Question: You have criticized preterism and amillennial teaching as being unbiblical, but teachers such as R. C. Sproul present what clearly are reasoned conclusions for their positions. What do you say?
Since 1988 I have been responding to the prophetic views of Dave Hunt. For example, Peter J. Leithart and I wrote The Reduction of Christianity, a detailed response to Hunt’s last-days theology and lack of a cultural application of the Bible to all of life. I’ve also debated Mr. Hunt numerous times on radio and before live audiences. My book The Debate over Christian Reconstruction is a line-by-line response to a live debate that Gary North and I did with Mr. Hunt and Tommy Ice on April 14, 1988.
I don’t expect anything I write in answer to Mr. Hunt’s response to the above question will do anything to persuade him. He’s had 23 years of critique and has not budged an inch. He can get away with a lack of serious consideration for two reasons: (1) The majority of his audience is unaware of any prophetic worldview other than the one he espouses, (2) leaves out key arguments of the preterist position, and (3) never deals honestly with huge problems with his own dispensational interpretive system.
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Before I begin my response, it’s important to define preterism. Preterism teaches that certain (most) Bible prophecies have already been fulfilled. For example, all Christians are preterists because they believe that all the messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament have been fulfilled. Similarly, New Testament preterists contend that additional OT prophecies have been fulfilled, either in OT historical events or in NT events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in AD 70. A preterist interpretation of Bible prophecy is a long history, a point that Mr. Hunt rarely if ever mentions.
Here is part of Mr. Hunt’s response to the above question:
Some believers insist that most Bible prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 at the destruction of the Temple. Yet we must ask, When was Jerusalem surrounded by the armies of all nations? When did Christ’s feet touch the Mount of Olives?
The use of “all nations” is not always used in the Bible for every single nation in the world. “All nations” most often means all the nations of a particular time or a number of representative nations. Zechariah writes that “all the nations of the earth will be gathered against” Jerusalem, and “it will come about in that day that I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zech. 12:9). For the dispensationalist, “all the nations” must refer to every nation in the world during the seven-year post-rapture great tribulation period that they claim is still in our future. This is impossible on logistic grounds alone. In what way could all the nations of the earth descend on Israel today? I suspect that a dispensationalist would say that it’s representatives of these nations not every single person from every single nation.
Notice in the following examples how “all nations” is used to describe only those nations within Israel’s orbit:
• “Then the fame of David went out into all the lands; and the LORD brought the fear of him on all the nations” (1 Chron. 14:17).
• “And many were bringing gifts to the Lord at Jerusalem and choice presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter” (2 Chron. 32:23).
• Speaking of Nebuchadnezzar, “And all the nations shall serve him, and his son, and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes; then many nations and great kings will make him their servant” (Jer. 27:7).
• “And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Even so will I break within two full years, the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations”’”(Jer. 28:11).
• “All nations surrounded me; In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them of” (Psalm 118:10).
• “Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5).
• “But now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:26).
As these examples show, “all nations” does not always refer to every single nation of what we know of the world today or even in Zechariah’s day.
Notice that the destruction comes only to those nations “that come against Jerusalem,” not every nation in the world. So how and when did this happen? When Haman attempted to kill every Jew throughout the Persian Empire by using the nations that were under Persian control: “Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day . . . and to seize their possessions as plunder” (Esther 3:13).
The Persian Empire extended over 127 provinces, from “from India to Ethiopia” (Esther 1:1). We know that there were many nations represented since letters were sent out to them in their own languages (Esther 3:12). “Herodotus says sixty nations were under Persian rule.”1 If you want a detailed study of this interpretation, see my book Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future where you will find a full exposition of Zechariah 12 and its link to the book of Esther.
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What about Jesus standing on the Mount of Olives, a reference to Zechariah 14:4? Mr. Hunt says this has never happened. This is the passage that futurists use to support their claim that Jesus will return from heaven with his “raptured” saints and touch down on the Mount of Olives and set up His millennial kingdom. Of course, one of the problems in making Zechariah 14:4–5 refer to Christ’s second coming and a millennial reign is that it does not say that Jesus will come out of heaven to stand on the Mount of Olives after a “rapture” of the church, followed by a seven-year tribulation period, and prior to a thousand-year reign of Jesus on the earth, something the Revelation 20 does not say. These ideas have to be read into the text. The verse states simply “in that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives.”
The New Testament gives us a hint on when and how this was fulfilled. At the point of Jesus’ death, the veil in the temple “was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). This event could be seen from the Mount of Olives where Jesus was crucified. Notice the rest of the verse: “and the earth shook and the rocks were split,” the very thing Zechariah predicts.
Earlier Christian writers applied Zechariah 14:4 to the work of Christ in His day as well. Tertullian (A.D. 145–220) wrote: “‘But at night He went out to the Mount of Olives.’ For thus had Zechariah pointed out: ‘And His feet shall stand in that day on the Mount of Olives’ [Zech. xiv. 4].”2 Tertullian was alluding to the fact that the Olivet prophecy set the stage for the judgment coming of Jesus that manifested itself with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 which would once for all break down the Jewish/Gentile division inherent in the Old Covenant (Eph. 2).
Matthew Henry, while alluding to its symbolic meaning, interprets the passage in a preterist fashion related to events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in A.D. 70:
The partition-wall between Jew and Gentiles shall be taken away. The mountains about Jerusalem, and particularly this, signified it to be an enclosure, and that it stood in the way of those who would approach to it. Between the Gentiles and Jerusalem this mountain of Bether, of division, stood, Cant. ii. 17. But by the destruction of Jerusalem this mountain shall be made to cleave in the midst, and so the Jewish pale shall be taken down, and the church laid in common with the Gentiles, who were made one with the Jews by the breaking down of this middle wall of partition, Eph. ii. 14.3
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Mr. Hunt gives the impression that the only viable interpretation is a dispensational one. There is no doubt that Zechariah 14 is a difficult chapter to interpret. In my study, I have found that by comparing Scripture with Scripture, the answer is found in the Bible and not in a fictional future seven-year tribulation period that is preceded by a so-called rapture of the church. There is not a single verse in the entire Bible that outlines any such scenario. Putting a gap of nearly 2000 years between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s prophecy is not sound Bible interpretation.
- F. B. Huey, Jr., “Esther,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, 12 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988), 4:792. [↩]
- “Tertullian Against Marcion,” Book 4, chapter XL, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 3:417. [↩]
- Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’ Commentary on the Whole Bible, 6 vols. (New York: Fleming H. Revell, n.d.), 4:1468. [↩]