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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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MILLENNIUM. A period of a thousand years, during which, according to Revelation 20:2-7 , the Dragon ( i.e . the devil) is to be confined in the abyss, while the martyrs, having been raised from the dead, are to reign with Christ. The period begins with this first resurrection, and at its end, Satan, prior to his destruction, is to be released for a time to deceive the nations.

This reference in Revelation is unique in the NT. The Millennium was, however, present in the Jewish apocalyptic literature. In Slavonic Enoch (chs. 32 and 33), time is described as a week of seven days, each of one thousand years in length. These six days ( i.e . 6000 years) are said to have elapsed from the time of the Creation to the Judgment. Then will come a ‘sabbath of rest’ of a thousand years, and then an eighth day which shall be timeless. A similar expectation is to be found in the Talmud ( Sanh . 97 a ), and it is not impossible that this conception can be traced back to Babylonia or Persia.

In the history of the Christian Church the doctrine of the Millennium has played a considerable rĂ´le, but Chiliasm (wh. see) has been opposed by most of the great theologians from Augustine down. In the Epistle of Barnabas (ch. 15) we have a view very similar to that of the Slavonic Enoch, while Justin Martyr ( Dial . 80) regards a chiliastic view of the future as an essential part of Christian faith, although he knows that it is not held by all the orthodox. At the present time, in addition to the Second Adventists, millennial views are held strongly by a number of earnest Christians commonly called pre-millenarians because of their belief that Christ will return before the period of a thousand years begins and establish an earthly reign. In accordance with this theory (see Chiliasm, Parousia), the resurrection is to be limited not to martyrs but to all Christians. Such an interpretation obviously does violence to the connexion between the nineteenth and twentieth chapters of Revelation, and gives undue prominence to an expectation which was held by neither Jesus nor St. Paul, nor, in fact, by any writer of the NT except the author of Revelation. At the same time, there is little question that this pre-millennial view is germane to the literalistic Messianic hope which controlled the NT Church, and is not beyond a possible harmonization with 1 Corinthians 15:23 The fundamental difficulty in erecting it into a doctrine of essential Christianity is that it presupposes conditions and expectations, carried over from Judaism, which the course of history has shown to be without foundation.

Shailer Mathews.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Millennium'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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