Preterism, Redemptive history, etc.

Posted: 20th May 2007 by ElShaddai Edwards in Faith & Theology

Joe Myzia recently posted a review of “The Apocalypse Code” by Hank Hanegraff, a book that apparently critiques evangelical eschatology, and especially the brand of dispensational premillennialism advocated by authors LaHaye and Lindsey, from a preterist viewpoint:

“Hank’s view is that of partial preterism. Don’t let Hank fool you on his broadcast when he claims he’s not a preterist. Hank is not a full preterist. Hank is, however, a partial preterist which is the more common view of the two from my experience. R. C. Sproul calls this moderate preterism as opposed to radical preterism. And this book is his rebuttal against dispensational premillennielism (the pre-tribulation rapture view that many are familiar with – DP throughout the rest of this article).”

I have not read the book, so I can’t comment on the book or Joe’s critique from a content perspective. However I have spent some time in this area of study, so I wanted to use Joe’s post as a springboard to get some notes down for further discussion.

The key passages regarding the last days are Daniel 7-12, Matthew 24 (also Mark 13, Luke 21) and the book of Revelation. There are other scattered passages and verses as well, but any legitimate explanation of end times prophecy must deal with these key texts.

In contrast to other eschatological views that see the fulfillment of these prophecies in current or future events, preterism advocates that the primary fulfillment of these prophecies was found in 70 AD, when Roman armies laid waste to the city of Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and effectively ended temple/sacrificial Judaism. Preterism’s strength is that it offers an exegetical explanation for the prophecies that is grounded in the actual events of the primary audience. When Jesus says that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” in Matthew 24:34 (TNIV), preterists interpret that literally as the generation of people that Jesus physcially lived with. Preterism removes the temptation to interpret scripture through the lens of almost 2000 years of history by limiting the scope of fulfillment to that first generation.

Preterism’s greatest weakness is that there are some passages that just don’t seem to fit the 70AD model. The inability of preterism to clearly explain passages about Jesus’ physical return, e.g. Matthew 24:29-31 and Revelation 20-22, has led many to establish a moderate position known as “partial preterism”, whereby the majority of prophetic texts are viewed as fulfilled in 70AD, but some prophecy remains to be fulfilled in future events. In contrast, full preterists tend to advocate positions such as Christ’s second coming was physically fulfilled on Earth in the establishment of the Christian church while He reigns from heaven until the final judgement and establishment of New Heaven/New Earth.

I am not going to make this post a critique of eschatological systems. Maybe in future posts, but not now.

For now, I will say that I support the partial preterist viewpoint and that my understanding is that “the Church age” is the millennium, so I’ve taken an amilliennial stance. The role of the Church is to promote living according to the Kingdom principles outlined in Jesus’ parables. I believe that the timing of Christ’s return and the final judgement (Revelation 20:11-15) are known only to God and are independent of the actions of the Church. As such, I do not believe that God has a specific will for our individual lives (see “Decision Making and the Will of God” by Garry Friesen), but that we have ultimate choice of our decisions to live by or against the Kingdom of God. I understand that though Satan was bound by Christ’s resurrection, he continues to influence our lives and affect the choices we make.

I believe in redemptive history, whereby the arc of Creation-Fall-Redemption extends unbroken from Genesis to the new heavens and Earth in a full and complete realization of God’s sovereign will and not through iterative partial revealings as with dispensationalism. I believe that, within this redemptive arc, Christ came to Earth to end the covenant made with Abraham in Genesis 15, whereby the Lord’s death was required by the failure of Israel to be established as the light to all nations. By ending the covenant of Law, Christ’s death opened the door for all of humanity to receive the gift of grace and have a personal relationship with our Creator. Finally, I believe in Randy Alcorn’s vision of Heaven as a fully redeemed physical Earth where we are in physical relationship with each other and God, just as God originally intended His creation to be.

Whew! That’s a lot to spit out on a Sunday morning and hopefully I’ll have the chance to expand on some of those themes in future posts. In the meantime, feel free to comment on any of the issues I’ve touched on.

I mentioned above that I’ve spent some time studying this topic. For those curious, my “eschatological bookshelf” includes:

  1. Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Gentry)
  2. A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times (Riddlebarger)
  3. Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope (Mathison)
  4. Thine is the Kingdom: Studies in the Postmillennial Hope (Gentry)
  5. End Time Delusions: The Rapture, the Antichrist, Israel, and the End of the World (Wohlberg)
  6. Revelation: Four Views: A Parallel Commentary (Gregg)
  7. Heaven (Alcorn)

Obviously there is not a book on premillennialism. If someone wants to make a recommendation, I am always open to alternate viewpoints. One of the luxuries of riding the bus to work is that I do have dedicated “reading time” with limited distractions!

  1. […] Unfulfilled prophecy 21 05 2007 John Hobbins (Ancient Hebrew Poetry) has written some thoughts on unfulfilled prophecy and Biblical literalism that I found interesting to read in light of my previous summary of preterist eschatology. […]

  2. Scott says:

    I am a former Full Preterist and have recently published an article to my blog on why I can no longer accept that position. This may be something you may want to check out.