I am more familiar with Preterism than I care to be. I will be frank in that I believe it is one of the biggest false doctrines in the church today. If you don’t know what Preterism is let me give it to you in a nutshell:
The belief that all prophecies in Matthew 24-25 and Revelation 6-18 were fulfilled prior to 70 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Army. The period commencing after this event is known as the Church Age or Millennial Reign.
We won’t even get into the literal or figurative definition of Millennial (Thousand year) Reign. Let me also preface this with the suggestion if you don’t have wade into the knowledge of Preterism then don’t. In my opinion it is a complete waste of time. I was drug into this debate when I had a rogue employee who was causing grief in several churches over his zealousness for this topic.
The position that I want to discuss is the historical issues that plague Preterism. Most scholars agree that the Book of Revelation was written between 88 and 92 AD. Preterists argue that John wrote Revelation during the reign of Nero in the 60’s AD and not during Domitian’s reign (81-89 AD).
The question I want to present to you today is: “What was the age of the Apostle John when he walked with Jesus?” This gives us a key how old John was in 60 AD and 80 AD. You see John was old and frail when he wrote Revelation and his epistles. Stories have people carrying him into churches because he couldn’t walk. One has to be advanced in years to be in that state. (It is true injuries could’ve have caused that but no where is it mentioned that he suffered that and that he was the only disciple not to die a martyrs death but from old age)
Let’s look at an obscure passage to help us determine John’s age:
Matt 17:27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel.Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
This is an interesting scene that is usually over looked but it points out some important cultural things about John’s age. The first thing we see is that only Jesus and Peter pay the tax. What about the other disciples? Was Peter alone with Jesus? Jesus wasn’t alone with Peter but only Peter and Jesus had to pay the tax because they were of age. You only paid a temple tax when you were over twenty years old. So this shows us that of the disciples who were present (likely Peter, James, and John) the rest of them were under the age of twenty. This would fall in line with how old disciples were who followed Rabbi’s during that time. Grown men with families did not follow Rabbis. Teenage boys who showed promise in the Torah followed renowned Rabbis.
If that is the case then John is probably between sixteen and eighteen at this time, which was likely 32 AD. If this is the case then John would’ve only been at most fifty years old in 64 AD and probably not the old man who is ready to die of natural causes. If you have him penning the book in 88 AD then he would be close to seventy five years old and more likely to be old and frail from all of the travels and the attempted boiling in a vat of oil.
So you see there is a history problem with Preterism based on the age of John when he walked with Jesus. He just wasn’t old enough in 60 AD to exhibit the characteristics that history attributes to him in his old age, couple that with the fact that there is no mention of Nero persecuting Christians outside of Rome and you have some major obstacles to overcome to prove this theory.