Now that we have introduced Irenaeus’ notorious statement, we will further dissect it, and we will find that many of the tenets of futurism come directly from him and it. We will show, without a doubt, that the idea itself that John saw the Revelation and wrote it between 90 and 95, i.e., in the reign of Domitian, is not based on any fact at all, but upon a supposition – a supposition based solely on his notorious statement.
The implications of that are far-reaching. It immediately creates a pretext, which is a false premise. The quote, “text without context is pretext,” made by the father of D.A. Carson, a Canadian theologian, is profoundly true. We see it here in what we are discussing. The particular pretext at hand relegates the momentous events of 70 to be nothing more than historical facts. As far as Irenaeus is concerned, that appears to be the case, for he does not even mention the fact that the Temple no longer exists.
At that point, according to Irenaeus, the visions of the Apocalypse, Jesus’ prophecies in the Olivet Discourse, those in the epistles such as 1 Thessalonians four and 2 Peter three, Daniel’s visions and prophecies, and scores of others, all become events that must occur in the future. We must keep in mind that they were in the future to those whom those writers were addressing, but that does not mean they are in the future to us. That is why the date of Revelation is so essential to the argument.
On a personal note and in full disclosure, I have spent the better part of the past thirty-five years, not only searching the Scriptures but pondering and researching the ramblings-on of the various scenarios about what is to happen in the end times. At first, while reading a King James Bible and reading Matthew 24, it was a “certainty” that Jesus was, in fact, talking about the end of the world.
It all seemed unquestionable yet somewhat scary and even titillating at the same time (my ears were itching (2 Timothy 4:1-5)). In the end, though, it never really made much sense because it all seemed to be referring to things in the future, which, rationally thinking, is unknown, and therefore subjective.
While there are thousands of books on the subject of eschatology, most of the more popular ones are of the futurist view. Therefore most of what I read was along those lines, and so it all became very confusing because so many opinions and scenarios were put forth by those many learned people. It was only after learning of and realizing the significance of the events that took place between the resurrection of Christ, which is the defining moment in history, and the nearly-as-significant events of 70, the momentous taking out of the Temple and the subsequent destruction of the city of Jerusalem, that it became more clear.
Those events are unparalleled in history and can never be duplicated. What became paramount in understanding eschatology was the need for a more thorough understanding of the historical events as laid out in the book of Acts. That is our God-given, Holy Spirit inspired explanation of the pathway from the resurrection to the martyring of Peter and Paul, which brings us to the doorstep of 70. At that point, it all began to make sense.
Purportedly, to those who take the futurist view, the central theme is that Christ is coming back. One could ask the question: Exactly for what is He coming back? What will Christ do when He comes back? Will He rapture the church? If He does that, what happens next? Does Jesus take us back to heaven with Him, or, whether He does that or not, do we then come back with Him (again) to make war with Antichrist at the Battle of Armageddon?
Then there is this scenario: when Christ comes back, is it to set up His kingdom, the thousand-year reign? One thousand years is a millennium, which is from where “The Millennium” comes. Mille is the Latin numerical prefix for one thousand. As the story goes, if the rapture occurs before the millennium, it is considered premillennial; if it comes during it, it is a-millennial; and after, it is postmillennial. Then there is the matter of the great tribulation, which could also occur pre, a, or post-millennial.
But then, is Christ’s return itself pre, a, or post-millennial? The rapture also may occur pre, mid, or post-tribulation, which means Christ’s return could be pre, mid, or post-trib. Finally, if one dies and goes to heaven, will he miss out on all of those glorious events? All of this is not meant to be dismissive or facetious. Instead, it is to show some of the many nuances that there are in which there are books written and doctrines formed as to the way things will play out in the end times. It is confusing, for sure.
Here is a curiosity: just as in the case of “Antichrist,” as portrayed by Irenaeus and those of the futurist view, the words “millennium” or “millennial” do not appear in the Bible at all. That is all part of the creation by man that comes from the thousand-year reign of Christ. The word “thousand” and the number “one thousand” are significant in that they signify “many.” At this point, the reader should study the importance of particular numbers in the Scriptures, such as four, seven, ten, twelve, forty, seventy, four-hundred, and one-thousand. That study is beyond the scope of this writing.
The reader of this blog should keep in mind that Christ’s reign – His kingdom – is an everlasting kingdom, which will never pass away. So, considering all the things which occurred during those seventy years from the virgin birth to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, are we now, two thousand years since the coming of the Messiah, the King, still awaiting the kingdom? Does not that suggestion sound even remotely absurd to the rational mind?
Now that those things are all sorted out about when Christ does come back and set-up His kingdom (ahem) how exactly, does that kingdom look? Is it the New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven as per Revelation twenty-one? Then there is the matter of the Temple. Remember, the Romans destroyed it in 70, but if Christ does set up a kingdom, does He rule from the new Temple in the new Jerusalem? And what about sacrifices – do they start again?
Irenaeus does not think Christ rules from the Temple, for he says Antichrist rules from the Temple. In fact, he says it five times, as recorded in my book. Many people believe we – we! – will build a new Temple. Imagine that! We put ourselves right in the middle of the whole shebang. That is pride, and that is idolatry.
Here is something to ponder: the idea of a one-thousand-year reign by Christ on earth is known as chiliasm, which comes from the Greek word χίλια, pronounced chilia, and is the Greek numerical prefix for one-thousand. Papias, whom we mentioned earlier and is one of the earliest church fathers, is considered a chiliast.
Irenaeus quotes Papias in that regard, so says Eusebius, in his writings, Ecclesiastical Histories, in Book 3, Chapter 39, specifically in paragraph 4. Chiliasm was never considered favorably in Christianity until the modern age. However, instead of touting chiliasm, futurists continue their “conflating” by switching from the Greek to the Latin numerical prefix, creating the doctrine of millennialism, or millenniarism. Confusion reigns.
Aside from all of the various possibilities of what might be, here we see still another of those tenuous connections that make the study of eschatology difficult. That is, we see Eusebius quoting Irenaeus quoting Papias. i.e., one person quoting another who cites a third. That leads to too many pronouns when attempting to sort out who is saying what about whom. In other words, when referring to the ‘other’ person, the word “he” becomes repeatedly used, which makes it next to impossible to sort out.
We see that the ideas of Papias, furthered by Irenaeus, are still with us today. That is the point of this entire exercise. Nearly all of the futurist ideas come from those two, and since Irenaeus’ writings are many and, unlike Papias’ (except for a scant few) they have been preserved, we can examine them and see the folly of their ways – on this topic.
Again, as we said and as can be seen, these erroneous ideas come from those who conversed with the disciples and their friends – not the disciples themselves. The fact that they may have personally spoken with those who walked with the Lord does not mean that they understood what they heard regarding the Apocalypse. Clearly, Papias was wrong because Christ did not come back and set up a literal one-thousand-year kingdom. Likewise, Irenaeus was wrong on the same account, as have every person until now who have held to that view.