Modern Premillennialism is an Ancient Church Heresy

The following excerpt is taken in whole from “An Ecclesiastical Dictionary” by the Reverend John Farrar and exposes the Premillennialist Jewish fable.  The early form of the millennial heresy is known as “Chiliasm” and “Millenarianism”. 

MILLENARIANS.  The doctrine of a millennium may be traced back to a very early period in the history of the church, and, with various modifications, was held by many of the most distinguished fathers.  It originated chiefly in a false exposition of Scripture.  The prophetic writings, and some passages in the Apocalypse, were interpreted literally, and thus made to correspond with the notions and prejudices of the Judaizing Christians.  The first, according to the testimony of Eusebius, who introduced it was Papias, a man of slender capacity; who had published certain parables not recorded in the gospels, and various fables which he pretended to have received by unwritten tradition.  It was subsequently embraced by Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Lactantius, and others, but was attacked by Origen.  It was defended by Nepos, an Egyptian bishop, and again refuted by Dionysius of Alexandria. 

It was, however, common in the time of Jerome, who was himself one of its opponents.  The following particulars embrace the views of the ancient Millenarians: 

They thought that the city and temple of Jerusalem should be rebuilt, and splendidly adorned with gold and jewels; and that Christ, having come down from heaven to earth, all the just, both those who were before dead, and those who were still found alive, should reign with Him in the land of Judea for the space of a thousand years; at the expiration of which the conflagration of the world, and the last judgment, were to take place.

The descriptions which are given of this period of enjoyment are not marked by that spirituality of character which distinguishes the Christian paradise.  The productions of nature were to be lavishly multiplied and prodigiously enlarged, to minister to corporeal delights.  The earth was to pour forth spontaneously its harvests.  The rocks were to exude honey, wine was to descend in streams, and the rivers to overflow with milk.  Rich vineyards and luxurious fruits, delicious fare and immoderate banquets, were the pictures of bliss which they drew.  Nations should serve them as slaves, princes should bow down to them, and aliens come and voluntarily offer gold, frankincense, and precious stones, as well as perform for them the menial offices of builders and ploughmen.  Even wild beasts should be subjected to them.  Considering that these Millenarians represented the enjoyments of the period as purely carnal, it is not surprising that Origen should represent the doctrine as a reproach to Christianity.

About the middle of the fourth century, opinions similar to the above were propagated, though divested, in some degree, of their carnality.  The city of Jerusalem was to be rebuilt, and the land of Judea to be the habitation of those who should reign a thousand years on the earth.  The first resurrection was not to be confined to the martyrs; but, after the fall of Antichrist, all the just were to rise, and all that were on earth were to continue for a time. 

The scriptural account of the millennium seems to include the following particulars:

  • The diffusion in our world of eminent holiness.
  • A remarkable effusion of the Spirit, to bring about this period
  • A universal diffusion of the Gospel, spreading the knowledge of the Lord throughout the world
  • The purity of the communion, worship, and discipline of the church
  • The special presence and indwelling of God in His church
  • The diffusion of universal peace
  • The cause of Christ will prevail in this world over that of Satan and his instruments, and the world will become one sanctified, adoring assembly.

The errors of the Millenarians have generally arisen from a literal interpretation of passages of Scripture, so far as it would serve their purpose, while they have overlooked the important fact that the prophecies of the Bible which bear on this subject are delivered in figurative language. The passage in Revelation 20, on which so much stress has been laid, is expressed in terms which it is impossible to interpret literally.  Satan cannot be bound with a material chain.  The key, the chain, the seal, must be understood figuratively.  The whole appears to mean that, at a certain time, Christ will lay effectual restraint upon Satan, so that the powerful influence by which he had before deceived and destroyed a great part of mankind, shall be taken from him for a period.  The supposition that Christ shall appear on earth in his human nature is contradicted by several parts of Scripture.

In this case it would be necessary that all the departed saints should descend with Him, or they would be no longer with the Lord.  Those who are still on earth must cease to walk by faith, when they see the Lord.  It can no longer be their experience, “Whom having not seen, we love”.   The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper can no longer be observed; for we show forth His death only till He come again.  The Scriptures teach that He shall come again a second time: this system brings Him thrice.  The Millenarian theory included the restoration of the Jews to their own land; but its ancient and modern advocates seem to have overlooked the fact that those Scriptures speak also of the restoration of the temple, and the priesthood, and the sacrifice; and therefore a consistent view would require a return to the old Dispensation.  It is not the design of Christianity to sanctify places.  It is intended to destroy national distinctions; certainly not to keep up the distinction between Jew and Gentile.  One thing is certain: that, during eighteen hundred years, some Jews have been converted.  They then lost their peculiarity; they amalgamated with the nations; and we can scarcely imagine that an honour, denied to those who have already confessed Christ, will be put on those who remain unconverted till this period. 


Farrar, John, 1878, “An Ecclesiastical Dictionary, Explanatory of the History, Antiquities, Heresies, Sects, and Religious Denominations of the Christian Church”, entry “Calvinists” p. 395-397, pub. Culley, Wesleyan Conference Office, London