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Preterism On Trial – Part I

What would you think if someone told you that all prophecy has been fulfilled? Moreover, what if that person argues that the Bible does not speak about the future, nor does it even speak about what is happening in today’s world.

You might agree. If you do, you are a preterist. If not, you are a futurist. Preterists believe that the future events so labeled by futurists are really past events. They have all been fulfilled.

What Is Preterism?

There are two kinds of preterists. Full preterists believe that all so-called future events, even the return of Jesus Christ, have already happened. How could you miss it? Partial preterists do believe in a literal, bodily physical return of Jesus Christ, but everything else—the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, God’s promises to Israel, the Gog-Magog War—have all been completely fulfilled. Barcode technology and the RFID chip have nothing to do with prophecy and should not be viewed as having anything to do with “the Mark of the Beast.” 

Preterism has become very popular for two reasons. First, it helps to justify replacement theology. Israel is like every other nation of the world. It has no special future in the plan of God. Lots of nation became sovereign states in the 1940s—Israel did, but so did Pakistan and others. Preterists don’t believe that May 14, 1948, has anything to do with the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

The second reason why preterism has become popular is because of what preterists often call “last days madness.” Wild predictions, a lack of good biblical exegesis, and plenty of sensationalism have caused a push-back against prophecy. Let’s face it, how many times can you write about “final signs” when it is clear that they are not final. “Final” means “final.” When you are at the airport and you hear, “This is the final call for flight ABC,” you don’t expect any more calls. 

Preterist “Time Texts”

Everyone has a text. The preterists have “time texts.” Revelation 1:1 reads: “The revelation of Jesus Christ … to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.” Preterists take this to mean, “in a very short time, not thousands of years in the future.”

Another time text is Matthew 24:34, “Verily, I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Jesus uttered these words in the first century a.d. The generation on earth when Jesus spoke these words shall not pass until everything in the Olivet Discourse occurs, namely, in the first century a.d.

The preterist understanding of these time texts are problematic—for preterists. I think they are so eager to disprove the existence of prophecy that they pounce on these texts like a hungry fox pouncing on a rabbit.

Preterists generally see “the end” as occurring in a.d. 70 when the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple and slaughtered multitudes of Jews. It was, no doubt, a terrible time, but certainly does not fit Tribulation scriptures unless they are spiritualized. It’s on this basis that full preterists also spiritualize the Second Coming.

Since the destruction of Jerusalem occurred in a.d. 70, preterists have to date the writing of the book of Revelation as pre-a.d. 70, maybe a.d. 66 or a.d. 67. An early date for the book is absolutely necessary for the preterist viewpoint to be valid. Most scholars, however, hold to a much later date for the writing of the book of Revelation, like around a.d. 90. If preterists are wrong here, their whole view collapses. If futurists are wrong and if the book of Revelation was written pre-a.d. 70, futurism does not really lose much. The dating of the book of Revelation is not critical to futurism, but it is to preterism.

I attended a debate between Dr. Mark Hitchcock who argued for the late date and Hank Hanegraaff, “The Bible Answer Man,” who argued for the early date. He believes that the book of Revelation was written during the reign of Emperor Nero (a.d.  37–68), and is the Antichrist of the book of Revelation. The debate occurred at the annual Pre-Trib Study Group Meeting, Dallas, Texas, on December 10, 2007. Several videos of the debate can be accessed on the Internet. Dr. Hitchcock had written his Ph.D. dissertation on the dating of the book of Revelation and made a number of irrefutable points. Dr. Hitchcock told me that he had sent Mr. Hanegraaff a copy of his dissertation several months earlier, but Mr. Hanegraaff, evidently, had not read the dissertation. Here are some of the dangers that I see in the preterist system.

I. Preterism totally ignores how technology has now put the most destructive and frightening prophecies well within reach of the human race. For centuries Christian commentators have had to spiritualize many of the prophecies of the book of Revelation. There was no way that the horrors described in the book of Revelation could literally come to pass. That is no longer true.

Several years ago Richard Abanes wrote End-Time Visions, a book in which he totally discounts the destructive potential of modern warfare and the precarious position of the human race at the present hour. Abanes argues that “there is no significant trend upward … in the number of wars, or their severity or magnitude.”

There is no way this statement can be justified. In recent years, there has been the widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons. My daughter was in the Air Force and stationed at an ICBM base in Montana. One of those missiles could hit a target the size of a birdhouse on the other side of the world with the equivalent of several million tons of TNT.

Added to this is the fact that though many undeveloped nations do not possess the technology to make and deliver a nuclear warhead, they can, nevertheless, make and deliver bioweapons, the effects of which would also lead to the deaths of millions. Toxins can be sprayed from small aircraft. Such weapons have an appeal to terrorist nations because bioweapons have a delayed action. A lag period, or incubation period—sometimes several hours or even several days—must elapse between the time the victim is exposed to the infectious agent and the actual time symptoms begin to show themselves.

On May 12, 1951, newspapers around the world reported the following: “The explosive equivalent of several million tons of TNT was released here today on the tiny atoll of Eniwetok as scientists of the Atomic Energy Commission detonated the world’s first thermonuclear device—the H-Bomb.”

Technology has changed so many aspects of our lives. In Revelation 11:7–9 we read of the death of the two witnesses. “Their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where our Lord also was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies. …” Modern technology makes that possible, just as it is now possible to view Olympic athletes in Beijing on American TV. 

II. Preterism does not do justice to the dramatic nature of the establishment of the Kingdom of God and the subsequent changes that follow. Despite the preterist claims that the Kingdom has been realized and that we are now in it, a person who knows and understands their Bible will reject those claims. In the absence of the King, there can be no Kingdom.

It is the return of Christ to earth that brings about the destruction of the kingdom of man and brings about a new order of things. The Kingdom in its glory will not be established until Christ returns. Hence His return is pre-millennial (Dan. 2:34–35). The Kingdom is not established by a gradual process of infiltration and permeation, but by a sudden and devastating blow. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war”(see Rev. 19:11–21). Preterists seem to have missed the glory of the Kingdom Age. “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4; 11:6–9; see also Jer. 31:35–37; Ezek. 36:25–32). 

III. Preterism has a tendency to minimize the reality of Satanic conflict in the present hour and how it fits the prophetic picture. Revelation 13 delineates future events that line up with this present day. There is an emerging one-world government (vs. 7), an ever increasing effort to centralize all religious expression (vs. 12), and a one-world economy (vs. 17). COVID-19 has promoted the idea of a cashless society because cash is “dirty,” and plastic is safer. Reasonable efforts to close the American borders are ridiculed. The legalization of homosexual marriage, transgenderism, and the collapse of the traditional family is now on fast-forward. We are slipping into national insanity. Those who protest against the destruction of traditional roles are now seen as being on the “lunatic fringe.”

Bible prophecy, as understood from a futurist perspective, gives us great insight into the present times. It reminds us that things are not falling apart but falling into place. Bible prophecy reveals the plan of God and demands our surrender to the God who knows “the end from the beginning,” according to Isaiah 46:10, “and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”

One of the sad effects of postmodernism, evolutionary historiography, and the godless innovations of man-centered theology, is that it removes the glory and majesty of God. Man becomes a substitute deity. The watering-down of Bible prophecy is one of the casualties of this sad state of affairs. It’s time to let the prophets of old speak. Only when that happens is there hope for true worship and a hell-busting revival. We need to thank God for Bible prophecy, not deny that it even exists. 

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Larry Spargimino

Dr. Larry Spargimino is co-host of the SWRC broadcast and joined the ministry in 1998. Larry researches and writes books and articles for the ministry, assists on tours, and helps answer listeners' theological questions when they call the ministry. Larry holds a doctorate from Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and pastors a local church.

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