Jesus said to His first century followers, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled”(Matthew 24:34).
This verse is Preterism’s primary proof text for its theory that Jesus Christ actually came (His second coming) in 70 A.D. when Jerusalem was destroyed by Roman armies. According to Preterists, because Matthew 24 refers to both the destruction of Jerusalem and the second coming, all of this must have happened at the same time. For didn’t Jesus literally say, “This generation (meaning that first century generation) shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled”?
Full Preterists use Matthew 24:34 as Exhibit A that even Christ’s second coming is behind us. But does it really say this? Let’s take a closer look.
- Matthew 24:1 – The disciples came to show Jesus the buildings of the temple.
- Matthew 24:2 – Jesus said the temple would be destroyed.
- Matthew 24:3 – The disciples asked when “these things” and His “coming” would occur.
- Matthew 24:4-31 – Jesus listed many signs of the destruction of the temple and then also described His return.
- Matthew 24:33 – In reference to the signs, Jesus said, “when you see all these things (the signs), know that it (His return) is near, even at the doors.”
Notice carefully that the signs (“all these things”) are clearly different from His return. Look again: “When you see all these things (the signs), know that it (His return) is near, even at the doors.” Therefore, apart from the issue of “near” (the timing issue), a close look at the text reveals that “all these things” must be different from “it” which means the second coming itself. And these signs must precede His coming.
Again, Jesus said, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34).
Preterists contend that “all these things” include the second coming and that everything must have occurred before that “generation” passed away, that is, in 70 A.D. But this is not exactly what Jesus said. He said that before that generation passed, “all these things” (referring to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD) must occur. We have clearly shown that “all these things” do not include His return. Thus when Preterists argue that “all these things” include the second coming and must have occurred in 70 A.D., they are not sticking to the exact words of Jesus Christ.
The truth is, “all these things” (relating to the destruction of the Jewish Temple) did occur in 70 A.D. before that generation passed, just like Jesus Christ said. In the same way, what our Lord said about His second coming will also be literally fulfilled. Jesus said He will “appear” “in the clouds” “with power and great glory” and “all the tribes of the earth” (not just those in Judea) will “see” His return. There will be a “great sound of a trumpet” as He descends with multitudes of shiny “angels” to gather His elect from all over the world. Matthew 24:30,31.
What about Jesus declaring that after all “these things” occurred before the eyes of that generation, His second coming would then be “near”? How near is near? 5 minutes? 2 days? 10 years? As discussed in our last article on Preterism, we saw that when it comes to the timing of Christ’s return, time itself must be understood from God’s perspective (see 2 Peter 3:8-10).
In conclusion, Preterists say we should take Matthew 24, verses 33 and 34 literally. I agree. Literally, “all these things” are not the same as His second coming and must precede His return. In the same way, we should also take verses 30 and 31 literally. Jesus Christ literally said He would come on the clouds, with power and glory, with a great sound of a trumpet, for the whole world to see, accompanied by shiny angels, to gather His elect from all over the globe. This is literally what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 24, verses 30 and 31.