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HISTORICAL PRETERISM
(Minor Fulfillment of Matt. 24/25 or Revelation in Past)

Joseph Addison
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Jean Le Clerc
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Abiel Livermore
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Martin Luther

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James MacKnight
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Keith Mathison
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Thomas Pyle
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Andrew Sandlin
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Thomas Scott
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C.H. Spurgeon

Rudolph E. Stier
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Friedrich Tholuck
George Townsend
James Ussher
Wm. Warburton
Benjamin Warfield

Noah Webster
John Wesley
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A Response to "Full Preterism"

By Historicist.com

A response to "full preterism" together with further questions for the preterist view of the Apocalypse.

The "body" below was written to combat a growing heresy known as full preterism, which argues that ALL Bible prophecy was fulfilled in the first century A.D. At the time, I was an "orthodox preterist," which refers to someone who upholds that Rev. 1-19 or thereabouts was fulfilled in the Jewish Roman war and Neronic persecutions of Christians in the first century A.D. I am no longer a preterist, but an historicist (the position that Revelation gives a basic look into church history in this age) and have made some additional comments as noted below.

BODY

Peter on Pentecost interpreted the "raising up" of David's descendant in terms of Jesus having been raised from the dead and ascended into Heaven (see 2 Sam. 7:12). This was done by him (Acts 2:30-31) by showing that a connection was intended between Ps. 16 and the Davidic promise. In Acts 13, Paul likewise connects Jesus' resurrection / ascension with the Davidic promise in 2 Sam. 7:12. Thus the Holy Spirit through the inspired apostles signifies to us that the raising up of a descendant referred not simply to generational descent, but God intended the promise to be fulfilled ultimately through the resurrection of the Christ from the dead.

This is the ultimate fulfillment the Ps. 2:7 sonship. The resurrection aspect of the raising up of the Davidic Messiah is also found in Is.55:3. These themes are connected elsewhere by Paul as well, 1 Tim.2:8 and Rom. 1:1-4. The "Seed of David" is "declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection [being raised up] from the dead" (p 178). The divine sonship here is not simply a reference to Christ as God the Son, rather it is a reference to Him as the Son of David fulfilling the Ps. 2:7 promise. Colossians continues to declare Christ's beloved sonship and kingdom (1:13), being made firstborn (1:15,18).

This ties in with the Davidic promise from Ps. 89:27: "I shall also make him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth." Christ's resurrection as firstborn from the dead places Him as the firstborn also in the sense of importance and blessedness in regard to the kings of the earth. This is fulfilled with Christ enthroned at God's right hand (Col. 3:1). Col. 1:18 is quite explicit. Christ's being made "firstborn from the dead" places Him in a position of having "first place in everything." This calls to mind again the promise of Ps. 89:27. Rev. 1:5 ties in nicely with the declaration that Jesus is "the firstborn from the dead and the Ruler of the kings of the earth."

Keeping in mind the above discussion, this is a good place to inject an important side note. There is another group that frequently denies the applicability of the political aspects of Christ's dominion over the nations on the basis that every prophecy in the entire Bible was fulfilled in the first century, by A.D. 70. Thus Ps. 2 at least potentially can be seen by them as limited in its application to that same time frame.

This group, known sometimes by their opponents as hyper preterists, claim to be "consistent" or "full" preterists. a point should be made in critique of their view of Christ's fulfillment of His dominion as prophesied in the OT. One basic idea behind their understanding of these passages is that the Kingdom of Heaven refers to Israel exclusively. Thus when 1 Cor. 15:25 states that Christ "must reign until He has placed all of His enemies under His feet," it refers solely to the destruction of Jerusalem when His enemies in association with the old kingdom (which they believe is the intended Kingdom of Heaven) were annihilated. To bolster their argument, they argue that "kings of the earth" in Rev. 1:5 should be translated "kings of the land," consistent with the use of the term gae elsewhere in the book of Revelation.

They argue as well that the word for earth in the OT prophecies may also be translated as "land" rather than earth. yet the fulfillment of the OT prophesies alluded to require a broader fulfillment and I do not believe even in the context of Rev. 1:5 that this term is most appropriately rendered "land" even if one believes it is the common usage of the term in the Apocalypse. In Ps. 89, the kings of the earth do not refer to lesser magistrates of Israel being subdued to the Davidic king. For one thing, the Davidic king is already higher in position than the lesser magistrates of Israel. The context of the preceding verses is that of the Davidic king fighting his foes and having his hand set "in the sea" and "in the rivers."

More importantly, assuming for a moment that the book of Revelation applies Jesus' conquering kingship to primarily to Jerusalem, Pss. 2 and 110 speak specifically of the "nations," as do other psalms, being ruled over by Christ, and it is His reign over the nations, not simply the Jewish nation, that brings about the warning in Ps. 2 for rulers to repent and to "kiss the Son" and serve Him with fear and gladness. This is not fulfilled by a judgment upon Israel alone (even according to some of them the Apocalypse itself speaks of judgment not on Israel alone, but also upon Nero). Thus the Davidic dominion over the nations has not ended, 1 Cor. 15:25 has not yet been fulfilled, and Christ's dominion over the nations can (and will) be satisfied with the gentile nations coming to belief and submitting not only themselves, but their governing bodies willfully to that reign.

Hyper preterists will be hard pressed to convince me that Ps. 22:27-28; Ps. 72:8-11; etc. have only a limited application and were entirely fulfilled in all of their fullness by A.D. 70 (a basis in Lk. 21:22 is at best misguided; "all things" refers not to every single prophecy in the entire Bible, but all things related to the fall of the old kingdom and the establishment of the Messianic aeon). But if it is not so limited, then the reign of Christ in 1 Cor. 15 is not fulfilled and the final coming and resurrection haven't occurred either. 
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[FURTHER COMMENT]
Again, I'd be hard pressed to act as though this is the ultimate refutation of the whole movement, but I think the basic point I was trying to make was valid insofar as I got with it. The resurrection in 1 Cor. 15:50-54 is the victory over death in 1 Cor. 15:25-26. thus I believe it won't happen until all the other enemies in v25 are put under Christ's feet. The question is a matter of who are these enemies & in what manner are they under His feet. At the least, I see Psalms. 2, 72, 110 (which has direct bearing on the passage in question), etc. as being fulfilled at this time and it applies to the nations as a whole, not just Israel.

I realize, again, that this is certainly not an "end all" type of argument, but i think it is valid. I only covered the topic tangentially as it was since the particular thing I was dealing with in the above (now modified) essay was dispensationalism and the issue of whether ps.2:10-12 are to be fulfilled in this age.

I should mention in passing that I have found some full preterists who do say that some OT prophecies continue into the kingdom age, thus a couple of points I mentioned do not affect such people. However, my basic point is that 1 Cor. 15:25 will not be fulfilled until after some of these prophecies I mention are fulfilled. And if the last enemy is death, and 1 Cor. 15 connects the victory over death with the resurrection, then the resurrection will occur at the end of the kingdom. Some will argue that all 1 Cor. 15 means is that the goal of the kingdom will be accomplished when the last Christian ever to live is "resurrected" to heaven at death, and try to escape the force of some of this argument.

I will not here address this idea in detail. it is interesting to note that Hymaneus' heresy was preaching that the resurrection is past. The usual hyperpreterist answer is that his heresy was being off by a few years. However, this would be an odd cause for such a strong rebuke. After all, so he was off a few years on what date the souls would ascend to heaven. Why so strongly condemned? It seems to me that Paul would then condemn his own self as well by his condemnation of Hymaneus. After all, even before A.D. 70, to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord. If entering the presence of the Lord in heaven was all the resurrection was, then Paul also appears to teach that the resurrection was past!


Since writing the above essay, I am now basically an historicist in my view of the Book of Revelation. These are some random notes challenging the preterist notion altogether. I will not give an exposition of the apocalypse here, only note challenges to preterism.

666 and the beast

It is often thought by preterists that the answer to 666 is Nero. It is stated that the apostle John's original readers MUST have been able to figure out the riddle. This is not required though. The riddle need not be solved before the events start taking shape. It is of interest that many of the fathers saw the answer to be lateinos, and understood the beast to have ecclesiastical authority. In this sense, they seemed to have an understanding of a pope like figure.

The pope's official title is vicar of Christ, which in Greek is antichristos. hmmm... do you think he just might be the antichrist? His character fits both Daniel's and John's visions. The Latin title used in the forged Donation of Constantine, which was used to usurp power over roman lands is a title that means literally "in place of the Son of God" (let's not forget "in place of" is "anti" in greek) and adds to 666 (a title still used by the popes) but here we are more concerned with the evidence that it is Nero. Perhaps the most devastating aspect is that Nero's name does not add to 666. Preterists claim that the Hebrews spelled it NRN QSR or NRN KSR which adds to 666. True that this spelling is used in some Hebrew documents. But the preterists have overlooked the Hebrew rules for rekoning numerical values of letters. A few letters, "n" being one, has both a primary and secondary value, and rules to determine which value it takes. In this case, the final "n" in NRN would have a value not of 50 (which the preterists need to add to 666), but takes on the secondary value, which is 700. This gives a grand total of 1316, not 666. It is also interesting to note that the early church, even under persecutions, often stated that the restrainer of 2 thes. 2, which held back the revealing of the man of sin, was the secular roman empire; e.g., irenaeus.

Further complications:

When we get to chapter 17, we meet the whore. I now take this for the corrupted papal church. Archibald Mason made me doubt that this referred to Jerusalem. Preteristic commentators tend to believe that 18:6 refers to the work of Rome in destroying Jerusalem (I believe Mason's work was "Overthrow of Anti Christ by the Instrumentality of Christ's Witnesses" or some such title - didn't read the book, just saw 18:6 mentioned in reference to the title and read it and thought about it).

The problem is, Rome is not the one in view here. It is the church who is to repay the whore in the same manner in which she was treated by the whore. If this is preteristic, it never happened. The Roman church, now considered in her ecclesiastical sense, as a church, is drunk with the blood of martyrs.

The 7 heads of the whore are said to be the 7 hills of Rome upon whose authority she sits, while the 10 horns refer to the kingdoms of Europe over whom her power was primarily displayed. In chapter 13, the horns of the beast, rather than the heads (12:3), are crowned with the diadems. This is because the empire by chapter 13 had broken up already by the time it was fulfilled and the kingdoms did have authority that they did not yet have in John's day.  

The kingdoms in john's day "had not yet received a kingdom". the 7 heads also represented her connection to the empire reigning in john's own day: the 8th king would come into play later, and in reference to the 10 kings that had not yet received a kingdom (the nations of Europe which were not as yet in power, the preterist view that they represent already existing powers who had previously had authority and lost it to Rome is a stretch - the text states that they do not yet have authority) and is the son of perdition (a term elsewhere used of Judas), the pope, which is of the 7 kings in that it assumes the power of Rome and becomes a new persecutor. 

The kingdoms of Europe will be united under the civil authority of the papacy (the beast), to whom they give their power. together, they war against Christ - by suppressing the gospel and persecuting those who defend the gospel. They will come to hate the harlot though, and raise up against her.

As for chapter 11: the 10 kings in Dan. 7 are the same as in Revelation. that would make the king who is different from the rest the papacy, and the time times and a half time to refer to the papacy's reign and to Rev. 11-13. john states are kings over kingdoms which are not yet (in John's day) around. J.S. Russell's suggestion that they were tributaries of Rome is a little harder to buy since he himself states that they were kings over other nations under Rome. John says they have not received a kingdom yet, as tho implying that the kings and their kingdoms had not yet arisen. 

Daniel's vision only makes sense from a historicist view: the ruler comes to power over the 10 kingdoms by first subduing 3 - this happened historically when pope Zachary had subdued the kingdom of the Lombards. What 3 kingdoms do the preterists suggest Nero had subdued? In what way was Nero unlike all persecutors before him? If anything, he was less fierce than some of the other persecutors. His persecutions were at least primarily limited to Christians in Rome, unlike those both before and after him. Nor were his tortures any more cruel than those of other persecutors before and after him. And his persecutions were shorter than those of many both before and after him.

Again, can the 1260 days and 42 months of Rev.11 be preterist? There is evidence proposed that it refers to Jerusalem, but there are several problems. to name a few: it seems the inner temple is measured and set off from the outer one for a purpose: that it would NOT be destroyed. This fits the historicist understanding there, but in a preterist view, if the actual temple is meant, we know the inner courts were actually destroyed, in contradiction to rev. 11. Also, the 42 months certainly appears to correlate with the 42 months in ch. 13, which is the war on the SAINTS, not Jerusalem (yes I am aware that preterists believe these are 2 separate 3 1/2 year periods in chapters 11 and 13). The 42 months seem to span the time of the 2 witnesses. This is 1260 days. Preterists see Jerusalem's destruction in the 1335 days of Dan. with 1290 from beginning to the end of the sacrifice, 45 from then to the end of the destruction, and maybe not. But if so, 1290 days is not the same as 1260 days. There is a month's difference here.

The other issue is the 2 witnesses - they are killed for 3 1/2 days. This would seem in a preterist view to correspond to the time times and a half time, or 1260 days in which they prophesy and strike fear. Curiously odd. Having seen the quotation from Ezekiel, it does appear the resurrection of the 2 witnesses is not physical but a reference to a restoration per Ezekiel's dry bones vision about the restoration of Israel (having not seen that before, I had trouble accepting a figurative interpretation of the witnesses previously, which often failed to give any basis for a figurative interpretation, which had brought some problems here noted). The figurative preterist view (which sees these also as the church or Bible, but during the destruction of Jerusalem) appears to have the difficulty of making the 1260 days synonymous with the 3 1/2 days.

Thus the witnesses are alive and well and strike fear, and dead with the world rejoicing at the same time. Puzzling. This was a major reason I had before held valid that the prophecy was literal of an event in Jerusalem which we simply don't have record of (per Milton Terry, J. S. Russell, et al) and that the 3 1/2 days were literal and ended towards the end of Jerusalem's desolation. Now it seems the historicist has a case here. Cross referencing with the 2 witnesses in Zech., they are a testimony to purity in church and state - a remnant in the church.

Observations on the word for temple in Rev. 11 and 2 Thes. 2:

In connection with the critique of preterism that i have already observed, there is the question of whether the temple in revelation and the epistle of 2 Thes. refers to the temple in Jerusalem.

The word for temple in these verses is naos (2 Thes. 2 and Rev. 11), which means not temple, but sanctuary or dwelling place (of God). Observing thru the gospels, naos is used in Matthew 23:16, 17, 21, 35; 26:61; 27:5,40,51; Mark 14:58; 15:29,38; Luke 1:9,21,22;23:45; John 2:19-21. Examining those passages, Matthew 23:35 obviously refers to the holy place and not the whole temple insofar as the altar was considered a part of the temple, yet it says "who was slain between the altar and the temple". 

Thus naos in the previous verses probably has the same meaning, the holy place, and not the whole temple (offhand, I recall the tabernacle, not sure with the temple, the gold that covered various items in the tabernacle was in the sanctuary and not open to view by those outside the holy place). Note that this is NOT the word used in Matthew 24:1 for temple. That word is hieron. we shall examine that word momentarily. Matthew 26:61 is in itself unclear.

The context seems to indicate that temple is used here of "the dwelling place of God" however, which is the main point we are driving at. Matthew 27:5 would appear to be the whole temple insofar as I believe off the cuff that only the priests could enter the holy place (I'm speaking off the cuff here), but as we continue our comparison of the words, it will become more evident that this objection is not formidable in the face of the full evidence (not to mention that the priesthood was corrupt, so Judas may have been let into the holy place by the priests who conspired against Christ, or the term could mean that he threw his money into the treasury which was brought into the holy place). 27:40 is unclear, as 26:61, but v. 40 refers to the veil separating the holy place from the sanctum sanctorum. mark 14:58 refers to the same statement recorded in Matt. 26:61. Luke 1:9,21,22 refers not to the temple, but specifically to the holy place.

The people "praying without" in vs. 10 would have been in the temple outside of the holy place. 23:45 refers to the holy place. john 2 is another passage which could be open to dispute as to the meaning of naos, like as in Matthew 26:61, when Christ re-cleanses the temple at the end of His ministry like He did towards the beginning of it. The jews would appear here to have understood Christ to refer to the whole temple, though the meaning of Christ again seems at least to indicate the issue of the place where God dwells.

In the book of acts, naos is used only twice, and both times to refer to the dwelling place of God (7:48; 17:24). It is never used of the temple itself. in the Pauline epistles (excepting for the moment 2 Thes. 2) always uses naos of the dwelling place of God and without exception uses it in terms of the church as being the "naos" of God (1 Cor. 3:16,17; 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21). The word naos is then only used in the apocalypse. It should be noted that even if naos is held to refer to the whole temple (as some believe it could mean in some verses), the meaning of naos is dwelling place or sanctuary, and would still refer to the temple as the dwelling place of God.

The word heiron is used generically of the temple as a whole throughout the gospels. But of the 71 times it occurs, 25 times are in the book of Acts. The temple is never to my knowledge referred to as the naos of God after the crucifixion of Christ. The word for tabernacle, which means habitation or dwelling place is used of the Old Testament tabernacle as the dwelling place in the OT in Hebrews, referring to the holy place. 

In Acts it is used of the OT tabernacle and in chapter 15 of the church as the rebuilding the tabernacle of David. this word that I can see thus far is never used of the temple, at least after the crucifixion of Christ, except when referring to the OT tabernacle (and perhaps may apply to the temple) in reference to being shadows before the crucifixion of Christ. This word is used in revelation 7:15 in regards to the temple in heaven; 12:12 "ye heavens and ye that tabernacle therein", 13:6 (the beast blasphemes God's tabernacle), 15:5(the temple of the "tabernacle" or dwelling place, in heaven) and 21:3 (God's "tabernacle" is with men).

The word hieron, or temple, referring to the temple as a whole is used 71 times in the NT. It is for instance the word in Matthew 24:1. It is used 25 times in acts to refer to the temple, and is used after that only in 1 Cor. 9:13 - where it refers to how the priesthood who partake in the ministry of the "temple" partake of the sacrifices laid upon the altar. This word is never used in the Apocalypse.

The word naos is used in the apocalypse in rev. 11:1,2,19; 14:15,17; 15:5,6,8; 16:1,17; 21:22. rev. 11 it is used of the inner temple which is measured, while the outer courts are trampled by the gentiles (interestingly, in Jerusalem's destruction, the inner court WAS destroyed, but part of the wall of the outer court of the gentiles WAS NOT destroyed, the reverse of what Revelation seems to imply). 

This is the only reference in Revelation that any appear to suggest refers to the temple in Jerusalem. The other references are to the "temple of God was opened in heaven," 11:19, the angels coming out of the temple in heaven, 14:15,17; the temple of the tabernacle which is in heaven, 15:5,6,8; 16:1 appears to refer to this same temple in heaven, which is also referred to as the temple in heaven in 16:17; and 21:22 refers to no temple in the holy city for God dwells in the city itself, referring either to heaven or to the church where no more outward temple is needed because the revelation is made that God is in the New Jerusalem itself.

Thus in the entire New Testament, only twice after the crucifixion of Christ might the word naos ever refer to the temple in Jerusalem, 2 Thes. 2 and rev. 11, and in rev. 11, the measuring of the temple appears to be to preserve it and mark the boundaries of the true dwelling place while the "outer courts of the gentiles" are left out during a time when the holy city is trampled under foot by the gentiles. 

In 2 Thes. 2, he sitteth in the temple of God might refer to the inner courts, but the reference is clearly to the ark of the covenant, which was the resting place of the shekinah glory. By sitting there, he puts himself in place of God and most likely refers figuratively to sitting in authority over the temple rather than literally sitting on the ark of the covenant. On this basis, it at least can't be objected "how does the pope 'sit' in the church?" (though an interesting albeit possibly without any significance point may be made that the papal authority is said to be his "sitting" on the chair of peter and "ex cathedra" pronouncements are pronouncements "from the chair," which is said to be the seat of authority over Christendom).

What do YOU think ?

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Date:
30 Oct 2001
Time:
11:30:20

Comments

I agree for the most part. Personally I wish that there was more Historicist positions placed against Preterist positions on this website. You guys (Preterists) do a great job of refuting Futurism, but its such a shallow sham anyway, thats not saying much. It my understanding that the majority, if not all of the Reformers were Historicist. This allowed them to accurately identify the Papal system as the antichrist..the result was the Protestant Reformation. I can certainly see some value in a Preterist position, but you have failed to answer historicism theologically or historically. 

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