Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Additional Thoughts on 70 A.D., Preterism, The Olivet Discourse, and Gap Theories.


During the last decade or so, preterism has become all the rage among the young, Reformed crowd who have renounced their former, Dispensational, Fundamentalist ways. There are websites dedicated to the promotion of preterism, and bloggers, apologists, and authors who have given a considerable amount of time speaking and writing on the subject.

A lot of the proponents I have personally encountered come across to me as smug, chest-thumpers. Granted, much of the strident zeal they exude in defense of their hermeneutic can be chalked up to the excitement of immature, cage-stage devotees; but it gets tiresome being called a heretic, racist, and any number of other ad hominem’s. It also becomes old real quick having to interact all the time with strawman arguments that misrepresent my position as a dispensational oriented premillennialist.

The immediate difficulty I have with preterism is the constant need for its proponents to defend their orthodoxy. That’s because the nuances are such between the orthodox and heterodox preterists that it is hard to tell them apart. I see this as a problem.

The orthodox preterists call themselves “partial preterists,” and earnestly insist on being distinguished from the “hyper-preterists” or “neo-hymenaeanism” heretical variety, who teach the second coming happened in 70 A.D., among other things. In fact, the “partials” expend so much effort clarifying their own views in distinction from the heretical strain that it is almost impossible to find any treatment of the “good” preterism without having to wade through a disclaimer setting forth their hermeneutic against that of the “evil” hypers’.

To be fair and charitable, there are always imbalanced, “hyper” positions within theological systems, hyper-Calvinism being one of the more familiar examples. But the difference, I believe, is that when I talk about Calvinism with a person, I as a Calvinist rarely, if ever, have had to set aside any time contrasting my views against the hyper variety. Now some may say the friendly chiding I gave my Reformed Covenant friends as to their general mishandling of Dispensationalism is a similar example to the partial/hyper distinctive. But there is a clear difference with distinguishing between sensationalists who happen to be Dispensational adherents, and hyper-Dispensationalists, who certainly teach gross, theological error.

At any rate, I’ll lay aside exploring the particulars of preterism until a later time. It’s my goal to eventually blog on preterism as a subject sometime in the future. But in the mean time I wanted to expand upon one of my points outlined in my last Daniel post, that being a gap existing between the 69th and 70th week in Daniel’s prophecy.

As I pointed out, preterists ridicule any idea of a gap existing between the 69th and 70th week. I don’t recall how many times I heard or read Gary DeMar, or Kim Riddlebarger, or Gene Cook, or Dee Dee Warren, or any other number of preterist popularizers explaining to their audience how ridiculous the notion of a gap of time between the 69th and 70th week is. DeMar devotes an entire chapter in his book, Last Days Madness, to debunking the notion.

But is the idea of an extended gap of time between the 69th and 70th week just absurd eisegetical gymnastics? A phantom of “silly putty exegesis” as Demar claims? I don’t think so.

I say that because of a couple of reasons found in Daniel and the Olivet Discourse.

First, the last clause of Daniel 9:26 states And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

That word desolations is significant in its descriptions of God’s dealings with Israel. The word speaks of being made waste, or desolate in the sense of being made empty, and it is meant to describe a terrible horror, or something that is spectacularly appalling.

In its usage within the OT, the word is connected with God bringing the terms of His covenant upon the people of Israel, particularly the cursings against a disobedient people. One of the major points of those covenant cursings is that God will remove the people from the Promised Land.

For example, in Leviticus 26:31-35, the Bible says,

31 I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas.

32 I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it.

33 I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste.

34 Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies' land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths.

35 As long as it lies desolate it shall rest-- for the time it did not rest on your sabbaths when you dwelt in it.

The desolation described here in Leviticus is Israel having its land made waste, or emptied of people, if they refuse to obey the Lord. Desolation was fulfilled when Israel went into captivity for 70 years. This is noted in Jeremiah 25:11; 34:22; 42:2, 22, and other similar passages in the OT.

So what are exactly these “desolations are determined” that Daniel mentions? They have to be some future desolations beyond the 70 years of captivity Israel had just experienced. Luke’s version of Christ’s Olivet Discourse, I believe, supplies a clue. Luke 21:20 records Jesus saying, But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Here, Luke mentions a specific sign of “armies and desolation,” which would match closely to Daniel’s “war and desolations” in 9:26.

I believe this desolation began when Rome came to Jerusalem and destroyed the temple in 70 A.D. Here we have clear historical fulfillment of Christ’s words. In this instance the preterists are correct. But there is more.

Luke 21:24 goes on to record Jesus saying, And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. What Jesus predicts happened: Jerusalem was surrounded by armies, the people were killed and led away captive into all the nations, and, according to Jesus, this desolation was to continue until the times of gentiles are fulfilled. The desolation begins with a sign, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded…” This event signals the desolation and “the time of the gentiles.”

Jesus predicted in Matthew 24:34 that the generation he was speaking to would not pass away until these things begin to take place. Preterists understand that a good portion of the prophetic events outlined by Jesus in his Olivet Discourse were completely fulfilled in 70 A.D. Though I think they are correct in that the generation did not pass away, they are mistaken as to the fulfillment of the prophetic events spoken. The “fulfillment” Jesus is talking about, I believe, is that that generation would be alive to see the beginning of the desolation and the start of the “time of the gentiles.” That desolation included the destruction of the temple, the giving over of the nation to captivity, and the ultimate dispersion of a good bulk of the Jewish population.

Second, one additional grammatical highlight is the phrase in Matthew 24:34, “until all these things take place.” Without reproducing all of the lexical and syntactical details, the word genetai that is translated as “until all these take place,” has the more concise idea of “when these thing begin to take place.” Barry Horner provides a good analysis of this point in his article, The Olivet Discourse – Matthew 24, starting at page 31 and following. The first appendix attached to Horner’s article, written by Presbyterian minister C.E. Stowe, is an even more detailed study of this passage in Matthew. In short, rather than being a comment from our Lord that these events will be completely fulfilled, He is saying to His audience to be alert to when these events start.

The beginning of events, then, is the desolation of Jerusalem and the ushering in of the time of the gentiles. This is why there is a gap. We are now in that time of the gentiles, which has yet to be fulfilled. Paul explains in Romans 11:25 that blindness on the part of Israel has happened because the fullness of the gentiles is not complete. God is actively bring gentiles believers to salvation in Christ, and until the time of the gentiles ends according to God’s divine purpose, the 70th week is yet to take place.

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Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"God is actively bring gentiles believers to salvation in Christ, and until the time of the gentiles ends according to God’s divine purpose, the 70th week is yet to take place."

Hi Fred,

There will always be pregnant Gentile women somewhere in the world. It's not my place to understand *how*, but I can't help but wonder how and when "the time of the Gentiles" ends and what signs there are, if any, that give strong indications that it is pending Real Soon Now.

9:31 AM, May 04, 2011  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...

Tim LaHaye brought me to Christ. After studying more, I questioned some of the theology, remaining thankful for LaHaye's books nonetheless. However, I went to a debate between Gary Demar and Thomas Ice at Biola and was chilled by the attitude of both DeMar and his fans towards Ice.

I guess the gamut runs both ways though. I was literally laughed at when I questioned a couple minor points at a dispensational prophecy class, especially when I mentioned that although I agreed with a lot of the major doctrinal points of dispensationalism, I still believed Revelation should be read in light of other apocalyptic literature of the era.

1:20 PM, May 04, 2011  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Fred, Sir Aaron,

What do you think of this post written in 2006 by David Stewart titled Will the Lord Return in 2018?

It seems alright to me, but I'd like to get the thoughts of you fellas too.

1:59 PM, May 04, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

and was chilled by the attitude of both DeMar and his fans towards Ice.

No pun intended of course.

I was literally laughed at when I questioned a couple minor points at a dispensational prophecy class, especially when I mentioned that although I agreed with a lot of the major doctrinal points of dispensationalism, I still believed Revelation should be read in light of other apocalyptic literature of the era.

That is regrettable, even though I think you are dead wrong about Revelation being read in light of apocalyptic literature. =-)

I do appreciate that Paul Henebury, Dr. Reluctant, is trying to shore up biblical thinking among the groups of dispensationalists.

5:16 PM, May 04, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I'll take a look at that article by Stewart, but the fact that it comes from a tin-foil hat wearing, fundy, KJV only sympathizing page doesn't really make it reliable for me.

5:18 PM, May 04, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Fred-

Personally, I believe the times of the Gentiles began with Babylonian hegemony over Israel, or basically, the 70 year exile. It will extend through the end of the age since Israel never regained complete sovereignty back. At each stage there was an empire having dominion over her.

I also distinguish between the times of the Gentiles, which concerns Gentile dominion over Israel and Jerusalem, and the fullness of the Gentiles which concerns present Gentile salvation within the body of Christ.

Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13

-The Orange Mailman

5:50 PM, May 04, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I also distinguish between the times of the Gentiles, which concerns Gentile dominion over Israel and Jerusalem, and the fullness of the Gentiles which concerns present Gentile salvation within the body of Christ.

Can you flush that out a bit? I would be curious to see how you build your case to make that distinction.

6:57 PM, May 04, 2011  
Blogger P.D. Nelson said...

Fred as you know I am probably the partial preterist non-theonomic post-mill you know the best, maybe, and I'm tired of these type of discussions from both sides. Its amazing to me how much eschatology gets chatted about as opposed to other doctrines. And don't get me wrong you do discuss the other doctrines and I love those discussions but really I think James White has got it right its not worth the time or effort to discuss it when there are more important things to talk about. And that is just my two cents take it for what it is worth or not.

On the other hand happy Star Wars day. May the Fourth be with you.

9:15 PM, May 04, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Its amazing to me how much eschatology gets chatted about as opposed to other doctrines...[B]ut really I think...its not worth the time or effort to discuss it when there are more important things to talk about."

Futurists like me are more interested in eschatology becasue we don't believe that everything has already happened yet. ;)

7:58 PM, May 05, 2011  
Blogger Dusman said...


Eschatology's not important? Have you heard of how the American Atheists are mocking Christians once again because of Harold Camping's nutwing predictions? Eschatology is important if not to counter both the Premill. and Amill. date-setters.

7:59 PM, May 05, 2011  
Blogger P.D. Nelson said...

Escovado partial preterist post-mills are futurists just ask Mike Horton. According to him I've gone from one extreme (dispensationalism) to the other both looking to some future kingdom.

Dusman atheists mock the return of Christ no matter what 20 years ago an atheist teacher who taught Bible as literature, which I took, mocked the passage in Matt 24 saying thatsince Christ didn't return within one generation i was proof of him not being the Messiah. Nothing in my pre-mill dispensational training gave me an answer to his questions/comments.

9:44 PM, May 06, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know you’re a partial preterist; my statement was intended to be more of joke than a technically accurate description of your views.

I don't know which category of theology my beliefs fall into since I never really tried to label myself. I guess you would consider me a pre-mill dispensationalist, but I really don’t care to defend dispensationalism itself one way or the other.

When I read preterist treatments of The Olivet Discourse such as this, It's Not the End of the World!, by Dee Dee Warren, my eyes glaze over and my head explodes. It seems as though that author spends so much of her time trying to impress everyone how smart she is that never gets to the point. She also gets so bogged down in minute details that she misses the forest for the leaf on one of the trees. Occam’s razor immediately comes to mind: all things being equal, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. I don’t believe that the Holy Spirit ever intended the understanding of His scriptures to be so ridiculously complicated.

My understanding of Matthew 24:34 has always been that “this generation” is the generation that sees the signs described at the end of the age. In fact, consider me naive, but, until I ran into preterists, it never knew there were Christians who considered “this generation,” in the context of Matthew 24, to be the generation of Jesus’ disciples. I believe that Matthew 24 and Luke 21 are two different discourses that are describing two different events: Matthew 24, Christ’s second coming and Luke 21, the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

One of my favorite treatments of these passages in the Gospels was done in Chuck Missler’s briefing pack, This Generation: Resolving The Olivet Discourse. He does a masterful job of diagraming Matthew 24 and Luke21 that made this issue perfectly clear to me. Missler points out important structural verses, like Luke 21:12, that Dee Dee Warren simply ignores. I find that very strange.

I know everyone here hates Calvary Chapel, so you all probably hate Chuck Missler as well, but I found his presentation to be a breath of fresh air.

That’s my opinion. I’m not interested in getting into a big debate with you over this because I am very busy now. I think you might find Missler’s presentation interesting, if you haven’t seen it yet. And if you already have and you think it’s all wrong, then I guess we will have to agree to disagree.

9:30 PM, May 07, 2011  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...


I might need to clarify because when I used the language "in light of" that's a bit vague. At the time I was studying a series by Dr. Robert Morey called Jewish Apocalypticism. His theory was that the language/symbolism is distinctly Jewish and actually is by genre, apocalyptic. Therefore, if you read Revelation as a Jew would read such a genre, one can come to a better understanding of certain symbols (because they had cultural meaning).

I can't explain it in a post, but I'd say it's a nuanced view of dispensationalism that answers some of the objections of Gary DeMar, i.e. the OT "judgement coming" language.

In any case, I know that if you and I were discussing nuanced views of eschatology (especially minor points) you wouldn't laugh at me but would, I assume, engage me in a discussion so we could exlore it.

8:45 PM, May 08, 2011  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...

I hope my last post made it....I'd hate to retype it.

@Tuad: I looked briefly at your link. It seems ok, but I didn't have the time to break down everything he said. I think I have similar views. I don't see how we wont be worse that Noah's time in 20 to 30 years. O that God will be merciful and save my children!

10:08 AM, May 09, 2011  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Sir A,
I am familiar with Morey's book and his thesis that Revelation is Jewish apocalypticism.

I recall hearing him talk about his position, and when he spoke on eschatology he would make the bold declaration that he wasn't amill, premill, or postmill, but believed in Jewish apocalypticism, as if it was some forgotten perspective he had discovered and everyone else seemed to have overlooked.

He was always intentionally vague when he addressed the subject, never defining what it was or how it was distinct from other eschatological systems, because he then turned to selling his book: "....and if you want to know more, I wrote a book, blah, blah, blah."

But I think he overstates his view, because I have read various works on eschatology from all of the major perspectives, and all of them appeal to reading Revelation as apocalyptic literature.

Apocalyptic literature tends to be slightly different that biblical prophecy, which is where I believe Revelation falls. Here's an article detailing the subject.

6:33 AM, May 10, 2011  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...

I have his books and cassettes on the subject. I would agree that he overstates his view as well, because by his sermons he seems to line up right along dispensational lines except for some disagreement about the exact meaning of some of the symbolism in Revelation.

At the time, I was trying to work out for myself the problems that DeMar had brought up...those being his two main points, the meaning "this generation" from Matthew 24 and the seemingly hyperbolic "judgement-coming" language of the OT, like which, the symbolism in Revelation most closely resembles (according to him).

I've pretty much given up the task of getting past the weaknesses of the pre-trib-premil position (which I think has the fewest weaknesses of all the positions yet they still exist).

My point really is that people get very mean over eschatology, especially when you consider that many of us believe and accept the fundamentals.

7:32 AM, May 10, 2011  
Blogger Sir Aaron said...

I read the article, BTW. It's good, although it doesn't move me beyond the inherent problems of trying to undertstand prophetic passages that are literal and at the same time, filled with symbolism. (Not that different than everyday language. A person from another culture might not understand that I'm being both literal and symbolic when I tell my kid that she'll be spanked so she can't sit down for a week.)

7:36 AM, May 10, 2011  
Blogger Ariana Warde said...

Hello, thank you for this article.

I have an unrelated question which was sparked by your explanation of the word "until"--meaning, "when these things begin to take place". I am a premillennial Protestant, but I have spent a while researching the doctrines of the Catholic faith. When defending the perpetual virginity of the Virgin Mary, they often say that, when the Bible says that she had no relations with Joseph UNTIL the birth of Jesus, they use somewhat of the same argument that you did: that the Greek "until" did not mean that she had sex with him after Jesus, but that it simply means that she did not have relations during her pregnancy, which does not disprove her continual virginity thereafter.

I'm wondering if you have any knowledge or insight as to this particular use of the word "until"?

11:29 AM, April 01, 2013  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Hey Ariana,
I am not entirely sure they could draw those conclusions about Mary if they take the understanding to be "When these things begin to take place." At least the idea that she didn't have sex with Joseph all through their pregnancy.

A couple of reasons I say that has to do with the fact that the phrases in Matthew 1:25 and 24:34 are different. They aren't the same words. So there isn't any grammatical comparison.

Secondly is the fact the Gospel writers identify his siblings on a few occasions, Matthew 12:47,48; 13:55ff.; Mark 3:31-34; Luke 8:19-21; John 2:12; 7:3-10.

It is just clear the perpetual virginity of Mary is an unsustainable dogma that isn't found in Scripture.

2:22 PM, April 01, 2013  
Blogger Ariana Warde said...

Thanks--if it's a completely different word, then that clears that up.

Regarding the siblings, however, they would argue that the use of "brother" can also mean "cousin". Did they completely just make that up?

4:41 PM, April 01, 2013  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Yes. Of those references where the Gospel writers speak about Jesus's siblings, they use the word adelphos (if memory serves here) which means blood brother and sister. There is an entirely different word used for the concept of cousins.

So the idea being that those siblings were Jesus's blood half brothers and sisters through the relationship of Joseph and Mary.

9:15 AM, April 03, 2013  

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