My Problem With a Preterist View of Bible Prophecy

Preterism is the Christian eschatological (understanding of end time events) concept that all Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled including Yeshua’s Matthew 24 Olivet Discourse and those prophecies in the book of Revelation.
I will say that it is my belief that preterism is an over simplistic concept that often fails to take into account several things:
a) The dual or even multiple fulfillments of certain biblical prophecies. Even the Jewish sages who’ve been studying the OT scriptures for millennia recognize the often cyclical nature of some prophecies in that many have multiple fulfillments. It seems that the preterist looks at prophecy in more a linear (timeline) Greco-Roman perspective rather from the Hebraic, more cyclical nature in which the Bible was written. This is to their detriment and causes them to have a skewed view of biblical prophecy.
b) That some prophecies have been indeed fulfilled, while  others are yet to be fulfilled, and yet still others have been fulfilled and will be fulfilled in a greater sense in the future.
c) They often fail to fully understand historical events. The preterist view of Olivet Discourse Matt 24 is a prime example. While it appears that some of the things Yeshua predicted in Matthew 24 have a AD 70 fulfillment, other events listed in this chapter clearly don’t unless you “cram it to fit and paint it to match” as preterists like to do. This they do by applying some things in a given prophecy in a literal sense, and then when a prophecy can’t be interpreted literally to fit historical events, they simply allegorize it away by making the prophecy symbolic. In my opinion, this is a dangerous approach and is playing fast and loose with the Bible. You can make the Bible say virtually anything you want it to say when you do this. This is a hermeneutical problem where they make the Bible say what they want it to say (eisegesis) instead of letting the Bible speak for itself (exegesis).
d) The  preterist usually fails to understand Israel in history, who the people of Israel are,

the Torah, and the nature of covenants from a Hebraic, full biblical context. It seems to me that preterism works if you take a more Catholic view of the Bible and history, not a Hebraic view.

e) Preterists seems to not understand the nature of biblical prophecy in that some prophecies are short range, some are mid-range, and some are long range in that they haven’t been fulfilled yet. What’s more, they fail to understand that even as biblical prophecy was divinely revealed to the prophet in the first place, so understanding its fulfillment requires a divine revelation as well. The Holy Spirit revealed the prophecy in the first place, and will reveal its interpretation often after the event has occurred. For example, the greatest OT prophetic concept of all — those prophecies pointing to the coming of the Messiah — wasn’t fully understood by the disciples until after his death. The disciples still thought he was Messiah the Conquering king rather than the Suffering Servant. Little by little, they came to understand that he came to redeem men from sin, and not (at least at that time) to set up his earthly kingdom after having defeated his physical enemies.
In reality, the truth of the Bible falls between the two extremes of preterism and non-preterism. Some biblical prophecies in the context of history have already been fulfilled, while others have been partially fulfilled, and still others have yet to be fulfilled. This is what I believe. It’s an overly simplistic and quite frankly, to my mind at least, a naive and spiritually immature approach to say that all prophecy has been fulfilled or that all prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. Understanding biblical prophecy isn’t quite that simple. For example, in all my extensive readings of the writings of the ancient Jewish sages, I’ve never seen a preterist viewpoint with regard to the OT prophecies. This ought to tell us something.
My sense is that the notion preterism arose from the antisemetic attitudes and doctrines of the early church fathers who wanted to excise all understanding of the Scriptures from a Jewish perspective and replace the Jews with the church when it comes to prophecy. If this is the case, then preterism in some of its more virulent and strident permutations could even be considered to be an antisemtic philosophy! This almost makes it a doctrine of demons. How can we take all scriptural reference to the Jews and to greater Israel and be so subjective and ego-centric as to apply them to the exclusively to the Gentile church?

5 thoughts on “My Problem With a Preterist View of Bible Prophecy

  1. Agreed, sharondee2014. It is a shame that much of the church is rooted in such antisemitism and when one comes to the knowledge of its/our Hebraic roots we are suddenly guilty of converting to Judaism, becoming legalistic or denying the atoning work of Yeshua.

    • How true. We’ve just got to keep being a voice in the wilderness to help wake up YHVH’s people by presenting his truth to them in love. I’m convinced that only after severe tribulation followed by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit will large numbers of folks in the church wake up to the lies they’ve been taught and back to the whole truth of the Bible. Most in the church are lukewarm Laodiceans. This will also be the case with the Jews in Israel. Zechariah says that two thirds of them will be cut off and out of that he’ll lead one third through the fire who will then call upon his name (Zech 13:8–9). This is right before the second coming (Zech 14:4). Right now, YHVH is just opening the eyes of a few. Count your blessings!

  2. The post-70 A.D. dating of the book of Revelation renders all preterist thought null and void. The earliest Christian historian who recorded the church’s knowledge of the Domitianic dating of Revelation was Hegessippus in 150 A.D. (around the time when most of those who would have known John had likely already died), and this continued to be the unanimous view until about 4 centuries later with the Syriac Peshitta NT manuscript in which someone wrote that John was exiled under Nero.
    It is sometimes claimed that the Neronic dating is in the original, but this is impossible since the original lacked the book of Revelation. From what I’ve been able to gather, there is no source or reasoning given for this change in that 6th century manuscript. This is problematic at best, and lacks the authoritativeness that would be required to credibly make such a huge revision to what was commonly accepted and passed down from the end of the first century/beginning of the 2nd.

    The same can be said for the Muratorian Fragment, which is the 7th century copy of the 2nd century original, with no way to prove the Neronic dating was in the original. There is no record of any of the early church fathers holding to the Neronic date of Revelation. A fascinating glimpse into the early church fathers and what they believed on a variety of topics is in ‘A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs’, over 700 pages compiled by David Bercot. In addition to Hegessippus (who, notably, wrote this prior to Irenaeus), Tertullian, Hippolytus, Eusebius, Jerome, Sulpicius Severus, and a number of other church fathers both before and not long after the council at Nicaea all confirm that John was exiled to Patmos by Domitian where he received Revelation. The lack of any dissenting view naming Nero in place of Domitian until the 6th century should give early-date advocates pause. So at least most of the events of Revelation are still in our future (some view the messages to the churches as having already been strictly for them and completely fulfilled, while some view each church as symbolic for a different time period, and of course there could be room for double-fulfillment of most of those first 3 chapters).

    There was a celebration on Patmos in 1995 commemorating 1900 years (approximately, as in 95 or 96 A.D.) since the Revelation Jesus gave to John. Also, what other events in the 1st century A.D. are ever claimed as taking place 2 or 3 decades earlier (or later, for that matter)? With all of the accurate records kept during the Roman Empire era and surviving today, there is little room for such a vast difference being feasible. It’s commonly believed that Jesus died around 30 or 33 A.D., Paul and Peter were martyred in the 60’s, Nero lived from 37-68 A.D., etc. No one says Jesus died in 3 A.D. or 60 A.D., or that Peter and Paul were martyred in the 30’s A.D. or 90’s A.D., or that Nero actually reigned around the time of Jesus’ ministry as recorded in the Gospels. The majority of scholarship places John’s writing of Revelation in the mid-90’s, but somehow preterists think it’s ok to go against the overwhelming consensus of the past 2000 years? The great fire of Rome took place for nearly a week during 64 A.D., but no one places it in 54 A.D. let alone 34 A.D. A powerful earthquake in 60 A.D. devastated Laodicea. And yet no one ever says that earthquake took place in 30 A.D. 30 years prior. With the vast majority of evidence to the contrary, preterism literally rests on this single pillar of the dating of the book of Revelation. And, really, that is no pillar at all in light of the historicity of the late date.

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