Monday, August 9, 2010

The Failure of Preterism in the Olivet Discourse

Let's review what I've presented in regards to the Olivet Discourse...

The occassion of the discourse was a question from the disciples after Jesus stated that not one stone would be left upon the other in Herod's Temple complex. Though Luke and Mark record virtually the same question, the detail of the question in Matthew tells us most specifically what was asked, and what Jesus was responding to. Matthew's question: "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" directs us to the end of time rather than to 70 AD.

The woe upon the pregnant and nursing seems clearly to refer to the same circumstance in all three accounts, and therefore can serve to "align" the details of three accounts. In doing so, it makes Luke's unique language describing the misfortune coming upon the Jews and Jerusalem merely a different description the same events presented in M&M. Therefore, there is no description whatsoever in the Olivet Discourse of events occurring in 70 AD, although I could see the events of 70 AD prefiguring those in the Olivet Discourse.

Specific Prophecies that Prevent a Preterist Intepretation
  • "The beginning of birth pangs" in regard to earthquakes in various places, famines, and plagues seems a lot to jam into the space of time from 30 to 70 AD
  • "A great falling away" which never occurred before 70 AD
  • "The Gospel preached to every nation," which only now is a possibility ("then the end will come")
  • "The Abomination of Desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel" has not been fulfilled yet
  • "Great tribulation like never before and never again" could in no way describe events before 1940
  • "Immediately after the tribulation of those days" could not have happened before 1940
  • "The Son of Man comes in the clouds" has not occurred yet
  • "Angels gathering the elect" (from the earth and heaven) has not occurred yet
  • "When we see all these things happening, this generation will not pass until all these things take place" binds the prophecies in the discourse into a unit (at least from the gospel being preached to all nations) that will be seen in its entirety by the generation that sees these signs
A preterist interpretation of the Olivet Discourse is unwarranted and unsustainable. The Olivet Discourse starts with some general discriptions of what history would hold for the disciples until the end came. The end itself would not come before the Gospel had been preached to all the nations, and when the end finally came, it would be most signified by the Abomination of Desolation which is described by Daniel. The end itself, is nothing other than the Return of Christ, and that just has not happened yet!


  1. I think there were two questions - One refering to the destruction of the temple and the other refering to the end of the world:

    "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"

    Jesus was answering two seperate questions. One refers to the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. which occured in their generation and the other to the end of the world.

  2. Cole,
    Let me direct you to a couple of earlier posts:
    Give Us A Sign Already

    The Olivet Discourse

    There is no way that the answer Jesus gave answers a question that could have 70 AD in mind.

  3. SLW,

    Concerning your nine points below:

    1. "The beginning of birth pangs" in regard to earthquakes in various places, famines, and plagues seems a lot to jam into the space of time from 30 to 70 AD.
    2. "A great falling away" which never occurred before 70 AD.
    3. "The Gospel preached to every nation," which only now is a possibility ("then the end will come").
    4. "The Abomination of Desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel" has not been fulfilled yet.
    5. "Great tribulation like never before and never again" could in no way describe events before 1940.
    6. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days" could not have happened before 1940.
    7. "The Son of Man comes in the clouds" has not occurred yet.
    8. "Angels gathering the elect" (from the earth and heaven) has not occurred yet.
    9. "When we see all these things happening, this generation will not pass until all these things take place" binds the prophecies in the discourse into a unit (at least from the gospel being preached to all nations) that will be seen in its entirety by the generation that sees these signs.

    I agree that preterism doesn't come close to completely fulfilling these nine points. However, the first generation church saw a partial fulfillment or prefiguration of points one to five.

    a. An earthquake when Jesus died per Matthew
    b. A violent earthquake when Jesus resurrected per Matthew
    c. A violent earthquake that freed apostles from prison per Acts
    d. The AD 62 Pompeii earthquake
    e. The famine in Jerusalem prophesied by Abagus
    f. First century AD plague reported by Rufus of Ephesus, not necessarily before AD 70

    2. Some apostasy according to the Epistles

    3. The spread of the Gospel in Roman Empire, the world to some

    4. The sacrifice to Roman deities on the Temple Mount by Titus

    5. The slaughter of 600,000 to 1,000,000 Jews

    These are partial fulfillments of signs prior to the return of the Lord and the angels gathering the elect. And by no means where these five points completely fulfilled before 1940.

    In my last post on the previous thread, I gave an abstract biblical argument for multiple fulfillments based on Revelation 17:9–11. Also, Daniel 11:2–35 describes events fulfilled in Persian and Hellenistic history. Then Daniel 11:36 and on jumps into events not yet fulfilled to this day. In short, since the Olivet Prophecy is apocalyptic in nature and it referred to the Abomination that happened in the second century BC, I see it using symbolism with multiple fulfillments and jumps in time. The first generation of Christians saw a prefiguration of signs that preceded the return of the Lord.

    This ties it into Jesus' original statement about the leveling of the temple and his return. And by the way, several years ago, AG leaders saw these ideas as compatible with AG doctrine.

  4. PS

    I have been reading this blog off and on for about a year now. I love your witty intro on the top RHS of the page, but am a little worried. Are you really still "getting fatter"? We are most of us struggling to keep our bellies in check. (It's taken me a year to lose 6 pounds!)But your description brings to mind a James and the Giant Peach scenario!

  5. Holding to a partial preterist viewpoint, I think the key issue is the timing that Jesus said in Matthew 24:34. Perhaps you might know SLW a valid argument for showing that Jesus didn't mean "this generation" but a future generation perhaps, in our case, 2000 years removed?

    I also recommend the book by John Bray, Matthew 24 Fulfilled. You can find it on Amazon and at American Vision.

    God bless you brother!

  6. Hi The Seeking Disciple,

    I strongly disagree with partial preterism, at least the standard definition of it. Partial preterism of the Olivet Prophecy implies that all of the prophecy except the return of the Lord was completely fulfilled by AD 70. On one hand, I hold that futurists may glean from partial preterist ideas and see various 30 to 70 events were prefigurations of the Olivet Prophecy events. However, several of SLW's points were in no way completely fulfilled by 70.

    Also, perhaps my use of the term "partial fulfillment" can be confused with "partial preterism." My use of "partial fulfillment" means "a prefiguration of the complete fulfillment." And I'll let readers be the judge if my last two sentences helped to clarify my view or cause more confusion.:)

  7. Hello all,

    The way I understand these issues many things hinge on the date the book of Revelation was written. The Preterist argument is strong if Revelation was written before 70AD, the argument becomes weak if a later date is established.

    Nevertheless I do find the preterists push too hard to make there postion, which seems to be somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction to the dispensationalists. Explaining away EVERYTHING at the 70 AD event fails to give an answer for the many prophecies throughout the rest of the NT.

    I have been more and more impresesed as to how necessary it is to discuss end-times issues with as much credibility as possible. The world is watching and listening to the church.

  8. Seeking Disciple (Roy),
    Thanks for the comment.

    V. 34 cannot be removed from its immediate context:
    "Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened."

    In all three accounts this admonition is virtually the same. The generational prophecy is associated with the parable of the fig. The operative phrase is, "When you see all (panta) these things, know the end is near." The generation Christ spoke to did not see all these things, so cannot be the generation Christ was speaking of (not without being a false prophet, anyhow).

    Partial-preterism tries to retain the force of this generational prophecy, out of context in my view, and in a way that makes Jesus a false prophet. The way signs are presented and linked together (at least after, "the gospel will be preached to every nation") make this an all or none proposition. The "tribulation of those days" is presented in historically unique terms as to severity. Following partial-preterism leaves one wringing his hands trying to explain the Holocaust in view of such a prophecy. Furthermore, this tribulation is not severable from "the Abomination of Desolation," which puts that entire portion of the discourse which is most readily attributable to Rome's Jewish War in an untenable situation.

    The best that Rome's siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD can be in regard to the Olivet Discourse is a foreshadowing that does not fulfill detail--very similar to how Antiochus Epiphanes actions foreshadow the Abomination of Desolation. The valid argument is that the generation spoken of is the one that sees all these things.

  9. Ian,
    The early daters do so only because their interpretation of the Apocalypse demands it. The later daters at least have the testimony of the early church on their side. I find it hard to believe the early date, if it was true, would have produced a work that had as much difficulty becoming widely accepted as authoritative as it did. The latter date explains that characteristic much better in my mind. The bottom line for me is that regardless of whether one is looking at the Olivet Discourse or the Apocalypse, they both end with Christ returning in glory. It hasn't happened yet, so preteristic viewpoints are not valid, and the case against them is open and shut!

  10. JG,
    I agree with your assessment of partial preterism. IMHO, it is a mix and match mishmash that makes Jesus profoundly dumb, confused, and/or just a plain liar. I like your deference to "a prefiguration of the complete fulfillment"--that has legs.

    I had attempted to post a response to your abstract in the prior thread, but it blew up in the ethernet when I hit the publish button. I'll try to cobble it together from memory and repost.

  11. / Hiya, Thunder...Fascinating thoughts. What's below was seen on the net. Would like reactions to it. Dick /

    Pretrib Rapture Pride

    by Bruce Rockwell

    Pretrib rapture promoters like Thomas Ice give the impression they know more than the early Church Fathers, the Reformers, the greatest Greek New Testament scholars including those who produced the KJV Bible, the founders of their favorite Bible schools, and even their own mentors!
    Ice's mentor, Dallas Sem. president John Walvoord, couldn't find anyone holding to pretrib before 1830 - and Walvoord called John Darby and his Brethren followers "the early pretribulationists" (RQ, pp. 160-62). Ice belittles Walvoord and claims that several pre-1830 persons, including "Pseudo-Ephraem" and a "Rev. Morgan Edwards," taught a pretrib rapture. Even though the first one viewed Antichrist's arrival as the only "imminent" event, Ice (and Grant Jeffrey) audaciously claim he expected an "imminent" pretrib rapture! And Ice (and John Bray) have covered up Edwards' historicism which made a pretrib rapture impossible! Google historian Dave MacPherson's "Deceiving and Being Deceived" for documentation on these and similar historical distortions.
    The same pretrib defenders, when combing ancient books, deviously read "pretrib" into phrases like "before Armageddon," "before the final conflagration," and "escape all these things"!
    BTW, the KJV translators' other writings found in London's famed British Library (where MacPherson has researched) don't have even a hint of pretrib rapturism. Is it possible that Ice etc. have found pretrib "proof" in the KJV that its translators never found?
    Pretrib merchandisers like Ice claim that nothing is better pretrib proof than Rev. 3:10. They also cover up "Famous Rapture Watchers" (on Google) which shows how the greatest Greek NT scholars of all time interpreted it.
    Pretrib didn't flourish in America much before the 1909 Scofield Bible which has pretribby "explanatory notes" in its margins. Not seen in the margins was jailed forger Scofield's criminal record throughout his life that David Lutzweiler has documented in his recent book "The Praise of Folly" which is available online.
    Biola University's doctrinal statement says Christ's return is "premillennial" and "before the Tribulation." Although universities stand for "academic freedom," Biola has added these narrow, restrictive phrases - non-essentials the founders purposely didn't include in their original doctrinal statement when Biola was just a small Bible institute! And other Christian schools have also belittled their founders.
    Ice, BTW, has a "Ph.D" issued by a tiny Texas school that wasn't authorized to issue degrees! Ice now says that he's working on another "Ph.D" via the University of Wales in Britain. For light on the degrees of Ice's scholarliness, Google "Bogus degree scandal prompts calls to wind up University of Wales," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," "be careful in polemics - Peripatetic Learning," and "Walvoord Melts Ice." Also Google "Thomas Ice (Hired Gun)" - featured by media luminary Joe Ortiz on his Jan. 30, 2013 "End Times Passover" blog.
    Other fascinating Google articles include "The Unoriginal John Darby," "X-raying Margaret," "Edward Irving in Unnerving," "Pretrib Rapture Politics," "Pretrib Rapture Secrets," "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty," "Pretrib Hypocrisy," "Pretrib Rapture Secrecy," and "Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism" - most from the author of "The Rapture Plot," the most accurate documentation on pretrib rapture history.
    Can anyone guess who the last proud pretrib rapture holdout will be?

    1. Dick,
      The date of the "first" pretribbers is irrelevant. It either is a consistent interpretation of the Bible or it isn't. What anyone who has gone before has interpreted the Bible to say is not a control or an authority over what the Bible actually does say and what is actually true. History is replete with those who have been in error concerning proper interpretation and practice (including contemporaries of the Apostles). Error is still error regardless of how old it might be. The Bible itself, not what anyone has said about it, it the sole rule of faith and conduct. If a pretribber's interpretation is consistent and faithful to the text, every one of the arguments you've listed above are just so much obfuscation foisted on the basis of "authority" rather than substance.

      If if took a PhD to understand prophecy (or anything else for that matter), throw out every prophet recorded in the scriptures. None of those God used to speak it were thus qualified, and I know he never intended anyone to be thus qualified to understand it. I don't have patience or time for those who claim elitism over God's people on the basis of human educational achievements.


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