Did the Tribulation and Second Coming Occur in AD 70?

Did Jesus return in AD 70? Many people believe this. It is called full Preterism. Others believe that most of the prophecy in Revelation has been fulfilled, except Christ’s Second Coming.

The early church, before AD the 1400s, except for one ambiguous quote by Eusebius in AD 300, was unanimous that the events around the Second Coming would occur in the future and did not occur in AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed. There would have been volumes written if this period was the Tribulation and the Second Coming occurred.

The main reason why preterists believe the way they do is Matthew 16:27–28,  “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Most orthodox evangelical scholars believe that Matthew 16:27–28 most likely predicts what happened at the Mount of Transfiguration spoken of in the following chapter of Matthew 17. For example, the apostle Peter writes about Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration: “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16–18)

Another commonly cited passage used by preterists in support of their case is Matthew 24:33–34: “Even so you too, when you see these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” The generation that experienced the destruction of Jerusalem did not believe they were in the Tribulation. Jesus must have referred to a future generation that would see the signs leading up to and during the coming Tribulation. This future generation would be the one that would not pass away until everything He spoke about would be fulfilled.

Another potential interpretation of “generation” refers to a people group or genealogy. Strong’s Concordance defines it as: “the several ranks of natural descent, the successive members of a genealogy a group of men very like each other in endowments, pursuits, character.” So, this generation could refer to the Israelites or the church.

Another passage preterists use to support their case is when Jesus was on trial at the Sanhedrin after His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus, speaking to Caiaphas, the high priest, states: “From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64b). Preterists say that this scripture was fulfilled in AD 70 and refers to His Second Coming. But the truth is the fulfillment of the first part of this prophecy, at minimum, occurred with the martyrdom of Stephen. Stephen told the Sanhedrin to “look”: “When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’” (Acts 7:54–56).

As to Jesus “coming on the clouds of heaven” in that Matthew 26:64b prophecy, Jesus did not say that they would necessarily see Him “coming on the clouds of heaven” within their lifetime. In the context of the other verses we quoted, they will later see him coming on the clouds of glory like everyone else at His Second Coming. Like the scripture in Peter above, this “coming” was a foretaste of what was to take place at His return. What Jesus said was, “from now on you will see,” which started with the stoning of Stephen and will end at the Second Coming. Many prophecies in both Old and New Testaments refer to near-term and far-term events, sometimes even in the same verse.

Another hurdle for full preterists is whether Christ’s Second Coming occurred during the lifetime of at least some of Jesus’s twelve apostles. The preterists’ belief in a first-century Second Coming is central to their thesis.

But we see in Jeremiah 14:4 and Revelation 16:18–20 that a massive earthquake will be more extensive than any before Christ’s return with the Mount of Olives split in two. No such split occurred in AD 70 or anytime else in history. In Matthew 24 and Daniel 12, we see the resurrection of the saints (gathering of the elect) happening with Christ coming on the clouds and every eye seeing Him (Revelation 1:7). There will also be the battle of Armageddon as spoken of many times in Revelation and Joel 3:2.

According to Early Church writings, the final nail in the coffin for preterism is that Revelation was written around AD 90 at the end of Emporer Domition’s reign, including Victorinus, Eusebius, Severus, Jerome, and others. Since the fall of Jerusalem occurred in AD 70 the Tribulation did not happen at that time unless Revelation is history and not prophecy. I cover all of this and more in chapter 6 of my book.

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