A Sidekick's Blog

Why I Am an Orthodox Preterist | March 22, 2013

 

“Full” Preterism is the idea that all biblical prophecy has already been fulfilled. I prefer to call that, hyper-preterism! Historically the majority report in Christianity, until little more than 100 years ago, taught what is usually termed “partial” preterism – that most biblical prophecy has been fulfilled, but some things remain yet future. I prefer to call this orthodox preterism.

As a child I heard only the popular Dispensationalist view, and assumed that all Christians believed the same stuff I had been taught. Until I studied Church History a bit and discovered that today’s majority report on eschatology (the study of “last things”) was unheard of before the Second Great Awakening. The closest thing to it was something called “chialism” (today known as “historic premillennialism”), but it was by no means ever the generally accepted eschatology of the Church, before or after the Bishop of Rome’s claim of superior authority above all other Bishops.

Following my study of both secular and church history, I have come to adopt the historic teaching of Christendom throughout most of it’s history. I am an Orthodox Preterist. Here is why:

The events in Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. are amazing and compelling! A summary of Rome’s war against Jerusalem can be found in an ordinary encyclopedia, but the accounts of eyewitness historians are absolutely mind boggling. To get the benefit of both sides, one should read the accounts of both sides, so to avoid the inevitable twisting of history written by the victor. Fortunately we have accounts from both sides: Josephus, a Jewish priest and eyewitness, wrote a compelling account of those days; and the Roman eyewitness Tacitus wrote an account from the Roman perspective. Both are absolutely fascinating, and both accounts read like apocalyptic visions!

Historically, orthodox Christianity has taught that the events of 70 A.D. represent a “judgment coming of Christ” upon the generation that rejected Him. It is not to be seen as the Second Coming, but rather as the final aspect of His first advent (coming). In this judgment upon that single generation (see Matt 23:36 and 24:34), He used Roman troops to put a permanent end to the entire Old Testament system that prefigured His finished work on the Cross. The “last days” means the last days OF THAT COVENANT.

In the Olivet prophecy of Matthew 23 and 24, the Lord Jesus describes this judgment in details which we are more accustomed to associating with the end of the world! When we read about the stars falling from the sky, the sun going dark, and the moon turning to blood, we tend to think of planetary catastrophe, worldwide nuclear annihilation, or something like that. When we read, “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky” we tend to associate that with the Second Coming and the end of the world. When we read about a great trumpet blast and the gathering of the Elect from the four winds we think of “the Rapture.” When Jesus used those terms in Matthew 24, He was quoting Old Testament scriptures which referred to the conquest of Israel and Judah (in Isa 13) by the Assyrians and Babylonians. Such language is also used by Ezekiel in describing the conquest of Egypt by Babylon (32:7). It also describes the events of 70 AD, and further describes the Second Advent as well.

The Jewish historian Josephus, who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the years following it, wrote describing the celestial signs leading up to Jerusalem’s conquest and the destruction of the Temple:

Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God Himself; while they did not attend, nor give credit, to the signs that were so evident and did so plainly foretell their future desolation; but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them. Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year. Thus also, before the Jews’ rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan], and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright daytime; which light lasted for half an hour. This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it. 1

R.C. Sproul, in his book, The Last Days According to Jesus, writes:

Josephus says these astronomical phenomena triggered false prophecies of hope for Jerusalem and it’s people. … The bright light shining round the temple area may be related to the Shekina glory, the sign of God’s presence. False prophets read it in much the same way that false prophets in Old Testament times viewed the coming day of the Lord – as a time of unqualified weal, a day of brightness and glory. This missed the dreadful darkness that would accompany it as a sign of judgment.2

Other signs in the sky were reported by other historians recording events
surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem. The Roman historian Tacitus writes:

Besides the manifold misfortunes that befell mankind, there were prodigies in the sky and on the earth, warnings given by thunderbolts, and prophecies of the future, both joyful and gloomy, uncertain and clear. For never was it more fully proved by awful disasters of the Roman people or by indubitable signs that the gods care not for our safety, but for our punishment.3

In addition to his account of the comet, the prophecies, the sword-like star, etc., Josephus records an even more astonishing celestial event that seems to be a quite literal fulfillment of Ezekiel 1 :22-28 (not quoted here, but read it and be amazed!). Here’s Josephus again:

Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artimisius [Jyar], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, “Let us remove hence.”4

I believe personally that “the end of the age” as often used in scripture to refer to “the last days,” means the end of the Jewish age – or the end of the old Mosaic covenant, and that the Lord’s presence did indeed depart from the temple before it was decimated. There is absolutely no doubt as to the celestial signs that took place and accelerated in the years immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem. Some Roman military officers wrote accounts of soldiers deserting (a death penalty offense) for fear at the signs in the earth and sky during those turbulent days that saw the rise and fall of 6 emperors (and a pretended Nero who allegedly recovered from an assassination).

Because the Jewish age ended in 70 AD, because the Olivet discourse of Matthew 23 and 24 was so literally fulfilled, and because the Apostle Paul ascribed “a sign to unbelievers” as the meaning of tongues, and because the prophecies of the period, according to Josephus, Tacitus, and others, foretold great destruction and judgment upon Israel (including the end of temple sacrifices by the way), that is why I believe the signs ceased when the things they signified came to pass.

Christian Orthodoxy has always taught – up until Dispensational Premillennialism took hold a little more than 100 years ago – that we are in “the Millennium” right now! The “millennial” Kingdom began after the way was prepared by John the Baptist, when Christ arrived. This kingdom is not of this world, though it exists in the world. It is forever, it is expanding and liberating millions, and will reign completely at the close of this “millennium” when Christ returns to destroy the last enemy. Satan is bound! Is Christ not even now ascended to His throne at the right hand of God the Father (Colossians 3:1)? Are we not even now seated in heavenly places with Him (Ephesians 2:6)? Has He not already given His church authority to bind and loose in His name (Matthew 16:17-19)? Jesus demonstrated His authority over Satan by casting out demons, having “bound the strong man” during His earthly ministry. Satan is bound in this present millennial kingdom.

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2 Comments »

  1. I’m with you regarding preterism although I’m more optimistic in my amillennialism which drives Jeff crazy as you know.

    Comment by Peter Nelson — March 22, 2013 @ 2:37 am

    • I don’t let that kinda stuff drive me crazy. I share Jeff’s “pessimistic” (the meaning of which depends on perspective) opinion, but I find myself hoping that the Post-mils are right! 😀

      Comment by adoptedsidekick — March 22, 2013 @ 8:19 am


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