The Last Days According to Jesus (a book review)

Book coverIn The Last Days Acording to Jesus, master teacher and theologian R.C. Sproul  addresses the question: When did Jesus say he would return? By framing the question in that way, Sproul is able to focus on a specific slice of biblical prophecy. The primary text that Sproul examines is Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, but he touches on several other passages as well.

Of particular interest to Sproul are the time-frame statements Jesus made. Of these, Jesus’ assertion that “this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Mark 13:30) is the most important. Skeptics try to discredit Jesus by claiming that he blundered when he made this pronouncement.

What made the book particularly engaging to me is that Sproul answers the question from what he calls a “partial preterist” (as opposed to a full preterist) point of view. That is, he believes that several of Jesus’ predictions can be best understood as having already been fulfilled. Indeed, according to a preterist interpretation, they were fulfilled thousands of years ago — specifically in AD 70, with the destruction of the Jewish temple — in the time frame suggested by a literal reading of Jesus’ words.

I found this observation from p.66 helpful:

“This problem of literal fulfillment leaves us with three basic solutions to interpreting the Olivet Discourse:

  1. We can interpret the entire discourse literally.
    In this case we must conclude that some events of Jesus’ prophecy failed to come to pass, as advocates of ‘consistent eschatology’ maintain.
  2. We can interpret the events surrounding the predicted parousia literally and interpret the time-frame references figuratively.
    This method is employed chiefly by those who do not restrict the phrase ‘this generation will not pass away…’ to the lifespan of Jesus’ contemporaries.
  3. We can interpret the time-frame references literally and the events surrounding the parousia figuratively.
    In this view, all of Jesus’ prophecies in the Olivet Discourse were fulfilled during the period between the discourse itself and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.”

While there are additional passages I must consider before I could adopt the partial preterist viewpoint, I am impressed with the way it makes sense of the Olivet Discourse prophecies of Jesus.

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