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The Early Church and Bible Prophecy

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By Virgil - Posted on 01 February 2010

Gary DeMar

The Early Church and the End of the World by Gary DeMar and Francis Gumerlock 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 chapter on the history of preterism in the 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.

This book shows 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.

Francis 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 commentaries on prophecies in Matthew 24 by ancient and medieval Bible expositors. Did early Christian writers—long before Martin Luther, John Calvin, or Luis Alcasar—interpret prophecies in 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, that is, before its destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70. 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.

Read the rest of the article here.

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