This question has some interesting background information on Church councils not having anything to say about Chiliasm: Does the Nicene Creed condemn Chiliasm? but my question seeks to know what caused belief in a literal 1000 year reign of Christ to surface after centuries of it being almost totally buried. Who dug it up, and why, and when?

Modern readers might best identify Chiliasm with Premillennialism. There are two types – Dispensational Premillennialism – Expectation of a literal thousand-year kingdom in the future that will also culminate in human failure. Israel and the church represent two distinct peoples with different programmes in salvation history. Then there is Historic Premillennialism - a literal millennium in the future, but with less discontinuity between Israel and the church than in the dispensationalist view.

It is my understanding that Dispensational Premillennialism did not spring up until the 19th century, the concept of “a secret rapture” being integral to John Nelson Darby’s scheme. The Reformation did not teach any literal thousand year rule of Christ on earth as far as I know, being amillennial on that point – the thousand years of Revelation 20 being symbolic, covering the whole age from Christ’s triumphant return to heaven until his sudden return to earth to usher in the Day of Resurrection and Judgment.

However, I don’t know anything particular about Historic Premillennialism. I wonder if that school of thought kept Chiliasm from actually dying out? Anybody know anything about Historic Premillennialism?

I’m seeking answers from anyone familiar with Church History with regard to Chiliasm, as to who revived it, why and when.

This question is not interested in any opinions or interpretations of the various schools of thought on this topic. It simply seeks to trace some kind of historic date-line for the fading away then the re-emerging of this Chiliastic view.

1 Answer 1


Source: The Free Dictionary

(also millenarianism), a religious doctrine according to which the end of the world will be preceded by a thousand-year “kingdom of God” on earth. Chiliastic ideas expressed in a peculiar form the hopes of the oppressed strata of society for an end to social injustice not in the kingdom of heaven, but on earth.

Chiliasm originated in the Judaic doctrine of the Messiah, and it was further elaborated by the early Christians. Chiliastic motifs are vividly expressed in the Apocalypse—the earliest of the Christian literary works that have been preserved. In the second century A.D., chiliasm gained many adherents in the Roman provinces of Asia Minor. After Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, chiliasts were cruelly persecuted as heretics by the established Christian Church, which viewed chiliasm as an ideology that was hostile to the existing world order and that minimized the church’s “salvational” role.

Chiliasm gained renewed currency in Europe during the Middle Ages, when it was incorporated in many heretical doctrines (such as those taught by the Apostolici) that expressed the antifeudal attitudes of the peasant and plebeian masses. The chiliasts usually preached a gospel of passive social protest. It was only at times of wide-ranging popular movements that chiliasm took on a more active character, advocating the establishment of the “kingdom of God” on earth by force of arms—a course favored, for example, by the Taborites, the Anabaptists of the Münster Commune, and the Fifth Monarchy Men during the English bourgeois revolution of the 17th century. Chiliastic views can subsequently be observed among the Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other sects that reflect the ideology and psychology of the petite bourgeoisie.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

  • 1
    That's an interesting link. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.
    – Anne
    Commented Mar 10, 2022 at 15:29

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