During the past few decades, there has been a significant increase of Preterism among liberal academic circles. While the majority within the Christian church have repudiated the notion that “all things were fulfilled in A.D. 70,” the intellectuals have insisted that they know not the truth; and therefore, a widescale push has been launched to disabuse Christians of the concept that there is to be a personal, visible, glorious second coming of Christ.
Of course, any true connection between Christianity and the intellectualism of the schools is nil. Which is why the church has been so unwilling to accept the doctrines of Preterism. It may be safely said, in fact, that Preterism will never work its way into the mainstream for precisely this reason: because it relies on the wisdom of men, and not the power of God.
Do you disagree with me? Well, what did Paul mean when he said: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2: 14). The intellectuals will tell us that this has something to do with esoteric knowledge, which cannot be understood by the ignorant masses, but only by themselves.
Howbeit, it is clear that the “things of the Spirit” must include the very doctrines which Paul was delivering to the churches. The apostle was revealing truths to them which could only be received by them, because they had the Spirit. These truths expressed by Paul were (and still are) deemed foolishness by the world. But they are in truth, the very wisdom of God. Wherefore, when he spoke of the resurrection of the dead to the Athenians, we read that “some mocked” (Acts 17: 32). Because they were not partakers of the Holy Spirit, they considered the doctrine of bodies rising from the graves to be a piece of foolishness–just as men do today.
What is Preterism, really, but the outworking of a latent skepticism, which seeks to find a “perfectly logical explanation” for everything? Because they do not believe it possible for the Son of Man to literally return in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, literally attended by all His holy angels, they seek a more reasonable explanation: one which leaves revelation stripped of its supernatural elements, and offers an interpretation which satisfies the incredulity of the scholastics.
This trend of “de-supernaturalizing” the doctrine of our Lord’s second advent is consistently seen throughout the history of the Preterist movement. One of the earliest Preterists, Eusebius of Caesarea, suggested that the establishment of Christ’s kingdom as predicted in Daniel 7 was fulfilled with Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, and conjoint reign with his sons (Oration, III. ii, iii).
John Lightfoot (1602-1675), a Protestant divine, was also heavily rationalistic in his interpretations of the second coming. He taught that the “parousia” of Matthew 24: 3 was not a personal coming of Christ, but a providential coming to destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Thus the “angels” of Matt. 24: 31 were interpreted as “ministers,” while the “trumpet” was said to be nothing more than the Gospel call. (see Commentary on New Testament from Talmud and Hebraica, Vol. 2., pg. 320).
During the 19th century, such skepticism reached its apex in the development of Hyper-Preterism, a doctrine which probably was invented as a support for Universalism. Notwithstanding this extremist view, however, moderate forms of Preterism were endorsed by a majority of academics.
In his Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel of St. Mark (1896), Ezra P. Gould writes: “God coming in the clouds of heaven with his angels, and preceded or announced by disturbances in the heavenly bodies, is the ordinary prophetic manner of describing any special Divine interference in the affairs of nations... The prophecy becomes thus a prediction of the setting up of the kingdom, and especially of its definite inauguration as a universal kingdom, with the removal of the chief obstacle to that in the destruction of Jerusalem” (pg. 241).
Obviously, such exegesis is purely subjective, and motivated by a tacit avowal that the supernatural elements of the Bible are simply not true. This tradition of rationalizing the Word of God has been carried on by modern Preterists like Gary DeMar, Kenneth Gentry, and James Jordan. But are such teachers following the wisdom of God? Or are they in fact promoting a dangerous form of infidelity?
I would say that the modern proponents of Preterism are no nearer the truth than was Eusebius, or John Lightfoot, or Ezra Gould. Like their forbears, having left the simplicity of the Gospel behind, and embraced man’s wisdom, in process of time they become devoid of understanding. Having rejected the revelations of the Holy Spirit, and substituted their own concepts for the truths of God’s word, they fall into a mass of unbelief that poisons their very souls. They hearken to Satan himself, who initiates the downslide by asking: “Hath God really said that?” (see Gen. 3: 1).
In their desire to become wise, and to be greater than their brethren, they become puffed up in their own esteeem, and consequently fall. The results of their destructive tenets may be seen throughout academic circles, as also on the worldwide web.
And how many thousands of souls have been lost through such pernicious teaching? If we could hear the cries of those who are now in torment, because they accepted a false Gospel, we would wake up and realize that theology is serious business, and nothing to trifle with. If we are condemned, it is through no fault but our own. But if we stand, it is by faith alone (2 Cor. 1: 24).
While Preterists routinely mock the children of God for the simplicity of their faith, they are unable to see that their own pretensions are products of the flesh, and not of the Spirit. They who walk after the flesh must die. But the Holy Scriptures are the very revelations of the Spirit of God; and they who believe them, with a childlike mind and an implicit faith, will surely live: because they have accepted of the things of the Spirit, by Whose grace they will be upheld.
True, Preterism has slain its thousands and its ten thousands. But for the most part, the people of God are immune to their deceptions. They are so because they accept the plain literal statemements of the Bible as authoritative and absolute. Intead of sitting in judgment on the Word, as sophists do, they submit to the authority of the Word as it judges them, discerning the thoughts and intents of their heart (Heb. 4: 12). How much better to have a lively and simplistic faith, as the apostles did–a faith that is pure and unalloyed– than to embrace one which obscures and confounds the oracles of God insomuch that they can no longer be understood?
We believe that such a faith as theirs must result in shipwreck. Although Preterists now boast of their intellectual superiority, the time is coming when they’ll need every ounce of spiritual support their religion can give them. But in that day and that hour, when the darkness comes down, they’ll find to their dismay that there is no more oil in their lamps. When that time comes, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Those who discern, however, that Preterism is really just a subtle form of infidelity, will steer as far away from those doctrines as he or she can. As a former Preterist, I assure you that Preterism leads to nowhere but hell. Why? Not because it is positively sinful, but because it is ineffectual to produce the kind of faith that gets a soul to heaven.
If you are a Preterist, please hearken to this message, and ask yourself, has your relationship with God grown better since you’ve embraced the doctrines of past-fulfillment? You know the answer is no. So what you need to do is wake up, repent of your error, and return to the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s as simple as that.