Here is an interesting post by Preterist author David Green on another site. He is responding to a another person who wrote to assert a common question/objection about Preterism, namely, why so many early church fathers “missed” prophetic fulfillment for so long.
- If futurism is an error, that doesn’t mean the Spirit “has been a failure in revealing the MEANING/INTERPRETATION of the inspired Word.”
- If futurism is an error, that doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit failed to sustain “the BASIC understanding of Scripture” among the saints throughout time.
- If futurism is an error, that doesn’t mean Jesus and the apostles were “ineffective conveyors/teachers of Scripture.”
“The truth is that from the preterist perspective, futurists and preterists stand shoulder to shoulder in agreement on the substance of the Christian faith, despite the scriptural error of futurism. Here are some questions for our futurist readers:
- Do you believe that Christ’s work of atonement is complete?
- Do you believe that [the Old Covenant Faith]… and the hand-made temple of God are gone forever?
- Do you believe in the gathering of the universal elect, living and dead, in the Christian age?
- Do you believe that Christ dwells in you now, in fulfillment of Col. 1:27?
- Do you believe that the spiritual kingdom of God is here in its fullness now?
- Do you believe that the church is the completed and established new covenant temple (tabernacle) of God?
- Do you believe that all the saints, living and dead, are one body or “communion” in Christ now?
If you answered yes to those questions, then welcome to preterism. The above realities are the “sum and substance” of preterism. They are “the first principles” and “the great essentials” of preterist eschatology.
Therefore, if you believe in all those things (and many futurists do), you are a preterist “in spirit and in truth” even if you are an exegetical futurist.
If you believe in a fully fulfilled spiritual fulfillment but await a physical consummation, then from the preterist perspective, you are a preterist who simply has an extra-biblical “futurology” appended to your fully preterist soteriology/eschatology. From the preterist perspective, many traditional futurists are, in principle, already in agreement with preterists from beginning to end.
If preterism is true, it is NOT accurate to say that believers who were alive in AD 70 “missed” and did not “notice” the consummation of redemptive history.
The truth is that the church saw the consummation of redemptive history and embraced it, but exegetically mis-categorized it.
The early church failed to recognize that many prophetic passages were fulfilled, but that does not mean that the church “missed” the fulfillment of those passages. It only means that the church failed to connect all the prophecies to the Christological fulfillment that the church truly and knowingly saw and embraced. Despite futurist errors regarding various and major prophecy-texts, the church has been, in a very real sense, teaching preterism for nearly two thousand years now. We can find examples of preterism throughout the church fathers.
From the preterist point of view, it is not a stretch to say that at least some of the church fathers perceived the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and the resurrection of the dead, and the destruction of Death in the saints. They truly saw these things by faith, even if they exegetically failed to connect all the right Scripture texts to the realities they embraced. The failure of the church fathers to connect all the right verses to what they saw and embraced is a long way from them “missing” and “not noticing” what they saw and embraced.
Instead of missing the fulfillment of all Scripture, the early church fathers exegetically “misfiled” it and unwittingly appended an extra-biblical futurology onto their biblically fulfilled (preterist) theology. Ironically, what the post-70 church “missed” was that it did not miss the fulfillment of all biblical prophecy. It did not see (perceive) that it had truly seen (perceived) the Parousia.
As we established above, the sum and substance of apostolic eschatology was preserved and passed down through the church, without interruption, in all generations down to the present day. What was “missed” was the identification of the events of AD 70 with various prophecy-texts. That error does not constitute a “radical nosedive” or a plunging into an “abyss” or a loss of the sum and substance of either eschatology or the gospel.
Many of the church fathers believed that “Christ in you” was a fully realized prophecy, and that the church was now the new covenant tabernacle of God among men, and that the dead had been resurrected into the presence of God.
As the record demonstrates, the church did NOT miss these core doctrines of preterism. The church’s primary error instead was in failing to interpret eschatological passages consistently in accordance with the church’s biblical-preterist presuppositions.
From the preterist perspective, the now vestigial appendage of futurism does not negate or nullify the church’s knowledge of fulfilled salvation (preterism) through the gospel. Even in its futurist misunderstanding of many eschatological texts, the church understood and preached the truths of preterism and of the gospel. From the preterist perspective, the church effectually understood the Scriptures despite its exegetical lapses. . . .
As we have seen, some or perhaps most futurists are “unrealized preterists” in that their exegesis does not match their preterist presuppositions.
Thus the appearance of explicit, exegetical preterism in history is the result of God’s people, through His Spirit, gaining a greater understanding of their scriptural presuppositions, and interpreting the Scriptures accordingly.”
And remember, for most of the past 2000 years, the same theologians who missed a preterist interpretation of certain passages in the Bible, also taught that the sun revolved around the earth because of a misinterpretation of passages in the Bible. As well as numerous other errors that took reformations to correct. Like that slavery and segregation are wrong, or that laypeople have the right to read the Bible. If the people creating tradition’s futuristic expectations refused to believe the correct orientation of our world in the face of plain scientific evidence, what makes you think these guys were infallible regarding their exegesis about ‘end of the world’?