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on 6 April 1999
In classic "Sproulian" style, this book probes the subject matter of Christ's Olivet Discourse. Are the events that our Lord describes to be understood as taking place in the distant future (even beyond 1999!) or are they to be understood as events that would take place in connection with Jerusalem's destruction in AD 70? While the former option seems more sensational, more exciting, Sproul methodically shows the reader that an honest read of Christ's words will inevitably lead to the latter conclusion. His discussion of the time frame references ("this generation") is excellent. Did Jesus mean what he said when he promised that the catastrophic events he described would be experienced by many of his orignal hearers? Sproul sees this as an essential question to be answered if we wish to defend the integrity and veracity of our Lord's words. As a pastor, I hope that other Christian teachers and leaders will read this book and be shaken from so much of the dogmatism that surrounds eschatology today. Even if one is not fully convinced by Sproul's argument, he should at least be convinced that maybe there are more options than the "Lahaye-I'm premil,pretrib and you must be too" approach that is so pervasive today! How refreshing to learn that godly men down through the ages have held differing views about the "last days." RC has done a great service for the church!
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VINE VOICEon 27 December 2009
Robert Charles Sproul provides a useful review of the Preterist case for understanding eschatology, or the doctrine of last things (the second coming, the judgement, the resurrection, the anti-Christ, the millennium and the age to come). Much of the time he seems content to describe and summarise rather than engage deeply himself with the view being presented. This can be a little frustrating - the reader wants to ask him but what do you think? - yet at the same time is informative and provides space for the reader to make up their own mind.

Although the title of the book is about what Jesus taught about the last things - in particular the Olivet Discourse of Matt 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 - the book also covers the other relevant writings in the New Testament (e.g. Paul writing on the resurrection in 1 Cor 15, the coming of the Lord in 1 Thess 4, the "man of sin" in 2 Thess 2, John writing on the anti-Christ in 1 John and also the beast in Revelation).

There is some discussion in the book of the different Preterist views, and what the correct name for the different views should be. Essentially there are the full Preterists, also called hyper-Preterists (a term they themselves don't like), and partial Preterists (also called Orthodox Preterists, as they are able to subscribe with the classic Christian creeds). The full Preterists hold that all eschatology was fulfilled in AD 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem, while the partial Preterists believe there still remain some future fulfilment of prophecy.

Much of the book provides Sproul's commentary on The Parousia: The New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord's Second Coming by J. Stuart Russell, which although written in the 19c appears to be the classic presentation of the full Preterist position (it is a long book - nearly 600 pages).

The problem of eschatology in the Bible can be presented as follows.

The New Testament speaks of the soon coming of Christ (in the first century, when the New Testament was written), and links - certainly on the Olivet discourse and possibly in other places - it with the destruction of Jerusalem. How are we to explain the fact the Jesus did not return in AD 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem?

Explanation #1. The Bible writers got it wrong. This is the view Sproul discusses at the start of the book. Bertrand Russell in Why I am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Routledge Classics) identifies this as a flaw in Jesus' teaching, and many Higher Criticism New Testament scholars (e.g. Life of Jesus Critically Examined (Lives of Jesus) by David Strauss) have similarly given this as an example of errors and mistakes that appear in the Bible. This of course is a problem for any Christian who wants to say the Bible is the inspired word of God, because why would he allow it to contain clear errors, and in particular such a big error? Even if some Christians might accept that some minor details may not be correct, they would still want to insist that the Bible contains the word of God and is substantially true regarding what it says about God.

Explanation #2. When the New Testament speaks of the soon coming of Christ it is because he could come at any time, and therefore it was reasonable for the writers to expect him to come in their time. The writers didn't know when he would come ("no man knows the day or the hour") so what they were doing was expressing the hope that he would come soon. The problem with this is that the writers appear to speak with great confidence and knowledge about the soon coming - if they actually didn't know or were simply hopeful of his soon return why didn't they say so? Also the link with the Second Coming and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 is not clearly dealt with - why was there a gap between the two events?

Explanation #3. When Bible writers speak of "end events" they always speak of them happening soon - this is true in Old Testament prophecy which uses such language to speak of events that actually didn't occur for many years later, therefore this "imminent" style is simply the Biblical idiom when speaking of future events. The problem with this is that the disciples specifically ask Jesus "when will these things be" so he is answering a question about time. It would not make sense to do so using an idiom in which time is unimportant.

Explanation #4. The Bible writers were correct in what they said, Jesus did come in AD 70, the dead were raised, judgement happened but these things occurred spiritually, they were not visible. Jesus said "my kingdom is not of this world" and if we correctly understood the language used we would know terms such as "coming in the clouds" simply denotes the majesty of Christ, and "the stars will fall from the sky" denotes a change in political structures. The problem with this view is that it requires a significant re-understanding of the Biblical language. This is particularly evident when spiritualising the resurrection, which appears to fall into some heresies warned of in the New Testament, that "the resurrection has already happened" or that Jesus was not physically raised from the dead.

Sproul feels that some mixture of options 2 and 4, what is known as partial Preterism, is the right one. This leaves the events that didn't happen in AD 70 (the resurrection, the visible return, the judgement of the world and the millennium) still in the future, while explaining all the Bible talk of the soon return to be referring to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. He is certainly not very forthright with his conclusions however - possibly because this sort of solution still has the problems associated with option 2, why didn't the New Testament writers separate out the two events rather than appear to combine them into one? Partial Preterists claim in Matt 24 and 25 that Jesus is answering three questions - when will these things be (Jesus answers with reference to the fall of Jerusalem), what will be the signs (Jesus answers with reference to the fall of Jerusalem) and when will you come again (Jesus answers with reference to the second coming), yet the text makes no such clear distinction, and reads as if Jesus is talking about one event.

At one point Sproul seems to wistfully hope that the full Preterists can come up with a better explanation for the resurrection, as otherwise their solution is the neatest of the four alternatives - however he also says their teaching on the resurrection is a "fatal flaw" to their argument.

So this book presents a good summary of Preterism and the issues it deals with, and really leaves the reader to make up their own mind about the issues raised.

One last thought. One writer who I enjoy but at the same time struggle to really understand what he is actually saying is NT Wright, and I get the feeling that perhaps a key to understanding where Wright is coming from is to see what he writes as trying to answer exactly this question. The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins & the Question of God)
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on 13 April 1999
I was anxious for a respected contemporary theologian to address this issue and Dr. Sproul put forth a major effort in confronting the whole idea of consistency of the Scriptures as it concerns the Second Coming of Jesus. While sensationalism is the marketable approach Dr. Sproul concerned himself with the more serious approach and considered the challenging questions of skeptics and semi-believers. In an age when "value" is more equated with commercialization than interpretation Dr. Sproul enters the market place by trying to address the confusion and perhaps disregard for serious exposition of the Word. It is obvious that Dr. Sproul has been impacted by J.S. Russell's book The Parousia, from the previous century, (see his intro remarks in newest edition from Baker Publishing) and that he is compelled to consider this an on-going process, as he comments in the above intro that some of his thoughts are still "in transition". Yet I appreciate so much his candor and his theological work to face what to some are "heretical" ideas. While for a majority of the time he does seem to be commenting on Russell"s thoughts, it's probably due to the influence Russell has had on him and he's working his way through the fascinating, ahead of the time writing Russell produced. In any case, for a thelogian today to write a book on the Second Coming of Jesus that does not exploit the emotional need for sensationalism is tantamount to suggesting that America may not be the greatest country in the world.You just don't do that! While I may not completely agree with his conclusions, since I am a Preterist, I applaud his courage to not shy away from this contoversial subject. I pray that Dr. Sproul will continue his "transitional" thinking and look forward to another book that may take his conclusions to another level. I would suggest that to truly understand Dr. Sproul's book it might be wise to read Russell's first. I'm pretty sure they have it here at
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on 12 January 1999
As a Pastor of the Eternal Grace Baptist Church, it is quite refreshing to read a book in our time, when sensationalism seems to sell, that offers a biblical perspective rather than the rehashed blind fanciful predictions of "Prophets for Profit." This is not a definitive answer to the swirling controversy regarding Christ's return, but it is a definite response from a "Mainline theologian" sure to stimulate the earnest believer to search the Scriptures.
What Sproul does is exposes the major flaws of various commentators in their defense of the preterist or futurist position, while buttressing the validity of preterism. By raising the questions that naturally surface when the preterist view is held, Sproul enables honest seekers to examine the evidence in an atmosphere conducive to sane, consistent, Biblical meditation.
It has been stated that a stimulating book must have a catchy title, an intriguing cover, and provocative content. "The Last Days According To Jesus" manages to achieve all three beginning with the provocative title. Upon the cover centrally located in the top of the book is the famous clock nearing the twelfth hour. Concerning the content, Mr. Sproul is perfectly correct when he asserts that part of the problem regarding prophecy is "the confession concerning biblical interpretation stems from contemporary usage of the term literal. ... " (p. 65). Lazy literalist miss the time frame references and thereby promote views from texts out of context which become a pretext, thus opening the flood gates for bizarre beliefs unattached to contextual Scriptural truth.
Sproul subtly raises and answers the objections sure to surface by futurists. Although it is primarily a book length review of the preterist position as presented by J. Struart Russell in his work, "The Parousia" and its shortcomings, nonetheless it serves the astute Christian student well in clearly stating the biblical position. Sproul's treatment is very charitable, to say he least, with those holding positions clearly questionable. It is federal reserve notes (commonly thought to be money) well spent.
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on 9 January 1999
It's difficult at best to find materials on the subject of Preterism. Having a theologan of Dr. Sproul's caliber and popularity as author and speaker address Preterism is a breath of fresh air. For those who are unfamiliar with this subject, it is a great resource as Dr, Sproul includes an extensive list of works from which he has gleaned information, the Ancients as well as several contemporary authors. The subject is aligned with Scripture proofs, not just speculation. In view of the flood of end-times fiction now available as we approach the 'millenium', having a contribution that basically naysays the popular "pre-" position is rare indeed. Dr. Sproul admits this is a change of position for him, and I expect to see some ' refining' as he continues in his studies. The BEST QUESTION ANSWERED is: "WHEN Are The Last Days According To Jesus".
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on 23 November 1998
I just read this book, and think it's one of RC's best. My other two favorites of his are "Chosen By God", and "The Holiness of God". This book covers a lot of theological works by David Chilton, Gary Demar, Gary North, Kenneth Gentry and others. RC admits in his book that he has now been persuaded by the partial preterist view of eschatology, and he presents substantial evidence that the Book of Revelations was written before 70AD, before the fall of Jerusalem (and destruction of the temple) and therefore much of the prophesy of Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation were fulfilled in 70AD. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, its a good laymen's guide to eschatology, including amillienism, dispensational premillienism, historic premillienism, post millienism, preterism, etc. I understand these terms a lot better having now read this book.
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on 26 December 1998
This book is probabally going to be the most read book on Preterism to date. It is a shame though that Sproul gives such a poor representation of the full preterist view of the ressurection of the dead which leaves the reader with the idea that the full preterist view is weak and shallow on this point. He also begins his chapter on the millenium stating that he would cover aspects of the full preterist view of the subject and then does not do so. If a person really wants to know more about the Preterist view I suggest the works of Ken Gentry and John Bray for the partial preterist view, and the works of Max King and Don Preston on the full preterist view rather than getting your info from Sproul who's work is mediocre at best on this subject. Other than that I am glad to see a main stream author stick his head out on this subject. - Bryan Forgy
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on 11 January 1999
This book really opens the eyes of those interested in eschatology to another perpsepctive entirely. Rather than pasting the newspapers into the Scriptures, a key question is asked-what did these texts mean to those who read them in the first century, and brings to bear the best commentary on Scripture-Scripture itself. Some problems though-it does not really engage the full preterist position, and it seems hastily written organizationally. It bites off more than it can chew. In his Tabletalk magazine R.C. confesses that his view is still a work in process, so there is a more tentative feel to his exposition than is found in his earlier works. But it is a great place to begin, the charts are wonderful, and the bibliography worth the price alone for those seeking what the Scriptures say about the Last Days.
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on 21 April 1999
I enjoyed this book very much and am now very persuaded towards partial-preterism (a view which I would off the top of my head summarize some of the New Testament prophecy has already been fulfilled as determined by context and external evidence from history). Sproul makes me realize how ignorant most Christians are of ancient history! If you're not familiar with the rational biblical thinking of R.C. Sproul, then you've been missing out! The book he recommends most of his is "the holiness of God"...I thought it was terrific.
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on 25 December 1998
This is a most significant book, as one of today's most respected theologians plants his flag on the Preterist view, which places the fulfillment of prophecies in the first century Roman-Jewish war. For centuries, scholars have been struggling with the significance of the Olivet Discourse phrase "this generation" (Matt. 24:34; Luke 21:32), attempting to understand to which "generation" Christ was referring. Sproul defends the historic view, which is that it was the generation hearing those very words of Christ! For more information, please search for the word "preterist" in your favorite search engine.
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