What Christians think about the culmination of history is very important. Do we expect things to get worse and worse until the kingdom of Anti-Christ is fully revealed (Futurism)? Or do we expect things to get better and better until the kingdom of Christ is fully revealed (Preterism)?
Self-fulfilling prophecies are very powerful. It all hinges on whether or not we believe the Great Tribulation is in the past or in the future. If you are a Futurist the thought that the Great Tribulation was in the past probably strikes you as absurd. But is it?
MythBusters accepted the case and during the course of our investigation identified five questions that aren’t being answered by the Futurism school of prophetic interpretation in its current configuration. We found a recurring pattern of futurism accepting the Tribulation myth a priori, then searching for Bible verses that seem to support it. They also tended to be influenced more by the negative influence of current events than the promises of victory that appear in the prophetic literature.
Myth: Things are going to get worse and worse until the Anti-Christ is revealed in the midst of a Great Tribulation.
A review of the literature found at least five questions that are either being ignored by futurism or that are forcing them to depart from the literal interpretation they so fervently endorse. At the same time, they aren’t recognizing figurative or poetic language that is easily interpreted in light of Old Testament idioms. For example, Israel represented by sun, moon and stars in Joseph’s dream.
1) The key question that can not be ignored is related to the time marker in Matthew 24:34 where Jesus said that it was His contemporaries who would see the termination of national Israel (Mt 24:29) accompanied by The Great Tribulation (Mt 24:21).
Truly I say to you, This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Generation means “a multitude of contemporaries.” That is the literal, plain, and natural interpretation. Some preterists pointed out that is the obvious meaning of “this generation” everywhere else it is mentioned in the New Testament, including Matthew 23: 36, just a little bit earlier in the discourse. Why would it mean something different in Matthew 24:34, we asked ourselves? Had Jesus meant some future generation wouldn’t He have used the word “that” rather than “this.”
Q1: So, the really big question is, If Jesus said flat out that the Great Tribulation was going to occur in His generation, by what authority does the Futurist contradict the words of Christ and declare that it will occur in some future generation?
2) Related to this is the identification of the Beast. We reasoned that if John told the Christians to whom he first sent his letter of Revelation to “count the number of the Beast” (Rev. 13:18) then the Beast had to be somebody alive in the first Century whose number John’s first readers could count.
Q2: So the second question is “if the Beast was somebody that John’s primary audience could recognize in the first century, how can the Beast possibly be somebody who would appear centuries later during a Great Tribulation that Jesus told us also occurred in the first century?”
3) In addition, at the beginning and the end of the Book of the Revelation John told his primary audience that the prophecies of Revelation would be fulfilled “shortly” (1:1), “near” (1:3; 22:10), and “quickly” (22:20). The only 1st Century event we could find answering to these time indicators was the Great Tribulation that occurred during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This was Christ coming in judgment on the Jewish nation. The Christians were warned to flee to the mountains as soon as they saw the Roman legions approaching, and history records that they did.
Taking their cue from the Futurists, skeptics like Bertrand Russell also missed the point. In “Why I Am Not A Christian”, he said one reason for his unbelief was Jesus mistaken belief that His second coming would occur within a generation. He wrote:
For one thing, He certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living.
Because of this, the futurist view, with its many failed predictions, contributes to the unbelief of many. One researcher counted over 1,000 false predictions of the anti-Christ during 2,000+ years of church history. If you push these events into the future, then you either have to ignore Matthew 24:34, distort it, or agree with CS Lewis that Matthew 24:34 is “the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.”
Q3: So a third question is by what authority does Futurism contradict the Words of the Apostle and conclude that the events described in Revelation are going to occur hundreds and thousands of years in the future?
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4) The 96 A.D. dating of Revelation is based on one obscure historical reference that clearly does not comport with the Bible. In Revelation 11:2 John is given a rod and told to measure the temple of God, so it is impossible for the Revelation to have been written after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. Reliable estimates place the date at 66 A.D, just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Q4: Fourth, why does Futurism date the writing of Revelation at 96 A.D in contradiction to the Biblical evidence?
5) In describing Nebuchadnezzar’s image, Daniel 2:42 records that the feet and toes made of iron mixed with clay was a characteristic of the original 4th kingdom — NOT an imaginary “Revived Roman Empire” which does not appear in the text. That would require that the toes be cut off and cast 2000+ years into the future or stretched out over the whole page as one artist portrayed it.
Rome was crushed by the stone which was Christ “in the days of those kings” at His first coming, death, resurrection, ascension, and inaugural procession to receive the kingdom (Dan 7:13,14). That stone (kingdom) is now growing to become a mountain that will fill the whole earth. Likewise, the gospels compare the kingdom to a mustard seed that grows and gradually fills the whole earth following the first coming of Christ.
Q5: Thus, a fifth question is, “If Jesus was given “dominion, glory and a kingdom” at his ascension and coronation procession (Dan. 7:13,14) and told His disciples “all power on heaven and earth has been given unto Me” (Mt 28:19,20) by what authority does the Futurist push His kingdom off into the distant future?
Case Closed: This MythBusters’ investigation identified five questions that cannot be answered on the presuppositions of Futurism. The Futurist writers have no apparent grounds for dating the Great Tribulation in the future without violating the very words of Christ Himself, the words of the apostles and the laws of logic.