Problems With Preterist, Historicist and Covenant Theology

In reviewing the many threads on here where the issue of dispensationalism seems to always end up being a side discussion, I figured I’d start a thread on the 3 major eschatological theories that are gaining popularity that seem to have at least one thing in common, disdain or disregard for dispensationalism and futurism, particularly where it comes to the rapture of the church, and the place and role of Israel in the Bible. The 3 views are Preterism,Historicism and Covenant Theology (which I will commonly refer to as the “3 views” even though some may overlap).

I do not wish to list the differences between all 3, but the problem that I have with all 3 views in what they have in common:

*That the book of Revelation was written prior to AD 70

*That Daniel and the majority of the book of Revelation was fulfilled in AD 70 when Titus attacked Jerusalem

*That the church has replaced Israel

I have more objections to all 3 views than I have room to write on here so my explanations will not be exhaustive.

The Date of the Book of Revelation

Of the many objections I have against the 3 views, the early dating of the book of Revelation seems to me a blatantly dishonest and inconsistent interpretation of history and the Bible’s internal evidence for a late date (i.e. AD 95). Preterists such as Hank Haneggraff cherry-pick historians in that the “early fathers” are useful in supporting some of their apologetic claims for the validity of the Bible and early developed doctrines, but disgard them as reliable when their writings are in contradistinction to their eschatology.

If Revelation was written after AD 70, that destroys all eschatological views that view Daniels 70th week, Jesus Olivet discourse in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, and Revelation 1-19 as having been fulfilled in AD 70 and demonstrates that all of Revelation is yet future.

Evidence For the Late Date of Revelation

*Iraneus (AD 120-202)who was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John. Iraneus holds that John wrote Revelation during the end of the reign of Domitian who did not begin his reign until 81 AD and was killed in AD 96.

*Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215), Tertullian (AD 160-220), Victorinus (AD 304), Eusibius (AD 260-340), Jerome (AD 340-419).

Although these men were not always doctrinally correct, their citations of John writing Revelation while on the Isle of Patmos under Domitians reign is a matter of recorded history not doctrinal exegesis.

*The Laodiceans are prospersous in Rev 3:17. Laodecea was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 61, it is highly unlikely that they recovered to such economic prosperity in only 9 years.

*The church of Smyrna was not in existence prior to AD 70. It is only mentioned by John in Rev 1:11 and 2:8.

The Prophecies of Daniel and Revelation Were Not Fulfilled in AD 70

Preterists in particular lay heavy emphasis on the term “shortly come to pass” in Matthew 24 and Revelation 1:1 that shows the events described by Christ and John would have an immediate fulfillment. However, they are inconsistent in their application of these passages as Revelation 22:6, the counterpart to Rev 1:1 also states that the events the 3 views DO believe are yet future will also come to pass shortly. Furthermore, Paul states in Romans 16 that Satan would be bruised under our feet “shortly”. That has obviously not occurred. Therefore “shortly” is clearly not used to define an immediate fulfillment, at least from man’s perspective, but is a statement of an expecation of immanency.

Much of the futurist view and those who hold to a future fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th week are objected to by the other views as being fulfilled in Titus. It is almost a blasphemous interpretation of Daniel 9:26-27 where the text is clear that the “prince to come” is referring to the antichrist, and not Jesus (Not only is this fact clear in the text of Daniel 9, but also in Daniel 11:16-32). The other views attempt to squeeze Jesus baptism (which is not mentioned in Daniel), His ministry and crucifixion all in the final week of Daniel. However, Daniel makes it clear that the Messiah is “cut off” (crucified) BEFORE the one week is confirmed.

The other views attempt to allegorize the text claiming that Jesus rendered the oblations and sacrifices ineffective instead of as the text says, the prince would cause to cease. It is clear that the oblations and sacrifices did not cease until 40 years after Christ ascended, but their interpretation would require them to have ceased at Christ’s crucifixion if said event was the culmination of Daniel’s 70th week.

The other views point to the Olivet discourse where Jesus states “when ye see the armies compass Jerusalem about, flee into the mountains”. That never occured in AD 70. Titus surrounded Jerusalem and nobody was permitted exit from the city. What did happen in AD 70 after Titus regrouped was that the Jews were scattered throughout the world (“The Diaspora”), that is not quite the same as fleeing to the mountains “where the woman hath a place prepared of God that they shoud feed her a thousand two hundred and threescore days” Rev 12:6.

Other events that never occurred are as follows:

*Jesus never returned to the earth in VISIBLE fashion. Rev 1:7 (“every eye shall see him”).

*Nobody was subjected to the mark of the beast, or the number of his name. Although the other views attempt to ascribe this to Nero, 2 Thess makes it clear that the antichrist is destroyed by the brightness of Jesus’ coming, Nero committed suicide. Nero could only be considered a type of antichrist, but does not meet the requirements to be THE antichrist of Revelation 13, and Nero never had an image made that was to be worshipped and given life to (Rev 13:15). There is no historical evidence that anyone under Nero or Titus was prevented from buying or selling unless they had the mark of the beast or the number of his name, and there is no evidence that anyone was martyred because of rejecting such (Rev 15:1-3).

*The mount of olives did not split in two. Zechariah 14:4. Also, Revelation 6:14-15 states that every mountain and island were moved out of their places, and the heaven departed as a scroll.

*The Euphrates river was not dried up. Rev 9:14-15, Rev 16:12

*The number of the armies in Rev 9:16 (200 million) far exceeds any amount of any army in existence at the time of Nero. Even today, the only army that could possibly fit that number would be China which fits Daniel and Revelation’s claim that this army comes from the East. This also brings up another fact that the armies gathered against Israel partly come from the East, Rome is WEST of Jerusalem. Therefore Titus and Nero could not possibly have fulfilled Daniel or Revelation.

*In AD 70, only ONE army attacked Jerusalem (Rome). Scripture indicates that God gathers ALL NATIONS against Jerusalem. Zech 12:3, 14:2.

*The amount of the world’s population that is killed by the judgments never occurred in AD 70. Rev 6:8, Rev 8:11, Rev 9:15-20.

*The amount of physical destruction to the earth never occurred in AD 70. Rev 8:8-12.

Not only did these events not occur in AD 70, they have never occurred at any time since then. Historicists and some Covenanters attempt to explain they gradually occurred through out history, but that is not only a gross interpretation of Scripture, but it defies all of the timelines given in Revelation that make it clear all of these events occur within a 7 year period. Rev 8:1, 11:3, 12:6, 14; 13:5.

There are many more examples, but these should be enough to prove that the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation (among others) were not fulfilled in AD 70, nor at any other time in history to date.

The Church Has Not Replaced Israel

The claim that the church has inherited all of the promises of the covenants to Israel and thus has replaced Israel is probably the most popular that unites all 3 views. All 3 views deny that God will restore the literal nation of Israel in the end times. The historicists and preterists even go so far as to blame the dispensationalist view of those who believe in the literal restoration of Israel on a Jesuit priest named Ribera in the 1500s. The claim is that the Catholic church (RCC) need a response to the claims that Revelation pointed to the RCC as the whore of Babylon, and thus Ribera created futurism which was then later passed on to John Darby, then to Scofield and Larkin.

Not only is that claim historically absurd due to the early church “fathers” that also held to a futuristic view, but Ribera’s commentary was never translated from Latin and there is no evidence that Darby ever read his works and he never referenced them. Furthermore, Ribera’s only similarity from what I have read is that there will be a future kingdom, there is nothing remotely similar about Ribera’s writings and the pre-millenial views. Moreover, the RCC has never believed in pre-millenialism or a pre-tribulation rapture, and those who hold to those views still identify the RCC as the beast and the antichrist so whatever views are attributed to Ribera, do not look like the scheme worked even if it were true.

This subject has had entire volumes written about it so I won’t do much justice to the subject here, but just a few short observations from Romans 9-11 which is a death blow to all 3 views regarding Israel:

*Paul argues that “hath God cast away his people that he foreknew?” Romans 11:1-2. So clearly, the contention is that someone had been cast away due to the dispensation of grace. If the church had replaced Israel, this question would not even be up for debate with Paul. If the church replaced Israel, why would the question be asked if God cast away His church which He foreknew? Who was Paul referring to that was cast away and that God foreknew? Surely Paul is talking about the literal Hebrews, and he answers the question with a resounding NO.

*Paul describes the nation of Israel as his brothers “according to the flesh”. Rom 9:3. The church are not Paul’s brothers according to the flesh, church members are made family by adoption through the Holy Spirit, not by promise of covenants with Israel. Rom 8:23. Thus Paul sets the entire tone of Romans chs 9-11 by identifying his discourse about Israel as being his physical lineage, not about promises given to the church by transference.

*The other view often cite Luke 13 where Jesus cursed the fig tree as evidence that Israel will never be restored. However, Rom 11:15 clearly shows that God will raise Israel as a nation “from the dead”. Therefore Luke 13 can only be temporary as is confirmed by Paul in Romans 11:25.

*Paul repeatedly makes distinctions between the Jews and Greeks (gentiles) throughout Scripture (Rom 1:16, Acts 28:29 which you will only find in a KJV). In Rom 11:13, Paul confirms that he is the apostle to the Gentiles and makes the distinction between his office over the Gentiles, and those who are of his flesh (v 14).

*Revelation 7:4-8 clearly shows that during the tribulation, 144,000 Jews will be sealed. If those who profess that the church replaced Israel, then let me ask to which of the twelve tribes listed in Rev 7:5-8 do you belong to?

*It is obvious from Daniel 9:25-27, 2 Thess 2:1-12, and Rev 11:1-2 that there will be temple rites practiced again during the tribulation, such as would not be practiced by the church. Furthermore, saints saved during the tribulation are said to “sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb”. The church would not be singing the song of Moses, that is a clear indication that there will be literal, physical blood-line Jews present during the tribulation that are saved in accordance to God’s promises to them in the OT and Paul’s statement in Romans 11:26.

*In Rev 2:2, 2:9, and 3:9, Jesus praises the Jewish churches for identify false Jews. First thing to note, is that in order to identifying a false Jew, there needs to be a true Jew as a standard of comparison. Secondly, there is nowhere in the epistles to the church where a Gentile believer is admonished to “try them which say they are Jews and are not”. During the dispensation of grace, there is neither “Jew nor Greek” (Gal 3:27-28), but in Revelation 2-3, the emphasis is back on the Jew.

Another thing to note about Romans 11:26 where Paul says “all Israel will be saved”, if that was a reference to the church, would that not be redundant? The church is sealed right now (Eph 4:30, 1:13), there is no possible loss of that salvation so why would Paul make a reference to a future salvation of the church? That makes it obvious that Paul is referring to a future salvation of Israel as a nation, and not to a future salvation that is made up of Gentile believers.

*If the church replaced Israel, why would Paul bother writing an entire book to HEBREWS, and James write a book “to the twelve tribes scattered abroad”?

This is, again, by no means an exhaustive approach, but is a very short analysis I have offered that demonstrates some serious flaws with Preterism, Historicism and Covenant Theology. I’ll spell check it later, so if there are critics who adhere to spell-checker-onlyism (the view that a discourse is only valid if everything contains perfect grammatical structure), you will be greatly disappointed.


The 3 views are Preterism, Historicism and Covenant Theology

One of these is not like the others (this isn’t a proper classification.) Someone once noted that “dispensationalism has an eschatology but no soteriology; covenant theology has a soteriology but no eschatology.” Covenant theology is a hermeneutic that primary covers how we understand the continuity/discontinuity between the testaments. And covenant theologians hold several different views on eschatology: they can be post-millenial, a-millenial, or historically pre-millenial. The only thing they aren’t ever is dispensationalistic pre-tribulational pre-millenial.

And there are definitely covenant theologians who still see a place for national Israel.

Also, we don’t really see the church as replacing Israel (although admittedly that may have been more the way it was stated in the past—much the same way that dispensationalism has been refined.) Rather, we see both the church and Israel as being part of the entire people of God, and the vast majority of the promises being fulfilled in the whole people of God (not just a part of it.)

As I said, I had no intention of making this an exhaustive examination of all of the different schools of thought of the different 3 views. If you notice, I did not list full preterism or partial preterism either, I am listing 3 of the main themes that each of them have in common, that is gaining popularity in fundamentalist churches.

Dr James Ach

What Kills You Makes You Stronger Rom 8:13; 7:24-25

Do Right Christians, and Calvinisms Other Side

With respect to the pre-mil position or a futuristic theology the simple truth is that many of those who object rely on Covenant theology to guide their thinking. As many times as the question has been asked, covenant theology cannot be supported by the teaching of the Bible. While it is true that those defending covenant theology cite Bible verses, Biblical support of the covenants of Grace, Works and Redemption are just not there.

I ask myself how can a believer in Christ who spends much time in the Word of God settle for a vague fulfillment of prophecy that the various flavors of covenant theology offers them? And why do they insist that prophecy is of little importance but denounce the futurist in the strongest terms possible?

The only answer to these and other like questions can I believe be found in the Bible itself. The leaders of Israel in Jesus day certainly knew the Scriptures. Where they failed was in that they did not take those ancient words seriously. If we are saved by grace through faith in the risen Christ, where, I ask, do we get the authority to pronounce judgment on the Apple of God’s eye and lay claim as our own that of which was promised to another?

Thomas Chew

Lehighton, PA

I think you make a point depending on perspective. True, covenant a-mil theology doesn’t live or die depending on an early date for Revelation like preterism does however it is hard to imagine a preterist who doesn’t embrace covenant theology who isn’t a liberal.

Kim Riddlebarger who you quote, does (in my opinion) have one thing in common with John MacArthur and that is they both reject preterism. The how and why they come to this agreement is quite different though.

I know that this discussion isn’t about Kim Riddlebarger per se but he is a good example of at least two unfortunate tactics of those who defend covenant theology from dispensationalism. In his book A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times, Riddlebarger informs us that he is from a long family line of reformed pastor/preachers but he somehow managed spend much of his youth spellbound by dispensational radio/TV expositors. Hard to believe that his parents weren’t safeguarding the young Kim’s exposure to this menace.

The other problem is that the book is not really a primmer for Amillennialism as much as it is a refutation of Dispensationalism. In other words, the book takes a negative approach rather than a positive approach; dispensationalism is bad so by default covenant theology is good.

To the reader who insists on a Biblical proof of covenant theology, Riddlebarger fails to make the case and quite frankly doesn’t even really try. Why you ask? Because his work in my judgment concerns itself with keeping those already in his camp, in his camp.

Thomas Chew

Lehighton, PA