This is the second half of the discussion I recorded with Dave Edwards a few months ago. Check out the first part, Wind in Your Hands. This week we discussed Preterism and Futurism, which basically are diametrically opposed worldviews when it comes to end-times theology, and how each one shapes your outlook in obvious ways.
I explain in the introduction why it took so long for this episode to get published, as well as update a bit on things.
Why does this topic matter? Or I should ask, why does the temple destruction in Jerusalem in 70 AD matter to Christians in 2016?
Let me begin by letting you know a few things.
First, I’ve morphed over the years in my views of Eschatology (end times) away from a Pre-Tribulation rapture (think the Left Behind books), and for years I held a post-tribulation view. But in many ways, both Pre-Trib and Post-Trib still have the same worldview with a “terminal generation”. The only real difference between the two is Pre-Tribulation Rapture supposes The Church is on the first train out of here at the beginning of a seven-year time frame of intense tribulation, or the last 7 years of human history. Post-tribulation on the other hand says no, we will be here during that time frame. But both still need an “everything gets worse and worse” mentality and hug either a 7-year tribulation at the end of the age period or a 3 1/2 half year one, with the only significant difference being that they both differ in when exactly a rapture takes place.
Five years ago I was introduced to Harold R Eberle & Martin Trench’s book Victorious Eschatology and never have I had such “aha” moments about Eschatology as when reading that until a couple of years ago when I read Jonathan Welton’s book Raptureless.
Basically, the linchpin or pivot point for me has become Matthew 24 as well as the parallel passages in Mark 13 & Luke 21 having happened and been fulfilled when the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. and not needing “multiple fulfillments” or having another temple in the future built and then destroyed again. Once that’s settled, a lot of other dominos seem to fall into place a lot easier for me. Not to mention the Preterist approach has way fewer puzzle pieces missing. I don’t pretend it solves all of the problems for me, but like I said, I find myself with way fewer problems than I do when we throw this passage in the future or give it multiple fulfillments.
On the other hand I know some sincere believers and partners in our ministry who believe in an idea that because the Word of God is living, there can be multiple fulfillments of prophecies. However, this idea of having more than one fulfillment of the same prophecy is difficult for me to accept mostly because of the fact Jesus says it won’t repeat itself in Matthew 24, the linchpin passage regarding whether there’s a future temple or not:
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. (Verse 21)
Seems to me that this is a one-time fulfillment, and considering we have him also saying in verse 34,
“Truly, I say to you, THIS generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”
It’s not very good exegesis to insist a text means something other than what its author meant or what the original audience or hearers would have understood. If you were one of his disciples, and you approached him and asked, “Hey, you know you said the temple would not have one stone left on top of another? Well, when is that going to happen?”
And he started telling you EXACTLY when it will and says “this generation will not pass away until [all the things I’m describing take place”], then there’s really not much wiggle room to make that say something other than what it plainly says! But yet there are also people who have weird beliefs to make this fit their futurism:
For the Jews, a generation was considered 40 years, and not surprisingly, nearly 40 years later after he said these things, it happened in 70 AD. OK, so it was 37 years, but almost! And everything he said would happen or be would be signs of these things happening, happened. It’s up to the futurist to explain away “this generation” and come up with another explanation or give Biblical precedence for “multiple fulfillments” of prophecies. It’s up to the Preterist to explain when a few things happened in or before 70 A.D. that don’t look like they happened, I’ll admit that. But I find at least a soft or partial Preterism to fit the texts much easier out of these options.
But what part of the text did Jesus say “don’t worry about anything I’m saying, it’s for future generations thousands of years from now“? No, it makes much more sense if we read the text understanding that just as he told people to pray they weren’t pregnant or nursing in those times when it happened, it was because there were listeners present who more than likely would have to.
If one engages with the Biblical text without preconceived assumptions as to what needs to be fulfilled in the future, it’s easy to see that yes, past fulfillment of things, such as the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., just as Jesus predicted would happen in Matthew 24 WERE future events to the hearers, but historical events to us.
Enjoy the discussion:
Before you go…
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Thank you so much, and I look forward to talking to you in the next episode of Fire On Your Head.
Blessings and fire on your head!