Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Prophetic Language in Isaiah (Esch 354)

Prophetic Language

Preterists observe that throughout the Bible, prophecies that seem to describing the end of the world are actually describing something less than that. For example, consider Isaiah’s prophecy against Babylon.

“The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw” (Isaiah 13:1).

“Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them” (Isaiah 13:17).

“And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,

The beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride,

Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isaiah 13:19).

God is going to raise up the Medians to overthrow and destroy the Babylonian kingdom. However, look at how Isaiah describes this:

“For the stars of heaven and their constellations

Will not give their light;

The sun will be darkened in its going forth,

And the moon will not cause its light to shine” (Isaiah 13:10).

“Therefore I will shake the heavens,

And the earth will move out of her place,

In the wrath of Yahweh of hosts

And in the day of His fierce anger” (Isaiah 13:13).

It sounds as if Isaiah is describing the end of the world, and he is, in a sense. However, he is not describing the end of the physical universe but the end of the Babylonian world.

God often uses imagery of the heavens to describe nations. The sun often refers to kings. The moon refers to the queen, and the stars refers to other leaders. This goes back to Joseph’s dream.

“Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, ‘Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me’” (Genesis 37:9).

The sun is Jacob. The moon is Leah. The eleven stars are his brothers.

Thus, when Isaiah writes that the heavens are shaken and the sun, moon, and stars are darkened, he is saying that Babylon’s rulers are going to be overthrown and their kingdom is going to fall.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Time Texts in Revelation (Esch 353)

The Book of Revelation also contains many time indicators.

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants--things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John” (Revelation 1:1).

The content of the book of Revelation was going to take place shortly.

“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).

The time of the fulfillment of this prophecy was near, not an indefinite period of time away.

“Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place” (Revelation 22:6).

At the end of the book, God confirms that these things will take place shortly.

“Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7).

Jesus also states that he is coming quickly. All of these time texts point toward a more immediate fulfillment of these prophecies.

Thus, Preterists hold that the book of Revelation was fulfilled in the first century.

This might seem difficult to understand at first because this means that the seals, the trumpets, the bowls, the beast, the false prophet, the binding of Satan, etc., took place in the first century.

However, if we take the time texts seriously, we will find that there are good and reasonable explanations for these prophetic details.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Time Texts in the Olivet Discourse (Esch 352)

Preterists pay special attention to the time texts throughout the Scriptures. For example, near the end of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus makes this statement:

“Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Mark 13:30).

In other words, everything that Jesus has been speaking of in verses 1-29 is going to happen within one generation. Jesus spoke this in AD 30, which means that by AD 70 (one generation), all of these things had to have been fulfilled. Look what this includes:

“For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be.” (Mark 13:19).

Jesus says that the great tribulation will occur before that generation passes away.

“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26).

Jesus also says that the coming of the Son of Man will occur before that generation passes away.

“And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven” (Mark 13:27).

Jesus states that the gathering of the elect by the angels will occur by AD 70.

It might be hard to understand how the tribulation, the coming of the Son of Man, and the gathering of the elect could have happened in the first century, but Preterists insist upon taking the time texts seriously.

“Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Mark 13:30).

There are good and reasonable explanations for how the tribulation, the coming of the Son of Man, and the gathering of the elect took place within a generation. We will examine more of these in the future when we study the Olivet Discourse.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Primer on Preterism (Esch 351)

We will spend the next couple of months looking at texts and topics from a Preterist approach, but let’s quickly survey a couple of few features of Preterism.

1) We take the time texts seriously, letting the time language function naturally. We are willing to rethink the details of “end times” texts in light of the time indicators.

2) We carefully examine the Old Covenant prophecies to see how the prophets of old used language and symbols. We find “end times” prophetic language can be applied to specific situations, such as the end of a nation or era.

Monday, March 02, 2009

4) Preterism (Esch 305)

Preterism interprets most of the prophecies as already fulfilled in the past, namely in the first coming of Christ. Preterists observe that many of the prophecies are centered around the time period between the ascension of Jesus and the judgment of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Thus, the great tribulation happened to the early church. The beast and false prophet were first century figures. The book of Revelation has been mostly fulfilled for almost two thousand years.

There is an aberrant form of Preterism which holds that all prophecy has been fulfilled, and we are in the eternal state right now. Sometimes this is called “Full Preterism.” However, this view has been universally condemned.

It is important to note that Preterists do believe that there are still some prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled. Jesus will return; there will be the resurrection and the final judgment.

The popularity of Preterism has waxed and waned throughout the centuries, but it has enjoyed a comeback in the past few decades. RC Sproul and Hank Hanegraaff are two of the most well-known Preterists.

Preterism is the approach that we are going to take throughout this series.