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Part 5: Uninterrupted Futurism
into 2nd Century
Part 1: The Basics and Partial Preterism
Preterism Part 2: Olivet and the
Preterism Part 3: The Remaining
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
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"
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
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,
"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
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.
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.
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
"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
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,
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 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,
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
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.