Is Partial Preterism wrong?
If partial preterism is wrong, then I am wrong as well, as that is a fair
description of how I view the book of Revelation. I am confident you know
the meaning of this term, but for the sake of anyone else reading this
question and answer, let me supply a definition of preterism I found at
the web site www.preteristarchive.com.
“The term “preterist” can be found in the Unabridged versions of Webster’s
Dictionary. I’ve found the definition as far back as 1913. It says — “2.
(Theol.) One who believes the prophecies of the Apocalypse to have been
already fulfilled. Farrar.” Dictionaries are by definition authoritative
compilations of word meanings, and the inclusion of a word is significant.
The fact that the word “preterist” can be found as far back as 1913 shows
conclusively that it has had the meaning we’ve been associating it with
for at least 86 years!”
To simplify a bit, the preterist view is in opposition to the millenial
view, of which there are a few flavors, including premillenialism and
postmillenialism. Both kinds of millenialists see a great deal of the
apocalyptic language in the book of Revelation as a reference to a still
future conflict between the forces of evil and Jesus Christ. The
difference between the pre- and post-millenialists has to do with their
view of where the thousand-year reign of Christ fits into the last days
Who, then, is a partial preterist? This is a person who sees the
majority, and possibly even the great majority of the apocalyptic visions
in the book of Revelation as being a representation of events which
happened in heaven and which happened to the church during the lifetime of
the apostle John or in the succeeding generations when the church suffered
persecutions under Rome. What makes a person a partial preterist is that
they believe that at least some of the vision concerns future events.
Being a partial preterist myself, I believe that the book of Revelation
includes a description of a future resurrection and judgement, especially
in Revelation 20:7-22:6. I believe that most of the description of
spiritual battle in Revelation is intended to show the saints, especially
those in the first centuries, that God is in control and that he will be
victorious over those who persecute the church.
The preterist points out that John saw a vision concerning events which
“must soon take place.” (Revelation 1:1). The most obvious (though not
the only possible) intepretation of this is that the vision concerns
events in the time immediately surrounding the apostle John. There is
much more evidence which can be used for preterism, but let me just
mention one more piece. Revelation 17:1-18 is a prophecy about ten horns
and a little horn, which is undoubtably a parallel to the horns in Daniel
chapter seven. These eleven horns are the first eleven emperors of Rome,
the eleventh of whom is Domitian, the first systematic persecutor of the
saints. There is specific information about Nero, Galba, Otho and
Vitellius (the fifth through eighth emperors of Rome) in Revelation 17 as
well. More on this can be found in my book, Daniel, Prophet to the
Nations (www.ipibooks.com). It seems that to deny that this particular
vision is about the persecution of the saints is to deny the obvious. If
true, then the strict millenial interpretation in not correct, and some
form of preterism must be sustained.
However, let us get back to partial preterism. Some preterists disagree,
but it does seem somewhat straightforward to interpret the events before
the great white throne as lying in the future. When the dead are raised
and judged, being sent to heaven or hell, it seems consistent with many
biblical passages to see this as occurring at the end of days, not during
the lifetime of the apostle John. It seems logical and reasonable to
interpret the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 as a reference to the
still-future final kingdom of God when the saints will live with God in
A lot more can be said about this. Many books have been written on the
subject. My two favorites on Revelation are the book “Revelation” by Jim
McGuiggan (google Jim McGuiggan to locate a copy) and the book “Mine Eyes
Have Seen the Glory” by Gordon Ferguson (www.ipibooks.com). The
former takes a rather strict preterist view, the latter could be described
as being partially preterist.
You ask if partial preterism is wrong. I would say that the truth is
absolute, but our ability to determine the absolutely correct doctrine in
certain areas is questionable. Let me put it this way. No, I do not
believe that partial preterism is wrong. In fact, I believe that it is
the most reasonable interpretative approach to the book of Revelation.
However, I do not feel it is helpful to call the fully preterist view
“wrong”, or even the millenialism doctrine “wrong,” as we can let the
truth of such ideas about end times be revealed in their own time. It is
not worth dividing from one another over such relatively less important
matters of interpretation. I would prefer to say that I see the partial
preterist view is the most likely explanation–that I do not believe in a
future millenial physical return of Jesus to the earth. However, in
humility, I will admit that some careful and sincere scholars believe in
millenialism, and I respect their right to their opinion on this subject
which is not a salvation issue.