Revelation and the First Century: Preterist Interpretations of the APOCALYPSE In Early Christianity

Book Review By Francis X. Gumerlock

In his 2012 book, historian and scholar Francis Gumerlock carefully documented how extensive the preterist view of eschatology was in the early and medieval church (appx. between the years AD 100 and 1500). He was not arguing that we should agree with these interpretations, nor that there weren’t other interpretations (which there were), but only to demonstrate that the preterist view of eschatology has been a significant part of Christianity since the early days of the church. Here is his report of how these things were often understood by Christian commentators in ancient history:

  • The 144,000 of Revelation were often understood as the first century Jewish believers, or all first century believers.
  • The rider on the red horse of Revelation 6 was often understood to be Nero. The rider on the black horse was either Vespasian or his son Titus of the AD 60’s.
  • The trumpets of Revelation 8 were the proclamation of the gospel in the first century.
  • The scorpions and locusts of Revelation 9 were the Roman army attacking Jerusalem in the Jewish-Roman War of AD 67-70.
  • The 42 months of Revelation 11 were the siege of Jerusalem by Vespasian and Titus between AD 67 and AD 70.
  • The two witnesses of Revelation 11 were Peter and Paul, who were martyred by the Romans in the mid-60’s AD.
  • The beast of Revelation 13 was Nero, who reigned from AD 54 to AD 68 when Revelation was being written. Some believed that there would be a secondary fulfillment at the end of time when Nero will be resurrected to torment the church.
  • The woman fleeing into the wilderness in Revelation 12:6 was in the first century.
  • The “time, and times, and half a time” was the 3 ½ year siege of AD 67 to 70.
  • The Great Day of God in Revelation 16:14 was the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
  • The Battle of Armageddon of Revelation 16 was the Jewish-Roman War of AD 67-70.
  • The Sixth King of Revelation 17:10 was Nero, which defines the time that the book was written, i.e. during Nero’s reign.
  • The budding of the “fig tree” of Matthew 24: 32-33/Luke 21:29-33 was about the events surrounding the Jewish-Roman War of AD 67-70.
  • The Day of Slaughter in the Last Days (James 5:3-5) was the destruction of Judea by the Romans in the first century.
  • The Mystery of Lawlessness of 2 Thessalonians 2:7-10 was a man in the first century, probably Nero.
  • The wars of Matthew 24:6-9 predicted the destruction of Jerusalem under Vespasian and Titus.
  • The famines and earthquakes of Matthew 24:7 were first century events.
  • The universal preaching of the gospel (Matthew 24:14) was completed in the first century based on Romans 15:19, Colossians 1:6, 23, 1 Timothy 3:16, etc.
  • The abomination of desolation of Matthew 24:15 was fulfilled in the desolation/destruction of the temple in the first century. The Great Tribulation of Matthew 24:21 was the Jewish-Roman War of AD 67-70.
  • Daniel’s Seventieth Week of Daniel 9:24-27 was fulfilled in the first century with the combination of Jesus’ ministry and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
  • Isaiah 66:24 and Zechariah 14:2, 4 were also about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in the first century.

Our thanks to this meticulous scholar in his work documenting this history!

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