Preterists find “proof” for the understanding of prophecy in the time texts of the Bible. Words and phrases like “shortly” and “the time is at hand” convince them that prophecy was fulfilled in the very generation of the writers of Scripture. How are we to understand these near-to-now time texts?
The two main arguments for preterism are: first, the time texts of prophecy and, secondly, an allegorical interpretation of prophecy. When these two arguments are combined, preterists feel justified in looking in the history books to find individuals and events that fit the prophetic descriptions of a first-century A.D. disaster. Predictably they conclude that the judgments of the Great Tribulation and the coming of Jesus Christ in the clouds occurred in A.D. 70.
How does an allegorical interpretation of prophecy support preterism?
Those who interpret prophecy allegorically spiritualize the details of prophecy. They do not take prophecy literally, but rather they understand the details of the prophecy to indicate something other than what the prophecy is really talking about.
For example, in the Olivet Discourse the Lord Jesus Christ says that “the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven” (Matthew 24:29). Preterists say that this doesn’t really mean that the moon will literally become dark and the stars will literally fall out of the sky. Rather this is a symbolic way of saying that some very bad things will happen. When you interpret Scripture in that way and when you read the words “shortly” and “the time is at hand,” you will have no trouble in saying that the Great Tribulation occurred in A.D. 70 with the Roman invasion of Jerusalem.
One of the great dangers in preterism is that it minimizes Scripture. Preterism is a way to tame God. For preterists, words that speak of the whole world and the uttermost parts of the earth refer only to “the whole Roman Empire.” But if they are consistent in their approach to Scripture, then they destroy the Great Commission. In Acts 1:8 Jesus said, “… and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Are we supposed to evangelize the whole world or only “the uttermost part of the Roman Empire in the first century”?
For someone who reads the Bible like preterists do, then God’s mercy is not worldwide, but only local in extent. Revelation 5:9 has a new and unusual twist: “Thou … hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation of the ancient Roman Empire.” On the basis of preterism, the God of Scripture is only a tribal deity.
What do they do with Revelation 1:7 which says: “… and every eye shall see him … and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him”?
Predictably, preterists limit the applicability of this text to Israel in the first century. One well-known preterist writes that the references to Jesus coming in the Book of Revelation have to do with Christ’s coming in judgment particularly on Israel. “All kindreds of the earth” means, for preterists, all the tribes and peoples of Israel.