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Insight #167 — Preterism Built on Fast Gratification

January 18, 2008.

Who can make a prediction centuries ahead of time? Can God do that? Is God limited by our “felt needs”? Can God make a prediction that may not be directly relevant to those who receive the prediction? Of course He can, you say. Yet, one of the arguments used by preterism tends, unwittingly, to deny this basic truth.

The most prevalent form of preterism today claims that virtually all Bible prophecy, except the Second Coming, was fulfilled by A.D. 70, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. One out of many arguments goes something like this: The book of Revelation was written to real churches in Asia to encourage them in their current trials. If Revelation was mainly predicting victory far into their future, so the argument goes, what consolation would that be for the churches of Asia and why would they even be interested in the book?

Preterism points out that two basic rules of interpretation are to consider who is speaking and who is being spoken to. Agreed. However, more is involved here. Preterism, in effect, is telling us that long-range prophecy breaks the rule of “who is being spoken to.” Of course it does. That’s what long-range prophecy is: a message to one generation for the benefit of future generations. That’s the only way long-range prophecy is possible.

In his first letter, Peter tells us that the Old Testament prophets strongly desired to know what they were prophesying about (1:10-11). This is not even talking about those who received the predictions, but of the very ones who made the predictions. Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Malachi longed to understand the fulfillment of their own prophecies. But verse 12 explains: “Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel.” “Not unto themselves… did they minister.” What these men wrote hundreds of years before the coming of Christ was not for themselves nor for those who originally received their writings. It was for later generations.

But wait. Does a far-distant fulfillment rule out, as this argument of preterism implies, any consolation for those receiving the prediction? Ask Abraham and like-minded saints. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them… wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Heb. 11:13-16). People of faith die without receiving the promises, but they embrace the promises — and God is not ashamed of them. What about those who demand deliverance from suffering now, fulfilled promises now, relevance now? God is ashamed of such people!

If God could — and did, as preterism itself accepts — make many predictions to Israel in the times of Daniel, Isaiah, and Zechariah, which had no fulfillment in their own days, could not God do the same via John in Revelation? Are we so conditioned to instant gratification (fast food, e-mail, etc.) that we deny to God the prerogative of working for the future? The fulfillment of long-range prophecy is one of the greatest proofs that the Bible is the Word of God. Surely the God who formerly used one generation to minister to later generations could do the same again via the apostle John in Revelation.

No matter what the time frame for the fulfillment of Revelation may be, Christ’s victories shine through the entire book. Thus, the book has great value for people of faith in all generations, from the first century to the twenty-first century, and beyond, until that great prophecy is fulfilled: the Second Coming of Christ.