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.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Like the Bible, Polycarp made a distinction between the resurrection and the judgment. The two are very different and are at different times.
Look up "second death".

Puritan Lad said...

"at different times"...

What evidence do you have of ths from:

1.) The Bible?

2.) Polycarp?

3.) The other writings that you mentioned?

Are you a premillennialist? If so, yoiu have much more to prove here than just "different times", though that would be a start.

Anonymous said...

Ignatious is out as a very early witness, right?

Three feasts (Ex. 23:14). Barley (pre Christ), wheat (believers), grapes (everyone one).

Lord's day is not Sunday per se, but is about the first day and eighth day (Sunday). See Jesus w/o Thomas and w/ Thomas.

1000 days as one day (that's the definition of Lord's day).

Rev. 20:4 they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first (chief, best) resurrection.

So, when Polycarp and Papias speak of the resurrection and the judgment they are referring to the starting and ending of that 1000 year reign. Barley happened with Christ's resurrection (Mt. 27:52). Wheat happens pre 1000 year reign. Grapes/judgment at the end.

Puritan Lad said...

Anonymous: "Ignatious is out as a very early witness, right?"

Response: Not so. At best, you have established that an Ignatius imposter in 250 AD was Amillennial, but that is quite debatable.

Anonymous: "when Polycarp and Papias speak of the resurrection and the judgment they are referring to the starting and ending of that 1000 year reign."

Response: I've already acknowledged Papias as a premillennialist, albeit through Eusebius as a secondary witness. With regards to Polycarp, this is an assertion, but you haven't given any evidence for this. (if the eisogesis that you wrote is the best argument that you have for premillennialism in the early church, I'd say that it has been weighed in the balances and found wanting.) Let's face it, a literal 1000 earthly reign by Christ would be a pretty significant event. I would expect that those who held to this belief would have expressly said so, yet Polycarp is (at best) silent on the issue. He mentions both the resurrection and the judgment in the above statement together as crucial doctrines, but fails to mention the 1000 separation.

But your biggest problem is Scripture itself.

"Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment." (John 5:28-29)

For Christ himself to have ignore his interim 1000 reign between these these resurrections was quite an oversight, was it not?

"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed." (2 Peter 3:10)

If the heavens, earth, and heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved at His coming, then what is He supposed to reign over for 1000 years?

Anonymous said...

The longer version of Ignatius is generally thought to be added c350 or after. The point is he is not a witness as you said. You may say, an imposter witnesses to amil and at a later date. But not Ignatus and not c150.

Anonymous said...

Polycarp: "... and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, ..."

If Polycarp wanted us to think that was one and the same event, he would not have used that language; ie, neither this nor that. Two things, two events.

As to your Jn. 5:28-29 issue, back up to v24. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. "

This resurrection or condemnation/judgment.

I've already quoted Rev. 20 that shows the two times to come. Barley has already taken place (Jn. 5). Wheat and grapes is coming.

2 Peter 3:10 refers to the eighth day, the period after the 1000 year seventh day reign.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, John 5 takes place at a feast.

Jn. 2-4 references Passover
Jn. 5 references Tabernacles
Jn. 6 Passover
Jn. 7 Tabernacles
Jn. 12 Passover
Jn. resurrection w/o Thomas and w/ Thomas references Tabernacles

EricfromAz said...

Many people have placed an interval of 1000 yrs between Christ's 2nd Coming and the great white throne judgement based on a overliteral form of interpretation of scripture. However, this is not what Jesus said would happen. He said when he returns he will judge "everyone"! No 1000 years later for some. When he returns all enter eternity, some to everlasting life and others to everlasting condemation.

EricfromAz said...

Btw, I am an amillenialist,and prior was a pretribulationalist. Also I would like to add this: it is great to study the church fathers and what they had to say on subjects, but scripture is much more important, and the bible does not speak of an earthly reign of Christ from earthly Jerusalem.

Puritan Lad said...

Anonymous: "If Polycarp wanted us to think that was one and the same event, he would not have used that language; ie, neither this nor that. Two things, two events."

Response: We agree that there are two events. But the burden of proof is upon you to show that there is a 1,000 year gap in between, and to explain why Polycarp failed to mention such. Unlike premillennialists, he seems to connect these events together.

Anonymous: "I've already quoted Rev. 20 that shows the two times to come. Barley has already taken place (Jn. 5). Wheat and grapes is coming."

Response: Like I said, this is pure eisogesis. Rev. 20 says nothing about Barley, Wheat, or Grapes. You read this into the passage without any justification.

Anonymous: "2 Peter 3:10 refers to the eighth day, the period after the 1000 year seventh day reign."

Response: So there is a Third Advent? There are few premillennialists who would actually admit this. Do you have any defense of this position, or is this merely an assertion?

Anonymous said...

Rev. 20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

4 and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first resurrection (refers to v4).

6 Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

7 And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,


Rev. 20 clearly lays it out for us.

Anonymous said...

When Christ returns, He does judge everyone.

"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. "

That is a judgment of who will reign with Him during the 1000 years. At the end of 1000 years, there is another judgment that those of the first have no part (do not fear the second death).

"But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first resurrection. "

Anonymous said...

The reason 'the gap' of 1000 years is not explicitly mentioned is they understood what 'the Lord's day' meant, which is unlike how it came to be defined.

Lord's is an adjective, a description of the type of day. It is the 1000 year day; it is not a Sunday.

When Jesus stood and read from Isaiah, He paused in the middle of the sentence.

Puritan Lad said...

"When Jesus stood and read from Isaiah, He paused in the middle of the sentence."

Anonymous,

With all due respect, it is this type of argument that shows the theological ineptness of premillennialism. I must ask, how in the world could you possibly know this. How do you know he paused, and even if he did, how does that justify belief in a 1,000 year earthly reign? That's similar to the argument if Revelation for the pre-trib rapture on the basis that the church isn't mentioned after chapter 4.

What will you do with the fact that Scripture teaches the resurrection of the righteous on the last day? (Daniel 12:13, John 6:44;54) (and please don't suggest that this last "day" is the millennium unless you can prove it)

tbtrnow said...

I completely agree with you Puritanlad. On the last day all will be judged. It cannot get any clearer can it?

Anonymous said...

I assume we believe "it is written". Perhaps I err.

Lk. 4:19-20 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book ...

Is. 61:1-2 ... To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

See?

Anonymous said...

Who are the folks who arose with Christ at Mt. 27:52? Obviously there is more to the assertion 'on the last day all are judged'. Or do you have no hope, since resurrection appears over?

Puritan Lad said...

I fail to see the "pause". If anything he stopped completely.

But even if we assume this, I fail to see how this justifies the idea that Christ will return to earth to set up His throne in Jerusalem for 1,000 years prior to the judgment,

Puritan Lad said...

I'm not sure how the resurrection of many OT saints in Matthew removes hope of a future resurrection, nor how it supports premillennialism. Please expound.

Anonymous said...

PL said: What will you do with the fact that Scripture teaches the resurrection of the righteous on the last day? (Daniel 12:13, John 6:44;54) (and please don't suggest that this last "day" is the millennium unless you can prove it)

I replied with Mt. 27:52. Obviously they were resurrected. If so, then the resurrection of the righteous on the last day has already taken place.

Else, one might consider the three types of harvest (resurrection) as shown us in the instruction manual (OT, per Paul).

Barley--OT at Mt. 27:52
Wheat--NT (pentecost) at start of 1000 year reign per Rev. 20
Grapes--tabernacles (all others)