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Partial Preterism Refuted
By John Aziza



Preterism is the eschatological view that teaches that all or most of Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled in past history. The term preterism comes from the Latin praeter, which refers to something that is past. Preterists are divided into two camps, representing full (or consistent) preterism and partial preterism. Both preterists and non-preterists have generally agreed that the Jesuit Luis de Alcasar (1554–1613) wrote the first systematic preterist exposition of prophecy Vestigatio arcani sensus in Apocalypsi, published during the Counter-Reformation (see here).


Full preterism takes the extreme position that all of Bible prophecy, including Christ's Second Coming, has already been fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This form of preterism is very rare and lacks credible scholarship. It is also considered heretical, even by partial preterists. 

Note: For the sake of brevity, we will not respond to the claims of full preterism in this writing. Brock David Hollett, a former full preterist, does a great job debunking full preterism in his book Debunking Preterism, How Over-Realized Eschatology Misses the "Not Yet" of Bible Prophecy. This book is a thorough treatment of the subject and one that I highly recommend. 


Partial preterism is the belief that most of the apocalyptic prophecies in Daniel, Mathew, and Revelation have already been fulfilled in AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Partial preterists rely heavily on an allegorical reading of the text and the premise that the New Testament's warnings of judgement applied exclusively to the Jews of Christ's day. They further maintain that the reference to the “last days" mentioned in the Bible points to the last days of the Old Testament rather than the last days of the earth. To support their position, much emphasis is placed on the "time texts" in the Gospels and Epistles. For example, the passage in Matthew 24:34 that reads “...this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled”, necessitates [in their mind] the near fulfilment of the prophetic events listed in the previous verses. Finally, partial preterism takes the awkward position that there are two Second Comings of Jesus. These are represented by the (1) silent and invisible return of Christ for the purpose of judging the Jewish nation (a “judgement coming”) that occurred in AD 70, and (2) the final universal coming of Christ in a physical body on the “Day of the Lord”.



There are several reasons why partial preterism can be regarded as a dangerous heresy rather than a benign doctrinal error, some of which are as follows:


1. It invalidates the belief in a future antichrist, leaving Christians vulnerable to antichrist deception and the wholesale acceptance of the mark of the beast described in Revelation 13. Note: Preterists believe that Caesar Nero was the antichrist of Bible prophecy. The antichrist is therefore no longer a threat to modern Christians.

2. It asserts that the Great Tribulation (Dan. 12:1, Mat. 24:21, Rev. 7:14) is already over, having occurred in AD 66-70 when the Roman army besieged Jerusalem. This leads to a false sense of security and the vain belief that no future universal tribulation awaits the modern Church. So when tribulation does arrive, Christians will be ill equipped and ill prepared to deal with it.


3. It invalidates Christ's clear injunction to watch for the signs that herald His return and the end of the world (Mat. 24:3). We simply can't watch for Christ's return if there are no signs to signal it. But the writer of Hebrews promises that Christ will “appear the second time... unto those who look for Him” (Heb. 9:28).


1. Mark 14:62 does not refer to a literal coming of Christ, but to His coming in judgement upon Jerusalem (a "judgment coming").

2. The "time texts" in Matthew 24:34 and Luke 21:32 confine Christ's return to the generation of His disciples.

3. The "tribes of the earth" in Revelation 1:7 may be interpreted to mean "tribes of the land", and may therefore apply to the tribes of Israel, rather than the nations of the world.

4. "Mystery Babylon" (Rev. 14-18) is a symbolic reference to Jerusalem.

5. The "kings of the earth" in Revelation 6:15 refers to Israel's political leaders rather than those of the world.


1. A "judgment coming" or Christ's physical return?

....and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62).


According to preterists and partial preterists, the above passage refers to Christ's judgment coming in AD 70, resulting in Jerusalem's destruction. Since the terminology located in Mark 14:62 is very similar to that in Isaiah 19:1, which describes a localized judgement, it is argued that the meaning of these two passages must be the same also. Therefore if true, it would negate the traditional interpretation of Mark 14:62 and its application to the future coming of Jesus. But let's examine the passage in Isaiah 19 to see whether these conclusions are actually valid:


The burden of Egypt. Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it (Is. 19:1).


The above passage is a clear case where symbolic language is used to depict God's “judgement coming” for the people of Egypt. It describes the Lord "riding upon a swift cloud” into Egypt. It describes the idols of Egypt being “moved at his presence” and “the heart of Egypt” melting. That the whole verse is rife with poetic imagery and apocalyptic symbolism is hard to ignore. Compare it with Christ's plain testimony before His accusers, the chief priests, and the meaning is starkly different. In the case of Mark 14:62, Jesus was informing the Jewish leaders that the next time around the circumstances would be very different. Rather than He standing before them to be judged, they would be judged by Him. Nothing in Mark 14:62 warrants the supposition that it's describing a non-literal or symbolic "coming".


But there are other more compelling evidences that clearly discredit the argument connecting Mark 14:62 with Isaiah 19:1. In fact, the proof becomes all the more apparent once we begin comparing all of the passages describing Christ's “coming in the clouds” side by side. Notice:


....and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62).


And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Mat. 24:30-31).


Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. ...So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. ...Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man (Luk. 21:26-36).


When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats (Mat. 25:31-32).


By studying the above passages, we can easily identify a string of common features. More information is presented in each subsequent example and a familiar theme begins to emerge. What we discover are some striking similarities that force us to relate the above passages to the same singular event--the universal Second Coming of Christ. To see this for yourself, notice the following breakdown:


(1) Jesus is “sitting at the right hand of power” and coming back “in the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).


(2) The “tribes of the earth” are mourning as they see the sign of Christ's impending return. As Jesus returns in the “clouds of heaven” He gathers up “his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other”, which clearly describes the rapture of the Church (Mat. 24:30-31).


(3) Men's hearts fail them for fear as they see the sign of Christ's return. The powers of heaven are shaken and Jesus comes to earth in “a cloud with power and great glory”. But long before this, we are instructed to “look up” for “our redemption draweth nigh”, which is an important feature of the Second Coming because the Church's redemption is always part and parcel with the final return of Christ. Jesus also reminds us to pray so that we can escape all of the things previously described and stand before Him without judgement (Luk. 21:26-36).


(4) Jesus comes back to earth in a glorious display of power accompanied by His holy angels. He sits upon His throne while all the nations are gathered before Him to be judged (Mat. 25:31-32). [Notice the striking similarity of language between Matthew 25's account of the Second Coming and that of Mark 14:62. In both cases, Christ is sitting on a throne in judgement. But in Matthew's account, His return is clearly connected to the judgement of the ENTIRE world, not merely Jerusalem. The same can be seen in Matthew 19:28, where Jesus promises His disciples that when He returns as Judge of mankind seated “on the throne of his glory”, they too will sit as judges over the twelve tribes of Israel: And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Mat. 19:28).]


So what does this tell us? For one, it rules out the possibility that Mark 14:62 is describing a localized judgement of Jerusalem. It is easy to see that the common features contained in the above passages relate to the same event, not two separate ones. And they clearly have universal application and relevance. Now unless we want to argue that Mark 14:62 is a stand alone passage, completely unrelated to the others, and that it--only--points to a localized judgement, we are forced to accept it as a description of Christ's universal coming.


To further support this premise, the following passages will provide even clearer evidence for the fact that the Coming of Christ is always portrayed as a literal/physical event, and one that is clearly universal in scope and scale. Notice:


I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Dan. 7:13-14).


For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Mat. 24:27).


Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Act. 1:11).


Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1 Thes. 4:17).


I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom (2 Tim. 4:1).


Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him (Jude 14-15).


And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming (1 John 2:28).


Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen (Rev. 1:7). 


But perhaps the clearest evidence that Mark 14:62 does not describe a localized judgement coming is located in Mark 16:19 and Acts 1:9, as cited above. And in Acts 1:11 this point is further highlighted by the fact that we are promised Christ's return will be very similar to His ascension: this same Jesus... shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Act. 1:11). Yet is is clear that when Jesus was received into heaven before His disciples, His ascension was neither silent nor symbolic. Instead, it was a very clear and vivid show of power. Notice:


So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God... (Mark 16:19).

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight (Act. 1:9).


Now compare the above passage with the terminology contained in Mark 14:62:


....and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62).


The fact that the disciples physically witnessed our Lord being taken up into heaven [in a cloud] to be seated at the right hand of God demolishes the argument that Jesus was merely speaking of a silent and symbolic localized judgement in Mark 14:62. Clearly, the passages in Mark 14 and 16 describe an extremely similar event. Both instances depict the same scenario in which Jesus is sitting on the right hand of God and a cloud is either whisking Him up or transporting Him down. Again, this event is one that can be physically observed and appreciated.


In short, to isolate Mark 14:62 from the rest of Scripture in order to make it describe a localized judgement coming is not only unnecessary, but logically flawed.

2. Do the Gospel's "time texts" confine Christ's return to the generation of His disciples?

The Gospel's "time texts" are the supporting pillar of the preterist system and demand the near or immediate fulfillment of the prophetic events contained therein... or do they? To answer this, let's begin by looking at some of the actual time texts in order to better understand their contextual meaning:


1.  Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled (Mat. 24:34).

2. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation (Mat. 23:36).


3. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled (Luke 21:32). 


The same or similar statement also appears in Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32. So what did Christ mean? Perhaps the explanation is simpler than preterists realize. In other words, all of the prophetic events relevant to THAT generation (in which Christ lived), such as the siege of Jerusalem by Roman armies, the destruction of the Temple, and Christian persecution, etc, would not be missed by THAT generation. "ALL these things" can be generalized or specific depending on the usage and context. In this case, it acts to implicate only those prophetic events relevant to Christ's first century generation. 

But what about the following time texts? Is there a way to resolve these also?


But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God (Luk. 9:27).

Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom (Mat. 16:28).


But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come (Matthew 10:23).


I think the most logical way to explain Luke 9:27 and Matthew 16:28 is by looking at the clues provided in Matthew 10. In Matthew 10 Jesus is about to send out His disciples on their very first evangelistic mission. So after giving them specific instructions on where to go (vs. 5-6), He also gives them the message He wants them to proclaim: And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand (v. 7). You see, it wasn't until the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostles at Pentecost that the kingdom age had officially begun marking also the point in time when the Holy Spirit was "come" into the world (John 16:8). So when Jesus tells them that He would have "come" before they evangelized every city in Israel, He was essentially telling them that His kingdom (the Church) would be established long before they were finished with their mission. Moreover, the Holy Spirit, Christ's manifest substitute, would have also "come" by that time just as promised. This same language is also used when John the Baptist proclaimed that the "kingdom of God was at hand". So these passages have nothing to do with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, but rather the inauguration of the church age, also known as "the Kingdom of Heaven" or "Kingdom of God", and the advent of the Holy Spirit.


Now let's look at the next set of time texts, some of which do not appear in the Gospels, but are still relevant to this subject:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John...Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand (Rev. 1:1, 3).

And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand (Rev. 22:10).


Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book (Rev. 22:7).

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be (Rev. 22:12).


He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Rev. 22:20).


Partial preterists like to compare Revelation 22:10 with Daniel 12:4. Where Daniel is told to "seal up the words of this prophecy", John is told not to, meaning the book of Revelation should have immediate fulfillment. But it's clear to me that parts of Daniel should indeed contain sealed prophecies since they pertain to the time of the very end. And Daniel's day existed long before even the First Advent of Christ, let alone Christ's Second Coming! So it would definitely make sense to seal such distant prophecies. But in contrast, the Apostle John had just witnessed the First Advent and was now looking forward towards Christ's Second Advent. In other words, John's day was far closer to the Second Coming than Daniel's. Furthermore, according to Scripture, the Second Coming of Christ is a non-fixed time period. Jesus may return at any time (Mark 13:33, Rev. 16:15), at the second or third watch (Luke 12:38), and we the Church are to hasten His return by completing the Great Commission (Mat. 24:14, 2 Pet. 3:12). Jesus also hinted that His coming may appear to be delayed (Luke 12:45). Also, after listening to a partial preterist's verse by verse exposition of Daniel 9, it would seem they agree with the notion that the Church has a role to play in hastening Christ's return. The point was made that just like Daniel was committed to ensuring the fulfillment of Jeremiah's 70 year prophecy through prayer and fasting, the Church is called to do the same. This partial preterist made an excellent point. Had the Church played its part faithfully, it is possible that Christ may have returned a long time ago.


The other important point about Revelation's time texts is that they contain the same impending tone as those located in the epistles. Yet to be clear, Peter also reminded the Church not to grow weary in waiting for Christ's return, since "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8). So now that we understand this principle, let's proceed to examine the similarity between Revelation's time texts and those contained in the epistles:

But this I say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none (1 Cor. 7:29).

Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come (1 Cor. 10:6).

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand (Phil. 4:5).

Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand (Jas. 5:8).


But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer (1 Pet. 4:7).


Ironically, the above verses are often cited by full preterists to prove that the Second Coming was fulfilled in AD 70 in the very same manner that partial preterists have cited the time texts located in the gospels and Revelation. In my opinion, full preterists are much more consistent in the application of their hermeneutic than partial preterists. Therefore, it's no surprise why so many partial preterists eventually capitulate and become full preterists once they realize this.

3. Does the phrase "tribes of the earth" refer to the twelve tribes of Israel or the nations of the world?

Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen (Rev. 1:7).


Since preterists interpret Revelation 1:7 to refer to the typological coming of Christ in judgement of first century Israel, they interpret the phrase "kindreds of the earth" to mean "tribes of the land". However, this type of interpretation is faulty for the following reason. The Septuagintel Greek of the Old Testament does not use the phrase "tribes of the earth" to refer to the tribes of Israel, but rather the gentile nations. And it would appear that the Koine Greek of the New Testament follows the same principal:

Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed (Act. 3:25).


Additionally, we find that throughout the New Testament the word "earth" seems to always apply to the whole world, not the land of Israel:


Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Mat. 5:5).

Ye are the salt of the earth (Mat. 5:13).

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Act. 1:8).

4. Does "Mystery Babylon" represent Jerusalem or Rome?

Like the Protestant Reformers, it is my firm conviction that "Mystery Babylon" represents Rome, not Jerusalem (see here). There are simply too many reasons why the whore of Babylon (Rev. 14-18) cannot possibly refer to Jerusalem, like the following:

A. The Old Testament does not exclusively apply the term harlot to Israel

In fact, both Tyre and Nineveh are also referred to as harlots. Notice:

Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts... Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts...And it shall come to pass, that all they that look upon thee shall flee from thee, and say, Nineveh is laid waste: who will bemoan her? whence shall I seek comforters for thee? (Nahum 3:4-5).


And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot (Isa. 23:15).


B. The Harlot "sits on many waters" (Rev. 17:1)

This phrase was also used to describe the multi-ethnic empire of ancient Babylon: 


O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness (Jer. 51:13).


In fact, the similarities between Babylon of the Old Testament and the whore of Revelation are so striking that we simply can't deny their typological connection:


  • Associated with a golden cup Jer. 51:7

  • Dwelling on many waters Jer. 51:13

  • Intoxicating the nations Jer. 51:7

  • Stone sinking into Euphrates Jer. 51:63-64

  • Will rise again no more Jer. 50:39

In contrast, Israel was never a world-ruling empire, nor was she a multi-ethnic society, since she was created around the principle of racial purity. 

C. "Reigns over the kings of the earth" (Rev. 17:18)

Again, Jerusalem was never a world ruling empire. Daniel saw four world empires and Jerusalem was not in the list.


D. "Never to be rebuilt again" (Rev. 18:21)

Jerusalem exists today and has been rebuilt by the Jews, the very people to whom preterists apply this judgement.


E. The woman sits atop seven hills:  

And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth (Rev. 17:9). Rome, not Jerusalem, is regarded as the city of seven hills.


F. The woman sits atop a conglomerate beast "that was, and is not, yet is" (Rev. 17:11)

The woman sitting atop the "beast" in Revelation 13 is a symbolic depiction of her control over the politics of the empire (beast). In contrast, Jerusalem of AD 70 was occupied by imperial Rome and under its tyrannical rule, not the other way around. Furthermore, first century Rome did not yet evolve into the conglomerate beast that we see in Revelation 13 and 17, a clear depiction of papal Rome (see here).

G. The destruction of "Babylon the Great" ushers in the Second Coming (Rev. 19:1-7)

If the whore of Revelation was truly Jerusalem of AD 70 then the universal Second Coming of Christ (His physical return) would have occurred in AD 70. This fact is made clear when reading Revelation 19. Upon the whore's destruction, Jesus returns to set up the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21). 


5. Does the phrase "kings of the earth" refer to the political leaders of Israel or the leaders of the entire world?

And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains (Rev. 6:15).


For the same reasons listed in point #3, we can be certain the phrase "kings of the earth" does not refer to the political leaders of Israel. But there's another reason for disproving this claim. Since preterists interpret the phrase "kings of the earth" to be referring to the Jewish rulers of Israel and they interpret the whore of Revelation to be referring to Jerusalem, they create an illogical situation. Afterall, can the leaders of Israel become drunk with the "wine" of their own fornication? Obviously, not. 


A far better interpretation is that the "kings of the earth" are a group of world leaders that arise at the end of time and are aligned with the antichrist to make war against the armies of heaven at Christ's return: And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army (Rev. 19:19).

6. Is the book of Revelation concerned with Jerusalem's fall in AD 70 or Christ's universal return?

What is the overarching theme of Revelation and how does it affect the preterist interpretation? I believe we can answer this by simply pointing to verse 7 of chapter 1, which reads, "Behold he cometh with the clouds....". Therefore it would seem that the book's overwhelming preoccupation is the return of Christ and the world's final judgement. We find this theme echoed again in Revelation chapter 3: 

Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3:10).


Also, it's important to note that the book of Revelation starts out with seven letters addressed to the seven Churches of Asia--not Israel (Rev. 1:4). This little fact is something preterists seem to completely ignore. So when John records Christ's promise to preserve the Church in Philadelphia from the "hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world", he is very clearly not referring to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.


While preterism has much to disprove it, we can still regard it as a useful system of eschatology. For instance, there are many prophetic events contained in the Gospels and elsewhere in the Old Testament that have already been fulfilled, and should not be looked for in the future. And the very proof that Jesus was a genuine prophet is clearly demonstrated by the fact that he foretold the destruction of Jerusalem and the Roman invasion nearly forty years before it happened (Luke 21:20). This fact is unavoidable.

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