Friday, December 28, 2007

The Preterism of James the Just [A.D. 62]

In the Holy Writ, The Apostle James, the brother of Jesus, writing to “To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” (James 1:1), warns them of the imminent coming of the Lord.

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8)

James tells his first century readers to “be patient” (vs. 7-8), “do not grumble” (v. 9), etc. The reason given is that “the coming of the Lord is at hand”.

The twelve tribes mentioned here could not have been the Jews of the 70 AD “Diaspora”, since James was martyred in A.D 62. Likely, this was a reference to Jewish Christians who had to flee Jerusalem, is the church of the First Century.

In addition, we have this extra-biblical account of the Martyrdom of James, given by Eusebius, where he proclaims that the Son of Man “is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.”

“On account of these words some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the sects mentioned above did not believe either in a resurrection or in one's coming to give to every man according to his works. But as many as believed did so on account of James. Therefore when many even of the rulers believed, there was a commotion among the Jews and Scribes and Pharisees, who said that there was danger that the whole people would be looking for Jesus as the Christ. Coming therefore in a body to James they said, 'We entreat thee, restrain the people; for they are gone astray in regard to Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat thee to persuade all that have come to the feast of the Passover concerning Jesus; for we all have confidence in thee. For we bear thee witness, as do all the people, that thou art just, and dost not respect persons. Do thou therefore persuade the multitude not to be led astray concerning Jesus. For the whole people, and all of us also, have confidence in thee. Stand therefore upon the pinnacle of the temple, that from that high position thou mayest be clearly seen, and that thy words may be readily heard by all the people. For all the tribes, with the Gentiles also, are come together on account of the Passover.' The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees therefore placed James upon the pinnacle of the temple, and cried out to him and said: Thou just one, in whom we ought all to have: confidence, forasmuch as the people are led, astray after Jesus, the crucified one, declare to us, what is the gate of Jesus.' And he answered with a loud voice,' Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.'” (Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History - Chapter XXIII).

Certainly, no one among James’ listeners would have expected Christ’s coming “upon the clouds of heaven” to have been a distant future event. Any objective reader would have to conclude that James was a Preterist.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Silent Night on the Western Front

Herbert Otto Winckelmann tells of his father's experience in World War I.

“The war began on August 1, 1914. The order to mobilize the troops disrupted our vacation on the Baltic Sea. We rushed home since my father, an officer in the reserve, was eager to wear his uniform. He, along with most of the men, went into battle with enthusiasm. They were firmly convinced that war had been forced upon Germany, and that the fight was for the country’s very existence.

Father returned home on furlough before his artillery regiment departed to the front and optimistically promised to be home at Christmas. After mother pinned a small bouquet on his tunic, he kissed us heartily and left. He departed alone to avoid any more heartbreaking good-byes at the train station.

During the first months, it appeared that my father’s promise of a family Christmas would be realized. The Russian armies had been decisively beaten on the eastern front in the battles of Tannenberg and Masuran Lakes. On the western front, our armies advanced deep into France but were checked on the river Marne. As winter approached, both sides went into the trenches. They were sometimes so close to each other that they could hear the clatter of their foes canteens.

The stalemate had its effect on the spirit of the combatants. The initial enthusiasm gave way to stoicism. At Christmas, there was a momentary growth of spirit and some fraternization on the front lines. When the night became quiet on Christmas Eve, some German soldiers began to sing Stille Nacht (Silent Night). The English soldiers recognized the familiar tune and joined in. Their singing quickly traveled for miles along the trench lines and ragged Christmas trees were set up by German soldiers on their parapets. The following morning the English answered with large signs of “Merry Christmas”. It went even further. One by one the men ventured from their trenches and crawled beneath the barbed wires to meet each other in the no-man’s land. They sat together like brothers. They did not hate each other as their governments did. They had been ordered to kill one another. Unfortunately, the soldiers’ truce could not last. The higher echelons on each side, shocked by the incident, ordered their men back into the trenches.”

Jahresringe: A Journey of my Life, Herbert Otto Winckelmann, pp. 13-14

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Saint Nicholas: Bishop of Myra

Yes, there was a Santa Claus, though it is difficult to separate the facts from the legends.

Mostly recognized as the patron saint of children and sailors in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Nicholas of Myra was born in the village of Patara (Asia Minor) in the third century to a Christian family. Apparently, an epidemic of some sort afflicted his family and left him as an orphan.

Nicholas became the bishop of Myra during a time of persecution under Emperor Diocletian. According to some sources, Nicholas was indeed a “secret giver”, and there is historical merit to some of the legendary stories about his giving. In one story, a wealthy man with three daughters fell on hard times, and was unable to provide a dowry for his children. Since girls without dowries back then were unlikely to marry, the man’s daughters faced the prospect of being sold into slavery. It is said in one account that each daughter was given a bag of gold in her stocking. Nicholas was known for giving to poor children, rescuing some drowning sailors, appealing to the emperor for tax relief, and intervening on behalf of those who were accused unjustly.

He also appeared to be a great defender of the faith, having destroyed the pagan Temple of Artemis, and fighting Arianism as a participant in the Council of Nicea.

An interesting looking movie about the life of Nicholas of Myra is set for release for Christmas in 2008. See trailer:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanksgiving: A Christian Holiday Part III

General Thanksgiving
By the PRESIDENT of the United States Of America

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

George Washington

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thanksgiving: A Christian Holiday Part II

“They [the pilgrims] brought with them familiar customs, among which were an autumn secular harvest celebration and a Puritan religious Thanksgiving holy day. As we shall see, these two events were totally separate and independent in their minds.” (James Baker, former Director of Research,

With all due respect to Mr. Baker’s research, the pilgrims did nothing in the light of secularism. Their lives were Biblically oriented in all area, including harvest festivals. With the Church of England outlawed the many Separatist movements in the motherland, a group of Pilgrims began to hold secret meetings in Scrooby, England. To escape persecution, the group, under Rev. John Robinson, moved to Holland, and then decided to make the voyage across the Atlantic to the New World. Cotton Mather writes, “It was resolved, that part of the Church should go [to America] before their brethren, to prepare a place for the rest; and whereas the minor part of the younger and stronger men were to go first, the Pastor was to stay with the major, till they should see cause to follow.” (Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christii Americana)

The harsh and dangerous voyage and resulting settlement would prove costly. 102 persons set sail on the Mayflower, with two dying during the trip, and one baby being born. They landed at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. 45 more died during the first winter from diseases and harsh conditions, including the wife of future governor William Bradford. Bradford explained the purpose of this journey.

“A great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world; yea, though they should be but even as stepping-stones unto others for the performing of so great a work.” (William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation).

Survival in the New World would require different skills (and different crops), and thus a Patuxet Indian by the name of Squanto decided to live with the Pilgrims and teach them how to survive. Bradford wrote that Squanto was a “special instrument sent by God for their good beyond their expectations." The resulting harvest in 1621 was plenteous, and the settlers began to regain their health. Bradford writes,

"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports." (William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation).

Despite the hardships, the pilgrims honored the Providence of God Almighty, on the First Harvest that is the precursor to our modern day Thanksgiving.

"our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty." (Edward Winslow, Mourt's Relation)

Governor Bradford “set apart a day of Thanksgiving” during the harvest of 1623, after enduring a horrible drought.

The Amillennialism of Tatian {A.D. 170]

Tatian the Assyrian was greatly influenced by Justin Martyr, though he eventually fell into Gnosticism. Like Trypho, Tatian appears to have rejected Justin’s idea of a millennium, even in his orthodox days.

“And on this account we believe that there will be a resurrection of bodies after the consummation of all things; not, as the Stoics affirm, according to the return of certain cycles, the same things being produced and destroyed for no useful purpose, but a resurrection once for all, when our periods of existence are completed, and in consequence solely of the constitution of things under which men alone live, for the purpose of passing judgment upon them. Nor is sentence upon us passed by Minos or Rhadamanthus, before whose decease not a single soul, according to the mythic tales, was judged; but the Creator, God Himself, becomes the arbiter.” (Tatian’s Address to the Greeks - Chap. VI. — Christians’ Belief in the Resurrection.)

Tatian tells us of only one resurrection, and that it will take place “after the consummation of all things”. This is “a resurrection once for all”, for the express purpose of “passing judgment”. Premillennialism requires a thousand years between the resurrection of the righteous and the final judgment.

Granted, Tatian doesn’t go into great detail concerning his eschatology, but his views of the resurrection and the judgment clearly support either amillennialism or postmillennialism. He was definitely not premillennial.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Amillennial Apostles' Creed [100 A.D.]

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.


The Apostle's Creed plainly tells us that Christ "shall come to judge the living and the dead", which eliminates any possibility of premillennialism. Premillennialism requires a thousand year reign between the Second Advent and the Final Judgment. This is a recurring problem for premillennialists in regard to the creeds and confessions of the early church. Not one of them ever mentions a millennium.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Thanksgiving: A Christian Holiday Part I

“Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small.” (Jeremiah 30:19)

"We teach about Thanksgiving from a purely historical perspective, not from a religious perspective." - Charles Ridgell, St. Mary's County Public Schools

If historical accuracy were of any value, schools could not possibly teach about Thanksgiving while ignoring the religious perspective. While secularists and revisionists vainly attempt to equate the modern American holiday with pre-European pagan “thanksgiving” festivals, any objective look at the history of Thanksgiving shows it to be a uniquely Christian Holiday.

The first observance that can be connected to the modern holiday occurred on December 4, 1619, when 38 English Settlers arrived at Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. The Plantation Charter held that the day of their arrival be celebrated as a day of Thanksgiving.

"We ordain that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantation in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God." (Charter of Berkley Plantation)

The Plantation was eventually destroyed by an Indian Massacre on 1622.

The Amillennialism of Irenaeus [A.D. 120-202]

The eschatology of Irenaeus is nearly identical to that of Barnabus. Like Barnabus, Irenaeus is falsely touted as being premillennialist. Both fathers held to the 6000 year “day is a thousand years” theory concerning the history of the world, but neither equates the seventh day with a millennium. Instead, like Barnabus, Irenaeus has the world ending after 6,000 years, with no millennium.

The Millennium

“For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: "Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works." This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year." (Against Heresies, 5:28:3)

Irenaeus does mention that “the righteous shall reign in the earth” after the resurrection, but that alone does not constitute a literal millennial reign, as this is a postmillennial belief as well. He clearly believes that all thing prophecied "will come to an end at the sixth thousand year", thus eliminating an earthly millennium. Irenaeus does seem to be the first to hold to a rebuilt Jerusalem.

“For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule; in [the times of] which [resurrection] the righteous shall reign in the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord: and through Him they shall become accustomed to partake in the glory of God the Father, and shall enjoy in the kingdom intercourse and communion with the holy angels, and union with spiritual beings; and [with respect to] those whom the Lord shall find in the flesh, awaiting Him from heaven, and who have suffered tribulation, as well as escaped the hands of the Wicked one.” (Against Heresies 5:35:1)

However, this earthly kingdom is described many times by Irenaeus as an eternal kingdom, not a temporary millennium. Irenaeus’ clearest statement on the matter concerns the purpose of Christ Second Advent.

“Has the Word come for the ruin and for the resurrection of many? For the ruin, certainly, of those who do not believe Him, to whom also He has threatened a greater damnation in the judgment-day than that of Sodom and Gomorrah; (Luke 10:12) but for the resurrection of believers, and those who do the will of His Father in heaven. If then the advent of the Son comes indeed alike to all, but is for the purpose of judging, and separating the believing from the unbelieving,” (Against Heresies 5:27:1)

Irenaeus speaks of one resurrection for both believers and unbelievers, and clearly tell us that the purpose of Christ Advent is for judging both, not for establishing an earthly millennium.


Irenaeus is a futurist regarding antichrist, but admits his ignorance regarding the matter.

“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 Revelation. For ‘he’ [John?] or ‘it’ [Revelation?] was seen . . . towards the end of Domitian’s reign." (Against Heresies 5:30:3)

This statement seems to be the basis for the late dating of the Book of Revelation, though the pronoun could easily refer to the Apostle John himself, as seen above. In any case, Irenaeus admits that he was not sure of antichrist’s identity. Eusebius and others rely on this statement as support for a late date of Revelation, yet contradict themselves in other passages. It also must be noted that Irenaeus was not the best historian of his day, writing that Christ lived to an age of 50 and had an earthly ministry of 15 years.

The Abrahamic Covenant

Regarding Judaism, Irenaeus, like nearly all church fathers, was clearly a proponent of “replacement theology”, viewing the complete fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant in Christ. This is a recurring problem for any modern premillennialist who seeks to build support for his eschatology from the study of patristics.

“Therefore Abraham also, knowing the. Father through the Word, who made heaven and earth, confessed Him to be God; and having learned, by an announcement [made to him], that the Son of God would be a man among men, by whose advent his seed should be as the stars of heaven, he desired to see that day, so that he might himself also embrace Christ; and, seeing it through the spirit of prophecy, he rejoiced. Wherefore Simeon also, one of his descendants, carried fully out the rejoicing of the patriarch, and said: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: a light for the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of the people Israel." And the angels, in like manner, announced tidings of great joy to the shepherds who were keeping watch by night. Moreover, Mary said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my salvation;"--the rejoicing of Abraham descending upon those who sprang from him,--those, namely, who were watching, and who beheld Christ, and believed in Him; while, on the other hand, there was a reciprocal rejoicing which passed backwards from the children to Abraham, who did also desire to see the day of Christ's coming. Rightly, then, did our Lord bear witness to him, saying, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad."For not alone upon Abraham's account did He say these things, but also that He might point out how all who have known God from the beginning, and have foretold the advent of Christ, have received the revelation from the Son Himself; who also in the last times was made visible and passable, and spake with the human race, that He might from the stones raise up children unto Abraham, and fulfil the promise which God had given him, and that He might make his seed as the stars of heaven, as John the Baptist says: "For God is able from these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." Now, this Jesus did by drawing us off from the religion of stones, and bringing us over from hard and fruitless cogitations, and establishing in us a faith like to Abraham. As Paul does also testify, saying that we are children of Abraham because of the similarity of our faith, and the promise of inheritance." (Against Heresies, 4:7:1-2)

In addition, Irenaeus viewed the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 as a sign of the new covenant, as well as the fulfillment of the parable of the wicked vinedressers (Matthew 21:33-45).

“Further, also, concerning Jerusalem and the Lord, they venture to assert that, if it had been "the city of the great King," it would not have been deserted. This is just as if any one should say, that if straw were a creation of God, it would never part company with the wheat; and that the vine twigs, if made by God, never would be lopped away and deprived of the clusters. But as these [vine twigs] have not been originally made for their own sake, but for that of the fruit growing upon them, which being come to maturity and taken away, they are left behind, and those which do not conduce to fructification are lopped off altogether; so also [was it with] Jerusalem, which had in herself borne the yoke of bondage (under which man was reduced, who in former times was not subject to God when death was reigning, and being subdued, became a fit subject for liberty), when the fruit of liberty had come, and reached maturity, and been reaped and stored in the barn, and when those which had the power to produce fruit had been carried away from her [i.e., from Jerusalem], and scattered throughout all the world. Even as Esaias saith, "The children of Jacob shall strike root, and Israel shall flourish, and the whole world shall be filled with his fruit." The fruit, therefore, having been sown throughout all the world, she (Jerusalem) was deservedly forsaken, and those things which had formerly brought forth fruit abundantly were taken away; for from these, according to the flesh, were Christ and the apostles enabled to bring forth fruit. But now these are no longer useful for bringing forth fruit. For all things which have a beginning in time must of course have an end in time also. Since, then, the law originated with Moses, it terminated with John as a necessary consequence. Christ had come to fulfil it: wherefore "the law and the prophets were" with them "until John." And therefore Jerusalem, taking its commencement from David, and fulfilling its own times, must have an end of legislation when the new covenant was revealed." (Against Heresies, 4:4:1-2)

In conclusion, the simplest reading of Irenaeus tends toward amillennialism, with a heavy dose of replacement theology. While Irenaeus was a futurist regarding antichrist, he admitted his own ignorance of the subject. There is very little, if anything, in the writings of Irenaeus that is compatible with modern premillennialism.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Premillennialism of Justin Martyr [A.D. 110-165.]

Justin was a Christian apologist who battled the Judiast Heresy and Greek Philosophy. He was martyred in Rome in 165 AD. Justin was a chiliast, and probably a premillennialist. He did believe in a literal 1,000 year reign, and believed that dead saints would be resurrected and take part in the millennium.

"I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion (temporal 1000 year reign), and [believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise." (Dialogue with Trypho, CHAPTER LXXX -- THE OPINION OF JUSTIN WITH REGARD TO THE REIGN OF A THOUSAND YEARS. SEVERAL CATHOLICS REJECT IT.)

Contrary to the claim that premillennialism was the predominant view of the early church, we have chiliast Justin Martyr’s own words that there were many true Christians during his day that thought otherwise. Apparently, Trypho himself had serious doubts about this doctrine. This truth can be see in previous posts on this blog, wherein Papias has been the only premillennialist so far.

Justin adopted Barnabus “day is a thousand years” theory, which seemed to become popular in the Second Century, but has since proven to be flawed. Justin also bases his millennial beliefs on some sloppy exegesis of Scripture, particularly Revelation 20:4-6.

"For Isaiah spake thus concerning this space of a thousand years: 'For there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, or come into their heart; but they shall find joy and gladness in it, which things I create. For, Behold, I make Jerusalem a rejoicing, and My people a joy; and I shall rejoice over Jerusalem, and be glad over My I people. And the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, or the voice of crying. And there shall be no more there a person of immature years, or an old man who shall not fulfil his days. For the young man shall be an hundred years old; but the sinner who dies an hundred years old, he shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and shall themselves inhabit them; and they shall plant vines, and shall themselves eat the produce of them, and drink the wine. They shall not build, and others inhabit; they shall not plant, and others eat. For according to the days of the tree of life shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound. Mine elect shall not toil fruitlessly, or beget children to be cursed; for they shall be a seed righteous and blessed by the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call I will hear; while they are still speaking, I shall say, What is it? Then shall the wolves and the lambs feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent[shall eat] earth as bread. They shall not hurt or maltreat each other on the holy mountain, i saith the Lord.' Now we have understood that the expression used among these words, 'According to the days of the tree[of life] shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound' obscurely predicts a thousand years. For as Adam was told that in the nay fie ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, 'The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,' is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place. Just as our Lord also said, 'They shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, but shall be equal to the angels, the children of the God of the resurrection.'” (Dialogue with Trypho, CHAPTER LXXXI -- HE ENDEAVOURS TO PROVE THIS OPINION FROM ISAIAH AND THE APOCALYPSE.)

Contrary to Justin’s statements concerning the Scriptures…

1.) Isaiah makes no mention of a thousand years.
2.) The Apostle John does not say that “Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem”. (Read Revelation 20:1-15 for yourself and see).
3.) A literal reading of the Apocalypse has the “new heavens and the new earth” after the millennium, not during it (Revelation 21:1).

There are a few aspects of Justin’s Millennium that differ from that of modern premillennialism, most notably Justin’s “replacement theology”. In fact, Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho is full of replacement theology. Citing just one example:

“Then I said again, "Would you suppose, sirs, that we could ever have understood these matters in the Scriptures, if we had not received grace to discern by the will of Him whose pleasure it was? in order that the saying of Moses might come to pass, 'They provoked me with strange [gods], they provoked me to anger with their abominations. They sacrificed to demons whom they knew not; new gods that came newly up, whom their fathers knew not. Thou hast forsaken God that begat thee, and forgotten God that brought thee up. And the Lord saw, and was jealous, and was provoked to anger by reason of the rage of His sons and daughters: and He said, I will turn My face away from them, and I will show what shall come on them at the last; for it is a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. They have moved Me to jealousy with that which is not God, they have provoked Me to anger with their idols; and I will move them to jealousy with that which is not a nation, I will provoke them to anger with a foolish people. For a fire is kindled from Mine anger, and it shall burn to Hades. It shall consume the earth and her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains; I will heap mischief on them.' And after that Righteous One was put to death, we flourished as another people, and shot forth as new and prosperous corn; as the prophets said, 'And many nations shall betake themselves to the Lord in that day for a people: and they shall dwell in the midst of all the earth.' But we are not only a people, but also a holy people, as we have shown already. 'And they shall call them the holy people, redeemed by the Lord.' Therefore we are not a people to be despised, nor a barbarous race, nor such as the Carian and Phrygian nations; but God has even chosen us and He has become manifest to those who asked not after Him. 'Behold, I am God,' He says, 'to the nation which called not on My name.' For this is that nation which God of old promised to Abraham, when He declared that He would make him a father of many nations; not meaning, however, the Arabians, or Egyptians, or Idumaeans, since Ishmael became the father of a mighty nation, and so did Esau; and there is now a great multitude of Ammonites. Noah, moreover, was the father of Abraham, and in fact of all men; and others were the progenitors of others. What larger measure of grace, then, did Christ bestow on Abraham? This, namely, that He called him with His voice by the like calling, telling him to quit the land wherein he dwelt. And He has called all of us by that voice, and we have left already the way of living in which we used to spend our days, passing our time in evil after the fashions of the other inhabitants of the earth; and along with Abraham we shall inherit the holy land, when we shall receive the inheritance for an endless eternity, being children of Abraham through the like faith. For as he believed the voice of God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness, in like manner we having believed God's voice spoken by the apostles of Christ, and promulgated to us by the prophets, have renounced even to death all the things of the world. Accordingly, He promises to him a nation of similar faith, God-fearing, righteous, and delighting the Father; but it is not you, 'in whom is no faith.'” (Dialogue with Trypho, CHAPTER CXIX -- CHRISTIANS ARE THE HOLY PEOPLE PROMISED TO ABRAHAM. THEY HAVE BEEN CALLED LIKE ABRAHAM.)

In conclusion, Justin is the second of our church fathers who can be fairly labeled a premillennialist (Papias the other), though merely through assertion, not sound exegesis. I would ask, however, if one can adopt Justin as an authority on the millennium and reject his views of Judaism.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Amillennialism of Barnabus [A.D. 100]

Barnabus is touted by many to be a premillennialist, and no less of an authority then Phillip Schaff has stated as much.

"Among the Apostolic Fathers BARNABAS is the first and the only one who expressly teaches a pre-millennial reign of Christ on earth. He considers the Mosaic history of the creation a type of six ages of labor for the world, each lasting a thousand years, and of a millennium of rest; since with God “one day is as a thousand years.” The millennial Sabbath on earth will be followed by an eighth and eternal day in a new world, of which the Lord’s Day (called by Barnabas “the eighth day”) is the type.” (Phillip Schaff – History of the Christian Church Vol. II, p. 617)

Barnabus seems to be the first to adopt the “day is a thousand years” theory to the entire scope of world history, and the assumption is that the seventh “day” would be the millennial reign of Christ. However, while it is fair to say that the writings of Barnabus hint at a millennium, I can find no evidence that Barnabus “expressly teaches a pre-millennial reign of Christ on earth”. In fact, what we see is quite the opposite.

“Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. “And He rested on the seventh day.” This meaneth: when His Son, coming [again], shall destroy the time of the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the sun, and the moon, and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day.” (The Epistle of Barnabus, Chap. XV. — The False and the True Sabbath)

Barnabus places the Advent and the judgment of the ungodly at the Second Advent, whereas Premillennialism requires a thousand year earthly reign between the Advent and the judgment of the ungodly. Barnabus has “all things” being finished "in six thousand years", thus bringing into question whether or not the seventh day is a millennium, or eternity.

Barnabus is a futurist regarding antichrist, though he considered antichrist to be imminent. Like almost all of the church fathers, Barnabus held to what has been called “replacement theology”. Both of these points are made clear in Chap. IV. — Antichrist Is at Hand: Let Us Therefore Avoid Jewish Errors, and Chap. V. — The New Covenant, Founded on the Sufferings of Christ, Tends to Our Salvation, but to the Jews’ Destruction.

In conclusion, there is a hint of chiliasm in Barnabus, but his eschatology can best be described as amillennial futurist, possibly postmillennial.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Amillennialism of Ignatius [A.D. 30-107]

Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was martyred during the reign of Trajan (A.D. 98-117). In His Epistle to the Magnesians, Chapter XI, he states:

“He also died, and rose again, and ascended into the heavens to Him that sent Him, and is sat down at His right hand, and shall come at the end of the world, with His Father’s glory, to judge the living and the dead, and to render to every one according to his works.”

He places Christ’s coming “at the end of the world”, thus denying any earthly millennium. In addition, the purpose of His coming is “to judge the living and the dead, and to render to every one according to his works”, not to reign from some earthly temple made of human hands.

In addition, Ignatius knew nothing of any special covenant with Christ-rejecting Jews. In the same Epistle, Ignatius writes:

“It is absurd to speak of Jesus Christ with the tongue, and to cherish in the mind a Judaism which has now come to an end. For where there is Christianity there cannot be Judaism.” (Epistle to the Magnesians, Chapter X).

Ignatius’ “Replacement Theology” continues…

“If any one preaches the one God of the law and the prophets, but denies Christ to be the Son of God, he is a liar, even as also is his father the devil, (Comp. John 8:44) and is a Jew falsely so called, being possessed of mere carnal circumcision.” (Epistle to the Philadelphians, Chapter VI)

Thus, Ignatius is clearly Amillennial, and his views on Judaism would be rejected by today's premillennialists.

Note: I am using the term “amillennial” in a broad sense, based solely on writings concerning the timing of the resurrection and judgment when compared to the Second Advent. Postmillennialism is a possibility here as well, as both schools lump all three events together.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Inconclusive Eschatology of Polycarp [A.D. 65-100]

In Chapter 7 of Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians, Polycarp mentions the resurrection and the final judgment, but makes no mention whatsover of a millennium. He also defines antichrist biblically, not expecting him to be a future, worldwide dictator.

Chap. VII. — Avoid the Docetae, and Persevere in Fasting and Prayer.
“For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist;” (1 John 4:3) and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from (Comp. Jude 1:3) the beginning; “watching unto prayer,” (1 Peter 4:7) and persevering in fasting; beseeching in our supplications the all-seeing God “not to lead us into temptation,” (Matthew 6:13; Matthew 26:41) as the Lord has said: “The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41).

What little information we can glean from Polycarp’s eschatology supports amillennialism, though it is far from conclusive.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Preterism of Mathetes [A.D. 65]

There is very little mention of specific eschatological events in Mathetes (meaning “disciple”) Epistle to Diognetus, yet there are some items of interest in relation to premillennial assumptions. While it is common to date the Epistle at a later date, it sees quite clear that it is a pre-70 AD work, due to contemporary events. Mathetes mentions the practice of Old Covenant Judaism, a religion that ceased to exist in 70 AD. In Chap. XI. — These Things Are Worthy to Be Known and Believed, Mathetes claims to have “been a disciple of the Apostles”, thus placing his work in the First Century.

Chap. III. — Superstitions of the Jews.
And next, I imagine that you are most desirous of hearing something on this point, that the Christians do not observe the same forms of divine worship as do the Jews. The Jews, then, if they abstain from the kind of service above described, and deem it proper to worship one God as being Lord of all, [are right]; but if they offer Him worship in the way which we have described, they greatly err. For while the Gentiles, by offering such things to those that are destitute of sense and hearing, furnish an example of madness; they, on the other hand by thinking to offer these things to God as if He needed them, might justly reckon it rather an act of folly than of divine worship. For He that made heaven and earth, and all that is therein, and gives to us all the things of which we stand in need, certainly requires none of those things which He Himself bestows on such as think of furnishing them to Him. But those who imagine that, by means of blood, and the smoke of sacrifices and burnt-offerings, they offer sacrifices [acceptable] to Him, and that by such honours they show Him respect, — these, by supposing that they can give anything to Him who stands in need of nothing, appear to me in no respect to differ from those who studiously confer the same honour on things destitute of sense, and which therefore are unable to enjoy such honours.

Chap. IV. — The Other Observances of the Jews.
But as to their scrupulosity concerning meats, and their superstition as respects the Sabbaths, and their boasting about circumcision, and their fancies about fasting and the new moons, which are utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice, — I do not think that you require to learn anything from me. For, to accept some of those things which have been formed by God for the use of men as properly formed, and to reject others as useless and redundant, — how can this be lawful? And to speak falsely of God, as if He forbade us to do what is good on the Sabbath-days, — how is not this impious? And to glory in the circumcision of the flesh as a proof of election, and as if, on account of it, they were specially beloved by God, — how is it not a subject of ridicule? And as to their observing months and days, (Comp. Galatians 4:10) as if waiting upon the stars and the moon, and their distributing, according to their own tendencies, the appointments of God, and the vicissitudes of the seasons, some for festivities, and others for mourning, — who would deem this a part of divine worship, and not much rather a manifestation of folly? I suppose, then, you are sufficiently convinced that the Christians properly abstain from the vanity and error common [to both Jews and Gentiles], and from the busy-body spirit and vain boasting of the Jews; but you must not hope to learn the mystery of their peculiar mode of worshipping God from any mortal.”

Contrary to premillennial assumptions, Mathetes did not consider Judaism to be a “proof of election” or it practitioners to be “specially beloved by God”. Instead, Mathetes considered Judaism to be “a subject of ridicule”, and “a manifestation of folly”. If Mathetes believed in a future Jewish kingdom, he made no mention of it.

Mathetes also speaks of what appears to be the Neronic Persecution, following the statement that God “will yet send Him to judge us, and who shall endure His appearing”.

Chap. VII. — The Manifestation of Christ.
…This [messenger] He sent to them. Was it then, as one might conceive, for the purpose of exercising tyranny, or of inspiring fear and terror? By no means, but under the influence of clemency and meekness. As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Saviour He sent Him, and as seeking to persuade, not to compel us; for violence has no place in the character of God. As calling us He sent Him, not as vengefully pursuing us; as loving us He sent Him, not as judging us. For He will yet send Him to judge us, and who shall endure His appearing? ... Do you not see them exposed to wild beasts, that they may be persuaded to deny the Lord, and yet not overcome? Do you not see that the more of them are punished, the greater becomes the number of the rest? This does not seem to be the work of man: this is the power of God; these are the evidences of His manifestation.”

Having Christians exposed to wild beasts is a description of Nero’s persecution.

“Nero even refined upon cruelty, and contrived all manner of punishments for the Christians that the most infernal imagination could design. In particular, he had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs until they expired; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them.” (Fox’s Book of Martyrs, Chapter 2, Part 1).
While there is nothing conclusive about the eschatology in Mathetes‘ Epistle, what little we do have tends to support Preterism. The rejection of New Testament Judaism as being a Biblical religion is a recurring theme among the early church fathers, and is a sticky issue for any premillennialist who attempts to use patristics to support his modern eschatology.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Amillennialism of the Didache [60-200 AD]

The Didache, otherwise called “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles”, is said to support premillennialism. As we shall see, this claim is totally unwarranted.

Chap. 16 - Watchfulness; the Coming of the Lord.
Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but those who endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth: first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet. And third, the resurrection of the dead -- yet not of all, but as it is said: "The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him." Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.”

It is clear that the writers of the Didache held to a futurist view of the Lord’s Coming at the time this work was written. As with Clement of Rome and the Shepherd of Hermas, dating is the key. Scholars have suggested dates ranging from the time of the Apostles to the third Century.

“The Didache ("The Teaching") is one of the most fascinating yet perplexing documents to emerge from the early church. The title (in ancient times "The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles") was known from references to it by Athanasius, Didymus, and Eusebius, and Serapion of Thmuis (4th century) has a quotation from it in his Eucharistic prayer [Richardson] p. 163. But no copy was known until 1873, when Bryennios discovered the codex Hierosolymitanus, which contained the full text of the Didache which he published in 1883. Since then it has been the focus of scholarly attention to an extent quite out of proportion to its modest length. Yet such basic information as who wrote and where and when remain as much as mystery as when it was first discovered… Dating the Didache is difficult because there is a lack of hard evidence and it is a composite document. It may have been put into its present form as late as 150 CE, though a date considerably closer to the end of the 1st century seems more probable. The materials from which it was composed, however, reflect the state of the church at an even earlier time. A very thorough commentary, [Audet], suggests about 70 CE and he is not likely to be off by more than a decade.” (From The Development of the Canon of the New Testament).

Here are some dates proposed by scholars.

Jean-P. Audet: “50-70 AD.”
Stephen J. Patterson: “end of the first century or the beginning of the second.”
Stevan Davies: “written sometime in the late first or early second century.”

If, in fact, the Didache was written prior to AD 70, then we have possible evidence for preterism. Otherwise, a reader of the Didache would have to conclude that it supports either amillennial or postmillennial futurism. The Didache teaches that the resurrection of the dead precedes the coming of the Lord, but mentions absolutely nothing about a millennium.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Papias [A.D. 70-155], the first Premillennialist???

While we have no direct writings of Papias, he was quoted by a number of later church fathers. From these, we have been able to obtain Fragments of Papias in a work entitled “Oracles of the Lord”. Papias was apparently a premillennialist, though it is said that he learned this Doctrine “from unwritten tradition” and “strange parables and instructions of the Saviour” (The inspired Word of God makes no mention of an earthly millennium). Eusebius writes the following concerning Papias:

“The same person, moreover, has set down other things as coming to him from unwritten tradition, amongst these some strange parables and instructions of the Saviour, and some other things of a more fabulous nature. Amongst these he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth.” (Exposition of the Oracles of the Lord - Fragment VI).

Through this second hand account, we see that it is likely that Papias was the earliest to hold to Premillennialism in some form or other.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Inconclusive Eschatology of The Shepherd of Hermas [A.D. 60-210]

It is very difficult to draw any sort of eschatological conclusion from the Shepherd of Hermas, due to the literary style of the work, and the controversy surrounding it’s author and date. Nonetheless, I found it worthwhile to examine the Shepherd due to the claims by some that it supports the premillennial view, as well as to leave no stone unturned. The Shepherd makes many references to the kingdom of God, but always deals with it as a present reality, a Spiritual kingdom. Then again, so do many premillennialists. The author says nothing about a millennium, and even references to the Second Advent are questionable. The writer viewed the great tribulation as yet future, yet expected to take place in the lifetime of his listeners.

“Ye therefore that work righteousness be steadfast, and be not double-minded, that ye may have admission with the holy angels. Blessed are ye, as many as endure patiently the great tribulation that cometh, and as many as shall not deny their life.” (Vision II, 2:7)

“Go therefore, and declare to the elect of the Lord His mighty works, and tell them that this beast is a type of the great tribulation which is to come. If therefore ye prepare yourselves beforehand, and repent (and turn) unto the Lord with your whole heart, ye shall be able to escape it, if your heart be made pure and without blemish, and if for the remaining days of your life ye serve the Lord blamelessly. Cast your cares upon the Lord and He will set them straight.” (Vision IV, 2:5)

When was the Shepherd of Hermas written? If it can be established that the writing was prior to 70 AD, then we have strong evidence for preterism. The work makes no mention of the Destruction of Jerusalem, but that is merely an argument from silence. Kenneth Gentry explains the difficulty in dating the Shepherd.

“The indeterminate status of the dating of The Shepherd is directly related to the problem of ascertaining its authorship. Lightfoot’s analysis of the matter will guide our thinking.’ Was it written by (1) the Hermas greeted by Paul in Romans 16:14, as Origen suggests? Or by (2) the brother of Pius I (c. A.D. 140-150), as the Muratorian Canon (c. A.D. 180) teaches? Or by (3) some unknown Hermas who lived in the time of the bishopric of Clement of Rome (A.D. 90-100), as Zahn, Caspan, and others argue? Unfortunately, an assured conclusion on the date of The Shepherd may never be reached.” (Kenneth Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation, p. 86)

It is quite clear that the Shepherd of Hermas borrows imagery from the Book of Revelation. R. H. Charles explains:

“The fact that Hermas used the same imagery as [the Apocalypse] may be rightly used as evidence that he knew it. Thus the Church, (Vis. ii. 4), is represented by a woman (cf [Rev] 12:1 sqq.); the enemy of the Church by a beast (Vis. lv. 6-10, [Rev] 13) out of the mouth of the beasts proceed fiery locusts, (Vis. iv. 1, 6, [Rev] 9:3) whereas the foundation stones of the Heavenly Jerusalem bear the names of the Twelve Apostles, ([Rev] 21:14), and those who overcome are made pillars in the spiritual temple, ([Rev] 3:12), in Hermas the apostles and other teachers of the Church form the stones of the heavenly tower erected by the archangels, (Vis. iii. 5. 1). The faithful in both are clothed in white and are given crowns to wear, ([Rev] 6:11 etc., 2: 10; 3:10; Hermas, Sire. viii. 2. 1, 3).” (R. H. Charles, The Revelation of St. John)

Despite this repeated use of the Book of Revelation by the author of the Shepherd, he makes no mention whatsoever of an earthly millennium. However, this is still an argument from silence. Therefore, the eschatological position of the Shepherd of Hermas remains undetermined. It is certainly not support the claims of premillennialists.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Clement of Rome [A.D. 30-100] - Amillennial Preterist

The premillennialist appeal to the apostolic fathers is built on two flawed premises.

1.) The earliest church fathers were less prone to error than later fathers, since they lived closer to the time of the apostles.

2.) The earliest church fathers were premillennialists.

With regard to the first premise, it is entirely unfounded. It is quite apparent that heresy can sneak into the church very quickly, particularly in light of the influence of Judaism in the early church (the source of much premillennial thinking). Most of the New Testament was written to correct doctrinal errors that crept in to the church within decades of its birth. How much more error could be expected a century or more later? It could be argued that church fathers in later periods would be more trustworthy, as they were able to learn from the mistakes of earlier fathers.

With regard to the second premise, the purpose of this blog series is to refute it. If church history is the strongest leg that Premillennialism is standing on, it is about to fall over.

In order to understand the eschatology of Clement’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, we must first establish the date of its writing. The popular, but not real compelling, date is around 96 AD, and since Clement makes illusions to the parable of the fig tree and relates them to a future coming, Premillennialists often use Clement to support futurism.

“The all-merciful and beneficent Father has bowels [of compassion] towards those who fear Him, and kindly and lovingly bestows His favours upon those who come to Him with a simple mind. So let us not be double-minded; neither let our soul be lifted up on account of His exceedingly great and glorious gifts. Far from us be that which is written, "Wretched are they who are of a double mind, and of a doubting heart; who say, These things we have heard even in the times of our fathers; but, behold, we have grown old, and none of them has happened to us.." You foolish ones! compare yourselves to a tree: take [for instance] the vine. First of all, it sheds its leaves, then it buds, next it puts forth leaves, and then it flowers; after that comes the sour grape, and then follows the ripened fruit. You perceive how in a little time the fruit of a tree comes to maturity. Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scripture also bears witness, saying, "Speedily will He come, and will not tarry;" and, "The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Holy One, for whom you look."”

Yet a close examination of Clement’s Epistle shows that is was clearly written before 70 AD, as it speaks of Judaism being practiced in Jerusalem

"Let every one of you, brethren, give thanks to God in his own order, living in all good conscience, with becoming gravity, and not going beyond the rule of the ministry prescribed to him. Not in every place, brethren, are the daily sacrifices offered, or the peace-offerings, or the sin-offerings and the trespass-offerings, but in Jerusalem only. And even there they are not offered in any place, but only at the altar before the temple, that which is offered being first carefully examined by the high priest and the ministers already mentioned. Those, therefore, who do anything beyond that which is agreeable to His will, are punished with death. You see, brethren, that the greater the knowledge that has been vouchsafed to us, the greater also is the danger to which we are exposed."

With that in mind, we can see that Clement expected Christ to come “soon and suddenly”, and “speedily”, warning that He “will not tarry”. Like the time frame references in Scripture, there is no mistaken about the timing of Christ’s coming in I Clement. If Clement is to be taken seriously in terms of eschatology, only a preterist interpretation would suffice. If it was assumed that Clement was writing of Christ’s Second Advent as opposed to His judgment “coming” against apostate Israel (Matthew 16:27-28, Matthew 21:33-45), then we would have to conclude that He was just plain wrong.

Clement writes of the resurrection (Chapters 24 through 28) and the final judgment (Chapter 35), yet makes no mention of a millennium. If Clement, who wrote so much in terms of eschatology, actually believed in an earthly reign of Christ, then it would have been a tremendous oversight for him not to include it. Therefore, it must be concluded that the end times views of Clement of Rome are best described as amillennial preterist.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Eschatology of the Early Church

In my last few debates with premillennialists concerning eschatology, the discussion has led away from Scripture and towards discussions about what the early church fathers believed. Premillennialists claim that their view was the predominant view in the early church, and that the “Roman Apostasy” was responsible for its absence until shortly after the Reformation. It is this subject matter, as well as other historical issues, that prompted this blog.

First and foremost, I need to put church history in its proper place. The absence of an earthly “millennium” in Scripture is reason enough to reject it, even if every church father in history held to it. Scripture is the final test of doctrinal truth, not popular vote. That said, we should also be very slow to overturn a doctrine that has been established by the church fathers for centuries. It is arrogant to ignore the works of men who have labored in both Word and Doctrine, so church history does carry some weight when interpreting Scripture.

In light of this, was premillennialism the predominant view in the early church? In order to answer that question, we need to carefully define what we are looking for. Dr. Michael Vlach confuses chialism with premillennialism when he writes,

“The doctrine of Premillennialism has strong support in church history. In fact, Premillennialism was the prevailing millennial view for the first 300 years of church history. As the historian Philip Schaff states, “The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millenarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment". (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 2:614).”

The Biblicist Website makes the same error, claiming that “The term chiliasm has been superseded by the designation premillennialism...". This is simply not true. A chiliast is one who simply believes in a literal millennium, and that would include classical postmillennialists as well. In order to establish premillennialism in the early church, it will need to be shown that,

1.) The Church believed that Christ’s Return would take place before the millennium.

2.) The Church believed that the millennium was a literal earthly reign.

It is difficult to establish the eschatological beliefs of many church fathers, as some seemed to change their view over time, and others were just inconsistent. However, once premillennialism is clearly defined as above, we shall see that true premillennialism was rare in the early church (it did exist), and those who did hold this view had other eschatological beliefs that are inconsistent with the modern view.

“But it is not correct to say, as premillenarians do, that it was generally accepted in the first three centuries. The truth of the matter is that the adherents of this doctrine were a rather limited number. There is no trace of it in Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Tatian, Athenogoras, Theophilus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Dionysius, and other important church fathers.” (Louis Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines, p. 262).

“Among the Apostolic Fathers BARNABAS is the first and the only one who expressly teaches a pre-millennial reign of Christ on earth. He considers the Mosaic history of the creation a type of six ages of labor for the world, each lasting a thousand years, and of a millennium of rest; since with God “one day is as a thousand years.” The millennial Sabbath on earth will be followed by an eighth and eternal day in a new world, of which the Lord’s Day (called by Barnabas “the eighth day”) is the type.” (Phillip Schaff – History of the Christian Church Vol. II, p. 617)

Friday, October 5, 2007



This blog is for the purpose of examining Christianity in the light of History. I will attempt, to the best of my ability, to examine church doctrines in the light of church history, and examine the faith of men throught history, particularly American and European History.

Comments are Welcome, as I can always learn from others. However, comments, while disagreeable, must be respectful, and should address the topic at hand.

God Bless,

Puritan Lad