This article is about Premillennialism in Christian eschatology. For other uses, see Millenarianism.

Premillennialism, in Christian eschatology, is the belief that Jesus will physically return to the earth to gather His saints before the Millennium, a literal thousand-year golden age of peace. This return is referred to as the Second Coming. The doctrine is called "premillennialism" because it holds that Jesus' physical return to earth will occur prior to the inauguration of the Millennium. It is distinct from the other forms of Christian eschatology such as postmillennialism or amillennialism, which view the millennial rule as occurring either before the second coming, or as being figurative and non-temporal. For the last century, the belief has been common in Evangelicalism according to surveys on this topic.[1]

Premillennialism is based upon a literal interpretation of Revelation 20:1–6 in the New Testament, which describes Jesus' reign in a period of a thousand years. It views this future age as a time of fulfillment for the prophetic hope of God's people as given in the Old Testament. Others, such as many (but not all) in the Eastern Orthodox communion, claim that this passage of Revelation describes the present time, when Christ reigns in Heaven with the departed saints; such an interpretation views the symbolism of Revelation as referring to a spiritual battle rather than a physical battle on earth.

The proponents of Amillennialism interpret the millennium as being a symbolic period of time, which is consistent with the highly symbolic nature of the literary and apocalyptic genre of the book of Revelation, sometimes indicating that the thousand years represent God's rule over his creation or the Church. Premillennialism is often used to refer specifically to those who adhere to the beliefs in an earthly millennial reign of Christ as well as a rapture of the faithful coming before (dispensational) or after (historic) the tribulation preceding the millennium. Post-millennialism, for example, agrees with premillennialism about the future earthly reign of Christ, but disagrees on the concept of a rapture and tribulation before the millennium begins. Postmillennialists hold to the view that the second coming will happen after the millennium.


Historically Christian "premillennialism" has also been referred to as "chiliasm" (from chilias, the Greek word for thousand) or "millenarianism". The current religious term "premillennialism" did not come into use until the mid-19th century. This period in which "premillennialism" was revived coincided with an approach to Biblical study that divorced eschatological textual interpretation from an historic context, e.g., an ahistoric hermeneutic where Revelations being written to specific churches suffering persecution in an historic context around the fall of the temple in 70 A.D. was of no consequence to interpretation; likewise in interpreting Daniel, or the writings of St. Paul. Coining the word was "almost entirely the work of British and American Protestants and was prompted by their belief that the French and American Revolutions (the French, especially) realized prophecies made in the books of Daniel and Revelation."[2]


Jewish antecedents

The concept of a temporary earthly messianic kingdom at the Messiah's coming was not an invention of Christianity. Instead it was a theological interpretation developed within the apocalyptic literature of early Judaism.[3] In Judaism during the Christian intertestamental period, there was a basic distinction between the current age and the “age to come”. The “age to come” was commonly viewed as a nationalistic Golden Age in which the hopes of the prophets would become a reality for the nation of Israel.[4] On the surface, the biblical prophets revealed an “age to come” which was monolithic. Seemingly the prophets did not write of a two-phase eschaton consisting of a temporary messianic age followed by an eternal state. However, that was the concept that some Jewish interpreters did derive from their exegesis. Their conclusions are found in some of the literature and theology of early Judaism within the centuries both before and during the development of the Christian New Testament. R. H. Charles in his commentary on Book of Revelation concluded that Jewish eschatology must have developed the concept of an earthly temporary messianic reign prior to the eternal state at the latest by 100 BC[5]


Main article: Book of Enoch

The earliest instance in Jewish literature that teaches an earthly temporary messianic age prior to an eternal state began with “The Apocalypse of Weeks” contained in 1 Enoch 91-107. This work likely dates to the early 2nd century[6] and shows a schematization of the divine history divided into ten ambiguous periods of time called “weeks.” In the apocalypse, weeks 1-7 (93:1-10) retell the biblical history from the creation of humanity to the author’s time of writing (possibly during the Maccabean crisis). However, after the seventh "week", the temporary earthly messianic age begins and occurs for a period of three more “weeks” (93:12-15). After the temporary messianic kingdom, the creation of the new heavens and the new earth occurs (93:16).

2 Esdras

Main article: 2 Esdras

Second Esdras likely dates from soon after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The apocryphal book was apparently an attempt to explain the difficulties associated with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple to the Jewish people.[7] During one of the visions in the book, Ezra receives a revelation from the angel Uriel. The angel explains that prior to the last judgment, the Messiah will come and establish a temporary kingdom lasting 400 years after which all of creation will be obliterated including the Messiah (7:28). Seven days after this cataclysmic event, the resurrection and the judgment will occur followed by the eternal state (7:36).

Other early Jewish contributions

Additional early Jewish literature that refers to a temporary messianic kingdom prior to the eternal state may be found in 4 Ezra 12:34; 2 Baruch 24:1-4; 30:1-5; 39:3-8; 40:1-4; Jubilees 1:4-29; 23:14-31. The Jewish belief in an earthly temporary messianic age continued during and beyond the time of the writing of the Book of Revelation.[8] A sample of the rabbinical contributions to the concept are listed as follows:

Patristic age

One of the first exponents of Chiliastic beliefs was the Gnostic Cerinthus. The Early Church during the 2nd and 3rd centuries continued to debate the definition of an orthodox Christian eschatology and whether to include Chiliastic beliefs.[10] Many early Christian interpreters applied the earlier Jewish apocalyptic idea of a temporary Messianic kingdom to their interpretation of chapter 20 of John's apocalypse.[11] Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian all made explicit references to the concept of a thousand-year earthly kingdom at Christ’s coming.[12] These may have been influenced by the Chiliasm which arose in Asia Minor early in the history of the Church. Tertullian in particular may have been convinced by the heresy of Montanism, a heresy which made millenarianism popular in Asia Minor, as it arose in Phrygia. While Montanism would suffer condemnation, this did not lead the Orthodox to reject Chiliasm itself, which continued to have many adherents. Indeed, Eusebius, himself an opponent of millennialism, nevertheless admitted that this view was held by the "great majority of churchmen" at an unspecified early date.[13] Nevertheless, opposition to this doctrine also continued as many early interpreters spiritualized the relevant passages of the Apocalypse, perhaps out of fear that the Roman authorities would look harshly upon those who believed that the empire was due to be superseded by the reign of Christ, no matter how historically distant that prospect might be. For example, the emperor Domitian saw reports of a Second Coming of Christ as a threat to his own dominion, with his solution being to exterminate the entire of line of David. However, upon questioning the only known living relatives of Christ, he was assured that the coming kingdom of Christ was not of this world, but was spiritual and would take place at the end of the world when the Lord came as the judge of the living and the dead.

While it could not be denied that the book of Revelation spoke of a thousand-year reign of Christ with the saints, St. Hippolytus of Rome, St. Cyprian of Carthage, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Athanasius of Alexandria, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and Augustine of Hippo interpreted Revelation in a non literal manner, revealing their rejection of the Chiliastic doctrine,[14] although some in the Protestant community, particularly fundamentalists, present the Early Church as strongly believing in Chiliasm.

The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is the prominent chiliasm, or millenarianism, that is the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgement. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Methodius, and Lactantius, while Caius, Origen, Dionysius the Great, Eusebius (as afterwards Jerome and Augustine) opposed it.
Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church[15]

This presentation of the Early Church provides opposing sides but does not deal with the origins and effects of Chiliasm, which remained a viable option for the orthodox since the church, at least insofar as the ecumenical councils are concerned, never took an official position, one way or the other, with respect to this doctrine. It is sometimes mistakenly claimed that Chiliasm was rejected at the Second Council of Constantinople in 381 as the revised Creed added "and of His Kingdom there shall be no end". The noted church historian Jaroslav Pelikan has decisively refuted this claim. First, the canons of the Council of 381, far from refuting it, make no mention at all of Chiliasm. Furthermore, Chiliasm (millennialism) is perfectly consistent with the above noted revision of the Creed since it too maintains that there shall be no end to Christ's kingdom, once inaugurated. Rather, the doctrine focuses attention on a particular 1000-year period which is to culminate in an unsuccessful rebellion against Christ's reign by Satan and his allies, a revolt that is to be put down decisively, once and for all. Since, obviously, no kingdom is brought to an end by an unsuccessful rebellion the specious nature of the above reasoning by the opponents of millennialism is apparent. The actual reason for the revision of the Creed was to guard against Sabellianism or crypto-Sabellianism, as espoused by Marcellus of Ancyra and others, a doctrine that clearly does maintain the position that Christ's kingdom is a temporary one, and which is explicitly singled out for condemnation [Canon #1].

Justin Martyr and Irenaeus

Justin Martyr in the 2nd century was one of the first Christian writers to clearly describe himself as continuing in the “Jewish” belief of a temporary messianic kingdom prior to the eternal state. According to Johannes Quasten, “In his eschatological ideas Justin shares the views of the Chiliasts concerning the millennium.”[16] He maintains a premillennial distinctive, namely that there would be two resurrections, one of believers before Jesus' reign and then a general resurrection afterwards. Justin wrote in chapter 80 of his work Dialogue with Trypho, “I and others who are right-minded Christians on all points are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built... For Isaiah spoke in that manner concerning this period of a thousand years.” Though he conceded earlier in the same chapter that his view was not universal by saying that he “and many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise.” [17][18]

St. Irenaeus (c. 130–202), an early Christian Premillennialist.

Irenaeus, the late 2nd century bishop of Lyon was an outspoken premillennialist. He is best known for his voluminous tome written against the 2nd century Gnostic threat, commonly called Against Heresies. In the fifth book of Against Heresies, Irenaeus concentrates primarily on eschatology. In one passage he defends premillennialism by arguing that a future earthly kingdom is necessary because of God's promise to Abraham, he wrote “The promise remains steadfast... God promised him the inheritance of the land. Yet, Abraham did not receive it during all the time of his journey there. Accordingly, it must be that Abraham, together with his seed (that is, those who fear God and believe in Him), will receive it at the resurrection of the just.”[19] In another place Irenaeus also explained that the blessing to Jacob “belongs unquestionably to the times of the kingdom when the righteous will bear rule, after their rising from the dead. It is also the time when the creation will bear fruit with an abundance of all kinds of food, having been renovated and set free... And all of the animals will feed on the vegetation of the earth... and they will be in perfect submission to man. And these things are borne witness to in the fourth book of the writings of Papias, the hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp.” (5.33.3) Apparently Irenaeus also held to the sexta-/septamillennial scheme writing that the end of human history will occur after the 6,000th year. (5.28.3)[20]

Other ante-Nicene premillennialists

Irenaeus and Justin represent two of the most outspoken premillennialists of the pre-Nicean church. Other early premillennialists included Pseudo-Barnabas,[21] Papias,[22] Methodius, Lactantius,[23] Commodianus[24] Theophilus, Tertullian,[25] Melito,[26] Hippolytus of Rome, Victorinus of Pettau [27][28] and various Gnostics groups and the Montanists. Many of these theologians and others in the early church expressed their belief in premillennialism through their acceptance of the sexta-septamillennial tradition. This belief claims that human history will continue for 6,000 years and then will enjoy Sabbath for 1,000 years (the millennial kingdom), thus all of human history will have a total of 7,000 years prior to the new creation.

Ante-Nicene opposition

The first clear opponent of premillennialism associated with Christianity was Marcion. Marcion opposed the use of the Old Testament and most books of the New Testament that were not written by the apostle Paul. Regarding the Marcion and premillennialism, Harvard scholar H. Brown noted,

The first great heretic broke drastically with the faith of the early church in abandoning the doctrine of the imminent, personal return of Christ...Marcion did not believe in a real incarnation, and consequently there was no logical place in his system for a real Second Coming...Marcion expected the majority of mankind to be lost...he denied the validity of the Old Testament and its Law...As the first great heretic, Marcion developed and perfected his heterodox system before orthodoxy had fully defined itself...Marcion represents a movement that so radically transformed the Christian doctrine of God and Christ that it can hardly be said to be Christian.[29]

Throughout the Patristic period—particularly in the 3rd century—there had been rising opposition to premillennialism. Origen was the first to challenge the doctrine openly. Through allegorical interpretation, he had been a proponent of amillennialism (of course, the sexta-septamillennial tradition was itself based upon similar means of allegorical interpretation).[30] Although Origen was not always wholly "orthodox" in his theology, he had at one point completely spiritualized Christ’s second coming prophesied in the New Testament. Origen did this in his Commentary on Matthew[31] when he taught that “Christ’s return signifies His disclosure of Himself and His deity to all humanity in such a way that all might partake of His glory to the degree that each individual’s actions warrant (Commentary on Matthew 12.30).”[32] Even Origen’s milder forms of this teaching left no room for a literal millennium and it was so extreme that few actually followed it. But his influence did gain wider acceptance especially in the period following Constantine.

Dionysius of Alexandria stood against premillennialism when the chiliastic work, The Refutation of the Allegorizers written by Nepos, a bishop in Egypt became popular in Alexandria. Dionysius argued against Nepos's influence and convinced the churches of the region of amillennialism. The church historian, Eusebius, reports this in his Ecclesiastical History.[33] Eusebius also had low regard for the chiliast, Papias, and he let it be known that in his opinion Papias was "a man of small mental capacity" because he had taken the Apocalypse literally.[34]

Middle Ages and the Reformation

Augustinian eschatological foundation

Oxford theologian Alister McGrath has noted that "all medieval theology is ‘Augustinian’ to a greater or lesser extent."[35] Augustine’s (354-430) influence shaped not only the Western Middle Ages, but it also influenced the Protestant reformers, who constantly referred to his teaching in their own debates. His teaching is “still one of the most potent elements in Western religious thought.”[36] Therefore, to analyze what happened to premillennialism in the Middle Ages and the Reformation, it is necessary to observe the Augustinian foundation.

In his early period, Augustine held to the sexta-/septamillennial view common in early Christianity (see above section on Patristic Age).[37] In accordance with this view, Augustine divided history into two separate dispensations, first the church age (the current age of 6,000 years), and then the millennial kingdom (Sermon 259.2). Nevertheless, early in his career Augustine converted from premillennialism to amillennialism. Anderson locates three reasons that may account for Augustine’s theological shift:

  1. A reaction to Donatist excess - Augustine displayed a revulsion to the Donatists' bacchanal feasts which seemingly used excessive amounts of food and drink (City of God, 20.7).[38] The Donatists were premillennial and thus Augustine formed a connection between their sensual behavior and their earthly eschatological expectation.
  2. A reaction to eschatological sensationalism - The millennial fervor of premillennialists as the year AD 500 was nearing caused them to have overly jovial celebrations (some septa-/sextamillennial interpreters calculated Jesus’s birth to have happened 5,500 years after creation).[39] These feasts appeared to Augustine to take more pleasure in the physical world than the spiritual. Such earthly revelry was repulsive to Augustine since he placed little value on the material world.[40]
  3. A preference for allegorical interpretation - Finally, Augustine was influenced by the popular allegorical interpretation of Scripture, particularly of The Book of Revelation. Tyconius (d. c. 400), a Donatist lay theologian, “whose reinterpretation of his culture’s separatist and millenarian traditions provided the point of departure for what is more brilliant and idiosyncratic in Augustine’s own theology. And it is Tyconius, most precisely, whose own reading of John’s Apocalypse determined the Western church’s exegesis for the next eight hundred years.”[41]

After moving away from premillennialism to amillennialism, Augustine viewed Sabbath rest in the sexta-/septamillennial scheme as “symbolically representative of Eternity.” Moreover, the millennium of Revelation 20 became for him “symbolically representative of Christ’s present reign with the saints.”[42] Richard Landes observed the 4th century as a time of major shift for Christian eschatology by noting that it "marked a crucial moment in the history of millenarianism, since during this period Augustine repudiated even the allegorizing variety he himself had previously accepted. From this point on he dedicated much of his energy to ridding the church of this belief."[43]

Medieval and Reformation amillennialism

Augustine’s later amillennial view laid the eschatological foundation for the Middle Ages, which practically abandoned premillennialism.[44] The theological term “kingdom” maintained its eschatological function, though it was not necessarily futuristic. Instead it consistently referred to the present age so that the church was currently experiencing the eschaton. Julian of Toledo (642–690) summarizes the medieval doctrine of the millennium by referring to it as “the church of God which, by the diffusion of its faith and works, is spread out as a kingdom of faith from the time of the incarnation until the time of the coming judgment”.[45]

A notable exception to normative medieval eschatology is found in Joachim of Fiore (c. 1135–1202), a Cistercian monk, who to an extent, stressed premillennial themes. Joachim divided earth's history into three periods. He assigned each age to a particular person of the Trinity as the guiding principle of that era. The first era was the Old Testament history and was accordingly the age of the Father; the current age of the church was the age of the Son; and still in Joachim's future was the age of the Spirit. For Joachim, year 1260 was to mark the end of the second and the beginning of the third and final golden age of earth's history.[46]

During the Reformation period, amillennialism continued to be the popular view of the Reformers. The Lutherans formally rejected chiliasm in The Augsburg Confession. “Art. XVII., condemns the Anabaptists and others ’who now scatter Jewish opinions that, before the resurrection of the dead, the godly shall occupy the kingdom of the world, the wicked being everywhere suppressed.’"[47] Likewise, the Swiss Reformer Heinrich Bullinger wrote up the Second Helvetic Confession, which reads "We also reject the Jewish dream of a millennium, or golden age on earth, before the last judgment."[48] Furthermore, John Calvin wrote in Institutes that millennialism is a "fiction" that is "too childish either to need or to be worth a refutation".[49] The Anglican Church originally formalized a statement against millenarianism in the Anglican Articles. This is observed in the 41st of the Anglican Articles, drawn up by Thomas Cranmer (1553), describing the millennium as a 'fable of Jewish dotage', but it was omitted at a later time in the revision under Elizabeth (1563).[47]

Contrarily, certain Anabaptists, Huguenots, and Bohemian Brethren were premillennial. Michael Servetus taught a chiliastic view, though he was denounced by the Reformers as a heretic and executed in Geneva under Calvin's authority.[50] A few in the mainstream accepted it, such as Joseph Mede (1586–1638)[51] and possibly Hugh Latimer (died 1555),[52] but it was never a conventional belief throughout the period.

Modern era

Comparison of Christian millennial interpretations

17th and 18th centuries

In the Modern Age millenarianism gained a surprising acceptance among the Pietists of Germany during the 17th and 18th century.[53] Although they were not premillennial, the English theologian Daniel Whitby (1688–1726), the German Johann Albrecht Bengel (1687–1752), and the American Jonathan Edwards (1703–58) “fueled millennial ideas with new influence in the nineteenth century.”[54] It was authors such as these who concluded that the decline of the Roman Catholic Church would make way for the conversion and restoration of the nation of Israel. Edwards taught that a type of Millennium would occur “1260 years after A.D. 606 when Rome was recognized as having universal authority.”[55] His Puritan contemporaries, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather, openly proclaimed a belief in a literal millennium. Increase Mather wrote “That which presseth me so, as that I cannot gainsay the Chiliastical opinion, is that I take these things for Principles, and no way doubt but that they are demonstrable. 1. That the thousand apocalyptical years are not passed but future. 2. That the coming of Christ to raise the dead and to judge the earth will be within much less than this thousand years. 3. That the conversion of the Jews will not be till this present state of the world is near unto its end. 4. That, after the Jews’ conversion there will be a glorious day for the elect upon earth, and that this day shall be a very long continuance.”[56]

19th century to present

Between 1790 and the mid-19th century, premillennialism was a popular view among English Evangelicals, even within the Anglican church. Thomas Macaulay observed this and wrote “Many Christians believe that the Messiah will shortly establish a kingdom on the earth, and visibly reign over all its inhabitants.”[57] Throughout the 19th century, premillennialism continued to gain wider acceptance in both the US and in Britain, particularly among the Irvingites,[58] Plymouth Brethren, Christadelphians,[59] Church of God, Christian Israelite Church.[60] Premillennialism continues to be popular among Evangelical, Fundamentalist Christian, and Living Church of God communities in the 20th and 21st centuries,[61] expanding further into the churches of Asia, Africa and South America.

Many traditional denominations continue to oppose the concept of a literal millennial kingdom.[61] The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod explicitly states, “When Christ returns, 'new heavens and a new earth' will be created (2 Pet. 3:10-13)." The catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in paragraph 676 that the millennium is to be understood as "beyond history". The paragraph in full reads "676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism,577 especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.578".

Whalen has noted that modern premillennialism is “criticized roundly for naïve scholarship which confuses the poetic and inspirational prose of prophecy with fortune telling”, though “Premillennialists retort that they merely follow the Word of God, regardless of ridicule.” He then notes that, nevertheless, “the virtual theology which surrounds premillennialism is today stronger and more widely spread than at any time in history.”[62]

Historic vs. dispensational schools

Contemporary premillennialism is divided into two schools of thought.

Historic school

Historic, or Classic Premillennialism is distinctively non-dispensational. This means that it sees no radical theological distinction between Israel and the Church. It is often post-tribulational, meaning that the rapture of the church will occur after a period of tribulation. Historic premillennialism maintains chiliasm because of its view that the church will be caught up to meet Christ in the air and then escort him to the earth in order to share in his literal thousand year rule. Proponents of the view include Charles Spurgeon[63] and George Eldon Ladd.

Dispensational school

C.I. Scofield popularized dispensational premillennialism through the Scofield Reference Bible.
Main article: Dispensationalism

Dispensational premillennialism[64] generally holds that Israel and the Church are distinct entities.[65] It also widely holds to the pretribulational return of Christ, which believes that Jesus will return to take up Christians into heaven by means of a rapture immediately before a seven-year worldwide tribulation. This will be followed by an additional return of Christ with his saints (though there are post tribulation dispensationalists, such as Robert Gundry).

Dispensationalism traces its roots to the 1830s and John Nelson Darby (1800–1882), an Anglican churchman and an early leader of the Plymouth Brethren. In the US, the dispensational form of premillennialism was propagated on the popular level largely through the Scofield Reference Bible and on the academic level with Lewis Sperry Chafer’s eight-volume Systematic Theology. More recently dispensationalism has been popularized through Hal Lindsey's 1970s bestseller, The Late, Great Planet Earth and through the Left Behind Series by Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins. Popular proponents of dispensational premillennialism have been John F. MacArthur, Phil Johnson, Ray Comfort, Jerry Falwell, Todd Friel, Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord (d. 2002), Tim Lahaye, Charles Caldwell Ryrie (in the notes for the Ryrie Study Bible), and Charles L. Feinberg. Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock have developed a form of dispensationalism that is growing in popularity known as progressive dispensationalism. This view understands that an aspect of the eschatological kingdom presently exists, but must wait for the millennium to be realized fully.[66]

See also


  1. Survey -Premillennialism Reigns in EvangelicalTheology Survey
  2. Robert K. Whalen, “Premillennialism” in The Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements, Ed. Richard A. Landes (New York: Routledge, 2000), 331.
  3. According to M. Simonetti “Behind Millenarism was the Jewish belief in the future Messianic kingdom understood as political and material rule, and in fact Millenarism spread initially in the Asiatic world, where Christianity was strongly influenced by Judaism and took on a distinctly materialistic colouring.” M. Simonetti, “Millenarism” in Encyclopedia of the Early Church, Translated by Adrian Walford, Volume 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 560. Additionally, in volume 2 of Philip Schaff's History of the Christian Church, he writes against the legitimacy of premillennialism by referring to its Jewish background. “The Jewish chiliasm rested on a carnal misapprehension of the Messianic kingdom, a literal interpretation of prophetic figures, and an overestimate of the importance of the Jewish people and the holy city as the centre of that kingdom. It was developed shortly before and after Christ in the apocalyptic literature, as the Book of Enoch, the Apocalypse of Baruch, 4th Esdras, the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, and the Sibylline Books. It was adopted by the heretical sect of the Ebionites, and the Gnosticism|Gnostic Cerinthus.” Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.), 381.
  4. Bailey, J. W. “The Temporary Messianic Reign in the Literature of Early Judaism,” Journal of Biblical Literature. (1934), 170.
  5. Charles, R. H. Revelation, Volume 2: 15-21. International Critical Commentary. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1920)142. Robert Henry Charles (1855–1931) was a biblical scholar who was considered the greatest scholar in the early 20th century regarding Jewish eschatology and apocalyptic. (See Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 324.)
  6. George W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, Hermeneia, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2001), 440.
  7. Michael Edward Stone, Fourth Ezra, Hermeneia (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1990), 10.
  8. The Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period notes that “Rabbinic masters show some interest in calculating the advent and duration of the days of the Messiah and world to come. According to different rabbis, the former would last 40, 70, 365, or 400 years (B. Sanhedrin 99a; see B. Abodah Zarah 9b). Similar attempts to reckon the messianic age held that the world will exist for six thousand years: ‘For two thousand it will be desolate, two thousand years will be the time of Torah, and two thousand years will be the days of the Messiah’ (B. Sanhedrin 971-b). The same source holds that, on account of the Israelites’ sins, the Messiah has tarried and part of what should have been the messianic age has been lost.” “Eschatology” in The Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period: 450 B.C.E. to 600 C.E. Ed. Jacob Neusner and William Scott Green, Vol. 1 (New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1996), 203.
  9. These references have been compiled from Bailey, “The Temporary Messianic Reign.” And From G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, The New International Commentary on the Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 1017–1021.
  10. Gundry, Stanley N. “Hermeneutics or Zeitgeist As the determining Factor In the History of Eschatologies,” The Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society. Volume 20 (March 1977): 45-55.
  11. “The Christian chiliasm is the Jewish chiliasm spiritualized and fixed upon the second, instead of the first, coming of Christ. It distinguishes, moreover, two resurrections, one before and another after the millennium, and makes the millennial reign of Christ a preclude to his eternal reign in heaven, from which it is separated by a brief, failed rebellion on the part of Satan and his allies.” Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.) 381.
  12. Bercot, David A., Editor A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998).
  13. Eusebius, The History of the Church, Book 3:39
  14. T. L. Frazier, A Second Look at the Second Coming,(Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press, 1999) 46-52.
  15. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.) 381.
  16. Johannes Quasten, Patrology, Vol. 1 (Westminster, Maryland: Christian Classics, Inc.), 219. (Quasten was a Professor of Ancient Church History and Christian Archaeology at the Catholic University of America) Furthermore according to the Encyclopedia of the Early Church “Justin (Dial. 80) affirms the millenarian idea as that of Christians of complete orthodoxy but he does not hide that fact that many rejected it.” M. Simonetti, “Millenarism,” 560.
  17. "Dialogue with Trypho (Chapters 31-47)". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  18. Some have argued that Justin never achieved consistency in his eschatology. They have pointed out that Justin seemed also to believe in some sense that the Kingdom of God is currently present. This belief is an aspect of postmillennialism, amillennialism and progressive dispensationalism. In Justin's First Apology he laments the Romans' misunderstanding of the Christians' endtime expectations. The Romans had assumed that when Christians looked for a kingdom, they were looking for a human one. Justin corrects this misunderstanding by saying “For if we looked for a human kingdom, we should also deny our Christ, that we might not be slain and we should strive to escape detection, that we might obtain what we expect.” (1 Apol. 11.1-2; cf. also Apol. 52; Dial. 45.4; 113.3-5; 139.5) See Charles Hill’s arguments in Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity. Additionally however, Philip Schaff, an amillennialist, notes that “In his two apologies, Justin teaches the usual view of the general resurrection and judgment, and makes no mention of the millennium, but does not exclude it.” Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.) 383. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001.
  19. Against Heresies 5.32.
  20. "For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: 'Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works.' This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year." Against Heresies 5.28.3.
  21. ”Among the Apostolic Fathers Barnabas is the first and the only one who expressly teaches a pre-millennial reign of Christ on earth. He considers the Mosaic history of the creation a type of six ages of labor for the world, each lasting a thousand years, and of a millennium of rest, since with God ‘one day is as a thousand years.’ Millennial Sabbath on earth will be followed by an eight and eternal day in a new world, of which the Lord’s Day (called by Barnabas ‘the eighth day’) is the type" (access The Epistle of Barnabas here). Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.) 382.
  22. "Introductory Note to the Fragments of Papias". 2005-07-13. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  23. Insruct. adv. Gentium Deos, 43, 44.
  24. According to the Encyclopedia of the Early ChurchCommodian (mid 3rd c.) takes up the theme of the 7000 years, the last of which is the millennium (Instr. II 35, 8 ff.).” M. Simonetti, “Millenarism,” 560.
  25. Against Marcion, book 3 chp 25
  26. Simonetti writes in the Encyclopedia of the Early Church “We know that Melito was also a millenarian" regarding Jerome's reference to him as a chiliast. M. Simonetti, “Millenarism,” 560.
  27. Note this is Victorinus of Pettau not Marcus Piav(v)onius Victorinus the Gaelic Emperor
  28. In his Commentary on Revelation and from the fragment De Fabrica Mundi (Part of a commentary on Genesis). Jerome identifies him as a premillennialist.
  29. Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 65,67,455.
  30. “Origen (Princ. II, 2-3)) rejects the literal interpretation of Rev 20-21, gives an allegorical interpretation of it and so takes away the scriptural foundation of Millenarism. In the East: Dionysius of Alexandria had to argue hard against Egyptian communities with millenarian convictions (in Euseb. HE VII, 24-25). M. Simonetti, “Millenarism” in Encyclopedia of the Early Church, Translated by Adrian Walford, Volume 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 560. It is doubtless that Origen respected apostolic tradition in interpretation. It was Origen himself who said "Non debemus credere nisi quemadmodum per successionem Ecclesiae Dei tradiderunt nobis" (In Matt., ser. 46, Migne, XIII, 1667). However as it is noted in The Catholic Encyclopedia "Origen has recourse too easily to allegorism to explain purely apparent antilogies or antinomies. He considers that certain narratives or ordinances of the Bible would be unworthy of God if they had to be taken according to the letter, or if they were to be taken solely according to the letter. He justifies the allegorism by the fact that otherwise certain accounts or certain precepts now abrogated would be useless and profitless for the reader: a fact which appears to him contrary to the providence of the Divine inspirer and the dignity of Holy Writ."
  31. "Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew". 2005-07-13. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  32. Larry V. Crutchfield, “Origen” in Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, ed. Mal Couch (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996), 289.
  33. "NPNF2-01. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  34. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica. 3.39.13
  35. Alister McGrath, Iustitua Dei: A History of the Doctrine of Justification, 2nd Edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 24.
  36. “Augustine of Hippo” in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F. L. Cross (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 129.
  37. G. Folliet, “La typologie du sabbat chez Saint Augustin. Son interpretation millénariste entre 386 et 400,” REAug 2 (1956):371-90. Referenced in David R. Anderson, “The Soteriological Impact of Augustine’s Change From Premillennialism to Amillennialism: Part One,” The Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Vol. 15 (Spring 2002), 27. Johannes Quasten also writes "Augustine made a “short shrift of millenarianism after having accepted it at first himself (De civ. Dei 20, 7; Serm 259.2) by explaining Apoc. 20:1-5 in an allegorical sense (it regards the spiritual resurrection of the body – real bodies even though no longer corruptible)" (De civ. Dei 22, 1-28).” Johannes Quasten, Patrology, Vol. 4 (Westminster, Maryland: Christian Classics, Inc.), 452.
  38. Augustine wrote in regards to the premillennialism “And this opinion would not be objectionable, if it were believed that the joys of the saints in that Sabbath shall be spiritual, and consequent on the presence of God. . . But, as they [the millenarians] assert that those who then rise again shall enjoy the leisure of immoderate carnal banquets, furnished with an amount of meat and drink such as not only shock the feeling of the temperate, but even to surpass the measure of credulity itself, such assertions can be believed only by the carnal.” (De civ. Dei 20, 7)
  39. Anderson, “Soteriological Impact,” 27-28. Interestingly, by the time that Augustine wrote his monumental work The City of God he wrote that “It was impossible to calculate the date of the End. ‘To all those who make... calculations on this subject comes the command, “Relax your fingers and give them a rest.”’ The Reign of the saints had already begun...” Elizabeth Isichei, “Millenarianism,” in The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, Ed. Adrian Hastings, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 435.
  40. J. Daniélou, “La typologie millenariste de la samaine dans le christianisme prmitif,” Vigiliae Christiane 2 (1948):1-16.
  41. Paula Fredriksen, “Apocalypse and Redemption in Early Christianity,” Vigiliae Christianae 45 (1991): 157. Referenced in Anderson, “Soteriological Impact,” 29. Fredriksen writes furthermore “By complicating the biblical text, Tyconius gained a purchase on the perfectionist and millenarian readings of Scripture... The Donatist’s interpretations ironically became definitive of Catholic commentary on the Apocalypse for the next eight hundred years... Tyconius affected Augustine’s own theological development profoundly. The attack on millenarian understandings of scriptural prophecy and especially of the Apocalypse, in book 20 of the City of God is a monument to Augustine’s appropriation and appreciation of Tyconius.” Paula Fredriksen “Tyconius” in Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia Ed. Allan D. Fitzgerald (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 854.
  42. Larry V. Crutchfield, “Augustine” in Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996), 59.
  43. Richard Landes, "Lest the Millennium be Fulfilled: Apocalyptic Expectations and the Pattern of Western Chronography 100-800 CE," in The Use and Abuse of Eschatology in the Middle Ages Mediaevalia Louvaniensia. (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1988), 156.
  44. “From the time of Constantine and Augustin chiliasm took its place among the heresies, and was rejected subsequently even by the Protestant reformers as a Jewish dream.” Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.) 384. Simonetti also writes "But in the West too, the spread of Platonic spiritualism marked the end of millenarism.: Ambrose no longer presents the division of world history into seven millennia; Jerome argues against millennarism (PL 24, 627 ff.) and reworks Victorinus’s literal interpretation of Rev. 20-21 in an allegorical and anti-millenarian sense...” M. Simonetti, “Millenarism,” 560. See also a noteworthy reference to Nortbert's correspondence to Bernard. Nortbert thought that he was living in the time of the Antichrist and demonstrated possible chiliastic tendencies (Epistle 56 PL 182, 50–51).
  45. Julian of Toledo, Antitheses 2.69 (Patrologia Latina 96:697), translated and quoted by Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 3 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), 43.
  46. E. B. Elliot, Horae Apocalypticae, Vol. 4. London: Burnside and Seeley, 1846. Schwartz also writes about Joachim's eschatology in the more accessible work Eschatology, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 326ff.
  47. 1 2 Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.) 381.
  48. Philip Schaff History of Creeds Vol. 1, 307.
  49. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.25.5
  50. The Restitution of Christianity. 719. Servetus noted that believers would be raised to live in the millennium at age 30, the year that Christ was baptized and started his ministry. Restitutio, 413.
  51. Joseph Mede was a biblical scholar educated at Christ's College, Cambridge. His most well-known work is Clavis Apocalyptica (1627). For a recent monograph on Mede's eschatology, see Jeffrey K. Jue, Heaven Upon Earth: Joseph Mede (1586–1638) and the Legacy of Millenarianism. Archives internationales d'histoire des idées. n.p.:Springer, 2006.
  52. Charles Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith, (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1953), 29
  53. ”Millenarianism,” in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F. L. Cross (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
  54. Schwartz, Eschatology, 330.
  55. Kevin Stilley, “Edwards, Jonathan” in Dictionary of Premillennial Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1996), 100.
  56. Increase Mather, The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation Explained and Applied quoted in Charles Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith, (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1953), 31-32.
  57. Quoted by Robert K. Whalen, “Premillennialism” in The Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements, Ed. Richard A. Landes (New York: Routledge, 2000), 331.
  58. Rev. W.W. Andrews of the Catholic Apostolic Church in the 19th century wrote a statement of faith for the Irvingites saying, "In respect to eschatology, they hold, with the Church of the first three centuries, that the second coming of the Lord precedes and introduces the millennium; at the beginning of which the first resurrection takes place, and at the close the general resurrection..." Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical notes. Volume I: History of Creeds, 676.
  59. "Bible Basics Study 5.5 - The Millennium". Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  60. “Millenarianism,” in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F. L. Cross (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 1087.
  61. 1 2 Robert K. Whalen, “Dispensationalism” in The Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements, Ed. Richard A. Landes (New York: Routledge, 2000), 128.
  62. Robert K. Whalen, “Premillennialism” in The Encyclopedia of Millennialism and Millennial Movements, Ed. Richard A. Landes (New York: Routledge, 2000), 332.
  63. "Charles H. Spurgeon and Eschatology". Retrieved September 9, 2012.
  64. "What is Premillennial Dispensationalism?" New York University
  65. Herbert W. Bateman IV, “Dispensationalism Tomorrow,” in Three Central Issues in Contemporary Dispensationalism: A Comparison of Traditional and Progressive Views, ed. by Herbert W. Bateman IV (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1999), 315-16.
  66. Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock Progressive Dispensationalism (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), 282.

Further reading

Works from an amillennial or postmillennial perspective

Works from a premillennial perspective

Works from multiple perspectives or no apparent perspective

Works on the history of eschatology

External links

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