You are hereThe History of Preterism and Futurism: Poisoning the Well

The History of Preterism and Futurism: Poisoning the Well

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By Virgil - Posted on 11 January 2010

by Gary DeMar
The following is a response to a critic of preterism named Darrell Myatt. While I’ve answered many of the objections he raises here and here, I wanted to discuss his opening statement about the origin of preterism. Futurists, mostly dispensational premillennialists, claim that their position has historical pedigree. The majority of the early church fathers are said to have been premillennialists.

A study of the history of the period will show that this is a gross overstatement, a point Frank Gumerlock and I make in our book The Early Church and the End of the World. But even it could be proved that premillennialism was the favored position of the early church (the Ante-Nicene period), this would not be a defense of dispensational premillennialism since the dispensational variety of premillennialism is a nineteenth-century invention. Moreover, while history is instructive, it is not authoritative. In the final analysis, Christians should want to know what the Bible says on the subject of eschatology.A modern-day competitor to dispensationalism and a long-term competitor to full blown futurism is preterism. Preterists believe the majority of NT prophetic texts were fulfilled in the lead up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in A.D. 70. Preterists base their reasoning on the use of time words like “near,” “shortly, and “quickly,” the way “this generation” is used by Jesus in the synoptic gospels, and other considerations.

The audience reference of the second person plural (“you”) is also an indicator of when certain prophetic events were to take place. For example, in Matthew 24:33, Jesus tells His present audience, “when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, at the door.” So when someone claims that “this generation” refers to the generation that sees the signs outlined by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse, preterists point to Matthew 24:33, Mark 13:29, and Luke 21:31. It was that generation that saw the aforementioned signs. If Jesus had a future generation in view, He could have easily identified it by stating, “when they see all these things, then they will recognize that He is near, at the door.”

By the way, notice that “near” is defined by Jesus as “at the door,” not down the block or in the next county. Also see Revelation 3:20 where Jesus told the book’s first readers: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” To be “at the door” is to be close enough to knock. A similar self-identifying definition is found in James 5:8–9: “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” This is the way modern-day prophecy writers understand the use of “near” and “at hand” when they write on the subject. Here are two examples from prominent dispensational scholar John F. Walvoord:
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chrisliv's picture


Nice points.

Poisoning the well, so to speak, is a cheap trick.

It would be nice to see a few examples of Dispensationalists who debate the Preterist position fairly and with consistency in their terms, especially with the time statements (as you pointed out).

Preterist Eschatology has potential in making the Earth a more friendly place as it becomes more pervasive, as it may help churchgoers be more open to Christ's Kingdom as a present reality, and cause them to exhibit less blind obedience to the imperial States of the World System, and maybe they'll even begin to separate themselves from those hostile State systems.

Of course, the exciting and fun thing is, that men and women still have a choice.

Peace to you all,
C. Livingstone

davecollins's picture

Gary, I agree with my friend Chris, good points. The amazing thing about our detractors is their inability to logically disprove the fulfilled position. Usually they will talk about creeds,traditional teaching and man breathed interpretations.
I have no doubt that even great minds need to be open to truth for it to penetrate and gain acceptance. My Pastor,and I assume other Pastors talk alot about truth, and hold it in high regard....but when it comes to eschatology they would rather drown in the confused chaos found in the poisoned swamp of futurism than examine and embrace our "heresy" .The New Wine continues to burst the Old wineskins and hardly anyone notices the mess it leaves..

Virgil's picture

Well, I think there are two issues: First they do not understand Preterism, so they try to refute it out of ignorance (like asking the question: did Jesus set foot on the Mount of Olives in AD 70?), and secondly, they consciously reject it when they understand what it is, causing them to scramble for proof-texts that supposedly prove them right.

Neither approach is working as I have never seen a sound scholarly critique of Preterism so far. All critical attempts end up in ad-hominem attacks and never make it out of the "poisoned swamp of futurism" as you said.

davecollins's picture

Virgil, I agree with your analysis of their thought process and reactions, but I marvel that there is such an emotional response when their futurism is questioned.I have spoken with intelligent,thoughtful and studious folks who instantly become quite the opposite when talking or screaming about the pre-mill dispy tenets..It is amazing. Take care, hope things are well in Ohio with you and the family.Dave

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