The preterist (Latin for "PAST") believes that most if not all
prophecy was fulfilled by the time of the destruction of
Jerusalem in A.D.70. The historicist equates much of the current
church age with the Tribulation period. Thus, prophecy has been
and will be fulfilled during the current church age. Futurists
usually believe that almost no prophetic events are occurring in
the current church age but will take place in the following
future events: the Tribulation period, the second coming, the
millennium, and the eternal state. The idealist believes that the
Bible does not indicate the timing of prophetic events and that
we cannot determine their timing in advance. Therefore, idealists
see prophetic passages as teaching great truths about God to be
applied to our present lives.
WHAT IS PRETERISM?
Preterists believe that major prophetic portions of Scripture,
such as the Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation, were
fulfilled in the A.D.70 destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
Preterists take such a view because Matthew 24:34 and its
parallel passages say, "This generation will not pass away until
all these things take place" (NASB). They interpret this to say
the prophecies had to be fulfilled in the first century.
Revelation, according to preterists, says something similar in
the passages that state Christ is coming "quickly" or that His
return is "at hand." If these prophecies had to take place in the
first century, then the rest of the prophetic language must apply
to a local fulfillment in Jerusalem instead of a worldwide
fulfillment. Most Preterists believe that we are currently living
in a new heavens and new earth because they interpret the entire
book of Revelation to have a first-century fulfillment.
THREE KINDS OF PRETERISM
There are at least three kinds of preterism. Mild preterism
teaches that the book of Revelation was fulfilled during the
first three centuries as God waged war on the two early enemies
of the church: Israel and Rome. The first half of Revelation (up
to chapter 11) teaches that Israel was defeated in A.D.70, while
the last half of Revelation (chapters 12-19) is about God's
conquest of Rome in the fourth century, when Constantine declared
the Roman Empire Christian. Thus, this earliest form of preterism
teaches that Revelation was fulfilled in the first 300 years of
the church's history.
Moderate preterists believe that Revelation 4-19 refers to the
destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70. However, they believe that a
few passages still teach a yet future second coming (Acts 1:9-11;
1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-t7) and resurrection
of believers at Christ's bodily return.
Extreme, full, or consistent preterists, as they prefer to be
known, hold that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled in the
destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70. The second coming occurred in
A.D.70. If there is a future second coming, they say, the Bible
does not talk about it. Extreme preterists deny a future, bodily
return of Christ and a future bodily resurrection. This places
them outside the realm of Christian orthodoxy.
THREE PRETERIST PROOF TEXTS
Preterists believe three major passages in Matthew demand a
first-century fulfillment: 10:23; 16:27-28; and 24:34.
Matthew 10:23 says, "Whenever they persecute you in one city,
flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you shall not finish
going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes."
"Again, if we are correct in concluding that the coming referred
to in this text is the parousia of Christ, then the primary time-
frame for the parousia must be restricted to a forty-year period.
It surely did not take the disciples much more than forty years
to cover the boundaries of Palestine with the gospel message"
(Sprout, "Last Days According to Jesus," p.56). Thus, preterists
view this passage as promising the return of Christ in the
lifetime of the disciples.
Is this what Jesus had in mind? Even J.Stuart Russell (p.28)
believes that there is "abundant warrant for assigning the
important prediction contained in Matthew 10:23 to the discourse
delivered on the Mount of Olives." Thus, to a large extent, a
discussion of the time when Matthew 10:23 is to be fulfilled must
be determined in light of Matthew 24.
Second, the vocabulary in Matthew 10:16-23 parallels the synoptic
Gospels' versions of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25; Mark
13; Luke 17; 21). In fact, the New Geneva Study Bible (p.1521),
of which Sproul is the general editor, says of this passage, "The
'coming' is the Second Coming of Christ to judge the earth. This
view fits most of the other occurrences of the phrase (24:30;
25:31; 26:64; but see 16:28)."
This information supports the conclusion from the previous point
that the timing of the fulfillment of this passage is tied to the
Third, all agree that Scripture never indicates that the
disciples experienced the kind of persecution mentioned in this
passage before the crucifixion of Christ. J.Stuart Russell (p.
27) admits, "There is no evidence that the disciples met with
such treatment on their evangelistic tour." This indicates that
our Lord has a future time in mind when He speaks the words of
How should this passage be explained? Stanley Toussaint (pp.
"The Messiah was simply looking past His death to the time of
tribulation following. At the time the disciples would have the
same message and possibly the same power. The narrow road leading
to the kingdom leads through the tribulation (Matthew 10:16), and
this persecution is to be of a religious and political nature....
The Lord made no error and clearly had 'the coming' for judgment
in mind. However, the coming is contingent upon Israel's
acceptance of its King. Because even after His resurrection, that
nation refused Him, it became impossible to establish the kingdom
(cf. Acts 3:18-26). In fact, the tribulation period did not come;
if it had, the promise of the soon coming of the Son of Man would
have been of great comfort to the apostles."
Matthew 10:23 does not support the preterist contention that the
coming of the Son Man occurred in A.D.70 through the Roman Army.
Instead, Christ was looking ahead to another time, the
Tribulation leading up to the glorious second advent.
"The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with
His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.
Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here
who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in
Preterists believe that Matthew 16:28 and parallel passages (Mark
9:1; Luke 9:27) predict the destruction of Jerusalem accomplished
through the Roman army in A.D.70. Many non-preterists believe
Matthew 16:28 was fulfilled on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Matthew 16:27 is speaking of the future second coming, while
verse z8 refers to the impending transfiguration. Why are these
verses positioned in this way? Consider the line of thinking in
this passage, beginning at verse 21. Christ reveals clearly His
impending death to His disciples. Peter reacts to this suffering
phase of Jesus' career, and Jesus responds to Peter with His
famous "Get behind Me, Satan!" statement. Then Jesus provides a
lesson to His disciples on denial of self: Christ is teaching
that for Him and His followers to enter His kingdom, they must
embrace the cross before the crown. Suffering precedes glory! But
the glory will one day come at Christ's second advent, when each
individual will be required to give an account of his actions
during the time of suffering.
In order to encourage His followers, who would have to suffer the
bitter pill of His impending death and their own suffering and
eventual deaths for His sake, Christ provides a word of the
promised future glory in 16:28 About some who will "see the Son
of Man coming in His kingdom." "After Jesus predicted His own
death, Peter and the other disciples needed reassurance that
Jesus would ultimately triumph. His prediction that some of them
would see the kingdom of God present with power must have
alleviated their fears" (Nelson Study Bible, p.1659.) Thus,
"verse twenty-seven looks at the establishment of the kingdom in
the future, while a promise of seeing the Messiah in His glory is
the thought of verse twenty-eight. They are two separate
predictions separated by the words 'truly I say to you'"
All three instances of this parallel passage are immediately
followed by the account of the transfiguration. This contextual
relationship by itself is a strong reason to favor the
pretribulational interpretation. In other words, Jesus made a
prediction about a future event, and Matthew, Mark, and Luke each
record the fulfillment of that prediction in the passage that
follows. These passages are also connected grammatically. The
conjunction with which Matthew 17 begins clearly establishes the
unbroken continuity of thought between 16:28 and 17:1. The same
is true in Mark and Luke, where no chapter division occurs.
Matthew's prediction of the actual, physical appearance of the
Son of Man is clearly fulfilled in the transfiguration because
Jesus was personally and visibly present. Matthew says, "He was
transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and
His garments became as white as light" (17:2). The prcterist
interpretation does not meet Matthew's criteria because Jesus was
not personally present in the later destruction of Jerusalem.
Mark's emphasis upon a display of the kingdom with power was
certainly fulfilled by the transfiguration. No one could doubt
that the transfiguration certainly fit the definition of a "power
encounter" for the disciples. That Jesus appears dressed in the
shekinah glory of God upon the mount (Mark 9:3) is further
evidence to the disciples that He was God and acted with His
Luke's simple statement about some who will "see the kingdom of
God" is vindicated also by his account (9:28-36). Twice Luke
records our Lord describing the transfiguration with the term
"glory" (9:;1-32). Darrell Bock (pp.859-60) asks, "Why exclude
the reference to Jerusalem's destruction? Because Luke does not
associate the kingdom's power with this event .... Also, Jesus is
not associated with Jerusalem's destruction directly, so it is
not in view."
The transfiguration made such an impression upon John and Peter
that both provided a description of the glorified Christ in later
writings (Revelation 1:12-20; 2 Peter 1:16-21). Both describe the
risen and glorified Christ in relation to His second advent
(Revelation t:7; 2 Peter 1:16). No one doubts that Peter has in
mind the transfiguration in 2 Peter 1:16-18. Peter is encouraging
believers to remain faithful when, as does Jesus, he looks to
"the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Peter follows
Jesus' pattern of supporting the future second advent by citing
the past transfiguration. In this way, Peter's second epistle
supports the futurist understanding of Matthew 16:28.
Matthew 24:34 is the verse preterists most commonly use to
support their position. The much-debated passage says, "Truly I
say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these
things take place" (see also Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32).
R.C.Sproul (Last Days According to Jesus, p.158) says, "I am
convinced that the substance of the Olivet Discourse was
fulfilled in A.D.70." Those who apply a consistently literal
interpretation to the entire Olivet Discourse do not agree with
Sproul's interpretation of "this generation." Christ is saying
that the generation that sees "all these things" occur will not
cease to exist until all the events of the future tribulation are
literally fulfilled. Christ is not speaking to His contemporaries
but to the generation that sees the signs of Matthew 24. Darrell
Bock (pp.1691-92), in commenting on the parallel passage to
Matthew 24 in Luke's Gospel, Concurs: "What Jesus is saying is
that the generation that sees the beginning of the end, also sees
its end. When the signs come, they will proceed quickly; they
will not drag on for many generations. It will happen within a
The context of a word determines the nuance of its meaning. It is
true that every other use of "this generation" in Matthew
(11:6; 12:41-42,45; 23:36) refers to Christ's contemporaries, but
that is clear because of the context, not because of the phrase
itself. The Context of Matthew 24 does not point to A.D.70, so
the text must point to the future.
In fact, the Jews were not rescued in A.D.70. Rather, the Jewish
Christian community fled Jerusalem before the final siege. But
Matthew 24 speaks of a divine rescue of those who arc under siege
(24:29-31). This could not have been fulfilled in the first
century because no such rescue took place then.
THE PRETERIST VIEW OF REVELATION
Ken Gentry writes: "Preterism' holds that the bulk of John's
prophecies occurred in the first century, soon after his writing
of them. Though the prophecies were in the future when John wrote
and when his original audience read them, they are now in our
past." In his commentary on Revelation (p.43), the late David
Chilton, also a preterist, said, "The Book of Revelation is not
about the Second Coming of Christ. It is about the destruction of
Israel and Christ's victory over His enemies in the establishment
of the New Covenant Temple. In fact ... the word coming as used
in the Book of Revelation never refers to the Second Coming." The
preterist view does not view Bible prophecy as "things to come"
but rather as "things that came."
Preterists propose a first-century fulfillment of Revelation
because they interpret it to say it will be fulfilled soon (just
as they interpret the Olivet Discourse to say it will be
Preterist Gary DeMar (pp.344-45) has collected what he calls the
"time texts" in Revelation, which lead him to believe that the
fulfillment of the Apocalypse had to occur during the first
1) The events "must soon [tachos] take place" (1:1).
2) "For the time is near" (eggus) (1:3).
3) "I am coming to you quickly [tachus]" (2:16).
4) "I am coming quickly [tachus]" (3:u).
5) "The third woe is coming quickly [tachus]" (11:14).
6) "The things which must soon [tachos] take place" (22:6).
7) "Behold, I am coming quickly [tachus]" (22:7).
8) "For the time is near" (eggus) (22:10).
9) "Behold, I am coming quickly [tachus]" (22:12).
to) "Yes, I am coming quickly [tachus)" (22:20).
In reality, these terms are more properly interpreted as
QUALITATIVE indicators (not thronological indicators) describing
how Christ will return, not WHEN He will return. How will He
return? He will come "quickly" or "suddenly."
Tachos and its family of related words can be used to mean "soon"
or "shortly" as preterists believe (relating to time), or they
can be used to mean "quickly" or "suddenly" as futurists contend.
The tachos family is attested in the Bible as referring to both
possibilities. The "timing interpretation" of the preterists
teaches that the tachos-word family used in Revelation means that
Christ came in judgment upon Israel through the Roman army in
events surrounding the A.D.70 destruction of Jerusalem. How would
the futurist understand the use of the tachos family in
Revelation? Futurist John Walvoord (p.35) explains:
"That which Daniel declared would occur 'in the latter days' is
here described as 'shortly' (Gr., en tachet), that is, 'quickly
or suddenly coming to pass,' indicating rapidity of execution
after the beginning takes place. The idea is not that the event
may occur soon, but that when it does, it will be sudden."
It is significant to note that the Septuagint (the Greek
translation of the Old Testament) uses tachos in passages that
even by the most conservative estimations could not have occurred
for hundreds, even thousands of years. For example, Isaiah 13:22
says, "Her [Israel's] fateful time also will soon come." This was
written around 700 B.C., foretelling the destruction of Babylon,
which occurred in 539 B.C. Similarly, Isaiah 5:26 speaks of the
manner, not the time frame, by which the Assyrian invasion of
Israel 'will come with speed swiftly.' Isaiah 51:5 says, 'My
righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, and My arms
will judge the peoples; the coastlands will wait for Me, and for
My arm they will wait expectantly.' This passage probably will be
fulfilled in the millennium, but no interpreter would place it
sooner than Christ's first coming - at least 700 years after it
was given. Isaiah 58:8 says Israel's recovery will 'speedily
spring forth.' If it is a 'timing passage,' then the earliest it
could have happened is 700 years later, but most likely it has
yet to occur.
One important issue relating to the preterist interpretation is
the date of the writing of the book of Revelation. Preterists
admit that if Revelation were written 25 years after the fall of
Jerusalem, their entire labor would go up in smoke. Thus, if
Revelation was given after the destruction of the Temple in A.D.
70, it could not have been a prophecy about that event as
preterists contend. In reality, it was written around A.D.95,
thus rendering the preterist interpretation impossible.
PRETERIST IMPLICATIONS FOR THE NEW TESTAMENT
Preterists such as Kenneth Gentry (pp. 86-89) believe that
current history is identified as the new heavens and new earth of
Revelation 21-22 and 2 Peter 3:10-13. It stretches credulity to
think of the implications of such a conclusion. If we are
currently living in the new heavens and new earth, then there is
no Satan (Revelation 20:10), no death, crying, or pain
(Revelation 21:4), no unclean persons, nor those practicing
abomination and lying (Revelation 21:27), and no curse
The clear implication for preterists would be that Titus 2:12 no
longer relates directly to the current age in which we live.
Instead, it applied for three or four years, since Paul wrote
Titus around A.D 65. Preterists cannot logically use this or
similar passages as doctrine, reproof, correction, and training
in righteousness for believers, who are living in the new heavens
and new earth. However, preterists regularly use and apply these
passages in this way.
For preterists, the instruction of the New Testament on the issue
of suffering only directly applied to believers until A.D.70
because we would now be in the time of peace, not "the sufferings
of this present time" Paul speaks of (Romans 8:18).
If preterists arc correct, then most of the prophesied events in
history are over. The current church age will then become
increasingly successful, concluding with conversion of the world
to Christ. By contrast, pretribulationalists believe the world
will get worse as time goes on. For the preterist, the great
apostasy happened in the first century. But Paul warns in 2
Timothy 3:1 that "in the last days difficult times will come." If
"the last days" have already come and gone, we should expect that
the persecution of the godly should be absent and "evil men and
impostors" should not "proceed from bad to worse."
THE RESPONSE TO PRETERISM
Because of the current spread of preterism, pastors and teachers
need to be prepared to defend orthodox eschatology from this
attack. Those who believe that Christ came in A.D.70 will
certainly not be found looking for our Lord's any-moment return
when He does rapture (resurrect the dead saints and/or change
living saints to immortality - Keith Hunt) the church without any
signs or warning. They can hardly obey our Lord's command to keep
watching until He comes (Matthew 24:42).
MOST prophecy is YET to come to pass, as Jesus said about the end
of this age and His coming again, in Luke 21:20-24.
All the prophets of the Bible I have expounded for you on this
Much indeed is yet to take place on this earth and among the
nations of this earth before Christ can return, to establish the
Kingdom of God on earth.
Entered on this Website, April 2009