*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 28th of November 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
A happy Monday to you and a very happy new year- if you observe the Western Christian Calendar, we have just entered Advent. You may have heard that this coming weekend we will be doing a Weekend Edition on Advent music- those songs that might be confused with Christmas songs (also, if you want to smush advent and Christmas together, you can do that too).
With Advent coming this past Sunday, many of you may have heard the gospel text from Matthew 24- a truly difficult text (I had the honor of guest preaching this past weekend, and so I got to play with it). It’s sometimes called the Olivet discourse, or the “little apocalypse,” and it reminded me of a mailbag question I received from Michael in San Diego- I actually met Michael at the HWSS conference, and he emailed me 1700 jokes and puns-
However, there is another view that I think merits consideration.
I learned about this from R. C. Sproul. It is called preterism.
He explained full and partial preterism.
I don't know much about it other than the basics that the end times prophecy was fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.
I think this might be a good mailbag discussion.
When did it come about? Who are its adherents?
What is the difference between full and partial?
Yes- it is a theology largely derived from suggested problems in this Matthew 24 text. In verse 30, Jesus says, “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.”
And then, in verse 34, he says, “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”
So, what do we do with this? Was Jesus mistaken? Interestingly verse 36 reads: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
So- some have said Jesus was mistaken- he thought he was coming back a lot sooner. Some have suggested that he was correct, but spiritually- this is the doctrine of Preterism. Literally “past-ism,” that is: all the prophecies about the end times refer to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.
Historically we can find many people teaching something like this but rarely in its fullest sense. A foundational text for this doctrine is James Stuart Russell, who published The Parousia: A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming in 1878.
Regular listeners of this show know that the 19th century is chock full of innovations regarding prophecy and the end of the age. Some of this is the product of a kind of Enlightenment certainty that the church imbibed when it came to understanding texts.
It would also serve as a full rejection of dispensational readings of the Bible- this seems to be where R.C. Sproul was coming from- pushing it about as far as you can get on account of its usefulness in rebuffing the Dispensational “Left Behind”-style eschatology so prevalent at the end of the last century.
Some see preterism as far back as the Counter-reformation when Catholics were eager to reject the idea that the 16th century and the Reformation represented a culmination of history and that the Pope was the antichrist.
Often in discussions of preterism, you come to see what Michael asks about “partial” preterism. “Partial preterism” can be understood as a “now and not yet” reading of the Kingdom of God. Some things have been fulfilled while others have not. OR we see in the book of revelation a cycle of things being fulfilled and re-fulfilled. For example, there is not one anti-Christ but many. There is not one new Babylon- but it’s a cycle of kingdoms set up in opposition to the Gospel of Jesus.
So- preterism is, historically, a fringe doctrine, but a modified version of it can fit within historically prevalent orthodoxies.
Thanks, Michael, for the question and the jokes- such as: What do you call an alligator in a vest?
The last word for today comes from the daily lectionary- from Romans 6:
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 28th of November 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who knows that San Diego used to be the Tuna capital of the world and that while you can tune a piano, you can’t tuna fish. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man who asks if you can think of a better fish pun let minnow- I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.