Does “All These Things” Include Christ’s Parousia? (Addressing Preterism, Part 3)

Does “All These Things” Include Christ’s Parousia? One Scripture passage in particular which all preterists reference as evidence for their position is the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21), a passage that constitutes Jesus’ own teaching on the last days. This is the case for two reasons: (1) the Lord Jesus juxtaposes the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 with His own parousia; and (2) Christ’s remarks regarding the timing of the discourse’s fulfillment – “This generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Matt. 24:34). Full preterists essentially understand “all these things” (panta tauta) to include everything mentioned in the discourse from the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 to the Lord’s parousia. At first glance, the full preterist may appear to carry the argument; however, a more detailed investigation will reveal the shortcomings of the full-preterist argument.

 

All three versions of the Olivet Discourse decisively indicate that “all these things” (as well as its variant “these things”) does not include Christ’s parousia – His Second Coming. First, these terms are used to describe the destruction of the Temple and its environs (Matt. 24:3; Mark 13:4; Luke 21:7). Second, Christ Jesus uses “all these things” (and its variants) to refer to wars, rumors of wars, antichrists, famines, and earthquakes (Matt. 24:8; Luke 21:9; Mark 13:8) – all which He summarily describes as “the beginning of sorrows” (Matt. 24:8; Mark 13:8). Also, note the temporal qualification that the Savior provides in Luke 21:9: “for these things (tauta) must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately” [emphasis mine]. Third, Christ Jesus declares that “all these things” (i.e., wars, rumors of wars, antichrists, famines, earthquakes, and the destruction of Jerusalem with the Temple) are indicators that His parousia is near. Matthew 24:33 unmistakably states: “So you also, when you see all these things (panta tauta), know that He is near– at the doors!” Therefore, if “all these things” are chronological signs indicating that Christ’s return is near, how can “all these things” include Christ’s return itself? In short, they cannot. Craig Bloomberg writes:

That “all these things” in 24:34 do not include Christ’s return itself is made plain by 24:33, which likewise refers to “all these things.” But those things are that which enables one to recognize that the end is near, that “it [or, ‘he’] is at the doors.” It would make no sense to say, “When you see that Christ has returned, know that he is near.” So the “these things” must refer to the preliminary events of 24:4-28 preceding the cosmic upheavals that usher in his return in 24:29-31. In short once the temple was destroyed, everything was in place for Christ to come back….However, he has not done so yet, so we cannot predict when it will happen except to say that it will catch many by surprise…[1]

Thus, the Olivet Discourse does not teach that Christ’s parousia occurred in the first century A.D., since “all these things” do not include Christ’s return.

 

If this is the case, how does one interpret Christ’s declaration: “This generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Matt. 24:34)? First, since “all these things” does not include Christ’s return, the Lord Jesus was not teaching His disciples that His return would occur during their life on earth. Rather, He was instructing them that their generation would see “all these things” – wars, rumors of wars, antichrists, famines, earthquakes, and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Second, the Greek verb genētai (translated “take place” in Matthew 24:33) is in the aorist tense. In this author’s estimation, this verb is best interpreted as an ingressive aorist, stressing “the beginning of an action or the entrance into a state.”[2] Understood in this light, Matthew 24:34 would read: “This generation will by no means pass away till all these things begin to take place.” This rendering harmonizes with the clear sense of Luke 21:28: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” In conclusion, the Olivet Discourse does not support the full preterist argument that Christ’s parousia occurred in the first century A.D.


[1]Craig L. Bloomberg, “Matthew” in Gregory K. Beale and Donald A. Carson. The Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 88.

[2]Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond The Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 558.

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