Millennial Views-Part 4

By: Dr. Renald Showers; ©2003
In this article Dr. Showers shows what Church Fathers Irenaeus and Tertullian taught about Premillennialism.

Contents

Our previous article began to examine the writings of early Church leaders who indicated that Premillennialism (initially called Chiliasm) was the first major millennial view of the Church, and that it was the predominant view of orthodox believers from the first to the third centuries. This present article will examine the writings of more early Church leaders who indicated the same.

Irenaeus

Irenaeus received his early Christian training from Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna in west­ern Asia Minor. Polycarp had been a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus may have served under Polycarp for several years before being sent to Gaul (France) as a mission­ary. Around 178 A.D. Irenaeus became Bishop of Lyons in Gaul. There he continued to serve effectively during the last quarter of the second century.[1]

Irenaeus wrote the following concerning the blessings of the future Kingdom of God foretold in the Scriptures:

The predicted blessing, therefore, belongs unquestionably to the times of the kingdom, when the righteous shall bear rule upon their rising from the dead; when also the creation, having been renovated and set free, shall fructify with an abundance of all kinds of food, from the dew of heaven, and from the fertility of the earth: as the elders who saw John, the disciple of the Lord, related that they had heard from him how the Lord used to teach in regard to these times.[2]

Irenaeus declared that in conjunction with the future Kingdom and its renovation of nature, the Lord promised great fruitage of vines, abundance of grain, large productivity of fruit-bearing trees, seeds, and grass, “and that all animals feeding [only] on the productions of the earth, should [in those days] become peaceful and harmonious among each other, and be in perfect subjection to man” .[3]

According to Irenaeus, in Isaiah 11:6-9 Isaiah prophesied concerning this future time when all animals will be tame and vegetarian in diet as they were before the fall of man. Commenting on this prophecy, he said, “And it is right that when the creation is restored, all the animals should obey and be in subjection to man, and revert to the food originally given by God (for they had been originally subjected in obedience to Adam), that is, the produc­tions of the earth”.[4]

Irenaeus warned against any attempts to allegorize the Kingdom prophecies: “If, how­ever, any shall endeavor to allegorize [prophecies] of this kind, they shall not be found consistent with themselves in all points and shall be confuted by the teaching of the very expression [in question]”.[5]

With regard to prophecies concerning the resurrection of saints, Irenaeus wrote:

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; 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.[6]

Along the same lines he said the following concerning John’s comments in Revelation 20: “John, therefore, did distinctly foresee the first ‘resurrection of the just,’ and the inherit­ance in the kingdom of the earth; and what the prophets have prophesied concerning it harmonize [with his vision]”.[7]

These statements indicate that Irenaeus was convinced that saints will be resurrected from the dead to reign with Christ in His Kingdom on this earth. Concerning conditions on the earth during the Kingdom he said, “But in the times of the kingdom, the earth has been called again by Christ [to its pristine condition], and Jerusalem rebuilt after the pattern of the Jerusalem above”.[8]

Irenaeus stated that after the times of the Kingdom, the great white throne will appear, the present heavens and earth will flee away, the unjust will be resurrected and judged, the new heaven and earth will come into existence, and the new Jerusalem will descend from heaven to earth.[9]

Tertullian

Tertullian lived from approximately 160 to 220 A.D. He was thoroughly trained for poli­tics, the practice of law, and public debate. After he was converted around 195 A.D. he devoted his life to the defense of Christianity against paganism, Judaism, and heresy. He opposed infant baptism, promoted the Traducian theory of the origin of the human soul, and developed the term trinity to describe the Godhead. In the later years of his life he became associated with Montanism, a movement which some regarded to be a heretical sect.[10]

In a work which he wrote before his association with Montanism, Tertullian stated, “But we do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven, only in another state of existence; inasmuch as it will be after the resurrection for a thou­sand years”.[11]

Then he wrote, “After its thousand years are over,… there will ensue the destruction of the world and the conflagration of all things at the judgments”.[12]

The writings of more early Church leaders will be examined in the next article.

For a comparison of Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology obtain the follow­ing book: Renald E. Showers, There Really Is A Difference! (The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Telephone: 800-257-7843. Mailing address: P.O. Box 908, Bellmawr, NJ 08099).

NOTES

  1. Elgin Moyer and Earle E. Cairns, Wycliffe Biographical Dictionary of the Church, Chicago: Moody Press, 1982, p. 204.
  2. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book V, chpt. 33, section 3, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Buffalo: The Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885, I, pp. 562-563.
  3. Ibid., p. 563.
  4. Ibid., section 4, I, p. 563.
  5. Ibid., chpt. 35, section 1, I, p. 565.
  6. Ibid., p. 565.
  7. Ibid., chpt. 36, section 3, I, p. 567.
  8. Ibid., chpt. 35, section 2, I, p. 565.
  9. Ibid., p. 566.
  10. Moyer and Cairns, Biographical Dictionary, p. 396.
  11. Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book III, chpt. 25, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Buffalo: The Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885, III, p. 342.
  12. Ibid., p. 343.

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