No dating sabbatical

Millennialism (from the Latin word for “1,000 years”) is the branch of eschatology concerned with the earthly prospects of the human community, rather than the worldly and eternal prospects of the individual.Millennialism focuses on collective, public salvation and asserts that humanity will endure…

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For all the costly failures, however, the appeal of millennialism remains, and generation after generation of devotees have sought the chimerical kingdom.

Despite all its dangers, apocalyptic millennialism offers immense rewards: believers find themselves at the centre of the ultimate universal drama in which their every act has cosmic significance.

Perhaps no idea offered a more subversive connotation in the ancient world, where aristocratic empires dominated almost every area of cultivated land.

Apostolic Christianity demonstrated many of the traits of the second, popular tendency of apocalyptic millennialism: the rhetoric of the meek overcoming the powerful and arrogant, the imminence of the Lord’s day of wrath and the coming kingdom of heaven, a leader with a following among common people, rituals of initiation into a group preparing for the Endtime, fervent spirituality and radical restructuring of community bonds, large crowds, the prominence of women visionaries, and the shift from a disappointed messianic hope (the Crucifixion) to a revised expectation (the Second Coming, or Parousia).

Consequently, as early as the 2nd century, two of the principal themes of medieval millennialism emerged: the use of an antiapocalyptic chronology to postpone the End, thus encouraging patience, and the transformation of the Roman Empire into a positive eschatological force.

To delay the End and reap the benefits of nonapocalyptic millennialism, theologians placed great weight on the idea of a “sabbatical” millennium.

Driven by a sense of imminence, however, believers in apocalyptic millennialism can become disruptive and even revolt against the sociopolitical order in an attempt to bring about the promised kingdom of peace.

Thus, apocalyptic millennialism has been a powerful and volatile catalyst throughout the ages.

The fundamental problem for early Christianity, as for all apocalyptic movements, was the passage of time, which brought with it the profound disappointment of unfulfilled expectations.

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