Preterism

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Preterism is a variant of Christian eschatology which deals with the position of past-fulfilment of the Last Days (or End Times) prophecies in varying degrees. The term preterism is derived from the word preterite, or past perfect tense; it also has its roots in the Latin word pręter, meaning "past." Adherents of Preterism are known as Preterists.

Preterist eschatology, however, is not monolithic. There are two major schools of Preterist thought:

Partial Preterism and
Full Preterism.

These different schools of Preterism have been described in various ways. Some adherents of Partial Preterism call their own position Orthodox Preterism to designate its conformity to the historic, ecumenical Creeds of the Christian Church (in contrast to Full Preterism). Other labels for Partial Preterism include Classical Preterism and Moderate Preterism. Adherents of Full Preterism prefer either Full Preterism or Consistent Preterism in an appeal to its claim that all biblical prophecy was fulfilled in the first century AD; as such, Full Preterists believe Partial Preterists are inconsistent in their method of biblical interpretation.

There are two additional minor schools of preterist thought, the first being a variation of Partial Preterism which places fulfillment of some eschatological passages in the first three centuries, culminating in the fall of Rome. A second variation of Preterism can be found in certain liberal schools of thought which hold that the biblical record accurately reflects Jesus' and the Apostles' belief that all prophecy was to be fulfilled within their generation. However, according to this school, these prophecies never came to pass, thus proving the non-inspiration of the biblical text and the non-divinity of Jesus Christ.

Contents

Full Preterism

Full Preterism differs from Partial Preterism in that Full Preterists believe all prophecy was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem, including the resurrection of the dead and Jesus' Second Coming. This view holds that Jesus' Second Coming is to be viewed not as a future-to-us bodily return, but rather a "return" manifested by the physical destruction of Jerusalem and her Temple in AD 70 by foreign armies in a manner similar to various Old Testament descriptions of God coming to destroy other nations in righteous judgment. Full Preterism also holds that the Resurrection of the dead did not entail the raising of the physical body, but rather the resurrection of the soul from the "place of the dead," known as Sheol (Hebrew) or Hades (Greek). As such, the righteous dead obtained a spiritual and substantial body for use in the heavenly realm, and the unrighteous dead were cast into the Lake of Fire. Some Full Preterists believe this judgment is ongoing and takes effect upon the death of each individual (Heb. 9:27). The New Heavens and the New Earth are also equated with the fulfillment of the Law in AD 70 and are to be viewed in the same manner by which a Christian is considered a "new creation" upon his or her conversion.

Emerging from Full Preterism is Transmillennialism. Transmillennialism maintains the covenantal transformation that occurred in AD 70 and is using it as a model for personal, organizational and societal transformation today. Max King repopularized Full Preterism through the publishing of his book The Spirit of Prophecy in 1971 and The Cross and The Parousia of Christ in 1987. He is the founder of Transmillennialism (tm). His organization is Presence International (http://www.presence.tv/).

Partial Preterism

Partial Preterism holds that 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 at or about the year AD 70 when the Roman general (and future Emperor) Titus sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Jewish Temple, putting a permanent stop to the daily animal sacrifices.

Most (but not all) Partial Preterists also believe the term Last Days refers not to the last days of planet Earth or the last days of humankind, but rather to the last days of the Mosaic covenant which God had exclusively with national Israel until the year AD 70. As God came in judgment upon various nations in the Old Testament, Christ also came in judgment against those in Israel who rejected him. The "last days," however, are to be distinguished from the "last day," which is considered still future and entails the Second Coming of Jesus, the Resurrection of the righteous and unrighteous dead physically from the grave in like-manner to Jesus' physical resurrection, the Final Judgment, and the creation of a New Heavens and a New Earth free from the curse of sin and death which was brought about by the fall of Adam. Partial Preterists believe that the new creation comes in redemptive progression as Christ reigns from His heavenly throne, subjugating his enemies, and will eventually culminate in the destruction of physical death, the "last enemy" (1 Cor 15:20-24).

Nearly all Partial Preterists will hold to amillennialism or postmillennialism. Many postmillennial Partial Preterists are also theonomic in their outlook.

Influences of Preterism within Christian Thought

Partial Preterism, however, is generally the historic orthodox interpretation as it affirms all items of the ecumenical Creeds of the Church. Still, concerns are expressed by Dispensationalists that Partial Preterism logically leads to an acceptance of Full Preterism a concern which is denied by Partial Preterists.

Although Full Preterism is viewed as heretical by many, this condemnation is not universal. Many of those who condemn Full Preterism do so not only upon the historic creeds of the church (which would exclude this view), but also from biblical passages that they interpret to condemn a past view of the Resurrection or the denial of a physical resurrection/transformation of the body, doctrines which many Christians (but not all) believe to be essential to the faith.

Adherents of Full Preterism, however, dispute this assertion by claiming that any biblical condemnation of a past resurrection was written during a time in which the Resurrection was yet future (i.e., pre-AD 70) as well as claiming different interpretations of other proffered biblical passages. Furthermore, Full Preterists reject the authority of the Creeds to condemn their view, stating that the Creeds were written by uninspired and fallible men and are simply in error on this point and need to be reformed. A rapidly growing movement, there has been a strong push by Full Preterists for acceptance as another valid Christian view; however, to date, no major conservative denomination or group has officially accepted this view as normative. Of course, acceptance by the majority has never been the standard of what is true.

Partial Preterism is not in the majority view within American denominations founded after the 16th century and meets with significant vocal opposition from these sects.

Preterism vs. Futurism

Like most theological disputes, the divide between Preterism and its opposite, Futurism, is over how certain passages of Scripture should be interpreted. Futurists assert that Preterists have spiritualized prophecies they see as describing literal, visible events, whereas Preterists believe that Futurists do not take certain passages such as Matthew 16:28 literally enough and do not give sufficient weight to scriptures that seem to show that the first century Church believed that a major eschatological event would certainly take place in their lifetime. Many "time texts" in the New Testament appear to indicate this, such as: Matt. 10:23, Matt. 16:27-28, Matt. 24:34, Matt. 26:64, Rev. 1:1-3 to name a few. Full Preterists would assert that there are passages which also place the Second Coming and Resurrection at that time (Dan. 7:18; 12:1-7). Partial Preterists assert that there are also long time indicators and goals of the Consummation that include the complete eradiction of sin and the restoration of the Earth from its fallen state.

See also: prophetic futurism prophetic historicism

External links

Proponents of Full Preterism

Proponents of Partial Preterism

Critics of Preterism

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