Prophetic Schemes

Futurist, Historicist, Idealist, Preterist?

I have never read anybody’s book on eschatology with which I fully agreed; I guess that’s because I see some truth in most of what other Evangelicals write, whether they are futurists, historicists, idealists or preterists, but I don’t think that any of them have the truth all boxed in.  So, I can say that I am a partial futurist, historicist, idealist, and preterist.

In terms of Futurism, I strongly believe that near and related to the Lord Jesus’ glorious literal return, there will be:

1.  The Great Falling Away

2.  The Great Tribulation

3.  The Man of Sin Revealed

4.  The Massive Turning of the Jewish People to Faith in Jesus of Nazareth as Their Messiah

5.  Great Global Revival

6.  Believers Being Raptured Before God Pours out his Cataclysmic Wrath on Planet Earth

All of the above mentioned things have their precursors throughout the history, as, for example, the Man of Sin, who has had many forerunners, from Antiochus Epiphanes, in the second century before Christ, to Hitler in the twentieth century of the Christian era.  Even the rapture has its foreshadowing in Elijah’s being literally and bodily caught up in a chariot of fire.

One difficulty with dating things and trying to predict the future by means of the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other has to do with some of these things always existing, so that the future is simply a much more intense manifestation of what is currently taking place. 

Take, for example, the Jewish people being back in the land.  The Jewish people have been exiled and returned to the land several times in history.  Some people say that the “Prophetic Clock” starting ticking on May 14, 1948, when Israel became an independent state.  The trouble is, it isn’t the Jewish people’s being back in the Holy land, but Jewish control of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount itself that is of real significance, and that hasn’t happed yet. 

The Jewish people currently living in the Holy land may not have any more prophetic significance, or permanence, for that matter, than those who followed Simon Bar Kochba and briefly re-established the independent Jewish state in the second century of the Christian era.  After all, is Israel today in any better position than it was in the eighth century before Christ when Isaiah penned this warning?

“Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.” (Isaiah 10:6.)

In terms of Historicism, I think that the book of Revelation may allude to the rise of the Papacy and Islam.

In terms of Idealism, I think that the conflict between Christ and Satan is symbolically portrayed in the book of Revelation and that Bible prophecy is more about telling us how to live than about how to draw our prophetic wall charts.

In terms of Preterism, I think that many apocalyptic passages refer to events that happened in the first century of the Christian era.  For example, I believe that much, but by no means all, of the Olivet Discourse is an apocalyptic description of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in A. D. 70.

The Old Testament era begins to end with the completion of John the Baptist’s ministry and completely vanishes with the destruction of the Temple in A. D. 70, roughly one generation.

John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets.  Jesus makes this so very plain in Matthew 11:7-14:

“As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John . . . ‘What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.” Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he . . . For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.”

This process of the fulfilling of the Old Testament in the New is not completed until God sovereignly stops the sacrificial system through the rod of his anger, (cf. Isaiah 10:5.) the Roman general Titus, son of Vespasian, in A.D. 70.  Hebrews 8:13 says, “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”  It did vanish in A. D. 70, exactly one generation removed from the time of our Lord’s Olivet Discourse.

The one thing that I would stress, however, is that it is not A. D. 70, nor is it John the Baptist, that is of great significance—they are simply the outer edges of the transition.  By themselves, both are pretty trivial.  The real transition point is A.D. 30.  It is then that the whole sacrificial system is completed.

When Jesus died on the cross, the way into the Holy of Holies was opened for all people:  Jews and Gentiles, males and females, descendants of Aaron and people of illegitimate birth, the healthy and the deformed.  When the Roman spear pierced the Great Jew’s side, and the water and the blood flowed out, God put his seal of approval on the completion of the Sacrifice by ripping the Great Curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies:

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:50-53.)

John is mentioned in only passing as the forerunner; the destruction of the Temple in A. D. 70, only prophetically and cryptically, as the last gasps of the Older Testament.  The crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus form the centerpiece of the New Covenant, the profoundest event in history—God himself is executed by humankind and dies in his human nature.  But

Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus my Savior!
He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign,
He arose!  He arose!  Hallelujah!  Christ arose!

All else pales in comparison: preterist seminars, prophetic conferences, laughter gatherings, anointing for healing, speaking in tongues.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22.)

Bob Vincent