Bible Gems #1
What is Preterism?
Preterism is the belief that all the prophecies of Scripture have already been fulfilled, and that prophecies dealing with the End Times and Christ’s Return were fulfilled around 70 AD. Preterists will cite examples from Scripture, such as Matthew 24:34 — I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened — to show that Jesus’ generation has indeed passed, so all His predictions of coming events must have passed as well.
The Preterist interpretation, however, does not take the context of the passage into account. “This generation” refers to the generation alive at the time marked by the phrase in verse 29, “immediately after the distress (tribulation, KJV) of those days.” Jesus then goes on to predict several events which will take place “at that time” (v. 30): the sun and moon darkened, stars dislocated from their normal location, and the Son of Man returning in glory, accompanied by angels, to “gather the elect” (vv. 30-31).
As you might guess, there are those who hold to a partial Preterist view, assigning some prophecies to history while still maintaining some events (the Great White Throne Judgment and the New Jerusalem, for example) are still in the future. But Partial Preterists typically believe that most of the events described in Revelation and related passages have already occurred, describing in allegorical fashion the spiritual warfare surrounding the first century church and Christ’s ultimate victory. As with full-fledged preterists, most prophecies are not understood literally.
For an informative and engaging discussion on the issue, please go to A Friendly Response to Hank Hanegraaf's Book, The Last Disciple" by Dr. Norm Geisler, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary. Thanks! — to Bob Baker for drawing my attention to this article.