The Apostle John And Asia Minor As A Source Of Premillennialism In The Early Church Fathers -- By: Larry V. Crutchfield

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 31:4 (Dec 1988)
Article: The Apostle John And Asia Minor As A Source Of Premillennialism In The Early Church Fathers
Author: Larry V. Crutchfield


The Apostle John And Asia Minor As A Source
Of Premillennialism In The Early Church Fathers

Larry V. Crutchfield*

One of the central features of early patristic eschatology was the belief in the premillennial return of Christ. It has generally been accepted among conservative scholars that this doctrine held currency in the ante-Nicene period. As Froom says: “This conception of the reign of resurrected and translated saints with Christ on this earth during the millennium—popularly known as chiliasm—was the increasingly prevailing belief of this time.”1 Only with the allegorizing tendencies of first the Alexandrian theologians, especially Origen, and later the African bishop Augustine did the doctrine eventually fall into disrepute.

Although there has been a general consensus that the early Church was premillennial in its eschatological expectation, the question of that doctrine’s origin among the first fathers of the Church has been the focus of considerable discussion. In addition to texts from the canonical Scriptures usually cited by the fathers in support of the doctrine (e.g. Isa 65:17–25; Ps 90:4; 2 Pet 3:8; Rev 20:4–6; et al.), certain noncanonical apocalyptic sources are frequently suggested by modern writers as possible contributors as well (e.g. 1 Enoch 10:19; 2 Apoc. Bar. 29:5; Jub. 4:29–30; 23:27; et al.). But whatever the varied beads of apocalyptic data—written and/or oral—strung together by the early millenarian fathers to support their concepts of the coming kingdom, the strand upon which those beads all hung was the same. That strand, the Johannine teaching on the millennial reign of Christ, was conceived on the isle of Patmos but nurtured in Asia Minor.

The most direct teaching in Scripture on the millennial reign of Christ is found in the Revelation given to the apostle John, especially chap. 20. As Burnet summarizes the case, “St. John out-liv’d all the rest of the Apostles, and towards the latter end of his life, being banish’d into the Isle of Pathmos, he writ his Apocalypse; wherein he hath given us a more full and distinct account of the Millennial kingdom of Christ, than any of the Prophets or

*Larry Crutchfield is public affairs specialist for the military community in Baumholder, West Germany.

Apostles before him.”2 It is instructive to n...

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