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Particulars of Christianity:
313 Preterism


Preterism Part 5: Uninterrupted Futurism
into 2nd Century


Preterism Part 1: The Basics and Partial Preterism
Preterism Part 2: Olivet and the Transcendent "You"
Preterism Part 3: The Remaining "Proof Texts"
Preterism Part 4: Appealing to Josephus
Preterism Part 5: Uninterrupted Futurism into 2nd Century
Preterism Part 6: Nero, History, and Biblical Details
Preterism Part 7: Scripture and a Delayed Coming
Preterism Part 8: Brief Summary of Conclusions
Behold I Come Quickly
Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass
When Was Revelation Written?
A Throne of His Own

Addendum: "The Time Is At Hand"




Now, we will take a look at some of the clear statements in orthodox Christian writings from the earliest centuries following 70 AD. These statements show unequivocally one of two things. Either the early Church understood what Futurists today understand, that Jesus and the antichrist, etc., did not come by 70 AD, or the early Church had universally missed the second coming of Christ. We prefer to think that they did not miss it because, in fact, it did not happen and it has not happened yet.

When we talk about orthodox Christian writers from the first second and third century we are referring to a group of men typically known as the Ante-Nicene Church Fathers. They are given the title Ante-Nicene because they lived and wrote before the Council of Nicaea, which occurred under Constantine in 325 AD, at which point the Church was largely Romanized and took a sharp turn toward becoming the Roman Catholic Church of today. At that point, under the influence of Rome, Church teaching and doctrine began its historic shift away from the teaching of the apostles and away from the teaching reflected in the writings of the Ante-Nicene Fathers.

Now, by no means are these authors infallible. Their works are in no way equated with the weight of sacred scripture and our argument does not require that we take their writings as any kind of final authority. However, their writings and teachings are relevant for three reasons. First, many of these men were discipled personally by apostles or were the disciples of men who were. That helps us to put into perspective the timeframe of their relationship with that critical first generation before 70 AD. It also helps to anchor the orthodoxy of their teaching.

Second, their writings are relevant particularly on the issue of Preterism because they lived and wrote in the decades and centuries immediately following 70 AD. As such, their works provide critical evidence of what the Church thought concerning the events of 70 AD and specifically whether or not the Church of those days thought Christ had returned. What we will see is that their teachings uniformly demonstrate that they did not believe Christ had returned in 70 AD. Nor did they believe that the antichrist and the mark of the beast, etc. occurred at that time. They were looking for these things to happen in their future, not in their past.

Third, their writings are consistent with each other. There is nothing in their writings on this subject that would point to contradictions or differing points of view between them. In fact, their words on this topic are uniform, all of them placing these events in their Future, from the first of them to the last.

Polycarp (69-155 AD) and Ignatius (30-107 AD) were both pupils under the apostle John. Polycarp's short epistle only makes one short reference to the judgment of Christ in which he hints at a future coming. Ignatius, makes four references to "the end," each time placing it still in the future. And he makes other references that are equally clear that he understood the return of Christ and the end to be in the future. (Such prophecies of "the end" are found in Matthew 10:22-23, 24:13-14, 23-31, 28:18-20.)

"But who of us are ignorant of the judgment of the Lord? 'Do we not know that the saints shall judge the world?' as Paul teaches." - Polycarp to the Philipians

"Fare ye well to the end, in the patience of Jesus Christ. Amen." - Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans

"...If it be the will [of God] that I should be accounted worthy to the end. For the beginning is well arranged, if I be counted worthy to attain to the end, that I may receive my portion, without hindrance, through suffering." - Second Epistle of Ignatius

"The work is not of promise, unless a man be found in the power of faith, even to the end." - Second Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians

"Be watchful, as possessing a spirit which sleepeth not." - The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp, Chp. 1

The statement above from Ignatius is an obvious quote of Jesus own words in the end time parable found in Matthew 24:42-43, 25:13, Mark 13:35-37, Luke 21:36, all of which occur during the end time prophecies given by Jesus during the Olivet discourse. For comparison, here is the passage as it appears in Mark 13.

Mark 13:35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.

Clearly Ignatius had this passage in mind when he wrote those words to Polycarp. Since Polycarp was born in 69 AD, unless Ignatius wrote this letter to him when he was one year old, we know that Ignatius penned these words after 70 AD. Therefore, we know Ignatius and Polycarp BOTH understood after 70 AD that the Lords coming was still in the future. We know that this must also have been Polycarp's understanding as well particularly because Ignatius wrote this letter to Polycarp. And here are two more quotes from Ignatius in that same letter that indicate the very same Futurist perspective.

"Be thou watchful as an athlete of God." - The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp, Chp. 2

"Be discerning of the times. Look for Him that is above the times." - The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp, Chp. 3

Based upon the above quotations, particularly the correspondence between them, it is clear that both Polycarp and Ignatius did not believe that Jesus did return in 70 AD. There then is a critical contradiction between what both Polycarp and Ignatius believed and the Preterists' insistence that Jesus had to return in 70 AD. Because of the proximity of the lives and writings of both Polycarp and Ignatius to 70 AD and because both were discipled by John the Apostle, Preterists must attempt to account for this discrepancy by asking us to accept one of three unlikely options.

The first option would be that either John the Apostle misunderstood Jesus' teaching of a "soon" second coming and passed this misunderstanding on to both Polycarp and Ignatius. The second option would be that both Polycarp and Ignatius misunderstood John's instruction that Jesus' would return soon. Or the third option would be that both Polycarp and Ignatius disagreed with John's interpretation of Jesus' words regarding when Jesus would return.

Clearly Preterists are ignoring a fourth and more likely option that neither John nor Jesus taught that the second coming had to occur within the lifetimes of the apostles.

Another Ante-Nicene author is Irenaeus (120-202 AD) Irenaeus was discipled by Polycarp, who as we have said was discipled by the apostle John. In his work Against Heresies, Irenaeus has a lot to say on the subjects of both the antichrist and Christ's return. He clearly places both events in the future. We apologize for the length and quantity of these quotations. We know it may be tedious to read but it is essential to show the extensive proof of an unbroken, Futurist perspective from the apostles down through the third century.

"And not only by the particulars already mentioned, but also by means of the events which shall occur in the time of Antichrist is it shown that he, being an apostate and a robber, is anxious to be adored as God; and that, although a mere slave, he wishes himself to be proclaimed as a king. For he being endued with all the power of the devil, shall come, not as a righteous king, nor as a legitimate king, [i.e., one] in subjection to God, but an impious, unjust, and lawless one." - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chp. 25

Continuing on in the same paragraph in which he has already spoken of "events which shall occur in the time of the Antichrist," Irenaeus goes on to say the following, in which he quotes the apostle Paul and applies II Thessalonians to these future events "which shall occur." Of particular note is how Irenaeus takes the details of New Testament descriptions of the antichrist literally.

"This he does, in order that they who do [now] worship the devil by means of many abominations, may serve himself by this one idol, of whom the apostle thus speaks in the second Epistle to the Thessalonians: "Unless there shall come a failing away first, and the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God. The apostle therefore clearly points out his apostasy, and that he is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped-that is, above every idol-for these are indeed so called by men, but are not [really] gods; and that he will endeavour in a tyrannical manner to set himself forth as God."" - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chp. 25

"ÉThe temple which is at Jerusalem was constructed for those purposes which I have already mentioned; in which [temple] the enemy shall sit, endeavouring to show himself as Christ, as the Lord also declares: "But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, which has been spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand), then let those who are in Judea flee into the mountains; and he who is upon the house-top, let him not come down to take anything out of his house: for there shall then be great hardship, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be." - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chp. 25

"Daniel too, looking forward to the end of the last kingdom, i.e., the ten last kings, amongst whom the kingdom of those men shall be partitioned, and upon whom the son of perdition shall come,...during which time, when he comes, he shall reign over the earth. Of whom also the Apostle Paul again, speaking in the second [Epistle] to the Thessalonians, and at the same time proclaiming the cause of his advent, thus says: 'And then shall the wicked one be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the spirit of His mouth, and destroy by the presence of His coming; whose coming [i.e., the wicked one's] is after the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and portents of lies, and with all deceivableness of wickedness for those who perish.' - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chp. 25

"Which also he shall do in the time of his kingdom: he shall remove his kingdom into that [city],and shall sit in the temple of God, leading astray those who worship him, as if he were Christ." - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chp. 25

"In a still clearer light has John, in the Apocalypse, indicated to the Lord's disciples what shall happen in the last times, and concerning the ten kings who shall then arise, ... These have one mind, and give their strength and power to the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, because He is the Lord of lords, and King of kings. ... And they shall lay Babylon waste, and burn her with fire, and shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the church to flight. After that they shall be destroyed by the coming of our Lord." - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chp. 26

In the quote above we again see Irenaeus quoting the New Testament, this time John in the Revelation. And here again he applies John's words to these future events still taking the details of New Testament descriptions of the antichrist and his activities literally.

The following quote is even more telling. Here writing well over 50 years after 70 AD, Irenaeus instructs that the number of the antichrist's name has been given so "that when this man comes we may avoid him, being aware of who he is." By using the pronoun "we" Irenaeus places himself and his contemporaries in a position to identify the antichrist when he comes and thereby rules out any possibility that the antichrist may have come over 50 years earlier in 70 AD as Preterists contend.

"But he indicates the number of the name now, that when this man comes we may avoid him, being aware of who he is:...But when this Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple in Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed seventh day; and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance, in which kingdom the Lord declared, that "many coming from the east and from the west should sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chp. 30

"For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule; in [the times of] which [resurrection] the righteous shall reign on the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord: and through Him they shall become accustomed to partake in the glory of God the Father, and shall enjoy in the kingdom intercourse and communion with the holy angels, and union with spiritual beings; and those whom the Lord shall find in the flesh, awaiting Him from heaven, and who have suffered tribulation, as well as escaped the hands of the Wicked one." - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chp. 35

"The advent of Christ will therefore be without an object, yea, absurd, inasmuch as [in that case] He exercises no judicial power. For "He came to divide a man against his father, and the daughter against the mother, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law; "and when two are in one bed, to take the one, and to leave the other; and of two women grinding at the mill, to take one and leave the other: [also] at the time of the end, to order the reapers to collect first the tares together, and bind them in bundles, and burn them with unquenchable fire, but to gather up the wheat into the barn; and to call the lambs into the kingdom prepared for them, but to send the goats into everlasting fire, which has been prepared by His Father for the devil and his angels." - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 5, Chp. 27

"Wherefore He shall, at His second coming, first rouse from their sleep all persons of this description, and shall raise them up, as well as the rest who shall be judged, and give them a place in His kingdom." - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chp. 22

In the following passage, Irenaeus discusses BOTH advents of Christ. Notice how he applies PAST tense verbs to the first advent and FUTURE tense verbs to the second advent.

"...All the prophets announced His two advents: the one, indeed, in which He became a man subject to stripes, and knowing what it is to bear infirmity, and sat upon the foal of an ass, and was a stone rejected by the builders, and was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and by the stretching forth of His hands destroyed Amalek; while He gathered from the ends of the earth into His Father's fold the children who were scattered abroad, and remembered His own dead ones who had formerly fallen asleep, and came down to them that He might deliver them: but the second in which He will come on the clouds, bringing on the day which burns as a furnace? and smiting the earth with the word of His mouth? and slaying the impious with the breath of His lips, and having a fan in His hands, and cleansing His floor, and gathering the wheat indeed into His barn, but burning the chaff with unquenchable fire." - Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chp. 33

For now, we will limit our survey of Irenaeus to these passages although he has much more to say on the matter, all of which is from a Futurist perspective. The above quotes are sufficient to demonstrate that Irenaeus was undoubtedly a Futurist.

And we also have the Epistle of Barnabus written in 100 AD. Although modern scholars debate whether or not this episle was written by the Barnabus of Acts or simply attributed to him, what is not in debate is the orthodoxy of the document. And the author of this work also unequivocally places the second coming of Christ and the coming of the antichrist in the future.

"The final stumbling-block [or source of danger] approaches, concerning which it is written, as Enoch says, "For for this end the Lord has cut short the times and the days, that His Beloved may hasten; and He will come to the inheritance." And the prophet also speaks thus: "Ten kingdoms shall reign upon the earth, and a little king shall rise up after them, who shall subdue under one three of the kings." In the like manner Daniel says concerning the same, 'And I beheld the fourth beast, wicked and powerful, and the more savage than all the beasts of the earth and how from it sprang up ten horns, and out of them a little budding horn, and how it subdued under one three of the ten horns.' [see: Dan. 7:7,8]... We take earnest heed in these last days; for the whole [past] time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time we also withstand coming sources of danger, as becometh sons of God. That the Black One may find no means of entrance, let us flee from every vanity, let us utterly hate the works of the way of wickedness." - Epistle of Barnabus, Chp. 4

And last but not least there is Justin Martyr (110-165 AD.) Justin was a Gentile born in Samaria, near Jacob's well. Having been well-educated, Justin ultimately became a student of Socrates and Plato before converting to Christianity.

In the following quote, notice how like Irenaeus, Justin discusses BOTH advents of Christ, using PAST tense verbs to describe the first coming and FUTURE tense verbs to describe the second.

"[T]wo advents of Christ have been announced: the one, in which He is set forth as suffering, inglorious, dishonored, and crucified; but the other, in which He shall come from heaven with glory, when the man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians,... Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshippers of God through the name of Jesus." - Justin Martyr, Dialog of Justin, Chp. 105

"But if so great a power is shown to have followed and to be still following the dispensation of His suffering, how great shall that be which shall follow His glorious advent! For He shall come on the clouds as the Son of man, so Daniel foretold, and His angels shall come with Him." - Justin Martyr, Dialog of Justin, Chp. 31

The quote above is taken from a long passage in which, having just discussed the future second coming of Christ, Justin goes on to quote Daniel to demonstrate how Christ's second coming will relate to the end of the antichrist's empire.

"But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare." Dialogue of Justin, Chp. 80

With this section of quotes from these early Christian writers we have shown an unbroken chain of Futurist eschatology from Polycarp and Ignatius who wrote just after 70 AD all the way through Irenaeus who lived into the early third century AD. In all their teaching concerning the coming of the antichrist and the second coming of Christ, not once to they ever mention that these things had already happened. But always, always do they place these events in the future and they maintain the detailed New Testament relationship between these two events.

Yet, despite all this evidence of that the Futurist eschatology continued uninterrupted right through and past 70 AD for orthodox Christians well into the second century, for some reason Preterists prefer to make inferences from the secular records of Josephus, a man who not once wrote anything indicating that he thought "Christ had returned." Thus, they ignore the testimony of Christians in favor of a secular historian.

And not only that, but they ignore the simple and obvious fact that all these Christian writers automatically and instinctively applied the principle of the Transcendent "You." They applied it uniformly to the Great Commission AND the Olivet prophecies. Yet, Preterists blatantly ignore and deny this sound exegetical principle, which originates all the way back in the writings of Moses, in which he prophesied of a "Prophet like himself."

In response to the surpassing amount of quotations provided above, Preterists are forced to conclude that all of these early Christian leaders both misunderstood and departed from Jesus' teaching that he would return within the lifetimes of the apostles. Instead, what is obvious is that it is the Preterists themselves who have both misunderstood and departed from Jesus' teachings on these matters.

Clearly, Preterists are mistaken in their denial of the Transcendent "You," and in their denial of the Futurist eschatology preserved in orthodox doctrine from the apostles down through the early third century despite the events of 70 AD.