James D. Tabor
This article focuses on ancient Jewish and early Christian millennialism, which are found to be intrinsically inconsistent—there are no specific pointers towards marking the end of time; messianic figures appear in some texts and not in others; and God is humanized in some while others are exclusively emphatic on the transcendental paradigm. It makes the whole millennialist gamut essentially subjective. The groundwork was laid by the pre-Hellenic invasions of Israel and the context for the emergence of Jewish millennialism was provided by the widespread suppression under Greek emperor Antiochus. This article demonstrates that from the second and third centuries onwards, the trend increasingly tended from literal expressions towards symbolic subjective millennialism, to the extent that the former was considered inferior.
Clark H. Pinnock
In Christian theology, annihilationism designates the views of those who hold that the finally impenitent wicked will cease to exist after (or soon after) the last judgment. Annihilation is a term designating theories which contend that human beings may pass or be put out of existence altogether. The theories fall into three classes: pure mortality, conditional immortality, and annihilation proper. Alongside the large number of texts that depict hell as a place of death and destruction, there is some countertestimony too. There are three texts in particular, one in the Gospel of Matthew and two in the Book of Revelation, which need comment because they are cited as proof texts of the traditional opinion. Scripture aside, belief in the nature of hell as everlasting conscious punishing remains solidly traditional, which means that the burden of proof rests on the shoulders of the reformers in this matter.
Class apathy and a selective process of record keeping created fertile grounds for uprise in China. This article throws light on two of the earliest millennialist movements in China, namely, the Taiping Dao and the Wudoumi Dao movements that emerged from havoc, intending to create millennial commonwealth and practiced healing through confession. The Chinese Buddhist millennialism synthesized a modified version of the Indian concept of “kalpa” and the Buddhist teaching of the three ages where each age ends with the demise of a “Bodhisattva” and marks a decline based on the degeneration of Buddha's teachings. It states that the dark age graced by superhuman saviors shall witness the arrival of the Maitreya, the next Buddha incarnate. The Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) rhetoric about “a thousand years of prosperity” is also considered reflective of millennial views.
Stephen H. Webb
No theologian has done more to show the political significance of eschatology than Jürgen Moltmann. For Moltmann, the subject matter of all theology should be focused on hope, and eschatology is the doctrine where Christian hope is most explicitly formulated. Moreover, Moltmann thinks that hope, more than love, is the Christian virtue most relevant for politics. If God intervenes at the end of history in order to silence all of our struggles and passions, then history is rendered meaningless. Moltmann identifies this catastrophic version of eschatology with apocalypticism. Moltmann did not repudiate liberation theology's advocacy of socialism as the primary means for advancing the kingdom agenda. In The Coming of God, Moltmann clarified his distinction between eschatology and apocalypticism by addressing the issue of millennialism. This article examines eschatology and politics, focusing on the views of Moltmann and the alternative views of George Weigel, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and Oliver O'Donovan. It also discusses providence versus eschatology and Whittaker Chambers's views on the eschatological challenge of Communism, as well as the politics of progressive premillennialism.
This article focuses on the twin factors of millenialist predisposition towards violence and the crossover from a volatile disposition to the actual practice of violence. It reviews the literature that has emerged in religious studies and the social sciences in response to the complexities of fragile millennial communities. It focuses on two broad themes or questions: first, what are the factors that predispose apocalyptic or millennialist communities to become involved in violence; and, second, what factors lead apocalyptic or millennialist groups from being predisposed to volatility to actually becoming violent. The necessary millennialist conception often leads to violent measures. In the face of a prophetic failure, charismatic leadership may employ violence, to realize the prediction or, obscuring the failure, or both. Finally, this article concludes that despite the violent nature of apocalyptic beliefs and rhetoric, the majority of millennial groups possess a passive orientation, believing that it is the role of God, and not themselves, to inaugurate the final scenario.
The Rastafari of Jamaica represents the main millennial force in the Caribbean, which derives its impetus from European racism. This article deals with the advent of the Rastafari movement in the Caribbean, emerging around the theme of the repatriation of colored people to their original home: Africa. The prophetic parallel drawn between the coronations of Ras Tafari as the Emperor Haile Selassie (1930) and a mention of the event in crowning of the king and queen of Africa (1928), penned by Marcus Mosiah Garvey, intensified the aspirations for repatriation. The Rastafari movement began under the leadership of Leonard Howell, the man who proliferated the prophetic connection, proclaiming Selassie to be the messiah. A militant faction, the Youth Black Faith, incorporated the defining attributes of the Rastafarian—the dreadlocks, the coconut vessel, and the herbal diets. Although millennialist, the movement was far more institutionalized, engaging the state, society, and other counterparts, and had an expressly defined objective.
Eugene V. Gallagher
Millennialism encourages interpretation of historical or religious scriptures. A need to establish relevance between ancient scriptures and contemporary situations, makes such interpretations extremely positivist. This article examines three primary examples. The first two focus on the complex dynamics of the formation and uses of two texts from the Bible. The Biblical book of Daniel has been the source of many a theological effort to identify the time of the apocalypse. The Rastafarian movement capitalized on the maltreatment of colored slaves as the contemporary manifestation of the Babylonian forces. Reinterpreting the Bible reflected the urge to deny white Christian dominance. This article examines a contemporary millennialist text that attempts to legitimize its message by expressing its millennial hope in a scriptural mode. The discussion of each of those examples is intended to reinforce the contention that the decision to read the signs of one's time and elements of traditional wisdom as conveying a millennialist message represents an intentional interpretive decision.