Millennium (Lat. mille, 1,000, and annus, a year), a period of 1,000 years. In theology this term generally designates the doctrine of a return of Jesus Christ in person before the end of the world, of a first or particular resurrection of the just, who are to reign with Christ on earth, and of the destruction of Antichrist. Those who hold such views are called mille-narians or chiliasts (Gr. , a thousand). It is admitted on all sides that millenarian views were, if not general, at least very common in the ancient church. The belief was generally founded on Ps. xc. 4 and 2 Pet. iii. 8, according to which a thousand years are before the Lord as one day, compared with the account of the creation as given by Moses, the six days of creation being taken as designating 6,000 years of toil, and the subsequent sabbath 1,000 years of rest and happiness. Rev. xx. 1-6 is especially quoted by millenarians in support of their views. Millenarianism prevailed chiefly among the Jewish Christians, who retained after their conversion the hope of the Jewish nation that they would rule over all other nations under a royal Messiah. The Ebionites, the Nazareans, and the Cerinthians all strongly advocated it; and Montanus and his followers regarded it as a fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion. The early fathers of the church also declared themselves generally in favor of the doctrine; Papias, Justin, Irenams, and Tertullian all clearly teach it; and Papias appealed in support of his view to apostolic traditions. The epistles of Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, and the epistle to Diognetus, are silent about it.
Justin, though himself a believer in the millennium, knew many orthodox Christians who were not; yet none of the apostolic fathers openly opposed it. The first opponent of whom we know was the Roman presbyter Cains, who designated the doctrine as an invention of the arch-heretic Cerinthus. Origen first gave a more rational idea of the millennium, which according to him would consist in the reign of Christian truth throughout the world, and in the voluntary submission paid to it by all secular powers This view was upheld by the Alexandrine school. Still the old view continued to find advocates during the 3d century, among whom Tertullian, Nepos, bishop of Arsinoe, and Methodius, bishop of Tyre, were prominent. In the 4th century, though it had still many adherents among the people, it found no longer any advocate of note among the Christian writers; yet Jerome, who did not believe in it himself, did not dare to condemn it. From the 5th century millenarianism began to die out. It was temporarily revived, toward the close of the 10th century, by the popular belief in the approaching end of the world, and at later periods by the abbot Joachim de Floris, the Spirituals, the Apostolic Order, Peter de Oliva, and other heretics of the middle ages; but it never regained great strength. - The reformation of the 16th century gave a new impulse to millenarian views.
Common opinion identified the pope with Antichrist, and regarded the expected downfall of papacy as foreshadowing the approach of the millennium. Hut when the Anabaptists assumed about 1534 to erect the new Zion, both the Lutheran and Reformed churches declared themselves against this caricature of the old Christian doctrine. Yet it was preached with enthusiasm by many sects and theologians of the 16th and 17th centuries, among whom were Weigel and the Moravian bishop Comenius in Germany, Jurieu in France, the Labadists in the Netherlands, and Joseph Mede and Jane Lead (died 1704) in England. - Johann Albrecht Bengel reintroduced niilk-narianism into Protestant theology, where it has ever since been advocated by many prominent theologians. The ingenious prelate Oetinger (died 1782) brought it into connection with his favorite theosophic views. Ilahn (founder of a pietistic sect in Wiirtem-berg), Stilling, Lavater, and Hass gave it a wide circulation among the lower classes of the people in Germany and Switzerland. With Rothe ( Theologkche Ethik, vol. ii.) millenarianism fonns an organic, link in his theosophic system.
In opposition to the "spiritual-ism' of modern exegesis, it has been advocated with exegetical arguments, by Hoffmann, Delitzsch, Kurtz, Hebart, and others; while Thiersch Nitzsch, P. Lange, and Ebrard supported it from a dogmatical as well as an exegetical (standpoint. Swedenborg taught that the last judgment took place in 1757, and that the New church or church of the New Jerusalem had actually been formed both in heaven and on earth. After Germany, England and America have been the chief fields of modern chiliasm. The "Catholic Apostolic Church," organized by Edward Irving, laid great stress on the belief that the kingdom of glory was very near. Millenarian views lie at the foundation of Mormonism, the people who hold that belief calling themselves "Latter Day Saints" in reference to the near approach of the last day. The sect commonly called Shakers style themselves the "Millennial Church." In the United States a great agitation was called forth by the preaching of William Miller, who sought to prove from the Scriptures that the second advent of Christ would occur about 1843. He not only found numerous believers in most denominations, but also occasioned the organization of a new denomination of Advent-ists. One of the most noted of recent millena-rians is the Englishman Dr. John dimming, who placed the end of the " present dispensation " in 1866 or 1867, and then in 1868. In November, 1870, he published " The Seventh Vial," to prove that all the prophecies concerning the millennium have been fulfilled. - Millenarian views in various peMods of the Christian church differ widely respecting most points, except the duration of the millennium, which nearly all of them fix at 1,000 years.
The beginning of the millennium was fixed by Hippolytus at the year 500, by Jurieu at 1785, by Bengel at 1836, and by others at other dates. Many agree in expecting it between 1879 and 1887. Commonly the earth is believed to be the only place of the millennium, and Jerusalem its central point of union. Many still hold the view of Origen (see above), and of Marten-sen (Christliche Dogmatik, 1850), that it denotes the period of highest earthly prosperity of the church in the spiritual return of Christ to the earth. - A good history of millenarianism in the Christian church is still a desideratum, as the 'works published do not exhaust the subject. See Corrodi, Kritische Oe-schichte des Chiliasmus (Frankfort, 1781); and D. T. Taylor, "The Voice of the Church on the Coming and Kingdom of the Redeemer: a History of the Doctrine of the Reign of Christ upon Earth," revised by Hastings (2d ed., Peacedale, R. I., 1855).