Q: #164. What is preterism?
A: Preterism (from Latin “praeter” meaning “past”) teaches that either some (partial preterism) or all (full or chief preterism) of Biblical prophecy has been fulfilled in the past. In the majority of churches today, it is being taught that Biblical prophecy is still to be fulfilled in what is called the “end times” (called futurism). However, preterists generally hold that “end times” events were “partially” or “fully” fulfilled either with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. or during the Roman/Jewish war from 66-73 A.D.
A key verse for the preterist belief that “end times” prophecies were fulfilled in the past is found in the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24-25), in which Jesus, speaking on the “end times,” said, “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Mt 23:34). This is taken to literally mean that most or all of the “end times” events would be fulfilled very quickly, during the lifetimes of the “generation” that lived in the app. 40 years following Jesus’ death, rather than way in the future.
This being the case, many preterists believe that the Antichrist was Nero (Titus, Vespasian, and others have also been mentioned). Still others believe the Antichrist is figurative for Rome. Many believe the prophesied Tribulation was fulfilled during the 7 years of the Roman/Jewish war. Most preterists hold either a postmillennial or amillennial (see Q: #163) view of the Millennium, believing that we are either now in the Millennium, or there is no Millennium at all. (Some full preterists believe the “Millennium” is figurative for the period of time between Jesus’ death and the end of fulfilled prophecy.) “Babylon the great” (Rev 17-18) (who many theologians through the years, as well as many futurists, have claimed is the Catholic Church) is believed to have been Rome.
Concerning the prophecies of the resurrection of the dead and the Second Coming of Christ, most partial preterists believe that these are future events yet to be fulfilled. However, full preterists believe these events were also fulfilled in the past. It is claimed by most that the resurrection involved the raising of souls from Hades or Sheol, with righteous souls receiving spiritual bodies (rather than physical bodies) and unrighteous souls being cast into the Lake of Fire (along with Satan). Jesus’ Second Coming (often called Parousia) is not viewed as a future bodily return, but rather, His “return” symbolically occurred when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 70 A.D. This destruction is thought of as the “Second Coming of Christ” because it represented “Christ’s judgment” or because it is said to have permanently put an end to the Mosaic covenant (and the Temple rituals that went with it such as animal sacrifice).