The Early Fathers and their eschatology

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Puritan Board Freshman
3) The early church witness. Specifically, Papias was a chiliast and a "hearer of the apostle John" according to Eusebius. What better person to interpret the millennium than a disciple of the man who wrote Revelation?

This was Irenaeus’ private opinion from reading Papias’ writings that he was personally acquainted with the apostle John, Eusebius shows (after presenting Irenaeus’ quote) that such a construal is unlikely. In doing this Eusebius actually refers to Papias’ writings and quotes him directly to prove there is no evidence Papias knew the apostle John.

Eusebius of Caesarea’s Church History Book 3 chapter 39

2. Papias himself, in the preface to his discourses, certainly does not declare that he himself was a hearer and eye-witness of the holy Apostles, but he shows, by the language which he uses, that he received the matters of the faith from those who were their friends:
3. "But I will not scruple also to give a place for you along with my interpretations to everything that I learnt carefully and remembered carefully in time past from the elders, guaranteeing its truth. For, unlike the many, I did not take pleasure in those who have so very much to say, but in those who teach the truth; nor in those who relate foreign commandments, but in those (who record) such as were given from the Lord to the Faith, and are derived from the Truth itself."
4. "And again, on any occasion when a person came (in my way) who had been a follower of the Elders, I would inquire about the discourses of the elders -- what was said by Andrew, or by Peter, or by Philip, or by Thomas or James, or by John or Matthew or any other of the Lord's disciples, and what Aristion and the Elder John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that I could get so much profit from the contents of books as from the utterances of a living and abiding voice."
5. Here it is worthwhile to observe that he twice enumerates the name of John. The first he mentions in connexion with Peter and James and Matthew and the rest of the Apostles, evidently meaning the Evangelist, but the other John he mentions after an interval and classes with others outside the number of the Apostles, placing Aristion before him, and he distinctly calls him an Elder.
6. So that he hereby makes it quite evident that their statement is true who say that there were two persons of that name in Asia, and that there are two tombs in Ephesus, each of which even now is called (the tomb) of John. And it is important to notice this; for it is probable that it was the second, if one will not admit that it was the first, who saw the Revelation which is ascribed by name to John.

---------- Post added at 06:42 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:35 PM ----------

They also populate the new earth with countless mortals and countless wicked. Amils and Postmils consider the new earth to be perfect and only for the righteous.


Nice to have you here.

Are you sure you're not conflating dispensationalism with historic premil here? Historic Premil does not have the NH & NE until after the end of the millennium and thus would not differ from amil and postmil in that respect. On second thought, I think this statement is not really an accurate representation of what many dispensationalists believe regarding the NH and NE. One of the more powerful illustrations I've seen of the New Jerusalem and the absurdity of any unrighteousness there was preached by W.A. Criswell, a dispensationalist. If you meant to type millennium I can see your point but that wouldn't appear to make sense given the context.

Also, please update your signature per board requirements before the mods get ya. :)

In my experience, and from even this thread, both Historic and Dispensational Premils equate Isa 65 (expressly relating to NH& NE) to a future millennium. Notwithstanding, I will reword my previous post to dispel any confusion.

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Puritan Board Freshman
Here's more interesting links:

This link: Premillennialism - An Historical Fact states the following:

Peters lists those influential men who were Pre-Mill advocates down through the 3rd Century. Of the influential men during all that time ALL but four were Pre-Mill. For the complete quote see Volume IV, Chapter XIV, V, pg. 271.

Pre-Mill Advocates of the 1st Century:
1. Andrew
2. Peter
3. Philip
4. Thomas
5. James
6. John
7. Matthew
8. Aristio
9. John the Presbyter

Peters states regarding the above: "These all lived between A.D. 1-100; John, it is supposed -- so Mosheim, etc. -- died about A.D. 100. (All these are cited by Papias, who, according to Irenaeus, was one of John's hearers, and intimate with Polycarp. John is also expressly mentioned by Justin. Now this reference to the apostles agrees with the facts that we have proven: (a) that the disciples of Jesus did hold the Jewish views of the Messianic reign in the first part of this century, and (b) that, instead of discarding them, they linked them with the Sec. Advent)."

Rather than write a book here, I will address the 1st 2 lists and comment on them. I will address other writers if the need arises.

I think it is presumptuous and mistaken to claim the NT writers as Premil. I believe the objective Bible student will recognise the absence of millennial teaching in these authors and in Scripture (including John who he calls “the Presbyter” to support Papias’ questionable conclusions). I will decline the opportunity to rebut the biblical evidence as this would be more apt on an eschatology forum on this board.

10. Clement of Rome A.D. 40-100
11. Barnabas A.D 40-100
12 Hermas A.D 40-150
13 Ignatius A.D. 50-115
14 Polycarp A.D. 70-167
15. Papias A.D. 80-163

Papias is the only confirmed Premil on this list. There is no mention of a future millennium after the second Coming in any of the other writings or is there any hint of any millennial theories. Whilst they refer to the Coming of Christ they anticipate an all-consummating event like Amil and Postmil.

The Shepherd of Hermas
Rome, Italy
(written in 88-99 AD)

First Book: Visions

First Vision

Against Filthy And Proud Thoughts, And The Carelessness Of Hermas In Chastising His Sons

Chapter IX

... Give heed to the judgment that is to come. Ye, therefore, who are high in position, seek out the hungry as long as the tower is not yet finished; for after the tower is finished, you will wish to do good, but will find no opportunity. Give heed, therefore, ye who glory in your wealth, lest those who are needy should groan, and their groans should ascend to the Lord, and ye be shut out with all your goods beyond the gate of the tower ...

This is an evangelistic exhortation to the lost to prepare for Judgment Day. It is a warning to prepare for that great and impending day when all men everywhere will be brought to account for their lives. It is a wake up call for the ungodly that have their affections on things below rather than things above. It is reminder that they will perish with their riches if they remain outside of Christ.

Hermas symbolically represents the Church in his writing as “the tower.” In this narrative he (notably) relates the completion of the tower (the Church) with the judgment. We should not forget: the whole context of this depiction specifically revolves around the writer’s admonition for the reader to consider “the judgment.” And whilst he makes clear that the Church is finally completed at the judgment, there is a solemn warning for those left behind and outside: “for after the tower is finished, you will wish to do good, but will find no opportunity.”

Third Similitude

"These trees which you see are those who dwell in this world."

Fourth Similitude

"Those," he said, "which are budding are the righteous who are to live in the world to come; for the coming world is the summer of the righteous, but the winter of sinners. When, therefore, the mercy of the Lord shines forth, then shall they be made manifest who are the servants of God, and all men shall be made manifest. For as in summer the fruits of each individual tree appear, and it is ascertained of what sort they are, so also the fruits of the righteous shall be manifest, and all who have been fruitful in that world shall be made known. But the heathen and sinners, like the withered trees which you saw, will be found to be those who have been withered and unfruitful in that world, and shall be burnt as wood, and made manifest, because their actions were evil during their lives. For the sinners shall be consumed because they sinned and did not repent, and the heathen shall be burned because they knew not Him who created them.

As in the First Vision in the First Book (Chapter IX), Hermas focuses in on the judgment at the end and the eternal separation that attends it when Jesus comes. The writer only recognises two peoples on this earth (“the righteous” and the “sinners”) who will finally be brought to account at the Second Coming. He also makes it clear that there are two completely different outcomes for these two diverse peoples after Judgment Day.

The writer only recognises two world (or ages), our sinful age is called “in that world” and the age to come is called “the coming world.” You can see that the thrust behind this teaching here is the contrast between time and eternity, the earthly and the heavenly the temporal and the eternal. He does not recognise a third millennial age. These two eras are separated by the Coming of Christ and judgment Day. This is the time when all who ever lived will be rewarded according to who they are and what they have done.

Mankind (both righteous and wicked) is symbolically likened unto trees in this manuscript. This is confirmed in the statement: "These trees which you see are those who dwell in this world." In the first scene none of the trees bear fruit as they are likened unto the barren appearance of trees undergoing winter. This seems to represent the condition of all men outside of (or before) salvation.

In the second scene things change, it says, “He showed me again many trees, some budding, and others withered.” This portrayal seems to cover all men after they have been subjected to a life in this world. What is more, the distinction between the two symbolic types of tree (humans) seems to revolve around which produced fruit through a real vibrant relationship with God in this life and which didn’t. Some are seen to respond to the spiritual life of God and others aren’t. The “budding” ones are depicted as believers and the “withered” as unbelievers. This deduction is not something that is left open to speculation, as the writer confirms: “Those ... which are budding are the righteous ...But the heathen and sinners, like the withered trees which you saw.” This fits in perfectly with much Scripture.

Bishop of Rome, Italy
(Died around 99 A.D.)

1 Clement
Chapter XXXIV

He forewarneth us saying, Behold, the Lord, and His reward is before His face, to recompense each man according to his work. He exhorteth us therefore to believe on Him with our whole heart, and to be not idle nor careless unto every good work. Let our boast and our confidence be in Him: let us submit ourselves to His will; let us mark the whole host of His angels, how they stand by and minister unto His will. For the scripture saith, Ten thousands of ten thousands stood by Him, and thousands of thousands ministered unto Him: and they cried aloud, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Sabaoth; all creation is full of His glory.

There are a few interesting pointers here that help us discern Clement’s end-time views. First, this early writer sees the Lord’s Coming as a judgment day for all. He asserts that “His reward is before His face, to recompense each man according to his work.” This is very similar language to the teaching in 2 Clement only the latter expands the portrayal in more detail. Both seem to describe an all-inclusive judgment. In both letters the writer makes no suggestion of separate judgment days as the Premil theory does. In fact a general judgment is one of the main pillars of Amillennialism.

There is no mention of a thousand years following.

2 Clement

Chapter XVI

So, then, brethren, having received no small occasion to repent, while we have opportunity, let us turn to God who called us, while yet we have One to receive us. For if we renounce these indulgences and conquer the soul by not fulfilling its wicked desires, we shall be partakers of the mercy of Jesus. Know ye that the day of judgment draweth nigh like a burning oven, and certain of the heavens and all the earth will melt, like lead melting in fire; and then will appear the hidden and manifest deeds of men. Good, then, is alms as repentance from sin; better is fasting than prayer, and alms than both; “charity covereth a multitude of sins,” and prayer out of a good conscience delivereth from death. Blessed is every one that shall be found complete in these; for alms lightens the burden of sin.

We can see how the writer anticipates the wrath of God falling at the Coming of the Lord. For those not rescued at the day of the Lord it will arrive “like a burning oven” whereupon “the earth will melt, like lead melting in fire.” This is total destruction. As 2 Peter 3 graphically depicts: this world will be dissolved when Jesus comes. In the eyes of Clement a general judgment ensues. He contends: “then will appear the hidden and manifest deeds of men.” This is the day when the secrets of all men are fully and finally manifested.

Chapter XVII

For the Lord said, “I come to gather all nations [kindreds] and tongues.” This means the day of His appearing, when He will come and redeem us—each one according to his works. And the unbelievers will see His glory and might, and, when they see the empire of the world in Jesus, they will be surprised, saying, “Woe to us, because Thou wast, and we knew not and believed not and obeyed not the elders who show us plainly of our salvation.” For “their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be a spectacle unto all flesh.” It is of the great day of judgment He speaks, when they shall see those among us who were guilty of ungodliness and erred in their estimate of the commands of Jesus Christ. The righteous, having succeeded both in enduring the trials and hating the indulgences of the soul, whenever they witness how those who have swerved and denied Jesus by words or deeds are punished with grievous torments in fire unquenchable, will give glory to their God and say, "There will be hope for him who has served God with his whole heart."

II Clement depicts a climactic Coming of Christ here. He views this event as the end. The writer identifies “the day of His appearing” as “the day of judgment” and describes the righteous and wicked both receiving their just end – the righteous are rewarded, the wicked are destroyed. He reinforces his belief with a most-likely reference to Matthew 25:32, saying, “I come to gather all nations [kindreds] and tongues.” He contends (speaking about the righteous) “the day of His appearing” is the day “when He will come and redeem us.” He equally says of this day (speaking of the wicked): "their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be a spectacle unto all flesh” (referring to Isaiah 66:24). This is indeed a general day of judgment.

Bishop of Antioch, Syria
(A.D. 98-117)

Ignatius to the Magnesians


These things I address to you, my beloved, not that I know any of you to be in such a state; but, as less than any of you, I desire to guard you beforehand, that ye fall not upon the hooks of vain doctrine, but that you may rather attain to a full assurance in Christ, who was begotten by the Father before all ages, but was afterwards born of the Virgin Mary without any intercourse with man. He also lived a holy life, and healed every kind of sickness and disease among the people, and wrought signs and wonders for the benefit of men; and to those who had fallen into the error of polytheism He made known the one and only true God, His Father, and underwent the passion, and endured the cross at the hands of the Christ-killing Jews, under Pontius Pilate the governor and Herod the king. He also died, and rose again, and ascended into the heavens to Him that sent Him, and is sat down at His right hand, and shall come at the end of the world, with His Father’s glory, to judge the living and the dead, and to render to every one according to his works.

This text is covered in classic Amillennial language. Ignatius places Christ’s coming “at the end of the world,” thus negating the possibility of a thousand year earthly millennium. In addition, the purpose of His coming is expressly “to judge the living and the dead, and to render to every one according to his works,” not to reign from some earthly temple made by human hands. Here the whole of Adam’s race is depicted as being judged at the Lord’s return. This ancient writer certainly foresaw an all-consummating return of Jesus.

Bishop in Smyrna, Turkey
(Born AD 68, writes about AD 110, martyred about AD 155)

Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians

Chapter 2. An exhortation to virtue

Wherefore, girding up your loins, serve the Lord in fear and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory, and a throne at His right hand. To Him all things in heaven and on earth are subject. Him every spirit serves. He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead. His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him. But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness,

Here again is the general judgment.

Alexandria, Egypt
(Written in A.D. 130-131)

The Epistle of Barnabas

Chapter XXI – Conclusion

It is well, therefore, that he who has learned the judgments of the Lord, as many as have been written, should walk in them. For he who keepeth these shall be glorified in the kingdom of God; but he who chooseth other things shall be destroyed with his works. On this account there will be a resurrection, on this account a retribution. I beseech you who are superiors, if you will receive any counsel of my good-will, have among yourselves those to whom you may show kindness: do not forsake them. For the day is at hand on which all things shall perish with the evil [one]. The Lord is near, and His reward.

The Second Coming is climactic according to Barnabus. It is the end of time and the wicked. It is the end of all rebellion. This is Amil/Postmil language concerning the Second Coming.
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Puritan Board Junior
I don't read Revelation as a chronological book. It actually appears cyclical in places (the same events given from different perspectives).

Also, in the clearer NT verses found in places other than Revelation, only two ages are spoken of - (1) This Age and (2) The Age to Come. There is no other stage of history after this one besides the eternal state and the NT describes this present time as "these last days."

Finally, I believe Satan is presently bound. Jesus has bound the strong man and is plundering his house now in this Gospel Age. He is no longer deceiving the nations but we are going forth and occupying/liberating all the nations. Even though there is still unbelief/persecution, the trend is definitely one of optimism (whereas it seems the premil position can sometimes sound quite negative, as if the Gospel in the world will end in failure).

Revelation may be cyclical in some places. I just don't think Rev 19 and Rev 20 is one of those places, for the reason I said above: that Rev 20 refers back to a previous event in Rev 19.

Also, as far as I know, there isn't any reason why historic premillennialism would be inherently any more pessimistic than amillennialism. You wrote above that in amillennialism that there's going to be an apostasy at the end of the age. I think only the postmil view has things going well at the time Christ returns.

Beyond that, I don't think optimism or pessimism has any bearing on which interpretation is correct.


Puritanboard Amanuensis
One should not equate chiliasm with premillennialism simpliciter since the thousand year reign might be conceived as coming before or after the return of Christ.


Puritan Board Sophomore
Revelation 19

17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and with a loud voice he called to all the birds that fly directly overhead, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, 18 to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, [fn5] both small and great.” 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence [fn6] had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh.

If Chapter 20 is chronological to ch 19 then were did the people come from to populate the New millennium?

J. Dean

Puritan Board Junior
For some reason, reading this thread has made me hungry for chili...

Anyway, that confirms what seems to be the main case for Amillenialism:namely that the majority of the church fathers were Amils.


Ordinary Guy (TM)
J. Dean:

But a large number also seemed to have followed some form of baptismal regeneration as well, right?

And how about the literal body and blood of Christ in the Supper?

Chiliasm might make you think of chili but I once thought deeply of the hominy with salt when talking of theonomy.

J. Dean

Puritan Board Junior
J. Dean:

But a large number also seemed to have followed some form of baptismal regeneration as well, right?

And how about the literal body and blood of Christ in the Supper?
Funny you mention this. I've been chatting with Lutherans, trying to understand how their view of baptism differs from Rome's, and the response they've given seems to be a distinction without a difference.

Chiliasm might make you think of chili but I once thought deeply of the hominy with salt when talking of theonomy.
Alright... I just need to get food right now.
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