Preston’s ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ View

By Dr. Samuel M. Frost

Don Preston has written a “review” of my article featured in’s Journal, Academia Letters (2021).   The article in question, ‘The Great City Is Every City and No City,’ has received over three thousand views since its publication.  The reviews have been positive for the most part.  However, Preston, to no one’s surprise, has taken issue with it because of his dogmatic insistence that the Great City can only be Jerusalem in 70 CE.

                It is not my purpose here to go tit for tat with Don, because that has no end to it.  I stand firm in what I have written, and Don’s article only confirms my position.  Nonetheless, before I get to the major blunder of Preston’s, I wish to point out that Revelation 11 gives us an image of John’s vision wherein it states, ‘a tenth part of the City fell’ (11.13).  More than a tenth fell in 70 CE of Jerusalem!  Second, ‘seven thousand were killed,’ and I can assure you, reading Josephus’ account, that more than seven thousand died in Jerusalem in 70 CE!  Finally, ‘the rest’ gave glory to God.  This indicates, to me, that the whole City did not collapse.  However, in Revelation 16.19, when the last bowl is poured, the City is divided into three parts, and ‘the cities of the nations fell’ – not just a tenth.  In short, as many commentaries have noted, the ‘collapse’ in 11.13, and the one mentioned in 16.19 are not the same events.  We see, then a progression of judgment from a tenth, to the whole thing, along with the beast and false prophet (16.10).  There is another contrast, too.  In chapter 11, ‘the rest gave glory to God,’ whereas in 16.11 there is ‘no repentance.’

                Before leaving these facts, we can note that if 11.13 is speaking of May, 70 CE, when Jerusalem was razed, more or less (though not entirely.  Hadrian finished the job in 135 CE), then what does the Preston do with 11.14, ‘the second woe is past.  Behold, the third woe comes quickly (tachus, Greek).’  Logically, the second woe was the collapse of the tenth of the City.  It is the third woe that ‘comes quickly.’  What this third woe is, is not mentioned, and much ink has been spilled on this point.  Nonetheless, the collapse of the City is not the end, precisely because another woe comes quickly, and then at some point, the last trumpet is blown.  Second, whatever this third woe is, it appears to signal the real end, or ‘the time for judging the dead…and reward…the great and the small.’  These terms are found, verbatim, in Revelation 20.12.  Second, in this final act of the revelation, ‘heaven and earth fled away and there was no place for them’ (20.11).  This parallels the final bowl (with the last, or seventh trumpet), wherein, ‘every island fled away, and the mountains were not found’ (16.20).  The announcement is made: ‘It is finished’ (16.17).  Therefore, most scholars understand that whatever a ‘tenth of the City fell’ in 11.13 means, it is not the final act of God.  There is more to come after these things.  This is clearly drawn out when we read Revelation as a whole.  Of course, Preston fails to see this point, and does not express that he is even aware of it.  It has lead some to conclude that it may be that Jerusalem’s demise, who is a part of the Great City, which is Every City and No City (to quote Leon Morris), is inferred here.  Quite plausible.[1]  Bruce M. Metzger, eminent NT scholar (along with Kurt Aland, who Preston quotes – we will get to that), notes that the Great City certainly includes ‘Jerusalem,’ the ‘vision is enlarged to include the entire world.’[2]  I could quote several scholars to this effect, but these two suffice.  So far from Preston’s claims that I make things up.

                Preston writes, ‘Frost totally ignores the historical fact that the recipients of the Apocalypse were already in the midst of real life persecution.’  Of course, he cannot provide a quote from me saying this.  He makes it up in order to discredit me to his readers.  It is dishonesty, and beneath him.  On this notion of persecution, Preston wrote, ‘first century saints and the martyrs of the ages were crying out for vindication and relief (6:9-11).’  Now, anyone reading these verses will note that these souls are in heaven crying out to the Lord.  Preston’s view, that John saw these souls in 66 CE, does not allow for any souls in heaven prior to 70 CE.  He does not explain this major gloss.

                For Preston, scholars who are very well respected like Beale and Morris (and Metzger) are ‘out of touch with what Revelation is about.’  Let that sink in.  Every scholar is out of touch with Preston’s view!  However, and quite ironically, he goes on to quote Kurt Aland, who he calls a ‘world class Greek scholar’ (which he is, been reading his work for decades).  Aland, as some may know, worked closely with Bruce M. Metzger on the standard NT Greek text (UBS Fifth Edition).  Aland, who argues for a late date, states how tachu (Greek) means, ‘immediately, now.’ 

                Let me quote Preston at length, then comment, for this is real issue of the matter he has with me and other scholars who are ‘out of touch.’  He writes, ‘Consider an issue that Frost has never dared to answer: Remember that Frost agrees that in non- prophetic passages, words like taxus, engus, en taxei, “this generation,” etc., commonly DO convey the idea of temporal imminence. However, he insists that in prophetic, eschatological texts, those same words, terms and phrases never communicate temporal nearness. Rather, they refer to rapidity of action, spatial proximity, or in the case of “this generation” it means “this kind of people,” or something other than the contemporary generation of Jesus.’

                I have answered it, but again, Preston does not want his readers to know this so as to make it sound as if I have dodged his claims because I can’t answer the mighty Preston.  I can, and have. Many times.  But, I am ‘out of touch,’ remember?  Robert H. Mounce, who is also a recognized for his mastery of Greek, states in his commentary that, ‘One solution is to understand “shortly” in the sense of suddenly, or without delay once the appointed time arrives.  Another approach is to interpret it in terms of the certainty of the events in question.’[3]  These are two viable solutions if one were to speak in terms of grammatical possibilities.  Certainly, Young’s Literal Translation, a favorite of Preston’s, offers ‘quickly’ in Revelation 1.1.  Yet, in spite of the fact that I can quote several more commentaries to this effect, Preston erroneously writes, ‘And Sam, Aland’s comments blow you out of the water, and nothing you can say can change that. You have created a totally novel, virtually unprecedented definition of “soon.””  I want this to sink in.  Preston claims I, alone, have ‘invented’ the idea of taking tachus as ‘quickly,’ or ‘shortly.’

                John says that the ‘things’ (plural) which are to take place, must take place en tachei (Greek).  This is a prepositional phrase, and one quite common in first century Greek, and even before.  It is found in the Septuagint often following the verb it modifies.  In the Septuagint, it is often rendered, ‘quickly’ in the major translations.  For example, in Deuteronomy 11.17 it is rendered by virtually all the major translations have ‘quicky’ for this very same phrase.  Same for 28.20.  We can go down the 15x references in the Septuagint, including the Apocrypha, where en tachei is translated, ‘quickly.’  If one knows English grammar, adding the -ly to a noun renders it an adverb, modifying the action of the verb, when that action transpires.  This is pretty common knowledge, as Mounce points out, offering it as a viable ‘solution.’  Some commentaries do.  Some don’t.  None of them are ‘out of touch’ with Greek grammar

                Preston, however, must offer one and only one solution because his hermeneutical schemata demands it.  For him, there are no other solutions of grammar.  This type of severe rigidity (bias dogmaticism) that allows for no other viable, debatable alternatives is the stuff of controlled exegesis, not scholarship.  Scholars, like Mounce, have no issues with stating other views that may also be used, or true.  Scholars learn to process and sift through these choices, and often ‘choose’ the one they think best fits the ’context.’  Fine.  Preston, however, cannot do this because he has strangled all texts of Scripture to fit into his 70 CE paradigm.  Scholars may not be liked because of their offerings of choices and possibilities of what a given text ‘might’ say, and Greek is certainly fluid enough itself to allow for such room and flexibility (some say, that is its genius as a language, and why it became so rapidly popular).  I prefer the more scholarly approach.

                We even find this discussion in the very popular commentary series edited by Frank E. Gabelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary.  Alan Johnson, who wrote the section on Revelation, noted that ‘Others translate en tachei as “quickly” (grammatically this is acceptable) and understand the author to describe events that will rapidly run their course once they begin.’[4]  For my last example, of many that I could produce, A. T. Robertson, who was the giant in NT Greek studies in the twentieth century (and who Aland adored), states of en tachei, that ‘it is a relative term to be judged in the light of II Peter 3:8 according to God’s clock,  not ours.’  Then there is Ralph Earle, Simcox, Moffatt, Newell, and a host of other extremely qualified scholars that would illustrate my point (a point Preston thinks I, and I alone, have invented).  And, what pray tell, is the response of the Full Preterists like Preston?  ‘Bias,’ ‘out of touch,’ ‘futurist conspiracy.’  That’s not scholarship.  That is mental manipulation to the unsuspecting readers.  See, what Preston wants his readers to understand is that en tachei has only one meaning, and one meaning only, and that every scholar asserts his meaning.  Then, ‘Frost’ comes along and invents an entirely foreign meaning so as to demonstrate that Preston’s view is false, which, of course, would make ‘Frost’ out to be a con artist.  The conclusion Preston manipulates his readers to reach is that ‘Frost’s’ view ‘utterly fails.’  He also wants to ‘sound scholarly’ by this, while at the same time not admitting that scholars understand a variety of ways in which a text can be ‘acceptably’ translated and interpreted.  Preston’s view only admits one, and that with fierce dogmatism because his system of interpretation demands it.

                There are two more points to be made here as well.  Preston utterly fails to understand that for scholars like Aland, Metzger and generally most of the ‘guild’ in academia today, the word ‘imminent’ means what Aland says it means: ‘now, at present, immediately.’  Not three years from now.  Not four weeks from now, but now.  Preston’s quote of Aland says this very thing!  This is because they believe that the NT writers (many of them writing well past 70 CE) express the idea that Jesus could, literally, come right now, at any moment.  That is, the authors of the Gospels, who are not the disciples (in their view), wrote well into the 80’s or 90’s, some having Matthew into the early second century.  And, the early church (post 70 CE church), expected an any moment now coming of the Lord.  That’s what imminency means (look it up).  However, since this ‘coming’ did not happen, it was ‘delayed.’  Here we have the famous opinion of the so called, ‘delay of the parousia.’  What scholars like Aland do (a highly qualified NT scholar) is to find the ‘original sources’ that pre-date these apocalyptic ‘insertions’ added at a much later date.  Then, there are the ‘redactions’ of the Gospels that, noting that there has been no ‘coming’ of the Lord, attempting in various places to soften this delay.  These ‘sources’ are found here in there, like in Luke, that make it sound as if Jesus will be away for a long time.  For Preston to use Aland’s material, without Aland’s context as a scholar and interpreter, is a misuse of Aland, pure and simple.  These scholars, who Don promotes as ‘world class,’ would have nothing to do with his solution that 70 CE is the fulfillment of the coming of the Lord and all prophecy.  And, it is precisely here that Preston will say, ‘they are out of touch,’ or ‘inconsistent.’

                The second point is that Preston’s view, and his followers, will insist that the NT teaches an ‘imminent’ coming of the Lord in the Gospels, in the words of Jesus (31-33 AD).  The idea of ‘imminence,’ too, is found in the letters of the NT (40’s-early 60’s CE), so they say.  However, from 33-70 CE is 37 years.  Preston’s view maintains that during this 37 year interval, the NT is preaching ‘imminence!’  However, they have to redefine the word ‘imminence’ from the way Aland describes it in Preston’s article.

                Let me break this down a bit more.  When Aland and others mean ‘imminence’ in the Gospels, taking a verse like Matthew 10.23, they mean that an author (not Matthew) put those words into the mouth of Jesus in the second century, and thus Jesus was ‘made to be seen’ as preaching ‘imminence’ of the Kingdom, because that’s what they believed in the second century.  Other Historical Jesus scholars, like Schweitzer, truly did believe that Jesus himself believed that the Kingdom would come ‘at any moment,’ but that his expectation was, simply, wrong.  It is not my intention to go through these theories, only to point out what ‘imminence’ means. 

                Now, the Full Preterists, like Preston, believed that Jesus preached an ‘imminent’ message, and that the Apostles preached an ‘imminent’ message (any moment now, according to Aland), and that, finally, John the Revelator, writing last, also preached an ‘imminent’ message (according to Aland).  Aland does not believe the Kingdom ‘arrived’ when John the Revelator said it would: ‘soon.’  Preston does by simply reducing all prophetic language to a three year war, and spiritualizing the rest in order to cram it into a 70 CE box, and end.  The point here is that you cannot have ‘imminence’ (any moment now, now, here and now, according to Aland) being preached for 37 years!  The simple reason is that this is not what ‘imminence’ means!

                To conclude, let us use the fable of the boy who cried wolf.  The story is one of the most popular from Aesop (564 BCE), a Greek lyricist and crafter of fables. The shepherd boy wanted to fool the villagers by moving his flock of sheep far away, then crying that a wolf was eating his sheep.  The villagers, of course, came out to help, only to find the boy laughing.  There was no imminent danger at all.  Yet, he did this three or four more times during his years, and finally, when the wolves really did come, the villagers paid no attention.  Why?  Because he had worn out the villagers with an imminent danger that was not imminent until it really was.  Point: imminent means imminent.

                The fact of the matter is that until they ‘saw’ certain movements of Romans ‘surrounding the City’ around 66, only then would they understand that Jerusalem’s demise was nearing its end.  Until then, from 33-65 CE they would not have been saying, ‘the end of Jerusalem is near’.  Or, ‘the ends of the ages have come (perfect tense) upon us’ (written in the fifties, by Paul).  A message of a 37, 27, or 17 year ‘imminent’ end makes no sense.  Thus, when Jesus announces, ‘the time has been/is fulfilled (perfect tense), the kingdom of God has drawn near (perfect tense)’ in 31 CE (Mark 1.15) he could not have been saying that the end of the age was ‘imminent,’ at that time unless he was delusional (as some Atheists have remarked he was).  Now, I believe the words of Jesus when he said them.  The TIME has come, is now at hand, immediately, now, to use the phrasing of Kurt Aland.  Preston’s view, on the other hand, causes Jesus’ words to mean ‘imminence,’ when the event Jesus (in Preston’s view) has in mind is 70 CE, some 39 years away!  Folks, use your minds, and logic when deducing doctrine from the Scriptures.  Full Preterism does not work.

[1] Margaret Barker, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 2000), wherein she takes a fair portion of chapter 11 to refer to 70 CE, however, realizes that this, in her view, only marks a beginning of Christ’s reign until the ‘final end’ (199).  John is being told in chapter 11 that Jerusalem’s demise ‘has already happened, that it was no longer in the future…’ (198).  Barker argues that the book was pieced together through various sources, some apocalyptic, and some even from Qumran.  Revelation, ‘interpret and explain contemporary events in Palestine in terms of the timeless realities of heaven’ (64), but also argues for a late date (post 70 CE).  It is in this vein that she is able to see ’70 CE’ in the background, and a transcending of that event towards a greater, final judgment.  Barker, of course, is not an Evangelical believer, but is a very able critic, and much within her commentary is valuable information.  One other thing I will relate, is that she correctly translates ‘time will be no more’ (10.6) as ‘exactly how the prophecy of Habakkuk was understood at that time’ (185, quoting from 1QpHab VII, DSS).  The angel in chapter ten reveals to John that Jerusalem’s demise, though it was the end of that city, was not the end of time itself.  That is revealed to John in ‘secret knowledge’ given to him in the ‘seven thunders’ and what they revealed to him, but not to us. 

[2] Bruce M. Metzger, Breaking the Code: Understanding the Book of Revelation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1993), 70.  Apart from Barker, Metzger, who also argues for a late date, understands that since 11 was written well after Jerusalem was in ruins, it cannot be referring to Jerusalem in 70 CE.  Barker, on the hand, speaks as chapter 11 being written after the event, which was a typical way some of the literature was written.  Preston, of course, takes great issues with these scholars because his view cannot as a matter of necessary fact permit any hypothesis of a later date of composition post 70 CE.  In academic circles, however, even if one sided with an earlier date (pre 70 CE), they still acknowledge to ‘strengths/weaknesses’ of the arguments.   Preston, however, cannot have such a ‘debate’ at all.  His view demands an early date, and there is no debate to be had.

[3] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, NICNT, Ed., F. F. Bruce, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977), 65.

[4] Alan Johnson, ‘Revelation,’ EBC Vol. 12, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library; Zondervan, 1981), 416.  Johnson, however, states that it is ‘better’ to translate it as ‘soon’, but also adds that ‘it is not necessary to follow the preterist interpretation of the book.’  He notes, correctly, that in Revelation 6.10-11, the souls by the altar cry out, ‘how long,’ and are answered not with, ‘immediately!’ but with ‘in a little more time,’ the opposite of immediately. 

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