A Question I Was Asked:

What are the 'Preterist' and 'Partial Preterist' Views of the End Times?

What are the 'Preterist' and 'Partial Preterist' views of the end times? I have seen this question handled badly. Can you explain it , especially with reference to the roots of the teachings, especially of the opposing views of the dispensationalists?

UK Apologetics Reply:

Alright, it's a good question. I will not go into every detail here but will just touch on the 'highspots,' however, I may write a fuller article on this topic in the future.

Yes, there are big problems with the way some have handled and continue to handle this question. A few seem determined to misunderstand what "preterism" really means. They see it as either part of liberal theology, or some other dire and dangerous 'new teaching.' However, I really must say that our first question should not be, 'what is the 'preterist view' of the end times' but rather, we should ask 'What is the true Bible view of the end times?' Once we comprehend that, then we can see if this measures up with what has become known as 'preterism.'

'Preterism' is divided into two types: full preterism and partial preterism. This topic merely concerns ones view of how Bible prophecy should be handled and taught, especially that form of prophecy found within the Book of Revelation and the 'Mount Olivet' prophecy of Jesus (Matthew 24 etc). It does not go beyond that. A 'full preterist' believes that all prophecy in Matthew 24 and Revelation is now fulfilled. There are not many 'full preterists' around. In complete contrast, a 'futurist' believes that something like 80-90% is yet to be fulfilled. So, in a nutshell, 'full preterism' teaches that all Bible prophecy is now fulfilled, yes, even including the Second Coming of our Lord! Needless to say, it is minority position; as I say, few are in that particular camp. However, between these two extreme views (thankfully) stands 'partial preterism' - it teaches that whilst a huge section of Bible prophecy certainly now stands fulfilled, nevertheless, not entirely all of it. Our Lord has not yet returned in power and glory and the resurrection has not occurred. Perhaps 85%-90% of preterists are partial preterists. Yes, I stand in the partial preterist camp. Why? Because after many, many years of Bible study I believe that it is precisely what the Bible teaches. When I was a less mature Bible believer, I was a 'futurist,' believing that about 85% of what one finds in The Book of Revelation is yet to be fulfilled. Just about every cult and sect also believes that! I'm afraid that - in my opinion - 'futurism' is an immature understanding of the Bible. With extensive study, I discovered that there is very little doubt that something like 85% of what one finds in Revelation and much (but not entirely all) of the Matthew 24 'Olivet prophecy' stands as already fulfilled but, again, not yet entirely everything.

Those who oppose both full and partial preterism (usually dispensationalists, and certainly several of the cults and sects) are almost always strong 'futurists.' That is, they believe that about 90% of Revelation is yet to be fulfilled. It is what I call the adventuristic and futuristic view of Revelation and has become very much an American thing (despite having most of its roots in Europe), it is disinterested in correlating Revelation with the Old Testament, which we should always do, rather, it always looks to tie in things within Revelation with happenings which we see in the modern world. It also can be accused of using scare tactics as a tool for evangelism. It loves to use phrases like, "Revelation shows us that horrible things are about to befall this earth - You need to make sure that you escape the plagues to come by repenting right now!" It may well be that some dreadful things will occur 'on this earth' but it is an error to assume that everything in Revelation is in the future, especially when the book's author seemed to believe much of it would be fulfilled shortly after its writing! See Revelation 1:1. For those who remember his extremist writings, Herbert W. Armstrong was a very clear 'futurist,' especially in his booklets '1975 in Prophecy,' and 'The Book of Revelation Unveiled At Last.' Some of the things he wrote are now quite laughable really. He was high on emotion but very low on solid knowledge. He was a 'futurist' who had done very little study or research, however, he had a rare gift for manipulating others. He insisted that he was an 'apostle' - in the New Testament sense. Amazingly, some still believe that he was, but I must not digress.

So, in my honestly-held opinion, and after many, many years of Bible study, I propose that the so-called 'partial preterist' position is the closest to what the New Testament actually upholds. It follows from this that I consider that both 'full preterism' and 'futurism' are in error even if they are views held by some sincere people. Of course, holders of those views remain my brothers and sisters in Christ (as long as they are Christians, of course). The particular approach to Bible prophecy which I advocate ('partial preterism') is not new at all (as some would suggest), rather, it was the overall view of the 'church fathers,' and of great Bible authorities such as Luther, Calvin, Richard Baxter, Hendriksen, J.C. Ryle and many, many others. My fellow Welshman Martyn Lloyd-Jones also explained Revelation in a way which was fully in line with this teaching.

I expound what I consider to be the best and most biblical interpretation of Matthew 24 in the following link. It just happens to be what has also become known as the 'partial-preterist' view of the Matthew 24 prophecy:
Jerusalem AD70; The Worst Destruction Ever?

Robin A. Brace. February 26th, 2015.