Chapter Outline

Part 1:
Matthew Twenty-Four
Luke Twenty-One
The Seventy Weeks of Daniel
Part 2:
Zechariah
Revelation
Bookends of the Bible
The Apple of His Eye
Second Peter Three
Appendix:
Most Holy as Used in the Old Testament

Gray-Haired Perspective

Where is the Promise of His Coming?
(An Answer to Preterism)
Part 2

 

ZECHARIAH

What does Zechariah have to do with a 70 AD fulfillment? Nothing. But preterists assign book after book, passage after passage, to a past fulfillment, taking away our hope of a future fulfillment.

What is the preterist approach to Zechariah? They interpret Zechariah with other Scriptures, so many other Scriptures that you get the impression they must be right. They sure have a lot of Scriptures to prove their point.

Yet one thing is missing—explaining the context in Zechariah itself. A prooftext can prove almost anything, but the context usually proves only one thing. And I'd like to dig deep into the context and point out some things that you may have not noticed before. At least I had not noticed them before I made this study.

Zechariah prophesies a siege of Jerusalem. Luke prophesies the siege and destruction that took place in 70 AD, and preterists assign Zechariah's prophecy also to 70 AD. But futurists notice that this seige has a different outcome than the one in Luke because it ends in salvation, and they assign this to the future.

 

Jerusalem Defended. In Zechariah 12 notice that the siege results in salvation for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. I underlined the timing indicator in that day and will refer to it later on.

2   Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
3   And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
4   In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness.
5   And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the LORD of hosts their God.
6   In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.
7   The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.
8   In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.
9   And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
10   And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
11   In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
12   And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;
13   The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;
14   All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.

As you can see, Zechariah prophesies salvation for Jerusalem. In contrast, Luke prophesies siege without salvation.

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (Luke 21:24).

For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation (Luke 19:43–44).

Luke, like Zechariah, foretells a siege. But the outcome is quite different. In Luke Jerusalem is destroyed. But in Zechariah Jerusalem is defended, and the destroyed ones are the nations that attack Jerusalem. In Luke, Jerusalem is scattered at the end. In Zechariah, Jerusalem is saved at the end. How do preterists explain the difference?

Well, the only way they can try to explain the difference between defending and destroying Jerusalem is to redefine Jerusalem somehow. For example, some may say that the Jerusalem destroyed is physical Jerusalem and that the Jerusalem defended is spiritual Jerusalem. But such an interpretation comes from other contexts, not the Zechariah context. In Zechariah the defended Jerusalem is physical Jerusalem.

Other preterists may define defended Jerusalem as the believing remnant. The remnant is saved and the rest are destroyed. It's true that the remnant is saved, but where is the remnant? Zechariah specifically says that the Lord will defend the "inhabitants of Jerusalem." That is quite different from Luke where the remnant flees the city, and then the city itself is destroyed. I don't know how preterists explain the saved inhabitants inside the city.

As for the destruction of Jerusalem's enemies, preterists explain it as a matter of timing. They say that 70 AD, when Jerusalem was destroyed, marks the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire. Now the Roman Empire finally fell in 476 AD, and so in this way the enemies of Jerusalem were destroyed. This explanation covers about 400 years.

Since preterists are attune to timing indicators, notice the phrase "in that day" or "at that day" that occurs in Zechariah 12, not once, not twice, but seven times. Those timing words provide no clue of a 400-year gap before the destruction of Jerusalem's enemies. Besides, I thought preterists were allergic to gaps.

First, "in that day" (verse 3) Jerusalem will be a burdensome stone, in contrast to Luke where one stone is not left upon another.

Second, "in that day" (verse 4) the Lord will smite every horse and rider. Which ones? The ones 400 years later? No. In context, it's the same ones who attack Jerusalem.

Third, "in that day" (verse 6) Judah will be instrumental in devouring the enemies. That in itself would place the timing in that day rather than a later day.

Fourth, "in that day" (verse 8) the Lord will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem rather than destroying them.

Fifth, "in that day" (verse 8) the feeble among them shall be as David, in contrast to Luke where everything is leveled to the ground.

Sixth, "in that day" (verse 9) the Lord will seek to destroy the attacking nations. The Hebrew word for "seek" is used 225 times in the Old Testament. It is translated "seek" 189 times in the King James Version. The word indicates an earnest desire, a determined plan, not a wistful wish. The Lord will certainly get what He seeks in that day. Only one translation of the many I read translates the word as "begin." But the King James Version never translates it "begin," and rightly so, the word shows purpose and desire, not timing. The timing comes from the words "in that day." There's no hint of a delay to a different day.

Seventh, "in that day" (verse 11) shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem. This comes last in the order of events, as they are recorded here, after Jerusalem is defended and the nations destroyed, allowing the mourning to take place "in Jerusalem," which is "inhabited again in her own place" (verse 6).

Did I say seven? The next chapter has three more. Zechariah 13 opens:

1   In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.
2   And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.
3   And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.
4   And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:

So let's continue. Eighth, "in that day" (verse 1) there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and uncleanness. In context, these are the same inhabitants of Jerusalem mentioned four times in the preceding chapter, the same ones who were defended from attack.

Ninth, "in that day" (verse 2) the land will be rid of idols and false prophets. No false prophets? That has to be after Christ comes, because false prophets abound before He comes (Matthew 24:11).

Tenth, "in that day" (verse 4) the false prophets will be too ashamed to pretend to prophesy and so, again, this happens after He comes.

To summarize, the first six occurrences of "in that day" relate to Jerusalem's defense from attack. The last four relate to Jerusalem's cleansing from sin. That order, the cluster of six and the cluster of four following, reinforce the chronology of a future fulfillment for those of us who believe in Israel's future salvation, both physically and spiritually.

But preterists reverse this order. They place the cleansing from sin much earlier, even as far back as the time of Christ. While doing that, they also put the destruction of the enemies much later, as much as 400 years later. This reverses Zechariah's order.

By reversing the order in this manner, preterists also remove the events far from "in that day." By moving the cleansing from sin to forty years before, and by moving the destruction of the enemies to 400 years after 70 AD, they put a gap on both ends. Ordinarily they make much of timing texts, so the ten-time repeated "in that day" should make them rethink their gap chronology in Zechariah.

 

Some Scattered Before Jerusalem Defended. The next section in Zechariah tells the same story, in the same order, with additional details. This section starts the story a little earlier, beginning with the scattering of the people. Chapters 13 and 14 continue:

7   Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
8   And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
9   And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.
1   Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.
2   For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

Because of a captivity prophesied in Luke, preterists think this also was fulfilled in 70 AD. But here half the people remain in the city as seen above, unlike in Luke who leaves no survivors inside the city as seen below.

For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation (Luke 19:43–44).

So the accounts are different. In 70 AD it was total desolation. In Zechariah 14:2 half the people remain. That is why futurists place Zechariah 14:2 in the middle of the future tribulation period. That timing corresponds with Revelation 11:2, "the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." What happens after forty-two months? Zechariah 14 continues the story:

3   Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
4   And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
5   And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.

Reading these words at face value, it should be abundantly clear that these things did not happen in 70 AD, and therefore they are yet to happen. But preterists are constrained to find the fulfillment in 70 AD anyway. How do they get that out of this? By interpreting these words as figures of speech.

 

Figurative and Literal. The Bible often uses figures of speech. Normally, figures of speech are embedded in a literal context, so the context itself makes the meaning clear. But here, preterists break the norm in two ways. First, they make most of the words figurative so that there's very little literal left. Second, they derive the meaning of the words from other contexts, rather than from this context.

To demonstrate, in this context how will the Lord fight the nations? Is it by gradual decline of one particular nation over 400 years as preterists say? They get that idea from somewhere else besides this context. But the context itself explains that the Lord will fight against those nations "as when he fought in the day of battle." That recalls many Old Testament battles, one-day battles. The meaning comes from this context, not from somewhere else.

To demonstrate further, this passage precisely plants the Lord's feet upon the Mount of Olives. Preterists say that is a figurative "coming down" of the Lord. Why? Because other passages use "come down" in a figurative sense. This passage, however, doesn't say "come down" like those other passages do. Rather, it specifically says, "his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives." Those words explain exactly what kind of coming this is.

Rather than accept the context's explanation of the Lord's coming, preterists say the explanation itself is figurative. The mountain, according to some preterists, relates to the church, and it represents an obstacle removed, such as the wall of partition separating Jews and Gentiles. To back this up, they quote other passages. But this passage explains the mountain differently. It names it, calling it the "mount of Olives." Now even in those other passages which preterists quote in order to prove that "come down" is figurative, when a mountain is named such as Mount Sinai, that literal mountain is meant (Nehemiah 9:13).

But what if preterists still want to figuratize the first explanation of the Lord's coming (his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount)? And, secondly, what if the actual naming of the mountain is not enough to satisfy them? No worry. We're blessed with an abundance of explanations, layer upon layer.

Third layer, lest someone say that the name, "mount of Olives," is figurative, and it really represents some other mountain, the text tells us which mount of Olives. It's the one "before Jerusalem on the east."

Now it just so happens that there really is a mount of Olives east of Jerusalem; so forgive me if I get confused and think that the text really refers to that mountain. I'm sure someone will straighten me out and inform me that Jerusalem is spiritual and east is not a geographical direction.

Layer four dispels the spiritual notion when it describes the physical movement of the mountain. "The mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof."

Layer five, to clarify this cleaving, so that we have no doubt about what it means, the text explains that the cleaving is "toward the east and toward the west."

Layer six, lest we think the east-west cleaving is symbolic, the text portrays a physical result. "There shall be a very great valley."

Layer seven, to ensure that we understand the geographical significance of this east-west cleaving, it says, "half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south."

Now I'm just wondering—maybe you can help me here—is it written somewhere how many layers of explanation we have to go through before we're finally obligated to accept one of them at face value?

Layer eight, unlike a figurative valley, this valley you can run through. "And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains."

Layer nine, if anyone still says the valley is symbolic and the fleeing is figurative, the text explains that "the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal." Now Azal was a specific geographical location, but we no longer know where it is. That place is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. So I'm not sure how preterists would figuratize it. We know where Jerusalem is, and it's often mentioned in both earthly and heavenly respects, but what does an unknown unmentioned location represent? All we know is that it's a geographical location known to Zechariah, but unknown to us today.

Layer ten, if someone still compares the fleeing to something spiritual or something figurative, then observe that Zechariah himself compares the fleeing to a previous well-known fleeing. "Ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah."

At any one layer, just one, if preterists were to accept that explanation as final, without re-explaining that explanation, then . . . but no . . . that's unthinkable. Their system sees no future for Israel, and it requires them to figuratize every last layer, leaving very little literal left.

 

The Big Valley. I'm sure we agree that every word of God is inspired, without error, and that each word is true, and does not deceive us; but just the same, I imagine that preterists might tell me that I'm getting too hung up on every little word here in Zechariah. It's the bigger concept that's important, they might say, and the mountain is still figurative.

All right, we did explore a lot of little words; so now let's step back and see the bigger picture. We see a mountain and a valley. Personally, I tend to think more of the mountain. After all, it's the same mountain that the feet of Jesus last touched (Acts 1:11–12), and I like to think of His feet first touching there again.

But the passage in Zechariah focuses more on the valley than on the mountain. It spends only one-half verse explaining the mountain, but it spends one and one-half verses explaining the valley. So it spends about three times as long on the valley. To get the big picture, then, let's look at the result of the mountain's cleaving, the valley.

I've seen several preterist explanations of the mountain and it's cleaving, but I don't know what they make of the valley. The valley, maybe more than the mountain, makes the context come alive.

First, the mention of an earthquake in context with a newly formed valley now makes sense.

Second, people fleeing into a real valley makes more sense than fleeing into a figurative valley.

Third, the valley harmonizes with the river route.

And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be (Zechariah 14:8).

Personally, I think the waters cleanse the winepress that the Lord treads under foot, but that's another chapter.

Fourth, the forming of a valley is consistent with other topographical changes in the area.

All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:10a).

In this way, all the little details combine into one big picture, consistently and harmoniously. Neither the details nor the big picture happened in 70 AD. Therefore, we anticipate the future when the touch of His feet will turn the mountain into a valley.

 

The Plague. As another example of how details combine into a bigger picture, think about the plague.

And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth (Zechariah 14:12).

And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in these tents, as this plague (Zechariah 14:15).

If it were just one verse, I could understand how someone might think this is a spiritual plague, because nothing like this has ever happened before. But in the second verse, the same plague affects the animals too. Do animals have a spirit in the same sense that humans do? No, but they have bodies like humans do. So it must be a physical plague.

Since neither the human plague nor the animal plague, as literally described, happened in 70 AD, someone may reason that all animals were affected at the curse, and so we need not look for any further fulfillment. But notice, the animals in Zechariah are specific to the battle encampment location. What do you think about that?

In what direction is your mind going right now? Are you thinking, "Oh, the animal plague helps us to interpret the human plague"? Or are you thinking in the other direction, "The animals and/or their tents represent something else"? Always re-interpreting, huh?

The United Nations is full of translators. When one delegate is speaking, are all the other delegates listening to him? No, they're really listening to the little translator receiver in their ear. I get the feeling that preterists sometimes listen to the Bible this way. If you have a little translator in your ear, then snatch it out, stuff it under a pillow, walk out the door with your Bible, no other book, just the Book, sit under a tree, and read it again for the first time.

 

Jerusalem Means Jerusalem. Now, of course, we're thankful for those who translated from Hebrew into English. But once in English, if preterists were to re-translate it, then Zechariah 12 might read something like this:

1   The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel (this really means church), saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
2   Behold, I will make Jerusalem (this really means new Jerusalem) a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah (does Judah also mean church?) and against Jerusalem (was new Jerusalem ever in siege?).

In the second verse I didn't know how to re-translate Judah and Jerusalem in preterist fashion. Maybe someone will have those answers.

That's just a tiny taste of the sort of re-translating I have observed. Zechariah 12–14 mentions Jerusalem twenty-two times. I understand it to mean Jerusalem each time, rather than new Jerusalem. But preterists disagree. Now I haven't seen an itemized list by any preterist showing which of the twenty-two times means Jerusalem and which times mean new Jerusalem. Therefore, in my discussion here, I'm not arguing against any specific preterist position. But I'm just giving examples and general principles.

The opening words in the above example, "the burden of," form Zechariah's heading for chapters 12–14. Prophets typically use "the burden of . . ." to mark off a new section. It's like a chapter title. It's like a sign along the road. It's like a label on a jar. We know the contents of the jar by the label. We don't scratch off words on the label and replace them with different words, or else we wouldn't know what was in the jar.

Like Zechariah does here, Isaiah uses "the burden of" nine times to introduce a new prophecy. Zechariah uses the phrase two times. In all of these cases the phrase introduces a geographical location as the subject of the prophecy. For example, the first use in Zechariah mentions places in Syria.

The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the LORD (Zechariah 9:1).

If Zechariah 9:1 refers to a geographical location, then we would also expect Zechariah 12:1 to refer to a geographical location. And if Zechariah 12:1 is the label on the jar, so to speak, then we would expect all twenty-two uses of Jerusalem in Zechariah 12–14 to be geographical Jerusalem within geographical Israel.

Preterists, however, believe they have good reason to understand some of the references to Jerusalem as new Jerusalem or "church." They take their cue from verses like these:

But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all (Galatians 4:26).

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2).

Each of these passages has a directional indicator ("which is above" and "coming down from God out of heaven") to clearly tell us which Jerusalem is in view. Likewise, Zechariah has a directional indicator to make the meaning clear.

And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east (Zechariah 14:4a).

Zechariah's directional indicator is clear. We don't need to import different directional indicators from other passages. It's not our place to switch the labels on the jar, now, is it?

By using the Galatians and Revelation passages quoted above, preterists attempt to interpret Scripture with Scripture. The idea is good. I do the same when noticing that Isaiah illuminates Matthew and this generation. If the two Scriptures match, it's helpful. But if they don't match, it's misleading. Furthermore, if the original readers know about the other Scripture, then it's compelling. If not, the original readers will be quite surprised to wake up in heaven one day and realize, "Oh, that meant something quite different than the words I read."

When comparing Scripture with Scripture, the Scripture in the immediate context carries the most weight. It's safest to start there and work outwards. For example, this pair of verses from Zechariah 14 mentions Jerusalem twice, and one helps to interpret the other:

16   And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
17   And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.

The second Jerusalem means heavenly Jerusalem according to typical preterist interpretation. But look at the context. The first Jerusalem is earthly Jerusalem. To be consistent, should not Jerusalem be the same in both verses? Now they could go to some passage written hundreds of years later in order to prove the opposite. But the point is that the immediate context carries the most weight. They say "interpret Scripture with Scripture," and I agree, but I also say that the Scripture next door carries more weight than one across the street. These two verses next to each other make a perfect example of interpreting Scripture with Scripture, because the first verse sheds light on the second verse. Jerusalem means Jerusalem.

Preterists certainly must know this context principle of interpretation, because they use it in Matthew where they trace the uses of generation. So what's stopping them from tracing Jerusalem in Zechariah like they trace generation in Matthew? Big problem. In 70 AD Jerusalem was destroyed. But in Zechariah Jerusalem is defended, blessed with abundance, and even the bells on the horses shall ring "HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD." In other words, Zechariah's outcome does not match the outcome demanded by their system. Therefore, they are forced to re-define Jerusalem by using other passages, rather than remaining free to let Zechariah itself define Jerusalem.

 

REVELATION

Like Matthew, Daniel, and Zechariah, so also the book of Revelation is fulfilled in the past, say the preterists. They believe Revelation prophesies the events leading up to and including Jerusalem's destruction in 70 AD.

Preterists believe Revelation was written before 70 AD, a couple years before the events started to unfold. Most futurists believe Revelation was written well after 70 AD. As of this writing, I'm the only futurist I know of who is willing to concede this point to the preterists. I lack the knowledge to take a firm stand one way or another on this issue. But I do have two observations.

First, God's prophetic pattern provides hundreds of years, or even thousands of years, before the fulfillment. That removes all doubt, even to skeptics, that it's a true prophecy and that it really came from God. Think of Daniel. Think of all the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ's first coming. Think of the 400-year gap between the Old Testament and New Testament books.

If God granted such clear and undisputable far-in-advance prophetic vindication for Christ's first coming, then it would be consistent for Him to do the same, or more, for Christ's second coming.

The Temple. Second, an argument for the early date of Revelation says that the temple is still standing in Revelation. And if it's still standing, then the time must be before it was destroyed in 70 AD. But that argument doesn't matter if the temple is a rebuilt temple, as futurists believe. The real question should be this: is the Revelation temple a rebuilt temple or the destroyed temple? Let's find out by observing what happens to this temple.

Regarding this temple, notice what gets measured and what does not get measured.

And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months (Revelation 11:1–2).

Preterists notice that the temple is still standing. But they miss the measuring. Since the passage makes a point of it, let's see the results of the measuring.

The measured temple and the unmeasured city receive opposite fates in this passage. The measuring makes the difference. But in 70 AD there was no difference—both the temple and the city suffered the same fate. In Revelation, the temple is measured, not destroyed as the 70 AD temple was. Therefore, this measured temple is not the destroyed temple. This temple is measured, protected, and as we saw earlier in the section on Daniel, this temple will be anointed.

Now preterists may object that measuring implies destruction. Just the opposite is true. In this passage the measuring distinguishes the temple itself from the outer court and from the city. In this way, the measuring allows the Gentiles to trample the city but not the temple. Likewise in other passages, measuring means protection not destruction.

I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her (Zechariah 2:1–5).

Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem (Zechariah 1:16–17).

Because the Revelation temple is measured, not destroyed, is it any wonder that futurists believe in a rebuilt temple?

 

Destruction of Babylon. The latter chapters of Revelation portray two women and two cities. In Revelation 17–18 the harlot represents Babylon. In Revelation 19:9–27 the wife of the Lamb represents New Jerusalem.

According to preterists, as you recall, Jerusalem in Zechariah sometimes means new Jerusalem even though new Jerusalem is not mentioned in Zechariah. But in Revelation Jerusalem is not new Jerusalem, but Babylon, according to preterists, even though Jerusalem is not mentioned in Revelation 17–18. Which is it? Is Jerusalem the new Jerusalem or Babylon?

Preterists might answer that believing Jerusalem becomes new Jerusalem, and unbelieving Jerusalem becomes Babylon. But rather than splitting one city like that, I prefer to look at it this way: just as old Jerusalem seeds new Jerusalem, so also old Babylon seeds prophetic Babylon. The two cities are separate throughout history, from beginning to end.

But preterists mix them. They say the destruction of Babylon really means the destruction of Jerusalem. That way they can say it is a past event, in 70 AD and not future. If preterists have taught me one thing well, it is this: notice the timing passages. So let's notice three timing clues for the destruction of Babylon.

The first timing clue is that Babylon's destruction happens in Revelation 17–18, and Christ's return happens in Revelation 19. According to preterist timing, the two events should be in the same chapter, because Christ returned at the destruction of Jerusalem. In fact, it's the coming of Christ in judgment that destroyed Jerusalem. But in Revelation, the events are sequential, not simultaneous. Revelation 19 even inserts rejoicing in heaven between the two events.

By the way, if you continue on to Revelation 20, notice that the resurrection happens after the return of Christ. So the three events, the destruction of Babylon, the return of Christ, and the resurrection, happen sequentially in that order. This is not the sequence of the rapture resurrection, and it certainly doesn't fit 70 AD.

The ten kings provide the second timing clue. According to Revelation 17, the ten kings destroy the harlot Babylon, and the ten kings, in turn, are destroyed by Christ. Now if you were to skip that middle step in the sequence, and have Christ directly destroy Babylon, then where would the ten kings come in?

With this agrees Daniel:

And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him (Daniel 7:24–27).

From Daniel we learn even more about the timing. The ten kings arise before the three-and-one-half-year period. How can that timing fit the preterist view? In order to fit the fact that the ten kings are destroyed by the kingdom of heaven, will they reason that God's kingdom comes later, as much as 400 years later, when Rome is finally destroyed? Their chronology is not complete, leaving too many unanswered questions.

The third timing clue comes from Revelation 11:2, which says, ". . . and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." Preterists somehow think this matches 66–70 AD when the city was surrounded by armies for forty-two months, and then trod under foot at the end of the forty-two months. But Revelation sees an end to the treading where preterists see its beginning.

The timing in 70 AD simply does not match the timing in Revelation.

 

Identity of Babylon. Preterists take their clue for the identity of Babylon from the last verse in Revelation 18.

And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth (Revelation 18:24).

Comparing that verse to Matthew 23:34–35, they conclude that Babylon is Jerusalem.

Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar (Matthew 23:34–35).

What about the connection between the two passages? Does it prove that Babylon is Jerusalem? I admit, I don't have a good explanation for these passages. All I have are some suggestions. Not proof, just suggestions.

Could it be that upon the Jerusalem of Jesus' generation came the "guilt" of all the blood shed until then, without all of that blood actually being shed in her? Is that too much of a fine line? Maybe. As I say, it's not proof. But think about the following facts.

First, the passage mentions the blood of Abel. Was Abel killed in Jerusalem? No. Jerusalem was not a city yet. And, not that this has anything to do with it, Abel lived before the flood drastically changed the geography, so we have no idea where Abel lived. But just the same, Jerusalem of Jesus' day suffered the guilt of Abel's blood.

Second, some of the prophets were killed by Jezebel, the wife of Ahab (1 Kings 18:4). Ahab reigned from Samaria (1 Kings 16:29), the capital of the northern kingdom, not Jerusalem the capital of the southern kingdom.

Third, what about all the blood shed for the testimony of Jesus down through the ages since Jerusalem fell? The indictment of Jesus against Jerusalem includes, not only slain prophets past, but also future killings (Matthew 23:34); yet by the preterist view that would have to be a limited future up until the time that blood was avenged in 70 AD. As of this writing more Christians are being killed for their faith than at any time in history. Will this blood and the blood of all martyrs since 70 AD never be avenged?

I think we're looking at something broader and bigger than just Jerusalem, something beyond its scope of time, both before and after, something beyond the scope of its geography, even worldwide.

That's exactly what we see in Babylon. "The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues" (Revelation 17:15). She is the mother of all harlots (Revelation 17:5), not just one.

All these facts suggest a difference of scope between Revelation 18:24 and Matthew 23:34–35. Those two passages do not match all that well, so when comparing Scripture with Scripture let's look for a better matching Scripture. A passage with a closer connection is Jeremiah's prophecy about Babylon:

As Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth (Jeremiah 51:49).

This better matching Scripture points to Babylon, not to Jerusalem, agreeing with Revelation which also says Babylon. The wording is close enough to Revelation 18:24 that we could almost call this a parallel passage. True parallel passages exist in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), because they write about the same events. Similarly, Jeremiah 50–51 parallels Revelation 17–18. The parallels are not quite as close as they are in the synoptic gospels, but they are close enough and frequent enough, that we ought to study Revelation and Jeremiah side by side.

As we do, notice that Jeremiah distinguishes Babylon from Jerusalem (and Israel). This happens throughout Jeremiah 50–51, including the passage quoted above. As Revelation borrows wording from Jeremiah 51:49 it may flavor the meaning differently, but the wording still refers to Jeremiah's Babylon, not Jeremiah's Jerusalem.

To further distinguish Babylon from Jerusalem, Zechariah's vision transports the base of wickedness to the same location as literal Babylon.

Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth. And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth. And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah. And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven. Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah? And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base (Zechariah 5:5–11).

The land of Shinar contains Babylon (Genesis 10:10). How will the base of wickedness be established there? I don't know. I sense how the Old Testament prophets felt as Peter described them. "Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (1 Peter 1:11).

But some principles remain clear from Zechariah's prophecy. It is clear that God restrains wickedness. It is also clear that the base of wickedness is, or will be, in the land of Shinar.

Does the prophecy refer to Israel being carried off into Babylon? I don't think so, because Zechariah wrote this near the end of the Babylonian captivity, not before. And so, if this is prophecy, it must be fulfilled future to that time.

Also, the context in Zechariah shows different destinies for Jerusalem and Babylon. In contrast to a base of wickedness, Jerusalem will be a seat of righteousness. Zechariah writes:

Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem (Zechariah 1:16–17).

For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her (Zechariah 2:5).

Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye (Zechariah 2:7–8).

And the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again (Zechariah 2:12).

I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day (Zechariah 3:9b).

The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you (Zechariah 4:9).

And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the LORD, and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God (Zechariah 6:15).

Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain (Zechariah 8:3).

And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness (Zechariah 8:8).

Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD (Zechariah 8:22).

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth (Zechariah 9:9–10).

And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them (Zechariah 10:6).

And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn (Zechariah 12:10).

In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1).

Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts (Zechariah 14:21).

These verses speak of choosing, blessing, worship, removal of iniquity, and righteousness for Jerusalem. That differs from Babylon, the base of wickedness. Zechariah 2:7 even directly distinguishes the two. So just as Jeremiah distinguishes the two cities, so also Zechariah sees opposite futures for each city. With this even preterists should agree because, as you recall, in Zechariah they sometimes translate Jerusalem as new Jerusalem. That translation at least is better than a Babylon translation. Jerusalem is not Babylon.

Now back to Revelation. The blood of those slain upon the earth is just one clue for Babylon's identity; in fact, it's the last clue in chapter 18. Revelation also gives other clues. For example, as I read Revelation 18 I would expect Babylon to have shipping access to the sea, something Jerusalem does not have.

Would you like to continue through all the clues and characteristics, or would you rather just go straight to the conclusion? If I say, "He has brown hair and green eyes," that's one thing. But if I say, "His name is . . . ," that's another thing. An outright designation carries more weight than hints and clues. To remove all argument, the final verse in Revelation 17 plainly says:

And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:18).

At the time that was written, that could only be one city—Rome.

In other words, the spiritual designation for Rome is "Babylon." On the other hand, Jerusalem has a different spiritual designation. It's not "Babylon," but:

And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified (Revelation 11:8).

The designations are distinct. Jerusalem is Sodom and Egypt figuratively. Rome is Babylon. The Bible does not mix the designations.

How do Rome and Babylon tie together? Will literal Babylon be rebuilt? Or will Rome replace Babylon? I don't have all the answers. All I know is that they are tied together somehow. The image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream represents four kingdoms (Daniel 2). The first is Babylon. The last is Rome. God's kingdom will break in pieces all these kingdoms, not just the iron feet of the image, but also the gold head, and everything in between. The feet of the image do not bring the kingdom of God, just as the Roman armies did not bring the kingdom of God in 70 AD, but rather Rome is destroyed by the kingdom of God.

In summary, the Bible always and everywhere keeps Babylon and Jerusalem distinct. But preterists make Revelation say things it doesn't say. They teach that Babylon is Jerusalem, even though Revelation doesn't say that. And they teach that the temple in Revelation is destroyed, even though Revelation doesn't say that.

As a final observation, does Revelation 17 prophesy of one city and Revelation 18 another city? No. One chapter prophesies the destruction, and the other laments the destruction, following the pattern of Jeremiah who lamented over some of his prophecies. In similar pattern, Isaiah 47 laments over Babylon (the one in Chaldea), and Revelation borrows Isaiah's lamenting language. So if Revelation follows the style of Jeremiah and Isaiah, then both chapters concern the same city.

 

BOOKENDS OF THE BIBLE

As we have seen above, Babylon in Revelation reminds us of Babylon in Jeremiah, Daniel, and even Genesis (Genesis 10:10). Genesis and Revelation link together in many ways. Babylon is only one of them. What Genesis begins, Revelation fulfills. Someone has said that Genesis and Revelation form the bookends of the Bible. Living between the bookends, we know how it all began, and we know how it will all end.

But preterists think we're beyond the bookends. For them, Christ has already come, the kingdom of God is already here, Satan is bound, and some even say that the resurrection is past. People like me look around and say, "Really?" Preterists answer, "You must take it by faith."

Well, it seems to me, the very fact that we're arguing about it proves that it hasn't happened yet. "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12). "When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2b). Doesn't the Bible say somewhere that when Christ comes there will be no more arguing? If Christ has come, why don't we have full knowledge? Why isn't the very need for faith obsolete? Why hasn't faith become sight?

If Christ has come, why do I still have my earthly body (1 Corinthians 15:52)?

If Christ has come, why do we still have hurricanes and earthquakes (Matthew 24:6–8; Romans 8:22)?

If Christ has come, why do animals still eat each other (Isaiah 11:6–9)?

If Christ has come, and if Satan is cast into the bottomless pit, who's out there deceiving the nations (Revelation 20:3)?

If Christ has come to beat swords into plowshares, why do we still have "the end is not yet" sign of wars and rumors of wars (Isaiah 2:4; Matthew 24:6)?

If Christ has come, and if the devil no longer prowls around like a roaring lion, why do I still need to resist the devil (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8)?

If Christ has come, and if the day of redemption has come, why is it still possible to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30)?

If Christ has come, why do we still have sin (1 John 3:2)?

If Christ has come, why do we still experience trials (1 Peter 1:6–7; 4:13)?

If Christ has come, why do we still get married (Matthew 22:30)?

If Christ has come, why do we still say the Lord's prayer, praying for a kingdom to come that's already here (Matthew 6:10)?

If Christ has come, why do we still take the Lord's supper (1 Corinthians 11:26)?

If Christ has come, and if our motivation for holy living was looking for His coming, then what motivation for holy living do we have left (2 Peter 3:14)?

If Christ has come, why doesn't the knowledge of the Lord cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9)?

When the knowledge of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea, then by definition people will know how to live. But if we're beyond the bookends now, and if the majority of people who have ever lived fall beyond the direct written instructions regarding sin, Satan, and the Holy Spirit, then what guide do they have?

Preterism purports to have the answer for skeptics. But to answer all these questions would take a lot of explaining, even to believers, let alone unbelievers. Attempting such an explanation would make the ramifications of this generation exponentially complex, while overlooking Isaiah's simple interpretation. I'm sure preterists are up to the complex task, but why not simply say, "Isaiah illuminates this generation," and be done with it? Wouldn't that make it more believable for unbelievers?

If Isaiah's straightforward answer won't satisfy the skeptics, then what will? Why go all the way down through the Straits of Magellan when you can go through the Panama Canal?

One summer in San Jose, California, I got a job driving an ice cream truck up and down the residential streets. I had moved there to be near my sweetheart and to get married at the end of the summer. So I was unfamiliar with the streets. The first day on the job I was given written directions, turn-by-turn, starting from the parking lot, going to the target area, including all the up-and-down streets. Well, my first day out of the parking lot I was doing fine until I realized I had been on one street a long time. When was the next street coming up? Oh, maybe I passed it. I lost my way in San Jose.

Funny, isn't it, how taking one tiny different turn way back at the beginning puts us onto another path entirely. Three times, yes three times, does Jesus in Matthew 24 point to Isaiah. As He does, He points to five, yes five, Isaiah passages. If we follow where He points, we won't lose our way.

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away (Matthew 24:34–35).

For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain (Isaiah 66:22).

Will preterists now see that this generation in Matthew points to your seed in Isaiah? Will they now say that Isaiah offers the easier answer, satisfying their Biblical desire to arrive at an interpretation pointed to by the context instead of foisted upon the context, fulfilling their purpose to vindicate the words of Jesus, leaving unbelievers without a loophole?

We could answer "yes" if answering the skeptics were all that is at stake here. But it's not quite that simple. To accept Isaiah's definition of this generation, would mean that the seed of Israel would continue. It would mean that Israel has a future. In preterism, Israel has a past, but no future.

An impartial person would weigh the words of Matthew and Isaiah and would be free to accept the connection. Preterists don't enjoy that freedom. If the scales were to tip the wrong way here, it would upset their entire system.

 

THE APPLE OF HIS EYE

In writing this I tried to get inside the preterists' minds, to think like they think. But I wish I could get inside their heart, to see what's driving them. I know what's driving the Lord. Take a peek with me inside His heart.

For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye (Zechariah 2:8).

Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life (Isaiah 43:4).

But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me (Isaiah 49:14–16).

Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married (Isaiah 62:4).

They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 3:1).

And she shall follow after her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not find them: then shall she say, I will go and return to my first husband; for then was it better with me than now . . . . And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD (Hosea 2:7, 19, 20).

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh (Romans 9:3).

Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved (Romans 10:1).

I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew (Romans 11:1–2a).

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance (Romans 11:29).

The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee (Jeremiah 31:3).

For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer. For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee (Isaiah 54:7–10).

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished (Isaiah 51:6).

For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain (Isaiah 66:22).

Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever (Jeremiah 31:35–36).

Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers (Jeremiah 33:20–21).

Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; then will I cast away the seed of Jacob and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them (Jeremiah 33:25–26).

And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 31:28).

For thus saith the LORD; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them (Jeremiah 32:42).

In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old . . . . And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God (Amos 9:11, 15).

And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it (Jeremiah 33:9).

 

SECOND PETER THREE

Reading the Scriptures about the apple of God's eye, Israel, builds faith, doesn't it? "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). I realize that preterists desire to build the faith of skeptics by offering an explanation for this generation. But in light of the Scriptures above, I would encourage preterists to examine their own faith.

Preterists like to point to history and say, "See what happened in 70 AD?" And for them this one-city destruction builds faith. Futurists also can point to history and say, "See what happened in 1948? Israel became a nation again." And for us, this confirms faith—God has not forsaken the apple of His eye.

The Bible uses a historical event far bigger than 70 AD and far bigger than 1948 to build faith in the Second Coming. Jesus compared His coming to that big event—Noah's flood. Peter also used that event to answer the skeptics.

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished (2 Peter 3:3–6).

Scoffers claim that all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation. We all know that since creation many cities have been destroyed. So how can preterists point to the destruction of one more city in order to refute the scoffers' claim that nothing has changed? And how could preterists possibly convince scoffers that judging one city equates with judging all ungodly men worldwide? The localized one-city argument seems unconvincing.

More convincing is Peter's argument of the flood with its obvious worldwide effects. Notice his parallels between the water and the fire.

But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless (2 Peter 3:7–14).

Notice seven parallels between the water and the fire. First, just as the Word of God kept the waters from engulfing the earth before the flood, so also the Word of God reserves the earth for the fire to come.

Second, although the scoffers are willingly ignorant that the Word of God preserved the pre-flood world, we should not be ignorant that the same Word of God patiently preserves the present world for fire.

Third, Peter makes a point to mention heaven and earth in both sides of the parallel. It's not that the flood destroyed the heavens, but Peter mentions the heavens as existing by the Word of God before the flood in order to maintain the parallel, because the fire will destroy the heavens and "the earth also."

Fourth, just as the scope of the flood was big enough to destroy all the wicked living in the world, so also we would expect the scope of the fire to be at least that big, if not bigger. Conversely, just as the flood left only righteous people on the earth, so also in the new earth dwells only righteousness.

Fifth, just as the water was physical, so also we would expect the fire to be physical. Lest there be any doubt, the text tells us that this fire shall be accompanied by "a great noise" and "fervent heat." It's that kind of fire.

Sixth, just as the waters destroyed only the surface of the earth, it may be that the fire burns up the works in this world without annihilating it. In any case, the text distinguishes the world that then was, the world that is now, and the new earth. The three are clearly different, and the new earth we would expect to be most different of all.

Seventh, the lusts of the scoffers lead to their ignorance of the past, but our knowledge of the future should lead to holy living. We should not succumb to the scoffers' way of thinking or to their way of life, as Peter concludes:

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen (2 Peter 3:15–18).

The above passage contrasts two groups: 1) Those who are wicked and wrest the Scriptures, and 2) those who are saved and know the Scriptures. Now I believe preterists are saved. So where does that leave me?

Well, maybe there's an implied third group: those who are saved and yet follow the wicked, either in their way of thinking or in their way of living. That is why Peter warns us not to follow them. So I think it's fair to take a moment and talk about the error of the wicked, so that we can avoid following them.

When an outright unbeliever wrests God's words, we recognize it as such because it's obvious. But when a believer changes God's words, it is more subtle.

Like us, preterists want to honor God by proving how He keeps His word. We believe God keeps His word by keeping His promises to Israel. They believe God keeps His word by coming in this generation. Ironic, isn't it, that generation defined without Isaiah's help actually results in breaking God's word to Israel.

By posturing as the answer to skeptics, preterists pose as the true defenders of the faith, while ridiculing the rest of us for having simple faith in what we read. I just wonder, instead of pointing to the lack of faith in skeptics, instead of ridiculing our faith, what would happen if, just for a moment, they examined their own faith?

Do you remember the first subtle one, who re-interpreted God's word, making it sound so plausible, but in reality making it pliable? Adam and Eve fell for the fabrication. Have we learned from their fall? Could it be that God actually means what He says?

Now here's another question. Why did Adam fall for it? Apparently his loyalty leaned more toward Eve than to God's word. Oh God, may my loyalty lie only and always with your word. Not your filtered word. Not your molded word. But your pure word.

The first fabricator used truth and half truth. Even the theological system that you most disagree with uses Scripture to prove Scripture. Therefore, the mere act of comparing Scripture with Scripture does not in and of itself prove the correctness of that theological system. Doesn't Peter say it is possible to wrest Scripture? I get the feeling that some use Scripture to overturn Scripture rather than to support Scripture. What makes it seductive is the selective use of Scripture, leaving out those that are critical to the case.

Do you wonder why sincere students of the Bible arrive at opposite interpretations? I have a theory about this. Is it because some interpret literally and some interpret figuratively? Maybe. Is it because some interpret the church and Israel differently? Maybe. It is because some follow covenant theology and some follow dispensationalism? Maybe. But I'm simple minded, and I like an explanation that I can get a handle on. Here is how I look at it.

Comparing the right Scripture with the right Scripture leads to truth. Comparing the wrong Scripture with the wrong Scripture leads to error. That's the key to rightly dividing the word of truth. That's the key to not wresting Scripture.

Look at these examples of comparing Scripture with Scripture, and see if you notice a pattern.

Comparing Scripture with Scripture
The Passage
Preterists Choice
Futurists Choice
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away (Matthew 24:34–35). Preterists compare this to the other this generation passages in the gospels. That's good as far as it goes, but . . . For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain (Isaiah 66:22).

Of all the verses in the whole Bible, this one matches the most closely, word for word, phrase for phrase, thought for thought. And Jesus on that day, on that mount, in that minute, was thinking and speaking in the context of Isaiah, as seen from the immediate context.

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom (Matthew 16:27–28). Preterists compare this to the destruction of Jerusalem without any specific verse directly linking this to that. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount (2 Peter 1:16–18).

Peter's eyewitness account links a coming and glory to the mount of transfiguration. And this agrees with the context in the gospels where the transfiguration passage immediately follows the coming passage.

And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate (Daniel 9:27). Preterists compare this to:

. . . I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah (Hebrews 8:8).

Daniel 8:13, Daniel 11:31, and Daniel 12:11 match more closely in context and in wording, revealing that it is the one opposite to Christ who confirms this covenant.
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30). Preterists compare this to verses like:

The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it (Isaiah 19:1).

As this passage links a cloud coming to the judgment of Egypt, so also do preterists link the cloud coming in Matthew 24:30 to the judgment of Jerusalem. It would be a strong link if Jerusalem were mentioned even once in the verse like Egypt is mentioned four times in Isaiah 19:1.

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:9–11).

Of all the passages in the whole Bible, this is the one that expressly explains the manner of His coming, and therefore logically links to Matthew.

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy (Daniel 9:24). Because Messiah means anointed, Preterists match most Holy to Messiah in:

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times (Daniel 9:25).

But holy in Hebrew is the same word as sanctuary in:

And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined (Daniel 9:26).

And all forty-six occurrences of most Holy in the Old Testament refer to the temple or to temple related things, never to Messiah.

And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months (Revelation 11:1–2). Preterists say nothing about the measuring, because they think this temple is the one destroyed, not protected. Measuring means protection, both in the context of Revelation 11, and also in:

I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her (Zechariah 2:1–5).

And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth (Revelation 18:24). Preterists compare Babylon to Jerusalem because of:

Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar (Matthew 23:34–35).

But the following passage, in context of the entire chapter, refers to Babylon in distinction from Jerusalem:

As Babylon hath caused the slain of Israel to fall, so at Babylon shall fall the slain of all the earth (Jeremiah 51:49).

The wording matches Revelation. And the entire chapters 50 and 51 of Jeremiah parallel Revelation 17 and 18, reinforcing the match.


The pattern I notice is this: not only do preterists patch passages together that don't go together, but the very verse that most matches they miss. Not once, not twice, but it's a pattern. Such selective use of Scripture seduces us into thinking that we have Scripture on our side.

By using Scripture, the deceiver tried to dupe the Son of God into jumping from a pinnacle. So you think you're safe just because you've got Scripture behind you? No! It can be downright dangerous. You've got to compare the right Scripture with the right Scripture. That's the key.

Instead of wresting Scripture, we should rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). What does it mean to rightly divide the Word of truth? The term rightly divide in Greek is a compound word made up of straight and sharper. Truly straight teaching will line up passages that truly line up. Truly sharper teaching will separate and divide those passages that do not line up. That results in cutting a straight path to the truth.

Teachers, take care when matching Scripture with Scripture. You can prove anything, whether right or wrong. What a power you have! For example, you can take Matthew 24:15–16 and the abomination of desolation and "prove" that it matches Luke 21:20–21 ("Jerusalem compassed with armies"), even though one happens inside the temple and the other happens outside the city, even though Luke 21 never says abomination, and even though the two passages have many other differences that don't line up. The Word of God is sharper than any twoedged sword only if we divide where God has divided and join where God has joined.

When you choose what color clothes to wear, you try to pick matching colors. When you plan what to eat, you pick foods that go together, like bread and butter. When you watch football, the announcers talk about matchups, player for player, offense and defense. If the matchups are in your favor, you stand a better chance of winning the game. These same skills we use in other areas of life should also apply to matching Scripture with Scripture.

The same God who divided the light from the darkness, who divided the waters above from the waters below, who divided the waters below from the dry land, who made every living creature reproduce after its kind, this same God also knows how to say Israel and mean Israel, and He knows how to say church when He means church, carrying the distinction all the way to the foundations and gates of new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:12, 14). No doubt about that. The question is, do you and I know how to rightly divide the word of truth?

Can the deceiver get you to disbelieve plain statements in God's Word? Maybe not by outright denial, but by mismatching Scriptures he can get you to believe the opposite of what the Scripture plainly says. Avoid that trap. Rightly dividing the Word of truth skillfully lines up Scripture with Scripture, revealing straight truth.

Jesus asked, "When the Son of man cometh, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8). It's up to you and me to answer that question with a great big Y‑E‑S.

When the day comes that I see my Savior, and He looks deep into my eyes, if He finds any fault remaining in me, I hope it's this, that I believed His word too much, rather than not enough.