II. Preterism (Partial)
A. What Is Preterism (Partial)?
The belief of preterism, often called partial preterism, is the belief that some prophecies made in the New Testament that are believed by many to refer to the end of the world actually refer to events that have since occurred (fulfilling the prophecies). They predominantly revolve around the fall of Jerusalem and second destruction of the temple in AD 70.
An example would be what is known as the “Olivet discourse,” which is the conversation Jesus had with His disciples on the Mount of Olives in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Jesus speaks of his “coming,” of all kinds of signs, the end of the age etc. It is typically believed that it speaks of the end of the world, but I as a preterist hold that He is talking about the fall of Jerusalem.
Also, many predictions made in Revelation, I believe, also speak of this event and not the end of the world (although the end clearly is about the eternal age). Of course, that does put the writing of Revelation in the 60’s as opposed to the ‘90’s. I include good sources of information free information at the bottom, including a book arguing the early date of Revelation.
B. Why Do I Call Myself A “Partial” Preterist?
There are two groups within the preterist camp. There are those who believe like me. If some prophecies referred to the fall of Jerusalem, then that means not all were. Things like the judgment, end of the world, bodily resurrection, and a physical return of Jesus are all still to occur. We are sometimes called “partial” preterists because we believe only some prophecies have been fulfilled in the past. Some believe that everything was fulfilled in AD 70. This requires making things like the return of Jesus, the resurrection, and the like, metaphorical, or according to some, “spiritual.” After all, if there has already been a resurrection, it clearly hasn’t been physical! Needless to say, I do NOT hold to this doctrine.
Now, whether I am a “preterist” or “partial preterist” depends on who you ask. I would call myself a “preterist,” and those who hold the heretical view that there is no bodily resurrection or physical return of Christ I would call “hyperpreterists.” However, those who hold the other view, and also many commentators from the outside would call me “partial” and the others simply “preterists.” In order to make it clear that I do NOT believe the resurrection and physical return of Christ has occurred, but rather will occur in the future in a manner that will actually be visible, I just take the “partial” label when discussing it with those who do not hold my view.
C. Why Do I Believe What I Do?
Thoroughly going into this would take a lot of time and a whole lot of exegesis, a lot of which has been done already (I include a bunch of links at the bottom). Here is a bare-bones outline. I believe in preterism because:
– When Jesus begins telling His disciples about His “coming,” He begins by telling them that the buildings around them, including the temple, will all be overturned (Matthew 24:1, Mark 13:2, Luke 21:5). That all already happened. Even if it were rebuilt and destroyed, it wouldn’t really be the same buildings, would it?
– Jesus tells them that “this generation” will not pass away (Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). That is true of the fall of Jerusalem – it occurred while many who lived then were still alive. But almost 2000 years later, it poses a bit of a problem (it’s not uncommon for unbelievers to point to this; “Jesus said the world would end within their lifetimes!”).
– Similarly (though less conclusive), in Revelation, many of the events are said to have to occur “quickly,” “shortly,” “soon,” and the like. The fall of Jerusalem would have been imminent, assuming an early date.
– Though to us, the fall of Jerusalem just seems like one more military defeat in the course of history, to Jews it was absolutely devastating. Not just that, it effectively put an end to Old Testament Judaism. The temple has never been rebuilt. Jews have been unable to sacrifice or carry out the temple worship as the Law requires ever since. It is impossible for Jews to carry out their end of the old covenant, which is the whole point. Preterists argue that the fall of Jerusalem marked the clear and final end of the old covenant. The whole Jewish identity was connected to the temple, yet it is gone, and I believe it always will be. What was, in the unbelieving Jewish mind, their very connection to God, was destroyed. This was the ultimate earthly judgment – aside from the over a million deaths that occurred according to Josephus (Uittenbogaard). The temple had been destroyed before, but the first time the temple fell, it was rebuilt within the lives of some who saw it fall. This time, it has been the real deal. The destruction of the temple was the single greatest and most devastating earthly judgment ever, save possibly the flood.
– Jesus, in the Olivet discourse, says He hopes it doesn’t happen during the Sabbath. Since most of us believe we are not under Law (as do I), this would not be an issue. We don’t observe the Sabbath (some call Sunday, the “Lord’s Day,” the Sabbath, but that idea is not at all biblical). In Jerusalem, however, Jewish Christians still followed the Law, including the Sabbath. We see this, for example, in Acts 21:20-24. It would have mattered if you were a Jewish Christian in 70AD.
– There are indications that the beast of Revelation is the Roman Empire headed by Nero, in part based on the number 666 (and the fact that some manuscripts read 616). More info on that in the links.
– Historically, while the Jews revolted against the Romans in the late 60’s (leading to the fall of Jerusalem), Christians in mass fled Jerusalem. Very few if any Christians died when Jerusalem was destroyed (compared to over a million Jews). I am even told that according to church historians not a single Christian died. It is believed that this is because they saw the meaning of Jesus’ words, and fled.
– Along the lines of the above, where Mark and Matthew refer to the “the abomination that causes desolation” (NIV, Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14), Luke, writing to gentiles and not Jews, interprets it. He says “”when you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near” (Ibid, Luke 21:20). Either Luke made a mistake, or, knowing what Jesus meant, he changed the wording so gentile readers would understand. They certainly seemed to…
– If Jesus was speaking of apocalypse, why bother telling people to flee to the mountains? (See Matthew 24:16, Mark 13:14, Luke 21:21). If they are fleeing from a local invasion, however, that makes perfect sense.
There are good reasons to see this as something besides the end of the world, with which the fall of Jerusalem is the best bet. But there are also reasons to see it as the end of the world, so I will look at those next.
D. Objection #1: “Jesus Is Clearly Speaking Of Massive, Apocalyptic Events”
This is NOT at all the full argument – this too is just a bare-bones outline. To truly understand both sides and come to the right decision takes a lot of study).
Jesus was a Jew. His disciples were Jewish. They were very well versed in Old Testament scriptures. If you read the prophets, you’ll see the same kind of language referring to what were clearly earthly judgments, and as I outlined above, this was a far far greater judgment than just the destruction of some old godless kingdom. You might notice that Luke tones it down quite a bit (because it was written more to gentile audience, less familiar with the language of the prophets).
Isaiah 13:10 – When prophesying against Babylon, Isaiah says “For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light” (ESV). Either Isaiah is a false prophet, of this was fulfilled when the Babylonians were conquered by Cyrus the Great. This is very similar to what Jesus says in Matthew 24:29.
Isaiah 34:4 – “All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree” (NIV). Here’s where Jesus gets the bit about stars falling. What is Isaiah talking about? God’s coming judgment – which starts with his description of God’s planned destruction of Edom, an earthly event long since passed, and not the end of the world.
2 Samuel 22:8-10 – King David, in singing praise to God for giving him military success, gave us this gem: “Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations of the heavens trembled, and quaked, because he was angry. Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.” I don’t think that David was really saying that the heavens were really “bowed” (parted), that there was a massive earthquake, and that then he saw smoke coming from God’s nose (which would have killed him had he seen it). The point is, the grand and massive God intervened, altering the whole course of history, so this kind of grandiose language makes sense.
Micah 1:3-4 – “Look! The LORD is coming from his dwelling place; he comes down and treads the high places of the earth. The mountains melt beneath him and the valleys split apart, like wax before the fire, like water rushing down a slope” (NIV). Read on, and it’s clear that this is a prophecy against Samaria, not speaking of the end times. Did mountains really melt? Did valleys split and fill with molten mountain? No. It’s just picturesque language used to make a point.
Isaiah 34:9 – “And the streams of Edom shall be turned to pitch, and her soil into brimstone; her land shall be burning pitch” (RSV). Well, Edom was destroyed. By 100 A.D, the whole race of Edomites was lost to history (Copeland). But at no point did a series of streams out in Jordan, as far as I am aware, transform into pitch, nor did land turn to sulfur. It’s all pictoral language (surely in part drawn from the real life events of Sodom and Gomorrah), quite common and perfectly understood by those who read it 2700 years ago.
Jesus, the ultimate Jewish prophet, could have very well been following in their vein. Given the positive contextual reasons for believing He was speaking of the fall of Jerusalem and not the end of the world, it seems quite fitting that He was indeed speaking as the Old Testament prophets.
E. Objection #2 – “Jesus Speaks Of Coming.”
This is the big one really. For example, amidst all this prophecied turmoil, Jesus says that “at that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (NIV, Matthew 24:30). That sounds very apocalyptic. Jesus is coming. But that language doesn’t necessarily mean He is returning physically to retrieve the saved at the end of the world (which He will do of course, but that’s not what’s in view here). God, in the Old Testament, refers to His bringing earthly judgment as His “coming.”
Amos 4:13 – “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you prepare to meet your God, O Israel (NIV). We long to meet our God, but not like that! In context, God is warning them of judgment. Yet they “meet” God.
Micah 1:3 – (see above). Notice that it says God Himself will come down? Did God really jump out of heaven and stomp on the high places? Of course not. His “coming” wasn’t a matter of literally appearing; it just meant His bringing of judgment.
Isaiah 19:1a – “An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt” (ESV). Not only does it speak of God coming to bring a military defeat against them, but He does so coming on a cloud (just like Jesus speaks of Himself doing). It is certainly not out of the realm of possibility that Jesus would be alluding to that passage. God rides on a cloud to bring judgment. Jesus says he will come on a cloud, during that generation, at a time when he says the then-existent temple will fall…get the picture?
I think it is also accurate to point out that this was started largely by Jesus’ disciples asking Him when He would be “coming” (Matthew 24:3 – Luke and Mark are worded differently). And about these disciples, “we must keep in mind that the disciples were having a hard time even understanding that Jesus had to go, much less come back in the sense that futurism is requiring of this passage. In fact, in the week preceding the Discourse, they didn’t even understand that He was to die” (Warren). Warren also accurately points to Luke 18:31-34 to demonstrate this point.
F. What Of Other New Testament Passages Like In 2 Peter 3?
It’s all a matter of context. If Paul is speaking of resurrection (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), then it is clearly about the end of the world. When Peter speaks as he does in 2 Peter 3:10-13, about the coming “new heavens and earth,” it’s probably speaking of the end of the world. When Jesus, however, speaks specifically of the destruction of the temple and surrounding buildings, to occur within that generation, He was probably speaking of the destruction of the temple and surrounding buildings, that was to occur within that generation…
I hope that gives you an idea of what I believe and why. It goes way deeper of course, as do most theological issues. That isn’t even an attempt to be a real defense of the doctrine. If you are seriously interested, either because you think it makes sense or because you don’t and want to challenge it, look into it. I have included some useful pro-preterism links at the bottom, including to a link to a free PDF copy of Kenneth Gentry’s seminal book titled Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation. Check it out.
Anyway, that’s my belief about the “second coming,” and I think it is what the bible teaches. Now you know my view. And I welcome yours, and you can get in touch with me at MikeHuckabee.com, click on the…Just kidding 😉
Dee Dee Warren’s Preterist Podcast: http://www.preteristpodcast.com/
Dee Dee Warren’s Preterist Site: http://www.preteristsite.com/
Link to her lengthy Matthew 24 commentary on the website: http://www.preteristsite.com/plain/warrenend.html
Glenn Peoples – Say Hello To My Little Friend (his blog and podcast): http://www.beretta-online.com/wordpress/ (for annihilationism, see podcast episodes 5-7; for preterism, see episode 14. There’s a podcast player on the right side. It’s got a bunch of other great stuff too).
Kenneth Gentry – Before Jerusalem Fell (1st Edition – free online from publisher): http://www.entrewave.com/freebooks/sidefrm2.htm (This is the book that argues for an early date for the book of Revelation).
Works Cited (Parts I and II)
Copeland, Mark A. “Studies in the Minor Prophets: Obadiah – the Judgment of Edom (1:1-21).” Executable Outlines. Mark A. Copeland. 2009. 14 Sep. 2010. http://www.ccel.org/contrib//exec_outlines/mp/mp_02.htm
English Standard Version (ESV Bible). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2001. Biblegateway.com. Web. 6 Jun. 2011. <http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/English-Standard-Version-ESV-Bible/>.
Morey, Robert A. Death and the Afterlife. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishing, 1984. Print.
Morgan, Christopher A., Robert Peterson, Gregory K. Beale, Daniel I. Block, Sinclair B. Ferguson, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Douglas J. Moo, J. I. Packer, and Robert Yarbrough. Hell Under Fire. Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004. Print.
New International Version (NIV Bible).N.p.: Biblica, 1984. Biblegateway.com. Web. 6 Jun. 2011. <http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/New-International-Version-NIV-Bible/>.
Revised Standard Version w/Apocrypha Bible. 2nd Edition. N.p.: Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America, 1971. Biblestudytools.com. Web. 6 Jun. 2011. <http://www.biblestudytools.com/apocrypha/rsva/>.
Uittenbogaard, Arie. “Title: The Fall of Jerusalem.” Abarim Publications. Abarim Publications. 2000-2007. 14 Sep. 2010. http://www.abarim- publications.com/Book_Review/Josephus_The_Fall_Of_Jerusalem.html
Warren, Dee Dee. “It’s Not the End of the World!” The Preterist Site. n.p. n.d. 14 Sep. 2010.
(Originally published 09/14/2010: http://3-ringbinder.blogspot.com/2010/09/explanation-of-my-controversial-though_14.html. Immaterial changes have been made).