There is a diverse set of Christian Eschatological views including Amillennialism, Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, Historicism, Preterism, Futurism, Idealism, and others. Here we are focusing on Preterism.
Preterism teaches that the events of the book of Revelation already happened in the 1st Century. They say Roman Emperor Nero (who reigned from 54 AD – 68 AD) was the Antichrist, and that all the supernatural events mentioned in Revelation are metaphors and allegory. The conquest of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD is the “end of the world” and there is no literal resurrection, or literal new heaven and earth. If the events of Revelation already happened then where is the Millennial reign of Christ, New Jerusalem, both Resurrections of the Dead, the White Throne Judgment, and the New Heaven and Earth? Shouldn’t Jesus be ruling the world from the new Jerusalem in Israel right now? He comes to defeat the antichrist and the false prophet in Rev 19:19-21. That hasn’t happened yet since anti-Christian nations and people still exist. Is Jesus never coming back because it was all hyperbole? Some 1st century Christians were saying that Jesus wasn’t actually coming back and Peter told them that was incorrect in 2 Peter 3. Was Peter mistaken? Paul denounced teachings that denied the literal resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, and heretics that claimed it already happened in 2 Timothy 2, was he wrong as well?
The Book of Revelation itself:
John wrote the book of Revelation while in exile on Patmos during the time of the Roman Emperor Domitian, right? That was after the temple was destroyed because Domitian ruled from 81 to 96 AD. So why would Revelation be a prophetic book of things that happened before the book was written? How can all of it be finished if the book is written AFTERWARDS? Practically every source I’ve read says it was written during the time of Domitian and most specify 95 AD. Its been the belief for all of church history, based on what early church fathers have said, where is the evidence to the contrary? Wouldn’t they know more than anyone today since they were much closer to the first century? Meanwhile, preterism theology started in the 1600s.
More than one Antichrist:
I think we can view rulers like Nero, Diocletian, and such as influenced by the spirit of Antichrist, but not the final human Antichrist of Revelation. Daniel and Isaiah have visions involving multiple Antichrist-type figures who are evil emperors who rule over Israel. In other words, history repeats itself, for example, there is a Jewish Exile by Babylon(598-586 BC), a Jewish exile by Rome (70 AD), and then restoration after each. Matthew 2:18 connects the murder of children by Babylon in Jer 31:15, to Rome’s infanticide (Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus), and Peter even refers to the Roman Empire as “Babylon” in 1 Peter 5:13. 1 John 2:18-27 also mentions that there are multiple Antichrist people, implying it’s just a title for rulers and systems that oppose God, not just one person in all of history, so Nero isn’t the only one. The Anti-Christ in Revelation must be the final Antichrist ruler. These Anti-Christ and Babylon references are an archetype that repeats throughout history and will continue to repeat until the coming of the Messiah and judgment day.
Some say the Antichrist already came as Nero because the gematria (numeric value assigned to letters) for 666 or 616 (Rev 13:18), equals Nero’s name. However, Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 says that this is incorrect to even the people of his day who were claiming the Day of the Lord already happened. If the Antichrist had already come then, judgment would have already happened. Which hasn’t happened since we are still waiting for it in the present age. When the antichrist comes preterists are susceptible into be deceived into thinking he is the messiah because they believe that “since the antichrist already came this new figure must be the Messiah”.
Repeating events through history is a pattern in Bible prophecy. It’s just like 1 Peter 3:20 which says the last days will be like the days of Noah, echoing Jesus from Matt 24:37-38. So the earth will see a level of sin equivalent to what happened before the flood. The events of Revelation can’t be locked to just the 1st century since the sinless world of the new kingdom doesn’t exist yet. The world is still filled with sin and violence and Christians are persecuted at similar levels to those in the 1st century in certain countries today, mainly throughout Africa and Asia.
The Destruction of Jerusalem and the 2nd Temple in 70AD:
In Matt 24:15, Jesus mentions the temple being desecrated by a sacrilegious object (reference from Daniel 9,11, and 12) but it must be a new 3rd temple since the Romans destroyed the previous one in 70AD. The Antichrist will take over Jerusalem and desecrates the temple with idols, which is described in Dan 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11. Dan 9:27 describes 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 which happens in the middle of the tribulation. According to these scriptures, the antichrist who made a treaty with Israel at the beginning of the tribulation reneges and desecrates the temple and calls himself god. Some people believed this prophecy from Daniel was fulfilled in the story of Hanukkah (Maccabean Revolt) when Antiochus IV put Greek idols in the temple around 170-160 BC. However, Jesus said that it hasn’t been fulfilled yet and was speaking in future tense when he was talking about these things in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. What happened in the Maccabean Revolt could simply be the first time it happens and then it will happen again in the future, this is simply a repetition as we’ve explored in the previous paragraph.
The destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 AD was a sign that the Sinaitic covenant was over and we are in the Messianic covenant. The people of God are now themselves temples filled with the presence of the holy spirit. Believers make up the body of Christ and are the new Temple/Tabernacle because the holy spirit is God inside of them (1 Cor 6:19-20). A Temple by definition is the house or dwelling place of a deity. This was a sign of a covenant change that’s why it is mentioned along with the death of the messiah in Daniel 9:25.
The Age of the Gentiles:
Luke 21:5-23 describes the first-century persecution of Messianic Jews/Christians in Jerusalem from the time of the ascension of Christ to the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in 70AD by the Romans. In v24 Jesus says Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the age of the Gentiles comes to an end. In v25-38 he describes the signs during the “Age of the Gentiles”, which are storms, earthquakes, wars, etc. That age hasn’t ended yet because we haven’t seen him return which he describes in v27.
In Acts 1:6-8 The disciples asked Jesus when Israel will be freed from Roman control and restored to a glorious position on the earth. They were asking about the literal restoration of Israel and liberation from Rome. That didn’t happen, Rome crushed Jerusalem in 70AD. How did Jesus respond? He didn’t say it was metaphorical and that there is no real new Jerusalem, instead, he said only the father has the power to set those dates and times. Meaning the new kingdom is literal, not just spiritual, and that the time for it to come to earth wasn’t here yet. However, there will be a time when the kingdom comes when Jesus returns as he says in Matt 24:30-31, and in Luke 21:27 which references Daniel 7:13.
After that in Acts 1:9-11, Jesus rose into heaven and the disciples were staring into the sky straining to see Jesus go up to heaven. Then two angels show up and asked why they are staring at Jesus in heaven. They said Jesus would return to the earth one day the same way he left. He literally went up into the sky, and according to the two angels, he will literally return from the same way he left. This has clearly not happened yet.
The Literal Resurrections of the Dead:
Is the resurrection of the dead hyperbole rather than literal like the Pharisees believed, as the Sadducees believed? The resurrection was prophesied in the old testament, but it was something that Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t agree on. The Pharisees believed in it because they believed in the Tanakh which talks about resurrection in Ezekiel 37:12-14 and Daniel 12:1-2. Jesus even mentions both resurrections in John 5:28-29, as well in Luke 14:14 (the first resurrection), and John 11:24-29 (both resurrections). The Sadducees tried to test Jesus, by challenging the concept of the literal resurrection of the dead in Matt 22:23-33, Mark 12:18-27, and Luke 20:27-40 but failed.
To say that Revelation was for the 1st century also denies the greatest promise of the new covenant, the resurrection after death. While the Pharisees hated Jesus because he called them out on their hypocrisy, they had the right theology in terms of eschatology because they believed in the resurrection. Remember it was members of the Pharisees who came to Jesus for help, like Nicodemus and Jairus, and there were even Pharisees who invited Jesus to dinner (Luke 14:36-50). Paul (a Pharisee), even appeals to this belief when in court defending his faith in Jesus before the Sanhedrin in Acts 23:6-11. The Sadducees, on the other hand, were influenced by Greek philosophy and watered down Jewish theology to be more allegory and metaphor like the Greek nationalists, who were more secular in their worldview than the pious religiosity of the common idol worshipper. Preterists are like Sadducees, with whom Jesus disagreed on theology, and Jesus destroyed their denial of the resurrection in a debate from Matthew 22:22-33, Mark 12:18-27, & Luke 20:27-40.
Paul warned against those who, like Hymenaeus and Philetus, teach falsely that the resurrection has already taken place in 2 Timothy 2. Paul also argued against this idea of a metaphorical resurrection as well in 1 Corinthians 15, where he says if the great resurrection of the dead is a lie, then why believe that Jesus was raised from the dead? Then he goes on the talk about the new heavenly bodies that covenant believers will inherit in the new age. These bodies will be free from sin and therefore free from death (aka immortal). Sin and death are still here, which means that hasn’t happened yet. Paul brings up the new bodies in 2 Rom 8:23, 1 Cor 15:35-58, 2 Cor 5:1-10, and Phil 3:20-21 as well. He says in 2 Cor 5:3 that are no bodiless spirits in heaven and that everyone that goes to heaven needs a new heavenly body. Since the new bodies are not distributed until the resurrection of the righteous, no person goes straight to the final heaven when they die but goes to paradise until the resurrections. That’s why in the parable of the bridesmaids in Matt 25:1-13, the brides are all standing outside the door waiting for the groom, they can’t go inside until the groom gets there to escort them in, likewise, we can’t go to the Kingdom until our King escorts us in.
Also according to Paul, God who raised Jesus from the dead will also raise us from the dead (2 Cor 4:14). He said WILL, not did. Meaning Paul was not speaking in allegories about spiritual renewal. He said “will” which is future-tense. He describes this resurrection as a literal bodily reresection with a new glorified body in 1 Cor 15. We will experience a literal resurrection just like Jesus did, and Paul calls Jesus the “first fruit of the harvest” (1 Cor 15:20–23) and the “first of many brothers” (Romans 8:29).
In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus describes Sheol or what we call “Hell” (or Hades). This a is temporary holding place (some people interpret it as soul sleep) until the resurrections. The righteous that died will be in Abraham’s bosom or paradise, a place across from Sheol (Luke 16:22-23), awaiting the resurrection with the new bodies (Rom 8:23, 1 Cor 15:35-58, 2 Cor 5:1-10, Phil 3:20-21) and will reign with Jesus over the earth in New Jerusalem for 1000 years (Rev 20:5-6). The wicked that died are resurrected after the 1000-year reign of Christ (Rev 20:11-15) and they are judged and cast into the lake of fire when the world is destroyed and the new heaven and earth are made (Rev 20:7-15, Rev 21:1-8). Jesus describes these events in the parable of the wheat and the weeds (or tares) in Matt 13:24-30. The Wheat is planted by the farmer, and his enemy plants weeds the harvest asks if they should pull the weeds now but the farmer says to wait until everything is ripe, so they won’t destroy the wheat. In Matt 13:36-43 Jesus explains that the wheat represents the righteous and the weeds represent the wicked, and the harvest day is judgment day. The wheat is stored in the barns and the weeds are burned up in the fire. The harvesting itself is the resurrection of each.
The Millennial Reign of Christ and White Throne Judgment:
Then there is the matter of the Millennial Reign and White throne Judgement in Revelation 20, and the new Jerusalem in Rev 21-22. Shouldn’t things be different if that already happened? In Rev 20:4 the righteous martyrs are resurrected and given thrones to reign with Christ and rule the nations with an iron rod. This is discussed specifically in Rev 2:27 for the church of Thyatira, and the verse itself actually is from Psalms 2:9, which is discussing the Messianic reign. The Messianic reign for a Millennium is over the whole earth (Rev 20:8). The whole time Satan is bound and there perfect peace on earth, then afterward Satan is loosed and goes to every corner of the world and causes a rebellion against Jesus (Rev 20:7-8). God defeats the rebels and then initiates the white throne judgment (Rev 20:9-10). Christianity was barely out of the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East in the first century so the nations that Jesus said to go about and preach to didn’t even know his name yet.
There was not even a metaphorical rule of Christ on earth through the spread of Christianity globally since Christ wasn’t known in far east Asia, the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, northwestern Europe, Oceania, and other places yet. The great commission in Matt 28:18-20 is to teach all nations, so until every “nation” has the gospel Christ won’t return. Nation in the new testament is translated from the Greek word ethnos (ἔθνος) which is where we get the English word ethnicity. This means that biblical nations aren’t specifically referring to nation-states but rather people groups (ethnicities). Jesus separates Kingdom (nation-states) from Nation (ethnic groups) when talking about political and ethnic conflicts in the future in Matt 21:7. This goes back to the ethnic separation by language at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 10 and 11.” Furthermore, God’s covenant with Israel is forever (Jeremiah 31:33–36), and must be a future restoration of Israel (Isaiah 11:12), which has happened in recent years (1948).
None of the events Jesus mentioned can be locked in the 1st century because so many things that he said must happen have not happened yet, and the whole world is not even mapped on a unified map by humans at the time. Not to mention if you are Christian your theology requires a belief in the literal resurrection of the dead. Jesus actually agreed with the Pharisees, like Paul, on this topic. More on this topic here.
The Bible doesn’t teach eternal after-life, death is temporal and eternal life starts at the resurrection. For those who are condemned to the lake of fire their resurrection is only for judgment day and then they are moved, to the lake of fire from hell, so even for non-believers their initial death is temporal and when condemned to the lake of fire it called the “second death”. Jesus was the first to inherit the new body after his resurrection, and those who believe are to expect the same. More on that here.