has practical implications. What are the practical
implications of those who hold to the view that most, in
some cases all, Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled?
This is the question I want to explore in this article.
Implications For The New Testament
overwhelming majority of the eschatological events
prophesied in the Book of Revelation have already been
fulfilled," declares preterist Dr. Gary North.1
Since subjects relating to prophecy dominate virtually
every page of the New Testament (NT) this would logically
mean, for the preterist, that most of the NT does not
refer directly to the Church today. Since so much of the
NT is written to tell believers how to live between the
two comings of Christ, it makes a huge difference if one
interprets Christ’s coming as a past or future event. If
preterism is true, then the NT refers to Believers who
lived during the forty-year period between the death of
Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70.
Therefore, virtually no part of the NT applies to
believers today according to preterist logic. There is no
canon that applies directly to believers during the church
advocate, Dr. Kenneth Gentry, actually believes that
current history is identified as the new heavens and new
earth of Revelation 21—22 and 2 Peter 3:10–13.2 This is a
common preterist viewpoint. Dr. Gentry provides four major
reasons why "the new creation begins in the first
century."3 It stretches credulity to think of the
implications of the details of such a conclusion. If we
are currently living in any way in the New Heavens and New
Earth then this means that there is no Satan (Rev. 20:10),
no death, crying or pain (Rev. 21:4), no longer any
unclean, nor those practicing abomination and lying (Rev.
21:27), no curse (Rev. 22:3), the presence of God the
Father (Rev. 22:4), just to name a few. Amazing!
The 40 Year Interval
I will now
provide an example of how the preterist position would
practically impact a believer today. Many preterists
believe that passages like Titus 2:13 refer to the coming
of Christ in a.d. 70. This would mean that it was a hope
only for those Christians living between the time the
Epistle was written and the destruction of Jerusalem—a.d.
65-66. Paul says that Christ’s appearance the first time
impacts the lives of Believers in the "present age."
Titus 2:12 says, "instructing us to deny ungodliness
and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and
godly in the present age." The grammar of the next
verse (2:13) relates the activities of 2:12 to the
activity of "looking for the blessed hope and the
appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ
Jesus." If 2:13 is a reference to a.d. 70, as
preterist generally believe, then the "present age"
in 2:12 would have ended when 2:13 was fulfilled.
Therefore, the total admonition of 2:12 was temporary and
applicable only to Christians up until a.d. 70. This would
mean that the instruction "to deny ungodliness and
worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and
godly in the present age" would not directly apply to
the current age, but to the past age which ended in a.d.
70 when "the appearing of the glory of our great God
and Savior, Christ Jesus" occurred in the destruction
of Jerusalem. Sadly, such logic would have to be the
practical implication of the preterist view as applied to
this passage and to most of the NT.
implication for preterists would be that Titus no longer
relates directly to the current age in which we live.
Instead, it applied for three or four years, since Paul
wrote Titus around a.d. 65. There is no way that a
preterist can use this or similar passages as doctrine,
reproof, correction, and training in righteousness for
believers, who are living in the New Heavens and New
Earth. Yet, hypocritically, preterists regularly use and
apply these passages in a way that practically denies
their theoretical belief that Jesus returned in A.D. 70
and we are now in some form of the New Heavens and New
Earth. Preterists need to develop some consistency between
their theory and practice.
The Opening of
The story of
Pandora’s Box is an apt illustration of how one act can
have a wide, multiplying effect upon many other issues.
The belief, that there "are no major eschatological
discontinuities ahead of us except the conversion of the
Jews (Rom. 11) and the final judgment (Rev. 20)"4
has a wide and great impact upon NT prophecy, especially
the Epistles. It is clear that the application of the
preterist interpretation virtually wipes out the direct
application of the teaching of the Epistles to our current
age. Just as the Law of Moses was given by God to Israel
to be the focus of their dispensation, so the NT Epistles
are the focus, giving vision and direction to the church
during "this present age."
Satan: Bound or
view relating to the current work of Satan and the demons
should reflect their theology on the subject. According to
the preterist view, Satan is currently bound (Rev. 20:2-3)
and crushed (Rom. 16:20). The enemy was not just defeated
de jure (legally) at the cross, but has been
crushed de facto (in fact). Therefore, the
spiritual road blocks of the world and the devil have been
removed and only the enemy of the flesh remains that would
obstruct believers from reigning and ruling now in the New
Heavens and New Earth. On the other hand, if the binding
and crushing of Satan and his company is still future,
then the commands in the Epistles make sense in this
present age. Commands such as "resist the devil and he
will flee from you" (James 4:7b). "Be of sober
spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls
about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But
resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same
experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your
brethren who are in the world" (1 Peter 5:8-9). "Be
angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on
your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity"
(Ephesians 4:26-27). "For our struggle is not against
flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the
powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against
the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly place"
(Ephesians 6:12). These are instructions which are the
very tactics to be applied by the believer in this present
age because we are not yet in the New Heavens and New
Earth. If Satan is bound and crushed, as the preterist
interpretation insists, then they are unfaithful to their
understanding of Scripture to apply the above passages to
the Christian life today, as they so often do. A crushed
and bound enemy does not prowl, or wage war, etc. This
becomes crystal clear when one realizes that Satan resumes
his war with God only after he has been "released from
his prison" (Revelation 20:7b).
thinking could, even should, be applied from the
implications of preterism to many passages and subjects in
the Christian life. Just think. No more suffering. If no
suffering, then no need for endurance. No need for the
sanctification process which involves suffering,
endurance, faith and hope. No hope, because Christ
returned in a.d. 70 and ushered in a new day. No apostasy
of the church. No pain, suffering, or death. Therefore,
since we are obviously not living under such conditions it
means that preterism is also wrong.
Of This Present Time
The New Heavens
and New Earth is to be a time of peace and rest for God’s
people. The era preceding this time will be one of
suffering and struggle. Again, if the preterist
interpretation is correct, then the instruction of the NT
Epistles on the issue of suffering only directly applied
to believers until a.d. 70, because we would now be in the
time of peace, not "the sufferings of this present
time" spoken of by Paul (Rom. 8:18).
unjust suffering is a major theme in the Epistles. In
fact, the NT paints it as one of the major ingredients
which God brings into our life to produce Christ-like
character in His children (Heb. 12:1-17). Peter notes,
"For this [unjust suffering] finds favor, if for
the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under
sorrows when suffering unjustly. . . . But if when you do
what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it,
this finds favor with God" (1 Pet. 2:19-20).
Revelation promises a future reward of co-rulership with
Christ to believers who have remained faithful and loyal
to Christ during this present age of humiliation (Rev.
3:21; see also 2:25-28). Revelation 3:21 not only promises
future rule with Christ after this current age of
humiliation, but notice it also makes a distinction
between Christ’s future kingdom and the Father’s current
rule. "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit
down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down
with My Father on His throne." These passages do not
make sense and certainly would not apply to today if we
are in the New Heavens and New Earth of the preterists.
is true," says Gary North, "then most of the prophesied
negative sanctions in history are over."5 I
would say, if futurism is true, then great apostasy lies
ahead. Does the current church age become increasingly
apostate concluding with "the Great Apostasy" during the
Tribulation, or were the scores of passages speaking about
apostasy fulfilled in a.d. 70, as preterism demands? "The
‘Great Apostasy’ happened in the first century. We
therefore have no Biblical warrant to expect increasing
apostasy as history progresses; instead, we should expect
the increasing Christianization of the world,"6
declares preterist David Chilton.
This is another
area where large sections of the NT, especially the
Epistles and Revelation, would have to be adjusted away
from the meaning Christians have historically seen in
those passages. An example of this is seen in how the
different approaches would handle Paul’s warning in 2
Timothy 3. Paul begins by saying that "in
the last days difficult times will come" (3:1). The
"last days" likely refers to the whole of the current
Church age, or perhaps it is a general reference to the
final portion of the current Church age. Either way, it is
a reference to the period of time before the final phase
of history which preterists say we are not in. Paul goes
on to describe how these times will be characterized by
men who "will be lovers of self," . . . (3:2)
"rather than lovers of God" (3:4). The general course
of "the last days" are described as a time when "all
who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be
persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from
bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (3:12-13).
Therefore, if "the last days" have already come and gone,
we should expect that the persecution of the godly should
be absent and "evil men and impostors" should not "proceed
from bad to worse." According to preterism, this would
directly apply to the events before a.d. 70, but not after
increases, not decreases, during the current church age.
Because preterism is errant, then they have to take a
theoretical interpretation on this and most other NT
doctrine that is so far out that even the inventive minds
of preterists cannot apply them in our current age. It is
clear that the preterist interpretation of NT prophecy is
so far removed from what the Bible teaches because it is
impossible to practically apply their teaching in our
current age. I continue to be motivated by the practical
hope of the imminent rapture of the church. Maranatha!
North, "Publisher’s Preface" in Ken Gentry, Before
Jerusalem Fell, (Tyler, Texas: Institute for
Christian Economics, 1989), p. xi.
2. Kenneth L.
Gentry, Jr., "A Preterist View of Revelation" in C.
Marvin Pate, gen. ed., Four Views on the Book of
Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), pp.
3. Gentry, "A
Preterist View of Revelation," p. 87 and pp. 86-89.
Publisher’s Preface", p. xii.
Chilton, Paradise Restored: An Eschatology of
Dominion, (Tyler: Reconstruction Press, 1985), p.