I prefer the term Orthodox preterist
to "partial," because it historically has been an orthodox position of the Church more centuries.
It is not
accurate to say that they "tend to be Postmil," however, since the great majority of us are Amillennial rather than Postmillennial.
As to the dating of Revelation:
Practically all sources for a post-70 AD dating of Revelation derive their opinions from Irenaeus (130-202 AD). Irenaeus was a historic premillennialist or chiliast. (I'll not say anything more about his eschatology since this is just about dating the scriptures.) The specific quote from Irenaeus' Against Heresies
, translated from Greek, from which moderns derive a late dating of Revelation (not to mention their desire to do so from a particular version of eschatology) states:
We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign.
First, it's rather difficult to even figure out exactly what Irenaeus is saying in this passage. Is he talking about John or the Antichrist, that was seen in his day? Also, who saw him? The statement almost indicates third hand information on the part of Irenaeus. Second, we also know Irenaeus is not all that accurate in dating other events. In the same book he writes that Jesus' ministry lasted 15 years and that He lived to be almost 50 years old! (Against Heresies
, 2.22.5). One of the best ways of dating a book of the scriptures is to let the book date itself
. All orthodox Christians believe in the infalibility of the scriptures. Rev 17:9-10
seems to set the date within 14 years of when Revelation was written, and it definitely puts it at a pre-70 AD date. The passage states there are 7 kings, five have fallen, and one is. In other words, the 6th king is currently ruling. Verse 9 attaches these kings to seven mountains, which most everyone agrees refers to Rome. The ten Roman emperors from Julius Caesar are:
1. Julius Caesar (49-44 BC)
2. Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD)
3. Tiberius (14-37 AD)
4. Gaius (37-41 AD)
5. Claudius (41-54 AD)
6. Nero (54-68 AD)
7. Galba (68-69 AD)
8. Otho (69 AD)
9. Vitellius (69 AD)
10. Vespasian (69-79 AD)
Interestingly, the scriptures also tell us the 7th king will continue "for a short time" (unlike the previous 6). As the judgement of God and vindication of Christ drew near, Roman emperors didn't last very long, some less than a year before they were murdered. But there is no way to equate the "6th king" of Revelation with Domitian.
The next passage is Rev 11:1-2
. According to this passage, the temple was still standing
, yet it predicted a trodding of the holy city by the Gentiles for 42 months
. The time from when Rome declared war on Jerusalem to the fall of Jerusalem was almost exactly 42 months
. This passage is strong evidence that Revelation was written at least 3 and a half years before 70 AD (still in the time of Nero).
The next passage is Rev 13:18
. The number of the beast is 666. The Hebrew spelling of Nero (Neron Kesar) has the numerical value of 666. Interestingly, many ancient Latin manuscripts of Rev. have this number changed to 616, not 666. Why? Well, when you spell Nero caesar in Latin it has a numerical value of 616. So at least the early church knew who the beast was, even if we don't.
Third, all the Jewish symbolism in Revelation is strong evidence that Judaism was still vibrant in the church, which it was before 70 AD. After 70 AD Judaism and Jewish enfluence dwindled rapidly. Also, the entire theme of the book is one of imminent judgement and destruction. 70 AD most nearly fits with the imminence language of John. It is a real stretch to make this language fit something thousands of years in the future. There are many more things we could say about Revelation dating itself to a pre-70 AD date, including how specific passages match almost exactly wordings used in the historical writings of Josephus and other eye-witness accounts.
Orthodox preterists do not
believe in three advents of Christ. But there is no doubt that the events of 70 AD are extraordinary. Eyewitness accounts of historians on both
sides of Rome's war on Jerusalem describe incredible celestial signs, the appearance of an army in the clouds, darkness at middday, thunderous utterings from above, etc.
Here are a couple of those descriptions. The Jewish historian Josephus, who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and the years following it, wrote describing the celestial signs leading up to Jerusalem's conquest and the destruction of the Temple:
Thus were the miserable people persuaded by these deceivers, and such as belied God Himself; while they did not attend, nor give credit, to the signs that were so evident and did so plainly foretell their future desolation; but, like men infatuated, without either eyes to see or minds to consider, did not regard the denunciations that God made to them. Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year. Thus also, before the Jews' rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan], and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright daytime; which light lasted for half an hour. This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it.1
Other signs in the sky were reported by other historians recording events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem. The Roman historian Tacitus writes:
Besides the manifold misfortunes that befell mankind, there were prodigies in the sky and on the earth, warnings given by thunderbolts, and prophecies of the future, both joyful and gloomy, uncertain and clear. For never was it more fully proved by awful disasters of the Roman people or by indubitable signs that the gods care not for our safety, but for our punishment.2
In addition to his account of the comet, the prophecies, the sword-like star, etc., Josephus records an even more astonishing celestial event that seems to be a quite literal fulfillment of Ezekiel 1 :22-28. Here's Josephus again:
Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artimisius [Jyar], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the] temple, as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, 'Let us remove hence.'3
The "gathering of His elect from the four winds," to an orthodox preterist, describes the harvest of souls from among all
men - Gentile and Jew alike, by the sending out of the church and her dispersal by persecution. The historically Christian interpretation of Jesus' Olivet prophecy has been largely a preterist one - meaning that most of Matthew 23 and 24 were fulfilled just as Jesus said they would be - upon that
generation. Orthodox preterists never taught that the Second Coming took place in 70 A.D.! We still look forward to the catching away of the Bride of Christ, the resurrection, and the physical and visible return of Jesus Christ to judge the living and dead. Those who have taught that ALL bible prophecy has been completely fulfilled have historically been judged as heretics. Hyper-preterism is heresy!
But the "last days" described in Scripture began at the Ascension of Jesus and were concluded with the Abomination of Desolation in 70 A.D. . Joel described the "last days" of the Spirit being poured out on "all flesh
" (meaning Gentiles also, no longer just the Jews, Joel 2:28) and their gifts were to be covenant signs to that single generation (Matthew 23:32 and 24:34) which bore "the guilt of all righteous blood shed on earth (Matthew 23:35)."
I hope this helps explain a little of "what they're really saying."
1. Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews
, in The Works of Flavius Josephus
, trans. William Whiston, 4 vols. (reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker,1974)
2. Tacitus, The Histories
, trans. Clifford H. Moore, 2 vols., Cambridge: Harvard University, 1931, 1:5-7
3. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews
, 1:454 (6.5.3)