What is preterist eschatology, and what is CoG7’s view?
Eschatology is the study of end things in Christian life (state of the dead, resurrection and immortality) and the study of end times in world history (Christ’s return, millennium, resurrections of the dead, final judgment, and eternal kingdom). The word preterist indicates what is past, or gone before. Combined, the two terms refer to a school of interpretation in which much, most, or all of the prophecies of Daniel, Matthew 24, and Revelation have already seen their fulfillment in human history.
Preterist eschatology has several variant forms. The most consistent form, called hyper-preterism, insists that even salvation’s ultimate events (Christ’s literal return, final judgment, destruction of the wicked and all evil, and God’s eternal reign over the redeemed) have already been realized in some sense. This is “fulfilled eschatology” at its utmost and is considered a sub-biblical view among most evangelical churches, including CoG7.
A more limited form of preterism affirms fulfillment of the Great Tribulation prophesied by Christ (Matthew 24:15-28; Mark 13:5-23; Luke 21:8-24) in the ad 70 destruction of the Jewish temple and city of Jerusalem by Roman armies. This doesn’t deny the future reality of Christ’s return to judge the world, defeat all enemies, and usher in God’s eternal kingdom and righteousness. This view, which helps to explain Christ’s puzzling statements in Matthew 10:23; 16:28; 23:36; and 24:34, has its proponents among us. Confining the question to the book of Revelation, preterism is one of several approaches to interpreting the Bible’s last book. The more common approaches are the historicist and the futurist. As the terms imply, historicist scholars find fulfillment of much or most of Revelation in world history from the late first to the twenty-first centuries, while futurists see all the book from chapter 4 on still awaiting fulfillment in the future — beginning with the rapture (supposedly in 4:1, 2).
The preterist, however, views most or all of the prophecies in Revelation as finding their historic setting and fulfillment in the first century ad. In this view, chapters 6-18, at least, are to be read as symbolic descriptions of the actual events happening in the Roman Empire when Revelation was being written in the mid-to-late first century. It was written for the assurance, comfort, and encouragement of Christians then living through the testing, trial, and persecution brought against them by Roman rulers of that era.
The BA magazine’s and CoG7’s roots are mostly in the historicist school of prophetic interpretation, not the preterist. Our current Statements of Faith affirm the certainty of a future, literal return of Christ, accompanied by the resurrection of the righteous to eternal life, to rule and reign over the millennial restoration of all things to a new heavens and new earth. This is climaxed by the resurrection of the wicked to final judgment (annihilation) and by the universal peace and righteousness of God’s eternal kingdom. Open study of all prophetic topics in Scripture is encouraged.
— Elder Calvin Burrell