To conclude our discussion about Irenaeus and why dispensationalists want to call upon him, let us say that they are going through great pains to build up his stature in that regard. For instance, Jeffrey L. Edwards wrote a ninety-two-page research paper in 2013 at Baptist Bible Seminary titled: Irenaeus, Is He a Second Century Testimony to Dispensational Pretribulational Premillennialism? In his conclusion, Edwards says Irenaeus “qualifies” as a dispensationalist.
Dispensationalists are trying to ride on Irenaeus’ coattails because he is highly respected and unique in that he is the earliest church father who wrote in such a prolific manner. Therefore, he would be a feather in their cap. However, despite his status as a Christian father, being a bishop, also his writings in defense of Christianity, his eschatology is as strange as theirs. Moreover, to be straightforward, the dispensationalists need him because their arguments are weak, as we will see.
Irenaeus had a way with words as he wrote in such flowery prose. But, as we said, he also had some very strange ideas about eschatology. For example, in my book, The Harlot of Revelation and the Great Tribulation, I documented on five occasions where Irenaeus stated that Antichrist would sit in the temple, showing himself to be God. That comes from a faulty understanding of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, where the apostle Paul was writing about the coming judgment, the day of the Lord. He said that would not happen unless the apostasy comes first and the lawless man is revealed, who takes his seat in the Temple, displaying himself to be God. We should note that when Paul wrote that letter in the early 50s A.D., the Temple was still standing in Jerusalem, and did until 70. Dispensationalists conveniently ignore that point and happily marry what Paul and Irenaeus say.
Meanwhile, the Jews, who badgered Jesus and His followers, rejected Jesus’ teachings and had Him executed. Jesus told them, in His parable of the landowner, that the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to a different people (Matthew 21:33-45, cp v. 43). But after having Him crucified, they continued to persecute the church. They even went so far as to rebel against Rome, bringing the fury of the Roman army upon them, destroying the Holy City and the Temple, and many other cities of Judea. Such was their stiff-necked mindset – their apostasy.
The lawless one was the depraved Nero. According to Eusebius’ Church Histories Book 2, Chapter 25, Nero was the first emperor who showed himself an enemy of the divine religion. He then quotes the Roman author Tertullian, father of Latin church theology, thus, “Examine your records. There you will find that Nero was the first that persecuted this doctrine.” So, Nero was who Revelation 13 speaks of as the personification of the sea beast.
Irenaeus also did not understand 1 John 2:18-24; 4:1-3; and 2 John 1:7. Those verses are all the Scriptures say about antichrist. In addition to that, the apostle John shot down the idea of “Antichrist” by saying a. there had been many antichrists, b. that he who denies Jesus is the Christ is an antichrist, c. that every spirit that does not confess Jesus is the spirit of antichrist and d. deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ coming in the flesh are antichrists. Therefore, there is no “Antichrist.”
We have one more thing to say about Irenaeus’ notorious statement. The Greek word he wrote, subsequently mistranslated, was εωρηθη, a third-person singular aorist verb for “see” which could have been translated he, she, or it was seen – not that was seen. But because of Irenaeus’ strange beliefs, when his works, Against Heresies, were translated into English from the Latin version (the original Greek did not survive in its entirety), the translators decided to make his statement say the apocalypse was seen in the reign of Domitian, instead of John.
So, the upshot of all this is Irenaeus, believing “Antichrist” to be a singular person who will come as a world tyrant and bring on the “Great Tribulation,” is another mistake. That supposed Great Tribulation already occurred more than one hundred years before he published Against Heresies. Jesus’ prophecy of a great tribulation was God’s wrath on apostate Israel, poured out on Judea, Jerusalem, and the Temple.
Therefore, if Irenaeus is dispensationalists’ poster boy, that goes a long way in telling how desperate they are for credibility; they even tell us one more strange tale: animal sacrifices must begin in the fictitious third temple, not for salvation, but as a memorial. Did not Jesus already give us that memorial – communion?
It is a comedy of errors that dispensationalists have seized upon and created a monstrosity of a doctrine; it is the abstract version of eschatology vs. preterism, the concrete. Next time we will discuss dispensationalists’ errant claim of preterists using the allegorical method of interpretation.