Preterism’s Literalistic Interpretation of Jesus is Coming “Soon” (En Tachei)

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon [en tachei] take place.” (Rev 1:1)

Gary DeMar and other preterist interpreters inveigh against futurists for being “literalistic” in their interpretations. Yet, I actually find many of their interpretations literalistic, as in this case, interpreting “soon” as being fulfilled within a few years at the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD.

This is a favorite argument of preterists. But it is facile.

Interpreters such as DeMar do not consider—or even show awareness—of the pragmatic use of language. The preterist literalistic semantic assumptions reveal their lack of linguistic perception and appreciation for the pragmatics of apocalyptic parenesis (exhortation).

A better option to the preterist interpretation is to understand the term “soon” (en tachei) in this context as possessing the sense of certainty, especially with its collocation with the term dei (“it is necessary”). I.e. these events are certain to happen, therefore take heed.

However, the most likely interpretation, in my judgment, is that it indicates expectancy (not that the latter interpretation needs to be disconnected from this one). Every generation of the church, not just the first generation, should possess a heedful expectation of Christ’s return and its associative events. “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near [engys]” (Rev 1:3).

This parenesis functions to instill alertness in every generation of believers who read the book of Revelation. Since we do not know when he will return, we are always to be vigilant, lest we find ourselves unprepared for the things that will take place. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” Rev 16:15).

Incidentally, according to preterist interpretive standards, they must be consistent and conclude that the apostle Paul was a false prophet:

“The God of peace will soon (en tachei) crush Satan under your feet.” (Rom 16:20)

Last time I checked that did not happen in Paul’s day; in fact after two thousand years, it still has not happened.

Paul’s prophecy will be fulfilled at Christ’s parousia when “he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:24–26).

Finally, Steve Hays recently has made some good points contra preterism:


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