The Early Church Fathers and the Last Days of the Jewish Age

Bishop Kouri has added a new resource to Lesson 5, The Apostles’ Revelation: The Jewish Age, Behind, Not Ahead of The Church. Discover what the Post Apostolic Church fathers really believed about the Seventy Weeks of Daniel and the End of the Jewish Age.

(Lesson 5 above is part of Brother Kouri’s insightful, provocative, and widely applauded ATS course, AD250 The Non-Negotiables of Apostolic Christianity.)

THE EARLY CHURCH FATHERS AND THE LAST DAYS OF THE JEWISH AGE

BARNABAS:

Written anonymously around 100 AD, the “Epistle of Barnabas” is the earliest extra-Canonical source we have. Although not included in the Canon of the New Testament, it is an incredibly early documentation of the early Church’s beliefs about the last days. The Apostle John was probably alive when it was written. And although the authorship is disputed, we will refer to Barnabas as the author.

The Epistle of Barnabas sets forth the common view held by the early Church that the seventieth week of Daniel ended with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, as Messiah’s Day dawned and Christ’s Church was born. Barnabas writes, "For it is written, ‘And it shall come to pass, when the week is completed, the temple of God shall be built...in the name of the Lord.’ I find...that a temple does exist. Having received the forgiveness of sins…in our habitation God dwells in us….This is the spiritual temple built for the Lord." (EOB, 16:6)

Barnabas uses the expression "the week," but does not mention Daniel. Yet scholars agree from the context that this is definitely a reference to Daniel’s 70th week. And it is assumed by many scholars that the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks was so well known and so widely expounded in the early Church that it needed no further explanation. The early Church did not avoid Daniel’s prophecy.

This early Christian writer connects Daniel’s vision of seventy weeks with the prophecy of Haggai 2:7-9 and the building of a "spiritual temple," the Church. The author of the Epistle of Barnabas obviously believed that Daniel’s 70th week was fulfilled with Christ’s first advent. This was when the Old Temple was destroyed and the new “spiritual temple” was initially established. Writing in 100 AD he clearly believed the 70th week of Daniel was already completed.

It seems clear from this passage in the Epistle of Barnabas that less than a century after Christ’s passion (remember that according to Daniel the Messiah would be cut off in the middle of the 70th week), it was the widespread belief of the Church that the 70th week of Daniel was completed. It is certain that Barnabas placed the end of the 70th week no later than 70 AD. His mention of the building of the Church (which was able to grow largely unimpeded after 70AD) makes it probable that Barnabas saw 67 to 70 AD and the destruction of Herod’s Temple as the end of the Jewish or Old Covenant Age and the dawning of Messiah’s Day. As David B. Currie writes in his book, Rapture, The End-Times Error That Leaves The Bible Behind, "He (Barnabas) assumes his readers will agree that the events of ‘the week’ led to the building of the Church.” (Page 422)


CLEMENT OF ALEXANDREA

Within a century of Barnabas, Clement became bishop of Alexandria until his death in 215 AD. Clement taught that the blessings of the New Covenant required the end of biblical Judaism within the 70 weeks of Daniel. Clement writes of the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD in the prophetic language of Daniel’s seventy weeks, "Vespasian rose to the supreme power (Emperor of Rome) and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the holy place” (STO, XXI, 142-143).

Clement of Alexandrea believed the Jewish Age, the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel and the great tribulation were behind, not ahead of the Church.

ORIGEN (185-254 AD)

A student of Clement of Alexandrea, Origen agreed that the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD marked the end of the Jewish Age and the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy regarding the 70 weeks. Origen writes, "The weeks of years up to the time of Christ the leader that Daniel the prophet predicted were fulfilled" (TPR, IV:1:5).

Like Clement, Origen also believed the Jewish Age, the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel and the great tribulation were behind the Church, not ahead of it.


TERTULLIAN

In 203 AD Tertullian wrote his famous treatise Against The Jews. This early Church father also taught that Daniel’s 70th week had been fulfilled in 70 AD: "Vespasian vanquished the Jews…and so by the date of his storming Jerusalem, the Jews had completed the seventy weeks foretold by Daniel” (AAJ, VII; CID).

Contrary to modern postponement preachers and teachers, Tertullian believed the Jewish age, the abomination of desolation, and the great tribulation was behind, not ahead of the Church.


ATHANASIUS

Athanasius was bishop of Alexandria from 326 to 373 AD. Like the early Church fathers before him, he also taught that the 70 weeks of Daniel culminated and the Jewish Age ended in 70 AD: "Jerusalem is to stand till His coming (Daniel’s reference to Messiah’s appearing in His First Advent), and thenceforth, prophet and vision cease in Israel (the end of the Old Covenant or Jewish Age). This is why Jerusalem stood till then…that they might be exercised in the types as a preparation for the reality…but from that time forth all prophecy is sealed and the city and Temple taken" (INC, XXXIX:3-XV:8).

Athanasius clearly reflects the view of the entire early Church: once the Messiah had come, the role of the Temple in Jerusalem would be ended. “Things to be done which belonged to Jerusalem beneath…were fulfilled, and those which belonged to the shadows had passed away” (FEL, IV:3-4).

This important early Church father clearly believed that the Jewish age ended in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.


IRENAEUS AND HIPPOLYTUS

Irenaeus was a contemporary of Clement of Alexandrea whose widely held view we dealt with above. Irenaeus and his pupil Hippolytus are the only two writers from the early Church period who believed in a still-future fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th week. They both placed the 70th week at the end of the gospel age and so are the first interpreters to postulate a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks (AG, V). Both predicted a specific date for the second coming that has long since come and gone.

But their belief in a future 70th week was never widely accepted! St. Jerome specifically pointed out that the number of years in their system did not coincide with the historical events they purported to cover. He wrote, "If by any chance those of future generations should not see these predictions of his (Irenaeus) fulfilled at the time he (Irenaeus) set, then they will be forced to seek for some other solution and to convict the teacher himself (Irenaeus) of erroneous interpretation” (CID)

David B. Currie points out in his scholarly work, "As a point of history, the views of Irenaeus did give seed to premillennialism. But the early fathers of the Church strongly and universally denounced this concept. The early Church understood the presumptuous-parenthesis theory that rapturists employ…but they resoundingly rejected it.” (David B. Currie, Rapture, page 425)

The prevailing view of the early Church fathers was that Daniel’s vision of the 70 weeks was fulfilled in 70 AD. The final or 70th week began with the baptism of Jesus and his presentation to Israel by John the Baptist. The Messiah was cut off in the middle of the 70th week when Jesus was crucified. The abomination of desolation and the great tribulation spoken of by Daniel were fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD.

These events marked the end of the Jewish age and the dawning of Messiah’s Day.

5 comments (Add your own)

1 thomas wood - August 18, 2010 @ 1:42 PM

bishop, why would you say the apostle John was still alive in 100ad? first off he would have been the most celebrated man on the planet, and we hear not one word of him or any other person in the first generation church, period. John wasn't on the earth in 100ad, because he was in the Resurrection of the dead, if he was alive or dead at the time in 68ad to 73ad,; either in the raising of the dead of Old Covenant Israel or the rapture which was in 68ad at His 2nd coming. think it through brother, Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law of Moses and the resurrection of the dead is the ultimate in that fulfilling. the Temple in heaven was filled with those of this resurrection before the Temple on the earth could be destroyed. the end of the Old Order could not come to an end until it was ended completely; this could not be done without the Resurrection of the Dead! it's been a long time since iv'e seen you back in 2002 or 03 with Jim Wakeland. i hope this finds you and yours well in Christ! be blessed in Him. thomas
2 Terry Hilderbrand - November 26, 2010 @ 9:20 PM

Thank God the truth is coming forth.When i took it upon myself to see what The truth is about end times I was never so shocked.I started asking God some questions and he was quick to answer .The gospel is really good news.Verses like Mtt.5:17,18 and John3;17 When i took these to my Father he took me on a journey that gave me peace and joy you cant measure.I started getting labled with terms i had never heard of.These doesnt bother me, now i can plainly see we need to be educated only in the one.Their is a world of people out their that hasnt seen their salvation yet and the ones name is Jesus Christ he is forever present all we need to do is show em.And Let our Father do the correcting.When i go out it is to tell the ones that dont know that their sins have been forgiven all they have to do is believe and allow the righteous son to take his place in his house and start living in peace and joy on earth in the son in heaven.If they cant believe that prophecy is fullfilled then they by their choice come under the law.
3 Andy Derksen - September 17, 2011 @ 9:13 AM

Dear Mr. Kouri, Hello. I'm more and more convinced there was an initial fulfillment of the Seventy Weeks in the OT era, culminating with the rededication of the Temple in 164 BC. But the Seventy Weeks prophecy also contains within itself indications that there's a secondary, long-term fulfillment. Note first of all that Dan. 9:27 refers to "abominations," plural, rather than mentioning just one "abomination of desolation." That hints at a period of time going by. Secondly, Dan. 11:31 notes the initial "abomination of desolation" under Antiochus IV in 167 BC. Thirdly, 11:35, at the tail end of the Antiochus prophecy, contains the pivotal phrase "until the time of the end," which indicates more time going by, an indefinite period. Verse 36 then introduces us to a king whose actions and fate here do not correspond to what we know of Antiochus. Therefore the prophecy as a whole springboards from the time of Antiochus to "the time of the end"--i.e., the end of history as we know it. Fourth, this is confirmed by ch. 12, which tells us that "at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." (vv. 1-2) Fifth, the entire period from Antiochus to the resurrection of the saints is symbolically enumerated: " 'How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?' . . . [I]t would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished. . . . 'And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days. But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.' " (12:6-7, 11-13) In other words, the "three and a half years" that dispensationalists take literally as being the Great Tribulation in reality symbolizes the entire period from 167 BC to the resurrection of the saints. Daniel is told that the 1290 days commences from "the abomination of desolation" (under Antiochus, 11:31), and climaxes at the same point at which Daniel himself will be resurrected. In turn, this parallels the Olivet Discourse, when we directly compare Matt. 24 and Lk. 21. The "great tribulation" of Matt. 24:21 matches "the times of the Gentiles" in Lk. 21:20, which "times" extend well beyond 70 AD--and are in fact ongoing. This makes the interpretation of Revelation, in turn, much easier, for we can then understand that its time references--and all the events it describes has occurring therein--are to be construed in light of the Daniel and Olivet prophecies. Revelation's "great tribulation," just like in Olivet, commences at 70 AD and climaxes at the Second Coming. Like you, I reject a "pre-trib" rapture. However, that does *not* mean there's no rapture. The truth is that it will happen at the beginning of Jesus' second coming--i.e., *after* the Great Tribulation that is going on as we speak. This approach covers all the bases given in the key prophecies, doing them justice (which preterism does not), while at the same time avoiding the alarmist tendencies and pre-trib error of dispensationalists. Regards, Andy Derksen
4 Jonathan B. Hobbs - October 11, 2011 @ 10:11 PM

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5 raoul - May 20, 2012 @ 6:31 PM

I have come to believe that Daniel's 70th week is Messianic in that the Lord Jesus by His sacrificial death did away with the need for the temple sacrifices. You cannot prove a 7 year tribulation period at the end of this present age from Daniel 9 neither is it necessary to insert a "gap" between the 69th and 70th week. However, from Matthew 24, Daniel 11, Revelation 13 there will be an end time period of 3 1/2 years (1,260 days) called "The Time of Jacob’s Trouble." 70 AD was a foreshadowing of what will happen at the end when the armies once more surround Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus made this clear (prophecy being pattern) According to Matthew 24 at that time when the nations are surrounding Jerusalem God will send the angels to gather the saints from all over the earth to meet the Lord Jesus in the air at His Second Coming as He returns to the earth with His saints to destroy the antichrist and his armies and to deliver the remnant of Israel that have survived the Time of Jacob's Trouble. I am neither a preterist nor a dispensationalist; however, I do believe that prophecy is pattern with an ultimate fulfilment at the end of the age. I have come to believe that Daniel 9:24-27 was perfectly fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. However, Second Thessalonians does predict a future abomination of desolation that will occur at the end of this age on the temple mount. Before the Church is caught up to meet the Lord in the air at His second coming two things must occur first. 1, The Apostasy. 2. The revelation of the Man of Sin to the faithful Church. I am premillennial but accept a Post Tribulation rapture of the Church right at the end of the Great Tribulation. "These are they that have come out of the Great Tribulation" Rev 7:14 they "come out of it" meaning that they have already been in it! www.blowthetrumpet.com.au

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