By now, the reader should understand that most of man’s misunderstanding and theology of the end times stem from Irenaeus. It is, therefore, essential that we fully understand his ideas and his writings on this subject to see exactly how this all came about. He made his aforementioned alluded-to notorious statement only one time, which was twice repeated by Eusebius, who was only quoting him, but who did not even wholeheartedly agree with it. However, as the saying goes, the rest is history. Those are facts.
So, what exactly was that notorious statement, and how did it come about? We must go to Book 5, Chapter 30 of Irenaeus’ works, his multi-volume Against Heresies. It is available online for all to freely access and to see for themselves. It is also referenced in my book, The Harlot of Revelation and the Great Tribulation, which goes into quite a detailed account of the pertinent facts.
Irenaeus was writing about ‘the number of the beast from the land’ from Revelation thirteen. He was discussing the variant manuscripts and the fact that some of those manuscripts of the Apocalypse contain the number 666, while others have 616. He was making a case for the former. That was the subject of his writing – that is the context.
That chapter thirty of book 5 has four numbered paragraphs that are quite lengthy compared to modern writing. Irenaeus was a fantastic writer, and, concerning the subject of which he was writing, he was quite detailed and emphatic. However, within that writing, he becomes rather loosey-goosey. What is meant by that is what we stated earlier in that he begins to pull from various passages of Scripture, making inferences about them that the Scriptures themselves do not make, in order to paint the picture he is painting.
First, He equates the beast from the land with Antichrist and, subsequently, with the abomination of desolation. Now, anyone who has been following this blog knows that Antichrist, as depicted by Irenaeus, does not appear in the Scriptures. Furthermore, the reader would know that the abomination of desolation refers to (again, note the significance) what happened with the profaning and destruction of the Temple, which occurred in 70 – the very insignificant (in his mind) event that Irenaeus ignores.
Secondly, he also starts writing about the various kings of Revelation seventeen. What he is doing, in effect, is conflating (merging or blending) all of that information, shaping his narrative within his discussion about the number of the name of the beast. He even goes into a rather elaborate explanation as to why his readers should not venture a guess as to his identity because they would invariably be wrong. He then turns right around and offers up a few names of his own, going into quite a detailed soliloquy about one of them, contradicting his own advice.
Thirdly, he then goes on to say, remarkably, that the Antichrist will sit in the Temple of God (a comment that he makes on five occasions) for three years and six months, supposedly duping all of mankind into believing he is the Christ until the Lord will come on the clouds of heaven. At that point, Irenaeus is invoking Jesus’ Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.
That is overtly incorrect as it is a scenario constructed on a false premise built on something (the temple) that does not even exist. The reader should be able to determine by what Irenaeus is doing that he is literally clutching at verses in an attempt to piece something together, and it should be evident to the reader that he is not only mistaken, but he does not have a firm understanding of what he is saying.
Keep in mind, and this goes back to our main point, a point which is so obvious that it is painful, and that is this: that there was no Temple when he wrote that! Still, there is no Temple. Here is the rub: the Temple was standing if John wrote the Apocalypse before 70. Does the reader see the significance? If it predates 70, the references to the Temple make sense because there would have been a Temple. Clearly – Irenaeus was confused!
So, in order to satisfy what those of the futurist view tell us will happen, another Temple has to be built, and, of course, we are the ones who will, supposedly, build it. At that point, the narrative becomes totally subjective, it is all about us, and it is entirely hypothetical because it is then all about things that have not even occurred. That is prideful, it is a mistake, and it is absurd for man to put himself at the center of it all.
It is essential to keep in mind how, in not fully understanding those things that we have just discussed, nearly anyone with the futurist view will do precisely what Irenaeus did in the above. That is, he will grasp variant verses from various places in Scripture, attempting to make sense out of what he is trying to convey based on the flawed kernel of his thought process.
It all stems from the refusal to accept the fact that the destruction of the Temple is the key to the argument. As we have said, Irenaeus does not even mention the fact that the Temple, which was the center of the entire Old Testament economy, was no longer standing when he wrote this. It is as though it was a non-event – an insignificant consequence of history.
Being born in either Smyrna, which is in Turkey, or France, and being of Greek descent and a Roman citizen, Irenaeus was not a Jew, nor did he come from the area of the Holy Land. Therefore, it is apparent why he did not fully understand the significance of the Temple or its destruction – or he was scared to death! We will discuss that possibility at a later time.
So, after all of that build-up, here is the notorious statement: “We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the apocalyptic vision. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.”
That statement comes directly from paragraph 3, chapter 30, book 5. What should immediately jump out at the reader is, as we have said and will repeatedly say, Irenaeus was talking about the name of the beast, not the date in which John saw the Apocalypse! Now, suffice it to say that the statement itself directly follows other statements that he made regarding the number of the name of the beast, whom he was calling Antichrist, and as he was putting forth his opinion as to a particular name.
We have already shown that because of his equating the beast not only with Antichrist but also the abomination of desolation, he was theologically wrong. We have detailed in previous writings that the beast with the number cannot be Antichrist, nor can he be the abomination of desolation. Furthermore, the Antichrist himself cannot be the abomination of desolation. The three – the beast, the Antichrist, and the abomination of desolation – are distinct.
Next, contextually we have shown that that particular interpretation of what he said, that being that the Apocalypse was seen in the time of Domitian, does not fit the context of what his overriding narrative is, which is the correct number of the name, 666 rather than 616. Note, as we have, the other out-of-context characterizations, i.e., the inclusion of the disparate entities, such as Antichrist, the abomination of desolation, and the kings of Revelation seventeen. That is, as we said, “conflation.” That shows he did not fully grasp the Apocalypse.
Finally, it will be shown that technically, the interpretation itself is wrong because the statement was mistranslated. Understand, first and foremost, that for anyone who believes that John saw the Revelation in the reign of Domitian in the 90s – that belief comes solely from Irenaeus’ notorious statement. One must never lose sight of the fact that Irenaeus was, again, writing about the correct number of the name of the beast of Revelation thirteen, 666 vs. 616 – not when the Apocalypse was seen.
It is truly amazing how such an innocuous statement has been twisted in such a way as to turn a correct interpretation on its head. Not to become super-spiritual, but one would have to think that only the devil could devise such a scheme. Here is one final thought, posed in two questions: What, or who, according to the notorious statement, was seen in the reign of Domitian – the Apocalypse or John? Moreover, does that matter?