Eschatology – Part 13

Eschatology – Part 13

If God took Israel into His confidence regarding their future, as noted with Abraham, Jeremiah, and Daniel, then we can conclude that He does not do this with the Church. From the time of Christ’s disciples to the present, God’s people have been unable to ascertain the time of Christ’s return.

I remember a book entitled Eighty-eight Reasons Why the Lord is Returning in 1988. When 1988 came and went, the author published a new book, Eighty-nine Reasons Why the Lord is Returning in 1989. I thought at the time, if he keeps writing and lives long enough, he will eventually get it right! The best seller 1994 is another of this species.

No one is able to maintain a high intensity of waiting for the return of Christ. You only wait on the top of the mountain so long before deciding to go down, build a house, and live out your life. This is obviously a caricaturizing of the point, for Jesus told us what to do between the two Advents.[1]

Nevertheless, it was this loss of imminence that caused the Church to begin institutionalizing. As Dewick noted, there was a “slow but steady decline of the eager expectation of an immediate return of the Lord….and thenceforward with every fresh decade the primitive hope silently retires more and more into the background.”[2] The Patristics reveal in their writings this evolving from a preoccupation with Christ’s return to the building of the institutional church.

If you believe that Jesus will come tomorrow, you probably will not spend today buying a piece of property for a new church building. All of the New Testament writers anticipated the imminent return of Christ, and for this reason, as Paul Johnson notes, they left no instructions on how to organize and institutionalize the church. Thus it wasn’t until the third century that the first church buildings appeared.


Justin, a Christian apologist, living about AD 100-165, established a school in Rome during the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-161) and died a martyr. We were introduced to him in part 7 of this series. In his First Apology he tries to allay the fears of the emperor regarding Christians seeking to establish a kingdom. He says, “And when you hear that we look for a kingdom, you suppose, without making inquiry, that we speak of a human kingdom; whereas we speak of that which is with God, as appears also from the confession of their faith made by those who are charged with being Christians, though they know that death is the punishment awarded to him who so confesses. For if we looked for a human kingdom, we should also deny our Christ…”[3]

Later in this series we will note that with the rejection of chiliasm, the church began to develop political aspirations, which in turn fostered persecution from Rome. Not so, Justin Martyr; his hope in an earthly rule of Christ in the millennium precluded his having a political agenda. In his extensive writings, Justin gives a clear picture of his perception of the Church’s view of millennialism and the Church’s replacement of Israel. For this reason, I will quote him extensively.


Regarding the millennium, Justin, in writing to Trypho, says, “But tell me, do you really admit that this place, Jerusalem, shall be rebuilt; and do you expect your people to be gathered together, and made joyful with Christ and the patriarchs, and the prophets, both the men of our nation, and other proselytes who joined them before your Christ came: or have you given way, and admitted this in order to have the appearance of worsting us in the controversies?”

He answers that the opinion of Christians is divided on this point. “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.”[4]


Since God reveals Himself to the poor, blind, and contrite, it is obvious to Justin that the church, not Israel is the receipient of the affection of God. God is not delighted with those who keep the rituals of the Old Testament, but rather with those who live lives of purity and righteousness.[5]

“.For the true spiritual Israel, and descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (who in uncircumcision was approved of and blessed by God on account of his faith, and called the father of many nations), are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ, as shall be demonstrated while we proceed.”[6] (Emphasis mine).

“For the circumcision according to the flesh, which is from Abraham, was given for a sign; that you may be separated from other nations, and from us; and that you alone may suffer that which you now justly suffer; and that your land may be desolate, and your cities burned with fire; and that strangers may eat your fruit in your presence, and not one of you may go up to Jerusalem. For you are not recognized among the rest of men by any other mark than your fleshly circumcision. . . Accordingly, these things have happened to you in fairness and justice, for you have slain the Just One, and His prophets before Him; and now you reject those who hope in Him, and in Him who sent Him – God the Almighty and Maker of all things – cursing in your synagogues those that believe on Christ.”[7]

Making reference to the circular letter sent out by the Jews warning the synagogues against those preaching Christ, Justin says: “For other nations have not inflicted on us and on Christ this wrong to such an extent as you have, who in very deed are the authors of the wicked prejudice against the Just One, and us who hold by Him. For after that you had crucified Him, the only blameless and righteous Man,- through whose stripes those who approach the Father by Him are healed. . . you not only did not repent of the wickedness which you had committed, but at that time you selected and sent out from Jerusalem chosen men through all the land to tell that the godless heresy of the Christians had sprung up, and to publish those things which all they who knew us not speak against us….Accordingly, you displayed great zeal in publishing throughout all the land bitter and dark and unjust things against the only blameless and righteous Light sent by God.”[8]

The spiritual gifts have been stripped from Israel and given to the Church. “For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time. And hence you ought to understand that (the gifts) formerly among your nation have been transferred to us.”[9]

The Jews hate Christians, having perpetrated all manner of lies. Christians, on the other hand, love and pray for Jews. “…yet you not only have not repented, after you learned that He rose from the dead, but, as I said before, you have sent chosen and ordained men throughout all the world to proclaim that a godless and lawless heresy had sprung from one Jesus….Besides this, even when your city is captured, and your land ravaged, you do not repent, but dare to utter imprecations on Him and all who believe in Him. Yet we do not hate you or those who, by your means, have conceived such prejudices against us; but we pray that even now all of you may repent and obtain mercy from God, the compassionate and long-suffering Father of all.”[10]

Justin calls the Church, “Israel.” “As, therefore, all these latter prophecies refer to Christ and the nations, you should believe that the former refer to Him and them in like manner….For you are neither wise nor prudent, but crafty and unscrupulous; wise only to do evil, but utterly incompetent to know the hidden counsel of God, or the faithful covenant of the Lord, or to find out the everlasting paths.[11]

“Since then God blesses this people, and calls them Israel, and declares them to be His inheritance, how is it that you repent not of the deception you practice on yourselves, as if you alone were the Israel, and of execrating the people whom God has blessed?”

“What, then?” says Trypho; “are you Israel? and speaks he such things of you?”

“If, indeed,” I replied to him, “we had not entered into a lengthy discussion on these topics, I might have doubted whether you ask this question in ignorance…As therefore from the one man Jacob, who was surnamed Israel, all your nation has been called Jacob, and Israel, and Judah, and Joseph, and David, are called and are the true sons of God, and keep the commandments of Christ.”[12] (Emphasis mine).

This last paragraph is an illustration of the point Harnack made (cf. parts 8 and 9) when he noted that the Gentile church stripped from Israel her promises, applying them to herself. In Chapter 131, Justin sets out to show that the Gentiles were more faithful to God than the Jews, having been converted to Christ. In Chapter 132, Justin sees the name of Jesus in the OT word Joshua, and the marriages of Jacob are a figure of the Church in Chapter 134. Notice in this next set of quotes how Justin handles the Old Testament, comparing it with the footnotes.

“And when Scripture says, ‘I am the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, who have made known Israel your King,’ (Is 43:15)[13] will you not understand that truly Christ is the everlasting King? For you are aware that Jacob the son of Isaac was never a king. And therefore Scripture again explaining to us, says what king is meant by Jacob and Israel: ‘Jacob is my servant, I will uphold Him; and Israel is mine Elect, my soul shall receive Him. I have given Him my Spirit; and He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, and His voice shall not be heard without. The bruised reed He shall not break, and the smoking flax He shall not quench, until He shall bring forth judgment to victory. He shall shine, and shall not be broken, until He set judgment on the earth. And in His name shall the Gentiles trust.’ (Is 42:1-4)[14] . Then is it Jacob the patriarch in whom the Gentiles and yourselves shall trust? or is it not Christ? As, therefore , Christ is the Israel and the Jacob, even so we, who have been quarried out from the belly of Christ, are the true Israelitic race….understand, therefore, that the seed of Jacob now referred to is something else, and not, as may be supposed, spoken of your people. For it is not possible for the seed of Jacob to leave an entrance for the descendants of Jacob, or for (God) to have accepted the very same persons whom He had reproached with unfitness for the inheritance, and promise it to them again; but as there the prophet says, ‘And now, O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord; for He has sent away His people, the house of Jacob, because their land was full, as at the first, of soothsayers and divinations;’ (Is 2:5f)[15] even so it is necessary for us here to observe that there are two seeds of Judah, and two races, as there are two houses of Jacob: the one begotten by blood and flesh, the other by faith and the Spirit.”[16]


Read and reread carefully Justin’s treatment of Scripture, especially how he interprets Isaiah in his 135th chapter in the Dialogue With Trypho. This hermeneutic, viewing the Old Testament figuratively, and tampering with the text, is necessary if you are going to get the Old Testament to say that Israel has been replaced by the Church.

In the bonds of Christ,

[1] Acts 1:8.

[2] op.cit. Dewick, p.371.

[3] op. cit., ANF, Vol I, p. 166, The First Apology of Justin, chapter XI.

[4] ibid, p. 239, Dialogue With Trypho, chapter LXXX.

[5] ibid, p. 200, chapter XII.

[6] ibid, p.200, chapter XI.

[7] ibid, p. 202, chapter XVI.

[8] ibid, p. 203, chapter XVII.

[9] ibid, p. 240, chapter LXXXII.

[10] ibid, p. 253, chapter CVIII.

[11] The KJV says, “In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:” This is entirely different, i.e., not a third Israel, but Israel the third with… In his endeavor to demonstrate that the Church is Israel, he misquotes the OT.

[12]op.cit. ANF, p. 261, chapter CXXIII.

[13] The KJV says, “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.” Isaiah does not call Israel “King” as does Justin.

[14] In the KJV the words Jacob and Israel are not mentined. Isaiah does not identify who the “servant” is. Justin assumes that it is Jacob and Israel, which alters the meaning of the text.

[15] Justin quotes from Is 2:5-6 and stops. Actually, Is 2-3 deals with the chastisement of the Lord, and Is 4 deals with the blessing of God on the restored nation. As the seemingly first of the patristic writers to appropriate God’s promises given to Israel, transferring them to the Church, Justin sets the pattern for amillennialists that follow, even though Justin himself was premillennial.

[16] op.cit. ANF, p. 267, chapter CXXXV.