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The Chiliasm of Justin Martyr

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  • The Chiliasm of Justin Martyr

    Some of the earliest church fathers such as Papias, Irenaeus, and Justin Martyr are considered to be premillennial. If they were, it was a very different kind of premillennialism than found today. Premillennialism today, and for that matter, most of the modern hermeneutics, are based on literalism. This is different from the church fathers. The teaching of the biblical kingdom of God as a spiritual kingdom wasn’t a later invention. Domitian stopped the persecution of the church after hearing the testimony of Jude’s grandchildren, according to Eusebius.

    Book 20.6. And when they were asked concerning Christ and his kingdom, of what sort it was and where and when it was to appear, they answered that it was not a temporal nor an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly and angelic one, which would appear at the end of the world, when he should come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and to give unto every one according to his works.
    Some early premillennialists are rarely mentioned, such as the heretic Cerinthus. Another premillennialist mentioned by the church historian Eusebius is Nepos of Egypt (3rd century).

    VII.24.1. Besides all these the two books on the Promises were prepared by him. The occasion of these was Nepos, a bishop in Egypt, who taught that the promises to the holy men in the Divine Scriptures should be understood in a more Jewish manner, and that there would be a certain millennium of bodily luxury upon this earth.
    2. As he thought that he could establish his private opinion by the Revelation of John, he wrote a book on this subject, entitled Refutation of Allegorists.
    While modern scholars consider many of the church fathers premillennial, Eusebius specifically mentions Papias, Irenaeus, Nepos, and the heretic Cerinthus, he doesn’t mention others. He does add that there may have been others influenced by Papias. Notably, he doesn’t mention Justin Martyr although he writes much about him often.

    Book II.13.2. This is stated by Justin, one of our distinguished writers who lived not long after the time of the apostles.

    Book IV.18.8. He writes also that even down to his time prophetic gifts shone in the Church. And he mentions the Apocalypse of John, saying distinctly that it was the apostle’s.
    Why do modern scholars consider Justin a chiliast, but Eusebius doesn’t mention it? There are three problems I mentioned in previous posts.

    1 - Any reference to a thousand years is understood as referring to Revelation 20.
    2 - The temple is usually understood as the literal temple in the earthly Jerusalem.
    3 - The kingdom in millennialism is understood as an earthly millennial kingdom.

    Justin Martyr described 1000 years in Jerusalem this way:

    “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.” Dialogue of Justin with a Jew, ch. 80
    This isn’t premillennial unless it is assumed that he is talking about an earthly Jerusalem, and Jerusalem isn’t directly mentioned in Revelation 20. The “beloved city” is mentioned after the millennium at 20:9. The first mention of Jerusalem after the millennium is found at Rev 21:2, and it is the heavenly Jerusalem, Mount Zion (Heb 12:22, Gal 4:26) coming to earth. He uses the word “adorned” which is the same word used in Rev 21:2, and he then appeals to Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Genesis to explain. He is probably referring to the so-called millennial temple and city found in Ezekiel 40-48. However, Ezekiel never says it is for a thousand years. Instead, it is forever (Eze 43:7-9). “Adorned” is found after the millennium in Rev 21:2, so he is talking about the Jerusalem that was adorned in heaven and descends to the new heaven and earth, not an earthly Jerusalem. Justin then appeals to Isaiah 65:17-25.

    “For Isaiah spake thus concerning this space of a thousand years: For there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, or come into their heart; but they shall find joy and gladness in it, which things I create…” Dialogue of Justin with a Jew, ch. 81
    Isaiah describes the new heaven and earth found in Revelation 21, not the millennium found in Revelation 20, and yet Justin says he is describing the thousand years. Either he is talking about a separate thousand years or the two things are somehow intertwined. He then completes the argument by explaining Genesis 2:17.

    “… According to the days of the tree [of life ] shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound’ obscurely predicts a thousand years. For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, (Genesis 2:17) we know that he did not complete a thousand years. (Genesis 5:5) We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,’ (2 Peter 3:8) is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place. Just as our Lord also said, They shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, but shall be equal to the angels, the children of the God of the resurrection.”
    Justin gives the Revelation narrative which doesn't quite seem to match with Ezekiel and Isaiah. I think the answer is how Justin understands Genesis 2:17, and he is not the only one who looks at it this way. Others to connect Adam with a thousand years are:

    Victorinus, On Creation
    Hippolytus, Visions of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar Taken in Conjunction, 4.
    Irenaeus, V.XXIV.2
    Philo of Alexandria; Allegorical Interpretation I, XXXIII
    The Book of Jubilees 4:30-31

    Here is the way Philo explains it:

    “What is the meaning of the expression, "Ye shall surely die?" (Gen 2:17). The death of the good is the beginning of another life; for life is a twofold thing, one life being in the body, corruptible; the other without the body, incorruptible. Therefore one wicked man surely dies the death, who while still breathing and among the living is in reality long since buried, so as to retain in himself no single spark of real life, which is perfect virtue. But a good man, who deserves so high a title, does not surely die, but has his life prolonged, and so attains to an eternal end. Q&A on Genesis 1”
    This is spiritual life as explained by Jesus.

    And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:26 also 6:47, 8:51, Mat 8:22)
    Adam died spiritually on the day he was disobedient to God and yet he lived physically 930 years. This means the Revelation millennium represents spiritual life. That’s the way the early church understood it. It was not a literal thousand years, an earthly kingdom, or city. Revelation is about spiritual concepts and not earthly history, past or present.

    Heb 12:22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
    23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
    24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
    666 And The Name

    http:// 7%3AAlan+Fuller&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&text=Alan+Fuller

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