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Insight #178 — Which View Fits: Preterist or Historical?

“Time, times, and half a time.” Last month we saw evidence that this predicts 1,260 years of Roman Papal power in the Middle Ages. Of course, there are those who reject this interpretation, claiming it is a prediction of 3 1/2 literal years either in our future or in the past. The latter view, called preterism, is growing in popularity today as a reaction against the opposite extreme of futurism. The common preterist view says that most of Revelation was fulfilled around the time of Nero and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

So, which is it: the first century or the Middle Ages? Let’s examine two of the texts involved to judge which historical events better fulfill the details predicted in Scripture.

Revelation 11:1-2 says the “temple of God” would be measured and Gentiles would tread under foot the “holy city” for 42 months. It cannot be overemphasized that interpretation of prophecy must agree with sound doctrine. For example, in the NT it is clear that after Pentecost, A.D. 30, the “temple of God” is the church of Christ (1 Cor. 3:16), not a physical temple in Jerusalem. Likewise, after Pentecost, A.D. 30, the “holy city” is identified as the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2), not earthly Jerusalem (Gal. 4:25-26).

With this sound doctrine as a basis, we must conclude that the prediction of Rev. 11:1-2 deals with the true worship of God, the church of Jesus Christ, and teaching that is heaven-approved. This view fits the facts of the Middle Ages, when the true worship, true church, and true doctrine of heaven were trampled under foot by Rome. And 42 months (1,260 days/years) fit that history.

Contrary to this, preterism assumes that after Pentecost, physical Jerusalem was still the “holy city” and its physical temple was still the “temple of God.” On that basis, preterism views the prophecy as a prediction of Gentiles treading under foot physical Jerusalem for 42 literal months until its fall in A.D. 70. However, the time frame does not fit. The siege, capture, and destruction of physical Jerusalem by Titus lasted only half a year. A.D. 70 was not the end of the Gentiles trampling physical Jerusalem; it was only the start! Beginning in A.D. 70, physical Jerusalem remained in the hands of one Gentile nation after another at the least until 1967. Not 3 1/2 years, not even 1,260 years, but at least 19 centuries! There is no way this prediction can apply to physical Jerusalem. The fulfillment must be found in the history of the Lord’s church.

Then there is the woman of Rev. 12, who fled to the wilderness for 3 1/2 years. Who and when was this? The common historical view is that the woman is the church of God, which was nearly invisible during the Middle Ages because of the dominance and persecution of the church of Rome. The common preterist view is that the woman was the church of Judea which fled across the Jordan to the town of Pella when the Romans attacked Jerusalem. Which interpretation fits the prediction in Rev. 12?

Rev. 12:13-14 says that the dragon, Satan, “persecuted the woman” causing her to flee. But the flight to Pella in the late A.D. 60’s had nothing to do with persecution of Christians. The Roman army was not in Palestine to fight the church, but rather to squelch the rebellion of the Jews. Indeed, Jesus had told his disciples to flee Jerusalem at that time because “these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (Luke 21:22). Jesus warned his followers so that Jewish believers could escape God’s vengeance upon Jewish unbelievers.

The flight of Jewish Christians in the late 60’s had nothing to do with them being persecuted by Satan. On the other hand, the plight of true Christians in the Middle Ages had everything to do with Christians being persecuted by Satan. There is no way the flight of the woman can apply to Jewish believers fleeing the destruction of Jerusalem at Jesus’ command. The fulfillment must rather be found in the atrocities endured by the Lord’s church in the Middle or Dark Ages. In short, the historical view is the view that best fits the predictions related to “time, times, and half a time.”