I’m teaching Revelation 20 tomorrow morning at synagogue. This is the 28th week in a series I have been teaching (with breaks for holiday seasons and topics).
The following are just a few notes on the history of millennialism. I thought you might enjoy or want to comment on them. You can see the whole outline here if you want to read more. I go on to explain what I think millennialism is an important view to hold.
Millennialism or Chiliasm
There will be a thousand-year interim period before the final age. (Millennium equals a thousand years.)
This was the view of the church fathers prior to Augustine.
It is a minority view today in Christendom. In Orthodox Judaism, a two-stage view of the final redemption of the world is common.
Roots in Second Temple Judaism
The idea of two future ages in final redemption is rare, but does exist, in Second Temple Judaism.
4 Ezra 7:26-33, Messiah will rule for 400 years, then die, and after that there will be a resurrection of the dead.
2 Apocalypse of Baruch 29-30, Messiah will destroy evil, after a while return to heaven, and then the time of resurrection will come.
Roots in Church History
The early church fathers believed in a millennium prior to the New Earth.
Papias, Justin, Irenaus, Tertullian, and Hippolytus expressed faith in a millennium.
Origen, in keeping with his love of Platonic ideals and flirtation with gnosticism, rejected millennialism.
Augustine made amillennialism the dominant view.
In post-New Testament rabbinic writings, a two-stage final redemption is strongly held.
The Babylonian Talmud records rabbinic opinions about how long Messiah’s reign would last (Akiba said 40 years and Eliezer ben Hyrcanus said 1000 years). See Sanhedrin 99a and Tanchuma Eikev.
The prophets of Israel describe a glorious future when Israel is perfect in love and the land is blessed beyond any time in history.
Yet there is still birth and death (see Isa. 65:20).
Therefore, the belief arose in a golden age that was not yet final redemption.