Preterism by any other name would still be Olivetian
To what extent is every Christian Olivetian? To the extent that one attributes fulfillment of one kind or another to the Olivet Discourse. The so-called Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24-25 is often misunderstood by many Christians today. On the one hand, this is due to the heavy influence of dispensational theology; on the other hand, it is due to a lack of familiarity with the Bible. Dispen-sational theolgy has so infiltrated the evangelical church that many who would eschew much of the fallacious teachings are still affected by the residual fallout. For instance, ask yourself this: is there any chance of an imminent return by Jesus? Or this: does the Bible teach that Jesus could come back at any time to end the world as we know it? Many Christians believe so, but this is not biblical. The Bible teaches no such thing and yet many who would deny the main tennents of dispensationalism hold on to this one. Regardless of whether or not one is dispensational or reformed in one’s eschatology, there are certain occurrances in the first century which are fulfillments of Jesus’ words in this famous address and so to that extent, many do acknowledge first century fulfillments and are thus, Olivetian.
So, every Christian is somewhat Olivetian because there is something within the speech of Jesus in Matthew’s record that a person will see fulfilled within the first century. It might not be fulfillment in toto, but there is fulfillment to some degree. The basest fulfillment is the destruction of the temple and nearly everyone will concede to that: Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple and within the timeline he demarcated, it happened. What many do not realise is that the entirety of Jesus’ words in the discourse were also fulfilled within that same time frame and is given escathological meaning in the destruction of the temple. Everything Jesus promised in Matthew 24-25 has come to pass. If one does not acknowledge that, it is due to the two causes mentioned above. This essay will seek to establish that every thing after the Olivet Discourse is about the Olivet Discourse (OD).
The New Testament is not an isolated record of events that do not follow what has been anticipated by the Old. Now, that might seem a bit elementary to say, but there are many issues addressed in the New that must take the Olivet Discourse into account. And so, everything after the OD is about the OD. For instance, the four Gospels are followed by the Acts of the Apostles but how many who teach it see it as an expression and application of the Olivet Discourse?
Too many treat the NT as a new paradigm without any ties outside of the redemptive work of Christ. True, the NT does explain the death of Christ in terms of fulfilling the OT expectation, but then no one seems to give any heed to the parameters set by Jesus in the OD. Some generically do attribute and acknowledge that there are passages that must be taken as having first century relevance; consider, for instance, the book of Hebrews. Not only does this epistle elaborate on the finished work of Christ in surpassing the levitical system, but the ramifactions of this supercession find their meaning in the OD. This sheds light on the warnings in Hebrews against unbelief and reverting back to the Egypt that is the Old Covenant system. The OD has been uttered and therefore everything after it is coloured by its tenents. Everything.
The fundamental principle laid out in the OD is that of Jesus’ return to end the age and judge the temple. His presence as the King who rules the world is anticipated in every NT epistle and when those expectations are expressed, it is in terms of imminency. The book of Hebrews is a crucial epistle for the supremancy of Christ over all things “passing away” (Heb 8:13) and there are many ill treated passages wherein an exclusive first century intrepretation is traded for a generic trans-historical one.
So that, when we read, therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking…
We are not hearing Paul give generic warnings against not listening to the gospel. It matters that the author uses the first person plural. One must ask, what does Paul mean when he says, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great deliverance? He is talking about the Olivet Discourse and the judgment coming upon the old world in the destruction of it in the Temple.Or take the last statement above. What is the world to come that is mentioned? It might help to know that the Greek is specific here, too. The language is more immediate than the ESV intimates. It is more akin to this: For it was not to angels that God subjected the oikumene about to come, of which we are speaking. Notice the “about to” nature of the statement. This happens in the NT epistles more than is translated.
Lastly, consider this well-known and quoted verse: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Again, this is not some generic proof text for having to go to church. The day drawing near is not the “final return of Christ” at any moment that many take this to be. The judgment day coming is the one Jesus presented in Matthew 24 and 25.
In the Acts of the Apostles there are many occurrences within its narrative that relate to the OD and yet many who preach through it do not emphasize its genetic dependence upon the Gospels in one crucial aspect. Luke does narrate what many denote as the “beginnings of the early church,” but they then go no further as if general principles of growing pains are all that are to be gleaned from story. Again, generalities are to be garnered appropriately, but if the radical influence of the OD is misunderstood and misapplied, the rest of the NT will be read with grievous consequences.
TO BE CONTINUED