What Is Orthodox Preterism?

What is the position I hold on end times? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Lately, I’ve found myself in some discussions about end times matters. This is a topic I generally do enjoy discussing. I find myself increasingly concerned with what I call the rapture brigade, the people who read end times into every event out there and everything is a sign that Jesus is coming. There is never any repentance on the part of the people who do this and they are still heralded as prophecy experts no matter how many times they’re wrong.

My view is known as orthodox Preterism. So what is it? A lot of people don’t really know what it is and end up going after a number of straw men. I find in defending my view I have to spend more time answering false misconceptions of it. So let’s answer some common questions.

Question – Do you believe everything was fulfilled in 70 A.D.?

Absolutely not! That is a position that is often known as full Preterism or true Preterism or often the people who hold it just refer to it as simply Preterism. My position by contrast to them is known as partial Preterism. I do not accept that label for reasons I will give soon.

I consider this view heretical actually. Why? Because if our resurrection is only spiritual and our resurrection is to be like Jesus’s, then Jesus must have a spiritual resurrection, which denies the bodily resurrection. I prefer to call this position Neohymenaeanism.

Question – Why call yourself an orthodox Preterist then?

Orthodox has nothing to do with the Eastern Orthodox church or any other branch of the Orthodox Church. I do not know what position they hold in eschatology. (Study of end times.) It is orthodox because it holds to all the essentials of the Christian faith. I do not go by the term partial Preterist because that would be like saying I am a partial heretic.

Question – What remains to be fulfilled?

I anticipate the Gospel will spread like the mustard seed or the yeast in the dough as Jesus prophesied in Matthew 13. That will end with the bodily return of Christ and the bodily resurrection from the dead. We will then have the judgment followed by the marriage of Heaven and Earth where God will dwell with His people.

Question – So what about Jesus’s coming?

Jesus’s coming and His return are often confused. In Matthew 24 and the parallel passages, it refers not to the resurrection, which is NOWHERE mentioned in any of these passages, but refers to His coming to His throne. The sign that He is on the throne will be His enemies are judged. His enemies then were His contemporaries. They were not some far off distant generation. A number of times in Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew uses the term “this generation.” Every other time it means Jesus’s own contemporaries. So it is with the final usage. It’s the ultimate one.

Question – What about the third temple?

It’s not happening. Every time in the New Testament when a prophecy is made concerning the temple, there’s no reason to think that it refers to a future third temple. It would be the temple that the audience at the time knew of. Where the temple would be is where the Dome of the Rock is now. Good luck with that project.

Question – What about Israel?

I support Israel not because of theology, but because they’re our allies against Islam. If Israel is a righteous nation, then we are fine. If they are not, then we are not.

Question – What about the Antichrist?

Four passages in the New Testament speak about the antichrist. All of them are in the Johannine epistles.

1 John 2:18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.

1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.

1 John 4:3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

Now somehow from these four verses, a lot is extrapolated about some major end-times figure who will be a political and military mastermind and everything else out there.

Question – But what about figures like the Beast and the Man of Lawlessness?

It is often thought that these must be the antichrist, but an argument must be made for this and not an assumption. Someone needs to demonstrate how it is they arrive at this conclusion. Let’s also suppose for now that I was uncertain about the identity of these two. (I am much more sure about the Beast than I am the Man of Lawlessness.) It does not follow that that means either one is the antichrist. You must make your own position for that.

Question – But aren’t you avoiding a literal interpretation?

It is amazing to me how hung up American Christians are at the idea of literalism, which always means literal to a modern Western American audience. Where does this rule come from? The Bible is a rich work of literature that includes metaphor, hyperbole, simile, allegory, symbolism, etc. It is not a wooden text meant to be read always in a straightforward matter. Does this require work to know how to read it properly? Yes.

Question – Do you think Israel has replaced the church?

I find it odd to say that I am a replacement theologian. How could I be? God has one covenant that He honors and one people. With Israel in the Old Testament, there was always a remnant there that was true Israel. These are the same ones that recognized Jesus as the Messiah. With ministry in Acts, Israel is expanded to include Gentiles. There is still one olive tree. God did not chop down the tree of Israel and plant a new tree of Gentiles.

On the other hand, if you do hold that God is dealing with the church in this age and will return to Israel in the end, well gues what. Right now, the church has replaced Israel as God’s focus. That is the real replacement theology. I don’t hold to it. I hold to an expansion theology. God has expanded His grace ever more to include Jews and Gentiles both in one tree together.

Question – What about people making predictions today?

We should hold them accountable. If you make a statement about when the Bible says Jesus is returning and you get it wrong, you need to repent. It is a shame that even pastors are doing this, being consistently wrong, and still allowed to stay in the pulpit. (I’m thinking especially about someone like John Hagee.) We would want a pastor removed who had an affair. How about one who mishandles Scripture in a way that embarrasses the church?

Question – What about the rapture?

I don’t hold to it. I hold to the resurrection. I see no way to fit it into the text and be consistent. It’s a very very late reading of Scripture.

Question – What about the millennium?

It’s amazing that we have three verses of Scripture in Revelation that receive all the attention. I’m somewhere between a post and an amillenialist. I think we’re in it right now as Jesus is reigning on His throne now and the more the Gospel spreads, we will get closer and closer to His bodily return.

Question – Do you have a problem with futurists?

Absolutely not! I’m married to one! I love my futurist friends. Instead, I have a big problem with the whole system. I don’t think that it holds to a consistent hermeneutic of Scripture.

Question – Where can I learn more?

Gary Demar at American Vision has some good material on this including his book Last Days Madness. J.P. Holding has a great section at Tektonics.org. Brian Godawa has some great material at Godawa.com on end times as well. The late R.C. Sproul held to this view and Hank Hanegraaff of the Christian Research Institute does as well.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

  • Matthew Clarke

    Excellent post, but I have no idea what you mean about Israel being ‘allies against Islam.’ Israel is not at war against Islam; if it is even possible to go to war against a religion. There are Israeli citizens who are Muslims and Israel even has members of it’s parliament who are Muslims.

    • I mean the Islam in the Middle East. Israel is our ally against those nations that sponsor terrorism over there.