The Premillennialism of Justin Martyr

Justin MartyrPerhaps the most overtly premillennial ante-Nicene Church father was Justin Martyr.  He was a Gentile born around 114 and was martyred in 165 A.D.   He was a follower of Plato until he became a disciple of Jesus.  Justin identified the Gospel as the only true philosophy and became an evangelist, proclaiming that truth.[1]  It would be only be natural for a former Platonist to view the Millennium as something other than literal.  Nevertheless, Justin believed the plain words of prophecy on the major points.


In writing against those who deny the resurrection, Justin provides his most famous statement on the Millennium:

For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth] and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians…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.[2] 

Justin is writing to inform Trypho[3] that those who deny the coming resurrection of the saints may call themselves Christians, but their teachings blaspheme God.  Justin then affirms that Christians holding to proper doctrine not only believe in the resurrection but also that the Millennium would follow, centered in a glorified Jerusalem.  To Justin, the resurrection and the Millennium were natural partners and part of the same overall doctrine.  However, Justin was careful to note that there were genuine Christians who disagreed with him on the Millennium and that Jerusalem would be rebuilt.[4]  Though Isaiah and Ezekiel say much on the Millennium, it is likely that Justin had prophecies regarding the great and holy mountain in mind when writing on the enlarged Jerusalem (e.g. Is. 2:2-4; 27:13; 56:6-8; 66:20; Ezek. 20:40-41; 40:1-4; 45:1-8; 48:8-20).

In relating the Millennium to the resurrection of the unjust, Justin adds:

And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place.[5] 

Justin reiterates that believers in Christ will live in Jerusalem for a thousand years and that afterwards the rest of humanity will be resurrected to face judgment.  These two general resurrections bookend the Millennium just as the apostle John records in Revelation 20:4-6.


After writing, For Isaiah spake thus concerning this space of a thousand years…, Justin quotes Isaiah 65:17-25.  It is noteworthy that Justin has no compunction in providing a passage about the Millennium even if it does not explicitly state a one-thousand year period.  The Church father understood that if the Scriptures describe a period that does not fit in the present world or in the Eternal State that it must find its home in the Millennium.  This type of inductive reasoning is common among premillennial scholars throughout Church history.

Justin further developed the sexta-septamillennial construct by unpacking Jubilees 4:29-30, where it is revealed that Adam died in that day because he died before reaching the age of one thousand.  The father writes:

Now we have understood that the expression used among these words, ‘According to the days of the tree [of life] shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound’ obscurely predicts a thousand years. For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, ‘The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,’ is connected with this subject.[6]         

Justin identified the tree in Isaiah 65:22 as the tree of life and that the passage obscurely predicted a thousand years.  This is because men will now be able to live for an entire millennium.  2 Peter 3:8 is quoted and used to interpret the day on which Adam died.  The day of the Lord is likewise seen as one of these millennial days.   Justin concluded that Isaiah 65:17-25 concerned the reversal of the corruption introduced in Genesis 2:17 and chapter 3.[7]  An astute observation as the two narratives parallel each other quite consistently.  See more on Adam’s death in connection with the Millennium here.

[1] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson and Arthur Cleveland Coxe, eds., the Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume I – the Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (New York: Cosimo Classics, 2007), 160.

[2] Ibid., 239.  Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, ch. LXXX.

[3] Likely a fictional Jewish character created by Justin as a literary device.

[4] Ibid. Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, ch. LXXX.

[5] Ibid., 240.  Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, ch. LXXXI.

[6] Ibid., 239.  Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, ch. LXXXI.

[7] Ibid., 239-240.  Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, ch. LXXXI.


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