The Early Church Fathers Were Historicist - Not Preterist or Futurist

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H. Grattan Guinness (regarded as "England's greatest Bible prophecy teacher") elaborates below on the following 8 points, followed by his comment on Futurism:

1. The Fathers interpreted the four beasts of Daniel as Babylon, MedoPersia, Greece, Rome
2. The Fathers believed the Ten Horns of Daniel and Revelation are the same
3. The Fathers interpreted the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) via Historicism
4. The Fathers believed that Daniel, Paul, and John describe in different ways the same Antichrist power
5. The Fathers believed the "Restrainer" of 2 Thess. 2 was the Pagan Roman Empire, not an Agent of Holiness
6. The Fathers believed Rome's fall was and the emergence of Antichrist was imminent, not 2,000+ years later
7. The Fathers believed the Antichrist would rule over the fallen Roman Empire
8. The Fathers believed "Babylon" wasn't literal, but symbolic for Rome where they believed Antichrist sat

1. The Fathers interpreted the four wild beasts of prophecy as representing the four empires, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.
Here we have the foundation of the historical interpretation of prophecy. Take as an instance the words of Hippolytus on the great image and four wild beasts of Daniel : ” The golden head of the image,” he says, “is identical with the lioness, by which the Babylonians were represented ; the shoulders and the arms of silver are the same with the bear, by which the Persians and Medes are meant ; the belly and thighs of brass are the leopard, by which the Greeks who ruled from Alexander onwards are intended ; the legs of iron are the dreadful and terrible beast, by which the Romans who hold the empire now are meant ; the toes of clay and iron are the ten horns which are to be;the one other little horn springing up in their midst is the antichrist ; the stone that smites the image and breaks it in pieces, and that filled the whole earth, is Christ, who comes from heaven and brings judgment on the world.” 1 This statement is remarkable for its clearness, correctness, and condensation, and expresses the view held still by the historic school.

Hippolytus says, in the treatise on ” Christ and Antichrist “: “Rejoice, blessed Daniel, thou hast not been in error ; all these things have come to pass” (p. 19). “Already the iron rules ; already it subdues and breaks all in pieces ; already it brings all the unwilling into subjection ; already we see these things ourselves. Now we glorify God, being instructed by thee ” (p. 20).

2. The Fathers held that the ten-horned beasts of Daniel and John are the same.
As an instance, Irenaeus, in his book “Against Heresies,” chap, xxvi., says : “John, in the Apocalypse, . . . teaches us what the ten horns shall be which were seen by Daniel”

3. The Fathers held the historic interpretation of the Apocalypse.
As Elliott says, none of the Fathers ” entertained the idea of the apocalyptic prophecy overleaping the chronological interval, were it less or greater, antecedent to the consummation, and plunging at once into the times of the consummation.” Here, for example commentary of Victorinus on the Apocalypse of John, written towards the end of the third century. This is the earliest commentary extant on the Apocalypse as a whole. In this, the going forth of the white horse under the first seal is interpreted of the victories of the gospel in the first century. This view, you will observe, involves the historical interpretation of the entire book of Revelation. Victorinus interprets the woman clothed with the sun, having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars on her head, and travailing in her pains, as “the ancient Church of fathers, prophets, saints, and apostles ” ; in other words, the Judaeo-Christian body of saints. He could not of course point to fulfilments which were at his early date still future, but he recognises the principle.

4. The Fathers held that the little horn of Daniel, the man of sin foretold by Paul, and the revived head of the Roman empire predicted by John, represent one and the same power ; and they held that power to be the antichrist.
For example, Origen, in his famous book, ” Against Celsus" thus expresses himself (bk. vi., chap. xlvi.). After quoting nearly the whole of Paul’s prophecy about the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians, which he interprets of the antichrist, he says : “Since Celsus rejects the statements concerning antichrist, as it is termed, having neither read what is said of him in the book of Daniel, nor in the writings of Paul, nor what the Saviour in the gospels has predicted about his coming, we must make a few remarks on this subject. . . . Paul speaks of him who is called antichrist, describing, though with a certain reserve, both the manner and time and cause of his coming. . . . The prophecy also regarding antichrist is stated in the book of Daniel, and is fitted to make an intelligent and candid reader admire the words as truly Divine and prophetic ; for in them are mentioned the things relating to the coming kingdom, beginning with the times of Daniel, and continuing to the destruction of the world.”

Jerome, in his commentary on the book of Daniel (chap, vii.), says, with reference to the little horn which has a mouth speaking great things, that “it is the man of sin, the son of perdition, who dares to sit in the temple of God, making himself as God.”

5. The Fathers held that the Roman empire was the ” let” or hindrance, referred to by Paul in 2 Thessalonians, which kept back the manifestation of the ”man of sin”.
This point is of great importance. Paul distinctly tells us that he knew, and that the Thessalonians knew, what that hindrance was, and that it was then in existence. The early Church, through the writings of the Fathers, tells us what it knew upon the subject, and with remarkable unanimity affirms that this “let,” or hindrance, was the Roman empire as governed by the Caesars ; that while the Caesars held imperial power, it was impossible for the predicted antichrist to arise, and that on the fall of the Caesars he would arise. Here we have a point on which Paul affirms the existence of knowledge in the Christian Church. The early Church knew, he says, what this hindrance was. The early Church tells us what it did know upon the subject, and no one in these days can be in a position to contradict its testimony as to what Paul had, by word of mouth only, told the Thessalonians. It is a point on which ancient tradition alone can have any authority. Modern speculation is positively impertinent on such a subject.

What then was the view of the early Church ? Look at the words of Tertullian. Quoting Thessalonians, he says : ” Now ye know what detaineth that he might be revealed in his time, for the mystery of iniquity doth already work ; only he who now hinders must hinder until he be taken out of the way. What obstacle is there but the Roman state ; the falling away of which, by being scattered into ten kingdoms, shall introduce antichrist, . . . that the beast antichrist, with his false prophet, may wage war on the Church of God ?

Read the words of Chrysostom in his ” Commentary on 2 Thessalonians ” : ” One may first naturally inquire what is that which withholdeth, and after that would know why Paul expresses this so obscurely, . . . ‘he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.’ That is, when the Roman empire is taken out of the way, then he shall come ; and naturally, for as long as the fear of this empire lasts, no one will readily exalt himself; but when that is dissolved, he will attack the anarchy, and endeavour to seize upon the government both of men and of God. For as the kingdoms before this were destroyed, that of the Medes by the Babylonians, that of the Babylonians by the Persians, that of the Persians by the Macedonians, that of the Macedonians by the Romans, so will this be by antichrist’, and he by Christ.” Then accounting for Paul’s reserve in alluding to this point he adds : ” Because he says this of the Roman empire, he naturally only glanced at it and spoke covertly, for he did not wish to bring upon himself superfluous enmities and useless dangers. For if he had said that, after a little while, the Roman empire would be dissolved, they would now immediately have even overwhelmed him as a pestilent person, and all the faithful as living and warring to this end.”

From Irenaus, who lived close to apostolic times, down to Chrysostom and Jerome, the Fathers taught that the power withholding the manifestation of the ” man of sin ” was the Roman empire as governed by the Caesars. The Fathers therefore belong to the historic, and not to the futurist school of interpretation ; for futurists imagine that the hindrance to the manifestation of the man of sin is still in existence, though the Caesars have long since passed away.

6. The Fathers held that the fall of the Roman empire was imminent, and therefore the manifestation of antichrist close at hand.
Justin Martyr, for example, one of the earliest of the Fathers, in his ” Dialogue with Trypho,” chap, xxxii., says : ” He whom Daniel foretells would have dominion for ‘ time and times and a half is already even at the door, about to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High.”

Cyprian, in his ” Exhortation to Martyrdom,” says: “Since . . . the hateful time of antichrist is already beginning to draw near, I would collect from the sacred Scriptures some exhortations for preparing and strengthening the minds of the brethren, whereby I might animate the soldiers of Christ for the heavenly and spiritual contest.”

7. The Fathers held that the ” man of sin’,’ or antichrist, would be a ruler or head of the Roman empire.
A striking illustration of this is the interpretation by Irenaeus and Hippolytus of the mysterious number 666, the number of the revived head of the beast, or antichrist. Irenaus gives as its interpretation the word Latinos. He says : ” Latinos is the number 666, and it is a very probable (solution), this being the name of the last kingdm, for the LATINS are they who at present bear rule” x

Hippolytus gives the same solution in his treatise on ” Christ and Antichrist.”

8. The Fathers held that the Babylon of the Apocalypse means Rome.
On this point they were all agreed, and their unanimity is an important seal on the correctness of this interpretation. Teriullian, for example, in his answer to the Jews, says : ” Babylon, in our own John, is a figure of the city Rome, as being equally great and proud of her sway, and triumphant over the saints ” (chap. ix.). Victorinus, who wrote the earliest commentary on the Apocalypse extant, says, on Revelation xvii. : “The seven heads are the seven hills on which the woman sitteth that is, the city of Rome:’

Hippolytus says : “Tell me, blessed John, apostle and disciple of the Lord, what didst thou see and hear concerning Babylon ? Arise and speak, for it sent thee also into banishment” 3 You notice here the view that Rome which banished the Apostle John is the Babylon of the Apocalypse.

Augustine says, ” Rome, the second Babylon, and the daughter of the first, to which it pleased God to subject the whole world, and bring it all under one sovereignty, was now founded.” 1 In chap, xxviii. he calls Rome “the western Babylon” In chap. xli. he says : ” It has not been in vain that this city has received the mysterious name of Babylon ; for Babylon is interpreted confusion, as we have said elsewhere.”

It is clear from these quotations that the Fathers did not interpret the Babylon of the Apocalypse as meaning either the literal Babylon on the Euphrates, or some great city in France or England, but as meaning Rome. And this is still the interpretation of the historic school, though for the last 800 years events have proved Babylon to represent Rome, not in its pagan, but in its Papal form.

It should be noted that none of the Father’s held the futurist gap theory, the theory that the book of Revelation overleaps nearly eighteen centuries of Christian history, plunging at once into the distant future, and devoting itself entirely to predicting the events of the last few years of this dispensation. As to the subject of antichrist, there was a universal agreement among them concerning the general idea of the prophecy, while there were differences as to details, these differences arising chiefly from the notion that the antichrist would be in some way Jewish as well as Roman. It is true they thought that the antichrist would be an individual man. Their early position sufficiently accounts for this. They had no conception and could have no conception of the true nature and length of the tremendous apostasy which was to set in upon the Christian Church. They were not prophets, and could not foresee that the Church was to remain nineteen centuries in the wilderness, through prolonged and bitter persecution under a succes of nominally Christian but apostate rulers, filling the place of the ancient Caesars and emulating their antichristian deeds. Had they known these things, we may well believe their views would have completely harmonized with those of historic interpreters of later times.
The Fathers went as far as they could go in the direction in which historical interpreters of these last days have traveled. Further, much that was dark to them in prophecy has become clear to their successors in the light of its accomplishment. Divine providence has thrown light, as it could not fail to do, on Divine prediction. (Romanism and the Reformation; pg.190-200)


On Futurism:

To resist the use to which Scripture prophecy was put by the reformers (Protestant Historicism) is no light or unimportant matter. The system of prophetic interpretation known as Futurism does resist this use. It condemns the interpretation of the reformers. It condemns the views of all these men, and of all the martyrs, and of all the confessors and faithful witnesses of Christ for long centuries. It condemns the Albigenses, the Waldenses, the Wicliffites, the Hussites, the Lollards, the Lutherans, the Calvinists ; it condemns them all, and upon a point, upon which they are all agreed, an interpretation of Scripture which they embodied in their solemn confessions and sealed with their blood. It condemns the spring of their action, the foundation of the structure they erected. How daring is this act, and how destitute of justification! What an opposition to the pillars of a work most manifestly Divine! for it is no less than this, for Futurism asserts that Luther and all the reformers were wrong in this fundamental point. And whose interpretation of prophecy does it justify and approve? That of the Romanists. (pg. 251-2)
 

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H. Grattan Guinness (regarded as "England's greatest Bible prophecy teacher") elaborates below on the following 8 points, followed by his comment on Futurism:

1. The Fathers interpreted the four beasts of Daniel as Babylon, MedoPersia, Greece, Rome
2. The Fathers believed the Ten Horns of Daniel and Revelation are the same
3. The Fathers interpreted the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) via Historicism
4. The Fathers believed that Daniel, Paul, and John describe in different ways the same Antichrist power
5. The Fathers believed the "Restrainer" of 2 Thess. 2 was the Pagan Roman Empire, not an Agent of Holiness
6. The Fathers believed Rome's fall was and the emergence of Antichrist was imminent, not 2,000+ years later
7. The Fathers believed the Antichrist would rule over the fallen Roman Empire
8. The Fathers believed "Babylon" wasn't literal, but symbolic for Rome where they believed Antichrist sat

1. The Fathers interpreted the four wild beasts of prophecy as representing the four empires, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.
Here we have the foundation of the historical interpretation of prophecy. Take as an instance the words of Hippolytus on the great image and four wild beasts of Daniel : ” The golden head of the image,” he says, “is identical with the lioness, by which the Babylonians were represented ; the shoulders and the arms of silver are the same with the bear, by which the Persians and Medes are meant ; the belly and thighs of brass are the leopard, by which the Greeks who ruled from Alexander onwards are intended ; the legs of iron are the dreadful and terrible beast, by which the Romans who hold the empire now are meant ; the toes of clay and iron are the ten horns which are to be;the one other little horn springing up in their midst is the antichrist ; the stone that smites the image and breaks it in pieces, and that filled the whole earth, is Christ, who comes from heaven and brings judgment on the world.” 1 This statement is remarkable for its clearness, correctness, and condensation, and expresses the view held still by the historic school.

Hippolytus says, in the treatise on ” Christ and Antichrist “: “Rejoice, blessed Daniel, thou hast not been in error ; all these things have come to pass” (p. 19). “Already the iron rules ; already it subdues and breaks all in pieces ; already it brings all the unwilling into subjection ; already we see these things ourselves. Now we glorify God, being instructed by thee ” (p. 20).

2. The Fathers held that the ten-horned beasts of Daniel and John are the same.
As an instance, Irenaeus, in his book “Against Heresies,” chap, xxvi., says : “John, in the Apocalypse, . . . teaches us what the ten horns shall be which were seen by Daniel”

3. The Fathers held the historic interpretation of the Apocalypse.
As Elliott says, none of the Fathers ” entertained the idea of the apocalyptic prophecy overleaping the chronological interval, were it less or greater, antecedent to the consummation, and plunging at once into the times of the consummation.” Here, for example commentary of Victorinus on the Apocalypse of John, written towards the end of the third century. This is the earliest commentary extant on the Apocalypse as a whole. In this, the going forth of the white horse under the first seal is interpreted of the victories of the gospel in the first century. This view, you will observe, involves the historical interpretation of the entire book of Revelation. Victorinus interprets the woman clothed with the sun, having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars on her head, and travailing in her pains, as “the ancient Church of fathers, prophets, saints, and apostles ” ; in other words, the Judaeo-Christian body of saints. He could not of course point to fulfilments which were at his early date still future, but he recognises the principle.

4. The Fathers held that the little horn of Daniel, the man of sin foretold by Paul, and the revived head of the Roman empire predicted by John, represent one and the same power ; and they held that power to be the antichrist.
For example, Origen, in his famous book, ” Against Celsus" thus expresses himself (bk. vi., chap. xlvi.). After quoting nearly the whole of Paul’s prophecy about the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians, which he interprets of the antichrist, he says : “Since Celsus rejects the statements concerning antichrist, as it is termed, having neither read what is said of him in the book of Daniel, nor in the writings of Paul, nor what the Saviour in the gospels has predicted about his coming, we must make a few remarks on this subject. . . . Paul speaks of him who is called antichrist, describing, though with a certain reserve, both the manner and time and cause of his coming. . . . The prophecy also regarding antichrist is stated in the book of Daniel, and is fitted to make an intelligent and candid reader admire the words as truly Divine and prophetic ; for in them are mentioned the things relating to the coming kingdom, beginning with the times of Daniel, and continuing to the destruction of the world.”

Jerome, in his commentary on the book of Daniel (chap, vii.), says, with reference to the little horn which has a mouth speaking great things, that “it is the man of sin, the son of perdition, who dares to sit in the temple of God, making himself as God.”

5. The Fathers held that the Roman empire was the ” let” or hindrance, referred to by Paul in 2 Thessalonians, which kept back the manifestation of the ”man of sin”.
This point is of great importance. Paul distinctly tells us that he knew, and that the Thessalonians knew, what that hindrance was, and that it was then in existence. The early Church, through the writings of the Fathers, tells us what it knew upon the subject, and with remarkable unanimity affirms that this “let,” or hindrance, was the Roman empire as governed by the Caesars ; that while the Caesars held imperial power, it was impossible for the predicted antichrist to arise, and that on the fall of the Caesars he would arise. Here we have a point on which Paul affirms the existence of knowledge in the Christian Church. The early Church knew, he says, what this hindrance was. The early Church tells us what it did know upon the subject, and no one in these days can be in a position to contradict its testimony as to what Paul had, by word of mouth only, told the Thessalonians. It is a point on which ancient tradition alone can have any authority. Modern speculation is positively impertinent on such a subject.

What then was the view of the early Church ? Look at the words of Tertullian. Quoting Thessalonians, he says : ” Now ye know what detaineth that he might be revealed in his time, for the mystery of iniquity doth already work ; only he who now hinders must hinder until he be taken out of the way. What obstacle is there but the Roman state ; the falling away of which, by being scattered into ten kingdoms, shall introduce antichrist, . . . that the beast antichrist, with his false prophet, may wage war on the Church of God ?

Read the words of Chrysostom in his ” Commentary on 2 Thessalonians ” : ” One may first naturally inquire what is that which withholdeth, and after that would know why Paul expresses this so obscurely, . . . ‘he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.’ That is, when the Roman empire is taken out of the way, then he shall come ; and naturally, for as long as the fear of this empire lasts, no one will readily exalt himself; but when that is dissolved, he will attack the anarchy, and endeavour to seize upon the government both of men and of God. For as the kingdoms before this were destroyed, that of the Medes by the Babylonians, that of the Babylonians by the Persians, that of the Persians by the Macedonians, that of the Macedonians by the Romans, so will this be by antichrist’, and he by Christ.” Then accounting for Paul’s reserve in alluding to this point he adds : ” Because he says this of the Roman empire, he naturally only glanced at it and spoke covertly, for he did not wish to bring upon himself superfluous enmities and useless dangers. For if he had said that, after a little while, the Roman empire would be dissolved, they would now immediately have even overwhelmed him as a pestilent person, and all the faithful as living and warring to this end.”

From Irenaus, who lived close to apostolic times, down to Chrysostom and Jerome, the Fathers taught that the power withholding the manifestation of the ” man of sin ” was the Roman empire as governed by the Caesars. The Fathers therefore belong to the historic, and not to the futurist school of interpretation ; for futurists imagine that the hindrance to the manifestation of the man of sin is still in existence, though the Caesars have long since passed away.

6. The Fathers held that the fall of the Roman empire was imminent, and therefore the manifestation of antichrist close at hand.
Justin Martyr, for example, one of the earliest of the Fathers, in his ” Dialogue with Trypho,” chap, xxxii., says : ” He whom Daniel foretells would have dominion for ‘ time and times and a half is already even at the door, about to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High.”

Cyprian, in his ” Exhortation to Martyrdom,” says: “Since . . . the hateful time of antichrist is already beginning to draw near, I would collect from the sacred Scriptures some exhortations for preparing and strengthening the minds of the brethren, whereby I might animate the soldiers of Christ for the heavenly and spiritual contest.”

7. The Fathers held that the ” man of sin’,’ or antichrist, would be a ruler or head of the Roman empire.
A striking illustration of this is the interpretation by Irenaeus and Hippolytus of the mysterious number 666, the number of the revived head of the beast, or antichrist. Irenaus gives as its interpretation the word Latinos. He says : ” Latinos is the number 666, and it is a very probable (solution), this being the name of the last kingdm, for the LATINS are they who at present bear rule” x

Hippolytus gives the same solution in his treatise on ” Christ and Antichrist.”

8. The Fathers held that the Babylon of the Apocalypse means Rome.
On this point they were all agreed, and their unanimity is an important seal on the correctness of this interpretation. Teriullian, for example, in his answer to the Jews, says : ” Babylon, in our own John, is a figure of the city Rome, as being equally great and proud of her sway, and triumphant over the saints ” (chap. ix.). Victorinus, who wrote the earliest commentary on the Apocalypse extant, says, on Revelation xvii. : “The seven heads are the seven hills on which the woman sitteth that is, the city of Rome:’

Hippolytus says : “Tell me, blessed John, apostle and disciple of the Lord, what didst thou see and hear concerning Babylon ? Arise and speak, for it sent thee also into banishment” 3 You notice here the view that Rome which banished the Apostle John is the Babylon of the Apocalypse.

Augustine says, ” Rome, the second Babylon, and the daughter of the first, to which it pleased God to subject the whole world, and bring it all under one sovereignty, was now founded.” 1 In chap, xxviii. he calls Rome “the western Babylon” In chap. xli. he says : ” It has not been in vain that this city has received the mysterious name of Babylon ; for Babylon is interpreted confusion, as we have said elsewhere.”

It is clear from these quotations that the Fathers did not interpret the Babylon of the Apocalypse as meaning either the literal Babylon on the Euphrates, or some great city in France or England, but as meaning Rome. And this is still the interpretation of the historic school, though for the last 800 years events have proved Babylon to represent Rome, not in its pagan, but in its Papal form.

It should be noted that none of the Father’s held the futurist gap theory, the theory that the book of Revelation overleaps nearly eighteen centuries of Christian history, plunging at once into the distant future, and devoting itself entirely to predicting the events of the last few years of this dispensation. As to the subject of antichrist, there was a universal agreement among them concerning the general idea of the prophecy, while there were differences as to details, these differences arising chiefly from the notion that the antichrist would be in some way Jewish as well as Roman. It is true they thought that the antichrist would be an individual man. Their early position sufficiently accounts for this. They had no conception and could have no conception of the true nature and length of the tremendous apostasy which was to set in upon the Christian Church. They were not prophets, and could not foresee that the Church was to remain nineteen centuries in the wilderness, through prolonged and bitter persecution under a succes of nominally Christian but apostate rulers, filling the place of the ancient Caesars and emulating their antichristian deeds. Had they known these things, we may well believe their views would have completely harmonized with those of historic interpreters of later times.
The Fathers went as far as they could go in the direction in which historical interpreters of these last days have traveled. Further, much that was dark to them in prophecy has become clear to their successors in the light of its accomplishment. Divine providence has thrown light, as it could not fail to do, on Divine prediction. (Romanism and the Reformation; pg.190-200)


On Futurism:

To resist the use to which Scripture prophecy was put by the reformers (Protestant Historicism) is no light or unimportant matter. The system of prophetic interpretation known as Futurism does resist this use. It condemns the interpretation of the reformers. It condemns the views of all these men, and of all the martyrs, and of all the confessors and faithful witnesses of Christ for long centuries. It condemns the Albigenses, the Waldenses, the Wicliffites, the Hussites, the Lollards, the Lutherans, the Calvinists ; it condemns them all, and upon a point, upon which they are all agreed, an interpretation of Scripture which they embodied in their solemn confessions and sealed with their blood. It condemns the spring of their action, the foundation of the structure they erected. How daring is this act, and how destitute of justification! What an opposition to the pillars of a work most manifestly Divine! for it is no less than this, for Futurism asserts that Luther and all the reformers were wrong in this fundamental point. And whose interpretation of prophecy does it justify and approve? That of the Romanists. (pg. 251-2)
Professed Protestants should really visit or re-visit the counter reformation and the forming of the jesuit order (in-depth study of) .... the deceptions (futurism, spriitualisim, state of the dead, immortality) that are out there stem from this order .... indeed the purpose there of to extinguish Protestantism by any means necessary and this has not changed ... nor will it.

Revelation 18:4

King James Bible
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
 
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Phoneman-777

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It may be true. I do not really have an opinion. We are to take it the way God decides it to happen. There are multiple ways to interpret Daniel and Revelation.
Nah, only one way - the Historicist way - because Jesuit Futurism and Jesuit Preterism can be easily shown to contradict Scripture.

For instance, Jesuit Futurism says when Jesus comes as a thief in the night, there will be 7 more years of tribulation...however, Peter says when Jesus comes as a theif in the night, the Earth is going to basically implode and won't sustain life for 7 more minutes, let alone 7 more years.

Preterism says the unspeakably glorious, cacophonous, Earth-shattering, climactic coming of Jesus has already taken place...so, where's the writings of Josephus or Polycarp or any other 1st century A.D. church father/historian which chronicled this event? Are we to believe everyone missed it?

Only Historicism offers a consistent interpretation that cannot be gainsaid.
 
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1. The Fathers interpreted the four wild beasts of prophecy as representing the four empires, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.

This proves nothing at all about historicism, for this interpretation is not limited to them; indeed, the above seems agreed upon by various interpretative schools. For example, this preterist page asserts that those are indeed the identities of the empires. Similarly, the Schofield Reference Bible (futurist) gives the same list here.

I am not even sure why this was brought up. It doesn't prove historicism any more than saying "Daniel is in the biblical canon" proves historicism in that it is technically required, but because the other interpretative schools (at least preterism and futurism) don't disagree, how does it prove anything?

2. The Fathers held that the ten-horned beasts of Daniel and John are the same.
As an instance, Irenaeus, in his book “Against Heresies,” chap, xxvi., says : “John, in the Apocalypse, . . . teaches us what the ten horns shall be which were seen by Daniel”

Again, this is not an interpretation limited to historicism, so even if true, it does not help the case.

3. The Fathers held the historic interpretation of the Apocalypse.
As Elliott says, none of the Fathers ” entertained the idea of the apocalyptic prophecy overleaping the chronological interval, were it less or greater, antecedent to the consummation, and plunging at once into the times of the consummation.” Here, for example commentary of Victorinus on the Apocalypse of John, written towards the end of the third century. This is the earliest commentary extant on the Apocalypse as a whole. In this, the going forth of the white horse under the first seal is interpreted of the victories of the gospel in the first century. This view, you will observe, involves the historical interpretation of the entire book of Revelation. Victorinus interprets the woman clothed with the sun, having the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars on her head, and travailing in her pains, as “the ancient Church of fathers, prophets, saints, and apostles ” ; in other words, the Judaeo-Christian body of saints. He could not of course point to fulfilments which were at his early date still future, but he recognises the principle.

Here we finally get to something more exclusively historicism. However, first we should define historicism.

In regards to the prophecies of Revelation and Daniel, the three schools of interpretation being discussed here are historicism, futurism, and preterism. Historicism claims that these are prophecies concerning the lengthy church era and span for centuries if not millennia in the future. Futurism holds that the prophecies will only happen just prior to the end of the world and are waiting to be fulfilled. Preterism asserts that either most or all of them were fulfilled in the first century; the partial preterist position claims that the second coming is still to come at the end of the world, whereas the full preterist position claims that that, too, has happened. Full preterism is a small minority of preterists in my experience.

So here we come to the claim: Which of these interpretations are actually being offered? The claim here is that this is the historicist position. But that is a rather hard sell. Again, the historicist position is to claim that these prophecies were ongoing since they were given.

I do not see this, to be honest, in Victorinus. Victorinus does put some parts of Revelation in the past--but in the past as in they happened before Revelation was written. He puts, rightly or wrongly, the writing of it under Domitian (90's AD). Essentially everything I see him as talking about in the past was prior to that time; for example, it mentions the woman being seen as the early church, and goes on to say they the groaning and moaning was the anticipation for Christ. The dragon attempting to kill the child is interpreted as the devil attempting to thwart Christ's mission.

Similarly, the white horse being the gospel is something that was let loose prior to the dating he offers for Revelation. Everything "past" he interprets in Revelation, as far as I can tell, concerns events either prior to Revelation being issued (under Domitian, according to him) or immediately afterwards. He shows no indication as far as I can see of any idea that the rest of it would be occurring over a lengthy period of time, or that anything in particular was fulfilled between Revelation and Victorinus's own time. It thus does not really provide evidence for interpretation in the vein of those who actively promoted historicism. He is not in any way recognizing a "principle" of historicism.

The excuse presented is that he was limited due to other prophecies not occurring, but the bottom line is that there is simply not an indication that he thought Revelation was giving a prophecy of church history as a whole after it. Victorinus rests fairly comfortably in the futurist position, I would say.

4. The Fathers held that the little horn of Daniel, the man of sin foretold by Paul, and the revived head of the Roman empire predicted by John, represent one and the same power ; and they held that power to be the antichrist.
For example, Origen, in his famous book, ” Against Celsus" thus expresses himself (bk. vi., chap. xlvi.). After quoting nearly the whole of Paul’s prophecy about the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians, which he interprets of the antichrist, he says : “Since Celsus rejects the statements concerning antichrist, as it is termed, having neither read what is said of him in the book of Daniel, nor in the writings of Paul, nor what the Saviour in the gospels has predicted about his coming, we must make a few remarks on this subject. . . . Paul speaks of him who is called antichrist, describing, though with a certain reserve, both the manner and time and cause of his coming. . . . The prophecy also regarding antichrist is stated in the book of Daniel, and is fitted to make an intelligent and candid reader admire the words as truly Divine and prophetic ; for in them are mentioned the things relating to the coming kingdom, beginning with the times of Daniel, and continuing to the destruction of the world.”

Jerome, in his commentary on the book of Daniel (chap, vii.), says, with reference to the little horn which has a mouth speaking great things, that “it is the man of sin, the son of perdition, who dares to sit in the temple of God, making himself as God.”

The quotes described do not support the claim. It claims the little horn (Daniel), man of sin (Paul), antichrist (John epistles), and "revived head of the Roman empire" (Revelation) are the same. Yet the descriptions do not do this. Origen only refers to antichrist, Daniel, and man of sin, but nothing of the Revelation claim. Jerome is even more limited, referring only to Daniel and man of sin, but making no mention of antichrist or anything regarding Revelation in this quote.

But again, like some of the previous ones, a linking between these individuals is not limited to historicism, so why it is brought up as if it is an argument for it does not make much sense to me.
 
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JSRG

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5. The Fathers held that the Roman empire was the ” let” or hindrance, referred to by Paul in 2 Thessalonians, which kept back the manifestation of the ”man of sin”.
This point is of great importance. Paul distinctly tells us that he knew, and that the Thessalonians knew, what that hindrance was, and that it was then in existence. The early Church, through the writings of the Fathers, tells us what it knew upon the subject, and with remarkable unanimity affirms that this “let,” or hindrance, was the Roman empire as governed by the Caesars ; that while the Caesars held imperial power, it was impossible for the predicted antichrist to arise, and that on the fall of the Caesars he would arise. Here we have a point on which Paul affirms the existence of knowledge in the Christian Church. The early Church knew, he says, what this hindrance was. The early Church tells us what it did know upon the subject, and no one in these days can be in a position to contradict its testimony as to what Paul had, by word of mouth only, told the Thessalonians. It is a point on which ancient tradition alone can have any authority. Modern speculation is positively impertinent on such a subject.

Before we examine the examples, a general note is in order. In the conclusion--the Roman Empire must give way to the man of sin--the examples cited are in general agreement with historicism. But in theory they do not match. In theory this is far more akin to futurism, the idea that this will occur and then the end will come soon afterwards, not that it would kick off prophecies that last for a lengthy period of time--over a thousand years according to historicism. The antichrist reigning for a short time is implicit in the examples given and explicit in examples not given.

In regards to the claim that the interpretations offered are from what Paul told them orally, we run into the issue that none of them claim any apostolic authority for their interpretations on this matter. In truth, their interpretations appear to come from the same vein as futurist interpretations: They look at the major structures in the world and think about how they can fit them into prophecy. In the modern day, people look at how major countries like Russia, the United States, China, or entities like the United Nations or European Union could fit into it. Back then, they would see the Roman Empire as critically important in the way people nowadays see the countries or groups I just listed.

What then was the view of the early Church ? Look at the words of Tertullian. Quoting Thessalonians, he says : ” Now ye know what detaineth that he might be revealed in his time, for the mystery of iniquity doth already work ; only he who now hinders must hinder until he be taken out of the way. What obstacle is there but the Roman state ; the falling away of which, by being scattered into ten kingdoms, shall introduce antichrist, . . . that the beast antichrist, with his false prophet, may wage war on the Church of God ?

Tertullian's statement ("what obstacle is there but the roman state?") is an indication that this is something he sees as the obstacle, not that it is some kind of statement of Paul transmitted that made its way to him. But note that that right after the ellipsis, Tertullian quotes Thessalonians further to say "And then shall be revealed the wicked one, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: even him whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish." This is clearly implying that this will happen shortly after the antichrist is revealed, not a lengthened period of time.

Read the words of Chrysostom in his ” Commentary on 2 Thessalonians ” : ” One may first naturally inquire what is that which withholdeth, and after that would know why Paul expresses this so obscurely, . . . ‘he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.’ That is, when the Roman empire is taken out of the way, then he shall come ; and naturally, for as long as the fear of this empire lasts, no one will readily exalt himself; but when that is dissolved, he will attack the anarchy, and endeavour to seize upon the government both of men and of God. For as the kingdoms before this were destroyed, that of the Medes by the Babylonians, that of the Babylonians by the Persians, that of the Persians by the Macedonians, that of the Macedonians by the Romans, so will this be by antichrist’, and he by Christ.” Then accounting for Paul’s reserve in alluding to this point he adds : ” Because he says this of the Roman empire, he naturally only glanced at it and spoke covertly, for he did not wish to bring upon himself superfluous enmities and useless dangers. For if he had said that, after a little while, the Roman empire would be dissolved, they would now immediately have even overwhelmed him as a pestilent person, and all the faithful as living and warring to this end.”

Quite a bit is removed in that ellipsis, including a rather important portion that goes against the claims that the fathers "with remarkable unanimity" claimed it was the Roman Empire. Here is what comes immediately after it (see CHURCH FATHERS: Homily 4 on Second Thessalonians (Chrysostom)):

"One may naturally enquire, what is that which withholds, and after that would know, why Paul expresses it so obscurely. What then is it that withholds, that is, hinders him from being revealed? Some indeed say, the grace of the Spirit, but others the Roman empire, to whom I most of all accede."

Now, Chrysostom himself considers it to be the Roman Empire, and spends a little time arguing for it. But note his admission that this is clearly not a unanimous opinion in any fashion, nor does he speak ill of those he disagrees with as if it was an egregious error as far as I see. He simply notes his opinion, offers some arguments, and then moves on.

From Irenaus, who lived close to apostolic times, down to Chrysostom and Jerome, the Fathers taught that the power withholding the manifestation of the ” man of sin ” was the Roman empire as governed by the Caesars. The Fathers therefore belong to the historic, and not to the futurist school of interpretation ; for futurists imagine that the hindrance to the manifestation of the man of sin is still in existence, though the Caesars have long since passed away.

Oddly, despite this claim, no citation is given from Irenaeus. I'm not saying it can't exist, but it's odd it isn't mentioned. I understand this is meant to be an abbreviated argument on Guinness's part, but surely if space were important he could have cut out some of the other points that, as I noted, do nothing to prove historicism even if true. Then that could have been used to better supporting his more important ones.

To be fair, there are others who offered this interpretation that Paul was referring to the Roman empire. But as noted, those I have seen either implicitly or explicitly contended that it would only be a short reign of the antichrist (just like futurists). For an example of an explicit one, Cyril of Jerusalem says in Catechetical Lecture 15.12 that "But this aforesaid Antichrist is to come when the times of the Roman empire shall have been fulfilled, and the end of the world is now drawing near." However, he then goes on to say "And after perpetrating such things for three years and six months only, he shall be destroyed by the glorious second advent from heaven of the only-begotten Son of God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus, the true Christ, who shall slay Antichrist with the breath of His mouth , and shall deliver him over to the fire of hell."

They may have thought it was the Roman Empire holding him back, but their reason appears to have been in futurist principles, not anything resembling historicism.

6. The Fathers held that the fall of the Roman empire was imminent, and therefore the manifestation of antichrist close at hand.
Justin Martyr, for example, one of the earliest of the Fathers, in his ” Dialogue with Trypho,” chap, xxxii., says : ” He whom Daniel foretells would have dominion for ‘ time and times and a half is already even at the door, about to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High.”

Cyprian, in his ” Exhortation to Martyrdom,” says: “Since . . . the hateful time of antichrist is already beginning to draw near, I would collect from the sacred Scriptures some exhortations for preparing and strengthening the minds of the brethren, whereby I might animate the soldiers of Christ for the heavenly and spiritual contest.”

This one is simply inaccurate. Neither Justin nor Cyprian say anything at all about the Roman Empire, at least in the places cited. They do expect the antichrist or little horn to come soon (to what extent they literally are viewing it as imminent and to what extent they see it as occurring in some unknown point in the future but obviously coming closer every day is unclear), but say nothing about the Roman Empire's fall being imminent or it having anything to do with it in those sections. To cite these as evidence that "the fall of the Roman empire was imminent, and therefore the manifestation of antichrist close at hand" is not accurate.

7. The Fathers held that the ” man of sin’,’ or antichrist, would be a ruler or head of the Roman empire.
A striking illustration of this is the interpretation by Irenaeus and Hippolytus of the mysterious number 666, the number of the revived head of the beast, or antichrist. Irenaus gives as its interpretation the word Latinos. He says : ” Latinos is the number 666, and it is a very probable (solution), this being the name of the last kingdm, for the LATINS are they who at present bear rule” x

Hippolytus gives the same solution in his treatise on ” Christ and Antichrist.”

Irenaeus says nothing of them being the "ruler or head of the Roman Empire" in this section. Also, this leaves out the fact that while Irenaeus gives Latinos as a possible interpretation (or rather lateinos in Greek, which is a non-standard spelling), he offers several others, and his whole point is that it could be a whole lot of different things and not to speculate too much about it. Hippolytus's discourse, meanwhile, is fairly clearly just copying Irenaeus.

8. The Fathers held that the Babylon of the Apocalypse means Rome.
On this point they were all agreed, and their unanimity is an important seal on the correctness of this interpretation. Teriullian, for example, in his answer to the Jews, says : ” Babylon, in our own John, is a figure of the city Rome, as being equally great and proud of her sway, and triumphant over the saints ” (chap. ix.). Victorinus, who wrote the earliest commentary on the Apocalypse extant, says, on Revelation xvii. : “The seven heads are the seven hills on which the woman sitteth that is, the city of Rome:’

Hippolytus says : “Tell me, blessed John, apostle and disciple of the Lord, what didst thou see and hear concerning Babylon ? Arise and speak, for it sent thee also into banishment” 3 You notice here the view that Rome which banished the Apostle John is the Babylon of the Apocalypse.

Augustine says, ” Rome, the second Babylon, and the daughter of the first, to which it pleased God to subject the whole world, and bring it all under one sovereignty, was now founded.” 1 In chap, xxviii. he calls Rome “the western Babylon” In chap. xli. he says : ” It has not been in vain that this city has received the mysterious name of Babylon ; for Babylon is interpreted confusion, as we have said elsewhere.”

It is clear from these quotations that the Fathers did not interpret the Babylon of the Apocalypse as meaning either the literal Babylon on the Euphrates, or some great city in France or England, but as meaning Rome. And this is still the interpretation of the historic school, though for the last 800 years events have proved Babylon to represent Rome, not in its pagan, but in its Papal form.

As with some previous cases, the idea that Mystery Babylon (or at least the beast it rides upon) means Rome is again something hardly limited to historicism, so its relevance to showing them to be historicists is unclear.

I also question whether the quotes cited even prove their claim. Augustine's quotes, for example, do not refer to the Babylon of Revelation (Revelation isn't in view at all) but the literal historical Babylon. I also don't even know why it brought up the third quote at all ("It has not been in vain that this city has received the mysterious name of Babylon ; for Babylon is interpreted confusion, as we have said elsewhere") because Augustine doesn't mention Rome at all there; he's talking only about the literal Babylon.

It should be noted that none of the Father’s held the futurist gap theory, the theory that the book of Revelation overleaps nearly eighteen centuries of Christian history, plunging at once into the distant future, and devoting itself entirely to predicting the events of the last few years of this dispensation.

While obviously not eighteen centuries, they clearly were believing in some degree of gap, given that they held it would occur at some point in the future, and they did not (as historicists would do) devote time to trying to do things like figure out where the churches matched up with church ages, or which things in Revelation had occurred between its writing and their own time, at least not in the examples given (and if these are the best examples that can be given, I feel that speaks for itself). They simply saw it as coming in the future, and as far as we can tell, in short succession rather than over a course of centuries.

As to the subject of antichrist, there was a universal agreement among them concerning the general idea of the prophecy, while there were differences as to details, these differences arising chiefly from the notion that the antichrist would be in some way Jewish as well as Roman. It is true they thought that the antichrist would be an individual man. Their early position sufficiently accounts for this. They had no conception and could have no conception of the true nature and length of the tremendous apostasy which was to set in upon the Christian Church. They were not prophets, and could not foresee that the Church was to remain nineteen centuries in the wilderness, through prolonged and bitter persecution under a succes of nominally Christian but apostate rulers, filling the place of the ancient Caesars and emulating their antichristian deeds. Had they known these things, we may well believe their views would have completely harmonized with those of historic interpreters of later times.

So essentially, he admits that they weren't actually advocating historicism, but that they might have changed their mind with more information. Not only is such a thing completely speculative (one can just as easily say that they would have been clear futurists, just with a view to present circumstances rather than the ones that were present back then), it's also an admission that they weren't historicists. All it can do is say they have some things in common with historicists--but that is also true for futurists, and I would say that their viewpoints as given were actually much more in line with the futurist school than that of historicism.

Thus I do not think these examples prove them as being historicist.
 
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Phoneman-777

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I am aware a Jesuit started Preterism... but Futurism too?
Jesuit priest Francisco Ribera. He is the one who chopped off Daniel's 70th week and sent it down to the end of time as the "last seven years of tribulation" in which a rebuilt Jewish temple would be the headquarters for a "Nicolai Carpathian" type evil dude Antichrist. You won't find any such interpretation anywhere in history until Jesuit Ribera. Later, "protestant" Plymouth Brethren member and "Father of Dispensationalism" John Nelson Darby added the "secret rapture" idea to it.

The ideas of Alcazar and Ribera arose in the 16th century and were quickly and soundly rejected by the Reformers using the very same arguments I and other Historicists present, so these ideas went underground until such time as the Protestant Reformation train would run off the track. That happened in the 19th century, when the papal antichrist persecution of Christians basically came to a halt with the wild transformations taking place in Europe. With persecution grinding to a halt, Protestantism began to forget its roots. At that time, Satan began resurrecting these Jesuit ideas, starting in England with Maitland who was the librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It's believed he discovered old dust covered writings of Jesuit Ribera, read them, and was blown away at the idea of a "future antichrist" - because if there's one thing that appeals more than anything else to bored Christians, it's sensationalism. If you'd like a short history lesson on how 300 years of the Protestant Historicism of the Protestant Reformation was supplanted by the Jesuit Futurism and Preterism just over 100 years or so ago, check it:


This is from "The Antichrist Chronicles" which every single Christian needs to watch to find out what modern prophecy teachers aren't telling us.
 
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