Milavec, Aaron. The Didache: Faith, Hope, & Life of the Earliest Christian Communities, 50-70 C.E. New York: The Newman Press, 2003.
Chapter 10 “Purifying Fire, Selective Resurrection, and God’s Coming” pp. 619-690, part 3.
As the time of the end progresses, Milavec finds, a second stage emerges. Here a “world-deceiver” will come on the scene (Milavec 2003, 646). This deceiver can be found in Jewish and Christian literature alike. In the Synoptics the plural “false Chrsits and false prophets” is used (Milavec 2003, 647). Milavec notes that Jewish history has several examples of people who set themselves up as if they are gods.
In much apocalyptic literature the world-deceiver performs various signs. The Didache does not give details. However, Milavec describes some of the signs which are predicted in other texts (Milavec 2003, 648). The signs mentioned in these sources are, in general, quite distinct from signs described of Jesus (Milavec 2003, 649).
The third phase of apocalyptic judgment noted in the Didache is a burning process (Milavec 2003, 651). This could be the process by which a manufactured item is tested for durability or purity. In the hands of God the burning is seen as a focused instance of punishment. Milavec does not find this phase to be representative of Jesus or his work. He ather consider that thinking to stand outside the grasp of the Didache (Milavec 2003, 652).
In a fourth phase of the end, there are three signs of truth presented. These monumental happenings are common in apocalyptic literature (Milavec 2003, 652). The signs take the place of the deceptive signs of the deceiver. They cnsist of an unfurling in heaven, an audible trumpet, and a resurrection (Milavec 2003, 653). The first sign, that of a cross, is vague and has led to considerable inconclusive arguments (Milavec 2003, 654). Different authors disagree as to the symbolic importance of the cross sign in the Didache. Possibly one of the most coherent explanations is that the sign, like a flag standard, is used to gather scattered Christians together in the end times (Milavec 2003, 655).
We might well ask why it is important to the authors of the Didache that we recognize signs of the last days. Milavec sees the “end” as “the end of a degenerate epoch filled with affliction and injustic that must pass away” (Milavec 2003, 656). This is how God ushers in his new age of blessings. The signs of a change are therefore important as people anticipate God’s deliverance. Milavec provides several examples of apocalyptic literature where signs of the end are considered important.
Milavec notes that the eschatological signs in Didache 16 seem to have a foreshadowing in the eucharistic prayer of chapter ten (Milavec 2003, 659). The prayers for protection from evil and a final gathering are consistent with the dangers of the last days.