Response to the Preterist Position as Outlined in The Last Days According to Jesus — Part 2
In my last column, I discussed the basis for the preterist view of end-times events, or the view that the end-times prophecies given to us by Jesus in Matthew 24 were fulfilled by the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. According to this position, the abomination of desolation, the great tribulation, the signs in the heavens, the rapture of the Church, and the Second Coming of Christ have already occurred.
In Part I, I gave my basic take on this position, which is that it is well meaning but flawed. Although it attempts to take the scriptures literally and in their normative sense — so literally that time indicators like “soon” and “quickly” are interpreted as requiring this prophecy to be fulfilled in the first century — I believe the fulfillment required by the preterist view is imperfect, and in many cases, irreconcilably different from what is recorded in scripture. Furthermore, it results in larger scriptural consequences that are unacceptable. However, I left the critique of the individual points for another time.
In this column, I will begin to outline the major problems with the preterist view, point by point. Part III will conclude this discussion with the last set of points and my final analysis.
What About Daniel's 70th Week?
Unlike preterists, who teach that all of the events described by Jesus in Matthew 24 have been fulfilled, I believe that Matthew 24 is a prophecy, not for the end of the “Jewish age,” as preterists believe, but for the end of the world, to be fulfilled at a future time.
One of the main evidences for this future fulfillment is that these events take place within a time frame called “Daniel's 70th Week. We know from Daniel 9:24 that God has determined 70 weeks “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.” The term “weeks,” or shabuwa, means "sevens," or seven years. So the 70 “weeks” refers to a time period made up of 70 seven-year periods, or 490 years.
This 70 weeks, or 490 years, is broken up into two separate periods: the first 69 weeks, which ends with the crucifixion of Christ (Dan. 9:24), and the final 70th Week, which will begin when the Antichrist signs a seven-year treaty with Israel (Dan. 9:27). In the middle of the 70th week, scripture tells us that the Antichrist will break his treaty, declare himself to be God — or in place of God — and defile the Jewish temple in an event Daniel calls “the abomination of desolation” (Dan. 11:31).
Among premillennialists (those who believe that the literal thousand-year earthly reign of Christ is yet future), the view is taken that the 70th Week is also yet future, and that the time period between the 69th Week and the 70th Week is what is called a parenthesis containing the Church Age. In this view, the temple that is defiled by the Antichrist (the abomination of desolation) is not the first century temple, but a temple that is yet to be
rebuilt (plans for this rebuilding, incidentally, are in progress.) According to this view, when God's purposes for the Church have been fulfilled, God will once again turn His attention back to Israel. The Church Age will conclude and the 70th Week will begin.
One of the scriptural indicators for this view is Daniel 11:42. Eleven verses earlier, Daniel describes the abomination of desolation, when an unnamed, apostate ruler brings an end to sacrifices in the temple and breaks his covenant with the people of Israel. Up to this point, the passage has been describing the future actions of Antiochus Epiphanes, an ancient Greek conqueror who lived several centuries before the birth of Christ. In a selfish rage, Antiochus Epiphanes defiled the sanctuary in Jerusalem in the second century (various Bible translations give dates ranging from 175 to 168 B.C.) by slaughtering a pig on the altar. Then, he capped off this heinous act by murdering many of the inhabitants of Jerusalem
In verse 42, however, the perspective of this prophecy suddenly switches to the end times. We know this because Daniel writes, “At the time of the end, the king of the South shall attack him...” This tells us that the acts of Antiochus are a foreshadowing of a future ruler who will arise at the time of the end. This end-times ruler, which we know as the Antichrist, will commit a similar, but even greater, atrocity. Other evidence for this reading comes from the fact that the remaining details of the 70th Week prophecy have not yet been fulfilled.
Not everyone agrees with this view. There are many who believe that the 70th Week immediately followed the other 69 weeks and therefore has long been concluded. The problem with this view is that Jesus Himself placed the Matthew 24 events squarely within the Daniel's 70th Week when He warned, “And when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains...” (Matt. 24:15-16). By referring to the abomination of desolation, Jesus was referring back to the passage in Daniel 9 that describes this critical end-times prophecy.
Daniel's 70 Weeks prophecy is never mentioned in Sproul's book. Whether preterists in general do not address the 70th Week or whether it was not Sproul's purpose to address the 70th Week in his analysis, I do not know. However, the lack of mention of this is loud.
The Loud Absence
The issue regarding Daniel's 70th Week, in my mind, is a fundamental flaw in the preterist position. If the 69th Week and the 70th Week follow one another, which they must do in the preterist view, then the 70th Week must have occurred in A.D. 40. This would have been 30 years too early for the destruction of Jerusalem.
More . . .