Preterism: What is it? Is it Scriptural?

December 21, 2012   |   Category: Blog   |   Tags:

Recently there has been a renaissance of the doctrine of preterism. The word preterism means past. Essentially, preterists believe that the prophecies of the Bible have all been fulfilled.  Full preterists teach that all the prophecies, including the Second Coming, were fulfilled by 70 AD. Partial preterists believe all the prophecies of the book of Revelation have been fulfilled up through Revelation 19.


History Behind the Doctrine
Preterism was first advanced in 1604 by Roman Catholic Jesuit Luis de Alcasar to destroy the Reformed Protestant teaching that the papacy was Mystery Babylon, the Great Whore and the historical Antichrist.

According to the 19th century Bible commentator Barnes, the Jesuits felt that Protestantism was winning the battle over Roman Catholicism by depicting Rome as the Great Harlot Church. Consequently, they attempted to counteract the Protestant Reformed teaching by propounding the preterist approach to the book of Revelation.

The doctrine of preterism rises or falls on the teaching that all of the events of the book of Revelation were fulfilled by 70 AD.

The Major Scriptural Problems
The doctrine of preterism rises or falls on the teaching that all of the events of the book of Revelation were fulfilled by 70 AD. Following is a partial list of prophecies in Revelation that have clearly not yet been fulfilled.
1. Revelation 9:15-16 prophesies a war that will kill one-third part of men… This has not yet happened in all of history. It must be future.

2. Revelation 11:1-2 says that Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles for 42 months prior to the Second Coming…This didn’t happen in 70 AD. The Romans simply destroyed Jerusalem.  There was no occupation.

3. Revelation 11:3-12 describes the ministry of two witnesses that will prophesy during the 1,260 days of the great tribulation.  They will then be killed and three and one-half days later rise from the dead… Nothing like this happened in 70 AD.

4. Revelation 13 describes a time when every person on earth will be required to have a number in order to buy or sell…This has never happened in all of history.

5. Revelation 13 prophesies the coming of the False Prophet who will pull down fire from heaven in the sight of men. He will deceive the world into following the Antichrist by means of those miracles that he has the power to do… Where is the account of this in history?

6. Revelation 16:12 states that the Euphrates River will be dried up to make way for the kings of the east to invade Israel at the Battle of Armageddon… The Euphrates did not dry up in 70 AD.

7. Revelation 20:1-6 teaches that Satan will be bound for 1,000 years at the time of the first resurrection… Preterism teaches that the first resurrection occurred in 70 AD. However, the 1,000-year binding of Satan has obviously not yet occurred.


Other Scriptural and Historical Problems

Core Teaching: Who is the “he”?
The core teaching of preterism is that the confirmation of the covenant spoken of in Daniel 9:27 was fulfilled by the ministry of Jesus Christ, and has nothing to do with a coming Antichrist. Preterists also contend that it was Jesus who stopped the daily sacrifice by the sacrifice of Himself on Calvary. It then follows that there is no gap between the 69th week of Daniel’s prophecy and the 70th week. Thus the 70th week has already been fulfilled.

If Jesus is not the one who confirmed the covenant, stopped the daily sacrifice and placed the abomination of desolation in Daniel 9:27, then the entire teaching of preterism is invalidated. So the pivotal question becomes, who is the “he” who confirms the covenant?

Notice that the same “he” who is to confirm the covenant in Daniel 9:27 is also to take away the daily sacrifice and to place the Abomination of Desolation.”

And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the

overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

Daniel 11:30-31 tells us in no uncertain terms that it is the Antichrist (the king of the north) and his followers who take away the daily sacrifice and place the abomination of desolation.

“For the ships of Chittim shall come against him: therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant: so shall he do; he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant. And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.”

This passage is obviously not referring to the Messiah. Would the Messiah ever” have indignation against the holy covenant?”  Would he ever “pollute the sanctuary of strength?” Obviously not! The entirety of Daniel 11:21-45 is discussing the actions of the king of the north -the Antichrist.

So we can see clearly that it is the Antichrist, not the Messiah, who takes away the daily sacrifice and places the abomination of desolation.

Remember that the one who takes away the daily sacrifice also is the one who confirms the covenant according to Daniel 9:27. So we know for certain that it is the Antichrist, not the Messiah, who will confirm the covenant for seven years. Daniel 11:22 strengthens this proof when it calls the king of the north (the Antichrist) the “prince of the covenant.”

This one core issue totally destroys the foundation of the preterist position.

This Generation Shall Not Pass
In Matthew 24:34, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

Preterists contend that Jesus taught in Matthew 24 that the generation to which He was speaking would not pass until all of the prophecies of that chapter were fulfilled. Of course, that would include the prophecy of the Lord’s Second Coming and the gathering of the elect from the four winds of heaven (verses 30-31).

However, that is not what the passage teaches. In verses 32-34, Jesus said, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

Jesus was saying that, when we see the fig tree putting forth its leaves, then we know that summer is near. Likewise, when we see the signs given in Matthew 24, then we will know that the generation that witnesses these things (such as the abomination of desolation) will not pass until all of the prophecy is fulfilled.

Judgment of Jerusalem in 70 AD was the Second Coming
In order to teach that all of the prophecies of Matthew 24 were fulfilled by 70 AD, preterism must give an explanation of the Second Coming described in verses 30-31:”And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

The explanation given is that Jesus coming in the clouds is symbolic of Jesus coming in judgment. It is contended that the judgment of Jerusalem in 70 AD was the Second Coming of Matthew 24.

However, there is a fatal flaw to this teaching. Revelation 1:7 describes this coming in the clouds: “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.”

This passage states that at the Second Coming in the clouds every eye shall see Him. Did every eye see Him in 70 AD? Obviously not.

Great Whore of Revelation 17 is Jerusalem, Not Rome
Both full and partial preterists teach that Revelation 1-19 was fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. However, Revelation 17-18 describes the judgment of the Roman Catholic Church in great detail. Since the Roman Church did not yet exist in 70 AD, it is obvious that the doctrine of preterism is wrong.

In order to explain away this problem, preterist proponents say that the great harlot, Mystery Babylon, is Jerusalem, not Rome.

The Roman Catholic Church loves this doctrine because it exonerates her of one of the Bible’s most severe indictments. However, to say that Revelation 17 refers to Jerusalem ignores the clues given to us about the identity of the great harlot.

Revelation 17 says the woman is a city that sits on seven mountains. Rome, not Jerusalem, is known around the world as the City of Seven Hills. Revelation 17:4 states that the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet (red). The two ruling bodies of the Roman Catholic Church are officially clothed in purple and red. Cardinals wear red, while the bishops and archbishops wear purple. There is no honest explanation of how this applies to Jerusalem.

Mystery Babylon is Rome, and the doctrine of preterism is proven to be wrong.


Futurists teach that the man of sin is the coming Antichrist. Preterists say that it refers to the Roman emperor Nero.


The Man of Sin in the Temple?
II Thessalonians 2:3-4 teaches that the man of sin, the son of perdition, will sit in the temple of God, claiming to be God. Who is this man of sin that sits in the temple and when did it happen?

Futurists teach that the man of sin is the coming Antichrist. Preterists say that it refers to the Roman emperor Nero.

However, Nero never even entered the temple. This prophecy of II Thessalonians has obviously not happened yet. This is another strong proof that the doctrine of preterism is not true.

Men Shall Learn War No More
Micah 4:3 prophesies of the 1,000-year millennial reign of Christ: “…and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

If all prophecies are past, when did the nations disarm and learn war no more? This has obviously not happened yet.

Closing Thoughts
As you can see, there are a multitude of problems with the doctrine of preterism. I am sure that many proponents of this doctrine sincerely believe it to be true. However, the scriptural contradictions are glaring.

In Daniel 12:9, God told Daniel that the understanding of the Bible’s prophecies would be sealed until the time of the end. Why did God decree in 600 BC that prophetic understanding would be “closed up” until the “time of the end?” The only conceivable explanation is that He wanted to place endtime prophecy in the hands of the endtime church for the purpose of igniting one last great endtime revival.

The teaching of preterism destroys this stated plan of God for the times in which we now live by teaching that the Bible’s prophecies have nothing to do with us today. Consequently, preterism runs counter to God’s expressed intention for endtime revival. Therefore, it should not be believed or taught.

Preterism, the belief that all prophecies have been fulfilled, is not biblical. Unfortunately, most Christians, including most ministers, don’t know how to refute its claims. 

By Irvin Baxter
Endtime Magazine – Nov / Dec 2003


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4 Responses to “Preterism: What is it? Is it Scriptural?”

  1. The post-70 A.D. dating of the book of Revelation renders all preterist thought null and void. The earliest Christian historian who recorded the church’s knowledge of the Domitianic dating of Revelation was Hegessippus in 150 A.D. (around the time when most of those who would have known John had likely already died), and this continued to be the unanimous view until about 4 centuries later with the Syriac Peshitta NT manuscript in which someone wrote that John was exiled under Nero.
    It is sometimes claimed that the Neronic dating is in the original, but this is impossible since the original lacked the book of Revelation. From what I’ve been able to gather, there is no source or reasoning given for this change in that 6th century manuscript. This is problematic at best, and lacks the authoritativeness that would be required to credibly make such a huge revision to what was commonly accepted and passed down from the end of the first century/beginning of the 2nd.
    The same can be said for the Muratorian Fragment, which is the 7th century copy of the 2nd century original, with no way to prove the Neronic dating was in the original. There is no record of any of the early church fathers holding to the Neronic date of Revelation. A fascinating glimpse into the early church fathers and what they believed on a variety of topics is in ‘A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs’, over 700 pages compiled by David Bercot. In addition to Hegessippus (who, notably, wrote this prior to Irenaeus), Tertullian, Hippolytus, Eusebius, Jerome, Sulpicius Severus, and a number of other church fathers both before and not long after the council at Nicaea all confirm that John was exiled to Patmos by Domitian where he received Revelation. The lack of any dissenting view naming Nero in place of Domitian until the 6th century should give early-date advocates pause. So at least most of the events of Revelation are still in our future (some view the messages to the churches as having already been strictly for them and completely fulfilled, while some view each church as symbolic for a different time period, and of course there could be room for double-fulfillment of most of those first 3 chapters).
    There was a celebration on Patmos in 1995 commemorating 1900 years (approximately, as in 95 or 96 A.D.) since the Revelation Jesus gave to John. Also, what other events in the 1st century A.D. are ever claimed as taking place 2 or 3 decades earlier (or later, for that matter)? With all of the accurate records kept during the Roman Empire era and surviving today, there is little room for such a vast difference being feasible. It’s commonly believed that Jesus died around 30 or 33 A.D., Paul and Peter were martyred in the 60’s, Nero lived from 37-68 A.D., etc. No one says Jesus died in 3 A.D. or 60 A.D., or that Peter and Paul were martyred in the 30’s A.D. or 90’s A.D., or that Nero actually reigned around the time of Jesus’ ministry as recorded in the Gospels. The majority of scholarship places John’s writing of Revelation in the mid-90’s, but somehow preterists think it’s ok to go against the overwhelming consensus of the past 2000 years? The great fire of Rome took place for nearly a week during 64 A.D., but no one places it in 54 A.D. let alone 34 A.D. A powerful earthquake in 60 A.D. devastated Laodicea. And yet no one ever says that earthquake took place in 30 A.D. 30 years prior. With the vast majority of evidence to the contrary, preterism literally rests on this single pillar of the dating of the book of Revelation. And, really, that is no pillar at all in light of the historicity of the late date.

  2. If those things didn’t happen then ‘How to identify a false prophet’ should be revisited and its application would reveal we got duped. Jesus himself said, ‘My kingdom does not come with your observance; it is WITHIN YOU.’ Lk 17:20-24. The carnal mind is enmity towards God. The old types were of the flesh, seen, temporal, external order. The new covenant antitypes (realities) are of the spirit, unseen, external, internal. This dichotomy is on every page of the bible. Paul himself verifies: 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor 4:
    The New Covenant City God loves is made up of living stones as God tabernacles WITH US and we are the new temple wherein he dwells. There is no more ‘Jew or Gentile/Greek, male or female, slave nor free’ therefore there is no more to occur for the old covenant nation of Israel who played the whore with the nations and had synagogues in every Roman city by the first century. ‘The LAW brings WRATH.’ God poured out his WRATH on the unfaithful wife (Rome was never in covenant relationship) in the first century. It is FINISHED!