Eschatology in the Didache Reconsidered from an Adventist Perspective

(Koot van Wyk 13 January 2021, Kyungpook National University, Sangju Campus, South Korea, Conjoint lecturer of Avondale College, Australia)

The Eschatology of Didache is found in the last chapter, namely 16. Scholars think the work is incomplete with an abrupt ending and that space was left to come and finish it. Scholars also feel that the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles ending should be added here and that maybe the author of the Greek text was intending to add this content. Other disputed it. Then there are scholars who argue that the work is a composite work from many sources. They argue the Didache contains strands of Jewishness but also other strands related to Christian aspects for example the Eucharist and Baptism.  Others used Qumran fragments to argue for prayers in the first part of Chapter 1 linked to similar sources consulted. Then there are scholars who argue that the work is a unity. There are scholars who argue that some parts of Didache was in the second century A.D. but that other parts were earlier even in the same time as the composition of Matthew or Mark. They even argue that Matthew or and Mark cited from the same source Didache was using. Scholars argue whether the copying of Didache was from an oral dictation, by memory or from reading a visual text. The reason is that the correspondences of Matthew and Mark is not verbatim the same in Didache. Then there are others who argue that the eschatology of Didache has nothing to do with the second century AD immanent expectation but has to do with a future End-Time scenario. Other scholars disagrees and argue for an own time application of these verses in the eschatological part of Didache. When heretics and false teachers are mentioned it is argue that they are not at the End of Times but right there in the time and surroundings of the author of Didache. Textcritically there are those who argue that the text of Georgian is more complete than the Greek and the extras should be placed in the end of the shorter Greek text. Others disagree and point out that the Georgian text may be a fake.

For a Seventh-day Adventist the situation of the Didache is clear: it is evidence of the apostasy that crept into the church after the death of the last apostle, John circa 97 A.D. It the historicism interpretation method of Revelation on the seven churches with the purity of the first church replaced by the second church, from 100 A.D. and later, maybe until 325 A.D. of apostasy entering the church as an amalgamation of pagan and Christian practices.

As J. Draper and others shown convincingly, and as we can also compare in the Greek before us, the content of Matthew and Mark did play a role here. Adventists will see the Didache as later and not equal or at the same time as Matthew and Mark.

Considering the false Sunday worship inreading in the Didache. There is no doubt that the word “day” does not appear in Didache 14:1 for the text reads only: Κατ κυριακν δ κυρου συναχθντες κλσατε ρτον κα εχαριστσατε. Translated by me as: “according to the Lordliness [referring to His style or habits doing the Lord’s Supper in John 13] of the Lord, when you are gathered together you should break bread and you should thank”. This is not out of tune with what Jesus required in John 13 although it mentions nothing about the footwashing ceremony that should precede the Lord’s Supper. Didache is silent about this.

Didache Chapter 14:1

κατα κυριακην δε κυριου συναχθεντες

But according to the Lordliness of the Lord come you together

κλασατε αρτον και ευχαριστισατε

break bread and give thanks

προεξομολοησαμενοι τα παραπτωματα υμων

first confessing your transgressions,

ορως καθαρα η θυσια υμων η

so that pure your offering may be.


The Greek word for day does not appear here. It does not read to gather “on” the Lord’s Day but “according to the Lordliness”.

Considering the Baptism, the expectation is that it will be not sprinkling but immersion. The sprinkling is reserved for a desert case of severe jeopardy or impossibility due to geomorphological and drought situations. The experimenting of bypasses of the immersion command is obvious here in Didache 7. There is no proof in the Bible for any of these practices. Somehow, all the cases of baptism in the Bible took place undisturbed without requesting a luxury escape from the discomfort of a wet body as well as wet clothes. The motive of the author should be kept in a yellow card category here.

Some churches wish to treat the Didache on the same level as the biblical text but in Adventism that will not happen. Already I have outlined some problems here.

In the Didache, different than in the Synoptics or John, eschatology does not say something about the Investigative Judgment before the Second Coming of the saints so that His reward is brought at the Second Coming with the wicked receiving Executive Judgment for they do not deserve according to the books of Heaven the reward granted to the saints (see 1 Peter 4:17).

The application of the Sanctuary typology, as one can find in the Book of Hebrews chapter 8 and 9 is glossed over by the author of the Didache. The role of the Lamb of God in the sacrificial area of the tabernacle, His priestly role in the Holies separated from a later expected role in the Most Holy as Hebrews 8:9 is implying (although commonly misinterpreted against the literal reading of the text by many scholars) is not present in the Didache.

The Perfection expectation before the Second Coming in Didache 16:2 is very relevant in the Biblical Theology. It is not Jewish legalism that is at stake here. It is not a clinging to Moses in Deuteronomy as opposed to a law is dead with faith assumption from Paul as scholars are trying to say. No. Moses’ law and faith concept is no different than that of Jesus and no different than that of Paul, James or lissue, was his own misreading of the text as Roland Byington indicated in his biography of Martin Luther.

Didache 16:2. πυκνς δ συναχθσεσθε ζητοντες τ νκοντα τας ψυχας μν· ο γρ φελσει μς πς χρνος τς πστεως μν, ἐὰν μ ν τ σχτ καιρ τελειωθτε.

(Kirsopp Lake) 2”But be frequently gathered together seeking the things which are profitable for your souls, for the whole time of your faith shall not profit you except ye be found perfect at the last time.”

This translation is very literal by Lake and it definitely illustrates the requirement of perfection in sanctification so commonly found in the Old Testament, the preaching of Christ and the apostles. Adventists is familiar with this requirement in the work of Ellen White.

It is not a case that the Old Testament required legalism for salvation and the New Testament broke with it by emphasizing that salvation is by faith alone without the law and now Didache comes and think in Old Testament lines again. Anyone who analyzes the New Testament and Old Testament in this way, is out of touch with the nuances and inner core message of the Bible.  

It is pointed out that Taras Khomych[1] asked whether the “life” and “perfection” expected in Didache 16:2 and elsewhere, should be understood individually or corporately, a question that J. Draper pointed out in 2011: 575 by Balabanski in 1997.[2] Draper feels that the formulation of the Didache in 7-16 are in the plural. There is a switch from singular in Didache 1-6 to plural in Didache 7-16. Milavec[3] looked at this and felt that the purpose had to do with the concern with the community. Draper thought the switch was due to the sources used.[4] Draper cites Didache 10:5 reading about perfection but that the Lord should remember the church. The doctrine of abled sanctification is presented:

Didache 10:5: 5. μνσθητι, κριε, τς κκλησας σου, το ῥύσασθαι ατν π παντος πονηρο και τελειωσαι ατν ν τ γπ σου, κα σναξον ατν π τν τεσσρων νμων, τν γιασθεσαν, ες τν σν βασιλεαν, ν τομασας ατ· τι σο στιν δναμις κα δξα ες τος αἰῶνας.


π το πονηρο·

J. Draper translated: “Remember, Lord, your church, to snatch it from all evil and to perfect it in your love and gather it from the four winds having been sanctified into your kingdom which you have prepared for it that you are the power and the glory unto eternity”.

The role of the biblical sanctification doctrine is untouched in Didache. It is not a case of individual versus corporately but individual as corporately. The body has many members. One individual body but also many members. Each member needs to participate to be part of the body. That is the biblical view of sanctification. The perfection requirement is of all from Adam to Adam in sanctification and the power to attain it is from God. Emphasis on the ethical does not exlude eschatology thinking as Balabanski insisted. Draper disagreed correctly. It is not either or but both. Of course Draper wants to argue that it is not eschatological in future but eschatological in the C. H. Dodd sense of realized eschatology as the church go along even in the author’s time.

The kingdom that came is a kingdom of grace not a kingdom of glory. Scholars make a big error in New Testament scholarship on this. They ascribe to Christ more than He Himself said.

The doctrine of a resurrection of all at the Second Coming is not in Didache 16:7. The original starts off with that understanding that it is not all.

Didache 16:7. ο πντων δ, λλ’ ς ρρθη· ξει κριος κα πντες ο γιοι μετ’ ατο.

(Kirsopp Lake) 7”but not of all the dead, but as it was said, ‘The Lord shall come and all his saints with him.’"

The evil are not going. They are not resurrected either. This is in keeping with the biblical understanding of the Resurrection in two times and two classes: one to go to heaven and one to suffer in Hell later after a 1000 years according to Revelation.

J. Draper says correctly: “It seems likely to me, on the basis that not all the departed will be raised for judgment but only the righteous….” A slight correction here is that the righteous are not raised for judgment but for victorious living with Christ after the Investigative Judgment is completed. That is in keeping with the tenets of Jesus message and the book of Hebrews and also with Daniel 7’s Judgment scene. All investigations in the Books take place in Court in Heaven before the Second Coming. So one should remove the word “judgment” from Draper’s view here. The Didache does not say the rule of the saints will be on earth exactly at the time of the Second Coming and neither does the Bible says that. In fact Revelation indicates that after the move to heaven, a thousand years of desolation is on earth and only after the Second Resurrection and Hell event of burning of this earth followed by a recreation of it, will they come and live on earth.



Draper, J. 2011. “Eschatology in the Didache” In Eschatology of the New Testament and Some Related Documents edited by J. G. van der Watt. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 567-582.

Greek Text downloaded from

Khomych, T. 2007. The Admonition to Assemble together in Didache 16:2 Reappraised. VC 61, 121-141.

Balabanski, V. 1997. Eschatology in the Making: Mark, Matthrew and the Didache. Cambridge.

Milavec, A. 1995. The Saving Efficacy of the Burning Process, in Didache 16.5. In The Didache in Context: Essays on its Texts, History and Transmission, Jefford CN (ed.). Leiden, 131-155.

[1] Khomych, T. 2007. The Admonition to Assemble together in Didache 16:2 Reappraised. VC 61, 121-141.

[2] Balabanski, V. 1997. Eschatology in the Making: Mark, Matthrew and the Didache. Cambridge.

[3] Milavec, A. 1995. The Saving Efficacy of the Burning Process, in Didache 16.5. In The Didache in Context: Essays on its Texts, History and Transmission, Jefford CN (ed.). Leiden, 131-155.

[4] Draper, 2011: 575.