(Mt. 24:26-27) Is the lightning symbolic of God’s judgment as Preterists claim?

CLAIM: Jesus says, “So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. 27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Mt. 24:26-27). Preterists argue that lightning is a symbol of God’s presence or judgment in the OT. Therefore, it is possible that Jesus could have made a figurative “coming” in judgment through the Roman Empire in AD 70. That is, he “appeared” in a non-literal way. Preterist Gary DeMar writes, “In the Bible, lightning often signifies the presence of the Lord or His coming in judgment (Exod. 19:16; 20:18; Job 36:30; Ezek. 21:15, 28; Zech. 9:14).”[1] Is this the case?

RESPONSE: We surely recognize the language of simile here (“just as the lightning comes”). This would be a grammatical clue that the language should not be pressed hyper-literally.

However, we disagree that this proves that Jesus came in AD 70. This exact expression (“the coming of the Son of Man”) occurs later in verses 37 and 39, which is a clear teaching on the Second Coming (as partial Preterists). Futurists Stanley “The word would also have the same meaning in verse 3. In each case the Second Advent must be in view… The word parousia in the New Testament is always used of an actual presence. In 1 Corinthians 16:17; 2 Corinthians 7:6–7; 10:10; Philippians 1:26; 2:12; and 2 Thessalonians 2:9 parousia refers to a person’s bodily presence. In all the other cases parousiva is used of the Lord’s presence at His second coming (1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1, 8; James 5:7–8; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4, 12; 1 John 2:28).”[2]


[1] DeMar, Gary. Last Days Madness. Atlanta: American Vision, 1994. 119.

[2] Stanley Toussaint “A Critique of the Preterist View of the Olivet Discourse” Bibliotheca Sacra 161 (October–December 2004): 476.