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(850-250 A.D.) THE SECOND ADVENT OF CHRIST

We are now discussing the doctrine of the last things as taught in the church of God during the early years of the New Dispensation, in the years 80 – 250 A.D. Of course, several doctrines belong to this doctrine or doctrines of the last things. And we are presently busy with the second advent or coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We concluded our preceding article by introducing to our readers Papias, who has the credit of association with Polycarp, in the friendship of St. John himself. We will quote from his writings, in support of the fact that millenarian teachings were taught in the church of God during this early period of the church in the New Testament. 

In Vol. I of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, page 152, we have the following:

(As the elders who saw John the disciple of the Lord remembered that they had heard from him how the Lord taught in regard to those times, and said): “The days will come in which vines shall grow, having each ten thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand shoots, and in every one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will give five-and-twenty metretes of wine. And when any one of the saints shall lay hold of a cluster, another shall cry out, ‘I am a better cluster, take me; bless the Lord through me.’ In like manner,(He said) that a grain of wheat would produce ten thousand ears, and that every ear would have ten thousand grains, and every grain would yield ten pounds of clear, pure, fine flour; and that apples, and seeds, and grass would produce in similar proportions; and that all animals, feeding then only on the productions of the earth, would become peaceable and harmonious, and be in perfect subjection to man.” (Testimony is borne to these things in writing by Papias, an ancient man, who was a hearer of John and a friend of Polycarp, in the fourth of his books; for five books were composed by him. And he added, saying, “Now these things are credible to believers. And Judas the traitor,” says he, “not believing, and asking, ‘How shah such growths be accomplished by the Lord?’ the Lord said, ‘They shall see who shall come to them.’ These, then, are the times mentioned by the prophet Isaiah: ‘And the wolf shall lie down with the lamb, etc. (

Isa. 11:6

f.f.).”

And then we have the following quotation, in Vol. I, page 154, of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and we quote:

Papias, who is now mentioned by us, affirms that he received the sayings of the apostles from those who accompanied them, and he moreover asserts that he heard in person Atistion and the presbyter John. Accordingly he mentions them frequently by name, and in his writings gives their traditions. Our notice of these circumstances may not be without its use. It may also be worth while to add to the statements of Papias already given, other passages of his in which he relates some miraculous deeds, stating that he acquired the knowledge of them from tradition. The residence of the Apostle Philip with his daughters in Hierapolis has been mentioned above. We must now point out how Papias, who lived at the same time, relates that he had received a wonderful narrative from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that a dead man was raised to life in his day. He also mentions another miracle relating to Justus, surnamed Barsabas, how he swallowed a deadly poison, and received no harm, on account of the grace of the Lord. The same person, moreover, has set down other things as coming to him from unwritten tradition, amongst these some strange parables and instructions of the Saviour, and some other things of a more fabulous nature. Amongst these he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth.

Turning our attention to Justin Martyr (A.D. 110-l 65), we may remark that he was a Gentile, born in Samaria, near Jacob’s well. He must have been well educated. The writings of Justin Martyr are among the most important that have come down to us from the second century. He was not the first that wrote an Apology in behalf of the Christians, but his Apologies are the earliest extant. They are characterized by intense Christian fervor, and they, give us an insight into the relations existing between heathens and Christians in those days. His other principal writing, the Dialogue with Trypho, is the first elaborate exposition of the reasons for regarding Christ as the Messiah of the Old Testament, and the first systematic attempt to exhibit the false position of the Jews in regard to Christianity. We will now quote from this dialogue with the Jew, Trypho. Notice, please, that Martyr, in these quotations, declares that many true Christians did not share these millenmalistic views. 

In his dialogue with Trypho, the Jew, Justin Martyr writes as follows, Vol. I, page 239 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and we quote:

And Trypho to this replied, “I remarked to you, sir, that you are very anxious to be safe in all respects, since you cling to the Scriptures. But tell me, do you really admit that this place, Jerusalem, shall be rebuilt; and do you expect your people to be gathered together, and made joyful with Christ and the patriarchs, and the prophets, both the men of our nation, and other proselytes who joined them before your Christ came? or have you given way, and admitted this in order to have the appearance of worsting us in the controversies?” 

Then I answered, “I am not so miserable a fellow, Trypho, as to say one thing and think another. I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion, and believe that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise. Moreover, I pointed out to you that some who are called Christians, but are godless, impious heretics, teach doctrines that are in every way blasphemous, atheistical, and foolish. But that you may know that I do not say this before you alone, I shall draw up a statement, so far as I can, of all the arguments which have passed between us; in which I shall record myself as admitting the very same things which I admit to you. For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines delivered by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this truth, and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians, even as one, if he would rightly consider its would not admit that the Sadducees, or similar sects of Genistae, Meristae, Galilaeans, Hellenists, Pharisees, Baptists, are Jews (do not hear me impatiently when I tell you that I think:) but are only called Jews and children of Abraham, worshipping God, with the lips, as God Himself declared, but the heart was far from Him. But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.

And in the same volume, Justin Martyr continues and endeavours to furnish proof for his contention as follows:

For Isaiah spoke concerning this space of a thousand years: “for there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, or come into their heart; but they shall find joy and gladness in it, which things I create. For, Behold, I make Jerusalem a rejoicing, and My people a joy; and I shall rejoice over Jerusalem, and be glad over My people. And the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, or the voice of crying. And there shall be no more there a person of immature years, or an old man who shall not fulfill his days. For the young men shall be an hundred years old; but the sinner who dies an hundred years old, he shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and shall themselves inhabit them; and they shall plant vines, and shall themselves eat the produce of them, and drink the wine. They shall not build, and others inhabit; they shall not plant, and others eat. For according to the days of the tree of life shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound. Mine elect shall not toil fruitlessly, or beget children to be cursed; for they shall be seed righteous and blessed by the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call I will hear; while they are still speaking, I shall say, What is it? Then shall the wolves and the lambs feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent shall eat earth as bread. They shall not hurt or maltreat each other on the holy mountain, saith the Lord.” Now we have understood that the expression used among these words, “According to the days of the tree of life shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound,” obscurely predicts a thousand years. For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, “The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,” is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place. Just as our Lord also said, “They shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, but shall be equal to the angels, the children of the God of the resurrection.

This concludes our quotation from Justin Martyr. We will call attention to writings of Irenaeus and Tertullian. But this must wait until our following article. We understand, to be sure, that Justin Martyr places his own construction upon the passages of the Word of God he quotes. This passage from the prophecy of Isaiah is also quoted by the premillenarians of our present day. However, toward the end of the latter quotation, this Church Father undoubtedly refers to the twentieth chapter of the Book of Revelation. And he writes that the apostle John writes that those who believe in Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem. But this we do not find in Rev. 20. What John does write is that he saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and that they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. This can hardly refer to the city of Jerusalem, inasmuch as the apostle speaks of them who had been beheaded for the witness of Christ and for the word of God.