! Would this be a satisfactory answer ? Would not such an answer be considered derogatory to the prophet, and an affront to his hearers ? Would they not have reason to say, 'It is safe prophesying when the event is placed at an interminable distance ! ' But the bare supposition of such a sense in our Lord's prediction shows itself to be a reductio ad absurdum. Was it for this that the disciples were to wait and watch ? Was this the lesson son that the budding fig- tree taught? Was it not until the Jewish race was about to become extinct that they were to 'look up, and lift up their beads '? Such a hypothesis is its own refutation. I just think that last line is classic "such a hypothesis is its own refutation." James Stuart was right on with that one. Christopher C. King
Time after time I see the argument against preterist theology based upon one or two smidgets of information. I recently read an entire book debunking preterism based upon the book of Revelation, as if preterism is based upon a single biblical book. No one opposing preterism wants to attempt addressing the clear imminence! David Green lists 101 verses of imminence in the NT. Maybe someone could just take one or two and properly explain them, like Hebrews 10:37 or a proper translation of Acts 24:15, and II Timothy 4:1. What say the non prets regarding these passages. I never see the non prets exegete Hebrews 9:28. These are scriptures that appear to be avoided at all costs. Daniel 12:7 about the Holy People being scattered (shattered) sums up the great tribulation and resurrection. Aren't these the "Holy People" of 1st century Israel (context, context, context)?
I find it humorous that anyone with any futuristic bent would criticize the Preterists for interpreting things symbolically when no futurist interprets the first three verses of the Apocalypse literally: Revelation 1:1-3 (NASB) 1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, THE THINGS WHICH MUST SOON TAKE PLACE; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for THE TIME IS NEAR. This fact for, for me, completely destroys the credibility of the futurists. As for taking such events as the darkening of the moon symbolically being evidence of preterists twisting scripture to suit their ideology, what will the futurists do with Luke 3:1-6? Luke 3:1-5 (NASB) 1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. 3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; 4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT. 5 'EVERY RAVINE WILL BE FILLED, AND EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL WILL BE BROUGHT LOW; THE CROOKED WILL BECOME STRAIGHT, AND THE ROUGH ROADS SMOOTH; 6 AND ALL FLESH WILL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.'" According to futurism, Isaiah 40:3-5 could not have been fulfilled in John the Baptist because mountains were not being leveled literally. But the Bible tells us that this passage was fulfilled in him, sans "literal fulfillment". (And let's not forget the John fulfilled Malachi's prophecy of Elijah even though he was not literally Elijah.) Again, the fact that the Bible itself shows that prophecy does not have to be fulfilled according to the strict literalism of the futurists debunks this argument against full preterism.
Date: 26 Sep 2011
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