The History of Chiliasm
“What is the origin of this strange doctrine?” you ask. The careful study of church history will furnish us with the conclusive answer. Premillennialism is a descent of ancient Judaism. There is a striking resemblance between the off-spring and the parent. The old Jewish conceptions of an external Messianic kingdom have found their perfect embodiment in the Chiliastic theory of the millennium. Premillennialism is a relic of Judaism. Dr. Hodge says of this, “It is a Jewish doctrine. The principles adopted by its advocates in the interpretation of prophecy are the same as have been adopted by the Jews in the time of Christ; and have led substantially to the same conclusions. The Jews expected that when the Messiah came He would establish a glorious earthly kingdom at Jerusalem; that those who had died in the faith should be raised from the dead to share the Messianic reign; that all nations and peoples on the face of the earth should be subject to them; and that any nation that would not serve them should be destroyed. All the riches and honors of the world were to be at their disposal. The event destroyed these expectations; and the principles of prophetic interpretation on which these expectations were founded were proved to be incorrect,” Hodge Systematic Theology – Eschatology.
EXAMINATION OF OLD JEWISH WRITINGS
The Judaistic features of Chiliasm can be readily seen by an examination of the Apocalyptic writings of the Jews. The genesis of this doctrine may be found in these writings which are generally dated in the pre-Christian period. The Jews divided the future into two separate periods. The first era is considered to be of a temporal nature and is designated as the kingdom of the Messiah. The second era is of eternal duration and is called the kingdom of God. The transient Messianic kingdom prepares the way for the final setting up of the eternal kingdom of God. This is exactly the position of the Premillennialists of today. Christ’s Messianic kingdom comes first and after that the kingdom of God. That the Chiliasts have incorporated a part of ancient Jewish eschatology in their scheme of the future is very evident. A general survey of the Jewish writings is all that is necessary to establish this fact. In the book of Enoch (chap. 91, 93) the entire course of the world is divided into ten weeks. At the close of the tenth period the eternal stage begins. In the third book of Sible the Messianic reign is first represented and after it has overcome its enemies, the kingdom of God begins. We find the same distinction in the Psalms of Solomon where the preliminary Messianic kingdom is described as something transitory. In Psalms 17 and 18, and in Psalm 3:12, we read of the resurrection to eternal life.
Coming down to the Christian period we meet this two-fold kingdom idea in the Slavic Enoch and in the Apocalypses of Ezra and Baruch. In these writings the duration of the Messianic period is fixed by a definite number of years. In 4 Ezra 7:28 the reign of Christ lasts four hundred years. After that time Christ with the rest of His earthly creatures, dies. Then the dead awake and the eternal judgment begins. So also in Baruch 40:3 the reign of Christ is represented as lasting till the world comes to an end.
In many of the Jewish writings, the presentation of these two stages has resulted in an orderless confusion. Continue reading