The Apologists addressed themselves "to those outside the Church: refuting false charges brought against the believers, pleading for toleration, demonstrating the falsehood of pagan philosophy and mythology, countering the objections of Jews, and--throughout--setting forth the truth of Christianity by all manner of argumentation. Simultaneously, another class of Christian writers arose, who addressed themselves to those within the Church concerning equally pressing matters. These were the early anti-heretical writers.

Already in the second century, there was a considerable body of heretical literature in circulation, chiefly Gnostic, but also Encratite and Ebionite. "Most of these works have perished, and the same is true of the answers which they called forth from the Catholic side." 1

Of the many anti-Gnostic works of the second century and their authors we know only what Eusebius reports in his Ecclesiastical History. He mentions (4, 24) two anti-Gnostic writings of Bishop Theophilus of Antioch, one against Hermogenes, the other against Marcion. Bishop Philip of Gortyna composed an excellent treatise against Marcion' (4, 25). Agrippa Castor wrote against Basilides (4,7, 6-8); Modestus against Marcion (4, 25), and Rhodon against Marcion and Apelles (5, 13). Maximus treated the problem of evil and the creation of matter (5, 27) Musanus refuted the Encratites (4, 28). In addition, the treatises of Candidus and Apion on Genesis, of Sextus on the resurrection and of Heraclitus '0n the Apostle' which Eusebius mentions (5, 27) were written against the Gnostic heresies. However, all of these treatises are lost.2

That this corpus of anti-heretical literature has perished is especially unfortunate for the student of patristic chiliasm, because the Gnostic eschatology was diametrically opposed to millenarianism. Any anti-Gnostic writer who took up the question of eschatology, almost as a matter of course, would have revealed his sentiments concerning the resurrection, the judgment, the end of the world, the prophecies, etc., all of which are intimately intertwined with the question of the Millennium. From the approach taken in refuting Gnostic eschatology, then, the writer would almost inevitably have displayed his millennial views. For, as Case observes,

Since the Gnostics regarded matter as wholly evil, they rejected belief in the resurrection and the establishment of a new regime by Christ upon earth. Their supreme quest was the complete deliverance of the soul from the realm of matter. To assume that the soul must return to the body, even for participation in the privileges of the millennial kingdom, was virtually a denial of the gnostic idea of salvation. On the contrary, at death the soul of the righteous was thought to pass at once to its heavenly rewards, hence all millennial imagery was rejected outright. 3

Harnack states that Gnosticism's greatest deviation from tradition appears in eschatology (along with the rejection of the Old Testament and the separation of the Creator of the world from the supreme God).4 He further remarks that, on the whole, not too much is known of Gnostic eschatology, but that this is not surprising, since they did not have too much to say on the matter. Marcion referred all the eschatological expectations of the early Christians to the province of the God of the Jews. Valentinians interpreted the words, "resurrection of the flesh," to mean that one must rise in this life, i.e., perceive the truth.

While the Christian tradition placed a great drama at the close of history, the Gnostics regard the history itself as the drama, which virtually closes with the (first) appearing of Christ. It may not have been the opinion of all Gnostics that the resurrection has already taken place, yet for most of them the expectations of the future seem to have been quite faint, and above all without significance. The life is so much included in knowledge, that we nowhere in our sources find a strong expression of hope in a life beyond . . .5

What remains of the early anti-heretical literature tends to confirm the deduction that their lost writings would add greatly to our knowledge of primitive premillennialism. Hippolytus, the disciple of Irenaeus, who flourished in the third century, wrote extensively on eschatology. So, too, did Tertullian, the first great Latin theologian.6 Of the two writers to be treated in this chapter, the first--Hegesippus--offers frustratingly meager clues that he was a millenialist, while the second--Irenaeus--displays himself a chiliast at prodigious length.


Hegesippus, who flourished between 150 and 180 A.D., was an early champion of orthodoxy in the face of the rising tide of heresy. Eusebius concluded that he was a Jewish- Christian, and the detailed history which Hegesippus left of the Palestinian Church makes it probable that he was a native of the Holy Land. In any event, he was a native of the eastern half of the Empire. He was a master of Hebrew, Syriac, and Greek, and possessed a wide familiarity with Jewish oral tradition.7 Eusebius counts Hegesippus as a champion of orthodoxy against Gnosticism, along with Justin.8

Ca. 180 he completed his Memoirs in five books. In these he treated such subjects as Christian literature, the unity of Christian doctrine, paganism, heresy, and Jewish- Christianity. Fragments of the work are preserved by Eusebius.9 The objective of the Memoirs was to set forth a true account of the traditions and doctrines received from the apostles. Throughout, the work is penetrated by this singular design, worked out in a series of vignettes from Church history, coupled with bits of information about the Church in his own time. He aimed to demonstrate the unity of faith among the churches of the Empire's leading cities--both past and present--as handed down from apostolic times. This uniform tradition--public, secure, and historical--was in utter contrast to the varied claims of the obscure and cryptic Gnostic sects.10 He journeyed to various of the chief churches, to verify that the same doctrine was everywhere received, including the churches of Corinth and Rome.11 As late as the seventeenth century, the complete Memoirs could be found in several Greek monasteries, but no copies are known today. Swete says that the recovery of these Memoirs would be second in value only to the recovery of Papias' lost books.12

Hegesippus is not often discussed in connection with the history of early chiliasm. Briggs denies that there is any evidence for his millenarianism,13 and Peters claims him as a premillennialist.14 The eschatological references in his surviving works are sparse. There is mention of "a resurrection" and "the coming of One to requite every man according to his works."15 It is also recorded that James the Just answered the Pharisees, "Why ask ye me concerning Jesus the Son of man? He Himself sitteth in heaven, at the right hand of the Great Power, and shall come on the clouds of heaven."16 Though this is plainly reminiscent of Justin Martyr, it is insufficient to establish Hegesippus' chiliasm.

Hegesippus has also preserved an account of two of the Lord's relatives having been brought before Domitian:

There still survived of the kindred of the Lord the grandsons of Judas, who according to the flesh was called his brother. These were informed against, as belonging to the family of David, and Evocatus brought them before Domitian Caesar: for that emperor dreaded the advent of Christ, as Herod had done.

So he asked them whether they were of the family of David; and the confessed they were. Next he asked them what property they had, or how much money they possessed. They both replied that they had only 9000 denaria between them, each of them owning half that sum; but even this they said they did not possess in cash, but as the estimated value of some land, consisting of thirty-nine plethra only, out of which they had to pay the dues, and that they supported themselves by their own labour. And then they began to hold out their hands, exhibiting, as proof of their manual labour, the roughness of their skin, and the corns raised on their hands by constant work. Being then asked concerning Christ and His kingdom, what was its nature, and when and where it was to appear, they returned answer that it was not of this world, nor of the earth, but belonging to the sphere of heaven and angels, and would make its appearance at the end of time, when He shall come in glory, and judge living and dead, and render to every one according to the course of his life. Thereupon Domitian passed no condemnation upon them, but treated them with contempt, as too mean for notice, and let them go free. At the same time he issued a command, and put a stop to the persecution against the Church.17

Grier concludes from this account that "these two worthies of the close of the first century were certainly no believers in an earthly millennial kingdom," for, here, the Kingdom of Christ is stated to be neither earthly nor temporal, but celestial and angelic, coming at the end of the worlds with a general resurrection and judgment.18 But Grier surely errs in this conclusion. The language employed by the grandsons of Jude is precisely the language of Justin Martyr in his First Apology.19 Justin argued that the Kingdom hope of Christians was not earthly and that Christians had no desire to subvert the Empire. They looked, said Justin, for the Second Advent of Christ in glory, when He will raise the bodies of all men, some going to everlasting punishment and others receiving immortality. Yet Justin elsewhere clearly shows himself to be a millenarian, who hoped for a first resurrection and a 1000-year terrestrial Kingdom. Clearly, then, when the early Christians made apology before the Roman authorities, they were at pains to emphasize that they had no intention of overthrowing Rome by force of arms. The Kingdom they looked for would come at the end of the world via supernatural intervention. They emphasized their own loyalty and lack of monarchical ambitions. Such was the course pursued by the grandsons of Jude. Their language is guarded. It would no more have served their purposes than it would have served Justin's purposes to have entered into an exposition concerning the Millennial Kingdom, which would have been subject to misunderstanding on the part of the pagan emperor. It was best to remain silent on the subject and to speak generally of the end of the world and the coming judgment. Note, however, that this guarded language in no way excludes the Millennial Kingdom, and, in fact, may even imply it, for these simple Jewish-Christians speak of Christ's Kingdom as presently in heaven (echoing Psa. 110), from whence it will make its "appearance," at Christ's coming in glory.

Two other strands of evidence from Hegesippus bear upon the question of his millenarianism. The first strand is drawn from the fact that in his Memoirs he faithfully recounts a whole series of uniquely Jewish-Christian traditions.20 Now, the opposition to chiliasm stemmed from the influence of Hellenistic philosophy on Christian theology, coupled with a slackening interest in Christ's Second Advent as the Church came to prosper in this world. Later writers, such as Jerome, condemned chiliasm s exegesis as "judaizing." Therefore, the Jewish-Christian affinities of Hegesippus weigh heavily in favor of his having read the prophecies in a literal rather than in an allegorizing fashion.

The second strand of evidence comes from two fragments which H. J. Lawlor has persuasively argued are extracts from Hegesippus' Memoirs.21 If the two fragments are the work of Hegesippus, then, says Lawlor, they prove that Hegesippus "believed in the late date [i.e., last decade of the first century A.D.] and Apostolic authorship of the Apocalypse."22 This bit of evidence strongly implies that Hegesippus was a millenarian. The earliest opponents of chiliasm employed two chief tactics: denial of the apostolicity of the Apocalypse (like Caius of Rome) or they accepted the book, but allegorized its prophecies (like Origen). Now, if Hegesippus was given to Jewish-Christian exegesis and also accepted the apostolic authorship of the Apocalypse, it seems to follow that he must also have been a chiliast. Furthermore, his anti-Gnostic polemics, the similarities between his remaining eschatological fragments and those of Justin (whom Irenaeus followed),23 and his insistence on following the received traditions which were the possession of all the churches,24 all link Hegesippus with Irenaeus, his contemporary, and the greatest chiliast of Christian antiquity.


Irenaeus was the most important theologian of the second century, the "Father of Dogmatics," yet little is known of his life. Born in Asia Minor, he spent part of his youth in Smyrna, where he sat at the feet of the venerable Polycarp. If Polycarp's martyrdom is to be placed ca. 155 then Irenaeus' birth would fall somewhere ca. 140. He migrated to Lyons (Lugdunum) in Gaul and rose to leadership in the Church there. In 177 he was dispatched to Rome to mediate in the Montanist Controversy, and, upon his return, he was elected bishop in the stead of the aged Photinus, who had suffered martyrdom in the interim. During the Paschal Controversy (ca. 190), he appealed to Victor to make peace with the churches of Asia Minor.25 He was active in evangelism among the Gauls. The spread of Gnosticism occasioned rebuttals from Irenaeus' pen, and it is chiefly through these writings that he is known today. Apart from the information gathered from his surviving writings, little is known of Irenaeus, not even the date of his death.26

Before turning to the eschatology of Irenaeus, It is important to observe his attitude toward tradition and his connection with the apostolic era. In a letter to Florinus and in a passage from Against Heresies--both quoted previously27--Irenaeus states that in his youth he sat at the feet of the venerable Polycarp and received from him oral traditions handed down from the apostles. He insists that he still cleaves to this teaching, along with the whole circle of Johannine churches in Asia Minor. In the face of the Gnostic mutilation of apostolic teaching, Irenaeus lays great stress on adhering to the received faith of the Church.28 Of all the second century writers, he was in the most favorable position to testify to that faith. He was perfectly at home in the Greek Bible. He was well read in earlier Christian writers, including Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Papias, Ignatius, Hermas, Justin Martyr, and Tatian.29

His position gives him additional weight, for he is linked by two long lives, that of his teacher and grand-teacher, to the fountain head of Christianity* We plainly trace in him the influence of the spirit of Polycarp and John.30

He opposed all error and schism and was, on the whole, the most orthodox of the ante-Nicene fathers.31 Among the spiritual children and grandchildren of the Apostle John-- Polycarp, Papias, Apollinaris, Melito, and the rest--the last and greatest was Irenaeus.32 The fact, then, that Irenaeus, the spiritual grandson of John the Apocalyptist, was the greatest chiliast of patristic literature--the most erudite and scriptural in hie exposition--is the strongest possible historical argument that premillennialism was the received, apostolic faith of the primitive Church.33 He says as much in Against Heresies 5. 32 1 when he states that those who are ignorant of God's dispensations and do not expect a resurrection of the just (to participate in the Millennial Kingdom) have derived their views from heretical discourses.34 Chiliasm he traces back to Papias and Polycarp and John.35 The premillennialism of Irenaeus also strongly argues for the millenarianism of the associates of this conservative theologian, as well as that of the older writer whom he had read. In short, if Irenaeus was a chiliast, such must have been the received faith of the Church.

We turn now to an examination of the eschatology of Irenaeus, the spiritual grandson of the Apostle John. We are dependent almost entirely upon his magnum opus. Against Heresies, for this information.36 All the other works of Irenaeus have perished, save one. The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching.37 This latter, small work is basically a compendium of Biblical theology; the eschatological references are fleeting. In fact, were this work all that remained of Irenaeus' literary output, amillennial polemicists would certainly seize upon it as "evidence" that our author was no chiliast. They would point out that this small work speaks of Christ's Kingdom and rule as everlasting, without end, and eternal.38 Furthermore, Christ is said to be seated in heaven, from whence He shall return In Judgment, destroying the wicked with fire at the end of the world.39 That Irenaeus makes these statements should, however, once and for all demonstrate that such expressions are not incompatible with premillennialism; they are to be found frequently in the writings of the early millenarians. In the course of discussing the overall premillennial scheme of Irenaeus, the occasional pieces of relevant data from the Demonstration will be introduced at the appropriate time.

It is within the massive anti-Gnostic tome, Against Heresies, then, that Irenaeus' chiliastic system has been preserved. The full title of the work is Detection and Overthrow of the Pretended but False Gnosis. As indicated by the title, Against Heresies is divided into two parts. Book I constitutes the first part: the detection of the Gnostic heresy. In this invaluable sourcebook for the history of Gnosticism, Irenaeus describes the doctrine and history of various forms of Gnosticism, which he intersperces with polemic. In the succeeding four books he takes up the "overthrow" of the heresy in greater detail. Book 2 refutes the gnosis of the Valentinians and Marcionites from reason; Book 3 from the Christian doctrine of God and Christ; Book 4 from the sayings of the Lord. Book 5 is concerned almost entirely with the doctrine of the resurrection of the flesh, which was denied by the Gnostics. At the end of this book, Irenaeus sets forth his millenarian views.40

The Gnostics despised the body and denied the redemption of the flesh. They pretended that immediately after death, the soul would ascend to heaven and be done with the prison of the flesh. Against this negative valuation of the body, Irenaeus demonstrates that the Scriptures teach that the righteous shall receive the fruits of their perseverance in the same body which they had here on earth. 41 Against the Gnostic contention that the flesh cannot partake of salvation, Irenaeus contends that "flesh and blood" can inherit the Kingdom of God, because in I Cor. 15:50 Paul was speaking of "carnales actus,"42 In Book 5, chiliasm proves a useful tool in Irenaeus' anti-Gnostic apologetic; redemption extends to the physical realm. However, as Kromminga rightly notes, Irenaeus held his premillennial views quite independently of his anti-Gnosticism.43

Against the Gnostic sophistries, Irenaeus set forth the Biblical doctrine of the Last Things. Irenaeus' views concerning the End Times (immediately prior to Christ's appearing in glory) are expounded in Against Heresies 5. 25-30.44 His exposition is based upon a detailed exegesis and careful collation of the prophecies of Daniel, the Apocalypse, the Olivet Discourse, and II Thes. 2. The resultant picture depicts ten kings standing in the stead of Rome ("the empire which now rules") in the End Times.45 Antichrist will slay three of these ten and subject the rest to himself.

This Antichrist will be a member of the tribe of Dan.46 He will be an apostate and a robber who shall seek to be adored as God, a usurper endowed with all the power of the devil. He concentrates in his own person the apostasy foretold by Paul in II Thes. 2. He shall accomplish whatever he wills, sitting in the Jerusalem temple and proclaiming himself Christ. His dupes will worship him as such.47 Antichrist shall be accompanied by an "armour-bearer"--the predicted false prophet of the Apocalypse--who shall perform wonders by the power of magic. He shall cause men to worship the image of the beast and to bear its mark, the number 666.48 This represents a "summing up of the whole of that apostasy which has taken place during the six thousand years" of prior human history.49 John Lawson comments, "It is most interesting to observe that in this recapitulation there is something exactly parallel to the Recapitulation worked by Christ."50 Upon the defeat of the representative head of the wicked who will have constituted himself evil's champion--all the power of evil will be shut up in confinement.

But before the final defeat of Antichrist, he shall speak words against God, wear out the saints, and seek to change times and laws. Everything will be given into his hands for three-and-one-half years. During these 31/2 years of tyranny, the Church shall be put to flight.51 But the culmination of evil is short-lived. At the end, Christ--pictured In Dan. 2 as the smiting stone cut out without hands shall return, destroying all temporal kingdoms, and introducing an eternal one.52 Antichrist shall be cast into the lake of fire.53 The earth shall be purged of his followers at this time.54 Just as God's just judgment is about to fall upon the wicked, the Church shall suddenly be caught up from the earth to avoid the "tribulation such as has not been since the beginning."55 Then the unbelieving nations shall experience the final conflagration, after which the beast is cast into "the furnace of fire."56 It is apparently to this conflagration before the Millennium that Irenaeus refers in The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching when he says, "And the judgment is that which by fire will be the destruction of the unbelievers at the end of the world."57 This deduction is confirmed by chapter 85 of the same work, where he explains Psa. 110:1 as teaching that Christ now sits in heaven awaiting the Judgment of his enemies (both human and angelic apostates), when they shall be put under foot. He adds that Psa. 19:6 ("And there is none that shall be hid from his heat"--LXX) "signifies his judgment."

The destruction of Antichrist's kingdom--and his being cast into the lake of fire along with his followers--occurs in conjunction with the return of Christ in glory.58 This second advent of the Messiah was foretold by the Old Testament prophets.59 At the parousia, the dead saints shall be raised.60 This resurrection Irenaeus commonly refers to as "the resurrection of the just," drawing upon the distinction between the "first resurrection" (that of the saints) and the second, general resurrection, as taught in Rev a 20.61

John Lawson argues that--unlike Justin, who held to two resurrections on the basis of Rev. 20--Irenaeus held that both the righteous and the wicked will rise together, and that the Judgment occurs before the commencement of the Millennium.62 However, Lawson has not read Irenaeus carefully enough. Wood correctly states the matter when he writes,

Whilst Irenaeus looked for a general resurrection, when God through Christ will "raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race", it does not appear that he envisaged a simultaneous resurrection. The righteous will be raised first amongst mankind prior to the earthly reign of our Lord. The wicked will be raised, in their turn, at the close of the Millennium. The purpose of the Parousia is to separate the believing from the unbelieving, and this separation begins at the moment of the first resurrection.63

Gustaf Wingren has observed that Irenaeus connects two New Testament passages, Rev. 20:1-21:4 and I Cor. 15 24-28. The former speaks of the 1000-year earthly reign of Christ; the latter teaches that at the end, Christ shall deliver up the Kingdom to the Father. Irenaeus holds that there will be two resurrections:

first, the resurrection of the just who have eternal life in themselves, and then the resurrection of all men according to their works. Irenaeus describes the state between the first resurrection and the second as "the Kingdom of the Son ."64

The "Kingdom of the Son" is a transition stage in history. At its end comes the final consummation and decisive defeat of evil, at which time the Kingdom is delivered to the Father. Now, the "Kingdom of the Son" is equated with the 1000-year reign of Rev. 20. But, notes Wingren, Irenaeus nowhere employs the expression 1000 years to denote the period between the first resurrection and the Last Judgment.65 Despite repeated allusions to Rev. 20, the expression is consistently avoided. Says Wingren: "There is no doubt at all that this reveals a studious avoidance of the doctrine of the 'thousand years' reign. The question, he says, is simply whether it was Irenaeus himself who avoided the mention of a definite period of time, or whether it was one of his followers who has made elisions in the text. Wingren concludes that it is therefore improper to speak of the 'thousand years' reign" in Irenaeus.66

Wingren's points are well taken. Nowhere in Against Heresies do we find mention of the Kingdom's length as 1000 years. Furthermore, as Wingren notes, it is impossible to ascertain whether this omission is due to a later, editing hand or to some motive on Irenaeus' own part which we cannot ascertain. What is certain, however, is the following:(1) Irenaeus expected the reign of Christ on earth to be of limited duration, after which would come the Judgment, the second resurrection, and the new heaven and the new earth;67 (2) Irenaeus equated this earthly reign of Christ with the Kingdom described in Rev. 20 as lasting 1000 years.68

Furthermore, Irenaeus held to the theory so commonly found among the patristic millennialists that the times of the Kingdom were the Sabbath of world history. He teaches that just as the world was created in six days, so it will endure 6000 years. "For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded," he says. The statement in Gen. 2:2 that in six days God created all things, resting on the seventh, Irenaeus understands to be both an historical account and a future prophecy. "For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year."69 Just as the six days of creation prefigured the coming 6000 year history of the human race, so the sabbath rest at the end of that week prefigures the sabbath rest at the end of the six millennia. The "times of the Kingdom" which the returning Christ shall introduce are termed "the rest, the hallowed seventh day."70 This is the "true Sabbath of the righteous," wherein they shall rest, not pursuing any earthly occupation, all their needs being supplied by God.71 Now, since Irenaeus clearly teaches that a prophetic day equals a thousand years,72 and since he teaches that the first six days of the creative week parallel 6000 years of earthly history, it logically follows that Irenaeus expected the coming Kingdom of the Son, which parallels the sabbath day of Gen. I, to last 1000 years, Wingren's strictures notwithstanding.73

The Old Testament saints will share in the first resurrection, along with the members of the Church. The patriarchs and prophets of the old dispensation received the promises of God concerning the coming Messiah and His Kingdom. They died without having received the object of their hope. In the Millennial Kingdom, though, they shall actually see and hear the Christ in the flesh, all the promises then being realized.74 To Abraham will be restored "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 .'"75 Patriarch and Gentile believer alike shall recline together at table and sup with their Messiah in His Kingdom.76 Irenaeus insists that God's promises are sure and must be fulfilled. Now, God promised to Abraham that he would inherit the whole land of Palestine, yet throughout his life he remained always a stranger and a sojourner in the promised land. Since God must remain true to His promise, the fulfillment must logically await the Millenniums:

If then, God promised him the inheritance of the land, yet he did not receive it during all the time of his sojourn there, it must be, that together with his seed, that is, those who fear God and believe in Him, he shall receive it at the resurrection of the just. For his seed is the Church. . . . 77

But both Abraham and his seed shall receive the promised inheritance in the land during the coming Kingdom, "For God is true and faithful; and on this account He said, 'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.'"78 Similarly, in Gen. 27:28-29 the promise of God that the nationswould serve Jacob will be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom, for the promise was never fulfilled in Jacob's lifetime. After receiving the promise, he went forth and served Laban; subsequently he bowed before his brother, Esau; and finally, he was subject to Pharaoh in Egypt. "The predicted blessing, therefore, belongs unquestionably to the times of the kingdom. . . ." And, "If any one, then, does not accept these things as referring to the appointed kingdom, he must fall into much contradiction and contrariety. . . ."79

Various other promises of Scripture will also find their realization in the Kingdom, including some spoken by Christ Himself, as, e.g., Matt, 5:5 and 8:11, which have been cited above. Then, also, will be fulfilled Christ's words at that supper in the upper room, "I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of this vine, until that day when I will drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:27).80 Irenaeus gives further such citations from the Gospels, together with an array of Old Testament references.81

During the Millennium, the earth will be restored to its original, bountiful fertility, and the animals will return to their primitive tranquility (which were, as has been seen, common themes in primitive millenarian writings). Creation will be renovated: restored to its primeval condition under the rule of the righteous (Rom. 8:19).82 The saints shall no longer need to till the earth in order to bring forth fruit by the sweat of their brow, for in the Sabbath Millenary, all their needs shall be provided for out of God's bounty.83 The Lord's promises of recompense to His followers who make material sacrifices for His sake in this world will be realized at this time (Luke 14:12, 18:29-30; Matt. 19:29).84

This spontaneous abundance in the renovated earth is witnessed to not only by Scripture, but by tradition as well. Irenaeus testifies that 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. . . . "85 Then he quotes the famous passage about the vines bringing forth ten thousand branches, etc., which has been given in full in connection with Papias.86 Besides oral tradition from the circle of elders who had known John, written testimony from the same circle also testifies to the coming palingenesis of natures "And these things are borne witness to in writing by Papias, the hearer, of John, and a companion of Polycarp, in his fourth book . . ."87 Irenaeus quotes with approval the saying of Papias that, "'these things are credible to believers.'"88

Both flora and fauna shall be restored to Eden-like conditions. Isa. 11:6-9 and 65:25 are cited as proof that peace shall be restored in the animal kingdom. Irenaeus argues;

I am quite aware that some persons endeavour to refer these words to the case of savage men, both of different nations and various habits, who come to believe, and when they have believed, act in harmony with the righteous. But although this is [true] now with regard to some men coming from various nations to the harmony of the faith, nevertheless in the resurrection of the just [the words shall also apply] to those animals mentioned,'89

It is right, notes Irenaeus, that the animals should revert to their original food and subjection to man, as at the time of Adam.

Wingren has aptly summarized matters, saying, "The Kingdom of the Son is the last phase in the restoration of Creation." Through man's transgression, the Creation was drastically altered, and, so, when the righteous come into the Kingdom, nature itself will become different and "healthier" [sic].90 "When man becomes man and reaches his destination, God's decree for Creation is fulfilled. And it is an integral part of this original decree that man is to 'rule' all other living creatures on the earth." Likewise, the earth's failure to produce to its limits, spontaneously, resulted from God's curse of the ground. Therefore, all of Creation groans in travail, awaiting the revealing of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19-22). "And the 'son' of God is precisely the new man in Christ, man who has returned to what the Creator intended him to be."91

In this restored earth, Irenaeus insists that there will be "joy of this nature" for the resurrected saints, citing Isa. 26:19. They will dwell in peace in the Land of Promise.92 Various prophecies are adduced, which foretell the blessings and felicity of the coming Kingdom of the Messiah. This was what John meant to convey when he wrote, "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection" (Rev. 20:6). Likewise, the Kingdom to be given to the saints (Dan. 7:27) refers to this future time, for it was declared to the prophet, "And come thou, and stand in thy lot at the consummation of the days" (Dan. 12:13).93 Further prophecies from Isaiah are cited, which speak of the Lord's reign from Jerusalem.94 Noting that the prophecies of these things cannot be understood of supercelestial matters, but refer to the times of the Kingdom, when the earth shall be restored to its pristine condition, Irenaeus declares that Jerusalem shall be rebuilt according to the pattern of the Jerusalem above.95

From Jerusalem, the saints (under their triumphant Lord) shall exercise dominion over the rest of the earth. Peace and prosperity shall prevail. Those men who have survived God's wrath during the Tribulation, who were not numbered among the followers of Antichrist--"those who the Lord shall find in the flesh"--shall be left to multiply upon the earth. It is over these men that the resurrected saints shall exercise their rule.96 This fact utterly refutes the assertion of Strong that there is a great cleavage between Irenaeus and modern chiliasts concerning who shall participate in the Millennium. Strong has written:

To Irenaeus the millennium has no reference to the wicked; its benefits are exclusively for the saved that they may be rewarded and further prepared for the blessings to be revealed in the new heavens and the new earth.97

Despite the complaints of Kromminga that Irenaeus does not adequately explain the role of the Millennium,98 Wingren has demonstrated clearly that for Irenaeus it represents a transition stage between this world and eternity. It is the "first phase of eschatology; it will be a kingdom here on earth, on the first but renewed earth, before the Last Judgment."99 It is the transition stage between the preliminary defeat of Satan and his final, decisive defeat.100 It is the final period of redemptive activity before all is delivered to the Father. For,

the work of the Incarnate One is precisely recapitulation. The work of the Son of God as man was complete when he restored man to hie perfect health and drove all evil out of existence. As long as man's restoration is incomplete, the work of recapitulation will continue.101

Throughout the Millennium, man continues to progress and grow, until finally reaching his destination. As shown previously, the Millennium is the last phase in Creation's restoration to its pristine condition. In sum, the Millennial Kingdom is the "beginning of the Consummation, the link between the period of the Church and eternity." Only at its close, when Christ delivers up the Kingdom to the Father will the original goal of humanity finally be reached.102 Up until this final moment, God's ultimate purposes will not be completely realized, for this only occurs when His universal dominion is unimpeded by hostile opposition of any sort from the forces of evil. The struggle continues in the Kingdom. "The conclusion of the regnum will be the judgment of the unrighteous and the disappearance of death." During the Millennium the evil power is confined and imprisoned. But its final expulsion does not come until the end, at the Last Judgment.

Growth and conflict will both be brought to an end within the period of the Kingdom . . . with its last mighty act, and neither is complete until the moment when the Son Himself shall also be subject to the Father.103

At the conclusion of the Millennium come the general resurrection and the judgment, as depicted by John in the Apocalypse.104 The dead, both great and small, shall be raised and judged according to their recorded deeds, and all whose name's are not found written in the Book of Life shall be cast into the lake of fire. Additional details of this picture are also given: the sheep shall be separated from the goats, all men being divided into these two groups. Living men, too, shall appear before the throne, for the Son shall send His angels to gather out of His Kingdom everything which offends (to be cast into the furnace of fire), while the just shall receive the Kingdom of their Father.105

After the Judgment, according to John's vision, will come a new heaven and a new earth. The New Jerusalem will descend from heaven, and in it there shall be no remembrance of former, things, but only joy and exultation. In this tabernacle God shall dwell with men.106 In the transformation at the end of the Millennium, the essence of creation shall not be annihilated. Rather, its fashion shall be changed, as the Apostle teaches when he speaks of the fashion of the world passing away (I Cor. 7:31).107 Throughout the Millennium, men shall be disciplined and prepared for the new heaven and new earth, that they "may be capable of receiving the glory of the Father."108 God, thus, prepares men for His glory by stages: "they ascend through the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son to the Father," i.e., through the Church to the Millennium, and through the Millennium to the new heaven and new earth.109 Thus it shall be that, in due time the Son will yield up His work to the Father. All things having been subdued unto Christ, He shall become subject to the Father, that God may be all in all (I Cor. 15:27-28).110

Such were Irenaeus' views concerning the Millennium and associated topics. Irenaeus millennialism is not an intrusion into his thought--whether for polemical (anti- Gnostic) motives or out of loyalty to tradition alone--but an organic and natural part of it.111 And Irenaeus' thought was fundamentally rooted in the Bible. Thus, Wood's words are most appropriate:

In considering the eschatology of Irenaeus as indeed his teaching in its entirety--we must begin by taking note of the indisputable fact that he was essentially a biblical theologian. He made no claim to originality. He was content to rely on the Word of God. Throughout his classic treatise (as elsewhere) he referred to the witness of Scripture preserved by the "elders", which he simply sought to hand on and apply. . . With Irenaeus, tradition was not an independent factor; it merely served to confirm the testimony of Scripture. This latter he regarded as "the ground and pillar of our faith".112

Certain scholars have operated with a "presbyter-source" hypothesis for the chiliasm of Irenaeus. All that they disapprove of in his eschatology, they attempt to foist upon the presbyters, being unwilling to allow that Irenaeus could have sincerely maintained a premillennial position. But, as Wingren replies to such assertions, anyone can plainly see that Irenaeus often cites authorities. But his "authorities" are cited because they are in agreement with his general viewpoint.113 And his general viewpoint is founded upon an exhaustive study of Scripture.

The subject of the Christian Hope is treated fully and emphatically, with a wealth of quotation from the Old and New Testaments. No part of his theology is more plainly of directly Biblical and Hebraic inspiration than this.114

For a writer such as Briggs to argue, then, that Irenaeus was "misled" by Papias, whom he highly esteemed,115 is an argument without weight. The above presentation of Irenaeus' eschatology conclusively demonstrates that his views had an exegetical foundation. A single quotation from Papias, a solitary citation from the Apocalypse of Baruch, and a lone appeal to the teaching of the elders cannot override this overwhelming fact. Delete these three references, and Irenaeus' whole system remains intact; but delete his exegetical material, and nothing remains but a shambles.

A further word concerning the relationship between Irenaeus and Papias is in order. It is an argument bearing its own refutation to argue--as, e.g., Shedd--that Papias was a man of small intellect and of little influence and yet was the cause of later writers being carried away by millenarian notions. "It is not in the nature of things, that a manlike Irenaeus should have been led to adopt the millenarian system at the hand of a shallow-minded fanatic.116 Furthermore, it was a tactic initiated by Eusebius who was ever careful to preserve only the most unflattering fragments from Papias' five Books--to argue that Papias misinterpreted what he learned from the apostles. Yet,

St. Irenaeus, . . . it must be allowed, was less likely to have been misinformed on what the apostles taught than Eusebius; and the Apocalypse being admitted to be the work of St. John, whatever we find in it is no longer a Jewish tradition but a Christian verity.117

In conclusion, then, Irenaeus was a thoroughly Biblical theologian. He resisted the temptation to allegorize the prophecies and insisted on their future, literal fulfillment. As a result of his anti-Gnostic polemics and his extensive exegetical studies' he developed an entire philosophy of history within a pre-millennial framework.118 He testifies that the tradition of those who knew the apostles is in agreement with his doctrine, and that anti-chiliastic views are of heretical origin. Coming from the Asian circle of presbyters who had known John the writer of the Apocalypse, his testimony is of vital importance. That Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp and Papias, the disciples of John, was a chiliast in his interpretation of the Apocalypse (and all the other prophetic Scriptures) is further corroboration of the conclusion arrived at elsewhere in this study, that the Asian churches sired by the Apostle John received and tenaciously adhered to premillennialism throughout the second century A.D.


As in the case of both the Apostolic Fathers and the Apologists, there is difficulty in tracing the history of chiliasm in the anti-heretical writers, due to the fragmentary nature of their remains. The works of many of these writers have perished. Only fragments remain of Hegesippus' corpus, and only two of Irenaeus' works have survived.

However, some important conclusions can still be reached. It is important to observe that both Hegesippus and Irenaeus were in excellent positions to testify concerning the catholic faith. Hegesippus was in such a position as a result of his extensive travels and intercourse with the various churches toward this very end. Irenaeus, likewise, was familiar with the faith held by the churches of Gaul, Asia, and Rome; furthermore, he was a disciple of disciples of the apostles. Both men had made diligent inquiry concerning the traditions handed down from the apostles, as well as having searched the Scriptures in their endeavors to refute the Gnostics. They were, therefore, in excellent positions to render testimony concerning the received faith of the Church.

That the anti-Gnostic writers should have concerned themselves with ascertaining the received faith of the Church in eschatology was necessary by the very nature of their endeavor. The Gnostics deviated from Apostolic Christianity in no area more sharply than in the realm of eschatology. Necessity almost compelled the anti-Gnostics writers to consider eschatology. Therefore, the evidence to be garnered from this group of writers is of special significance.

This expectation of significant material is not disappointed. Despite the fragmentary nature of his remains, Hegesippus gives evidence of having accepted the Johannine authorship of the Apocalypse, and, since he displays definite Jewish-Christian affinities, it seems unlikely that he would have interpreted the book in an Origenistic fashion. Since the early opponents of chiliasm either rejected the Apocalypse outright or allegorized its prophecies, it seems probable, then, that Hegesippus was a millenarian. In the case of Irenaeus, we are not dependent upon inference to establish his millennial views. He was a convinced and systematic premillenarian. He integrates his chiliasm with a coherent hermeneutic and view of prophetic Scripture as a whole. That this was his position argues strongly for the millennialism of his teachers, the circle of bishops with which he was associated, and those ecclesiastical writers whom he had read, for Irenaeus insisted on adhering to received, traditional orthodoxy. At the same time, he was a Biblical theologian of the first magnitude. (He saw no contradiction between the primitive tradition and Scripture.) No patristic writer of the first two centuries gives us such important exegetical treatments of the Scriptures dealing with the End Times.

In sum, this class of writers reinforces the conclusion previously reached, that the early Christians understood the prophetic Scriptures in a chiliastic sense and that they received this understanding from a prior generation of Christians which had been schooled by the apostles.


Was premillennialism the received faith of the Church? Students of the New Testament have come to widely differing conclusions concerning whether the Scriptures teach millenarian doctrine. In an effort to bolster their position, proponents of premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism have all resorted to appeals to primitive patristic writings. In doing so, they have recognized the strong presumption which is created in favor of a doctrine if it can be demonstrated that the doctrine was held continuously by the earliest Christians going back to apostolic times. Likewise, if it can be shown that a particular doctrine originated in a later century, while the earliest believers held a diametrically differing viewpoint, a presumption is created against that later belief. This is what is at stake in the protracted debate between the different schools of eschatology concerning the extent, origin, and significance of ancient chiliasm.

The writings of the early Fathers in no way establish any doctrine, but they are nevertheless of great value. The earliest patristic writings carry us back to an era which was still relatively uncorrupted by error, to a time when the fires of the apostolic faith still burned brightly. If the early writings present a uniform system of Biblical interpretation concerning the Millennium, and, further, if they give evidence--both explicitly and implicitly--that the same was received from the apostles, then the probability is increased that this system of interpretation is the correct one. In short, they are valuable corroboratory witnesses as to the correct system of Biblical interpretation. The polemicists of the various schools of interpretation have not erred in stressing the value of the patristic testimony.

There are difficulties confronting the study of whether premillennialism was the received faith of the Church. Due to the persecutions of the age, the comparatively small size of the Church, and the relative scarcity of Christian men of letters, the amount of early patristic literature produced prior to the year 200 A.D. was far smaller than what was to follow. Basically, early Christian literary production was meager. However, judging from some of the lost titles preserved by Eusebius and Jerome, important eschatological tomes were written, which would provide us with far more conclusive evidence than we now possess, had they survived. Because so many valuable works touching upon our topic are presently lost, conclusions about the eschatology of many authors are possible only on a tentative or inferential level; in a disappointing number of cases, conclusions are altogether impossible.

Yet, despite these difficulties, enough primitive patristic literature has survived that conclusions may be drawn concerning our topic. Among the Apostolic Fathers, Papias, the Didache, and the Epistle of Barnabas were found to be definitely chiliastic. Polycarp and the Shepherd of Hermas do not provide direct evidence of having been premillennial, but inferential evidence points to such a conclusion. Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch do not provide sufficient material for any conclusions to be drawn safely concerning their views of the Millennium, but they both shared the eschatological expectancy of their time. The remains of the Greek Apologists have been badly treated by the ravages of time. Furthermore, their apologetic task did not call for lengthy eschatological statements and, in some instances, may have inhibited such pronouncements. Yet, even among these writers, it was found that only seven defied all evaluation. Two of the Apologists may have been chiliast: St. Miltiades and Apollinaris. Melito and Polycrates were almost certainly chiliasts, although absolute certainty is impossible without further evidence coming to light. Theophilus and Justin give definite evidence of premillennialism. Whereas the Apologists in many instances found it advantageous not to mention the Millennium, such teaching was a positive boon to the anti-Gnostic writers. Despite the almost complete disappearance of his writings, Hegesippus gives tantalizing, fragmentary clues that he was a chiliast. Irenaeus, on the other hand, the great foe of heresy and the Father of Dogmatics, was the most outstanding premillennialist of patristic literature, synthesizing both Old and New Testament teaching on the subject.

Several great issues have divided the warring eschatological camps. The first concerns a question of fact, viz., what was the extent of chiliasm in the primitive Church? A fairly conclusive answer can be given to this Question. Chiliasm was widespread among the earliest patristic writers. Negatively, no amillennial writing is extant from this period, although such writings were common at a later date. The only evidence the believing Christians may have held non-millenarian views is Justin's statement that some simple souls did not accept the chiliastic view that Jerusalem would be rebuilt, to which, however, is quickly added the statement that all "right-minded" Christians did believe in this fashion. Both Irenaeus and Justin attribute opposition to premillennialism to Gnostic influences. Positively, all of the primitive writers who provide us with extensive eschatological material were definitely chiliasts. They claim that this belief was passed on down from the Apostle John and his disciples. A strong line of inferential data points to the Johannine circle of Asian churches as having been the seedbed of primitive chiliasm. Rather than being a source of embarrassment to premillennialism, this is a strong argument in favor of its having originated with John the Revelator. Chiliasm, then, seems to have permeated the ancient Church and to have been rooted most strongly in Asia Minor.

The first great issue dividing students of eschatology concerned the extent of ancient chiliasm. The second concerns its origin. Was it a Jewish fable imported into Christianity after the time of the apostles? Was it an accident of the times? Or was it sired by genuine apostolic teaching? Anti-millenarian writers have repeatedly charged that early chiliastic doctrine was imported into the Church by way of Jewish apocalyptic literature and rabbinic traditions. Note has been taken of these charges at appropriate places in the body of this study. It has been observed that parallelism does exist between the Jewish Messianic expectations and premillennialism's view of the End Times. But the parallelism admits of more than one explanation. Anti-millenarians invariably seem to assume that mere demonstration of the parallelism constitutes proof of borrowing or dependence. This is false. There is another possible explanation, which better fits the facts. Both Christian and Jewish writings drew upon a common source; i.e., the Old Testament. In many other areas of doctrine there are parallels between Christian and Jewish teachings, and the reason is obviously that both have drawn upon a common revelatory source; the Jewish parallels do not condemn the Christian teaching. In this connection, it further should be observed that the patristic chiliasts may present many parallels with Jewish apocalyptic teaching, but they present few such parallels which do not also parallel Biblical teaching. In other words, the evidence of borrowing from non-Christian sources is slight. Most of the chiliastic passages in early patristic literature ought, fairly, to be construed as evidence of dependence upon Holy Scripture rather than extra-Biblical literature. The patristic premillennialists make constant reference to the Scriptures and the teachings of the apostles. Their own testimony as to the source of their teaching ought to weigh far more heavily than the hostile deductions of later, anti-millenarian polemicists who wish to condemn their teaching.

This much having been said, it may be conceded readily that an occasional instance of outright borrowing from Jewish tradition is to be found in our sources. Furthermore, it is a fact that Christians of this era preserved and utilized Jewish writings such as the Apocalypse of Baruch. Amillennial and postmillennial writers have been quick to point this out. But they have overlooked the obvious inference to be drawn from this fact. Observe: (1) the early Christians claim to have received their premillennial eschatology from the apostles; (2) the early Christians made use of Jewish Messianic literature and occasionally elaborated a point of Christian eschatology with an analogy from Jewish sources; (3) the Jewish sources undeniably present a picture of a future, earthly Messianic Kingdom; (4) why, then, did the early Christians preserve and employ this Jewish literature if their own expectation-- received from the apostles--did not involve a similar, future, earthly Kingdom of Christ? We conclude that chiliasm was received from apostolic hands, according to the early Christians, their modern critics notwithstanding. In their exposition of chiliastic teaching, they drew upon the prophetic Scriptures. Occasionally they elaborated a point of Christian teaching from Jewish sources. They did not derive their basic set of beliefs from this source, but preserved this literature precisely because it paralleled their own beliefs. The act of preservation is proof positive that the early Christians were premillennial in their eschatological hope.

The second great issue dividing students of eschatology concerned the origin of ancient chiliasm. The third--the answer to which grows out of the answers to the first and second questions--concerns its significance. Was chiliasm a primitive anomaly or was it apostolic teaching? Both antimillenarian controversialists and reasoned scholars have concluded that the former is the case. The controversialists have based their argument upon the "Jewishness" of chiliasm. That argument has been treated above. It only remains to be observed that most of the early chiliasts were Gentile-Christians, a passingly strange phenomenon, if the thesis of the controversialists has any merit. Distinguished scholars e.g., Harnack in his History of Dogma and Robertson in his distinguished work, Regnum Dei--have taken the tack that chiliasm was an accident of the times. They recognize Jewish antecedents for millennialism, but they also point to the persecutions and the undeveloped, primitive character of Christian theology as playing a role in the rise of "realistic" eschatology. There is some merit in these observations. When the Church became established under Constantine, there was an obvious slackening in eschatological interest and a growing hostility to chiliasm from "cultured" Christians. It is therefore fair to conclude that the earlier conditions helped to enliven interest in chiliasm and to sustain it, just as the later conditions helped to deaden the same. But pointing to favorable conditions is not a sufficient explanation of chiliasm's beginnings, when the chiliastic writers themselves give evidence that they were drawing upon Biblical teaching, and when they claim that they received such teaching from the hands of the apostles. In short, the evidence indicates that premillennialism was derived from the study of Scripture and was a tradition handed down from the apostles. It was the received faith of the Church.

In perusing amillennial and postmillennial literature touching upon the history of early premillennialism, the reader will occasionally come upon a writer who--while admitting the existence or even the predominance of chiliasm in primitive times--will nevertheless discount this fact. He will argue as follows: "Yes, chiliasm is to be found in the ancient Church, but this is of no value to modern premillennialists because there is a great difference between the premillennialism of the ancients and that of today." Several points must be made in response to this argument. First, such writers equate dispensationalism with premillennialism in general. This is quite erroneous. A non-dispensationalist premillennialist such as G. E. Ladd could

agree virtually in toto with the eschatology of the early Fathers. Second, the argument is utterly exaggerated. With the exception of two questions--the relationship between Israel and the Church and the time of the Rapture--there is no great gulf between the eschatology of the Fathers and that of dispensationalism. The general treatment of prophetic Scripture is remarkably similar among ancient chiliasts and their modern counterparts, of whatever school.

We conclude that premillennialism was the primitive faith of the Christian Church. It was widespread in ancient times. It, was neither an accident of the times, nor was it a later perversion of apostolic teaching which filtered into Christianity through Jewish literature and traditions. It was handed down from apostolic times. The early Christians understood their Scriptures to present such teaching. They searched the Scriptures in an effort to understand better the nature of Christ's coming Kingdom. These facts are strong corroboratory evidence that modern premillennialism's general understanding of eschatology is the true one.