Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Premillennialism of Tertullian [A.D. 181]

Tertullian was a lawyer and Christian Apologist who is known as the Father of Latin Christianity. He later joined a heretical group known as the Montanists, who held to continuing revelation and viewed their own prophecies as superior to the Canon. Though most Montanists were Modalists, Tertullian and a few early Montanists were Trinitarian.

Tertullian was indeed a premillennialist, but his premillennialism has little in common with the modern version. He based his view of the millennium on the Montanist prophets, who held that the new Jerusalem would come to Phrygia in Asia Minor.

“But we do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven, only in another state of existence; inasmuch as it will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem, “let down from heaven,” (Revelation 21:2) which the apostle also calls “our mother from above;” (Galatians 4:26) and, while declaring that our πολίτευμα, or citizenship, is in heaven, (Philippians 3:20) he predicates of it that it is really a city in heaven. This both Ezekiel had knowledge of (Ezekiel 48:30-35) and the Apostle John beheld. (Revelation 21:10-23) And the word of the new prophecy which is a part of our belief, attests how it foretold that there would be for a sign a picture of this very city exhibited to view previous to its manifestation. This prophecy, indeed, has been very lately fulfilled in an expedition to the East.” (Against Marcion – Book III - Chap. XXIV. - Christ’s Millennial and Heavenly Glory in Company with His Saints)

Tertullian held that Antichrist would come at the fall of the Roman Empire, and bring the end of all things.

“There is also another and a greater necessity for our offering prayer in behalf of the emperors, nay, for the complete stability of the empire, and for Roman interests in general. For we know that a mighty shock impending 43 over the whole earth — in fact, the very end of all things threatening dreadful woes — is only retarded by the continued existence of the Roman empire. We have no desire, then, to be overtaken by these dire events; and in praying that their coming may be delayed, we are lending our aid to Rome’s duration.” (Apology, Chapter XXXII.)

“Remember ye not, that when I was with you, I used to tell you these things? And now ye know what detaineth, that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work; only he who now hinders must hinder, until he be taken out of the way.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-7) What obstacle is there but the Roman State, the falling away of which, by being scattered into ten kingdoms, shall introduce Antichrist upon (its own ruins)? “And then shall be revealed the wicked one, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10) (Resurrection - Chap. XXIV. - Other Passages Quoted from St. Paul, Which Categorically Assert the Resurrection of the Flesh at the Final Judgment.)

Despite his strange views on the millennium, Tertullian held to a past fulfillment of both Daniel and the Olivet Discourse. He considered Daniel’s Seventy Week prophecy to have seen it’s fulfillment in the First Advent of Christ and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem.

“In such wise, therefore, did Daniel predict concerning Him, as to show both when and in what time He was to set the nations free; and how, after the passion of the Christ, that city had to be exterminated. For he says thus: “In the first year under Darius, son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who reigned over the kingdom of the Chaldees, I Daniel understood in the books the number of the years.…And while I was yet speaking in my prayer, behold, the man Gabriel, whom I saw in the vision in the beginning, flying; and he touched me, as it were, at the hour of the evening sacrifice, and made me understand, and spake with me, and said, Daniel I am now come out to imbue thee with understanding; in the beginning of thy supplication went out a word. And I am come to announce to thee, because thou art a man of desires; and ponder thou on the word, and understand in the vision. Seventy hebdomads have been abridged upon thy commonalty, and upon the holy city, until delinquency be made inveterate, and sins sealed, and righteousness obtained by entreaty, and righteousness eternal introduced; and in order that vision and prophet may be sealed, and an holy one of holy ones anointed. And thou shalt know, and thoroughly see, and understand, from the going forth of a word for restoring and rebuilding Jerusalem unto the Christ, the Leader, hebdomads (seven and an half, and) 70 and an half: and it shall convert, and shall be built into height and entrenchment, and the times shall be renewed: and after these 70 hebdomads shall the anointing be exterminated, and shall not be; and the city and the holy place shall he exterminate together with the Leader, who is making His advent; and they shall be cut short as in a deluge, until (the) end of a war, which shall be cut short unto ruin. And he shall confirm a testament in many. In one hebdomad and the half of the hebdomad shall be taken away my sacrifice and libation, and in the holy place the execration of devastation, (and) until the end of (the) time consummation shall be given with regard to this devastation.” (An Answer To The Jews - Chap. VIII. - Of the Times of Christ’s Birth and Passion, and of Jerusalem’s Destruction)

Tertullian did have a futuristic view of Daniel 2, though it is clear that his view was influenced by his presuppositions concerning the end of all things at the destruction of Rome. Tertullian clearly held that Christ Advent in Daniel 2 would smite the Roman Empire. He knew nothing of a fifth world kingdom.

“Now these signs of degradation quite suit His first coming, just as the tokens of His majesty do His second advent, when He shall no longer remain “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence,” but after His rejection become “the chief corner-stone,” accepted and elevated to the top place of the temple, even His church, being that very stone in Daniel, cut out of the mountain, which was to smite and crush the image of the secular kingdom. (Daniel 2:34) Of this advent the same prophet says: “Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days; and they brought Him before Him, and there was given Him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away; and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” (see Daniel 7:13-14) (Against Marcion, Book III - Chap. VII. - Prophecy Sets Forth Two Different Conditions of Christ, One Lowly, the Other Majestic. This Fact Points to Two Advents of Christ.)

Tertullian wrote an entire treatise objecting to the Jewish rejection of the Messiah, though it isn’t clear whether or not he held to replacement theology. But while it is clear that Tertullian was a premillennialist, his views do not support modern premillennialism. Furthermore, Tertullian is certainly no champion of Christian Orthodoxy.

Monday, March 10, 2008

America The Beautiful - Judge Roy Moore

America the beautiful, or so you used to be.
Land of the Pilgrims' pride; I'm glad they'll never see.

Babies piled in dumpsters, Abortion on demand,
Oh, sweet land of liberty; your house is on the sand.

Our children wander aimlessly poisoned by cocaine
choosing to indulge their lusts, when God has said abstain.

From sea to shining sea, our Nation turns away
From the teaching of God's love and a need to always pray.

We've kept God in our temples, how callous we have grown.
When earth is but His footstool and Heaven is His throne.

We've voted in a government that's rotting at the core,
Appointing Godless Judges; who throw reason out the door,

Too soft to place a killer in a well deserved tomb,
But brave enough to kill a baby before he leaves the womb.

You think that God's not angry, that our land's a moral slum?
How much longer will He wait before His judgment comes?

How are we to face our God, from Whom we cannot hide?
What then is left for us to do, but stem this evil tide?

If we who are His children, will humbly turn and pray;
Seek His holy face and mend our evil way:

Then God will hear from Heaven; and forgive us of our sins,
He'll heal our sickly land and those who live within.

But, America the Beautiful, If you don't - then you will see,
A sad but Holy God withdraw His hand from Thee.

Judge Roy Moore

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Amillennial Preterism of Clement of Alexandria [A.D. 162]

Clement of Alexandria was a second century Christian apologist. Even though his theology was greatly influenced by Greek philosophy, his work was valuable in addressing the growing Gnostic heresies of that time. He addresses the Daniel’s 70 week prophecy, the Olivet Discourse, and places the timing of John’s banishment under Emperor Nero.

Clement clearly places the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70 week prophecy in 70 AD.

“From the captivity at Babylon, which took place in the time of Jeremiah the prophet, was fulfilled what was spoken by Daniel the prophet as follows: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to seal sins, and to wipe out and make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal the vision and the prophet, and to anoint the Holy of Holies. Know therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the word commanding an answer to be given, and Jerusalem to be built, to Christ the Prince, are seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; and the street shall be again built, and the wall; and the times shall be expended. And after the sixty-two weeks the anointing shall be overthrown, and judgment shall not be in him; and he shall destroy the city and the sanctuary along with the coming Prince. And they shall be destroyed in a flood, and to the end of the war shall be cut off by: desolations. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the middle of the week the sacrifice and oblation shall be taken away; and in the holy place shall be the abomination of desolations, and until the consummation of time shall the consummation be assigned for desolation. And in the midst of the week shall he make the incense of sacrifice cease, and of the wing of destruction, even till the consummation, like the destruction of the oblation.” That the temple accordingly was built in seven weeks, is evident; for it is written in Esdras. And thus Christ became King of the Jews, reigning in Jerusalem in the fulfillment of the seven weeks. And in the sixty and two weeks the whole of Judaea was quiet, and without wars. And Christ our Lord, “the Holy of Holies,” having come and fulfilled the vision and the prophecy, was anointed in His flesh by the Holy Spirit of His Father. In those “sixty and two weeks,” as the prophet said, and “in the one week,” was He Lord. The half of the week Nero held sway, and in the holy city Jerusalem placed the abomination; and in the half of the week he was taken away, and Otho, and Galba, and Vitellius. And Vespasian rose to the supreme power, and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the holy place. And that such are the facts of the case, is clear to him that is able to understand, as the prophet said.” - (Stromata – Book I Chapter 21, The Jewish Institutions and Laws of Far Higher Antiquity Than the Philosophy of the Greeks).

This clarified even more by his description of the Abomination of Desolation in Matthew 24:15.

“We have still to add to our chronology the following, - I mean the days which Daniel indicates from the desolation of Jerusalem, the seven years and seven months of the reign of Vespasian. For the two years are added to the seventeen months and eighteen days of Otho, and Galba, and Vitellius; and the result is three years and six months, which is “the half of the week,” as Daniel the prophet said. For he said that there were two thousand three hundred days from the time that the abomination of Nero stood in the holy city, till its destruction. For thus the declaration, which is subjoined, shows: “How long shall be the vision, the sacrifice taken away, the abomination of desolation, which is given, and the power and the holy place shall be trodden under foot? And he said to him, Till the evening and morning, two thousand three hundred days, and the holy place shall be taken away.” (Daniel 8:13-14). These two thousand three hundred days, then, make six years four months, during the half of which Nero held sway, and it was half a week; and for a half, Vespasian with Otho, Galba, and Vitellius reigned. And on this account Daniel says, “Blessed is he that cometh to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.” (Daniel 12:12) For up to these days was war, and after them it ceased. And this number is demonstrated from a subsequent chapter, which is as follows: “And from the time of the change of continuation, and of the giving of the abomination of desolation, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.” (Daniel 12:11-12)” - (Stromata – Book I Chapter 21, The Jewish Institutions and Laws of Far Higher Antiquity Than the Philosophy of the Greeks).

Clearly, Clement sees the main prophecies of Daniel as having been fulfilled in the first century. He also ties the abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15 to the same event. Regarding the fulfillment of the Olivet Discourse, Clement gives the following exposition.

“But our Master did not prophesy after this fashion; but, as I have already said, being a prophet by an inborn and every-flowing Spirit, and knowing all things at all times, He confidently set forth, plainly as I said before, sufferings, places, appointed times, manners, limits. Accordingly, therefore, prophesying concerning the temple, He said: "See ye these buildings? Verily I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another which shall not be taken away [Matt. 24:3]; and this generation shall not pass until the destruction begin [Matt. 24:34]. . . ." And in like manner He spoke in plain words the things that were straightway to happen, which we can now see with our eyes, in order that the accomplishment might be among those to whom the word was spoken.” (Clementine Homilia, 3:15. See Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, 8:241.)

Clement tells us that the events Jesus prophesied of were to happen within that generation, and that they could see the accomplishment of those things with their own eyes. While Clement doesn’t expound much on John’s Apocalypse, he does support the preterist view of both Daniel and the Olivet Discourse, all without mentioning a millennium.Clement was also the first church father to give a clue to the time frame in which John wrote the Book of Revelation.

“And to give you confidence, when you have thus truly repented, that there remains for you a trustworthy hope of salvation, hear a story that is no mere story, but a true account of John the apostle that has been handed down and preserved in memory. When after the death of the tyrant he removed from the island of’ Patmos to Ephesus, he used to journey by request to the neighboring districts of the Gentiles, in some places to appoint bishops, in others to regulate whole churches, in others to set among the clergy some one man, it may be, of those indicated by the Spirit.” (Clement - Quis Salvus Dives? - Section 42)

The “tyrant” is never identified by name. However, the universal fear and hatred of Nero makes him the most likely candidate. While many Roman emperors, including Domitian, were cruel tyrants, Nero was far and away the worst and most infamous. In the line of Roman tyrants, Domitian would have been mostly an afterthought, and would have likely been mentioned by name.

Clement did hold to a future advent of Christ, and like many throughout history, supposed that it would be within his own lifetime. Thus, while Dispensationalists like Thomas Ice use the “immanence” argument to support a “pre-trib” rapture, the only real conclusion that we can draw from this statement is that Clement was wrong. Clement’s eschatology is clearly not premillennial. He makes no mention of a millennium, holds that most, if not all, prophecies in Daniel and the gospels have been fulfilled. Therefore we must conclude that Clement’s eschatology is aligned with either amillennial or postmillennial preterism.