The Early Church Fathers: No Preterist Resurrection
By Ed Tarkowski
Though I am just beginning to look into Preterism, I found an important list of quotes from the early Church Fathers and others up the 400 A.D. that I think ought to posted somewhere. I will do that in a moment, but let me explain the basics of what I have learned about Preterism.
There are two main classifications of Preterism. The first is Full Preterism, which believes that all prophetic Scripture has already been fulfilled in 70 A.D., including the resurrection, the second coming of Christ, the reign of Christ with all having now been handed over to the Father. Full Preterism is known by a number of different names, such as Realized Eschatology and Hyper-Preterism. There are other names, but any doctrine proposing that all has been fulfilled is Full Preterism.
I imagine there are more than one offshoot of this belief system, but the second main one is called Partial Preterism (in which various beliefs vary within the doctrine itself), which believes some of the prophetic Scriptures have been fulfilled, but there is still to be a return of Christ one day. The following gives the general points surrounding events in 70 A.D. according to various articles I have read on the Full Preterism:
- The second coming of Christ (spiritual, not bodily) occurred in 70 A.D.
- This coming was *THE* day of the Lord
- Christ came spiritually in judgement in 70 A.D. The Great Tribulation is a past event.
- The resurrection was not a physical resurrection but a spiritual one (1 Cor 15:44) in 70 A.D. This supposedly fulfilled 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.
- Any future resurrection is only for those who die, meaning the spirits of those who die go to be with the Lord
- We are now living in the eternal kingdom of God which will never end
- We have fully received all the promises of God and possess them in the present
The references to the early Church Fathers I referred to early was found in a <A HREF="http://members.aol.com/VFTINC/70/GentryHP.htm#tangible"> discussion between a believer in Full Preterism and a Partial Preterist, Kenneth Gentry. He states,
"Second, hyper-preterism has serious implications for the perspicuity of Scripture. This viewpoint not only has implications for the later creeds, but for the instructional abilities of the apostles: no one in church history knew the major issues of which they spoke -- until very recently! Are the Scriptures that impenetrable on an issue of that significance? Clement of Rome lived through A. D. 70 and had no idea he was resurrected! He continued to look for a physical resurrection (Clement 50:3). Jude's (supposed) grandsons still sought a physical resurrection (cf. Eusebius, EH 3:24:4). Whoever these men were, they came right out of the first generation and in the land of Israel -- with absolutely no inkling of an A. D. 70 resurrection or a past second Advent. See also the Didache 10:5; 16:1ff (first century); Ignatius; Trallians 9:2; Smyrnaens 2:1; 6:1; Letter to Polycarp 3:2 (early second century); Polycarp 2:1; 6:2; 7:1. See also Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr."
I did my own search of the early Church Fathers and found the following quotes, which were all written AFTER 70 A.D. when the resurrection promised by Jesus is said by Full Preterists to have taken place. Interesting is the fact that when I searched the ECF documents, I came up with the 1,067 references to the resurrection. Sporadically checking a number of them, I did not find any that said the resurrection had occurred in 70 A.D. or that the resurrection was a past event. Not only does Full Preterism leave us with very few promises, if any, it mocks the early saints of the Church after 70. A.D. as though they were ignorant that they had been resurrected. Can we even imagine those saints standing for the faith and undergoing persecution and martyrdom and doing so in total ignorance that THEY WERE ALREADY RESURRECTED?! The thought that the resurrection has occurred is unthinkable.
I now list the early Church Fathers LOOKING FORWARD to the resurrection, realizing that in other areas there may be problems with some of the things they said concerning Christian beliefs. I list a few quotes here, starting with John Chrysostom (347-407):
"For what position can be loftier or more secure than that in which a man has only one anxiety, 'How he ought to please God?' Hast thou seen the shipwrecks, Theodore, of those who sail upon this sea? Wherefore, I beseech thee, avoid the deep water, avoid the stormy billows, and seize some lofty spot where it is not possible to be captured. There is a resurrection, there is a judgment, there is a terrible tribunal WHICH AWAITS us when we have gone out of this world; 'we must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ'" (St. Chrysostom, An Exhortation To Theodore After His Fall, Letter II, 4).
"As then if we see any one sleeping we are not disturbed or distressed, expecting that he WILL certainly get up: even so when we see any one dead, let us not be disturbed or dejected for this also is a sleep, a longer one indeed, but still a sleep. By giving it the name of slumber He comforted the mourners and overthrew the accusation of the unbelievers. If you mourn immoderately over him who has departed you will be like that unbeliever who has no hope of a resurrection. He indeed does well to mourn, inasmuch as he cannot exercise any spiritual wisdom concerning things to come: but thou who hast received such strong proofs CONCERNING THE FUTURE LIFE, why dost thou sink into the same weakness with him? Therefore it is written 'now concerning them that are asleep we would not have you ignorant that ye sorrow not even as others who have no hope'" (Chrysostom: Omily On The Paralytic Let Down Through The Roof).
According to Full Preterism, Chyrsostom was totally ignorant that 1 Thessalonians 4 had been fulfilled. Continuing,
"15. . . . What did He promise? Resurrection, immortality of the body, union with angels, a place in the joyful company of archangels, and as a citizen in His kingdom, immaculate life, the good things 'which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard nor have entered into the heart of man, things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.'
16. Understand what is said, lest ye lose it: I am labouring to enable you to perceive it. The dowry of the bride then was divided into two portions consisting of things present and things to come; things seen and things heard, things given and things taken on trust, things experienced, and things to be enjoyed hereafter; things belonging to present life, and things to come AFTER THE RESURRECTION" (Chrysostom, Homily II, After Eutropius Having Been Found Outside The Church Had Been Taken Captive).
"And Paul clearly testifies this, saying, 'For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that subjected the same in hope: because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.' For the creation was made subject to vanity, he says, and he expects that it will be set free from such servitude, as he intends to call this world by the name of creation. For it is not what is unseen but what is seen that is subject to corruption. The creation, then, after being restored to a better and more seemly state, remains, rejoicing and exulting over the children of God AT THE RESURRECTION; for whose sake it NOW groans and travails, WAITING itself also for our redemption from the corruption of the body, that, WHEN we have risen and shaken off the mortality of the flesh, according to that which is written, 'Shake off the dust, and arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem,' and have been set free from sin, it also shall be freed from corruption and be subject no longer to vanity, but to righteousness" (Methodius, circa 311 A.D., From the Discourse on the Resurrection, Part I, VIII).
If the resurrection has occurred, then we are now ignorantly living in a new creation free from corruption.
"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" (Justin Martyr, 100-165 A.D., Dialogue With Trypho, Chapter LXXX.-The Opinion of Justin with Regard to the Reign of a Thousand Years. Several Catholics Reject It).
"And on this account we believe that THERE WILL BE a resurrection of bodies after the consummation of all things; not, as the Stoics affirm, according to the return of certain cycles, the same things being produced and destroyed for no useful purpose, but a resurrection once for all, when our periods of existence are completed, and in consequence solely of the constitution of things under which men alone live, for the purpose of passing judgment upon them. Nor is sentence upon us passed by Minos or Rhadamanthus, before whose decease not a single soul, according to the mythic tales, was judged; but the Creator, God Himself, becomes the arbiter. And, although you regard us as mere triflers and babblers, it troubles us not, since we have faith in this doctrine. For just as, not existing before I was born, I knew not who I was, and only existed in the potentiality (u0po/stasij) Of fleshly matter, but being born, after a former state of nothingness, I have obtained through my birth a certainty of my existence; in the same way, having been born, and through death existing no longer, and seen no longer, I shall exist again, just as before I was not, but was afterwards born. Even though fire destroy all traces of my flesh, the world receives the vaporized matter; and though dispersed through rivers and seas, or torn in pieces by wild beasts, I am laid up in the storehouses of a wealthy Lord. And, although the poor and the godless know not what is stored up, yet God the Sovereign, when He pleases, will restore the substance that is visible to Him alone to its pristine condition" (Tatian's Address To The Greeks, circa 150 A.D., Chapter VI.-Christians' Belief in the Resurrection).
"The power and glory of God shine forth in the weakness of human flesh, as he will render our body a participator of the resurrection and of immortality, although He has formed it from the dust of the earth; He WILL ALSO bestow upon it the enjoyment of immortality, just as He grants it this short life in common with the soul" (St. Irenaeus of Lyons, circa 130-202, Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 3).
The resurrection of the believers is a bodily one and it has not occurred. It must await the return of our Lord Jesus Christ at the end of Daniel's 70th week. It is our hope, our only hope and Full Preterism takes away the hope we have as Christians. I think this quote from Chrysostom is somewhat appropriate regarding this matter:
"The doctrine of the Resurrection, too, was lame (ekwleue) among them: for some of them had no strong belief that there is any resurrection of bodies, having still on them the disease of Grecian foolishness. For indeed all these things were the progeny of the madness which belongs to Heathen Philosophy, and she was the mother of all mischief. Hence, likewise, they had become divided; in this respect also having learned of the philosophers. For these latter were no less at mutual variance, always, through love of rule and vain glory contradicting one another's opinions, and bent upon making some new discovery in addition to all that was before. And the cause of this was, their having begun to trust themselves to reasonings" (Chrysostom, First Epistle Of St. Paul The Apostle, To The Corinthians, Argument, 2).
During the first 400 years of the early Church after 70 A.D., the Fathers defended the truth of a future, bodily resurrection. None of them stated otherwise, nor did they refute others that it had already occurred. For 1900 years, the Church has believed in a future resurrection from the dead at the glorious, visible, in-the-sky return of Jesus Christ when every eye will see Him personally.
In one discussion I had, a brother in Christ gave me these quotes from the early Church Fathers of those men who were students of John the Apostle and of those these students taught. If any of the ECF's should have known the resurrection had already taken place, these should have. These quotes also show future events that Full Preterism inisists have been fulfilled:
Polycarp-Pupil of John the Apostle (AD. 70-156)
THE EPISTLE OF POLYCARP TO THE PHILIPPIANS
CHAPTER VI.--THE DUTIES OF PRESBYTERS AND OTHERS
"we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself." Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself HAS COMMANDED US, AND AS THE APOSTLES WHO PREACHED THE GOSPEL UNTO US, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]."
CHAPTER II.--AN EXHORTATION TO VIRTUE
PAPIAS-Pupil of John the Apostle (AD. 70-155)
"But He who raised Him up from the dead WILL raise up us also"
FRAGMENTS OF PAPIAS FROM THE EXPOSITION OF THE ORACLES OF THE LORD.
"those who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven SHALL go there, others SHALL enjoy the delights of Paradise, and others SHALL possess the splendour of the city; for everywhere the Saviour WILL BE seen, according as they SHALL BE worthy who see Him."
"there WILL BE a millennium AFTER the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ WILL BE established on this earth"
IGNATIUS-Pupil of John the Apostle (AD. 67-110)
THE EPISTLE OF IGNATIUS TO THE TRALLIANS
"He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner His Father WILL SO raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus"
CHAPTER I.--DESIRE OF IGNATIUS FOR MARTYRDOM.
"Ignatius, the disciple of John the apostle, a man in all respects of an apostolic character, governed the Church of the Antiochians with great care, having with difficulty escaped the former storms of the many persecutions under Domitian"
Irenaeus-Student of John the Apostles's pupil Polycarp (AD. 120-202)
AGAINST HERESIES, BOOK V, XXX
"But he indicates the number of the name now, that WHEN this man comes we may avoid him, being aware who he is: ..But when this Antichrist SHALL HAVE devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord WILL COME from heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the kingdom"
AGAINST HERESIES, BOOK V, XXVI, 1
"In a still clearer light has John, in the Apocalypse, indicated to the Lord's disciples what SHALL HAPPEN IN THE LAST TIMES, and concerning the ten kings WHO SHALL THEN arise, ... These have one mind, and give their strength and power to the beast. THESE SHALL make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb SHALL OVERCOME them, because He is the Lord of lords, and King of kings. ... And THEY SHALL lay Babylon waste, and burn her with fire, and SHALL GIVE their kingdom to the beast, and put the church to flight. AFTER THAT THEY SHALL be destroyed by the coming of our Lord."
AGAINST HERESIES, BOOK V, XXXV, 1
"For ALL these and other words were UNQUESTIONABLY SPOKEN IN REFERENCE TO THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST, WHICH TAKES PLACE AFTER the coming of Antichrist, AND the destruction of all nations under his rule; IN [the times of] WHICH [resurrection] THE RIGHTEOUS SHALL reign on the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord: and through Him they SHALL become accustomed to partake in the glory of God the Father, and SHALL enjoy in the kingdom intercourse and communion with the holy angels, and union with spiritual beings; and those whom the Lord SHALL FIND IN THE FLESH, AWAITING HIM from heaven, and WHO HAVE suffered tribulation, as well as escaped the hands of the Wicked one."
Hippolytus-Student of Iranaeus of the direct teaching lineage of John (AD. 170-236)
TREATISE ON CHRIST AND ANTICHRIST, 5
"It is proper that we take the Holy Scriptures themselves in hand, and find out from them what, and of what manner, THE COMING of Antichrist is; ON WHAT OCCASION AND AT WHAT TIME that impious one shall be revealed; and whence and from what tribe (he shall come); and what his name is, which is indicated by the number in Scripture; and how he SHALL WORK error among the people, gathering them from the ends of the earth; and (how) he SHALL stir up tribulation and persecution against the saints; and how he SHALL glorify himself as God; and what his end SHALL BE; and how the sudden appearing of the Lord SHALL BE revealed from heaven; and what the conflagration of the whole world SHALL BE; and what the glorious and heavenly kingdom of the saints IS TO BE, when they reign together with Christ; and what the punishment of the wicked by fire."
TREATISE ON CHRIST AND ANTICHRIST, 27,28
"As THESE THINGS, then, ARE IN THE FUTURE, and as the ten toes of the image are equivalent to (so many) democracies, and the ten horns of the fourth beast are distributed over ten kingdoms, let us look at the subject a little more closely, and consider these matters as in the clear light of a personal survey. The golden head of the image and the lioness denoted the Babylonians; the shoulders and arms of silver, and the bear, represented the Persians and Medes; the belly and thighs of brass, and the leopard, meant the Greeks, who held the sovereignty from Alexander's time; the legs of iron, and the beast dreadful and terrible, expressed the Romans, who hold the sovereignty at present; the toes of the feet which were part clay and part iron, and the ten horns, were emblems of the kingdoms that are yet to rise; the other little horn that grows up among them meant the Antichrist in their midst"
TREATISE ON CHRIST AND ANTICHRIST, 27,28
"With respect to his name, it is not in our power to explain it exactly, as the blessed John understood it and was instructed about it, but only to give a conjectural account of it; for when he appears, the blessed one will show us what we seek to know. ... Wherefore we ought neither to give it out as if this were certainly his name, nor again ignore the fact that he may not otherwise be designated. But having the mystery of God in our heart, we ought in fear to keep faithfully what has been told us by blessed prophets, in order that WHEN THOSE THINGS COME TO PASS, we may be prepared for them, and not be deceived. FOR WHEN THE TIMES ADVANCE, he too, of whom these things are said, will be manifest."
TREATISE ON CHRIST AND ANTICHRIST, 60, 61, 64
"Now concerning the tribulation of the persecution WHICH IS to fall upon the Church from the adversary, John also speaks thus, "And I saw a great and wondrous sign in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, ... And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent." That refers to the one thousand two hundred and threescore days (the half of the week) during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church.... These things then, being come to pass, beloved, and the one week being divided into two parts, and the abomination of desolation being manifested then, and the two prophets and forerunners of the Lord having finished their course, and the whole world finally approaching the consummation, what remains but the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ from heaven, for whom we have looked in hope."
FRAGMENTS FROM COMMENTARIES, II, 7
"WHEN THE TIMES ARE FULFILLED, and the ten horns spring from the beast in the last (times), then Antichrist WILL APPEAR among them. WHEN HE MAKES war against the saints, and persecutes them, THEN MAY WE EXPECT the manifestation of the Lord from heaven."
I have made some inquiries about Full and Partial Preterism, but it seems to me that Full Preterism plays into the hands of the Dominionism agenda. IF all things were fulfilled, then all that would be left, it seems to me, would be to establish the kingdom on earth since we supposedly already have our inheritance. If I come to a more sure conclusion about this, I will write more later on this belief system.
Return To Home Page