Week 9 & 10 Preterism Part I: Overview

Week 9 & 10 Preterism Overview

Here are the Overheads for week 9.

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Preterism

Preterism is coming back into vogue again after a brief 2,000 year pause. Preterists believe Revelation is history to us. That it’s prophecies were fulfilled in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.

The Apostles and first generation Christians would be considered Preterists in a sense since they expected the Second Coming of Christ in their lifetime. So with the second coming of Preterism we’ve come full circle in away.

Preterism’s growing popularity has resulted in a paradigm shift in the way people approach eschatology. Instead of approaching it from a standpoint of whether you favor a premil, postmil, or amil model now the approach has shifted to preterism or futurist.

Taking a look back at 70 AD and the destruction of Jerusalem and looking through J Stuart Russell’s work to match up Revelation’s prophecies with actual events that happened in 70 AD through the history of Josephus or other sources makes one feel like an archaeologist finding lost secrets of antiquity. And we all know which pop icon discovered the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail so of course this section could only have one theme song so go ahead and que up some rip roaring fun music to study Preterism with.

Partial vs. Full Preterism

Preterist view the events of Revelation as future to John when he wrote them, but history to us. They view them as having been fulfilled in 70 AD for the most part. Full Preterists view all of Revelation even the second coming of Christ as history and partial Preterists view most of Revelation as already having taken place. They usually see the cut off place as around the 19th chapter of Revelation.

When Dispensationalist’s argue over the book of Revelation these days it usually seems to be with a Preterist. The arguments can shall we say be unchristian like.

Most of what we look at in our study will be more in the full Preterist view of eschatology. Some argue that the partial Preterist view is just a pit stop on the road to full Preterism. That the switch from a futuristic view of Revelation to seeing all of it in the past is just to great a shock to many people to make all at once so they need a little time to completely warm up to the idea. However, the arguments between partial and full Preterist can be just as vicious and unchristian as those with Dispensationalists.

Logic Behind the Preterist View

At first glance the Preterist model seems entirely ludicrous to many of us. Preterism seems such a contradiction to the way we have all been taught to view the book of Revelation and end time events. Doesn’t everyone teach that the events of the end times are still future to us? Approaching the Preterist model it might be good to ruminate on the logic of the Preterist position as espoused by its modern day reviver. J Stuart Russell who published the seminal work which resuscitated the model in 1878 The Parousia (you can read the entire book on line through this link). Preterism has been on the rebound for the last few decades—it’s new again.

Russell reasoned that if the 12 hand picked apostles of Jesus who were closer to Jesus than any other people ever have been and knew his teachings better and were trusted by Jesus to convey the message as he wanted them conveyed (since God knew the future would he let Jesus pick apostles who wouldn’t convey the message the way he wanted it conveyed) and they all believed and taught that he was coming back in their lifetime—then by definition they have to be correct in teaching that Jesus came back in their lifetime or else the bible is not the inerrant, inspired word of God. If they are all wrong then the bible contains a grievous error. The logic here forces you to take the Preterist position seriously and weigh it as seriously as any other model.

Also, add to the weight of the logic above the words of Jesus that he was coming back in the lifespan of this generation Matthew 24:34 (he didn’t say that generation or a future generation) and the Preterist model is the only one consistent with the normal, straight forward use of the language the way we would normally use it.

Further, consider the road you are going down if you torture the language that Jesus and the Apostles used to twist the normal meaning of their words so they don’t indicate that he is coming back in the lifespan of the Apostles—then you can twist, torture, and redefine the meaning of anything in the bible so that it all is meaningless. The doctrine of salvation which all of Christianity is built on, what it means to be a Christian, the promises of eternal life—none of it is safe from being redefined in some unnatural way.

Further, since the apostles were told that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things and bring remembrance of all that Jesus said to them:

John 14:26

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

If they are not conveying the story of Jesus correctly in that he will come back in their life time—then the Holy Spirit has failed them and by extension to the Trinity it would mean Jesus and God failed them as well. So logically if they have their story correct then Jesus must be coming back in their life time or Christian theology unravels.

In addition, if you want to futurize the second coming and make it an event yet future to us then your quarrel is with the writers of the New Testament who uniformly taught that Christ would come back in their generation–so what you have to be willing to say is that you are more inspired than Paul, Peter, John, et al who authored the New Testament.

Matthew 5:17-18

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

These are the words of no less than Christ and he says that no part of the Law will pass away until all is accomplished (ESV) other translations say all be fulfilled (KJV) or all things come to pass (YLT, Darby)  or its purpose is achieved (NLT) for example.

In effect Christ says no part of the Law can change until all the prophets have predicted have come to pass. Since the Jews are no longer living under the Law it would have to mean that all the prophets have predicted including his second coming has already happened.

In Revelation 1:9 John says “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation…” John says he is their brother and partner  in tribulation which indicates they are in the tribulation and he is in it with them. John is not the brother in tribulation of some future generation.

Revelation 1:1 says “The revelation of Jesus Christ…” it does not say it is the revelation of  the end of time–it is the revelation of Christ.

Finally, when you match up the historical events that took place at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD with specific prophecies in Revelation you have a legitimate possible fulfillment of the entire book of Revelation.

Ruminate on these points a little and it makes it much easier to take the Preterist model seriously.

Whenever possible we have wanted to see what Charles Spurgeon’s position was on a given model. He was also a contemporary of J. Stuart Russell and in his magazine The Sword and the Trowel he reviewed Russell’s book The Parousia. Here is Spurgeon’s review:

The second coming of Christ according to this volume had its fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem and the establishment of the gospel dispensation. That the parables and predictions of our Lord had a more direct and exclusive reference to that period than is generally supposed, we readily admit; but we were not prepared for the assignment of all references to a second coming in the New Testament, and even in the Apocalypse itself, to so early a fulfillment. All that could be said has been said in support of this theory, and much more than ought to have been said. In this the reasoning fails. In order to concentrate the whole prophecies of the Book of Revelation upon the period of the destruction of Jerusalem it was needful to assume this book to have been written prior to that event, although the earliest ecclesiastical historians agree that John was banished to the isle of Patmos, where the book was written, by Domitian, who reigned after Titus, by whom Jerusalem was destroyed. Apart from this consideration, the compression of all the apocalyptic visions and prophecies into so narrow a space requires more ingenuity and strength than that of men and angels combined. Too much stress is laid upon such phrases as ‘The time is at hand,’ ‘Behold I come quickly,’ whereas many prophecies of Scripture are delivered as present or past, as ‘unto us a child is born,’ etc., and ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.’ Amidst the many comings of Christ spoken of in the New Testament that which is spoken of as a second, must, we think, be personal, and thus similar to the first; and such too must be the meaning of ‘his appearing.’ Though the author’s theory is carried too far, it has so much of truth in it, and throws so much new light upon obscure portions of the Scriptures, and is accompanied with so much critical research and close reasoning that it can be injurious to none and may be profitable to all.

There don’t seem to be many pictures of Russell (1816-1895) around any more. Depending on your view point he either looks like a backwoods mountaineer or a wise old oracle you james-stuart-russell.jpgwould have to climb to the top of a mountain to seek wisdom from. This photo makes him look like a character from the 1700s more so than someone who almost lived into the 20th century.

Like Spurgeon, Darby, and other giants in the annuals of Christian history Russell hails from 19th century Great Britain.

He was a Scotsman born into a Christian home in 1816 at Elgin, Morayshire. Entered King’s college at the University of Aberdeen at the ripe old age of 12. Graduated at 18 with M.A. degree. He worked in a law office for a while then prepared for the ministry by studying at Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Cheshunt.

In 1843 he became an assistant minister at the Congregationalist Church in Great Yarmouth then its minister. In 1857 he moved on to the Congregationalist Church in Tottenham and then Edmonton. After five years he moved on to the church in Bayswater where he ministered until 1888 when failing health led to his retirement.

He was the first chairman of the Congregational Total Abstinence Association. He has been described an able preacher and a kindly spirit.

He is most remembered for publishing what is considered today the seminal work in the Preterist camp. He originally published The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming anonymously in 1878 because he was concerned about the reaction to the controversial suggestion that the Second Coming of Christ was in 70 A.D. When it proved to be well received he published a second edition under his real name in 1887.

He said substance of his claims in the book originally came to him as sort of a revelation. Then once he had discovered the key to the mystery, the whole theme gradually unfolded.

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In order to understand the Preterist position it might be good to contrast how they view certain events that you’ve probably heard as futuristic up to now. These Preterist views on the various subjects could also apply to other models such as the amillennial, postmillennial, idealism, and continuous historic.

Preterist View on Scripture that Pertains to the “Rapture.”

Matthew 24:37-40

For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man…..Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.

Preterist position: In Noah’s day the one left behind was in favor with God and the one swept away by the flood was the one God’s judgment came down on and takes him away. Its always the one that God finds a way to preserve through the tribulation that is in his favor—the one who judgment comes on his the one who is taken away. Hebrews made it through the Red sea while Pharaoh and his army are swept away. When Judgment came on Israel from Assyria they were swept away. When Babylon defeated Judah they were taken away in judgment to exile in Babylon.

If the one take away was the one who was escaping judgment in a rapture event it would be unique in all the bible as the only time the one who was taken away was being preserved instead of the one being judged.

1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Then doesn’t mean that Christ comes back the dead in Christ arise to meet him then the living Christians immediately rise a few moments later.

It means at Christ’s return the dead in Christ are resurrected (from Hades, Sheol) to heaven and then when those who are alive in Christ at the time of his return when they die they then go immediately to heaven to be with Christ. Those who are alive when Christ returns live out their normal life then when they die they don’t have to go to Hades, but instead go immediately to heaven into the presence of the Lord. Until Christ does his atoning work those who die in faith can’t enter into heaven into the presence of the Lord because they are sinners so must wait in Hades until Christ pays the price for their sin and redeems them.

1 Corinthians 15:52-53

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

We shall not all be consigned to Hades when we die—after Christ’s atoning work and after his return then those who die go straight to heaven. The dead will be raised at Christ’s return and those alive will escape having to enter Hades, but will go straight to heaven upon death.

Preterist View on This Generation

Matthew 24:3

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”

Matthew 24: 32 – 34

32 From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, “this generation” will not pass away until all these things take place.

The Preterist view on these verses is that Jesus is addressing His disciples in the Olivet discourse. He is answering their questions about when the temple will be destroyed and His return will take place. When he says to them “this generation” shall not pass away until all these things take place—he means the generation of the disciples he is talking to not some future as yet unborn generation. He didn’t change generations by using the term “that generation” or a later or future generation. “This generation” should be used in the normal way somebody would use the term this generation and not torture and twist the meaning to apply it to a future generation thousands of years into the future.

The term “close of the age” does not mean the physical end of the world, but the end of the Jewish economy or dispensation or in other words the end of the Mosiac or Levitical law when God has the relationship uniquely with the Jewish people and they worship him in the temple, have the high priest go into the temple once a year and make sacrifices for the people, etc. That age closes and the Christian age replaces it where Christ is the way to God for all people and everyone can pray to God directly and since Christ was the final and complete sacrifice on the cross there is no need for further temple sacrifices.

End of the World or End of the Age

The KJV uses the term World which has been mistakenly and understandably interpreted by some to mean the end of the physical world.

Matthew 24:3

3 And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

Most modern versions have replaced the term “aion” translated in the KJV as world with the term age. The disciples were living in the Jewish or Mosiac age marked by its system of Temple worship and they were asking when would their age come to an end. The proper way to understand the intended meaning of this passage is the conclusion of the present age.

The KJV translators didn’t necessarily think the term they were translating should be interpreted as World since they stated in the preference to the KJV that they “had not tied themselves to a uniformity of phrasing …why should we be in bondage to them if we may be free, use one precisely when we may use another no less fit.” Hence they see diversity of language as a good thing and may have well just been trying to help keep the hearer of the Word interested by varying terms.

Jesus had already been speaking to his disciples in terms of this age and the age to come so they no doubt were already thinking in terms of their present age giving way to the new age. See the terms used in the verse

Matthew 12:32

32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

And he had already made references about the close of the age such as Matthew 13:

39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels.

40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.

49 So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous

[Note in all of these verses there are only two ages, the present age and the age to come. There is no third age such as would be necessary for a millennial reign of Christ on earth]

In short this verse isn’t trying to imply the physical end of the planet earth, but rather the end of the Jewish economy which gives way to the period or age to come which is ushered in by Christ and allows all men can have a personal relationship with God through Christ.

Preterist view on Coming in the Clouds

Or

Understanding the Preterist View that Christ’s Second Coming has Already Happened

Acts 1: 9 -11

9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” ESV

The Acts 1:11 Trap

This verse (Acts 1:11) is used by futurists to argue for Jesus’ future coming back to earth manifested in a visible, physical bodily form. It is part of the debate between futurists and Preterists so we will take it up here; however, the controversy surrounding this verse is broader than just dispensationalism/preterism. Arguably the meaning of the verse itself has been changed in thought for thought translations of the bible relative to world for word translations.

The futuristic/dispensationalism/thought-for-thought school of reasoning on this verse is that the phrase “will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” means Jesus will come back to earth again in the future by descending out of the clouds. Indeed, in most if not all thought for thought translations of the bible the wording has been changed to read along the lines that Jesus will return to earth which replaces “come in.” For example, the NLT readsJesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” The NIV reads “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

This change arises because of not knowing how Greeks use the verb come. It is being treated the way it is used in English instead of the way Greeks used it. In English when we use the verb come it means that one is coming towards me for example. Someone or thing is moving in the direction of or towards the speaker. Come implies direction and it’s moving towards the one speaking. However, Greeks also used the term come when someone was moving away form the speaker as well. You can see examples of this in other verses:

Acts 8: 27 ….He had come to Jerusalem to worship

Matthew 8:28 And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes….

And changing the tense of the verb

Matthew 9:23 And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house….

In English today we might say something like “he went to Jerusalem.” “he went to the other side,” “when Jesus went to the ruler’s house.”

The Preterist view or word for word view of this verse is that the phrase “will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” reflects the opposite side of the same event. From the ground perspective the Apostles watched Jesus until he became invisible (a cloud took him out of their sight) to them as stated in verse 9 while from inside heaven the angels watched Jesus come in to heaven. One part of the phrase reinforces the other part so the reader can be reassured that when Jesus left the view of the Apostles the angels then testified that Jesus did indeed come in to heaven.

To appreciate the importance of this you have to put yourself in the time that Luke was writing the book of Acts. He knows his audience may not have heard the Gospels and may not be familiar with Jesus so he is leaving no room for doubt that Jesus really went to heaven when he left earth. He covers the ascension of Jesus from both the earthly and heavenly vantage points. Men saw him start his ascension (then he became invisible to them as stated in verse 9) therefore the Apostles have no way of verifying where he went since they couldn’t see him from that point on. At that point the  angels take over and verify that they saw him come in to heaven. Notice that there are not one but two angels who testify that Jesus came into heaven. The bible speaks of needing more than one witness so here there is more than one witness to testify of Jesus’ ascension as he leaves earth and more than one to testify that he came into heaven. This way no one can argue that when Jesus left the view of the men watching his ascension that there is any doubt about the fact that he did go into heaven.

What this verse does is use a figure of speech known as an ellipsis which is to leave part of a phrase out for brevity, but most importantly for emphasis. Since most people in the time of the bible couldn’t read or write, but heard the Word of God verbally by someone telling it or reading it to them it was necessary to use figures of speech to place emphasis on certain important points. Verse 11 could easily use the phrase “into heaven” three times in quick succession so leaving the middle “into heaven” out helps the passage read quicker and puts emphasis on the first part of the phrase where the “into heaven” is omitted. Verse 11 puts emphasis on the  “come in” part of the phrase by leaving out “into heaven” thus emphasizing the most important point of this passage which is that Jesus did in fact “come in” to heaven when he left earth.  Since the Apostles say that they can’t see him in verse 9 it is important to let the two angels establish his “coming in” to heaven.

This way the audience knows that Jesus wasn’t just wondering around the sky when he left sight of the Apostles, but made his way into heaven.

This serves to help testify to the fact that Jesus was the true Messiah and Son of God because only the real Son of God would be able to go to heaven to be with the Father when he left earth.

Preterists don’t argue that Jesus said he would come back for his Believers, but this series of verses isn’t about his coming back—it is entirely about providing reassurance that he did in fact go to heaven when he left earth as only the real Messiah could do.

Verse 9 which states that Jesus left their view is consistent with other references to cloud manifestations of God’s presence.

Other Scripture References on Christ’s (or God) coming in the Clouds

Matthew 26:64

Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.

Mark 13:26

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.

Futuristic views see these verses as Jesus describing a literal bodily, physical return to earth. Preterist view these statements about clouds as sort of a metaphor for God’s presence. To understand these scriptures you have to go back to other bible passages about clouds to see that a reference to Christ in the clouds does not mean you see a physical Jesus appearing in the clouds, but understand that God’s judgments and actions in the affairs of men are associated with scripture verses that associate His divine presence with clouds. The high priest who accused Jesus of blasphemy in verse 65 understood that Jesus was equating himself to God by indicating he was coming on the clouds. God came on the clouds and to compare Himself to God in such a way was blasphemy against God. The people who lived in biblical times understood these references to clouds not as meaning a physical body appearing in the clouds, but as the presence, power and judgment of God or Christ being present in the clouds.

First understand that since God’s presence was associated with clouds for Jesus to associate his presence with clouds was to equate himself with God. Secondly God was said to be coming in the clouds when his judgment fell on a nation or people. Consider these Old Testament examples God and clouds as examples of how to interpret Jesus’ use of clouds.

Isaiah 19: 1 – 4

1 An oracle concerning Egypt.
Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;

and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
2 And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians,
and they will fight, each against another
and each against his neighbor,
city against city, kingdom against kingdom;
3 and the spirit of the Egyptians within them will be emptied out,
and I will confound their counsel;
and they will inquire of the idols and the sorcerers,
and the mediums and the necromancers;
4 and I will give over the Egyptians
into the hand of a hard master,
and a fierce king will rule over them,
declares the Lord GOD of hosts.

Here when it says the Lord is riding on a swift cloud it doesn’t mean that you actually see God sitting on a cloud—it is reference to his judgment, as you can see from the following verses, coming upon Egypt.

Psalm 104:3

3 He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;

Exodus 24: 15 – 16

15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.

Here when Moses goes up Mt. Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments God speaks to him from a cloud.

Psalm 18:9

He parted the heavens and came down,
a dark cloud beneath His feet. HCSV

Psalm 97: 1 – 4

1 The LORD reigns! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coasts and islands be glad.

2 Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.

3 Fire goes before Him
and burns up His foes on every side.

4 His lightning lights up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.

Again God’s presence viewed as among clouds.

Psalm 68: 4

4 Our God, you are the one who rides on the clouds, and we praise you.

Your name is the LORD, and we celebrate as we worship you.

Worshipers of other pagan gods also claimed that their gods rode on the clouds, but here the Psalmist is making a clear distinction between God and these other gods. He is saying that it is the one true God who really rides on the clouds.

1 Kings 8: 10 – 11

10 Suddenly a cloud filled the temple as the priests were leaving the most holy place. 11 The Lord’s glory was in the cloud, and the light from it was so bright that the priests could not stay inside to do their work.

Again in the temple in the Holy of Holies God’s presence is found in the cloud.

And there are other examples, but this should suffice to illustrate the Preterist point—seeing Jesus in the clouds is not meant to say seeing a physical bodily manifestation of Jesus but rather his presence and judgment recognized in the Roman Army coming against Jerusalem in 70 AD is a manifestation of Jesus coming in judgment against Jerusalem.

So when Jesus comes back in 70 AD you don’t actually see a physical incarnation of Jesus (just like you didn’t see God coming against Egypt) you saw his presence or judgment coming against Jerusalem.

Another preterist view of Acts 1:11 is that the apostles didn’t see the body of Jesus ascending to heaven because a cloud veiled His ascension. The cloud manifests the presence of God in the Old Testament (Isaiah 19:1 God rides a cloud against Egypt and also manifests his presence in the Holy of Holies) and did likewise for Jesus. Likewise when Jesus returns in 70 A.D. in judgment against Jerusalem His presence is veiled by a cloud.

Preterist point out that there is no conflict here with Revelation 1:7 which says He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see him or with Matthew 24:30 which says all the peoples of the earth will mourn and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven…. Preterists argue that “see” in these verses is not referring to physically seeing Jesus with your eyes, but is the type of “see” referred to in Ephesians 1:18 (eyes of your heart enlightened) which refers to understanding as in “I see what you mean.”

It is interesting that the statement by Jesus that “they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds” Mark 13:26 is viewed in diametrically opposite ways by the futurists and the preterists. To futurists this is assurance that the Second coming will be an event visible to the human eye. It proves Jesus will return in bodily form visible in the sky above.

However the fact that Jesus says that they will see the Son of Man “coming in the clouds” is understood by preterists as Jesus explicitly saying that you won’t see him in a bodily form. The mention of the clouds ties his coming to the manifestations of God in the Old Testament when his presence was manifested in clouds as in the Holy of Holies or his coming in the clouds against Egypt (Isaiah 19:1).

Paul Reassures the Thessalonians that They haven’t missed the Return of Christ

2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

Here Paul actually has to reassure the Thessalonians that the Second Coming has not already taken place and they have missed it. Clearly they aren’t expecting an end of the physical world type event when Christ returns and Paul didn’t correct their thinking which indicates they are correct that the Second Coming is not an end of the world event, but rather an end of the age event.

Further, they are obviously aware that Christ hasn’t set up an earthly Kingdom in Jerusalem where he rules the earth during a millennial period. Paul doesn’t correct them in that regard either so it is obvious that Paul’s understanding of the Second Coming does not involve the end of time for the planet nor a millennial reign on earth.

The Preterist argue this make s strong case for Christ’s return being an event that is the end of the Mosiac Age. It is earth shattering in that it brings to a close the era of the Jewish age and makes God available to everyone on a personal level where instead of going through a high priest to communicate with God each believer can do so directly through Christ and receive the in dwelling of the Holy Spirit. However, it is not earth shattering in that it is the end of time for the earth, the beginning of a millennial reign, or anything else that every person on earth would necessarily be aware of.

Apostles Belief in the Return of Christ in Their Generation

Unless otherwise indicated the ESV version is used for scripture verses.

Matthew 24:34

34 Truly, I say to you, “this generation” will not pass away until all these things take place.

John 20: 21 -23

21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

Apparent placing of Jesus’ return within John’s lifespan.

1 Corinthians 10:11

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

Another reference to the end of the age placed the current generation.

1 Peter 4:7

7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

Exhortation on behavior due to immediacy of Second Coming.

Corinthians 15:51-52

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 5 2in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

Paul says “we” like someone would refer to himself and the Corinthians in the present tense—there is no reference to any future generation. Using the term last trumpet implies there are preceding trumpets as mentioned in the book of Revelation which mentions 7 trumps. Thus tying events in the book of Revelation to the current generation.

1 Corinthians 16:22

22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!

Address the present audience and says our Lord comes—no need to say that here unless he’s coming to the present audience.

Galatians 1:4

who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

Deliverance from the present age—their generation not a future one.

Romans 8:18

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

In the present time so would be the present, not future, generation that is to have glory revealed in them. He is very specific with the term “us” which has to mean that generation.

Romans 13:11-12

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand.

Very specific and strong language that the day is at hand. It is near them not a future generation.

1 Timothy 6:14

o keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Here Timothy tells the faithful to keep the commandment until Christ appears—he doesn’t say until death or as long as you live which indicates he expects Christ’s return in their life time.

1 Peter 4:12-13 NASB

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;

13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.

Here it appears the tribulation spoken up in Revelation has already begun—meaning that 1 Peter was written after Revelation.

2 Peter 3:12 NASB

12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God….

If they are looking for it then indicates they believe it is in their lifetime.

1 John 2:18

18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

The nearness of the language changes as you move through the Epistles. The last days become the last hour.

Revelation 1:3

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

John says the time is near

Revelation 22:20

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

Jesus says he is coming soon.

What is listed here is not an exhaustive list, but it makes he point that the Apostles believe Christ is coming back in their life time.

Preterists see a problem with calling the entire time period between the first century Christians and today as the last days since this would mean that the last days have already lasted over 2,000 years and the entire time period  since the Hebrew people entered into their covenant with the Lord up until when the last days started would only be 1,200 to 1,400 years depending on your time table. This means the last days would have already lasted longer than the entire period leading up to the last days. This completely distorts the meaning of the term “last days.”

Jesus linked his return to the destruction of the Temple

Matthew 24: 1 – 4

1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” 3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray….34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Here Jesus tells the disciples that the temple will be destroyed and his disciples then ask “when will these things (meaning the destruction of the temple) and (the “and” ties the temple destruction to the next question–they are linked not separate events) what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?”

Hence Jesus by answering this question and not separating the events in his answer links the destruction of the temple to his second coming and the end of the age.  He tells them “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Jesus only mentions one generation not a this generation and a that or future generation.  The temple was destroyed in 70 AD which links his second coming and the end of the age to 70 AD.

Next week we will look at the events in the book of Revelation and see how they match up with historical events associated with the Roman siege and attack on Jerusalem.

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