“Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:34-35 KJV).
Atavist-Full /Preterist Dialogue: Premises, Challenges, and Solutions
by Mark Mountjoy
Christians who share a passionate interest in the study of fulfilled eschatology, like their futurist counterparts, are not saying exactly the same things about the same texts. Some of these differences are quite inconsequential, but some of them are quite important.
In this short essay, I would like to invite Full Preterists who are willing to step forward, to explain, step by step, what they believe King Nebuchadnezzar's dream represents from the head of gold all the way to the time when the wind blew the chaff away and the Stone became a great mountain. I think the text of Daniel 2:1-44 is critical to our having productive discussions that can, at the very least, promote reflection and, perhaps lesson or even eliminate some of the more glaring differences that exist between the narrative told by Full Preterist exegetes and those who have an alternative Atavist view.
Very Big Differences
From the start of the chart below to its conclusion there are a number of concerning issues that I hope we as Christians can discuss, reflect upon and iron out. It is to our advantage if what we say can absolutely be backed up by the Scriptures and by standard historical accounts that do not have to be doctored up. And it appears to me that some of the notions that we have are carry-over ideas that were inculcated in us when we believed in conventional views of history and of eschatology.
For example, the idea of a fourth empire as the Roman power is standard fare in the conventional understanding of Nebuchadnezzar’s final Gentile realm. This belief permeates Premillennial and Amillennial, Historicist, and Postmillennial thinking. It is utilized as shorthand to say that God was interested in letting Nebuchadnezzar, and Daniel, the Jewish people, and all mankind know the entire course of world history to the very end of time. However, it does not seem to stand up in light of the purpose of Daniel’s four kingdoms as well as the known course of imperial Roman history from the third decade of the first century B.C. till the demise of the Western empire in A.D. 476. This is a very obvious problem that only the Premillennialist attempt to address. They do so by saying that the Roman “shall live again” using Revelation 17:8, 11 as their proof text.
Romans Only Victors in A.D.70—73
When certain Christians (I mean Premillennialists) hear someone saying that Jesus came back in A.D.70, one of the first things they are going to think is, Really!? They are going to listen and look to see whether or not the Roman Empire suffered defeat in the past as they had assumed Rome would in the future. Even if they are arrested and intrigued by the time statements and audience relevance, it will not take very long for them to see that nothing in A.D.70 as far as the judgment, defeat or the destruction of the Romans seems to be the case. When Full Preterists tell of Nero’s central role in the drama, similar things will happen: Nero plays no role that is alleged to belong to him.
In some Full Preterist writings, I have seen some pretty far out and unsubstantiated claims. In J.S. Russell’s Parousia, for example, Nero is offered as the one and only nominee for the role of “beast” even though he was dead two years before the revolt was over but in the Bible, the Beast is destroyed only after the war. Even Partial Preterists, like Dr. Kenneth Gentry, get their kicks in on Nero—Nero a king who gave the Jerusalem Church safe refuge at Pella almost a full two years before he committed suicide! There is no historical proof or exegetical reason to believe Nero was the bad man in Revelation 13 but he was the good man in Revelation 12! In fact, what we do know (thanks to Josephus) is this: At the beginning of the Great Revolt, Nero was in Achaia at a musical or a play.1 This can hardly be said to be the activities of anyone who can seriously be called “The Beast.”
In fact, when the New Testament speaks of “beasts” it has a domestic phenomenon closer to home in mind (See 2 Peter 2:12 and Jude 10). Whatever Nero's name adds up to, he never set foot in Judæa, never wished to be worshiped and never saw the Temple, let alone entered in or occupied the Holy of holies. These are huge problems that make the Full Preterist account, upon inspection, seem unreliable in spite of the great points that can be made about audience relevance, time statements, and overall context.
We may safely assume Full Preterists interpret the shins of iron and the feet of iron and clay to have something to do with the Romans, but is that correct? We the shins of iron to be the Hasmonean kingdom of Israel and understand feet to be the Judæan Roman client state, also known as Herodian Judæa. Within this context, the kingdom of God (foretold by Daniel six centuries before Christ) was chronologically near.
The Jewish Revolt of A.D.66, in which the mark of the beast and other sinister events came to fruition, seems to demarcate that entire forty-two month period as the toes of the feet and has to do with a Jewish suicide pact in case their cause against the Roman Empire met with losses and disappointments.
The Mark of the Beast and the Millennium of Revelation
20—Where Does it Really Begin?
Furthermore, it is within that period that Revelation 13’s “Mark of the Beast” finds it setting and makes sense. It does not appear that we can waver back and forth between the days of King Solomon and the Day of Pentecost in A.D.33 when we are dealing with something the Bible defines in a very tight window of opportunity. However, I have seen and heard Full Preterists do this very thing with great ease. If Satan was bound during the days of Solomon and loosed in A.D.66 then a number of very important Bible events happened without his agency, among them: the attempt of Haman the Amalekite to exterminate the Jews, the Hellenistic apostasy, Satan’s temptation of Christ and Satan’s inhabiting Peter and Judas, Ananias and Sapphira.
We can include in this his activities during the ministries of the Apostles and his reign of terror and mendacity in Asia Minor (described in the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation).
It does not appear from reading Revelation in general and chapter 20 in particular, that the Bible intends to say Satan was bound a very long time before the revolt broke out or was only loosed when the city fell. Nevertheless, Revelation 13:16-18 seems to have a definite place BEFORE the drama of the Fall of Jerusalem.
Even if we do not entirely understand what that was or what it specifically involved it gives us enough material that in chapters following its first mention in, for example Revelation 14:9-11, in 15:2, in 16:2 and finally in Revelation 20:4, all these texts make it is crystal clear that this unusual affair has fundamental ties to rebel activities and the doom of the city (Revelation 14:8-12).
Information Organization and the Interpretation of Revelation 20
A respect for and attention to information organization is the key to Atavists and Full Preterists having a really great time feasting on Words from God cherished by us both. I encourage anyone who is hesitant to play with possibilities while trying to keep one eye at all times on parameters inherent in the text’s subject, and context. In this regard, to my mind, the position of the Mark of the Beast in Revelation 13, 14, 15, 16 and 20:4 represents a key point that has to be fundamentally violated in order to have any latitude to work towards muting what Revelation 20 stands for, if well enough was left alone.
To say that the Christians were historically completely out of the danger zone as early as A.D.70 is completely contrary to both the text of Revelation and the standard accounts of Jewish history. Both sources show, independently of each other, that the final Jewish explosion was very much a threat to what Jesus stood for and what the Church represented—and it was not so near as to be completed by A.D.70, nor so far away as to be adjacent to the end of time and history, as we now know it.
Attempts at Conflation Lead to Interpretive Distortion and Frustration
It seems to me that the Full Preterist impulse tends to want to conflate or collapse Revelation 20 back into an A.D.30-70 framework. This makes no sense to my mind except in the light of Amillennial or Postmillennial antecedent notions which see nothing in the introductory verse of Revelation 20 that would place it away from Pentecost and ground it firmly into the very events first encountered seven chapters prior. Needless to say, if one succumbs to the thinking that Revelation 20 could as easily be the day of Pentecost as anything else, then, out of nowhere you have 20:1-4 in A.D.33 and 20:7-15 in A.D. 66-70—but it doesn't make sense because, basically, one has to say the mark of the beast began somewhere around A.D.66 and ended in 70 and then you have to turn around and say it may have something to do with Solomon or with the Day of Pentecost, who knows?”
If we know nothing else about it, we do know that the mark of the beast began to be an issue, for the first time, during the First Jewish war Revelation 13:16-17 cf. The Wars of the Jews 2.8.6:385-386).
No Logical End in Full Preterism
In Full Preterism, with those whom I have discussed the issue, there seems to be a general satisfaction that the “basics” are covered in the year A.D.70 as the ultimate terminus point for Bible prophecy. But it is not that the Parousia did not happen in the A.D.66-70 affair, it is that the Bible does not support that the eschaton was full and complete with the Stone only striking the image of the king’s dream on its toes.
- What about the pulverization of the broken pieces of the image?
- What about a transformation of those four kingdoms into chaff of the summer threshing-floor?
- What about a great wind carrying all those particles away?
- What about the stone transforming itself into a great mountain that fills the whole earth?
Full Preterists combine these final processes through a process of circular reasoning around the definition of a generation, not to what that expression could mean to its greatest extent, but to its least. Therefore they say:
“A generation is only forty years and Jesus said ALL things would be fulfilled within that generation. Period.”
That answer, in light of Luke 21:22 and 32 seems to be airtight until you look at the Parable of the Unclean Spirit in Matthew 12:43-45; it has to be read very carefully and then, after reading it, one must consult a concordance and look up all the places in the New Testament to document where Satan, the devil or demons are mentioned.
After this has been done you will see for yourself that at no time from the ministry of Christ all the way to the rebellion of A.D.70 was Satan EVER out of the picture. In other words, he was not shut up, cast down, chained, sealed or bound at any point along the way until after the Destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the marriage of Christ to the Church, the downfall of Jewish armies and pockets of resistance (Revelation 19:8-21) and it is only then that the narrative naturally comes to the events depicted in Revelation 20:1-4.
You see Satan in Matthew 4:1ff, at the beginning of Christ's ministry—loose. You see him in Luke 22:3, at the end of Christ's ministry—again, loose. Then after the day of Pentecost, you see him again, in Acts 5:3—loose—and in Acts 5:16 unclean spirits were then very much still in the land. If you go on a little further into Romans (16:20) and there we discover that he has not even been bruised yet. And in 2 Corinthians 11:14 he is quite the actor and definitely on the lam. In Ephesians 2:2 and 1 Timothy 5:15, in James 4:7 and in 1 Peter 5:8 it can be clearly seen that Satan was in no way in ‘leg chains’ much less in any bottomless pit!
When we get into the beginning chapters of Revelation we further discover that Satan's seat is in Asia Minor (not the bottomless pit-Revelation 2:13). Just before (Revelation 12:3-4, 9) and during the revolt (Revelation 13:2 and 4) Satan gave the beast his power and was also being worshiped by the rebels. He was not out of the way, nor had he ever in his life been bound. If he had never been bound what does it mean then? One thing it means is that a forty year generation (in light of the Parable of the Unclean Spirit) cannot withstand the idea that Satan was on the run the whole time until A.D.70! If Satan was bound only after the Mark of the Beast affair, then the period where Judaea's house was “swept and garnished” has to be in the aftermath (not before) the First Jewish Revolt. This suddenly means that the final Jewish Revolt could stand for Satan's loosing and final stand and (at the same time) mean that a generation is a mere forty years. A generation simply cannot mean a forty year lifetime when even the generation of the Exodus was not limited to forty-year-olds by the time they had reached the promised land (See Genesis 15:13).
In fact, Moses was 80 when they came out of Egypt and died forty years afterward. He was part of that generation, but he was not only forty years old when he died. In the same way, the generation of Jesus' day could easily be understood to be the children and the children's children and encompass the whole time when Satan was bound after the fall of the city and when he came back from the bottomless pit at the beginning of the seventh decade after the Destruction.
Now, when we get to the Bar Kokhba Revolt, it is customary for Full Preterists to plead that that is beyond the scope of the issues of the New Testament; I do not agree that that is the case at all. Especially since Full Preterists cannot show or demonstrate anywhere in the New Testament Satan was ever bound before the Destruction of Jerusalem.
The Bar Kokhba rebellion was a very big affair; it had a huge and negative impact on the second century Church; its results, however, worked for the best, in the long run (since it really amounted to the stage of prophecy where the entire image had been reduced to chaff on the summer threshing floors and, ultimately, made way for the Stone becoming a ‘great mountain.’
A necessary part of prophecy, this final Jewish war is said to have had staggering casualties that the First Great war could never hold a candle to the rabbis claim four billion Jews and God-fearing Gentile sympathizers were killed at that time. Some believe reports like this could be nothing more than outrageous exaggerations.
Could it be true when even the Holy Scriptures attest that the numbers of doomed Judæans would be “as the sand of the sea” (Romans 9:27 cf. Revelation 20:8).
On the historic side, we are told that 950 villages were involved in the effort. Fifty fortresses had been built for the work. The army that sprang up was far and away larger than any militia that had come into existence in the A.D.66-70 affair: 580,000 with 200,000 of them with their little finger amputated at the behest of Bar Kokhba. This was a big army in terms of ancient times! And their cause was the rebuilding of the Temple, acclamation of Bar Kokhba as the long-awaited “King Messiah” and the State of Israel as the political kingdom of God, according to their carnal and false interpretation of the kingdom prophecies of the Torah. This huge affair was staged with the mistaken belief that their numbers and the intensity of their belief that the Christians were wrong meant that they were right did nothing to stop them from plunging themselves off the proverbial precipice! However, the important thing I think we all need to come away with is this: This last
event, from the allusion in Revelation 20:8 to Ezekiel 38 and 39 means that that last effort of the sectarian Jews of that period were foretold to end in a total universal destruction, bringing the nation, its dreams and its hopes to an abrupt end, and the people, in staggering numbers, to the Great White Throne of Jesus Christ.
An awful lot needs to be discussed, but Full Preterism is like a runaway train that is rolling freely down the tracks, and not much in the way of dialogue is going on to ameliorate the structural fingerprints of Amillennialism premises that continue to define it. Less emphasis on the Roman Empire and more emphasis on the ambitions of the Second Jewish Commonwealth could alter definitive answers and bring about significant points of mutual agreement about the key aspects that challenge the logic and sequence of the relevant texts.
In the final analysis it is a good idea for Christians on all sides of these issues to be committed to dialogue. The fruit of intelligent discussion will lead to a much clearer view about what happened in the past and how our attention to these events are fundamental to our understanding of why anyone should need or want to be Christians today and beyond.
As before, so now, we continue to believe Bible prophecy is a critical issue about missiology and discipleship: that God desires to be reconciled with mankind and he wants to see a certain character of his New People.
With all that is going on in the Christian world that subtracts, distorts or conceals, it would be a major mistake to neglect to double-check the assumptions we have held about the Romans, the Jews and even the Church and her apocalyptic cause célèbre. Please feel free to respond to this essay with a counter-essay or critique. We will be most pleased to publish it. Thank you.