Why Did the Disciples of the Apostles like Polycarp Teach a Future Resurrection Beyond A.D. 70?

The strongest and most compelling argument against full preterism or fully realized eschatology is the argument that the early Church all believed in a future resurrection after A.D. 70.  Were all these Christians wrong?  I do not believe they were.  In Revelation 20: A Preterist Commentary, I show that the first resurrection was in A.D. 70 and this according to Revelation 20:4-5 was the resurrection of the martyrs (Rev 20:4-5).  The fact that the first resurrection in A.D. 70 was just for the martyrs explains why the Apostle John was not resurrected at that time as he outlived this event and was never martyred (John 21:22).  If the first resurrection was in A.D. 70, this means there must be at least one other (see Revelation 20: A Preterist Commentary).  At this time “[t]he rest of the dead” came to life (Rev 20:5).  (See How the Resurrection Bodies of the Saints Perfectly Mirror Jesus’ Resurrection Body after His Ascension Into Heaven Fulfilling Philippians 3:20-21 and ALL Other Bible Verses on the Resurrection and The Notion that the Resurrection is an Earthly Phenomenon whereby the Dead are raised as Perfected, Eternal Earthly Bodies is dispelled by 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 and Isaiah 65:20.) This means the saints were right to look forward to a future resurrection after A.D. 70.

And if this view of the resurrection is true, the idea that fully realized eschatology violates Church tradition may not necessarily be entirely true at least for the first thousand years of the church’s existence according to the Literal Millennial Reign View of Full Preterism espoused in this website.

Though I believe all predictions concerning the Parousia were fulfilled in the first century, I also believe that Christ came in judgment again at the end of the millennium amidst the First Crusade.  Though not necessitated by the Scriptures, I believe Jesus also came one thousand years after the fall of Jerusalem as eyewitnesses to the First Crusade reported seeing an army of the departed saints riding white horses into battle in the aid of the Crusaders.  Recording this event, Raymond of Aguilers writes,

[T]here came out of the mountains, also, countless armies with white horses, whose standards were all white. And so, when our leaders saw this army, they were greatly ignorant as to what it was, and who they were, until they recognized the aid of Christ, whose leaders were St George, Mercurius and Demetrius. This is to be believed, for many of our men saw it.1

This army of saints riding white horses strikingly resembles the army riding white horses that Jesus led in Revelation 19.  Was Jesus at the head of this army seen by the Crusaders?  I believe He was.  If Christ also came at the end of the millennium, then even the Church’s expectation of a future return of Christ may not have been entirely groundless and false.  And though the Church seemingly unanimously believed in a future Parousia, there was at least one famous Orthodox Church father who believed Jesus came in judgment in A.D. 70.  Though Eusebius did also look forward to a future coming of Christ.  The church historian, Eusebius writes the following in Proof of the Gospel:

When, then, we see what was of old foretold for the nations fulfilled in our day, and when the lamentation and wailing that was predicted for the Jews, and the burning of the Temple and its utter desolation, can also be seen even now to have occurred according to the prediction, surely we must also agree that the King who was prophesied, the Christ of God, has come, since the signs of His coming have been shown in each instance I have treated to have been clearly fulfilled.2

Here we see that at least some Orthodox Christians believed Jesus came in judgment in the first century.

Having shown how Literal Millennial Reign Full Preterism does not significantly violate early Church tradition regarding the future coming of Christ, let us now continue to address how this preterist view also affirms the early Christian belief in a future resurrection after A.D. 70.  Irenaeus says that Polycarp (A.D. 69-156) was a disciple of the Apostle John.3  In the Epistle of Polycarp 2:2, Polycarp writes, “Now He that raised Him from the dead will raise us also[.]”  Here we see that Polycarp, a disciple of John the Apostle, taught a future resurrection after A.D. 70.  Perhaps alleged connections to Jesus’ Apostles among Church fathers like Polycarp were self-serving fabrications to garner credibility among contemporary, naïve Church goers?  And maybe these fabrications were later promoted and promulgated by the Catholic Church to bolster church credibility by emphasizing Apostolic lineage? It is also possible that Polycarp and the other Disciples of the Apostles did not understand the fact that the resurrection was only in A.D. 70 and that this promise did not pertain to them.  However, the fact that a large percentage of the Disciples and the Disciple’s apostles lived beyond A.D. 70 challenges the notion that the resurrection ended in A.D. 70.

The Church historian Eusebius says that many of the Disciples as well as many of Jesus’ blood relatives who were also Christian were still alive after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70:

After the martyrdom of James and the capture of Jerusalem which instantly followed, there is a firm tradition that those of the apostles and disciples of the Lord who were still alive assembled from all parts together with those who, humanly speaking, were kinsmen of the Lord—for most of them were still living.  Then they all discussed together whom they should chose as a fit person to succeed James, and voted unanimously that Symeon, son of Clopas mentioned in the gospel narrative, was a fit person to occupy the throne of the Jerusalem see.  He was, so it is said, a cousin of the Saviour, for Hegesippus tells us that Clopas was Joseph’s brother.4

Equally devastating is the fact that Church tradition teaches that the Apostle John also lived well beyond A.D. 70 until the reign of Trajan (A.D. 98–117).5 Hegesippus [A.D. 170] says that Judas, one of Jesus’ biological brothers who was also a leader of the early church, also lived until the reign of Trajan.  Similarly, those Christians who fled to Pella before Titus’ siege of Jerusalem were said to have returned to Israel after the fall of Jerusalem.6  If the resurrection ended in A.D. 70, how is that Judas, John, the Christians who fled to Pella, many of Jesus’ Christian blood relatives, many of the disciples and the disciples of the disciples were not raised in A.D. 70? Where these men not also part of the elect?

Some preterists might argue that contrary to Church tradition, John was raptured with the rest of the saints in A.D. 70. But this view has significant problems.  There are few times in ancient history that are better documented than the middle of the first century.  How could such a public and potentially miraculous event like the sudden death, rising up to the sky or disappearing of all Christians throughout the Roman Empire go unnoticed and undocumented in a time that is otherwise so exhaustively recorded?  It is generally true that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But when an historical period is so well-documented, the omission of such an ubiquitous, publicly observable, miraculous event like the rapture boarders on proof of it never having occurred.

Proponents of an A.D. 70 rapture often allege that there were essentially zero Christian writings written for decades after A.D. 70.  They explain this fabricated conundrum by suggesting that the Christian saints were all raptured in A.D. 70 and this fact explains this “inexplicable” gap in Christian writings.  This assertion is absolutely false.  There were at least a dozen extracanonical Christian works dated by unbiased scholars shortly after A.D. 70.  In other words, not only was there no gap in Christian writings after A.D. 70, the frequency of Christian writings did not even appear to slow down in the immediate decades after the fall of Jerusalem.  The alleged “gap” in Christian writings after A.D. 70 is based more on wishful thinking rather than concrete evidence (see A Refutation of the Arguments that Christianity Ended in A.D. 70 with Biblical Evidence that A.D. 70 was Just the Beginning of Christianity.)

  1. Raymond of Aguilers, p. 82; Gesta Francorum, p. 69, cited in Thomas Asbridge, The First Crusade A New History: The Roots of Conflict Between Christianity and Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 239.
  2. Eusebius Proof of the Gospel Book 8, Chapter 4, paragraph 147, cited in Charles S. Meek, Christian Hope through Fulfilled Prophecy: Is Your Church Teaching Error about the Last Days and Second Coming?, (Spicewood, TX: Faith Facts Publishing, 2013), 267.
  3. Irenaeus Adversus Haereses 3.3.
  4. Eusebius The History of the Church 3.11.
  5. Eusebius The History of the Church 3.23.
  6. Epiphanius On Weights and Measures 15.

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