Preterism – Is the Great Tribulation past?

I believe it is! And it isn’t. That is, it seems appropriate to hold that there are two fulfillments of the prophecies of a great time of tribulation, and that the siege of Jerusalem and the trouble in those days, with a Gentile standing in the temple, is a foreshadowing of a future, more complete fulfillment, as in Antiochus Epiphanes being a shadow of a future antichrist, as in (with regard to a completely different prophecy) “a virgin shall conceive” in Isa. 7:14, fulfilled then, and fulfilled also fully in the coming of Christ.

“There is strong evidence that Revelation was written in the 90s well after Nero was dead during Domitian’s reign. If so, this would make the [interpretation that Revelation was fulfilled at AD 70] false. Briefly stated the evidence for dating Revelation in the 90s A.D. is as follows: First, this futurist view of the Tribulation, Antichrist, and/or even Millennium was held by many of the earliest Fathers including Irenaeus (2nd century) who said ‘It was seen not very long ago, almost in our own generation, at the close of the reign of Domitian’ (Against Heresies 5.30.3). This was confirmed by Victorinus (3rd century) who wrote: ‘When John said these things, he was in the island of Patmos, condemned to the mines by Caesar Domitian’ (Commentary of Revelation 10:11). Likewise, Eusebius (4th century) confirmed the Domitian date (Ecclesiastical History 3.18). Second, other early Fathers after A.D. 70 refer to the Tribulation or Antichrist spoken of in Revelation as yet future (see Commondianus [3rd century], Instructions 44, and Ephraem of Syria [4th century], On the Last Times, 2). Third, the conditions of the seven churches (Rev. 2-3) fit this later period rather than that reflected in Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 and 2 Timothy which were written in the 60s. For example, the church at Ephesus in Revelation had lost its first love (Rev. 2:4) and others like Laodicea (Rev. 3:14f.) had fallen from the Faith. Fourth, it was not until the reign of Domitian that emperor worship as reflected in Revelation was instituted. Fifth, Laodicea appears as a prosperous city in Revelation 3:17, yet it was destroyed by an earthquake in c. A.D. 61, during Nero’s reign, and would not have recovered so quickly in a couple of years. Sixth, John’s exile on the island of Patmos implies a later date when persecution was more rampant (1:9). Seventh, the references to persecution and Martyrdom in the churches reflect a later date (cf. Rev. 2:10, 13 cf.). Eighth, Polycarp’s reference to the church at Smyrna (to the Philippians 11.3) reveals that it did not exist in Paul’s day (by A.D. 64) as it did when John wrote Revelation 2:8. Ninth, the Nicolaitans (of Rev. 2:6, 11) were not firmly established until nearer the end of the century. Tenth, there is not sufficient time on the early date for John’s arrival in Asia (late 60s) and replacement of Paul as the respected leader of the Asian Church (see discussion in Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, vol. 2, chapter 7).”

– Norman Geisler

Here are some quotes showing a date of Revelation after the fall of Jerusalem:

“We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.” (Irenaeus, “Against Heresies, 5.30.3)

Thomas Ice comments: “Today, the overwhelming consensus of scholarship believes that Revelation was written well after a.d. 70. Most have concluded that Revelation was written around a.d. 95, primarily because of the statement by early church father Irenaeus (a.d. 120-202) around a.d. 180.”

‘And He says unto me, Thou must again prophesy to the peoples, and to the tongues, and to the nations, and to many kings.’ He says this, because when John said these things he was in the island of Patmos, condemned to the labor of the mines by Caesar Domitian. There, therefore, he saw the Apocalypse; and when grown old, he thought that he should at length receive his quittance by suffering, Domitian being killed, all his judgments were discharged. And John being dismissed from the mines, thus subsequently delivered the same Apocalypse which he had received from God.” (Victorinus, “Commentary on the Apocalypse”, Rev. 10:11)

This seems clear as well.

“Irenaeus, in the fifth book of his work Against Heresies, where he discusses the number of the name of Antichrist which is given in the so-called Apocalypse of John, speaks as follows concerning him: “If it were necessary for his name to be proclaimed openly at the present time, it would have been declared by him who saw the revelation. For it was seen not long ago, but almost in our own generation, at the end of the reign of Domitian.”

“To such a degree, indeed, did the teaching of our faith flourish at that time that even those writers who were far from our religion did not hesitate to mention in their histories the persecution and the martyrdoms which took place during it. And they, indeed, accurately indicated the time. For they recorded that in the fifteenth year of Domitian Flavia Domitilla, daughter of a sister of Flavius Clement, who at that time was one of the consuls of Rome, was exiled with many others to the island of Pontia in consequence of testimony born to Christ.” (Eusebius, “Church History”, 3.18)

And this also is quite good confirmation. Thomas Ice continues:

“Further support for Irenaeus’ statement is seen in some of the early enemies of Irenaeus’ interpretation of Revelation. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Eusebius, to name just a few, support Irenaeus’ statement of a Domitian date. They did not believe that the statement of Irenaeus was not clear and should be doubted, as many contemporary preterists desperately contend.”

“Preterist Ken Gentry has noted this major weakness when he said of fellow early date advocate David Chilton, ‘if it could be demonstrated that Revelation were written 25 years after the Fall of Jerusalem, Chilton’s entire labor would go up in smoke.’ Actually, all one would have to do is to show that Revelation was written any time after the destruction of Jerusalem.”

Here are some comments on John Bray’s book, “Matthew 24 Fulfilled”, which presents a preterist perspective.

Matthew 24:2  “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

“But what [Jesus’] statement suggests is that of utter destruction, and as a matter of fact it was fulfilled in a near-literal way” (p. 14).

But “utter destruction” does not leave a wall standing, as in the wailing wall, the western foundation of the temple, thus all is not yet fulfilled.

“Many prophecies which we have assigned to a future second coming of Christ … were actually fufilled at the end of THEIR age, in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple” (p. 16).

But doesn’t “age to come” in Heb.6:5 refer to the next age? So then it’s still future, see also here:

Luke 18:29-30  “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God  will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”

If “this age” ended in AD 70, then today we are in “the age to come,” and Jesus’ promise here refers specifically to the time before AD 70:

Matthew 28:20  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

But I expect Jesus meant this promise to be applied beyond then, indicating that the time he referred to is still continuing now, and “the age to come” will be at Jesus’ return (see also 1 Tim. 6:19, Mt. 13:49).

“The Jewish people recognized two ages–the one in which they then lived (under the law), and the future age of the Messiah” (p. 19)

When the Messiah would rule! And not just that the Messiah would appear. So then Jesus’ reply to when “the end of the age” would be must mean the time when Jesus begins to rule on earth, that was surely what the disciples were concerned about, and that is what Jesus was, I expect, primarily answering:

Acts 1:6  So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

“This is the same age referred to as was mentioned in Heb. 9:26, ‘Now once IN THE END OF THE WORLD (ages) that he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.’ The crucifixion of Christ took place as THAT age was coming near a close. … Paul, writing elsewhere regarding his contemporaries, said, ‘upon whom the ends of the world (ages) are come’ (1 Cor. 10:11). … It was THEIR age under discussion–not OUR age.” (p. 19)

But as he quotes here, the word “age” is plural, again and again. The expression is “the end of the ages,” so then is our age ended, too?

“Thus, the end of the age which Jesus and the disciples anticipated, was the end of the Jewish age which took place when the Jewish Temple, rituals, and the capital city were all completely destroyed.” (p. 19)

And yet the Messiah must begin to rule on earth, to start the next age! In Luke 18:29-30, “age to come” matches Jesus ruling, in this passage in Matthew:

Matthew 19:27-28  Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

And here is the parallel in Luke:

Luke 18:28-30  Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”

So clearly, the age to come must be when the disciples sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. A very Jewish age! And not the current time of the church. And in the age to come the Messiah is really ruling on earth, along with those who followed him.

“Evident therefore it is that the ‘great and terrible day of the Lord’ [Joel 2:31] … is no other, according to inspiration itself, than the day of Jerusalem’s judicial destruction‘ (David Brown, p. 438)” (p. 20)

“For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance” (Joel 2:32), not destruction.

“Jesus died at the end of the age (Heb. 9:26)” (p. 20)

But “age” is “ages,” it is plural here, so again, is our age ended as well?

“The days it would have taken for the complete destruction of the city were shortened, first because of the Roman general Titus wanting to get the siege over with as soon as possible; and secondly, because of the internal strife and warring among the factions of the Jews themselves…” (p. 100)

But this interpretation is appropriate only if Titus was more merciful because there had been less delay, but it would seem that was not why he was trying to conquer the city more quickly, in order to spare more lives.

“He was speaking about ‘no flesh’ of the Jewish nation…” (p. 100)

Literally, this is “not all flesh,” or “none of all flesh,” and “all flesh” refers to all people of all kinds:

1 Peter 1:24  For, “All flesh is like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field…”

This is not “all Jewish people” here, or here:

Luke 3:6 And all flesh will see God’s salvation.

Romans 3:20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

1 Corinthians 1:29 so that no flesh may boast before God.

Galatians 2:16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

And “no flesh” in the above verses is the same sort of expression as in Mt. 24:22, yet clearly these other verses mean all people everywhere.

“The word ‘flesh’ as used here would have the same meaning as the word ‘flesh’ as found in Isa. 66:15-16… Edwin J. Young says: ”All flesh is here not to be taken in a universal sense, as, for example, Smart does, but is defined by the following verse. It stands for those of the Jeiwsh nation, the great majority, who have aboandoned the Lord for the service of idols. The verse pictures the judgment to all upon the Jewish nation at the time of Christ.'” (p. 100)

But this is a passage about Zion being delivered, “I will extend peace to her like a river” (Isa. 66:12), and “all flesh” also is shown to refer to the other nations, primarily, here:

Isaiah 66:18  And I, because of their actions and their imaginations, am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory.

So this cannot mean just the Jewish nation, and thus “all flesh” means all people.

“… with all the actual tragic consequences of that judgment in the sufferings that befell the Jews until the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. It is this of which our Lord speaks in Matthew 24:22 (note His usage of the words … all flesh‘ (Edward J. Young, p. 530)” (p. 101)

Yet we read here:

Isaiah 66:13  “… and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Note also “all flesh will bow” in Isa. 66:23, and “to all flesh” in v. 24, clearly referring to all of all kinds of people.

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