DO PRETERISTS “SPIRITUALIZE” BIBLE PROPHECY?
Don K. Preston
Thomas Ice, an outspoken critic of Covenant Eschatology, says, “Preterists,…overall tend to allegorize key texts (i.e. Matthew 24:29-31). Allegorization occurs when an interpreter brings into a text a meaning, based on ideas, from outside the text. Thus, their interpretation cannot be supported from a normal reading of the words and phrases.”
This is a very serious charge. To bring into a text what is not there is called eisegesis, and is a distortion of the meaning of any text. So, if preterists are guilty of allegorizing the Biblical texts (which is not even a technically accurate term for Ice to use) then this would amount to a falsification of the preterist perspective.
However, preterists do not allegorize. We do honor the metaphoric nature of apocalyptic language. We honor the type/anti-type use of language. Even more importantly, we honor the inspired application of O. T. prophecy by N. T. writers. And this is where Ice and dispensationalists fall so short.
Where in the words “animal sacrifices” is one compelled to see Jesus’ sacrifice? “Lamb” does not mean “Jesus.” Yet, “Christ is our Passover.” Does the literal word “Temple” mean “church?” No, but that is how the Hebrew writer interpreted the typology of the OT temple (Hebrews 8:1; 9:24f). See my book Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory, for an in-depth discussion of how Old Covenant Israel and her cultus was, from the very beginning, only a shadow of better things to come. This is a huge issue that is essentially ignored by the premillennial world. A dispensational reading of the OT would not allow that Israel was a shadow of good things to come. But again, this is a fatal error on the part of the millennial paradigm.
The NT writers clearly viewed Israel’s history as typological: “those things happened as types of us” (literal rendering of 1 Corinthians 10:11). This cannot be over emphasized. It is not allegorization for the NT writers to make spiritual application of OT language! It is inspired application!
Preterism honors the shadow-v-reality doctrines. The NT inspired writers say that the literal realities anticipated coming spiritual realities. It is not “allegorization” to honor these applications. Israel failed to see the spiritual realities, and they killed Christ because he did not fulfill their nationalistic and literalistic expectations.
So, when the NT writers make a spiritual application of OT prophecies, it is not allegorization. Through inspiration, they revealed what those OT realities foreshadowed. In other words, the spiritual meaning was there all along, recorded, but “unrevealed.”
To reject the spiritual application that the NT writers make of OT prophecies therefore, denies the inspiration of the NT authors who claimed to be revealing what the O. T. prophets foretold, but did not understand (1 Peter 1:10-12).
So, preterists do not allegorize or spiritualize Bible prophecy. We do however, honor the inspired interpretation of prophecy as given by the NT writers, who all inform us, in unequivocal language, that what the Old Testament prophets foretold was being fulfilled in their day, in Christ and his body.
I have had several debate encounters with Thomas Ice. DVDs of our 2003 formal public debate are available from me here. That debate was a thorough refutation of Thomas Ice and Mark Hitchcock who also participated in that debate.