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Preterism Refutation (Part 1) - The Biblical Teaching on the Second Coming



I. Defining Preterism
1. Preterist n. - 1. One whose chief interest is in the past; one who regards the past with most pleasure or favour. 2. Theol. a. One who holds that the prophecies of the Apocalypse have been already (wholly or in great part) fulfilled. (OED)
2. "Preterism is a Christian eschatological view that interprets some (partial preterism) or all (full preterism) prophecies of the Bible as events which have already happened. This school of thought interprets the Book of Daniel as referring to events that happened from the 7th century BC until the first century AD, while seeing the prophecies of Revelation as events that happened in the first century AD. Preterism holds that Ancient Israel finds its continuation or fulfillment in the Christian church at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

"The term preterism comes from the Latin praeter, which Webster's 1913 dictionary lists as a prefix denoting that something is "past" or "beyond". Adherents of preterism are commonly known as preterists. Preterism teaches that either all (full preterism) or a majority (partial preterism) of the Olivet discourse had come to pass by AD 70.

"Historically, preterists and non-preterists have generally agreed that the Jesuit Luis de Alcasar (1554–1613) wrote the first systematic preterist exposition of prophecy—Vestigatio arcani sensus in Apocalypsi (published in 1614)—during the Counter-Reformation." (Preterism, Wikipedia, 4-2-19)

3. Preterism was a Roman Catholic answer to the Protestants claims that the Roman Catholic Church was Mystery Babylon and the Pope was the antichrist.
A. "A prominent preterist exposition of prophecy was written by the Jesuit Luis de Alcasar during the Counter Reformation. Moses Stuart noted that Alcasar's preterist interpretation was of considerable benefit to the Roman Catholic Church during its arguments with Protestants, and preterism has been described in modern eschatological commentary as a Catholic defense against the Protestant Historicist view which identified the Roman Catholic Church as a persecuting apostasy." (Preterism, Wikipedia, 4-2-19)
4. Preterism is comprised of two positions: partial preterism and full preterism.
A. Partial Preterism
i. "Partial preterism (often referred to as orthodox preterism or classical preterism) may hold that most eschatological prophecies, such as the destruction of Jerusalem, the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, and the advent of the Day of the Lord as a "judgment-coming" of Christ, were fulfilled either in AD 70 or during the persecution of Christians under the Emperor Nero.

Some partial preterists may believe that the Antichrist, the Great Tribulation, and the advent of the Day of the Lord as a "judgment-coming" of Christ, were not historically fulfilled.

Some partial preterists identify "Babylon the Great" (Revelation 17–18) with the pagan Roman Empire, though some, such as N.T. Wright, David Chilton, and Kenneth Gentry identify it with the city of Jerusalem. Most interpretations identify Nero as the Beast, while his mark is often interpreted as the stamped image of the emperor's head on every coin of the Roman Empire: the stamp on the hand or in the mind of all, without which no one could buy or sell. Another partial preterist view regards first and second century events as recurrent patterns with Nero and Bar Kochba presented as archetypes. There is evidence that the epithet of Bar Kochba is a play on the Hebrew "Shema" with the value equating to the gematria value of 666. The pun on his patronymic equates to the variant reading 616. However, others believe the Book of Revelation was written after Nero's suicide in AD 68, and identify the Beast with another emperor. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that Revelation was "written during the latter part of the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, probably in AD 95 or 96". Many Protestant scholars agree. The Second Coming, resurrection of the dead, and Final Judgment however, have not yet occurred in the partial preterist system." (Preterism, Wikipedia, 4-2-19)

B. Full Preterism
i. "Full preterism differs from partial preterism in that full preterists believe that the destruction of Jerusalem fulfilled all eschatological or "end times" events, including the resurrection of the dead and Jesus' Second Coming, or Parousia, and the Final Judgment." (Preterism, Wikipedia, 4-2-19)

ii. "Full preterists argue that a literal reading of Matthew 16:28 (where Jesus tells the disciples that some of them will not taste death until they see him coming in his kingdom) places the second coming in the first century. This precludes a physical second coming of Christ. Instead, the second coming is symbolic of a "judgment" against Jerusalem, said to have taken place with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. For this reason, some people also call full preterism "the AD 70 Doctrine." R. C. Sproul says of full preterist Max R. King, of Ohio; "For this schema to work, the traditional idea of resurrection must be replaced with a metaphorical idea of resurrection"." (Preterism, Wikipedia, 4-2-19)

II. Full Preterism teaches that the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, the final judgment, and the destruction of the heavens and the earth all happened spiritually in or by 70AD.
1. They admit that there is no evidence that these things actually happened in 70AD.
2. Therefore they must spiritualize them.
3. "Does any one expect Tacitus, or Suetonius, or Josephus, or any other historian, to relate that 'the Son or man was seen coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; that He summoned the nations to His tribunal, and rewarded every man according to his works'? There is a region into which witnesses and reporters may not enter; flesh and blood may not gaze upon the mysteries of the spiritual and immaterial." (James Stuart Russell, The Parousia, p. 112)
4. "It may be said that we have no evidence of such facts having occurred as are here described, --the Lord descending with a shout, the sounding of the trumpet, the raising of the sleeping dead, the rapture of the living saints. True; but is it certain that these are facts cognisable by the senses? is their place in the region of the material and the visible?" (James Stuart Russell, The Parousia, p. 168)

III. Before getting to preterism, let's examine the Biblical teaching on the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, the final judgment, and the destruction of the heavens and earth.

1. The second coming of Christ
A. Christ will return in like manner as the disciples saw Him leave (Act 1:11).
i. Like adj. - 1. Having the same characteristics or qualities as some other person or thing; of approximately identical shape, size, colour, character, etc., with something else; similar; resembling; analogous.
ii. Manner n. - 1. a. The way in which something is done or takes place; method of action; mode of procedure. b. in like manner, also like manner: in a similar way, similarly.
iii. See v. - 1. a. trans. To perceive (light, colour, external objects and their movements) with the eyes, or by the sense of which the eye is the specific organ.
iv. The disciples beheld Christ ascending into the physical clouds of the sky (Act 1:9).
a. Behold v. - 7. trans. a. To hold or keep in view, to watch; to regard or contemplate with the eyes; to look upon, look at (implying active voluntary exercise of the faculty of vision).
b. The first six definitions were not cited by the OED after the 1400s.
v. Christ departed into heaven in a physical body (Luk 24:36-40; Luk 24:50-51; Joh 20:24-29).
vi. Therefore, since Christ will return in like manner as He left, if Christ was physically seen leaving this earth in a physical body in the clouds, He will be physically seen returning in a physical body in the clouds.
vii. This is exactly what the scriptures teach.
B. Jesus Christ will appear and "they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven" (Mat 24:30).
i. Appear v. 1. To come forth into view, as from a place or state of concealment, or from a distance; to become visible.
ii. Jesus will appear the second time without sin unto salvation (Heb 9:28) and we will see Him (1Jo 3:2).
iii. Every eye shall see Him coming in the clouds, just as when He left (Rev 1:7).
C. All tribes of the earth and all kindreds shall mourn and wail when they see Him coming (Mat 24:30; Rev 1:7).

2. The resurrection
A. The resurrection will be on the last day (Joh 6:39, 40, 44, 54; Joh 11:24; Job 14:12-15).
B. Physical dead bodies will be resurrected.
i. Christ was the firstfruits of the resurrection (1Co 15:20-21).
a. The bodies of the saints will be resurrected in like manner (1Co 15:23).
b. If the dead are not resurrected, then Christ was not resurrected (1Co 15:13, 15-16).
ii. All of the bodies of the dead will be resurrected from the graves (Joh 5:28-29; Psa 71:20).
iii. Jesus Christ was resurrected in a physical, flesh & bone body (Luk 24:36-40; Joh 20:24-29).
a. The saints will likewise be resurrected in physical, flesh & bone bodies (1Co 15:20-23).
b. Christ's physical body saw no corruption (Act 2:31).
c. The bodies of the saints will be raised incorruptible like Christ's body (1Co 15:42, 52-54).
iv. The resurrected saints will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air at His second coming (1Th 4:16-17).
v. We shall see God in our flesh after our bodies have been resurrected (Job 19:25-27) on the same day that the heavens and the earth are destroyed (Job 14:12-15).

3. The final judgment
A. The final judgment will happen at the second coming of Christ (Mat 25:31).
B. All nations will be gathered before Christ's throne at that time to be judged (Mat 25:32-33).
C. The righteous will go away into life eternal in the kingdom that was prepared for them from the foundation of the world (Mat 25:34, 46).
D. The wicked will depart into everlasting fire to experience everlasting punishment (Mat 25:41, 46; Rev 20:10-15).
E. The Bible clearly teaches that all of the wicked from all nations will be literally cast into the lake of fire at the second coming of Christ.

4. The destruction of the heavens and earth
A. There will be those in the last days who will ridicule the teachings of the apostles and prophets of a literal end of the physical earth and universe (2Pe 3:3-4).
i. The phrase "the beginning of the creation" (v.4) points to the creation of the physical universe.
ii. Therefore, the world under consideration in 2Pe 3 is the created, physical world.
B. The physical heavens and the earth will be destroyed by fire on the day that Christ returns to judge the wicked (2Pe 3:7).
C. On the day of the Lord the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth will be burned up (2Pe 3:10).
i. Heaven n. - 1. a. The expanse in which the sun, moon, and stars, are seen, which has the appearance of a vast vault or canopy overarching the earth, on the ‘face’ or surface of which the clouds seem to lie or float; the sky, the firmament.
ii. Noise n. - 1. a. Loud outcry, clamour, or shouting; din or disturbance made by one or more persons. 3. a. A loud or harsh sound of any kind; a din.
iii. Element n. - 1. One of the simple substances of which all material bodies are compounded. (first usage in 1724) 2. In wider sense: One of the relatively simple substances of which a complex substance is composed; in pl. the ‘raw material’ of which a thing is made.
iv. Melt n. - 1. a. To become liquefied by heat. to melt away: be destroyed or wasted by being melted.
v. Earth n. - I. The ground. 1. Considered as a mere surface. II. The world on which we dwell. 7. The dry land, as opposed to the sea. 8. The world as including land and sea; as distinguished from the (material) heaven. 9. a. Considered as the present abode of man; frequently contrasted with heaven or hell. IV. As a substance or material. 12. a. The material of which the surface of the ground is composed, soil, mould, dust, clay.
D. The heavens and the earth will be dissolved on that day (2Pe 3:11-12).
i. Dissolve v. - 1. To loosen or put asunder the parts of; to reduce to its formative elements; to destroy the physical integrity; to disintegrate, decompose. 2. To melt or reduce into a liquid condition. a. To melt by heat; to fuse. 1382 Wyclif 2 Pet. iii. 10 Elementes shulen be dissolued bi hete.
ii. The world before the flood was destroyed by water (2Pe 3:6).
iii. This world will be destroyed by fire.
a. The entire world was destroyed by the flood.
b. The entire world will be destroyed by fire.
c. 2Pe 3 is no more teaching that the destruction of the heavens and the earth was the localized destruction of Jerusalem than it is teaching that the flood was a localized flood.
E. By the primary definitions of the words, the Bible clearly teaches that the literal earth, atmosphere, and outer space will be melted with fervent heat and destroyed at the return of Christ.
F. The denial of the visible coming of Jesus Christ, the destruction of the physical universe, and the ushering in of a literal new heavens and earth is the error of the wicked (2Pe 3:17 c/w 2Pe 3:3-16).
5. Full Preterism has just been refuted simply by looking at verses in the Bible (and defining the words) that deal with the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, the final judgment, and the destruction of the heavens and the earth.
6. The rest of this outline will expand upon this refutation.