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Particulars of Christianity:
313 Preterism


Preterism Part 2: Olivet
and the Transcendent "You"


Preterism Part 1: The Basics and Partial Preterism
Preterism Part 2: Olivet and the Transcendent "You"
Preterism Part 3: The Remaining "Proof Texts"
Preterism Part 4: Appealing to Josephus
Preterism Part 5: Uninterrupted Futurism into 2nd Century
Preterism Part 6: Nero, History, and Biblical Details
Preterism Part 7: Scripture and a Delayed Coming
Preterism Part 8: Brief Summary of Conclusions
Behold I Come Quickly
Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass
When Was Revelation Written?
A Throne of His Own

Addendum: "The Time Is At Hand"




Now, we will shift gears and tackle the Preterist's timeframe proofs. Do they really indicate what Preterists claim? Do they really require the Olivet prophecies (along with the other end time Gospel prophecies) to occur within the lifetime of that first generation?

First, we should become familiar with exactly what phrase the Preterists feel forces us into a first century fulfillment of Jesus' prophecies. Let's take a look at the so-called Preterist proof text that occurs in the Olivet Discourse. The respective parallel passages can be found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Having completed a lengthy discourse of events that must come before his return, Jesus makes the following statement recorded in each of the first three Gospels.

Matthew 24:34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Mark 13:30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.

Luke 21:32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.

There are several reasons why this phrase does not mean what the Preterists tell us it means.

Some opponents of Preterism have attempted to argue that "generation" here refers to a lineage or line of ancestors and descendents from one generation to the next. The Greek word for generation used in these passages is "genea" (Strong's #1074). In fact, there are four definitions to this word. Definitions 1 and 2 convey the ideas lineage. Not until definition 3 and 4 do we find the notion of a duration of time defined by the human life span from birth to death.

However, for the purposes of our analysis, we will not take issue with the Preterists interpretation of the word generation in these passages. We wholeheartedly agree that "generation" here refers to a duration of time defined by the human life span.

Preterists want us to believe that the proof in such passages as these is the phrase "this generation." But that is clearly not so and a simple question will reveal that this is not the case. We might ask "this generation, which generation?"

The key to identifying which generation Jesus is speaking of is his use of the pronoun "you." To demonstrate that this is so, let's back up a little bit to view the previous verse.

Matthew 24:33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Mark 13:29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. 30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.

Luke 21:31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. 32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.

From these passages in the Olivet discourse we see that the phrase "this generation" hangs on the implications of the "ye" (or "you") in the preceding verses. The Preterists assume that "ye" CAN and does ONLY refer Jesus to immediate physical audience, specifically the apostles. As such, Preterists assume the generation that "shall not pass" is the generation of the apostles.

The flaw in Preterist logic is for the most part no more complicated than this one simple assumption.

The problem is that Preterists completely fail to understand a very simple principle in scripture with regard to prophetic passages. In order to spotlight this often overlooked but absolutely essential principle we have given it a name. We call this principle Transcendence, or the principle of the Transcendent "You."

Transcendence is the Biblical phenomenon that occurs in PROPHETIC PASSAGES by which God speaks to an immediate physical audience, such as the apostles or the Israelites of Moses day for example, but is actually addressing future unborn generations with just as much certainty and absoluteness.

However, we want to make a slight revision from the previous version of this article. In the previous version of this article we made some strong statements about the Transcendant "You," applying this principle in general to other passages of scripture beyond just prophetic passages. This was incorrect and irresponsible on our part and for that we both apologize and will now make reparations.

It is necessary, as we demonstrate this principle to be very clear up front. The principle of the Transcendant "You" can be demonstrated in prophetic texts and we will make that very demonstration. But, the Transcendant "You" does NOT extend to non-prophetic passages of scripture and should not be used as an instrument for that end. In full agreement with what is generally known as the grammatical historical hermeneutic (method of interpretation), we recognize that all scripture must be intrepreted in light of the normal grammatical rules, the historic context, and the understanding possessed at that time by the original audience.

We cannot, for example, take promises regarding the promised land given to the Israelites during the Exodus and apply them to ourselves. Nor can we interpret Proverbs as though they were given as promises to us. Nor can we, in general, interpret any non-prophetic passage of scripture in such a way that is unique to a modern perspective and would not have been available to the original audience. We MUST understand that each passage of scripture was given first and foremost to a particular audience at a particular time in a specific circumstance and we cannot automatically assume it was written to us.

What is written in scripture applies to us only when the context and content of the passage indicates that the statements being made are a general rule that apply to a general audience that is larger than the immediate original audience. While that does cover a large portion of scripture from such statements as the 10 Commandments to the 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 or Ephesians 5:18-21, it should not become a blind excuse to assume all things apply to us right now without examination of the content and the context using the grammatical historical method of interpretation.

As we will now demonstrate in this article, there is a clear exception made with regard to prophecies. The reason for this is very simple. Prophecies, by their very nature refer to events that have not yet taken place when the initial statements are made. And, as such, they often (although not always) employ enigmas, which deliberately disguise the meaning, such as many of the prophecies regarding Jesus' death and resurrection were not understood before they came to pass. And even in the cases where enigmas are not employed, it is still often the case that prophecies were not understood by their original audience.

Therefore, prophecies constitute a clear albeit partial exception to the grammatical historical rule to a discerning degree (and discernment should always be employed). We say "partial exception" because, in general, prophecies are an exception to the historical aspect of the grammatical historical method while the grammatical aspect still applies. Because an original audience may not have understood the meaning of a prophecy, we are not bound to interpret it the way they would have. However, we are still required to interpret it according to biblical precedent and the normal rules of grammar.

With all that being said, we will now go on to demonstrate using a very precise example, how the principle of the Transcendant "You" operates and was understood even at the time of Jesus when his immediate audience heard him deliver the Olivet Discourse.

The Preterist interpretation of the key verses in the Olivet Discourse entirely depends upon the notion that these words apply MORE to that first generation than they do to us. For Preterists, the "you" in these passages is EXCLUSIVE to the immediate hearers only and DOES NOT equally apply to us.

In fact, the principle of Transcendence is inherent in scripture writing from the very onset when Moses received the Word of God and proclaimed it to the Israelites. The Israelites understood that the words proclaimed to them applied equally to their children in every age. Hebrews 11 lists for us an entire line of Old Testament saints who died having not received the promises that were addressed to them as the original audience. They died in faith and were commended for their understanding that despite the fact that what was spoken to them did not come to pass in their lifetime, God was not a liar. These promises would come to pass.

One major portion of the Preterist argument is that Jesus becomes a false prophet if such prophecies as the Olivet Discourse did not occur in that first century generation. According to Preterists, if we extend the "you" to the last generation instead of EXCLUSIVELY to that first generation, then Jesus' prophecies are inaccurate and erroneous. On this basis they claim that Preterism is necessary to defend the Gospel from observant critics.

But thankfully the Word of God is complete. We will now take a look at a parallel prophecy given by Moses that proves the principle of Transcendence was a hallmark of scripture writing from the very start.

Deuteronomy 18:14 For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do. 15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; 16 According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. 17 And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. 18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. 19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

Notice that the pronoun "you" is applied uniformly throughout this passage. And does Moses identify which generation of Israelites he is speaking to? Yes, and very concretely. In verse 14 he identifies the "you" he is speaking of as the Israelites who are about to go in and possess the nations of the Promised Land. In verse 16-17, he further identifies the "you" he is speaking of as the same Israelites who heard God speak on the mountain and asked not to hear him again (verse 16-17).

Like the Olivet Discourse, there is no indication from the context or grammar that Moses is switching who his statements apply to anywhere in the duration of this passage. The pronoun "you" is applied uniformly and it is very clear that this same generation Moses is speaking to is the generation to whom Moses says "God will raise up unto you a Prophet." Unto who? Unto the Israelites he is speaking, the same ones who asked not to hear God's voice and the same ones who are about to enter and possess the Promised Land.

Passages like John 1:21,25 illustrate for us that by the time of John the Baptist, the Jews well understood this Mosaic prophecy to refer to the Messiah. John 1 also tells us that the Jews did not believe this Prophet had come by their day. Yet they did not consider Moses a false prophet for assigning the rising of that Prophet among that first generation to enter the Promised Land.

Fortunately, the book of Acts identifies for us exactly who the Prophet was, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; 20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. 22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. 23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. 24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. 25 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

Acts 7:37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.

Notice first of all that it did not even occur to the writer of Acts that Moses might be a false prophet if God did not raise this Prophet up within the days of the generation Moses addressed the initial prophetic statement to.

Notice also that in verse 22 of chapter 3 the author applies Moses statement about the Prophet to Jesus saying, "him shall ye hear in all things" and "every soul, which will not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed." This parallels Deuteronomy 18:19. And in verse 26, the author directly parallels Deuteronomy 18:15,18 by saying that God raised up his Son Jesus and sent him.

It is clear from Acts that Moses' prophecy of "the Prophet like himself" did not come to pass until thousands of years later when Jesus was born and came ministering to the people of Israel. Moses addressed his prophecy to his immediate audience assigning the timing of its fulfillment to their generation by use of the pronoun "you" coupled with direct identification that his audience was the Israelites who entered and captured the Promised Land and who, having heard God speak, asked not to hear him speak again. These same Israelites were identified by Moses as the "you" to whom God would raise up and send a Prophet like Moses, yet Jesus did not come to their generation but their successors many centuries later.

Was Moses a false prophet? Of course not. Acts records that his prophecies were fulfilled but in a timeframe that only made sense if the "you" clause in the Mosaic prophecies is interpreted with the Transcendent principle. And it is this very same Transcendent principle that Jesus employed in his instructions and prophecies, that the Preterists ignore to deduce their flawed conclusions.

So, when we reread such passages as Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 we clearly see that the "you" Jesus is speaking to is defined by whichever generation would be around when these things come to pass. It is not confined to the apostles and disciples of that day any more than Moses prophecy was confined to the generation of Israelites who were his initial audience and to whom his proclamation was addressed.

Matthew 24:33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Mark 13:29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.

Luke 21:31 So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. 32 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.

Deuteronomy 18:15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;

Deuteronomy 18:18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

Which generation of "you's" was Moses identifying? Those alive at the time he was speaking? His words clearly indicate that. He identifies his audience in verses 14, 16-17 as the same who would possess the nations of the Promised Land and the same who asked not to hear God anymore. Was God identifying the wrong generation? No. God's address was Transcendent. By speaking to the current generation he was clearly addressing the generation to whom the Prophet would come many centuries later.

So we ask again, which generation of "you's" was Moses identifying? Those alive at the time the prophecy would come to pass, those living at the time of Christ. The real identifier was not verse 14, 16-17. The real identifier of which generation was whichever generation the prophecy came to pass during. Like those Israelites, we will not know which generation Jesus' prophetic words apply to until the prophecy happens. For the rest of the generations until that time, including the original audience, it is merely the promise of that event just as it was to Moses' original audience.

And which generation was Jesus identifying when he used the pronoun "you?" Like Moses, he seems to be identifying his immediate audience. But, like Moses, we know that this does NOT by any means have to be the case. Like Moses, Jesus' "you" points not to his current generation but to the generation that would "see" the fulfillment of the events he is prophesying.

This is exactly the same pattern as employed by Moses when he prophesied about Jesus, calling Jesus a "Prophet like himself." How fitting then that Jesus would prophesy in the same pattern as Moses, employing the principle of the Transcendent "You" to apply the prophecy to his immediate audience but actually referring to a generation in the distant future.

Finally, as we return to the grammatical historical method of interpretation, we must take note of the fact that the Jews of Jesus' day, including his apostles were already well-aware of the principle of the Transcendent "You" in prophetic passages. In fact, they were already employing this principle long before we ever gave it a title.

When we take into account what Jesus' original audience would have understood by his use of the pronoun "you" during the Olivet Discourse, we must realize that the Jews of Jesus day were still looking for "that prophet" who Moses prophesied about in Deuteronomy 18:14-18. This is quite clear from John 1:21,25 where the Jewish leaders were asking John the Baptist if he was "that prophet." The fact that the Jewish leadership of Jesus' day was looking for this ancient Mosaic prophecy to come to pass some time in their future and maybe even their present tells us that the Jews of Jesus' day applied all the "thou's" "thee's" "thy brethren's" and "ye's" of Deuteronomy TRANSCENDANTALLY to themselves, even though that prophecy was clearly given to the generation of Israelites who centuries earlier had come out of Egypt under Moses and captured the Promised Land.

We know specifically from scripture that the Apostles themselves including Peter applied the principle of the Transcendant "You" to prophetic passages such as Deuteronomy 18:14-18. For, in Acts 3:19-26 Peter quotes this prophecy of "that prophet" which was given centuries earlier with "thou's" and "thee's" and "thy's" and "ye's" and Peter applies this prophecy to Jesus. Stephen does the very same in Acts 7:37.

Now, again, how would it have been possible for the Apostles such as Peter to believe Jesus was "that prophet" whom Moses prophesied to the generation of Jews who came out of Egypt and entered the Promised Land using "thou" and "thy brethren," etc., unless Peter understood and applied the principle that "you's" in prophecy were not limited exclusively to the original audience but could transcend (in the case of prophecy) to generations centuries later?

The only way to account for Peter's application of this Mosaic prophecy to Jesus as well as the general first century Jewish belief that "that prophet" was yet to come, is to accept that the Jews of the first century understood and applied the Transcendant "You" to prophetic passages such as Deuteronomy 18:14-18. Thus, when they heard the "you" in the phrase "So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass," as it occurs in the Olivet Discourse, they would not have assumed that this meant them exclusively, but would have instead automatically understood that it could transcend to later generations.

And so, understanding that the "you" in the phrase "when he shall see these things" could refer to themselves OR future generations just as the Mosaic prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:14-18 did, when they heard the terms "this generation" in phrase "This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled," they would have assumed that the generation being indicated was whichever generation "saw these things" and not their generation exclusively.

So, while we MUST interpret every passage strictly in light of what the original audience would have understood and IGNORE our twenty-first century perceptions and perspectives, when it comes to prophecies, we MUST understand that the first century audience that heard such prophecies as the Olivet Discourse or Deuteronomy 18:14-18, understood that the "you's" in them could transcend to future generations.

The end result is that the grammatical historical method of interpreting scripture in light of the understanding of the original audience demands that when we interpret the "you's" in the Olivet Discourse, we understand that the Jews who originally heard that Discourse, including the Apostles, were already acquainted with the fact that "you's" in prophecy were transcendent as evidenced by their interpretation of Moses prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:14-18.

And once we understand that the original audience would have understood the "you's" in prophecy were transcendent, then there is no need to demand or even hypothesize that the events predicted in the Olivet Discourse had to occur before that first generation passed away (as Preterists do). In fact, the opposite is true. To demand that the Olivet Discourse had to occur in the first century because of the occurence of the "you's" in that passage is to deny the grammatical historical method of interpretation by failing to take into account the fact that first centuries Jews were well-aquainted with interpreting prophetic "you's" in a transcendent manner.