I try not to cloud my readers’ minds with the twaddle that seems to be everywhere today especially in the halls of academia. The subject of ‘Preterism’ seems to be enjoying a revival of some sort today.
This is the approach to the book of Revelation that claims most of it has already been fulfilled, except perhaps for the last couple of chapters or so. The issue of preterism revolves substantially around the date of the writing of the Apocalypse by John.
Preterists try to prove that John wrote the book before AD 70. This is so it can be claimed that all the prophecies contained in the book are said to have been directed to that time before AD 70 and have nothing either to do with the unfolding of church history or the future beyond AD 70.
Reconstructionist Gary de Mar wrote me a letter in which he rebuked me for my lack of scholarship and concluded his letter by writing:
‘Until you late-daters (regarding the book of Revelation) answer Ken Gentry’s "Before Jerusalem Fell", the debate is over. If you are going to publish works that are scholarly, follow these two steps: first do your historical homework. Second do your exegetical homework.’
Here we have an example of that dogmatism which has always been the curse of eschatology. Ken gentry’s book is merely an argument for the early date of the book of Revelation which is at best VERY debatable. For there is not one early church father who held to the early date. And the arguments for the later date are every bit as compelling as those he dredges up for the early date. Hengsternberg, who certainly was no mean scholar, wrote that the state of the church of Laodicea is a compelling argument internally for the later date. For churches do not fall into a state of lukewarmness in 8 or 9 years, which would be the case if John wrote around AD 68.
Usually those who spend several years and their energies getting a new church started and put their lives on the line and make sacrifices to see the work of the Lord prosper, do not get lukewarm right away after that. It is usually the second generation, as church history amply illustrates which does not take the same stand, do not appreciate the battle needed to keep a work gaining, and who inherit a financially secure work, who tend toward self-sufficiency and lukewarmness. They inherit an established work without having to sacrifice. Such was Hengsternberg’s argument and it is still valid today in spite of Gentry’s claims.
It is well for the reader to realise that while Ken Gentry and Edward Stevens engage in debate as to what form of ‘preterism’ is orthodox, that none of the Reformers were preterist in their approach to the book of Revelation. They argue about hyper-preterism, exegetical preterism, theological preterism, consistent preterism, full preterism and R. C. Sproul weighs in with radical preterism and moderate preterism without ever seeming to recognise that preterism is a Jesuit-Romanist invention, not a Protestant Reformed teaching.
Preterism was first advanced in 1604 by Jesuit Luis de Alcasar to destroy the Reformed Protestant teaching that the papacy was Mystery Babylon, the Great Whore and the historical Antichrist.
WHAT SCHOLARS HAD TO SAY ABOUT PRETERISM
Henry Alford (an Anglican Greek scholar)
‘The praeterist view found no favour and was hardly so much as thought of in the time of primitive Christianity. Those who lived near the date of the book of Revelation itself had no idea that its groups of imagery were intended merely to describe things then passing, and to be in a few years completed. This view is said to have been first promulgated in anything like completeness by the Jesuit Alcasar, in his "Vestigatio Arcani Sensus in Apocalypsi" (1604). Very nearly, the same plan was adopted by Grotius. The next great name among this school of interpreters is that of Bossuet the great antagonist of Protestantism.’
Also dismissing the Jesuit-Romanist Preterist approach, Charles Hodge noted that the preterists of his time for the most part were German Rationalists.
‘[they] were German interpreters who, denying any real prediction of the future, confine the views of Daniel and John to their contemporary history’.
He lists some of the liberal scholars such as Ewald, DeWette and Lucke, who not only denied the predictive element in Scripture but also denied the inspiration and authority of the Word of God.
This 19th century Bible commentator observed that when the Reformed Protestant position that the papacy was the historical Man of Sin had become settled, the Jesuits introduced their positions to counter the teaching of the reformers. He thought it not a little remarkable that the Jesuit positions originated in the necessities of the papal cause oppressed by Protestant interpreters. In other words the Jesuits felt that Protestantism was winning the battle over Roman Catholicism by depicting Rome as the Great Harlot Church, Mystery Babylon and the historical antichrist. So they deliberately worked to counteract the Protestant Reformed teaching by propounding the preterist approach to the Apocalypse.
The modern Roman Catholic scholar in his book ‘The Jesuits’ describes the men of the Society of Jesus, really the society of Loyola, as the Pope’s men. He wrote:
‘In truth, his wish [Ignatius of Loyola] was fulfilled for his Jesuits were pope’s men. Their first main targets, the new Protestant churches pullulating throughout Europe. Precisely the vital issue at stake between the Roman Catholic Church and the leaders of the Protestant revolt – Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII – was the authority of the Roman Pontiff and the pre-eminent primacy of his Roman Catholic Church.
The Jesuits carried the battle right into the territories of the papal enemies. They waged public controversies with kings, they debated in protestant universities. They infiltrated hostile territories in disguise and moved underground. They were everywhere. Their constant theme: the Bishop of Rome is the successor to Peter, the apostle upon, whom Christ founded His Church. That church is a hierarchy of bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome, any other churchly institution is rank heresy, the child of Satan.’
AIM OF EARLY JESUITS
So the early Jesuits had one goal in mind and that was to overthrow the Protestant Reformation and bring every church back into submission to the Roman Pontiff. One of the main parts of that conspiratorial organisation’s efforts centered about the struggle to remove the stigma of Antichrist which all Reformers had placed upon Rome. In England, Tyndale, Latimer, Ridley, Hooper and Bradford who were burned at the stake for their stand against what they taught, that the Papacy was the great historical Antichrist, the persecutor of God’s elect.
No matter what kind of preterism people argue about today, it should be remembered that it has absolutely nothing to do with Protestant Reformed teaching but has all to do with Jesuit-Romanism.
Had the Reformers been preterist in their approach to the book of Revelation and believed that the Antichrist was Nero (which teaching Gentry, De Mar and other Jesuit preterists uphold, although Calvin called this is an old wife’s tale), there would have been no Protestant Reformation at all. Why? Because the Reformers main teaching called for separation from the Great Whore of Babylon, the mystical Antichrist at Rome, so that they would not commit spiritual fornication with the great prostitute church, which they all taught was still going on in the 16th century - long after the death of Nero!
What passes for Protestant Reformed teaching today, as we see, may be Jesuit-Romanist, so let us all do our homework indeed. Do not take my word for it. Christians should do their own historical homework. Do not believe that all those who go under the banner of Reformed teaching have necessarily done their homework because some who think they have, obviously have not.