Blinding The Eyes Of Believers: The Perils Of Preterism
Preterism is one of today’s popular views of the end times; its adherents among church staff continue to rapidly grow in number. Below is a list of its basic beliefs:
Nero was the Antichrist. There will be no future individual Antichrist.
The Tribulation Period is already over. It occurred when the Roman army besieged Jerusalem in AD 66-70.
Christ “returned” in the clouds in AD 70 to witness the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army.
God replaced Old Testament Israel with the Church. Therefore, all the biblical promises to Israel belong to the Church.
Armageddon already happened in AD 70.
Satan is already bound in the abyss and cannot hinder the spread of the Gospel. Revelation 20 has already been fulfilled.
We are already in the Millennium, but it is not literal. Some preterists equate the entire Church Age as the Millennium [as do other end time positions].
Some preterists believe in a bodily resurrection of the saints as described in 1 Corinthians 15:47-54 and Philippians 3:20-21, which necessitates, in their view, another return of the Saviour. Many advocates of preterism don’t believe in a future bodily resurrection of the saints as described in these passages.
The popularity of a doctrine that believes Jesus fulfilled His Matthew 24:29-31 promise in AD 70 is just an initial cause for alarm. Below I describe other reasons why we must reject the teachings of preterism. It’s also because they . . .
Nullify What The Bible Says About Jesus’ Future Glory
In Matthew 24:29-31, Jesus described His glorious return at which time everyone on earth will mourn as they see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” We see this magnificent display of dazzling supremacy recounted in Revelation 19:11-20:6.
To assert that an obscure vision of chariots clashing in the sky, which only one person reportedly saw, fulfilled these prophecies of Jesus’ breathtakingly spectacular return to earth, as the preterists do, makes no sense whatsoever.
To say that that this happened in AD 70 has a chilling impact on the glory that Scripture ascribes to Jesus at His Second Coming
Preterism also attacks Jesus’ glory by negating His future inheritance of the nations. Listen to what the Father promises the Son in Psalm 2:8-9: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
It’s clear from the context that these are physical nations with real kings. The promise of Psalm 2 as well as that of Isaiah 9:6-7 relate to a time when Jesus will physically govern the nations. Denying Jesus’ thousand-year reign cancels His future glory associated with both His return and kingship.
I believe that the most serious error of the preterists is that they do great damage to the Name of Jesus by placing His return to earth in AD 70.
Pour Cold Water On Our ‘Blessed Hope’
It’s abundantly clear throughout the New Testament that God intended our future expectation to be solely upon Jesus and His appearing at which time believers will receive glorified bodies (Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Corinthians 15:47-54), experience eternal victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:54-56; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, 4:13-5:11), and be caught up to forever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is the substance of our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:11-14).
As New Testament saints, we have a glorious expectation rooted in the sure promise of Jesus’ appearing. Don’t let anyone pour ice-cold water on your joyous hope of meeting Jesus in the air. This day is surely coming.
Contradict What Scripture Reveals About God’s Character
I retired seven years ago to begin a fulltime studying and writing career devoted mainly to defending Jesus’ thousand-year reign and our expectation of His appearing before the seven-year Tribulation. I have recently come to the conclusion that if someone were to ask me why I’m so convinced of these things, I would begin my response this way:
The future and glorious restoration of Israel seamlessly aligns with what Scripture reveals regarding God’s character. I also know Jesus, who perfectly mirrors the Father, and He will rescue His bride, the body of Christ, before His wrath encompasses the earth. It’s what I know from Scripture about the Lord that confirms my belief in these things.
Of course, the words of Scripture solidly back up these beliefs and I would quickly go there in defending our “blessed hope.”
As for the return of future glory to the nation of Israel, which preterists soundly deny, the Lord makes it clear that He must fulfil His covenants and promises because of His holiness. In Exodus 32:11-14, Moses bases His argument for God to preserve His people, after they worshipped the golden calf, upon His character and reputation. In Ezekiel 36:22-38, the Lord copies Moses’ argument from Exodus 32 stating that His holiness demands the restoration of Israel as detailed in this wonderful passage.
Teachings that place the fulfilment of most end-time biblical prophecies in the past also contradict what the Bible tells us about our God. Isaiah 46:8-11 tells us that He loves to declare “the end from the beginning.” The vast number of prophecies relating to our day stem both from His great love for us and His shear delight at revealing the future from ancient times.
The One who prophesied about His Son defeating Satan all the way back in the garden of Eden is definitely not Someone who would leave us with no signs of the end times or without a clue as to when Jesus might appear.
Rest Upon An Untenable View Of Church History
Preterists maintain that John authored the book of Revelation in about AD 65. If the apostle penned it after AD 70 then preterism can’t possibly be true since John would be writing about the future return of the Lord after it took place.
It’s impossible, however, to maintain such an early date for the origin of the book. Writers in the early centuries of the church place John’s banishment to the Isle of Patmos and the writing of Revelation late in the reign of the Emperor Domitian, who ruled over Rome from AD 81-96. Irenaeus, who grew up in the church at Smyrna and later became a prominent leader and writer, stated that John wrote Revelation near the end of Domitian’s rule.
Irenaeus’ mentor in the faith, Polycarp, was not only a disciple of the Apostle John, but also most likely the one who would’ve read the book to the church at Smyrna. Surely Irenaeus would’ve known the date of its writing.
A question that preterists can’t answer is this: “Why did all the prominent leaders of the church during its first three centuries regard the Second Coming as a future event? Influential church fathers such as Papias (70-163), Irenaeus (130-202), Justyn Martyr (100-165), and Tertullian (155-240) all wrote regarding the future certainty of Jesus’ return to earth as well as His thousand-year reign over the nations. Until the time of Augustine in the fifth century AD, the church believed in Jesus’ future one-thousand year reign with few exceptions.
The testimony of church history makes preterism untenable. Besides the almost unanimous witness to the later date for the writing of Revelation, everyone in the early centuries of the church regarded Jesus’ return as a future event. How is it possible that the entire church missed Jesus’ return if it had already happened?
The idea that Jesus returned to earth in AD 70 didn’t even exist anywhere in the church until the seventeenth century when a disgruntled Jesuit Catholic priest, Luis de Alcazar, began teaching the past fulfilment of biblical prophecy associated with Jesus’ Second Coming.
Hurt The Saints
Preterism deprives New Testament saints of the blessedness of their “blessed hope.” It does so by turning the New Testament expectation of glory into one of certain death. During the past decade, I’ve heard several pastors say that all believers will die before Jesus returns even though the Bible says otherwise in I Corinthians 15:47-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
Do you see how this not only blinds the eyes of believers, but also hurts them by shifting their attention away from Jesus’ appearing?
Preterists, as well as amillennialists, do considerable damage to the cause of Christ by ignoring myriad of signs pointing to Jesus’s soon arrival to take us home. They tell us that eschatological positions are “tertiary,” or of third-rate importance, and we must not talk about something so nonessential lest we upset someone.
Apart from what the Bible reveals about the end times and our hope, how do we deal with the massive number of deadly fires, the floods, and wholesale murder of multitudes, as well as innocents? How do we cope with such great wickedness apart from the Bible’s assurance that God is in control and that He will justly judge the world after He takes us up to glory?
It’s deeply troubling to anyone aware of the times in which we live. God’s Word relieves our fears in that it tells us the last days before the Tribulation would look like this and promises us that Jesus will appear to take us home before the start of the Day of the Lord’s wrath.
The end of the age wrap-up so prominent in both amillennialism and preterism beliefs keeps believers from hearing the biblically sound encouragement they so desperately need in today’s world. Such bland end-of-days scenario ignores the glories of Jesus’ Second Coming and His glorious rule over the nations. For us, it dampens our joyous expectation of His appearing as clearly annunciated in so many New Testament passages.
Biblical prophecy, as well as the book of Revelation, magnifies the person of Jesus from beginning to end. The teachings of preterism assign a far less glorious place to Jesus in the scheme of end time events. This is the key reason to reject it.
For New Testament saints drawn into this egregious error, it moves their hope away from Jesus’ appearing to the certainty of death leaving them to hope in things that will never calm their fears or enable them to cope with the terrors ahead should Jesus not come for His Church in the very near future.