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A New Preterist Perspective
By Duncan McKenzie, Ph.D.
Duncan McKenzie Study Archive | The Covenant Judgments of Revelation | The Antichrist Chronicles: vol. II | J.S. Russell's Position on the Millennium, the Neglected Third Way of Preterism | A New Preterist Perspective | Was All The Prophecy in the Bible Fulfilled by A.D.70? | Revelation: The Book of Fulfillment of the Covenant Curses of Leviticus and Deuteronomy | Babylon in Not Jerusalem | Premillennial Preterism | The Serious Error of the Literal Hermeneutic in the Interpretation of the Book of Revelation | A Preterist Book on the Antichrist is Coming | Revelation Chapter 12
I started seriously studying eschatology in the early 1980's. Like most evangelical Christians growing up in the 1960's my main exposure to Biblical prophecy was through Hal Lindsey's books. My studies in the early 1980s highlighted to me the significance of AD 70 and the end of the Jewish Age in prophecy. At first I saw AD 70 as not the Second Coming, but the coming of the kingdom with power. Gradually I started coming to conclusions that I didn't particularly like. That is, that the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 weren't just the coming of the kingdom but the Second Coming. How could a proposition that seemed so absurd be true? It was reading J.S. Russell's The Parousia in 1985 that helped me to think the unthinkable. That is, that as crazy as it seemed the Bible was consistently pointing to AD 70 as the time of the Second Coming of Jesus.
The following is an overview of my position and some thoughts about where preterism is going. It is to let the reader know where I am coming from. I want to stress that this is an overview of my position. I hope to be able to more fully expound on these matters in the future.
Current preterism tends to divide into two main camps, the full preterists and the partial preterists. The full preterists tend to see all of prophecy fulfilled by AD 70. The partial preterists tend to see AD 70 as a coming of Jesus in judgment on Israel, but not the Second Coming. My view is between these two positions. Like full preterists I see the Second Coming of Jesus as happening in AD 70. Unlike full preterists I see us as currently being in the millennium (the millennial reign of Jesus beginning at His Second Coming in AD 70, Revelation chapters 19 and 20). Thus, unlike full preterists, I see major prophetic events that haven't yet been fulfilled.
GOG AND MAGOG AND SATAN BEING RELEASED TO DECEIVE THE NATIONS
I currently see us as in the period of Revelation 20:7-10. This is the period at the end of the millennium when Satan is released from the abyss to go out and deceive the nations of the world, especially Gog and Magog. I believe this is why we are currently experiencing such spiritual darkness in the world. The next event I see on the prophetic calendar is for Gog and Magog (which I see as a Russian led confederation) to come down on the state of Israel.
I am not going into much detail here that would take another paper, if not a book. I would like to offer some thoughts however.
Josephus identified Magog with the Scythians. He wrote
"Magog founded the Magogians, thus named after him, but who by the Greeks are called the Scythians." Jos. Antiq. 1.6.1
The Scythians lived in the area north of the Black Sea in the area around current day Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan.
"In the narrow sense, the Scythians were the tribes who lived in the area which Herodotus designated as Scythia (i.e., the territory north of the Black Sea and who spoke the Scythian language.... In the broad sense the word Scythian can designate some of the many other tribes in the vast steppes of Russia, stretching from the Ukraine in the west to the region of Siberia in the east." Yamauchi, Foes from the Northern Frontier 1982 pg. 64.
God said the following to Gog of the land of Magog:
7. Be prepared and prepare yourself, you and all your companies that are assembled about you, and be a guard for them.
8. After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but it's people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them.
9. "And you will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you.
William Biederwolf writes the following on this section:
"gathered out of many peoples", the word "many" Keil thinks points beyond the Babylonian captivity to the dispersion of Israel in all the world, which did not take place until the second destruction of Jerusalem, and which also shows that the "continual waste" spoken of denotes a much longer devastation of the land than the Chaldean devastation was.
"a continual waste", Says Fausset, "Waste during the long period of the captivity, the earnest of the much longer period of Judah's present desolation, to which the words more fully apply."(Biederwolf The Second Coming Bible 1980 pg. 192)
When Fausset talks of "Judah's present desolation which the words more fully apply" it should be remembered that he was writing before 1948 when Israel became a nation again.
The Jews were left desolate after rejecting their Messiah (Matthew 23:37&38) I see this section in Ezekiel speaking of a regathering of physical Israel after dispersion into the nations at AD 70.
Jesus' words in Luke 21:23&24 also allude to this regathering:
23. "Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people,
24. and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
I would like to discuss this phrase "times of the Gentiles". Jesus said that the Jews would be led into the Gentile nations at the destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70) and Jerusalem would be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled. Biederwolf says the following about the Greek word translated as "times" here.
"…Greek for times (kairos) which means opportunity, instead of the word "kronos" which means a space of time."
So the phrase "times of the Gentiles" could be translated as the time, or season, of opportunity for the Gentile nations. Whatever the meaning of this time of opportunity, it would start in AD 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem and it would end when Jerusalem was no longer trampled by the Gentiles. The Jews gained control of much of Jerusalem when it was partitioned in 1948. They gained control of the whole city in 1967. Personally I think 1948 fulfilled the spirit of this prophecy. That is, the Jews were led captive into all the nations until God brought them back again to their homeland. So according to my reckoning the times of the Gentiles was the period from AD 70 to 1948. So what you may be asking by now.
What if the millennium coincides with this time of opportunity for the Gentile nations. The system I am proposing sees both the millennium and this time of opportunity for the Gentiles as starting in AD 70. Consider the purpose of the binding of Satan at the beginning of the millennium (AD 70). Revelation 20:1-3
1. And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand.
2. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,
3. and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time
Satan is bound for the millennium so that he should not deceive the Gentile nations (Greek, "ethne").
If this binding of Satan for the millennium (so he wouldn't deceive the Gentile nations, starting at A.D 70) corresponds to this time of opportunity for the Gentile nations (which also started at AD 70 with Jerusalem's destruction), then the end of the times of the Gentiles (1948) would correspond to the period when Satan is loosed to go out and deceive the Gentile nations (Rev. 20:7-10). That is, the end of the times of the Gentiles (1948) would correspond to the end of the "1000 years", the point at which Satan is released for a short season.
And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison,
and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore.
And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
Do current world conditions support my hypothesis? I am proposing that Satan was released in 1948 and he went out to deceive the Gentile nations especially Russia. The conditions for the Gog and Magog invasion of Ezekiel 38&39 are in place (except for Israel being at peace). Patrick Fairbain, writing in the 1860s, listed one of the reasons he didn't think this Gog and Magog invasion involved a literal invasion was because the nations listed were very remote from Israel and he didn't think it was likely they would form a coalition. This "unlikely" coalition involves peoples from the "remote parts of the north" (Ezek. 38:15), the area north of the Black Sea (the area around modern day Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan). It also involves Iran (Persia), Ethiopia or Sudan (Cush) and Libya (Put) and peoples from the area of current day Turkey (Ezekiel 38:1-6). Many of these countries have strong Islamic influences and there is no love lost on Israel. Such a confederation may have been unlikely in the 1860's (especially when there wasn't a Jewish state of Israel for the coalition to invade). I seriously doubt that Fairbain would use this argument if he were alive today. This coalition of countries doesn't seem strange at all in our time. Once again there is much symbolism in Ezekiel 38&39, so I wouldn't press the literalism too far (such as burning the weapons for seven years Ezek. 39:9, it is hard to imagine any proper literal interpretation of that.)
Has a spiritual darkness grown on the earth since 1948 as my hypothesis of Satan being released at that time would expect? I fear that our country is like the frog in a pot of water that keeps getting hotter and hotter. He doesn't jump out because of the gradual nature of the heat increase. I don't think we fully appreciate the magnitude of the evil in this present time due to its insidious increase. For example, homosexuality used to be classified as a mental disorder, now it is a civil right (let me interject I don't want to take away anyone's civil rights. Having said that let me also say that homosexuality is an abomination to God, Leviticus 20:13). The Biblical concept that the only proper place for sex is in marriage is laughable to our current culture. Relativism and new age concepts permeate our society and infiltrate the church. Do I need to go on to the prevalence of divorce, drug abuse and abortion?
Satan's very first attack on the human race was to question the meaning of God's Word.
Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD GOD had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"
The attack that is going on today on God's Word is incredible. I am not talking about in the secular media, I'm talking about in the seminaries! If the average Christian knew the attacks on the Bible going on in the average theological seminary they would be appalled. When Satan first attacked the human race his point of attack was the woman. I think that is happening today also, but I am not going into that right now.
Something evil is going on in our world. My proposed position offers an explanation for this current spiritual darkness. If my analysis is correct then we are living in the "short time" (Rev. 20:3) at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:7-10). How long is left, 10 years? 30 years? I'm not sure. I look for peace to come to Israel first. Then I see the Gog and Magog invasion of Ezekiel 38&39. Then the book of Revelation seems to show the final judgment and the eternal state (Rev. 20:7-15). I believe that preterism is being raised up not just to lead Christianity into the next century, but maybe to lead it into its last battle. I don't know about you but this sends a chill down my spine (a good chill).
Notice that my preterist position allows me to explore ideas like I just presented. Full preterists would reject the possibility of my view having any validity here out of hand because I am proposing fulfillment of Scripture after AD 70. Whether I am right or wrong the full preterist is going to have a hard time being impartial in their analysis. Allowing any fulfillment after AD 70 would mean they were not a "consistent" preterist. Adjusting one's theoretical position is not an easy thing for any us to do.
When Ezekiel 38 talks of the Gog and Magog invasion it says that Israel would be dwelling in unwalled villages (Ezekiel 38:11). I see this as indicating Israel will be at peace with her neighbors so I would first look for peace to come to the area. How or when this peace will happen
I am not sure. Things might have to get worse before they can get better. As I have said, after the Gog and Magog invasion I see the eternal state (at least that is how it looks in Revelation, Ezekiel's symbolism is less clear to me). In Revelation chapter 20 after Satan is thrown into the lake of fire (at the end of the Gog and Magog invasion) the next thing seen is the last judgment (the great white throne, Rev. 20:10-15). I see this as the beginning of the eternal state at which time all evil is purged (thrown into the lake of fire).
I know that all this Gog and Magog talk is starting to sound like Hal Lindsey! Note however that the book of Revelation shows Gog and Magog invading at the end of the millennium not before it as brother Lindsey believes. Those dispensationalists who are looking for the Gog and Magog to invade Israel are looking for an event that the book of Revelation puts at the end of the millennium. To try and get around this problem they propose two Gog and Magog invasions, one before the millennium and one at the end! Nice try, but unfortunately (for them) Revelation just shows one Gog and Magog invasion and it is at the end of the millennium. With the break up of the Soviet Union, dispensationalists have been backing away from the Russia invading Israel idea. I find this ironic because to me it was one place I thought they were half-right (although their timing was all wrong of course).
As I have stated, many full preterists see the millennium as being the 40-year period between the cross and AD 70. Because of this they tend to see the Gog and Magog invasion (Rev. 20:7-10) as happening at AD 70. The reason for this being that the Gog and Magog invasion happens at the end of the millennium (which they see as AD 70). Full preterists also see the Revelation 19:11-21 war (which I could call Armageddon but I will call the Rev. 19 war) as happening at AD 70 (at the Second Coming). This last proposal (that the Rev. 19:11-21 war was at the Second Coming in AD 70) I agree with. Because full preterists see the 2 wars as both happening in AD 70, they are almost forced to conclude they are the same war. This creates some problems.
In the chapter 19 war the beast and false prophet are prominent (Rev. 19:19). In the Gog and Magog war they are not mentioned (Rev. 20:7-10). At the end of the Revelation 19 war the beast and false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:19&20). At the end of the Gog and Magog war Satan is thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet already are (Rev. 20:10). If the two wars are referring to the same conflict, how is it that the beast and false prophet are already in the lake of fire for the Gog and Magog war? The sequence does not fit.
As I see it the most natural reading of Revelation chapters 19 and 20 in terms of sequence is the following. In the Revelation 19 war (at the Second Coming in AD 70) the beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20). At this time Satan is bound and cast into the abyss (not the lake of fire) for the millennium (Rev. 20:2) At the end of the millennium Satan is released from the abyss for a short season (Rev. 20:3). He goes out to deceive the nations and gather Gog and Magog for that invasion (Rev. 20: 7-10). Then he is thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet are waiting. Then we have the last resurrection and judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).
One of the beauties of seeing the Second Coming as being in AD 70 is that one can have this natural sequence of Revelation chapters 19 and 20 and maintain that the full power of the kingdom is now. Premillennialism offers the natural sequence of Revelation 19 and 20 but not the full power of the kingdom. Amillennialism and Postmillennialism offer (to varying degrees) the power of the kingdom but have to interject recapitulations that seem to me to be forced and artificial to achieve this. I think the preterist position I am proposing has the best of both worlds. It allows for the natural sequence of Revelation 19 and 20, while at the same time, affirming that the kingdom in its full power is now.
James Stuart Russell the author of The Parousia (and probably the single biggest influence on modern preterism) also saw the millennial reign as beginning in AD 70 and extending into the future. In talking about the difficulty this presented in light of the statements in Revelation that these things "must shortly take place", Rev. 1:1 (near to when Revelation was written) he said.
"Some interpreters indeed attempt to get over the difficulty by supposing that the thousand years, being a symbolic number, may represent a period of very short duration, and so bring the whole within the prescribed apocalyptic limits; but this method of interpretation appears to us so violent and unnatural that we cannot hesitate to reject it. The act of binding and shutting up the dragon does indeed come within the 'shortly' of the apocalyptic statement, for it is coincident, or nearly so with the judgment of the harlot and the beast; but the term of the dragon's imprisonment is distinctly stated to be for a thousand years, and thus must necessarily pass entirely beyond the field of vision so strictly and constantly limited by the book itself." The Parousia pg.514
What Russell was saying was that those who were trying to fit the millennium in between AD 30 and AD 70 were wrong. As I have said, many full preterists are currently advocating this idea (that the millennium was the period between AD 30 and AD 70). Russell saw the millennium as beginning in AD 70 with the fall of Jerusalem, (the harlot, Rev. chapters 17&18) at the Second Coming of Jesus (Revelation chapters 19&20). I am in agreement with him on this. If full preterism is defined as the position that all prophecy has been fulfilled by or around AD 70 (including the millennium), then even J.S. Russell was not a full preterist.
My position is that Satan was cast out of heaven to the earth (not the abyss) at Jesus' ascension (Rev. 12:5-10, John 12:31&32). He (Satan) then had a short time until he was bound and cast into the abyss (Rev. 12:12). The woman of Revelation chapter 12 (Rev. 12:1, representing God's people) is protected for this short period of time (given as 1260 days in Rev. 12:6 and a time and times and half a time in Rev. 12:14). This time period of 3˝ is the last half of Daniel's 70th week (Daniel 9:24-27). The ending point of this period (the end of a time and times and half a time) is when the power to the Jews was shattered in AD 70 (Daniel 12:6&7). This is when Satan was bound at the Second Coming of Jesus at the destruction of the harlot city of Jerusalem. (Revelation chapters 17,18,19&20). I know I went through that way too quickly, for a more thorough treatment see my Paper on Revelation chapter 12.
In terms of Satan being loosed out of the abyss at the end of the millennium (to gather Gog and Magog for the invasion of Israel) Russell found this quite obscure but offered the following thoughts:
"We must consequently regard this prediction of the loosing of Satan, and the events which follow, as still future, and therefore unfulfilled. We know of nothing recorded in history which can be adduced as in any way a probable fulfilment (sic) of this prophecy. Wetstein has hazarded the hypothesis that possibly it may symbolise (sic) the Jewish revolt under Barcochebas (sic), in the reign of Hadrian; but the suggestion is too extravagant to be entertained for a moment.
There is an evident connection between this prophecy and the vision in Ezekiel concerning Gog and Magog (chaps. 38 & 39) which is equally mysterious and obscure. In both the scene of conflict is laid in the same place, the land of Israel; and in both the enemies of God meet with a signal and disastrous overthrow." The Parousia pgs. 522-523
J.S. Russell was writing these things in the 1870's when there was no state of Israel. Again a scenario for how the Ezekiel 38&39 invasion could happen is much easier to imagine today than it was when Russell was writing in the 19th century
In case I start sounding like a dispensationalist let me state my views on the present day state of Israel. In talking about Israel one needs to qualify what Israel you are talking about. Paul makes this distinction when he talks of "Israel after the flesh" (1 Corinthians 10:18 NKJV). When I am talking about the current state of Israel I mean Israel after the flesh. We believers in Jesus are spiritual Israel. We have been grafted into the tree of Israel (Romans 11). We are Abraham's offspring (Galatians 3:7&29). The true Jew is the one who has been circumcised in his heart by the Spirit of God (Romans 2:28&29). We believers in Jesus are the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).
Having said all that let me also say that I believe that God is dealing (in a good way) with Israel after the flesh. I believe that He has brought them back into the land. The Jews being brought back together as a nation is either the Lord's doing or it is a monumental coincidence. Has a nation ever been dispersed all over the earth and then brought back together after almost 1900 years? I am not a historian but I can't think of another example of this.
My fear is that preterism, in its disdain of the errors of dispensationalism, has over reacted. Almost anything the dispensationalists believe we don't. Overreacting to a theory that is wrong is not an uncommon event in the annals of human thought. It often leads to a theory that goes too far in the other direction. I think this is what J.S. Russell did. He was overreacting to historicist interpretations of Revelation. This led him to rigidly insist that all the prophecies in the book (except the millennium) had to have a fulfillment around AD 70. In terms of dispensationalism, one has to be careful not to overreact, to "throw the baby out with the bathwater" so to speak (believe me I think dispensationalism has a lot of bathwater!). Consider the following from Ezekiel chapter 36.
16. The word of the Lord came to me saying,
17. 'Son of man, when the house of Israel was living in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds; their way before Me was like the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity.
18. Therefore, I poured out My wrath on them for the blood which they had shed on the land, because they had defiled it with their idols.
19. Also I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the lands. According to their ways and their deeds I judged them.
20. When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, 'These are the people of the Lord; yet they have come out of His land'
21. But I had concern for My holy name which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went.
22. Therefore, say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God, It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.
God is saying how He had poured out His wrath on the Jews for going after other gods (playing the harlot Ezekiel Chps. 16&23), polluting the land and for the blood that had been shed on the land. The preceding sentence could be used as a one-sentence summary of the book of Revelation. Revelation shows God's wrath being poured out on the dwellers on the land, Rev 6:10; 11:18 (the Greek word "ge" is better translated "land" than "earth" in most of Revelation, compare Rev. 1:7 with Zechariah 12:10-14). This pouring out of God's wrath culminates in the burning of the great harlot (Rev. 17:2, 18:24 Jerusalem's destruction at the Second Coming of Jesus in AD 70). In spite of all this God said He would bring the Jews back to their land for His name's sake.
In Romans chapters 9 and 10 Paul talks of how believers in Jesus are the true descendants of Abraham, the true Israel (Romans 9:6-8). In Romans Chapter 11 Paul says that this does not mean, however, that God has totally cast off Israel after the flesh.
1. I say then, God has not rejected His people has He? May it never be! For I to am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin
2. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew...
11. I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.
12. Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!
Paul goes on to say that Gentile believers should not be arrogant. Yes, natural branches (the Jews after the flesh) have been broken off. Yes, you Gentile believers have been grafted into the tree of Israel in their place. But, you need to remember that Israel after the flesh is the foundation or root of the tree not you Gentiles (Romans 11:17-24). The natural branches can and will be grafted in again. In fact it is actually easier to graft natural branches back into a tree than it is to graft unnatural or wild branches in. Paul reveals that this regrafting would happen in the future when the partial hardening of Israel would be done away with
25. For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in;
26. and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB
27. AND THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS."
28. From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers
29. for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
God is bringing the Jews back to their land for His name's sake, for the sake of the fathers, and because His calling is irrevocable. The book of Romans was probably written in the decade of AD 50 to AD 60. If all prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70, when in the 15 or so years between the writing of Romans and AD 70, was this hardening of physical Israel done away with?
I think preterists (both partial and full) should be careful. In their zeal to counteract the errors of dispensationalism they may be grumbling against something wonderful that God is doing with the Israel after the flesh. This is not to say that the state of Israel can do no wrong or that they have arrived yet. There is still a great deal of hostility toward the Good News of Jesus. Natural branches are, however, being grafted back into the tree of true Israel in unprecedented numbers. To this I say praise the Lord!
Where Paul says all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26), I don't take this to mean everybody who is Jewish or living in Israel will be saved. I see this as referring to the Jews who will be grafted back (by the blood of the Lamb) into the tree of true Israel. When they have been grafted back in then all or the totality of Israel will be complete. I see the increasing number of Jews finding their Messiah to be part of this. Israel after the flesh has a ways to go, but I look for a general movement of Jews in the direction of their true Messiah. I also look for contention from those of physical Israel who won't be grafted back in.
I am not looking for a rebuilt temple or a future antichrist or a future great tribulation like the dispensationalist is. That has all been fulfilled in AD 70 at Jesus' Second Coming. I also don't see Israel as having a separate covenant. They will have to be grafted back into the tree of true Israel by the shed blood of Jesus just like the rest of us. There is one tree of Israel, not two.
As I have said I look for peace to come to the area as Ezekiel chapter 38 talks of the Jews dwelling in unwalled villages (Ezekiel 38:11). I don't know exactly when this will happen. If my interpretation is right on this point the world may not last another 50 years, maybe not another 20 years, maybe less.
There is a very important point I want to address in terms of the difference between my views and those of current day full preterists. As I approach the millennium or the Gog and Magog invasion, I am not doing so with a hermeneutic constraint that my interpretation must fit in before AD 70 as the full preterists are doing.
The point I want to make is similar to Gentry's comment in the following quote:
"there are numerous exegetical and theological problems I have with the hyper-preterist viewpoint. I deem my historic, orthodox preterism to be exegetical preterism (because I find specific passages calling for specific preterist events); I deem Max King and Ed Stevens' views to be theological preterism or comprehensive preterism (they apply exegetical conclusions drawn from several eschatological passages to all eschatological passages, because of their theological paradigm)." Kenneth Gentry, "A Brief Theological Analysis of Hyper-Preterism" 1996.
Let me first say that I am not in agreement with Dr. Gentry's "historic, orthodox preterism". I think his paradigm is wrong in that he applies a creedal hermeneutic constraint (that the Second Coming hasn't happened because the creeds say it hasn't happened) to every scripture he examines. Creedal constraints or guidelines are helpful with something like the Deity of Jesus but are much less valid when it comes to eschatology. Ultimately, however, it is Scripture not creeds that is the final authority. I also understand that I would be classified as a hyper-preterist by Gentry for believing that the Second Coming of Jesus happened in AD 70 (I am not clear if that makes me a heretic or not). Finally, my position on prophecy comes out closer to Stevens' than to Gentry's.
In spite of all this I think Gentry has a point here. The basic hermeneutical difference between my paradigm and that of the current full preterists is that my paradigm does not presuppose that a given passage must have an AD 70 fulfillment. I believe that this hermeneutic constraint of coming to a given passage with an apriori conclusion that it must fit before AD 70 is a mistake. This method of interpretation has its roots in J.S. Russell but has transformed into something even he did not intend. Let me state up front that it is Scripture not J.S. Russell that is the final authority. I know the full preterists I have read would wholly agree with me that Scripture is the final authority.
James Stuart Russell wrote his classic preterist work The Parousia in the 19th century (1878). One of the purposes Russell had in writing his book was to counteract historicist theories of his time. These theories interpreted the book of Revelation in terms of history (from the 1st century through the ages to the present).
Referring to the book of Revelation, Russell said:
"If it spake, as some would have us believe, of Huns and Goths and Saracens, of mediaeval emperors and popes, of the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution, what possible interest or meaning could it have for the Christian churches of Ephesus, and
Smyrna, and Philadelphia, and Laodicea?" The Parousia pg. 366
To counteract these wild speculations Russell strongly emphasized the verses in Revelation that spoke of the nearness of the prophesied events.
"As this is a point of the highest importance, and indispensable to the right interpretation of the Apocalypse, it is proper to bring forward the proof that the events depicted in the book are comprehended within a very brief period of time.
The opening sentence, containing what may be called the title of the book, is of itself decisive of the nearness of the events to which it relates:
Chap. 1:1 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto His servants what things must shortly come to pass'" The Parousia pg. 367. emphasis mine
When Russell talks of the millennium beginning in AD 70 and extending into the future, he takes great pains to explain why. It is the only place in the book of Revelation that he thought extended beyond AD 70.
Allow me to requote him on the millennium and the problem it presented in terms of his "prescribed apocalyptic limits".
"Some interpreters indeed attempt to get over the difficulty by supposing that the thousand years, being a symbolic number, may represent a period of very short duration, and so bring the whole within the prescribed apocalyptic limits; but this method of interpretation appears to us so violent and unnatural that we cannot hesitate to reject it. The act of binding and shutting up the dragon does indeed come within the shortly of the apocalyptic statement, for it is coincident, or nearly so with the judgment of the harlot and the beast; but the term of the dragon's imprisonment is distinctly stated to be for a thousand years, and thus must necessarily pass entirely beyond the field of vision so strictly and constantly limited by the book itself. The Parousia pg. 514
In talking about the events of Luke 21:20-24, (and the parallel accounts in Matthew 24:15-22 and Mark 13:14-20) Russell said the following:
"No argument is required to prove the strict and exclusive reference of this section to Jerusalem and Judea. Here we can detect no trace of a double meaning, of primary and ulterior fulfilments, of underlying and typical senses. Everything is national, local, and near: 'the land' is the land of Judea, 'this people'; is the people of Israel, and the 'time'; the lifetime of the disciples, 'The YE therefore shall see'." The Parousia pgs. 72&73.
Russell is letting the context of the passage determine the meaning here. He makes no special reference to Luke 21:22.
Luke 21:22 "Because these are days of vengeance, in order that all things which are written may be fulfilled."
Now consider a quote from David Chilton's introduction to Ed Stevens What Happened in AD 70.
"Stevens presses Christ's declaration in Luke 21:22 to its limit: Jesus said ALL Old Testament prophecy would be fulfilled by the time Jerusalem was destroyed. The more I pondered the awesome implications of Jesus words, the more I realized their truly revolutionary significance for eschatology. Without exception, every event foretold by the Biblical prophets was fulfilled within that generation, as Jesus had said (Matt. 16:27-28; 24:34)."
Stevens is doing something different from Russell here. He is establishing a hermeneutic constraint that ALL prophecy must be fulfilled by AD 70 instead of letting the context of a given passage determine when it would be fulfilled. I don't want to set up a straw man here; full preterists do of course consider the context of a passage. What I am saying is that to the extent full preterists approach a given passage with the preconceived notion that it must have a pre-A.D. 70 fulfillment, they make a mistake. I think that full preterism gets off the track at this very point.
Taking a passage like Luke 21:22, establishing a principle that all prophecy must be fulfilled by AD 70, then letting this principle dictate one's approach to the rest of Scripture becomes a Procrustean bed (for those not familiar with this saying, Procrustes was a highwayman from Greek legend. He would tie his victims on an iron bed and either stretch or cut off their legs to make them fit his bed's length). This Procrustean bed of having all prophecy fulfilled by AD 70 leads to some of the following problems:
1. A 40 year millennium, AD 30 to AD 70
2. The Armageddon war Rev. 19:11-21) and the Gog and Magog war (Rev. 20:7-10) are seen as the same war.
3. All evil is seen as being purged from the world at AD 70
4. Revelation 12:5-9 and John 12:31&32 show Satan being cast to the earth at the ascension of Jesus (not into the abyss as would be true if the millennium began at AD 30)
When Russell talks of the Gog and Magog invasion of Ezekiel 38 and 39 he took no pains to explain why he thought it was in the future. He didn't feel he had to because he didn't think the context of the passage called for a pre-A.D. 70 fulfillment. A current day full preterist comes to Ezekiel 38 and 39 with a hermeneutic constraint that it must have been fulfilled by AD 70.
To be honest I see this development of a hermeneutic, that all must be fulfilled by AD 70, as leading to hyper-preterism. I choose not to use this term because it is pejorative and I find that name calling creates more heat than light. I do find, however, that in agreeing with Gentry about letting the context determine whether a passage is pre-A.D. 70 in fulfillment, I come out closer to the full preterist's position than I do to brother Gentry's. Probably the biggest reason for this is because I don't use the creedal hermeneutic constraint that Gentry does (that the Second Coming didn't happen in AD 70 because the creeds say it didn't). I hope I haven't beaten this point of hermeneutics to death. I feel it is foundational; it effects one's whole approach to the prophetic scriptures.
I would call for full preterists to consider dropping their hermeneutic constraint that all prophecy had to be fulfilled by AD 70. I would call for Gentry to consider dropping his hermeneutic constraint that a passage can't speak of AD 70 as the Second Coming because the creeds don't allow for it. If not I will have to anathematize all of you, just kidding :)
In terms of the creeds, I like what R.C. Sproul had to say on the matter.
"Personally I cringe at the idea of going against such a unified and strong testimony to the historic faith, even though I grant the possibility that they are wrong at points. All who are inclined to differ with the creeds should observe a warning light and show great caution. Of course this warning light pales in comparison to the authority of Scripture itself." R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus pg. 157.
Personally I don't cringe quite as much as Dr. Sproul on this, but I think his warning is definitely worth heeding.
RAMIFICATIONS OF PRETERISM
One's theological stance on prophetic issues will potentially have important effects or ramifications. One of the most important ramifications of believing that the Second Coming happened in AD 70 is that the kingdom in its power is now (Mark 9:1, Matthew 16:27-28). I believe that this is a very important message for the church today, as I don't see the church realizing it's full potential in Christ. An important area that needs exploring is the implications and ramifications of preterism. If we Christians are the ruling force in the spiritual realm, how should we be implementing this? How should we be ruling and reigning with Christ? If all enemies are under Christ's feet and He has delivered up the kingdom to the Father (as full preterists believe), then is ruling and reigning even the right term for what we as Christians should be doing today?
Ed Stevens in his response to Kenneth Gentry clears up some (but not all) of the confusion I have on what full preterists believe in this area.
"If the term "hyper-preterist" is valid at all, it would only properly apply to those rare extreme preterists who take everything in the Bible as past in fulfillment with no ongoing fulfillments or contemporary applications. Such would be subject to the charge of "post-everythingism." These folks would see the church as temporary transitional phase of the Kingdom, with its phase-out in AD 70. These folks would also see baptism; the Lord's Supper and other such physical expressions of our ongoing covenant relationship with God as being no longer valid in the post-70 Kingdom. This is certainly an extreme "hyper" preterist position, and very few have taken that route. The vast majority of full preterists believe in an ongoing fulfillment and application of the Kingdom principles found in both the OT and NT (e.g. Ezek. 47:1ff and Rev. 21-22; Jesus kingdom parables; and much of Paul's teaching about the Kingdom). So, Gentry has misunderstood what full preterists are saying, and has misrepresented us as being "hyper-preterists" when in fact we are not." Ed Stevens, Response To Gentry's Analysis of the Full Preterist View, Introduction, 1997.
What I hear Stevens saying here is that although all has been fulfilled there are ongoing applications of this fulfillment. I am still not totally clear however. If the devil and all that is evil ("the devil", Rev. 20:10; "Death and Hades", Rev. 20:14; "Anyone's name not found written in the Book of Life", Rev. 20:15) have been thrown into the lake of fire (as would be true if Revelation 20:7-15 has been fulfilled) what is there that needs reigning over? If all enemies have been abolished, as would be true if 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 is fulfilled, do we Christians just kick back and enjoy the fullness and perfection of the kingdom? Is there any active ruling and reigning that we need to be doing today? Clarification by the full preterists in this area would be helpful.
Again I want to stress the importance of exploring the ramifications of preterism. Futuristic eschatology lends itself to speculation (What will the mark of the beast be? A computer chip? A physical 666 on the head and hand? Are unborn babies of non-Christian women raptured out of the womb so they don't have to experience God's wrath in the tribulation? etc.). Preterism, because it sees much of prophecy as being fulfilled has much more to offer in terms of current applications.
I see the process of correctly interpreting the Bible as a crucial first step. The next step is to implement what the Bible is teaching. The Bible is like a book on golf (please excuse such a common analogy). One can know a golf book perfectly but if it isn't being applied to one's golf game, the book is not of much use. A book on golf is a means to an end in that sense, the end being to play better golf. So it is with the Bible. Correctly understanding the Bible is a means to the end of knowing God and living according to His purpose. The ramifications and applications of preterism are something we should all be exploring. How then should we live?
AD 30 TO AD 70: 40 YEAR MILLENNIUM OR
40-YEAR WILDERNESS JOURNEY?
My position sees us as at the end part of the millennial reign, ruling with Christ until all enemies are under His feet (1 Cor. 15:23-28). I see the millennial reign as being analogous to the type of the children of Israel when they entered the promised land. Like full preterists I see the time between the resurrection of Jesus (AD 30) and the Second Coming (AD 70) as a transition time. My view of the meaning of this transition time is different however.
Many full preterists see the 40-year period between Christ's resurrection and His Second Coming as the millennium. I see this period as analogous to the Jews 40-year wilderness journey to the promised land.
In essence, the children of Israel were released from Egypt by the blood of the passover lamb. This was a type of our being released from Satan's kingdom by the blood of the Lamb of God. Even though the Israelites had been released from Egypt, it would be 40 years until they entered the promised land. I see their entering the promised land as the equivalent of the kingdom coming with power in AD 70 at the Second Coming (Mark 9:1l Matthew 16:27&28). The Israelites entering the promised land after 40 years being the equivalent of the beginning of the millennium not the end of it.
The writer of Hebrews talks of the parallels between what his readers were experiencing and the children of Israel in the wilderness (Hebrews chapters 3 and 4). Paul talks about the same wilderness parallels in 1 Corinthians chapter 10. In Revelation chapter 12, the woman and her children (representing God's true people) escape into the wilderness after Jesus' ascension and are protected from Satan (who was loose on the earth not bound in the abyss, Rev. 12:5-10) for a time and times and half a time (Rev. 12:14). The book of Daniel (Daniel 12:7) gives the ending point of time, times and half a time as when the power of the Jews was completely shattered (AD 70). The harlot of Revelation chapters 17 and 18 (representing those Jews who rejected Jesus) is also found in the wilderness and ends up being burned to death there (Jerusalem being destroyed in the holocaust of AD 70). I am probably going too fast again, read my paper of Revelation chapter 12 for a more thorough treatment on this.
So I see the period between AD 30 and AD 70 as analogous to the time when the children of Israel were in the wilderness. In the wilderness period the children of Israel were free from Egypt (this being the equivalent to believers being delivered from Satan's kingdom). It would be 40 years until they entered the promised land, however (this being equivalent to believer entering the millennium at Jesus' Second Coming in AD 70). This 40 year wilderness period of the early believers was the "already but not yet". The kingdom was being set up during Jesus' first coming. It would come with power with His Second Coming (Mark 9:11, Matthew 16:27&28). The Second Coming in AD 70 was the equivalent of the children of Israel entering the promised land, it began the millennium not ended it.
I see the 1000 years of the millennium as being symbolic of the Day of Lord. We are told in 2 Peter 3:8 the following:
"But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
Thus in Revelation 20 when it says they reigned with Christ for a 1,000 years (Rev. 20:4), the 1,000 years are symbolic of the Day of the Lord. This "Day" being the period of time (starting in AD 70) believers rule with Christ until He has put all enemies under His feet 1 Cor. 15:25.
Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 talks of this "Day" in terms of a Sabbath Day of rest.1
Therefore let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of
you should seem to have come short of it.
For indeed we have had good news preached to us just as they also; but the word
they heard did not profit them because it was not united by faith in those who heard.
For we who have believed enter that rest; just as He has said "
AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH
THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST,"
although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.
For He has thus said somewhere concerning the seventh day,
"AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS";
and again in this passage, "THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST."
since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had
good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience,
7. He again fixes a certain day, "Today" saying through David after so long a time just as he had been said before
"TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS."
8. For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.
9. There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.
10. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested
from his works, as God did from His.
11. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest lest anyone
fall through the same example of disobedience.
The writer of Hebrews is encouraging his readers to be diligent to enter this Sabbath Day rest and not to fall in the wilderness as many of the children of Israel did.
Paul talked of beating his body so that after witnessing to others he wouldn't be a cast off like those Jews who died in the wilderness (1 Cor. 9:27). He seems to indicate that it was possible to
1. I am not going into detail here as to the date of the book of Hebrews. I agree with John Robinson's conclusion in his book Redating the New Testament, 1976. Robinson's main conclusion was that because no book in the New Testament speaks of the destruction of the Temple as a finished event, the New Testament was probably written before AD 70. I would think this would especially be true of a book written to Jews (like Hebrews). The destruction of the sacrificial system in AD 70 would be a most important subject to discuss. It gives great credence to the Christian contention that the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, made that system obsolete.
fall from grace during this 40-year wilderness time (AD 30- AD 70).
1 Corinthians 9:27-10:12
9:27 but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
10:1 For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2. and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3. and all ate the same spiritual food;
4. and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
5. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness,
6. Now these thing happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved.
7. And do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, "THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY."
8. Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did and twenty-three thousand fell in one day.
9. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did and were destroyed by the serpents,
10. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.
11. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
12. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
Paul was telling his readers that many of the children of Israel, after being set free from Egypt and tasting the good things of God, died in the wilderness. They did not make it to the promised land. He warns his readers not to take their salvation for granted because they too could be laid low in the wilderness.
Consider what the writer of Hebrews says about this.
14. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end;
15. while it is said
"TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME"
16. For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?
17. And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?
The writer of Hebrews is saying that his readers need to hold fast the beginning of their assurance of salvation until Jesus comes. They have not yet reached the promised land; they need to hold steady to their present course.
I praise God that we who were born again after AD 70 have been born in the promised land so to speak. We don't have to worry about falling in the wilderness (not to say that we should take our salvation for granted of course). If my analysis is correct here it would explain those scriptures that seem to point to the possibility of losing one's salvation (like Paul making sure that after getting others saved he didn't become a cast off). In the transition time between AD 30 and AD 70 one could become a cast off, Rev. 3:5 (die in the wilderness). At Jesus' Second Coming in AD 70 the Sabbath rest that the writer of Hebrews spoke of became a reality (Rev. 14:13-16). The believer today is living in that Sabbath Day of rest, the Day of the Lord, represented in Revelation by the 1,000 years of the millennium. To this I say all praise be to our Lord, Christ Jesus!
When the children of Israel entered the promised land (which I am equating with the beginning of the millennium at Jesus' Second Coming in AD 70) God told Joshua the following:
Joshua 1:3 "Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you."
5. "No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.
6. "Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them."
The land (the spiritual rule of this earth) has been given to the Christian, but just like the children of Israel we (through God's power) need to possess it. The children of Israel had been given the promised land but the ungodly nations still had to be overcome. The enemy had no rights to the land but was still on the scene. I see this as analogous to the present kingdom of God. The
land (spiritual rule of this world) has been given to us but we need to possess it. Everywhere we put our feet (spiritually speaking) has already been given to us. Our enemy (Satan) is not off the scene (in the lake of fire) but has no right to the land (the world). There is obviously a point of disagreement between my position and the full preterists here. This difference in views most probably affects the way we view the manner of ruling and reigning that the Christian should be doing today.
RULING AND REIGNING
How we should be reigning with Christ I am still in the process of exploring, but let me offer a few thoughts.
What I have read on Christian Reconstructionism (which is not that much) seems heavy-handed and not on the right track. Trying to restructure our society around Bible law won't work in my opinion. Trying to get non-Christians to live like Christians is a losing proposition (it is hard enough to try to get Christians to live like Christians!). To me Christian Reconstructionism has a flavor to it of trying to put us back under the Law. I do agree with the Reconstructionists that Christians should be involved in every area of our society as a positive influence. Our primary influence or reign, however, is in the spiritual realm. Jesus said His kingdom wasn't of this world (John 18:36). The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking (the fruits of a physical kingdom), but righteousness peace and joy (the fruit of the spirit) Romans 14:17.
The Christian army advances on its knees. Jesus won all power and authority at the cross (Matt. 28:18). We are (or at least should be) ruling and reigning with Him. This ruling and reigning being the implementation of Jesus' victory. As I have said, how we should be doing this is a very important question for all preterists.
As I have stated I believe we are in the short time (Rev. 20:3) when Satan is released to deceive the Nations (Rev. 20:7-10). I believe this is why one could call America a post-Christian culture. Most Americans say that they believe in God. Unfortunately, when you look closely at this "God" he is not the God of the Bible.
Believing that Satan is currently loosed for a season, I look for a continuing separation of dark and light. The dark getting darker, the light getting lighter. It is hard to argue with the fact that the dark has been getting darker the last few decades or so. Things such as divorce and new age philosophies have infiltrated the church as well as the world.
I am not advocating doom and gloom, just the opposite, as the dark gets darker I see true Christianity getting brighter and brighter. How optimistic or pessimistic others perceive this position does not concern me as much as how well it lines up with Scripture. Assume for a moment that I am right and we are living in the end part of the millennium when Satan is released from the abyss. Jesus achieved all power and authority in heaven and earth at the cross (Matthew 28:18). This authority was fully transferred to His people at AD 70 (the kingdom coming with power at Jesus' Second Coming Mark 9:1, Matthew 16:27&28). If Satan is loose today it produces in me a righteous indignation, a zeal. We believers in Jesus are the ruling spiritual force on this planet; the devil has no right to our world. We should be out there destroying the works of darkness. Our method of doing this is by overcoming evil with good, by way of the spirit not the flesh.
Notice the importance of the implications of eschatology. Is the devil loose on the earth? Is he in the abyss? Is he in the lake of fire as full preterists say? (If he is, he sure is active considering he is supposed to be in his final place of confinement). Is the devil still in heaven accusing us before God's throne? Many dispensationalists would say the latter. They are forced into taking this rather absurd position because they see Revelation 12:9 (Satan being cast out of heaven) as happening midway through the tribulation period which they see as being in the future (see my paper on Revelation chapter 12).
Satan lost all authority on this earth at the cross (Matthew 28:18). The question is how should we be implementing Christ's victory? The answer to this will potentially be different depending on one's position on prophetic issues. Again, one's view on prophecy has important implications. This is even more true with preterism because we maintain many of the events spoken of are already fulfilled.
Finally, even if we have all knowledge but don't have love we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). The debate can get heated; our aim should be to speak the truth in love.Duncan McKenzie, Ph.D. Duncan@peoplepc.com
What do YOU think ?
Date: 27 Jul 2008
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