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.

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