Robert Van Kampen on pp. 22-24 in his book 'The Sign' says this concerning the Early Church Fathers:
"Great church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Justin Martyr, the Pastor of Hermas, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Melito of Sardis, Methodius, Tertullian, Cyprian, Commodianus, Victorinus, and Lactantius stated clearly in their writings that the church would under go the persecution of Antichrist before the coming of Christ.
The following direct quotations from some of these men give further evidence to that truth:
JUSTIN MARTYR: The man of apostasy [Antichrist]...shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians. (Trypho cx)
THE PASTOR OF HERMAS: 40-140 A.D. 'Happy ye who endure the great tribulation that is coming. (Vision Second) Those, therefore, who continue steadfast, and are put through the fire, will be purified by means of it....Wherefore cease not speaking these things into the ears of the saints. This then is the type of the great tribulation that is yet to come.' (Vision Fourth)
BARNABAS: The final stumbling block approaches, concerning which it is written, as Enoch says, 'For this end the Lord has cut short the times and the days, that His Beloved may hasten; and He will come to the inheritance' And the prophet also speaks thus: 'Ten kingdoms shall reign upon the earth, and a little king shall rise up after them, who shall subdue under one three of the kings...Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are the called, we should fall asleep in our sins, and the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, should thrust us away from the kingdom of the Lord. (Epistle of Barnabas, ch. iv)
IRENAEUS: 140-200 A.D. 'And they [the ten kings]...shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the Church to flight. (Against Heresies 5.26.1) But [John] indicates the number of the name [Antichrist, 666] now, that when this man comes we may avoid him, being aware who he is.' (Against Heresies 5.30.4)
HIPPOLYTUS: 160-240 A.D. Now concerning the tribulation of the persecution which is to fall upon the Church from the adversary [he has been speaking of the Antichrist and the Antichrist's persecution of the saints and continues n the same vein]....That refers to the one thousand two hundred and threescore days [the last half of Daniel's seventieth week] during which the tyrant is to reign and persecute the Church. (Treatise on Christ and Antichrist, pp. 60,61)
TERTULLIAN: 150-220 A.D. 'That the beast Antichrist with his false prophet may wage war on the Church of God....Since, then, the Scriptures both indicate the stages of the last times, and concentrate the harvestof the Christian hope in the very end of the world.' (On the Resurrection of the Flesh, xxv; cf. Scorpiace, xii)
THE TEACHINGS OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES: 70-140 A.D. 'Watch for your life's sake,. Let not your lamps be quenched, not your loins unloosed; but be ye ready, for you know not the our in which the Lord cometh.' Stating only the first half of this quote, Gundry, in his book The Church and the Tribulation referred to earlier, goes on to observe: 'Here Walvoord, Stantton, and Pentecost break off the quotation in an endeavor to make the passage establish a belief in imminence [the 'any moment' coming of Christ which, by definition, does not necessitate Antichrist's persecution of God's elect] by the early Church' (p.175). But read the rest of the paragraph!
'But often shall ye come together, seeking the things which are befitting your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if ye be not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied...and then shall appear the world-deceiver as Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning.... And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first, the sign of an outspreading in heaven; then the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and the third, the resurrection of the dead; yet not of all, but as it is said: The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven. (The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, chapter XVI, emphasis added)
THE CONSTITUTIONS OF THE HOLY APOSTLES: 'Be watchful for your life. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning, and ye like unto men who wait for their Lord, when He will come, at even, or in the morning, or at cock-crowing, or at midnight. For at what hour they think not, the Lord will come; and if they open to him, blessed are those servants, because they were watching.'
'Again,' writes Gundry, 'Walvoord breaks off the quotation in an endeavor to make the passage teach imminence' (p.177). And yet, when taken in context with the whole, we see that the quotation teaches nothing of the sort:
'And then shall appear the deceiver of the world, the enemy of the truth, the prince of lies, whom the Lord Jesus 'shall destroy with the spirit of His mouth, who takes away the wicked with His lips; and many shall be offended at Him. But they that endure to the end, the same shall be saved. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven;' and afterwards shall be the voice of a trumpet by the archangel; and in that interval shall be the revival of those that were asleep. And then, shall the Lord come, and all His saints with Him.' (Constitutions, VII, ii xxxi, xxxii, emphasis added)
VICTORINUS: He speaks of Elias (Elijah) the prophet, who is the precursor of the times of Antichrist, for the restoration and establishment of churches from the great and intolerable persecution [which statement is then followed by a lengthy discussion of the persecution of the Church by the Antichrist]. (Commentary on the Apocalypse, VII. 351ff)"
These quotations by the church fathers are soundly based upon the Apostle's doctrine in such passages as I Thessalonians 4:13-5:10; II Thessalonians 2:1-12; and the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:3-31 indicating to all born-again Christians who would follow that these men, the leaders of the church for the years immediately following the Apostolic period, spoke as one in their belief that the Church would indeed experience the presence and persecution of the Antichrist, but would not experience the Day of the Lord/wrath of God! (I Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9)
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