In my mind a disturbing trend among people outwardly holding to the Reformed faith is the embracing of a preteristic view of most of the Book of Revelation*. This was not the view of historic Baptists and Protestants in past centuries. Men I would remind you who were godlier and more knowledgeable of the Scriptures than we are. Some were even martyrs. Should we like modern Rehoboams (1st Kings chapter 12) despise the wisdom of past godly Protestants in order to embrace what is essentially “Protestantized” Jesuit eschatology? I think not.
Let us define a few terms and give a little background before continuing:
“The term preterism comes from the Latin praeter, which is listed in Webster’s 1913 dictionary as a prefix denoting that something is “past” or “beyond,” signifying that either all or a majority of Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70. Adherents of preterism are commonly known as preterists.”
“There has historically been general agreement with non-preterists that the first systematic preterist exposition of prophecy was written by the Jesuit Luis de Alcasar during the Counter Reformation. Moses Stuart noted that Alcasar’s preterist interpretation was of considerable benefit to the Roman Catholic Church during its arguments with Protestants, and preterism has been described in modern eschatological commentary as a Catholic defense against the Protestant Historicist view which identified the Roman Catholic Church as a persecuting apostasy.”
“Due to resistance by Protestant Historicists, the preterist view was slow to gain acceptance outside the Roman Catholic Church.Among Protestants it was first accepted by [the Arminian and rather liberal theologian] Hugo Grotius** [whose Bible annotations were judged to be poisonous by an American Puritan pastor], a Dutch Protestant eager to establish common ground between Protestants and the Roman Catholic Church. His first attempt to do this was entitled ‘Commentary on Certain Texts Which Deal with Antichrist’ (1640), in which he attempted to argue that the texts relating to Antichrist had their fulfillment in the 1st century AD. This was not well received by Protestants, but Grotius was undeterred and in his next work, ‘Commentaries On The New Testament’ (1641–50), he expanded his preterist views to include the Olivet prophecy and Revelation.”
“Preterism still struggled to gain credibility within other Protestant countries, especially England. The English commentator Thomas Hayne claimed that the prophecies of the Book of Daniel had all been fulfilled by the 1st century (‘Christs Kingdom on Earth’, 1645), and Joseph Hall expressed the same conclusion concerning Daniel’s prophecies (‘The Revelation Unrevealed’, 1650), but neither of them applied their preterist views to Revelation. However, the exposition of Grotius convinced the Englishman Henry Hammond. Hammond sympathized with Grotius’ desire for unity among Christians, and found his preterist exposition useful to this end. Hammond wrote his own preterist exposition in 1653, borrowing extensively from Grotius. In his introduction to Revelation he claimed that others had independently arrived at similar conclusions as himself, though he gives pride of place to Grotius. Hammond was Grotius’ only notable Protestant convert, and despite his reputation and influence, Grotius’ interpretation of Revelation was overwhelmingly rejected by Protestants and gained no ground for at least 100 years.”
“The first full preterist exposition was finally written in 1730 by the Protestant and Arian, Frenchman Firmin Abauzit (‘Essai sur l’Apocalypse’), who worked in then independent Republic of Geneva as a librarian.”
“The earliest American full preterist work was ‘The Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ: A Past Event’, which was written in 1845 by Robert Townley. Townley later recanted this view.”
“Partial preterism holds that most eschatological prophecies, such as the destruction of Jerusalem, the Antichrists, the Great Tribulation, and the advent of the Day of the Lord as a “judgment-coming” of Christ, were fulfilled either in AD 70 or during the persecution of Christians under the Emperor Nero. Some partial preterists identify ” Babylon the Great” (Revelation 17–18) with the pagan Roman Empire, though some, such as N.T. Wright and David Chilton, identify it with the city of Jerusalem. Most interpretations identify Nero as the Beast, while his mark is often interpreted as the stamped image of the emperor’s head on every coin of the Roman Empire: the stamp on the hand or in the mind of all, without which no one could buy or sell. However, others believe the Book of Revelation was written after Nero committed suicide in AD 68, and identify the Beast with another emperor. The Catholic Encyclopedia has noted that Revelation was “written during the latter part of the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, probably in AD 95 or 96”. Many Protestant scholars agree. The Second coming and the resurrection of the dead, however, have not yet occurred in the partial preterist system.”
“Full preterism differs from partial preterism in that full preterists believe that all eschatology or “end times” events were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem, including the resurrection of the dead and Jesus’ Second Coming, or Parousia, and the Final Judgment.Full preterism is also known by several other names: preterism (because the term itself means “past”), consistent preterism, true preterism, hyper-preterism (a pejorative term used by opponents of preterists), and Pantelism. (The term pantelism comes from two Greek roots: παν (pan), “everything”, and τελ- (tel-), referring to completion).”
If anyone has read other parts of my blog they will already know that I totally reject the view that Nero was THE AntiChrist and THE son of perdition and that I totally reject the view that Revelation chapter 17 points to the Pagan Roman empire or Jerusalem (prior to its fall in 70 AD which requires that Revelation had to have been written before 70AD).
* I said the Book of Revelation; I’m not talking about Matthew chapter 24; I believe most of Matthew chapter 24 was fulfilled in the 1st century; let us not automatically assume that Revelation and chapter 24 overlap completely; let us rightly divide the Word of truth
** I recently discovered that Hugo Grotius, the Arminian Protestant preterist, was a friend of the French Jesuit, Petavius, who just happened to have “discovered a better manuscript” of Revelation containing 616 as the number of the Beast instead of 666; tell me… who had the most interest in making it more difficult for true children of God to properly identify the son of perdition if not the pope and his servants? By changing the number of the Beast from 666 to 616 through the use of a (so-called) “better manuscript” that would prevent anyone from properly applying the names “Lateinos” (Greek) and/or “Vicarius Filii Dei” (Latin, the official language of the 4th Beast of Daniel) to the papacy, wouldn’t it?
I will now share some resources which show errors in the thinking of preterists both partial and full.
One document I appreciated a great deal was a 49-page document produced by the LetGodBeTrue.com website. The document which refutes full preterism is divided into 12 parts : 1) full preterism denies the Gospel, 2) full preterism timing fallacies, 3) full preterism refuted by Daniel, 4) full preterism refuted by Paul, 5) full preterism refuted by Peter, 6) full preterism refuted by Roman Catholicism, 7) full preterism refuted by history, 8) full preterism refuted by Gentiles, 9) full preterism refuted by itself, 10) full preterism refuted by Scripture, 11) full preterism refuted by futurism*** and 12) full preterism is an anti-Christian heresy. The document can be read here.
*** I believe most of Revelation has been fulfilled historically and that we are living in the era of the “little season” of the sixth vial (I could be wrong of course); since I believe that some things must still occur (a non-irrelevant event called “The Second Coming” for example) I could be considered a partial futurist but not a full futurist
The just mentioned document was the outline for a series of 10 sermons on the topic of full preterism which can be heard on the same website. Just click here or on the following links:
Please note that the pastor holds to amillennialism which is my view of the Millennium as well.
I also listened to some sermons on SermonAudio which deal with full preterism and partial preterism. Just click on the following links:
Please note that both Calvinist preachers are pedobaptists and historic postmillennialists. I will say this : I have much more sympathy and respect for historic postmillennialism than I do for the preterist variety of postmillennialism because some godly men of the past were historic postmillennialists.
For a refutation of the preteristic view of Revelation espoused by Bossuet, a 17-century French champion of Popery and enemy of the Protestant Huguenots, please check out Christopher Wordsworth’s book called “Union With Rome – Is Not the Church of Rome the Babylon of the Apocalypse? An Essay”. In refuting Bossuet’s form preterism (AntiChrist was a Roman Caesar in the 4th century by the name of Julian the Apostate) he also refutes full preterism and the popular form of partial preterism espoused by some modern professing Christians (e.g. Gary DeMar). The book in electronic format can be read or downloaded for free here. Mr. Wordsworth divided his book into 3 main parts: 1) Whether Babylon in the Apocalypse is the City of Rome?, 2) Whether Babylon in the Apocalypse is the Church of Rome? and 3) Reflections on the Prophecies concerning Babylon in the Apocalypse.
One of the weaknesses of preterism is that preterists must absolutely prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Book of Revelation was written years before the events of 70 AD or else the system must be rejected. It’s that simple. Tradition teaches that the apostle John wrote the book around the year 95 under the reign of Domitian. A very learned writer of the 19th century, E. B. Elliott, whose 4-volume commentary on Revelation contained around 2500 pages and close to 10000 references and foot-notes wrote an essay concerning the date of the writing of Revelation refuting arguments put forth by preterists in the past who tried to prove that the book had been written around 30 years earlier. The essay is found in volume 1 of his Revelation commentary and can be read online here.
In volume 4 of Mr. Elliott’s book is a section dealing with two forms of preterism : the preterism of Bossuet (fulfillment within first centuries) and the more extreme preterism of Moses Stuart (fulfillment within first century). The section can be read online here. Please note that Mr. Elliott was a historic premillennialist.
If prophecies in the middle of the Book of Revelation such as the vision of locusts of chapter 9 found historic fulfillment CENTURIES AFTER 70 AD AND AT LEAST A CENTURY AFTER THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN THE 5TH CENTURY then that in itself refutes preterism. Please check out my “Revelation 9′s Locusts Are Not Revolution 9′s Beatles” and “200 Million Chinese Horsemen?”series of blog posts. Also check my blog post titled “The AntiChrist : Some Helpful Resources”.
Before finishing I wanted to add a little word about the idea put forth that “Christ came in judgment” in AD 70. While I agree that what happened in 70 AD was divine judgment upon the unbelieving Jews for rejecting and killing their Messiah I want to point out that it would be more appropriate Biblically to say that the “Father came in judgment”. The parable of the vineyard in Matthew chapter 21 would indicate this. In that parable the lord of the vineyard represents God the Father and the son of the lord of the vineyard represents Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is said that the lord of the vineyard (God the Father) would destroy the wicked servants (Matthew 21:37-41). In the parable of the wedding feast which immediately follows the parable of the vineyard the same idea is repeated. In the parable the king represents God the Father and the son of the king represents Jesus Christ. In Matthew 22:7 it says that the king (God the Father) sent his armies (not His son) to destroy the wicked city (Jerusalem in 70 AD). Please note that this destruction of Jerusalem happens midway in the parable and not at the end. People today are still being called to the wedding feast and this calling of sinners to faith in Christ and repentance toward God will continue till Christ’s visible return.