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Cracking the "Code" of Preterism
A Review of Hank Hanegraaffs "The Apocalypse Code" and a Refutation of Preterism
by Ryan Habbena
Hank Hanegraaff, radio’s “Bible Answer Man,”
includes the following statement in the introduction to his new book, The Apocalypse Code:
“Make no mistake: this is not the stuff of
ivory-tower debates. The stakes for
Christianity and the culture in the controversy surrounding eschatology are
enormous!” With the stakes so high, he’s entered the
fray—writing on the subject of the end times. In this work, Hanegraaff establishes
then defends what he calls “Exegetical Eschatology." In so doing, he aspires to give a lesson in how
to interpret what the Bible says while teaching his view of apocalyptic texts. As
the reader progresses through The Apocalypse Code Hanegraaff's view becomes clear: it is partial preterism.2 This particular brand of eschatology has
experienced a recent resurgence in evangelicalism, possibly fueled in part by a
reaction to the popular Left Behind series,3
but, popularity and theological trends do not determine truth. To engage this system of theology we must define
preterism, determine whether it is Biblical,
and declare the implications of this system of eschatology. When this is done, we will then discern some
of the practical problems of preterism.
accomplish these objectives, I will interact with several of Hanegraaff’s prime
arguments, but this article will not be a “classical” book review.
Rather, since how he argues his position is standard
for this system, I will use these arguments as a springboard to demo a primer
that highlights the foundational arguments of preterism and then offers
biblical reasons why these do not accurately reflect a proper understanding of
the biblical texts relating to the end of the age.
Preterism: Understanding the Debate
Until recently one’s position on eschatology
was, by and large, defined by their millennial position. Now, rather than
asking whether one holds to premillennialism, amillennialism, or
postmillennialism, the more common question is, Are
you a preterist or a futurist?4 And the debate between these two camps
focuses on when the prophecies of the
Olivet Discourse in the Gospels (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21 5)
and the book of Revelation are fulfilled.
term preterism is drawn from the
Latin (praeter) meaning “past.” Preterists postulate that these noted
eschatological texts primarily prophesy the events of the destruction of the
temple and the city of Jerusalem. According to this view, these prophecies were
fulfilled in the Roman siege and destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.6 It is important here to note the distinction
between partial and full preterism. Full (or hyper) preterists believe that all of
the prophecies regarding the second coming of Christ, most significantly the “resurrection”
of believers, were fulfilled in the first century. Partial preterists hold that
the majority of what is declared in the book of Revelation (and the Olivet
Discourse) was fulfilled in the first century, yet there remains a future
judgment, a resurrection of the dead, and a bodily return of Christ. Hanegraaff,
as well as the other preterists I will interact with in this critique (unless
otherwise noted) are firmly in the partial
preterist camp. For the most part, both partial preterists and
futurists see full preterism as outside the realm of “the faith” in accordance
with Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15.7
Futurism holds that the primary eschatological
texts of the New Testament prophesy about the events surrounding the return of
Christ to consummate history. While a
broad spectrum of eschatological positions lay claim to futurism, their common
thread is that all hold that the Olivet Discourse and book of Revelation will primarily
be fulfilled in the future.
summarize: Preterism is the system of interpretation that understands the
Olivet Discourse and the book of Revelation to primarily prophesy the events
surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which has past. Futurism
is the system of interpretation that understands the Olivet Discourse and the
book of Revelation to primarily prophesy the events surrounding and including
the second coming of Christ, which is yet
"The Coming of the Son
of Man” – When?
Before proceeding, we
must discuss “the coming of the Son of Man.” When the Lord proclaims this event in His
teaching, is He speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem or His second coming? In Matthew’s
account of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ teaching culminates with this passage:
And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky,
and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of
Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will
send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His
elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. (Matthew 24:30-31)
According to preterism, this discussion of Jesus
“coming” does not describe a literal, visible return, but rather a figurative
coming in which Jerusalem
is destroyed by the Roman armies.8
Hanegraaff rhetorically asks:
no one is so benighted as to think that coming on the clouds in this context is
anything other than language that denotes judgment. Why then should anyone
suggest that Christ’s coming on the clouds in the context of the Olivet
Discourse would refer to anything other than the judgment Jerusalem would experience within a
generation just as Jesus prophesied?9
So, the preterist considers Christ’s coming in
the Olivet Discourse to be figurative language describing the destruction of Jerusalem. Later in this
article I will point out that there are strong biblical reasons for us to
believe this is not speaking of the
destruction of Jerusalem.10
Preterists likewise see the book of Revelation as a figurative
description of the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and argue vociferously that
John’s apocalypse was written prior to this date.11 Commenting on the futurist
position Hanegraaff notes that, “it is foolhardy to suggest that Revelation is
principally a book describing what will take place in the 21st century.”12
He then proceeds to note that the imagery of Revelation, although primarily
about the destruction of Jerusalem,
has typological implications for the consummation.13
These interpretations may appear strained to many—I include myself among that
group—but the central argument of the
preterist system is the “time texts.”
The Time Texts: The Heart of Preterism
R.C. Sproul, in his book, The Last Days According to Jesus, states that “the central thesis .
. . of all preterists is that the New Testament’s time frame references with
respect to the parousia point to a fulfillment within the lifetime of at least
some of Jesus’ disciples.”14
Most of the books that advocate this view devote many pages arguing that these
“time texts” make it necessary for what was prophesied in the primary N.T.
eschatological texts to have a first century fulfillment. If we can show that these
texts are better understood within the futurist framework, preterism as a
system will have lost much of its support. To begin the challenge I will
address the two prominent “time frame” references, and why preterists fail to
properly interpret these texts.
Time Text 1: “This Generation”
After declaring the birth
pangs, the hard labor of tribulation, and the coming of the Son of Man, Jesus
declares in Matthew 24:34, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things take place.” Perhaps
no other text is offered as frequently by preterists as proof for their position.
Now hear popular preterist proponent Gary Demar’s reasoning on “this generation:”
texts that govern the timing of the Olivet Discourse prophecy – Matthew 23:36
and Matthew 24:34 – make it clear that Jesus was speaking of the events leading
up to and including the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 . . . If people fail to recognize the timing of these
events set by Scripture and the historical context of Jesus’ words, they will
always be led astray by those who keep insisting that it’s our generation that
living in the end times.15
Preterists present their interpretation of “this
generation” in the Olivet Discourse as an unassailable apex of their system. However,
is their interpretation the most compelling given the usage and context of the
term in Matthew’s Gospel? I don’t think so. The typical futurist interpretation is that this verse refers to a
future generation, or time frame. The
typical preterist interpretation is that this verse refers to a past
generation, or time frame. A problem presents itself in that both of these
interpretations fail to adequately account for several important interpretive
Gospel of Matthew, the phrase “this generation” is primary used in the pejorative sense towards a people group;
Israelites who rejected Him. To view this as a “time frame”
reference (i.e., 40 or 80 years) goes against the usage of the term in Matthew.
This term isn’t used in a quantitative
manner (years on the earth); rather, it is used in a qualitative manner (describing people with certain spiritual
qualities). If we view this term as descriptive
of those in ethnic Israel who reject Messiah (which has continued since the first
century) not only are we within the bounds of the usage of “this generation” in
Matthew, but this interpretation also fits best with both the immediate context
and the whole of Scripture. (See Bob DeWaay’s excellent study in the second
portion of this issue which further establishes the usage and meaning of this
term in the Gospels).
expectation for the salvation and restoration of ethnic Israel runs
through Bible. It was prevalent in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 36:22-38), in the
immediate wake of the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1:6-8), and in Paul’s teachings.
The Apostle writes, “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this
mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial
hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come
in” (Romans 11:25). The issue of the restoration of Israel is
pertinent to the Olivet Discourse. Just
prior to the Discourse in Matthew, Jesus announces to “this generation”: "For I say to you,
from now on you will not see Me until
you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'" (Matthew 23:39
generation” will pass away, but this
has yet to transpire—there remain unbelieving Israelites. But a time will come when
there are no more unbelieving Israelites who reject Messiah. Those Israelites
who remain will see their Messiah when they declare, by His sovereign grace,
“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” The Lord will “come from Zion, He will remove
ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26). But all the events Jesus outlined in the Olivet
Discourse must be fulfilled before this occurs.16
interpretation of “this generation” fits much better with Matthew’s usage, with
the immediate context of the Olivet Discourse, and the whole counsel of
God. So ironically, preterism’s chief
text turns into solid support for both futurism and the coming restoration of
ethnic Israel when Christ returns.
Time Text 2: “I am coming quickly”
Like “this generation”
in the Olivet Discourse, preterists stress that the “time texts” in the book of
Revelation such as, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show
to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1),
and “Behold, I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:12a), demand that we view the
prophecy to have a first century fulfillment, namely the events of the destruction
of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Hanegraaff
notes regarding these texts: “The natural reading of such phrases as ‘what must
soon take place’ or ‘the time is near’ is that the events that follow are fore future and not far future.”17 Demar agrees on this
point, adding: “Thus, the events of Revelation were near – close, at hand,
impending, right around the corner – for those who first read the prophecy. If
literalism is the standard, there is no other way to interpret these time
see “no other way” to interpret these terms except as pointing to a first
century fulfillment. What preterists fail to incorporate is the entrenched “near
expectancy/far fulfillment” dynamic that is found throughout the prophetic
The proclamations of “near expectancy” in the book of Revelation are the last
in a line of similar passages found in the progressive revelation of the Bible.
When interpreting the dynamics of New
Testament prophecy we must be aware of the pattern of “prophecy and fulfillment”
throughout the Bible. “Near expectant” exhortations frequently have far
consider a text from the book of Zephaniah: Near is the great
day of the LORD, near and coming very quickly” (Zephaniah 1:14). The day was announced
as “near” and coming “quickly,” yet this day includes a
terrifying end to the “all the earth” in judgment (1:2-3, 17-18), judgment of
unbelieving Israel (3:1-7), and the Lord giving honor and praise to Israel as
He defeats all her enemies and restores her fortunes (3:14-20). While the exile
was looming (this being the near application), the great day of the Lord (far
fulfillment) was announced to call Israel to faithfulness (2:1-3) and
give comfort to the remnant (3:14-15) in light of this coming day. Declaring
this all to be “figurative language” describing the events of the exile does
not do justice to the text; much of what was prophesied simply does not refer
to the near events of the exile. Likewise,
in Joel 2 we read that the “day of the Lord” is “near,” (2:1), yet the New
Testament authors find the application of Joel’s prophecies as having far-reaching
fulfillment (see Acts 2:16-21, Revelation 6:12).20
important that we recognize the “near/far” and “telescoping” nature of many
prophecies. The “near expectancy/far
fulfillment” dynamic recognizes that many prophecies have a near application but
ultimately have a far reaching fulfillment (cf. Haggai 2:6-7, Hebrews 12:26). The
“telescoping” dynamic recognizes many prophecies may appear to be speaking of
one continuous event, wherein reality the prophecy is fulfilled in successive
periods (cf. Daniel 11:29-45, Malachi 3:1-2).
above passages are just a sampling. These extensive proclamations of the
promised near “day of the Lord,” in both the Old and New Testaments caused many
to respond negatively, thinking this entails “slowness.” But we are admonished
to not view these prophecies in such a manner. Rather, the patience of the
Lord, and the delay of His wrath, is for repentance:
But by His word the present heavens and earth are being
reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord
one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord
is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward
you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter
Walter Kaiser’s comments
are insightful regarding the nearness of the “day of the Lord”:
day always had an impending nature to it. Though it found partial fulfillment in such events as Joel’s locust
plagues, the destruction of Jerusalem and the threat of national invasions, its final climactic fulfillment always
remained in Christ’s future return.21
then do the statements “I am coming
quickly,” and other similar proclamations in Revelation, intend to convey?
My answer is this: These proclamations call
those who read and heed the message of Revelation to be comforted and remain faithful
in light of Christ’s sure coming to judge humanity and reward the righteous.22
The preterist’s interpretation of these
texts lessens their intended function—in fact their interpretation strips them
of their power. Throughout church
history believers have looked to the impending return of Jesus Christ with
urgency, an anticipation that parallels the “near expectation” texts in the OT that
called Israel to be ready for their impending visitation (see Malachi 3:1 and
Isaiah 56:1). This function is highlighted in the last chapter of Revelation: “Behold,
I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12, emphasis added). Jesus’
declaration “I am coming quickly,” and the other similar texts in Revelation, calls
every person to be faithful in light of the sure coming that He has promised. George Eldon Ladd notes regarding the
Revelation “time texts”:
is in biblical prophecy a tension between the immediate and the distant future;
the distant is viewed through the transparency of the immediate. It is true that the early church lived in
expectancy of the return of the Lord, and it is the nature of biblical prophecy
to make it possible for every generation to live in expectancy of the end. To relax and say “where is the promise of his
coming?” is to become a scoffer of divine truth. The “biblical” attitude is “take heed, watch,
for you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33).23
Jesus “coming” to destroy Jerusalem was not the church’s motivation or
expectation in the first century and nor is it ours. Jesus coming to judge all that do not gather
under His Gospel is. Again, 2 Peter
speaks to this issue:
But the day of the Lord
will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the
elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will
be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of
people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening
the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be
destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking
for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:10-13 Emphasis Added)
In my estimation, preterism is a system of
“interpretive convenience.” Even this passage in 2 Peter is interpreted by Hanegraaff
to be primarily about the destruction of Jerusalem
in A.D. 70.24
Their interpretation of “near expectancy” passages is stressed to prove a first
century fulfillment, while other passages (such as the above) are then forced
into their paradigm. When preterists take consummation language and
figuratively apply it to the events of A.D. 70, we must ask what language could the Biblical authors possibly have used to communicate
the events of the second coming.25
In order to come to a well balanced view of biblical eschatology, one must
recognize the “near expectation” texts, such as noted above, and the numerous texts that reveal “far
fulfillment,” the call for continual faithfulness until Christ comes, and the
consummating language evident in these texts.
When this is accomplished, we then can see the intended function of these near expectancy texts: to comfort the
faithful with the future coming of Christ and call them to continued obedience
in light of this impending event. Preterism fails repeatedly in this essential
area of eschatological interpretation. Given these considerations (as well as
several others), it is more compelling to interpret the “time texts” in
Revelation as an exhortation to faithfulness and expectancy than to interpret
these texts as a rigid time frame references that require a first century
The Interpretive Importance of the Thessalonian Epistles
Apocalypse Code, Hanegraaff stresses a principle which he states that, if
understood, “cracks the code” of the Biblical teaching on the Apocalypse.26
He calls it “Scriptural synergy”:
synergy demands that individual Bible passages may never be interpreted in such
a way as to conflict with the whole of Scripture. Nor may we assign arbitrary meanings to words
or phrases that have their referent in biblical history. The biblical interpreter must keep in mind
that all Scripture, though communicated through various human instruments, has
one single Author. And that Author does
not contradict himself nor does he confuse his servants.27
While I agree with this principle of Biblical
interpretation cited by Hanegraaff, his application
of this principle is sorely lacking. The root of many of the eschatological
errors in his biblical interpretation is the ignoring or mishandling of
pertinent texts. We see this most clearly in his (lack of) interaction with the
Thessalonian epistles—throughout his whole work there are only a handful of
references to the Thessalonian epistles. And when these texts are explored, the
exposition is both superficial and deficient.28
the Thessalonian epistles are essential to our understanding of both the Olivet
Discourse and the book of Revelation. The church in Thessalonica had both
practical and doctrinal confusion regarding certain points of eschatology. To
remedy these, Paul penned two epistles, teaching the church important precepts
of Christ’s second coming and the events associated. Because of these letters we received indispensable
insight into the nature of Jesus’ eschatological teaching.
Paul establishes several significant points of eschatology in correcting doctrinal
confusion in the Thessalonian church. Paul declares that believers, both dead
and alive, are resurrected when Christ comes (1 Thess. 4:13-18). The coming of
Christ, or the “day of the Lord,” will come at an unknown time (1 Thess.
5:1-2). Believers will experience relief from affliction when He appears (2
Thess. 1:7). Unbelievers will experience the eternal wrath of God when He
appears (2 Thess. 1:9-10). The “man of lawlessness” will be revealed and then
destroyed by Christ’s coming at the day of the Lord. (2 Thess. 2:1-10).
Through exploring the linguistic links and the flow of arguments in both epistles, it
is well established that Paul places all these events within the same time
And these events must occur within
the context of the second coming because Paul unambiguously affirms that the resurrection
of believers happens at this time (1 Thess. 4:16-17). So how does this point speak to the subject
The two Thessalonian epistles contain at least 24 allusions or references to the
Olivet Discourse.30 Most of the time, a handful of allusions will
firmly establish that a Biblical author is drawing on a particular previous
portion of Scripture. Yet, the Thessalonian epistles are replete with not only linguistic allusions but chronological ones
as well.31 Renowned New Testament scholar, D.A. Carson
states that “the discourse itself is undoubtedly a source for the Thessalonian
Paul draws upon Jesus’ teaching in the Olivet
Discourse to encourage and exhort the church in Thessalonica regarding the
second coming of Christ and the events associated. These are not cryptic,
apocalyptic writings, but straight-forward prose to a suffering church
regarding “the blessed hope.”33
If Paul viewed and utilized the
teachings of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse to declare the events surrounding
the second coming, then we are on solid, “inspired” ground to affirm the Olivet
Discourse is a prophecy primarily yet to be fulfilled34
Using the principle of “Scriptural synergy,” as Hanegraaff defines it, we do see the “apocalypse code”
cracked, just not in the manner he suggests. As has been demonstrated, Paul draws on the teachings of Christ in the
Olivet Discourse to teach on the translation and resurrection of believers, the
arrival of the man of lawlessness, and the wrath of God upon the ungodly. The
inspired Apostle places these events in the context of the second coming of
Christ which has yet to transpire. This
provides compelling evidence that Paul understood and taught that the Olivet
Discourse was not a teaching about
the destruction of Jerusalem
in A.D. 70, but rather the events surrounding the bodily return of Christ to
resurrect His elect and repay the wicked. Only the most strained and dissuasive
interpretations of the Thessalonian epistles will fail to recognize these
What Difference Does it
Several other biblical considerations refute the
preterist paradigm. And there are myriad
other issues related to the realm of eschatology that need to be individually addressed:
issues of apologetics, justice, hermeneutics, the perspicuity of the Scriptures,
and the list goes on. My primary practical
concerns regarding the preterist view of eschatology are twofold: It
minimizes our future hope and removes a prime source of motivation for godly
living. Christians throughout history have fled to the book of Revelation and
the Olivet Discourse for comfort, encouragement, and motivation to live in
light of the return of our King. By interpreting these texts as being already primarily
fulfilled, the function of the Olivet Discourse, and the book of Revelation, is
undermined. No matter how hard preterists may argue against this point, the
function of these texts, to comfort and motivate the faithful, is grossly
minimized by this paradigm. Although much still remains outside the realm of
our knowledge, the Scriptures consistently proclaim the sure reality to come. The second coming of Jesus Christ, including
the events surrounding it, is history that is yet to transpire. He is coming again and we need to heed his
words calling us to preparation and faithfulness:
Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down
with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not
come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on
the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you
may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and
to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:34-36)
May we continue to flee to the word of God for comfort, encouragement, and preparation
for what is “yet to come.” For the “coming
of Christ” does not consist of Rome destroying Jerusalem, but rather the
return of the risen King to consummate human history and set up His eternal
Kingdom. Since our King is returning to
repay the wicked and rescue His people, we are called to be both prepared and faithful
in light of this reality. We must cling
to the blessed hope of being resurrected to be with the risen King forever. Until this “great and terrible” Day arrives,
may we live as ambassadors for the Gospel, pleading with the world to “Be
reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). For, indeed, “the end of all things is near” (1 Peter 4:7).
Issue 100 - May / June 2007
- Hank Hanegraaff, The Apocalypse Code,, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007) xviii
- Hanegraaff has been reluctant to call himself a preterist, yet his central arguments and exposition are standard for those in the partial preterist camp.
- Given that many recent books espousing preterism (including The Apocalypse Code) address the “Left Behind” series, a reaction to the theology of this popular fictional series is a prime possible reason for the resurgence.
- There are other eschatological paradigms such as historicism and idealism, but futurism and preterism are the most prevalent systems in evangelical theology.
- Luke’s eschatological discourse has so many distinctions from Matthew and Mark that many see this as a distinct teaching altogether. While I see this as having some merit, for the purposes of this article I will be grouping all three eschatological discourses in the synoptic Gospels together.
- Preterists would be quick to point out that much of what they declare to have been fulfilled was not just in A.D. 70, but also the years surrounding. For the purposes of this article, I will be using the date A.D. 70 to correspond to all the events associated with the fall of Jerusalem at that time.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, “The Historical Problem with Hyper-Preterism” in Keith A. Mathison, ed., When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper-Preterism, (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing Company, 2004) 10, 28-33. This work is a collection of Reformed writers (both partial preterists and futurists) who critique hyper-preterism.
- A popular modification of preterism was articulated by Beasley-Murray that is held by several evangelical scholars. Recognizing that the “coming of Christ” in the Olivet Discourse is best viewed as the consummation, Beasley-Murray limits the events that he sees taking place within the context of the first century to what Jesus listed before the announcement, thus excluding of the “coming of Christ.” See, George Beasley-Murray, Jesus and the Last Days, (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1993) 448-449.
- Hanegraaff, 84.
- This does not mean that the destruction of Jerusalem was an insignificant historical event. In fact, in Luke’s eschatological discourse there is a prophecy that is best viewed as specifically describing the destruction of the Jerusalem and dispersion of Israel in A.D. 70 (Luke 21:20-24).
- The traditional dating of of the book of Revelation is around A.D. 95.
- Hanegraaff, 110. We must note that well grounded futurists do not insist that Revelation must take place in the 21st century, for we do not know the “times and the seasons” (1 Thessalonians 5:1, Acts 1:6-8) Also note that the traditional dating of the book of Revelation is around A.D. 95.
- Being a partial preterist and recognizing the need to preserve the truth of a future judgment, Hanegraaff sees the judgment of A.D. 70 as “typological” of the judgment to come (Hanegraaff, 134-36).
- R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998) 25.
- Gary DeMar, End Times Fiction, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2001) 114.
- Many preterists see the need to defend Jesus from the skeptics by showing that these prophecies had a first century fulfillment. The benefit of this interpretation is that it preserves the prophecy of Christ without straining the consummating language of the Olivet Discourse.
- Hanegraaff, 91.
- Demar, 56-57.
- To Hanegraaff’s credit, he does recognize the need, on the basis of many of the Old Testament prophecies, to incorporate some mode of near/far fulfillment (Hanegraaff, 262-263 n. 23). Yet, his exposition still is inadequate because of his insistence to view the prophecies of the consummation to be seen through the “typology” of what is declared about the destruction of Jerusalem.
- Another example of this is Ezekiel 36:22, 24-25 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went . . . For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.’”
- Walter Kaiser, Hard Sayings of the Old Testament, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1988) 225.
- Holman notes: “The dominate theme of the Apocalypse is clearly one of eschatological anticipation which seeks to encourage a lively expectation of the soon coming of Christ among those who must endure in an unfriendly world until that time.” Charles L. Holman, Till Jesus Comes: Origins of Christian Apocalyptic Tradition, (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996) 142. Continuing on this point, the vivid descriptions of future judgment and cosmic renewal serve as the source of encouragement for all to endure and thus be vindicated by the coming of Christ and to participate in the new heavens and new earth.
- George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972) 22-23.
- Hanegraaff, 135.
- See John MacArthur, The Second Coming, (Wheaton: Crossway 1999) 121-128 for helpful thoughts on the consummating language in the Olivet Discourse and the interpretive “slippery slope” partial preterists find themselves on by interpreting these metaphorically
- Hanegraaff, 227, 237.
- Hanegraaff, 228-229.
- See Hanegraaff, 212-213.
- See Tracy L. Howard, “The Literary Unity of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11,” Grace Theological Journal 9.2 (1988), 163-190 for some helpful notes on the unity of this section. It is also germane to note that strict “telescoping” is not a suitable application to the Thessalonian epistles given the literary unity in both letters, and the intertwined relationship of the events described.
- See G. Henry Waterman, “The Sources of Paul’s Teaching on the 2nd Coming of Christ in 1st and 2nd Thessalonians” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 18 (1975), 105-13, for detailed exposition on this point.
- See Howard, 180-190.
- D.A. Carson “Matthew” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, 12 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 8:489.
- This does not mean there are no interpretive difficulties with these epistles. Yet, the didactic nature of the epistles is easier to access than the apocalyptic and therefore leads us to the maxim of biblical interpretation that we should allow clearer passages of the Bible to cast light on the more obscure.
- Many futurist, premillenial commentators see “near/far” fulfillment regarding the destruction of Jerusalem in the Olivet Discourse. The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was a “near” fulfillment with a greater “far” fulfillment yet to transpire in the context of the Second Coming. This is a compelling possibility given that this is a familiar pattern of prophecy and that the eschatological discourse in Luke, although distinct from the discourses in Mark and Matthew, has a vivid description of the “near” destruction and dispersion of Israel in A.D. 70 (Luke 21:21-24) which has language that is echoed in the other discourses (Matt. 24:15-19, Mark 13:14-18).
- Partial preterists are caught between the proverbial “rock and a hard place” with the Thessalonian epistles. While the source of Paul’s teaching is well established as the Olivet Discourse, they are hesitant to interpret 1 Thess. 4:13-18 (as well as other portions of these epistles) as being fulfilled in the first century because it is a central text that establishes the future resurrection of believers (see Hanegraaff, 57-58). The doctrinal point of the second coming and the future resurrection of believers is the primary point that distinguishes them from their heretical counterparts. For full preterists have no problem stating that this text is both referencing the Olivet Discourse and is prophesying a “spiritual resurrection” which was fulfilled in A.D. 70. See
http://www.preterist.org/articles/matt.24_and_1_thess.4_compared.asp (View PDf of archived page HERE), http://www.preterist.org/articles/divito_letter.asp, View PDf of archived page HERE
http://www.preteristarchive.com/Preterism/preston-don_p_21.html View PDf of archived page HERE
for examples. Yet if partial preterists give way to the point that Paul is using the Olivet Discourse to teach on the future second coming their position is dealt a devastating blow. Therefore, the most compelling and biblical alternative is to see the Olivet Discourse, the Thessalonian epistles, and the book of Revelation as primarily prophesying the future time of consummation.
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