Looking at Scripture through the Mystic Orb the Preterist
While Preterist mainstays are Daniel, Matthew 24, I Corinthians 15, 2 Peter 3, and Revelation, there is no scripture safe from being reconstructed by Preterism. How is it that the Preterist approaches scripture? In practice, eyes must be taken off the cross and put on the destruction of Jerusalem. Below are examples of common Full Preterist approaches and lastly a brief mention of the ultimate effects of their doctrine.
It is often asked, “How does anyone get pulled into the 70 AD doctrine?” Then, scriptures such as Acts 1:9-11 and Revelation 1:7 are quoted meaning to point out the impossibility of local non-physical return of Christ. Unfortunately, the Preterist has ready answers for these verses.
Acts 1:9-11 records Jesus’ ascension and foretells His return in the clouds. However, Preterists declare this figurative. “Like manner” (hon tropon) means a “general likeness” not “identicalness”. Dismissed is Christ coming in identical manifestation by saying Christ went away silently, but according to scripture the return won’t be silent. Therefore, it’s figurative. Matthew 23:37 is pointed to as using “hon tropon” in a figurative manner – Christ declaring He wishes to gather Jerusalem as a hen gathers her chicks. Revelation 19 shows Christ to be returning on a white horse leading armies of heaven. This certainly isn’t returning on a cloud. The scary part of this reasoning is it entraps others. Context is put aside to deliver a preconceived point. From Matthew 23:37, it is an impossibility for a man to embrace all of Jerusalem, but context requires figurative language and understanding. Revelation is predominantly figurative and yet, in the midst of it, to bolster a point, a literal interpretation is demanded by Preterists to force Acts 1 into their box. Yet, text out of context is only pretext. The context of Acts 1 is in no means figurative. The “hon tropon” is no more focused on the silence of the moment than partaking of the Lord’s Supper is a focus on an upper room. What is attempted in this argument is a diversion from Christ’s literal return in the clouds.
Revelation 1:7 makes the claim that “every eye” will see Christ coming in the clouds. Most Christians trying to reject the 70 AD doctrine think this verse is a slam dunk. In response Preterists describe a touchdown at a football game. An announcer may state, “every eye was on that pass”. However, was every eye? Think about a football stadium. You have all ages. Some toddler in the sea of people was probably more interested in the contents of his nose than the football. Other people were likely in the restroom or at the snack stand. So how is it that “every eye was on that pass”. The fact is they were not. Thus, the Preterists establishes that Revelation 1:7 is just a figure of speech. Rather, the people of Jerusalem were said to be very aware of the invasion of their city which was supposed to be the second coming of Jesus. If the verse is understood as written, it is demonstrated the whole world will literally see Jesus in the Clouds at His return and all faithful will join him. If taken from a Preterist view, some people will realize His 2nd and final coming was a punishment on Jerusalem leaving the rest of the world unaware and looking for a savior.
A typical Christian will likely get flustered with immediate responses such as the above. However, it must be understood the Preterist is not normally going to approach someone wanting to argue about their doctrine. Their mode of operation is often more subtle until they have a good number of doubters within a congregation. The approach they will utilize is often one built on time statements. “Where is Christ? Wasn’t the kingdom at hand? Wasn’t everything to come about shortly? Wasn’t the end near? What happened? Is God a liar? Well, no, inspired scripture (II Timothy 3:16) says God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). So the interpretation by man that Christ has not yet come back must be mistaken.” Man’s fear that he has missed something or that he doubts God causes them to consider the Preterist time statement arguments.
In regard to the kingdom of God, it must be remembered that it does not always reference the same thing. The term “kingdom” is used 316 times in scripture, however, God’s kingdom is used in only four ways: His universal dominion (Psalm 103:19), the physical nation of Israel (I Chronicles 28:5), the Church in the Christian dispensation (Colossians 1:13), and God’s everlasting kingdom (2 Peter 1:10-11). These usages are brought to the forefront to demonstrate that every time the kingdom is read about, the context must be examined. When John, Jesus, and the disciples preached the “kingdom was at hand” they weren’t preaching 70 AD as Preterists claim (Matthew 3:2, 10:7). They were heralding the coming of the Church on the day of Pentecost which God added people to on that day (Acts 2:47). The Apostle John establishes the kingdom was present before 70 AD as he was in it before then (Revelation 1:9). This is just one example of how the Preterist abuses time statements in scripture.
Still, Preterists preach the kingdom of the Church and a coming Kingdom in 70 AD are one in the same. The difference in their minds is that up to 70 AD the church was insufficient and not developed. Wayne Jackson appropriately addresses this topic in his book The AD 70 Theory. It should be understood before 70 AD, the Kingdom of God had been opened (Matthew 16:15-19, Acts 2:38). It had a king (Ephesians 1:18-23), subjects (John 3:3-5, I Peter 1:22-23), laws (Matthew 28:18-20), and a territory (Colossians 3:15). To this the Preterist says the kingdom did not come in power and glory until 70 AD. Mark 10:35-37 demonstrates that Christ’s Glory was the same as His kingdom. Scripture shows the kingdom was present before 70 AD. It was the glory and Kingdom Jesus received at His ascension into heaven (Luke 24:26, Hebrews 2:9, Daniel 7:13-14). The power of His Kingdom, His Body, His Church is seen from Ephesians 1:18-23 and Mark 9:1 referencing not only His power over sin and death, but the power sent by the Holy Spirit in the manifestation of spiritual gifts. How could Paul utter the words of Philippians 4:13, 2 Timothy 1:10, and 2 Peter 1:3 without knowing the Church was mature. To say the Church was mature is not to say every member thereof was mature, but it is to say that within the confines of the kingdom of God no force unseen or physical could stop it; Judaism, secular governments, pagan religions, nor Satan could stop the Church from its purpose for it was already in full bloom fulfilling its purpose just as it does today. The kingdom was firmly established on the day of Pentecost.
One of the puzzling aspects for the Christian when they hear about the 70 AD doctrine is the issue of a realized heaven. The majority of Full Preterists teach that once Christ came the second time in 70 AD heaven came to stay on earth. This leaves Christians wondering a number of things: What about the resurrection? Where’s the bodily change? If this is heaven what happens to hope? Below is a brief look at these questions.
I Corinthians 15 is a chapter readily utilized by the Preterist and Christian to describe the resurrection. Preterists deny a physical resurrection and instead declare the resurrected body is the Church system out of Judaism and the Jews out of Hades. This is why man does not see some glorious, incorruptible change in his physical body at the moment (sorry). I Corinthians 15:13-14 affirms the resurrection of the dead as plural. Preterists present a plural resurrection, but is it correct? Paul is very specific about saying it is “we” (the faithful) who shall be changed by resurrection, not a system (vs. 50-54). In Philippians 4:3, Paul also identifies fellow laborers in Christ will be written in the book of life. These laborers were both Jew and Gentile. They are the faithful people spoken of in Daniel. Daniel 12:1-2 speaks of a resurrection from the dust of the ground of those written in the Book – A physical resurrection. I Corinthians 15:20-23, presents the resurrection of Christ as physical and literal, not a non-visible spiritual resurrection. It is simply not logical to devise a theology of system resurrection from the context of I Corinthians 15. Preterists are obviously mistaken about both the “what and who” that is resurrected. It is not a system that is resurrected, but a people. Preterists do make a fine observation in verses 35-44. The verses establish “that which you sow does not come to life unless it dies”. The Preterist proclaims this cannot be the physical body being discussed for Paul also states in I Thessalonians 4:17, “Those who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds”. If some folks won’t die, but Corinthians says they aren’t given life unless they do, then the text cannot be talking about physical bodies. The Preterist see this as a “gotcha” by applying it to all of I Corinthians 15. However, it applies only to the text it is in. Specifically, the context in question begins with the idea of the subjection of Christ back in vs. 27. Paul continues from there stressing the need for the Christian to be in subjection or to die to self. This is a discussion of the spiritual to present the qualifications for the resurrection of the physical. This is not a gotcha, but a “How to”.
In addressing what happens to hope if earth is heaven, the answer given by a Preterist I had the luxury of talking to was as follows: “Would you rather have the house plans or the house?” I was told Jesus said there were many mansions in His Father’s house and He went away to prepare them (John 14:2). The mansions were said to be the Christians. Revelation speaks of the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven (Revelation 21:2). This was the Father’s House, the Kingdom, the Mature Church, Heaven placed upon earth in 70 AD. The hope should be replaced with the reality of the blessings in front of us according to the Preterist.
The final portion of scripture to be focused on is 2 Peter 3. Starting with vs. 3, Preterists focus on “the last days” and pop the where’s Christ been in the last 2000 years question. Momentarily, consider the building of the Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota. It was started in 1948. It has a long way to go yet. Some day, when only 5% is left someone will say the project is in its last days. Yet, it may be decades from being finished. A time perspective can only come from understanding the scope of the project. Man’s first phase was the patriarch age. The second phase was the Mosaic Age. The Last Age or Days are the Christian Dispensation. There is no set time frame for its duration known by man.
2 Peter 3:4 continues as if it were describing Preterists, Uniformitarians, and Athiests. Preterists do not believe the earth is going to be destroyed. Verses 5-7 clarify they earth is being reserved for destruction. It is established the Earth (Ge) was formed by water and the world (kosmos – read “nations” in Romans 4:13) was once destroyed by flood. Then verse 7 establishes the earth (Ge) will be destroyed by fire someday as will ungodly men. There should be no misunderstanding about the earth being literally destroyed. Yet, the Preterist decides to change definitions for words. They change the definition of earth and heaven to Judaism not including all other sin. Then the destruction is changed to a single city. This is completely improbable. The audience is people in Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bythnia who don’t care about Jerusalem.
From verse 8-10, the Preterists are told the answer to their time statements about Christ’s second coming is God is being deliberate, not slow, so that all those who seek Him can come to repentance. Rather than rejoice over God’s love they declare that “a day is as a thousand years” is not a description of God’s view of time but rather it means “when He says a thousand years he means a thousand years. When He says a day He means a day.” Therefore, when He says “last days”, the Preterist sees according to man’s time schedule. While there is no Biblical support for such a view, Psalms 90:4 supports God’s view of time being relative to Him, not man.
Verse 10 once again makes it clear like the second portion of Matthew 24 that when Christ comes it will be completely unexpected. If something is going to happen very soon in man’s time, man would be prepared (see I and II Thessalonians), yet they were told a great number of things (which did not happen before 70 AD) were to occur. Additionally, there is no manner in which the destruction of Jerusalem was like the approach of a thief (being quite visible for at least 5 years). For 70 AD to have been the second coming of Christ would be a complete contradiction of context.
The remainder of 2 Peter 3 focuses on Christians being obedient while looking for a new heavens and earth. These same folks were told to be looking for the return of Christ in I Peter 1:13. The Preterist declares the new heavens and earth are the Christian system. Yet, the Christian system (the church) was already established with the forgiveness of sins on the day of Pentecost (Matthew 16:18, Acts 2:38, Acts 2:47). Still, the Preterist presents Matthew 5:17-18 as support for their interpretation. The Law of Moses was not to pass away until the Jewish system passed away. The law had been nailed to the cross according to Colossians 3:14, but the Preterist states that the Colossian letter was to the Gentiles and it was for them that the law was put on the cross. As can be seen the situation can become convoluted very fast.
To clear up the new heavens and earth situation, consider the Law of Moses. In Galatians, Paul is very clear that to follow the Law resulted in being cast out by God. There was no transition period of the Law of Moses with the Covenant of Christ. The old covenant was set aside when the new covenant came because it was old, weak, useless, and obsolete (Hebrews 7:18-19, 8:13). Christ fulfilled prophecy about himself to put the law away as Matthew 5:17-18 would have it (Luke 18:31). The term “New Heavens and Earth” is used in Isaiah 65 and 66 as well as in 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21. It references the changing of an environment. The folks Peter was writing to were looking for a changing of environment with the coming of Christ. They were looking for a home eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:21).
What is the effect of believing Full Preterist doctrine? A true Full Preterist must discard teaching on Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the eldership, and assembly. If they are mistaken and they are, such teaching will damn souls eternally. The doctrine is not harmless.
Baptism is done away with because it is considered to be part of the many washings of the Old Law (Hebrews 9:10) and the new covenant did away with old things (Jeremiah 31:31). Once the eternal days of the kingdom arrived in 70 AD, the purification process was done and no longer necessary.
The Lord’s supper is done away with because 1 Corinthians 11:26 states it shows “the Lord’s death till he come.” If Christ came in 70 AD and heaven began, there is no reason to remember Him anymore. He is realized. Luke 22:14-20 is fulfilled.
The eldership and the Church assembly are no longer necessary. The eldership was responsible for shepherding the Church (I Timothy 3:5). The Church is responsible for spreading the Word. However, if all is fulfilled there is no longer need to spread the Word. The office of the eldership and the Church assembly are obsolete.
If the above are given up in “heaven” many Christians ask why Preterists are still married, for Christ stated man would be like the angels and not marry in heaven (Matthew 22:30). The Preterist calmly states the focus of the passage was not marriage, but rather the purpose of life. They then quote Romans 14:17: “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Yes, the Preterist has an answer for everything.