Beware the Full Preterist Cult
by Arthur Daniels Jr.
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Did you know that Jesus already returned? Did you know that He did so way back in AD 70 when the Jewish Temple was destroyed?
Did you know that the resurrection of the dead has already occurred and we are now living in the glorious age where “the law, death, sin and the Devil were utterly destroyed in AD70” (quoted from the Preterist Archive website). I’m sure the devil is also as surprised as you might be about that "utterly destoryed" part.
Now you might think these teaching are “wacky” and represent things no sane person would believe. But these are some of the views of those who teach what may be called “full preterism,” and it is a teaching that has infected the Church with a theological virus that we must be immunized against.
Most Christians are preterists to some extent, or partial preterists. The word "preterist" comes from Latin and means “past.” It simply means you believe that many prophecies in the Bible have been fulfilled, but not all of them. Jesus’ second coming is yet future (Matt. 24:30; Rev. 1:7). The “rapture” or catching away of the saints is yet future (1 Thess. 4:16,17).
But the full preterists take things too far. They teach that even the return of Jesus in power and glory and the resurrection have also come to pass. How can they believe this? They do it by misreading Matthew 24, and verse 34 in particular. It reads:
"Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place."
The full preterists take this to mean that everything Jesus said prior to this verse was to come to pass during the lifetime of those hearing His words. But there are several problems with this hermeneutic, since it forces people to “spiritualize” things that even the Spirit would not recognize as spiritual.
The Meaning of “Generation”
First, the word “generation” has various meanings in various contexts. In Matthew 23:35,36, it is clear that the generation listening to Him at the time did not participate literally in the murder of Zechariah, yet Jesus said “…whom you murdered…”
In Matthew 12:41, 42 Jesus talks about the men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South rising up with “this generation” to condemn it. But how can that be? Both had been dead for centuries. Obviously Jesus’ meaning here was not meant to convey that these people would literally rise and exist with that generation of that time.
So when we return to the context of Matthew 24, we must remember that the very impetus for what Jesus was explaining was regarding the Temple and its destruction (24:2). And THEN the disciples asked about OTHER THINGS beyond the original point about the Temple that Jesus made at the beginning of the chapter. So Jesus in answering them, started with what applied to them (the destruction of the Temple that was to happen in AD70) and went on to answer the additional questions that were asked that did not directly relate to the Temple’s destruction. It’s really very simple, yet full preterists, because of their misreading of Matthew 24:34, must insist that everything Jesus said pertained to AD70 when the very context of Matthew 24 itself says otherwise.
But noted biblical scholar, F.F. Bruce, points this out about the parallel passage in Mark 13:30: "It seems reasonable to regard the hard saying as summing up the answer to their question. If so, then 'all these things' will have the same meaning in question and answer. The hard saying will then mean, 'this generation will not pass away before' the temple is totally destroyed. It is well known that the temple was actually destroyed by the Romans under the crown prince Titus in August of A.D. 70, not more than forthy years after Jesus spoke...forty years is the conventional length of a generation in biblical vocabulary." (Hard Sayings of Jesus, p. 228, IVP, 1983)
Preterists commit the hermeneutical fallacy of "collapsing context" when they compare Old Testament judgment language with what Jesus said in the Gospels, figuring that because similar language is used, then this must mean that the meanings must be the same. But that does not follow logically or biblically (Matt. 24:39 compared with Ezekiel 32:7).
Assumptions about Various Passages
Full preterists assume that passages like Matthew 26:64 and 16:27, 28 support their position, but that simply isn’t the case.
Full preterists have to realize that it is at least possible that they are badly misreading texts to support their views. A good example would be the assumption that Jesus meant the high priest would see His second coming (Matt. 26:64). But isn't it possible that Jesus was referring to something else? What about when Stephen saw Jesus STANDING at the right hand of God in Acts 7:55? Was that the second coming, or a special revelation allowed by God? Must Matthew 26:64 mean what full preterists think? If it MUST mean that, then preterists need to reevaluate their hermeneutic. The facts are not dictating doctrine; a particular theological bias is.
And what about what Jesus said in Matt. 16:27, 28? It reads, "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom."
Was Jesus again saying that His coming would be within the first century of those living at the time? Not necessarily. Notice carefully that in every instance where this incident is recorded, what is called the "transfiguration" always follows shortly thereafter. Full preterists also fail to do Gospel comparison studies, because all the Gospels do not say exactly the same thing. While Matthew speaks of Jesus “coming in His kingdom,” Mark talks about the people being alive and seeing “the kingdom of God come with power” (9:1). Luke talks about these people seeing “the kingdom of God” (9:27). So is it Jesus or the “kingdom of God” coming?
Interesting to note is how Peter, who was THERE, saw this event. Peter in 2 Peter 1:16-18 called the transfiguration "the power and coming" of our Lord Jesus Christ. So in some sense, from a biblical perspective, that incident can be called "the power and coming" of Jesus! It was a foreshadowing of the "real" coming to be accomplished later.
So days after Jesus made the statement that the full preterists love to mention ("...there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom"), Jesus revealed Himself in the power and glory of the kingdom with Moses and Elijah also present.
Therefore Jesus wasn’t speaking of His ultimate coming in glory but a foreshadowing of it. This makes sense in light of the context and the rest of Scripture, and you don’t have to force everything into the mold of AD70 in order for things to make sense, all the while making nonsense of both Biblical and secular history as full preterists do.
Jesus did not return (visibly or invisibly) in AD70. The resurrection is not past. The saints were not "raptured" in AD70. We are not living in a glorious age where the law, death, sin and the Devil are “utterly destroyed.”
In a spiritual sense, yes, the law, sin, and death, along with the works of the devil, were nailed to the cross and no longer reign over us. But this happened long before AD 70 at the cross.
Do not fall for this full preterist cultic teaching. It is heresy. It has no sound Biblical basis and should be rejected by all Christians. Any questions or comments on this article may be directed to my website at www.gospelanswers1.com or left on the critique section on this site. No “Faithwriter” messages please.
Update in response to William Bell:
While Mr. Bell made an effort to refute my article, his efforts were insufficient to say the least. The old argument from so-called temporal indicators does not work, since such "indicators" are dictated by context, not the whims of full preterists trying to make Scripture fit their views.
Mr. Bell tries to use my own source against me, but fails to pay attention to the specific claim of Dr. Bruce. Dr. Bruce was NOT saying that Jesus returned in AD 70, but that specific things that were spoken of in the text had happened historically in AD 70. There has been no substantive response to my article.
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It is clear from the scriptures that Christ returned in A.D. 70, in connected with the historical event known as the destruction of Jerusalem. It is in conjunction with this event that all things written, i.e. all unfulfilled Bible prophecy would be fulfilled. "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near....For these are the days of vengeance that all things which are written may be fulfilled. (Luke 21:20-22). Note verse 21, where the disciples are warned to flee and to not return from the mountains of Judea to enter it. Coming in Their Lifetime In addition, the message is spoken to disciples living in the first century who stood in Christ's presence. When one follows the pronouns and properly applies them, they refer to first century disciples, not to the 21st century church. Thus, he said, "So you, also when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. The apostles who heard this message later from about the late 50's to until the event occurred, preached that the Lord's coming had drawn near. (See Romans 13:11-12, Philippians 4:5; 1 Peter 4:7, 17; 1 John 2:18, Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:6, 10. These statements of imminence are ignored by futurists or they are elasticized to mean "thousands of years." At hand, from "engus" literally means before one's face, near, or imminent. This word is used to describe the "time of Jesus" betrayal by Judas, Jesus' own death, Paul's physical death and many other events which were near and which occurred in the first century. Yet futurists as the author ignore the plain meaning of these temporal indicators to advance a doctrine of a yet future coming. Even in the passages cited, Matt 24:30; Rev. 1:7; (it's parallel text) and 1 Thess. 4:15, 17 all have time limiting factors implicitly if not stated explicitly. For example Matt. 24:30 speaks of the "tribes of the land" referring to the southern kingdom of Judah who rejected and murdered Christ. Jesus had convicted them as his and the disciples "future" murderers per Matt. 23:32-37. He said God would bring retribution on Jerusalem, i.e. the first century nation within their generation. What futurist can deny that God punished the Jews through the Roman invasion and destruction of the temple and city? Thus, the writer acknowledge that the meaning of generation per 23:36 refer to the first century Jews but contradict himself by denying the same term spoken to explain what Jesus had already taught earlier to his disciples in private per 24:34. Go figure. On the meaning of generation, the writer makes an attempt to evade the force of Jesus' words by saying that that particular generation did not murder Zechariah. What the writer overlooks in his haste to get out of first century Jerusalem is that Jesus tells them to "fill up the measure of their father's guilt." In other words, he sees their murder as a collective action of the nation. They are doing the deeds of their fathers thus, they are the children of those who murdered the prophets. He addresses the very same objection made by the writer in the text. These Jews said "If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.' Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your father's guilt." (Matt. 23:30-32). Thus Jesus charges them with continuing the very sin of their fathers, i.e. murder, which they follow through on to the letter by murdering him and the saints to follow. In that sense, they killed Zechariah, because their murderous hearts were no different from their ancestors. "Alford's Greek New Testament Commentary concurs by the following: "It is no objection to the interpretation there maintained, that the "whole period" of the Jewish course of crime is not filled up by it; the death of Abel can by no explanation be brought within its limits or responsibility ; and our Lord's saying reaches far deeper than a mere announcement of their responsibility for what they themselves had done." (p. 233) We Who Are Alive and Remain In the Thessalonians texts, Paul says "we who are alive and remain." Thus he includes himself along with his first century hearers as the group who would be alive when Christ returns. He does not single out any individual, but speaks collectively. However, on the matter of singling out a disciple, Jesus did that very thing by saying that John, the apostle would not die, i.e. would remain until he came, i.e. until his second coming, (John 21:21-23). All Synoptic Gospels Give The Same Answer to the Question Now the writer wishes to shift attention from all the events connected with the overthrow of the temple. He can only attempt to do so because of his futurist paradigm. That the disciples really asked only "one" question broken into three parts is evident when comparing the parallel accounts of Mark and Luke. Mark's account omits "the parousia end of the age" (13:4) as does Luke 21:7, yet both give the signs of the events including speaking of the parousia and the end of the age. Besides the questions in Matthew are all connected by the conjunction showing they are different parts of the one question. Christ comes at the "end of the age" as taught in the parable of the tares, (Matt. 24:3; 13:39-43). That time corresponds with the coming of the kingdom as they shine in the glory of their Father in the kingdom. F.F. Bruce Agrees! It is amazing that the writer quotes noted scholar F.F. Bruce to prove his point. Yet, the very quote destroys the total premise of the article. Here is the quote: "But noted biblical scholar, F.F. Bruce, points this out about the parallel passage in Mark 13:30: "It seems reasonable to regard the hard saying as summing up the answer to their question. If so, then 'all these things' will have the same meaning in question and answer. The hard saying will then mean, 'this generation will not pass away before' the temple is totally destroyed. It is well known that the temple was actually destroyed by the Romans under the crown prince Titus in August of A.D. 70, not more than forthy [sic] years after Jesus spoke...forty years is the conventional length of a generation in biblical vocabulary." (Hard Sayings of Jesus, p. 228, IVP, 1983)" Bruce says the "hard saying" which both Amillennialists and Dispensationalist Premillenialists and other futurists cannot swallow is this: "The hard saying will then mean, 'this generation will not pass away before' the temple is totally destroyed. Now Bruce and the writer agree that as the scholar further adds that the temple was destroyed by Titus in A.D. 70, forty years after Jesus spoke those words. That is the hard saying but it is the truth and it disproves the writers entire premise that a generation extends for centuries. The temple was destroyed in the first century and that is the event which became the sign of Jesus' imminent coming in that generation. Matthew 12:39-42. These passages offer the write no relief. First, the "evil and adulterous generation" of which Jesus spoke had long ago been prophesied by Moses as the "terminal" generation of the last days. See Deut. 32:5, 20. They are called the perverse and crooked generation, a term quoted by Peter and applied to his audience on Pentecost, Acts 2:40 and later by Paul, Phil. 2:15). Jesus Gives A Sign Further, Jesus promised to give "the adulterous and sinful" generation a sign, i.e. that of the prophet Jonah, of his death, burial and resurrection, three days and three nights. Now, the writer must answer us, how Jesus gets his crucifixion into the 21st century and out of the 1st century if the latter was not the terminal generation. Jesus promised the judgment upon the same generation that saw the sign of the prophet Jonah. As to the people of Nineveh and the queen of the South rising up in the judgment with that generation, they did indeed, as it was a judgment upon all. Remember, Jesus statements in Matt. 23, that all the righteous blood from Abel to Zecharias would be avenged on that generation. So not only was the queen of the south and the Ninevites there but Abel, Zechariah and all in between. The Objecton of Stephen and the High Priest The writer cites Stephen seeing the heavens opened as an example that Jesus words to the Caiaphas the High Priest did not mean that he would come in the lifetime of the High Priest. As the saying goes, that which proves too much proves nothing. Here is the point. Christ did not tell Stephen that he would see Him coming in the clouds. He did say that to the High priest. "Hereafter you shall see the son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Power AND coming on the clouds of heaven. Matthew 16:27-28. The writer objects that Jesus is speaking of his second coming, by citing the transfiguration scene as an explanation of the near event of his coming. The problem with that interpretation is that Peter, an inspired apostle does not agree with the writer. Peter who was present at the transfiguration had these words to say about it. "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made know to you the power and coming [Parousia] of four Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. (2 Peter. 1:16). Now Peter said, when they were in the Mt of transfiguration they saw the power and coming of the Lord, i.e. His second coming. That is what the word Parousia refers to. So, if the writer is correct, he argues that Jesus parousia occurred before Jesus died! Obviously that is a false premise and conclusion. What they saw was the future fulfillment of Jesus' coming in power. They were privileged to see that event while present with him in the Mt of Transfiguration not as a present reality but as an event which would occur when the Law and the prophets passed away, i.e. were fulfilled, as indicated by the fading presence/glory of Moses and Elijah. When those two men left the scene leaving Christ alone, that was a figurative representation of the Parousia. Remember, Jesus' Parousia occurred when all things written in the Law and the Prophets were fulfilled. Jesus Comes In His Kingdom The writer attempts to object to Jesus coming in the lifetime of His disciples by saying one verse mentions the kingdom of God comes, the other Christ comes, etc. They are all true statements. The point is Jesus comes in His kingdom. There is no coming of Christ apart from his kingdom. He comes as the Lord of lords and King of kings. See 2 Tim. 4:1. Christ comes to judge the living and the dead at His appearing (coming) and His kingdom. They are concurrent events. The attempt to separate them is desperation to avoid the impact of time statements which affirm he would come before some in His presence died. In A Spiritual Sense The Law, Sin and Death Were Nailed to the Cross. The writer must and does acknowledge that the defeat of sin, death and the Law began at the cross. Well, it was finished 40 years later. But, it wasn't a different kind of sin, death and Law. Jesus didn't put a way "spiritual sin" at the cross only to put away "physical sin" later. He did not put away "spiritual law" at the cross only to put away "physical law" later. He did not put away "spiritual death at the cross, only to put away "physical death" later. That is a figment of a futurists imagination. In fact, Paul said those things were not fulfilled until Jesus returns for the last enemy to be destroyed is death. "O death where is your sting? O Hades where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the Law? (1 Cor. 15:55-56). Now if Christ is putting these away at His coming, i.e. at His parousia, what kind of sin, death and law is this? If it were all completed at the cross why does it linger around until the second coming. Why is the Law of Moses yet in effect until Christ returns? The writer acknowledges that sin, death, and Hades and the Law is not completely defeated until Christ's parousia and it is the same sin, law, death and hades that was affirmed for Jesus' victory at the cross. But if sin, which is the sting of death was done away at the cross, then why does physical death yet affect the Christian? Why is the Christian yet under the dominion of the Law? These are questions that a futurist cannot answer. The writer's article is therefore an attempt to discredit Full Victorious Preterism, but ends up discrediting himself with illogical arguments and false assertions. For more information visit: www.allthingsfulfilled.com to learn more about Jesus' victorious coming in A.D. 70 to defeat sin, death, the law and Hades and learn how to walk in fulfilled righteousness in the present kingdom of God.