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.
Nebraska Christian College