Chiliasm, or Millennialism, is that peculiar doctrine which expects an era of temporal bliss on earth, with an earthly kingdom for all believers, Christ being the King, while Satan and all forces of evil are removed from the earth for the time being. All this is supposed to take place before the Day of Judgment and to last for one thousand years according to human reckoning, Hence the name Millennialism, or Chiliasm, from the thousand years spoken of in this chapter.

The doctrines of Chiliasm have been held by certain enthusiasts almost since the founding of the Church, and there are almost as many different forms of Chiliasm as there are exponents of the theories. For our purposes, however, it will suffice to divide the Chiliasts into two divisions. To the first group belong those Chiliasts that hold the extreme views. They do not believe that the Pope is the Antichrist, but hold that the coming of Antichrist is yet to be expected. At the end of the time which is allotted to Antichrist, these enthusiasts believe that Christ will come visibly and in glory with all the heavenly hosts, judge Antichrist and his false prophet, and condemn them to the torments of hell. At the same time, so they say, Satan will be taken and bound for a thousand years, to be kept absolutely under lock and key until his release. Thrones will also be placed on earth for the resurrected apostles, who will then pronounce judgment and decide which of the believers may arise in the first physical resurrection; and those that are found worthy will be raised from the dead and receive spiritual bodies, while the other dead will be obliged to remain in their graves. The believers will then, as priests of God, reign in the world and cause all the people of the earth to acknowledge Christ as Lord. Sin will have lost its power. And the center of this wonderful kingdom will be the land of Canaan with the rebuilt city of Jerusalem, where Christ will reign as visible King. But after a thousand years, so the Chiliasts dream, Satan will be loosed from his prison to summon all the heathen that are still unconverted to fight against Jerusalem. And then, when the danger is at its greatest height, Christ, who meanwhile had returned to heaven, will come hack for the final Judgment. That is the dream of the Chiliasts.

Other Millennialists hold modified views along the same lines, not insisting quite so strongly on the material side of the kingdom nor on the physical presence of Christ. They merely dream of a time when the Christian Church and the Christian religion will dominate the world, when the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments will be the laws of the world, when all men will bow under the Cross of Christ, when courts of arbitration will render wars obsolete, and when everything will be peace and harmony. These dreams have been rather rudely jarred in the last few years, and they are destined to be jarred very much more, since such views are altogether at variance with Scriptures.

Chiliasm in every form is wrong and therefore, incidentally, very dangerous. In the first place, as we have seen above, there is nothing in the text to justify or substantiate the dreams and claims of the Millennialists. In the second place, the Bible in numerous passages, in passages, moreover, which are not in figurative and prophetic language, tells us that there will be but one return of Christ, namely, to judge the quick and the dead, all of whom will have to appear before Him at the same time. Furthermore, the Bible throughout plainly and unmistakably tells us that the Church of Christ here on earth will be a Church Militant until the end, until the great Day of Judgment, and that persecution and distress and enmity will be its lot until the final day of salvation, Acts 14, 22; Luke 9, 23; 2 Tim. 3, 12; Matt. 24. And, finally, the Bible teaches the suddenness and the unexpectedness of Christ’s return to Judgment, not preceded by a thousand glorious years of a visible reign here on earth, Mark 13, 35-37; Matt. 24, 44-5 1.

We shall, therefore, continue to believe and confess what we have stated in the Augsburg Confession: “Also they teach that, at the consummation of the world, Christ shall appear for Judgment, and shall raise up all the dead. He shall give to the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the devils He shall condemn to be tormented without end.

“They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils. They condemn also others, who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed.” 10)