Preterism, Futurism, and the Olivet Discourse (Part 3)

In our last article we considered the support for both preterist and futurist interpretations of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24-25).  Considering the two respective groups of arguments, one can see why this is such a difficult passage to interpret.  So, which view is correct, preterism or futurism?  The answer seems to be that both are correct.

Rather than pitting one view against the other, a fair reading of the text seems to indicate that Jesus has both the events of 70 A.D. in mind as well as a future tribulation, followed by His second coming.  Consider the following quotes from commentators:

A. T. Robertson, “It is sufficient for our purpose to think of Jesus as using the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem which did happen in that generation in A.D. 70, as also a symbol of his own second coming and of the end of the world or consummation of the age.  In a painting the artist by skillful perspective may give on the same surface the inside of a room, the fields outside the window, and the sky far beyond.”

William Hendriksen, “It is not claimed…that any exegete is able completely to untangle what is here intertwined, so as to indicate accurately for each individual passage just how much refers to Jerusalem’s fall, and how much to the great tribulation and second coming.”

Daniel Doriani, “In this passage, Jesus predicts specific events that will occur between his resurrection and Rome’s sack of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  But the same predictions appear to point beyond that period and to describe the days before Christ returns.  This makes sense if the fall of Jerusalem foreshadows or prefigures the last day.”

John MacArthur, “The only reasonable conclusion is that Jesus’ prophecies in Matthew 24 are like the Old Testament Messianic prophecies that juxtaposed near-at-hand and far-off events in one context.”

Again, this combination of the events of 70 A.D. and the second coming seems to be the best interpretation of the text.  This is what is called prophetic foreshadowing, namely when a prophecy has both a near and a far fulfillment (e.g. Isa. 7:14; 8:3, 8, 10; Matt. 1:23).  The destruction of Jerusalem was a type of the final tribulation at the end of the age. May the Lord help us to understand His word and live better in light of it for His glory.


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