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Millennium.

1. In theol., a period of 1,000 yrs. supposedly referred to Rv 20:1–7. See also Millennialism. Millenarians (or chiliasts) differ regarding the character of Christ's millennial kingdom; some view it as more, others as less spiritual in nature, extension, duration, and joys; they differ also in many other regards. But they agree in gen. on Christ's personal advent and a glorious period of peace and joy.

2. The OT does not mention a 1,000-yr. period; yet chiliasm may be regarded as rooted in a Jewish view of an earthly messianic kingdom (cf. 2 Esd 7:28: “My son the Messiah shall appear with his companions and bring 400 yrs. of happiness to all who survive”). When the 1,000 yrs. of Rv 20:1–7 (one of the most misunderstood passages of the Bible) were superimposed on this view, the basic elements of chiliasm were complete.

3. The millennial theory is variously found in the Epistle of Barnabas; in the writings of Cerinthus, Hermas, Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian; and in apocryphal books of Jews and Jewish Christians (Book of Enoch; Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs; Sibylline Books). The crass form in which chiliasm entered into the heresy of Montanism* helped strengthen opposition to chiliasm. It was opposed by the School of Alexandria, esp. Origen* (see also Exegesis, 3). Ca. the middle of the 3d c., Nepos* of Arsinoe wrote Elengchos allegoriston (“Refutation of Allegorists”; now lost) in defense of chiliasm. This work was refuted by Dionysius* of Alexandria. Jerome* opposed chiliasm. Gradually chiliasm became obnoxious and proscribed largely because the conditions and prospects of the ch. were altered.

4. In the Middle Ages the idea prevailed that the judgment and the end of the world would soon occur, i. e., that the dies* irae was at hand. “Apocalyptic parties” (individuals or groups of enthusiasts) looked for the miraculous advent of Jesus as the indispensable means of purifying and extending the ch.

5. At the Luth. Reformation* the traditional allegorical interpretation of Rv was abandoned. M. Luther* and other leading reformers, some of whom regarded the pope as Antichrist and as a sign of the end, looked for the speedy coming of Christ and the end of the world. Chiliasm prevailed among enthusiasts and sects. It was espoused esp. by Ger. Anabaps. in Münster (see M&ünster Kingdom). Chiliasm was condemned in AC XVII and the 2d Helvetic Confession XI but gained free play in the 17th c. when Eur. convulsions, revolutions in Eng., religious wars in Ger., and maltreatment of Prots. in Fr. spread it far and wide. Toward the end of the 17th c. the Luth. Ch. was influenced in this direction by Pietists, esp. P. J. Spener* (proponent of a refined chiliasm), Joachim Lange,* and J. Lead(e).* Luth. theols. who defended chiliasm include J. A. Bengel.* Chiliasm was championed by the Plymouth Brethren (see Brethren, Plymouth) and the Catholic* Apostolic Ch.

6. In Am., chiliasm was widely endorsed among Adventist* bodies, the Amana* Soc., Christadelphians,* the Christian* Cath. Ch., some elements of Fundamentalism,* the Holiness* chs., the House* of David, Jehovah's* Witnesses, and Latter* Day Saints.

7. Millenarians may be divided into pre- and postmillenarians. Premillenarians hold that the millennium is a period of worldwide righteousness introd. by the sudden, unannounced visible advent of Christ; that before this coming, the Gospel will be proclaimed throughout the world as a witness to it; that the righteous will then rise and reign with Christ on earth; that the Lord and His saints will bring about a great tribulation, Rv 2:22; that Israel will acknowledge the crucified Savior as the Messiah, Zch 12:10; that through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit many sinners will be converted, while Satan will be bound and locked in the abyss; that Satan, after 1,000 yrs., will be loosed; that he will make a final vain effort to est. himself; that soon thereafter he, his angels, and all lost souls that have been raised from the dead will be judged and hurled into the lake of fire, there doomed to everlasting torment; that the earth will be renewed by fire and become the everlasting home of the redeemed. Postmillenarians have gen. defended the following views: that through Christian agencies the Gospel will gradually permeate the entire world; that this condition will continue 1,000 yrs.; that the Jews will be converted either at the beginning of or during this period; that after this period of universal Gospel-acceptance there will be a brief apostasy, followed by a dreadful conflict bet. Christian and evil forces; and that finally and simultaneously there will occur the advent of Christ, the gen. resurrection, and the judgment of all men, after which the world will be destroyed by fire and new heavens and a new earth will be revealed.

8. Chiliasts disagree as to time and place of the millennial reign. Some have tried, others have refused, to fix a definite date. Many regarded Jerusalem as the center of Christ's reign (see Jews, Conversion of). Millennial joys have been variously described, from intoxication of the senses to pure contemplation of Christ.

9. Chief proof text of chiliasts is Rv 20:1–7, which they interpret literally. Opponents hold that this passage does not treat of the final advent of Christ, and that, if the whole passage is interpreted literally, hopeless confusion and absurdities result.


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod


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Content Reproduced with Permission

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