Revealing Revelation – Living in the Past

09Mar11

We complete our discussion of the interpretive methods of Revelation with a look at the preterist view. In fact, most of the discussion that will follow in regards to the Book of Revelation itself with compare and contrast the Futurist and Preterist expectations. Preterism, to many, appears to be a “johnny come lately” method in Church history, but in actuality the view has been around for a very long time and held by a large portion of the Church in Church history.

A close reading of commentaries of the book of Revelation promoted this idea that the majority of prophecies found in the book of Revelation are related to past events, especially those events closely associated with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. many would also add the fall of Rome to this as well, but that discussion will be withheld until a future post.

Simply put, as stated above, the Preterist sees the vast majority of the book of Revelation as past events. This, though, must be held in start contrast to the view known as Full Preterism which argues that all of Biblical prophecy has been fulfilled, including the Millennium, the Second Coming and the New Heaven and New Earth as described in the final chapters of Revelation. This view should be seen as “heterodox” at best and many label it as a full and damnable heresy. For our purposes here, I will not make the leap to the latter but I am quite comfortable viewing Full Preterism as heterodox, which would mean it is outside of the pale of historic Church orthodoxy.

For the purpose of our discussion from this point forward any reference to the term Preterism should be defined as the Biblical, Historical and Orthodox view of Preterist eschatology. When we reference Full Preterism we will use the aforementioned term.

  • The Preterist view would most be employed by those who embrace Amillennialism and Postmillenialism
  • Sees all prophecies up through Chapter 19 or the middle of Chapter 20 as past events
  • The seven Churches are seven literal first century churches, but with topics applicable to all churches in time but with specific instruction and warning to those specific churches
  • The throne scene is viewed as a courtroom with a verdict, judgment and sentence represented by the events described
  • The seven sealed scroll is the “verdict” and “sentence” against apostate Israel – possibly seen as a divorce document with the complaint written on both side of the scroll. Similar imagery can be found in Ezekiel 2 & 16
  • The seven seals “hint” at the sentence / judgment within but are not actual judgments being delivered. Those would follow with the trumpet and bowls.
  • The trumpets begin the actual sentence against Israel, the first persecutor of the Church and the defendant accused of murdering the Lord of Glory (Matt 23-27)
  • The second “little scroll” expands the judgments to Rome as well as Israel, who are introduced as the Beast and Harlot, respectively.
  • The 144,000 are the “first fruits” of Jesus, who are related to the universal Church at that time. They are later seen as a great multitude. Much will be made of the term “first fruits” in our later discussion.
  • The bowls are judgments against Rome, Israel or possibly both as persecutors of the Church and co-conspirators in the death of Jesus Christ.
  • Harlot and Bride contrasted as apostate Israel and the Bride of Christ, His Church.
  • The return of Christ as pictured in Chapter 19 is a picture of Gospel expansion throughout history lead by Christ who defeats His enemies with His word.
  • The return of Christ is seen in Rev 20 as fire from Heaven which immediately precedes judgment (Matt 25)

The critic of Preterism will point out some difficulties with the view. The first is based on the dating of the writing of the Book of Revelation. Church history and tradition lists the writing at some time during Domitian’s reign around 95AD, some 25 years after the destruction of Jerusalem. The late date severely impacts the view of preterism despite the fact that there are several preterist who actually hold to a late date.

Another trouble with the view is the Preterist must attempt to argue that the coming pictured in Revelation is one of judgment rather than the literal, physical Second Coming that many would argue is clearly in view.

One other trouble faced by Preterist is the difficulty in trying to find actual historical events that match the events as described in the book. This would include water turning to blood, stars falling from the sky, demonic horse-like armies, etc.

One final problem faced by the Preterist is the necessity to use secular historians (primarily Josephus) to prove the fulfillment of the events as interpreted. Without the use of secular historians it is argued the Preterist would be unable to prove their assumptions.

It is at this point in which we will turn toward a survey of the Book of Revelation. As mentioned previously, the primary focus will be on the Partial Preterist interpretation and a comparison and contrasting with the other, previously discussed views. There will also be a consistent critique of the Futurist view as the Preterist view is presented.

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