The Early Church and the End of the World
The claim has been made by a number of prophecy writers that the early church was predominately premillennial on millennial issues and exclusively futuristic on almost everything else. This means that early Christian writers who commented on prophetic passages like the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) believed and wrote that the biblical authors were always referring to events in the distant future just before the return of Christ.
While these claims have been made with certainty, there has always been a lack of clear historical documentation to back them up. Sometimes the historical record has been stretched and exaggerated to fit an already developed theory. But since the futurist perspective has been promoted as an early church reality by so many for so long, few people today actually question it. The Early Church and the "End of the World" is the first book to question the prevailing futurist view by a careful study of the historical record.
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 actually studying what they wrote. Unfortunately, we do not have a complete record of the period. To make our historical investigation even more difficult, there are translation issues. Many of the works of those who wrote soon after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and beyond remain untranslated.
This book seeks to remedy some of these problems. Thomas Ice, in his chapter on the history of preterism in The End Times Controversy, makes some bold historical 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 either premillennialism or a distant futurism.
The Early Church and the "End of the World" will show that some of the earliest writers, 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, whose Ecclesiastical History is a window on the first few centuries of the church.
In addition, Francis Gumerlock has undertaken the task of translating a number of ancient and medieval commentators who have written on Matthew 24. He shows that many early and medieval 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.