The Danger Of
The Preterist Spirit of
Some months ago I wrote a refutation of the teaching of a prominent "partial" preterist, who has been very active in spreading this doctrine throughout the ranks of apostolic pentecostals. I wrote at that time that I did not think that the teaching of prophecy should be a "point of fellowship". I have been forced to modify that stand when I begin to thoroughly understand the intentions and the purpose of preterism. This is an extremely dangerous teaching, which, when taken to its ultimate conclusions, is contrary to true revival and the preaching of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who reject a future millennium, and effectively teach and preach against the future catching up of the Bride (whether before, during, or after the tribulation) and the imminent coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, at least in a basic premillennial sense, ought to realize that they are being very detrimental to the body of Christ. Their teaching is quite patently false, and untenable in the Scripture. Partial preterism is an untenable compromise between the more consistent "full preterism" and the apostolic teaching which is basic premillennialism.
A "partial preterist" stand invariably seems to settle upon the heresy of amillennialism, which is contrary to apostolic teaching in the Scriptures. It is a variation of the doctrine of Hymenaeus, whom Paul delivered to Satan because of his blasphemous teaching that the resurrection was past (1 Timothy 1.20, 2 Timothy 2.17,18). This type of teaching eats like a cancer on the body of Christ.
I do not wish to have a bad spirit, and I do not wish to cease to be a gentleman, but I cannot help but condemn this false notion that the majority of New Testament prophecy has already been fulfilled in the first century, when common historical knowledge and Scripture shows that it has not. This is ignorance compounded with deception. Moreover, the witness of the Holy Ghost shows us that this is simply deception.
The Rosetta Stone Prophecy Of The Sixth Seal
The Bible is one third prophecy. Prophecies concerning the second coming of the Lord, the future of the New Testament church, and the endtimes (the tribulation, the millennium, the last judgment, etc.), are all interconnected. There are common threads which run throughout these prophecies.
The “sixth seal” of Revelation 6 is a “key” to coordinating and assimilating certain endtime prophecies (in both testaments) associated with one particular event in prophecy. It is like a “rosetta stone”. In other words, the identification of the common elements of the "sixth seal" brings certain prophecies into harmony with one another.
The Heavenly Signs In The Sun, The Moon, And The Stars
For example, the common “key elements” associated with the sixth seal of Revelation 6 are the heavenly signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, as well as the sign of the “heavens departing as a scroll”. The sixth seal also has a “relationship” with the period which some identify as the “Great Tribulation” in that, when the Great Tribulation of three and one-half years shown to be concluded, then the sixth seal is opened (Rev. 6.12, Matt. 24.29). The sixth seal announces the beginning of the “wrath of God”. Surely, no one thinks the wrath of God upon the entire world has already taken place.
One of the serious errors of interpretation of the preterist view is to reduce the wrath of God upon the nations to simply the wrath of God upon the city of Jerusalem and the Jews. We take the literal view unless the literal view is shown to be an utter impossibility. That is the method of the apostles. God says what He means and means what He says. The preterist, on the other hand, is fixated upon Jerusalem and 70 AD. He must perforce compress and twist (especially Old Testament) prophecies pertaining to the entire world, and compress them to fit his scheme of first century Jerusalem being the object of almost all endtime prophecies. He does by playing upon words such as "earth", "world", and attempting to "provincialize" prophecies that concern the world to isolated areas in the Middle East. This is not the case as we shall attempt to show.
History Does Not Record The Fulfillment Of Endtime Prophecies That Are Worldwide In Scope
The reason why the preterist must reduce prophecies in scope, and, in many cases, attempt to show that they have already come to pass centuries ago, is because he cannot maintain his preterist scheme without doing this. He must destroy the future endtime scope of many prophecies in order to maintain his preterist argument. Of course, there are a number of prophecies pertaining to the first coming of the Lord that have been fulfilled, and there are some other prophecies that have been fulfilled, obviously. But the great class of endtime prophecies pertaining to the cataclysmic events preceding the second coming of the Lord have not yet been fulfilled (although we see the dawning and the working of their fulfillment in a number of events today). They are associated with the coming judgment of this world, and with the Blessed Hope of the Christian for the return of Jesus Christ. Herein is where the preterist and the amillennialist do great damage.
The singular heavenly events associated with the opening of the sixth seal, and with certain other prophecies pertaining to the last days, have never yet been reported in history, and may be assumed not to have happened yet, as, for example, in Revelation 6 we read of a future "great earthquake", "the sun (turning dark), the moon becoming "as blood", and the stars "(falling) from heaven" (vss. 12,13). Moreover, the "heaven (will depart) as a scroll when it is rolled together", and "every mountain and island (will be) moved out of their places" (vs.14,15). This is such an astounding worldwide event, we are told, that:
And yet preterists want to tell us that this prophecy (written in c.96 AD no less) merely refers to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD! In order to handle such prophecies as this, the preterist must resort to the method of extreme allegorism, interpreting events in an exaggerated way, and actually twisting the plain statements of Scripture in order to facilitate his theories. One of his great allies, preserved by the Catholic church, was the Jewish traitor Josephus, who was a Roman sycophant.
Even the questionable reporting of the first century Jewish historian Josephus does not present a view
of such a worldwide, unusual astronomical event as is described in Revelation 6, which was written well after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD ( 96 AD, according to many ancient and modern historians). And even if we were to determine that the book of Revelation was written before 70 AD (which is very doubtful), the worldwide catastrophic events of Revelation 6 cannot be shown to have already occurred in history. This is why the preterist must tenaciously cling to his allegorical "biblical imagery" method of prophetic interpretation. Without the extreme allegorism of his method of interpretation, his scheme will not stand at all.
The Old Testament Prophets Were Concerned With More Than Just The City Of Jerusalem
Preterists, by and large, seem to think that most of the Old Testament prophecy concerns only Old Testament events or the 70 AD destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. They seem to reject the idea that Old Testament prophecy concerns future cataclysmic endtime events on a worldwide scale.
Isaiah 13 also prophesies of events involved with the opening of the sixth seal seen in Revelation 6, clearly indicating that this prophecy pertains to more than the destruction of a mere city in Israel:
Obviously, this is not just a localized vengeance against the lone city of Jerusalem ,but it involves the entire world with great events occurring, which even obscure the atmosphere, and involve a “shaking of the heavens", and with the planet being knocked off of her axis, or out of her orbit (“the earth shall remove out of her place”). Is this just “Old Testament biblical imagery”, as preterists conveniently claim, or is this a prophecy of the endtimes concerning the entire planet? The interpretation of the preterist would have us believe that God is only speaking about a city and the surrounding provincial area in the first century. I believe this preterist method of interpretation comes originally from the German school of higher criticism, which sought a way to do away with the miraculous and the extraordinary.
Joel Foresaw Worldwide, Cataclysmic Events
Joel also prophesies of events surrounding the sixth seal:
This time period cannot be restricted to the first century (although the first part of the prophecy begins to be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, not too long after the "last days" had begun). Joel is also obviously referring to the last day sixth seal in verse 31. The common elements of the sixth seal are the heavenly signs pertaining to the sun, the moon, and the stars. These heavenly signs immediately precede the wrath of God and the "day of the Lord".
The First Century Shows No Evidence Of The Sixth Seal Worldwide, Cataclysmic Events Seen In Joel, Revelation 6, And In Isaiah 13
We saw in Revelation 6 and in Isaiah 13 that these "sixth seal" heavenly signs were of a worldwide nature. There is no evidence of any such worldwide, catastophic signs such as these in the first century that is credible. Where, for example, in the first century during the siege of Jerusalem does one see "kings of the earth", "great men, rich men, chief captains, might men, and every bondman and every free man" hiding themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains, crying out, "hide us...from the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6.16)? The wrath of the Roman army is not the wrath of the Lamb, nor was it seen on a scale outlined in the endtime prophecies. The "day of the Lord" is ushered in with worldwide catastrophic signs and wonders. This did not happen in the first century. The New Testament church was launched with the beginning of the outpouring of the Spirit in "the last days" (plural), but the conclusion of the "last days" prophecy in Joel is yet to be fulfilled. This lets us know that the "last days" (plural) did not conclude in the first century, but have not yet ended (the apostle Peter and David have caused us to realize that a day in God's eyes could be as long as a "thousand years", 2 Peter 3.8, Psalms 90.4). The term "day" is used in several different ways in the Bible.
The Daniel 2 Prophecy Informs Us That The "Latter Days" Extend Into The Modern "Nation-State" Era Of History
A careful reading of Daniel 2 will demonstrate that the period of time referred to in prophecy as "the last days", "the latter times", "latter days" etc., extends into the modern times of the "nation states", which arose following the demise of the Roman empire ("the legs of iron"). We are now living in the period of the "feet part of iron and part of clay" (Daniel 2.33).
But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the vision of thy head upon thy bed, are these. -Daniel 2.28 KJV
It is clear from Daniel 2 that the term "latter days" refers not only to the "legs of iron" (the Roman empire, which extends chronologically approximately from 168 BC to 476 AD, in the case of the "western leg", and to 1453 AD, in the case of the "eastern leg"), but must also refer to the succeeding "feet part of iron and part of clay", which, of course, extends into our modern times, the times of the modern nation-states. The return of the Lord Jesus Christ ("the Stone made without hands") is prophesied to occur during the period of "the feet (made) part of iron and part of clay". Thus, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ could not have occurred during the period of "the legs of iron" (the Roman empire), but must occur during the succeeding period of the "feet" (or modern times). The "Stone" smashes the "feet" and not "the legs". Moreover, the Stone smashes the Gentile system and not Jerusalem in the endtimes.
Joel Actually Prophesies Of The Deliverance Of Jerusalem Rather Than Its First Century Judgment
In fact, Joel, rather than prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem, actually prophesies of its deliverance:
Joel wrote these prophecies during 835-796 BC. They were not fulfilled during the Babylonian invasion of 586 BC. when the Temple and the city were basically destroyed. They were not fulfilled during the 66-70 AD assault of the Romans on Jerusalem, when only the Temple was destroyed by fire. They will be fulfilled during the endtimes. If Joel 2.28,29 was fulfilled in approximately 33 AD at Pentecost, we ought to expect that Joel 3.1,2 will similarly be precisely fulfilled. This did not happen in 70 AD. There is coming a day in the which all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem, and God will rise up against the nations of the world to deliver Jerusalem. It has to happen because the word of God is true.
Dispersion Never Refers To The Apostolic Church But Rather To The Jews
Notice that God, in that day, will “plead with them (all nations) there for my people, for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations”. It is not the apostolic church that was “scattered among the nations”, but rather the nation of Israel (the Jews) (see Luke 21.24). Moreover, God is not going to “plead with them” (the nations) for His people the Jews in 70 AD. That would be impossible since history shows He did not. Any “pleading” with the Jews (not the nations) in 70 AD would have come before the worldwide dispersion by the Romans. Moreover, this word "plead" is the Hebrew word shaphat, which means "to judge" or "to contend (with)". It is some future date that God will "plead"with the nations for His people (a future date that is associated with the sixth seal in Revelation 6). How, therefore, can Revelation 6, and these prophecies centering around the sixth seal, simply refer to 70 AD in the first century? When Titus came with his Roman armies, we certainly do not see the Lord Jesus Christ "pleading" with all nations on the behalf of His people the Jews. Rather we see "the days of vengeance" on Jerusalem and the Jews that Jesus spoke about in Luke 21. Why, then, would anyone want to maintain that the prophecy of Joel was completely fulfilled in the first century?
Some Preterists Maintain Endtime Prophecies Are Simply “Old Testament Imagery”
Since it is impossible to make the worldwide, catastrophic events prophesied in the Old and New Testaments fit the provincial Jewish rebellion of 66-70 AD, preterists resort to a biblical interpretative method that brought the world the trinity doctrine: allegorism, or, in its new preterist dress, "biblical imagery". Using this fanciful method of interpretation, prophecy can mean almost anything anyone wants it to mean. Any careful student of the Bible will realize that this type of interpretative method is the exception rather than the rule in biblical prophecy.
Types And Shadows Do Not Permit Fanciful Flights Into Imaginative Allegory
Of course, types and shadows are used, even in a literal interpretative method. Men are often referred to as "sheep", "tares", and "goats". Israel becomes a "fig tree", and men are even called "foxes" and "serpents", while demons are "birds". But "types" and "shadows" never do away with the reality of described events.
When the Bible says that Jesus ascended up to heaven, and "a cloud received him out of their sight" (Acts 1.9), we are expected to understand that this is a physical description of His ascension When prophecy states that He will come in the clouds of heaven, and the angels said that He would return to earth "in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1.11), then we are expected to understand that, in this scenario, "clouds" refer to atmospheric clouds that we see almost every day. In other words, clouds must be clouds, unless the context dictates that they cannot possibly be physical clouds.
When Hebrews 12.1 refers to a "cloud of witnesses", we know that this is not referring to atmospheric clouds in the sky. No one has ever seen human beings form an atmospheric "cloud"! But the return of Jesus Christ back to earth is reported to be visible to every eye on a worldwide (and even in an "otherworldly") scale. There are a number of ways in which this could be even physically accomplished. Moreover, we are taught that not only all of the "kindreds of the earth", but those who are physically deceased, will see His visible return (Revelation 1.7, Daniel 7.13, Zechariah 12.10, Matthew 24.30, Matthew 26.64). Zechariah 14 describes this second coming in some detail. The Lord's feet shall actually stand "in that day" upon the mount of Olives (Zechariah 14.4), following His return to earth at Armageddon. This could not possibly have happened in the first century.
I would invite any student of the word of God to investigate the details of the prophesied battle of Armageddon throughout the word of God. Don't just take one or two passages and then allegorize them. Joel says that "all nations" will be gathered against Jerusalem one day (not just the Roman armies of Titus). Zechariah says the same. At Armageddon, Zechariah says that the Lord Himself will personally go forth to "fight against those nations" gathered against Jerusalem (Zechariah 14.3). This is not Titus against the Jews in 66-70 AD! The spirits of devils go forth to draw the kings or rulers of the earth to "gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16.14). The location is given as "Armageddon" (Joel's "valley of Jehoshaphat", or "the judgment of Jehovah", or, as some have said, the plain of Esdraelon, the valley of Jezreel). At any rate, this great battlefield will have the fate of the city of Jerusalem, and indeed the fate of the world, as its focus, when the nations of the world will be gathered there (Revelation 19.19). The armies of the beast will be defeated by the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ and not by the armies of Titus, whom, some preterists would have us believe, was serving the beast (as some of them say Nero was the beast!). Thus preterism confuses and obscures the truth of endtime prophecies.
We have seen in the prophecy of Joel how that the "last days" cannot possibly be restricted to the first century only, since the "last days" also envision worldwide, catastrophic events and the deliverance of the city of Jerusalem (as opposed to the preterist interpretation of the destruction of the Temple only in 70 AD). Moreover, the prophecy of Joel does not foretell the use of the Roman armies to destroy the city of Jerusalem, but rather foretells a time when the Lord Himself will plead with "all nations" who have come against the city of Jerusalem, which is the exact opposite of the preterist scenario.
There is the classic key element of the sixth seal (“the sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining”). This prophecy is directed to the nations of the world (during the time of the "feet of clay mixed with iron in Daniel 2) and not to the Romans of the first century. It speaks of the future day of the Lord. Moreover, it speaks of the Lord coming to the rescue of Jerusalem (“The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem…”), which is hardly the case in 70 AD. Certainly the Lord did not come to the rescue of the Jews in 70 AD. They were being judged for their rejection of the Messiah. A worldwide dispersion of the Jews resulted. Moreover, this prophecy also speaks of the Lord actually sitting in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Megiddo) to judge the nations. Again, hardly 70 AD and the destruction of Jerusalem at that time. Therefore, how can preterists say that Joel was fulfilled in the first century?
There can be little doubt that these endtime prophecies refer to more than just the first century destruction of the city of Jerusalem. And yet Peter said that these events were “in the last days” ( “in the last days saith God”, Acts 2.17). It is evident that, at least in the apostle Peter’s mind, the “last days” encompassed not only the events of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in Jerusalem, but included the final battle of Armageddon and the actual return of the Lord to Jerusalem, which still have not occurred some 2000 years later. Therefore, to maintain that the “last days” only pertained to the first century is entirely inadequate. In the mind of the preterist, the "last days" apparently only refer to the "last days" of the Mosaic covenant period. But the Mosaic covenant ended on that day that the veil of the Temple was rent from top to bottom as the Savior died on Calvary. It did not end later in 70 AD.
The prophecy in Isaiah 34, which is also connected with the sixth seal, further points out that these events cannot be restricted to just the first century and the destruction of Jerusalem as preterists maintain:
It is easy to see from this passage that the prophet is not just speaking of first century Jerusalem. Yet this passage is a companion passage to Joel 2 and 3, to Isaiah 13, and to Revelation 6 and Matthew 24. It contains elements that are closely associated with the sixth seal, and the day of the LORD. It cannot be restricted to the first century and the 70 AD destruction of the Temple. The "indignation (wrath) of the LORD" is upon "all nations" (not just Jerusalem). The "host of heaven" is to be "dissolved", and the "heavens...rolled together as a scroll" (reference Revelation 6.14). If this is a companion passage to the aforementioned prophecies, which describe the same events, then one would be foolish to say that Revelation 6 was fulfilled in the first century and pertained to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Jesus Himself also makes a reference to the events of the sixth seal prophecy in Matthew 24, when He says:
Again, there are a number of things which should be pointed out in the above passage:
(1) Jesus connects this prophecy with the other sixth seal prophecies, which we have already seen in Revelation, Isaiah, Joel, and Zechariah. Right after the tribulation and just before His coming we see the worldwide, catastrophic signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars. There is the shaking of the powers of heaven.
(2) The worldwide catastrophic signs are connected with the wrath of God upon the nations, the day of the Lord, and the return of the Lord to earth at Armageddon. They have nothing to do with some sort of an "invisible coming in judgment" at Jerusalem in 70 AD as preterism attempts to manufacture.
Important Differences In the Luke 21 Prophecy of The Destruction of Jerusalem
While this particular passage is placed among other passages referring to the endtime Great Tribulation period, and other events associated with the return of the Lord, there are some important differences in this passage that should be pointed out:
The brief Luke 21 passage (Luke 21.20-24), pertaining to the destruction of Jerusalem, is different from the prophecies in Mark 13 and in Matthew 24, even though it is inserted in the midst of other endtime prophecies. Let me explain.
In Luke 21.20-24, Jesus is speaking obviously of the 66-70 AD assault upon Jerusalem by the Roman armies in the first century, whereas, in Matthew 24 and in Mark 13, He is speaking of a future tribulation which will come upon the Jews (and which some believe will come upon the church). Note some very vital differences in Luke 21.20-24:
Jesus does not call the "great tribulation" thlipsis, as He does in the Matthew 24 and Mark 13 descriptions, but rather He calls it "distress" (anangke), an entirely different word (vs. 23). In verse 22 of Luke 21 He says of this period of time, "these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled". Not all things which were ever prophesied concerning the entire endtimes, but rather "all things which were written" concerning these particular days.
Luke 21 Describes The First Century Worldwide Dispersion Of The Jews And Prophesies Of The Times Of The Gentiles Whereas Matthew 24 And Mark 13 Does Not
Moreover, only in Luke 21 does Jesus inform us that this must be a first century event (which has already been recorded in history). He says that the Jews will "be led away captive into all nations" (vs. 24). This is the worldwide dispersion promoted under the Romans, and is historically verified. It has lasted nearly 1900 plus years. In this Luke 21 prophecy, Jesus also tells us that the city of Jerusalem "shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21.24). This is not speaking of the "fullness of the Gentiles", as in Roman 11, which describes the future time when the full number of Gentiles will be placed in the body of Christ, the New Testament church. This is rather speaking of the "reign" of the Gentile system of empires over the nation of Israel. Jesus places this domination of the Gentiles in opposition to the downfall of Jerusalem.
We know the "times of the Gentiles" could not possibly have been "fulfilled" in the first century, since Daniel 2 is quite clear that the Gentile times of rule will extend beyond the Roman empire (the two legs of iron of Nebuchadnezzar's Image, which lasted until at least 1453 AD when the Turks conquered Constantinople or Byzantium) into the successive modern day "feet of iron mixed with clay" (see Daniel 2 for a description of the Gentile empire system, which will be smashed by the return of Jesus Christ, the Sone made without hands). The "times of the Gentiles" may have recently began to come to an end when a Jewish General conquered the entire city of Jerusalem in 1967, although the status of the Palestinian areas is not clear. Moreover, the worldwide dispersion of the Jews certainly did not end in the first century!
No Reference To The Abomination Of Desolation In Luke 21
In the Luke 21 passage, there is significantly no reference to "the abomination of desolation". There is a specific warning about the placement of the Abomination of Desolation seen in Matthew 24 and Mark 13 for the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea to flee, but in the Luke 21 passage, the warning is not because of the "abomination of desolation", but it is rather because the city will be surrounded by armies. Jesus, in Mark 13 and Matthew 24, says that the Abomination of Desolation has to be the same one that Daniel warned about. In Daniel 11, the ruler who places the "Abomination of Desolation" in the holy place is a "vile person", he "will do according to his will", "he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god", he "shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods", and he "shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished". He will not "regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women", nor "regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all" (see Daniel 11). Paul says that he is a "man of sin", who "opposes and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped", and he "as God sitteth in the temple of god, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thessalonians 2.4). Nero, who was a cowardly suicide for example, fails to "qualify" as the one who placed the Abomination of Desolation in the holy place, thus setting off "the great tribulation". Titus certainly could not "qualify", since Josephus and the preterists have made him practically an "agent of God". There is just no individual in the first century who could qualify as the "man of sin", who did the things that Gabriel, Jesus, and Paul warned us about. Preterists are forced to dredge up lesser men, procurators and Jewish rebel leaders, for example, to force them into the scriptural mold of the Anti-christ
In the Luke 21 passage, the coming of the Roman armies are a signal to flee, but in the Matthew 24 and Mark 13 passages, the signal to flee is "when you see the abomination of desolation...stand in the holy place" (Matthew 24.15 and Mark 13.14). Matthew 24 and Mark 13 are connected with the prophecies in Daniel, but Luke 21 is not. Matthew 24 and Mark 13 describe an endtime event (the great tribulation) which immediately precedes the coming of the Lord, while the passage in Luke 21.20-24 describes the 66-70 AD assault upon Jerusalem.
Certainly there is a break in Luke 21.25 with the passage of Luke 21.20-24. Luke 21.25 speaks of the coming of the Lord, but it is not in context with Luke 21.20-24. Luke 21.25 is rather in context with Matthew 24.29,30 and Mark 13.24-27. That there is a "break" between Luke 21.24 and Luke 21.25 anyone can easily see by comparing the events described in Matthew and Mark with the events described in Luke 21. This is evident to anyone who carefully compares these three passages. A cursory reading will deceive someone into missing the differences. Luke did not describe the details of the "great tribulation" period of three and one-half years, and he did not mention the the placement of the Abomination of Desolation which initiates the "great tribulation" period. Luke, unlike Matthew and Mark, did not mention the reference of Jesus to Daniel the prophet because Luke was not describing the "great tribulation" period. Jesus prophesied of the endtimes and Jesus prophesied of the 70 AD destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
In the Matthew 24 prophecy, Matthew 24.2 is the only mention of the 70 AD destruction of the Temple (the first century punishment of the Jews). Nothing is said of the Roman armies, the worldwide dispersion, or the "times of the Gentiles". The succeeding prophecy covers the church age, the endtimes, the great tribulation period, and the coming of the Lord. Mark 13 has the same pattern (many scholars think that Matthew derived much of his gospel from Mark as a resource). Mark 13.2 is the only reference to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. The rest of the Mark 13 prophecy pertains to the church age, the great tribulation period, and the coming of the Lord.
The conclusion is, therefore, that Luke 21.20-24 refers to the 66-70 AD assault upon Jerusalem (the Jewish rebellion), while Matthew 24 and Mark 13 make only a slight reference to the destruction of the Temple (one verse), and the rest of their prophecy refers to the church age, the great tribulation as described also in Daniel, beginning with the Abomination of Desolation, and concluding with the glorious coming of the Lord. Luke 21.25-28 breaks with Luke 21.20-24 and describes the second coming of the Lord from the sixth seal to His triumphant return at Armageddon.
Daniel says concerning this "great tribulation" period
The prophecy of Daniel connects a general resurrection following in the immediate general time frame of the "great tribulation" period. Jesus also connects His triumphant return from on high immediately following the end of the "great tribulation" period (Matthew 24.29,30). For these reasons we cannot establish that Luke 21 is connected with the "great tribulation" period at all. For in Luke 21, the Jews are scattered worldwide and dispersed. This worldwide dispersion of the Jews is limited in that it will only last "until the times of the Gentiles" be fulfilled.
Preterists have erred in that they have been unwilling to note the differences between Matt. 24 and Luke
21 concerning these prophecies, but lumped them all together because it helps them in their scheme to link the coming of the Lord (in judgment) to 70 AD. It is important to rightly divide the word of truth. One (Luke 21.20-24) is a prophecy which introduced the dispersion of the Jews among the Gentiles in 70 AD, while the other (Matthew 24) is a prophecy which introduces the coming of the Lord in power and glory at the end of the church age (an event which has not yet occurred).
THE GREAT TRIBULATION CANNOT FIT THE FIRST CENTURY
A study of the Great Tribulation (“the Time of Jacob’s Trouble” according to Jeremiah 30.7) shows that this period did not occur in the first century. There are a number of reasons why the Great Tribulation, as it is described to us in the scriptures, could not have taken place in the first century, and did not take place, given the historical record that we have. It is wrong to try to “force” this prophesied event into the first century if it did not indeed actually happen during the first century.
Some Reasons Why The Great Tribulation (The Time of Jacob’s Trouble) Cannot Fit The First Century:
(1) There was no "beast" in the first century, who caused all of the inhabitants of the earth to receive a mark in their forehead or in their right hand so that they could buy or sell (Revelation 13.15-18). Such a commandment to the Jews would have caused a widescale riot because of the Scriptural prohibition against receiving marks in the flesh (Leviticus 19.28). The technological capacity did not exist.
(2) There are no historical reports of the ministry of the Two Witnesses, with the astounding Old Testament miraculous signs done by them, fire being called down from heaven, water into blood, plagues upon the masses of humanity, etc. (Revelation 11.3-7).
(3) There are no historical reports of the public murder of these Two Witnesses in the city of Jerusalem in the first century, which was witnessed and rejoiced over worldwide by the nations (Revelation 11.8-11). The communications and technological ability did not then exist as it does today.
(4) There are no historical reports of the public resurrection of these Two Witnesses (Revelation 11.11,12).
(5) There are no historical reports of a great earthquake in Jerusalem immediately following the public resurrection and ascension of these Two Witnesses, which is a public event.
There are many other notable events prophesied to occur during the time of the "great tribulation" period. If this already happened in the first century, we should expect some historical evidence pertaining to this, other than the corrupted report of the Roman sycophant Josephus, which does not (even with its Catholic interpretations) satisfy any of these prophecies.
WHAT ABOUT THE FEW CONFUSING PASSAGES CONCERNING HIS COMING?
Should we jump to false conclusions because there are a few passages of doubtful interpretation concerning the time period of the coming of the Lord? Folks who want to attack a doctrinal system always find a few mice to throw into the elephant pen. I don’t think so. First of all, the scripture is quite clear that no man knows the day nor the hour of His return (Matthew 25.13). Then why would we want to add a 70 AD “return” to prove that we did know when (even though we might unscripturally qualify this coming by calling it “a coming in judgment)”? Thus we would unfortunately join the “date setters”. Only we would set our dates behind rather than in front! I do not believe in date setting.
One Day Is As A Thousand Years But He Could Come At Any
Peter, as noted, following the psalmist David, used the idea that “one day is as a thousand years” (2 Peter 3.8, Psalms 90.4) in his interpretation of prophecy. Therefore, the “last days” could indeed encompass several thousand years. But the preterists, in effect, hold that this teaching of Peter’s is no longer valid. The “last days” is restricted to the same generation in which the man Jesus lived. Jesus, they say, had to come in the time of His own generation or else the Bible is in error and misinterpreted. Since the preterists know that Jesus really did not come a second time in the first century, they have invented a substitute type of “coming (in judgment)”. This was an "invisible" coming, just like the supposed 1914 coming and the 1842 coming of the Russellites and the Seventh Day Adventists.
Jesus made it quite clear that no man knew the day or hour of His coming, and that He could come at any moment. Our responsibility was to preach His return and to be ready at any time for His return, even though He went into "a far country" and tarried "a long time". This “at-any-moment” coming some of the preterists by their teaching have effectively destroyed, and have damaged the readiness and the expectancy of the saints for the return of their Lord. They claim that they still preach the coming of the Lord, but I am very doubtful that this is true, since there is little or no evidence of it.
What About Matthew 10.23?
This scripture has more than one interpretation. While it is true to say that it has only one correct interpretation, it is dogmatic and incorrect to say that it has only one interpretation. Moreover, it must be interpreted in its context. Matthew 10.23 was a saying of Jesus which was written down many years after His resurrection. This was one of those statements where even the “inflection” of the Lord’s voice might have conveyed a special meaning. But we cannot go on "inflections". The book of Matthew was written, according to some sources, 58-68 AD. That would certainly put the writing of the book before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. And the context of Matthew 10.22 must also be considered for Matthew 10.23 to be understood:
Jesus has put this passage in the context of “enduring to the end”. Therefore, verse 23 also has to be in the context of the “end” of things.
Also, the context involves “persecution”. Moreover, the phrase “the cities of Israel” has to be in contrast with the phrase “all men”. Jesus was warning His disciples that the task was formidable, and that they would be “hated of all men” for His name’s sake. It was a daunting task that involved persecution and opposition, but enduring to the end and never giving up was the only way to survive. In fact, the disciples would not even have gone over all the cities of Israel with the gospel before His return, because there was only a 37 year period before the uprising in Jerusalem was crushed by the Romans. It is doubtful today that the apostles (and disciples of today) have even yet gone over all the cities of Israel. Many of the disciples left Jerusalem many years before the 66-70 AD Jewish Rebellion. In other words, we don't have to presuppose a 70 AD invisible "coming" of the Lord to understand the difficulties in going over the cities of Israel with the gospel before He returns in glory!
It is presumptuous to put a time element on this type of a passage. There are two many variables. What does “enduring to the end” mean time-wise? Are we not still required even today at this late date to “endure to the end”? How can His disciples be “hated of all men” if their activities are so short-lived as to be restricted to a small number of years in one little country in the first century?
What relationship does the phrase "hated of all men" have to do with the length of the time involved before He returns? By 70 AD, the gospel had not yet been preached in the New World to the Indians unless we want to believe the book of Mormon. The gospel had not yet been preached to the Eskimoes, or to the Australians or the New Zealanders. Yes, it had been preached to the known ancient world (the relative boundaries of the ancient Roman empire), but not to "every nation" as Jesus required in Matthew 24.14.
The apostle Paul's remarks in Romans and in Colossians must be taken in their context. For example, in Romans 10 the apostle Paul is referring to Psalms 19.1-4 and the declaration of creation concerning the glory of God. He is not speaking about the Acts 2.38 message of the gospel of the kingdom. Paul's question, "Have they not heard?" (Romans 10.18) is referring to Psalms 19 and the witness of creation to savage mankind (not the gospel of Acts 2.38). In Colossians 1.6 Paul uses the phrase to the effect that the gospel has come into "all the world", but we must consider that he means "all the known ancient world". Certainly, the apostles of the first century reached all of their known (ancient) world (Mark 16.20 says they "went forth, and preached every where"), but the commandment is to "(preach) the gospel of the kingdom in all the world for a witness unto all nations" (Matthew 24.14). That is the unfinished task of the New Testament church. The "full number" of the Gentiles is apparently not yet come in, and the task of the New Testament church remains. Were it finished, then there should be no need for the witness to remain on earth, because He says, "and then shall the end come" (vs. 14).
That is why there is another interpretation to the effect that the disciples would not even have gone over every community in their own little country before the return of the Lord. It takes men years sometimes to reach a city. They pour out their labor and some even spend their lives there. To blithely think that in just a short number of years the disciples could have reached the entire country of Israel with the gospel is a bit ambitious. This is especially true when we realize that the Jews very shortly after Pentecost basically rejected the gospel and the disciples had to turn to the Gentiles. Surely, one is not prepared to maintain that the disciples had thoroughly gone over every city in Israel before the Jews turned away from the gospel?
It is not correct to assert that there is one, and only one, interpretation of Matthew 10.23. Moreover, Matthew 10.23, if it be interpreted to mean that Jesus had in mind a “coming judgment of Israel and Jerusalem” when He spoke of His return, simply does not mesh with the rest of the scriptures pertaining to His return. In other words, if we apply the understanding of “a coming in judgment of Israel” across the board to the scriptures pertaining to the coming of the Lord, we cause confusion. If one can prove that all of the cities of Israel have been “gone over” since 70 AD then that might help place the fulfillment of this prophecy in the 70 AD attack upon Jerusalem, but if all of the cities of Israel have not been “gone over”, then the fulfillment of this prophecy remains open.
What About Matthew 16.28?
Matthew 16.28 cannot be taken out of context. It must be understood in relation to Matthew 16.27:
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. -Matthew 16.27,28 KJV
Whatever we do with Matthew 16.28, we cannot use it to represent some kind of an invisible “coming in judgment” in 70 AD. If the coming were "invisible", then who would "see it"?
The reason is that when Matthew 16.28 is taken in context with Matthew 16.27 it becomes obvious that Jesus is not speaking about a 70 AD “coming in judgment”. Jesus is speaking about His triumphant personal return to earth at the end of the (new covenant) age. He is referring to His return from on high at Armageddon. And no one surely holds that Armageddon has already occurred. Surely not!
Jesus is coming “in the glory of his Father with his angels”. This glorious coming did not happen in the first century and there is no scriptural or other confirmation that it did. This is the return from on high, when, as John wrote, “every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him” (Revelation 1.7). Moreover, the church would have been already “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air (that is, if you hold a pre-trib position, both pre-trib and post-trib would hold that seeing the Lord come would be synonymous with being caught up to meet Him when He comes). The church age would have ended and there would be a ruling and reigning church with Christ here personally on the earth in the Millennium. The milennial reign presupposes more than just a spiritual, invisible coming. Revelation 5.10 says that we shall reign on earth with Him. Paul says that we do not yet have our crowns but will one day receive them (2 Tim. 4.8). How could we be already reigning in the millennium without having received our crowns in heaven, and having come back to earth with Him to reign? At what point did this happen?
Moreover, at the coming of the Lord mentioned in Matthew 16.27 the rewards are given to “every man according to his works”. Have the rewards already been passed out?
If Matthew 16.28 relates to the “coming in judgment” in 70 AD, then where is Matthew 16.27 (the verse above) in 70 AD?
Were crowns already given in the first century? Were the rewards already passed out at His coming which some were supposed to be alive and seeing in that century? And where does that leave the rest of the New Testament church in the centuries following the first century? Will the rewards be passed out twice? Once for the invisible coming, and then later when the rest of the church is caught up at His genuine second coming.
Almost the exact description of this coming is given in Matthew 25.31,32, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats”.
This is not a 70 AD “coming in judgment”. In 70 AD, the Lord did not return with His holy angels, according to any evidence that we have. The Lord did not sit down to judge the nations in 70 AD. So we can establish that this coming “in the glory of his Father with his angels” did not happen in 70 AD. Some of the epistles were written after 70 AD (see 1,2,3 John). Why didn't they mention all of this? Why didn't some of the apostolic men, who knew the apostles personally, mention this? Why wasn't the disappearance of the great apostle John noted if he remained alive until the invisible coming and then disappeared? We have some of the men's writings who knew these apostles.
We Still Must Explain Matthew 16.28
That still leaves us with the problem of explaining Matthew 16.28 concerning those who were standing there listening to Jesus, who would not taste of death “till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom”. We do note that the word “see” is significant. It is possible to see something that you will never live to personally experience. Moses was allowed to "see" the Promised Land of Canaan, but he never personally lived to experience it.
Jesus did not say that there were those standing there with Him who would not taste of death until the Son of man came. Rather Jesus said that they would not taste of death until they saw the coming of the Son of man in his kingdom. They would live to see His coming. We know, for example, that the apostle John saw his visions of the coming of the Lord before he (John) died. (1) since we know that Jesus has not yet returned in the glory of His Father with His holy angels, and (2) since we know that all of the men with Him that day died, it is the best answer available. To say that Jesus had to return before the end of the first century because of this one scripture is like trying to make the word of God fit our preconceived notions. But Matthew 16.28 cannot be interpreted without Matthew 16.27. Matthew 16.27 will simply not fit a date of 70 AD. There is no evidence that the Lord came back in 70 AD in the “glory of His Father, with the holy angels” and judged the nations. Therefore, Matthew 16.28 does not pertain to a 70 AD coming. Moreover, we have written evidence that John did see the coming of the Lord (96 AD) before John died.
What About John 21.18-24?
Preterists believe that Jesus indicated by this that He would “come in judgment” in 70 AD. They base this upon the fact that John was certainly still alive in 70 AD and so the 70 AD must represent the “coming of the Lord”. But this is not the explanation that John gave nor is it the only explanation.
The disciples, according to John’s explanation, misunderstood Jesus to be saying that John would not die. From the sources that I have, the Gospel of John could have been written as late as 90 AD (which is 20 years after the destruction of Jerusalem). Others believe it was written earlier. If the Gospel was written 20 years after the destruction of Jerusalem, then it would hardly make sense for John to continue speaking of the story that he would remain until the coming of the Lord (in judgment of Jerusalem) if that had already occurred. This passage in John 21 has nothing to do with any “coming of the Lord in judgment in 70 AD”. John lived to such a ripe old age, according to historical reports, that many may have believed that he would indeed remain until the Lord returned. Certainly, the teaching of the imminent return of the Lord was taught in the first century. John wa still living and they were still looking.
Is It Right To Dismiss Many Old Testament Prophecies As Not Being Literal?
There is a dangerous tendency, in my opinion, among preterists to “spiritualize away” those prophecies that are inconvenient to them. They use (as noted) such phrases as “biblical imagery” to do away with the precise reality of prophetic passages. The apostles never resorted to the explanation of “biblical imagery” in their interpretation of prophecies. Matthew, for example, is very literal and generally precise in his interpretation of prophecies (e.g., the virgin birth means the virgin birth, Egypt means Egypt, a donkey means a donkey, and, even as we noted, if types and shadows are used, the context is a real event etc.). We don’t see such refuges as “biblical imagery” (generally speaking) in the biblical interpretation of prophecy in the apostles.
Is It Possible That The Euphrates River Could By Dried Up?
The “drying up of the Euphrates river” in Revelation 16.12, according to some preterists, does not mean that a river will actually be dried up, but it is “simply…biblical imagery”. No matter that civil engineers in this day and age have actually damned up rivers (and literally dried them up). No matter that this is actually happening today in biblical places like Iraq and Turkey, it is still just “biblical imagery”. The Bible does not mean what it says-when it is not convenient to someone’s doctrine. To my way of thinking, this is exactly what the amillennialists, such as the Campellites, have resorted to in order to refute the clear meaning of prophecies. Apostolics heretofore have never held this. One wonders, what else will preterists next decide to "spiritualize" away. Baptism? Speaking in tongues? Once the door to allegorization is open, there is no limit. I really believe this is what helped to ancient Catholic church to deny the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
They allegorized it to the point that when the priest laid his hand upon the supplicant, confirmation came and they were said to have received the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands. Baptism in the Protestant church world simply became a "symbol" of what God had done inwardly. If you apply the liberal use of "allegory" to prophecy, then the next step is to apply it to salvation and living for God.
Nahum 1.4 states God “drieth up all the rivers”, but Larry Smith, in his Coming Of The Lord states, “Nahum wasn’t suggesting a physical fulfillment; he-just like Revelation-was simply using biblical imagery”. But anyone who has ever seen an extended drouth in the dry middle east could tell you very well that the rivers can indeed “dry up”. But, that aside, there is an important difference between Nahum 1.4 and Revelation 16.12. Revelation 16.12 mentions a specific river by name, which is much more than mere “biblical imagery”. Moreover, the geographical location of the Euphrates is significant, since it is on the advancing route of the armies of the “kings of the east”. An invading land army from the east would almost surely have to cross the Euphrates river on their way to Israel. Take a look at a map.
According to Larry Smith, the prophecies in Joel 2, Matthew 24, and Revelation 6 are all “biblical imagery” (p.10). How can one arrive at a clear understanding of biblical prophecy if much of it is just “biblical imagery”.
The apostle Peter does not hold this view that prophecy is only “biblical imagery” in his interpretation of Joel 2.
For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come. -Acts 2.15-20 KJV
Certainly, Peter is not affirming that the prophecies in Joel merely are “biblical imagery”, but are to be taken literally. Do you see my point when I say that eventually, as they apply allegorism to prophecy, they will then apply to salvational experience? The activity of the Holy Ghost is described in real, literal terms (prophesying, seeing visions, dreaming dreams). In fact, the audience was actually seeing and hearing the specific literal activity that Peter was describing from Joel’s prophecy. It is interesting at the beginning of the church age, Peter is describing a prophecy that is being partly fulfilled in front of their very eyes, and he adds the part concerning the sixth seal of Revelation 6, which has yet to be fulfilled. If the first part is literally fulfilled, then one would expect the second part to also be literally fulfilled. It has not yet been fulfilled. You will have to search assiduously through the New Testament to find an example of apostles using the “biblical imagery” approach. It is a dangerous approach to prophetic interpretation.
Paul’s Lone Use of Allegory
I note one example by Paul in Galatians 4. This is called allegory and is seen very rarely in the New Testament. It is the exception rather than the rule. This is the only example I can find. It is not sufficient to hang a whole system of prophetic interpretation on it, as Larry Smith and others have done. Paul is speaking of the mother of the church (“Jerusalem which is above”). The city of Jerusalem he sadly relates is (currently at that time) “in bondage with her children” (Gal. 4.25). But someday, according to prophecy, the city of Jerusalem will no longer be “in bondage with her children”.
Why, then, should we think that the rest of the prophecy is simply “biblical imagery” without any literal reality in Joel and in Acts 2? “Wonders in heaven above” are references to real astronomical phenomena (e.g., the sun turned into darkness-a good description of an eclipse; the moon turned into “blood”). These activities are represented by the sixth seal in Revelation 6, which announces the coming wrath of God. At the end of the entire church age (represented by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the beginning, which is the hallmark of this age), the endtime troubles begin in earnest.
Are we to understand that Peter announces the opening of the great church age, but then lets us know that it will be followed just 30 some years later by the “coming of the Lord in judgment” (70 AD), and that all of these “biblical imageries” in Isaiah, Joel, and Zechariah, etc., pertain to something that will happen only 30 some years later? The Lord is coming 30 years later? History tells us that the great apostle John lived some 31 years (died 101 AD) after the 70 AD destruction of the Temple-why did John write of such a momentous event as the coming of the Lord (in judgment), since this supposedly fulfilled the prophecies of Revelation? Irenaeus, who reportedly sat under a disciple of John's reported that John wrote his prophecy in c.96 AD. Why are there no writings of apostolic authority explaining that the preterist interpretation of the book of Revelation was the correct interpretaton? There were apostles, as I noted, and their close companions, living after the momentous events of 70 AD.
Joel Used The Phrase “Nigh At Hand” For An Event Some 800 Years Later
Joel states, “the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand” (Joel 2.1). This is even more troubling since the preterist accepts such a late fulfillment of this prophecy (800 years later after Joel wrote it, and not in Joel's generation) while rejecting any later fulfillment of other similar prophecies, such as those in Matthew and Revelation.
How is it that the prophet Joel could use a phrase like “nigh at hand” to prophesy of something that some preterists believe did not actually take place until about 800 years later? How is it that “futurists” are incorrect in using such phrases as “the time is at hand”, “I come quickly”, “nigh at hand”, but it is okay for preterists to use such phrases for an event that won’t occur for some 800 years? You can't say "nigh at hand" means one thing for Old Testament prophecies and another thing for New Testament prophecies like Revelation 1.3.
What is the difference between 800 years and 2000 years in God’s sight? I will tell you the truth: not much. One day with the Lord is as a thousand years. If it is permissible for Joel to use the phrase “nigh at hand” for an event that is hundreds of years in the future then it is likewise permissible for the apostle John to use the phrase “the time is at hand” (Revelation 1.3) for events that are still unfilfilled hundreds of years later.
The prophet Zephaniah (who prophesied 640-608 BC) also used the phrase "near" in his prophecy. He wrote, "The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly" (Zephaniah 1.14). How could both Joel and Zephaniah say the day of the Lord was "nigh" or "near" centuries ago, and it not come to pass in their generation? Do you suppose that the phrases "at hand", "nigh", "shortly come to pass", might have a larger meaning in prophetic language? Perhaps preterists ought to take another look at these phrases, especially Revelation 1.3. Much of their argument for prophecy being fulfilled in the first century hinges upon their incorrect interpretation of such phrases as "at hand" and "this generation", which they have re-interpreted to fit their scheme. Someone forgot to tell Joel and Zephaniah what the preterists believe.
Preterism Attempts To Relegate Endtime Prophecy To Old Testament Events
Using the prophecy in Isaiah 34, which is identified with Revelation 6 and Matthew 24, by similar use of key words, Brother Smith, in his Coming Of The Lord, etc. attempts to relegate this prophecy to “Isaiah’s prophecies about the defeat of two Old Testament cities, Idumea and Bozrah”. Idumea was not even a city, and is actually ancient Jordan, and Bozrah was a former capital city. That is how far-fetched such interpretations are (in the vein of the German higher criticism).
Isaiah 34.4, however, uses key terminology, and lets us know that this is an endtime prophecy, linked to Revelation 6 and Matthew 24 (the sixth seal).
We know from Isaiah 34.2 that these prophecies refer to more than just modern-day Jordan since Isaiah says, “For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all armies…”. Moreover, we know that this is not some provincial prophecy to come to pass in Old Testament days, since Isaiah 34.8 says, “For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion”. This is not speaking of the Lord’s vengeance upon the Jews, but rather upon the heathen nations. That is a much larger judgment.
Not only does this prophecy involve “all nations, and his (the Lord’s) fury upon all armies”, but it clearly is related to other endtime prophecies pertaining to the end of the age. This is why Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth did not quote all of Isaiah 61.2 in Luke 4.19, purposely leaving off “and the day of the vengeance of our God”. Jesus, at His first coming, only fulfilled part of Isaiah 61.2.
The period of the church age would intervene before the rest of the endtime events continued. That is why Jesus stopped at that point.
Revelation 6.12-14 gives a similar description:
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. -Revelation 6.12-14 KJV
The exact terminology is used in Isaiah 34.4 that is used in Revelation 6.13,14. Both of these passages point to the wrath of the Lord upon all nations in the end of the world. We also know from Jesus that the worldwide “wrath of the Lord” did not follow the 70 AD destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 21.20-24), but that rather the dispersion of the Jews worldwide and the occupation of the city by the Gentiles came about in 70 AD rather followed the destruction of the Temple.
This prophecy above is much more widespread in its application than just Idumea and Bozrah. Idumea and Bozrah share in the judgments incorporated in this endtime event, but the event is much more widespread than just modern-day Jordan. It is an incorrect interpretation to attempt to dismiss these prophecies as merely Old Testament prophecies concerning Old Testament countries during that period of time. These are endtime prophecies associated with the sixth seal and key worldwide endtime elements.
Is The Book of Revelation “Nothing More Than Biblical Imagery That Describes God’s Destruction of Jerusalem”?
As anyone knows, who has studied the book of Revelation, it is far more than just “biblical imagery” which describes “the destruction of Jerusalem” in 70 AD (actually, the Temple was destroyed by fire, but the city iteself was not destroyed until 135 AD). A vast amount of endtime events, which could not possibly apply only to the destruction of Jerusalem, are described in detail in the book of Revelation. Any careful study of the great prophetic book will confirm this. We have mentioned some in this article.
Some Comments About The Importance of The Date of Revelation
The importance of the date of the book of Revelation is especially crucial to the theory of the preterists. Because if it cannot be shown that the book of Revelation was written before 70 AD, then the whole scheme of preterism, as many are putting it forth, falls to the ground and is shown to be utterly false.
Some preterists maintain that the book of Revelation actually refers to Nero as the then current “king” (or emperor) of Rome (Revelation 17.10). This is a tenuous identification, at best. There are a lot of variations in calculating the list of Roman kings (or emperors). For example, if Caesar himself is included as the first “king” (and certainly he held this stature, even though he technically was not crowned), then Nero would not be the fifth “king”, but would be the “sixth king” (Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius (Caligula), Claudius, Nero). Then “five would be fallen” and Nero might be the one “who is”. But is he?
One of the problems with asserting that Nero is the king mentioned in Revelation 17.10 (“one is”) is the next verse. Moreover, there were three “rivals” following the suicide of Nero (Galba, Otho, Vitellius, 68,69 AD). Vespasian then ruled 69-79 AD, Titus 79-81 AD, and Domitian 81-96 AD.
The year 69 AD is sometimes called “the year of the three emperors”, because Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, all ruled for short periods during this year (Tacitus, in his Annals, covers this period fairly well). Galba, who was proclaimed emperor in June 68 upon the death of Nero, later quarreled with his ally, Otho. And Otho, with the help of the Praetorian guard, took the throne from Galba in January 69 AD. Otho was defeated by Vitellius in 69 AD, who reigned until he himself was defeated by General Vespasian, who took the throne December 22, 69 AD.
Thus, if we count Nero as the 6th emperor (“five are fallen, and one is”, Rev. 17.10), and of the “7 kings” mentioned by John, then Galba would be the seventh king, who must “continue a short space”. But the “eighth king”, then, following this pattern, would be “the beast that was, and is not”. This beast, if we follow this pattern so that we might identify Nero as “the sixth king” (“one is”), and thus establish the “early date” for the book of Revelation, would have to be “Otho”. Was Otho the beast? Not likely.
Marcus Salvius Otho (32-69 AD) had been a favorite of Nero, and he was the husband of Poppaea Sabina (d.65 AD). Poppaea became the mistress of Nero in 58 AD, after he sent Otho out of the country to govern Lusitania (Portugal), so as to make a "cuckold" out of him. Otho, in support of Galba, returned to Rome upon the death of Nero in June 68 AD, and followed Galba as emperor himself in January 69 AD, with the help of the Praetorian guard.
Are we to understand that this man Otho was the “beast” since he was indeed the “eighth king” (if you count Nero as the sixth)? If Otho was the beast, does he possess all of the qualities of the beast? Where are the historical evidences pertaining to this? If Galba did not succeed Nero, to be followed by Otho and Vitellius, then someone please show why this is historically incorrect?
If we were to somehow (deviously, I would think) discount Galba, Otho, and Vitellius (due to their short reigns), then the “seventh king” would be Vespasian (assuming we were still counting Julius Caesar as the first king). Some accept Galba as the “seventh king” (explaining that he had a short reign), they discount Otho and Vitellius, and make Vespasian the eighth king. It soon becomes evident that all attempts to use the Roman emperor’s list to satisfy Revelation 17.10,11, in order to make Nero the “king” reigning when John wrote Revelation, are doomed to confusion and failure. Nero's persecution was basically confined to Rome and he certainly doesn't "measure up" to the beast of Revelation or Daniel either. He was a "momma's boy" and largely manipulated by others, including women. Granted he was evil and a psychopath. Many men have filled that bill.
Moreover, if Nero is said to be the “sixth king” (“five are fallen, and one is”, Rev. 17.10), then the “eighth king” must be the “beast”, and must be of “the seven”. He (“the eighth king”) is the same beast of Revelation 13 with the a deadly head wound. Of course, none of these things match any history that we have concerning these Roman emperors. We can see how arbitrary this all is. Is this better than the dispensationalist “date setters” and the “red heifer” crowd? I don’t think so. I reject the date setters and the “red heifer” sensationalism, but I cannot swallow this historical “doublespeak”, attempting to rewrite history to destroy prophecy or make it conform erroneously to history. It is confusion.
The conclusion must therefore be that the “seven kings” that John speaks about in Revelation 17 do not appear to have anything to do with the ancient Roman emperors (although Revelation 17.10,11 seems to speak of one "king" who "is" either reigning or living when John's vision came to him, who, is, in some way, associated with the "eighth king", who is "of the seven"). But we do not really know who these "seven kings" are. We do know that the "eighth king", who is the "beast" stems from them. But like as in Daniel, the Little Horn stems from among a series of kings, but seems to arrive on the scene centuries later.
John also speaks of another “ten kings”, who will “receive power as kings one hour with the beast” (Rev. 17.12), and they “will make war with the Lamb” (Rev. 17.14). These ten kings seem to be identified in Scripture with the "ten toes" (iron mixed with clay) of Daniel 2, and we know that this would refer to a period of time subsequent to 1453 AD (that is, in modern times). This hardly harmonizes with the events of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Roman emperor (supposedly the instrument of judgment against the Jews) makes war “with the Lamb” with the help of ten other kings? Since we know from Daniel 2 that the 10 kings are most likely associated with the feet of clay mixed with iron (the last day Gentile empire which is smashed with the Stone “cut out without hands”, or Christ, in the very endtimes), we ought to consider that these seven kings could be interpreted as the empires of the Gentiles, and the “one” who “is” would merely represent the empire of Rome, which was the Gentile empire in existence at that time. But we do not know that for sure.
At least that is an alternative explanation that has more credibility than using the seven Roman emperors, and trying to identify one of them as the "beast" so as to put forward a first century endtime scheme.
Brother Smith (p.38) lists several theories concerning these kings. He says, “The fall of Jerusalem occurred, just as the Bible said it would, in the days of the ten kings of the Roman empire” (ibid). We will show, however, that the “ten kings” are associated with the future “the little horn” (the anti-christ) and they are associated with an empire subsequent to the first century Roman empire.
How do these interpreters arrive at the fall of Jerusalem occurring in the days of the ten kings? “The main school of thought”, says Brother Smith, “taught by most is that Nero Caesar was the sixth king, and Vespasian the 10th king, who was in power at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem” (ibid). It is obvious to the insightful reader, who has been following our discussion of the Roman emperors, that this is contrived by these interpreters.
There are a number of things to consider. For Nero to be considered “the sixth king”, then Julius Caesar has to be considered a king and he was never crowned (he refused the crown three times, it is reported). Instead he was assassinated before he could ascend a throne.
Many lists show the following: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero. Nero is listed as the “fifth king”. Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, would then be the sixth, seventh, and eighth, respectively, and Vespasian would be the ninth king. Besides all of this, the seven kings listed by Revelation 17 are in addition to the ten kings!
And so the statement by Brother Smith has no relevance at all. Moreover, Revelation 17 calls the “eighth king”, which arises out of “the seven kings”, the “beast”. While many of the Roman emperors (who all refused the title of “king”, by the way) were "beastly" in their behavior, which one of them could ever hope to qualify for the characteristics and the powers of the “beast” identified by Daniel and John? Explain to us how Vespasian, for example, can be identified as the “beast”? Did Vespasian have a “false prophet”, who could call fire down from heaven (Rev.13.14)? Not hardly. Vespasian's reported character no where near matches the prophesied "character" or description of the beast.
Then Brother Smith goes on to say, “The other school of thought is that Nero was the seventh king and Pompey the first, which would make Vespasian the little horn of Daniel 7.8 who came up among the ten, before whom three were plucked up by the roots (Pulpit Commentary, vol. 13, p.225)” (p.38). These three kings, who were plucked up by the roots, Smith wants to make them to be: Galba, Otho, Vitellius (see our description of these men). But remember, the “ten kings” are separate from the eight kings of Revelation 17! Revelation 17.12 states, “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast”. This is how far-fetched such theories get.
The ten kings are not even part and parcel of the seven kings! They do not even have their power “as yet” when the angel spoke to John. Furthermore, these ten kings, when they get their power, will give their power to the eighth king (the beast). So think about this: they supposedly (following Brother Smith’s scheme) will give all their power in “one hour” to the eighth king (the beast), but we are to believe that they actually are part and parcel of the seven kings (Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, and Galba). But three of the ten were supposedly already plucked up by the eighth (Vespasian), that being Galba, Otho, and Vitellius.
Anyone can see that these schemes are self-serving and they have no connection with reality. The truth of the matter is that there are seven kings, and the eighth king is the beast. There are also another ten kings (and it is three of these ten who are plucked up by the little horn, sometimes called “the beast” also). The “ten kings” will cooperate with the eighth king (the beast) and give their power to him in “one hour” when they attempt to make war against the Lamb (Christ). It has nothing to do with the first century, but occurs in a time subsequent to the Roman empire (during the time of the feet and the 10 toes of the image seen
in Daniel 2). The ten kings are only associated with the eighth king, which comes of the seven kings. The seven kings are not part of the 10 kings and this is where the preterist confusion here comes in.
After I sent my critique to Larry Smith, and he has seen that the Roman emperors will not fit, and so he has substituted the Roman procurators, who governed Judea and Jerusalem, "after the death of Herod Agrippa I". Gessius Florus, Smith claims, had a short governorship during 65 AD, and, because of unrest and trouble there, Nero himself took direct control of Judea. Smith says, "This made Nero the eighth king" (p.67, The Coming Of The Lord). Nero reportedly then gave power to officials over ten districts within Palestine, and this would be the "ten kings" of Revelation 10!
Smith does not apparently even read Revelation 17. Revelation 17 clearly shows that these ten kings give "their power and strength unto the beast" (17.13). Are these petty officials in these ten districts of Palestine to give "their power and their authority" to Nero (if he is selected still to be the beast, since it seems that Smith has identified Nero as the "eighth king" (Revelation 17.11). Are these ten petty officials in Palestine to "make war with the Lamb" (Revelation 17.14)?
Moreover, these ten kings "hate the whore...and burn her with fire" (Revelation 17.16). Revelation 17.18 identify this woman as "that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth". Are we to believe this woman is Jerusalem? Surely, no one is ready to maintain that the occupied city of Jerusalem, in the poor province of Judea, was at that time reigning over the kings of the earth? Moreover, it was not the ten petty officials of Palestine who assaulted and burned the Temple in 70 AD, but it was the army of the Roman general Titus. The cowardly Nero committed suicide in June of 68 AD, and so he missed being cast alive into the Lake of Fire according to Revelation 19.20.
Did The Son of Man Came In The Clouds of Glory In The Days of Vespasian?
Brother Smith concludes from this discussion that since the destruction of Jerusalem took place during the reign of Vespasian, that “This resulted in the Son of Man coming with the clouds to the Ancient of Days as is found in Daniel 7.13,14, and being given a kingdom and dominion that would not pass away or be destroyed” (p.38). See below as we give an explanation of the passage in Daniel 7. It could not possibly match anything like that happening in the first century. First of all, Jerusalem would have to have been the headquarters of Jesus Christ on earth since 70 AD, and the millennium would have been instituted.
That did not happen. All the nations of the world would be under the rule of Christ, His apostles, and the church. That did not happen. I realize that partial preterists use the argument that they still believe in a future second coming of Jesus at a later date, and that they see the 70 AD "coming" as an invisible coming of the Lord in "judgment". But they use this manufactured "invisible coming of the Lord in judgment" as a lynchpin to commandeer many of the endtime prophetic events, which they connect with this so-called "invisible coming". If they indeed believe in a future second coming, then they should admit that Matthew 24.29-31 ties this coming of the Lord in with the conclusion of the Great Tribulation period. The Bible says that "immediately after the tribulation" that the sign of the Son of man (will appear) in heaven (vs. 30). And so it is incorrect to substitute a made-up "invisible coming in judgment" at this point in Matthew 24. The coming that is immediately after the tribulation is the second coming that partial preterists admit is still future. This connection makes it impossible for the tribulation to have occurred in 66-70 AD.
The Date of The Apocalypse: External And Internal Evidence
There are, of course, arguments for and against the “early date” (66-68 AD) and the “late date” (96 AD) for the apocalyptic vision of John on the isle of Patmos.
The greatest external evidence is the early witness of the prominent Catholic bishop Irenaeus (130-202 AD) of Lyons, France. Irenaeus, in his Against Heresies (V.30.3) clearly states that the apostle John saw his vision on the isle of Patmos in c.96 AD during the reign of the emperor Domitian.
Irenaeus, in speaking of the difficulty in naming the Antichrist wrote:
We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign”. -Against Heresies (V.30.3)
There seems to be no confusion on the part of Irenaeus. He expresses no doubt at all as to the time of the “apocalyptic vision” nor as to the emperor’s name. Irenaeus claims to have come from Smyrna and to have sat under the ministry of Polycarp, who, in turn, had sat under the teaching of the apostle John. There should be no doubt as to the veracity of this statement, especially when we realize that no Catholic church father in ancient times questioned it for hundreds of years. Why should we think that this ancient bishop would like about a specific fact that others during his day could easily have refuted?
Brother Smith’s criticism of Irenaeus is not really valid when we realize that John 8.57 accurately relates an incorrect testimony from the Jews that Jesus was not yet “fifty years old”.
We know better, but we can forgive Irenaeus for this error, and that does not necessarily imply that Irenaeus was incorrect in what he said about the date of the apocalyptic vision of John. Irenaeus is a valuable witness since he reportedly sat under the bishop Polycarp, who himself had sat under the apostle John. It is very likely that much of John’s ministry and life was made known to Irenaeus through Polycarp. We understand that Irenaeus was wrong in his theology, but
we doubt that he would have made a mistake about something that was common knowledge among the ancients.
Robert Grant, and other scholars, believe that Irenaeus also had available to him, the five books of Papias (60-130 AD), called The Lord’s Gospel, or The Sayings of The Lord. Papias was a man who personally knew the apostle John and other disciples who had seen the Lord. In other words, Irenaeus knew what he was talking about. The event he was speaking about had occurred only some 80 years earlier. Eighty years ago, in our time, would be the year 1921. A comparative view of this would be something that the Pentecostal Pioneer Andrew Urshan had told Brother Nathaniel Urshan, who, in turn, told us. Would we give more stock to that than something said hundreds of years later by someone like Epiphanius of Salamis?
A number of ancient Catholic writers also confirmed the later date (96 AD) for the book of Revelation. Not all of them seemed to have just quoted from Irenaeus, since there were obviously other ancient sources (I just mentioned one probable source, Papias). There was Hippolytus of Rome (170-235 AD), Jerome (340-420 AD), his friend Orosius, and Eusebius (260-340 AD), who had numerous histories and sources at his disposal ,including the writings of the ancient apostolic church historian Hegesippus (120-185 AD), Victorinus (d. 303 AD), and Sulpicius Severus, to mention a few.
These all attested to the later date. We have no reason to believe that these ancient writers would purposely give an incorrect date.
Internal Evidence For The Later Date (96 AD)
There are a number of points of internal evidence in the book of Revelation that scholars have pointed out:
The term “the Lord’s day” (Rev. 1.10) was not seen in the earlier decades (e.g., 60’s), but rather another expression such as the “first day of the week” was used. However, it is admitted that the expression “the day of the Lord” also has a solid backgrround of use by the Old Testament prophets, where it refers to the coming millennium and the events precipitating that.
Gnosticism was still in its infancy during the 60’s. Paul only alluded to it (1 Timothy 6.20), but the book of Revelation shows already developed gnostic sects -groups such as the Nicolaitans and the Balaamities. This indicates a later date of writing. By the end of the first century Gnostics were actually “mutilating” the scriptures, and thus we see the warning in Rev. 22.18,19.
This was not the case in the 60’s when the apostle Paul barely mentioned “gnosis” in 1 Timothy. Paul does mention an epistle that was not from his own writing and warned them about that. Problems in the seven churches of Asia minor were too developed for the earlier date: Ephesus had lost its first love, there was a synagogue of Satan in Smyrna, in Pergamos the Nicolaitans and the Balaamites were prevalent, Thyratira had a Jezebel, Sardis had only a few names left which not defiled their “garments”, and Laodicea had become so lukewarm and offensive that Christ threatened to spew it out of His mouth.
These things had not had time in the day of Paul’s epistles to develop in Ephesus and in Laodicea. It is very doubtful that they would have developed this far in the first generation churches as soon as the 60’s. Thus a later date (96 AD) makes much more sense. Paul makes no such reference to any of these problems in his epistles written earlier. Phillip Schaff believed that the apostle John was not even resident in Ephesus until near the close of the Nero’s life. The churches in Asia minor had been largely planted by the apostle Paul. It was probably not until after the death of the apostle
Paul in Rome in about 67 AD that John took the guidance of the Asia minor churches. Paul makes no mention of John (except for the reference to John being at a Jerusalem conference in circa 55,56 AD or before, in the epistle to the Galatians).
There is an ancient story about John in Clement of Alexandra which relates that John was a very old man when he returned from the island of Patmos, but was still able to ride a horse to the lair of a robber who was a Christian backslider so that he might reclaim the young man to Christ. If John were a teenager when Jesus called him c.30 AD, then he was as old as 81 when he returned from Patmos, but he would have only been about 50 in 65 AD-hardly an “old man”. Nero’s “modus operandi” was to put to death Christians (e.g., Peter and Paul at Rome), while Domitian used the punishment of exile. Thus it is more likely that John’s exile indicates that it was in the time of Domitian (96 AD).
In view of these things, and in view of the fact that preterists cannot show that John wrote Revelation as mainly a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, we ought to reject the preterist viewpoint concerning the book of Revelation. Moreover, the composition of the Gospel of John cannot be shown to have been written earlier than 80 AD-90 AD, according to learned scholars, such as Rudolf Bultmann, in his commentary on The Gospel of John. Preterists will ask that if John wrote his Gospel in 80 AD, for example, how is it that he said nothing about the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD? Could it be that there were other reasons for not making reference to the destruction of the Temple? It is not conclusive to state simply that the absence of any references to the destruction of the Temple in the New Testament canon proves that these works were written prior to 70 AD. That is an argument from silence. Both Scripture and history prove preterism to be false. It is a very serious deception.
-Brother William B. Chalfant