THE STRENGTH OF PRETERISM IN REVELATION

PMW 2022-034 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

I am an exegetical preterist. By that I mean that I come to the text of Scripture and am led by the textual indicators in many biblical passages to adopt a preterist analysis of those passages. I am not a theological preterist. A theological preterist is one who comes to Scripture with the pre-commitment that all prophecy has been fulfilled and preterism controls all of biblical eschatology.

Many theological preterists (aka Hyper-preterists) began as partial preterists but in their excitement they took a bridge too far. This is like an enthusiastic Calvinist who becomes a Hyper-Calvinist. He refuses to do personal evangelism and invest in missions because God is absolutely sovereign and will see that all the elect are saved. The Hyper-Calvinist is certainly Calvinistic, but he has abused the Cavinistic system. Sadly, the Hyper-preterist has a heavy-duty HP hammer and every Bible verse he sees looks like a nail to be driven into his system. Thankfully more and more of those who shot beyond the bounds of historical preterism to become Hyper-preterists are beginning to make their way back to a full evangelical faith.

Unfortunately, like a squeaky wheel those who abuse a system tend to get much attention for the grating noise they make. And even more sadly, it is easy to write-off a system because of some proponents who have taken it too far.

But the orthodox preterist must answer serious objections to the preterist system. And in the book of Revelation there are many issues that can raise serious objections. One objection that I often hear is: Since Revelation is almost wholly fulfilled it is irrelevant to use today. There seems to be no point in our having it in the Bible.

The problem with this complaint is that we could do away with much of the Bible on that basis. For instance, Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church is very personal and deals with several local issues troubling that church 2000 years ago. Yet, what Christian would declare 1 and 2 Corinthians to be irrelevant to us today?

Properly considered, Revelation is somewhat like 1 Corinthians in that it deals with ancient issues, but in a way that establishes abiding principles for us today. I will have more to say on this in a later PostmillennialWorldview article. But for now, we need to press the point that: When Revelation was written, it was much needed in the era of the establishing of the new covenant church in the world.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Book of Revelation Made Easy

This book introduces the reader to the reasons for the preterist analysis of Revelation. Very helpful for those who are not acquainted with the strengths of preterism in Revelation.

This book is available at : http://www.KennethGentry.com

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Three of the leading strengths of preterism are due to its original relevance:

First, preterism’s relevance. Preterism retains and emphasizes the relevance of Revelation for John’s first-century audience (the seven churches in Asia Minor and apostolic Christianity more broadly, Rev. 2–3). The nascent faith was 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 Isbon Beckwith (319) 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’ (Abraham Kuyper, p. v). John Walvoord (8) 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.”

Second, preterism recognizes John’s time-frame. Preterism takes seriously Revelation’s time-frame indicators: “the things which must shortly take place” (1:1, 22:6) in that “the time is near” (1:3; 22:10). These temporal qualifiers appear in the introduction and the conclusion of Revelation, 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.

Third, deals with a fundamental redemptive-historical issue. Preterism 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. We must understand that “the patriarchal family was only a stage in the development of the people of God, so national and territorial Israel in the Old Testament period was a stage toward the development of an international and global people of God. This is not just a ‘Christian idea’ but intrinsic to the Old Testament itself” (N. T. Wright 1994: 2). Wright notes the OT evidence, citing especially Zech. 2:11a: “And many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become My people.” See also: Gen. 12:3; Psa. 22:27; 47:8ff; 72:17; 86:9; 87:1ff; 102:13–22; Isa 11:1–9, 10, 12; 19:19–25; 25:1ff; 42:6; 44:5; 45:22ff; 49:6; Jer. 16:19; Amos 9:12; Hag. 2:6ff; Zech. 8:20—23; Mal. 1:11.

During its earliest years Christianity gravitates to the temple (e.g., Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:20, 42; 21:26; 22:17; 24:11) and Jerusalem (e.g., Acts 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” (Martin Hopkins, 44). But we also witness numerous allusions to AD 70 in many texts in the Gospels (e.g., Matt. 8:11–12; 21:43; 22:1–7; 23:35–38; 24:1–34) as well as elsewhere (Acts 2:16–21, 37–40; 7:48–53; 1Thess. 2:14–16).

Fourth, preterism establishes an example for all ages of the church. By enduring such catastrophes as appearing in Revelation, 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.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Book of Revelation and the Postmillennial Hope (DVD lectures)

These three 50-minute lectures explain how Revelation does not contradict the postmillennial hope, as many assume.

This DVD set is available at : http://www.KennethGentry.com

3 thoughts on “THE STRENGTH OF PRETERISM IN REVELATION

  1. Brian Mann April 29, 2022 at 5:06 pm

    Excellent article! I appreciate the work you are doing to clarify and make these truths crystal clear and balanced and perfectly nuanced. Keep up the good work. And know that you were a cause of thanksgiving to God today as I read and was encouraged. Blessings The Truth Is Stronger Still! Brian Mann | Pastor | Catherine Lake Baptist Church

    >

  2. Ed Thomson April 29, 2022 at 5:30 pm

    When I first saw this email I had hoped it would be an announcement about the publication of your new Revelation commentary but, alas, apparently not. Is there any recent word from the publisher as to when, IF EVER, the commentary will be available for sale? Please, please, please…..

    Ed T.

  3. Darrel April 29, 2022 at 6:36 pm

    Great article

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: