Millenarianism

Sometimes known as “Chiliasm,” this is the belief that there will be a 1,000-year period at the end of this age when Christ will reign on earth over a perfect world order. The primary biblical support for this belief is a literal interpretation of Revelation 20:1-10. Some Jewish thought envisaged a messianic kingdom of limited duration; others, a “sabbath” of 1,000 years before the final perfect state. Revelation 20 links these two concepts together for the first time. By linking the 1,000-year period with prophetic visions such as in Isaiah 55-66, the concept of a time of peace, justice, and righteousness on earth is built up.

The timing and nature of the “millennium” are disputed. “Premillennialists” hold that at Christ's return the dead will be raised, believers still living will be “caught up” to meet him in the air, and they will then reign on earth with Christ for 1,000 years. Then Satan will be allowed to be active again, but the judgment of the Great White Throne will follow. “Postmillennialists” see the return of Christ as taking place after the millennium, which may be a literal “golden age” on earth, or which may be symbolic of the final triumph of the Gospel, in this age. “Amillennialists” hold that there is no literal millennium; instead, they see the Revelation teaching as standing for the present age, the whole period between the ministry of Jesus on earth and His second coming. Each school of thought has possible ways of explaining the “two resurrections” and other concepts in Revelation 20.

The 1,000-year period is an important element in the doctrinal systems of the various Adventist* groups and of Jehovah's Witnesses.*

S.J. Case, The Millennial Hope (1918); C.N. Kraus, Dispensationalism in America (1958); N.R.C. Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium (1961); S.G.F. Brandon, History, Time and Deity (1964).