Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Amillennialism of Caius [A.D. 200]

Caius was a presbyter of Rome in the early Second Century. Though there aren’t many of his writings left for us today, we have enough to form a conclusion about his views on the millennium.
On the Millennium
“But Cerinthus, too, through revelations written, as he would have us believe, by a great apostle, brings before us marvelous things, which he pretends were shown him by angels; alleging that after the resurrection the kingdom of Christ is to be on earth, and that the flesh dwelling in Jerusalem is again to be subject to desires and pleasures. And being an enemy to the Scriptures of God, wishing to deceive men, he says that there is to be a space of a thousand years for marriage festivals.” (Caius Fragment from a Dialogue or Disputation Against Proclus)

Another interesting fragment from Caius deals with the dating of the Shepherd of Hermas, a subject of most importance concerning eschatology, but unfortunately difficult to arrive at a consensus on.

On the dating of the Shepherd of Hermas
“The Epistle of Jude, indeed, and two belonging to the above-named John - or bearing the name of John - are reckoned among the Catholic epistles. And the book of Wisdom, 604 written by the friends of Solomon in his honour. We receive also the Apocalypse of John and that of Peter, though some amongst us will not have this latter read in the Church. The Pastor, moreover, did Hermas write very recently in our times in the city of Rome, while his brother bishop Pius sat in the chair of the Church of Rome. And therefore it also ought to be read; but it cannot be made public in the Church to the people, nor placed among the prophets, as their number is complete, nor among the apostles to the end of time. Of the writings of Arsinous, called also Valentinus, or of Miltiades, we receive nothing at all. Those are rejected too who wrote the new Book of Psalms for Marcion, together with Basilides and the founder of the Asian Cataphrygians.” (Caius Fragment from Canon Muratorianus)

Caius was clearly amillennial, and a staunch opponent of Montanism.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Historicism of Cyprian [A.D. 250]

Cyprian was a disciple of Tertullian and served as the Bishop of Carthage from A.D. 248 until his martyrdom ten years later. He is often touted as a premillennialist by those who erroneously make the connection between the “6,000 years = 6 days” theory. Thus, they conclude that the 7th “day” is the millennium, despite the fact that both Irenaeus and Barnabus held this theory, yet had the end of all things after the 6th day, leaving no room for a millennium. For both of these fathers, the 7th day was eternity, not an earthly millennium. This appears to be the position of Cyprian as well.

“Seven brethren were thus associating in martyrdom. As the first seven days in the divine arrangement containing seven thousand of years, [Irenaeus, vol. 1. p. 551, and Barnabas, ib., p. 146.] as the seven spirits and seven angels which stand and go in and out before the face of God, and the seven-branched lamp in the tabernacle of witness, and the seven golden candlesticks in the Apocalypse, and the seven columns in Solomon upon which Wisdom built her house so here also the number seven of the brethren, embracing, in the quantity of their number, the seven churches, as likewise in the first book of Kings we read that the barren hath borne seven. And in Isaiah seven women lay hold on one man, whose name they ask to be called upon them. And the Apostle Paul, who refers to this lawful and certain number, writes to the seven churches. And in the Apocalypse the Lord directs His divine and heavenly precepts to the seven churches and their angels, which number is now found in this case, in the seven brethren, that a lawful consummation may be completed. With the seven children is manifestly associated also the mother, their origin and root, who subsequently begat seven churches, she herself having been first, and alone founded upon a rock by the voice of the Lord. Nor is it of no account that in their sufferings the 504 mother alone is with her children. For martyrs who witness themselves as the sons of God in suffering are now no more counted as of any father but God, as in the Gospel the Lord teaches, saying, “Call no man your father upon earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9)” (Cyprian – Treatise 11:11. That it was before predicted that the world would hold us in abhorrence, and that it would stir up persecutions against us, and that no new thing is happening to the Christians, since from the beginning of the world the good have suffered, and the righteous have been oppressed and slain by the unrighteous.)

However, Cyprian clearly interpreted Matthhew 23 as the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

“In Isaiah: "Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers shall devour it in your sight; and the daughter of Zion shall be left deserted, and overthrown by foreign peoples, as a cottage in a vineyard, and as a keeper's lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a city which is besieged. And unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we should have been as Sodoma, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." Also in the Gospel the Lord says: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldst not! Behold, your house shall be left unto you desolate." (Treatise XII - First Book Against the Jews, 6- That the Jews should lose Jerusalem, and should leave the land which they had received.)

In this same treatise 11:11, he strongly suggests a historicist view of both the Olivet Discourse and the Apocalypse, citing both in his treatment of the persecution of the righteous throughout history.

“And when He was interrogated by His disciples concerning the sign of His coming, and of the consummation of the world, He answered and said: “Take care lest any deceive you: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall begin to hear of wars, and rumours of wars; see that ye be not troubled: for these things must needs come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and earthquakes, and pestilences, in every place. But all these things are the beginnings of travailings. Then they shall deliver you up into affliction, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hateful to all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall arise, and shall seduce many; and because wickedness shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he who shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved. And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached through all the world, for a testimony to all nations; and then shall come the end. When, therefore, ye shall see the abomination of desolation which is spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him who readeth understand), then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let him which is on 503 the house-roof not go down to take anything from the house; and let him who is in the field not return back to carry away his clothes. But woe to them that are pregnant, and to those that are giving suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, nor on the Sabbath-day: for there shall be great tribulation, such as has not arisen from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall arise. And unless those days should be shortened, no flesh should be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any one shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or, Lo, there; believe him not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, to cause error, if it be possible, even to the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things. If, therefore, they shall say to you, Lo, he is in the desert; go not forth: lo, he is in the sleeping chambers; believe it not. For as the flashing of lightning goeth forth from the east, and appeareth even to the west, so also shall the coming of the Son of man be. Wheresoever the carcase shall be, there shall the eagles be gathered together. But immediately after the affliction of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be moved: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and all the tribes of the earth shall lament, and shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with great power and glory. And He shall send His angels with a great trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the heights of heaven, even into the farthest bounds thereof.” (Matthew 24:4-31) And these are not new or sudden things which are now happening to Christians; since the good and righteous, and those who are devoted to God in the law of innocence and the fear of true religion, advance always through afflictions, and wrongs, and the severe and manifold penalties of troubles, in the hardship of a narrow path.” (Cyprian – Treatise 11:11. That it was before predicted that the world would hold us in abhorrence, and that it would stir up persecutions against us, and that no new thing is happening to the Christians, since from the beginning of the world the good have suffered, and the righteous have been oppressed and slain by the unrighteous.)

Another interesting tidbit from this same treatise, the identity of antichrist being Antiochus Epiphanes.

“But what utterances of confessions did they herald forth! how illustrious, how great proofs of faith did they afford! The king Antiochus, their enemy — yea, in Antiochus Antichrist was set forth — sought to pollute the mouths of martyrs, glorious and unconquered in the spirit of confession, with the contagion of swine’s flesh; and when he had severely beaten them with whips, and could prevail nothing, commanded iron plates to be heated, which being heated and made to glow, he commanded him who had first spoken, and had more provoked the king with the constancy of his virtue and faith, to be brought up and roasted, his tongue having first been pulled out and cut off, which had confessed God; and this happened the more gloriously to the martyr.” (Cyprian – Treatise 11:11. That it was before predicted that the world would hold us in abhorrence, and that it would stir up persecutions against us, and that no new thing is happening to the Christians, since from the beginning of the world the good have suffered, and the righteous have been oppressed and slain by the unrighteous.)

However, Cyprian also seemed to believe in a future antichrist, coming as a man.

"Also of Antichrist, that he will come as a man.
In Isaiah: “This is the man who arouseth the earth, who disturbeth kings, who maketh the whole earth a desert.” (Isaiah 14:16)" (Treatise 12.5.118)

Like other Church fathers, Cyprian clearly was a “Replacement Theology”.

That the Gentiles rather than the Jews attain to the kingdom of heaven.
In the Gospel the Lord says: “Many shall come from the east and from the west, and shall lie down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; but the children of the kingdom shall go out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12) (Treatise XII - First Book Against the Jews, 23)

That by this alone the Jews can receive pardon of their sins, if they wash away the blood of Christ slain, in His baptism, and, passing over into His Church, obey His precepts.
In Isaiah the Lord says: “Now I will not release your sins. When ye stretch forth your hands, I will turn away my face from you; and if ye multiply prayers, I will not hear you: for your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; take away the wickedness from your souls from the sight of mine eyes; cease from your wickedness; learn to do good; seek judgment; 515 keep him who suffers wrong; judge for the orphan, and justify the widow. And come, let us reason together, saith the Lord: and although your sins be as scarlet, I will whiten them as snow; and although they were as crimson, I will whiten them as wool. And if ye be willing and listen to me, ye shall eat of the good of the land; but if ye be unwilling, and will not hear me, the sword shall consume you; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken these things.” (Isaiah 1:15-20) (Treatise XII - First Book Against the Jews, 24)

Cyprian seemed to hold to some sort of Historicism, viewing various passages of prophecies as having a continuous fulfillment throughout the church age. He did hold to a future human antichrist, but wrote little about the resurrection of the wicked, and wrote of Christ’s coming in Judgment, but said nothing of a millennium. If he indeed adopted the view of Irenaeus and Barnabus, then he was not a chiliast. Since he was a disciple of Tertullian, he very well may have been premillennial, but one cannot draw that conclusion through his writings.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Premillennialism of Hippolytus. [A.D. 200]

Little is known about Hippolytus, other than the fact that he lived during the late second and early third centuries. Some suggest he was a bishop at Rome, others at Porto, though it was possible that he was both at some time, or that there was more than one Hippolytus during this time. Hippolytus gives us the most complete eschatology of any church father during this time period, and has writings that support several different viewpoints.

Hippolytus seems to have been a premillennialist, expecting that Christ would set up an earthly reign in 530 AD (500 years after Christ’s First Advent, thus destroying the Roman Empire.

“For the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem, under Augustus, in the year 5500; and He suffered in the thirty-third year. And 6,000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day “on which God rested from all His works.” For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they “shall reign with Christ,” when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for “a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.” (Psalm 90:4) Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled. And they are not yet fulfilled, as John says: “five are fallen; one is,” that is, the sixth; “the other is not yet come.” (Revelation 17:10)” (Fragments Part I:III, Section II - The interpretation by Hippolytus, (bishop) of Rome, of the visions of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, taken in conjunction Section 4)

Hippolytus also considered the ten toes of Daniel to be ten Roman kings, whose evil rule would usher in the kingdom of Christ.

“After this, then, what remains, beloved, but the toes of the feet of the image, in which “part shall be of iron and part of clay mixed together?” By the toes of the feet he meant, mystically, the ten kings that rise out of that kingdom. As Daniel says, “I considered the beast; and, lo, (there were) ten horns behind, among which shall come up another little horn springing from them;” by which none other is meant than the antichrist that is to rise; and he shall set up the kingdom of Judah. And in saying that “three horns” were “plucked up by the roots” by this one, he indicates the three kings of Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia, whom this one will slay in the array of war. And when he has conquered all, he will prove himself a terrible and savage tyrant, and will cause tribulation and persecution to the saints, exalting himself against them. And after him, it remains that “the stone” shall come from heaven which “smote the image” and shivered it, and subverted all the kingdoms, and gave the kingdom to the saints of the Most High. This “became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” (Fragments Part I:III, Section II - The interpretation by Hippolytus, (bishop) of Rome, of the visions of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, taken in conjunction Section 2)

Yet while Hippolytus was premillennial, he seemed to hold to only one resurrection, and did not expect a future Jewish exaltation, but considered such belief a gross error.

“..but they confess that another Messiah will come, who as yet has no existence; and that he will usher in some of the signs which the law and the prophets have shown beforehand, whereas, regarding the rest (of these indications), they suppose that they have fallen into error. For they say that his generation will be from the stock of David, but not from a virgin and the Holy Spirit, but from a woman and a man, according as it is a rule for all to be procreated from seed. And they allege that this Messiah will be King over them, - a warlike and powerful individual, who, after having gathered together the entire people of the Jews, and having done battle with all the nations, will restore for them Jerusalem the royal city. And into this city He will collect together the entire Hebrew race, and bring it back once more into the ancient customs, that it may fulfil the regal and sacerdotal functions, and dwell in confidence for periods of time of sufficient duration. After this repose, it is their opinion that war would next be waged against them after being thus congregated; that in this conflict Christ would fall by the edge of the sword; and that, after no long time, would next succeed the termination and conflagration of the universe; and that in this way their opinions concerning the resurrection would receive completion, and a recompense be rendered to each man according to his works.” (Refutations Book 9 - Chap. XXV. - The Jewish Religion)

The set date for Christ’s advent, as well as an absence of world kingdom between the Rome and Christ’s Advent, make the writings of Hippolytus to be incompatible with modern premillennialism. It could be said that Hippolytus held to some modified form of Historical Premillennialism. However, accepting Hippolytus as a pure historicist has its own difficulties. Historicism is based on the idea that the seven churches in Revelation refer to seven “spiritual ages” of church history, and that certainly was not the view of Hippolytus. Concerning of the Nicolaitan Heresy, he writes:

“But Nicolaus has been a cause of the wide-spread combination of these wicked men. He, as one of the seven (that were chosen) for the diaconate, was appointed by the Apostles. (But Nicolaus) departed from correct doctrine, and was in the habit of inculcating indifferency of both life and food. And when the disciples (of Nicolaus) continued to offer insult to the Holy Spirit, John reproved them in the Apocalypse as fornicators and eaters of things offered unto idols. (Revelation 2:6)” (Refutations Book 7 - Chap. XXIV. - The Melchisedecians; the Nicolaitans.)

So Hippolytus was a premillennialist with a preterist view of Revelation 2 and a Historicist view of Daniel 2. He also applied the Olivet Discourse, as well as the great tribulation, to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

“What then? Are not these things come to pass? Are not the things announced by thee fulfilled? Is not their country, Judea, desolate? Is not the holy place burned with fire? Are not their walls cast down? Are not their cities destroyed? Their land, do not strangers devour it? Do not the Romans rule the country? And indeed these impious people hated thee, and did saw thee asunder, and they crucified Christ. Thou art dead in the world, but thou livest in Christ." (Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, 30)

“But why, O prophet, tell us, and for what reason, was the temple made desolate? Was it on account of that ancient fabrication of the calf? Was it on account of the idolatry of the people? Was it for the blood of the prophets? Was it for the adultery and fornication of Israel? By no means, he says; for in all these transgressions they always found pardon open to them, and benignity; but it was because they killed the Son of their Benefactor, for He is coeternal with the Father. Whence He saith, "Father, let their temple be made desolate; for they have persecuted Him whom Thou didst of Thine own will smite for the salvation of the world;" that is, they have persecuted me with a violent and unjust death, "and they have added to the pain of my wounds." In former time, as the Lover of man, I had pain on account of the straying of the Gentiles; but to this pain they have added another, by going also themselves astray. Wherefore "add iniquity to their iniquity, and tribulation to tribulation, and let them not enter into Thy righteousness," that is, into Thy kingdom; but "let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous," that is, with their holy fathers and patriarchs.” (Expository Treatise Against the Jews, 6-7)

As with all church fathers so far, Hippolytus was a replacement theologian.

“For this reason, even up to our day, though they see the boundaries (of their country), and go round about them, they stand afar off. And therefore have they no longer king or high priest or prophet, nor even scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees among them. He does not, however, say that they are to be cut off; wherefore their race still subsists, and the succession of their children is continued. For they have not been cut off nor consumed from among men--but they are and exist still--yet only as those who have been rejected and cast down from the honour of which of old they were deemed worthy by God. But again, "Scatter them," he says. "by Thy power;" which word has also come to pass. For they are scattered throughout the whole earth, in servitude everywhere, and engaging in the lowest and most servile occupations, and doing any unseemly work for hunger's sake.

For if they were destroyed from among men, and remained nowhere among the living, they could not see my people, he means, nor know my Church in its prosperity. Therefore "scatter" them everywhere on earth, where my Church is to be established, in order that when they see the Church rounded by me, they may be roused to emulate it in piety. And these things did the Saviour also ask on their behalf." (Doubtful Fragments - On Psalm lix. 11. Concerning the Jews.)

The works of Hippolytus show a mixed eschatological bag or Premillennialism, with a heavy dose of both Historicism and Preterism. However, he was clearly wrong is the timing of Christ’s return.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Inconclusive Eschatology of Minucius Felix [A.D. 200]

Minucius Felix was an early Latin apologist. He work Octavius was written sometime in the late Second or early Third century, and seems to have been heavily influenced by Tertullian. The eschatology of Octavius is quite sketchy. Felix defends the doctrine of the resurrection in Chap. XXXIV, as well as the destruction of the earth by fire and the eternal punishment of the wicked, yet makes no mention of a millennium. In fact, the purest reading of Minucius Felix suggests that the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked takes place at the same time, thus denying a literal millennium.
"See, therefore, how for our consolation all nature suggests a future resurrection. The sun sinks down and arises, the stars pass away and return, the flowers die and revive again, after their wintry decay the shrubs resume their leaves, seeds do not flourish again unless they are rotted: thus the body in the sepulchre is like the trees which in winter hide their verdure with a deceptive dryness. Why are you in haste for it to revive and return, while the winter is still raw? We must wait also for the spring-time of the body. And I am not ignorant that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, rather desire than believe that they shall be nothing after death; for they would prefer to be altogether extinguished, rather than to be restored for the purpose of punishment. And their error also is enhanced, both by the liberty granted them in this life, and by God’s very great patience, whose judgment, the more tardy it is, is so much the more just." (Octavius - Chap. XXXIV. - Argument: Moreover, it Is Not at All to Be Wondered at if this World Is to Be Consumed by Fire, Since Everything Which Has a Beginning Has Also an End. And the Ancient Philosophers Are Not Averse from the Opinion of the Probable Burning up of the World. Yet it Is Evident That God, Having Made Man from Nothing, Can Raise Him up from Death into Life. And All Nature Suggests a Future Resurrection)

Minucius Felix makes no mention of a tribulation, antichrist, or even a Second Advent. So while he leans slightly toward an amillennial view of the resurrection, there is simply not enough information in the writings of Minucius Felix to draw a conclusion concerning his eschatology.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Premillennialism of Commodianus [A.D. 240]

Commodianus was a third century Christian poet who was clearly premillennial, but with an interesting twist regarding antichrist. . He wrote that the Medes and Parthians would burn for 1,000 years before being delivered up to Gehenna (The Instructor - XLIII. - Of the End of this Age.) In addition, he clearly taught that the Heavenly Jerusalem would come down from heaven to earth, and strongly suggests that Christ will rule from there for a thousand years.

“From heaven will descend the city in the first resurrection; this is what we may tell of such a celestial fabric. We shall arise again to Him, who have been devoted to Him. And they shall be incorruptible, even already living without death. And neither will there be any grief nor any groaning in that city. They shall come also who overcame cruel martyrdom under Antichrist, and they themselves live for the whole time, and receive blessings because they have suffered evil things; and they themselves marrying, beget for a thousand years. There are prepared all the revenues of the earth, because the earth renewed without end pours forth abundantly. Therein are no rains; no cold comes into the golden camp. No sieges as now, nor rapines, nor does that city crave the light of a lamp. It shines from its Founder. Moreover, Him it obeys; in breadth 12,000 furlongs and length and depth. It levels its foundation in the earth, but it raises its head to heaven. In the city before the doors, moreover, sun and moon shall shine; he who is evil is hedged up in torment, for the sake of the nourishment of the righteous. But from the thousand years God will destroy all those evils.” (The Instructor - XLIV. Of the First Resurrection)

Commodianus also taught two different resurrections and judgments, one before the millennium, and one after.

“Ye who are to be inhabitants of the heavens with God-Christ, hold fast the beginning, look at all things from heaven. Let simplicity, let meekness dwell in your body. Be not angry with thy devout brother without a cause, for ye shall receive whatever ye may have done from him. This has pleased Christ, that the dead should rise again, yea, with their bodies; and those, too, whom in this world the fire has burned, when six thousand years are completed, and the world has come to an end. The heaven in the meantime is changed with an altered course, for then the wicked are burnt up with divine fire. The creature with groaning burns with the anger of the highest God. Those who are more worthy, and who are begotten of an illustrious stem, and the men of nobility under the conquered Antichrist, according to God’s command living again in the world for a thousand years, indeed, that they may serve the saints, and the High One, under a servile yoke, that they may bear victuals on their neck. Moreover, that they may be judged again when the reign is finished. They who make God of no account when the thousandth year is finished shall perish by fire, when they themselves shall speak to the mountains. All flesh in the monuments and tombs is restored according to its deed: they are plunged in hell; they bear their punishments in the world; they are shown to them, and they read the things transacted from heaven; the reward according to one’s deeds in a perpetual tyranny. I cannot comprehend all things in a little treatise; the curiosity of the learned men shall find my name in this.” (The Instructor - LXXX. The Name of the Man of Gaza)

Unlike modern premillennialist, however, Commodianus held to Replacement Theology. He writes of Judaizers in the church, “…they blindly lead you with them into the ditch. There are deaths too well known by them to relate, or because the heaping up of the plough closes up the field. The Almighty would not have them understand their King. Why such a wickedness? He Himself took refuge from those bloody men. He gave Himself to us by a superadded law. Thence now they lie concealed with us, deserted by their King. But if you think that in them there is hope, you are altogether in error if you worship God and heathen temples.” (The Instructor - XXXVII. The Fanatics Who Judaize).

“Evil always, and recalcitrant, with a stiff neck ye wish not that ye should be overcome; thus ye will be heirs. Isaiah said that ye were of hardened heart. Ye look upon the law which Moses in wrath dashed to pieces; and the same Lord gave to him a second law. In that he placed his hope; but ye, half healed, reject it, and therefore ye shall not be worthy of the kingdom of heaven.” (The Instructor - XXXVIII. To the Jews.)

“Look upon Leah, that was a type of the synagogue, which Jacob received as a sign, with eyes so weak; and yet he served again for the younger one beloved: a true mystery, and a type of our Church. Consider what was abundantly said of Rebecca from heaven; whence, imitating the alien, ye may believe in Christ. Thence come to Tamar and the offspring of twins. Look to Cain, the first tiller of the earth, and Abel the shepherd, who was an unspotted offerer in the ruin of his brother, and was slain by his brother. Thus therefore perceive, that the younger are approved by Christ.” (The Instructor - XXXIX. Also to the Jews.)

“There is not an unbelieving people such as yours. O evil men! in so many places, and so often rebuked by the law of those who cry aloud. And the lofty One despises your Sabbaths, and altogether rejects your universal monthly feasts according to law, that ye should not make to Him the commanded sacrifices; who told you to throw a stone for your offence. If any should not believe that He had perished by an unjust death, and that those who were beloved were saved by other laws, thence that life was suspended on the tree, and believe not on Him. God Himself is the life; He Himself was suspended for us. But ye with indurated heart insult Him.” (The Instructor - XL. Again to the Same.)

Perhaps the most fascinating discovery in the eschatology of Commodianus was his identification of Nero as Antichrist. He held to the Nero Redivivus legend, the belief that Nero would rise again from the dead. Commodianus added the theological twist of Nero becoming antichrist. After Elijah would rise again and rule the world for 3 ½ years, Nero would do the same. In my studies of the eschatology of the church fathers so far, this is the first to have identified Nero as antichrist. The fact that he was premillennial makes it even more interesting.

“Isaiah said: This is the man who moveth the world and so many kings, and under whom 211 the land shall become desert. Hear ye how the prophet foretold concerning him. I have said nothing elaborately, but negligently. Then, doubtless, the world shall be finished when he shall appear. He himself shall divide the globe into three ruling powers, when, moreover, Nero shall be raised up from hell, Elias shall first come to seal the beloved ones; at which things the region of Africa and the northern nation, the whole earth on all sides, for seven years shall tremble. But Elias shall occupy the half of the time, Nero shall occupy half. Then the whore Babylon, being reduced to ashes, its embers shall thence advance to Jerusalem; and the Latin conqueror shall then say, I am Christ, whom ye always pray to; and, indeed, the original ones who were deceived combine to praise him. He does many wonders, since his is the false prophet. Especially that they may believe him, his image shall speak. The Almighty has given it power to appear such. The Jews, recapitulating Scriptures from him, exclaim at the same time to the Highest that they have been deceived.” (The Instructor - XLI. Of the Time of Antichrist.)

Commodianus gives us the most complete premillennial eschatology so far, yet he differs quite a bit from the modern view concerning Judaism, and actually lends support for the amillennial view of antichrist.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Amillennialism of Origen [A.D. 230]

Like Tertullian, Origen was no champion of sound Christian Doctrine. Origen was the first to bring was John Owen calls “The Idol of Free Will” into the church. Rejecting the absolute sovereignty of God, Origen concluded that "the devil controls the ultimate evil, death" (Against Celsus 4.92,93). Origen was also a universalist, rejecting the physical resurrection and believing in the ultimate salvation “apokatastasis” of everyone, including Satan.

“The end of the world, then, and the final consummation, will take place when every one shall be subjected to punishment for his sins; a time which God alone knows, when He will bestow on each one what he deserves. We think, indeed, that the goodness of God, through His Christ, may recall all His creatures to one end, even His enemies being conquered and subdued.” (De Principiis, Book 1 Chapter VI, On the End or Consummation).

While chiliasm was implicitly denied among the majority of church fathers, Origen seemed to be the first to explicitly oppose it, at least among those whose writings still exist. In fact, Origen opposed the idea of any type of earthly kingdom.

“Certain persons, then, refusing the labour of thinking, and adopting a superficial view of the letter of the law, and yielding rather in some measure to the indulgence of their own desires and lusts, being disciples of the letter alone, are of opinion that the fulfilment of the promises of the future are to be looked for in bodily pleasure and luxury; and therefore they especially desire to have again, after the resurrection, such bodily structures as may never be without the power of eating, and drinking, and performing all the functions of flesh and blood, not following the opinion of the Apostle Paul regarding the resurrection of a spiritual body. And consequently they say, that after the resurrection there will be marriages, and the begetting of children, imagining to themselves that the earthly city of Jerusalem is to be rebuilt, its foundations laid in precious stones, and its walls constructed of jasper, and its battlements of crystal; that it is to have a wall composed of many precious stones, as jasper, and sapphire, and chalcedony, and emerald, and sardonyx, and onyx, and chrysolite, and chrysoprase, and jacinth, and amethyst. Moreover, they think that the natives of other countries are to be given them as the ministers of their pleasures, whom they are to employ either as tillers of the field or builders of walls, and by whom their ruined and fallen city is again to be raised up; and they think that they are to receive the wealth of the nations to live on, and that they will have control over their riches; that even the camels of Midian and Kedar will come, and bring to them gold, and incense, and precious stones. And these views they think to establish on the authority of the prophets by those promises which are written regarding Jerusalem; and by those passages also where it is said, that they who serve the Lord shall eat and drink, but that sinners shall hunger and thirst; that the righteous shall be joyful, but that sorrow shall possess the wicked. And from the New Testament also they quote the saying of the Saviour, in which He makes a promise to His disciples concerning the joy of wine, saying, “Henceforth I shall not drink of this cup, until I drink it with you new in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29) They add, moreover, that declaration, in which the Saviour calls those blessed who now hunger and thirst, (Matthew 5:6) promising them that they shall be satisfied; and many other scriptural illustrations are adduced by them, the meaning of which they do not perceive is to be taken figuratively. Then, again, agreeably to the form of things in this life, and according to the gradations of the dignities or ranks in this world, or the greatness of their powers, they think they are to be kings and princes, like those earthly monarchs who now exist; chiefly, as it appears, on account of that expression in the Gospel: “Have thou power over five cities.” (Cf. Luke 19:19 and Luke 19:17) And to speak shortly, according to the manner of things in this life in all similar matters, do they desire the fulfilment of all things looked for in the promises, viz., that what now is should exist again. Such are the views of those who, while believing in Christ, understand the divine Scriptures in a sort of Jewish sense, drawing from them nothing worthy of the divine promises.” (De Principiis, Book 2 Chapter XI Section II, On Counter Promises)

Despite his universalism, Origen took the preterist view of both Daniel’s 70 weeks and the Olivet Discourse.

"The weeks of years, also, which the prophet Daniel had predicted, extending to the leadership of Christ, have been fulfilled." (De Principiis, Book 4 Chapter I Section V, On the Inspiration of Holy Scripture).

“And any one who likes may convict this statement of falsehood, if it be not the case that the whole Jewish nation was overthrown within one single generation after Jesus had undergone these sufferings at their hands. For forty and two years, I think, after the date of the crucifixion of Jesus, did the destruction of Jerusalem take place.” (Contra Celsus, Book 4, Chapter XXII).

Origen did hold to the belief in a future antichrist. The only prophecies left to be fulfilled, according to Origen, were the final judgment and temporal punishment of God’s enemies. And even this could be considered an ongoing process. Whatever one thinks of the value of Origen, he was definitely amillennial, and strongly preterist.