This will not be an exhaustive study of the subject so I recommend purchasing the book The End Time Controversy, edited by Dr. Tim LaHaye and Dr. Ed Hindson (Harvest House). Some of the best Bible teachers in the country contributed. I wrote chapter 12 on the subject of "War Over Words," which deals with expressions like: "The time is near," etc.
But this article will go into some of the background to this liberal of interpretative system that, unfortunately, even many Evangelicals ascribe to. The word preterism refers to the idea that "It has come," i.e. the second coming of Christ has arrived, and also, most of the prophecies in Revelation have already come to pass. (Christ came in some kind of sloppy, foggy, mystical way!) But what is the background to this evil, liberal system of interpretation that virtually destroys biblical prediction of things to come?
The great Greek scholar Dean Henry Alford in his foreword to his Greek Testament says: "The Preterist view found no favor, and was hardly so much as thought of, in the times of [early] Christianity. The view is said to have been first promulgated in anything like completeness by the Catholic Jesuit Alcasar in 1614."
Alcasar came up with this view in order to blunt the belief that the Catholic Church was the whore of Babylon, which was so popularized at that time. He did this by saying that the events of Revelation had already come to passup through the sixth century. Catholics dared not admit that the dynasty of the popes had fulfilled the prophecies of the Man of Sin, or that Babylon the Great was the Roman Catholic Church. Many at that time were already teaching a form of Futurism and believed that the prophecies of the Antichrist were still largely unfulfilled, and insisted on a literal interpretation, especially of the prophetic time future. Futurism taught that there was coming an actual Antichrist not a system or dynasty.
Thus in Preterism, the prophecies regarding Antichrist were allegedly completed by the first few centuries after Christ. Alcazar was fully aware that he was going against the futurism of many of the early church fathers who saw most of the events of Revelation yet future.
Later, it was the German liberal rationalists who picked up and expanded on Preterism. J. G. Eichhorn (1752-1827) revived the idea. He was joined by rationalist and liberal G. H. A. Ewalk (1803-1875), Franz Delitzsh (1813-1890) and the terribly liberal Old Testament scholar, Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918). Prof. Moses Staurt of Andover seminary (1780-1852) introduced Preterism into the U. S. and Samuel Davidson reiterated it in England in 1844.
Earlier, a Henry Hammond (1605-1660), who was called the "Father of English Biblical Criticism" (and who was a flaming liberal), adopted Preterism. He was apparently the first of the English clerics to leave the Protestant Historical School of interpretation for the foolish and idiotic view of the Jesuit Catholic Preterism as applied to the book of Revelation. With terrible scholarship he stressed the expression "Things which must shortly come to pass" (Rev. 1:1).
But to give a simple answer to this lack of scholarship, one needs to read my answer in the LaHaye/Hindson volume, pages 295-96. There I write:
Many Greek scholars, both futurists and nonfuturists, agree that the idea of tachos (shortly) here has to do with swiftness of execution when the prophetic events begin to take place. Tachus ("shortly") "is a relative term to be judged in the light of II Peter 3:8 according to God's clock, not ours. And yet undoubtedly the hopes of the early Christians looked for a speedy return of the Lord Jesus." The much-respected author and teacher Joseph Seiss translates the phrase, "that which must come to pass speedily." Alford argues that it is wrong for critics of the Scriptures to press en tachei "to furnishing a guide to the interpretation of the prophecy of Revelation" and he criticizes those who try to create a false argument and scenario for preterism with such prophetic schemes."
En tachei is translated by Lange "in swift succession," who adds that other scholars "correctly interpret it as referring to the rapidity of the course of the events prophesied." Swete argues that "near fulfillment" is really in view and the Ritchie Commentary agrees: "This [en tachei] phrase, which if literally translated would be 'in brief (time),' is used seven times in the NT the primary thought is not so much the proximity of the event, but the absolute certainty of the event and the rapidity of action are involved here. Whatever seeming delay there is, action is certain and it will be swift."
Let's bury Preterism! It is too silly a view to give much time to.
--Dr. Mal Couch
--Dr. Mal Couch