What is the Preterist view of the end times?

Question: "What is the Preterist view of the end times?"

The preterist view regards Revelation as a symbolic picture of early church conflicts which have already been fulfilled. This view denies the future predictive quality of most of the book of Revelation. In varying degrees, this view combines the allegorical and symbolic interpretation with the concept that Revelation does not deal with specific future events. The preterist movement essentially teaches that all the end-times prophecies of the New Testament were fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Romans attacked and destroyed Jerusalem and Israel.

While the letters to the churches in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation were written to real churches in the first century, and they have practical applications for churches today, chapters 6-22 are written about events that are yet future. There is no reason to interpret unfulfilled prophecy allegorically. Previously fulfilled prophecies were fulfilled literally. For example, all of the Old Testament verses predicting the first coming of Christ were fulfilled literally in Jesus. Christ came at the time that He was predicted to come (Daniel 9:25-26). Christ was born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Christ suffered and died for our sins (Isaiah 53:5-9). These are but a few examples of the hundreds of Old Testament prophecies the Lord gave to the prophets that are recorded in Scripture and that were literally fulfilled. It simply does not make sense to try to allegorize unfulfilled prophecy or to understand unfulfilled prophecy in any other way than by a normal reading.

When you read Revelation chapters 6-18, you read of the most terrible time there will ever be on earth—the time when the beast (Antichrist) will rule for seven years (the Great Tribulation), and when the false prophet promotes the beast for the whole world to worship as God. Then in chapter 19, everything comes to a climax with the literal return of Christ. Christ defeats the beast and false prophet at the battle of Armageddon and then casts them into the lake of fire. In chapter 20, Christ has Satan bound in the abyss and then sets up His earthly kingdom for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:3). At the end of the 1,000 years, Satan is let loose and causes a brief rebellion, but then Christ quickly puts down the rebellion and casts Satan into the lake of fire (vv. 7-10). Then is the final judgment, the resurrection and judgment of all unbelievers. Chapters 21 and 22 describe the everlasting state, with all believers enjoying the presence of and fellowship with the Lord for all eternity.

Preterism is entirely inconsistent in its interpretation of the book of Revelation. According to the preterist view of the end times, chapters 6-18 of Revelation are symbolic and allegorical, not describing literal events. However, chapter 19, according to preterism, is to be understood literally. Jesus Christ will literally and physically return. Then, chapter 20 is again interpreted allegorically by preterists. Then, chapters 21-22 are understood at least partially literally, that there will truly be a new heaven and new earth. No one denies that Revelation contains amazing and sometimes confusing visions. No one denies that Revelation describes some things figuratively. However, to arbitrarily deny the literal nature of select portions of Revelation results in having no basis to interpret any of Revelation literally. If the seals, trumpets, bowls, witnesses, 144,000, beast, false prophet, Millennial Kingdom, etc., are allegorical or symbolic, on what basis do we claim that the second coming of Christ and the new earth are literal? That is the failure of preterism—it leaves the interpretation of Revelation to the opinions of the interpreter. Instead, we are to read it, believe it, and obey it—literally and exactly.

Recommended Resource: Understanding End Times Prophecy by Paul Benware.

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Related Topics:

What is the Olivet Discourse?

What is the Millennial Kingdom, and should it be understood literally?

Is partial preterism Biblical? What do partial preterists believe?

What is dispensationalism and is it Biblical?

What is premillennialism?

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What is the Preterist view of the end times?