No comments yet

The Catholicity of Pre-millennialism Among the Apostolic and Sub-apostolic Churches and Fathers

You often hear that the belief in premillennialism is a recent invention and that the historic view is amillennialism or even postmillennialism. The article above shows that’s not true at all! Premillennial eschatology, that the 2nd coming of Christ is followed by 1,000 years of Christ’s glorious reign on the earth, centered in Jerusalem, with the glorified saints, was in fact the universal faith of the apostolic and sub-apostolic church! In other words, it was part of catholicity.

A certain man with us, named John, one of the Apostles of Christ, predicted… that those who believe in our Christ would spend a thousand years in Jerusalem

Justin Martyr (100-165)

Note the catholicity embedded here, “with us” and “those who believe in our Christ“.

When the Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds… bringing in for the righteous the times of the Kingdom.” – Irenaeus, taught by Polycarp, discipled by Apostle John the Revelator

(Direct discipleship by Apostle John → Polycarp → Irenaeus)

Note: Irenaeus was the theological grandchild of John, the Revelator. His eschatology was not merely premillennial, but explicitly matches a literal, normal understanding of the person of the AntiChrist in relationship to Daniel’s 70th week, and agrees that there will be another temple in Jerusalem, defiled at the 3 ½ year mark. He also teaches that the Kingdom of God is not now, it is entirely future and is earthly with Messiah ruling and reigning in it. This is explicitly dispensational.

But we do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon this earth… for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem”- Tertullian (160-225)

Note the mention of the common confession of believers , “we do confess” and “promised to us”. (ie, this is what Christians confess as their common, catholic faith.)

Note the 100% futurity of the kingdom (not a present, spiritualized thing in the heart of the believer nor the church).

Also, the kingdom is geographical, has Jerusalem as its center, and matches precisely with the OT view of it in a normal interpretation. The kingdom is Israelo-centric.

Chiliasm (belief in the millennial Kingdom centered in Jerusalem) was also held by:

  • Ignatius another immediate disciple of the Apostle John,
  • Clement of Rome, life overlapped the apostles, died 99 or 101AD,
  • Barnabas,
  • Papias, born <70AD, died 155AD in Smyrna (Rev 2:8-11).

Belief in the physical return of Christ in the Second Coming, followed by the thousand year reign of Christ and his saints in Jerusalem, (premillenialism) was the virtually universal faith of the very early Christians. It is a fact of church history.

Quotes from Church Historians

  • “*Chiliasm [belief in the millennial kingdom on earth centered in Jerusalem] passed among the best Christians for two hundred and fifty years, for a tradition apostolic” – Church historian Whitby
  • The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age [apostolic fathers] is the prominent chiliasm, or millennarianism, that is the belief in a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years.” – Church historian Philip Shaff
  • The doctrine of Christ’s Second Advent, and the Kingdom [that is, the earthly 1,000 year kingdom that follows], appears so early that it might be questioned whether it ought not to be regarded as an essential part of the Christian religion.” – Church historian Adolf von Harnack
  • Chiliasm was “inseparably associated with the Gospel itself.” – Adolf von Harnack 1851-1930

*Chiliasm –Latin chilias, itself from Ancient Greek χίλιοι (khílioi, “thousand”).