PMT 2014-100 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
For several years I have stated that the Westminster divine and great Talmudic scholar John Lightfoot (1602–75) was a preterist. I was wrong. He was an historicist.
By the very nature of the case, historicism often deals with prophecies that refer to events now past, hence prophecies that would agree with preterism. This is because historicism tends to view Revelation as a prophecy of the church from the first century until the end.
Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Talmud and Hebraica
I wrongly placed Lightfoot as a preterist on the basis of only selective reading in his Commentary on the Talmud and Hebraica (4 vols). For instance, there he mentions Rev 6:6 while discussing Luke 23:30. He states (3:210): “that chapter [Rev 6] treats of the plagues and afflictions that should forerun the destruction of Jerusalem, and indeed, the destruction and overthrow itself…. Nay, I may further add, that perhaps this observation might not a little help (if my eyes fail me not) in discovering the method of the author of the Book of Revelation.”
On Matt 24:27 he writes: “The destruction of Jerusalem is very frequently expressed in Scripture as if it were the destruction of the whole world” (2:318). “According to this sense, Christ speaks in this place; and . . . John, in the sixth of the Revelation” (2:318–19). He adds “Christ’s taking vengeance of that exceeding wicked nation is called Christ’s ‘coming in glory,’ and his ‘coming in the clouds,’ Dan. vii. . . . See Psalm 1.4; Mal. 111.1, 2, &c.; Joel ii. 31; Matt. xvi. 28; Rev. i. 7.”
On Mark 9:1 (2:422) he states: “The coming of Christ in his vengeance of the Jews is expressed under these forms of speech. . . . The vengeance of Christ upon that nation is described as . . . his ‘coming in the clouds,’ Rev. 1. 7.”
All of this sounds so preteristic! And these statement certainly do present a preterist understanding of these passages. Nevertheless, these are preteristic elements in his overall historicist approach to Revelation. Lightfoot’s survey of Revelation, which is found in The Whole Works of the Rev. John Lightfoot, shows that he is actually an historicist.
Lightfoot’s The Whole Works of the Rev. John Lightfoot
There in his Introduction to Revelation (3:331), he writes: “Christ [reveals] to ‘John, the beloved disciple,’ the state of the church, and story in brief, of her chief afflicters, from thence to the end of the world.”
Of the trumpets he states (pp. 337-8): “the seven trumpets, under the seventh seal, give us a prospect, in general, of the times thenceforward, to the end of all things.”
Revelation 9 contains “a description of the Papacy, under the fifth trumpet” (p. 340). Indeed, much of Revelation applies to the papacy in his view.
On p. 346 he writes regarding Rev 12: “As Daniel giveth a general view of the times, from his own days, to the coming of Christ. . . so doth our Apocalyptic here, and forward. He hath hitherto given a general survey of the times from his own days to the end.”
In Rev 17 (3:357) “Mystical Babylon” is “Rome [the Roman Catholic Church] so called, as being the mother of idolatry . . . made havoc of the church continually. . . . Rome, under the Papacy, was not the same Rome it had been, — and yet it was: not heathen and imperial Rome, as it had been before; and yet, for all evil, idolatry, persecution, &c, the same Rome to all purposes.”
I am thankful for the preteristically-helpful passages in Lightfoot. But I can no longer deem his to be a preterist. Woe is me. But he does offer some powerful arguments for John’s writing Revelation in AD 66. Yay!
The Climax of the Book of Revelation (Rev 19-22)
Six lectures on six DVDs that introduce Revelation as a whole,
then focuses on its glorious conclusion.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com