The End of Prophecy in A.D. 70

In the interpretation of the book of Revelation, there is a very old school of thought known at the “Preterist” position. “Preterist” is a Latin based term that basically means “past” or “in the past.” To interpret the book of Revelation this way is to view it as primarily a commentary on events in the lifetime of the author. More specifically, this sees the book as a coded critique of the first century Roman Empire and the suffering it has caused in the church. This does not rule out that some sections of the book are future referring prophecies, but does stand in opposition to the “Futurist” view, that sees all of the book from chapter 4 on as speaking of the events of the end of time. For example, the “Beast” of chapter 13 in a preterist view would be seen as a Roman Emperor from the first century (perhaps Nero). In the futurist view, this Beast would be a future, yet-to-be revealed figure at the end of time. Futurists have had great fun speculating that a person in their day is the Beast. Suggestion have included dolf Hitler, Henry Kissinger, Mikhiel Gorbachev, and (more recently) Barrack Obama. These guesses generate interest, but look silly after a few decades.

There is a small but determined group of Christians who have adopted the name “Preterist” and applied it across the entire scope of Scripture. A view that was originally descriptive of interpreting the book of Revelation is now used to interpret the prophecies of Jesus concerning the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and his second coming. At the extreme, these folks say that this catastrophic destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70 fulfilled the prophecies of Christ’s second coming. We do not need to look forward to Christ coming again, this was done over 1900 years ago.

In teaching Revelation last year and preaching it at the Winema Week of Missions last summer, I have talked about this new preterism (what I call neo-preterist). The usual response: people can’t believe this is a serious position within the Evangelical community. For you disbelievers (including my students) I have included a picture of their booth at the Evangelical Theological Society meeting in Milwaukee, where I am today. I did not just make this stuff up.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

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23 thoughts on “The End of Prophecy in A.D. 70

  1. Thanks Mark – it is always good to be informed – you open my eyes to something I had no idea existed. Appreciate your posts will there be more? I hope so Thanks John Gary

  2. Interesting. I am familiar with this thinking in a very general way, but have never met anyone who held this view. Three questions: First, is this group considered orthodox by the ETS? Second, on this extreme preterist view that claims the second coming has occurred what is Christ’s place now? Third, on this view what does the future look like… Do we just keep wandering along with things in the world getting better and better until God’s Kingdom expands and covers the globe? Curious?

    • I guess they are orthodox enough to have a booth at the ETS, but I do not know what the standards are. I don’t think these guys are heretics, I just disagree with them. I think you might find different answers to your second question, but basically Christ is at the right hand of God in heaven. And I think there are different answers to the third question, too. My impression is that most of them think the future has no certain terminus, but I’m not totally sure about this.

      MK

      • This may be off topic, but I would like to read your opinion: With all the various modern denominations, is there a governing body within the greater body of Christ that has the authority to pronounce anyone a heretic? If so, when did the last trial or hearing take place? Or, did that practice fade away with the rise of Protestantism?

        Randy

      • Heretics are judged in many ways, by denominations, by organizations, and by individuals. I have been very careful to say that I don’t think the neo-Preterists are heretics, but that is a judgment of one. I do have a broad tent when it comes to this, although it doesn’t cover Mormonism (as I pointed out in any earlier blog). MK

    • John,

      The only doctrinal requirement for ETS is this:

      “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.”

      As you can see, that leaves the door wide open for all kinds of crazy stuff, including hyperpreterism.

      As for their view of Christ, it depends on who you ask in the group. They are all over the place.

      The majority of them deny the present humanity of Christ. They believe he canned that stuff at his resurrection/ascension. Don Preston was recently drilled about this at Criswell College.

      Max King, who was a MAJOR player in the movement, has recently denied the deity of Christ.

      Basically, their view of Christ is pathetic.

      As for their view of the future, well, they don’t really have one. How can they? If you believe that the Bible only prophesied things prior to the year ad70, then how can you really speak to the time beyond that?

      Some try to be optimistic about the future, thinking that things will get better, but they have no grounds for such a position. It’s just wishful thinking.

      Most of them believe history will just continue, as it does now, forever and ever. No telos. No purpose. The only real purpose to all this is just for us to continue procreating and making the numbers in heaven bigger and bigger. Many of them don’t even believe in a “heaven” anymore. “Heaven” is nothing more than a state of mind. Others believe that since we have been perfected (ad70), heaven will actually look not much different than earth; meaning, we will still sin in heaven. Because to say that something will change when we get to heaven is to imply that we lack something now, so their argument goes.

      I was apart of this group for 7 years. I fell into it because i got zealous with a few time texts and was not systematically grounded.

      Extremely bizarre group, and yes, they are “heretical” in many ways.

      • Jason reminds me of a jilted, bitter ex wife. Instead of simply expressing his opinion of a particular doctrine in a mature manner, he resorts to a childish rant.

        This is not uncommon for him.

        He attempts to poison the well of discussion by referring to Full Preterism as “hyper” which he knows is a pejorative term. He then implys the view is “crazy” and that their view of Christ is “pathetic.”

        He brings Max King into the dicussion though he is well aware that a very small percentage of Full Preterists deny the diety of Christ.

        He says the group is “bizarre” and their position is simply “wishful thinking.”

        For good measure he throws around the meaningless charge of “heretical” to try and discourage otherwise thinking people from even educating themselves about their perspective of Scripture.

        Don’t allow this type of scare tactic to keep you from exploring this logical, practical, biblical approach to the pursuit of truth.

        God bless,

        Randy

  3. Excellent Mark. The problem is Full Preterism is being pushing into the “mainstream”, not so much by people like Ed Stevens (whose booth you appear to have seen), but by so-called respected theologians like Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, Kenneth Talbot and even R.C. Sproul Sr. The use the same premise/starting points Full Preterists use but try to tell the Full Preterists not to go any further with the premise. Be careful of these “Partial-Preterists” — http://unpreterist.blogspot.com

  4. I have been examining the preterist view for almost ten years and I’m convinced it’s the correct view. The main focus, at least at the start, is the principle of “audience relevance.” Once we consider how Scripture was relevant to the original audience our perspective must change!

    • I agree the preterist view of Revelation makes sense for the first century audience, and that is what I teach. I do not think it can be a blanket view of the NT, though and can be made to say that Jesus’ return was in A.D. 70.

      MK

      • I see the audience relevance principle applied throughout the NT not only in Revelation. Once one considers the idea that the focus of Scripture is covenants beginning and ending not the end of the planet, a first century fulfillment becomes an acceptable alternative to the standard futurist explanation.

        Randy

      • Well, I am not a futurist in my general understanding of Revelation, but I do think this idea, which was historically based on a way to interpret the book of Revelation, is not easily applied to all of Scripture.
        MK

      • No, you did not say the view was “crazy.” You did feel the need to put up a picture to show that you were not making “this stuff up.” Kind of like if a space ship landed in your back yard. It would be so unbelievable that you would want to get a picuture 🙂 LOL
        Here are five ways that I view the narrative or storyline of Revelation:

        I. Revelation contrasts two women/cities (harlot Babylon and New Jerusalem). One is destroyed and then the other one becomes married. This is the same as Galatians 4:21-31, where two women/cities (physical Jerusalem and the Jerusalem from above, cf. Rev. 21:1-2) are used to contrast the two covenants. One woman is cast out at the time the other recieves her inheritance.

        II. The structure of Revelation (four sets of sevenfold judgment: the seals, trumpets, thunders and the bowls) is patterned on the structure of the covenant curses, which were to involve four sets of sevenfold judgment (Lev. 26:18-28). See here http://planetpreterist.com/news-5109.html

        III. Revelation’s narrative is that of the fiery destruction of an evil city followed by a wedding. This is the same as the parable in Matthew of an evil city destroyed by fire and then a wedding. The Matthew parable clearly refers to the destruction of Jerusalem at AD 70.

        IV. Revelation is based on the sequence of Ezekiel, a book which speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem and her Temple, the judgment of the nations and then a new order. Revelation speaks of the same thing, the judgment of Jerusalem and destruction of the old covenant order and then the full establishment of the kingdom of God (Rev. 11:15-18). See here http://planetpreterist.com/content/revelations-extensive-use-sequence-ezekiel-part-one

        V. Revelation is a story about the judgment and destruction of the dwellers on the land and then and new heaven and new earth. This is based on Isaiah 65-66 where unfaithful Israel (cf. Isa. 65:1-2 with Rom 10:20-21) was to be destroyed and then God would establish his true people in a new heaven and new earth. Preterists say that the word ge, usually translated as “earth” in Revelation, is often better translated as Land (i.e. the land of Israel).

      • I’m sorry that my posting of the picture was offensive to you. I did not intend for it to be.

        I still believe it is difficult to separate the descriptions of Revelation from the conflicts of the Roman Empire in the last part of the first century A.D. While I think it is possible to relate this to the reign of Nero (and I think that madman was in mind in some of the references), this seems to fit better as having been written during the time of Domitian. I think that the destruction of Jerusalem is past history, before the recall period of most of the original readers.

        MK

      • Mark,
        I was not offended by the picture (or anything you have written) at all. Thought the picture was kind of funny. As to the date of Revelation I agree with the following by Smalley.
        “It has been frequently assumed that the Apocalypse may be dated to the reign of the Emperor Domitian, the last representative of the Flavian house (AD 81-96), as a response to fierce persecution which took place during his reign. But this view has recently been challenged seriously, both because encouragement in the face of persecution may not be regarded as the single motive behind the composition of Revelation, and also on account of the insecurity surrounding the evidence of imperial oppression during the time of Domitian. This leaves the way open to revive the alternative view, common among nineteenth-century scholars, that Revelation was written between AD 64, as a result of the persecution under Nero, and AD 70, the fall of Jerusalem (see the summary of the research representing these two positions in Robinson, Redating [the New Testament, London: SCM Press, 1976], 224-26). As it happens, I believe that it is perfectly possible to locate the writing of Revelation in the reign of Vespasian (AD 69-79); and I have argued that the book emerged just before the fall of Jerusalem to Titus, Vespasian’s son, in AD 70 . . . I suggest that this conclusion fits the internal and external evidence for the dating of Revelation; it is also supported by the theological thrust of the drama itself. For the members of John’s circle, the earthly Jerusalem and its Temple would have been a central holy place in which to encounter God, and also a spiritual centre of gravity. If Jerusalem were about to be destroyed, the vision in Rev. 21-22 of a stunning and emphatically new holy city, where God’s people will dwell eternally in a close covenant relationship with him, would have provided exactly, and at the right moment, all the spiritual encouragement they needed.”
        Stephen Smalley, The Revelation to John (2005), 2-3

    • Actually, Jason WORKS for Talbot and this is the reason he is doing all he can to cover for Talbot. The FACTS are:
      1. Talbot allowed a know full preterist to help develop student materials for his supposed “Christian” seminary but did not publicly reveal this to potential students.
      2. Talbot knowingly enrolled a full pret into his seminary and intended to bestow upon this person, a “ministers” degree. So Talbot’s seminary was validating full preterism.
      3. Jason’s mentor, Sam Frost used to brag about being part of ETS while Frost was a full pret. I used to point out how ETS shouldn’t let them in — now Jason seems to agree. Hypocrtical.
      4. Frost, while he was a full pret, self-appointed himself as a “pastor” over a group of full prets. To this day, Frost STILL claims he is a “pastor” in his credentials without revealing he was only ever a self-appointed leader of a group of full prets and NEVER a Christian pastor.

      My point is; these “anti-prets” like Jason, Talbot, Frost, and Gentry are NOT honest brokers in this discussion.

  5. This is great stuff, Mark. Follow up question, for those who hold to the view Christ’s return was accomplished in AD 70, what, then, do they believe is the purpose/value of the Church today?

    • I am far from an expert on this, and it does seem to be a rather comprehensive view and system, so I’m sure there is an answer to this. I understand the neo-Preterists to believe that Christ intentionally founded the church, which is “the ongoing body of believers, both universal (visible and invisible) and local. The Kingdom of Christ is here now. We enjoy all the spiritual blessings that were promised in the prophets.” See http://www.preterist.org/preteristQA.asp#question27 the last Q & A at the bottom of the page.

    • I’m no expert either but I think they see the return of Christ circa AD 70 as the end of the age of the Old Covenant and the full establishment of the New. From that point the church moves forward accomplishing God’s will on earth.

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