Preterism is still largely unfamiliar to dispensationalists who dominate the evangelical publishing market. Yet it is making headway. And I believe it is making its presence felt due to its great strengths. Let’s consider those, then consider its weaknesses.
The leading strengths of preterism are:
(1) It retains and emphasizes the relevance of Revelation for John’s first-century audience (the seven churches in Asia Minor and apostolic Christianity more broadly), which is enduring a worsening period of persecution and oppression (1:9; 6:9–11; 14:13; 17:6) that would require Christians to strive to “overcome” (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). John writes to a particular people at a particular time, and those people are urged to carefully “hear” (1:3) what Revelation presents.
As I. T. Beckwith well notes: “Like ‘every scripture inspired of God’ the Apocalypse was certainly meant to be to those to whom it first came ‘profitable for teaching’ (2 Tim. 3:16), and so the writer must have counted on its being understood in its chief lessons.” This differs radically from futurism which must argue that “the full meaning of the Apocalypse shall only be understood ‘when all has come to pass’ (A. Kuyper). J. F. Walvoord admits that “as history unfolds and as prophecy is fulfilled in the future, much will be understood that could be only dimly comprehended by the first readers of the book.”
(2) Preterism takes seriously Rev’s time-frame indicators: “the things which must shortly take place” (1:1, 22:6); “the time is near” (1:3; 22:10). These temporal qualifiers appear in the introduction and the conclusion of Rev, so that any unprejudiced original reader should expect that what he will hear and what he should understand is a prophecy about fast-approaching events. Not only so but these temporal delimiters appear well before and immediately after the perplexing symbolic visions. Consequently, they appear in the more didactic and less dramatic sections.
(3) It dramatically presents major redemptive-historical matters: the demise of Judaism and the temple system (after 2000 years of Jewish focus and 1500 years of tabernacle/temple worship) and the universalizing of the Christian faith as it permanently breaks free of its maternal bonds to temple-based Israel. During its earliest years Christianity gravitates to the temple (e.g., Ac 2:46; 3:1; 5:20, 42; 21:26; 22:17; 24:11) and Jerusalem (e.g., Ac 1:4; 6:7; 8:1; 15:2; 19:21). Thus, this covenantal transition is a major, recurring theme in the NT.
We see this especially in Hebrews which has this as its central, controlling point: John “depicts the replacement of the Old Covenant by Christianity in language reminiscent of the epistle to the Hebrews” (M. Hopkins). But we also witness numerous allusions to AD 70 in many texts in the Gospels (e.g., Mt 8:11–12; 21:43; 22:1–7; 23:35–38; 24:1–34) as well as elsewhere (Ac 2:16–21, 37–40; 7:48–53; 1Th 2:14–16).
(4) By enduring such catastrophes as appearing in Rev, the first-century church serves as an example of Christ’s providential protection of his people — giving hope for not only that day but all ages. If Christ can deliver the church in its infancy during its weakest stage of development from two ubiquitous enemies, then the future looks bright with hope.
There are none. 🙂 Except that preterists’ book sales number only in the thousands, whereas dispensationalists’ book sales number in the tens of millions.
When Shall These Things Be?
Reformed Response to Hyperpreterism
(ed. by Keith Mathison)
A reformed response to the aberrant HyperPreterist theolgy.
Gentry’s chapter critiques HyperPreterism from an historical and creedal perspective.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
Although a great number of sub-varieties exist within each of the four basic interpretive schools, we should be aware of the fundamental distinctives of each school. I do not present the currently popular “eclectic” approach of G. K. Beale and some others because, as Beale notes: “the majority of the symbols in the book are transtemporal in the sense that they are applicable to events throughout the ‘church age,’” consequently, “no specific prophesied historical events are discerned in the book.” Thus, this “eclectic” view is simply another version of idealism.
I would also note that the different interpretive schools seem to arise from our historical distance from Rev’s original setting. As R. H. Mounce notes: John “wrote out of his own immediate situation, his prophecies would have a historical fulfillment, he anticipated a future consummation, and revealed principles that operated beneath the course of history.” Consequently, we may actually surmise that as he writes Rev, John is simultaneously a futurist, historicist, idealist, and preterist!
And finally, as an evangelical Christian I would point out that each view has evangelical adherents within it. Unfortunately, some dispensationalist-futurists dismiss the other approaches as dangerously trending toward liberalism — though they conveniently never mention the cultic versions of premillennialism (Mormonism; Jehovah’s Witnesses).