Preterism, FTW!!!!….wait, what?
Most folks are familiar with the Rapture Bunny version of eschatology, thanks to LaHaye and Jenkins’ Left Behind series of novels. Jesus raptures the true believers, and seven years of literal hell-on-earth follow, culminating in Christ’s return to destroy the statists of the world and free mankind from the evils of satanic government (my interpretation). A one thousand-year period of peace and prosperity follows, after which there is a sort of “mini-tribulation”, where Satan is released from his prison and leads an army of unbelievers against the City of God, and suffers final defeat. A new heaven and new earth follows.
This is really not a popular end-times theological stance, despite the permeation it has enjoyed in media and popular culture. There are large swaths of the Church who reject pre-tribulationalism for a variety of reasons. There are, for example, the “post-tribulationalists”, who believe that the Church will suffer God’s judgement along with the World, as a sort of purifying effect. The “post-millenialists” believe that the Millenium happens first, then the Tribulation. ”Pre-Wrath” proponents believe in the Rapture of the Church, but not until the Tribulation is almost over. ”Mid-Tribulationalists”, as the name implies, believe the Rapture will happen half-way through.
There is a fascinating view of eschatology that is becoming quite popular of late: Preterism. This view asserts that all Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled, in one way or another, and that all we have to look forward to is Christ’s return (if that; it’s possible, of course that He already returned). Worried about the Tribulation? Stop it! The Tribulation happened way back in AD 70, with Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem. What about the Anti-Christ? That was Nero, Silly! So, no worries, Mon!
I have found that Preterism is quite popular with people who hold to two theological stances: the Reformed Tradition (also sometimes known as Calvinism) and Dominion Theology (which says, more or less, that the Church is responsible for bringing about Christ’s kingdom on earth). There may be Preterists who hold to either one or the other of these views, but in my experience Preterists are usually proponents of both stances. I point this out because I think preterism flows naturally from these two dogmas. If it is the Church’s responsibility to bring Christ’s kingdom on earth, then what’s the point of the whole “Rapture-Tribulation-Millenium” paradigm?
There also seems to be a sort of “anti-anti-intellectual” movement for preterists. That is, they are embarrassed by the garish nature of the pre-trib crowd, and so want to distance themselves from the “rubes” who don’t really know how to study the Bible, or something. I don’t have any specific evidences for this idea, just a feeling I get from reading the preterist arguments against pre-trib theology.
For myself, I’m definitely in the Rapture Bunny camp, for the simple reason that Christ compared the last days both to the time of Noah and the time of Lot. In both instances, God rained judgement down on the World, but He took care to remove His people from having to experience the judgement themselves.