As a preteristic postmillennialist, I believe that the first portion of the Lord’s Olivet Discourse deals with the approaching destruction of the temple in AD 70. Consequently, the future “great tribulation,” does not encumber the postmillennialist’s optimistic outlook on the historical long run.
But why do I believe this? Why do I believe the tribulation transpires in the first century? Why do I not believe this was a prophecy of the coming of the Jack Van Impe Ministries International?
I do this for two very basic reasons: (1) The Discourse starts with a question regarding Christ’s prophecy of the destruction (Matt 24:2–3). And Jesus ends that section of the discourse with the declaration that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt 24:34). This is all clear enough.
However, a problem arises. How are we to understand Christ’s statement that the gospel was to be preached in all the world as a witness? “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come” (Matt 24:14). This looks like a formidable objection against a first-century fulfillment. But looks are deceiving.
First, the meaning of the word “world” (oikuemene) here does not necessarily refer to the entire planet. We may glean many examples of a more restricted meaning from various Scriptures. For instance, in Acts 24:5 Paul causes dissension among the Jews “throughout the whole world.” Surely this means their world, the world of their lives and experience, the Roman empire. It says nothing about how the Jews living in Antarctica at the time were responding to Paul’s teaching. Nor those in Cleveland.
Second, even more significantly Lthe New Testament informs us that the gospel is preached throughout the entire known world of that day: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Rom 1:8; cp. Col 1:6, 23). This is precisely what Jesus prophesied around AD 30 in his Olivet Discourse.
Thus, in the Olivet Discourse Jesus simply states that the gospel will be preached in the entire known world of that day before these events reach their climax. The preterist-postmillennial position holds its own against this objection. An important consequence of this careful exegetical analysis is: we no longer have to believe that Matt 24:14 was a prophecy of the coming of the Jack Van Impe International Ministries.