Matthew 23:37-39 – Does this passage support Preterism?

Problem: After he ridicules the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, Jesus says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mt. 23:37-39) Preterists argue that the “you” in this passage is clearly referring to his contemporary audience. If this is the case, then wouldn’t all of the Olivet Discourse be referring to Jesus’ original audience, too?

Solution: Futurists agree that verse 38 (“your house is being left to you desolate”) refers to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. But they disagree that verse 39 was fulfilled at this time. The Preterist holds to the fact that the “you” in verse 38 is the same group as the “you” in verse 39. However, this leads to a bizarre interpretation of the destruction of the Temple.

Preterists believe that Jesus brought judgment on the nation of Israel for rejecting him, and he did this by destroying the Temple. But are we to believe that these same, hardened people were shouting praises of blessing on Jesus, as the Roman soldiers were raping and pillaging Jerusalem? This shout of praise is a citation of Psalm 118:26 (“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord”). This must be a literal shout of praise, because the crowds sang this at the Triumphal entry (Mt. 21:9; Mk. 11:9; Lk. 19:38).

Since this passage was not fulfilled in AD 70, futurists believe that this will be fulfilled in the still future return of Christ. Stanley Toussaint writes, “Jews would hardly call the horrible decimation of life in the destruction of their capital city a blessed coming of the Messiah. Rather, verse 39 describes Israel’s future repentance when they will mourn because of their great sin (Zech. 12:10).”[1]

[1] Stanley Toussaint “A Critique of the Preterist View of the Olivet Discourse” Bibliotheca Sacra 161 (October–December 2004): 472-473.

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