People that study end-times Bible prophecy (a.k.a. “eschatology”) know that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence suggesting it should be studied—and that it is very relevant for us today. Yet we also encounter people that do not appreciate that concept for a variety of reasons. I hope the following information will help people that already understand the importance of prophecy to better defend their understanding of that matter, and that it will dispel a few common myths that some people believe so they too will fully grasp all that God’s Word has to say about Bible prophecy.
- The first discussion addresses the misconception that prophecy has little relevance.
- The second discussion helps dispel the myth that prophecy is too complex to study.
- The third and final myth refuted is that prophecy has already been fulfilled historically. (Therein is the bulk of this article since that myth requires substantial discussion to be addressed thoroughly.)
MYTH #1 – Bible Prophecy Has Little Relevance
Bible prophecy is found throughout scripture and many experts note that over 25% of the Bible is devoted to the topic. It is easy to find core concepts of every theological issue linked to prophecy. Prophecy concerning the first coming of Christ (a.k.a. “Messianic Prophecy”) is found in many places in the Old Testament, and end-times prophecy is found throughout the Bible.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the apostles Paul, Peter, and others give end-times prophecy specific attention. Jesus Himself explained the end-times scenario in the Olivet Discourse, (recorded in Matthew 24 and in parallel passages of Mark 13 and Luke 21). Of course, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the last book of the Bible is aptly named Revelation and obviously denotes the importance of prophecy. Bible prophecy about the end times can also be found in Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Romans, Hebrews, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and many other places in scripture.
Moreover, we know that God does everything according to His divine plan and purpose and, thus, it would be contradictory to God’s nature for Him to have had the prophetic words recorded if it had no purpose. God even tells us it is important with specific verses:
- Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)
- “See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matthew 24:25) And “So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.” (Mark 13:23)
- Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21)
- And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19)
- Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
- Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it. (Revelation 1:3)
MYTH #2 – Bible Prophecy is Too Complex to Study
In the past it could have been said the prophecy was a complex subject; and, therefore, it was not that well understood. Only recently has end-times Bible prophecy become as understood as it today. To acknowledge that concept is actually a tremendous encouragement to people who study end-times Bible prophecy. Why is that? Because of what God Himself told Daniel. Daniel wrote, “I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, ‘My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?’ He replied, ‘Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end'”(Daniel 12:8-9).
As you can see, Daniel did not understand what God was asking him to record. When he asked the Lord what the outcome would be, God replied that the words were not meant for Daniel to understand and, in fact, they were to be “closed up and sealed until the time of the end.” Consequently, if it can be demonstrated that now, due to relatively recent events, we are able to understand prophecy more than ever, then the logical conclusion is that we are now living in “the time of the end” that God mentioned!
Today Bible prophecy scholars are able to understand so much more than could have been understood even a few decades ago. We now understand that historical events and modern technological advances make the fulfillment of prophecy something that only a few decades ago could not have been achieved. I’ll discuss some of those issues while addressing the last myth that requires more study to fully understand.
MYTH #3 – Bible Prophecy Was Fulfilled Historically
This myth is widely accepted, as it has been propagated by the Roman Catholic Church for centuries. Unfortunately that viewpoint has also been adopted by many protestant denominations that would otherwise shudder at the thought of accepting false doctrine originating from Catholicism. The viewpoint existed in a mild form for centuries, but it progressed in the 17th Century when a Jesuit priest named Luis de Alcazar (1554-1613) gave it new life.
The Reformation was a time when the Bible was being made available to read by anyone, which presented a lot of potential problems for the Roman Catholic Church because people could then begin to understand the Book of Revelation was discussing the apostasy of the Roman Catholic Church. Alcazar developed a sophisticated theory to refute that conclusion by claiming that Revelation was about the Church’s struggles during its early years. To support that theory, he suggested an allegorical method of interpreting Revelation to help the text of scripture align with historical events.
Unfortunately, during the Reformation that theory took hold and spilled over into some protestant groups that otherwise had shed many other false doctrines of Catholicism. People that believe prophecy was fulfilled in the past are called “preterists”, whereas people that understand end-times Bible prophecy is future to us are called “futurists”. The preterist interpretation is very clever; therefore, to the unsuspecting person that may be taught that viewpoint, it can appear to be quite valid.
Many fine Christians that believe in preterism are intelligent people that maintain sound doctrine on other fundamental issues. However, as I’ll demonstrate further in this article, the logic and interpretation methods used to conclude that the prophecies were all fulfilled in the past require substantial inconsistencies to make it all fit; and, most importantly, the theory falls apart when the facts of history are closely scrutinized with the text of the Bible.
We read in 2 Peter 3:2-4 an interesting prophecy, “I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles. First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?'” Then, just a few verses later (2 Peter 3:8) we find these important words to explain that the Lord is not going to return immediately, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
What makes those words in 2 Peter interesting, yet disappointing, is that while we can imagine people outside the church questioning the return of our Lord, it will also be people within the Church scoffing at those that stand upon God’s Word and point to Christ’s return for the Church via the Rapture (an event clearly explained in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, which I’ll address later in this article).
I believe if someone that holds the preterist position is willing to honestly explore the matter, they will realize that trying to make prophetic biblical passages align with historic events requires too much imagination and manipulation of the Bible; and that there is too much evidence pointing us to the fact prophecy is for our future. Interpreting the Bible literally, on the other hand, provides us with an appreciation that God said what He meant, and meant what He said. Dr. D.L. Cooper’s explanation of the best way to interpret the Bible is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule of Interpretation:
When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.
Interestingly preterists often take literally all passages that refer to repenting from sins and being baptized. They also interpret the Bible literally at most other places, even if it requires faith to accept that what was said was absolutely true (e.g. creationism, the great flood of Noah’s day, Daniel in the lion’s den, the virgin birth, all of the miracles Jesus performed, the resurrection, etc.). Yet when it comes to understanding that Jesus will return for His Church and that Christians will be taken into the clouds via the Rapture, they consider those passages nonsensical to the rational mind. If they would, however, question why they are taught to allegorized only the topic of end-times prophecy and then consider it could be the viewpoint came from false teachings that originating from Roman Catholic Church, then they could begin to understand the issue is not a matter of what makes sense to our finite minds; but, rather, what makes sense in light of the inerrant Word of our omnipotent Creator.
Put another way, we must accept God’s Word is inerrant and that it has to be taken literally for us to understand God existed before time and created everything; or how the entire earth was consumed in a flood (but not before God warned one man and his family to first build an ark). We must interpret the Bible literally to stand upon God’s Word that Jesus was born of a virgin; or how He healed the blind and the crippled, how He walked on water, and how He instantly calmed a raging storm by speaking to it. We must not compromise to understand Lazarus was raised from the dead; and especially how Jesus literally died and then rose again three days later. The list could go on and on.
I hope this article will encourage people to explore the topic of end-times prophecy alongside God’s Word as they remain intellectually open and spiritually sensitive. There is no disgrace in reevaluating what one has been taught and then adjusting that in light of new knowledge. Thanks be to God that the Apostle Paul did just that when he turned from persecuting Christians to being arguably the most influential person, except Christ Himself, in Christianity! The only disgrace is if one ignores the facts and entrenches themselves deeper into misunderstanding God’s Word. (I myself, from time to time, have had to rethink how I thought about particular verses and certain topics once new information was provided to me. Often it was after a lot of prayer, wherein I also asked the Lord for wisdom and discernment. I have found that sometimes as we study God’s Word more and learn new facts from inspired teachers, we gain a better understanding after all the pieces are put together.)
As we return to the topic at hand, even a common sense understanding of God’s Word and it’s application for us today would have one ask, “Why is so much written about prophecy if, in the end, it was really only meant for the early Church, and then from that point forward it has no real application for future generations?” There are many examples of how not expecting Christ to return unexpectedly via the Rapture undermines God’s Word, such as 2 Peter 3:9-10 or Titus 2:11-14. As noted earlier, one would also have to seriously marginalize a substantial amount of the Bible where prophecy is discussed, such as 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Romans chapters 9-11, 2 Peter, and the Book of Revelation (to name a few major places).
As we examine the preterist position, we must also consider why this false viewpoint has been allowed to succeed. First, we have to recognize the obvious, which is that many of the events that happened in A.D. 70 did fit, at least to some extent, some of the text. Also, because Israel ceased to be a nation for so long, it only helped support the position. I’ll address both of those issues in much more detail further below.
I believe we also have to consider that Satan, who is the master of lies and deception and a devious enemy to Jews and Christians alike, has had his hand in the matter as well. He knows scripture and understands that if he can deceive people into believing lies, he gains a substantial advantage. In this case, a belief that God is essentially done with the nation of Israel helps promote anti-Semitism, which clearly fits Satan’s strategy—a plan witnessed time and time again throughout history.
It is clear that Satan believes that if he can derail God’s plan, he can change the outcome. We need only look at how the Egyptians, Babylonians, Syrians, and Romans were used to persecute the Jews; how Satan motivated King Herod to kill all the male babies at the time of Christ’s birth; and how the Nazi Holocaust was an attempt to exterminate all the Jewish people. Today we see much of the same thing, except it is in the likes of Islamic nations (particularly Iran) and terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. These are people openly bent on destroying the Jewish people and taking land the size of New Jersey away from them, despite so much other land that they could have.
Satan knows that if he can, once again, lull Christians into turning their backs upon the Jewish people, then he will gain strategic ground for yet another assault on the Jews. If he can show that God does not honor His promise made centuries ago to Abraham and his descendants that the land of Israel would be theirs and without any preconditions (Genesis 15:18-21), then a case could be made that God could also dishonor His covenant with sinners. Of course, we serve a God that keeps His unconditional promises. He is also a God that has proven, and will continue to prove, that He is clearly superior to Satan’s schemes. He will, once again, use the Jewish people and Bible prophecy to prove His perfect character and omniscience.
The viewpoint that it all already happened also will help the real future events to take many people by surprise. In particular, if people are not expecting any of the end times events to happen, such as the real Antichrist to rise onto the world scene, then that will make it all the more easy for him to do so without being recognized for who he is. Also, a one world banking system, one world government, etc. will make logical sense to everyone except those sensitive to the fact that those conditions will precede the Antichrist’s rule and reign of terror. An apostate religious system can also more easily flourish when Christians are unaware of its coming.
Now I am not saying that people that believe in preterism are Satanic, in alliance with the Antichrist, nor are they necessarily Anti-Semitic; however, often the viewpoint they hold leads to a loss of appreciation for what God’s Word says about His chosen people, the Jews, and the land of Israel. Also, while one’s viewpoint on the matter is not a salvation issue, it can have far-reaching implications as we approach the last days in light of what scripture says will happen. It is, therefore, the reason I write this part of this article, as I hope to help people that are willing to be intellectually honest and consider that a preterist viewpoint of prophecy may be wrong in light of scriptural analysis of the subject.
As alluded to earlier, what clouds the issue is that some of what is described in the Bible did happen in the past; thus, the theory has just enough credibility to seem very plausible without further study. The most notable events that did happen was the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 and the persecution of the early Church. However, when one diligently studies the matter, they learn that many of the prophetic events Jesus foretold did not happen; and it requires a substantial manipulation of the Bible to make it fit when examined closer.
First, one must understand that the Bible has many examples of what is called a “prophetic pattern”, wherein we gain hints of something that will be completely fulfilled at a future time. While there are many examples, probably the most notable example is found in Genesis, where we see Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Some especially telling verses that explain it’s a prophetic pattern can be found in Genesis 22:2, “Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.'” What makes that especially revealing is that Abraham had another son, Ishmael, conceived via Hagar; yet we see the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to use the phrase “your only son” in that verse. Moreover, it is interesting to note that it is the first place the word “love” appears in the Bible.
With that in mind, we can see how easily the description of that scene divinely foreshadows the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, eloquently summarized in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The story of Abraham and Isaac is interesting, but it has much more power and relevance when viewed in a larger context of the more significant future sacrifice God made.
Another example of a prophetic type can be found in the book of Ruth, where we learn that Boaz, as a kinsman redeemer, takes his Gentile bride, Ruth: similar to how Christ took the Gentile church as His bride. Again, the real events were smaller and less consequential; yet they provide evidence of an omniscient God that had a plan from beginning to end, a plan that is still at work.
Carrying that concept forward, we can see that while some of the events Jesus’ said would happen in the Olivet Discourse did happen in A.D. 70, many other events simply did not. As we examine some of the things that did and that did not happen, an intellectually honest conclusion can only be that A.D. 70 was only a partial fulfillment. For example in Matthew 24:6-8 Jesus said that there would be wars and rumors of wars and that we would witness nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom. The words used to describe that is quite different than “there will be some rebellion, quite a few skirmishes, and a few battles”, which is really all that could be said happened when the Jewish people rebelled against the Roman occupation and were dealt with accordingly (wherein the nation of Israel ceased to exist once the Roman government got tired of dealing with the Jewish rebellion). It could hardly be characterized as “wars” wherein several nations participated.
Other places in scripture also corroborate that the end-times wars will be far greater, such as the one described in Ezekiel 38. Interestingly, Ezekiel’s prophecy of a future war follows a description of how the nation of Israel will essentially come back to life, just as it did in 1948 following the Holocaust. I’ll address that in more detail further in this article.
Moving only a few verses further we find another example of unfulfilled prophecy. In Matthew 24:14 it states the Gospel will be preached to all the world at that time, yet that certainly did not take place by A.D. 70. In fact, only now due to modern communication technology (print, radio, television, movies, satellites, and the Internet) are we getting close to claiming that the Gospel has been preached to every nation, tribe, people, and tongue. Preterists deal with that by diminishing God’s Word and His future plan and claim that “all the world” really just meant “all of Israel” (about the size of New Jersey).
In the next verse (Matthew 24:15) we read about the “the abomination that causes desolation,” which is when the Antichrist will set himself up in the Temple and proclaim to be God. Elsewhere in scripture we learn more about the Antichrist: for example, we know that he’ll be accompanied by a false prophet who will perform many signs and miracles (Matthew 24:24; Revelation 13:13). If great and miraculous signs had been performed at that time, historians would surely have recorded such noteworthy material in their writings. The text goes out of its way to record that it will be great signs and wonders, not just some hocus pocus street magic.
We also know from Daniel 9:27 (which Jesus specifically refers to in the discourse) that the Antichrist will confirm a covenant with many for a period of seven years, but then in the middle of that time period he will perform the abomination that causes desolation. Note the abomination is what causes the desolation (which is God’s wrath via the tribulation events described in Revelation), and not the act itself that is the desolation. There is not any historical record of that taking place in A.D. 70 . We can look back to 168 B.C. as a prelude to the event, where the Greek tyrant, Antiochus Epiphanes, desecrated the Temple’s holy place by erecting an altar to Zeus there. However, the Roman general Titus did not take any such action in A.D. 70 before destroying the Temple.
Actually, the Romans did not intend to destroy the Temple, as it had many rich treasures therein. When a torch was thrown through a Temple window and caught it on fire, the gold melted into the cracks. Consequently, to retrieve the gold, the Romans took apart the Temple one stone at a time; thus fulfilling Jesus’ prediction that one day not one stone would be left upon another (Matthew 24:2).
Another place we can turn to is the four words Jesus specifically chose to use when He mentioned the abomination of desolation. Keep in mind that most of the gospel was spread orally between the time Jesus was on earth until A.D. 70 (and even beyond) because most people could not read and write, and it was a time well before it was easy to record words quickly and easily. Thus, it is quite revealing to read in Matthew 24:15 an interesting phrase, “let the reader understand”. Jesus quoted from scripture many times, yet He specifically added those words at that time: pointing us to the fact His spoken words were meant to be read and studied by people in the future.
Another place we can easily dispel a notion that A.D. 70 fulfilled all that was said is in Matthew 24:21. There we read these important words, “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.” As we look back in history, we can see that the Jews were severely persecuted during that time, for the historian Josephus records that millions of Jews were killed at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70. Subsequent historians suggest it may have only seemed so and that the number is far less. However, even if we were to use that inflated figure, we know without a doubt that it is nowhere near the six million Jews that were killed via the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.
Other places in scripture also point to major death: Zechariah 13:8-9 explain how two-thirds of mankind will be destroyed, which is also supported in the book of Revelation. (In fact, many of the tribulation events described in Revelation clearly have not happened yet. I’ll address the book of Revelation further below: not because it is not highly related to the Olivet Discourse, but because it has issues of erroneous interpretation and understanding all its own). Returning to the Olivet Discourse, Matthew 24:22 continues to explain that it will be so severe that it must be cut short so that all human life is not exterminated. Once again, we see no evidence of anything near that extreme happening in A.D. 70.
Dr. Randall Price provides us with six key differences between the A.D. 70 Temple and the Temple that will exist in the future tribulation period:
1. The Temple described in Matthew 24:15 is not said to be destroyed, only desecrated (see Revelation 11:2). By contrast, the Temple in Jesus’ day (or Matthew 24:2) was to be completely leveled: “not one stone would be left standing on another” (Matthew 24:2; Mark 13:2; Luke 19:44).
2. The Temple’s desecration would be a signal for Jews to escape destruction (Matthew 24:16-18), “be saved” (Matthew 24:22) and experience the promised “redemption” (Luke 21:28). By contrast the destruction of the Temple in Matthew 24:2 was a judgment “because you did not recognize the time of your visitation [Messiah’ s first advent]” (Luke 19:44b) and resulted in the Temple being level[ed] to the ground and your children [the Jews] within you” (Luke 19:44a).
3. The generation of Jews that are alive at the time that the Temple is desecrated will expect Messiah’s coming “immediately after” (Matthew 24:29), and are predicted to not pass away until they have experienced it (Matthew 24:34). By contrast, the generation of Jews who saw the Temple destroyed would pass away and 2,000 years (to date) would pass without redemption.
4. The text Jesus cited concerning the Temple’ s desecration, Daniel 9:27, predicts that the one who desecrates this Temple will himself be destroyed. By contrast, those who destroyed the Temple in a.d. 70 (in fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction)- the Roman emperor Vespasian and his son Titus – were not destroyed but returned to Rome in triumph carrying vessels from the destroyed Temple.
5. The time “immediately after” (Matthew 24:29) the time of the Temple’ s desecration would see Israel’s repentance (Matthew 24:30), followed by, as Matthew 23:29 implies, a restoration of the Temple. By contrast, the time following the destruction of the Temple only saw a “hardening” happen “to Israel,” which is to last “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25) – still 2,000 years and counting.
6. For the Temple that is desecrated, the scope is of a worldwide tribulation “coming upon the world” (Luke 21:26; compare Matthew 24:21-22; Mark 13:19-20), a global regathering of the Jewish people “from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27), and a universal revelation of the Messiah at Israel’s rescue (Matthew 24:30-31; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:26-27). This scope accords with the prophesied end-time battle for Jerusalem recorded in Zechariah 12-14, where “all nations of the earth will be gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:3). By contrast the a.d. 70 assault on Jerusalem predicted in Luke 21:20 is by the armies of one empire (Rome). Therefore, if there are two different attacks on Jerusalem, separated by more than 2,000 years, then two distinct Temples are considered in Matthew 24:1-2 and Matthew 24:15.
Reference: Randall Price, Jerusalem in Prophecy: God’s Stage for the Final Drama (Eugene, OR.: Harvest House, 1998), pp. 251- 55
Continuing along, we read in Matthew 24:29 that the Lord will return “immediately after the tribulation of those days”. There is absolutely no record of Christ returning at that time, which, given the extreme significance of that, assuredly would have been recorded by the early Church (and other historians) had He done so. In fact, if you read the Olivet Discourse, Jesus makes it clear that His coming back will be an event that is not missed (Matthew 24:27; Matthew 24:30). It will also deliver His people (Luke 21:28), yet just the opposite happened in A.D. 70. The only other way that any of those verses can be explained is to spiritualize them and say Jesus came again, but in some “spiritual manner” (which clearly contradicts the plain sense of the text).
We also read in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 that He will return for the Church in a much more noteworthy manner:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
First, we immediately recognize that it says “the Lord himself will come down from heaven”, which gives no room for spiritualizing the text. We also note that some people still alive will be taken (a.k.a. “The Rapture of the Church”); which, of course, has not happened yet given something that historically significant, and rather obvious, would be very well known! We also have to note the meeting place is in the clouds and physical (the discussion is about resurrected bodies and people alive at the time). The very first chapter of Acts also supports what we read above: that Christ will be seen in the clouds and that it will be a physical return. If it were not so, there would not have been any specific mention that He ascended into heaven and was covered by a cloud (Acts 1:9), and that He would return in the same manner that He had just ascended (Acts 1:11).
The last part of the Olivet Discourse we can look to is Matthew 24:32. Earlier, when addressing the myth that prophecy is too complex to study, I mentioned that we now are able to see relatively recent historical events that align with what we are told is going to happen in prophetic scripture. One of the most notable events is when Israel came into existence again:
“However, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when men will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their forefathers.” (Jeremiah 16:14-15)
Until recently, it was difficult to know exactly what those words recorded by the prophet Jeremiah meant. Due to Israel’s destruction at the hands of the Romans in A.D. 70, the Jews ended up scattered far from their homeland—and they remained that way for nearly two thousand years. As a result of that long period of time, it’s not difficult to imagine that many Bible scholars began to wonder if Jeremiah’s words weren’t somehow historic or symbolic in nature. However, May 14, 1948 dramatically changed that concept, for that is the date that Israel officially became a nation again. The result of Israel becoming a nation is that while only 50,000 Jews were living there in 1900, today there are nearly 5.6 million Jews in Israel.
Without a doubt, May 14, 1948 is yet another example of how God’s Word is 100 percent reliable. (Any time we study God’s Word and reflect upon current events, we should always understand that it is the events that will fit God’s Word, and not vice versa.) As we consider Israel’s recent nationhood, it’s important for us to realize that important event was not very long ago! Unlike many generations that for nearly 2,000 years watched for end time events, we are the first that can truly point to that event and note how that crucial part of Bible prophecy has now recently been fulfilled. The following graph will hopefully make that important concept especially clear:
In Matthew 24:32-35 we read these words of Jesus, ” 32Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”
It is critical we understand the full context of “this generation”. Had Jesus not preceded verse 34 with the parable of the fig tree in verses 32 and 33, out of context, that could be understood that the generation to whom Jesus was speaking would be the one that saw all of those events. However, within the context that Jesus just mentioned that once all the end-times events started to happen, that generation would not pass, it is much better understood that it was meant for a future generation. It would also not be unlike understanding that when Jesus spoke any of His many other parables, or the Sermon on the Mount, that the audience was meant to be beyond just the immediate audience to whom He was speaking. I mention this because preterist often cite Matthew 24:34 to support their theory, but they fail to read the previous two verses to provide proper context.
Another verse that preterists use to support their position is Matthew 16:28, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Without further study, one could be misled to conclude the verse suggests Jesus will “return” before some of those to whom He is speaking die; however, we need to continue reading (despite the unfortunate chapter break which would have had the writing tied even closer together), because the next set of verses in Matthew chapter 17 describes the transfiguration of Jesus:
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”
If there is doubt that the transfiguration was a preview for some of the disciples to witness Jesus coming into His kingdom, we can turn to 2 Peter 1:16-17 which makes the event quite clear. Peter, who was one of the elect to witness Jesus’ transfiguration, says this about the event:
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
We can look to many other places in scripture that reveal A.D. 70 did not fulfill the prophecy foretold to happen. In Romans 11:12-24, Paul clearly explains that Israel will have a future blessing. It demonstrates that God’s chosen people have not been forgotten. God’s promises are eternal, which should give every Christian comfort to know that God would not just someday “have another plan” for us too!
Following his explanation of Israel’s future blessing, Paul reveals that the Jews’ rejection of the Messiah happened so that Gentiles could also be part of God’s eternal kingdom (Romans 11:25). Any time you see a biblical reference to a “mystery”, it means that it is something that has not been revealed before. In this case Paul is explaining the whole concept of why the Jews’ rejected the Messiah: which is that it gave others whom He loves equally well an opportunity for salvation.
It’s important to note that he says it will happen until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in. In other words, God has some specific number of Gentiles becoming Christians in mind. Once that number is reached He will again turn His attention to Israel. (The entire concept of God still having a time period in which He will deal with the nation of Israel is explained via what is known as “Daniel’s 70th Week”. I have written a separate article about that important topic, but so as to not interrupt the flow of this article, I will just cite it as a “Related Link” at the end of this article.) This may also be a good point to explain that God does not love the Jewish people more than Gentiles; however, He chose the nation of Israel to bring forth the Messiah and to show His omniscience, wherein events that predict something with Israel has come to pass in the past, and will continue to do so as our future unfolds.
We read in II Thessalonians 2:3,4 that there will be a great falling away (apostasy) before that day (the Day of the Lord: a.k.a. “the Tribulation”). That is echoed in the prophecy of Daniel, chapter 11. A few verses later in II Thessalonians 2:8, we read that the Antichrist will be revealed and then later the Lord will consume him by coming again (the Second Coming). Jude 1:14-15 also has a reference to unfulfilled prophecy: Namely that when Christ comes again He will do so with “thousands upon thousands” of his saints to execute judgment upon all.
That brings us to the book of Revelation, likely the most misunderstood book of the Bible. It doesn’t have to be if one learns how to study it. Of course we have to recognize it is an apocalyptic work and that many symbols are being used to convey its message; yet we can also understand it if we carefully study scripture and recognize that much of what is said can also be taken literal, or at least near literal. The interpretation of the Bible (a.k.a. hermeneutics) is very important to all disciplines of Bible study, and eschatology is arguably one of the most important studies where interpretation is crucial to properly understanding God’s Word.
It is time for people to reevaluate the way they interpret end-times Bible prophecy: not unlike when people used to look at the word “Israel” in the New Testament and think that it must have really meant “the Church” since Israel did not even exist as a nation. Of course, anyone that takes the first steps to do that must do so at risk to their standing within the particular church community, seminary, etc. to which they belong. I recognize that it can be uncomfortable, but God’s Word says what it says and is the final authority on the matter.
Looking at Messianic Prophecy, we can see that it was often almost literal (yet some poetic license was also applied). Just a few of many examples include the following:
Jesus would be born in the town of Bethlehem
Old Testament Prophecy: “But you, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.” (Micah 5:2)
New Testament Fulfillment: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem …” (Matthew 2:1)
Jesus would have His hands and feet pierced
Old Testament Prophecy: “The assembly of the wicked have enclosed me. They have pierced my hands and my feet.” (Psalm 22:16)
New Testament Fulfillment: “And when they came to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.” (Luke 23:33)
Jesus would be sold for thirty pieces of silver
Old Testament Prophecy: “So they weighed out thirty pieces of silver for my price.” (Zechariah 11:12)
New Testament Fulfillment: “And they agreed with him for thirty pieces of silver.” (Matthew 26:15)
Lots would be cast for Jesus’ clothing
Old Testament Prophecy: “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:18)
New Testament Fulfillment: “And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots.” (Matthew 27:35)
As you can see from this small sample, while the poetic license can not be ignored, we can also see that what was said was fulfilled literally. For example, Bethlehem did not mean some other town in its vicinity, the crucifixion description did not end up as a death by stoning, thirty pieces of silver did not translate to 3 pieces of gold, and so on. As we begin to look at the book of Revelation in light of that, we can begin to understand that if the Bible says a great earthquake will happen, that locust will punish people with a sting, that wars and famine will occur, that water will become bitter and poisonous, etc.; then that is what is going to happen.
One of the strongest arguments that contradict the preterists theory is that many excellent scholars have dated Revelation to have been written in about A.D. 95. It was also the viewpoint of very early Church historians and Bible scholars, which can not be said of the A.D. 70 date.
The preterist viewpoint was not how many early Bible scholars interpreted the Bible, which is telling because, if it were the correct interpretation, it would have most likely enjoyed a strong following and a lot of writing would have resulted from that. That is, if the events described by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse and again in Revelation had been fulfilled in A.D. 70, that would have been a dominant discussion during the early centuries given it had just happened and, therefore, historians and Bible scholars would have excitedly written about how the prophecies had come true. However, what we find are writings wherein early scholars are questioning the identity of the Antichrist (much like we do today, since his identity will not be truly known until the tribulation begins).
If, on the other hand, Revelation was written A.D. 95 and therefore had absolutely no prophetic relevance to A.D. 70, then the preterist theory falls apart. Unfortunately, we can not just turn to a date on the letter John wrote to determine when he wrote Revelation, so we have to look at other evidence: yet both external and internal evidence strongly point to the A.D. 95 date of Revelation. Dr. Thomas Ice does a great job of pointing those issues out in his paper, The Date of Revelation.
Another important concept that helps with one’s understanding of Revelation is that we can often interpret what is in Revelation by allowing the Bible to interpret itself (e.g. a symbol that is initially introduced and ambiguous is later clearly defined: such as “the enormous red dragon” in Revelation 12:3 later clearly defined as “Satan” in Revelation 12:9).
A complete examination of Revelation is far beyond the scope of this article and would take an entire book to do a proper expository study. If you do want to dig into Revelation deeper, I highly recommend The Book of Revelation (The Smart Guide to the Bible Series) by Daymond R Duck. You can find a copy on the Learn Bible Prophecies web site (link below).
I hope this study has helped you better understand the importance of Bible prophecy. If you’d like to study the topic further, I encourage you to read the book, Pray That You May Escape. It addresses all of the main topics of Bible prophecy in a concise, extremely friendly manner. It’s equally useful to those that want to begin their journey of studying Bible prophecy, or for people that know the topic well and would like some additional insight. It’s also a very useful resource with which to introduce the fascinating, relevant topic of Bible prophecy to friends and family). I hope you will also visit the Learn Bible Prophecy Ministries web site, where you’ll find many other good resources about the subject.