- Stephen D Blum Jr
What is Preterism and why it matters right now . .
I've considered moving to GAB, a budding, powerful Facebook alternative, for the last week or so, but find myself dragging my feet, for reasons I cannot yet define. The owner is a young man named Andrew Torba, whose Christian zeal is strangely unsettling, as I too am a believer. I have no reason to doubt his sincerity, but the fact is that he, as the owner of a right-wing version of FaceBook, is about to become very rich, and that that success depends largely upon the migration of millions of Christians searching for a Facebook alternative, seems like more than a fortunate coincidence. This does not prove him insincere of course. It may be largely a business decision, and a wise one at that, similar to the overtures Donald Trump made to gain Christian support. But on my first visits to GAB I saw this post:
So what's wrong with Preterism?
Preterism is the belief that most or all of Bible prophecy was fulfilled by 70 A.D. or so, hence, the word wait sprinkled throughout the post above. It was written to chide those who are still waiting for Jesus' return, and enlist them in the cause of reclaiming the earth (or in this case, America) for Jesus. For full Preterists, Jesus is now reigning on earth. Preterism existed by the 2nd century alongside Premillennialism, the belief that Christ returns physically before His thousand-year reign on earth. Fear began to surface in the Church as the years following 70 A.D. passed without Jesus' return. Unwilling to abandon their faith but seeking to justify His absence, some began to teach that He had returned spiritually. With the church's theology and central authority still being formed, no charge of heresy was made and the two camps co-existed. Whatever the case, it's here now, it's powerful, wrong, and dangerous.
Partial Preterism is harmless, claiming scripture is partly fulfilled. Premillennialists call that history. But full Preterism is a monster intent on assimilating Biblical literalism. And if there's one thing the Bible is, it is literal.
The holocaust of Jerusalem's 70 A.D. destruction surely fulfilled Jesus' words in Matthew 24. Hadn't they seen with their own eyes the bloody destruction of God's temple, where literally "one stone was not left upon another"? And hadn't many false prophets claimed to be the Messiah and prophesied Roman defeat? Surely the "wars and rumors of wars" culminating in the sordid betrayal of family members as the bloody conflagration neared were exactly what Jesus prophesied. But where was His mighty return with the sound of a trumpet and a host of angels? Did Jesus miss this one? If he can't keep His promise to return how in the world can He save us from our sins? One can easily imagine not only the height of anticipation in 70 A.D., but the profound depth of disappointment that followed. Paul himself had exhorted the new believers to "look for the savior" (Philippians 3:20) from heaven, and that he would appear "shortly" (Romans 16:20). And now - nothing!
By 100 A.D Jerusalem was a ghost town occupied by a few wandering Jewish farmers
From the beginning Christians believed that Jesus' physical return in glory would inaugurate His thousand-year reign with the saints. After Jesus' resurrection his disciples pointedly ask, "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6), to which He replies essentially, "It is not for you to know" (verse 7). Their question is unanswered as He gives them directions for the immediate future and ascends into the sky with two angels promising that He will return in the same way He leaves (verse 11).
In other words, the attitude of immanence (touted by pre-tribulationists as proof of their position) was present from the resurrection of Jesus, and was not understood until later as evidenced in Acts 3:21.
The first Church was Pre-millennial
Here are Jesus' words:
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:" (Matthew 25:31-34).
Jesus comes in glory, openly, and judges between those who are His and those who are not, and invites His own to "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world", to "take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even forever and ever" (Daniel 7:18). The Millennial kingdom follows a physical return of Jesus to earth. Preterists, denying a gap, must spiritualize Jesus' return.
Paul likewise exhorts his followers to "wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thessalonians 1:10), when rewards would be given (1 Corinthians 4:5), at the "last trump" (1 Corinthians 15:52). Paul, a Pharisee, tended to look at salvation not only in the personal sense, but as the fulfillment of glorious promises made to the patriarchs and prophets concerning the nation of Israel. He recognizes that the blindness characterizing Israel in his day was only "in part" (Romans 11:25), lasting only until the gentiles elected to salvation had passed thru the door of Christ and were joined to Israel. He does not see separate destinies for Israel and the "church" as Dispensationalists do, but takes great pains to explain that there is "neither Jew nor Greek" in Christ (Galatians 3:28), that gentiles who were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise" (Ephesians 2:12) but had believed in Jesus were "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (v. 19). He sees clearly the mystery that "the gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Ephesians 3:6). Indeed, Paul's dismantling of Jewish exclusivity so enraged his peers that they tried several times to kill him. For Paul, not only was it true that "all Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11:26) but that the saints (including gentiles) would then "judge the world" (1 Corinthians 6:2), and "ever be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Paul was a premillennial literalist. Jesus' physical return preceded the kingdom.
About 160 A.D. Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho confirms scripture in its premillennial view. In this letter, Trypho asks Justin Martyr this question:
“I remarked to you sir, that you are very anxious to be safe in all respects, since you cling to the Scriptures. But tell me, do you really admit that this place, Jerusalem, shall be rebuilt; and do you expect your people to be gathered together, and made joyful with Christ and the patriarchs, and the prophets, both the men of our nation, and other proselytes who joined them before your Christ came?"
To which Justin Martyr replies:
"But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, [as] the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare."
Again, Jesus' physical return (a resurrection of the dead) precedes the millennial thousand-year reign in Jerusalem.
Papias lived from 60 to 130 A.D. The early fourth century Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea confirmed Papias’ Premillennialism:
"The same person, moreover, has set down other things as coming to him from unwritten tradition, amongst these some strange parables and instructions of the Saviour, and some other things of a more fabulous nature. Amongst these he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth. (p. 154. Eusebius, Fragments of Papias, VI.)
In the late 2nd century, in a book titled "Against Heresies" Irenaeus argues that a future earthly kingdom is necessary because of God's promise to Abraham. From Wikipedia:
"God promised him the inheritance of the land. Yet, Abraham did not receive it during all the time of his journey there. Accordingly, it must be that Abraham, together with his seed (that is, those who fear God and believe in Him), will receive it at the resurrection of the just.”
In another place Irenaeus also explained that the blessing to Jacob “belongs unquestionably to the times of the kingdom when the righteous will bear rule, after their rising from the dead. It is also the time when the creation will bear fruit with an abundance of all kinds of food, having been renovated and set free... And all of the animals will feed on the vegetation of the earth... and they will be in perfect submission to man. And these things are borne witness to in the fourth book of the writings of Papias, the hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp.”
There you go. A literal millennium confirming the promises to Abraham follows a literal resurrection of saints.
But in the second century panicking apologists began to arise, and by the early third century Origen's hyper-allegorical interpretation of prophecy was gaining steam. Where else were disappointed lovers of Jesus to turn to assuage their growing fear that Jesus was not physically returning?
The crushing disappointment of the Millerites in 1844 was America’s most recent parallel. And the fix was the same: allegorizing scripture. The followers of William Miller were so sure that Jesus was coming that some of them sold their belongings, donned white robes and waited in trees for Jesus to snatch them away. Make no mistake, I'm not mocking anyone. Ellen White, the false prophetess of Adventism saved the day by explaining that Jesus had simply moved from one room to another in heaven, to determine those qualified for salvation, and the heretical Investigative Judgement doctrine was born.
But think with me for a moment. Did the stars fall from the sky in 70 A.D.? Did Christ appear with the terrifying sound of a trumpet, and gather his elect from the four corners of the earth? Was a golden age of peace inaugurated as the Saints reigned with Christ in glorified bodies for 1000 years? Was Israel restored as the head and not the tail, with the promises of Isaiah and Ezekiel fulfilled? Are the saints today living in glorified bodies?
Preterism creates far more problems than it solves. It undermines the plain sense of scripture, the faith of Saints, strips the future of hope, and most dangerously, places the responsibility for the Kingdom's eventual success squarely upon the shoulders of Man. This is why it is currently being cleverly hijacked as a tool for implementing the New World Order! However, there is a plain scriptural rebuttal to Preterism, which claims there is no gap between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel, that the Millennium started in 70 A.D with Jesus' spiritual return. There IS a gap that the world has been living in it for 1,950 years, and Daniel's last 70th week, a final 7-year stretch lies ahead. Jesus is still returning physically to judge the world and set up His kingdom!
THE GAP IN DANIEL
Most students of prophecy are aware of the famous prophecy of Daniel 9. A 490-year prophetic period ending in the millennium is divided into three significant sections. The beginning landmark is "the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem" under Cyrus the Great. The second is at 7 weeks (49 years) marking the restoration of the temple order, the completion of the Old Testament Canon, the writing of Malachi and the year of the 22nd jubilee. The third landmark is at 69 weeks (7 weeks of years + 62 weeks of years = 69 weeks of years, or 483 years). This leaves 7 years remaining to reach the fourth landmark, the 490 year completion of God's prophetic plan. Preterism sees the 490 years as contiguous, as completed with Christ reigning now.
Cyrus' Jerusalem the cross
decree rebuilt 70 A.D. millennium
(years) 0 49 years 483 years
week 1 week 7 week 69 week 70
Dan 9:25 'Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.' (seven weeks, plus threescore and two weeks equals 69 weeks of years, or 483 total years)
Dan 9:26 'And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined".
After "threescore and two weeks" (which when added to the original 7 weeks makes 69 weeks), Jesus comes and is "cut off" (crucified), not "for himself", but for us, for our sins, and the "people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary". This happened in 70 A.D. when the Roman army burned Jerusalem and the temple, literally prying "one stone from another" (Matthew 24:2) to retrieve the molten gold of the inner temple that trickled down between its giant ashlars as the fire raged.
Who then is the "prince that shall come"? An argument can be made that it is Titus himself. If it is Titus, the Roman general commanding the 10th legion that destroyed Jerusalem, where and when did he "confirm a covenant with many for one week" (7 years)? The one "confirming a covenant with many for one week" is yet to come.
Some have said that Jesus himself "confirmed a covenant", forgetting that, if we follow the wording of the text, Jesus is the one who makes the temple desolate! This is why you hear Protestants continually talking about a 7-year treaty in the future that will allow a third temple for the Jews - and its desecration by the "antichrist". The "gap" is the indeterminate period between the 69th week (70 A.D.) and the 70th or final week, the 7-year period inaugurated by the treaty and "confirmed" by the antichrist. For Preterism there is no gap. We are in the millennium. How do you like it so far?
But there are other scriptures alluding to a gap, such as this one:
In Acts . .
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19-21).
Did you see it? "the heavens must receive" Jesus, Peter explains, UNTIL "the times of restitution of all things", the Millennial reign. Jesus must not only be caught up to heaven, He must return yet again, as said previously in Acts 1:9-11:
"And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven."
Jesus ascension is not the last time we're going to see Him. He doesn't go to stay, but just as scripture says, will return "in like manner as you see Him go". He is now at the right hand of the Father interceding for us as our high priest, and will return in power and unimaginable glory at the Father's time and command, for the restitution of all things and paradise regained, the Millennium.
REVELATION . .
"And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: (Jesus), and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne" (Revelation 12:50. The entire point of scripture is a regaining of paradise, the universal reign of Christ as Lord of the universe. But Preterism spiritualizes this reign. It has no Jesus who shall "come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day." (2 Thessalonians 1:10). because he doesn't come! He comes spiritually. There will come no time "when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously." (Isaiah 24:23). It is all gone!
MICAH . .
Micah 5:2 is the famous prophecy of Christ's being born in Bethlehem. God says that one whose "goings forth" (works) "are from old, from everlasting" shall "come forth unto me", i.e., be caught up to heaven, to God. Aren't the following verses 3 and 4 prophetic overviews of the age of gentile ingathering, when God shall "give them up" until (an undefined period or gap) "she which travailed" (Christ - rejecting Israel) "hath brought forth". What would the fruit of this travailing be? "Then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel" (a union of Jew and gentile believers) Sound plausible? Sounds like one fold and one Shepherd, upon the mountains of a restored Israel under Christ's millennial reign to me! (John 10:16, Galatians 3:28, Ezekiel 34:14). If it were, what would happen next??
"And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth" (Micah 5:4). Pretty coincidental?
IN AMOS . .
"For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth." (Amos 9:9)
What is this but a dispersion? After this God gathers not only Jews, but gentiles from "among the nations", yet preserves the very "least grain" of Israel! Jesus will lose none of His sheep! Amos continues:
"In that day (the day of this ingathering) "I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, (gentiles) which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this" (Amos 9:10-12 KJV).
AMOS IN ACTS . .
Acts 15:15 "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, (beginning in 46 A.D. with Paul) to take out of them a people for his name" (almost 2000 years have passed). And verse 16: "After this (2000 year period) I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up" (Acts 15:14-16).
Again, after an unspecified period of gathering gentiles, a gap, God turns His attention to the nation upon the mountains of Israel, to rebuild the messianic kingdom promised to our fathers, the godly Jews.
IN LUKE . .
Jesus himself outlines this same scenario in Luke 21. Beginning is verse 20 He vividly describes the months and weeks leading up to Jerusalem's destruction in 70 A.D, and ends in verse 24 with His matter-of-fact description of the inevitable outcome:
"And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles . ."
Everyone reading Josephus, or seeing the reliefs on the arch of Titus knows what transpired at the fall of Jerusalem. Josephus says that over a million Jews died in the 70 A.D. fall of Jerusalem. A handful of zealots held out 'til 73 A.D. to defy the Roman army at the top of Masada, and it was over. Any guess what happens next? That's right, a gap. But for how long is Jerusalem trodden down by the gentiles? How long until God turns to rebuild the tabernacle of David which is fallen down??
" . . until the times of the gentiles be fulfilled". It is an indeterminate time . . to us, but not to God Almighty for whom a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day. In 1948 A.D. the Lord's land once again heard the triumphant shouts of those she had vomited out, upon those who bore "cursing, vexation and rebuke", who were "smitten before their enemies" and "removed into all the kingdoms of the earth", who had fallen by the edge of the sword for nearly 2000 years! God has turned the fortune of those who bore Moses' curse to fight on behalf of His promises to the prophets! Can anyone doubt this holy script shall be played out to the end?
Preterism, the belief that Daniel’s 70 weeks are contiguous, is an error. There IS a gap, and God never lies!
But it presents an even greater, unseen threat in this hour . . it will be . .