Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism?

By COGwriter

Did the early Christians actually believe that Jesus would return to earth and reign on the earth for a thousand years? This teaching about a millennial reign of Christ is referred to as millenarianism (from the Latin) or chiliasm (from the Greek). Have those that professed Christ shown a belief that God has allowed humanity 6,000 years to rule itself to be followed by a 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth?

This article will look at both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, early Christian writings, and even Roman Catholic current and "prophetic" sources to answer these questions. (A sermon of related interest is titled The Millennium.)

Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah, and Zechariah Foretold the Kingdom of God, So did Jesus

The prophet Daniel was told to record this about the kingdom of God:

And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever (Daniel 2:44, NKJV throughout unless noted).

But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.' (Daniel 7:18).

From Daniel, we learn that the kingdom of God will destroy human kingdoms and last forever. And that the saints will have their part in receiving it.

God inspired Isaiah to write this:

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together;And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD As the waters cover the sea. "And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious" (Isaiah 11:1-10).

7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:7)

The Book of Isaiah makes it clear that there will be a physical reign on earth, with Jesus in charge, and people will not be allowed to hurt others.

The world will be a better place:

1 The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; 2 It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, Even with joy and singing.The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, The excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, The excellency of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who are fearful-hearted,"Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God;He will come and save you." 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. 7 The parched ground shall become a pool, And the thirsty land springs of water; In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, There shall be grass with reeds and rushes. 8 A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray. 9 No lion shall be there, Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; It shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there, 10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing,With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:1-9)

The Prophet Ezekiel wrote about it coming after the world had been shamed by the Gentiles (cf. Revelation 11:2):

21 Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad, 22 therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them — My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken. 25 "I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. 26 I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. 27 Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 And they shall no longer be a prey for the nations, nor shall beasts of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid. 29 I will raise up for them a garden of renown, and they shall no longer be consumed with hunger in the land, nor bear the shame of the Gentiles anymore. (Ezekiel 34:21-29)

The Prophet Micah was inspired to write:

1 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And peoples shall flow to it. 2 Many nations shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion the law shall go forth, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 3 He shall judge between many peoples, And rebuke strong nations afar off; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. 4 But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, And no one shall make them afraid; For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken. (Micah 4:1-4)

Both humans and animals will do better during this time. The New Testament confirms that the whole creation will benefit during this time:

19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21).

The time of the "glorious liberty of the children of God" that the Apostle Paul is speaking of, happens at the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of His kingdom.

And this is a time when the people of God will be used to help restore a damaged planet:

Those from among you
Shall build the old waste places;
You shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach,
The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In (Isaiah 58:12)

Thus, the people of God will make it easier for people to dwell in cities (and elsewhere) during this time of restoration. The world will truly be a better place.

Agricultural will be more productive than now (called the "former days" below):

11 But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,' says the Lord of hosts. 12 'For the seed shall be prosperous, The vine shall give its fruit, The ground shall give her increase, And the heavens shall give their dew — I will cause the remnant of this people To possess all these. (Zechariah 8:11-12)

This seems to be in contrast to the time since Eden when God pronounced a curse on agricultural production (cf. Genesis 3:17-19). The millennium will be an abundant time.

Notice some of what Jesus taught:

14...Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)

31 "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.  32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (Matthew 25:31-34)

Jesus taught the coming kingdom (see also The Gospel of the Kingdom of God was the Emphasis of Jesus and the Early Church).

A Thousand Years is Like a Day to God

Some believe that since God made/recreated the world in six days and rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:1-3), that humans will have 6000 years to live on the earth under Satan's influence, but will have a 1000 years to be under Christ's reign (the original creation of the universe may have been billions of years earlier c.f. Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 45:18).

Many have noted that a thousand years seems to be as one day to God. This is a concept from both the Old and New Testaments:

For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past (Psalm 90:4).

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8).

More information on the 6,000 year plan can be found in the article Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan?

The Book of Revelation Teaches a Thousand Year Reign of Christ

Notice that the Book of Revelation makes it clear that God's people will reign on the earth with Christ:

9..."You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:9-10).

Thus, a future physical reign on the earth is clearly prophesied. And the Apostle Paul reminded Christians:

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? (1 Corinthians 6:2)

Notice that the Apostle Paul told also Timothy that the true saints would reign with Jesus:

11 This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
12 If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:11-12).

Chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation clearly teaches, as it mentions it five times, that there will be a thousand year reign of Christ on the earth:

1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:1-6)

This millennial reign is essentially the "first phase" of the kingdom of God on the earth (more information can be found in the article The Kingdom of God was the Emphasis of Jesus and the Early Church). This is the "first phase" as Satan will be released after it for a little while (Revelation 20:3,8-9).

Note, although at least one Roman Catholic priest and Jesuit scholar claims that Revelation 20 is symbolic, should not be taken literally, and is only referring to the bodiless souls of martyrs reigning with Christ supposedly in heaven (see Kurz W. What Does the Bible Say About the End Times? A Catholic View. Servant Books, Cincinnati. Nihil Obstat: Kistner H., Schehr T.P. Imprimi Potest: Link F., Paul J.M. Imprimatur: Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, July 19, 2004. Servant Books, Cincinnati, 2004, pp. 152-173), this claim is in error. (Other Catholics have claimed that Satan was already bound, but there has not been 1,000 years that the earth did not have Satan influencing it--for more information, see The Day of Atonement--Its Christian Significance.)

The fact is that the resurrection in Revelation 20:4-5 is same resurrection that is also discussed in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16, it involves all the saints (vs. 15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:23), and since it occurs when Jesus is returning--and He returns to earth (Acts 1:9-11; Zechariah 14;4)--the Roman Catholic priest Kurz's explanation of why this thousand year period is only symbolic, occurs in heaven, and should not be taken literally is in error.

Some other Catholic writers, however, do recognize that there is a thousand years from the time of Antichrist to the end (of the millennial age). Notice what priest Herman Kramer observed:

In St. John's outlook, however, the end of the world could not have been included in the "hour of temptation" , because a thousand years must intervene between the days of Antichrist and the end of the world (Kramer H.B. L. The Book of Destiny.  Nihil Obstat: J.S. Considine, O.P., Censor Deputatus.  Imprimatur: +Joseph M. Mueller, Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, January 26, 1956.  Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL), p. 101).

Early Professors of Christ Sometimes Marked Their Graves With Millennial Symbols

The millennial belief was so widespread that early professors of Christ sometimes marked aspects of their funerals with one or more millennial symbols--not crosses (crosses were a later development that the truly faithful did not adopt).

A Catholic report interestingly stated:

St. Jerome (PL 25, 1529 & 1536-7) speaking of how the Judaeo-Christians celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles…tells us that they gave the feast a millenarian significance...

The doctrine of millenarianism, being widespread, left many iconographical traces.  As a sign of millenarianism, also called chiliasm, we find the Greek letter X, intial for the word chilioi (thousand)…

Studying funeral monuments we find ourselves face to face with very many signs which lead us to millenarian iconographic repertoire (Bagatti, Bellarmino.  Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Circumcision.  Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, pp. 202,297,298).

Perhaps it should be added that ancient artifacts showing verions of “+” (ibid, pp. 298-299) or “YO (=Ω), YT, YX” (Saller SJ, Testa E. The archaeological setting of the shrine of Bethphage; Issue 1 of Smaller series. Franciscan Press, 1961.  Franciscan Press, 1961. Original fromthe University of Michigan, DigitizedFeb 12, 2009, p. 108), and “Σ” (Ibid, p. 113) also were sometimes used as a symbol of the pre-millennial resurrection of the saints (Revelation 20:4-6)—this resurrection was, and still should be, a chief hope of Christians (Acts 23:6; 1 Corinthians 15:12-23).

Although some have pointed to the letter “X” or other symbols on certain Christian documents and/or artifacts as a sign for the cross and/or proof of the early widespread acceptance of crosses, notice what Catholic priest and scholar B. Bagatti discovered:

The doctrine of millenarianism, being widespread, left many iconographical traces. As a sign of millenarianism, also called chiliasm, we find the Greek letter X, initial for the word chilioi (thousand)…Studying funeral monuments we find ourselves face to face with very many signs which lead us to millenarian iconographic repertoire. (Bagatti, From the Church of the Circumcision, pp. 297, 298 )

It would seem that the use of millennial symbols related to funerals possibly was partially inspired by the following passages of scripture:

12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (1 Corinthians 15:12-25)

I presume that the symbols were to show that the deceased had faith that Jesus was raised, that Jesus would return and reign, and that Jesus would raise the deceased.

The palm tree (partially because it is mentioned in Revelation 7:9), trefoil, and other plants were also used sometimes as millennial symbols (Bagatti, From the Church of the Circumcision, pp. 296-300; Palm tree is mentioned as a connection between heaven and earth for “Jewish-Christians” in Saller, p. 95). The millenarianism view, as historian Philip Schaff noted, was widespread (Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Volume 2. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, p. 381; 1884 version, p. 614).

The millennial belief was part of the true Christian faith--yet Rome and Constantinople now try to deny it.

Did Second Century Writers Teach the Thousand Year Reign of Christ?

It should be noted that Papias, who was a hearer of John and a friend of Polycarp (and is considered to be a saint by Roman Catholics), in the early second century taught about the millennial reign. Eusebius recorded that Papias (an early 2nd century leader) taught:

…there will be a period of a thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth...(Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book III, Chapter XXIX, Verse 12, p. 69)

Here is another translation of the above:

... there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth (Fragments of Papias, VI. See also Eusebius, Church History, Book 3, XXXIX, 12).

Papias taught that it would be a time of great abundance:

In like manner, [He said] that a grain of wheat would produce ten thousand ears, and that every ear would have ten thousand grains, and every grain would yield ten pounds of clear, pure, fine flour; and that apples, and seeds, and grass would produce in similar proportions; and that all animals, feeding then only on the productions of the earth, would become peaceable and harmonious, and be in perfect subjection to man." [Testimony is borne to these things in writing by Papias, an ancient man, who was a hearer of John and a friend of Polycarp, in the fourth of his books; for five books were composed by him...] (Fragments of Papias, IV).

Although we in the Continuing Church of God do not consider that the so-called Epistle of Barnabas is inspired, it does show that in the early second century that some did understand the idea of the thousand year reign of Christ:

Moreover concerning the Sabbath likewise it is written in the Ten Words, in which He spake to Moses face to face on Mount Sinai; And ye shall hallow the Sabbath of the Lord with pure hands and with a pure heart. And in another place He saith; If my sons observe the Sabbath then I will bestow My mercy upon them. Of the Sabbath He speaketh in the beginning of the creation; And God made the works of His hands in six days, and He ended on the seventh day, and rested on it, and He hallowed it. Give heed, children, what this meaneth; He ended in six days. He meaneth this, that in six thousand years the Lord shall bring all things to an end; for the day with Him signifyeth a thousand years; and this He himself beareth me witness, saying; Behold, the day of the Lord shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, children, in six days, that is in six thousand years, everything shall come to an end. And He rested on the seventh day. this He meaneth; when His Son shall come, and shall abolish the time of the Lawless One, and shall judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun and the moon and the stars, then shall he truly rest on the seventh day Epistle of Barnabas, 15:1-5).

Hence the above quote shows that there was a belief among those who professed Christianity that there would be a literal thousand year reign of Christ on the Earth, and a 6,000 year plan for humans prior to that.

Around the end of the second century, a heretical leader named Bardesan wrote the following:

Bardesan, therefore, an aged man, and one celebrated for his knowledge of events, wrote, in a certain work which was composed by him, concerning the synchronisms with one another of the luminaries of heaven, speaking as follows :-- Two revolutions of Saturn, 60 years; 5 revolutions of Jupiter, 60 years; 40 revolutions of Mars, 60 years; 60 revolutions of the Sun, 60 years; 72 revolutions of Venus, 60 years; 150 revolutions of Mercury, 60 years; 720 revolutions of the Moon, 60 years.

And this," says he, "is one synchronism of them all; that is, the time of one such synchronism of them. So that from hence it appears that to complete too such synchronisms there will be required six thousands of years. Thus :-- 200 revolutions of Saturn, six thousands of years; 500 revolutions of Jupiter, 6 thousands of years; 4 thousand revolutions of Mars, 6 thousands of years; Six thousand revolutions of the Sun, 6 thousands of years." 7 thousand and 200 revolutions of Venus, 6 thousands of years; 12 thousand revolutions of Mercury, 6 thousands of years." 72 thousand revolutions of the Moon, 6 thousands of years."

These things did Bardesan thus compute when desiring to show that this world would stand only six thousands of years (By a certain Philip, disciple of Bardesan. Appendix after The Book of the Laws of Various Countries. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 8. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1886. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Hence, he felt that the world would last 6000 years. Though he may not have been a millennialist according to certain Catholic scholars.

Irenaeus, another heretical leader (but one Roman Catholics consider to be a saint), claimed to have met Polycarp of Smyrna. Here is some of what he wrote about this:

Thus, then, the six hundred years of Noah, in whose time the deluge occurred because of the apostasy, and the number of the cubits of the image for which these just men were sent into the fiery furnace, do indicate the number of the name of that man in whom is concentrated the whole apostasy of six thousand years, and unrighteousness, and wickedness, and false prophecy, and deception (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 29, Verse 2. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Inasmuch, therefore, as the opinions of certain [orthodox persons] are derived from heretical discourses, they are both ignorant of God's dispensations , and of the mystery of the resurrection of the just , and of the [ earthly ] kingdom which is the commencement of incorruption, by means of which kingdom those who shall be worthy are accustomed gradually to partake of the divine nature (capere Deum ); and it is necessary to tell them respecting those things, that it behoves the righteous first to receive the promise of the inheritance which God promised to the fathers, and to reign in it, when they rise again to behold God in this creation which is renovated , and that the judgment should take place afterwards (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 32, Verse 1. Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103532.htm>.).

And again He says, "Whosoever shall have left lands, or houses, or parents, or brethren, or children because of Me, he shall receive in this world an hundred-fold, and in that to come he shall inherit eternal life." For what are the hundred-fold [rewards] in this word, the entertainments given to the poor, and the suppers for which a return is made? These are [to take place] in the times of the kingdom, that is, upon the seventh day, which has been sanctified, in which God rested from all the works which He created, which is the true Sabbath of the righteous, which they shall not be engaged in any earthly occupation; but shall have a table at hand prepared for them by God, supplying them with all sorts of dishes (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 33, Verse 2. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

That the whole creation shall, according to God's will, obtain a vast increase, that it may bring forth and sustain fruits such [as we have mentioned], Isaiah declares: "And there shall be upon every high mountain, and upon every prominent hill, water running everywhere in that day, when many shall perish, when walls shall fall. And the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, seven times that of the day, when He shall heal the anguish of His people, and do away with the pain of His stroke." Now "the pain of the stroke" means that inflicted at the beginning upon disobedient man in Adam, that is, death; which [stroke] the Lord will heal when He raises us from the dead, and restores the inheritance of the fathers, as Isaiah again says: "And thou shall be confident in the LORD, and He will cause thee to pass over the whole earth, and feed thee with the inheritance of Jacob thy father." This is what the Lord declared: "Happy are those servants whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching. Verily I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down [to meat], and will come forth and serve them. And if He shall come in the evening watch, and find them so, blessed are they, because He shall make them sit down, and minister to them; or if this be in the second, or it be in the third, blessed are they." Again John also says the very same in the Apocalypse: "Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection." Then, too, Isaiah has declared the time when these events shall occur; he says: "And I said, Lord, how long? Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses be without men, and the earth be left a desert. And after these things the LORD shall remove us men far away (longe nos faciet Deus homines), and those who shall remain shall multiply upon the earth." Then Daniel also says this very thing: "And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of those under the heaven, is given to the saints of the Most High God, whose kingdom is everlasting, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him." And lest the promise named should be understood as referring to this time, it was declared to the prophet: "And come thou, and stand in thy lot at the consummation of the days." Now, that the promises were not announced to the prophets and the fathers alone, but to the Churches united to these from the nations (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 34, Verses 2-3. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

For all these and other words were unquestionably spoken in reference to the resurrection of the just, which takes place after the coming of Antichrist, and the destruction of all nations under his rule; in [the times of] which [resurrection] the righteous shall reign in the earth, waxing stronger by the sight of the Lord: and through Him they shall become accustomed to partake in the glory of God the Father, and shall enjoy in the kingdom intercourse and communion with the holy angels, and union with spiritual beings; and [with respect to] those whom the Lord shall find in the flesh, awaiting Him from heaven, and who have suffered tribulation, as well as escaped the hands of the Wicked one (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 35, Verse 1. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Thus Irenaeus clearly taught that after 6,000 years of human reign that there was to be a physical kingdom of God on the earth and that resurrected saints would reign in that kingdom.

Even though he held some odd ideas, even Justin Martyr had learned about the millennium:

But 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, adorned, and enlarged, the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.

For Isaiah spake thus concerning this space of a thousand years: 'For there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, or come into their heart; but they shall find joy and gladness in it, which things I create'...For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, 'The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,' is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place (Dialogue. Chapters 80-81).

Thus, Justin is condemning any who do not believe in a literal thousand year reign as not “right-minded Christians” or non-believers. The second century leaders who professed Christ, including some heretical ones, clearly believed in the teaching that Christ would return and reign for a thousand years on the earth.

Yet, notice what groups taught for and against the millenium:

...the millennarianism of the Jewish Christians...for which the reputation of John (Apoc. xx. 4-6; xxi.) and his peculiar followers, afforded a warrant--this millennarianism became the general belief of the time, and met with almost no other opposition than that given by the Gnostics...The thousand years' reign was represented as the great Sabbath which should begin vегу soon, or as others supposed, after the lapse of the six thousand years of the world's age, with the first resurrection, and should afford great joys to the righteous. Till then the souls of the departed were kept in the underworld, and the opinion that they should be taken up to heaven immediately after death, was considered a gnostic heresy (Gieseler, Johann Karl Ludwig. A Text-book of Church History. Translated by Samuel Davidson, John Winstanley Hull, Mary A. Robinson. Harper & brothers, 1857, Original from the University of Michigan, Digitized Feb 17, 2006, pp. 166-167).

Notice that it was Gnostics that taught against the millenium.

It should also be mentioned that, Marcion, a second century heretic who was denounced by Polycarp of Smyrna, who was against the law was one of the first believed to propose teaching against the millennium.

Did Third and Fourth Century Writers Teach the Thousand Year Reign of Christ?

Hippolytus was, and is still considered to have been, an important Roman Catholic leader:

The feast of St. Hippolytus is kept on 13 August...Hippolytus was the most important theologian and the most prolific religious writer of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era (St. Hippolytus of Rome, The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1910).

Notice what he wrote:

And 6, 000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day "on which God rested from all His works." For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they "shall reign with Christ," when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for "a day with the Lord is as a thousand years."Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6, 000 years must be fulfilled. (Hippolytus. On the HexaËmeron, Or Six Days' Work. From Fragments from Commentaries on Various Books of Scripture. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0502.htm verified 9/17/07).

Notice therefore that "the most important theologian and the most prolific religious writer of the Roman Church in the pre-Constantinian era" taught the 6,000 year plan followed by a thousand year kingdom that lasts one thousand years.

When Origen and some of the other late 2nd/early third century Greco-Roman allegorists started to do away with a literal millennium, there were protests by people who preferred to believe the Bible.  One was an African bishop/pastor named Nepos.

Here is what The Catholic Encyclopedia reported:

An Egyptian bishop, Nepos, taught the Chiliastic error that there would be a reign of Christ upon earth for a thousand years, a period of corporal delights; he founded this doctrine upon the Apocalypse in a book entitled "Refutation of the Allegorizers" (Chapman, John. "Dionysius of Alexandria." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 14 Aug. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05011a.htm>.).

A nineteenth century anti-millennial scholar named Giovanni Battista Pagani went as far as to write the following about Nepos and those who supported the millennium:

…all those  who teach a millennium framed according to Jewish ideas, saying that during the millennium, Mosaic law will be restored…These are called Judaical Millenarians, not as being Jews, but as having invented and upheld a millennium according to Jewish taste.  The principal authors of this error were Nepos, an African Bishop, against whom St. Dionysius wrote his two books on Promises; and Apollinaris, whom St. Epiphanius confound in his work against heresies (Pagani, Giovanni Battista. Published by Charles Dolman, 1855. Original from Oxford University. Digitized Aug 15, 2006, pp. 252-253).

It should be of interest to note that neither Nepos nor Apollinaris were Jews, but were condemned for having a religion that had “Jewish” beliefs.  And since Apollinaris is a Catholic saint (see chapter ), it should be clear that the respected and non-Jewish Christian leaders in the early third century clearly did hold to ideas that were condemned by the allegorists.

The following from Dionysius clearly shows that Nepos was still respected after he died (Nepos died prior to Dionysius’ mid-third century writing of the following) and really did not refute him from a biblical perspective:

But as they produce a certain composition by Nepos, on which they insist very strongly, as if it demonstrated incontestably that there will be a (temporal) reign of Christ upon the earth, I have to say, that in many other respects I accept the opinion of Nepos, and love him at once for his faith, and his laboriousness, and his patient study in the Scriptures, as also for his great efforts in psalmody, by which even now many of the brethren are delighted. I hold the man, too, in deep respect still more, inasmuch as he has gone to his rest before us. Nevertheless the truth is to be prized and reverenced above all things else. And while it is indeed proper to praise and approve ungrudgingly anything that is said aright, it is no less proper to examine and correct anything which may appear to have been written unsoundly. If he had been present then himself, and had been stating his opinions orally, it would have been sufficient to discuss the question together without the use of writing, and to endeavour to convince the opponents, and carry them along by interrogation and reply. But the work is published, and is, as it seems to some, of a very persuasive character; and there are unquestionably some teachers, who hold that the law and the prophets are of no importance, and who decline to follow the Gospels, and who depreciate the epistles of the apostles, and who have also made large promises  regarding the doctrine of this composition, as though it were some great and hidden mystery, and who, at the same time, do not allow that our simpler brethren have any sublime and elevated conceptions either of our Lord's appearing in His glory and His true divinity, or of our own resurrection from the dead, and of our being gathered together to Him, and assimilated to Him, but, on the contrary, endeavour to lead them to hope  for things which are trivial and corruptible, and only such as what we find at present in the kingdom of God. And since this is the case, it becomes necessary for us to discuss this subject with our brother Nepos just as if he were present (Dionysius of Alexandria. From the Two Books on the Promises. Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight. Viewed 8/14/08).

In other words, Nepos knew his Bible, but did not hold to the same position that allegorists like Dionysius of Alexandria held.  But those who held to Judaeo-Christian beliefs, while slightly chastised, simply were almost never condemned by the early allegorists.

Furthermore, notice what Lactantius wrote (late 3rd/early 4th century):

...the dead will rise again, not after a thousand years from their death, but that, when again restored to life, they may reign with God a thousand years. For God will come, that, having cleansed the world from all defilement, He may restore the souls of the righteous to their renewed bodies, and raise them to everlasting blessedness (Lactantius, Book VI, Chapter XXII. Cited in AnteNiceneFathers, Volume 07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, p. 213).

Thus, Lactantius is clearly teaching a millennial reign of the saints on the earth after a resurrection.

The Catholic saint and Bishop Victorinus wrote the following about the Book of Revelation, in likely the late 3rd century:

FROM THE TWENTIETH CHAPTER.

1–3. “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the abyss, and a chain in his hand. And he held the dragon, that old serpent, which is called the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and cast him into the abyss, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be finished: after this he must be loosed a little season.”]...

For we know not of those who seem to stand whether they shall not fall, and of those who are down it is uncertain whether they may rise. Moreover, that he says that he is bound and shut up, that he may not seduce the nations, the nations signify the Church, seeing that of them it itself is formed, and which being seduced, he previously held until, he says, the thousand years should be completed, that is, what is left of the sixth day, to wit, of the sixth age, which subsists for a thousand years; after this he must be loosed for a little season. The little season signifies three years and six months, in which with all his power the devil will avenge himself under Antichrist against the Church. Finally, he says, after that the devil shall be loosed, and will seduce the nations in the whole world, and will entice war against the Church, the number of whose foes shall be as the sand of the sea. (Victorinus. On the Apocalypse. Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. [Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.], p. 359. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07.vi.ii.xviii.html).

Notice something that The Catholic Encyclopedia admits about Victorinus:

St. Victorinus...

Like many of his contemporaries he shared the errors of the Millenarians, and for this reason his works were ranked with the apocrypha by Pope Gelasius. (Clugnet, L. (1912). St. Victorinus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 1, 2013 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15414a.htm)

Notice that like MANY GRECO-ROMAN LEADERS just prior to Constantine, Victorinus taught the millennium. That was a both a biblical doctrine as well as the teaching of most professing Christians prior to Emperor Constantine. The millennium was certainly part of the apostolic tradition (the Apostle John, after all, wrote about it in Revelation 20), thus any who challenge or dismiss it are not being faithful to biblical doctrine nor apostolic tradition.

The Greco-Roman Bishop & Saint Methodius in the late 3rd or early 4th century taught:

...these things, being like air and phantom shadows, foretell the resurrection and the putting up of our tabernacle that had fallen upon the earth, which at length, in the seventh thousand of years, resuming again immortal, we shall celebrate the great feast of true tabernacles in the new and indissoluble creation , the fruits of the earth having been gathered in, and men no longer begetting and begotten, but God resting from the works of creation...

For since in six days God made the heaven and the earth, and finished the whole world, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He had made, and blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, so by a figure in the seventh month, when the fruits of the earth have been gathered in, we are commanded to keep the feast to the Lord, which signifies that, when this world shall be terminated at the seventh thousand years, when God shall have completed the world, He shall rejoice in us...(Methodius. Banquet of the Ten Virgins (Discourse 9, Chapter 1). Translated by William R. Clark. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/062309.htm>)

The Roman Catholic Bishop Ambrose of Milan (a Catholic/Orthodox saint and "doctor of the Church") seemed to understand that there was a future rest that corresponded with the seventh day as he wrote:

The seventh trumpet, then, seems to signify the sabbath of the week, which is reckoned not only in days and years and periods (for which reason the number of the jubilee is sacred), but includes also the seventieth year, when the people returned to Jerusalem, who had remained seventy years in captivity. In hundreds also and in thousands the observation of the sacred number is by no means passed over, for not without a meaning did the Lord say: "I have left the seven thousand men, who have not bent their knees before Baal." Therefore the shadow of the future rest is figured in time in the days, months, and years of this world, and therefore the children of Israel are commanded by Moses, that in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, a rest should be established for all at the "memorial of the trumpets;" and that no servile work should be done, but a sacrifice be offered to God, because that at the end of the week, as it were the sabbath of the world, spiritual and not bodily work is required of us (Ambrose of Milan. Book II. On the Belief in the Resurrection, verse 108).

It is possible that the millennium could start with a Jubilee year (information about the Jubilee is in the article The Day of Atonement--Its Christian Significance).

The Orthodox saint Cyril, who opposed the Judeao-Christians (see The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad) allegorized the millennial teaching in the fourth century according to a modern Catholic scholar:

St. Cyril...the text of Isaiah 11, 6-7, regarding peace among animals.  He used the peace among animals to prove not the millenarianist thesis but that of the coming of Christ in the present Church (Bagatti, Bellarmino.  Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi, 13 Maii 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 14 Junii 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, p. 90).

The historian Philip Schaff noted:

A portion of the Jewish Christians, however, adhered even after the destruction of Jerusalem, to the national customs of their fathers, and propagated themselves in some churches of Syria down to the end of the fourth century, under the name of Nazarenes; a name perhaps originally given in contempt by the Jews to all Christians as followers of Jesus of Nazareth.  They united the observance of the Mosaic ritual law with their belief in the Messiahship and divinity of Jesus, used the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew, deeply mourned the unbelief of their brethren, and hoped for their future conversion in a body and for a millennial reign of Christ on the earth. But they indulged no antipathy to the apostle Paul...They were, therefore, not heretics, but stunted separatist Christians; they stopped at the obsolete position of a narrow and anxious Jewish Christianity, and shrank to an insignificant sect. Jerome says of them, that, wishing to be Jews and Christians alike, they were neither one nor the other (Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. This material has been carefully compared, corrected¸ and emended (according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons) by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998).

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 Augustin) opposed it. (Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Volume 2. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, p. 381)

Note, those that even though they are claimed to have shrank to a small insignificant sect (please article on The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3), that they kept the belief of the millennium even during times when others did not.

The Bible teaches the following about the Feast of Tabernacles:

22 "You shall truly tithe all the increase of your grain that the field produces year by year. 23 And you shall eat before the Lord your God, in the place where He chooses to make His name abide, the tithe of your grain and your new wine and your oil, of the firstborn of your herds and your flocks, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. 24 But if the journey is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, or if the place where the Lord your God chooses to put His name is too far from you, when the Lord your God has blessed you, 25 then you shall exchange it for money, take the money in your hand, and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. 26 And you shall spend that money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen or sheep, for wine or similar drink, for whatever your heart desires; you shall eat there before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your household. 27 You shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no part nor inheritance with you. (Deuteronomy 14:22-27, NKJV).

Most Christians who observe the Feast of Tabernacles save 10% of their income (normally referred to as second tithe or simply festival tithe; see also Is Second Tithe and Third Tithe Still Valid Today?) to finance this. They also point to those verses in Deuteronomy to show that they are to feast and rejoice during this time, which they feel points to the millennial time when Jesus will reign on the Earth for a thousand years. A time they say will be filled with great prosperity--a glimpse of which they get when they spend approximately 10% of their annual income for an eight-day (plus travel time) festival (sometimes, portions of that 10% are used for the other biblical holy days).

The faithful who can in the Church of God also keep the Feast of Tabernacles and believe that it foreshadows the coming millennium, including the premillennial resurrection.

Others, including Catholic saints, have believed that a thousand year reign would happen after Jesus returned:

St. Gaudentius, Bishop of Brescia (friend of St. Ambrose, died 410): “We expect,” he says, “that truly holy day of the seventh thousand years, that shall come after those six days, or six thousand years of time, which, being finished, shall begin that holy rest for all true saints and for all those faithful believers in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (Tract. l0.) (Rossi, G. THE CHRISTIAN TRUMPET, OR, Previsions and Predictions about Impending General Calamities, The Universal Triumph of the Church, The Coming of Antichrist, The Last Judgment, and The End of the World. Compiled by PELLEGRINO [Gaudentius Rossi], A Missionary Priest with Superior's permission. Boston, THOS. B. NOONAND & CO., 1873, p. 163)

The 18th century historian E. Gibbons reported:

The assurance of such a Millennium was carefully inculcated by a succession of fathers...who conversed with the immediate disciples of the apostles, down to Lactantius, who was preceptor to the son of Constantine. Though it might not be universally received, it appears to have been the reigning sentiment of the orthodox believers; and it seems so well adapted to the desires and apprehensions of mankind, that it must have contributed in a very considerable degree to the progress of the Christian faith. But when the edifice of the church was almost completed, the temporary support was laid aside. The doctrine of Christ's reign upon earth was at first treated as a profound allegory, was considered by degrees as a doubtful and useless opinion, and was at length rejected as the absurd invention of heresy and fanaticism (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I, Chapter XV, Section I. ca. 1776-1788. The Modern Library, NY, pp. 403-404).

So sadly, truth handed down by the Bible and the apostles was considered an allegory and then condemned by the many.

Do the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Condemn a Teaching from Their Tradition?

Do Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox scholars realize that the apostles and early church leaders believed in a literal one thousand year reign of Christ on the Earth?

Of course they do.

Do they admit it?

Yes, they do.

First, here is a writing from the Eastern Orthodox:

CHILIASM: Chiliasm, from the Greek word meaning "1000," is a belief based on Revelation 20:2-7. In its classical form (which interprets the Revelation 20 verses verbatim), Chiliasm teaches that Satan will be bound by Christ for 1000 years, at which time Jesus and the Saints will reign on earth, and after which, Satan will be finally defeated and the Eternal Kingdom of God will be inaugurated. In modern times, Chiliasm has been "boiled down" to the teaching that the world will end after one thousand years (or a number of years that is a multiple of one thousand). Though some Ancient Church Fathers of the first three centuries AD had Chiliast leanings, the Orthodox Church formally denounced Chiliasm at the Second Ecumenical Council, in 381 (Orthodox Christian Beliefs and Practices. © 2006-2007 Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. http://www.uocc.ca/en-ca/faith/beliefs/ 08/18/07).

In other words, Orthodox Church scholars know that early Christian leaders, which it calls, "Ancient Church Fathers" taught chiliasm (called millenarianism in Latin), yet it CHANGED that teaching AND CONDEMNED it in a church council (note: Many Russian and American Orthodox still teach the millennium, see Some Similarities and Differences Between the Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God).

Notice that the following Roman Catholic priest admitted that the Apostle John believed in a thousand year reign. First he mentions chapter 20 (XX) of the Apocalypse (the Book of Revelation) as well as what he believes the Apostle John believed:

Chapter XX. relates to the expulsion of Satan from the world for 1,000 years...

In St. John's outlook, however, the end of the world could not have been included the "hour of temptation", because a thousand years must intervene between the days of Antichrist and the end of the world (Kramer H.B. L. The Book of Destiny.  Nihil Obstat: J.S. Considine, O.P., Censor Deputatus.  Imprimatur: +Joseph M. Mueller, Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, January 26, 1956.  Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL), pp. 24,101).

As I am unaware of any 1,000 years where Satan was gone from the world, the fact that the Bible teaches the 1,000 years, and the fact that the last living Apostle (John) believed in the 1,000 years, I believe that those three points should be sufficient evidence to anybody who wants to believe God that the 1,000 years is literal and still to happen.

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes,

The fundamental idea of millenarianism, as understood by Christian writers, may be set forth as follows: At the end of time Christ will return in all His splendour to gather together the just, to annihilate hostile powers, and to found a glorious kingdom on earth for the enjoyment of the highest spiritual and material blessings; He Himself will reign as its king, and all the just, including the saints recalled to life, will participate in it...The duration of this glorious reign of Christ and His saints on earth, is frequently given as one thousand years. Hence it is commonly known as the "millennium", while the belief in the future realization of the kingdom is called "millenarianism" (or "chiliasm", from the Greek chilia, scil. ete)...

...a large number of Christians of the post-Apostolic era, particularly in Asia Minor, yielded so far to Jewish apocalyptic as to put a literal meaning into these descriptions of St. John's Apocalypse; the result was that millenarianism spread and gained staunch advocates not only among the heretics but among the Catholic Christians as well...

Bishop Papias of Hierapolis, a disciple of St. John, appeared as an advocate of millenarianism. He claimed to have received his doctrine from contemporaries of the Apostles, and Irenaeus narrates that other "Presbyteri", who had seen and heard the disciple John, learned from him the belief in millenarianism as part of the Lord's doctrine. According to Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., 111, 39) Papias in his book asserted that the resurrection of the dead would be followed by one thousand years of a visible glorious earthly kingdom of Christ, and according to Irenaeus (Adv. Haereses, V, 33), he taught that the saints too would enjoy a superabundance of earthly pleasures...

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a native of Asia Minor, influenced by the companions of St. Polycarp, adopted millenarian ideas, discussing and defending them in his works against the Gnostics (Adv. Haereses, V, 32)...

A witness for the continued belief in millenarianism in the province of Asia is St. Melito, Bishop of Sardes in the second century...

Gnosticism rejected millenarianism. In Asia Minor, the principal seat of millenarian teachings, the so-called Alogi rose up against millenarianism as well as against Montanism, but they went too far in their opposition, rejecting not only the Apocalypse of St. John, alleging Cerinthus as its author, but his Gospel also...

In the West, the millenarian expectations of a glorious kingdom of Christ and His just, found adherents for a long time. The poet Commodian (Instructiones, 41, 42, 44) as well as Lactantius (Institutiones, VII) proclaim the millennial realm and describe its splendour...

Moreover, the attitude of the Church towards the secular power had undergone a change with closer connection between her and the Roman empire. There is no doubt that this turn of events did much towards weaning the Christians from the old millenarianism (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. Millennium and Millenarianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Yet, even though they know that opposition to millenarianism really came from Gnostics and other Alogi heretics (the Alogi-means against the word--the word of God, that is), scholars of the Catholic Church also teach against this.

Augustine once understood the truth of the millennium, but then changed his mind. Notice what he wrote:

The evangelist John has spoken of these two resurrections in the book which is called the Apocalypse...the Apostle John says in the foresaid book, "And I saw an angel come down from heaven. . . . Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." Those who, on the strength of this passage, have suspected that the first resurrection is future and bodily, have been moved, among other things, specially by the number of a thousand years, as if it were a fit thing that the saints should thus enjoy a kind of Sabbath-rest during that period, a holy leisure after the labors of the six thousand years since man was created, and was on account of his great sin dismissed from the blessedness of paradise into the woes of this mortal life, so that thus, as it is written, "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day," there should follow on the completion of six thousand years, as of six days, a kind of seventh-day Sabbath in the succeeding thousand years; and that it is for this purpose the saints rise, viz., to celebrate this Sabbath. 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; for I myself, too, once held this opinion (Augustine. The City of God, Book XX, Chapter 7).

Since Augustine held this view into the fourth and fifth centuries he also demonstrates that it was an early or original view that the Roman Church changed.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states,

The most powerful adversary of millenarianism was Origen of Alexandria. In view of the Neo-Platonism on which his doctrines were founded and of his spiritual-allegorical method of explaining the Holy Scriptures, he could not side with the millenarians. He combatted them expressly, and, owing to the great influence which his writings exerted on ecclesiastical theology especially in Oriental countries, millenarianism gradually disappeared from the idea of Oriental Christians...

St. Augustine was for a time, as he himself testifies (De Civitate Dei, XX, 7), a pronounced champion of millenarianism; but he places the millennium after the universal resurrection and regards it in a more spiritual light (Sermo, CCLIX). When, however, he accepted the doctrine of only one universal resurrection and a final judgment immediately following, he could no longer cling to the principal tenet of early chiliasm. St. Augustine finally held to the conviction that there will be no millennium...The struggle between Christ and His saints on the one hand and the wicked world and Satan on the other, is waged in the Church on earth; so the great Doctor describes it in his work De Civitate Dei. In the same book he gives us an allegorical explanation of Chapter 20 of the Apocalypse...at all events, the kingdom of Christ, of which the Apocalypse speaks, can only be applied to the Church (De Civitate Dei, XX 5-7). This explanation of the illustrious Doctor was adopted by succeeding Western theologians, and millenarianism in its earlier shape no longer received support...

The Middle Ages were never tainted with millenarianism; it was foreign both to the theology of that period and to the religious ideas of the people. (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. Millennium and Millenarianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

It is bizarre that on the one hand, Origen believed in a physical resurrection, but on the other hand rejected the millennium. It is sad that the Bible clearly teaches more than one resurrection (see Revelation 20:5, 7-13), but that Augustine abandoned the Bible on that, the millennial teachings, and many others. Throughout history, although the Romans and Orthodox did not normally teach it, some small groups did:

The saints are then to reign with Christ a thousand years…Many early Christians took this as a literal description…Millenarians, i.e., believers in the reign of a thousand years. This belief was common in the early Church...It appeared from time to time in the Middle Ages, and is still advocated by some of the more obscure sects...

...the time of the First Resurrection will end...It is the time when the Seventh Millennium will set in, and will be the day of Sabbath in the plan of creation...It has been the common opinion among Jews, Gentiles, and Latin and Greek Christians, that the present evil world will last no more than 6,000 years...Christians and Jews, from the beginning of Christianity, and before, have taught that 6,000 years after the creation of Adam and Eve, the consummation will occur. The period after the consummation is to be the seventh day of creation--the Sabbath...St. Jerome said, "It is a common belief that the world will last 6,000 years."

...I believe that as the last days come to an end so will the sixth day of creation (Culligan E. The Last World War and the End of Time. The book was blessed by Pope Paul VI, 1966. TAN Books, Rockford (IL), pp. 67, 113-115).

So, no longer teaching the millennium, nor the 6000 year plan (for more details see Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?) are changes in Roman Catholic understanding. Because of this many Catholics will not know what the end will come (see also Can the Great Tribulation Begin in 2009, 2010, or 2011?). Notice that late as 1966, a Roman Pontiff blessed a book that endorsed a version of millenarianism.

In contrast to Origen and Augustine, Tertullian believed in both the millennium and the resurrections:

But we do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven, only in another state of existence; inasmuch as it will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem, "let down from heaven," which the apostle also calls "our mother from above;" and, while declaring that our politeuma, or citizenship, is in heaven, he predicates of it that it is really a city in heaven. This both Ezekiel had knowledge of and the Apostle John beheld...

We say that this city has been provided by God for receiving the saints on their resurrection, and refreshing them with the abundance of all really spiritual blessings, as a recompense for those which in the world we have either despised or lost; since it is both just and God-worthy that His servants should have their joy in the place where they have also suffered affliction for His name's sake. Of the heavenly kingdom this is the process. After its thousand years are over, within which period is completed the resurrection of the saints, who rise sooner or later according to their deserts there will ensue the destruction of the world and the conflagration of all things at the judgment: we shall then be changed in a moment into the substance of angels, even by the investiture of an incorruptible nature, and so be removed to that kingdom in heaven of which we have now been treating, just as if it had not been predicted by the Creator, and as if it were proving Christ to belong to the other god and as if he were the first and sole revealer of it (Tertullian. Against Marcion, Book III, Chapter 25. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3. Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Thus, essentially it is admitted that the millennial view was held by many early leaders, but that finally it was discarded by what became the Roman Catholic Church, because of the views of the heretic Origen. The millennium was abandoned even though this was a view held by a variety of Catholic-declared saints, including Melito of Sardis. The above writing was called Against Marcion, who was believed to be among the first to teach against the millennium.

And it is important to note that Roman Catholic scholars admit that the main teacher against it, based his arguments on Neo-Platonistic concepts, and not the Bible! It is probably because of Origen (who the Roman Church later seemed to condemn as a heretic at the synod of Constantinople of 543) that those who professed Christianity did not emphasize the kingdom of God like the Bible and the early church did.

It seems highly likely that Origen was somewhat influenced by the great heretic Marcion (also branded as a heretic/apostate by the Roman Church) who did not believe that Jesus was going to actually come again (the idea of a millennial reign is most often tied in with the idea of Jesus' second coming). Marcion would have preceded Origen by several decades.

One Protestant scholar 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 (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, p. 65).

Even the Rheims' New Testament, which is the preferred Roman Catholic translation into the English language, shows that Satan will be bound and there will be a thousand year reign:

AND I saw an Angel descending from heaven, having the key of the bottomless depth, and a great chain in his hand. 2. And he apprehended the dragon the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3. And he threw him into the depth, and shut him up, and sealed over him, that he seduce no
more the nations, till the thousand years be consummate. and after these things he must be loosed a little time. 4. And I saw seats: and they sat upon them, and judgment was given them, and the souls of the beheaded for the testimony of JESUS, and for the word of God, and that adored not the beast, nor his image, nor received his character in their foreheads or in their hands, and have lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5. The rest of the dead lived not, till the thousand years be consummate. This is the first resurrection 6. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection. in these the second death hath not power: but they shall be priests of God and of Christ: and shall reign with him a thousand years. (Apocalypse 20:1-6; otherwise known as Revelation 20:1-6).

Even though the Roman Catholic approved English translation of the Latin Vulgate of the New Testament teaches a literal millennial reign with Satan being bound a thousand years, most Roman Catholic scholars do not accept that plain teaching. The question is should true Christians rely on Tradition and Scripture for their understanding of doctrine?

When Peter and some of the disciples were confronted with the religious leaders of their day telling them to not teach what Jesus taught:

Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).

When a late second century bishop of Rome tried to get Polycrates of Ephesus to go along with Rome's change of Passover on the 14th of Nisan to Sunday, he replied:

I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man.' (Polycrates. Letter to Victor. As quoted by Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 24).

Did People In the Middle Ages Believe in a Literal Millennium?

Historical evidence shows that there were groups in different geographical locations in the Middle Ages who believed in a literal millennial reign of Christ on the earth.

Gerhard O. Marx reported:

Born at Szent-Erzebet (Sankt Elizabeth) in the province of Udvarhely, Eossi accepted the Unitarian faith in 1567. Not satisfied that the Unitarians were teaching all the Biblical truths, he set out to study the Bible thoroughly. Having lost his wife and three sons, he spent his time studying the Holy Scriptures till he had formulated a set of Biblical Doctrines for his followers, already keeping the Sabbath. During the twelve years he was leader over God’s Church, he enjoined the following doctrines upon his followers:
1) The Passover — Days of Unleavened Bread — Pentecost — Day of Atonement — Feast of Tabernacles — The Last Great Day. During the Passover season, no leavened bread was eaten. Obviously, Easter, New Year, Christmas and Sunday were rejected as days invented by Rome. They also adhered to the Sacred Calendar.
2) The Ten Commandments.
3) The Health Laws (no eating of blood, pig, strangled animals etc.)
4) The Millennium, to last 1000 years, at the beginning of which Christ will return and regather both Judah and Israel"
(The Beliefs and Practices of the Church of God in Transylvania During the Middle Ages, 1588-1623," by, Gerhard O. Marx).

Some of those Sabbath-keepers were probably part of the Thyatira portion of the Church of God.

The Catholic Encyclopedia noted:

...the Anabaptists, believed in a new, golden age under the sceptre of Christ, after the overthrow of the papacy and secular empires. In 1534 the Anabaptists set up in Münster (Westphalia) the new Kingdom of Zion, which advocated sharing property and women in common, as a prelude to the new kingdom of Christ.

In the sixteenth century, "Anabaptists" taught millenarianism and were condemned by Roman Catholics for that belief (Birch D. Trial Tribulation & Triumph. Queenship Publishing, Goleta (CA), 1996, p. lvii). Some "Anabaptists" were part of the Sardis portion of the Church of God.

In spite of sporadic condemnations, not all Catholic nor Protestant scholars after the Middle Ages taught against the millennium. Notice the following Roman Catholic admission:

Some Catholic theologians of the nineteenth century championed a moderate, modified millenarianism, especially in connection with their explanations of the Apocalypse; as Pagani (The End of the World, 1856), Schneider (Die chiliastische Doktrin, 1859), Rohling (Erklärung der Apokalypse des hl. lohannes, 1895; Auf nach Sion, 1901), Rougeyron Chabauty (Avenir de l'Eglise catholique selon le Plan Divin, 1890). (Kirsch J.P. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. Millennium and Millenarianism. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Thus the millennium was not resoundly condemned within Catholicism into the 19th century.

Here is a comment from a Presbyterian scholar, Dr. N. West:

The circumstance that John, six times, in six consecutive verses of the same chapter, emphasizes the Kingdom as the reign of " a thousand years," vacates not the fact that, in connection with the sufferings of Christ, it was a chief part in the burden of "all that God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began." (Acts iii, 21.) And the circumstances that some, who, in ancient as in modern times, have abused the doctrine to a earnal sense, have been called "Chiliasts," or "Millennarians," vacates not the fact that a true Christian Chiliasm was the orthodox faith of the primitive Church in its purest days. (West N. HISTORY OF THE PRE-MILLENNARIAN DOCTRINE. The Prophetic Conference: New-York, October 30, 31, and November 1, 1878 : Christ's second coming. Issue 46 of New York Tribune, 1878. Original from Harvard University, Digitized Aug 20, 2008, p. 81)

As mentioned before, as late as 1966, a version of millenarianism was in a book blessed by a Catholic Pope (Culligan E. The Last World War and the End of Time. The book was blessed by Pope Paul VI, 1966. TAN Books, Rockford (IL), pp. 67, 113-115).

Even in the 21st century, some Catholics believe in a soon coming millennium:

Revelation 20: Thousand-year Reign of God's Peace

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Revelation 20:1-3 states, "Then I saw an angel come down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a heavy chain. He seized the ancient serpent, which is the Devil or Satan, and tied it up for a thousand years and threw it into the abyss, which he locked over and sealed, so that it could no longer lead the nations astray until the thousand years are completed."

Please pray and petition Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to fulfill the biblical prophecy as written in the Book of Revelation in order to change the course of history into an era (Millennium) of peace. The biblical scripture is linked to a period of peace as foretold by Our Lady of Fatima during her 1917 apparitions in Fatima, Portugal. (Revelation 20: Thousand-year Reign of God's Peace. 5/8/2009. Copyright 2009 Loci B. Lenar. http://www.catholic.org/prwire/headline.php?ID=6747 viewed 05/10/09).

And while I do not consider that the real Mary was in Fatima (see Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions), it is true that the Bible teaches that there is a future millennial reign coming.

The Catholic Church is Now Officially Teaching the Doctrine of a Literal Kingdom of God with Christ Reigning on Earth is Considered to be a Doctrine of Antichrist

In the twentieth century, some Catholics apparently were concerned so much about the millennial teaching that the Vatican decided to act against it.

Why?

Well after Adolf Hitler's "third reich", which was supposed to be a millennial rule, was losing WWII, the Vatican decided to officially distance itself from millennial teachings. Notice the following:

Millenium {sic}: Since the Holy Office decreed (July 21, 1944) that it cannot safely be taught that Christ at His Second Coming will reign visibly with only some of His saints (risen from the dead) for a period of time before the final and universal judgment, a spiritual millennium is seen in Apoc. 20:4-6. St. John gives a spiritual recapitulation of the activity of Satan, and the spiritual reign of the saints with Christ in heaven and in His Church on earth (LeFrois, Bernard J. Eschatological Interpretation of the Apocalypse. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. XIII, pp. 17-20; Cited in Culleton RG. The Reign of Antichrist, 1951. Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL), 1974, p. 9).

Notice that the above suggests that Satan has been gone a thousand years. Does any thinking person believe that Satan was ever bound and away from the earth for 1,000 years after Revelation (which Catholics often refer to as the Apocalypse) was written? This has never happened literally or spiritually--though it will in the millennium (see also The Day of Atonement--Its Christian Significance). Nor have I seen any credible Catholic writer attempt to explain when planet Earth ever had one thousand years without being influenced by Satan.

Why might the Vatican have issued an anti-millennial decree in 1944?

I suspect that it may have been then, because by that time, Herbert W. Armstrong (a Church of God leader) was proclaiming Christ's gospel of the kingdom enough on radio throughout North America that the Roman Catholic leaders decided to more officially distance themselves from that belief. Also, at that time, it was fairly clear that Adolph Hitler was not going to bring in a thousand year German-dominated reign, as he had indicated he would. One or both of those facts may have been factors in the timing of the Vatican's announcement.

And while this view seemed to soften in the mid 1960s, the Vatican has gotten tougher on this is in more recent history.

The Roman Catholic Church, in spite of the fact that it admits that many of its claimed early saints taught the millennium, now strongly condemns this belief. Notice:

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, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism. (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 194).

It should be noted that the millennial teaching appears to be the only doctrine associated with Antichrist that is condemned in the current official Catechism of the Catholic Church (which is the first new one in hundreds of years). The one that has the imprimatur of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger who is now called Pope Emeritus and was Pope Benedict XVI.

Notice something else that Joseph Ratzinger wrote in a paper titled The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure prior to becoming pope:

"...both Chiliasm [the teaching of the Millennium] and Montanism were declared heretical and were excluded from the universal church; for they both denied this vision [the "Christ is the end of the ages" vision] and awaited still another period of more definitive salvation to follow after the age of Christ" (as cited in Birch, pp. 515-516; note the comments within [] were from the Catholic writer Birch).

This is an odd statement for several reasons. It was the leaders in Asia Minor who stood for the Millennium and were the first to oppose Montanism--whom the Roman Catholics originally tolerated (please see the article Location of the Early Church)--hence the belief in one is NOT necessarily related to the other.

The other reason this condemnation is odd, is that even though Origen was opposed to the millennium Origen also taught that there was definitive salvation after what then Cardinal Ratzinger calls "the age of Christ" (please see the article Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism). Yet pontiff emeritus Benedict XVI has publicly praised Origin as a "true teacher" (for documentation, see What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation?).

It appears to me that the millennial view is being so definitely condemned now, because we are getting so close to that time when the Church of Rome is expected to compromise more and the Pope has prepared his followers to do that. It seems like the final revised Roman Church intends to warn against following any (like the actual two witnesses) who will be teaching the original millennial doctrine. Of course, there still are Catholics who accept the biblical teaching on the millennium--but they are becoming more and more of a minority within their church.

Why else would certain of the Catholics beginning in the 20th century take so many public stands against the millennial teaching?

I believe that there are basically two reasons.

The first is that as we get closer to the end of the Church age, Catholic private prophecies indicate that an apparently small religion that denies the Catholic view of the Godhead will rise up and cause them problems. Notice three such "prophecies" below:

Ven. Sor Marianne de Jesus Torres (17th Century)...Our Lady told Sister Marianne:..."But this knowledge will only become known to the general public in the 20th. Century. "During this epoch the Church will find itself attacked by waves by the secret sect..." (Birch, p. 326).

Jane Le Royer (d. 1798) Sister of the Nativity..."When the time of the reign of Antichrist is near, a false religion will appear which be opposed to the unity of God and His Church. This will cause the greatest schism the world has ever known. The nearer the time of the end, the more darkness of Satan will spread on Earth, the greater will be the number of children of corruption, and the number of Just will correspondingly diminish (Culligan, pp.127,128).

Nun Anne Catherine Emmerich (about 1820): "I heard that Lucifer (if I don't mistake) will be freed again for awhile fifty or sixty years before the year 2000 A.D. I have forgotten many of the other dates were told (Emmerich AC. The Life of Lord Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations. Schmoger edition, Vol. IV. Nihil Obstat: D. Jaegher, 14 Februari 1914. Imprimatur: A.C. De Schrevel, Brugis, 14 Februari 1914. Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL), 2004: pp. 353-354).

I believe that the Philadelphia-portion of the Church of God is the secret sect that is being discussed above and that we have affected the Roman Catholics in waves, starting with Herbert W. Armstrong--who put out the Plain Truth magazine for between 50-60 years before 2000 A.D. And thus, I suspect that it is Herbert W. Armstrong that the demons (I believe that demons influenced many Catholic private prophecies) had Nun Emmerich see as Lucifer or more likely, being under Lucifer's influence as Herbert Armstrong's widely proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom message was the one that seems to best fit the precise timing of that prophecy.

The second reason is that I believe that Satan knows that eventually the true remnant of the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God will have successfully preached the gospel of the kingdom, which the Roman Catholic Church now condemns, with two coming rather large waves (Matthew 24:14; Revelation 11:3-7) to be followed by a final "wave."

Notice that Jesus said that the gospel of the kingdom would be preached to the world immediately before the end would come:

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).

Satan, who is familiar with scripture (Matthew 4:6), must know this--so our more successful preaching would be the next major "wave". Now just before it is time to flee to a place in the wilderness (Matthew 24:20-21), this preaching abolut the millennial kingdom apparently will trigger the persecution in Daniel 11:32-35 and Revelation 12:13-15 (some Catholic prophecies also seem to show that the Catholic leaders will persecute non-Catholics just before and during the Great Tribulation, which appears to include those who successfully proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom as a witness).

The final major "wave" will be the two witnesses (Revelation 11:3-12) and their supporters (please see the article Who Are The Two Witnesses?).

Other private Catholic "prophecies" indicate that when their Great Monarch reigns (who is discussed in the article Who is the King of the North?) there will be prophets (probably The Two Witnesses) who essentially will preach that Jesus is coming to establish His kingdom--but the Catholic prophecies erroneously indicate that the prophets who do so will be false prophets.

The final "wave" will apparently be when Jesus comes and establishes His kingdom on the earth as a variety of private Catholic prophecies specifically warn about one to come at the end who will say He is Jesus, will keep the Sabbath, will be opposed to idols, and essentially eliminate the Catholicism (e.g. Dionysius in Prophecy for Today by Edward Connor, 4th ed. TAN Books, Rockford (IL) 1984, p.85).

Because of this, I believe that Satan moved the Catholics in the late 20th century to indicate that the millennial teaching is the major doctrine of Antichrist. (For more information, see also the article Do Catholic Prophecies About Antichrist Warn Against Jesus?).

It should also be understood that various Catholic writings urge/suggest that their followers vigorously persecute those that they believe will be associated with the final Antichrist. Those who stand by the truth on the biblical doctrine on the millennium will be subject to intense persecution--and that time may not be too many years away! (See also Persecutions by Church and State).

What Does the Church of God Teach About the Millennium?

The true Church of God, which is neither Roman Catholic, Protestant, nor Eastern Orthodox, not only teaches that there will be a literal one thousand year reign of Christ on the earth, it also recognizes that the biblical Feast of Tabernacles pictures this one thousand year reign.

The following is from the Continuing Church of God:

Jesus Christ and His saints will reign on the earth for a thousand years (Revelation 5:10; 20:4-6).

The Bible teaches that this millennial kingdom will be wonderful (Isaiah 2; 9; 11:1-10; 35:1-9;  Ezekiel 34:21-29, Micah 4:1-4; Acts 3:19-21) and that the saints will then reign with Jesus (Revelation 20:4-6).   Satan the devil will be banished during this time (Revelation 20:1-6), and it is a time of rest and abundance. (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God)

Notice also what the late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:

Feast of Tabernacles...

This festival is the picture of the Millennium!

Pictures the Millennium

To portray His plan, God took the yearly material harvest seasons in ancient Israel as the picture of the spiritual harvest of souls. In the Holy Land there are two annual harvests. The first is the spring grain harvest. Second comes the main harvest.

Now notice when the Festival of Tabernacles is to be held "at the year's end" (Exodus 34:22). In this verse the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths is specifically called the "feast of ingathering." The harvest year ended at the beginning of autumn. Just as Pentecost pictures the early harvest this church age, so the Festival of Ingatherings or Tabernacles pictures the fall harvest the great harvest of souls in the Millennium!

Today is not the only day of salvation. Today is a day of salvation. Isaiah said so: chapter 49, verse 8. In fact, the original Greek words of Paul in II Corinthians 6:2 should be translated "a day of salvation," not "the day of salvation."

Turn to the book of Zechariah to understand this more thoroughly. In the 12th and 13th chapters we have a picture of Christ returning and the reconciliation of the world commencing. Here the meaning of the Festivals of Trumpets and Atonement is made plain.

Next, notice the 14th chapter. The time is the Millennium. "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one . . . there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited" (verses 9, 11). It is the time when "living waters" salvation, the Holy Spirit "shall go out from Jerusalem" (verse 8). The "waters" are literal as well as figurative. God often pictures His spiritual plan by material events.

In that day, when the earth is safely inhabited, when the Holy Spirit is granted to all mortal flesh, what happens? "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles" (verse 16).

Gentiles Forced to Keep the Feast of Tabernacles

Notice this 16th verse of Zechariah 14. After Christ returns, the nations mortal Gentiles who have not yet received salvation will come to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles! How could they keep a festival that was abolished at the cross? They could keep it only if it were commanded forever.

And what will happen if they refuse to obey God? "And it shall be, that who so will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain." Strong words these!

The nations will be forced to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, from year to year, when Christ is ruling with a rod of iron!

And if the nations still won't obey? ". . . there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen" there are still heathen nations just beginning to learn the way of salvation "that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment . . . of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles" (verses 18-19).

To receive salvation even the Gentiles will have to keep this festival. Of course, it is commanded forever!

Now we customarily quote Isaiah 66:23, showing that the Sabbath will be kept in the Millennium, as proof we must keep it now. Will we, then, when we read Zechariah 14:16, showing that the Feast of Tabernacles will be kept in the Millennium, be consistent by keeping it today?

Can we qualify as a son of God a king and priest ruling with Christ on His throne, assisting Christ at that time, if we now refuse to keep these festivals? Notice that Christ kept the Feast of Tabernacles. The Apostle John devoted an entire chapter of his gospel the seventh chapter to describe what Jesus said and did during the Feast of Tabernacles in the last year of His ministry.

Why Called the Feast of Tabernacles

During the Millennium, the Kingdom of God into which we may be born will rule the nations which are composed of mortal men begotten by the Spirit of God. The billions of mortal men alive during the Millennium will still be heirs to the Kingdom of God. They will not yet have inherited it as long as they remain mortal flesh, for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 15:50). "Ye must be born again" "of the Spirit" to inherit the Kingdom, said Jesus.

Remember that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were merely heirs when they dwelled on earth (Hebrews 11:9). While heirs they dwelled in tabernacles or booths, sojourning in the land of promise. Booths or temporary dwellings pictured that they were not yet inheritors. Thus we read of the Feast of Tabernacles that "ye shall dwell in booths seven days . . . that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 23:42-43). Israel dwelled in booths in the wilderness before they entered the promised land. Those booths pictured that they were only heirs. Even during the Millennium, when the Kingdom of God is ruling over mortal nations, the people will be only heirs to the Kingdom. They must overcome and grow in knowledge and wisdom to inherit the promises.

What a marvelous picture. God says of Ephraim (a type of all Israel) that they will "dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast" (Hosea 12:9). Israel, in the wilderness, was a type of all people who must go through trials and tribulations to inherit the promises. They were wanderers, waiting to inherit the promises of salvation.

The contention, held by some sects, that mortal human beings in the Millennium will remain flesh and blood forever is plainly denied by the Feast of Tabernacles, for the festival itself points toward an eternal inheritance.

Besides, after Jesus gathers the Church to Himself, and after He is seated on His throne where we will be ruling with Him, He will gather the nations before Him and say: "Inherit the Kingdom" (Matthew 25:34).

Yet Another Festival!

Did you notice that the Feast of Tabernacles is only the sixth festival? There is yet another the seventh!

The Feast of Tabernacles is, strictly speaking, seven days long to picture the entire Millennium. Seven is God's number of completeness. Therefore, there must also be seven festivals. Let us notice where it is mentioned: "The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord . . . On the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you . . . it is a [day of] solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein" (Leviticus 23:34, 36).

This eighth day, technically a separate feast, is called "the last day, that great day of the feast" (John 7:37).

What does this final holy day represent?

Notice what Jesus preached about on that day: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink . . . out of his belly [innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive . . .)" (John 7:37-39).

This was Jesus' sermon giving the meaning of the last great day!

Now turn to Revelation 20. After the Millennium, what happens? A resurrection! The dead stand before God. This couldn't include true Christians today, as they will appear before the judgment seat when Christ returns. It couldn't refer to those converted during the Millennium. They have already inherited the Kingdom during the Millennium, after living out a normal life-span. Those in this resurrection must be those who died in ignorance in past ages! They are not brought to life until after the Millennium (Revelation 20:5).

Pictures the Day of Judgment

This is that judgment day mentioned in Matthew 10: 15. It is a time when Gentiles who died in ignorance will be given an opportunity to receive salvation. Ezekiel 16:53-55 makes this very plain. Even those in Israel who died in their sins will be given their first opportunity to understand the truth of God and His way (Ezekiel 37). The prophet wrote that God would pour out His Spirit on those resurrected (verse 14). This is precisely the salvation that Jesus mentioned in His sermon on that great day of the feast in the autumn of AD 30.

This eighth day, which immediately follows the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, pictures the completion of the plan of redemption. It is just prior to the new heaven and the new earth. All parents and children, young and old will be resurrected.

Notice that the "book of life" typifying salvation is opened (Revelation 20:12). Revelation presents the final view of the "judgment day" as the present material heaven and earth are perishing and the faithful are receiving their eternal reward at the throne of Christ. The wicked those who disobey are seen perishing in the lake of fire!

What a marvelous plan! All will have an equal opportunity.

This festival is the picture of the Millennium!

Pictures the Millennium

To portray His plan, God took the yearly material harvest seasons in ancient Israel as the picture of the spiritual harvest of souls. In the Holy Land there are two annual harvests. The first is the spring grain harvest. Second comes the main harvest.

Now notice when the Festival of Tabernacles is to be held "at the year's end" (Exodus 34:22). In this verse the Festival of Tabernacles or Booths is specifically called the "feast of ingathering." The harvest year ended at the beginning of autumn. Just as Pentecost pictures the early harvest this church age, so the Festival of Ingatherings or Tabernacles pictures the fall harvest the great harvest of souls in the Millennium!

Today is not the only day of salvation. Today is a day of salvation. Isaiah said so: chapter 49, verse 8. In fact, the original Greek words of Paul in II Corinthians 6:2 should be translated "a day of salvation," not "the day of salvation."

Turn to the book of Zechariah to understand this more thoroughly. In the 12th and 13th chapters we have a picture of Christ returning and the reconciliation of the world commencing. Here the meaning of the Festivals of Trumpets and Atonement is made plain.

Next, notice the 14th chapter. The time is the Millennium. "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one . . . there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited" (verses 9, 11). It is the time when "living waters" salvation, the Holy Spirit "shall go out from Jerusalem" (verse 8). The "waters" are literal as well as figurative. God often pictures His spiritual plan by material events.

In that day, when the earth is safely inhabited, when the Holy Spirit is granted to all mortal flesh, what happens? "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles" (verse 16)...

Why Called the Feast of Tabernacles

During the Millennium, the Kingdom of God into which we may be born will rule the nations which are composed of mortal men begotten by the Spirit of God. The billions of mortal men alive during the Millennium will still be heirs to the Kingdom of God. They will not yet have inherited it as long as they remain mortal flesh, for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (I Corinthians 15:50). "Ye must be born again" "of the Spirit" to inherit the Kingdom, said Jesus.

Remember that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were merely heirs when they dwelled on earth (Hebrews 11:9). While heirs they dwelled in tabernacles or booths, sojourning in the land of promise. Booths or temporary dwellings pictured that they were not yet inheritors. Thus we read of the Feast of Tabernacles that "ye shall dwell in booths seven days . . . that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 23:42-43). Israel dwelled in booths in the wilderness before they entered the promised land. Those booths pictured that they were only heirs. Even during the Millennium, when the Kingdom of God is ruling over mortal nations, the people will be only heirs to the Kingdom. They must overcome and grow in knowledge and wisdom to inherit the promises.

What a marvelous picture. God says of Ephraim (a type of all Israel) that they will "dwell in tabernacles, as in the days of the solemn feast" (Hosea 12:9). Israel, in the wilderness, was a type of all people who must go through trials and tribulations to inherit the promises. They were wanderers, waiting to inherit the promises of salvation.

The contention, held by some sects, that mortal human beings in the Millennium will remain flesh and blood forever is plainly denied by the Feast of Tabernacles, for the festival itself points toward an eternal inheritance.

Besides, after Jesus gathers the Church to Himself, and after He is seated on His throne where we will be ruling with Him, He will gather the nations before Him and say: "Inherit the Kingdom" (Matthew 25:34).

(Armstrong HW. Pagan Holidays or God's Holy Days Which?)

(More information on that Holy Day can be found in the article The Feast of Tabernacles.)

The observance of the Fall Holy Days occurred by much of the true Church throughout history.

The Apostle Paul, after the Christ's death and resurrection indicated that it was important to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. As it is noted in Acts 18:21:

I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.

Even though it was condemned by the Roman Catholic saint John Chrysostom, when he preached in 387 A.D. he noted that some were keeping it in his area:

The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right now...If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, ours are lies...Does God hate their festivals and do you share in them? He did not say this or that festival, but all of them together. (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2. Preached at Antioch, Syria in the Fall of 387 AD. Medieval Sourcebook: Saint John Chrysostom (c.347-407) : Eight Homilies Against the Jews. Fordham University. http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/chrysostom-jews6.html 12/10/05).

It should be noted that by him condemning all the "Jewish" festivals, that John Chrysostom was also condemning his own church which observed Passover (renamed Easter in some languages) and Pentecost. If some of those days are valid, would not all of them be?

Lutherans and Others Who Teach Amillennialism

While certain Protestant groups do accept that there will be a literal one thousand year reign of Christ on the earth, many Protestant groups do not. But most evangelical Protestants do not seem to know that the early Lutherans opposed it.

Thus from the teachings in the Bible, through the earliest centuries of Christianity, and into the Middle Ages, it is clear that some who have professed Christ have taught about the millennium. And of course, many have taught it since the Middle Ages.

What about the early Protestant reformers?

Luther and Melanchthon, Zwingli and Bullinger, and Calvin and Beza repudiated the millenarian doctrine (Cogley, Richard W.  The fall of the Ottoman Empire and the restoration of Israel in the "Judeo-centric" strand of Puritan millenarianism. Church History.  June 1, 2003.  http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0199-3064883/The-fall-of-the-Ottoman.html viewed 12/24/07).

Protestants, as well as Catholics/Orthodox, who hold to anti-millennial views are often referred to in modern times as amillennialists. Here is essentially the Wikipedia definition, plus some comments from a Protestant scholar:

Amillennialism (Latin: a- "not" + mille "thousand" + annum "year") is a view in Christian eschatology named for its denial of a future, thousand-year, physical reign of Jesus Christ on the earth, as espoused in the premillennial and some postmillennial views of the Book of Revelation, chapter 20 By contrast, the amillennial view holds that the number of years in Revelation 20 is a symbolic number, not a literal description; that the millennium has already begun and is identical with the church age (or more rarely, that it ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70); and that while Christ's reign is spiritual in nature during the millennium, at the end of the church age, Christ will return in final judgment and establish permanent physical reign (Wikipedia).

...amillennialism...denies a literal millennial kingdom on earth following the Second Coming, is essentially negative and hinders intelligent literal interpretation of prophecy...Within twentieth century amillennialism the neolithic interpretation...considers the kingdom being fulfilled now in the experience of the individual Christian...All liberal theologians are also amillennial in the sense that they do not believe any future millennium will ever take place (Walvoord, John F. The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook. Victor Books, Wheaton (IL), 1990, pp. 9,16-17).

Notice that in order to be a "believer" and an amillennialist that one has to decide that clear literal statements in the Book of Revelation do not mean what they say. The excuse the Catholics tend to give for that is that since the millennial teaching was not retained as one of their traditions, then they have the right to decide what parts of prophecy are literal vs. allegorical. Protestant amillennialists essentially seem to include those who do not promote the literal acceptance of scripture and tend to be following the heretic Marcion--who first introduced amillennialism, minimizing the Old Testament, and other teachings that some Protestants embrace.

The immediate followers of Martin Luther actually condemned the Anabaptists for not accepting infant baptism and for teaching the millennial reign of Christ as the Lutherans opposed that biblical teaching:

Article IX: Of Baptism... They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children...

Article XVII: Of Christ's Return to Judgment. Also they teach that at the Consummation of the World Christ will appear for judgment and will raise up all the dead; He will give to the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the devils He will condemn to be tormented without end. They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils. They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed. (The Confession of Faith: Which Was Submitted to His Imperial Majesty Charles V. At the Diet of Augsburg in the Year 1530. by Philip Melanchthon, 1497-1560. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau. Published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 95.)

There would have been no reason to condemn groups for specific teachings if those groups did not teach them. Hence, not just Catholic sources, but Protestant ones as well have condemned millenarianism.

Any who wonder if they should accept the testimony in Revelation 20 as literally true may wish to read the article What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation?

Conclusion

The Old Testament, New Testament, early writings, and even Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox sources confirm that the early church taught that there will be a thousand year millennial reign of Christ with His people on the earth.

Thus, even though it is now a position condemned by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, people they venerate as "saints" including the Apostle John (late 1st century), Papias (early 2nd century), Justin Martyr (middle 2nd century), Melito (middle 2nd century), Irenaeus (late 2nd century), Hippolytus (early 3rd century), and Ambrose (4th century) all believed and taught a millennial reign that most indicated came after six, one thousand year, days (and even at first apparently so did Jerome and Augustine).

It appears that the first to object to the teaching were those such as Marcion and various Gnostics later branded as heretics/apostates by both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. But sadly, later (around the end of the fourth/early fifth century) many in the Greco-Roman Churches adopted an anti-millennialist view.

Throughout history people who professed Christ taught that there would be a one thousand year reign of Christ on earth, normally expected to happen when the 6,000 years were up. Also, as there has never been a thousand years of peace on this Earth, the time for Satan to be bound for a thousand years is still in the future.

The last days of the 6,000 years for humanity to rule itself are almost over (for more information, please see the article Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan?). We are living in the end-times. The time just prior to the Great Tribulation, which will be followed by Christ's return and the establishment of His millennial reign on this earth.

God's true Church will proclaim this true doctrine. And even though it is strongly condemned now by the Roman Catholic Church, it will be proclaimed by God's two witnesses during the Great Tribulation (another article of related interest may be Do Catholic Prophecies About Antichrist Warn Against Jesus?).

There is no verse in the Bible that contradicts the notion that there will be a literal thousand year reign of Christ on the earth. Those that take the Bible literally, seem to understand that there really will be a literal thousand year reign of Christ on the earth. Do you?

A sermon of related interest is titled The Millennium.

Thiel B., Ph.D. Did The Early Church Millenarianism? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2006/2007/2008/ 2009/2010/2011/2013/2014 0717

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