Tertullian's Apocalyptic Vision

And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and were wanton with [the great whore of Babylon], will weep and wail over
her when they see smoke of her burning…

And the merchants of the earth
weep and mourn for her, since no
one buys their cargo any more…

Revelations 18:9

Surprisingly, the delay (or non-occurrence) of the anticipated apocalypse did not cause a major trauma in the early Church. Rather, it led to a remarkable evolution in Christian consciousness - the coexistence of a sincere expectation of the imminent Parousia with a willingness to accept and even embrace a continuance of human history. The fiery second-century Christian apologist Tertullian (d.225) gave eloquent expression to this ostensibly contradictory mindset. The same Tertullian who had predicted the Last Judgment with a terrifying, visceral immediacy - "magistrates … liquefying in fiercer flames than they kindled in their rage against the Christians" and "great kings … groaning in the depths of darkness" - could also pray in earnest for "Emperors, for their ministers and those in authority, for the security of the world, for peace on earth, for postponement of the end." In the centuries that followed Tertullian, the fervent anticipation of the Second Coming increasingly accommodated a belief that, through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus had already fundamentally transformed the meaning of human history and existence.
Canadian Heritage Information Network, The Provincial Museum of Alberta,

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