In my last article, I stated that dispensationalists do not present an honest argument supporting their interpretation system. In doing so, I cited Gregory Peterson, defending dispensationalism, who cited Mark Hitchcock, the writer of a doctoral dissertation favoring the late date of Revelation (A.D. 95). The late date is the key to dispensationalists’ entire argument. For example, suppose John wrote Revelation after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70. In that case, it only makes sense that that event could not possibly fulfill any of the New Testament prophecies. That is the dispensationalists’ impetus to place all N.T. prophecies in the future.
The whole argument of the late vs. early date of Revelation rests on the words of one man, Irenaeus. He was a prolific late second-century writer and bishop of Lyon, France, a giant in the early church. But he is the source of most misunderstandings regarding eschatology. For example, the “doctrines” of Antichrist and a third temple stem from Irenaeus. Therefore, it is essential that we fully understand his ideas and writings on the subject to see exactly how this all came about.
Irenaeus made what I call a notorious statement that has been parroted by subsequent church fathers and expositors ever since and is the core of the dispensationalist argument. Thus the popular statement from dispensationalists that most of the early church fathers support Revelation’s late date. Here again, is Peterson, citing Hitchcock, who said “all the most reliable” of the church fathers attest to Irenaeus’ statement, who supplied “the best evidence” by his statement.
However, as stated by Terry, whom Peterson lauded as providing the best description of the Grammatico-Historical method of interpretation, which dispensationalists purport to follow, Irenaeus is the sole source of their theory – the others simply follow along. Those are facts. And as the saying goes, the rest is history.
So, what exactly is Irenaeus’ notorious statement? We find it in Book 5, Chapter 30, paragraph 3 of his famous works, the multi-volume Against Heresies, available online for all to freely access and to see for themselves. I also detail it in my book, The Harlot of Revelation and the Great Tribulation, and my upcoming book about Daniel the prophet.
Irenaeus was writing about “the number of the beast from the sea” (Revelation 13) and the variant manuscripts of such and that some contain the number 666, others 616. So he was making a case for the former; that was the subject of his writing – the context.
That chapter from his book contains four paragraphs. At the end of the third, he said this, “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.”
What should immediately jump out at the reader is that Irenaeus appears to be saying John, Revelation’s author, would be the one to reveal Antichrist’s name. Except that it doesn’t say he (John) was seen, but that (the Apocalypse) was seen in Domitian’s reign. Now, let me ask this question: Could the Apocalypse reveal the name of Antichrist? The answer is no. Remember, it was the Apocalypse that had the cryptic 666. John didn’t want to reveal it because the Roman Empire was mercilessly persecuting the Christians, and he wanted to keep his head. However, if there were ever a way for the name of Antichrist to be revealed, it would have been by the one who beheld the apocalyptic vision – John!
That’s the fifth grader’s view of Irenaeus’ statement. Next time we will look at the adult version of it; until then.