The fathers of the early church based much of their eschatological thought upon the writings of the New Testament. For the most part, these early theologians had a very similar base on which they founded their eschatological theologies. While they tended to diverge on details, many held to surprisingly similar views overall. David Fergusson in his article Eschatology writes, “In the eschatologies of most of the Church Fathers a pattern emerges from New Testament sources.”  Fergusson goes on to say that this pattern is evident in the writings of the Church Fathers, giving a list of what most often appeared as the foundation for much of their eschatologies. He writes, “At death, all human beings enter some intermediate state, perhaps sleep or a disembodied existence. This is followed by the return of Christ (the parousia), the resurrection of all the dead, their judgment and final destiny in either heaven or hell.”For the most part, this is on what the early church fathers based their beliefs on the “last things,” however, not all held to this model. Some of the ideas that were developed were in fact quite a bit different from this model, while at the same time carrying some overall similarities.
Irenaeus speaks out against the Gnostics of his time who believed that the resurrection of the dead was purely spiritual and that this was simply an act in which the spirit returned from whence it came. Irenaeus held to the belief of a bodily resurrection, recognizing that the future reward of the saints was both physical and spiritual. Christ would return to the earth to set up his kingdom, where the relationship between mankind and God would finally be completely restored upon the end of a thousand year period of time where the final judgment would take place to be followed by the consummation of time. Irenaeus believed that the dead would rise to live upon this earth, and that Christ’s reign would usher in a new order of creation in which the images presented in the last few chapters of Isaiah would come to fulfillment, “‘The wolves and sheep will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and the serpent earth like bread; and they will not injure nor disturb in my holy mountain, says the Lord.’”
Irenaeus speaks of the final restoration of creation in his Against Heresies. He says that during the Last Supper Jesus spoke to his disciples, saying that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until he would “drink it anew” in the Father’s kingdom. Irenaeus points out that wine is for the physical body, not a spiritual one, and that kingdom of which Christ speaks in this verse is a physical kingdom that would be established upon the earth. Allister McGrath writes of this, saying, “The reference to the future drinking of wine is a sure indication that there will be a kingdom of God established upon earth before the final judgment.” Irenaeus believes that the earth will be restored to what it was originally supposed to be like at the time of creation. He says that this new earthly realm will be set up when Christ returns at his second advent. He also believes that the millennial age will go into effect when Christ returns to restore the creation so that this new state to be established will last for a thousand years. He says that at the end of this thousand year period of time the final judgment will take place. Irenaeus states that when Jesus spoke of drinking wine anew in the Father’s kingdom, he was promising two different things: “The inheritance of the earth in which the new fruit of the vine will be drunk, and the physical resurrection of his disciples.”
Hippolytus appears to have taken the parable of the rich man and Lazarus as told by Jesus in the New Testament rather literally in its descriptions of the afterlife. At the end of this parable, both the rich man and Lazarus die. The rich man is taken to a place that Jesus calls “hell” where the man exists in a state of pain and agony. Lazarus, on the other hand, is taken by the angels up to “Abraham’s bosom.” In this parable, Jesus describes a great chasm dividing the rich man and Lazarus so that neither go move from one place to the other. However, the rich man is still able to communicate with the patriarch Abraham. Hippolytus believed that in this parable, besides making a point about loving ones neighbor, Jesus was actually giving a detailed description of what the afterlife would look like. In his Against Plato, On the Cause of the Universe he writes that when people die they are taken to a place called “hades.” He describes hades as a sort of temporary holding-place. This place is not to be confused with either heaven or hell, but may be seen as a sort of foretaste of both places. He says that there are different regions within hades, and that people go to these different regions depending upon whether they were righteous or wicked in their lives. In the region of hades known as hell those who were wicked receive punishment from the angels according to their deeds. However, the punishment is not as extreme as what will take place at the final judgment when those wicked people will be removed to the lake of burning sulfur, or the second death. The righteous, after death, would be taken to a place in hades known as “Abraham’s bosom,” where there would always be present the “smile” of the fathers and the righteous until the final judgment when they would be taken to heaven, or paradise.
Hippolytus also believed in the physical resurrection of the body. He believed that the bodies which we had during our lives on earth would be given back to us after the resurrection. He also believed that those who had rejected Christ and lived wicked lives would receive the same bodies with the same illnesses and infirmities that they had carried on earth, but that the righteous would receive back their bodies healed and restored to what they were originally supposed to be like. He describes heaven as well, saying that there will be no sun or moon or seasons there because these would indicate the passing of time, and time will be of no consequence there. There will be no constellations or roaring seas, and the righteous will not reproduce to make new generations of people for everything will be complete.
In Hippolytus’s commentary on the book of Daniel it is clear that he interprets the beast in Daniel’s vision to be the Antichrist of the New Testament. He interprets the iron legs of the statue within the story of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar as representative of the Roman Empire, which was still in power at the time of this writing. Hippolytus believed that the Roman Empire would eventually fall and be divided into ten different kingdoms or perhaps ruled by ten different kings or authorities. He believed that after this the Antichrist would come and there would be a time of “tribulation” where the “saints” would be persecuted. He also believed that the stone described in the vision which smashes the statue and becomes a great mountain that fills the whole earth is representative of Christ and Christ’s kingdom which will fill the entire earth. He believes that Christ will return during the time of the Antichrist and that Christ will then judge the world. Hippolytus also believed that the reign of Christ would come after the earth had experienced 6,000 years of history. After studying the many numbers of the Old Testament, he concluded that because God rested on the seventh day of Creation, as well as instituted the Sabbath day of rest for His people, that Christ would return 6,000 years after the creation of Adam, which he believed to have been approximately 5,500 years prior to the birth of Christ. He believed that Christ would reign for a thousand years in the seventh millennium, which he considered to be a thousand year Sabbath. He even attempts to prove this theory by using the construction of the ark during the time of Moses as an example, saying that measurements for the ark are evidence that Christ was born in the year 5,500. He also reasons that the Roman Empire will only last for approximately five hundred years. Hippolytus quotes the scriptures which say that with the Lord a thousand years are like a day and applies this to his interpretation of the book of Revelation, saying that when John says that it was the sixth hour when he received his vision this was at the middle of the day, so when John also refers to the five kings who have fallen, the one who is, and the one who has not yet come, the sixth king falls under the reign of the Roman Empire under which Jesus was born, proving that he was born in the middle of the sixth thousand year period, the 5,500th year after Adam’s creation, during which the Roman Empire was in power.
Hippolytus does not interpret the three and a half years mentioned in Daniel to be limited to the time of the reign of the Antichrist, but also of the time during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes who desecrated the temple in Jerusalem, abolishing the daily the daily sacrifice. He interprets the reign of Antiochus as a fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, yet he also believes that the future Antichrist will abolish the sacrifice during a three and a half year time period, setting up the “abomination of desolation.” He compares the two events to each other and recognizes their similarity, but he says that the first event is a more local destruction and the second event is a global desolation. Hippolytus states that after this, once the Gospel has been preached to all nations, and Elijah and Enoch appear to announce the impending desolation of the world, Christ will then appear to judge and to reign.
Throughout the writings of Hippolytus on the “end times” he says that the Antichrist who will be established in the last days will have the appearance of Christ himself. Just as Satan poses as “an angel of light” so the Antichrist will give the appearance of being the Christ, even performing miracles amazing enough to deceive the world into believing he is the One. Besides believing that Daniel and Revelation speak of the same things, Hippolytus believes that throughout the Old Testament the prophets spoke of the events of the end of the world, and he tries to pull everything together to create an overall picture of what he believes the last days will look like. With the idea that the Antichrist will have the appearance of the Christ, he points to the blessings of Jacob to his sons in the book of Genesis, in which both the tribes of Judah and Dan are compared to lions. Jacob says that Judah will never fail to have someone on the throne and since Christ came from the tribe of Judah, this will be the case since Christ’s kingdom will never be destroyed. When Jacob blesses the tribe of Dan, he also describes Dan as a lion. However, Dan is apparently also compared to a snake, reminiscent of the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve, and who would “strike” or “injure” the descendant of Eve. Hippolytus concludes that the “lion of Judah” is in fact Christ, whereas the lion of Dan is the Antichrist. He believes then that the Antichrist will be of Jewish descent, particularly from the tribe of Dan. He holds to the same position as Irenaeus on this matter and gives further evidence to this reasoning by pointing out that in the book of Revelation the tribe of Dan is not mentioned in the list of the tribes sealed.
In his writings Origen also claims that “By the command of God the body which was earthly and animal will be replaced by a spiritual body, such as may be able to dwell in heaven…” While he believes that we will still have bodies after the Resurrection, he still seems to have a difficult time with the idea of these bodies being physical. McGrath says, “Origen here sets out a view of the resurrection body which is partly shaped by the writings of Paul in the New Testament, and partly by Platonic ideas of perfection.” Origen claims that these spiritual bodies will not be involved in any kind of “passion.” He also believes that everyone who dies will receive a spiritual body, both those who go to heaven and those who got to hell.
Origen’s view that the Resurrection body would be a spiritual body was not held by all during his time. Other theologians disagreed with Origen and argued against this notion that the physical was evil and that death led to the liberation of the soul. McGrath says of this Gnostic tendency, “This view was commonplace within the Hellenistic culture of the New Testament period. However, this idea was vigorously opposed by most early Christian theologians.” One of them was Methodius of Olympus who argued that the human body had been corrupted by sin, and that in death the body was returning to the material from which it had been formed in order to be refashioned by the creator back into the form it was originally supposed to take. He believed that God created people to be physical creatures, but that they had been warped by sin. He believed that the physical aspect of humanity was not evil, or less important that the spiritual aspect, and that at the Resurrection God would restore the physical body to the way it had been perfectly made. According to McGrath, this is different than Origen’s view which stated that “human flesh was simply a prison for the eternal spirit, which was liberated at death, and would be raised again in a purely spiritual manner.”
Gregory of Nyssa also holds to the same view as Methodius. He believes that the resurrected body will be restored to its original state, as it was before the Fall. He refers to the Apostle Paul’s example of a seed falling and dying only to be raised up again, saying that the seed was not the original state of the plant which grows up, but rather the plant from which the seed fell. He says, “Thus we learn from him not only that human nature is changed into a far nobler state, but also that we are to hope for the return of human nature to its primal condition.”
According to Henry Chadwick in his article "Origen, Celsus, and the resurrection of the human body," it has long been attributed to Origen that he held to the belief that at the resurrection, those who would be raised would arise in a spherical shape. However, Chadwick believes that perhaps Origen did not actually hold to this view necessarily and that this was a corruption or a misinterpretation by later monks or scholars studying and translating his works. Chadwick points out that neither Jerome nor Methodius make mention of this spherical doctrine, and that this would indicate that Origen did not actually believe this because Jerome and Methodius would argued strongly against this idea if he had mentioned it just as they did the other ideas of his which they found to be erroneous.
Origen points out that Christ is the image and glory of the Father. He says, however, that Christ came as a slave or servant into this world in order to save those who were slaves to sin, but that later Christ will come to this earth not as a slave but in the glory of God. He makes a distinction between the perfect and the imperfect, saying that those who were imperfect looked on Christ and saw nothing of beauty, only the slave, but that those who were perfect witnessed the glory of Christ. Origen believes that this glory of God displayed in Christ is given to those who had received Christ. He believes this to be a present reality, and not just a future hope. However, he also affirms a future second coming of Christ in which the glory of God will be revealed and imparted to those who have believed. He writes, “But when the Word comes in such form with His own angels, He will give to each a part of His own glory and of the brightness of His own angels, according to the action of each. But we say these things not rejecting even the second coming of the Son of God understood in its simpler form.” Origen speculates about the nature of the final judgment, wondering how to reconcile the scriptures which say that the sins of the righteous will be completely wiped out and the scriptures which say that every deed we have done, whether good or bad, will be brought to account. He concludes that for the one “who is perfected, and has altogether laid aside wickedness, the sins are wiped out, but that, in the case of him who has altogether revolted from piety, if anything good was formerly done by him, it is not taken into account.” He says, however, that we do not occupy either of these positions, for we are neither perfect not “apostate.” We instead “occupy a middle ground,” which is why Christ must look at everything we have done, whether good or bad. He says, “…for we have not been so pure that our evil deeds are not at all imputed unto us, nor have we fallen away to such an extent that our better actions are forgotten.”
Origen speaks of the Judgment Day in his commentary on Matthew’s gospel. He says that on the Judgment Day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ where we will be judged according to what we have done in this life. He refers to this as a “reckoning,” and says that according to Christ every idle word we speak will be judged at that time, along with every selfish act such as refusing to give a cold cup of water to someone in need.
Origen also discusses how the Judgment might go about taking place. He recognizes that such a thorough judgment of the actions and thoughts of everyone who has ever lived would take a substantial amount of time. However, he concludes that God’s power is beyond the power of humans, including humanity’s limits to time, and that since God created the universe in six days at the beginning He would not need a large amount of time to judge humanity at the end. He also points out that Paul says the resurrection will occur in the “twinkling of an eye,” and is convinced that God could carry out the final judgment in the same way.
Origen tended to have some controversial ideas throughout much of his theology. One of these evident in his eschatology is the idea that eventually all creatures will be reunited with God. This idea would indicate that even those people who had gone to hell would eventually one day be restored to God. McGrath writes, “Origen also adopted with some enthusiasm the idea of apocatastasis, according to which every creature – including both humanity and Satan – will be saved.” This is just one of many of his ideas which did not sit well with other early church theologians.
Tertullian affirms the advent of the second coming of Christ in several of his writings. In book three of Against Marcion he speaks of how the prophets spoke of the coming of Christ and how they said he would come in lowliness but that he would also come in glory and honor. Tertullian refutes the heretic Marcion as well as the Jews for not recognizing that the prophets not only say that the Messiah would come in glory but that he would also come in lowliness. Tertullian recognizes this to mean that there would be two separate advents of Christ, one where he would come in lowliness and the other where he would come in glory. He writes, “We affirm that, as there are two conditions demonstrated by the prophets to belong to Christ, so these presignified the same number of advents; one, and that the first, was to be in lowliness…” Tertullian points to how the prophets spoke of how Christ would come as a suffering servant and how he would be despised and rejected, not having any beauty. He quotes the prophet Isaiah, saying of Christ “… ‘and we beheld Him, and He was without beauty: His form was disfigured;’ ‘marred more than the sons of men; a man stricken with sorrows, and knowing how to bear our infirmity’…” He says that prophecies such as these point to Christ’s first coming, but that prophecies that speak of Christ’s glorious appearing point to his second coming. Tertullian says that this rejection of Christ was fitting for his first coming, as his first coming was so that he might bear our disgrace and remove our sin. However, he also quotes from the prophets, saying that Christ will come in glory. He quotes from Daniel, saying, “Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven […] and there was given Him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away […].” Tertullian also point to the prophet Zechariah who wrote of the priest Joshua. Tertullian points out that the priest Joshua represents Jesus, whose names are the same, in that at first Joshua is dressed in old dirty clothes, but later he is given fresh clean garments, the garments of a priest. Tertullian says that the dirty clothes point to Christ’s first coming and the new garments point to his second coming. When speaking of the Jews and the heretics, Tertullian seems to say that they have not recognized Christ’s first coming in looking for his second coming, and that to the believer both advents of Christ are connected. They are linked together, both having significance. To Tertullian, the first advent is just as important as the second advent, and we must not forget Christ’s first coming as we study his second.
Tertullian also speaks of the resurrection of the dead and the kingdom of heaven. He is very much against Marcion’s idea that Christ promised the Jews that they would recover their country and that after death they would lay in Hades in what is called “Abraham’s bosom.”  He does not like the idea that the kingdom that is promised is for this world only, and the idea that the rewards to be received are only earthly and not also heavenly. He affirms that the kingdom of heaven will be an earthly kingdom in that it will be present on earth, but he also says that it is a heavenly kingdom. He believes that the coming kingdom will be present on earth, but that its origins are in heaven, not on earth as Marcion claimed. Tertullian goes on to speak of the resurrection and the Millennial Age. He says that after the resurrection of the dead, Christ will reign on earth for a thousand years. He writes, “But we do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven, only in another state of existence; inasmuch as it will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem, ‘let down from heaven.’” Tertullian then says that while this heavenly Jerusalem is present on earth during this thousand year time period, the resurrection will take place. He claims that some will rise from the dead sooner than others according to what they have done during their lives. He writes, “We say that this city has been provided by God for receiving the saints on their resurrection, and refreshing them with the abundance of all really spiritual blessings, as a recompense for those which in the world we have either despised or lost…” He then says that God sees it fitting that the saints should be rewarded in the same place that they have suffered for Him. Tertullian also says that after this Millennial Period, once all have been resurrected, the destruction of the world will occur, and will be followed by the Final Judgment of Christ. He says at this point the state of the saints will become like that of the angels, and they will “be removed to that kingdom in heaven.” He also makes reference to Paul’s writings on how we will rise up to meet the Lord in the air. Tertullian’s main issue with Marcion in this section of his writings is that Marcion does not believe in heaven.
In Tertullian’s Apologeticus, one of his earliest writings, he argues that images of heaven and hell exist in other religious traditions, but that this does not mean that heaven and hell do not exist. He refers to the similarities in these other religions and philosophies as shadows or copies of the real thing in his rather platonic-sounding argument. He claims that the pagans actually stole these ideas from the Hebrew Scriptures themselves. Alister McGrath says, “Tertullian implies that these pagan writings may have plagiarized Old Testament sources, a common view among Christian writers of this early period.” By using this argument, Tertullian claims both the originality and the validity of heaven and hell as portrayed in the Old Testament.
Tertullian’s belief was that in the final state of things, everything would be restored to the way it was originally supposed to be. He says that the “Omega” seen in Christ is a restoration of the “Alpha.” He also says that in order for this to happen, some things must be done away with entirely. He says that in order for pain to disappear, the things which cause pain must disappear. This would include physical ailments as well as the sin nature within mankind. In order for someone to truly be made well, the disease itself must be destroyed. He also refers to Revelation, where the image of Satan being cast into the lake of burning sulfur is presented. He says that the devil, too, will be destroyed, since he is one of the root causes of all that is not right in the world. These views line up with the biblical text and differ from the views of some of the other early theologians. Irenaeus probably would not have entirely agreed with Tertullian that the “Omega” was merely the restoration of the “Alpha,” but would have seen the end result differing from the beginning. Tertullian’s views are also different than Origen, who seemed to have believed that everything would be restored back to God in the future and redeemed, including Satan, whereas Tertullian believed that God would eventually destroy everything that was against Him. Through these and many other examples, we can see how the early church theologians did not always have the same ideas or were in agreement with each other in their eschatologies. However, overall they were all in agreement on certain things, such as the return of Christ to the earth, resurrection of the dead at some point in time, as well as the idea that God’s kingdom would come to earth in a millennial sort of way.
 (ed.) Colin E. Gunton. The Cambridge Companion to Christian Doctrine. David Fergusson. “Eschatology.” (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge), 1997.
 Kim, Dai Sil. "Irenaeus of Lyons and Teilhard de Chardin : a comparative study of "Recapitulation" and "Omega." Journal of Ecumenical Studies 13, no. 1 (December 1, 1976): 69-93.
 (ed.) Cyril Richardson. Early Christian Fathers. Vol. 1 of The Library of Christian Classics. (Simon and Schuster: New York), 1996.
 (ed.) Alister McGrath. The Christian Theology Reader. “Irenaeus on the Final Restoration of Creation” (Blackwell Pub.: Malden, MA), 2007.
 Hippolytus. Against Plato, On the Cause of the Universe. (tr.) J.H. MacMahon. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5. (ed.) Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) (rev., ed.) Kevin Knight. “New Advent.” <http:>.</http:>
 Ibid., Exegetical Fragments, On Daniel. (tr.) S.D.F. Salmond.
 Ibid., On the End of the World. (tr.) J.H. MacMahon.
 Ibid., On Christ and Antichrist.
 Jaroslav Pelikan. The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition. Vol. 1 of The Christian Tradition. (University of Chicago Press: Chicago), 1971.
 Origen. De Principiis, Book I, ch. 6. (tr.) Frederick Crombie. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. (ed.) Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) (rev., ed.) Kevin Knight. “New Advent.” <http:>.</http:>
 McGrath. The Christian Theology Reader. “Origen on the Resurrection Body”
 Alister McGrath. Christianity: An Introduction. (Blackwell Pub.: Malden, MA), 2006.
 McGrath. The Christian Theology Reader. “Methodius of Olympus on the Resurrection”
 Ibid., “Gregory of Nyssa on the Resurrection Body”
 Henry Chadwick. "Origen, Celsus, and the resurrection of the human body." Harvard Theological Review 41, no. 2 (April 1, 1948): 83-102.
 Origen. Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Book XII, ch. 30. (tr.) John Patrick. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 9. (ed.) Allan Menzies. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1896.) (rev., ed.) Kevin Knight. “New Advent.” <http:>.</http:>
 Ibid., ch. 8.
 Ibid., ch. 9.
 Alister E. McGrath. Christian Theology: An Introduction. (Blackwell Pub.: Malden, MA), 2007.
 Tertullian. Against Marcion, Book III, ch. 7. (tr.) Peter Holmes. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3. (ed.) Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) (rev., ed.) Kevin Knight. “New Advent.” <http:>.`</http:>
 Ibid., ch. 24.
 McGrath. The Christian Theology Reader. “Tertullian on Hell and Heaven”
 (ed.) Thomas C. Oden. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. (ed.) William C. Weinrich. Revelation. (InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL), 2005.