Preterism and Church History

Is it true that the church has always taught that ….
~Matthew 24
~The prophecies of Daniel
~The Book of Revelation
were all fulfilled in 70AD?

Is the belief in a future antichrist and tribulation a product of the Reformation ?

Was the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel and our Lord considered a past event by the church fathers ?

Is the understanding that many prophecies of the Bible are unfulfilled a modern viewpoint?

Is the belief in an apostasy or a “falling away” a modern invention ?

Did the early church believe that we are in the “millennium” and there was no future physical reign of Christ on earth ?

NO…..and again NO! Documentation follows but first some points.

The Chiliast view was the prominent view of the 1st. through the 4th. century church leaders. Chiliasm was the belief in a future 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth.

Justin Martyr, Iranaeus, Clement of Alexander, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Nepos, Papias, Victorinus, Methodius, Ephraem the Syrian, Lactantius…. all believed in a future earthly reign of Christ. They did not teach that the events of 70AD ended all prophecies and was the fulfillment of Matthew 24, the prophecies of Daniel, and the book of Revelation.

Origen began the extreme allegorization of Scripture. He was followed by Tychonius and eventually Augustine and then the Roman Catholic Church took over.

The early church believed in an apostasy or an eventual “falling away.” See below.
The early church believed in a future Abomination of Desolation in a rebuilt Jerusalem and a rebuilt temple. See below.
The oldest known complete commentary that we have from the early church is Hippolytus’ Commentary on the Book of Daniel (210 A.D.) In that commentary, the future reign of Christ on earth is discussed. See below. Hippolytus also wrote of a future desolation by a coming antichrist and compared it to the desecration committed by Anitochus Epiphanes. He also referred to “the final week of the world”.
Amazingly, Iranaeus and Hippolytus both declared that Jerusalem and the temple would both be rebuilt in the future. They stated that over a hundred years after the destruction in 70AD !!
The “rapture” was even mentioned in the 4th. century.

A few quotes are listed below. Much more could be listed. In fact, supporting beliefs and quotes through the Reformation are available. For example in the Roman Catholic Church, Joachim of Floris(late 12th. century) put the events of the Book of Revelation into the future 400 years before the Reformation. To say that the Reformation produced such beliefs is wrong. To say that the beliefs listed above are of modern origin is wrong. The root of such statements is pride, unbelief, and a staunch refusal to look at church history. I beleive the root is the desire for human reasoning and philosophy to rule over the truth of our Coming King and Judge.

The Ascension of Isaiah (late 1st. to 2nd. century)

After it is consummated, Belial the great ruler, the king of this world, will descend, who hath ruled it since it came into being; yea, he will descend from his firmament in the likeness of a man, a lawless king, the slayer of his mother: who himself (even) this king. This ruler in the form of that king will come and there will come with him all the powers of this world, and they will hearken unto him in all that he desires. And at his word the sun will rise at night and he will make the moon to appear at the sixth hour. And all that he hath desired he will do in the world: he will do and speak like the Beloved and he will say: “I am God and before me there has been none.” And all the people in the world will believe in him. And they will sacrifice to him and they will serve him saying: “This is God and beside him there is no other.” And there will be the power of his miracles in every city and region. And he will set up his image before him in every city.

The Epistle of Barnabas (late 1st. to 2nd. century)

Let us fly, therefore, utterly from all the work of unrighteousness, and let us hate the error of the time that now is, that we may be loved in that which is to come. Let us not give liberty unto our soul that it should have leave to run with sinners and evil men, neither let us be made like unto them. The tribulation being made perfect is at hand, concerning which it is written, as Enoch saith, For to this purpose the Lord hath cut short the times and the days, that his beloved might make haste and come into his inheritance. The prophet also speaketh in this wise: Ten kingdoms shall reign upon the earth; and there shall rise up after them a little king who shall humble three of the kings under one. And in like manner Daniel speaketh concerning him: And I saw the fourth beast, evil and strong and harder than all the beasts of the earth; and I saw how
there grew up from him ten horns, and from among them a little horn, growing up beside, and how it humbled under one three of the great horns.

The Didache (late 1st. to 2nd. century)

For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial, and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but those who endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth: first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven, then the sign of the sound of the trumpet. And third, the resurrection of the dead — yet not of all, but as it is said: “The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him.” Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

Justin Martyr (mid 2nd. century)

O unreasoning men! understanding not what has been proved by all these passages, that two advents of Christ have been announced: the one, in which He is set forth as suffering, inglorious, dishonoured, 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, who, having learned the true worship of God from the law, and the word which went forth from Jerusalem by means of the apostles of Jesus.

Irenaeus of Lyons(mid to late 2nd. century)

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, among whom the empire which now rules [the earth] shall be partitioned. He teaches us what the ten horns shall be which were seen by Daniel, telling us that thus it had been said to him: “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, who have received no kingdom as yet, but shall receive power as if kings one hour with the beast. 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 the King of kings.” It is manifest, therefore, that of these [potentates], he who is to come shall slay three, and subject the remainder to his power, and that he shall be himself the eighth among them. 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.

And for this reason the apostle says: “Because they received not the love of God, that they might be saved, therefore God shall also send them the operation of error, that they may believe a lie, that they all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but consented to unrighteousness.” For when he (Antichrist) is come, and of his own accord concentrates in his own person the apostasy, and accomplishes whatever he shall do according to his own will and choice, sitting also in the temple of God, so that his dupes may adore him as the Christ; wherefore also shall he deservedly “be cast into the lake of fire:” [this will happen according to divine appointment], God by His prescience foreseeing all this, and at the proper time sending such a man, “that they may believe a lie, that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but consented to unrighteousness;” whose coming John has thus described in the Apocalypse: “And the beast which I had seen was like unto a leopard, and his feet as of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion; and the dragon conferred his own power upon him, and his throne, and great might. And one of his heads was as it were slain unto death; and his deadly wound was healed, and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon because he gave power to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto this beast, and who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things, and blasphemy and power was given to him during forty and two months. And he opened his mouth for blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. And power was given him over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation. And all who dwell upon the earth worshipped him, [every one] whose name was not written in the book of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any one have ears, let him hear. If any one shall lead into captivity, he shall go into captivity. If any shall slay with the sword, he must be slain with the sword. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints.” After this he likewise describes his armour-bearer, whom he also terms a false prophet: “He spake as a dragon, and exercised all the power of the first beast in his sight, and caused the earth, and those that dwell therein, to adore the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he shall perform great wonders, so that he can even cause fire to descend from heaven upon the earth in the sight of men, and he shall lead the inhabitants of the earth astray.” Let no one imagine that he performs these wonders by divine power, but by the working of magic. And we must not be surprised if, since the demons and apostate spirits are at his service, he through their means performs wonders, by which he leads the inhabitants of the earth astray. John says further: “And he shall order an image of the beast to be made, and he shall give breath to the image, so that the image shall speak; and he shall cause those to be slain who will not adore it.” He says also: “And he will cause a mark [to be put] in the forehead and in the fight hand, that no one may be able to buy or sell, unless he who has the mark of the name of the beast or the number of his name; and the number is six hundred and sixty-six,” that is, six times a hundred, six times ten, and six units. [He gives this] as a summing up of the whole of that apostasy which has taken place during six thousand years.
Moreover, another danger, by no means trifling, shall overtake those who falsely presume that they know the name of Antichrist. For if these men assume one [number], when this [Antichrist] shall come having another, they will be easily led away by him, as supposing him not to be the expected one, who must be guarded against.

These men, therefore, ought to learn [what really is the state of the case], and go back to the true number of the name, that they be not reckoned among false prophets. But, knowing the sure number declared by Scripture, that is, six hundred sixty and six, let them await, in the first place, the division of the kingdom into ten; then, in the next place, when these kings are reigning, and beginning to set their affairs in order, and advance their kingdom, [let them learn] to acknowledge that he who shall come claiming the kingdom for himself, and shall terrify those men of whom we have been speaking, having a name containing the aforesaid number, is truly the abomination of desolation. This, too, the apostle affirms: “When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them.” And Jeremiah does not merely point out his sudden coming, but he even indicates the tribe from which he shall come, where he says, “We shall hear the voice of his swift horses from Dan; the whole earth shall be moved by the voice of the neighing of his galloping horses: he shall also come and devour the earth, and the fulness thereof, the city also, and they that dwell therein.” This, too, is the reason that this tribe is not reckoned in the Apocalypse along with those which are saved.
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 in the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord

Cyprian (early to mid 3rd. century)

For you ought to know and to believe, and hold it for certain, that the day of affliction has begun to hang over our heads, and the end of the world and the time of Antichrist to draw near, so that we must all stand prepared for the battle; nor consider anything but the glory of life eternal, and the crown of the confession of the Lord; and not regard those things which are coming as being such as were those which have passed away. A severer and a fiercer fight is now threatening, for which the soldiers of Christ ought to prepare themselves with uncorrupted faith and robust courage, considering that they drink the cup of Christ’s blood daily, for the reason that they themselves also may be able to shed their blood for Christ.

Nor let any one of you, beloved brethren, be so terrified by the fear of future persecution, or the coming of the threatening Antichrist, as not to be found armed for all things by the evangelical exhortations and precepts, and by the heavenly warnings. Antichrist is coming, but above him comes Christ also. The enemy goeth about and rageth, but immediately the Lord follows to avenge our sufferings and our wounds. The adversary is enraged and threatens, but there is One who can deliver us from his hands.

Hippolytus’ Commentary on the Book of Daniel (early 3rd. century)

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.” Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled.

Ephraem the Syrian (4th century)

all saints and the elect of the Lord are gathered together before the Tribulation which is about to come and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins

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