30-70AD The Early Church and the End of the World
FRANCIS X. GUMERLOCK
"FROM INSIDE FLAP
Francis X. Gumerlock has undertaken the task of translating a number of ancient and medieval commentators who have written on Matthew 24 and Revelation. He shows that many early and medieval Christian writers believed that these prophecies had already been fulfilled before the "end" of Jerusalem, that is, before its destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70 which resulted in the end of the Old Covenant world.
Gumerlock's chapters fill the gap in historiography by providing English translations of a number of preterist commentaries on prophecies in Matthew 24 by ancient and medieval Bible expositors. Did other Christians, long before Martin Luther, John Calvin, or Luis Alcasar, interpret prophecies of Matthew 24 as fulfilled in connection with the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans?
Matthew 24:4-14 records Jesus' prediction of various signs that would take place before the end (24:6,14). Not believing that these signs applied exclusively to the end of the world, many early and medieval writers believed that they had already appeared historically before the "end" of Jerusalem. To illustrate their beliefs with regard to the content and timing of these signs of the end, Gumerlock's chapters provide a chain of comments from different Church Fathers upon the verses that they expounded.
With respect to the generation that would see all these things fulfilled (Matt. 24:34), several sources showed that a preterist interpretation of the passage existed in the early church. Concerning the "coming" of Christ, mentioned many times in Matthew 24:27-51, most of the Church Fathers referred this coming to His bodily coming at the end of the world. But patristic and medieval Biblical expositors did allow for it to be interpreted as a non-bodily advent, whether that be His coming to take residence in one's heart, His coming to receive one's soul at death, His continuous coming to the Church for strengthening, or a "hidden" coming in judgment. One commentary, an Irish Book of Questions on the Gospels, written about 725, interpreted Christ's coming in Matthew 24 in light of the Judean war, as a coming in judgment through the Roman armies.
The Early Church and the End of the World is a needed addition to the discussion on what the earliest of the early church believed on Bible prophecy.
Chapter 1 - Biblical Minimalism and Bible Prophecy
Chapter 2 - The Proof of the Gospel
Chapter 3 - Preterism Among First-Century Writers
Chapter 4 - Premillennialism in the Early Church
Chapter 5 - Sola Scriptura and Bible Prophecy
Chapter 6 - The Olivet Discourse in Ancient and Medieval Christianity
Chapter 7 - The Date of Revelation in the Early Church
Chapter 8 - More External Evidence for an Early Date of Revelation
Chapter 9 - Blood, Fire and Vapor of Smoke: The A.D.70 Destruction of Jerusalem in the Ancient Exegesis of Acts 2:19-27
Chapter 10 - Irenaeus and the Dating of Revelation
"John C. Whitcomb, in his article on "The Millennial Temple," writes that "five different offerings in Ezekiel (43:13-46:15), four of them with bloodletting, will serve God's purposes. These offerings are not voluntary but obligatory; God will 'accept' people on the basis of these animal sacrifices (43:27), which make reconciliation [atonement] for the house of Israel (45:17, cf. 45:15)." This is an impossible interpretation for at least three reasons. First, these sacrifices are said to be "for atonement" (reconciliation) (Ezek. 45:15, 17) not, as Whitcomb claims, "as effective vehicles of divine instruction for Israel and the nations during the Millennial Kingdom." Second, Jesus is the once for all sacrifice whose blood cleanses us from sin (Heb. 7:26-27; 8:13; 9:11-15;10:5-22; 1 Peter 3:18). Third, sanctification comes under the new covenant by "the washing of water with the word" (Eph. 5:26) not by the washing of blood from sacrifices. Those who dispute the completeness of the new covenant promises are looking for the Jews to return to the shadows of the Old Testament that Jesus came to shed redemptive light on. They want to return to a world that Jesus came to replace." (xiv)
The Early Church and the End of the World asks this fundamental question: What did the earliest of the early Christian writers actually believe about prophetic events? We can only answer this question by studying what they wrote. Unfortunately, we do not have a complete record of the period. Many of their surviving works are only fragments of larger works no longer available to us. To make an historical investigation even more difficult, there are translation issues. Many of the works of those who wrote just before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and beyond have not been translated into English.
The Early Church and the End of the World seeks to remedy some of these problems. Thomas Ice, in his book The End Times Controversy, makes some bold claims that cannot be supported when the historical record is actually analyzed. The early church was not monolithic in its views of Bible prophecy. There was no unanimous acceptance of premillennialism, a distant futurism, or the peculiar distinctives of dispensationalism.
The Early Church and the End of the World will show that some of the earliest writers commenting on the Olivet Discourse, most likely writing before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, were referring to the judgment coming of Jesus, an event that the gospel writers tell us was to take place before that first-century generation passed away (Matt. 24:34). Adding to the confirmation of this view are the writings of the church's first historian, Eusebius Pampilus of Caesarea (c. 260-341), whose Ecclesiastical History is a window on the first few centuries of the church.