History of millenialism

Hey can any one tell me about the history of the millenialist interpretation of the book of revelations? I know the story but I am curious to find out when it was born and proliferated.

also any links to info in this would be great to.


Although many advocates of this view claim that millenarianism (and I’m assuming you’re talking about the kind popular with some Protestants today, ala “Left Behind” and a literal thousand year earthly reign by Jesus) was widely believed by the early Church Fathers. Actually only some of them did, and I no time was it ever unanimous, let alone official, Church teaching. By the fourth century, it had largely fell out of favor.

It made it’s major appearance among Protestants in the mid-1800’s where, combined with dispensationalism, spawned a number of millenarian groups like the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It has continued more or less strong since then enjoying resurgences in the 70’s with the popularity of “The Late Great Planet Earth” and in the last few years (probably because of Y2K) with the “Left Behind” series.

In short, the type of millenarianism popular today is only about 150 years old, based on faulty biblical interpretation, and has been condemned by the Church as error.

For more info, see this article.


This same author has several other good articles on this subject on his website, found here:


There are various kinds of millenialism. It’s quite true that dispensational premillenialism is a modern notion. But straightforward premillenialism (Christ will return and set up a kingdom that will last a thousand years before the final End) does appear to have been the dominant opinion of the Church in the second century. At least, all the Fathers of that era of whom I’m aware taught it–and I’ve read most of them. This isn’t a huge body of material, and a lot has been lost. So it’s possible that there were non-millenialists who haven’t come down to us. But such arguments from silence are very dubious. The downfall of millenialism appears to have been Constantine–once the Church was tolerated, most Christians concluded that the reign of Christ was being fulfilled in their own day.

Postmillenialism, which is what I’d argue the Catechism condemns under the term “millenialism,” was common in the Middle Ages, and held by some radical groups in the Reformation era. It was also the belief of many of the Puritans and of most 19th-century Protestants before the rise of dispensationalism.

A good book on medieval radical millenialism is Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millenium.

In Christ,


Catholic Answers has a pretty good link.


But for a very thorough explaination try New Advent


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