My preterist testimony

I was in college. In my fourth of five years, I heard about a professor who was fairly “liberal” in theology. A friend of mind took his class on Revelation, and was disturbed by how good the arguments were that Revelation was written about first century events. When my friend explained to me in brief terms the professor’s argument, I, too, was apalled – and intrigued. Something about the whole thing rang true. However, I would put it somewhat on the backburner for a little while.

By the time I was out of college, I was ready to dive in and find out if there was anything to this belief system. A few internet searches, and I found that the name for this scandalous view was “preterism”. I looked at a lot of arguments, asked a lot of questions. I discovered that there are two main types of preterists. Partial preterists see only some of prophecy as related to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and hold out for a future something or other (usually the Second Coming and the Resurrection) in the future. Full preterists, the main type of preterist with whom I corresponded on the theological forums, believe that all eschatological events were fulfilled in those events of the first century. Around this time I was starting to see the Bible as literature rather than as a magic text independent of its original cultural context. I saw that the prophetic diction in the New Testament was not a brand new creation, but that it was built upon the tradition of the Old Testament prophecies, and with this revelation and what it did to the Olivet Discourse (Mat 24-25), I was a preterist. Of some sort, anyway.

Then came to a momentous (and stupid) decision: I would decide whether full preterism was true or not by praying and then reading through all the epistles, trying to see if it all made sense from a full preterist standpoint. I didn’t get all the way through before the inevitable happened: I could not reconcile the relevant eschatological passages as I understood them in my fully dispensationalist mindset with the view of preterism. Surprise, surprise, huh?

This was only a slightly more sophisticated epistemological methodology than closing my eyes, flipping the pages of my Bible, and deciding my future based on what verse my finger happened to land on. The basic problem was that I decided to stop asking questions, and decide based on a hunch – even a prayerful hunch.

This resolution to dismiss preterism seemed to content me for several months. But at the end of that time, something happened that turned on the light in my theological basement, and I could see that my previous study had really cracked my futurist pipes, and I had inadvertently let the leaks trickle in during those months and suddenly became aware that my basement was now full of preteristic theology. The event that triggered this was when a close friend asked me what I thought about a certain passage in Revelation. Without feeling any compunction otherwise, I gave him a summary of the full preterist viewpoint. I stopped talking when, despite his continued nodding, he started looking deeply troubled. I thought to myself, “Wow. Not only have I discovered definitely that I am a preterist, but I think I’ve made an impact on my friend, too!”

Oh, I definitely made an impact. When he went to bed that night, he told his wife in some anguish, “I don’t know what kind of crazy, mixed-up stuff Steve has gotten into, but we need to pray!” And there in their beds that night, they lifted up an impassioned plea for my sanity and/or my restitution to the faith.

A few months later, a family that had left my church when I was in high school to start a church in another town came back into town. I soon discovered that they had become partial preterists themselves. One of them lent my brother-in-law a copy of Gary Demar’s End Times Fiction, and he soon came to agree that most of Matthew’s and Revelation’s prophecies had been fulfilled in the first century, and that the Kingdom had, indeed, come. I was overjoyed with the vindication.

Even when I first looked at the evidence for preterism, I immediately recognized that it seemed most consistent to believe that all New Testament prophecy was pointing to the same event(s). But I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions, especially given the extreme minority status of those who do not see any prophecies as yet future. I called myself a preterist, but remained agnostic on the full vs. partial bit, highly suspecting full preterism but holding out cautiously. I spent a couple years trying to find the key that would settle it for me one way or another. Eventually I could no longer justify this agnosticism when I saw that the main constituents of the eschaton – the Second Coming, the Judgment, the Resurrection of the Dead, the New Jerusalem/New Heavens and Earth – were so obviously referring to first century events that any attempts to put off other, less momentous aspects of eschatology for at least 2,000 years seemed unjustifiably artificial, even when I couldn’t quite understand what they meant. That wrestling with something I was already in agreement with was the inspiration for this post.

I’m still learning. Holding a theological position should not be construed as a necessarily permanent thing. When I say that I’m a full preterist, it’s like saying I’m an evolutionist: it answers the most important questions better than any other system I know of, has the fewest problems, and through trend analysis shows the highest probability of addressing the unanswered questions so that I am generally more and more confident in my beliefs.

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  • Thanks Steve. That was helpful. Quite awhile ago I ditched the dispensational worldview, but I’m not sure I really replaced it with anything from an eschatological perspective. And I just never bothered to read Revelations anymore. Then several months ago I attended a lecture by a ANE language prof at University of Toronto who discussed Revelations. Wow! What an eye opener. Another attendee at the lecture said it best for me: “It feels like I got back a whole new book of the bible”.

    So quick question: Given what you know of me from our interaction, what one book / resource would you recommend to me so that I can evaluate / familiarize myself on Preterism?

  • Thanks Steve. That was helpful. Quite awhile ago I ditched the dispensational worldview, but I’m not sure I really replaced it with anything from an eschatological perspective. And I just never bothered to read Revelations anymore. Then several months ago I attended a lecture by a ANE language prof at University of Toronto who discussed Revelations. Wow! What an eye opener. Another attendee at the lecture said it best for me: “It feels like I got back a whole new book of the bible”.

    So quick question: Given what you know of me from our interaction, what one book / resource would you recommend to me so that I can evaluate / familiarize myself on Preterism?

  • Thanks for this post, Steve. It’s always nice to know how someone came to hold a certain belief system.

  • Thanks for this post, Steve. It’s always nice to know how someone came to hold a certain belief system.

  • Steve,

    It’s honestly quite difficult for me to recommend a book, since I’ve never read a full preterist book beginning to end, having gleaned all my understanding on the internet. Due to the controversial nature of this eschatology, you probably shouldn’t be surprised that big name Christian publishers have never (to my knowledge) published a preterist book, so you have to go elsewhere to find them.

    It also depends on what you’re looking for: a systematic treatment of every relevant eschatological passage, or a summary of the view. I’d recommend either (or both) of the following:

    1) The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming by James Stuart Russell (1878). Buy it or download it, one. Seminal work, fairly systematic without being hopelessly exhaustive.

    2) Beyond Creation Science by Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn. First half treats preterism, but not fully in depth, and the rest of the book is a somewhat controversial take on Genesis (that I have talked about on this site a few times). For a somewhat bird’s eye view of the rationale for preterism, this book’s pretty good.

    Mike, any recommendations?

  • Steve,

    It’s honestly quite difficult for me to recommend a book, since I’ve never read a full preterist book beginning to end, having gleaned all my understanding on the internet. Due to the controversial nature of this eschatology, you probably shouldn’t be surprised that big name Christian publishers have never (to my knowledge) published a preterist book, so you have to go elsewhere to find them.

    It also depends on what you’re looking for: a systematic treatment of every relevant eschatological passage, or a summary of the view. I’d recommend either (or both) of the following:

    1) The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming by James Stuart Russell (1878). Buy it or download it, one. Seminal work, fairly systematic without being hopelessly exhaustive.

    2) Beyond Creation Science by Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn. First half treats preterism, but not fully in depth, and the rest of the book is a somewhat controversial take on Genesis (that I have talked about on this site a few times). For a somewhat bird’s eye view of the rationale for preterism, this book’s pretty good.

    Mike, any recommendations?

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,

    Funny that you feel the second half of Beyond Creation Science is controversial. I bought and read the book precisely because of the main assertion of the book (that God is all about covenants and that is how He is guiding the world) and happened to be introduced to preterism in the process… 😯 So I didn’t think the
    second

    half was the controversial part, but that the first half was!

  • Doug Moody

    Steve,

    Funny that you feel the second half of Beyond Creation Science is controversial. I bought and read the book precisely because of the main assertion of the book (that God is all about covenants and that is how He is guiding the world) and happened to be introduced to preterism in the process… 😯 So I didn’t think the
    second

    half was the controversial part, but that the first half was!

  • Steve (x2),

    It was a combination of R. C. Sproul’s The Last Days according to Jesus audio series (NOT the book, although the book is still pretty good) and J. S. Russell’s The Parousia that convinced the heck outta me. Russell’s book is most definitely the place a serious seeker should start. Ironically, neither Sproul nor Russell considered themselves to be “full” preterists, but Russell was as close as one could get without becoming one. And, as far as I know, Sproul, Sr., has kept his options open (although I’m convinced he’ll never go public).

    Another outstanding primer is Brian Martin’s Behind the Veil of Moses. I’m currently editing a revised edition of this book, but the original is still a powerful tool and highly recommended. He also publishes (and I edit) Fulfilled! Magazine, a subscription of which is currently free. You can also download them from the website.

    I’ve never read it (but I have it!), but Max King’s The Cross and the Parousia of Christ has been extremely influential in preterist circles. Warning: this is a monster tome. Extremely intimidating. Make sure you have nothing else on your reading list before starting this puppy. 😉

  • Steve (x2),

    It was a combination of R. C. Sproul’s The Last Days according to Jesus audio series (NOT the book, although the book is still pretty good) and J. S. Russell’s The Parousia that convinced the heck outta me. Russell’s book is most definitely the place a serious seeker should start. Ironically, neither Sproul nor Russell considered themselves to be “full” preterists, but Russell was as close as one could get without becoming one. And, as far as I know, Sproul, Sr., has kept his options open (although I’m convinced he’ll never go public).

    Another outstanding primer is Brian Martin’s Behind the Veil of Moses. I’m currently editing a revised edition of this book, but the original is still a powerful tool and highly recommended. He also publishes (and I edit) Fulfilled! Magazine, a subscription of which is currently free. You can also download them from the website.

    I’ve never read it (but I have it!), but Max King’s The Cross and the Parousia of Christ has been extremely influential in preterist circles. Warning: this is a monster tome. Extremely intimidating. Make sure you have nothing else on your reading list before starting this puppy. 😉

  • Steve, I’d recommend:

    1) The Parousia by Russell
    2) The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King
    3) Beyond the End Times by John Noe
    4) Last Days Madness by Gary DeMar
    5) The Last Days According to Jesus by RC Sproul

    The last two aren’t full preterist, but still head you in the right directiom.

    The significance of the first two for the history of the movement can hardly be over-estimated.

  • Steve, I’d recommend:

    1) The Parousia by Russell
    2) The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King
    3) Beyond the End Times by John Noe
    4) Last Days Madness by Gary DeMar
    5) The Last Days According to Jesus by RC Sproul

    The last two aren’t full preterist, but still head you in the right directiom.

    The significance of the first two for the history of the movement can hardly be over-estimated.

  • Rob

    This was a good article. I still struggle with the issue and where I stand. So much of Revelation just seems to defy a time or place, such as rocks falling from the sky and sea’s turning red, etc.
    .-= Rob´s last blog ..Pharmaceutical Mastermind =-.

  • Rob

    This was a good article. I still struggle with the issue and where I stand. So much of Revelation just seems to defy a time or place, such as rocks falling from the sky and sea’s turning red, etc.
    .-= Rob´s last blog ..Pharmaceutical Mastermind =-.

  • JOSE L. FLORES

    Hello Steve:
    I am no a Theologian but I was born into The Kingdom Of Jesus my Lord in December, 1986, 23 years ago. The adventage that I think I have in The Kingdom
    of God is that since the beginning I trusted God/Jesus/His Holy Spirit to teach
    me Himself the Bible and very seldom or never I went to ask a preacher or pastor
    about a verse. About 13 or 15 years I was struggling with myself with Matthew and Apocalypse books about the end times or era. I struggled for some months or years because it seemed ilogical that I could understand the Bible different that the very well known preachers of the world. I would tell the Lord and I even asked him for forgiveness regarding my understanding because it was me against the whole christian world. But one day about 12 years ago I met a christian brother that was teaching his congregation the same with I was struggling with. Then up to that day I knew that I was not the only one that
    could understand it the full preterist way as I did until now.
    It was through a serial of experiences with the Word of God that brought me to
    this understanding. And the first it has to do with our real trust and believe
    in Our Savior and what He says in His word. Fisrt of all we have to be born from
    above and is Him the only One that can make us born or translate us into His Kingdom. We christians are too compromised to to this world system including the
    christian system and teachings of today and we do not want to dissapoint others or loose what it took maybe the entire life to learn even if it is not completely right. They haven’t been able to enter into His Rest although they are saved by His Grace they are still waiting for that Glorious Spiritual Kingdom, when we full preterist suposed to be enjoying in this world and enjoying all the benefits of this Glory of Jesus Christ our God and Savior.
    May our Lord open the spiritual eyes and give power to all our brothers and sisters to say no to religion and yes to His Powerful True.

  • JOSE L. FLORES

    Hello Steve:
    I am no a Theologian but I was born into The Kingdom Of Jesus my Lord in December, 1986, 23 years ago. The adventage that I think I have in The Kingdom
    of God is that since the beginning I trusted God/Jesus/His Holy Spirit to teach
    me Himself the Bible and very seldom or never I went to ask a preacher or pastor
    about a verse. About 13 or 15 years I was struggling with myself with Matthew and Apocalypse books about the end times or era. I struggled for some months or years because it seemed ilogical that I could understand the Bible different that the very well known preachers of the world. I would tell the Lord and I even asked him for forgiveness regarding my understanding because it was me against the whole christian world. But one day about 12 years ago I met a christian brother that was teaching his congregation the same with I was struggling with. Then up to that day I knew that I was not the only one that
    could understand it the full preterist way as I did until now.
    It was through a serial of experiences with the Word of God that brought me to
    this understanding. And the first it has to do with our real trust and believe
    in Our Savior and what He says in His word. Fisrt of all we have to be born from
    above and is Him the only One that can make us born or translate us into His Kingdom. We christians are too compromised to to this world system including the
    christian system and teachings of today and we do not want to dissapoint others or loose what it took maybe the entire life to learn even if it is not completely right. They haven’t been able to enter into His Rest although they are saved by His Grace they are still waiting for that Glorious Spiritual Kingdom, when we full preterist suposed to be enjoying in this world and enjoying all the benefits of this Glory of Jesus Christ our God and Savior.
    May our Lord open the spiritual eyes and give power to all our brothers and sisters to say no to religion and yes to His Powerful True.