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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

10 August 2005


Q: What is the Lutheran understanding of Millennialism?

A: Millennialism (or chiliasm) is a belief that the Christian Church will enjoy some special, earthly time of triumph prior to the end of the world. Proponents of this theory argue whether this thousand year period will come before or after Christ’s visible return. Lutherans, along with a majority of Christendom, have always rejected this as being non-biblical. Instead, we teach that the number 1000 symbolizes of a complete epoch, the time of the New Testament Church from Christ’s Advent until the Last Judgment.

Article XVII of the Augsburg Confession states, “[Lutherans] teach that at the Consummation of the World Christ will appear for judgment, and will raise up all the dead; He will give to the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the devils He will condemn to be tormented without end. [Lutherans] 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.”

To this, The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod added the words of the Brief Statement (1932):

With the Augsburg Confession (Art. XVII) we reject every type of Millennialism, or Chiliasm, the opinions that Christ will return visibly to this earth a thousand years before the end of the world and establish a dominion of the Church over the world; or that before the end of the world the Church is to enjoy a season of special prosperity; or that before a general resurrection on Judgment Day a number of departed Christians or martyrs are to be raised again to reign in glory in this world; or that before the end of the world a universal conversion of the Jewish nation (of Israel according to the flesh) will take place.

Over against this, Scripture clearly teaches, and we teach accordingly, that the kingdom of Christ on earth will remain under the cross until the end of the world (Acts 14:22; John 16:33; 18:36; Luke 9:23; 14:27; 17:20-37; 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 12:28; Luke 18:8); that the second visible coming of the Lord will be His final advent, His coming to judge the quick and the dead (Matt. 24:29, 30; 25:31; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Thess. 2:8; Heb. 9:26-28); that there will be but one resurrection of the dead, (John 5:28; 6:39, 40); that the time of the Last Day is, and will remain, unknown (Matt. 24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:32, 37; Acts 1:7); which would not be the case if the Last Day were to come a thousand years after the beginning of a millennium; and that there will be no general conversion, a conversion en masse, of the Jewish nation (Rom. 11:7; 2 Cor. 3:14; Rom. 11:25; 1 Thess. 2:16).

According to these clear passages of Scripture we reject the whole of Millennialism, since it not only contradicts Scripture, but also engenders a false conception of the kingdom of Christ, turns the hope of Christians upon earthly goals (1 Cor. 15:19; Col. 3:2), and leads them to look upon the Bible as an obscure book.

So enjoy the “millennium” — only God knows when it will end. We, however, do know how it will end: The dead will be raised and all believers in Christ will have life eternal in heaven while the unbelievers are condemned to an eternity of torment.

For a bit of related material, please see a previous post on the Rapture.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


Blogger Michael said...

How do you interpret the passage that says Satan will be bound for the duration of the millineum, and then be released for a short time? It is clear that Satan is not bound now as he is very active in both the church and the world, tempting, deceiving and tormenting people. Nor has he been bound at any time during the church age: to quote Luther's most famous hymn, "but still our earthly foe doth seek to work us woe; his might and power are great and armed with cruel hate; on earth is not his equal." Clearly not a description of a bound Satan but a free one.

13 March, 2014 16:12  

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