For most of the history of the Church, the classic interpretation of Bible prophecy has been the historicist, or preterist view that virtually all Bible prophecy was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Historicism, is the view of Bible prophecy espoused by Roman Catholicism since its foundation in 323 AD by Constantine of Rome. It was the view of virtually all of the Reformers and the Reformed Confessions.
It has survived as the classical, Protestant interpretation of prophecy for nearly 500 years. Most historicists take a preterist view of the Olivet Discourse, but disassociate it from the Tribulation as found in Revelation and some New Testament epistles.
During the last 150 years, within evangelicalism, futurism has grown to dominate and overcome historicism.
In a nutshell, the preterist/historicist view of Bible prophecy is that everything Dispensationalists expect to happen during the Tribulation has already occurred.
Preterists/historicists believe that the Great Tribulation already occurred, culminating with the Destruction of the Temple in AD 70, and thus is not a future event.
The Great Apostasy spoken of by Paul, they believe, happened in the first century. In this view, instead of expecting increasing apostasy as history progresses, preterists expect the increasing Christianization of the world.
Most historicists would argue that the phrase, “the last days” is really just a biblical expression for the period between Christ’s Advent and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 — the “last days of Israel.”
There is also no room in the historicist/preterist understanding of Scripture for a last days Antichrist. They conclude that John was symbolically referencing widespread apostasy of the Christian church prior to the fall of Jerusalem.
From this perspective, any apostate teacher or system can be called ‘antichrist’; but the word does not refer to some future Fuhrer. As to the Rapture, the historicist view is either that the Rapture is an invented doctrine, or it is part of the Second Coming of Christ.
It takes a lot of Scriptural gymnastics to make it all work.
For example, the Thousand Years of Revelation 20:2-7: “Is a large, rounded-off number. . . . the number ten contains the idea of a fullness of quantity; in other words, it stands for “many-ness.” A thousand multiplies and intensifies this (10 X 10 X 10), in order to express great vastness. . . . represent a vast, undefined period of time . . . It may require a million years.”
(Or maybe it means a thousand years?)
To many Jews, the symbol of the Cross is the symbol of ultimate anti-Semitism. To them, all Christians are secret anti-Semites and (accurately) argue that Christianity is the well-spring from which sprang two thousand years of pogroms and persecution, up to and including the Holocaust.
The preterist/historicist view of Bible prophecy held by both Catholicism and mainstream Protestantism teaches the following about Israel and the Jews:
“Ethnic Israel was excommunicated for its apostasy and will never again be God’s Kingdom.” Thus, “the Bible does not tell of any future plan for Israel as a special nation.”
“In destroying Israel, Christ transferred the blessings of the kingdom from Israel to a new people, the Church.”
One of the basic tenets of preterism is that the Great Harlot of Revelation was “Jerusalem which had always been . . . falling into apostasy and persecuting the prophets . . . which had ceased to be the City of God.”
The Beast “of Revelation was a symbol of both Nero in particular and the Roman Empire in general.”
Finally — and allow the implications of this one to fully sink in . . .
“The False Prophet “of Revelation was the leadership of apostate Israel, who rejected Christ and worshipped the Beast.”
Think about this. If the preterist/historicist view is correct [it is not] then the false prophet of Revelation are the Jews and their descendants.
Warring against the Jews could easily be seen as working against the Antichrist and false prophet. In that view, killing them off would be doing God a favor!
“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2)
If the Lord can break His covenant with the Jews, then we are no more secure than they.
“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29).
And so, among historicism’s chief difficulties is the fact that if the preterist view is true, then the Bible cannot be.
It is a fact of history that the Dark Ages (the fifth to sixteenth centuries) were so-called because, during that time, Bibles were denied to the common man by papal decree.
The Vatican had developed the preterist/historicist interpretation of Bible prophecy, and offering any other interpretation would get you burned at the stake. (So would possessing a Bible.)
THAT is why historicism is often called the “classical” interpretation. Because it dates back to the 5th century. The Dark Ages lasted until the Protestant Reformation. But Protestantism sprang OUT of Catholicism, bringing many of the Vatican’s doctrines along when it did.
The split was over salvation by grace [Protestant] vs. salvation by works [Catholic] but, other than that, Protestantism embraced and continued to accept much Catholic doctrine and dogma.
Wrongly dividing the Word of God has resulted in the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy to the Jews (John 16:2), being the standard operating practice of mainstream Christianity until the middle of the 20th century.
Preterists generally see Israel as the modern-day Antichrist, believing that embracing Israel as God’s Chosen People is spiritual adultery. That is why debates between preterists and pretribulationalists gets so nasty.
Type “Hal Lindsey” into Google and look around. You’ll find his critics don’t just disagree with him, they HATE him with a passion. He’s been accused of every known heresy and then some.
Hal wrote a book titled The Road to Holocaust in 1989 that directly challenged the preterist worldview as espoused by Dominionism and its champions. He’s been the target of every slander imaginable since.
The reason is because Hal demonstrated preterism was the root and branch of Christian anti-Semitism and his critics despise him for exposing them.
The Scriptures admonish us to:
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. . . Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2nd Timothy 2:15-16, 18).
You can be confident that we are NOT following some newly invented doctrine, despite the charges of historicist/preterism.
“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).
Don’t allow yourself to be bamboozled into buying into what I believe Paul was referring to when he wrote:
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils . . .” (1 Timothy 4:1).
God”s Word, rightly divided, says:
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11).
Don’t let your faith be shaken by cleverly-wording arguments that almost seem to make sense. Remember Jesus’ warning to Israel:
“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2).
The gaping holes in the preterist/historicist interpretation of Bible prophecy confirms the truth of Dispensationalism. The Lord is coming back. And He is coming back soon.