I have decided to post my recent term paper here on this blog. The title of this paper is “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” It was submitted to Northwestern College in Saint Paul, Minnesota as part of my course requirements, and is 48 pages in length. Due to its size, I plan to post it one segment at a time. For any readers who are not part of our Minneapolis-based Bible Study group here, in June 2009 we began to study the book of Revelation. As we study Revelation we are also comparing the popular Futurist viewpoint with the less popular, but more historic Partial-Preterist viewpoint. This paper will serve to foster further discussion and study.
Here’s a very brief note on my personal journey as it regards eschatology. I was taught the Pre-Tribulation Rapture view growing up, and believed it and passed it on. However, a few years ago I became convinced that this view is not correct or Biblical. At that time I instead embraced the Post-Tribulation Rapture view, based in part on the language used in Matthew 24:29-31 and II Thessalonians 2:3-4. However, during the last six months or so I’ve studied this subject more deeply than ever before, and have now embraced the Partial-Preterist view (As will be seen, I no longer view Matthew 24 or II Thessalonians 2 the way I did as a Post-Tribulationist). I’m certainly not infallible, so anything I post here should be seen for what it is, the writings of a fellow human who is continuing to learn and submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As you read this, please do follow the example of the Bereans who searched the Scriptures to make sure that what they were hearing was the truth (Acts 17:10-11). Responsible comments and critiques will be welcome, and I expect to learn from and be challenged by them.
As a practical note, the title of each segment belonging to this term paper will begin with “PP” and the appropriate number (e.g. this first one begins with “PP1”, the next segment will be headed by “PP2,” etc). It’s recommended that these segments be read in order. This first segment contains the paper’s Title Page, Outline, Introduction, and a brief introduction to Partial-Preterism. The outline will indicate the type of content that is to follow in future posts. All of the posts can also be found here:
[DISCLAIMER (Early 2011): Since 2009, when I wrote this paper, I have progressed in my understanding of eschatology. I’m now closer to full preterism than I was at that time, so please take what I said about the differences between partial-preterism and full preterism with a grain of salt. Thank you.]
A Partial-Preterist Perspective of the Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD
By Adam Maarschalk
Mentor: Mike Rusten
Course: Global Studies
July 10, 2009
(Second Edition: August 5, 2009)
B. Partial-Preterism Explained
C. The Book of Revelation: Early or Late Authorship?
I. External Evidence for an Early Date
II. Internal Evidence for an Early Date
D. Daniel’s 70-Week Prophecy
E. Jerusalem’s Destruction Foretold in the Olivet Discourse
I. Did Jesus Come in 70 AD?
II. Signs of the Close of the Age
III. The Abomination of Desolation
IV. No Greater Tribulation Before or Since
F. The Man of Lawlessness (II Thessalonians 2)
G. The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD
H. The Spiritual Significance of 70 AD
Search the average church website in America for teaching articles related to 70 AD, and no results are likely to turn up. A search for articles related to a future temple, though, one which is allegedly to be rebuilt in modern Jerusalem, is more likely to produce results. Taking the internet out of the equation, Church history reveals that this would not have been the case prior to the 1830s. This was the pivotal decade when John Nelson Darby laid the framework for dispensationalism, that system of belief which not only divides history into successive ages but holds to a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church. Dispensationalism was further popularized when the Scofield Reference Bible was published in 1909. As prophecy students were baited with the prospects of a future “third temple,” the story behind the previous one was pushed out of view, perhaps intentionally.
If it weren’t for the censorship of the history of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, the faith of many Christian believers in America today could be enriched by the knowledge of those events and their significance. The events leading up to and surrounding this event are full of rich implications, especially as they involve the disbanding of the Old Covenant and related practices, beliefs, superstitions, and man-made traditions. A case can be made that the period of time between Christ’s resurrection and the destruction of the temple in 70 AD was a period of transition, and that this event brought about a culmination of the Old Covenant dissolving in favor of the New Covenant. Hebrews 8:13 seems to indicate this when it uses the present perfect tense to say, “In speaking of a new covenant, He makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”
What happened in 70 AD is not pleasant to consider, as will be seen, but it was accomplished through God’s very hand of judgment. It was not simply a satanic plot to exterminate the Jews, as is often taught by dispensationalists. These events were of such importance that Luke was moved to say, “These are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written” (Luke 21:22). After 70 AD it was abundantly clear that a life immersed in Jesus was the true way of life, not Old Covenant Judaism. The events of that year were an outstanding fulfillment of many prophecies given by the prophets, apostles, and by Jesus Himself, and it’s a curious reality that this is not more often pointed out in Christian teaching today.
B. Partial-Preterism Explained
Admittedly, the events which took place around 70 AD hold more importance among Preterists than they do for Dispensationalists. This is because Preterism views this point in history as marking the fulfillment of a great deal of Biblical prophecy, while Dispensationalism holds that most Biblical prophecy remains yet to be fulfilled, including Daniel’s 70th Week, a 7-year tribulation period, and the salvation of national Israel. There are fundamental differences of opinion, then, in these two systems of thought regarding large portions of Biblical text. In this work, Partial-Preterism, rather than Hyper-Preterism, will be advocated and it will be through this lens that the events of 70 AD will be viewed. According to Wikipedia (2009),
Partial preterism is a form of Christian eschatology that places the events of most of the Book of Revelation as occurring during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD…yet still affirms an orthodox future bodily return of Christ to earth at an unknown day and hour. Partial preterism sees Matthew 24, Matthew 25:31-46, the Book of Daniel and most of the Book of Revelation (besides its last 2 or 3 chapters) as speaking about events no later than the first century AD, and about a coming of Christ in judgement, not the (second, final and bodily) coming of Christ and Last judgement.
Most 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… 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 literal (rather than covenantal) New Heavens and a New Earth…. Thus partial preterists are in agreement and conformity with the historic ecumenical creeds of the Church and articulate the doctrine of the resurrection held by the early Church Fathers… Because of the widespread acceptance of Dispensational Futurism amongst American evangelicals, Partial Preterism is often considered unorthodox by many… Partial Preterism is distinct from Full Preterism, which holds that ‘all’ biblical prophecy was fulfilled in the past.
Todd Dennis, founder of the comprehensive and highly resourceful Preterist Archive (www.preteristarchive.com), himself a Partial-Preterist, defines Preterism this way: “Preterism places the prophecies of intense evil and foreboding gloom in the first century, focusing on the events surrounding the forty-two-month long Neronic persecution, the forty-two-month long Jewish war with Rome, and the destruction of the temple. The word ‘preterist’ is based on the Latin ‘praeteritus,’ meaning ‘gone by’ or ‘past’” (Todd Dennis , 2009).
Notable proponents of Partial-Preterism include John Wesley, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, R. C. Sproul, David Chilton, Kenneth Gentry, Gary DeMar, and Hank Hanegraaff. In his book, The Last Days According to Jesus, R.C. Sproul (1998) clarifies that the Partial-Preterist position does not teach that the Second Coming took place in 70 AD, only that certain Biblical texts which are assumed by some to refer to the Second Coming in fact refer instead to a different type of coming. He says, “While partial preterists acknowledge that in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70 there was a parousia, or coming of Christ, they maintain that it was not the parousia” (page 158). Sproul outlines the differences between the two comings in this way:
|A coming (parousia) of Christ
||The Coming (parousia) of Christ
|A day of the Lord
||The Day of the Lord
||The (final) Judgment
|The end of the Jewish Age
||The end of history
||The Resurrection of the dead
||The Rapture of the living
[NOTE (added on March 14, 2010): Some partial-preterists do apparently see the Second Coming as a past event. One of these is Duncan McKenzie, who says,
Like full preterists, I see AD 70 as the time of the Second Coming, resurrection and judgment (with the resurrection and judgment having an ongoing fulfillment since that time). Like partial preterists I see certain prophetic events that still await fulfillment (e.g., the destruction of Satan at the end of the millennium described in Revelation 20:7-10). While my position is much closer to full preterism, I strongly disagree with its premise that all biblical prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70. Our approach is most similar to that of nineteenth-century theologian James Stuart Russell. Like full preterists, Russell saw AD 70 as the time of the Second Coming; unlike full preterists, Russell saw the Second Coming as the beginning of the millennium, not its end.]
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), in his work titled “Miscellany #1199, directly tied Christ’s predictions of His coming as recorded in the gospels to the events of 66-70 AD:
Tis evident that when Christ speaks of his coming; his being revealed; his coming in his Kingdom; or his Kingdom’s coming; He has respect to his appearing in those great works of his Power Justice and Grace, which should be in the Destruction of Jerusalem and other extraordinary Providences which should attend it [So in Luke 17:20 – 18:8].
As this idea of Christ’s coming in 70 AD is likely revolutionary for anyone immersed in Dispensationalist thought, it will be given more attention in the section where Christ’s words in the Olivet Discourse are examined. Jonathan Edwards, though, in his work titled “History of Redemption,” called this event the “final end to the Old Testament world,” and added that “the dissolution of the Jewish state was often spoken of in the Old Testament as the end of the world.” According to Edwards, this was an “instance of removing those things which [were] ready to vanish away, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain,” a reference to Hebrews 8:13 and 12:27-28.
Edwards’ position was that the Old Covenant was rendered obsolete because of Christ’s work on the cross, yet it was still “becoming” obsolete at the time Hebrews was written because the worship life that centered on Jerusalem and the temple was still alive (though meaningless) as long as the temple stood (Dennis Todd, 2009 ). These things did vanish away in 70 AD, and it became abundantly clear to anyone with eyes to see that all types and shadows had been replaced by the reality, Christ Himself. Judaism has never been the same since that time. With this interpretation John Piper (1996), the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, agrees. He states that it “is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance of what happened in A.D. 70 in Jerusalem. It was an event that, for Jews and Christians, was critical in defining their faith for the next 2000 years.”
It was noted that Hyper-Preterism, also known as Full-Preterism, goes far beyond Partial-Preterism in the significance it ascribes to 70 AD. The following, according to Todd Dennis (2009 ), are some of the tenets of Hyper-Preterism: [A] All Bible prophecy was fulfilled by 70 AD. [B] The atonement was incomplete at the cross, but was completed in 70 AD. [C] “The Consummation of the Ages” came in 70 AD. [D] “The Millennium” is in the past, having occurred from 30 AD to 70 AD. [E] The Christian Age began in 70 AD, and this present earth will never end. [F] “The Day of the Lord” was Israel’s destruction ending in 70 AD. [G] The “Second Coming” of Jesus Christ took place around 70 AD. [H] The Great Judgment took place in 70 AD, and there will be no future Judgment. [I] The Law, death, sin, the Devil, Hades, etc. were utterly defeated in 70 AD. [J] “The Resurrection” of the Dead and Living is past, having taken place in 70 AD (Dennis Todd, 2009 ). These tenets should not be seen as forming the basis for what is to follow.
 The inclusion of Matthew 25:31-46 here, implying a past fulfillment of this text, is debatable. An interesting article relating this judgment event as already fulfilled, but from a Full Preterist viewpoint, can be seen here: http://web.archive.org/web/20051218184900/www.preterism.us/judgement.htm