Some Christians say that Bible prophecy was completely fulfilled in the first century AD, a theory known as Preterism. It is even claimed that the resurrection of the dead occurred already.
Preterists insist that prophecy does not apply to us today, and misinterpret the statements of Jesus where he referred to all things being fulfilled in "this generation". Because Jesus was raised from the dead, and remains alive today, the generation in which he lived still exists! It is a unique generation, because it has not yet passed away.
Jesus took away the sins of all generations, when he died on the cross. This is why he said the blood of all the prophets and saints that had been killed since Cain killed his brother Abel would be required of his generation.
The "day of the Lord" is referred to in many prophecies, and these were not fulfilled in the first century AD. Peter exhorted believers to take heed to prophecy; he referred to his own time as night time rather than day (2 Peter 1:19).
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.
Jesus spoke of the period of his ministry on earth as a "day" because he was the "light of the world". But the darkness of "night" would resume after left the world (John 9:4-5):
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
The dawn that Peter refers to may be understood as the future dawning of the "day of the Lord." It is not a literal day. A "day" is as a thousand years to God (2 Peter 3:8):
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.
Clearly, not all Bible prophecy was fulfilled in the first century. Peter considered his time as a time of darkness or night preceding the dawning of the "day of the Lord" which he said would come as a "thief in the night", that is, it would occur without anyone being aware of it (2 Peter 3:10).
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.
In the first century AD, the heavens were thought to be a series of concentric shells that contained the planets, the sun and moon, and the fixed stars. The cosmology of the first century AD was the geocentric cosmology of the Greeks. The work of Claudius Ptolemy dominated the thinking of astronomers for centuries. Eventually, when the discoveries of Isaac Newton were publicized, the old Ptolemaic system of rigid shells collapsed. This was the scientific revolution, and the enlightenment. The old idea of a rigid heaven was abandoned, when men realized the earth rotated. The planetary spheres, equants, and deferents, were abolished, fulfilling Peter's prophecy. Note that a thief in the night departs without anyone knowing, until it is too late.
Because the Old Testament seemed to support the old geocentric cosmology, the Bible was discredited. Many abandoned faith in God, some becoming atheists and skeptics. The rising tide of skepticism, and the commotion that accompanied the demise of the geocentric theory was the "great noise" that Peter foretold.
In his speech to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, when the New Testament Church was established in Jerusalem, Peter quoted the prophecy of Joel (Acts 2:20-21):
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
The same event, the sun becoming black, is foretold by the apostle John, who clearly considered it to be yet future (Revelation 6:12):
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.
One way of interpreting the prophecy of the sun becoming black like sackcloch is that it relates to the intellectual darkness and blindness that came upon the western world, as ignorance and superstition became prevalent during the so-called "dark age" after the Roman Empire fell into decay. This was a period when knowledge was controlled by the Church, all dissent was suppressed, heretics were killed, and most people were prevented from reading the scriptures.
The Church is pictured as a woman "clothed with the sun" in the prophecy of Revelation 12:1, but the "light" she has provided in the world has sometimes been darkness. What if the sun becoming black refers to the Church's clothing?
John wrote of stars falling to the earth (Revelation 6:13):
And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
The reference to the host of heaven falling like figs from a fig tree foretells the discovery of Newton's law of universal gravitation. Voltaire, in a popular treatise about Newton's theory, said that the heavenly bodies fall like apples. Thousands of years before Newton, Isaiah had written that stars fall like figs. Equating the mechanisms of the fall of figs and apples is straightforward (Isaiah 34:4).
And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
The earth falls towards the sun, and the sun and moon fall to the earth. According to the law of gravity, all mass in the universe attracts all other mass. Gravity keeps the earth in its orbit around the sun; the stars and planets are subject to the same laws of gravity that govern the fall of figs from a fig tree.
John refers to Isaiah's prophecy that the heavens will be "rolled together as a scroll" (Revelation 6:14):
And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
How could the heavens be rolled together like a scroll? When a scroll is rolled up, the spindles stop rotating. Once they meet, they no longer rotate. This prophecy pictures what happened to man's concept of the heavens in the scientific revolution. The revolutions of the starry heavens stopped; the earth moved instead. Men realized that it is the earth that rotates, not the sky. Like a scroll rolled together, the imagined diurnal revolutions of the heavens ceased, and the diurnal rotation was assigned to the earth.
John's prophecy that "every mountain and island were moved out of their places" describes the exploration and mapping of the world, which occurred over the past several centuries, that completely revised the ancient view of world that prevailed in the days of the apostles. All these events, foretold by the apostles Peter and John, show that the Preterist claims about Bible prophecy are false.
Copyright © 2005 by Douglas E. Cox
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