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The Dilemma of the Partial-Preterist: Inconsistency


Here I refer to “partial-preterists,” those Christians who reject the futurist view of scripture yet recognize that Christ has not yet returned.

Such an individual rejects the futurist view, citing the common preterist objection: the Revelation text says that these things must soon take place (Revelation 1:1). Therefore, since 2,000 years have since happened, these words could not possibly have been referring to still future events. So, since the text says these events must soon take place, the events described must have happened in the first century.

Yet the partial-preterist recognizes that Christ has (obviously) not yet returned–so that part, the return of Christ, is still future even though the events have already happened. Only problem is, the same book of Revelation also tells us that Christ Himself is soon returning:

  • Revelation 22:12 — “Behold, I am coming soon!”
  • Revelation 22:20 –He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

So which is it? Past or future? The partial-preterist on the one hand says that the “these things” to come soon must have already occurred, but on the other hand says that Christ’s promised “Yes I am coming soon” really wasn’t all that “soon” since 2,000 years have passed. The position ends up confused by this obvious inconsistency. If both the events (“what must soon take place”) and the return of Christ are said to occur soon, then either 1) BOTH the events and Christ’s return did occur in the first century, or 2) the human definition and understanding of “soon” is incorrect and neither the events nor Christ’s return has yet happened. These are the only two logical conclusions. Consider the two texts together, the prologue to Revelation (Revelation 1) and the epilogue (Revelation 22), and the clear meaning is that the “what must soon take place” is connected to Christ’s return, that all of the events go together.

The full-preterist (hyper-preterist) deals with the full implications of the dilemma logically, and opts for choice number 1. At least such people are consistent in recognizing that “coming soon” in the text must refer to both the events and Christ’s return. The futurist is likewise consistent, and opts for choice number 2: the human definition and understanding of “soon” is incorrect and therefore neither of the “soon” predicted things have yet happened.

In this textual consideration, the futurist recognizes the doctrine of imminence, that Christ could return at any time — and its corollary, that from God’s perspective a day is as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day (2 Peter 3:8).

A side note here: to those scoffers who then would apply that verse to an interpretation of Genesis 1’s “day,” I would point out that the context of 2 Peter 3 is quite clear. Peter’s words about “a thousand years are like a day” are specifically in the context of the surrounding verses, which answer the scoffers who say “where is His promised coming?” — the very reasoning of preterists who conclude that “soon” could not mean 2,000+ years.

The inconsistencies of the partial preterist position continue to astound me. Simple logic should explain that the “coming soon” must refer both to the events and Christ’s return. So either both the “coming soon” events have already happened, or they haven’t. How can one say that the one promise of “coming soon” must have happened in the first century, but that the other “coming soon” event has an entirely different meaning?

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