Preterism, Futurism, and the Olivet Discourse (Part 1)

In my home church (Grace Baptist Church) we are currently doing an exposition of the gospel of Matthew and are now in the Olivet Discourse (chapters 24-25).  This is Jesus’ final sermon recorded in Matthew’s gospel and its subject is eschatology, or is it?  The Olivet Discourse is a real battle ground of interpretive differences between preterists and futurists.

Let’s start with some definitions before moving any further.

1.  The Preterist View.

The word preterist simply means past and it teaches that most or all of the predictions of Matthew 24-25 were fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

There are two kinds of preterism:

A.  Full preterism teaches that the entirety of Matthew 24-25 was fulfilled in 70 A.D.  Those holding this view would even go so far as to say that no prophecy of Scripture remains unfulfilled.  In other words they believe that events such as the second coming, the resurrection from the dead, and the Great White Throne judgment are all past events.  They would even claim that we are now living in the new heavens and new earth (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21).

B.  Partial preterism teaches that some of Matthew 24-25 was fulfilled in 70 A.D.  They believe that Matthew 24:1-35 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and that Matthew 24:36-25:46 refers to the second coming which is still a future event.  In other words they believe that what has traditionally been understood as the future seven year tribulation has already occurred (Revelation 6-19).

2.  The Futurist View.

This view teaches that the entirety of Matthew 24-25 refers not to 70 A.D. but to the future second coming of Jesus Christ.

So which is right, preterism or futurism?  In our next article we will look at the strengths of each view and carefully try to discern a right interpretation of this very difficult subject.  As J.C. Ryle said so well, “On no point have good men entirely disagreed as on the interpretation of prophecy.”

With that said, I leave you with my outline of the Olivet Discourse:

I.  The Setting (24:1-3).

II.  The Beginning of Birth Pangs (24:4-14).

III.  The Great Tribulation (24:15-28).

IV.  The Second Coming (24:29-31).

V.  The Parables About Preparedness (24:32-25:30).

VI.  The Final Judgment (25:31-46).

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