Preterism

A method of interpreting the book of the Revelation as a description of conditions in the 1st century a.d. Preterists see the book as a protest in apocalyptic terms against the tyranny of imperial Rome, not as a prophecy of end-time conditions and events.

One may accept that Revelation exposes conditions in the 1st century without going to the extreme of Preterism. The letters to the seven churches, as Sir William Ramsay has shown in his Letters to the Seven Churches, are more fully comprehensible if we understand the story of the cities in which they were located. However, it is a very different thing to hold that all the data of the book refer to events in the 1st century, even before a.d. 70, as some preterists insist. Chapter 4:1 refers the great body of the book to what happens "hereafter," or in the future from John's point in time. To see the first and the clearly implied second resurrection, the judgment of the living and the dead, the creation of a new heavens and a new earth, and the new Jerusalem as symbols of first century events is fanciful.

The conviction that this is a book that is ultimately eschatological is not something we impose on the book but something that arises out of its own language and descriptions.

Cairns, A. (2002). In Dictionary of Theological Terms (p. 342). Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International.

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