Home > Uncategorized > Preterist-Historicist Prophecy, and Another Variation of Imminence (Reading Andrew Bonar)

Preterist-Historicist Prophecy, and Another Variation of Imminence (Reading Andrew Bonar)

Reading Andrew Bonar’s Redemption Drawing Nigh (see this previous post), brings out the interesting viewpoints of the early Reformed Historicist approach to prophecy.

In my series through the history of premillennialism, I noted the development of Protestant premillennialism and its historicist view, as a reaction to Roman Catholicism. The Bonar brothers are included within this time period of historicism; early futurist writers such as S.R. Maitland had appeared not long before this point (see this 1834 work from Maitland), but the futurist historic premillennial view would develop throughout the later 19th century. Still, reading Andrew Bonar is helpful for understanding that historicist position, while recognizing differences from my own generally futurist view.

While considering the Olivet discourse text, Bonar presents his understanding in a way that at least makes sense for overall general truth and application: the historicist view really combines a preterist approach to the first part of Matthew 24 – judgment upon Jerusalem in AD 70 as the fulfillment of the first part (up through verse 14), followed by a general historicist view for the rest of church history until Christ’s Return. According to this view, “The Tribulation of Those Days” began at 70 A.D. and continues up until Christ’s return. Bonar was not concerned with any specific dating scheme, apparently not interested in trying to come up with a time period of 1260 years (for the 1260 days spoken of in scripture), but was content to simply see the entire age, from shortly after Christ’s First Coming until the Second Advent, as the overall tribulation.

Certainly the application is there, and the truth in history, regarding this as a general truth, even if not the primary meaning of the actual text.  First, Bonar notes the history of the Jews since 70 A.D. as a continuing tribulation:

it is necessary to notice that the days of Israel’s tribulation began in Jerusalem’s destruction, but did not end there. Far from ending there, it was only then they commenced; and for eighteen centuries they have continued—the sea of their calamities at one time sinking into a comparative calm, and at other times lashed into furious storms. It will appear beyond doubt from Luke xxi. 25— 27, that our Lord’s view of the “ Tribulation of Those Days” stretched over all that space of many centuries, during which Israel’s land has been trodden down and meted out, and the people a by-word among the nations.

Bonar further saw both a “great outburst” at the beginning point, and a yet future equivalent greater storm outburst within this overall Tribulation era.  As elsewhere in this book, Bonar is especially interested in showing the characteristics of this age up to the time of Christ’s return, as disproving the then-dominant view of a post-millennial return.  The point is well-taken, regarding what scripture has to say concerning this era — as quite the opposite from what the postmillennial view expects to occur in our history.

even as the first burst of the storm was terrific, so shall the last hour of it be, ere its strength is spent. And we can quite understand two individuals describing the same storm, the one dwelling on its first outburst, the other on the appalling scene at its close; while both say with equal truth that never was there such a storm as that which they described. … Century on century of trouble; deep calling unto deep; the roar of a storm never lulled into calm: such is his view of the days that precede his Coming. He tells of no Millennial rest before He comes. Nay, he puts that out of the question by saying, “ Such shall be the season of trouble, and immediately after . . . the sign of the Son of man.”

Another interesting point here, regarding imminence.  Futurist historic premillennialism recognizes a future 3 1/2 year tribulation period just prior to Christ’s return, and as such, recognizes (in contrast with pre-tribulational dispensational premill) that certain events must occur first, prior to Christ’s return: especially the rule of antiChrist over at least a certain part of our world and the persecution of Jews as well as Christians (especially with reference to the Middle East and possibly the geographical region of the ancient Roman Empire), and the (future) antiChrist setting himself up as god in a temple that apostate Jews will yet construct in Jerusalem.  This view can be taught from the New Testament scriptures, the basic point that the apostles and early church did not really hold to an “any moment” coming of the Lord but recognized certain events that must occur before He returns.

Yet the Reformed historicist view sees a symbolic interpretation of the antiChrist and the abomination of desolation (reference 2 Thess. 2), as having already occurred in the first century. Thus Bonar wrote as one who believed in an “any moment” coming, in the sense that Christ’s return is the “next event” (since we are already in the Tribulation).  Consider this explanation of “near” in Matthew 24: This expression means it is near, in the sense of being at the threshold, without declaring that it shall immediately enter, or come in. No other event is to be looked for amid that tribulation but the Coming of the Lord to end it.  Also:  Though the Temple perish (“these things,” ver. 6), yet to you has dawned a better hope. The very ruin of that Temple is to you a pledge of the Coming of Him that is greater than the Temple. “ Your redemption draweth nigh,”—is in full prospect on the horizon.

The beginning of chapter 10 well sums up this perspective of imminence, something to note as quite different from the futurist HP view of the earliest church fathers plus the view of many of today’s historic premillenialists:

PROPHECY is now in such a state of fulfillment that there is no event whatever remaining to be accomplished of which we could positively say, “That event must yet occur before the Son of man appears.” We are living in an age of the world when every hill is passed up which the Church had to climb ere it came in full sight of the plain along which shall come the Son of man in his chariot of glory in an hour when we think not.


Categories: Uncategorized
  1. May 26, 2015 at 6:34 am

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.

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