Question:

Brother Hamilton,

Our local fellowship of congregations has been impacted by the doctrine of Preterism, with a number of problems caused by one individual in particular who has garnered a small but aggressive group of followers holding to Max King's teachings.

In an article on your site, "70 A.D. 'ism and the Date of Revelation by Carl A. Allen" a reference is made with regard to evidence for the establishment of the Church of Smyrna. I have been researching this for some time, and happened upon your site and would greatly appreciate any information or source you have regarding such evidence. As you can imagine, this would greatly deflate the Preterist claim of an early date for the writing of John's Revelation.

I appreciate any information you can provide.

God Bless!


Answer:

Polycarp was a famous leader in the church at Smyrna and likely a part of the church at its founding or shortly thereafter. He wrote a document called "The Letter to the Philippians," in which he mentions "But I have neither perceived nor heard any such thing among you, among whom the blessed Paul laboured, who are praised in the beginning of his Epistle. For concerning you he boasts in all the Churches who then alone had known the Lord, for we had not yet known him" [Polycarp, The Letter to the Philippians, 11:3]. Thus, it is concluded that Polycarp is saying that Smyrna had not yet known the Lord at the time Paul's letter to the Philippians was written. Paul's letter to the Philippians was written around A.D. 63. If John's letter was written prior to A.D. 70, this would not have given a church much time to establish itself.

Also the church in Laodicea is described by John as being rich and lukewarm (Revelation 3:14-22). Paul mentioned the church in Colossians 2:1; 4:13,16 but he praise for the church. Very likely the letter of Philemon is addressed to those in Laodicea as well (see The Letter to Laodicea). The picture we get of the church is a small group meeting in Philemon's home. It is known for its love and faith (Philemon 3). Colossians and Philemon were written around A.D. 63. It is also known that Laodicea had suffered an earthquake in A.D. 61. While it was wealthy enough to finance its rebuilding, it would have taken a while to recover. For John to write about a church having grown lukewarm and rich in just a few years after Paul talked about it in glowing terms doesn't seem likely.

The case for Ephesus is similar. At John's writing it had left its first love (Revelation 2:4). That certainly wasn't true when Paul worked in Ephesus in the late fifties for 18 months, nor is it indicated when he wrote the letter to the Ephesians, at the same time Colossians and Philemon were written, around A.D. 63. If the the church was hardening you would think there would have been some signs of it before Paul died if John wrote prior to A.D. 70.

In each case one could postulate that it might have happened, though very unlikely, but when you find a set of unlikely events all taking place together then it is a harder position to argue.

Thank you!

I have read Polycarp's letter, but did just a cursory reading of it. A closer reading would have paid dividends in this question. I greatly appreciate your response!

Have a great day.