If I Was a Futurist and I Saw the Evidence
Preterists Present What Would Make
Me Pause or Equivocate?
by Mark Mountjoy
It would be a mistake to think that some people who refuse to commit to Preterism or who hesitate to think it is little more than the newest heretical distraction are doing so for purely convenient reasons like reputation, relationships, or economic concerns. To be able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and try to look at ideas, the world, and issues from their point of view takes extreme patience and a willingness to try to identify what might be bothering them. It may not always be what we think; it may not always be obvious. We can always ask them what it is without letting their criticism get under our skin and causing us to become defensive and turn a chance to learn something from them into an argument or a debate (we could actually be wrong), but how could we ever know if we refuse to listen to anything but our own voice and reasons?
On our part, we may be guilty of speaking in an echo chamber and in our zeal to have only a sounding board, we may not realize how we are coming across to people. This is as true for me as for anyone else—which is why it is very important for Christians to stay in communication with as many different other kinds of Christians as we possibly can. We don’t have to agree with everybody to the nth degree and certainly, God does not expect this of us.
If we do not want to observe certain holidays or entertain certain traditions, or use certain accouterments in our worship we are free to refrain from them or ignore them, but this message about a past Second Coming can get tricky when we delude ourselves to think it is necessarily a ‘black and white,’ ‘either/or’ issue in the eyes of other people who are standing back and looking on.
At some point, our reasoning can hit a nerve because it is so on point almost nobody could miss it. When we talk about what Jesus expected, what the Apostles expected, what the early Christians hoped for, most people, if they know anything about the New Testament, already realize that the Second Coming was expected to happen long before now. To be fair to the majority of Christians they may reason that legitimate mitigating circumstances are the reason why it has not happened yet. They may point to Revelation 20 and conclude that it rests on explaining how that fits into the past if everything in Bible eschatology is really already said and done.
And it is precisely here where we can run into problems when we get to larger issues like what does Revelation 20 mean if it is true that Jesus came back in the A.D.66-70 Jewish debacle: People may willingly concede the point that it was “a coming” of the Lord without being willing to say it was the Great White Throne Judgment if we cannot sensibly articulate how Revelation chapter 20, in its complete entirety, fits comfortably without being forced into an A.D.33—70 historical window.
If, on one hand, our proofs about time statements and context can’t be beaten, denied, or confuted, but our logic around Satan being bound and then loosed hits a proverbial speed bump, then we’d be in trouble because two opposite propositions about the same event CANNOT BE TRUE AT THE SAME TIME.
Could Satan be bound during the last forty years of Second Temple Judaism and ALSO be loosed during the last forty years of that era?—when we conflate these contradictory ideas, it simply does not make sense!
I also want to speak frankly to the Christians who are from a Restoration Movement background and remind you of something I trust that you know very well: On the day of Pentecost the Apostles and the Jews, Israelites, and proselytes were on GOOD TERMS with each other, They were,
“. . .continuing daily with one accord in the Temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:46-47).
You already know this from your own Sunday school lessons, lectures, Bible studies, Jule Miller Filmstrip Series, and seminars. So we can hopefully all agree that there is NO WAY that the beast’s beheading of our ancient brothers and sisters happened on the day of Pentecost, and nowhere in Acts does Luke say or hint that any Christians were beheaded. Only in Revelation 13:15 does this harsh method of dealing with Christians suddenly appear. And so, this is yet another reason why Revelation 20:1-4 can have nothing to do with ANYTHING that happened in the approximately 29 years of church history Luke covers in the Book of Acts.
And so, I would hesitate; I would balk; I would refuse to commit myself to any theoretical construct that might offer itself as a supposedly rational reason why an A.D.70 terminus should be granted as a “fact” worth jeopardizing my soul over if a person is unwilling or unable to explain to me how and why Satan could be in two opposite positions at one and the same time.
And this inability tells people something, not directly, but between the lines: We may not know what we are talking about aside from the point about time statements and what Jesus and the Apostles expected. And if at Revelation 20 we start winging it, that really means that fifteen very important verses either confirm or refute what we said about the end-all and be-all significance of A.D.70. The verdict, in such case would be: NO DEAL.
Moreover, the historical realities of the tragic Masada suicides around Passover of A.D.73 and the catastrophic Diaspora revolts the shook the Roman Empire down during the reign of Trajan resulted in the deaths of over a quarter of a million Roman citizens. These violent flashpoints of unrest were not subdued until A.D.117. And finally, a violent insurrection, successful at first, broke out in Judaea in A.D.132 and lasted precisely three years and six months resulting, according to the Rabbis, in the deaths of four billion people.
This so-called Bar Kokhba rebellion is in the knowledge of many theologians and Bible scholars—even if in a very vague way—but enough for them to surmise that A.D.70 was definitely not a hard terminus for any Jewish efforts to realize their militant Messianic ambitions. When Preterist scholars, apologists, and authorities cannot imagine how Masada and Judæa Capta and the Expeditio Judaica fit into the Bible prophecy narrative it HURTS their chance of having thinkers take the view to its ultimate logical conclusions.
Thus, in my opinion, the idea that Revelation 20:1 essentially
falls back to 6 Sivan A.D.33 (the day of Pentecost) and then works its way back up to A.D.70 in Revelation 20:7-15 is a GIGANTIC red flag that this whole idea of a past fulfillment practically collapses (or at least seems to do so) under its very own weight. If one rejected the notion of recapitulation at Revelation 20:1ff, then, out of pure necessity, a journey toward the ultimate mistake in ancient Jewish and Israelite ambitions would be seen to be both prophesied in the Bible and realized in the second century catastrophe we now know as the Bar Kokhba Revolt.
Lacking any real interest to this extent of things, Preterism (in all likelihood) has A.D.70 as a premature, arbitrary, and artificial conclusion to a subject that actually reached another level of gall and audacity and resulted in the Hebrew State’s disappearance and absence from the stage of world history for 1,812 entire years.
The unwillingness and inability to think about Revelation chapter 20 as a sequential outcome flowing from the events of Revelation chapter 19 and its insistence that Revelation 20 flows directly out of the earthly ministry of our Lord instead of the interim after Masada, Diaspora wars, and Judæa Capta experience that then resulted in Satan’s release and renewed warfare, is an abridgment quirk in the Full Preterist narrative that is difficult if not impossible to explain or justify.
I write this not because I know all the answers, but because it is my hope that Christians will be willing to look at the wider issues and, with love and respect, be willing to engage, discuss, and wrestle with them. Our message will be untempered, untested, and unpolished if we simply refuse to interact with anyone who disagrees with what we say or if we only want to debate with people who outright disagree with us.
The larger sense of our argument may actually be myopic, distorted, and ‘irrational’ in light of different broader considerations—and this is even more likely if we are violating our very own rules of interpretation that call for attention to not only words and definitions but also narrational sequence and context.
Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah
Daniel Gruber (Author)
Book description: It is not easy to overestimate the significance of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. Because of its long-term consequences, it may well be considered the greatest tragedy in Jewish history. It is the most defining. It set the stage for what became an endless procession of Jewish suffering down to, including, and beyond the Holocaust. The disaster was further compounded by the fact that Rabbi Akiba, the father of rabbinic Judaism, proclaimed Bar Kokhba, the leader of the rebellion, to be God’s Anointed, the Messiah.
In the eighteen hundred and fifty years since, as students of History and various religious persuasions have studied the sparse and sometimes conflicting evidence, one puzzling question always emerges. As Franz Rosenzweig expressed it, “Why did even the wisest teacher of his age fall for the false messiah, Bar Kokhba, in the time of Hadrian?” This book answers that question. Elijah Publishing
Scripture text: “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days” (Acts 3:22-24).
Upon reflection on what happened to me in 1981 when I first perceived Jesus came back already, there are a number of concepts Christians may have in their minds that instantly come into cognitive dissonance; these must be resolved; they have to come to terms with a completely different interpretation of these before that tension will allow them to ‘see’ what happened in the past—otherwise, it will remain hidden in plain view.
If Christians come from an Amillennial upbringing they will likely entertain certain conceptual expectations about the end of the world. Hills, mountains, valleys, and plains full of vultures and wild quadrupeds devouring dead bodies and skeletons and soil saturated with blood, weapons, and horses is not anywhere near to the vision or concept that the world will be simply detonated and consumed by a great heat at a sudden and unexpected Second Coming of our Lord (2 Peter 3:10ff). This image of the end that the Apostle Peter alluded to is not read with anything like Jeremiah 4:23 or Isaiah 13, or 34 in mind. Instead, it is a literal event awaiting the earth after God, in his wisdom and in his own time, decides everything on earth has been said and done.
From this standpoint, the end discussed in 2 Peter 3 is not a past phenomenon but a future possibility and an open question.
In other words, most Christians of this persuasion do not put a lot of credence in the description of carnage portrayed in Ezekiel chapters 38:18-23 and 39:2-11; Isaiah 66:22-24 and Revelation 19:17-21 and what is implied about the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s and Isaiah’s prophecies in Revelation 20:7-9.1 In truth there may be bewilderment or at least uncertainty about where these prophecies of mass carnage really belong in terms of fulfillment.
To be fair and understanding, we must realize that their premises and interpretations of the Scriptures are VERY different—two completely contrary ways of comprehending what the Holy Writs say about the end of the world, the change of ages. It is not even remotely clear to most Bible students that the Bible is focused on the impending passing of the Hebrew people’s clamorous efforts to cling to their civilization’s outdated realities and status quo—the statutes engraved on stones, the worldly sanctuary, the Aaronic priesthood and the ministry of the twice-daily sacrifices and oblations, Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkōt, the three annual mandatory convocations at Jerusalem, to have a Messianic king and prophet-priest—and to preserve these for perpetuity by staging daring insurrections against the Romans.2 3 4 5 6
What we are seeing and what they presently understand are exactly worlds apart and we need to work very hard to bridge the gap so they can see and understand that first and second century Jewish efforts to hold on to the Second Temple and the Law of Moses would soon lead them into futile efforts; those efforts were ill-advised to begin with, but they thought God would step in and help them to achieve their goals (in the First Great Revolt). He didn’t. In the Second Great Revolt, Bar Kokhba proudly told God,
“O Lord God of Host, do not stand at our right hand, nor be against us, for You, O God, have abandoned us. We ourselves shall be victorious over the enemy.”7
So they did not want or need God’s help and even that unwise and rash request turned out to be an even worse disaster of unimaginable desolation and carnage that would take months to clean up and intern in a Holy Land valley (Ezekiel 39:9).
But this was the sad conclusion that really was the end of the road for the Mosaic era, not once, but twice—during the whole civil war that stretched from A.D.66-70, during the heroic but no less futile Diaspora Revolts (A.D.115-117) as well as the doomed Bar Kokhba, A.D.132-136. Conventional interpretations of Bible prophecy are on a completely different page, imagining a delay and interpreting that so-called in a cacophony of ways that completely defy New Testament claims and expectations as well as the historical course Jewish history took for the next one hundred years and the explosion of the Christian church for the next eighteen centuries.
The Bible study chart below helps portray an overview of where the first Christians were twenty centuries ago and where we are today.
All people generally prefer certainty to uncertainty—and this is why humans resist change. Resisting change is not the provenance of the devil. But we need to know this in order to approach educational endeavors creatively without the need to antagonize or escalate.
People’s natural inclination to veer towards authoritarianism, tradition, custom, or habit does not have to necessarily mean there is a ‘sinister plot’ of ill-will in anyone’s motive. From my own experience, when I first saw the possibility that Jesus may have already returned it still took me six months before I said a word about it to anyone else—it was in abeyance in my mind only because I could not locate an exact piece of history that reported that chariots and troops of soldiers had actually appeared over the skies of Jerusalem and Judæa, specifically in the first century.8
I am saying all of this to really convey that we need to give people the space to go from thinking this is unthinkable, to ‘it’s possible,’ it’s probable, to it’s undeniable. That seldom happens right away and will certainly not happen unless reasons to believe don’t accrue in favor of a different opinion about, for example, Daniel 7:13, Matthew 16:27-28 and Acts 1:11 (the Ascension).9
The ‘Overton Window’ Problem We
Have to Face Up to and Navigate
There is a messaging phenomenon Christians have to face when we think about addressing issues surrounding Realized Eschatology. The first thing is the most obvious of all: Almost no one has ever heard of it. The second problem is this: The core beliefs or fundamental assumptions of Realized Eschatology are not something many Christians have ever thought about at all, let alone as realistic likelihoods. In other words, you have normative popular beliefs, and then you have notions, concepts, and ideas that clearly fall into what people would immediately categorize as “bizarre,” “radical,” and “extreme.”
On the face of it, there is NO reason to believe Jesus came back already. Looking at the world through physical eyes one would not get the idea that we are in any ‘new heaven and earth’ wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wars and diseases, famines and earthquakes, tornados, flash floods, tsunamis, tragic realities that instantly create mass casualties and make life seem difficult and unlivable vie against the idea that the Eternal State is now here, that we’ve made it to the Utopia people imagine Revelation chapters 21 and 22 promise. Our view does not deny the reality of John’s vision of the new Jerusalem, it simply says that that reality presently exists, is inhabited by trillions, and is reserved for all Christians who walk in faith and obedience now and will be rewarded with that reality after they depart this mundane material realm (Revelation 2:7; 2:10;14:13;15:1-2, and 21:6-7).
It will be difficult and next to impossible to achieve any headway or inroads into the mainstream of Christian thought if we simply think critics of Preterism are dead set against whatever we say no matter what: They have their reasons!10
The first thing that can bring on interest will be anything that could make someone think there is a justifiable warrant to study things in this direction: and it is we who need to think and pray about how to present that possibility in an inviting and non-threatening way. We also need to willingly be in the proverbial hot seat—not on the defensive with both fists held up in a debate (I might add)—to make sense of what we are trying to articulate to either go forward or else to be prepared to recant whatever we’ve claimed that cannot stand up on its own two feet.
In the minds of 99.99% of Christians on this planet, we are definitely NOT eighteen centuries away from the most explosive events since Christ’s own resurrection from the dead and Ascension, instead, the Church imagines these apocalyptic events either to be just around the corner or slated to happen at the very end of time, any way you slice it, reorientation will be a ‘doozy’ for a lot of Christians!
But Christians are used to doozies! Every time a prophecy failure happens you can be sure it registers in the heart somewhere. Little did many surmise that the events we thought we were approaching were already long behind us by nearly 19 centuries! This should come as a relief once we understand the persecution, danger, and devastation that was actually involved.
It is very important for us to understand what kind of inflection point the Ascension of Christ is in the conventional thinking of the majority of Christians. For one thing, this is as far as most will go in affirming anything Christ did directly; after that, nobody is going to deny that the Holy Spirit descended ten days later, on Sunday 6 Sivan A.D.33 upon the Apostles, which event was the day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. This, Christians, know for sure.
But we need to look at the Scriptures believers use to support their understanding of the Ascension in order to leverage those same Scriptures to show that the Second Coming of our Lord, out of necessity HAD to be early. For example, Christians will almost definitely use Matthew 16:27-28 as a promise of the Ascension. They will also almost certainly use Daniel 7:13 as a prophecy of Christ’s coronation at the time of his return to God the Father. But here’s the catch: Do we use Daniel 7:13 as a prophecy of our Lord’s Ascension but Matthew 16:27-28 as a prophecy of his Second Coming? Do you see where I am coming from?
Conventional Christian theology will use BOTH prophecies to point to ONE event: the Ascension of our Lord ten days before the Day of Pentecost in A.D.33. Thus, in their minds, there is no need to entangle or confuse events by claiming Jesus CAME back [to earth] when Daniel 7 says the Son of man CAME to the Ancient of Days. So far as the text is concerned in Daniel’s Night Vision, the Lord came to God the Father and this is what he did when he departed from Bethany
But a closer look at the contexts of the prophecies in Daniel 7:7-27 and Matthew 16:27-28 will demonstrate to anyone who will widen the scope of the inquiry (particularly in Daniel 7:7-27) that the event in question could not have happened at our Lords Ascension. Moreover, even Matthew 16:27-28 forbids itself from being fulfilled directly adjacent to Christ’s earthly ministry by the fact that it promises the Son of man coming in the glory of his Father WITH his angels to judge every man according to their works BEFORE everyone there at Caesarea Philippi had tasted of death.
The entire prophecy of Matthew 16:27-28 actually forbids itself from being fulfilled when the majority says it was—but what is more, it also denies that it could be fulfilled outside the lifetime of everyone that heard it in the first place!11
The deconstruction of the notion that a more than nineteen century last days is Biblical can have its starting point with people questioning their assumptions about how to interpret Daniel 7:7-27, Matthew 16:27-28 and how and where the events of the Book of Revelation fit in in direct connection with events in first and second century Jewish and Israelite history. Of course, these nineteen-centuries-long last days that most Christians believe in is not presently considered odd or strange (even though they should be). An 89-year-old terminal patient living in his ‘last days’ should not be able to live three times as long after his diagnosis if it was correct at all! In the same way in the first century, the Mosaic era was fourteen centuries old and its State Temple and animal sacrificial apparatus passed away forever within one hundred years after the Apostles made it clear the last days were in force (Acts 2:17; 2 Timothy 3:1 cf. Hebrews 1:1).12
Christians grappling with Daniel 7:7-27, and Matthew 16:27-28, can end up bearing a lot of fruit in this direction; their minds can be changed when they see new evidence and different Scriptural possibilities. And further, by rejecting concepts that their very own studies demonstrate to be completely out of the question, these research developments are a must in order to change the narrative and push the discussion in the direction of what happens in Revelation 12:5; 13:5, and Revelation 14:14-20; 16:15-21.13 The Bible itself offers a more reasonable interpretation than the one that says Daniel 7:7-27 and Matthew 16:27-28 were arbitrarily fulfilled, without any social unrest, genocidal commotion, or war, just ten days before Pentecost in A.D.33.14
1 On the question of how to understand Revelation 20 and the millennium, Matthew 12:43-45 puts a decisive limit upon it and Christians will doubtlessly struggle with the meaning of a millennial period that lasted only a single generation between the two Herculian Hebrew revolts, but the love of Jesus and submission and respect for the word of his authority about the events of that specific generation will surely to win the day, in the final analysis.
2 Pray and patiently study the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians chapter 3:1-18.
3 Study the significance of the worldly sanctuary in Hebrews 9:1-27 and 10:1.
4 On the implementation of the perpetual twice daily sacrifices and oblations see Numbers 28:2-6. The destruction of the Second Temple during the forty-two-month-long civil war meant that this critical observance can no longer happen (Revelation 11:2 cf. 13:5). Along with the destruction of the State Temple the Aaronic priesthood has been dissolved (Hebrews 7:11-19). The historian Josephus preserves a record of the steps the Zealots took to terminate the Aaronic priesthood in Wars of the Jews 4.3.8:155-157).
6 The appearance of a Messianic king along with a Messianic prophet is what we witness happen in Revelation 13:5 and 11.
7 Yehoshafat Harkabi, The Bar Kokhba Syndrome, p.41, 1982.
8 Even though it was perfectly clear to me what the Bible said about the Second Coming being very near, still all that same time, the idea still seemed ‘crazy’ to me. It was only until I read Josephus’ Wars of the Jews 6.5.3:288-300 (quoted here) and Tacitus in his Histories records similarly bizarre events at the very beginning of that great war:
“Prodigies had occurred, which this nation, prone to superstition, but hating all religious rites, did not deem it lawful to expiate by offering and sacrifice. There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the gods [sic!] were departing. At the same instant there was a mighty stir as of departure. Some few put a fearful meaning on these events, but in most there was a firm persuasion, that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers, coming from Judaea, were to acquire universal empire. These mysterious prophecies had pointed to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, with the usual blindness of ambition, had interpreted these mighty destinies of themselves, and could not be brought even by disasters to believe the truth.”
After seeing this report in the Appendix of Josephus’s Complete Works I was finally able to have that assurance that a real tangible historical event, though prodigious and anomalous, had actually already happened.
9 The change can happen by reading everything in Daniel 7:7-27 and reflecting on exactly what it all means instead of narrowly focusing on the language and meaning of Daniel 7:13 only.
10 Whenever Christians begin to question why they believe Jesus came in the glory of his Father with his angels to judge every man at the Ascension, that is the time when movement toward a different consideration may begin, but not before.
11 It has to become crystal clear to people that the prophecy of Matthew 16:27-28 cannot happen so soon that nobody had died and nobody was judged, and also that nobody was rewarded. At the same time, it has to emerge in the imagination that the prophecy cannot happen so far away from the first century that all of the people who witnessed Christ say this have ‘tasted of death.’
12 As understanding increases the end of the age transforms from being about the last days of the planet earth or human civilization to the terminal days of the Second Temple and the Law of Moses, exactly the issues that got Saint Stephen in serious trouble in Acts 6:9-14.
13 With Matthew 16:27-28 averting to events in the Book of Revelation, rather than prematurely in the Book of Acts, a brand new and unfamiliar vista opens up and research, exploration, and discovery promise a rich and exciting trove of stunning realities most have not begun to contemplate as realistic possibilities before now.
14 The upshot of this research will demonstrate, over time spent studying, that Jesus Christ was good and faithful to his word and did not prematurely fulfill or otherwise delay his Parousia in any way, shape, or form
*An explanation for ‘Lag B’Omar’ in Bible study chart 2, here.